story and photos by Judson Lee, special to The City Wire
The educational and the festive combined as the Walton Art’s Center’s 12th Annual Art of Wine event continued in downtown Fayetteville last night (June 8th) with a Wine Tasting 101 class, as well as the yearly Friday night “Uncorked!” party, featuring more than 400 wine samples from around the world and hors d’oeuvres from several popular local eateries.
The evening began in the Starr Theater with The Wine Cellar’s sommelier Aleks Berry educating Wine Tasting 101 attendees on the finer qualities of wine and wine tasting, pairing, and buying. This is the first time the WAC included this educational class in the overall event, and around 40 eager patrons took the opportunity to broaden their knowledge and absorb Berry’s vinous wisdom.
“When I’m tasting wines, I look for four things: honesty, joy, nutrition (mental or physical), and aesthetics,” said Berry.
Berry taught attendees the intricacies of tasting as they sampled four different wines: Napa Cellars Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay, and Pinot Noir, as well as The Show Malbec. He touched on seven main points of observation: clarity, color, viscosity, legs, color, nose (smell), the swish, and sweetness (finish).
Over half of the attendees were new to the Art of Wine event overall, but Berry’s gregarious nature set minds at ease. He is quick with a joke, and at the end of the day his essential wine mantra told the crux of the story.
“It’s not about what you drink, it’s about who you drink with,” said Berry.
The main event — “Uncorked!” — kicked off around 7 p.m., with eager patrons lined up outside the foyer. Vineyards from around the world, their booths seemingly filling every nook and cranny of the center, were waiting to greet guests with samples ranging from the jammiest red wines, to the lightest whites, and even sparkling fare.
The savviest of the approximately 600 attendees quickly made their way to the limited supplies of premium wines on show. Two, in particular, that set taste buds aflutter were the Beaulieu Vineyards Georges de Latour from Napa Valley and the Almaviva Bordeaux from Chile, both of which regularly retail for near $100 per bottle.
Some of the bigger hits of the night also appeared to be the offerings from Bell Wine Cellars from Napa Valley. They had seven samples at their booth, and while they may not have the instant name recognition of a Latour, their wines are very much of the first-class variety. The two standouts from their servings were the Syrah and the Clone 6 Cabernet.
Another label that seemed to have tongues wagging were the wines on offer from Folie a Deux. Their Dry Creek Zinfandel and Cabernet Sauvignon, in particular, received many plaudits. The Alexander Valley vineyard’s wines retail from around $14 to $23 and represented one of the biggest bang for the buck samples available on the night.
Of course, as is always the case with the Art of Wine events, it is not all about the wine. The food on offer is of the highest quality and it is totally of the local variety. Some of Northwest Arkansas’ finest restaurants, such as Vetro 1925, Bordino’s, Brickhouse Kitchen, and 1936 Club, had very fine hors d’oeuvres on offer.
The Art of Wine is the Walton Arts Center’s most successful fundraising event on a yearly basis, and all proceeds benefit the organization’s education and outreach programs, which are estimated to serve more than 50,000 Arkansas school children this year.
The event concludes Saturday (June 9th) with the Wine Lover’s Brunch, the first annual Sparkling Wine Extravaganza, and the yearly Saturday night Premier Tasting, which features a display of the finest of wines not seen anywhere else in the country, outside of the Aspen Wine Festival, including labels such as Opus One, Dom Perignon, and Honig.