Very special vino at Celebrate the Grape 

A look at several of the top wineries appearing at the June 7 event.

Calling all oenophiles, grape nuts and wine lovers. You'll want to mark Friday, June 7, down in your calendar. That's when the Arkansas Times Celebrate the Grape is happening in downtown North Little Rock, in the Argenta Farmer's Market space, at Sixth and Main streets. There'll be more than 200 wines (see a full list here) representing all the major categories and varieties, from buttery chardonnays from Napa to rustic malbecs from Argentina. Think of it like a liquid buffet — a chance to sample a good slice of what's on the market for the price of one nice bottle of wine. Even better, the ticket price includes delicious food from Argenta Market, Cafe Bossa Nova, Crush Wine Bar, The Italian Kitchen at Lulav and Reno's Argenta Cafe, and music from Rodney Block & The Real Music Lovers and The Rex Bell Trio featuring Kasie Lunsford.

The event runs from 6 to 9 p.m. Tickets are $25 in advance, or $30 at the door. Buy them at celebratethegrape2013.eventbrite.com.

Arkansas Times Celebrate the Grape is sponsored by Mercedes of Little Rock, Riverside Subaru, and EGP PLLC Accounting Firm and benefits the Argenta Arts District.

Read on for a look at industry trends in Central Arkansas and short profiles of some of the key wineries participating in Celebrate the Grape.

Alta Vista

Combining the winemaking passion of the Old World with the unique grapes of Argentina, Alta Vista made a huge splash with the release of its malbec in 1998; the entire production sold out within a few hours and helped to spark a new tradition of top-quality Argentine wines. The d'Aulan family traces its roots to 13th century European nobility and owned a prominent Champagne house for more than a century. Count Patrick d'Aulan joined forces with Jean-Michel Arcaute, the late Bordeaux winemaker widely considered a visionary genius in the trade, to seek out interesting terroirs (the climate and geography of a place that make for distinctive grapes). They purchased vineyards in the Mendoza and Salta regions in Argentina, with exquisite conditions for the emblematic malbec and torrontes grapes. Based in the heart of Chacras de Coria, a small town just south of Mendoza city, the winery was originally built in the 19th century and was fully restored in 2003. Employing classic aging techniques and cutting-edge vine-growing technology, Alta Vista has managed a perfect French-Argentine fusion. In addition to malbec and torrontes, they'll be pouring cabernet sauvignon and chardonnay. DR.

Bell Wine Cellars

The signature wine of Bell Wine Cellars in Yountville, Calif., Clone 6 Cabernet, first crushed in 1991 by viticulturist Anthony Bell, will be poured at Celebrate the Grape. Bell developed Clone 6 as part of a cabernet sauvignon clone trial at Beaulieu Vineyards, where he worked more than a decade before founding Bell Wine Cellars in the Napa Valley. The Clone 6 rootstock (history available at bellwine.com) was found in an overgrown and abandoned wine grape experimental field station. Clone 6's aging process begins in the barrel for two years. The Napa Valley vineyard's claret, blended from select barrels of its cabernet, and its rose, produced from syrah juice, will also be poured. The vineyard's production has grown from 500 cases in 1991 to 15,000 today; Arkansas is Bell's biggest market outside California. LNP.

Charles Smith Wines

Sure, you can't judge a book by its cover. But Charles Smith certainly does not look the part of "respected winemaker." He's not the tanned, perfectly coiffed patriarch with the top three buttons undone on his very expensive shirt, smiling and looking off into the distance, surveying the glorious vineyard over which he presides. No, Smith is more like the enfant terrible of American winemakers, brash and bold, clad in a black T-shirt and jeans, unafraid of the sort of heroic partying that would flatten lesser men. Makes sense, though. Dude used to manage independent rock bands and he takes a similarly punk-rock, no-BS approach to winemaking, summed up by a quote featured prominently on the company's website: "It's just wine, drink it." But don't let that seeming nonchalance fool you: Smith loves wine deeply, and many of his creations have earned big-time accolades from wine-world heavyweights like Robert Parker. His Modernist Project wines are made to be consumed "without delay" and usually fall in the $12-$20 range. The popular Kung Fu Girl Riesling "kicks ass with tons of complexity," and the Boom Boom! Syrah's "fruit explodes in your mouth!" Both of these will be poured at Celebrate the Grape, along with the Eve Chardonnay, VINO Pinot Grigio, Velvet Devil Merlot, Chateau Smith Cabernet Sauvignon, Secco Bianco and Secco Sparkling Moscato. RB.

Constellation Brands



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