September Delight: Grand Tasting at Northstar

In the world of wine, what could be grander than a Grand Tasting? The culmination of the Autumn Food & Wine Weekend held at the Village at Northstar is a chance to discover new wineries and sample their latest vintage or newest varietal. Paired with gourmet delights from Tahoe’s newest restaurants and most exquisite caterers, you’ll want to put this on your calendar for September 2010.

Life is short, eat dessert first. That’s why I want to jump right into my adoration for Deerfield Ranch Winery’s 2005 Gold, which is a Select Late Harvest Sauvignon Blanc. Their literature calls it “Nectar of the Gods,” and I have to agree. The winery is located in the heart of Sonoma Valley. This wine is made from Santa Barbara grapes from the Lucas & Lewellen Vineyards in Los Alamos Valley. This is a scrumptious dessert wine, with a beautiful golden hue, aroma of ripe apricots, dried peaches, tropical flowers. The taste is divine, not overly sweet but rich. Only 583 cases made, and it only is sold in a 375 ml size. 12.5% alcohol. $50/bottle.

The Salvestrin Retaggio, a “Super Tuscan” blend is comprised of 45% Sangiovese, 30% merlot, 20% Cabernet Sauvignon, and 5% Petit Syrah. It’s a dark purple wine, with aroma of blackberry, currant, spice. The taste carries through the aroma notes, with a well-balanced fruit quality a bit of oak, pepper, earth. Reviewer and critics, The Wine Spies, notes that “present here is that classic subtle orange zest spiciness that you only find in exceptional Italian wines”. The finish is long and dry. This wine is made by this St. Helena, CA, winery as a tribute to the family’s legacy in the wine business, explained third-generation winemaker Rich Salvestin. Rataggio means “legacy” in Italian. The winery makes only 3600 cases total, and only 800 cases of the Rattaggio. 14.8% alcohol. $34/ bottle.

Robert Stemmler’s 2006 Pinot Noir, Russian River, from the Nugent Vineyard, has aroma of blackberry, cherry and a taste of blackberry, cherry, chocolate and a nice minerality too. A silky texture, with nice rich tannins. It takes a while to open up, but has a long and sweet finish. 14.1% alcohol. $40/ bottle.

Oliver Hill Wines poured their 2006 Pinot Noir, Oakville. Nice balanced, with a taste of tart cherry, and a bit different of a Pinot Noir – I liked it a lot. Aged 24 months in French oak gave a nice structure with hints of raspberry too. Their vineyard, according to owner/winemaker Jerry Hill, backs up to the river just north of Yountville, and this gives a cooling affect to the vineyard very evening, resulting in a pinot grape with a uniqueness. Of 450 cases total production at Oliver Hill, only 63 cases of this pinot were produced. 14.9% alcohol, $20/bottle.

Gruet’s 2002 Grand Rose is a wine that hails from New Mexico, and the vineyard is said to be one of the oldest vineyards in the US. This is a Brute Methode Champenoise. In color, it is a beautiful salmon pink. The floral aroma has hints of cherry, apple, almond. In taste, the Pinot Noir grapes dominate the flavor, by the 90% Chardonnay gives this Brut a wonderful finesse. This is a limited production wine, of 280 cases. 12% alcohol. $32/bottle.

Rombauer poured their 2008 Chardonnay, Carneros. I confess that this is one of my true loves in California wines – big, oakey, fruit forward. I’ve been known to buy Rombauer Chardonnay by the case and give bottles as gifts. So it’s hard to be objective. This wine has been called “the benchmark California Chardonnay”. So yummy, lovely fruit -- pear, pineapple and tropical fruit—and balanced with creamy, toasted vanilla. A nice acidity, and fruit that lingers on a medium finish. 14.4% alcohol. $32/bottle

The Autumn Food & Wine Weekend is held at the Village at NorthStar each September.

© 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 October 2009.

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