Where is That Buttery Chardonnay?
A Thousand Bottles of Wine to Taste –
Walking into a wine tasting room with 111 wine distributors, and thousands of bottles of wine, can be overwhelming. Where do you start?
Wines from Europe, Washington State, bottles of wine from South Africa, and untold numbers from California were available to taste at The Fall Trade Tastings hosted by Southern Wine and Spirits, a major Southern California distributor. Held in Irvine, the invitation only event drew thousands of restaurant, bar, yacht club and country club managers and owners. As the Bar Captain of our club, I was invited.
Winemakers looking to distribute new product (CucuOne – cucumber juice, South Africa‘s Seven Sisters & Washington State’s MaryHill Wine) attended as well as the tried-and-true winemakers of Washington, Napa, Sonoma and Paso Robles like Justin, Cline, Rodney Strong, Mondavi, Coppola and Ste. Michelle.
After digging through a long list and getting organized, I started sampling and comparing buttery vs. stainless Chardonnay before I moved on to red wine. Tasting and spitting all the way, no drinking here. There’s just too much to taste. In fact the great thing about these trade events is the common use of ‘spit’ cups and pour buckets. With this wonderful opportunity to sample a broad variety of beverages, attendees want to be able to taste the entire evening and not let alcohol alter their palette. Besides that, they’ll have to drive home and nobody needs that kind of trouble.
‘What are the wines that stood out among the crowd? 2012 Robert Talbott Vineyards Chardonnay Sleepy Hollow, 2012 Robert Talbott Vineyards Pinot Noir Sleepy Hollow & 2011 Saved (just coming to market with Merlot, Zin, Carignan, Malbec, Etc., reminding me of Prisoner)’
Here is the tasting of the day, by varietal (all wines are Californian, unless noted otherwise.)
2012 South Africa’s Seven Sisters ‘Odelia’ Bukettraube White ✰+
2011 South Africa’s Seven Sisters ‘Vivian’ Sauvignon Blanc ✰
2012 Washington State MaryHill Winery Winemaker White ✰
2012 Castoro Cellars Chardonnay ✰+
2013 Cline Family Cellars Chardonnay (30 day neutral oak) ✰
2013 Chamisal Stainless Chardonnay (Faux Butter) ✰+
2012 Pine Ridge Vineyards ‘Dijon Clones’ Chardonnay Carneras (Peppery) ✰
2012 Washington State MaryHill Winery Chardonnay Star ✰
2012 Robert Talbott Vineyards Chardonnay Kali Hart (5% oaked) ✰++
2012 Robert Talbott Vineyards Chardonnay Sleepy Hollow (30% oaked) ✰++
2012 Rodney Strong Estate Chalk Hill Chardonnay (9 months oaked) ✰
2012 J. Wilkes Chardonnay (50% oaked) ✰+
2013 Magnolia Court, Chardonnay (with chenin blanc) ✰
2013 Ballard Lane Chardonnay (50% oaked) ✰+
2011 Zaca Mesa Winery Chardonnay (50% oaked – Spicy) ✰+
2012 Cline Family Cellars Cool Climate Pinot Noir Sonoma Coast ✰+
2012 Robert Talbott Vineyards Pinot Noir Kali Hart Star ✰
2012 Robert Talbott Vineyards Pinot Noir Sleepy Hollow ✰++
2012 J. Wilkes Pinot Noir (Central Coast) ✰+
2013 Ballard Lane Pinot Noir (On the bold side) ✰+
2011 Bien Nacido (Santa Maria) Pinot Noir ✰+
2013 Cline Ancient Vine Zinfandel ✰+
2011 Bien Nacido Syrah ✰+
2010 Zaca Mesa Winery Syrah (with Viogneir & Mourvedre) ✰+
2012 South Africa’s Seven Sisters ‘Dawn’ Pinotage Shiraz ✰
2011 Saved (Merlot, Zin, Carignan, Malbec, Etc.) ✰++
2011 Justin Winery Isosceles ✰+
2011 Justin Winery Justification ✰
2011 Washington State Mary Hill Winery Winemaker Red (Cabernet, Merlot, Syrah, Cabernet Franc) ✰+
2010 Zaca Mesa Winery Z Cuvee ✰+
That’s a mighty big list of wine to taste in one afternoon (four hours.) But it isn’t if you’re spitting, if you’re not drinking. And you can ‘spit’ gracefully, you don’t really have to spit, you simply express the wine into another cup and get rid of it. Then pour it in the discard buckets along with your discard glass of wine.
‘So when you’re out there wine tasting, take it easy. You don’t need to swallow wine you don’t cherish. Spit and discard wines that don’t sing for you.’
I didn’t have enough time to get to several California wineries. I would like to have tasted a bottle of wine from wineries like Francis Ford Coppola, Malibu Family Wines, Premium Port Wines, Silverado Vineyards, Ste. Michelle Wine Estates And Villa San Juliette Vinerards.
There just wasn’t that much time, and my palate was overloaded.
So when you’re out there wine tasting, take it easy. You don’t need to swallow wine you don’t cherish. Spit and discard wines that don’t sing for you. Save your palate by not overwhelming it with too much alcohol. Then, enjoy the great wines, and drink just a little bit.
Many of these bottles of wine are available retail while some are only available in restaurants and bars.
Bill Hodge & Erin O’Neill-Hodge enjoy a good bottle of wine, visiting and enjoying California wineries from Lake County to Orange County, from the Paso Robles Gold Coast to Gold Country and from Lodi to Temecula.
Some notes on our wine ranking system.
– -✰ means -What’s next on your list of wines
-✰ means -Not liking it too much
✰ means -We’ll drink this wine, especially if it’s hosted!
✰+ means -You’ve got our attention and we might buy this wine.
✰+ + means -We’re hooked and we’re going to buy this wine.
When you see -✰/✰+ with a slash, it means we disagree.