The USQ Mega Tastings are a fine way to spend the afternoon. Although I prefer it when there are fewer grubbers there for the free booze. I made it to the second session with a diverse lineup I must admit: Spanish, Italian, French, South African, Californian, and a few other surprises too.
I started off with Etude’s Pinot Gris from Napa. The ’08 vintage is clean, crisp, and an altogether delightful mélange of apple blossom and stony citrus fruit. I next tried a rather interesting Beaujolais Nouveau. I am never really fond of the Beaujolais Nouveau, but I usually sample them year after year because of all the euphoria and just to be vinously hospitable. The ’09 Domaine de la Madone was surprisingly beefy for a Nouveau— earthy to the point where it had much more in common with a Moulin à Vent, a Chénas or another cru Beaujolais.
I later sampled Fattoria del Cerro 2004 Vino Nobile de Montepulciano that also carried a meaty flavor as if I were drinking a delicious wine reduction stew. This didn’t come as such a surprise to me as the Beaujolais because Vino Nobile de Montepulciano has that meatier, earthier stock in its makeup.
A standout for me at the tasting was a rare Aglianico del Vulture. I have always had a penchant for this ancient grape from Southern Italy. It tastes like the sun-baked soil. Many of the Agliancos I have enjoyed have come from a producer called Mastroberadino whose family has been planting vines for centuries. Those grapes are sourced from Campania the region that touches Naples and the old Roman city of Pompeii. Aglianico del Vulture comes from the neighboring Basilicata and is marked by a volcanic richness of its local soil. Tenuta Le Querce 2006 “Il Viloa” was a delightful dark brooding wine and a little bit sweet on the attack and mineralic. I considered an engaging wine
There was also a noteworthy Spanish red made from the Mencía varietal. D. Ventura 2007 Pena do Lobo from the Ribeira Sacra in the province of Lugo all the way Galicia. The Pena do Lobo is culled from 80 year old Mencía vines that rest near the Sil River. I found a pungent aroma of grilled lomo on the nose and almost bready quality that followed on the palate. An interesting blend of wild berries and minerals— a wine that clearly flourishes in its cool environment.
Then I had a Gran Reserva Rioja from Bodegas Lan. A big wine indeed that showed its 5 plus years of oak cask aging. This Gran Reserva wall well-integrated, classic Tempranillo that somehow reminded me a little bit of left bank Bordeaux although Tempranillo usually does remind me a little bit of blackcurrant in taste. The tannin had been tamed, but as I continued to swig my last few sips I thought what a pity not to have, in the very least, some yummy tapas to accompany my vino.
I ended my tasting spree with Royal Tokaji, a 2005 vintage and 5 Puttonyos of pure sin. Before I even retrieved my glass from the pourer, I smelled a burbling hot pot of crème brûlée. That’s how redolent, how powerful the smell of Tokaji can be. And with 5 Puttonyos of sugary glee I was lusting for my glass. Surprise of surprises it wasn’t as sweet up front, but built up into a convincingly profound hyperbolic crescendo of caramelized goodness.
I got out of there as quickly as I could or else I would’ve looped my way into another round.