I was invited to the Grace Vineyard New Releases Tasting at their new Grace Vineyard Club on Yan’an Road in Shanghai yesterday afternoon. The clubhouse is located inside a majestic mansion just dripping with history and style.
I finally met Judy Leissner- the proprietress of the vineyard, one of China’s pioneering winemakers who I’ve admired from afar ever since I first tasted her Symphony series muscat last year. She told me the clubhouse is open to the public but isn’t being promoted to reserve for family and friends. The space is Ye Shanghai, with a fragrance of cigars, and even has a traditional kun opera stage.
The wine started flowing early at 3pm, and I managed to taste every one of the 11 new releases. All in a hard day’s work right? I started with with the whites;Symphony Series 2009, Chardonnay 2008, Premium Chardonnay 2008, Tasya’s Reserve Chardonnay 2007, Rose 2008, and rounded up with thePremium Cabernet Merlot 2008, Tasya’s Reserve Merlot 2008, 2009 Cabernet Sauvignon, Tasya’s Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon 2008, Deep Blue 2008, andChairman’s Reserve 2008.
Went back and forth but the winner was still the Symphony Series, it is aromatic, clean, and its fruity notes pair perfectly with Chinese food as well as on its own. It’s just like biting into a juicy muscat grape, or one of those amazing green gummies, but better. This is an immensely enjoyable wine, and you’d be hard-pressed to find anyone who dislikes it. At 188 RMB a bottle, you pay for the quality but its worth the treat every once in a while.
(Side note: the Symphony reminds me of the similarly named Obsession Symphony of California’s Ironstone vineyard, which is from the Symphony grape, a variety developed in 1948 at the UC Davis by cross-breeding muscat and grenache gris, and patented in 1983. Since the varietal is rare, there is a mad dash every summer in the LCBO as restaurants and consumers in the know snatched up all the casesin days.)
As the limited production of these smaller Chinese wineries mean the prices can be prohibitively high, this was the first time I tried many of the Tasya’s Reserve wines, and I was surprised at the strong, earthy aromas in the Tasya’s Reserve Chardonnay 2007 that carried through to the palate. Its well-balanced, has good citrus acidity and would be great with fish and grilled veggies. Actually all the wines went really well with the tapas catered by El Willy, I especially loved this wine with the smoky fish balls in tartar sauce. The Reserve Chardonnay is expensive at 218 RMB but at the mid-range of Grace’s offerings.
In the value section, the Rose 2008 won. It doesn’t stand out in any aspects, but the flavour is long, fresh and well-balanced, and at 60RMB a bottle, is a steal. Perfect for a summer aperitif.
Aside from the Symphony, the other one worthy of all its praise is the Chairman’s Reserve 2008. Named “one of the best Chinese wines” recently, it is very aromatic, with a bouquet of tobacco and liquorice, and perfectly balanced tannins. But at 488RMB a pop, you had better save it for a white tablecloth occasion when you’ve got some abalone and a master chef on hand.
After the tasting, we were treated us to a Kun Opera performance in the room next door. The makeup took over an hour to do. It’s rare to see Kun opera these days, so bravo to the Grace Vineyard team for putting together a perfect afternoon.