For winos (and I mean that in the most flattering way), the Wailea Wine and Food Festival is like being a kid in a candy store — a really nice candy store with bins overflowing with rare, expensive treats handcrafted with fanatical care.
For wine lovers, this is a truly special experience. Some of the world’s most respected wine makers and master sommeliers came to play at the Wailea Wine and Food Festival. At these intimate wine sessions, not only did we get the opportunity to taste wines we haven’t even dreamed of yet, we got to actually shake hands with the person who made that wine and get inside their wine-knowledge-filled head.
It also didn’t hurt that it looked like this outside…
And that in between wine tastings you were chowing down on this…
The festival started out with a bang with the Pinot Passion session featuring:
- Donald Patz (Patz & Hall)
- Gary Pisoni (Pisoni Winery)
- Greg Brewer (Brewer Clifton)
- Justin Willett (Tyler Winery)
- Dick Benjamin (Foxen Vineyard)
- Regina Martinelli (Martinelli Family Winery)
For pinot fans, this was a real treat to have such legendary wine makers together on one panel. From start to finish, this was a thoroughly entertaining, good time. Facilitated, no doubt, by the special vintages they each brought for us to try.
Justin Willett from Tyler Winery, a relative newcomer to the game (compared to the Martinelli Family who has been making wine in Sonoma County for 130 years, spanning five generations) brought his Bien Nacido 2010 vintage, of which only 3 barrels were made.
Foxen Vineyard also brought their Bien Nacido Vineyard 2010 vintage, which happened to have been my favorite. This pinot was ripe and round with dark berry notes, and full of silky finesse, with gentle tannins. I’ll be on the lookout for this one again, that’s for sure.
WHAT’S NEW, NEXT & TRENDY IN CALIFORNIA WINE
The next panel was all about What’s New, Next & Trendy in California Wine with:
- Tim Meinken (Gordian Knot Winery)
- Megan Glaab (Ryme Cellars)
- Peter Heitz (Shypoke)
- Wells Guthrie (Copain Wine Cellars)
- Chrystal Clifton (Palmina)
- Pax Mahle (Wind Gap Wines)
- Mike Officer (Carlisle Winery)
- Armen Kachaturian (Ehlers Estate)
For purely self-serving reasons, I was looking forward to this session because I had the benefit of returning to Cali after this trip to familiarize myself more with these wineries in my own backyard. Two of my favorite new-to-me finds were Gordian Knot Winery in Healdsburg and Shypoke in Calistoga.
Gordian Knot’s Albarino 2011 was delightfully refreshing, and was exactly what I wanted to be drinking in the tropical climate we were in. It had distinct kiwi notes, with an aroma of apple blossom.
With flavors of dark cherry, ripe plum, and a little sumpthin sumpthin smokiness (yes, that’s a technical term), Shypoke’s Charbono 2009 is the kind of intriguing wine you keep tasting until you realize your glass is empty.
The Charbono story itself is fascinating. The rare black-skinned varietal, originally hailing from the Savoie region of Franch, is found almost exclusively in Napa Valley these days, and only a handful of winemakers continue to produce it. The Heitz family has been growing it since 1904 (they are a proud member of Slow Food’s Ark of Taste). Even when they had to turn to growing walnuts, pears, and prunes during prohibition, Peter’s great-grandfather, Michael Heitz insisted on keeping his Charbono. We’re glad he did.
More to come in Part 2!
Spoiler alert: we’ll travel on to some gorgeous Italian wines, explore a vertical tasting of Cab spanning three decades, and get at a taste of some wine & cheese pairings.
More from the Wailea Wine and Food Festival: