It doesn’t take long to learn a lot of stuff at wine events in California. I’ve been in Temecula for 24 hours, and just finished the first round of judging at the Riverside International Wine Competition “” 85 wines down, 35 to go “” and here are just a few gleanings from that time:
• Bo Barrett, grand poohbah at Chateau Montelena and star of the screenplay to “Bottle Shock,” is making wine with his wife Heidi Peterson Barrett, cult creator at Screaming Eagle and Grace Family and current vintner at Revana, Fantesca and her own La Sirena. The enterprise is called, not surprisingly, Barrett & Barrett, and so far they’re making about 100 cases of cab.
• Bo said he does most of the protein cooking at their home. For Chateau Montelena’s older cabernets — which age as well as anything out of Napa — he recommends tender red meat. As for the other brand of “cooking” on the premises, he said he always wants Heidi in the room when the final Montelena blends are concocted. When I asked her if she was a regular at those confabs, she chuckled and said “yeah, sometimes.”
• My favorite Central Coast wine personality, Adam LaZarre, showed up with some albariÃ±o and sauvignon blanc that he will be bottling Friday under his eponymous label. Both were expressive and fascinating but also, fulfilling wines’ first obligation, delicious. I was a bit disappointed when Adam said he would be filtering them before bottling (I wouldn’t change a thing), but there are, he explained, chemical reasons why that is important.
• Sonoma winemaker Clark Smith (left) put forth the proposition that all rosés should be a year after bottling. Absent that, he proclaimed forcefully, people should not limit them to the period between Memorial Day and Labor Day. Couldn’t agree more.
• My judging panel sampled a flight of six red wines made from University of Minnesota grapes and awarded a double gold (“just a glorious wine,” one panelist) to a wine I should be able to identify tomorrow, plus three silvers. One wine, however, was dreadful, tasting like really old coffee was poured into it. “I think it re-fermented in the bottle,” said panelist Eric Miller of Pennsylvania’s Chaddsford Winery. I had never heard a winemaker admit that this kind of thing occurs, so of course I had to ask if it ever had happened to his wines. “Not after I started paying attention,” Miller said.