Now that some time has passed, I am able to reflect on this year’s El Dorado Winery Association’s Passport 2012 with a bit more objectivity.
It was fun and fabulous!
My partner and I have been venturing to El Dorado County for Passport events since 2006. Our first introduction to the region was a Passport event and that inspired us to continue going up 6 or more times a year for the past 6 years and led directly to my writing Pour Me Another.
The Passports have been crowded and sparsely attended varying from year to year and day to day (it is a 2 day event and Sundays are usually less crowded that Saturdays). This year seemed pretty sparse to us. We never ran into any crowds. But in conversation with those pouring as well as the wine makers and owners we ran into, it seems our experience may not have been typical. Sales were reported to be brisk.
My theory is that anybody venturing into the Sierras for a weekend of wine tasting in this economy tend to be the people that buy wines by the case. So, even though the crowd aren’t as thick, sales remain more or less the same. All the better for those of us who brave the threat of rain (it didn’t rain) or heat (it was blazing hot on the second weekend): no crowds makes it nicer.
I often get asked where I buy wine. Well, with very few exceptions, I buy most of my wine at the wineries as a direct result of tasting it first. This way I know pretty much that just about everything in my “cellar” is good. I will also buy at Dig, a wine shop in San Francisco that specializes in French and Italian wines, based on the owner’s recommendations. But for the most part I buy locally produced wine: California wines made in the Sierras, Santa Cruz mountains, at urban wineries or even in Napa and Sonoma that I have tasted. In northern California we are spoiled like that. But if the local wines are good, why buy foreign wines if you really are serious about sustainability and “green” issues. The carbon footprint of those European, South American and Australian wines are HUGE. The Passport events are my opportunity to taste at even more wineries that on a normal weekend in Gold Country.
This year there was an over-arching “theme” to the Passport event: “Mediterranean”. Each of the wineries served their interpretation of “Mediterranean” food with their wines. I suppose the theory was that most of the varietals that grow well in the Sierras are French, Italian or Spanish in origin. I wasn’t that impressed. One of the things I liked about past events was that the wine makers were able to serve food that they thought best went with their wines. I didn’t always agree, but it led to some interesting and unexpected pairings.
Madrona often pairs their white wines with Thai food, which can be really interesting. This year the stand out pairing for me was at Madrona, where they paired a Moroccan beef tangine over couscous with their riesling. The pairing of a white wine with a beef and beet dish was unexpected. But the riesling was a perfect accompaniment to the citrus and spices in the beef stew. Unexpected and perfect. Such a wonderful discovery!
I personally tasted 36 wines at 11 wineries over the two days. Most of the pours were in the 1/2 to 1 ounce size, though some were quite generous (2 ounces or more). It probably added up to three glasses of wine consumed with food over the span of 5 hours on each of the two days. These tweets from my Twitter feed sum up the best of the weekend:
#passport2012 day 1 highlights: David Girard’s Coda Rouge, Alzante’s 04 nebbiolo, Jodar’s 08 cab franc
#passport2012 day 2 highlights: Mount Aukum’s 08 Bordeau blend BDX (futures), Skinner’s 1861 blend, Narrow Gate’s cab syrah blend (futures)
Passport 2013 is on our calendar already!
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