Back with another wine tasting review. Last Friday night, I attended a tasting of Italian wines at Meritage Wine Market at 162 S. Rancho Santa Fe Rd in Encinitas (at the end of Encinitas Blvd across from the Pancake House). The tasting room is adjacent to the store, with one large curved bar and two counters in the corners of the room. There is a patio with seating outside, but all the serving is done from the bar.
Meritage is run by Mark Davidowski & Jason Ivy, and many regulars attend the Friday evening tastings. Regulars mean a friendly and knowledgeable staff. The glass is a proper Riedel stem, always clean and fresh. Doesn’t sound like a big deal, but you’d be surprised how often the glasses at tasting are a little stale. $20 for the tasting, but you get what you pay for: a good glass, tasting notes and a solid lineup. Mark was the host for this tasting and he exhibited a strong knowledge of the wines. Here are my notes:
2007 San Quirico Vernaccia. A white from the Tuscany region, the Vernaccia grape is ancient, first described in 1276. I found this wine to have pear and melon aromas on the nose with a medium body and nice acidity. Not much of finish and it was served too cold. At $17 a bottle, a wine suited for a nice pork loin rather than a summer afternoon.
2006 Secco-Bertani Valpolicella. This wine is made using a technique called “ripasso”, where the young wine is removed from the vat and allowed to ferment with skins of Amarone grapes. This shortcut gives body to young wine. The technique isn’t very old, used first in 1964. Maybe it just needed air, but I found this wine very tight with a sour cherry taste on the tongue. $18.50 and my least favorite of the evening.
2006 Aia Vecchia Lagone. A real find at $16, great aroma and rich flavor. Some black cherry, but the good kind; not sweet. From Tuscany, but a Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon and Cabernet Franc blend. I just noticed a Wine Spectator review of 91 points. I bought 2.
2006 Valle Reale Montepulciano d’Abruzzo. $18, and my favorite wine for the money. I thought it had wonderful tannin on the nose and a complex flavor. I am not crazy, this wine won the Tre Bicchieri (3 glass award) from Gambero Rosso, the Italian wine magazine (instead of 100 points it has 3 glasses). It’s a big wine, serve with meat or heavy pasta dishes. Or just enjoy. I bought 2 and will return for more.
The tasting ended with 2 higher priced wines.
2004 Dante Rivetti Barbaresco. $52. Nicey-spicy aroma, plenty of pepper and violets in the long beautiful flavor. Pale purple color, very good but I can’t see laying out 50 bones for it.
2006 Le Serre Nuove. This is the second wine of Ornellaia, which I have never tasted mostly because it’s $160 a bottle. This wine is $65 and is a blend of Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, and Petit Verdot. Pretty much a crime to open this wine now, but sacrifices must be made. An amazing wine and one that will benefit from 5-10 years of aging.
Last time, we discussed the merits of the sit down tasting, when you get all your wines at once and can compare them in real time. I really like the sit down format, it’s slower and more relaxing. Not many stores use the format for tastings per se, it is seen at wine bars more commonly.
The more usual format for wine shop tasting is the standing linear format. Now this approach has its merits as well. The glass is usually full size, or certainly should be. The order of tasting is planned to maximize your ability to enjoy the wines. You won’t taste one that will overwhelm your palate for the next one. And because you are at the counter and someone is pouring, you can easily learn about the wines from the staff. The idea is to taste wine and learn a little. Buy what you like and know that you tried it. As I always say, you should rarely buy a wine you haven’t tasted. Or aren’t tasting right away. Back next time with a wine bar review.