There’s nothing like a little importers’ tasting to throw someone like me, trying to taste 100 different varieties in a life time (to be certified by The Wine Century Club), instantly over the brink. That’s the gift the universe delivered to me.

The Port4lio Tasting was in San Francisco at the Fort Mason Fire House, on Monday, May 10. Constance Chamberlain is looking out for me, and I’m eternally grateful. The wine industry is filled with people who take care of each other. Other industries I’ve worked in have not been this courteous… And, you wouldn’t think it would be this way, considering that California alone has 7,000 brands, before we even consider what’s produced for labels worldwide.

I think it’s because wine is such a civilizing entity.

So, Constance set me up, and off Jose and I went to become strangers in a strange land. After 17 years in one business, you’d think that you know a few things. However, with imports like the following I was a novice, and not pretending to know anything. You can’t fake even knowing any of the wines I’m going to list, or barely pronounce them, for that matter… Okay, maybe the St. Laurent, but beyond that, just try a few pronunciations. Everyone (save one tortured soul) welcomed my naiveté, which was very exciting.

There are two important points to make about this kind of journey:

  1. The average person is not going to move this swiftly, unless the person is a millionaire. If I had had to buy all of these wines in order to have tasted them, I’d be at number 70, in the wines tasted to date. It could be a year from now before I’d finalize this goal. I’ve done it in just 21 days, because I’m in the wine business and have extensive connections.
  2. The people – not the wines – are the real content behind this story; although, the wine was also pretty excellent.

The cast of characters who brought this experience to me were really great. They shared their stories and expertise, making this a really memorable day. The wine was a superb bonus.

I’m back to thanking Constance Chamberlain for being my champion, and giving me the link to being part of the Port4lio team’s tasting. If you click on this link, you’ll see that she’s also just participated in a Wine Century Club celebration in New York, as the group just celebrated its Fifth Anniversary.

The Companies that I just met and enjoyed their wines:

  1. Blue Danube Wine Company
  2. Return To Terroir
  3. Siena Imports
  4. Vinos Unico

Pictured above, Mayra Villavicencio, Return to Terroir, helped to organize this event and graciously welcomed us all.

Dan Lavorel (above), International Vineyards, was extremely helpful. Regardless of the fact that most US palates have tasted through many of the vitis vinifera coming mostly from France, Dan knew exactly which two wines would be the ones I hadn’t yet tasted… both in a white and in a red. He’s also got a great personality, which made the tastings with him really fun.

Pedro Veloso, Aidil Wines & Liquors, was my first Portuguese connection at this tasting. Having lived 20 years in Portugal, he was a great resource. It was fun being able to talk about Portugal with someone who knew exactly what I was talking about. And, Pedro was more than happy to walk me through his varieties. I’ve read somewhere that there are over 130 different grape varieties that are solely indigenous to Portugal. I just counted a list that had 130 of them, but Touriga Brasileira was a repeat. Still, 129 different wine grapes is pretty amazing for cultivars indigenous to just one country.

Maria Pato, Adega Luís Pato, was pouring her wines. A lovely young woman from Portugal, her wines were exceptional. I also loved her purse. I’m now sorry I didn’t photograph her, because she was an artist’s palate in her attire. the image above is of Adega Luis Pato.

Frank Dietrich, Blue Danube Wine Company, kept the Hungary and the Slovenia wines coming my way. There were 11 different wines, with 12 different varieties being taken care of in one fell swoop. He and I didn’t talk, because one guy was pretending that I wasn’t there, and I kept waiting for him to dump his wine on me and not in the bucket. I was between him and the bucket, and I just didn’t exist in his world. I kept waiting for the spill. I was spared, and he finally left…. Never to be seen again…

James Cardinell, Vino Sunico, wins the prize for being the best sales person in the room. Why? Because he was astute enough to notice my earrings. My daughter Katie, about 3 years ago, gave a sweet pair of earrings to me. They’re wine glasses, half filled with red wines… garnet stones… in silver. I wear them almost constantly, most especially when I’m at tastings. There’s always one person who will notice them and say, “I like your earrings.” It’s a simple statement, but it’s a big connection. I told James that I liked his pocket square. It’s so rare to see that anymore, in our informal world that we’re all becoming… And, it was becoming in James pocket. Roland Martin’s got an ascot thing going on right now on CNN. He’s trying to bring back the ascot. I like the pocket square, myself. It’s not so in-your-face, but I also still love what Roland Martin is doing. It’s so funny. He and John Stewart are going back and forth with it… Interesting interjections in our news about the climate of our current culture.

A final character, one that I truly was honored to meet, was Joseph Puig. He is a fourth generation winemaker, with his daughter now being the active fifth generation of winemaking in his family. His daughter just gave birth to a daughter, so he is now promised furthering their line of winemakers… A predetermined alchemist… how marvelous.

