Another day, another 70 or so wines tasted for Wine Access' International Value Wine Awards. We went through eight flights today - five before lunch and three after - once again figuring out which wines go through to the final rounds and which are weeded out.
The first flight was an excellent collection of seven Pinot Blancs, a grape being made with increasing frequency and quality in the Okanagan Valley. We were really pleased at how consistent these wines were. The rest of the morning went as follows: Malbec (big, dense reds, mostly from Argentina - decent quality), white blends (all sorts of grapes in this flight, some done horribly), Merlot (a few softies, but a couple great, dense reds) and sparkling wine (a nice way to end the morning - good palate cleansers).
The afternoon started poorly, with a flight of nine Pinot Noirs that were less than stellar. Pinot Noir is a tough red grape from which to make wine, and this flight proved that there's not a lot of good ones under $25 yet being entered in the competition. My panel had high hopes for the Riesling flight that followed, but only a couple of the whites really stood tall and merited passing to the final rounds. Last but not least was Syrah/Shiraz — the best of these reds really showed nicely, leaving the poorer examples no chance for glory.
Oh yes, last night's dinner at Teatro was great - many of the judges brought wines to the event, which made for a fascinating cross-section of old, new, pricey and obscure. It was great fun to see each of the judges walk around with their bottles, pouring for other judges and explaining just what the wine they brought was all about.
Other notes... Hotel Alma offers free long distance calling anywhere in North America (except Alaska and Hawaii). I've never heard of this before but hope it catches on. It makes being away from home (and two young kids) a lot easier... Wine Access is running a behind-the-scenes label contest this year, with results to be published in the October/November issue (which will aslo feature the results of the tastings). Check out the details here ... The University of Calgary is beautiful, but is undergoing major construction right now, which has resulted in my getting ridiculously lost yesterday and Sunday. What should have been a ten-minute walk turned into a half-hour exercise in futility...