In the last 10 days I’ve used my snowblower more than ever before. When I let our dog Amber out before going to work last Thursday, I was afraid she would disappear in the snow drift on our back patio. In the coming week, temperatures are expected to dip as low as 18 below zero.
Clearly, we needed to do something to battle the icy grip of this latest winter storm. We decided to face the chill down by chilling out – with our first Arctic Blast Relief wine tasting, joined by a band of more than a dozen friends.
Green Dragon prepared a gaggle of great appetizers including stuffed mushroom caps, olive and cream cheese pinwheels, and thyme apple and sausage bites. I tried to help (I really did), but she admonished me by saying she’d handle the food and I was in charge of the wine. I did pitch in by wrapping tiny sausages in dough to make pigs in a blanket.
Our wine lineup was as follows:
- Poema Cava, Spain
- Adriano Adami Prosecco, Italy
- Prejean 2010 Dry Riesling, Finger Lakes
Three Pinots from Arroyo Grande Valley, CA
- 2012 Laetitia Estate Pinot Noir
- 2012 Laetitia Whole Cluster Pinot Noir
- 2012 Laetitia Reserve du Domaine Pinot Noir
A Pair of Zinfandel from Dry Creek Valley, Sonoma
- 2011 Dry Creek Vineyard Heritage Vines Zinfandel
- 2011 Dry Creek Vineyard Old Vine Zinfandel
A Duo of Special Cabernet
- 2010 Gamla Cabernet Sauvignon, Israel
- 2008 Laurel Glen Cabernet Sauvignon, Sonoma Mountain (Magnum)
A Dessert Wine from Uruguay
- 2008 Familia Deicas Tannat Dessert Wine
To get me in the spirit, I spent more than an hour scraping and shoveling my driveway – to take advantage of the “warm” weather (it was about 28 degrees). As time for the party approached I scrambled to uncork bottles and fill decanters.
Our arrival wines were a couple of international sparklers – the Poema Cava from Spain and the Adami Prosecco from Italy. International traveler Larry said it reminded him of arriving in business class on an international flight. (Meanwhile in coach we are battling for overhead storage and paying for bottled water!).
Both sparklers were crisp with the Adami being a bit more sweet. The Prejean Riesling was a tasteful option for those who didn’t want bubbly.
We then crossed the threshold into the reds. We sampled three Pinots from Laetitia Winery. The first was their 2012 Estate Pinot, which was a recent winner at the San Francisco International Wine Festival. This elicited raves from the group. It is expressive with nice berry taste, light oaking and a touch of spice.
The 2012 Whole Cluster Pinot has more complexity than the Estate Pinot, with more body, and a woodsy, brambly flavor as a result of being fermented along with the stems. This is a distinctive and different wine.
The 2012 Laetitia Reserve du Domaine Pinot is a well rounded wine made from fruit with greater “hang-time” on the vine and spends a bit longer in oak. The wine is made from the top vineyard blocks with the addition of special lots that are vintage standouts. This is a real beauty with delicate flavors of cranberry, cherry and spice. The finish is superb.
Dry Creek Vineyards is a producer of awarding winning Zinfandel. The 2011 Heritage Vines Zinfandel features old vine budwood grafted into a new vineyard. In this way it brings the best of new and old.
The Heritage Vines offers rich raspberry and toffee flavors in a dry wine with medium body. This was the favorite wine of several tasters. We also won a few converts who were unfamiliar with “real” Zinfandel.
The 2011 Old Vines Zin is an outstanding vintage. The bouquet is earthy with deeper flavors than the Heritage. Flavors of dark berries from the briar patch mingle with spice. Both the Old Vines and Heritage Zins have some Petite Sirah to round out the blend.
Our friend Larry picked up the Gamla Cabernet during a recent business trip from Israel. He was surprised at the high quality of Israeli wine. The 2010 Gamla is from the Upper Galilee region. It has the classic Cabernet hallmarks, such as blackberry and cherry flavors, but with a substantial twist of pepper. It’s a solid wine that paired magically with chocolate.
Our penultimate wine was a magnificent magnum of 2008 Laurel Glen Vineyard, signed by owner Bettina Sichel. I’m going to single this wine out for an individual review later, but it is fair to say that this wine entranced our group. The full-bodied flavor of berries and spice with firm tannins made this a wonderful ride.
When our guests started switching sips from wine to water, it was time to wrap up our Arctic Blast Relief party – but not before trying one more exotic wine! The 2008 Familia Deicas Tannat Dessert Wine is from Uruguay. Tannat is the national grape and gets less spotlight time than it deserves.
This is a wine that cries out for a good cigar. It is a Port-style wine made from the ripest, most concentrated Tannat grapes in the traditional Port method. It is a naturally sweet wine with aromas of fig, mint and chocolate. The best comment of the night came from one guest who said this wine as “sweet, as expected – like our host!”