Sunday, November 13, 2022

Little Rock Marriott Wine Tasting A Pinnacle Event

Wines of the world explored at Little Rock landmark.

By Dave Nershi, CSW

A Tip-Top Location

For the last several years I have hosted a wine tasting at the Southern Management Association conference. This year the conference was in Little Rock AR, a wonderful small city overlooking the Arkansas River. The headquarters hotel was the Little Rock Marriott.

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The Marriott has a wonderful location just steps from dozens of great restaurants and shops as well as the capital and the William J. Clinton Presidential Library. Standout restaurants include Flying Fish, Samantha’s Tap Room & Wood Grill, and @ The Corner. Of course, the Marriott has its own pub, which was a great location to grab a cold beverage.

Adjacent to the hotel is Riverfront Park, which encompasses 39 acres in downtown Little Rock on the south bank of the Arkansas River. The park is a stroller’s delight with a semi-formal arrangement of walks, terraces, plazas, and sitting areas. Right outside the Marriott’s Riverfront Room is the Vogel Schwartz Sculpture Garden which uses landscape architecture to showcase more than 90 works of art from sculptors in Arkansas and across the country.

Begin With Bubbly

My tasting took our group of about 25 to the tip-top of the hotel: The Pinnacle Room, which provides a 360-degree view from the 20th floor. The staff did an outstanding job setting up for the event. I began arranging and icing down bottles.

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I was delighted to see six bottles of chilled Josh Prosecco marching in the door. Although he couldn’t be with us for the event, the Little Rock Marriott GM David Lang is a wine aficionado and he sent the bubbly to start the event on a festive note. Thanks, David!

Josh is a well-known brand, but I didn’t realize they made Prosecco. In fact, I learned, they partnered with Italian winemaker Daniele Pozzi to launch their own Prosecco in 2019. Much like Champagne, the only Prosecco comes from a specific region, in this case, Italy.

This wine was frothy, with a touch of sweetness and apple and pear flavors. Our group raised a grand toast to the Marriott!

The tasting had a Wines Around the World theme. The lineup was

· Gassac “Folie” - NV - France (Pet-Nat style sparkling)

· Verus 2019 Furmint - Stajerska, Slovenia

· Netzl 2019 Zweigelt Classic - Caruntum, Austria

· Noble Hill 2019 Estate Reserve—Simonsberg, South Africa

Folie means madness and it’s also a French sparkling wine with a crown cap. This is in the style of a petulant-natural wine. This wine is bottled before fermentation is over and finishes in the bottle – resulting in fine bubbles with white flower flavors and fresh aromas. The flavor is also more robust than a typical sparkler.

Famous In Slovenia 

The Furmint grape has been present in Slovenia for more than 1,000 years. The Slovenian name for Furmint is sipon. Supposedly comes from the times of the Illyrian Provinces, when Napoleon’s soldiers, upon drinking the wine, exclaimed “c’est si bon” – which was interpreted as ‘šipon’ by the locals. Furmint is the grape used in Hungary's famous Tokaji dessert wine. The Verus version has a palate of tropical fruits like quince and kiwi. The finish is waxy and almost floral.

Zweigelt is a beautiful Austrian grape. The Netzl 2019 Zweigelt is ruby-garnet in the glass, with typical cherry fruit in the nose. This is a young and charming wine with a smooth, elegant palate and some spice notes.

It comes from a blend of several vineyards that enjoy the moderating influence of the River Danube and the Lake Neusiedlersee on their climate. This results in very ripe grapes with good tannins, high ripeness, and intensive and fresh aromas. This winery is in the village of Gottlesbrunn, known for its idyllic taverns offering local foods and wine. It’s a popular destination for day-trippers from Vienna

Key To A Great Wine

The 2019 Estate Reserve from Noble Hill comes from the Simonsberg region of South Africa. It’s a blend of 58% Cabernet Sauvignon, 23% Merlot, 11% Petit Verdot and 8% Cabernet Franc. South Africa represents a blending of the best of New World flavors with Old World winemaking. It truly excels in Bordeaux-style blends. We stayed in the Simonsberg area during our visit to the country and each winery surprised us in a good way.

The label is adorned with four keys, one for each of the varieties used in the blend. The wine has tastes of blackberries, plum, and a wee bit of mint. The oak is light, and the tannins are smooth.

We did have another surprise wine, Pol Solanelles brought a bottle of Spanish Macabeo from his family’s winery. What a treat! Cheers to the Little Rock Marriott for being a great venue and to our guests who made it special.

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