On Monday, January 11th, we attended the Augustan Wine Imports Producer Tour. This is always a big deal in the Orlando Wine industry, as they have a really great portfolio of wines. This event happens every two years and they bring winemakers and/or winery owners to Florida to meet with the wine buyers in the trade. There is always an excitement in the air during these events. This year, they started the tour at the Alfond Inn here in Winter Park. The Alfond Inn is a beautiful boutique hotel located next to Rollins College. The tasting was laid out in such a way that you could actually sit down with the winery owners/winemakers. This enabled us to not only taste the wines, but hear their story and have a meaningful dialogue about their wines.
Various bottles of bubbles from Voirin-Jumel were placed at the entrance (by no mistake I am sure!). Elyse Voirin was there to tell her family story of their Champagne house that overlooks the hill of Dom Perignon. This family produces Champagne from start to finish, from their own vineyards. In the industry we call this Grower Champagne (or Farmer Fizz!). Her NV Rose de Saignee was exquisite, as are all of her wines.
We got to see some familiar faces like our friend Greg Brewer of Brewer-Clifton Winery in California. We absolutely love his wines. Greg is a joy, if he makes it to Orlando again this year, we will definitely schedule a tasting event with him. Greg is truly devoted to his wine making process. He literally sleeps amongst the grapes and barrels during harvest and crush. His wines are very unique, and if you can get a chance to get your hands on a bottle or two you (his Pinot Noir’s or Chardonnay’s), you will NOT be disappointed. He also mentioned that he is reviving his label called Diatom. Diatom is Greg’s expression of how a singular vineyard from the Sta. Rita Hills region can be expressed through connection of the earth, maritime climate and emotions. We loved these wines immensely years ago and look forward to seeing them back in the market.
A big surprise was the wines from Greek producer, George Skouras of Domaine Skouras. We were pretty blown away by his wines. The 2014 Moschofilero ($19/btl) was an absolute treat! It smelled like sweet orange blossoms and jasmine, with a hint of lime. I expected it would be sweet but It was bone dry! This would be an amazing summer white. We also really enjoyed the 2011 Megas Oenos ($32/btl). George brought a bottle of the 2005 vintage to show the age-ability, and I will tell you this is indeed an age worthy wine. I love drinking older vintages. This was a blend of mostly old vines Agiorgitiko with 20% Cabernet Sauvignon – there’s a lot of acidity (which is why this wine ages so well), but it also had a lot of elegance and finesse. My only wish is that we had big juicy steak to enjoy with it!
Another stand-out and winery I personally love is Arnot-Roberts. The winery is located in the Sonoma appellation, where most of the wines are from (although they do have a couple of Napa Valley offerings as well). I especially love their Syrah and especially the 2013 Que Syrah ($78/btl). It is an exceptional wine. Bold and intense, with a touch of gamey meats and smokiness that I love in Syrah. All the wines are made with a sense of place and balance in mind. You really can not go wrong with any wines made by this winery.
With 26 winemakers/winery owners and over 100+ wines taste, there was simply is not enough time taste them all, and even if we had, our palates would have been shot by the end! Our last two stops were with Emidio Pepe and Massolino, both from Italy but they could not be more different.
Emidio Pepe, in its 5th generation of winemakers, creates amazingly complex age worthy reds and whites in a region of mass produced Montepulciano d’Abruzzo. The Pepe vineyards are located in the northern province of Teramo, with siliceous soil rich in lime and iron. The wine making is natural and the grapes are grown biodynamically, hand-harvested, hand-destemmed and naturally fermented. Before the wines are sent out of the winery, they actually decant the wines by hand into new bottles and then label them, therefore guaranteeing that every wine is exceptional. The Trebbiano white wines are golden hued, well balanced and very complex. We tasted the 2010, and it was nutty, with hints of sweet citrus, lemon acidity and a little floral. This is a very serious wine.
The Montepulciano wines are big and bold, filled with intense flavors of dried black cherries, licorice and wild herbs. We tasted vintages 2000, 2001, 2003, and 2007. All the vintages had similarities but there was a difference in the warmer vintages as the fruit stood out more.
The Massolino family has produced wine in the Piedmont region of Italy since 1896. Their vineyards are located in the small town of Serralunga d’Alba, where the soils are rich. The family has made history by bringing electricity to the village, as well as creating wines of which they all could take great pride in. We tasted the 2011 single vineyard Barolo’s – Margheria & Parafada. The Margheria was more feminine and exotic, while the Parafada was much more masculine with intense tannins. My favorite wine on the table was the 2008 Rionda Riserva. Antonio Galloni called this a compelling wine and I agree with him. It has some floral characteristics of violets and dark fruits on the palate, this wine is made for longevity and I think that it is one that is just at the beginning of its evolution.