It’s one of my favorite events of the year: the Festival of Wines benefiting the American Heart Association.
This year’s event, Festival of Wines: Cocktails & Cuisines, will take place Thursday at Dickey-Stephens Park in North Little Rock. For more information, visit tinyurl.com/festwine2017.
I always look at large tasting events as an opportunity to sample and explore many wines in a short amount of time. But the key words to keep in mind are “countless wines” and a “short amount of time.” So, how do you make the most of it without over imbibing? Spit and spit often. Spitting is part of the tasting experience. If you drink the full amount of each tasting, you’ll be intoxicated long before you’ve even made a dent in all the wines there are to explore. If your intention is to try as many new wines as possible, and assess them, use this rule.
A large tasting event such as the Festival of Wines can be a bit overwhelming. When you arrive take a quick look at the event handout. Are there any regions, grape varietals or producers you’re especially interested in? Find these tables first to make the best use of your time.
Take simple tasting notes and don’t worry with long narrative comments. I will use my event brochure and scribble in smiley faces on my favorites, question marks on wines I want to consider tasting later and then of course a quick photo with my phone for those I want to remember and buy in the future.
This year I got a sneak peek of the wine offerings and this is just a sampling of the many worth searching out for a quick taste.
- 2016 Voga Friuli Grave Pinot Grigio, Italy (about $10 retail)
- 2016 Gassier Sables D’Azur Rose, France (about $15 retail)
- 2016 Turtle Bay Sauvignon Blanc, New Zealand (about $15 retail)
- 2015 Don Rodolfo Tannat, Argentina (about $11 retail)
- 2015 Llama Malbec, Argentina (about $15 retail)
- 2015 Rabble Red Blend, California (about $15 retail)
- NV Zonin Prosecco, Italy (about $15 retail)
- 2014 Alexander Valley Vineyards Temptation Zin, California (about $12 retail)
- 2015 Seghesio Old Vine Zinfandel, California (about $21 retail)
- 2015 Seven Hills Walla Walla Red, Washington (about $36 retail)
- 2015 Rutherford Ranch Merlot, California (about $18 retail)
- 2015 Predator Cabernet Sauvignon, California (about $16 retail)
- 2016 Niner Sauvignon Blanc, California (about $21 retail)
- NV Chandon Blanc De Noir, California (about $17 retail)
- 2014 Tooth and Nail The Possessor, California (about $30 retail)
- 2015 Stasis Chardonnay, California (about $36 retail)
- 2015 Chateau Du Caillau Cahors, France (about $16 retail)
- 2014 Round Pond Rutherford Cabernet Sauvignon, California (about $59 retail)
Whether tailgating, camping or simply enjoying your backyard minus the mosquitoes, Arkansas’ temperate climate means we can enjoy the flavor and fellowship of grilling year round.
I know plenty of people consider grilling a summer-only ritual and close down the grill along with all of the other outdoor amenities as soon as the leaves start to change. But when that slight chill hits the air I find it’s the best time to fire up our grill. Take the warmth of the grill and add a glass of wine … that’s my kind of weather.
Beer is the general go-to for any type of grilling and barbecue. It’s refreshing and acts as a cleanser for the fat and richness on your palate from heavy sauces and the char taste from the grill. But wines can offer the same refreshing effect. Explore these classic fall wines for your next grilling opportunity.
If brisket or ribs are on the menu, reach for a zinfandel, carmenere, syrah or tempranillo.
- 2014 Concha y Toro Casillero del Diablo Carmenere, Chile (about $11 retail)
- 2014 Volver Single Vineyard Tempranillo, Spain (about $20 retail)
For burgers, consider zinfandel, malbec, pinot noir, cabernet sauvignon or a dry rose.
- 2013 Montes Twins Red Blend Malbec/Cabernet Sauvignon, Chile (about $14 retail)
- 2014 Crios Malbec, Argentina (about $18 retail)
Chicken pairs well with sparkling wine, pinot noir, chardonnay, carmenere and dry rose.
- NV Domaine Ste. Michelle Brut, Columbia Valley (about $13 retail)
- 2013 La Playa Axel Carmenere, Chile (about $24 retail)
Match vegetables such as sweet potatoes, mushrooms, squash and onions with pinot noir, carignan or cabernet franc.
- 2014 Clos du Bois Pinot Noir, California (about $12 retail)
- 2014 Sean Minor Pinot Noir, California (about $20 retail)
Zinfandel, malbec, cabernet sauvignon or pinot noir are good options for pairing with sausage.
- 2014 Kaiken Malbec, California (about $14 retail)
- 2014 Cline Cellars Zinfandel, California (about $18 retail)
This past week Arkansas had an astonishing group of French Champagne winemakers in our midst. Each showcasing the Champagnes and sparkling wines of their wineries. It was obvious as we shared in the tastings that most of us adore the elusive bubble of a sparkling wine or Champagne. I’ve never actually met a wine drinker who didn’t enjoy the celebratory drink.
