Valentine's Day Romance
Valentine’s Day remains a lasting symbol of romance and courtship although it is shrouded in legends, mystery and intrigue. It seems to have begun in ancient Rome with the festival of Lupercalia, celebrated in mid-February. This was a fertility ritual where men were paired with a partner.
Another account suggests the origin of this day dates back to the third century during the reign of emperor Claudius II Gothicus. The emperor had outlawed marriage of young men who he believed would perform better as soldiers without having a wife or family. A priest named Valentinus performed secret marriages for young lovers despite this decree. After his actions were disclosed, he was martyred on February 14th.
Champagne & Holiday Gift Giving
The French inspired estate of Domaine Carneros is a distinguished landmark in Carneros that has been crafting ultra premium méthode traditionelle sparkling wines for over three decades. This noteworthy winery and destination is situated near the crossroads of Napa and Sonoma Valley in Los Carneros, California. It serves as a symbolic beacon of accomplishments and the joint venture between the French family of Champagne Tattinger and the visionary leadership of founding winemaker Eileen Crane. In 2020, Remi Cohen acquired the reins as CEO of Domaine Carneros and has continued the legacy of defining luxury sparkling wines and estate grown Pinot Noir.
The Magic of Merlot
International Merlot Day is in November and it seems inevitable that we will be exalting this grape once again and revisiting its evolution. While many associate Merlot with our own personal experiences with this grape from California, there are many distinct personalities of this varietal from around the globe. Included in this long list is Merlot from California, Washington, France, Italy, Australia, Chile, Spain and other countries. Originating from the word “Merle,” Merlot means little blackbird in French. With its bluish-black color, Merlot can be a temperamental grape due to its early ripening ability coupled with its thin skins. This makes it more susceptible to spring frosts, disease and rot. Merlot can thrive in warmer climates but can also develop deep complexities in cooler growing regions. Given the right growing conditions and ideal soils, it can achieve its pinnacle in many wine-growing regions.
The Mystery Behind Zinfandel
Zinfandel is a distinctive red grape varietal that over the years has regained the respect it lost during the evolution of the illustrious White Zinfandel crusade of the 80’s. Its followers are typically fun loving and casual about their approach to wine, although they remain patriotic and extremely loyal to this grape. Its origin for the past several decades has been rather elusive with the discovery that it was a genetic match to the Primitivo grape from southern Italy’s coastal region of Puglia. Its DNA was also traced to the obscure Crljenak Kaštelanski, “the red grape of Kastela” and the 16th century Tribidrag grape from Croatia’s Dalmatian Coast. Regardless of its parents or surname, Zinfandel made the transatlantic journey to the United States in the 1800’s and became well established in the foothills of the Sierra Nevada during the gold rush period. By the 1880’s, nearly half of the plantings in California were Zinfandel.
Savor California's Finest Chardonnay
The most widely planted grape varietal in the world is Chardonnay. The earliest recorded history of this grape dates back to the 1300’s when it was planted by Cistercian monks in France. Its ancestral home originates within the east-central region of Burgundy. This region is also home to some of the most expensive renditions of this grape.
In California, Chardonnay remains the most widely planted white grape varietal in the state with over 100,000 acres of vineyards. The cool climate influence and Pacific fog of California’s North Coast offers the ideal breeding ground and microclimate for Chardonnay. There is an array of diverse styles from California stretching from the northern latitudes of Anderson Valley through Sonoma Coast, Carneros and Santa Cruz Mountains into the Santa Lucia Highlands and down past the southern fringes of Santa Barbara County.
Sicilia, or as most refer to it as Sicily, is an undiscovered paradise with countless hidden treasures of wines and grape varietals that are piquing the curiosity of consumers. According to a recent US Wine Survey by Colangelo & Partners “by a margin of two to one, respondents voted Sicily as the next hot wine region.” This secluded island offers a wealth of affordable pleasures spread throughout 24 wine growing terrains. In addition to Sicily being the largest island in the Mediterranean with 9,800 square miles of land, it retains the status as the largest wine growing region in all of Italy with nearly 242,000 acres of vineyards, 7,902 winegrowers and 530 wineries.
Memorable Holiday Offerings
Cathiard Estate in St Helena, Napa Valley is one of those awe-inspiring places with an identity that is immediately apparent. Daniel and Florence Cathiard, owners of Chateau Smith Haute Lafitte fame in Bordeaux, completed the purchase of this 200-acre property in 2020. In many ways, the future potential of this property is reminiscent of their grand cru classe estate in France’s Pessac-Léognan appellation. The Cathiards are poised to position their wines at the top tier of Napa’s elite.
