Blog: 2013 West of West Wine Festival
It seemed that not even the spacious confines of SoHo’s City Winery could hold the many east coast lovers of California wines on Tuesday night as the prestigious venue hosted the first “West of West Wine Festival” in New York City. Presented by the West Sonoma Coast Vintners, the three hour Consumer Grand Tasting would feature some twenty-six different participating wineries, each bringing with them between three and six distinctive varietals for guests to sip upon while parading around the crowded room. And producers large and small would make the trek to Manhattan to partake in the pouring of fine wines and conversing with a collection of refined but thirsty New Yorkers.
Before the completely sold out “West of West Wine Festival” even kicked off at 6pm, the line of guests extended out from City Winery’s doorway, wrapping halfway down the block on an especially windy February evening. Although the crowd skewed a bit older for the festival, the anticipation to begin tasting was easily apparent from the patient guests talking shop with their colleagues alongside them. Once inside, swarms of eventgoers formed crowded pockets in different areas around the space, but you never had to wait all that long for any desired pour. That said, being dinner time we immediately began by heading for the generous trays of salumi and different cheeses and accoutrements, a staple of a City Winery tasting event. Pulled pork sliders and tuna tartare crackers also made the rounds as passed hors d’oeuvres to a cavalcade of gobbling guests.
The $100 cost of attendance ensured that the event would play host to a more sophisticated clientele, evident from the lengthy conversations that most guests would engage in with each wine purveyor rather than running around and slurping down any red wine within reach. With over seventy different wines to choose from, finding our favorites was no easy task- but half of the fun in highlighting the standouts is getting to taste so many different vintages. The western Sonoma coast is typically cool and dry, making the region ripe for growing the likes of Pinot Noirs, Syrahs, and Chardonnays, which were the predominant pours during the Festival.
As lovers of all things Pinot, we made repeat visits to Joseph Phelps Vineyards for tastes of their “2010 Freestone Vineyard Pinot Noir,” from the Sonoma Coast. The coupling of dark cherry and spices meshed with the wine’s smooth taste for a rich flavor profile, and stood out as distinctive amongst a pack of similar styles. Similarly, Sojourn Cellars’ yet-to-be released 2011’s Pinots (“2011 Campbell Ranch” and the 2011 “Silver Eagle Vineyard”) were almost equally as excellent- both complex and delicious, providing a delicately drinkable balance. (If pressed, we preferred the “Silver Eagle”) Other standouts included the sweeter Charles Heintz Vineyards’ “2009 Pinot Noir” and LaRue Wines’ “2009 LaRue Pinot Noir,” with a tart nose and cherry laden palate that offers recognizable hints of red fruits and a medium body. As far as the white wines went, it began and ended for us at Western Sonoma County’s Hartford Family Winery. Pours of the “2010 Far Coast Vineyard Chardonnay” were unlike any of the other whites being served at the Festival. With a fruit-meets floral nose, the almost full bodied white tasted of pears and apricots and was both clean and crisp all the way down. Admittedly, we may have made a couple of visits back to the Hartford table. The wine was simply that delicious.
There are two schools of thought we’re left with after attending the first “West of West Wine Festival.” One- that we were afforded the opportunity to taste wines indicative of Sonoma’s rich growing region of tasty Pinot Noirs and Chardonnays without having to travel to the west coast. Or two, tasting so many fantastic wines urges us to make the trek out west and walk around the vineyards ourselves. Either way, there was perhaps no better way to spend a rainy, windy New York City evening, than walking around with our fellow lovers of vino, and tasting some of the best wines that California has to offer. We can only hope that the “West of West Wine Festival” makes a triumphant return to our area next year.
- Jane Van Arsdale