Monday, April 28, 2008

St. Michaels Food and Wine Festival: Friday

Had a great time down in Maryland this weekend at the St. Michaels Food and Wine Festival. To start, the weather was sublime. Spring was in full swing, and the scent of honeysuckles and lilacs drifted through this historic little town on Maryland’s Eastern Shore.
After four hours in the car, I was eager to hit my first class at the festival: The World’s Indigenous Varietals. This class was taught by a handsome wine distributor who really knew his stuff. I appreciated being introduced to varietals I had never heard of, such as a young and eager wine made from the Primitivo grape from Italy’s heel in Puglia (this inky pour really left my braces stained) and the Sylvaner grape (a dense white wine with a unique flavor) from Alsace. Apparently, these both are the table wines of their regions and little known to us outsiders.
Next was the class I had taken a day off to attend: Burgundy: A Sensory Tour. In this class, I met Bobby Kacher, of Robert Kacher Selections. This wiry 56 year old was full of energy and passion as he talked about working with small, family owned vineyards in Burgundy’s prime areas. I was extremely grateful for the selections he shared, all 2005 (touted as a spectacular vintage): two gorgeous white wines showing beautifully at this point, and two more restrained reds that were sure to be wonderful when time had opened them up. All through the classes I was pacing myself, but on these $80/bottle wines, I admit I savored nearly all that was poured.
My final class was a really fun way to end the day. We met the head winemaker from Chateau St. Jean in CA who talked about Cinq Cépages (five grapes). This Bordeaux-style, 75% Cab blend also includes Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Malbec, and Petit Verdot. This wine won “Wine of the Year” by Wine Spectator in 1996. O.K., very impressive, but now it was our turn to create our own Cinq Cépages. We had five wine glasses with all of the varietals from 2004. And we had a cylinder and a pipette. Now we got to make our own Bordeaux-style blend. I tasted all my varietals and decided I liked the Merlot better than the Cab. So I made a blend with about 55% Merlot, 30% Cab, 10% Malbec, 8% Cab Franc, and 2% Petit Verdot. To watch a room full of people (who had been drinking wine all afternoon) playing with pipettes and measuring wine in cylinders and all declaring their blend “the best” was hysterical. We were all laughing by the end of this class, which is also offered to groups at the winery. It was a really fun way to learn about the art of wine blending.
After these very educational and amusing sessions, I needed to absorb all I had learned and all I had drunk. In short, I needed a nap.


  1. Great! But where are the pictures? I'm having a hard time imagining pipettes.

  2. I know--I forgot my camera at home! Pipettes are straw-like glass tubes with graduated measurements on the sides. We had no clue how to use them until we saw someone literally sucking up the wine into them, then depositing the desired amount into the graduated cylinder. Like playing with a chemistry set, but a lot more tasty.