FD: Wine Column April 08, 2009

April tasting gives wine snapshot into time

Barreling into spring.

If you enjoy talking to winemakers, peeking into wineries and tasting new wines fresh and juvenile from the barrel, the Spring Barrel Tasting is the event for you.

Sponsored on two spring weekends by the Grand Valley Winery Association, this two-day trip around the eight wineries in the Grand Valley is more than a simple look at some of the newer wines still waiting release.

It’s an intimate look into Colorado winemaking, a look that goes as deep as you wish and may reveal as much about the winemakers as it does about their wines.

The year’s Spring Barrel Tasting is April 25–26 and May 16–17. Tickets (for each weekend) are $60 per person and nonrefundable. That price includes a commemorative wine glass (bearing the snappy GVWA logo), entry into a drawing for a free case of wine and a Grand Valley Winery Association passport.

Of note this year is a special dinner April 24 with area winemakers or their representatives at the posh Two Rivers Winery and Chateau. Most such dinners have a winemaker or two; this one may have eight.

Tickets to the dinner are $87.50 per person (limited to the first 100) with proceeds going to a local charity or nonprofit organization.

Information and tickets are available at 241-3155, e-mail events@two
riverswinery.com or go online to http://www.tworiverswinery.com.

Barrel tastings are a different breed of tasting, as you may find out if the winemaker takes the time to tell you.

These are young wines, most of them are what’s often termed angular, just like a teenager is angular and not quite filled out, and unlike what they’ll be after several months of aging in oak, stainless steel or glass.

Add the vagaries of storage, transportation and handling and you might not quite recognize that what you taste in April is what you’re served in September.

There’s a tale going on in the barrel, and an astute winemaker can reveal secrets that a casual wine drinker may never guess.

True, it’s only a snapshot in time of a wine going through its maturation, but this, too, is the time to develop your palate when it comes to discerning what a wine may be by tasting what it’s like now.

Also, most of the wineries will be pouring current releases, which can be confusing since different vintages turn out, well, differently.

Judging the potential of a 2008 cabernet sauvignon by tasting a 2005 cabernet sauvignon won’t tell you a thing about the 2008, especially since 2005 is proving to be a marvelous vintage for Grand Valley cabernet sauvignon.

But the winemaker (in most cases) has tasted both vintages at similar steps in their development and she or he can tell you how they compare.

Listen to the winemaker and listen to the wine.

The spate of hot weather in March got us thinking about spring and summer wines and to me that means sauvignon blanc.

Crisp, mouthwatering acidity, loaded with citrus (lemon, grapefruit, lime), grass, tropical fruits (pineapple) and maybe some faint mineral notes, sauvignon blanc can be the perfect sipper for summer nights on the deck and accompanying the season’s lighter meals.

And they’re all fairly low in alcohol (generally 9–13 percent) which means you can have a glass or two without needing a nap afterward.

If you explore sauvignon blancs, you’ll find a wide range of what’s known as mouthfeel, the range of which can best be described by thinking of how skim milk, whole milk and whipping cream feel in your mouth.

Some New Zealand sauvignon blancs, such as Kim Crawford’s 208 Marlsborough Sauvignon Blanc (about $13), can be described as full and creamy, hinting at malolactic fermentation, although the Web site (http://kimcrawfordwines.co.nz) doesn’t say.

Chilean sauvignon blancs, on the other hand, often are lean and bright, with bracing acidity and lots of citrus, with a taut mouthfeel.

Some California winemakers, unable to leave a good thing alone, took what should be a lithe and lean varietal and subjected it to oak, oak and more oak, giving sauvignon blanc the same buttery taste that ruined chardonnay.

Fortunately, that trend seems to be ending.

More on sauvignon blanc next time.

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