I've had a flurry of flying around the US in the past couple of weeks, which is going to have to serve as my excuse for not posting much on this blog. But this past weekend, instead, I took the train up to Foxwoods Casino in Connecticut for the Foxwoods Food & Wine Festival (which we sponsor). A casino might not seem like the most congenial place for a food and wine extravaganza, but when you look at the restaurant and wine boom in Vegas, sort of extrapolate it out into the rest of the country, and sit back, then it seems like a natural.
It's a little odd, admittedly, to get to a casino and find it overrun with 10-year-old girls, but that's what happens when you're sharing the bill with a Miley Cyrus concert. Nevertheless, amidst dodging Hannah Montana-crazed tots, I tasted some very good wines at the grand tasting and at a few dinners I attended. Here were my highlights:
2006 Kaesler Viognier ($32, click to find it) Barossa Viognier has always struck me as an odd idea, but I like this wine despite my philosophical bemusement at its existence. Nectarine and honeysuckle on the nose, full-bodied, honeyed, peach-nectar flavors and enough acidity to keep it elevated rather than sunk in a pool of Viognier-fat (unappealing image, sorry about that).
2005 Jacob's Creek Steingarten Riesling ($41) A benchmark Aussie Riesling, Steingarten shows beautifully in the '06 vintage, with elegant lime peel and stone notes, brisk acidity, and a long, seductive finish. It should age very well, too.
2005 Lynmar Quail Hill Vineyard Pinot Noir ($50, click to find it) Sort of a ringer, as I used this in my Pinot Noir seminar, but I was impressed with it all over again. It's a textbook Russian River pinot, with that silky, mouthfilling, seductive texture the appellation has at its peak, luscious dark cherry fruit, and a stealthy backbone of tannin.
2004 Château La Lagune ($50, click to find it) La Lagune is the southernmost classified-growth Château in Bordeaux, and it put out a terrific wine in '04 (a vintage which is practically invisible next to the spotlight of attention on the '05s, and consequently a source for some good values). Lots of tobacco here, deep black currant fruit, refined structure. It drinks well right from the bottle, would drink even better after a couple of hours in a decanter, and in ten years should be just stunning.
2005 O'Shaughnessy Howell Mountain Cabernet Sauvignon ($75, click to find it) Every time I taste this wine, I like it even more. O’Shaughnessy is up on the plateau that caps the Howell Mountain AVA, and the quality of its site is fully expressed in this Cab, thanks to Sean Capiaux's deft winemaking hand. Lots of deep black cherry, some coffee and black pepper grace notes, and a hint of spicy oak.