Sunday, September 11, 2011

Windy City Wine Festival 2011

The Windy City Wine Festival, otherwise known (to me) as Chicago’s birthday present to me, took place this weekend. We decided to go Friday despite rain forecasts and, although we did get wet the first half hour, our parking space was excellent. As always, the festival overall did not disappoint. I will say, however, that they really need to forego the whole ticket situation. Most distributors there don’t adhere to it, much less embrace it. They are there to peddle their wares - the more you taste, the more you buy. Give it up, U. S. Bank, Whole Foods or Chicago (whoever is responsible for this), and treat it like every other tasting out there. It is for this reason I wait until I get home to make my purchases just on principle.
So now I will take a backward step (watch your feet) off my soap box and tell you what I feel are the good, the bad and the ugly of the festival. I can say that my wine courses have definitely paid off as I was able to help an unfortunate soul working the festival that was in over his head - either voluntarily or otherwise - who, when asked what grape(s) are in the Telmo Rodriguez Basa Rueda Blanco ($16.99), replied, “Rueda,” after searching the label. He was quite appreciative when I pulled him aside and explained that Rueda is a region, the grape is Verdejo. The wine, by the way, was one of my favorites, with standout flavors exactly as the grape intended - fruity, floral nose followed by fresh, crisp citrus and tropical fruit.
I seemed to have been on a white wine roll as every one of my real favorites were whites - and cheap. There was another Verdejo - Francois Lurton Rueda White ($13.99) quickly followed by another of my favorite aromatic varieties, Terrazas Reserva Torrontes ($14.99). We then moved to France for a Chenin Blanc, Chateau Moncontour Vouvray ($15.99) and the steal of the day - an Ugni Blanc/Colombard blend called Tariquet Classique. This wine was wonderfully fragrant and fruity (apple/peach/pear) and for $8.99 is a definite stock up wine.
The reds were not a complete bust. Vina Zaco Red from Rioja was quite tasty (another steal for $13.99). This is 100% Tempranillo with red fruit, vanilla and a little spice. Arrocal (Fine Vines) ($16.99) of Ribera Del Duero was pretty yummy as well (as was the guy pouring, if memory serves). Another Tempranillo with red fruit and vanilla, but this one adds some black fruit as well. Santa Julia Malbec Reserva ($11.99), Four Vines Zinfandel Old Vine Cuvee ($11.99), 6th Sense Syrah ($16.99) and Cass Winery’s Grenache (sorry, the wine is not listed and the annoying couple next to us did not allow me to get a price) are honorable mentions.
I did ask the gal at Bodega Elena booth to show me a great sake for those new to the sport. She came thru by having me try a Gekkeikan Nigori and a Zipang sparkling sake. Both are $5.99 for 300 ML or 250 ML, respectively. The first had, to me, a cantaloupe flavor (although, surprisingly, she said I was the first to pick up on that) and the second was just a very subtle, slightly sweet, almost Fino Sherry-like flavor. Her advice to me was to order either unfiltered or sparkling the next time I want to try sake at a premium restaurant and I should not be disappointed. I plan to take her up on that.
What I was hoping would be the hi-lite, but turned out to be a disappointment, was the Cotes Du Rhone (Southern Rhone) booths. I could live with the fact that they were somewhat unorganized and even that most of their wines were not on the sheet. What bothered me most is that I do like Grenache - not as much as the Northern Rhone’s Syrah - but I found nothing that I liked here. With two notable exceptions. The first was a Tavel rose - Chateau d'Aqueria Rose (looks to be around the $16 range). The second was a surprise I had mixed feelings about. On the one hand, I was excited to discover the white wines made from Grenache; on the other hand, I was disappointed that, in all of my courses to date, these little gems (more like amethyst than emerald or ruby) are glossed right over. My clear favorite was the Ogier Heritages White ($15.99). My other favorite could have been M. Chapoutier Belleruche White ($13.99). While my notes, which were taken on very wet paper due to the rain say “Grand Marrenos”, I could not find this wine in online research.

No comments:

Post a Comment