Wine of the Week: What to drink at Wine Spectator’s Grand Tour

WASHINGTON — Like a kid who can’t sleep the night before Christmas, I am so excited about the upcoming Wine Spectator Grand Tour wine tasting in D.C.

The event takes place the evening of April 20 at the Ronald Reagan Building, and will feature more than 240 wines from some of the top producers in the world. In order to even be considered for presentation, each wine had to be had to receive a score of 90 points or higher from the Wine Spectator panel.

So you can bet that every wine being offered will be exceptional.

Of course, with that many wines on the docket, it would be nearly impossible to try them all in one night. Therefore I am taking advice that I recently received from my interview with Wine Spectator Executive Editor Thomas Matthews, where he suggested focusing on no more than 30 wines.

Here are his two strategies: “The first is to approach the event like a dinner party. Start with Champagne or sparkling wine and move on to a lighter white wine, then a richer white wine. Then progress on to a lighter red, and then finish with some of the richer red wines,” he said.

“The second strategy is to take a regional or varietal approach. For example, there will be 58 wines from Italy and more than 20 different types of pinot noir from around the world. Pick a country and go deep, or chose a specific varietal and explore how they differ from each growing region.”

I have opted for the first strategy, and will attempt to start with four wines that come from different parts of the world, each representing a very different style and approach to winemaking. And while I am sure that I will certainly enjoy tasting a variety of wines and rubbing elbows with both the winemakers and producers, I will also be careful to moderate my consumption and make sure that I have a safe ride home after the event.

By the way, it is not too late to get tickets for the festivities. General Admission tickets are $225 per person. There are a limited number of VIP tickets that will get you in an hour earlier; those cost $325. With over 224 wines on the docket, many piercing the $100/bottle price range, it’s not a bad deal.

Here are the four wines I plan on tasting first tonight:

Matthews suggests starting off with a sparkling wine or Champagne, so I have the Nonvintage Nicolas Feuillatte Brut Champagne Réserve on my list for the first wine of the night. It is composed of 20 percent chardonnay for elegance and delicacy, 40 percent pinot noir for roundness and structure, and 40 percent pinot meunier for fruitiness. There are floral aromas of fruit with subtle predominance of white fruits, namely pear, apple, almonds and hazelnuts. It is pleasant and balanced with an abundance of delicate bubbles. It features a modest, lightly smoky finish and scored 91 Points by Wine Spectator. $28

Next, I am going to head up to the Pacific Northwest region of the United States to sample the 2015 Pacific Rim Riesling “Solstice Vineyard” from the Yakima Valley in Washington State. The Solstice vineyard is a special riesling vineyard planted in 1972 on a southeast-facing slope on the highest elevation available in the lower Yakima Valley. The cooler temperatures preserve the acidity in the wine, while the shallow soils makes vines struggle to express their minerality. “Lively and crisp, with expressive lime and petrol aromas and precise flavors that finish on a spice note.” 90 Points by Wine Spectator. $24

Matthews has a passion for Spanish wines and routinely covers wines from that country for Wine Spectator. So I am going to try the 2015 Bodegas Emilio Moro Tempranillo Ribera del Duero Malleolus from Spain. According to a review in the Wine Spectator, “This fleshy red (wine) has ripe flavors of blackberry and kirsch, backed by toast, licorice and graphite notes. The solid tannins are well-integrated, while crisp acidity keeps this fresh. Fruity and harmonious.” Awarded 93 points by Wine Spectator. $40

Lastly, I am heading down south to finish on top with the big, bold and expensive 2012 Yalumba “The Caley” Cabernet-Shiraz from South Australia. The Wine Spectator gave this big red wine blend 95 points and proclaims the wine to be, “Elegant, plush and velvety, with expressive, five spice — scented plum and currant flavors that crescendo into more nuanced notes of vanilla, creamy milk chocolate and warm gingerbread. Generous throughout the epic finish.” If you’re looking to get your money’s worth tonight, this is the wine for you. $350



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