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Winemakers Impress at the 2011 Boston Wine Expo

Sunday, January 23, 2011

The 20th annual Boston Wine Expo kicked off yesterday and resumes today.  The format was a little different than years past, with trade and media attending a morning session followed by an afternoon session for the general public.

I really enjoyed this format for the most part since it reduced crowds in the morning session and provides more opportunities to interact directly with winemakers.  And if there's one piece of advice that will guide us to enjoyment at these events I think that's it - spend as much time as you can talking with winemakers and listening to what they have to say.

I found a wide range of folks pouring and representing wines at this year's Expo.  Some booths were manned by employees of trade organizations, others by importers, and yet others by regular Joes who just showed up to pour at the Expo.  But my favorite conversations were those with deep knowledge about what they were pouring - chatting with them is like a mini-visit to the winery.

Sebastiano Ramello, Owner Piemonte Wine-Food
My first stop was at the Piedmont table.  I've been on a big Barbaresco kick so I was drawn to the Nebbiolo-based Barbaresco and Barolo they were pouring.  They did a great job flanking and guiding me to some less-famous wines I enjoyed just as much.

A 2007 Massucco Roero they poured had many of the characteristics I like in a Barbaresco - elegant fruit, floral aromas, earth, acidity and firm tannins.  This Roero was also Nebbiolo based but just from a different part of Piedmont.  I'll definitely be looking to these wines as a more affordable alternative in the future.

2005/2006 Antonio Sasa Brunello
Nearby, I thought the 2006 Antonio Sasa "Martina" Brunello di Montalcino was outstanding.  Very aromatically present for such a young Brunello.  The nice lady pouring the wine asked if I knew James Suckling.  Sure I know James Suckling!  Why not.  Heck, I follow him on Twitter.

She asked because evidently he rated the wine 94 points - the first time I've heard a numerical rating of his leveraged in a sales context since he's left Wine Spectator.  The wine is a bargain at $29.99 from K&L.

Richard Proctor from Vintage Point
It was 10:30 am at this point and the drying tannins of the Italian wines wer starting to get to me so I headed over to the Vintage Point table because they were pouring the 2008 Educated Guess Cabernet Sauvignon.

I've enjoyed the 2007 vintage of this wine and the 2008 shows every bit as well.  But behind the table he had a just-bottled 2009 available and cracked it open to taste.  The aromas struck me as slightly disjoint at this point but structurally the wine is solid.  I think it'll be another winner with some time to settle down in the bottle.

Definitely try the 2008 Educated Guess if you're heading to the Expo today.  88 points from Wine Spectator and quite a value in Napa Cab south of $20.  Richard Proctor enthusiastically represented the wine along with others in his portfolio.  Nice stuff.

Avery Anderson, Second Glass
The folks from Second Glass were in attendance setting up their mobile site (m.secondglass.com) where attendees could give one or two "thumbs up" for wines they like for later recollection and sharing with other attendees.

In talking with Avery, Tyler, and Morgan from Second Glass it sounds like they've got some very cool things in the works in the wine and technology space.  Definitely keep an eye on them as they expand Wine Riot to other cities this year (Los Angeles and Chicago) and as it returns to Boston this April.

Morten Hallgren, Ravines
Next up, I spent some time tasting wines from the Finger Lakes region of New York.  The folks at the New York Cork Report have been my eyes and ears into the world of New York wines over the past few years, so it was great to get a chance to taste and connect with one of their favorite producers - Ravines.

I've had a bottle of 2008 Ravines Dry Riesling in my refrigerator since Thanksgiving.  Somehow, we never seemed to have the right food to pair it with and I was afraid (needlessly) that the wine was going to be exceedingly dry and searingly acidic.  I had a great time talking with owner and winemaker Morten Hallgren - asking him things like "what exactly extracted means to a winemaker." After tasting through the wines I'm a huge fan of what they're doing.  I cracked open that bottle of Riesling last night and found it to be delicious and not-too-dry at all.  Highly recommended.

Robert Dale Wojnar, Sr.,
Dr. Konstantin Frank
Nearby was another highly regarded Finger Lakes producer: Dr. Konstantin FrankBob Wojnar has been representing their wines a long time and really knew his stuff.

I enjoyed their whole line-up, especially their Chateau Frank sparkling wine and their Gewurztraminer.  I thought their Rieslings, from dry to semi-dry, were very good as well.  Another enjoyable stop.

Especially if you didn't have a chance to try the affordable crowd favorite at the last Wine Riot check out the Giorgio & Gianni Lambrusco.  It's being poured at the Expo and flying off retailer shelves for around $7.99 I understand:

I was pleasantly surprised to see Joel Peterson from Ravenswood pouring his own wines.  Joel was recently inducted to the Vintner's Hall of Fame so it was awesome to absorb some of his knowledge of winemaking history.  His wines were showing wonderfully -- from the sub-$20 appellation-designated Zinfandels right on up to the $75 2007 Icon Bordeaux blend.

A connection I hadn't made previously was that Joel's son Morgan Twain-Peterson is behind the hot Bedrock Wine Co.  Joel was sharing some great stories about their early winemaking explorations together (when Morgan was just 5 years old!) including a jaunt to Domaine Romanee Conti.  Fascinating stuff you just can't get when you hire out pouring responsibilities.  Here's Joel pouring for Ken Hoggins from KensWineGuide.com:

The trade and media portion of the show ran from 10 am to 1 pm.  Towards the end I started to rifle around looking for some substantive food but it looked like most of that was gearing up for the afternoon general session.  Perhaps I didn't look hard enough.

Overall, I enjoyed this session as much or more than any previous Expo.  I had memorable conversations with people deeply connected to the wines they were pouring, learned a lot, and had a great time.  I'm looking forward to checking out the Grand Cru Lounge for the first time this afternoon.  I'll report back with my thoughts. 

Question of the Day: What wines did you find at the Expo yesterday that caught your attention?

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