Posts Tagged ‘italian wine’
Sometimes You Get More Than You Expected at a Wine Tasting..
I’ve been to alot of low-priced wine tastings – and normally, the price of the event and the quality of food/wine/ambiance match – but not this time! Redwood Restaurant in Bethesda, MD which is right in the heart of the burgeoning retail sector on Bethesda Ave (anchored currently by Barnes and Noble) is a beautiful high-ceilinged restaurant with plenty of redwood (surprise!) and glass fronting on a lovely outdoor open-aired pedestrian atrium.
Although there was not actually a private area for this walk-around tasting (no seating) it was in the back of the restaurant and began at 6 pm before the hordes of diners and bar loungers came in. It was a simple basic setup of regular tables with wine reps pouring a selection of their wines at each table based on a theme: Table 1 – South Africa, Table 2 – Italy, Table 3 – France/Germany/Spain and Table 4 – Argentina/Australia/California. Each table had 5 wines, so that adds up to 20..the 20 wines for $20 title..but really, this event had more: generous hors d’oeuvres! Unfortunately, I couldn’t take photos of the food, but it was well-prepared, presented by servers with a napkin (nice touch..funny how important a napkin can be when you are trying to drink wine in a glass!).
The Wines (my apologies for forgetting vintages!): Since I find reviewing wine boring and frankly hard to follow, I’ll focus on what caught my attention. I started at the South African Table with wine rep Matt Leemhuis of Cape Classics, a well-known importer from that region. Two wines were really noticeable – the Kanonkop Pinotage and the Detoren Fusion V, both over $50 retail in Montgomery County. Pinotage is a funky, earthy smokey kinda wine, but it goes great with food. Detoren was it’s polar opposite with a Bordeaux Blend that was luscious rich black fruit and soft tannins and extremely accessible.
At Table 3 which was a mix of European wines, the Leitz Dragonstone Riesling really stood out – all the things I like about a German Riesling with a hint of petrol, but lots of minerality and acidity to balance a bit of sweetness – although Rieslings are great food wines (think Asian food), this one was actually so vibrant on the palate that me a Red wine drinker was just savoring it!
At Table 2 Italy, there was a very interesting white, but I was really enjoying the Argiano Non-Confunditor which is a blend made of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Syrah and Sangiovese – a Super Tuscan wine, and it actually tasted like a blend of Old World and New World – earth and soil from Italy, but roundness from Cabernet – a really interesting contrast!
Table 4 had contrasting Malbecs: Finca Sophenia Malbec Reserva vs Voodoo Moon Malbec – the first was pretty traditional with a touch of rough tannins and earthy overtones, while the latter was all perfume and weirdly candy-like – unexpected but delicious!
Food: I didn’t try everything, but all hors d’oeuvres were passed – the chicken wings were especially good and enormous – they were in a sweetish BBQ sauce that was decadently good, thumbs up (I ate them to the bone!). The fried foods were served hot, an although the pimento cheese biscuit was only OK, I was overall impressed by service and the food in general.
Conclusion:If they do another 20 for 20 event, snap up a ticket – it’s a great deal, great food and really decent setup and service. If I could Yelp this event (I probably could!), it would be 5 Stars, no caveats. Forgot to mention..even the wine glasses were very nice and big allowing for good swirling..Cheers!
Charlie “I Drink on the Job” Adler
Upcoming Wine Tastings at TasteDC:
I’ve been teaching and organizing wine classes at TasteDC TasteDC Website for over twelve years now, and just as soon as I think I’ve gotten it into an art form, I realize that every audience is unique – the principle that “one size fits all” just doesn’t hold water. That point plus the volunteers who pour my wine at events seem to have disappeared (you mean I need to keep in regular touch with them, shouldn’t they realize that I’m writing a wine book?!) means that tomorrow night I’ll most likely be juggling my notes, pouring wine and registering about 30 people all at the same time. Ahh, the life of a wine professional who drinks on the job, all is not fun and games!
The question is, how can I cover all of Italy in just under 2 hours? Although it’s a difficult task, I know I’m going to have to talk about food as well as wine. The whole premise of my upcoming book “I Drink on the Job” I Drink on the Job Book Website is that wine and food were meant to be together and this is based on the whole European food and wine lifestyle. Below are a few thoughts on how I’m going to introduce Italian wine to an audience that is starving to discover the pleasures of the Italian Table.
1) Break Italy down into major regions and taste and discuss wines that are representative of those areas.
Not an earth-shattering point, but it’s extremely practical. Some regions like Tuscany and specifically Chianti within that region are a given. I’ll focus on wines like regional Sangiovese, Barbera, Nero d’Avola, and Valpolicella. These wines/varietals have distinct regional variations and relate to the geography, climate and lifestyle of a given appellation.
2) Choose wines that deliver bang for the buck and represent the kind of wines that Italians would consume on a daily basis with their meals
Italy has some unbelievably fantastic show-stopping wines like Barolo, Barbaresco, and Brunello. As good as these wines are, their prices have sky-rocketed in recent years to such an extent that even your average Italian can only occasionally afford them. Piedmont has some excellent Barberas and Dolcettos that have never become fashionable in the world market, so they’re very affordable. Pinot Grigio has become popular in the U.S. but there are many whites like Vermentino and Trebbiano that are less famous in the U.S. and can be delicious at a reasonable price.
3) Share stories and anecdotes of my various trips to Italy that are “relevant”
Here are some fun stories that accomplish two things: 1) they entertain and get people to relax and relate to the wine experience and 2) they teach a relevant point about Italians and Italian wine that can help the wine consumer make purchase decisions when they need to:
-My trip to Vinitaly in 2004, where 4,000 wineries and what seemed like 4 million Italians (slight exaggeration!) hold a week of tastings and Italians get to show off their designer shoes and belts. This is held in the town of “Romeo and Juliet’s” Verona in the Veneto region. Lots of great stories from this trip including how we shut the bar down every night in our hotel in Bussolengo (those crazy Americans!!), and the amazing number of wine varietals that Italy produces.
-My buddy Antonio whose family comes from Piedmont not too far from Turin who told me that his family often visits a local farm where they purchase wines by the gallon jug for around $1 each!
-There are no spaghetti and meatballs in Italy – there’s spaghetti and then there’s meatballs, but they don’t go together, they’re served separately! This is similar to the Italian rule that you should never allow cheese to be shaved onto seafood, this is just a well-known “no no”!
-One quote from an Italian I met at a tasting is just a jewel: “in Italy, the trick is to find a job with the least amount of hours and the most amount of pay!” If you know anything about Italians, generally work comes second; friends, family and a fun lifestyle are more important!
Charlie “I Drink on the Job” Adler