The Salute NC Wine Festival celebrated its 6th year anniversary Saturday, June 4. Each year this festival grows in popularity – the reason, the eclectic events surrounding and leading up to the festival. The actual festival is the last day of a weeklong schedule of wine related dinners, pairings, movies and fun. All of Winston Salem gets involved!
This year there was something new added to the list of diverse happenings – a blind wine tasting called “Wine Design.” Held in The Underground Theatre at the Community Arts Café, we were all greeted with a blind pouring of sparkling wine as we registered and got our tasting packets. The packet, almost as exciting as the tasting itself, contained an Aroma Wheel.
A Wine Aroma Wheel not only provides you with a vast wine vocabulary, it also shows you the most common aromas you will find in wine, and then breaks down each basic aroma to something more specific. An example would be picking up an aroma of spice in your wine. Taking it to the next level, you would want to identify that spice as anise, black pepper, or clove.
But we weren’t just tasting wine; we were pairing each wine with specific foods meant to bring out the best flavors in each wine. There were four tasting stations ranging from lighter whites to bold, intense reds. Each station had three wines; all wrapped up and numbered so we had no idea what we were tasting. Of the three wines, at least one was a North Carolina wine and at least one was not. We had French wine and California wine; but none of that mattered. All of our preconceived notions about what we liked went out the window. We were all Swirling and Smelling and Sipping (the three S’s of wine) and then sipping some more. Everyone studied the Aroma Wheel to find the right words to describe the aroma they were picking up and then the subsequent taste and finish of each wine. Our main objective was to rate each of the three wines in each category, leave our ratings at that station and move on to the next station.
While we were doing this, there was both music and art to enhance the experience.
The rating sheets were picked up and the rankings were compiled. BOTTLE SHOCK! From the first station, the winner was a Traminette from Lake James Cellars of Glen Alpine, NC. This wine had gone up against another North Carolina wine but also beat out MAN Vintners Chenin Blanc from South Africa.
Station two produced another North Carolina winner with McRitchie Winery’s Pale Rider, a rose from the Yadkin Valley. McRitchie not only beat another North Carolina winery, but they also beat Domaine Antugnac Chardonnay from France AND they were selected as the overall winner for the night. A big congratulations to McRitchie Winery!!!
At Station three, we tasted a Cabernet Sauvignon from Raylen Vineyards, Chateau du Colombier, Bordeaux France and Sophenia Reserve Malbec from Mendoza Argentina. Raylen Vineyards Cabernet Sauvignon won with its intense deep red fruit and hint of pepper.
At the final station, we tasted another wine from Raylen Vineyards, their Category 5; Charles Smith “Velvet Devil” Merlot from Columbia Valley, Washington and Shoofly Shiraz from Southeast Australia. The Charles Smith “Velvet Devil” with its smoky dark fruit and long finish won.
The experience was fun and the wines, like the night, were impressive. We put North Carolina up against some of the best and we left our mark.