Lake County Wines Delight with Unique Varietals

Even competing with the Giants game and the rain, we had a decent turn out last night for the “Wines of the Lake” tasting, featuring eight wines from Lake County.  The tasting was led by Pietro of Rosa d’Oro Winery and John McDermaid of McDermaid Family Wines.  They began with an overview of what makes Lake County unique; describing the higher altitude, the impact of Clear Lake on the vineyards, and the swings in temperature from the low 100F’s during the day to a drop of 50F overnight.  We also learned that Lake County has 5 AVA’s (American Viticulture Appellations).

The tasting commenced with four whites:  a riesling, a sauvignon blanc in a dry crisp style, a second sauvignon blanc with lees contact and barrel fermentation, and a muscat canelli.  Giana, the club chef, paired these wines with a spicy “green bean mango and prawn salad” from Mai Restaurant in Cotati.  Though all the wines worked well with this dish, the riesling and muscat with their fruiter profiles and slight residual sugar paired best with hot spiciness of the entrée.

We then moved into four reds:  a grenache, dolcetto, malbec, and a syrah.  Giana paired the grenache and dolcetto with a hearty black bean and beef chili which was perfect for the cold raining evening.  The malbec and syrah matched very well with the chocolate espresso salted toffee cake she made.

Favorite Wines of the Evening

As usual, we took a vote at the end of the tasting to determine top favorites.  It was a grand sweep for the reds, which garnered far more points that the whites.  Perhaps we had a red crowd at the tasting last night?  Anyway, the wine which received the most points was the 2007 Malbec from McDermaid Family Vineyards ($25; http://www.mcdermaidfamilyvineyard.com/).  This was an opaque black/purple color with boysenberry and anise notes, and big dusty tannins from the Red Hills AVA. 

The second highest scoring wine of the evening was the 2006 Syrah from Gregory Graham Wines ($20; http://www.ggwines.com/).  This was also an intense inky color with rich textured flavors of ripe berry, smoke and tar, and slightly sweet, fruity finish. It went especially well with the espresso cake.

The top scoring white wine was the 2008 Rosa d’Oro Muscat Canelli ($14, http://www.rosadorowine.com/).  This was highly perfumed with honeysuckle and orange blossom.  Its .7 R.S. was masked by a high cleansing acid.  A beautiful and well-made wine.

We ended the evening with our educational quiz about Lake County – based on the information that Pietro and John had provided.  Attendees who first answered the questions correctly were rewarded with a wonderful gift from Lake County.

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