Joseph’s winery is Viñedos de Ithica. Joseph is very pleased with the fact that he makes his wines to go with foods. He told me, to which I agree, that there are two kinds of wines: wines that are made by winemakers, and wines that are made by carpenters. He’s very clear that the ones made by winemakers are gastronomic, and those made by carpenters are constructed for scores. Interestingly, he had me taste his biggest red wine, then had me dump my glass, only to fill it again with white wine. He wanted me to taste it to prove that when a wine is made for food, one can go from a big red to a white and still taste the white in a very pleasing way. He proved his point.

He also said that he likes to bring a bit of his terroir with him on trips, and showed me his rocky soil.

The four import companies participating, their countries, and their wines that I tasted were the following… I’m also underlining my 41 new varieties. If you’re also on this quest, this is a great shopping list:

Blue Danube Wine Company (red varieties in bold red, white wines are in green)

  • Austria
    • 2007 Juris St. Laurent Selection, Burgenland
  • Hungary
    • 2009 Hilltop  Cserszegi, Neszmely (cross between Irsai Oliver and a strain of Gewürztraminer)
    • 2007 Szoeke Királyleányka, Matra (originating in Transylvania, probably a cross between Kövérszőlő and Leányka)
    • 2009 Gere Olaszrizling, Villány (traditional white wines of the Eger wine region)
    • 2008 Gere Portugieser, Villány (found primarily in the Rheinhessen, Pfalz, and the wine regions of lower Austria)
    • 2007 Pfneiszl Kekfrankos, Sopron (grown in a number of wine regions including Sopron, Villány, Szekszárd and Eger
  • Slovenia – Croatia
    • 2008 Sipun Žlahtina, Island of Krk (name of the indigenous grape varietal only grown on the Island of Krk)
    • 2008 Zdjelarevic Graševina, Slavonia (most typical white wine produced in Continental Croatia)
    • 2007 Toreta Pošip, Island of Korcula (dry wine of a golden color and a very pleasant aroma)
    • 2006 Bura Plavic Mali Dingac Peljesac Peninsula (a cross between ancestral Zinfandel and Dobričić grapes)
    • 2006 Kameno Zilavko (90%) and Bena (10%) (blends count, so each of these two count as one variety per each)
    • 2006 Heumann Villany
  • Sweet wines (skipped)

Return to Terroir

  • France
    • 2007Chateau Cazat-Beauchene, 1/3 Sauvignon Blanc, 1/3 Semillon, 1/3 Sauvignon Gris,  Bordeaux
    • 2004 Chateau Peyros Tannat, “Vielles vignes” (I may have tasted Tannat in the past, but I’m not sure, so now I know I have and have checked this one off my list) Sacre bleu… teeth!
    • 2008 Domaine Felines Jourdan Picpoul de Pinet

Siena Imports

  • Italy
    • N/V Carpenè Malvolti Prosecco, Veneto (Sparkling)
    • 2008 St. Michael Eppan Pinot Bianco
    • 2008 Conti Serristori Vernaccia di San Gimignano Vernaccia Toscana
    • 2008 Casale Del Giglio “Satrico” (33% chardonnay – 33% Sauvignon – 33% Trebbiano Giallo
    • 2008 Firriato Alcamo Bianco (85% Catarratto, 15% Inzolia)

Vinos Unico

  • Portugal
    • 2009 Adegas Coop Regional de Monção – Trajarinho (50% Alvarinho, 50% Trajadura)
    • 2009 Adegas Coop Regional de Monção – Muralhas de Monção (blend of Alvarelhão, Pedral, and Vinhão
    • 2009 Quinta de Cabriz – Colheita Seleccionada Branco (40% Encruzado, 20% Bical, 20% Cerceal, and 20% Malvasia-Fina
    • 2008 Luis Pato – Maria Gomes Espumante (90% Maria Gomes, 5% Arinto)
    • 2008 Luis Pato – Vinhas Velhas Branco Beiras (50% Bical, 30% Cerceal, 20% Sercialinho)
  • Spain
    • 2009 Viñedos de Ithica – Odysseus Garnatxa Bianca
    • 2009 Viñedos de Ithica – Odysseus Pedro Ximénez
    • 2008 Viñedos de Ithica – Akyles Priorat (42% Garnacha Tinta, 25% Cariñena, 18% Garnacha Peluda, 15% Cabernet Sauvignon)
    • 2009 Bodegas Tobia – Vina Tobia Blanco (80% Viura, 20% Malvasia)
  • California (skipped)

There were 41 new varieties that I tasted. After a couple of hours, it was useless to go on, because I would have only been able to say that I had tasted them, but I wouldn’t have really tasted them. My palate became tired… all wines were beginning to taste the same, once I switched to a few reds. I’ll just have to wait for some other amazing tasting to come my way.

All I can say is, I put it out to the universe ~ Will Work for Wine ~ and in 21 days, I reached my original goal of tasting 100 different varieties. This was at a time when I had only tasted just over 60 different wine grape cultivars. Somebody is listening… Maybe a lot of people are listing, actually, because it’s coming from all over, now that people know what I wanted to do. I’ll be listing everyone else’s wines that I’ve gathered, because I’m still Working for Wine.