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Taste a unique blend 

The Central Coast Wine Classic presents captivating wine symposia

click to enlarge MAN OF TASTE :  Winemaker Christian Roguenant will discuss selections from the new Trenza brand from the Niven Family Wine Company devoted to Spain’s wine varieties. - PHOTO BY STEVE E. MILLER
  • PHOTO BY STEVE E. MILLER
  • MAN OF TASTE : Winemaker Christian Roguenant will discuss selections from the new Trenza brand from the Niven Family Wine Company devoted to Spain’s wine varieties.
Would you like to taste the Central Coast’s finest white- and red-wine blends side-by-side to discover which you like best? Do you wish you could attend epicurean meals and tastings of rare wines, while rubbing elbows with world-famous winemakers and chefs? You’ll have such opportunities and more at the upcoming Central Coast Wine Classic (CCWC), a four-day event taking place July 8 through 11. Much to the delight of Pinotphiles, this year the California Pinot Noir Symposium will provide a tasting of distinctive Pinots from the 13 American Viticultural Areas (AVA’s) renowned for the quality of their wines. 

 The CCWC has always appealed to wine aficionados for its educational aspect. Now in its 26th year, it will present, as always, several fascinating symposia. What’s great about these enlightening tastings is the fact that you don’t have to buy the entire event package to attend any of them. Every one of the tastings and winemakers’ dinners is available for purchase individually. But take note: These tastings are wildly popular—tickets won’t be available much longer.

 A new tasting this year is the Unique Blend Symposium. While sitting down to taste with the panel of ten winemakers, you’ll enjoy an array of one-of-a-kind blends each artist will present. According to CCWC founder and chairman Archie McLaren, this is the first of its kind. “In the past we’ve had symposiums that offered Bordeaux or Rhone blends, but I realized there are a lot of very interesting blends besides those. I tasted a white blend from Demetria, which was remarkably good; it provided the impetus to do this.”

 Wine connoisseurs worldwide relish opportunities to taste cuvées, the French word for wine blends. Like meritage, except that term refers specifically to blends of Bordeaux varieties, cuvées can include any or all five red Bordeaux varieties: Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Merlot, Petite Verdot, and Malbec. During the Unique Blend Symposium, novices will find that great blends can also be made up of unusual pairings, such as Niven Wine Company’s Trenza Blanco, Castoro’s Tango, and Qupé’s Bien Nacido Cuvee.

  Frenchman Christian Roguenant started making premium wines in this region in 1986. He’s winemaker for Niven Family Wine Company, whose newest brand is Trenza, Spanish for braid. Trenza focuses on Spain’s wine varieties. Roguenant will present the new Blanco, a white blend of Grenache Blanc and Albarino. “I haven’t seen anyone else make this blend and that’s surprising. It’s really an interesting wine, a yin-yang kind of thing,” he explained. “The Garnacha gives it richness and fullness and the Albarino gives it fresh citrus notes, the high acidity will allow it to age nicely.”

- THE 3RD SLO WINE & GRILL AFFAIR :  Saturday, June 5, noon to 4 p.m. - An event for those with a big appetite, this fundraiser will be held at Filipponi Ranch at Per Bacco Cellars. You’ll get to eat, drink, and judge wine and food pairings by famous local wineries. There’s also a panel of media judges, including me, who will announce their chosen winner along with the winner of the people’s choice. This year’s participating wineries include Ancient Peak, Baileyana/Tangent, Cerro Caliente, Clesi, Edna Valley Vineyards, Filipponi Ranch Cellars, Per Bacco, Salisbury, Sextant, and Wood. The Late Harvest band will perform. Proceeds will benefit Transitions Mental Health Association.  Tickets purchased in advance are $35 each; at the gate they’re $40 each. Call 541-5144 or visit t-mha.org for information and tickets. -
  • THE 3RD SLO WINE & GRILL AFFAIR : Saturday, June 5, noon to 4 p.m.


