Friday, January 25, 2008

Size Matters at the Winter Wine Festival at the Wentworth

An evening at the Wentworth

The Wentworth Winter Wine Festival at the historic Wentworth Hotel in New Castle, New Hampshire is in full swing. Taster B and I decided to have a date night and drive the hour and a half up to the New Hampshire – Maine border to participate in the Riedel (pronounced Reed-L) wine glass demonstration.

Doug Cohn, North East Regional Sales Manager for Riedel introduced the Riedel family history and wine glass making tradition. Arriving in the room, at each place setting were the flight of four wines in four Riedel glasses and an empty “Joker” glass.

The Joker was the non-Riedel glass.The Joker glass was actually good quality glass, according to Mr. Cohn. It is the wine glass used by the Wentworth. To me, it looked like a taller version of a glass that I would serve a Chardonnay or Sauvignon Blank in. Clean lines, thin stem, nice shaped bowl with a thin lip. The Riedel glasses will be mentioned with the wines.

The Riedel glasses were from the Vinum series. The Vinum collection, developed by Georg Riedel on the principle that the content commands the shape, is the "Vitrum-Vinothek" for every day use. They are machine made, have laser cut lips that are fire polished.

The wines tasted were introduced to us by a spokesperson from Vineyard Brands, wine importer of Villa Maria Estate wines. Presented were the Private Bin Sauvignon Blanc (Wine Enthusiast 90 pts), Private Bin Unoaked Chardonnay (Wine Review Online 90 pts), Private Bin Merlot/Cabernet Sauvignon (Wine Enthusiast 87 pts) and the Private Bin Pinot Noir (International Wine Cellar 88 pts).

Here were the wine/glass pairings in order of the flight:
Villa Maria Private Bin Chardonnay : Vinum Chablis 416/05
Villa Maria Private Bin Sauvignon Blanc: Vinum Riesling 416/15
Villa Maria Private Bin Pinot Noir: Vinum Burgundy 416/07
Villa Maria Private Bin Merlot/Cabernet: Vinum Bordeaux 416/0

Mr. Cohn instructed us to hold wine glass is by the stem below the bowl with two fingers and the thumb. A good glass is designed to balance so as to not draw your attention away from the wine. Try this at home with your wine glass, hold it and pivot it. Does it feel balanced or does it feel like top heavy or hard to pivot?

The Chardonnay was the first to try. We evaluated the color of the wine in the crystal. Naturally, it was aesthetically pleasing. The swirl action of the glass was nice. With a reasonable swirl, I didn’t worry that I was going to embarrass Taster B by losing the contents of my glass on the lady sitting next to me.

The sniff of this wine was very clean, fruit, melon, tropical fruit. The aromas were easy to get from the glass and discernable. Nice.

The next step was the taste. It was clean, fresh, unoaked. It was a very pleasant Villa Maria Private Bin Hawkes Bay Unoaked Chardonnay 2004. We talked about the flavors and aromas.

Then we were instructed to poor the contents into the Joker. We did the same evaluation. The Joker actually presented the wine very well. The aromas were not as concentrated but still okay. The swirl was a bit more cautious.

Next came the watershed moment. The taste. We took a sip and (this is exactly what happened) I thought, “This is much more acid.” Taster B looked at me and said, “hmmm, it tastes more acid.” What more can I say?

Between wines, Mr. Cohn had a few things to say. Enough to say that I poured that wine back and forth about five times just to make sure I wasn’t placeboing myself.

The Sauvignon Blanc was evaluated in the same manner. The differences were discernable. In the Riedel glass, aromas of grapefruit and to me, very much like juniper berry. I could not get the juniper berry in the Joker glass.

Next was the Pinot Noir. The bowl on the 416/06 was pretty big and pulled in at the mouth. If you have friends that you want to train to swirl, this is the glass. You can swirl the bajeepers out of that wine and nothing will fling out. I tried. I almost ripped a rotator cuff swirling that wine. Not a drop was lost. Yup, you could train Aunt Millie and Uncle Harry to swirl with these bad boys.

The Pinot Noir was oaked. Fresh, green American oak, I thought too much. Many were enjoying the Pinot Noir, but it wasn’t my favorite. I could hear lots of “m-m-m-m-m-m-s” around the room, and I’m glad people like different wines. But for me, Oaky-smoky. So much so, I had a hard time finding the fruit.

I tried to pour the Pinot Noir into the Joker, but it smell too much of Sauvignon Blank so I just decided to continue this experiment at home. My mind is made up. Like Robert Mondovi and Robert Parker, Jr. and many more that have come before me, yes, I believe that Riedel has a good product. Yes, I want to experience and learn more. Yes, I believe I’d like to share that experience with our readers.

The Merlot/Cabernet Blend was nice, good tannin structure, good flavors, looked real sexy in the glass. MMM-mmm. Good stuff.

At the end of the event, we got to take the glassware home with us. We had a late dinner, I had Cod, Taster B had Salmon. Then it was back into the frozen winter night to drive an hour and a half home. It was a great night. If you have never done a tasting like this, treat yourself.


Joe Roberts, CSW said...

My wine-snobbier friends aren't down with Riedel, but I dig my Riedel hardware - super-quality and they don't break the bank!

Taster A said...

I'll bet your buddies aren't down with using shot glasses, jiggers or high ball glasses either!

I look at it this way. For some 30years now, I’ve had my favorite glass for different wines, even if they were just dime store glasses. Taster B and I have a small collection of tasting room glasses. I do have my favorite wine – glass pairings.

Mr. Cohn related a story to us of how the Riedel camp was walked out on by Robert Mondovi during their first presentation. Upon the second presentation, Mr. Mondovi stopped the meeting and looked at his two sons and told them to throw out the glasses in the tasting room and make room for the Riedel glasses that would be arriving.

Let’s just say this demonstration rocked my universe. Will I be going out to buy a bunch of Riedel? No. Taster B will have that pleasure, I’m sure. : )

Thanks for reading!

Taster B said...

WineDude: Wow! I didn't know there was more wine-snobbier glassware than Riedel! Are we talking Schott Zwiesel or what?? I guess our new Riedels are not lead-free *gasp*!! Well, my cupboard is full--this is as far as I go. :)