Kathleen Purvis

Tasting yields surprises among Merlots, roses

A Saturday morning that starts with Veuve Cliquot before noon usually means one of three things: A very wealthy friend is getting married. A very wealthy friend is getting divorced. Or it's time for the every-other-year Vintner Tasting at the Charlotte Wine & Food Weekend. Since I don't have wealthy friends – I have many friends, but none of us is rolling in the kind of dough that doesn't involve a pie – it must be the third one. And I didn't actually drink the Veuve. OK – I took a swallow or two. Champagne is one of the few wines I find almost impossible to swirl and spit. All those bubbles just beg to live. But the Veuve Cliquot table was a convenient place to start, sort of what chefs would call an amuse bouche – something to get me into the spirit while I took a quick stroll to make my list of must-try and can-skip wines. (Yes to King Estate, J. Lohr, Honig, Clos Du Val, Mollydooker, Saintsbury, Pride Mountain, Tablas Creek, Fiddlehead, Flora Spring, Blackbird, Trefethen and Silver Oak. No to ... nope, not going there. Every wine is somebody's favorite.) I've been going to the wine and food festival's Vintner Tasting since the years when the whole thing fit under a tent in the parking lot at Bonterra in Dilworth. This year it moved to the echoey atrium in Gateway Village, across from Johnson & Wales. Large wine-tasting events are too packed to allow more than a quick study. You get a sniff, a sip or two, and then it's time to move to the next set of bottles and let somebody else have a chance. But a few things stood out: