Sunday, March 28, 2010

Barrel tasting experience in Livermore Valley


On March 20-21 the Livermore Valley winemakers invited visitors to their annual Barrel Tasting event. This is an opportunity for wine lovers to check out some soon-to-be-released wines and to learn more about how a wine matures in the barrel.

At one Deer Ridge Winery the visitors tasted two new port-like wines being developed, a tawny port and a ruby port. Deer Ridge has a “Name the Wines” Contest for visitors to suggest names for these two new wines. Winners receive 3 bottles of the wine and bragging rights! Tasters were also lucky enough to sample these two ports, along with Deer Ridge famous Moonstruck Bordeaux-style Meritage, with cookies made with a secret recipe that used Moonstruck in the recipe. Overall this was a delicious tasting experience.

Murrieta's Well Winery provided a chance to taste three wines that will soon be released in the lower level of their historic tasting room. The 2007 Zarzuela is an interesting blend of Tempranillo, Touriga, Petite Sirah and Souzao. The Touriga and Souzao are Portuguese varietals, Tempranillo is a Spanish varietal and Petite Sirah originated from France. They also had a 2008 Malbec made with grapes grown adjacent to the tasting room, and a 2007 Petit Verdot. All three wines were delicious but the Petit Verdot particularly stood out as ready to drink with an intense aroma and black berry flavors.

Next we visited the new Nottingham Cellars on Vasco Road. This, the newest winery in Livermore Valley presented another unique opportunity in barrel tasting. While Deer Ridge focused on a port-style dessert wine, and Murrieta Wells brought out three soon to be released red wines, Nottingham gave you the chance to see how different barrels can result in different aromas and flavors of the wine.

First we tasted a 2009 Malbec, one taste from wine aging in 2-year-old barrel and a second from wine aging in a 3-year-old barrel. The wine aged in the 3-year barrel was definitely smoother. Moving on to a Cabernet Sauvignon we got to see how the same wine tastes in a French oak barrel versus an American oak barrel. The wine in the French oak barrel was sharper while the American oak barrel was more balanced and mature and ready to drink now. We also tasted a 2009 Petite Sirah in both French and American oak barrels with the same results.

Barrel tasting is a great chance to meet the winemakers, sample wines at different stages of development and learn more about the steps the winemakers go through to make sure that the wine is delivered to the customer at its peak.

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