Tasting Notes from the New York City Wine & Food Festival

When I think of New York City, I think of food. I think about great restaurants, amazing chefs and extensive wine lists. I think about pizza, bagels, the tempting smell of hot pretzels and roasted peanuts, those dirty water dogs I stay away from but my guy friends can’t resist, and even the tap water. New York is the city that never sleeps thanks to its eateries that stay open 24 hours, serving up at 3 am some of the best food you’ll have any time of day. It seems a festival celebrating food and wine in New York is long overdue.

This weekend I had the opportunity to attend the first ever Food Network New York City Wine & Food Festival. It was held in Manhattan’s Meatpacking District, near the Food Network studios in Chelsea Market. The festival is organized by the same people who do the one in South Beach so there are many similar events. My favorite is the grand tasting. Instead of on the beach, this tasting was set up on a pier stretching out into the Hudson River.

Armed with my Waterford Crystal wine glass, I decided to start by finding a good white wine rather than going for my preferred reds. One of my favorites was a 2006 Chardonnay by Stonestreet from the Alexander Valley in Sonoma County. It’s made with grapes grown on mountain lots at an elevation between 700 and 1,800 feet and aged six and a half months in small French oak barrels. It’s crisp with fresh flavors of green apple and well balanced with just the right amount of acidity. The taste of French oak comes through with a smooth taste of toast and vanilla. Stonestreet has three other Chardonnays; they weren’t available at the tasting but I hope to find them at a wine store. The 2006 Chardonnay costs around $28.

My other favorite whites were from Carmel Road Winery, in Monterey County. They had two Chardonnays, one from a single vineyard source, the other from four vineyards. I enjoyed tasting them side by side to taste the differences between the two. The 2006 Carmel Road Monterey Chardonnay is sourced from four vineyards. It’s crisp and fruit forward, with a taste of green apple, pear and citrus. It has a firm acidity and great minerality. It costs around $14, which makes it a great deal. The single vineyard 2006 Carmel Road Arroyo Seco Chardonnay took that great taste of green apple, pear and citrus to the next level, with a more elegant taste and a finish of hazelnut. It’s more expensive, around $35 a bottle.

On the red side, I was surprised how much I enjoyed two Portuguese wines. They were both made by Callabriga, a winery I’m not too familiar with. They’re made with native grape varieties, predominantly Tinta Roriz (Tempranillo), and using the most advanced winemaking techniques. The Alentejo (with the orange label) is made from Tinta Roriz and Alfrocherio Preto grapes grown in the southeast. The terroir comes through with a great earthy taste from the area’s volcanic soil. It has a nice amount of tannins that give it a pleasant mouthfeel. My favorite of the two was the smoother and more complex Douro (blue label). Tinta Roriz grapes are blended with Touriga Nacional and Touriga Franca grapes from the northeast; these two grape varieties are used to make Port. It’s bold and elegant, with deep red fruits, spice and a hint of smoke and tobacco. I’m not sure exactly how much these wines cost, but I believe it’s around $15 – $20, which make them a great deal.

Another wine I enjoyed was Escudo Rojo from Chile. A closer look at the label revealed it’s made by Baron Philippe de Rothschild. Apparently the Rothschild family bought land in Chile in the mid 1990s, which led to the creation of this wine. It’s a blend of Bordeaux varietals with a distinct Chilean style. The wine is a mix of Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Syrah and Chilean Carmenere. It has a spicy and complex taste with bold red fruits, a nice earthy taste and a good balance of tannins. It costs between $10 and $15, making it an excellent deal.

Many of the food offerings were so good I sneaked a second portion. There was freshly sliced prosciutto that melted in my mouth, with a great buttery and salty taste. Foie gras from the Hudson Valley was rich and creamy. My favorite was a carrot soup from Devi, an Indian Restaurant on East 18th Street. It was thick and yet still light, with a great taste of fresh ginger. My favorite dessert was a root beer float made with Stewart’s root beer, butternut squash ice cream, ginger cream and Amaretti cookies. I love root beer floats and would have never thought to try them with a flavor like butternut squash. It was sweet with some spice, a great fall twist on this classic treat.

As the sun set and the tasting came to a close, I left the tent with slightly purple lips and a full stomach. I really enjoyed tasting wines from wineries and regions I was not too familiar with, and hope there will be even more of those next year. I can’t wait to see what new wines I’ll get to try at the South Beach Wine & Food Festival in February.

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