    An event for those with a big appetite, this fundraiser will be held at Filipponi Ranch at Per Bacco Cellars. You’ll get to eat, drink, and judge wine and food pairings by famous local wineries. There’s also a panel of media judges, including me, who will announce their chosen winner along with the winner of the people’s choice. This year’s participating wineries include Ancient Peak, Baileyana/Tangent, Cerro Caliente, Clesi, Edna Valley Vineyards, Filipponi Ranch Cellars, Per Bacco, Salisbury, Sextant, and Wood. The Late Harvest band will perform. Proceeds will benefit Transitions Mental Health Association. Tickets purchased in advance are $35 each; at the gate they’re $40 each. Call 541-5144 or visit t-mha.org for information and tickets.

One unusual white cuvée that will be poured is Castoro’s Tango. It’s a blend of Viognier, Gewurztraminer, Chardonnay, and Roussanne. Winemaker Tom Myers described it as a nicely balanced wine that’s delicious and fun to drink. He said: “I think of it as a great wine for sipping, and it’s really versatile with food.” Another local favorite, Qupé Bien Nacido Cuvee, is also unique; it’s a 50/50 blend of Viognier and Chardonnay. Winemaker Bob Lindquist explained: “I pick the Viognier ultra-ripe, which is nothing like my single bottling of Viognier. We pick the Chardonnay at the low end of ripeness which reigns it (the blend) back in and gives it structure, freshness and balance.” Of course, the tasting will feature red blends, too. Blends will be presented by winemakers from Au Bon Climat, Demetria, Jada, JK Wine Co., L’Aventure, Lone Madrone, and Tablas Creek. 

 When Cuisine featured (in the Feb. 11 edition the CCWC) renowned chef Emeril Lagasse’s cooking demonstration scheduled for Friday, July 9, the event sold out within a month. Yet, there’s more to the story. Emeril isn’t coming alone: Two other renowned New Orleans’ chefs, Susan Spicer of Bayona and Tory McPhail of Commander’s Palace, will join him in creating an epicurean dinner party at Hearst Castle. The cooking demo and Hearst Castle dinner sold out early, but you can still get in on other one-of-a-kind experiences at the CCWC.

 On Friday, July 9, there are still several educational wine tastings available you’ll want to experience, including the Unique Blends and California Pinot Noir symposia. Tickets to the Riedel stemware tasting with Georg Riedel cost less than the four hand-crafted crystal wineglasses you’ll get to take home; among the featured wineries are Claiborne & Churchill and Chappellet. Traveling from Champagne, France, Fabrice Rosset, who’s chairman of the board for Champagne Deutz (where Roguenant once worked), will pour samples of each Champagne cuvée they produce.

  There’s still room at the Barrel Tasting at Dolphin Bay Resort on Thursday and the fourth annual CCWC Paulee (bring your own special wine) dinner at Lido in Dolphin Bay Resort. Friday night winemakers’ dinners taking place at wineries and restaurants throughout SLO county include Ancient Peaks at McPhee’s in Avila Beach and Baileyana/Tangent at Lido. Winery dinners will be held at Eberle, Edna Valley Vineyard, and Justin. Plus there’s a dinner event at the SLO Country Club featuring Claiborne & Churchill, Saucelito Canyon, and Tolosa.

 On Sunday, July 11, the last symposium takes place: Italian wine expert and author Sergio Esposito will lead guests through a tasting of Italian wines featured in his book, Passion on the Vine: A Memoir of Food, Wine and Family in the Heart of Italy. The CCWC concludes with the Reserve Wine Tasting of rare and limited wines at Dolphin Bay Resort.

 “The CCWC has always been an attraction for wine lovers, and why not? This is a beautiful place to vacation,” Roguenant concluded. “It really helped promote Central Coast wine country over the years, and helped get local wines into markets in other states.” For event details and ticket purchases, visit centralcoastwineclassic.org.

You can reach New Times’ Cuisine columnist at khardesty@newtimesslo.com.

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