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Mar 08

Party Source: Tasting and Store Review

Kentucky is strange. You can’t just walk into the grocery store and pick up a bottle of wine. Because of our prohibition-era laws on anything regarding alcohol (maybe I’m just bitter), we have liquor superstores. Although wine shipping laws work against us, I have no complaint about these giant alcohol supermarkets. They are also rather surprising. With unassuming names, such as Party Source, Party Town, Liquor Direct, and so on, they usually employ a highly knowledgeable staff, have a good to great wine selection, and offer regular wine tastings.

Party Source is gigantic. In the last couple years, they’ve gone through a major overhaul, brightening the lighting, redesigning the displays, adding hardwood floors, and more importantly, adding their EQ Center. EQ (Entertainment Quotient) offers a variety of tastings and kitchen demonstrations on a weekly basis. All of these classes are held in a nifty little upscale kitchen and tasting area, which you see when you first round the corner after entering the store. Each tasting costs around $20, but you usually receive a $12 gift card per person.

We finally got around to attending one of these tastings this weekend, and we were impressed. We often complain a little that we don’t have the opportunity to try older wines. Local stores just don’t carry them. The market is geared towards the drink-now variety, which is fine. We’re doing our best to drink now. This particular tasting was called The Old-Timer Wine Tasting. We were drinking older wines. Now, make no mistake. It’s not like The Party Source pulled out a 1967 Petrus or something. The wines were mostly French and the oldest was a 1983 Burgundy.

Keep reading for my review of each of the wines, and even of the store itself.

The class was hosted by Jay Erisman, who hosts a fair number of Party Source tastings. He’s a fun instructor, and really encourages questions. He certainly doesn’t come across as pretentious, which is great. I had a lot of fun talking to him afterwards as well, and following up via email.
In addition to the wine, we were also given some freshly baked bread and cheese samples:

  • Gouda, aged 5 years
  • Parmigiano-Reggiano "Red Cow" (Apparently these are extra high-maintenance Italian cows)
  • Gruyére, cave aged
  • Cypress Grove Mad River Roll Goat Cheese

My only complaint about the cheese was that there weren’t recommended pairings. I discovered on my own which wines worked, or didn’t work, with each cheese. However, when I have only a small bit of wine and a small bit of cheese, I don’t necessarily like to play hit-or-miss.

On to the wines, using our usual wine rating system:

Roederer Blank de Blanc Champagne, 1993 – Champagne, France – $44.99
I wanted to like this one a lot more than I did. In fact, I was determined to love it, considering how much I love real (read: French) champagne. It didn’t meet my high expectations however. In my opinion, it almost had a fortified flavor to it, rather sherry-like, which I love in my sherry but not necessarily in my champagne. It’s interesting what age can do to the color and flavors. There was definitely a more golden hue and the yeast flavors were more prevalent.
Our rating:

Ostertag Riesling Muenchberg Vielle Vignes (vee-ay vahn-ya if you’re curious), Grand Cru 1992 – Alsace, France – $19.00
So this one was interesting. Over the course of my tasting and cheese pairing, I went through four different faces on my scale before deciding that I rather enjoyed this wine. It’s a wine geek wine, I think. It grows on you, as you slowly appreciate the various flavors . An interesting note – if you’re going to age a white wine, shoot for a German (or Alsacian) riesling. This wine, by the way, paired nicely with the Gruyére.
Our rating:

Château Pape-Clement Blanc 1992 – Bordeaux, France
For the tasting, we opened the lone bottle of this wine. This was a blend of 45% sauvignon blanc and 45% semillion, with 10% muscat (yep, a white bordeaux). It reminded me of an applesauce spice cake that I bake. Seriously. I enjoyed this wine, although it did have a musty nose that you sort of had to push through to get to the flavor. It’s safe to say that I spent my weekend tasting wines that had deceptive aromas.
Our rating:

Parusso Langhe Bianco Brico Rovello 1998 – Piedmont, Italy – $20.99
This one was 100% sauvignon blanc and smelled slightly of petrol. You could tell it was aged in oak, but it wasn’t objectionable. I didn’t have my usual reaction of running screaming from the over-oaked taste. This was just right.
Our rating:

Jean Raphet Chambertin 1983 – Burgundy, France – $39.99
Party Source "found" 20 bottles of this wine and we left with one. I’m already partial to Raphet, having fallen hard for a Gerard Raphet Burgundy back in June. For me, it had a nose and color like chocolate, which shows you how the age affected the color of this red. I thought it was earthy (I love that) and slightly tangy. It was relaxing but had some kick left in it. Yeah, I know. We need to drink it soon.
Our rating (obviously):

Château Sociando-Mallet Haut-Médoc 1995 – Bordeaux, France – $54.99
This one is 60% cabernet. For me, it smelled and tasted like green pepper, and it was lacking in that earthy thing I enjoy so much. However, what I interpreted as green pepper, everyone else interpreted as herbs, cedar, black tea … okay, so it wasn’t for me.
My rating: , Kevin’s Rating: 

Frias Cabernet Sauvignon 1991 – Spring Mountain, Napa Valley, CA – $66.99
Oh yes, the most expensive bottle we tasted was a cab from Napa. This was really not my thing. I thought this seemed too dry and tannic. Apparently, the CA mountain cabs are quite good for aging, but I would definitely cellar this one a bit longer.
Our rating:

As for the Party Source itself, I tend to find the knowledge of the folks rather hit or miss. If I have a wine question, I may end up with someone knowledgeable like Jay, but I could just as easily end up with a 21-year old who knows nothing but happens to be walking by. It’s like that with a lot of these larger stores though, and it’s something for which you have to be prepared. Your best bet is to get to know the folks who can answer your wine questions and seek them out on a regular basis. They’ll enjoy helping you too – wine folks are just friendly anymore.

The layout of the store is nice, as is the selection. However, the selection can also be overwhelming. There is just so much! Funnily enough, despite all those bottles, I went looking for a Luna Mencia Spanish wine and couldn’t find it. Go figure.

We enjoy The Party Source, and particularly enjoy the tastings. If you’re new to wine, though, head over to "Case Central" and ask for help. It’s the best way to get someone who can answer your question and perhaps keep you from being overwhelmed.

The Party Source is located at

92 Riviera Drive, Bellevue, KY, 41073

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Posted by Michelle at 3:15 pm in Cincinnati, Local, Tastings, Wine Events, Wine Shops | Permalink | Comments ()

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