My Favorite Tastings at Sun Wine Fest 2011

9008591462?profile=originalThis past weekend’s Sun Wine Fest at Connecticut's Mohegan Sun Casino was a bonanza of top chefs demonstrating their skills on stage to packed audiences, a surprising variety of beer & liquor tastings, and of course a vast treasure trove of wine sampling. My strategy for this 2-day event was to spend Saturday roaming at will without an itinerary. I wanted to give myself the “kid-in-the-candy shop” experience first and then get more focused on specific brands on Sunday. This turned out to be smart timing since the Sunday crowds were thinner and wine vendors were more accessible for questions. Here are my picks which may not all represent best of class but have intriguing heritages and exceed my standards of great taste:

Rosa Regale

This rare Brachetto, a semi-dry red sparkling wine cherished by the courts of Europe over two centuries ago, owes its reincarnation to Banfi Vintners. Legend has it that both Julius Caesar and Marc Antony presented Cleopatra with several gourds of Brachetto. The empress then had her lovers drink the wine in order to unleash their passion.

Rosa Regale is made in one of Italy’s smallest production zones, the Brachetto d’Acqui Denominazione di Origine Controllata e Garantita, commonly referred to as DOCG. It is crafted from 100% Brachetto grapes grown exclusively at the La Rosa Vineyard in the town of Acqui Terme located in the Piedmont region of Italy. The single red rose on the label reflects this single origin.

With a delicate bouquet of rose petals, Rose Regale offers sensuous flavors of fresh raspberries and strawberries. Its effervescence is softer than champagne but yields a persistent and delicate pink froth. Its lively garnet color makes other sparklers pale in comparison. Served chilled and with a low alcohol content, it serves as the perfect partner throughout the entire meal...especially dessert!

Chocolate Box 2008 Strawberry Chocolate Sparkling Shiraz

Traditionally a Christmas wine, from South Australia’s Barossa Valley, this oak aged Sparkling Shiraz is dark garnet in color with purple hues. Enticing ripe raspberry and plum aromas with sweet licorice hints supported with light toasty oak add a subtle layer of complexity and balance. Full bodied yet light on the tannins, you’ll get an explosive mouthful of flavor. This will definitely pair with chocolates of any kind.

Cocoa di Vine

An intoxicating blend of chocolate and wine, Cocoa di Vine‘s chocolate flavors are produced at one of the top 9008591497?profile=originalcreameries in the United States. The wine is a blend of Torrontes, Pedro Ximenez, and Moscato produced at a US winery as well making this an all-American drink. Rich, velvety-smooth chocolate combines with vanilla and caramel undertones. Best served chilled. Can be stored at room temperature for 6 months or up to a year when refrigerated. This would be perfect for a ready-made mud slide…just add Cocoa di Vine and ice to the blender.

House Jam Wines

Their Chillin’ White and Smooth Red have been accused by some as being the perfect pairing for a sorority party. Perhaps not one of the most sophisticated wines on the market but that’s the point. Lacking the subtle complexities that make other wines such treasures, House Jam’s Chillin’ White, a semi-sweet sparkling wine made with robust white grapes producing abundant sugar levels along with pear & peach accents and their Smooth Red, a spicy balanced tannin with cherry fruit flavors and a light sparkle make both perfect for tasty cocktails. Get started with House Jam Remixes, creative improvisations on the classics.

Black Rock Vintners 2008 Petite Sirah – Paso Robles

This being a wine festival in Connecticut, I wanted to try out a local winery that I hadn’t already tasted. Little did I know 9008591892?profile=originalthat we have an urban winery here in the Black Rock section of Bridgeport. Sourcing their grapes from across the country, Black Rock Vintner‘s 2008 Petite Sirah really stood out with an intense concentrated but approachable oak aged array of berry and plum. A lingering finish of chocolate and a slight tobacco sweetness lingers on the palate. This one vintage alone made it obvious why Black Rock has been awarded so many medals from across the globe!

Ed Hardy Wines – Sangria

You simply can’t overlook the elaborately colored tattoo labels on the entire Ed Hardy lineup but their Sangria seduced my taste buds and sent me looking to buy a bottle of my own. Bursting with the sun drenched flavors of a hot Spanish summer, this Sangria is a refreshing blend of red wine, citrus fruit flavors, and a special spice extract. Don Ed Hardy, “the godfather of modern tattoo” runs the winery operation along with designer Christian Audigier who brings Ed Hardy’s vibrant, rebellious images to life on the bottles. Best served well chilled and pairs nicely with grilled meat.

Wines That Rock – 2006 Dark Side of the Moon Cabernet Sauvignon

Pulsing rock music emanated from Wines That Rock‘s table with a flashy electric guitar on display as a giveaway prize. This naturally attracted my attention but upon further inquiry, this was more than a marketing gimmick. Music is an integral part of how Wines That Rock are made. Take their 2006 Dark Side of the Moon Cabernet Sauvignon for instance. Wine maker Mark Beaman listened to this Pink Floyd album over and over on his iPod to formulate a Cab that’s hauntingly dense with a timeless character. Like the songs packed with complexity, this varietal has aromas of black currant and cherry followed by rich flavors of cassis, toasted vanilla bean, and hints of chocolate. Just like the album, this rich dry red wine is best enjoyed often with hearty chicken dishes, beef and lamb, and red sauced pasta.

photos courtesy of Steve Mirsky and featured wineries

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