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Food and wine competitions are a smorgasbord

By By Stan Torgerson / wine columnist
Aug. 13, 2003
Last week, fellow Meridian wine lover Roosevelt Mosley called me. He had just returned from the California State Fair and its 7th Annual California Grape and Gourmet competition, the state's most prestigious food and wine event of the year.
The event honors the best winemakers, brewers and cheese makers in the state. Mosely had brought back the programs, news releases and other items relating to the fair. Would I like to see them? You bet.
Food and wine competitions are a true smorgasbord for wine lovers. There are a number of them around the country; all of them, in effect, are king size tastings.
Wine Spectator magazine sponsors one in October at New York with a price tag of $1,575 for three days of tastings, seminars, luncheons and a grand award banquet starring Paul Anka.
To attend only the tastings, the cost is $225 each. If you choose only the banquet, the cost for dinner, wine and the show is $350. Add transportation by air, other meals, cab fare and a hotel room at New York prices and you're looking at up to $4,000 for the weekend. Take your wife or husband along and that's eight big ones.
At what they call a "Critics Choice" tasting, more than 250 of the world's greatest wineries and chateaus will pour their wines. And if you plan to go, the Saturday night banquet is black tie.
The California Grape and Gourmet wasn't that grand, but a record number of 2,814 wine entries were received from the 531 wineries participating. A panel of 60 judges awarded 1,193 medals.
The printed program listed in fine print five pages of wineries which had entered. Seventy-three restaurants from Sacramento to San Francisco had their name in the book, seeking the attendees' business. Twenty-six petite California breweries were listed in competition. In addition $26,000 in scholarships were awarded to young people, but on what basis I do not know. Obviously, it must have had something to do with their interest in wine making.
The winery of the year was Rosenblum Cellars from Alameda County. The Best of Show was Rosenblum's 2001 zinfandel.
There are two Rosenblum wines on our state list. Their cabernet sauvignon is listed. It sells for about $35 retail. Rosenblum zinfandel is also available in Mississippi but not their Carla's Vineyard which won best of show. The one sold in our state is Rosenblum Richard Sauret Vineyard. I know nothing about it except it is fairly priced at about $21. But if Rosenblum was the winery of the year I would have to expect all of their products to be first class, including this one. Your favorite wine store can order either from this winery.
Other wineries honored included Guenoc for their petite sirah (we served their chardonnay and sauvignon blanc at our July wine tasting), Gloria Ferre for their champagne, Feldbrook Winery, Mumm Cuvee for their champagne, J. Lohr's chardonnay, Fetzer Vineyards gewurztraminer, Geyser Peaks Winery, Robert Hall, Montevina, Kendall-Jackson (not for their chardonnay but for their pinot noir), Beringer white zinfandel (the country's best selling wine of any kind) and Rutherford Vinters. There were more, but their products are not available in Mississippi.
I didn't ask Mosley if he enjoyed the event. I didn't have to. The lilt in his voice said it all.
Coming up
I have preached again and again the importance using the right glass can make in the taste of wine. Based on the number who bring their own glass from home to our tastings the message is getting out. There are two great glasses, Riedel and Spiegelau.
We have been able to obtain 48 Spiegelau glasses and we will give one to each person attending our Aug. 28 tasting so that you can see for yourself. You'll always bring it to future tastings. These glasses are described as "The perfect wine glass."
They are 81⁄4 inches tall, hold 22 ounces and are designed specifically for the way red wines aerate and how the bouquet will be delivered to your nose.
We will taste six red wines that night and you can compare wine from the small glasses provided by Northwood Country Club with the same wine from a classic Spiegelau glass. But we have only 48 and so we can only accommodate 48 tasters. The price of the tasting is $30. Please phone 482-0930 to make your reservation.

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