The Port of Wines Festival is a celebration of wine that lasts for four days. There are dinners and events you can go to throughout the week but on Friday and Saturday (the festival’s end) there are four Grand Tastings you can attend.
Every year they feature a wine region of the world and I was so excited that it was Chile. What I know about Chilean wine is limited, but when I think Chile I think high quality, often organically farmed, affordable wine. One grape they are well known for is the Carmenere grape which I will only buy from Chile but because they have sure a range in climate they also make a really good Cabernet Sauvignon and Malbec among many other varietals.
This year was my first year attending the festival and I don’t know why I waited so long because I had a blast. I can only imagine I was either too broke to go or wasn’t sure if I would be down as I didn’t know much about wine and imagined I may be uncomfortable surrounded by knowledge experts. Advice to someone who hasn’t gone, make the time/money you won’t regret it. Also you should note that there was some pretty amazing snacks for the non-vegetarian among us, however I was a little bummed at the food selection as all I could eat were some cheeses and veggies with dip.
For the record, I had so much fun. Seriously, if you even if you just like to casually drink wine or you are on the other end of the spectrum and have a good knowledge of wine production, terroir, bio-dyanamics, classifications and or just have a great palate this festival is fun.
The Saturday night Grand Tasting (click here for the featured wines) was busy and I wished I had had more time to talk to the pourers. Some representing/pouring the wine were from the vineyards while other pourers were well versed NSLC employees. I think I expected to learn it bit more, but it was too busy to chat most times. I was surprised at the reaction I got from a few vendors. Italy in particular as I was excited to try some Barolos which are very dry and oaky and they seemed to make the assumption, that because I was a lady, dry red wines would be not be appreciated.
We started in Portugal, so our first wine was a Taylor Fladgate & Yeatman 20 year old Tawny Port, dessert in a glass, as the representative called it. It was my first experience with port outside of having it added to food items and it wasn’t bad. I don’t think I’m a port lady but I appreciated it sweet and spicy honey flavours.
Next up we went to Germany. Traditionally I’ve not been a fan of German wine because of the sweetness factor but I was totally proven wrong. I was ready to skip this table, but last minute Leo convinced me to try Constellation Wines US 2010 Blufeld Reisling ($14.99) which is a medium dry Riesling (that usually means sweet). It had such a high acidity that it didn’t taste sweet and reminded me of summer and cold stone.
France had a lot of tables but I was only interested in trying one wine (I tried three) Nicola Potel 2007 Clos de Vougeot Grand Cru ($172.99). Its 100% Pinot Noir, very light on the palate and very oaky and dry. From what I can remember, I preferred the Nicola Potel but it was similar to one of the French Award Winners, Barton & Guestier 2009 Les Charmes de Magnol ($23.99). I found the Barton & Guestier had less fruit taste but shared the same oaky dryness.
At the Argentina table I tried Vina Cobos 2010 Felino Malbec ($24.99) which was soft and delicious. The Australia tables were stogged full so I did not push through to try a lot of wines. I did try two, first the Angove 2012 Whiz Bang Barossa Shiraz ($19.99) that has a funny name but was super easy to drink, smooth and fruity. Secondly, Peter Dennis Wines 2005 Grenache ($24.99) which was one of Leo’s favourites.
There was so many amazing wines to try from Chile but the line-ups became circles of friends it it was hard to push through to the feature wines. We did get to sample the festival’s top scoring Shiraz./Syrah Vina Ventisquero 2008 Pangea ($49.49) and all I remember was that I said ‘amazing’ and wanted to eat blue cheese with it pretty much immediately. One of my favorite wines of the night was the Emiliana Organic Vineyards 2009 Ge ($80.29).I kept going back to this vineyard because the taste of the wine and the processes as they are organic and practice biodynamic farming. Leo let me taste some of his Vina Valdivieso 2009 Reserve Chardonnay($23.29) and it was just like biting into a ripe peach.
