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Tuesday, April 13,2010

Delectable discoveries

There was plenty to pour — and adore — at annual MSU Museum Wine Tasting event

by Michael Brenton
The annual MSU Museum Wine Tasting Fundraiser at the Kellogg Center on March 26 again provided a vinous cornucopia of current release wines which were eagerly evaluated by hundreds of attendees. More than 25 wineries were represented and well over 150 wines were presented, several by their winemakers.

First, some of the highlight whites. 2007 Ornella Molon Sauvignon Blanc ($23.79), presented by Italian winemaker Massimo Furlan, is Italian juice with a softer, rounder mouth feel than a New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc, perhaps assisted by extended aging on the lees. Grapefruit and citrus were at the fore. The Italian 2008 Ornella Pinto Grigio ($17.49) also presented with refreshing, crisp, concentrated fruit.


2009 Bower’s Harbor Pinot Grigio ($13.99), presented by proprietor Spencer Stegenga, opened with a bright, fruity nose, soft pear and melon flavors, and nice acidity on the mid-palate and finish. Another dependable Michigan producer, Bel Lago, was present with proprietor/ winemaker Charlie Edson. His 2008 Auxerrois ($13.39), a grape variety common in the Alsace region of France, and a perennial winery favorite, had an effusive, fruity nose, full bouquet, a creamy yeasty mouth feel with overtones of bread dough, and complex flavors — a unique wine I always love.


Noted Detroit area importer Paul Mann presented his selections. If one sees “a Paul Mann selection” pasted on the side of a bottle, you can have great confidence about the quality of the juice inside the glass.


Selbach 2008 Riesling Kabinett Bernkasteler Kurfurstlay is a Mosel bargain at $11.19. It shows a soft, viscous mouth feel, but with supporting acidity. Selbach-Oster 2007 Zeltinger Sonnenuhr Riesling Spatlese ($29.99) presented with amazing richness and mouth-filling viscosity. A 95-point wine, this is Auslese quality in a Spatlese wine. Reichsgraf Von Kesselstatt 2008 Piesporter Riesling ($16.59), from the heart of the famed Goldtr'pfchen Vineyard, showed nicely delineated Riesling flavors with crispness balancing the sweetness, a clean, mediumlength finish and a very cleansing palate. Bernkasteler Badstube 2007 Riesling Sp'tlese ($24.99) from Dr. H. Thanisch, a winery practicing sustainable agriculture, presented with big, concentrated fruit. It was a favorite.


Two Angels Sauvignon Blanc ($16.49) from the High Valley Appellation north of Napa
Valley will please fans of this grape variety, demonstrating a somewhat
soft, round mouth feel, but typical Sauvignon Blanc flavors.


Bianchi
“Elsa” 2009 Torrontes ($9.19), a characteristic Argentinean white wine
grape, showed soft, aromatic floral notes on the nose, and just a touch
of sweetness on the palate.


A
new experience for me, and many of the tasters, was the Argentinean New
Age White ($9.19), a blend of 50-percent Sauvignon Blanc and 50-percent
Malvasia.


I
watched with skepticism as this white wine was poured over the rocks.
It was a pleasant, somewhat sweet, semi-sparkling white wine. However,
after adding a spray of lime and swishing it around, the sweetness was
cut by the lime’s acidity, adding an extra taste dimension. This is a
variation on wine drinking worth trying as a cooling, backyard,
low-alcohol, summer cocktail.


Moving
on to reds, Marchesi Di Barolo 2006 Barbera ($17.49) showed notes of
cherry and strawberry with modest tannins and a light ruby color.
Marchesi Di Barolo 2008 Dolcetto D’Alba ($17.49) was all about soft,
strawberry fruit, leaving a drying tang on the tongue and a medium
finish. Marchesi Di Barolo 2004 Barolo ($50.99),, made from 100-percent
Nebbiolo, stepped up the quality and concentration a giant notch.
Matured in oak casks for three years, this wine showed intense bouquet,
dark fruit, real depth of flavor and chewiness. It is still a baby and
should have a long life.


Similarly,
the 2007 Navarro-Lopez Garnacha “Rojo” (a/k/a Grenache) from
40-year-old vineyards in the south of Spain, presented with a
concentrated, fruity nose, a fruit forward presentation, and soft mouth
filling flavors; think backyard barbecue. It should be a crowd pleaser
and, at $9.99, it’s a bargain.


Two
Angels 2006 Petite Sirah ($28.69) was dark garnet, mouth-filling, big,
rich, deep and concentrated, with a long finish. If big reds are your
thing, you’ll like this. Eponymous ($47.99), a 2005 red from Robert
Pepi Jr. grown near the ridgeline of the Mayacamus Mountains separating
Napa from Sonoma, is a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Cabernet
Franc. It is all about intense, mountain fruit, big bouquet, and a
spicy, chocolaty finish. It was one of the wines of the evenings.


Querceto
2004 Chianti Classico Riserva ($24.29), a wine made from Sangiovese
grapes, showed typical bright cherry and strawberry in the nose, sweet
fruit on the mid-palate and no drying character on the finish. Flavor
intensity was stepped up a notch with Capitel De Roari 2006 Amarone
($35.69) from Luigi Righetti, a wine made with partially dried Corvina,
Rondinella and Molinara grapes. It showed dark fruit with a hint of tar
in the nose, and sweet dried fruit character. Pair this with hearty
meals and intense sauces.


Domaine
Serene is an outstanding Oregon producer, but one does pay for the
quality. Its 2007 Pinot Noir Yamhill Cuvee ($37.19) is 100-percent
barrel-aged in small French oak, and shows typical Pinot Noir flavors,
with modest tannin and everything in balance. Domaine Serene 2006 Pinot
Noir Evenstad Vineyard ($61.99) gets extended barrel aging and shows
the quality of the fruit with big, round, mouth-filling flavors and an
ever-so-pleasing, lingering finish.


Another
dependable west coast producer of big red wines is Steltzner. The 2006
Merlot ($35.89) from Stags Leap District in Napa had good structure,
round, full fruit, and a bit of a drying finish, which may round out
over time. The 2006 Cabernet from Stags Leap ($42.49) led off with a
dark berry nose, soft mouth feel, concentrated fruit, good balance, and
a bit of chocolate in the finish.


Terrabianca
2005 Campaccio ($28.99), 70-percent Sangiovese and 30-percent Cabernet,
is always dependable. Medium garnet in color, it is a dry wine with
very sweet fruit, nice balance and a soft finish.


If
you weren’t among the tasters and testers at the MSU Museum wine
tasting event this year, consider attending next year. It is a premiere
tasting and learning opportunity.


In vino veritas.


(Michael Brenton is president of the Greater Lansing Vintners Club. His column appears monthly.)

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