It is wine and beer festival season.
By Louis Marmon
Gazette Newspapers June 17, 2015
On a recent spring evening there was a line stretching for several blocks to get into a parking lot near National’s Stadium even though the team was out of town. People were queuing up to attend the Cherry Blossom Beer and Wine Festival, one of several annual events promoting DC as a culinary destination. The tickets sold out quickly for this evening that featured unlimited tastings of nearly 100 wines and over 110 beers as well as several ciders and the opportunity to indulge at some of DC’s best food trucks.
The Cherry Blossom Beer and Wine Festival was organized by serial entrepreneur Steuart Martens, a former “Apprentice” contestant who was selected by then-mayor Adrian Fenty in 2011 to revitalize the “Taste of DC” culinary experience. A DC area native who attended Purdue on a swimming scholarship, Martens remains an accomplished athlete who set a record for swimming from Alcatraz to San Francisco and continues to participate in triathlons and other endurance sports. Martens recently sold his ownership interest in a company that imported family-owned Spanish wines so he can focus entirely on expanding these types of beer and wine festivals into 15 – 20 cities across the US this year under his “Drink The District” banner.
Music from dueling piano performers “Keys on Main” and a corner offering giant Jenga, cornhole, beer pong and other games contributed to the event’s festive atmosphere. The crowd was on the younger side but not boisterous and no one seemed to have over-indulged. There was plenty of room to move easily between the well-organized booths pouring the various libations or toward the food trucks located on the periphery of the space. Overall a delightful way to enjoy the beginning of spring while sampling a divergent selection of wines and beer.
There were several familiar wineries including Pedroncelli whose Dry Rose of Pinot Zin 2014 was floral, crisp and remarkably spicy with hefty cranberry, strawberry and citrus flavors while their Sauvignon Blanc 2013 displayed pleasing herbal and grapefruit aromas with melon and pineapple notes.
The tropical fruit scented Hahn Winery Pinot Gris 2014 flavors included mango, pineapple and apple. Also being poured was the Hahn Winery GSM 2013, a Rhone style blend of Grenache, Syrah and Mourvèdre with aromas of red berry, mint and pepper which continued into blackberry, blueberry and currant flavors.
Other consistent favorites included New Zealand’s Matua Sauvignon Blanc 2014, the Cono Sur Pinot Noir 2014 and their Sauvignon Blanc 2014, the Fess Parker Riesling 2013 along with a white and red Reserve 2014 Cotes du Rhone from Famille Perrin.
There were many less familiar wines that were both value-priced and tasty. Certain to capitalize on the current Moscato craze was the markedly sweet Regio Moscato 2012 whose stone fruit aromas and flavors are nicely paired with some citrus acidity. The Finca el Origen Torrontes 2013 opened with floral and peach aromas that extended into markedly spicy pineapple and apricot notes. The Finca el Origen Malbec Reserva 201 4 was also enjoyable with scents of red flowers and spice that preceded cocoa accented dark fruit, currant and cherry flavors with mild spice.
From Spain is the Radio Boca Tempranillo 2013 that began with earthy strawberry notes along with well-balanced blackberry and cherry flavors. Their Radio Boca Monastrell Rosado 2013 is a flavorful summer rose with slightly spicy red berry, cherry and black licorice notes. From Sicily were the pineapple and lemon flavored Villa Pozzi Pinot Grigio 2013 and their Villa Pozzi Nero d’Avola 2012 which exhibited deep black cherry, plum and red licorice notes along with hints of smoked meat and minerals.