Tasting Notes with Jim Beauregard: First notes from a Spectacular tasting

By JIM BEAUREGARD February 06. 2018 11:31PM

"Veni, vidi, vici," Julius Caesar once said of his conquest of Gaul. Well, not being a general, but rather a humble wine taster, I came, I saw and I tasted — a whole bunch of wines — at last month’s Easterseals Winter Wine Spectacular, and I want to share some of those tasting notes with you.

If you’re not familiar with it (that is, if you’re a wine lover and you’ve just moved to New Hampshire within the past six hours), the Winter Wine Spectacular is an annual event in which winemakers from all over the world come to Manchester to give you the opportunity to sample their wines — quite literally hundreds and hundreds of them.

Joseph Mollica, chairman of the New Hampshire Liquor Commission, had this to say about the event: “We are proud to once again be partnering with Easterseals NH and celebrating with more than 1,800 spectacular wines, while raising critical funding for an organization that provides such meaningful and impactful services throughout the state.”

New Hampshire Wine Week began in 2005, and it’s a week filled with events that culminate in the Easterseals tasting. As much fun as it is — and it is boatloads of fun — it’s also important to remember, as Mollica said, that the event supports Easterseals’ statewide early intervention program, “providing much-needed services in therapy for hundreds of children ages three months to three years with a variety of developmental delays and physical disabilities. Thanks to your help, the Winter Wine Spectacular has raised more than $1.8 million for Easterseals New Hampshire.”

While I was not able to sample every single wine there — that is beyond human capacity, or at least human capacity for one evening — I do want to tell you about a few particularly good ones that I tried over the course of the evening. Here we go:

True Myth Cabernet Sauvignon, Paso Robles, Calif. 13.9% alcohol by volume; $19.99. Purple in the glass, dark and deep, dry on the palate with medium acidity, medium-plus tannin and a rich palate of black fruit including black current and black plum, with a delightful mouth feel and a long finish. Ready to drink now and delicious if you do.

Lange Pinot Noir, Three Hills Cuvee, 2013, Willamette Valley, Ore. 13.9% ABV; $43.99. There are American Pinot Noirs and there are European Pinot Noirs, the former tending to be more fruit-forward in the latter tending to have a deeper earthy feel ideal for food pairing (not that the American ones aren’t; it just depends on how much fruit you want on your palate in the moment). Garnet-colored, with medium-plus intensity on the nose, medium tannin and well-integrated alcohol, medium body and medium to pronounced flavor intensities of raspberry, strawberry, red plum, blackberry and hints of bramble, this Pinot Noir has lots and lots going on, along a very pleasing and extended finish. Wendy, who poured my glass, told me that the wines are aged 35% new French Oak (which, these days, running about $1,000 a barrel), and in this case, the result is deep flavor, good body, a Pinot Noir in the French style that is ideal for pairing with French cuisine. You no longer need to go to France to find a good French Pinot Noir.

While we are on the subject of Pinot Noir: Maison Louis Latour Valmoissine Pinot Noir, 2014. 13% ABV; $14.99. A red wine of the same color spectrum as the one above, a good clean nose, and a very dry palate that brings medium acidity and tannin, just right for a Pinot Noir. Medium body and medium-plus flavor intensity of raspberry, strawberry and some hints of black cherry, as well as an earthiness in the background that accompanies you all the way to the medium-plus length finish. Good primary and secondary flavors, and ready to drink now.

More from the Wine Spectacular next week!

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Since we’re reviewing wines, just a note: I’m going to be giving up point scores in writing about wine. As any wine lover knows, the 100-point system introduced by Robert Parker in the 1980s is actually a 50-point scale: a wine gets 50 points just for showing up and then you go, hopefully, upward from there. The system is used by magazines like Wine Spectator, but it has also been criticized as fomenting the belief that only wines that score 90 points or more are worth buying.

Most of the wines on this planet, are made for everyday drinking, and so would score in the 70s and 80s, but over the past couple decades those numbers have, I think, come to be seen as pointing to wines that can come to be perceived as somehow inferior.

The fact is, with the wine technology available today, and the rapid dissemination of wine-, beer- and spirits-related information through the internet, it’s pretty rare to find a drink that is not, at minimum, solid, well-made, and free of faults.

The system also tells you virtually nothing about what is actually in the bottle. This is the main advantage of going to wine tastings, so that you can try a particular wine and if you like it, purchase it regardless of the score. Unfortunately, for wine writers, it can also become a shortcut or an easy out, rather than doing the hard work of describing what’s actually in the bottle, which is what I most enjoy doing anyway.

Also, you’ve no doubt noticed that I have not included point scores for beers or spirits. Not least for the sake of consistency, I think it makes more sense to focus on what things taste like, which is what we’re all really after anyway, isn’t it?

Contact Jim Beauregard at tastingnotesnh@aol.com.


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