John Curtas is …

Indie Wineries Tasting at SENSI

Those in the know know knowing knowing wine people is as necessary as knowing wine.

Which is another way of saying you can’t possibly keep up with all that happens in the world of viticulture, so you’d better know who you can trust when buying a bottle.

For decades — centuries really — savvy consumers have known to look on the back of a bottle to see who the importer is. Because unless you have the time (and the pocketbook) to taste hundreds of wine a month, there’s no way to keep up with all of the interesting (and often idosyncratic wine)  that’s being produced from  Mendoza to Montecatini. That’s where trusted importers like Terry Theise,  Kermit Lynch,  and Neal Rosenthal come in. Their business is finding and making relationships with wineries that pass their highly evolved taste tests, and then presenting portfolios of these wines to retailers and restaurants for sales to the public.

And that’s where a small operation like Indie Wineries comes in. The brainchild of one Summer Winona Wolff, it is a tiny company dedicated to finding the sort of off-beat, intensely personal wines that are packed with personality and flavor. The name (and the portfolio we tasted) reminded us 0f another indie…as in rock. Like The Smiths, The Strokes and The White Stripes, these wines are for connoisseurs of complexity, and not for lovers of the graceless or the generic.

Wolff’s path to being a promoter of Italian, Slovenian and Austrian artisanal wines began in South Carolina of all places. Only 34, her work in restaurants started in Charleston eight years ago, and has taken her to New York, Italy (where she worked at the Felsina winery during harvest) then back to New York working for Sokolin importers, before turning her passion for small wineries into a full time business. She now splits her time between New York and Italy, and occasionally brings her show on the road to places like Las Vegas, where a dozen or so of her winemakers (yes, the actual winemakers, not some marketing person) actually show up, accents and all, to discuss the fine points of some mighty fine wines at some mighty fine price points.

Anyone, of course, can throw down for classified growth Bordeaux, a limited release California cab, or an over-advertised ode to mediocrity (pinot grigio anyone?) but the real fun in wine drinking is discovering a $30 bottle that packs as much punch as one costing three times as much. Those are the true joys of wines like these — but you have to be willing to try something new, trust the restaurant or retailer who stocks them, and let your imagination take flight.

That’s what ELV did when Martin Arndorfer of Arndorfer wines urged us to try his blend of Gruner Veltliner, Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc — called Anna die Leidenschaft.

“But I generally loathe Gruner,” ELV whined to the winemaker. “Too steely and too short on the palate.”

“Try thees…I zink you vill be eempressed,” he retorted.

And it was, and he was and we were.

Eating Las Vegas doesn’t have a list of where you can find these wines, but from the attendance at the tasting (at Sensi), and the accolades we were hearing from the likes of Master Sommeliers Jason Smith and Willi Scherer, we’re guessing the restaurants at the Bellagio and Aureole are a good place to start. Crush Wines Director Patrick Pretz also told us that Wynn/Encore carries a selection, and we at ELV are hoping that more than a few of Indie Wineries’ wines will be showing up at retailers like Khoury’s, Valley Cheese and Wine and Marche Bacchus soon.

Just ask to look at the back of the label.

3 Responses to Indie Wineries Tasting at SENSI

  • Hello Mr. Curtas: This comment does not pertain to SENSI, but to the James Beard semifinalists list which was released today. I am very disappointed that Las Vegas was not better represented among the various categories. BUT maybe I just have a soft spot for Las Vegas restaurants. I live in Portland, Oregon and have eaten at all the Portland restaurants that were nominated. Castagna is the only restaurant that measures up to the best Las Vegas has to offer.

    Thanks!
    Gary O.

  • ELV responds: Thanks Gary. I agree but the JBF Committee marches to its own drummer. I’ll post the full list in a minute.

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