Sunday, May 18, 2008

Sensory Overload...

...and definitely palate fatigue. That's about the only way to describe today's Fleurs de Fete, a 300+ wine and food extravaganza. The event is held under a huge tent in a park along the Great Miami River. The weather cooperated for the most part; it was a little chilly with a north wind at the start of the day, but it was mostly sunny and totally dry. Throw in a local jazz combo and it was close to a perfect Sunday in the Park.

As usual my first chore was to quickly cruise the 25 food booths where local restaurants were serving up some wonderful food to go with the wines. The lines are generally longest at the food booths and there are some folks who come just for the food. Tops on my list for this year was a baby spinach and grilled salmon salad with strawberries and almonds. It was very lightly dressed and just plain delicious. There were five or six salmon dishes available from various purveyors and this one won my vote over small, two bite salmon cakes that were very spicy and topped with faux caviar. They left a distinct burn in the mouth and forced me back to my favorite Riesling of the day, a 2006 McWilliams Homewood Riesling from southeast Australia. Good match.

Several restaurants featured beef, and both of those were very good, especially the sliced filet served on a small slice of bread with horseradish sauce, though there was certainly nothing wrong with the small chunks of ribeye steaks served in a wine sauce.

One thing that I find almost impossible at this annual event is to pick my favorite wines. There are just too many wines to make fair evaluations, though one can certainly winnow things down and separate out some of the better wines.

Rule #1 for me is to insist on one sip samples, and not the generous half glass that most seem to pour. Rule #1a is to immediately dump anything more than a sip or two.

Rule #2 is that with the exception of a Stag's Leap Wine Cellars wine I refuse to drink anything with a cute animal on the label or in the name. No funky llamas, no blind moose, no flying fish, no leaping kangaroos, etc. I don't claim to have much dignity, but what little I have doesn't permit me to indulge in animal wines.

Rule #3 is that I try not to taste wines that I drink on a semi regular basis. I look for things that are new, different or hard to get in this area.

With those three rules in mind I managed to find some very nice wines at this event.

Having said that choosing a best wine is impossible, I'll stick to that statement, but I can narrow it down to two that stood above the rest. I took extra time with these wines, and with both I went back for a second, larger sip. The Jean-Marc Brocard 2004 Chablis Grand Cru Valmur was just what I look for in my favorite French white wine. Sharp and crisp with acid and apples, it also had a wonderful body to it and a very nice finish. The 2005 Clos du Mont Olivet "Cuvee de Papet" was full bodied and dense. It was somewhat closed up but there was good fruit and earth on the nose and in the taste and a nice finish with tannins hitting all the right spots. I have a 2000 vintage of this wine in the cellar, and now I'll have to add a 2005 or two. Very good Chateauneuf de Pape.

The best American wine of the day was a Washington state wine. The 2003 Columbia Crest Walter Clor Reserve Red Wine hit you with a new world bouquet on the nose, but the wine was well balanced and one could get earth and some herbs in the taste to go with the layers of fruit. It is a blend of the classic Bordeaux varieties and finished with some nice tannin.

I mentioned my favorite Riesling above, the McWilliams from Australia. My biggest disappointment of the day was the total lack of any German wines. There were a handful of other Rieslings, but a German or two would have been a plus for me. Another plus would have been an Austrian Gruner Veltliner or two.

There were two other chablis in the event, and I liked both of them. The William Fevre Champ Royeaux 2006 was crisp and refreshing. I've had the 2004 and 2005 of this wine, but this was the first taste of the 2006. The other was Jean Marc Bocard's Veilles Vigne Chablis from the 2005 vintage. It suffered a little by being tasted immediately following the Grand Cru Valmur from this producer, but it was still a good little wine.

I tasted several Robert Mondavi wines as a tribute to their late namesake. Best of the lot was the 2004 pinot noir which I thought was very well balanced. I did not care for the reserve as it was just too much for a pinot. That said a Gloria Ferrer 2004 pinot was better.

There was a very nice 2005 Minervois from Chateau de Paraza and I liked the Chateau Paviel de Luze 2005 Margaux.

I finished the day with a full glass of Gloria Ferrer Sonoma Brut sparkling wine, and thanks to a designated driver I managed a nap on the way home.


Edward said...


Sounds like a terrific day of sensory indulgence and overload. Your rules are very sensible. I often will try a wine I am quite familiar with just to reset my palate and expectations.

Dan McGrew said...

I tried "a lot" of bottled water during the day to clear things, and did taste a wine or two that I was familiar with.

This is an annual event and I have been to most of them. All proceeds go to a charity, and I learned, surprisingly, at the event that a good friend of mine from the 'dog world' is the event coordinator for the charity. It's just an outstanding event for this area, very laid back and casual, and fun to attend.