Friday, June 19, 2009


L.A. International Wine & Spirits Competition

Imagine taking a sunny summer afternoon off, and heading to a chic hide-away above Rodeo Drive in Beverly Hills to meet with some fantastically interesting people and taste award winning wines, spirits and olive oils, all courtesy of the lovely people of the L.A. County Fair. (An event that you may all recall...I love. Love. Love. The fair is the best!)

Well...I don't have to imagine it so much, since I did just that yesterday. And I am so glad I did because I can share my experience with you, sweet readers!

You see, there is so much (so, very, very much) going on in the world of wine. Sometimes it can be so hard to figure out a place to start. Do you buy by price? By grape? By label (I confess to doing all three.) Or maybe, you do some research and find award winning wines. Trusting experts, making good choices.

Well...the L.A. County Fair and the Los Angeles International Wine and Spirits International Competition (in their 70th year!) would like to offer you some assistance. After tasting more than 3000(!) wines, the judges picked their best-ofs in all sorts of categories so that you, the consumer, (and hopefully, Fair goer.) can select a perfect wine. I never really thought of wine/spirits awards as being designed for that, but now it all makes perfect sense. Instead of you or me trying every wine under the sun, why not let some experts do it and we just get to enjoy the (oh it comes...) fruits of their labor. (Yes. I did. I made that pun.)

I know I would have ended up far too tipsy had I tried even more than six...(let alone 3000) so I picked and chose and what I did try left a great impression on me. (It also re-affirmed that I actually do enough about wine to know what I do and don't care for.)

So what did I try?

Just for fun I tried the "Best Fruit Wine" winner, Breitenbach Wine Cellars, American Apricot Wine, first. Since, let's be honest, this is not a wine most people ever think to purchase. But I have to tell was a bit of a shock really. I was like the essence of apricot. Really fragrant and balanced and totally drinkable. I can imagine it with a bit of sparkling water, or as the perfect addition to ice cream or a dessert sauce. More of a sipping wine, than something you would pair with a meal, it's still really kinda fantastic and worth seeking out. Who knew! And how great that this event allowed me to try something so different than my typical choices. (Which is why you should go to the Fair in September and try it yourself!)

Since I am also a huge fan of the wines of Montepulciano, it was inevitable that I would go mad for the Best of Show - Red $15-29.99 (tie) winner, Cantina Redi, Briareo Riserva, Vino Nobile De Montepulciano DOC 2006. (That's a mouth-full!) It was medium-bodied and smooth, with lots of dark cherry and wild berry notes. I just swooned.

The other wine I really did like was the Best of Show - Red $30 and up: The David Bruce Winery, 2006 Russian River Valley Pinot Noir (since I like Pinot Noir a lot this was no surprise). It was like a burst of raspberry and with just a little chill to it, it is just what a warm summer day calls for.

Actually, this year the awards were divvied up by price category, ($14.99 and under, $15 - $29.99 and $30 and up) which was just a brilliant move on their part. Don't you agree? The three categories make winning wines accessible to everyone, and that is just what a savvy drinker needs in these crazy times!

And as a funny aside...they had a celebrity vintner category too, with people like Tommy
Lasorda competing...and a boy I made out with a million years ago was one of the winners, so bravo to him!

If you want to figure out who that was...and see all of the winning wines, they are all listed on and I think you should check it out for sure.

And just so there is a bit of food mentioned, I have to point out that I was completely charmed by a spicy tuna salad that was presented in a large, folded over wonton (resembling a hard taco shell) that was offered on the buffet table. What a smart idea! So much better than on a wonton chip! I am going to steal that for sure.

But none of this rhapsodizing helps you enjoy this wine as much as I did...what is going to help you is a visit to the L.A. County Fair in September or their Wine and Cars Under the Stars event this weekend where all of the winners will be announced and tasted. (It's really fun. Trust me. Get your tickets now.) Drink, see some amazing cars and enjoy a night out. You deserve it.

Thank you so much to everyone who made this fun event happen. I had such a nice time and hope I can do it again next year.

Now go to the Wine and Cars Under the Stars event and sip the joy!


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© 2009 Rachael at "Fresh Approach Cooking" If you are not reading this at the aforementioned URL or in your RSS feed, the site you are looking at are violating my copyright. And that's rude.

I loved discovering The Wine Valet in Beverly Hills. What a gem!

After drinking all that wine, we had to visit Nic's Martini Lounge for Happy Hour. Their baked oysters are amazing.

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