Forks & Corks, the largest wine tasting in Southwest Florida, has come and gone—and from all indications it was a successful event, with 1,800 attendees flocking to the Ringling Museum courtyard in perfect Florida winter weather.
I had the opportunity to taste the wines in a less hectic environment the following Monday. Sarasota-Manatee Originals, the producer of the event, provided trade members with the opportunity to meet the wine representatives and taste their wines at Grove restaurant in Lakewood Ranch.
Prior to the Forks & Corks Grand Tasting, the wines shown were evaluated by wine professionals in structured tastings, which resulted in gold, silver or bronze medals. More than 300 wines were shown at 62 tables, and most producers planned to show a variety of wines. Since I couldn’t sample them all, I selected about 20 producers that I knew or had heard about. While there were many great wines among them, a few stood out from the rest. (If any of them interest you, check with your local purveyor or use winesearcher.com.)
Chateau Phelan-Segur, a Cru Bourgeois from St. Estephe, France, was the only winery to offer several vintages of the same wine, which was unique. Vintner Zachary Mendola guided the tasting and explained the nuances of each. The 2012 was quite drinkable and complex. The 2014 (gold medal winner) had great aroma, but less structure than the 2012. The 2015 (also gold medal winner) was very tannic, not unusual for a young wine, but showed great promise. Prices range from $50 to $75.
Marchesi de Barolo
Marchesi de Barolo had numerous wines to offer including Gavi, Gavi di Gavi, Barolo 2014 (bronze medal winner) and Barolo “Sarmassa” 2012. Valentina Abbona, daughter of the winemaker/owner, was gracious and patient in explaining the characteristics of each wine. Gavi is a white wine that’s not as rich as chardonnay but that has a nice minerality. Both Gavis showed very well. Barolo is the most robust of Italian red wines and compares favorably with French reds. The 2014 showed elegance and complexity, while the 2012 had a richness and drinkability of a wine with age. Gavi is priced around $20, Barolo runs about $50-$120.
Felsina, a noted producer of Chianti, had several fine examples to show, including Beradenga (gold medal winner), Beradenger Riserva (silver medal winner), Rancia Riserva and Paglierese Estate (silver medal winners), all from the 2016 vintage, which was exceptional. They were made predominantly from Sangiovese grapes from different vineyards or locales. Each had a unique charm and flavor, but also demonstrated the contributions from various geographic regions. $25-$70
Joseph Phelps is recognized as one of the pioneers of California wine. While the winery is most known for its cabernet sauvignon, samples of its chardonnay and pinot noir were excellent. The 2016 cabernet sauvignon won a gold medal, but the winery’s most costly cabernet blend, “Insignia,” did not. $60-$250
Dow & Prats+ Symington
Dow & Prats+ Symington, noted names in port, demonstrated its regional Portuguese wines under the Douro name, made from the port grape “touriga nacional,” as vintner Susanna Loh explained. All were very well structured and complex, and all medal winners. The late bottled vintage (LBV) port was also excellent.
The opportunity to taste exceptional wines in the presence of their producers is an experience only surpassed by a winery visit. It’s a great leap forward in your wine knowledge and not to be missed. Let’s hope we see a number of these wines on local wine lists.
Wine writer Bob McGinn can reached at gulfcoastwinejournal.com.