By Ben Heskett
SAN FRANCISCO, Calif. – One of the benefits of living in the Bay Area, near one of the world’s wine epicenters, is you get the chance to interact with a lot of folks in the wine industry and take part in a variety of different events involving different brands. These past few weeks have been a great example.
CORKZILLA was invited to three distinctly different types of get-togethers in the past couple of weeks – a masterful luncheon featuring a variety of Sicilian wines from Planeta (wines in photo at right), promotional tasting to highlight the progress being made at a vineyard and resort development in Argentina, and a "Notes du Rhone" event to promote the state of French Rhone wines.
Here’s some notes on each event:
- Planeta is an interesting winery, with six different locations throughout its island home. Sicily has recently been more prominent on my own wine radar for the Nero d’Avola – a grape that creates some great value red wines. But at a luncheon with Francesca Planeta, it’s clear that there’s an entirely different level to what Sicily can offer consumers. A terrific Planeta white wine called “Cometa,” based on the Fiano grape, showed a versatility and depth I was not expecting (Not sure what I was expecting given my limited exposure to Fiano), with several tropical fruit notes. My favorite of the tasting is the Planeta “Santa Cecilia,” a pure expression of the Nero d’Avola grape that seemed different from my prior “value” experience with Nero d’Avola. Another red blend called Cerasuolo di Vittoria, made from Nero d’Avola and Frappato, was also interesting, exhibiting Pinot Noir-like tendencies, with nice acidity and a roundness that makes it a versatile option for food. All in all, it was an eye-opening review of Planeta’s wines from someone who knows everything there is to know about the 390 hectares of vineyards the winery has in Sicily. There’s an impressive focus on the unique characteristics of the land at Planeta that will serve it well as it explores a greater presence in the U.S. It’s certainly a label the ‘Zilla will look for on future retail outings.
- The Vines of Mendoza held a tasting and promotional event at Dogpatch WineWorks in the dogpatch section of the city. The Vines of Mendoza is an interesting amalgamation of Argentinian wine expertise and sales, resort development, and vineyard sales and oversight, all envisioned by American Michael Evans and his Argentinian counterpart Pablo Giminez Riili. The event, held at the Dogpatch WineWorks, featured wines from two participants in the Vines of Mendoza effort – Recuerdo Wines and Media Luna Vineyards. Of the wines tasted, the Recuerdo Malbecs really stood out, even though they were extremely young. They had all the typical characteristics of a Malbec – deep red fruit, rich and ever-present tannins, and some interesting spice notes. I’d also note that the Argentinian Torrontes grape continues to be a terrific value option in whites and I’m intrigued to see just how this grape evolves in terms of exposure and price point in the U.S.
- Finally, the ‘Zilla was invited to take part in a “State of Rhone Wines”-style event in the city hosted by the trade group Inter Rhone and featuring a wide selection of Rhone Valley wines. Several wines from the Ogier winery from the Chateauneuf-du-Pape appellation were represented, with their “Oratorio” Crozes-Hermitage and Gigondas serving as standouts. The Domaine de Montine offered an interesting branding take, with wines called “Emotion and “Seduction” (the 50 percent Syrah and 50 percent Grenache Emotion blend was our favorite). Terraventoux also impressed with a 2010 blend of 70 percent Grenache and 30 percent Syrah. Overall, there were numerous takeaways, among them the quality of Rhone wines under $30, the breadth of the offering coming from the Rhone, and the ongoing challenges regions like the Rhone faces in an era of breathtaking global competition in the aisles of wine shops and supermarkets for your wine dollar. Also among the topics was an update on the 2012 harvest, which will deliver yields in line with those of the past five years, according to Inter Rhone representatives. A March 2013 event throughout the Rhone, described here, also sounds like a no-brainer for all Rhone enthusiasts.