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Find your new favorite at North Little Rock wine festival

Find your new favorite at North Little Rock wine festival

One of my favorite events of the year, when wine lovers can explore hundreds of wines under one roof is the American Heart Association’s annual Festival of Wines.

This year’s event is 6 p.m. Thursday at Dickey-Stephens Park, 400 W. Broadway, North Little Rock.

The Festival of Wines is the largest wine festival in central Arkansas, offering several hundred wines from all corners of the wine world.

One of my favorite features is the unique location of the “patio party” — encompassing the entire Dickey-Stephens Park concourse surrounding the stadium. Not only is it a wine-tasting mecca but the festival offers exceptional cuisine from many of our best restaurants in central Arkansas. For more information about the event, visit arkansasonline.com/1003wine.

I was able to get a sneak peek at this year’s wines. This is an opportunity to taste many wines we enjoy and also explore new tastes. Take time at the event to find some of the grape varietals, regions and styles that are not part of your normal buying routine.

Here are some to keep an eye out for as you explore the vast array offered at the festival.


  • 2016 Matchbook Dunnigan Hills Chardonnay, California (about $14 retail)
  • 2017 Picos del Montgo Garnacha, Spain (about $12 retail)
  • 2016 Gnarly Head 1924 Cabernet Sauvignon, California (about $11 retail)
  • 2016 Llama Old Vine Malbec, Argentina (about $14 retail)
  • 2017 St. James Peach, Missouri (about $11 retail)
  • 2016 Abbeycourt Cotes Du Rhone Rouge, France (about $14 retail)
  • 2017 Charles Smith Eve Chardonnay, Washington (about $15 retail)
  • NV Zonin Prosecco, Italy (about $15 retail)


  • 2017 Chamisal Stainless Chardonnay, California (about $19 retail)
  • 2016 Tosalet Priorat, Spain (about $28 retail)
  • 2016 Chateau Smith Cabernet Sauvignon, Washington (about $22 retail)
  • NV Moet and Chandon Imperial, France (about $72 retail)
  • 2017 Saracco Moscato d’ Asti, Italy (about $19 retail)
  • 2017 Left Coast Truffle Hill Chardonnay, Oregon (about $25 retail)
  • 2016 Axel Cabernet Sauvignon, Chile (about $25 retail)
  • 2016 Gran Pasas Monastrell, Spain (about $17 retail)
  • 2017 Zaccagnini Cerasuolo Rose, Italy (about $18 retail)
  • 2016 Maddalena Cabernet Sauvignon, California (about $21 retail)
Festival of Wines: Taste, don’t drink

Festival of Wines: Taste, don’t drink

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)
Festival of Wines was a big hit with tasters

Festival of Wines was a big hit with tasters

It’s time to share another excerpt from the memoirs of a tired, teeth-stained wine taster.

This year’s Festival of Wines was a big hit with tasters. Held Thursday in North Little Rock, benefited the American Heart Association and offered an exciting tasting experience. Being a foodie as well as a wine geek, I must say this year’s event had an exceptional group of restaurants and incredible foods to taste as well as outstanding wines.

Dickey-Stephens Park was filled with an extensive variety of wines ranging from $5 merlots to $100 one-of-a-kind cult wines. If you are looking to expand your tasting knowledge, explore hundreds of wines and also explore creations of local chefs, there are many such events in our area throughout the year.

Here are some of my favorites from the Festival of Wines.


  • 2013 Sawbuck Chardonnay, California (about $10 retail)
  • 2013 Sawbuck Cabernet, California (about $10 retail)
  • 2013 St. James Velvet Red, Missouri (about $8 retail)
  • 2013 Matchbook Chardonnay, California (about $12 retail)
  • 2013 Gnarly Head Authentic Black, California (about $10 retail)
  • 2013 Noble Vines 446 Chardonnay, California (about $10 retail)
  • 2013 HandCraft Petite Sirah, California (about $9 retail)
  • 2014 New Harbor Sauvignon Blanc, New Zealand (about $12 retail)
  • 2014 Lindeman’s Bin 45 Cabernet, Australia (about $6 retail)


  • 2013 Alta Maria Sauvignon Blanc, California (about $21 retail)
  • 2012 Alta Maria Pinot Noir, California (about $31 retail)
  • 2013 Bell Sauvignon Blanc, California (about $17 retail)
  • 2012 Chateau Mongravey Margaux, France (about $44 retail)
  • 2012 Beaulieu Vineyards Rutherford Cabernet, California (about $24 retail)
  • 2013 Leonard Kreusch Estate Riesling, Germany (about $17 retail)
  • 2012 Cornerstone Stepping Stone Cabernet Franc, California (about $47 retail)
  • 2013 Force of Nature Chardonnay, California (about $20 retail)
  • 2012 Penfolds Bin 8 Cabernet/Shiraz, Australia (about $26 retail)