Returning to Tramonte’s “Temple of the Dog” portfolio show – the reason I am dubbing their warehouse this will become evident soon enough – I stopped by Longboard Vineyard’s table, having experienced only their Sauvignon Blanc, I dove in to the rest of the lineup, with their regional sales manager, Tom Clare, leading the way:

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The Longboard Sauvignon Blanc Russian River Valley 2008 (Grade=Outstanding) doesn’t follow the sometimes-annoying trend of getting all New Zealand and delivering obnoxious notes of grapefruit.  This SB shows a subtler side with some lemon meringue, pineapple and slight vanilla cream.  It’s a kinder, gentler SB that is sublime and well-received.  The Longboard Point Break Red 2007 (Grade=Outstanding) blends Syrah, Cabernet Sauvignon, Malbec, Carignan and Zinfandel to deliver a medium-bodied, smooth red that shows off some red and black currants, blackberries, blueberries, some spice box, dusty earth and white and black pepper notes.  Very nice!  The Longboard Merlot Dakine 2007 (Grade=Outstanding+) shows off a fairly robust yet graceful Merlot that exudes lushness with dark plums, black cherries and smoky cedar plank.  Definitely wins me over.  The Longboard Cabernet Sauvignon Redgrav Vineyard 2006 (Grade=Outstanding+) delivers a full-bodied, rich, dense display of blackberry and blueberry pie, black currants, anise, mint, cedar and vanillin oak.  Shows power and finesse.  Can I get a hell yeah?  And for a treat, Tom had decanted a Longboard Cabernet Sauvignon Rochioli Vineyard 2005 (Grade=Amazing) that he was using to entice us all in attendance to pre-order the 2007 vintage (the last Rochioli they will be producing).  This seemed like it still needed some time to open up, but it was revealing smoky blackberry and currant notes, lots of leather and spice, some tobacco, chocolate, and toasted oak as well.  Seemed to just roll on and on across the palate.  Well-played sir, well-played.

Next up was a stop at Barnard Griffin’s table.  I first contacted their National Sales Manager, Steve Schaeffer nearly 7 years ago, at the behest of a long-time customer who was looking for Barnard Griffin Chardonnay.  Not represented in Kentucky at the time, I cold-called Steve and he first told me that there was a distributor coming into our state to represent him.  After about a year, that distributor would retreat from KY and once again, no Barnard Griffin.  Long story short, they found a great home in Tramonte and they are rocking on our shelves.

The Barnard Griffin Fume Blanc Columbia Valley 2008 (Grade=Outstanding) is crisp and lively on the palate with Asian pear, gooseberry, guava and lemon peel notes, some nice mineral tones and well-balanced acidity.  The Barnard Griffin Chardonnay Columbia Valley 2008 (Grade=Outstanding) highlights a more fruit-driven style, with just a slight amount of the blend seeing barrel fermentation, accentuating more tangerine, nectarine and lime zest character.  Lively acidity keeps this from the flabby style its California brethren leans toward, and it finishes long and lean.  The Barnard Griffin Riesling Columbia Valley 2009 (Grade=Outstanding) is truly a hidden treasure for Washington State.  In something of a Kabinett-style, this light-bodied white wine shows off notes of white peaches, Rainier cherries, mineral and orange blossom, finishing slightly dry.  The Barnard Griffin Merlot 2007 (Grade=Outstanding) is a stunning value with red and black cherry notes, splashes of dark plums, and hints of vanilla, Darjeeling tea, basil leaf and white pepper.  One of the state’s best values.  The Barnard Griffin Cabernet Sauvignon Columbia Valley 2008 (Grade=Outstanding) shows off medium-to-full-bodied tannins, with loads of dark chocolate, blackberry, mint, espresso and cedar notes with a robust finish.  I usually lean towards Washington State Merlot but this Cab is definitely a winner.  And the Barnard Griffin Syrah Columbia Valley 2008 (Grade=Outstanding+) is another example of how Washington gets this grape right every time.  With its juicy, jammy notes of red raspberry, blueberry pie, a bit of rhubarb, black pepper, red tea, and black olives, it is an explosive, medium-to-full-bodied red wine that delivers a lot of bang for the buck.

I meekly introduced myself to Airlie Winery’s winemaker, Elizabeth Clark, as “the one who browbeat Tramonte into going after her,” and the O.C. and I tried the four wines she was unveiling to the area:  The Airlie Riesling Willamette Valley 2008 (Grade=Outstanding) is a well-balanced, semi-dry style with notes of Bartlett pear, lime, and mineral.  It has a juicy center and a splashy fruit-driven finish.  The Airlie Müller-Thurgau Willamette Valley 2008 (Grade=Outstanding+) is a fun introduction to this hybrid grape (Riesling X Sylvaner), showing ripe pears, orange zest and wet stones.  It is not as sweet as you would expect (the most famous M-T is Blue Nun), and this particular one shows off some nice acidity at the finish.  The Airlie “7” White Blend Willamette Valley 2008 (Grade=Outstanding) is an exuberant blend of Müller Thurgau, Riesling, Pinot Gris, Gewurtztraminer, Chardonnay, Pinot Blanc and Auxerrois.  It displays slightly sweet stone fruit, golden cherries, nutmeg, cumin and allspice with hints of mineral and honeysuckle.  A really nice value!  And the Airlie Pinot Noir Willamette Valley 2008 (Grade=Outstanding) gives you fresh-baked cherry pie, with some plum, cola nut, cinnamon stick and light-roasted coffee bean.  It has slight earthy tones and well-balanced acidity.

We stopped by the Maryhill table where Patrick Burke, their national sales manager, was captaining the table.  I tried the Maryhill Rosé of Sangiovese Columbia Valley 2008 (Grade=Outstanding), which showed off juicy watermelon, ripe strawberry and some creamy red cherries.  Soft and fruity, it is a really tasty value.  I also tasted the new Maryhill Muscat Canelli Columbia Valley 2008 (Grade=Outstanding), which displayed nice notes of honeyed peaches, peach nectar, peach cobbler and peach preserves.  Did I say Peaches?  There were splashy notes of apricot, cantaloupe and orange blossom too.  And I revisited the Maryhill Winemaker’s Red Blend Columbia Valley 2008 (Grade=Outstanding), a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet Franc and Syrah, this red is medium-bodied, jammy with loads of red and black fruits, baking spice and cocoa notes.  A great value!

We had to stop for a minute (O.C. and I) and grab a bite to eat, which Tramonte was great enough to invite some food vendors in to the event, including good friend and DEP’S regular Jean-Francois Flechet, owner of Taste of Belgium, which can be found in Findlay Market.  Proving to the good folks of Cincinnati that Belgian food is not what they serve at IHOP, we did partake of his famous waffles (Grade=FN Amazing), which were delicious all by their lonesome, as well as some severely decadent macaroons that were filled with fruity ambrosia (caramel apple, raspberry, tangerine) that made for some serious first-person food porn (Grade=OMGTIFD).

Tomorrow, I will wrap it all up in a pretty little bow for ya, along with an introduction to the reason I call Tramonte’s new joint The Temple of the Dog.

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