Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Wining by proxy...Austria Uncorked & Drink Ribera, Drink Spain...

A few months ago, the Goddess' First Acolyte, JD, ventured to the SLS Hotel for concurrent tastings - Austrian wines and Spanish wines from Ribera del Duero. It took him a while to report, but here it is!

As is often the case, the events were at a hotel in a busy, hard to reach area with no real parking other than the valet at the hotel. I turned over the truck. A person in front said that while the Austrian group was not validating parking, the Spanish group was. Since Austria closed first, I went in the direction the person indicated for that. Spain (and validation?) would come later.

I was not too knowledgeable on Austrian wines so this was going to be almost entirely new ground.

The Austrian tasting was well setup in an elegant area of the hotel. I got my pre-printed stick-on badge and the tasting list book. Since I was told it would be a few minutes before opening, I took the time to peruse the book and plan my adventure. Ten or twelve feet away was a small table with people standing around it. Suddenly an intense odor of strong cheese hit me from there. The cheese had been opened at its tasting station outside the wine area. Serious cheese.

I avoided that temptation and wondered when the wine room could be entered. It was after the time and no positive signs. I finally wandered through the doorway past more people just standing around and surveyed the setup. People were at various tables already.

Where to start? I walked up to one with nobody in front of it and started chatting with the woman behind it. She was pouring Gruner Veltliner (at an Austrian tasting!) and Riesling. So I started there. This first batch was generally light grassy and bland with just a couple merest hints of lemon. One Rheinriesling had a touch of grapefruit on the finish. To me, if cooler they might all have been a water substitute. Once a pushy German fellow was keeping the pourer distracted, I just smiled and moved on.

I found another table of fairly bland offerings with a pleasant rep pouring. Sampled a Zweigelt. This one was a very light red-fruit wine.

Table 20- Nittnaus. I tasted a Zweigelt with a light earthy nose, dry, smooth. There was also a cuvee. It was a blend of Zweigelt, Merlot, Blaufrankisch and something else- light nose, very subtle fruit flavors and tannic finish. They also had a long line of sweet wines. I needed to return for those.

There was a jammed table, but right next it was openness at Elfenhof. A Gruner Veltliner that was bright with a crisp edge and a Welschriesling with similarities. Finally some white Austrian wines with something to them. They also had a Blauburgunder and a Zwiegelt with earthy noses and crisp sharpness in the mouth.

Table 12-Winzer Krems and Hafner Family Estate Kosher wines. The Winzer Krems Gruner Veltliner had a slight fizzy feel, sharp peach(?), a 2010 Blauer Zweigelt with melon middle and spice finish. A 2004 Blauer Zweigelt, bigger fruit & spicy nose. The Hafners: Welshriesling with a grapefruit edge & a creamy middle. An earthy Zweigelt. There was a very chatty and knowledgeable fellow pouring. Unfortunately at this point the noise level had risen greatly and someone was playing with the lights in that corner so much information was lost. Enjoyable collection though. Worth following up.

Table 11- Actually several tables. I did a series of Gruner Veltliner’s & Rieslings from Schloss Gobelsburg from the Kamptal region. The 2009’s & 2010’s had varying degrees of sharpness & some sweetness with citrus combinations of lemon and grapefruit. The 2007, besides the grapefruit on the mouth, it had what I can only think of as a touch of petrol in the nose. A curious combination but not unheard of.

The Glatzer from Carnuntum group- The Gruner Veltliner’s had more of the Sauvignon Blanc grassiness I was detecting in several of these wines. Weissburgunder (AKA Pinot Blanc) - peachy. Blaufrankisch (Lemberger) earth, melony? The Zweigelt had a wonderful mushroominess reminiscent of the Santa Lucia Highlands area of California.

The Hirsch series- A couple Gruner Veltliners & Rieslings with fizzy bites, clean, dry. A couple more of the same with slight earthy notes… in whites.

Nikolaihof Wachau- A biodynamic winery. Gruner Veltliners & Rieslings. 2008’s & 2009 crisp & refreshing. There was a 1999 that had some of that petrol nose and citrus taste, but with a sour touch on the end. Strange.

I managed to get at the Umathum table on my second attempt. I received a distracted group of pours when the woman could tear herself away from her cellphone. These had Burgenland origins. Zweigelt- mushroom & earth nose. Nice balanced red fruit with a dry finish. Laurent- Musty(?) nose, Mid-palate fruit, dry finish. I would like to try more of this grape to check out its possibilities. A Blaufrankisch with a medium cherry taste.

It was getting late and I needed to get over to the Spanish wine pouring, but before leaving I had to go back to the Nittnaus table to sample the sweets. They were pouring a whole series of Beerenauslese, Trockenbeerenausleses (TBA’s) & Eisweins. The highlights remembered & scribbled:
  • Varying degrees of yellow and gold intensities.
  • Riesling Beerenauslese- Thin texture, but intense flavor.
  • Cuvee of Chardonnay & Sauvignon Blanc- Very intense, yet not heavy.
  • Eiswein Premium cuvee of Gruner Veltliner & Chardonnay- clean nose, intense bite.
  • Pinorama- Chardonnay and Pinot Blanc. “brilliant yellow golden hue, subdued, tropical fruit aromas, full bodied palate with vanilla, orange notes”. Orange creamsicle for adults.
  • Exquisit- Grüner Veltliner, Chardonnay, Traminer, Welschriesling. Spicy, honey, floral.
  • Beerenauslese Premium- Sämling 2008 & Chardonnay 2007. A yellow-straw hue, pure peach and tropical fruit.
Savoring the Beerenauslese Premium, I strolled to the exit. This was not a pour-out or spit wine. I set down my empty glass and headed out to find the Ribera del Duero event.

I was directed to the outside, past the parking entrance, up some stairs to a patio region and found the event in a small, ell-shaped fairly standard conference room. The check-in folks wrote my name on a nametag and I slapped it on. Remember the mention of a parking validation? It turned out it was a…miscommunication. It was merely a carrot that was tossed away. Oh, well.

There were two or three tables at one end containing assorted bottles for a self-pour adventure, maybe four or five tables on either wall leading to that end of the room. There was a three page listing of wines that were a little confusing to figure out which wine was which. Every country has its own nomenclature approach. The sheets did have prices listed though.

I found the Abadia selections solventy on the nose and very dry.

Bodegas Y Vinedos Montecastros was an enjoyable group. The 2007 Alconte had a lot of oak, but the fruit was quite smooth.

Protos Bodega Ribera Duero de Penafiel. This was a good trio to compare, with a Protos Roble 2008, a Crianza 2007and a Reserva 2005. This went from harshest to smoothest with the Reserva having nice mid-range fruit. It was quite interesting to compare the three aging approaches. There were very clear differences between them.

Bodegas Y Vinedos Ortega Fournier- They were out of the Urban by this time. The Spiga and Alpha Spiga both had some solventiness in the nose. The Alpha was the smoothest with some good fruit taste.

The Vina Gormaz 09 Tempranillo for only $12 had a good fruit taste too.

On the whole this group tended to be quite tannic & mouth-puckeringly dry. It’s possible that a contributing factor to this may have been the lusher wines I had at the Austrian tasting and finishing with those amazing sweet wines.

Also this room had a somewhat neglected, afterthought feel to it compared with the Austrian presentation. Perhaps it was better earlier.

I did find three of the presenters to be particularly pleasant and helpful. I do need to try some of these wines again, but not following amazing dessert wines!

Thanks to JD for his detailed report! Cheers!

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