The annual California Wine Fair was back in town again this past week. This time around, I actually stuck to a plan (and was very responsible with my tasting, thank you very much—had to drive, after all. Now, if I could just figure out how to do a clean spit into the bucket, I might save a few shirts ... and my dignity ...)
Loads of good things (and new things) to try at this year's show:
Schramsberg 2009 Blanc de Noirs (North Coast) - Pale orange-salmon colour; light strawberry notes with a soft mousse and a tangy, tart finish.
Ca'Momi NV Ca Secco - A bit of bubbly done with an intriguing blend of chardonnay, sauvignon blanc, muscat, riesling and gewurz. The aromas burst forth with hothouse florals in full bloom, but the palate is pleasantly light and airy, with a smidge of residual sugar evaporating on a cropped finish. Big fan of the label, too (photo at left).
Primal Roots 2011 White Blend - Expect this one out on the LCBO's general listing sometime this summer. Fascinating blend of colombard, viognier, riesling, gewurztraminer. Lily of the valley and orange blossom giving way to a bright citrus character that is emphasized by the wine's surprising acidity. The long finish is luxurious and perfumed. Easily my favourite white of the day.
Chalk Hill 2010 Sauvignon Blanc (Sonoma) - Muted flint and grapefruit that flares up in the racy, tangy mouthfeel. Crisp, bracing citrus finish. The chardonnay was a surprise, done in a ripe Meursault style with light oak and a refined vanilla scent.
Benovia 2011 Chardonnay (Russian River) - I don't normally adhere to the premise that big ticket prices = better wines, as I've tasted my share of overpriced yet sub-par juice, but in the case of Benovia, the cost reflects outstanding quality. This wasn't a standard Cali chard overwrought with oak. It was spicy, nutty and creamy, with a firm streak of acidity and plenty of the grape's characteristic fruit showing through.
Benovia 2010 Pinot Noir (Russian River) - The pinot was all soft berry, with a bit of chalkiness to it and a slightly sour cherry finish. It wasn't an overly fruity pinot, certainly not in the typical California-style, and showed the delicate balance of a wine that's been handled with remarkable care.
Dreaming Tree 2010 Crush Red Blend (North Coast; L310391 $16.95) Dreaming Tree is the collaborative efforts of musician Dave Matthews (yes, that Dave Matthews) and winemaker Steve Reeder. With a moderate-to-high alcohol content, this blend of merlot and zinfandel ain't no slouch. Juicy-sweet raspberry, round tannins and easy drinkability. Think of this as a go-to BBQ wine for burgers, steaks and such.
Carol Shelton NV Black Magic Late Harvest Zinfandel (Sonoma County) - For a heavy-hitter dessert wine without resorting to port, pull a bottle of this out. From vines planted in 1918, this long-hanging blend of zinfandel and cabernet sauvignon is all about black-and-blueberries on the nose, heavy on the alcohol and full of raspberry jam, chocolate and the brûléed part of that famed creamy dessert.