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mission: competition Print
Written by Nikitas Magel   

And though the following wines are decidedly not value-driven at all, I felt their remarkable quality surpassed expectation even within their premium price category:

  • Olssens of Watervale: 2005 Olssens Six (Clare Valley); deceptively soft and seductive with its dark berry fruit flavors, its beautifully finish reveals a firm structure making this a wine of exquisite balance and expression ($55)
  • Rancho Zabaco Winery: 2005 Zinfandel, Monte Rosso Vineyard (Toreador, Sonoma); in spite of its 15.5% alcohol, a fresh and balanced wine with generous, almost opulent, blueberry aromas and flavors ($60)
  • Snows Lake Vineyard: 2005 Premium Bordeaux Blend, Two (Lake County); rich and generous on the palate, with sumptuous blackberry aromas and flavors, and a long finish ($45)
  • Woodward Canyon Winery: 2005 Cabernet Sauvignon (Columbia Valley); gorgeous black currant and blackberry flavors, vanilla undertones, and beautiful length ($44)
All told, The Tasting Panel Tour presented an excellent opportunity for me to sample 'the best of the best' from this year's San Francisco International Wine Competition.  But more importantly, the occasion allows for winning producers to use their recognition as leverage for increased awareness of their products in the marketplace, which I'm guessing ultimately translates into wider distribution and increased sales.  Only in its second year, my hope is for the Tour to become a regular event following the competition, and all indications are that this will indeed be the case.
My Spiritual deTour
Also featured at the event were some of the top spirits from the San Francisco World Spirits Competition.  In the interest of maintaining a sense of focus — and a modicum of sobriety — I had fully intended to forgo tasting these altogether, to concentrate only on the featured wines.  And I almost succeeded with that intention.  Out of sheer curiosity, I had ventured into the room down the hall, where the spirits were having their own quiet gathering, to take a gander at what was going on.  But just as I turned on my heels to walk out, I was greeted (assertively) by an attractive and stylishly dressed woman who invited me to try the vodka on the table she was standing beside.  Before I could politely decline, she added that the Argentine vodka was distilled entirely from Malbec grapes.  I stopped in my tracks.  Now, being a wine guy, how could I refuse an offer to taste a vodka made from wine grapes, made in a region known for its Malbec wines, no less?  Truth be told, in the past I'd tasted what was, at the time, the first grape-based vodka and frankly found it underwhelming.  I figured that what was being touted as making the product unique was really just a marketing ploy — something not uncommon among producers competing with each other to make prominent their version of yet another neutral white spirit.  But Primo Vodka, as I quickly tasted, is really quite distinct.  With very pronounced floral aromas on the nose, the full fruit essence comes through on the palate, and ends with a clean, smooth finish.  And though I'm no vodka drinker (to my recollection, it had been at least four years since I'd last tasted vodka) this stuff was nothing short of sublime.  To be sure — and at risk of offending someone in either industry — it actually reminded me of fine grappa… in fact, I couldn't help but wonder if that's exactly what it was, simply marketed differently.  Semantics aside, Primo made a primo impression on me.

heirlooms

Following the Tour's tasting event in each city is a dinner hosted by Anthony Dias Blue.  I took advantage of the unique opportunity to attend the San Francisco dinner, which was hosted instead by Tim McDonald, one of the judges for the Competition.  Through several points during the meal, he stood to share some tidbits of history on the wines — some of which were made from unusual varietals — that were perfectly matched with each of the courses:

 

  • House Made Mozzarella, Heirloom Tomatoes, Lemon Grass, Thai Basil; paired with the Starborough 2007 Sauvignon Blanc (Marlborough)
  • California White Sea Bass, White Asparagus, Jerusalem Artichokes, Chanterelles; matched with the Epiphany Cellars 2007 Grenache Blanc, Camp Our Vineyard, (Santa Ynez Valley)
  • Herb Crusted Colorado Lamb Chop and Loin, Berbere Spiced Lentils and Cipollini; paired with the Cambiata Winery 2005 Tannat (Monterey)
  • Artisan Cheese Plate; matched with the Kendall-Jackson Vineyards Trace Ridge 2005 Cabernet Sauvignon (Knights Valley)
Whether it was the fabulous wines, the sumptuous fare, or the synergy struck by the exquisite pairing of the two, the dinner punctuated The Tasting Panel Tour with a beautiful finish.

For more information on this, and other events like it, contact The Tasting Panel Magazine's Director of Marketing & Events, This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it .  For details on the competition itself, visit the San Francisco International Wine Competition online. end

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