What's the buzz...
Tell me what's a-happening?
- Rice & Webber
First, just the facts, ma’am:
Over 1,900 wine and food lovers attended the TAPAS (Tempranillo Advocates Producers & Amigos Society) Grand Wine Tasting in San Francisco’s Fort Mason this past Saturday, June 4; making this the third year in a row that attendance to this once modest affair has doubled.
Out of that 1,900+, some 75% of those attendees were clearly younger than 35, giving the organization’s wineries (about 80 of them), growers and card holding “amigos” (another 30+) a strong idea of where their pan is currently being buttered.
|Abacela proprietors, Earl & Hilda Jones|
Judging from the crowd at the TAPAS tasting in San Francisco, we think this “new” way (actually an old way, since wine historically evolved within culinary cultures) of appreciating wine may finally be sinking in: people there for an experience of good wines, not to make judgements, or to rush home afterwards and tear out those dreary magazines or dive into online reviews droning mindlessly on with “ratings” as if good drinking wines were appliances awaiting their Good Housekeeping seals of approval...
That is... hey, teacher, leave those TAPAS producers alone!
|Savoy's halibut pineapple seviche with Harney Lane Albarino|
The funnest foods, of course, are balanced by exhilarating sensations exactly like that, and the match with the 2010 Harney Lane Lodi Albariño – a steely dry white wine of lemony and mineral-toned dexterities offset by flowery fresh perfumes – not only made you want to grab more of these seviche chips and throw them in your mouth, it also made you wanna cry as if the intricacy of such simple, quiet yet effective sensations had suddenly eluded you all your pitiful life.
Another TAPAS Grand Tasting highlight was a cooking demo put on by chef/owner James Campbell Caruso of La Boca in Santa Fe, who put out a dish of calamari seared in Spanish olive oil and lemon juice, served with rice cooked with dabs of tinta calamar (black squid ink) and refreshing specks of chopped tomato. If there ever was an earthy seafood dish bursting with the smell and taste of the ocean, this was it; and it was these sensations that brought out an almost revelatory saline, and umami driven, side of the intrinsic minerality found in the grape of the varietal bottlings of both the lime and honeyed almond scented 2010 Bokisch Clements Hills-Lodi Albariño and the slightly fuller yet lemony crisp, honeysuckle and tropical fruit nuanced 2010 Abacela Umpqua Valley Albariño.
|Countdown to ecstasy: Bokisch Albarino, Spanish olive oil & squid ink|
But it was, after all, a very large and public tasting; and in that situation you walk a floor, jostle with a jovial crowd at the tables, and take your best shot at some kind of mnenomic discernment of the wine samples splashing in your glass. Luckily we have plenty of experience at that, and the fact that we actually write down notes. Some of the other high points of that day:
|Alta Mesa/Silvaspoons' Ron Silva|
2010 Jeremy, Lodi Albariño – Many say Albariño should be lighter and zestier than what has been produced for the most part on the West Coast; and unquestionably, the higher latitude length of days in Oregon’s Umpqua Valley and the Delta cooled terroirs of Lodi have a propensity to produce Albariños of somewhat lavish perfumes (although deliberate earlier and earlier picking have lightened recent vintages by Abacela and Bokisch quite significantly). But if for a more pristine, puristic, light and lively Albariño you pine, the Jeremy gives you that, with slivers of apricot and twists of lemon in lithe, limber sensations. Not too far off in a similar, light and unfettered vein, the 2010 Odisea Dream Clements Hills Albariño – grown by Markus Bokisch in his La Cerezas Vineyard – was tasting more starkly floral, with more of a green apple rather than lemony tartness.
2009 Odisea, Two Rows California Garnacha – Sourced primarily from Lodi’s Clements Hills AVA -- a vineyard farmed by Gregg Lewis, the proprietor/grower of Dancing Fox -- this red wine stood out for its blast of bright, red, strawberryish fruit, luscious in the nose and meaty in the mouth, even when tightening in the middle with firming tannin and chewing tobacco-like juiciness. Granted, the accessibility of this wine is somewhat mainstream (wine geeks or critics can easily grasp its “opulent” fruitiness); but in the vein of a good TAPAS style wine, its moderately scaled qualities would also make it “awesome” with food (we’re thinking simple gazpacho or rustic pan con tomate – toasted bread rubbed with garlic, chopped tomatoes, olive oil and rock salt).
2007 Fenestra, Silvaspoons Vineyards Lodi Touriga - Made from roughly equal parts Touriga Nacional and Touriga Francesa — the former known for making robust, full tannin reds, and the latter for lighter, more perfumed and finesseful reds — this is a generously black fruited red, dense and muscular down to the core, yet plummy, almost sweet toned around the edges. While fluid in fleshiness, the feel is beefy, and the finish tinged by some coffee ground tannin. Definitely a carnivore’s red; yet different, more visceral, from that of, say, a Cabernet Sauvignon drinker’s red: you wanna to drench your meats with more olive oil or pungent Mediterranean herbs with a wine like this to bring out the slightly raisined, sun inflected notes, or utilize more aromatic aged cheeses made from sheep’s mile (Manchego or Pecorino) to coax out more earthen bass notes. However which way you do it, this is a wine sharpened by awareness of food, not a wine critic’s pen.
|Harney Lane's Kyle Lerner with St. Amant's Stuart Spencer|
Or can we just agree Harney Lane makes delicious Tempranillo? So does St. Amant, for that matter (the 2008 St. Amant The Road Less Travelled Amador County Tempranillo tasting particularly wild – like a snorting, black, musclebound bull – in San Francisco), as well as Bokisch Vineyards (a sensual 2008 Bokisch Liberty Oaks Vineyard Jahant-Lodi Tempranillo currently laced in black cherryish, somewhat strawberryish, or maybe blackberryish fruit tones... or is it nothing at all?).
|Markus Bokisch workin' it at the TAPAS Grand Tasting|
But let us just give thanks to these intrepid oenological pioneers, embrace their thought process, and celebrate their success!
|Chains at San Francisco's Fort Mason|