May 9, 2008
Worth the Trip

Let's wrap up the week with a lingering note from last weekend's Riverside International Wine Competition. Actually, the note has nothing to do with the competition per se, but with a ritual the night before. That's when the arriving judges are to bring to a welcoming reception and dinner a wine they'd especially like to share.

The wines were spread out on a table on a patio of the Mission Inn. Judges browsed the array, picked what grabbed their curiosity, and had a taste. Sometimes they talked about it, sometimes they looked for a potted plant in which to dump the rest.

I tasted one wine that so knocked me over I quietly grabbed the entire bottle and put it on the table where I'd be sitting when we convened for dinner. The wine was the wonderfully bright and fleshy Kelly Fleming Wines 2004 Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon. It was dark, juicy, sweetly plummy and perfectly balanced, with notes of both Napa Valley herbalness and hillside tar. And it lasted and lasted. It's my strongest candidate yet to be added to the next revision of my 10 Best Wines of the Year - So Far.

At about $85 a bottle, someone was really generous to bring and share the wine. I suspect that person was fellow judge Celia Welch Masyczek, a veteran Napa Valley winemaker now making the wines of Kelly Fleming. She didn't let on that she'd brought the wine, but she snagged a chair at the table where I'd put it.

In Sacramento, the wine is available for $86 at David Berkley Fine Wines & Specialty Foods. It's also available by the glass ($27), the bottle ($99) and the magnum ($199) at Paul Martin's American Bistro in Roseville. Why there? Could be because Kelly Fleming is the wife of Paul Martin Fleming, the entrepreneur behind several restaurants, incljuding Paul Martin's.

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