Russ Winton: Wine List

Yosemite’s grape celebration really is Grand

The Navigator and I made our annual trip to Yosemite, just after Thanksgiving. We had the park almost to ourselves. Most of the people who were there, were there for the same reason, the 37th annual Grand Grape Celebration. We met some “Wine Line” readers from Modesto and Fresno who were delighted to be there. So were we. Here’s why.

Day One

1 p.m.: Moderator Ellen Landis, wine judge and journalist, welcomed us in the Great Lounge of the Majestic Hotel. The room was set up for about 170 with five glasses of chardonnay in front of each wine enthusiast. Rombauer Vineyard’s owner Koerner Rombauer presented “The Joy of Wine: A Tasting of Carneros Chardonnay.”

3:30 p.m.: Bob Lindquist, owner, winemaker and syrah genius of Qupe Winery, led us through five syrahs. We finished with a beautifully aged 2008 Bien Nacido Hillside Estate Vineyard Syrah.

6 p.m.: The “Meet the Vintners Reception” was held in the solarium and featured more than a dozen cheeses and light bites. The featured vintners supplied a variety of wines for our enjoyment.

Day Two

1 p.m.: Mike Sullivan of Benovia Winery, recently named “Winemaker of the Year” by the North Bay Business Journal, poured four pinot noirs. The seminar featured single designated Sonoma vineyards from the 2016 vintage.

3:30 p.m.: The final tasting seminar was with well-known winemaker Mia Klein of Selene Winery. The tasting was called “A Merlot Retrospective; 1995, 1996, 1999 Magnums and 2005, 2006, 2009 in 750ml.” The conclusion? Age your wine in magnums.

6:30 p.m.: The “Grand Grape Vintners Dinner” in the amazing Majestic Dining Room was perfect. The 2017 Rombauer Sauvignon Blanc was served with little skookum oysters with lemon miso sabayon. The 2017 Qupe Marsanne, Sawyer Lindquist Vineyard was paired with crispy skin black cod, arugula and toasted cous cous salad. Benovia’s 2016 Pinot Noir, Bella Una Vineyard matched well with with seared foie gras with lingonberry maple glaze. The 1999 Selene Blackbird Vineyard Merlot balanced the blackberry-braised venison osso buco, sage gremolada, red kuri squash and varissa kale. Honey panna cotta with raspberry gel and fresh berries was the finishing touch. Our dining guests were from Seascape, Napa, Fresno and of course, Livingston. We were the fun table with just one glass of wine spilled.

Moderator Ellen Landis said it best in closing, “I attend many wine events like this throughout the year and I consider Yosemite one of the best, definitely near the top of the Top Ten.” Cheers to Yosemite’s Grand Grape Celebration. Next year there will be eight sessions from Nov. 3 through Dec. 6. Stay in touch at Cheers!

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