Newport Wine Festival VinoTripping Blog

Newport Wine Festival Seminars 2017

Grand Tasting in Newport

Newport Wine Festival is one of my favorite events of the year.  I headed down to Newport on Friday morning with THE ladies and we went to lunch at 22 Bowens.  My clam chowder was good on this cold, rainy day.  My friends’ burrata salads were outstanding.  A cocktail, quick picture and we grabbed an uber to the Breakers Stables ($6/ 10 min ride/ well worth it) for our 2:30pm wine festival seminar.  The seminar was $60/pp and was definitely worth it for the 1 1/2 hour lesson.

The Breakers Stables is an adorable little venue, with historical carriages in the main room and another seminar running in the small room next door.  The building is really different, warm with a nice touch of history.

When we arrived, there was no line to get in.  We were warmly greeted, they had our names on the guest list and we easily found a table in the front of the stable room for the “Let the Sun Shine In! Sonoma vs Napa” seminar.  Four panelists were seated at the front, each represented a winery, and Robin, the MC, kept the flow of the conversation moving. This year it was even more fun  than last, because Robin was very knowledgeable and he knew what questions to ask the panelists and also how to work the audience.  He’s worked in the wine industry for 20 years and it made it that much more enjoyable.

List of what we tasted:

2014 Rebel Coast, Sunday Funday, White Blend Sonoma (*simple every day red)

2015 Trefethen Chardonnay, Napa Valley (*nice and full bodied but served a little too warm)

2014 Migration Pinot Noir, Russian River Valley (made by Duckhorn) (*very full bodied earthy Pinot)

2013 Duckhorn Vineyards Merlot, Napa Valley (*really yummy, jammy, full bodied)

2012 Hanna Red Ranch, Cabernet Sauvignon, Alexander Valley (*earthy, deep ruby color)

2013 Long Meadow Ranch, Rutherford Estate Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley (*Wowee!  Unexpected and my favorite.  Loved it!  Smooth, chalky, earthy)

The representative from Duckhorn was not in attendance.  I did meet her the next day and she was great!  Luckily, though, Susan, from Trefethen, had worked at Duckhorn for many years and she was easily able to step in.  We tasted 2 Chardonnays and 2 Cabs and Pinot Noir and a Merlot.  The panelists summary, Napa is more established and more “serious”, mostly known for its outstanding, really good Cabernets and Chardonnay.  Sonoma is still developing and playing with their terroir, varietals and the possibilities. This region is going to shine in the future with its innovation and potential.  Susan talked about how 50% of the soil types in the world are also found in Napa and Sonoma.  It was pretty impressive.

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“Urban Winemaker”: This is a new term to me.  On my trip to Washington, I ran into many wines where winemakers purchase grapes from growers and make their wine without a winery.  Apparently, this is an urban winemaker.

6 wine tastes, 1 wine I will never forget, 2 fun new friends sitting next to us and a great MC, thank you Robin… all equaled a fantastic and fun experience.  Did I learn a ton?  I learned some fun facts and definitely a better sense of the regions, had some good wine, gained some great contacts and will be better able to plan my trip to Napa and Sonoma.

Overall, I gave it the seminar an A-.  Susan and Jennifer were standouts.  The presenter from Hanna definitely knew his stuff.  Susan was particularly knowledgeable about wine, climate, terroir, soil types and the entire region of Napa and Sonoma, which made it that much more enjoyable for me.  Jill had owned a major wine store in New York specializing in the region and she was very good as well.

We ended up sitting with a husband and wife from Utah who sell a really gorgeous product.  The Cowboy Cauldron, (http://www.cowboycauldron.com) is a stunning backyard firepit/ grill.  Check it out, it really is stunning.

The next event pushed my experience over to an A+ ….

Once the seminar cleared out, I asked Robin if there was room in the next seminar, Champagne and Caviar.  We had attended last year and we had really enjoyed it.  True to great customer service, Robin made a phone call to Nancy who assisted me in purchasing tickets for the next seminar.  I was really impressed with the two of them and glad I had asked if there was room.  Robin made sure our places were set, and off we went.

“Champagne Wishes, Caviar Dreams” On this panel was John Knierim, Vice President of Calvisius USA INC. (http://www.calvisiususa.com; #[email protected]) along with a representative from the house of Champagne Taittinger (www.taittinger.com; #[email protected]).   Their Champagne and caviar pairings keep getting better and better.  I enjoyed last years seminar but really couldn’t tell you what I tasted and ate.  This year, I remember all of the tastings and all of the pairings of the night because they were aha moments, moments in time where you experience a delight of your senses, something where it is so new and different and just… so good, that you know you will never forget it.  That was this seminar for me.  This seminar was so well done, I cannot give it high enough praise.

Caviar Served:

1st Course:  Tradition Prestige (buttery, creamy and can be eaten where you would eat butter) paired with Champagne Taittanger Brut La Francaise NV

2nd Course:  Oscietra Classic paired with Champagne Taittinger Prelude

3rd Course:  Siberian paired with Taittinger Prestige Rose – this was my absolute favorite pairing.  The caviar was delicious, but after tasting the Prestige Rose with it, it took on one of the most amazing flavor and texture I have ever tasted.

4th Course:  Oscietra Royal paired with Champagne Taittinger Comtes de Champagne Blanc de Blanc 2006 – The Comtes Blanc de Blanc can only be made in special years where the houses can make an exceptional vintage.  This is definitely a stand out.  Yum!

Fun facts:  You taste caviar on the back of your hand, between your thumb and forefinger.  It warms it and effects your association of what you are eating with your brain.  It really works!

How to taste caviar:  Even after the caviar has been tasted, the hand shouldn’t have a strong fish odor. Once caviar is in the mouth, linger pleasantly on its taste by sliding the eggs on the palate and appreciate its smooth and tender texture and the amazing explosion of flavors.

The Champagne was exceptional and the pairings took the seminar to the next level.  Robin MC’d this one as well and made sure it was informational with humor interspersed.  John taught us all about caviar, it’s production, it’s origin and history and also the efforts of his company to preserve the sturgeon environment.  This seminar was very well put together and highly, highly enjoyable.  The Taittinger rep was also very good but I didn’t get his name.  He and John played off of each other very well and frankly, the champagne was just exquisite.  I was interested to see that they had several guest Sommeliers on hand that evening.  Marco Fusato was one stand out, very unpretentious, knowledgeable, great customer service and encouraged me to secure me a ticket to the event that evening and even assisted me with my choices at the wine festival the next day.

This event is a HIGHLY recommend!

About Author

After graduating from Brandeis University, Alison worked as a teacher at two of the top high schools in the country and spent her summers traveling the world. On one of her adventures, she visited Stellenbosch and Paarl in South Africa, which ignited a lifelong passion for learning about wine. In 2004, she worked as a Wine Consultant for the Traveling Vineyard and began to study wine more intensively. While working as a high tech recruiter, she completed her Advanced Certification from the Wine and Spirits Education Trust in the UK in 2018. Her wine travels have taken her to the wine growing regions of the US, Europe, Africa and Australia. Alison is a member of the Boston Sommelier Society, a member of the Guild of Master Sommeliers and is a Wine, Travel and Lifestyle Media Influencer. Currently, after leaving her recruiting career, Alison is running her business, Artisan Wine Group, teaching wine courses, running private and corporate wine events and organizing wine tours.

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