Sunday, June 19, 2011

The Best Of The Wine Fest Des Moines VIP Lounge Tasting

Each year in June, Des Moines celebrates wine with its own giant festival, Wine Fest Des Moines, and each year, it just gets better and better! This year, compliments of my friend Al Samuelson representing Jackson Family Wines, I got to wear the VIP lanyard, giving me complete access to the VIP Lounge. (The VIP Lounge can be accessed by anyone who wants to pay an extra fee in addition to the regular ticket price.) This year's lounge was exceptional! The booths alternated between tables of high end wines to some of Des Moines' finest new restaurants and catering companies being represented. (Thanks to Al for providing the pass and allowing me access to such fabulosity! Cheers!)

As, I worked my way from table to table, I marveled at the wonderful wines! Someone said, "Hey, they have a '99 Whitehall Lane Cabernet Sauvignon at that table over there!" For a moment, I froze in time, thinking back to one of the biggest wine mistakes I had ever made. The '99 Whitehall Lane Cabernet Sauvignon was Wine Spectator's #5 Wine Of The Year in 2002. At that point in time, I was still not making big splurges for high end wines and I decided to take a leap of faith and have my local wine shop order one for me. At the time, I believe it cost me around $50. I kept it in my wine rack for two years then on New Year's Eve 2004, I decided to open it. I did not decant it or leave it open for very long. It was very tannic and young still and I was extremely disappointed. Luckily, I learned the hard way and since that day and many splurges later, I have learned to treat my high end wines with a little more respect... But back to the tasting, I made my way to the table and they had run out of the wine I so desperately wanted to try!!! But, I did try many great wines that evening and here is a retrospective of what I felt were the best ones there worth seeking out...

2009 Peter Michael Belle Côte Chardonnay---WOW! What an elegant wine!! This wine swept me away. I was mesmerized. So smooth. Beauty in a glass! Estate grown high above Sonoma County's Knights Valley, it was full of creamy peach, nutmeg and citrus. Balanced and nearly perfect. I have no idea what the price point is on this wine as very few of their wines are distributed and most are on an allocation list. I consider myself fortunate to have tasted it.

2009 Shafer Red Shoulder Ranch Carneros Chardonnay--What a nice Chardonnay! So balanced. Bright with tropical and floral nuances, slightly nutty finish. Not overboard on the vanilla like some Carneros Chardonnays and no butter. This one is partially stainless steel fermented and the remainder is barrel fermented in French Oak. I could get used to this Chardonnay...Shafer Vineyards, located near Yountville in the Napa Valley, is known for putting out high quality, collectible wines. $48.

2008 Blackbird Vineyards Arise Napa Valley Proprietary Red---A relative newcomer to the Napa Valley, Blackbird Vineyards specializes in Pomerol-style red blends which are Merlot-based. Their portfolio features several, all slightly different, and a few of them are finally beginning to make their way around the US on distribution lists. Their grapes come from the Oak Knoll AVA near the southern end of Napa. The blend is 42% Merlot, 38% Cabernet Sauvignon and 20% Cabernet Franc, barrel fermented in both new and seasoned French oak. The blend was earthy and rich--very dark in color, dark fruits, cedar and tobacco. $50.

2008 Turley Old Vine Zinfandel---Oh my!!! I had been warned many a time that sipping a Turley Zinfandel would kill my palate for anything else. High in alcohol, decadent as hell, Turley Zins are what I consider the motherlode of all Zinfandels. This one is raunchy not elegant. One sip and you want to slap the heck out of it! It's meaty and raw!! It's so wreckless it's like wine wearing bondage gear. But it's enticing because you know you want more... Forget everything you ever knew about Zin and take a walk on the wild side. This one is UNFORGETTABLE! $70.

2007 La Jota Howell Mountain Cabernet Sauvignon---Ah yes! Now this is what I am talking about! Good ol' Napa Valley mountain wines. Edgy but elegant. So rich it makes you want to sigh! 82% Cabernet Sauvignon, 15% Merlot and 3% Petit Verdot giving it a blackberry, violet toasty flavor. Superb!! $55.

2007 Hartford Court Land's Edge Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir---How great is this wine?? So great I wanted to keep drinking it all night long! Black cherries, spice, coffee. This rich, dark Pinot Noir is like heaven. Balanced, highly-rated, sold out at the winery. This is the stuff that Great Pinot Noir is made of. $45.

2007 Tignanello---Now we're going to take a slight departure and go on vacation to Italy. They make some seriously great wines there. This one, by the Antinori Family of Tuscany, is serious wine. I consider this wine to be one of the four Super-Tuscan wines that should not be missed. A Super-Tuscan wine comes into being due to the strict laws of Italian winemaking. If the wine does not adhere to the blending laws of the DOCG, it becomes a Super-Tuscan. This wine is amazing! 80% Sangiovese, 15% Cabernet Sauvignon and 5% Cabernet Franc. It's a food wine, sturdy, meaty, huge with flavor! And it's about $85 a bottle or so depending on where you get it.

So there you a have it! A night full of great food, decadent wines worth seeking out and unforgettable memories... Until next year...

"You Saw It Here First"...This post was created solely for "Cellarmistress' Cellar Talk" by Grace Hoffman. Grace is an Italian-born, American-bred wine blogger/educator with an all-consuming passion for wine and all it encompasses.