Clark Smith Symposium

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On Sunday I attended a symposium presented by Clark Smith, a California wine maker and author of “Postmodern Wine-making.”  He also founded the world’s largest wine technology provider Vinovation, that pioneered wine quality enhancement techniques and he founded WineSmith winery to explore a range of California terroirs.

The event took place at the Ace Hotel at 20 West 29 Street. It was a small, casual, sit-down event with about twenty five people in attendance including wine makers from Jamesport and Mattebella wineries from Long Island. They poured some of their wines in addition to wines from WineSmith. There was also someone from a winery in South Jersey and a home wine maker from Vermont that brought his blueberry wine to the event.

The central theme of the discussion was “manipulation” which is a dirty word in the wine world but Mr. Smith made the case that manipulation is a part of the wine-making process. He stated that even a drop of water in the glass changed the composition of the wine so every table was given a bottle of liquid with 13% alcohol to rinse the glasses with.

The first tasting was to compare the same wines with different levels of alcohol. Two bottles of Mr. Smith’s 2003 WineSmith Chardonnay (Napa Valley) with different alcohol levels were poured. The first was bottled at 14.8% while the second at 12.9%.

The Chardonnay with the 14.8% alcohol was dark gold with honey and botrytis on the nose with and hints of lime on the moderate fruit with a stinging finish. You could definitely feel the alcohol heat on the finish.

The Chardonnay with the 12.9% alcohol was gold in color with dried mushroom and slate on the nose with the lime and dried mushroom on the fruit with big viscosity and mouth-feel on the finish. The lower alcohol made for a rounder wine.

The discussion turned to red wines and Mr. Smith made a point that the growth Brettanomyces in wine is influenced by organisms in the wine. A couple of his reds were poured next:

2005 WineSmith Cabernet Sauvignon “Crucible” (Napa Valley). Dark red with crushed blueberries and mint on the nose and was tight and velvety with flavors of black licorice on the finish.

2006 WineSmith “Planet Pluto” Meritage (California). Dark red with a vegetal nose and dark berries and was tight with very crisp acids on the finish.

As a comparison a third wine was poured blind and it was the 2008 Windward Pinot Noir (Paso Robles). Medium red with red cherry and crushed rock notes on the nose and was very juicy with bitter almond on the finish.

The wine maker from Jamesport Vineyard in Long Island was present and he poured a couple of his wines.

2007 Jamesport Cabernet Franc (North Fork, L. I.). Medium red with a ripe nose of bubblegum and smoke with notes of black licorice and coconut milk on the fruit.

2007 Jamesport Petit Verdot (North Fork, L. I.). Dark red to black in color with roasted nuts and black berries on the nose and was concentrated and silky with black fruit flavors and was nicely balanced. Nice wine.

The owner of Mattebella Vineyards in Long Island was present as well and he brought several of his wines which were poured.

Mattebella Vineyards “Famiglia” Red Blend NV (North Fork, L. I.). Non-vintage, it was medium red with roasted nuts and mint on the nose and was juicy and velvety with good balance, not bad for their everyday glass.

The Old World Blend is a Bordeaux blend of red grapes and they poured five vintages.

2005 Mattebella Vineyards “Old World Blend” (North Fork, L. I.) . Dark red to black in color, with notes of slate and crushed rocks on the nose. concentrated and velvety with black licorice on the balanced fruit.

2007 Mattebella ‘OWB”. Dark red with stinky, sea-air on the nose and was ripe and concentrated with firm tannins and barnyard on the finish.

2008 Mattebella “OWB”. Dark red with a nose of toasted and crushed black berries and mint and was silky and concentrated with great balance. My favorite of the flight.

2009 Mattebella “OWB”. Dark red to black in color, some stemminess on the nose, velvet, tight fruit and I thought it was a little unbalanced at the end.

2010 Mattebella “OWB”. Dark red to black in color and had a big nose of fresh rosemary and red licorice with bright and dusty fruit with silky tannins.

A home wine maker from Vermont poured his blueberry wine which wasn’t too bad, a touch sweet but balanced.

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