What a weekend full of great food and wine! Saturday night we dined with friends at Barbara Lynch’s Menton, and Sunday we made the journey to Mohegan Sun for Sun Winefest. We were fortunate enough to receive trade passes as well as passes to a beer and cheese pairing with Smuttynose, and we thought the event was fantastic.
I hadn’t been to Mohegan Sun since an Aerosmith concert in college, so we were pretty excited about all of the stores, restaurants, and attractions all under one roof. It was definitely the place to be on a freezing cold Sunday afternoon!
First up was the Sun Winefest Grand Tasting. Trade hour is always the best as it’s not crowded and people pouring the wine have a real chance to talk with tasters. I was incredibly impressed at how organized Sun Winefest was as well as the amount of space between booths. Even when the masses arrived, it didn’t feel too crowded.
One of my favorite things about events like this wine festival is discovering new wines and re-tasting old favorites. After Sun Winefest, I definitely have a list of must-adds to our wine collection.
J. Lohr Riesling – beautiful, bright and citrusy with a mouth feel that reminded me of a Viognier. Despite the weather, I am loving white wine right now, and this one was a treat.
Anna Codorniu Brut and Rose Cavas – I had my first taste of Anna Codorniu at Post 390’s Farm to Post dinner; I didn’t need to taste it again to know that I love it. It was fun to also taste the Brut and to learn that these delicious sparkling wines retail for around $12.00. There’s not excuse to save bubbly for special occasions!
Another wine I revisited was a Gruner Veltliner from Fred Loimer. I have loved his Lois for a long time; you really can not go wrong with Gruner.
We spent quite a bit of time at the Cannonball table. First drawn in by the label, which is adorable, as well as the fact that these wines are from my favorite place on earth, Healdsburg, we ended up falling in love with the wines as well. The Cannonball Merlot is heaven; lots of spice and dark berry flavors. People need to start drinking Merlot again, and Cannonball is a great place to start.
California definitely represented with some gorgeous Chardonnays like the above from Robledo and Sparrow Hawk. I love a hint of vanilla and butterscotch in Chardonnays, and both of these had the acidity to balance it all out.
In addition to the above, we tasted a few Italian wines we loved, including a bubbly, fun pink wine called Rosa Regale. I could picture myself sitting in the sun on a comfy lounge chair sipping a flute of it. We really enjoyed all of the wines at the Banfi Vintners table because they were great, but also because the representative pouring was so knowledgeable.
One of the highlights of the festival for me was meeting one of the winemakers from Gloria Ferrer, another favorite place of mine.
The Sun Winefest also features an extensive beer tasting on a separate floor from the wine. I loved the way the wine and beer were divided; I think it helped to thin out the crowds. I can’t say enough about this great event. One of our favorites was a Kona Brewing Company coconut beer; it was rich, smooth and offered some delicious tropical flavors.
The real reason we were at Mohegan Sun was for a Smuttynose beer and cheese pairing at Todd English’s Tuscany.
Heading up the event were a dynamic duo with a great knowledge and passion for beer and beer pairings. Ken from Pete & Gerry’s Organic Eggs is someone I met at a pizza and beer event last year, and he was joined by Smuttynose executive brewer, David Yarrington. The cheese pairings were brought to us by iGourmet.com, and they were absolutely amazing. We consumed a LOT of cheese at this event.
We went through each of the beers and paired them with a recommended cheese, but David also suggested we try all of the cheeses with each beer to decide on what worked and what didn’t. My thoughts? All of the cheeses went really well with all of the beers.
Here’s what we tasted:
||Pierre Robert Triple Crème Brie
||Quebec 7 year Vintage Cheddar
||Red Dragon Cheddar (with Welsh Brown Ale & Mustard Seed)
||Beemster X.O. Extra Double Aged Gouda
||Rogue River Blue by Rogue Creamery
ParadoX was a beer brewed especially for Sun Winefest. Since it was an IPA, I wasn’t sure I would like it, but rather than being too hoppy, it was fresh, aromatic, and balanced.
Yarrington brewed ParadoX, an aromatic, session IPA, with experimental hop 02120. He travels to Washington state yearly to hand-select his hops, and he chose this one because of it’s lemony qualities. With Citra hops being all the rage, brewers are constantly looking for something similar, and experimental hop 02120 — called the lemon drop hop — comes pretty close.
Overall, though, I have to say my favorite beer was the Zinneke, a nice dark beer that paired perfectly with Rogue River Blue. Old Brown Dog was another favorite, and true to suggestion, it went well with the Red Dragon Cheddar, which had a nice kick from mustard seeds. The most indulgent-tasting cheese of the afternoon, the Pierre Robert, was absolutely heavenly, soft, gooey, and amazing and truly tasted great with all of the Smuttynose beers, the beers cutting through some of the delectable butter fat, just as Champagne or sparkling wine would. The pairing actually reminded me a lot of pairing Champagne with food; beer is a pretty great beverage for pairing with food and I hope to pay a little more attention to this in the future.
I have always enjoyed Smuttynose beers, and I can’t believe I have not visited their brewery for a tour and tasting. We’ve been wanting to spend a weekend in Portsmouth, and this might have given us the kick we needed!
Overall I would definitely recommend Sun Winefest’s Grand Tasting and the available seminars. When you go this route, you get the best of both worlds, a big, busy tasting, followed by a more educational, slower-paced tasting event.
Do you have a favorite wine/beer tasting event? As you likely know, mine is the Newport Mansions Wine and Food Festival, but the Sun Winefest is definitely close!