Welcome to Second Ferment! Wine pairs well with life ... and food, travel, people, work and play. Grab a glass and join me as I explore the wine scene in Ottawa, Canada, and beyond. Love hearing from my readers, so please leave a comment. Cheers! - Bethany

Friday, April 10, 2009

Drowning in wine (there are worse things, I suppose ...)

These last few weeks have been pure madness, I tell you. I've had my nose to the grindstone (or, more precisely, deep in several glasses of wine) as I head into the final stretch of the sommelier program. The past few weeks have been spent trawling the 'Net in search of good n' cheap Italian products for my class project, going cross-eyed over an Excel spreadsheet of mark-up formulas, or recovering from corkscrew-induced injuries from opening bottles. I just realized that I only have another two weeks until my service exam (findahappyplace, findahappyplace, FINDAHAPPYPLACE ...) So, my apologies for the lack of new content.

Naturally, right when I need to be focused on my studies/writing, all sorts of delightful distractions keep popping up, like last week's California Wine Fair. I'd never been, in all the years I've been at Algonquin and saw the ads for it. This perennially sold-out affair features some of the best in the biz when it comes to New World, as well as small-scale diamonds in the rough making their mark.

I saw this as a good business and networking opportunity, and went with notebook and a fistful of business cards in hand. The difference between this fair and the Wine and Food Show was apparent right off the bat. At the risk of sounding uppity, these were serious wine drinkers and collectors, who knew what they liked, who wanted to learn more about what was out there and how to get their hands on it.

The tables were run by either the winemakers themselves or by the next-in-command direct from the winery. I had a long talk with Natalie Scotto, customer relations rep for Blue Moon Wines, and sister of the company's CEO, Anthony. She, along with many of the other reps I spoke with, wondered why I wasn't with the "rest of the media" at the trade show earlier in the day. That's promising to hear -- bloggers are now being recognized as legitimate media and seen as fertile ground for marketing. Note to self for next year ... Blue Moon's Heavyweight Red wasn't nearly as imposing as the name implies, making for a good, all-purpose blend with medium body and tannins. I'm looking forward to trying their Howling Moon when it comes to Vintages this fall.

I also tried a few "celebrity" bottles, those wines that draw frantic, star-struck crowds at gigs like these. One of them was a $90-a-bottle Caymus 2006 Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon. There's no doubt it's a well-crafted wine, with a complex nose and fruity, peppery finish, but to be honest, I can think of equally enjoyable wines that don't require mortgaging the house to get a case.

I cleansed my palate between laps with some excellent sparklers: two blancs de noirs, from Domaine Chandon and Gloria Ferrer, respectively. I'm not much for the drying, yeasty-ness of Champagne, preferring a fruity glassful myself. These two fit the bill perfectly, with plenty of juicy berry, tight bubbles and floral notes in each.

The red winner of the evening was the Ravenswood Lodi Old Vine 2006 Zinfandel. My memories from Napa in 2006 aren't terribly fond when it comes to Zin, with its over-the-top syrupy texture, but I was willing to keep the door open to possibilities. This one had all the fruit without being cloying. I'll definitely be picking up a couple bottles when it comes out in Vintages on July 18.

For the whites, without a doubt, the Ironstone Obsession 2007 Symphony stole the show. Made from a clone of Muscat de Alexandria and Grenache Gris that was created by Dr. Harold Ormo at UC Davis in 1948, this gorgeous number has a nose of fresh linen and perfume, followed by lemon meringue pie on the palate. I can't tell you how much I love this wine. It just came out in the April 11 Vintages release, so you KNOW I was there to grab a few bottles (especially at a stellar price of $14.95!)

I could write a novel about all the great stuff I tried at the Fair, but I've got mark-up to finish and bottles to open. Be sure to read more of my reviews on Wine Align (my first venture into "real" wine writing) as I post them. Cheers!

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