Organizers/Founders Stewart McLennan, Doug Minnick, Lisa Dinsmore, and Melanie Webber expanded the fest over 4 days, including winemaker dinners and other special events. JD and I chose to avoid the dinners (about which we heard nothing but praise), and bought the VIP package in order to attend the seminars on Saturday and Sunday.
First, the "not so much"
Last year the weather was cold and damp, but not uncomfortable in the renovated Stallion Barn - all red brick and dark wood and no heat. This year, while not as rainy, was MUCH colder and less comfortable. It was so cold that, when we concluded our morning seminars and the small but tasty lunch provided by Cass Winery (Note: It would have been nice to also have been provided either some water or wine with lunch), it was difficult to find any shelter from the blustery wind that blew our lunch off the picnic table while we were made to wait to enter the barn until the media had completed their tasting. I'm still wondering why my VIP status didn't allow me to enter the tasting earlier than the rest of the hoi polloi, but...
Once we were inside - and out of the wind - we discovered that it was still so cold that most of the red wines were pretty much shut down and hard to taste, and the white wines were standing out on their respective tables without ice because they didn't need it. There was no cheese or bread to accompany the Grand Tasting, although there was a table that looked as though it might have had some snacks on it for the media tasting, but it was never replenished, so there was nothing to provide ballast for all the imbibed wine. JD and I had brought our own spit cups - because we don't like to get drunk - and we saw only one or two others who were spitting their wine. Everyone else was drinking - and we're talking 48 wineries with multiple wines each. That's a lotta wine for the public to taste with no bread or cheese.
|The Goddess with her nose in a glass of wine|
Now before you think we didn't enjoy ourselves, let me assure you that the winemaker seminars were great! This year the Fest rented a large enclosed tent that was actually warmer and more comfortable than last year's seminar location.
Saturday Seminar #2 - Syrah featured Justin Kahler of JK Wines, the hilarious Jeff Cohn of JC Cellars and Andrew Murray of Andrew Murray Vineyards providing insight into why they love Syrah and how diverse it can be depending on terroir and winemaker magic.
Winemaker Chris Connelly of Les Deux Chats Cellars spoke about his experience of making wine and moving into commercial winemaking. As the Connellys are friends of ours, we stayed after to chat and taste their still-in-tank Viognier and Zinfandel. Yummy!
We headed to the Paso Wine Centre to revisit some of the previous day's wines. The same wines that had been shut down by the cold turned out to be uniformly well-made and delicious. Highlights included the 2009 VinAlegre Cabernet Sauvignon and the 2009 VinAlegre Primitivo (beautiful baking spices and cherry notes), the 2009 Vines on the Marycrest 'My Generation' Zinfandel/Syrah/Mourvedre/Petite Sirah blend. We also really liked the 2009 Bodega de Edgar 'ElCabRhone', the 2010 McPrice Myers 'Beautiful Earth', and the 2006 Hasley Cellars Meritage. Yummy!
All in all, it was a fascinating, delicious and educational event. Can't wait for next year! Cheers and congratulations to Stewart, Doug, Lisa, and Melanie for all their hard work and a great payoff!
Note: Photos obtained from the Paso Garagiste home and Facebook pages.