An old friend of mine is on a tour of, well, the world. In the last two weeks, I think he’s been in Istanbul, Zanzibar, and now he’s somewhere in the Serengeti. Curt is a wine connoisseur, so I’ve begged him to send me tasting notes of his adventures whenever he has some time and an internet connection. Here is the first of those missives, detailing a set of Tanzanian wines. I’m hoping for his notes from Africa all the way to Paris. You can check out Curt’s travel blog at march-fourth.com.
The day before leaving for Tanzania for 2 weeks, I attended a once in a lifetime winetasting. Our regular wine group spent the evening tasting some spectacular burgundies, including a Le Montrachet and a Romanee Conti. The advice I received that night, from a friend who has spent numerous years traveling the world - especially in Africa: ‘Take your wine with you!’
So there I was (there I was, there I was!) in the gift shop at Lake Manyara, and a white and a red bottle From the finest Tanzanian Vineyards stuck out like a tourist in a local village – $10 for the white and $11 for the red. There was no vintage on the label and no way these bottles had been stored adequately in a building that more resembled a permanent camper. It was simply Dodoma Dry White and Dodoma Dry Red…so I bought them both.
Back at the lodge, I opened the white wine first, wanting to follow proper etiquette. The color was nothing special, medium to deep gold. The nose on the other hand knocked me back in my bar stool (and not in a good way)! It overwhelmed me with pungent iodine and I thought, ‘I should have brought some wine with me.’ I mustered up the courage and went back for the second nose with very low expectations, but found more mellow aromas. There were notes of unsweet honey and it seemed similar to a sherry. Lucky for me I enjoy a weird white wine like this from time to time. I took a sip and noticed the immediate dryness and strong acid drawing the moisture from my mouth. It actually had notes of wet tobacco on the palate (weird!). I finished 2 glasses and it held my attention but it was certainly beginning to take an effort to keep drinking it.
The red on the other hand was totally drinkable. I would probably stand it up against any California $10 red. It wasn’t the darkest red but it was still a teeth-stainer. I picked up consistent and subtle but identifiable hints of black cherry, pepper, and smoke on both the nose and the palate. A hint of extraction on the palate quickly melted away into a good balanced finish. I could have kept drinking this wine with dinner all night, but as customary I reserved a glass for tasting the next day. By then all of the fruit had evaporated and it was a little like licking a rock.
Curious about my experiment, I searched the web for Dodoma wines. CNN dubbed Dodoma as one of the ‘5 African Wines Making a Splash’ in January this year. Other articles are sparse, but commentary seems to at least say the Dodoma wines are making a marketing push. Right now I think it is a high price to value ratio – let’s hope it stays that way.
You win some, you lose some. I am glad that I didn’t bring wine with me!
A couple of new reds I’ve tried recently…
Robert Reynolds Merlot “Rocky’s Block” Lodi 2007
I tried this wine at a recent event and I was pleasantly surprised. Not outstanding but well above average. It is a subtle, medium-bodied Merlot from the Lodi region in California; slightly oaky with berry and vanilla flavors, very low tannins and a smooth but super sweet finish for a Merlot. I would consider having this one on hand at home as it was easy to drink.
2010 Bodegas Sierra Norte Bobal Temperamento
This was a wine club pick, and it was just OK for me. The club tries very hard to select unique wines that you can’t find everywhere. I don’t think I’ve been a fan of the Spanish selections they’ve sent over the last couple years.
This wine comes from the Bobal grape, which is a dark-skinned red grape native to the Utiel-Requena region in Valencia, Spain. It had an intense fruity aroma, a soft oak flavor with hints of black licorice (probably why this was not one of my faves). The structured tannins and long finish made it a little hard for me to drink.
I have not had a white wine in a long while! I am definitely ready for Spring so I at least have a (better) excuse to try some whites.
Just finished up my brief trip through the festival and while everything I tried was really nice, there were a few things that I’d like to highlight that were new to me.
Note: The local winery row was to the left of the hall as you entered. An the numbers start to the right of the entrance.