Today, sparkling wine is valued for its luxurious and prestigious reputation. It adds a bit of flair to any occasion and popping open a bottle can make a humdrum dinner feel like a special occasion. But this wasn’t always the case. Long before French monk Dom Perignon is thought to have called out, “Brothers, brothers, come quickly, for I am tasting stars!” bubbles were considered a wine fault. Froth belonged to beer but in wine it was considered unrefined.
The idea of a sparkling wine was not new, as it was noted by the Romans, and the Bible refers to “wine that moveth” but it wasn’t until the late 17th century in Champagne, France, when advances were made in glass production and wine stoppers, that bubbly as we know it today became possible.
So, as you savor your next glass of bubbly, keep in mind the long historic journey it took for the celebratory drink to be in your hand.
- NV Chandon Etoile Rose, California (about $32 retail)
- NV Chandon Blanc de Noirs, California (about $15 retail)
- NV Chandon Rose, California (about $15 retail)
- Moet & Chandon Brut Imperial, France (abut $49 retail)
- Moet & Chandon Nectar Imperial, France (about $50)
- 2006 NV Moet & Chandon Grand Vintage, France (about $64 retail)
- NV Krug Grande Cuvee, France (about $179 retail)
- NV Ruinart Blanc de Blanc, France (about $74)
The Festival of Wines, in its 13th year, is the largest wine festival in central Arkansas offering several hundred wines from all corners of the wine world. One of my favorite features of the event is the unique location of the “patio party” filling the Dickey-Stephens Park concourse with the enjoyment of music surrounding the stadium. Not only is it a wine-tastings mecca but the festival also features cuisine from many of our best restaurants in central Arkansas.
For more information about the festival, visit heart.org/festivalofwines.
Here are a few starter notes for wines I know you will want to explore.
- 2015 Bell Sauvignon Blanc, California (about $16 retail)
- 2015 Bell Red Blend, California (about $16 retail)
- 2014 Chateau Du Caillau Cahors, France (about $16 retail)
- 2014 Banfi Chianti Superiore, Italy (about $12 retail)
- 2015 Zonin Prosecco, Italy (about $14 retail)
- 2014 Domaine Laroque Cabernet Franc Carcassonne, France (about $10 retail)
- 2015 Matchbook Chardonnay, California (about $12 retail)
- 2014 Force of Nature Red Blend, California (about $17 retail)
- 2015 St. James Cynthiana, Missouri (about $9 retail)
- 2015 St. James Blackberry, Missouri (about $9 retail)
- 2014 Niner Sauvignon Blanc, California (about $19 retail)
- 2014 Predator Zinfandel, California (about $16 retail)
- 2014 Rutherford Ranch Chardonnay, California (about $16 retail)
- 2014 Concha y Toro Marques Cabernet Sauvignon, Chile (about $19 retail)
- 2014 Chamisal Stainless Chardonnay, California (about $16 retail)
- 2013 Alexander Valley Schoolhouse Reserve Cabernet, California (about $41 retail)
- 2014 Chateau Mongravey Margaux, France (about $47 retail)
- 2015 Rosa Regale, Italy (about $24 retail)
- 2014 Schug Sonoma Pinot Noir, California (about $23 retail)
- 2016 Moet Chandon Grand Vintage, France (about $89 retail)
- NV Moet Chandon Nectar Imperial Rose, France (about $90 retail)
- 2014 Tooth and Nail “The Stand” Petite Sirah Blend, California (about $28 retail)
- 2014 Stasis Pinot Noir, California (about $44 retail)
- 2014 BV Napa Cabernet, California (about $35 retail)
When people ask what my favorite wine events in Arkansas are, the Walton Arts Center’s Art of Wine Festival always makes the top of my list. Each year I enjoy, not only tasting wine with many friends and colleagues from our state, but meeting many visitors to Arkansas. With hundreds of wines, some of Northwest Arkansas’ premier restaurants and entertainment, what more could you want for a weekend here at home?
The celebration features three days of special and educational tasting experiences. This year it begins June 9 with the Winemakers’ Dinner, which features a five-course meal and wine pairing. It’s not just any wine dinner; it takes place on the Baum Walker Hall stage, and a silent auction offers the opportunity to bid on some of the most unique art, wine and other items.
The grand tasting June 10 features more than 400 wines. Uncorked: Friday Night Tasting is a festive event with area restaurants providing signature dishes to enjoy. This event is one of my favorites because guests can taste and explore hundreds of wines in one place.
The final event is the Premier Tasting on June 11. This event is exceptional in that many of the wines are available only at this prestigious wine festival. It also features Northwest Arkansas’ best chefs’ VIP heavy hors d’oeuvres.
And it’s all for a good cause, with proceeds benefiting the arts center.
For more information or for tickets, call the Walton Arts Center at (479) 443-5600 or visit waltonartscenter.org
See you there!
- 2014 Red Car Rose, California (about $16 retail)
- 2014 Revelry Chardonnay, Washington (about $16 retail)
- 2014 Lieu Dit Sauvignon Blanc, California (about $22 retail)
- 2013 Stasis Chardonnay, California (about $35 retail)