Private Reserve wine tasting: eight high-quality wines for only $20

The Tenant returns with a brief review of this past Tuesday’s wine tasting featuring wines from Purple Feet Distributing and Private Reserve Wine Distributors. If you’re a wine lover, tastings like these are a deal you shouldn’t miss: you have the opportunity to taste eight high-quality wines for only $20. If you don’t know much about wine (that would be me), these tastings help you become acquainted, for not much money at all, with what kind of value you can get for your dollar if you learn a little about what’s out there.

Allow me to speak for a moment to my fellow wine naïfs (oenophiles, forgive me). If you’re like many people who don’t know much about wine, you may have come to the conclusion that only expensive wines can really be any good. And you might think that for sure, no good imported wine is going to be inexpensive. Wrong on both counts, as we saw, and tasted, Tuesday night. Of the eight wines we tasted, only one cracks the $25-a-bottle ceiling, and two are available for about $9 per.

A small word about the food. For the wine tasting, the Bistro extended its $5 Happy Hour appetizer policy until 8 p.m. This meant that while appetizers were additional, it was possible to purchase one or two and eat both inexpensively and well. My choice was the Pot Roast Sliders. I’ve had the Bistro’s regular burger sliders before, but not these, and they were exquisite: thick little squares of juicy, melt-in-your-mouth pot roast, on the traditional tiny buns, lavished with as many caramelized grilled onions as the burger kind. Accompanied by a generous mound of sweet potato fries, these make a great meal. (I recommend asking for a side of ranch or Gorgonzola dressing for your fries.)

Now, about the wine. Selections consisted of six reds and two whites, so for the red-wine fan especially, this was a treat, and each wine had something to recommend it.

We got a taste of both the white and red Esporao Monte Velho wines from Alentejo, Portugal. The white was described as “Aroma of floral and spicy fruit. Intense, elegant and well balanced” and a good accompaniment for grilled fish, shellfish, cheeses, and vegetarian dishes. It does seem suited to that purpose; it struck me as fairly dry, but with a nice soft fruity quality. As for the red version, if I were to pick a favorite amongst all the wines, this would probably be it. I really liked the intense ripe berry bouquet that this one gave you right off the top, not to mention the taste, which seemed a bit oaky without being extremely so. And at $9.99 a bottle for either wine, they’re a steal. If you want a really good, yet inexpensive, foreign wine, try the Portuguese.

Not to say that California doesn’t have decently priced, very good wines as well. We were poured two Havenscourt wines, 2008 Chardonnay and 2008 Pinot Noir, and each had things to recommend it. The Chardonnay has “creamy vanilla and lemon flavors enhanced by toasty oak aromas,” our literature said. I found it less dry than the Monte Veho, but not overly sweet either, just a nice balance. The Pinot Noir, with a taste that “hints of currants, ripe berries and violets,” had a powerful bouquet but a smooth, not highly intense flavor on the tongue. These are $8.99 a bottle — terrific bargains indeed.

The Castelnoble Tempranillo, from Spain, provided yet more proof that “foreign” and “good” doesn’t have to mean “pricey.” This wine, described as having aromas and flavors of black currant, raspberries, and toasted vanilla, had a bright flavor with a full, heady bouquet, with a spicy feeling in the mouth. It also sells for $9.99 — very affordable if you want a wine for an elegant dinner that doesn’t cost more than the dinner.

It was back to California for the 2007 Tin Barn Napa Valley Zinfandel, and it was a nice trip. Strong bouquet, nice and smooth drinking with a fruity, peppery-spicy flavor. This one is a little more costly at $19.99.

The Urano Malbec, an Argentinean selection, was described as “intense red fruit, hints of spice, subtle French oak, touch of coffee and tobacco. Solid with a pleasant finish.” I found it dense, fruity, and quite smooth and silky, but not with a terribly intense flavor — more subtle. If you like something that really jumps on your tongue, this one may not be for you, but if you like a really silky-smooth wine, it could be a perfect match at $12.99.

Last was the 2006 Ahnfeldt Provocative Cabernet. This Cab is actually a blend of 75 percent Cab, 14 percent Merlot, 1 percent Petit Verdot, and 10 percent Syrah. It makes for a spicy-cinnamony red wine that’s smooth with subtle hints of sweetness (cherry, milk chocolate, caramel, and currant, so the literature says). It was the priciest wine of this group at $25.99, but also a very nice choice in red wines.

If you couldn’t make it to this tasting, because of the weather or for some other reason, there’s still plenty of time to call 216.481.9635 and make reservations for the $10 tasting on Tuesday, the 25th. It’s sure to feature more very drinkable and affordable wines to tempt your palate.

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