Cathy & I went to the Wine, Chocolate, and More event at the fairgrounds Friday afternoon. There were a number of wonderful wines and foods to sample, along with some amazing chocolate and other hand-crafted items from purses to jewelry and artwork.
We are not wine connoisseurs. We are not wine aficionados. We shy away from pretention and don't really understand the difference between "blackberry overtones" and "oak reminiscence". But we do know good wine when we taste it, and often enjoy a simple $10-$15 bottle of sangiovese or a nice blend. We've been to a few local wineries over the past couple years, but rarely buy more than one bottle of wine at a time. So, as uneducated as we are (sommeliers we're not!) we appreciated the chance to do some tasting of a variety of wines all under one roof.
The absolute highlight of our time was with John Olson of Palotai Vineyard and Winery. We were hooked at the first sip, but what made it even more enjoyable was John's natural story-telling ability, as he infused each tasting with a bit of history and craft.
Having studied under a Hungarian master vintner, John's creations hold a unique place in the various artisan wines of the Umpqua Valley.
He uses Hungarian oak which, according to John, is what gives many of his wines just a hint of nutmeg (or "holiday flavor" as he puts it). Don't get me wrong -- it is not weird at all, like singing carols in July. Any of his wines can be enjoyed any time of the year. The gentle spice in each of the 5 reds we tasted (from a Syrah to a fabulous multi-blend called Arany Szarvas) is simply a welcome distinction among a world of taste-alikes.
And his white wines! Wow! One taste of Palotai's Chardonay and you will be transported to old-world Europe. While it is not a sparkling wine, it was like drinking french champagne or, even closer to the mark: a fine Italian Prosecco!
John's charm, genuine warmth and personable sense of humor made tasting some already-fabulous (and award-winning!) wine an even more fun and pleasurable experience. We bought six bottles -- five reds and the Chardonnay. And we're considering a trip to Roseburg sometime later this year to visit Palotai in person. I'm a big fan of tawny port and John hinted that there might be "something special" he is working on that I could only taste if we came to Roseburg.
Award winning and NY Post-mentioned Palotai wines are worthy of your palate -- as they say in Budapest, egészségedre!
~ Keith a/k/a canopenerboy
Note: According to the BBC, you must very careful when making the most accepted Hungarian toast referenced above. Mispronounce it (as English speakers usually do) and you wind up saying 'to your arse' instead of 'to your health'. Always ask a Hungarian for advice on pronunciation!