Last Thursday night 150 some odd Gary Vaynerchuk friends, fans and wine lovers attended his Boston Book Signing and Thunder Show tasting event at the Hotel Commonwealth downtown. The event certainly brought "the Thunder" featuring: a live filming of Thunder Show episode #494; a chance to meet Gary V while picking up a signed copy of his book; and - most impressively - a sample taste of the wines reviewed during the show. Attendees then headed downstairs to the Foundation Lounge for a special welcome cocktail, appetizers and their choice of libation (with wines from the show once again available at the bar). I must admit, though everyone gasped or groaned when Gary rated the wines between 86 points and 90 points, I was pretty impressed with the wines selected for the show given the regions that produced them. Four solid wines each having at least one unusual characteristic (hence the theme "Unusual Suspects") were on the wine flight. Vinha Alijibes winery in Albacete, Spain (Castella la Mancha region) took care of two of the wines, one a Sauvignon Blanc/Chardonnay blend and one a 100% Syrah rose.

What makes these selections so unique? First of all, Castilla La Mancha isn't one of the foremost wine making regions in Spain. You're probably more familiar with Rioja, Ribadera del Duero or Penendez (where Cava comes from). Second, when it comes to varietals used in each of these wines, these winemakers are definitely putting themselves out there. While Chard is a grape that can grow pretty much everywhere (albeit infrequently in Spain), Sauvignon Blanc is more often produced in the Loire Valley, California and New Zealand. As for the rose, Tempranillo and Grenacha are the dominant red grape varietals in Spain, with Grenacha often used for their rosado (rose) wines. Syrah is a relative new kid on the block in Spain and when used, is more often blended.

As for the reds, the 2006 Sur de los Andes Cab is, well... a Cab! From Argentina? Um, right. That's the thing. Gary may have been a bit misleading on the show, but Argentina is better known for its Malbecs; Cab's made there tend to really leave you wanting - a big glass of something else to wash away the green bell pepper flavors! At best, it is considered an 'up and coming' wine varietal there. But this Cab was a fan favorite among those that attended. And for $10, your near-impossible, under-$10-Cab search could end altogether.

Last but not least, the 2005 Palacio Quemado "PQ", another 100% Syrah attempt by Spaniards, but this time the full figured red kind. This selection is from the Ribera del Guadiana region, another lesser known wine producing region in Northish-Western Spain that essentially overlooks Portugal.

After the show ended Gary asked the crowd the following question: Do you like 1) mangos, 2) escargo and 3) sliders from White Castle? If you answered "yes" to ALL THREE of those, then you have the same palate as Gary. I answered yes to only one, mangoes. But Gary and I certainly share a similar philosophy about wine: get out there and taste!

Here's your "homework" then for this week: head out to The Wine Gallery or your local shop to pick up these wines. Taste them and then check out Gary V's episode featuring them. I'll post my own tasting notes later this week, too, for additional comparison. I'll look forward to your comments!

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