Saturday, April 21, 2007

Overwhelmed at today's tasting

Wow - there were a lot of people at Gaithersburg's French Wine Tasting event today! I think even were pretty blown away by the turn-out As it turned out, there were 11 French winemakers present, pouring a total of 24 wines! I'm not sure how long this link will be remain live, but here's a list of *most* of the wines poured (two winemakers signed up too late to be included on the list).

As a transplanted Californian, I am a French wine neophyte, so I was looking forward to this opportunity to directly compare between wines from different regions of France. Represented were Burgundy, Loire Valley, Northern and Southern Rhône, Cahors & Madiran, Bordeaux, Alsace, and Langeudoc.

First off, I want to mention that Kris and I escaped with only a $265 dent into our bank account - I was very impressed with our restraint, given that we tasted some absolutely fabulous wines! Since I doubt anyone is interested in reading tasting notes from 24 wines in a row, I think I'll mention my general impressions of the event, and will post about the wines as we drink them :)

This was the first tasting I've ever done where I've consciously spit. I admit, I did swallow on some of the truly spectacular offerrings, but I probably only drank the equivalent of one full glass even though I tasted 24 different wines. It wasn't easy - with so many people crammed into a realtively small store, the spit buckets were few and far between. We ended up carrying an extra glass with us as a "spit glass", which we periodically dumped into a bucket as we came across one.

With so many great-sounding wines, I really wanted to be able to fully appreciate them, so spitting was key. The wines were arranged by winemaker, obviously, since the winemakers themselves were present. Although predominantly a "red guy", I'm struggling to appreciate whites and really wanted to give them their fair share of attention. Thus we ended up making two loops - first to taste the whites, then to taste the reds (with one final stop for a yummy late harvest + botrytis dessert wine). This made for a rather long tasting, as we had to wait in line not once but twice for each winemaker, but overall I'm glad we did it because it allowed for a more direct comparison of more similar wines.

My overall impression of the event was that it was a bit overwhelming - between the hordes of people and the often thick accents of the winemakers, it was very difficult to glean much information about the wines I was tasting beyond the descriptions I had printed out from's website. I think the fact that it was a free wine tasting, combined with decent advertising and the most beautiful weather we've had since last fall all came together and created a "perfect storm" of wine consumers descending upon the store. I'm very glad I attended - I left with some great wines! - I just wish I would have had more time to talk with the winemakers and expand my (incredibly limited) knowledge of French wines.

Here's a quick list of the wines we ended up purchasing - as I mentioned, I'll put up tasting notes from when we actually crack open the bottle, not the ones I took during this tasting event:

Whites (see, I'm giving whites a fair chance!)
  • 2005 Dom Jean-Luc Mader Gewurztraminer (Alsace) - $17
  • 2005 Dom Jean-Luc Mader Pinot Gris (Alsace) - $17
  • 2005 Dom Berthet-Rayne Côtes du Rhône Blanc (Côtes du Rhône) - $13
  • 2006 Ch Les Arromans Entre-deux-Mers (Bordeaux) - $10
  • 2005 Dom Berthet-Rayne Chateauneuf du Pape Rouge (CdP) - $27
    **My favorite wine of the day! I just love strong, smooth CdPs...
  • 2001 Ch Mondesir-Gazin Blaye (Bordeaux) - $23
    **Very tasty - a "close second" in the running, but hard to beat a CdP for me.
  • 2005 Dom Renée Bouvier Le Chapitre Bourgogne Rouge (Burgundy) - $20
  • 2004 Dom Le Pas de l'Escalette Les Clapas Rouge (Languedoc) - $20
    **Perfect timing! A Coteaux du Languedoc just in time for this month's WBW!
  • 2005 Dom Le Pas de l'Escalette le 1er Pas Rouge (Languedoc) - $15
  • 2004 Ch Les Arromans Rouge Cuvée Prestige (Bordeaux) - $14
    **We bought two - seems like it could have excellent aging potential.
  • 2005 Dom Berthet-Rayne Côtes du Rhône Rouge (Côtes du Rhône) - $13
    **We also bought two of these - excellent Quality-Price Ratio.
  • 2005 Ch Les Cedres Heritage Cahors (Cahors) - $12
    **Again, we bought two - excellent QPR!
In case anyone's adding up our purchases, we also bought the Frascati Superiore that I just reviewed for $12, as well as a Cateller Cava Brut (sparkling Spanish wine) for $14. All in all, not a bad haul! Looking forward to breaking in to them and writing them up in the weeks / months to come.

1 comment:

Dr. Debs said...

Wow, Nate, those are some great looking wines at really good prices. Here in CA, of course, we have the opposite problem that you are experiencing: French wines are rare and expensive, Cal wines inexpensive and plentiful. But, to quote my grandmother, if you can "bloom where you're planted" and take advantage as you are of being in a place where the French wine is there to be tasted (!) before buying, you are truly in luck. And I'm envious!