Peter Woods of the Midwest Wine Exchange/Henry A. Fox Sales Company presented an impressive array of boutique wines at a Tasters' Guild Wine Dinner last night (January 24) at the Park Club of Kalamazoo, MI. These small production wines are not widely available, but you may see them on restaurant wine lists in Michigan. And, if you are interested, you can contact the winery.
NV SHOENHEITZ CREMANT D'ALSACE: Mostly Pinot Auxerrois with 10% Pinot Blanc, this wine is delightfully fruity for an aperitif. The mouth feel is lush and somewhat sweetish. At about $17 a bottle, it's a good alternative to Champagne, but for about the same price, I'd prefer the more elegant approach of a Larry Mawby Blanc de Blanc or Blanc de Noir.
2007 BOKISCH VINEYARDS & WINERY ALBARINO, LODI: This is an interesting winery that makes wine solely from Spanish varietals. This Albarino, and the Chardonnay below, were paired with a first course of sauteed skate in beurre noir--an excellent match. Produced without new oak influence, the Albarino is again delightfully forward--bursting with fresh fruit salad, flowers, mint and basil. Smells and tastes thick.
2007 MAZZOCCO CHARDONNAY, SONOMA: This was one of my favorite wines of the evening. Tasted alongside the Albarino, you can sense the new oak influence in this wine, but it is well measured and subtle. I get fresh peach aromas and flavors, along with apple, citrus, flowers and a slightly smoky note. It's not at all showy but brings out the nuances of the Chardonnay grape that you usually get only in unwooded versons. There is actually 4% Pinot Grigio in the blend, and this may add some complexity. The skate, incidentally was fantastic--cooked to bring out the delicate textures and flavors of skate and accompanied by a rich brown butter sauce that picked up the smokiness of the Chardonnay.
2006 ELUSIV PINOT NOIR, MONTEREY: This wine, and the one below, is made solely for restaurant sale by the glass. I intend to look for them. This one was the lesser of the two, for my taste. It had typical Pinot notes of black cherry and earth that were open and inviting--and paired nicely with pan seared Kashmiri duck breast in a cherry walnut sauce. After several sips, it became apparent to me that the Carneros Pinot Noir below offered more complexity.
2007 ELUSIV PINOT NOIR, CARNEROS: There was not much difference in the color of these two Pinots, but this one had more floral tones in the aroma. Earth, cherry, pomegranate notes are brighter and fresher and also deeper than the Monterey Pinot. But both are enjoyable wines. The duck was a bit overcooked and dry for my taste, but the sauce was excellent and brought out all the subtle qualities of Pinot Noir.
2006 STARRY NIGHT WINERY ZINFANDEL, LODI: This Zinfandel was a hit with the crowd, and for good reason. It is a no pretenses Zin that reminded me of the ones I loved in the 1970s and 1980s. The blackberry qualities are front and center but well defined and not at all jammy. It's real Zinfandel and new oak qualities are used to frame and not dominate the vibrant fruit.
2004 WAUGH CELLARS ZINFANDEL, DRY CREEK: This was my wine of the evening, and it was a perfect match for the grilled New Zealand lamb chops with polenta and basil mint vinaigrette. I am partial to Dry Creek Zinfandel, and this one brought back memories of Ridge Geyserville. The Dry Creek old vine power and concentration are there--layers of berries, earth and dark chocolate.
2005 SKY SADDLE CABERNET SAUVIGNON, MENDOCINO: The final course featured pan-seared pepper crusted petit filet mignon in its natural jus with potatoes and asparagus. It was beautifully cooked and presented, and the pair of Cabernets did their part. Mendocino Cabernets do not have the reputation of their Napa and Sonoma cousins, but they can be very good. This one is made from organically grown grapes in a biodynamic vineyard. Aromas are somewhat restrained at first, but they open up nicely with elegant Cabernet fruit featuring dark cherries and berries. Has good acid to frame the flavors.
2006 FORCHINI VINEYARDS & WINERY CABERNET SAUVIGNON, DRY CREEK: I preferred this Cabernet, which reminded me of some of my favorite California Cabs from the 1970s such as Burgess, Conn Creek and Keenan. It's a no holds barred style with bold aromas and flavors of black currants, cassis, chocolate and coffee. The Dry Creek qualities are there too--depth, power and size.
2006 DI LENARDO VERDUZZO, PASS THE COOKIES! FRIULI: Actually, to the disappointment of many guests, there were no cookies. The wine (with cookies incorporated into the name) was dessert. And, after four courses of fish and meat plus 10 wines, who was to complain? This was my introduction to Verduzzo, and I was pleased. It was an easy going wine with a smooth texture and rich flavors of caramel, honey, vanilla and dried fruits. At about $18, it's a decently priced dessert wine.
In Kalamazoo, wines from this tasting will be available through D&W FreshMarkets on Parkview and Bacchus Wine & Spirits.