Being a lover of all Concho Y Toro I wanted to compare their Carmenere with the Cabernet they were offering. The Carmenere we tried was a 2007 Terrunyo Block 17 ($39.99) was the award winner for the Top Scoring Chilean Table Wine in the Red category and was smooth and perfumey. I ever-so-slightly preferred the Cabernet Sauvignon 2009 Terrunyo Block Las Terrazas ($39.99) which had more oak and peppery finish and I liked it the best. Good news, you can buy either locally.
Gallo is one of the biggest wine producers in the USA I can think of, however I was interested to try their 2003 Gallo Northern Estate Cabernet Sauvignon ($90.60) which was delicious, I ended up going back for another taste and talked to their representative for a bit about how big their company is, look up Gallo I dare you, they are everywhere. I also tried a really lovely Pinot Noir from Caymus Vineyards 2010 Belle Glos Las Alturas ($39.99) which won the Top Scoring Pinot Noir, I felt a little like I was in Sideways.
I briefly stopped at the South African table to try the award winning table wine in the red category over $40. It was called Beyerskloof 2009 Diesel Pinotage ($68.99) which was jammy up front and finished dry. From there we went to Spain and I fell in love with a few wines first off was the top scoring Temranillo, Bodegas Lan 2007 Edicion Limitada ($53.49). I swooned over the Vincente Gandia 2011 Nebla Verdejo ($16.79) which was by far my favorite white wine of the night. Last but certainly not least was my favorite Spanish wine – Miguel Torres 2010 Salmos Riserva ($41.99).
I skipped Nova Scotia not because the quality of the wine but simply because I have access to these wines all year round. However, I did try two Canadian wines I liked a lot. One was Andrew Peller Ltd 2008 Sandhill Small Lost Barbera VQA ($29.99) and the second was Constellation Brands 2008 Clos Jordanne Grand Chardonnay ($83.49).
Last but not least we hung around Italy. First up was the Rivetto 2007 Barolo del Comune di Serralunga D’alba DOCG ($53.99) which was very dry but delicious. The Marchese Antinori SRL 2007 Chianti Classico Riserva DOCG ($37.79) was my second favorite Chianti of the night. My favorite Brunello was the Agricola San Felice 2007 Campogiovanni di Montalcino DOCG ($52.79) while my favorite Chianti was an award winner by the same brand Agricola San Felice 2007 Poggio Rosso Chianti Classico DOCG ($51.00). My favorite Valpolicella tasted of almonds and was made by Speri Viticoltori 2007 Amarone della Valpolicella Classico DOC ($57.99) and the best Amarone I tried was the Azienda Agricola Piccoli Daniela 2008 Monte La Parte Amarone DOC ($52.79).
What did I take home?
- Casillero De Diablo Pinot Grigio (Chile, complementary)
- Beni di Batasiolo Langhe Rosso 2010 (Italian red blend)
- Emiliana Coyam 2010 (Chile, organic red blend)
Dos and Don’ts of Wine Festivals (things I learned on my first attempt)
- Avoid a coat if possible coat check is too long
- Dress to your comfort level but at least be business casual. Be warned it’s hot in there, sweaters unless they are in lieu of a coat are unnecessary. No high heels unless you are sure you can walk in them for three hours whilst drinking. Purses should be small, it’s crowded.
- Don’t wear strong perfume/colonge it messes with how you and others perceive the wine
- Buy the wine earlier in the day if possible, the stock really disappears towards the end of the night, especially for the Port of Wines Award Winners
- Don’t drink too much, use the spittoons or share glasses with a friend
- Do eat snacks and drink water during the tasting I sampled about 30 wines, at 1 ounce each that is almost a litre of wine.
- Do try the most expensive and unfamiliar wines you may be surprised how much you like or dislike them
- Do ask questions and compare products from the same vendor, or choose a grape you like and try each tables offering of that grape to compare
- Don’t bring a pen, they provide a guide book and nifty pencil that acts as a bookmark
- Do take notes, your mind gets a little fuzzy at the end. I started a heart symbol rating because describing what I tasted began to be inaccurate after 10 samples.
- Do bring a friend, wine is social and it’s fun to have at least one if not many partners in crime.
- Do buy a bottle while you are there, it’s wine that you may not be able to buy otherwise, at least without getting a whole case, and you get one free when you buy something from the store, so why not?