Squaw Valley Village: September Alpen Wine Festival Showcases Good Wines for a Good Cause

The 21st Annual Alpen Wine Festival, held in September, is a not-to-be-missed event for wine aficionados and those who want to learn more about wine. Held every year at the Village at Squaw Valley and hosted the great wine bar there, Uncorked, the event helps raise money for The Huega Ceter for Multiple Sclerosis (MS). The Huega Center teaches people with MS how to use exercise to help manage their life with this chronic disease.

More than 40 wineries poured samples in the village setting, surrounded by Squaw’s beautiful Alpine-like scenery. There were so many wonderful wines to taste and enjoy, but here are a few that we found noteworthy.

Grant Family Winery’s California Tempranillo was a standout! This varietal has been a recent darling of the West Coast wine industry, and long a favorite of those who love wines from Spain. Jon Grant, winemaker, produced his tempranillo from grapes grown in the Madder Lake Vineyard near Clear Lake in Lake County, CA. Dark purple in hue, this tempranillo features aroma of plum, leather, mineral, spice, and a taste of complex berry, cherry and mineral. Bold and balanced tannin on the palate. Only 150 cases produced. $24/bottle.

The Alpen Cellars Winery poured a 2007 Pinot Noir with a yummy aroma and a lovely jammy taste. Located in Trinity County, this mountain winery grows early maturing vinifera grapes such as White Riesling, Gewurztraminer, Chardonnay and Pinot Noir. The 2007 Pinot Noir is a great red wine for dinner with pasta, chicken, red meat, cheese. Aroma of black cherries, plum and black pepper. Taste of cherries, cranberries. 13.5% alcohol. Approx $17/bottle.

Chatom Vineyards is located in the breathtaking Esmeralda Valley of Calaveras county, a short distance from Murphys in the Sierra Foothills. The 2005 Gitano-Sangiovese is made from 100% estate grown grapes, and the result is a taste of spice, plum, raspberries, and a hint of anise and chocolate. I enjoyed the way this wine lingered with an herbal finish too, and the spice persisted. 14.9% alcohol. Only 812 cases produced. $16/bottle.

Andrew Geoffrey Vineyards made only 1700 cases of their 2005 Diamond Mountain District Cabernet Sauvignon. For those who like a complex wine with a strong tannic backbone, you’ll enjoy this peppery-tasting high alcohol wine. Their estate vineyard is located atop Diamond Mountain in the Diamond Mountain District sub-appellation of the Napa Valley. John Gibson, winemaker, has blended the finest lots produced from the varietals grown in the vineyard to produce a sophisticated and balanced age-able wine. 15.8% alcohol. $75/bottle 92 points Robert Parker.

Stark Wine poured their Damino Vineyard 2007 Viognier, with grapes sourced from the Sierra Foothills AVA. It has aroma of peach and pear, but the honeysuckle is what struck my nose as truly aromatic. Taste of tropical fruit. Winery owner Jennifer Stark and her husband Christian Stark, the winemaker, pride themselves on using Sierra Foothills grapes to produce fullbodied wines that are immediately drinkable but also have extended aging potential. 14.5% alcohol. $25/ bottle. Only 208 cases produced, so contact them soon!

Truchard Vineyards treated us to a glass of their 2007 Chardonnay. This Napa winery, established in 1974 in the Carneros area, produces Chardonnay that benefit from the marine soils and cooler temperatures of Carneros. This 2007 chardonnay has an intense fruit aroma of tropical fruit, lemon, vanilla and spice and flavor of honey, green apple and fresh pear. This complex wine has great acidity, minerality and a finish of toasted oak. 14.1% alcohol. $30/bottle

The Alpen WineFest is held each year in late August or early September in the Village at Squaw Valley. Did I mention that it is a dog-friendly event?

© 2009 Barbara Keck

For more information on dining and the wide range of activities around Lake Tahoe, see the online version of The Tahoe Weekly. This article appeared in my column "It's Grape" in September 2009.


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