I receive an average of two invitations a week to various tastings or seminars around Houston. I am beyond grateful for every opportunity to taste wine. It helps me improve my tasting skills, helps me find potential wine for our restaurant and allows me access to some wines that I would never, ever, ever, not-in-a-million years, consider for daily consumption. But that is still helpful because if they have carried an astronomical price, these wines have been deigned exceptional by both experts and consumers. Tasting exceptional wines helps you differentiate what makes some wines so expensive and award winning while other wines are just not.
Some tastings are held in nondescript ballrooms or banquet rooms. Some are held in an area of a restaurant and are jammed packed with people from the trade, elbow to elbow and glass to glass, angling to get to the tables to obtain an ounce of wine to sample. And once you sample that ounce of wine in your glass, how in the heck do you maneuver over to the spit bucket when their are six people between you and it. I frequently bring my own red solo cup and then its just a matter of managing my purse, my cup, my wine glass, some wine literature, and a pen. It can occasionally feel like a cattle call — not that I’m complaining!!
And on a very rare occasion, I am invited to tasting that is as good as Christmas morning. You know, a child’s Christmas, before you had to actually do all the decorating, shopping and cooking. This is the kind of tasting where you receive a three course lunch in a unique and lovely room and are served by waiters with impeccable manners. There are about 20 people at the table and the wines are leisurely discussed. In addition, you have DLynn Proctor, a handsome Wine Ambassador for Penfolds talking about the winery, the company culture, the history and future goals of the company, and leading the discussion about the wonderful wine themselves. DLynn is also a bit of a celebrity (Totally my opinion! Not his!) because he was one of the “stars” of the movie Somm and makes any suit he wears look amazing! He is wine knowledgable, articulate, friendly, humble and a former Marine. Those attributes alone give him cache in my book. He obviously has cache with others members of the industry, because as a Wine Ambassador for Penfolds, he brings excellent wine to the table. This was evidenced by the only two Master of Wine Sommeliers in Houston being in attendance to taste along with many other Houston wine luminaries.
So onto the wines.
Penfolds Eden Valley Riesling Bin 51 (2014) — I’ve posted about several Rieslings on this blog that offer good value. This Riesling is in the $30 price range and it was delicious. Eden Valley, Australia offers a cool climate for these grapes to grow and ripen while preserving their juicy acidity. I truly regretted having to spit and dump my leftovers. I could have lingered all afternoon with this wine.
Penfolds Cabernet Sauvignon Bin 9, (2013?) – I think I want to order this one for our restaurant, George’s Pastaria. A multitude of flavors in a plush velvet case. This is a wine my customers would enjoy. The grapes are sourced from Coonawarra on the Limestone Coast of Australia, giving the wine the regional attribute of mint/eucalyptus flavor. Love it. ($22-25)
Penfolds Barossa Valley Shiraz Kalimna Bin 28 (2013) – My glass was filled with long legged purple staining. The wine was opaque and the cassis and vanilla flavors leapt out of the glass and coated my tongue with purple-y goodness. Be sure to bring your wine wipes for your teeth after this one! ($30-ish)
and, finally, drum roll please….
Penfolds Grange (2011) Penfolds finest Shiraz!! Perhaps one of the finest Shiraz!! This 2011 release marks the 61st vintage of Penfolds Grange. Penfolds Grange is the pinnacle wine from Penfolds. Its success is on par with Bordeaux, Burgundy and California cult wines. Grapes are sourced from the best vineyards in Barossa Vally, Adelaide Hills, McLaren Vale, and several others, to make this exceptional multi-vineyard blend. Although single, (monopole) vineyards are currently the rage to express their unique terroir, Penfolds makes their iconic wine to the same template style year after year. This commitment to a single style has been very successful for Penfolds.
I am not going to wax poetic about what I found in the glass, because other people can do that so much better than I. I can only tell you it was beautifully balanced, more restrained than the Kalimna Bin 28, dark red cherry, red meat and peppercorn flavors, and it call all be yours for approximately $750/ bottle or thereabouts!!
We tasted several other Penfolds Cabernets and Shiraz. If you have any questions let me know!
The Rainbow Lodge (2011 Ella Blvd., Houston) was a cozy but masculine venue for this event. The restaurant is housed in a log cabin that is over 100 years in age. It has some beautiful outdoor terraces,as well. The restaurant is well known for its steaks, wild game, chops and gulf fish. The food prepared for us was excellent. My venison was tender and flavorful. The dessert, Chocolate Grenache Torte, has me salivating just thinking about it.
And if I do win the lottery, I will buy Penfolds Grange. Just saying!