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An eclectic celebration of wines

Memorial Day brought friends and family together for a wine tasting dinner. The company, seven in total, all lovers of wine, enjoyed expressing their views over a sumptuous repast. The wines were an eclectic variety of sparkling, whites, reds and port from Italy, Sta. Rita Hills in California, Chile and El Dorado County in California.

Three of the wines served at our wine tasting dinner, Madroña New World Port, Montes Twins and Montes Alpha.
Cori Solomon
Friends gathered for a Memorial Weekend Wine Tasting Dinner
Ken Bornstein

Our meal began with appetizers, stuffed mushrooms paired with Mionetto Il Prosseco, a sparkling wine that comes in bottle with a beer bottle cap making the wine seem as if you might be drinking a stout beer. I don’t think I have ever opened a bottle of wine with a beer cap and did question the quality of what I was about to sample. I was pleasantly surprised as I discovered a refreshing sparkler. With its small fizzy bubbles, this sparkling wine is very citrusy and zesty in a fruity way.

From there we continued with the Re Midas Soave, a wine with a thicker texture and almost Chardonnay quality, very unusually for an Italian wine especially a Soave. The wine with its citrusy aromas is on the dryer side. Made from the Garganega grape, this wine has flavors of pear and melon.

While our guests were entertained by a serenade from the Greek Chorus, three Salukis, who decided to sing for a scrap of human food, we readied for our first course, a kale salad with a light vinaigrette. This course was accompanied by the fabulous 2010 Huber Cellars Chardonnay, a crisp refreshing example of this varietal. This wine showcases the amazing acidity and minerality that is so ever present in the wines of Sta. Rita Hills and is on the list of my top 10 favorite Chardonnays from this AVA.

Our entrée was baby back pork ribs with an apricot mustard glaze served with Moroccan cauliflower and Persian mint snow peas. With this course we paired two red wines from Montes Wines in Chile. The first was the 2012 Montes Twins, a red blend of Malbec and Cabernet Sauvignon. The wine with its deep purple color had a velvety smooth texture. The structure was rich, balanced and the cherry flavors almost gave the wine a Syrah quality. This is a wine that will hold up over time and was even better the next day. The 2010 Montes Alpha, a Cabernet Sauvignon was very earthy and smoky in its flavors. The color was not as dense as the Montes Twins. Even at a second sitting it held those same smoky tobacco flavors. My preference was the Montes Twins, perhaps because it was more fruit forward.

We finished our meal with a wonderful flourless chocolate cake topped with lemon zest. A wonderful 2008 New World Port from Madroña Vineyards complemented this dessert. Known for its higher elevation, this El Dorado County wine comes from one of the pioneer wineries that helped in reestablishing the Sierra Foothills winegrowing area in the 1970s. It is a blend of 29.0% Alvarahao, 33.8% Touriga Nacional, 22.3% Tinta Cao, 10.9% Sousao, 1.3% Bastardo, 2.2% Tinta Roriz, 0.5% Tinta Amarellaar. The grapes in this fortified dessert wine are inoculated and fermented hot until most of the sugar has turned to alcohol. Brandy spirits are than added to stop the fermentation. What intrigued me about this Port is the light peppery blackberry flavor. Being a lighter silkier wine it obviously is not your classic port typically portrayed as heavier in body and texture. I have to say this port was an exceptional after dinner wine, adding a nice finish to a fabulous meal and evening.

Looking back I would say my favorite wines of the evening were the Huber Cellars Chardonnay and the Madroña New World Port. Perhaps I am partial with my top choice wines, first because I love the Sta. Rita Hills. Secondly having just discovered the fabulous wines of El Dorado wine country, I have become really excited whenever I can experience a new wine from this region. This was the case with the New World Port. I do have to say the Montes Twins came in for a close third.

To learn more or to visit the California wineries that were my top choices:

Huber Vineyards and Cellars
4892 Hapgood Road, Lompoc, CA 93436
Tel (805) 736.3854
Fax (805) 736.7814

Tasting Room Hours:

Friday and Saturday 11 a.m. – 5 p.m.

Sunday 11 a.m. – 4 p.m.

Madroña Vineyards

2560 High Hill Road Camino, CA 95709
Phone (530) 644-5948 Fax (530) 644-7517

Tasting Room Hours:

Open Daily 11 a.m. – 5 p.m.

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