Friday, February 5, 2010

Ah-Ha Moments, 100 Point Wines, and Family Tradition

I have had a few revelatory wine moments (so far), at least two of them from Napa Valley wines. One was the 1991 Silverado Cabernet Sauvignon made by Jack Stuart (more on him later), the other the 1994 Groth Cabernet Sauvignon Reserve (made by Nils Venge). The Silverado came first (obviously), and showed me that wine could be more than just something to drink. The Groth, the first wine from California awarded a 100-point score from Robert Parker, came a few years later and took my appreciation of wine to yet another level and showed me that wine could transcend the moment.

These moments and these wines came to mind the other day when I attended a small wine tasting event. There was a small producer tasting on February 3rd at the Wine Barn, a shop worth seeking out in the warehouse district south of I-4 and Orange Blossom Trail. On the menu were the current releases from the Venge Vineyards. The wines included the 2006 and 2007 Family Reserve Cabernets, a 2007 Sangiovese, a 2007 Syrah, and the 2007 Scout’s Honor (a blend of Zinfandel, Petite, Sirah, Charbono, and Syrah). All of these wines are under 1000 case production levels and are fabulous. I was especially fond of the Scout’s Honor and the Syrah, which has 2% Viognier added to boost aromatics a la the Cote Rotie wines of France’s Rhone Valley.

Nils Venge made his reputation making wines for Sterling, Villa Mt Eden, and later made the aforementioned wine that earned the 100-point score for Groth. Nils also made wine for years under the Saddleback label from his family property on Oakville Cross Road and the best of the family wines were released under the Venge Vineyards Reserve label – consisting of 100 to 150 case lots of often hand-bottled and hand-labeled wines. For the past several vintages, Nils’ son Kirk has been carrying the Venge family torch and making some fabulous wines from his Calistoga property. Kirk has picked up where his father left off and the wines certainly show their pedigree.

In this same family tradition of only the best, comes Big Crush Distribution. Founded about a year ago by a father and son from SW Florida, this company searches out high quality, boutique wines for distribution here in Florida. In addition to the Venge Vineyards wines mentioned above, they also currently distribute wines from Amizetta, Del Bondio, Enkidu, Jessie's Grove, Talisman, Wellington, and more. They are personable, enthusiastic about the wines they represent, and eager to share the treasures they have discovered. It is interesting, we think, that a father and son distribution team with a quality mantra is representing a similarly disposed father and son winemaking team.

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