Terry Theise Selections (booth 12) – 3 very nice, yet different styles of growers Champaign. The Varnier Brut (100% Chard) had the most upfront yeast with a 2010 base, but grapes added from 2001-2009, the Pehu-Simonet (60% Pinot Noir/40% Chard) made using only their own grapes was more fruit focused, and the Marc Hebrart 50 Chard/41 Pinot Noir with 9% Still Pinot Noir added at the end of the process was a balance between the styles. The Contratto Extra Brut (Booth 15) was also a nice extra dry sparkling wine.
For Whites: Hoepler (Booth 99) once again had a very nice and fresh Gruner Veltliner along with the Pinot Blanc which was aged in Hungarian oak. The Bovin Chardonnay (Booth 132) from Macedonia was a 100% stainless steel offering and it is the only place to check off that country at the Festival.
Reds: Rob Murray Wines (Booth 28) had a few wines not yet available in the area yet. Both the Pinot Noir and the Force of Nature Zin are both arriving in May. This gives a nice opportunity to try them earlier. Cinnabar Winery (Booth 3) had the Sorcerer’s Stone which is available in Ohio and their California tasting room. It was a Zinfandel that worked really nicely for me.
It’s that time once again to celebrate with the International Wine Festival here in Cincinnati. It’s always a sign that warmer days are getting closer and after this winter, that is a really great thing. 14 countries, 143 booths most with 4-10 wine selections, and a selection of small food items has me excited this year.
I’ll try to get a post up in the late afternoon highlighting any specific gems, but feel free to add you finds in the comments. Did you try everything at Korbel (booth 115) and decide what type of Champagne you prefer? Or was your favorite a Moscato or an American sparkling wine instead?
Annually, we like to publish a few ways to get the most out of the overall experience. Here our list of tips and tricks compiled from our and other blogger’s experiences on how to best survive this festival:
Please realize that these tips are geared for people who are heading to the Festival to try new wines, learn new things, and not get generally hammered. If insanely drunk is your goal, well … get a cab and/or a hotel.
So in no particular order, here are our tips for surviving a festival with hundreds of wines and even more people:
Flowers, candy and jewelry are the traditional biggies on Valentine’s Day. But if you want to stray from the norm or just don’t know what to get your sweetie, perhaps these ideas will help. I know I always enjoy getting wine-related gifts, no matter what the occasion.
You can never have too many cool wine accessories. And you don’t have to spend a lot of money. One of my favorites is the electric wine opener. It makes opening a bottle of wine a breeze. Mine is a re-chargeable Waring wine opener with a foil cutter and charging base. My husband recently found an opener at Cork N Bottle called Cork Pops. It has a long needle that you insert into the cork and a pressurized button at the top releases it. I’ve never seen anything like it. It’s supposed to open more than 50 bottles of wine.
Wine stoppers are great as well. There are a lot of fun ones out there. I prefer the dripless pourers with stoppers; that way red wine doesn’t get on my (very impractical, very white) countertop, and I can easily seal it back it up. If that special someone regularly drinks red wine, an aerator is an ideal gift. I use mine a lot! I have a Vinturi aerator with stand. I’ve seen some great wine gadgets at Pier One, Bed, Bath and Beyond and Williams-Sonoma.
Bags & Totes
For those that take wine to parties or transport it while traveling, totes can come in handy. They also make a great accompaniment when giving wine as a gift. You can buy bags made out of canvas and leather; tote bags shaped like boxes; even purse-style totes. I have a personalized thermal tote from Thirty One. It has a Velcro closure and handle and is quite durable. I also like my Bevs-to-Go Bottle Bag from Pampered Chef that is perfect for chilling white wine in a hurry. Place the bottle in the bag along with cold water and ice and voila…your wine is chilled in about 20 minutes.
People that like drinking wine probably like reading about it too. I can’t tell you how many wine-themed books are out there. There are books for the novice and the advanced; books about the history of wine; those with food pairings and recipes; books about vineyards and wineries. I recommend visiting your local bookstore to see what options they have.
The Gift That Keeps on Giving
Yes, the wine club. A monthly wine club is the perfect gift for any wine lover. This website, Wine Club Reviews, seems to have a lot of great information and helpful reviews to help you select the club that is right for you. The site categorizes the clubs by wine type and region, and they even break it down by which clubs ship to which states. Because of wine shipping laws, remember to make sure the club you choose will ship to your state.
Cheers and Happy Valentine’s Day!
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