The Enchanting Rhone Valley
Situated in southeastern France, the Rhone Valley has been producing wines for more than 2,000 years offering a spectrum of complex reds, whites and rose. Some believe they understand Rhone Valley wines since they tasted a Côtes du Rhône at one point in time. In reality, the Rhone Valley is much more expansive than many realize, and it would take several volumes of text and tired eyes to pay homage to the many producers and co-operatives within this vast region. Since each region has its own dominant grape varietal, it may be easiest to understand the geography of this ancient wine growing area by simply separating it into its two contrasting styles, the north and the south.
A Journey Through France
Loire Valley, known as the Val de Loire, is a picturesque destination and UNESCO World Heritage site located within central France. It is recognized as the third largest wine region in this country. Architecturally, it may be best known for its medieval, century old castles and historic towns that layer the countryside along with enchanting gardens and parks interspersed throughout the region. The Loire is the largest river in France stretching 634 miles and flows east to west. Its winding path begins in the upper, mountainous Massif Central sector of France sweeping its way through the towns of Nevers and Orleans, past Tours before reaching Nantes and emptying into the Atlantic Ocean. Along its banks are fortresses that date back to the 15-17th century with woodlands and vineyards overshadowing its banks and pushing inward.
Special Issue World-Class Pinot Noir
The expansive number of Pinot Noirs available on store shelves is an indication of our enduring love affair with this often refined, fruit forward and finesse driven grape. There have been few instances or articles written about a grouping of renowned producers from around the world that have been judged on the merits and authenticity of their Pinot Noir. We researched the elite producers and then reached out to those who merited global recognition as World-Class Pinot Noirs.
Toasting the Holidays
During the holiday season many of us may be searching for that perfect gift for a close friend or relative who has an appreciation of wine. Unfortunately, there is far too little information or honest advice available for us to make a decision about a unique bottle of wine. Many times, it can be challenging or even anxiety provoking to enter a wine shop and not know what to purchase. The selections can be overwhelming and often you just don’t know where to begin. What you need are some helpful hints or simple strategies for choosing that ideal present for those wine savvy friends or for someone who just enjoys a good bottle of wine every now and then. Here are the fundamentals:
Rediscovering Paso Robles
While recognized as the third largest wine-growing region in California, Paso Robles remains in an obscure and secluded region of California's Central Coast. Unlike the wine scene in Northern California, Paso Robles has the feel of a small town community that is bonded tightly together. Wineries and tasting rooms have a contemporary flare yet there is a down to earth feel within the entire region. Paso Robles has become more than a grape growing region with an infusion of culinary creativity, community and diverse winemaking personalities that are dedicated to pursuing a passion for producing some of the finest Cabernet Sauvignon, Bordeaux-styled blends and Rhone varietals in the world. This is why Paso Robles remains one of the hidden jewels of California
As we enter the final phase of summer, there is still ample opportunity to fire up the grill, savor a glass of wine and relax on the patio with friends. This might be the ideal opportunity to indulge in the comforts of a spice-rubbed leg of lamb with a robust Zinfandel or perhaps a chilled glass of Sauvignon Blanc or rose´ alongside a wood grilled halibut with lime butter sauce. The best advice might be to keep it simple while basking in the warm outdoor weather and catching a glimpse of sunset.
2020 Bordeaux En-Primeur
Given the continuing pandemic, it was unlikely that many would attend this year’s En-Primeur tasting in Bordeaux, France to review the 2020 wines. Despite the adversity, Bordeaux producers were optimistic of the quality of their wines and chose to ship samples internationally for remote tastings.
The outcome was not a simple hyperbole, but more of a defining moment in the history of Bordeaux as the acclaimed wines from the 2020 vintage succeeded in securing their status in the Triple Crown. This year’s success comes on the heels of two previously noteworthy and collectable Bordeaux vintages from 2018 and 2019.
Have you ever considered why red blends continue to dazzle consumers and remain one of the hottest trends in the wine market? Perhaps it is their eye catching, colorful labels with quirky, offbeat names that you will immediately remember or may want to quickly forget. There is Fat Bastard, Mad Housewife, Broke Ass, Sassy Bitch and too many others to mention in a short piece. Admittedly, the names can be amusing, but what lies underneath can be quite serious
21st Century Riojas
Spain is a captivating country of mountainous landscapes, lush fertile plains and Mediterranean seascapes. In the countryside there is a mosaic of unique soils and varying microclimates that make Spain a paradise for grape growing. There are the elegantly styled, textured reds of La Rioja, robust, mouth-filling reds from Priorat and Ribera del Duero, old vines renditions from Toro and the bold, inky wines of Monastrell from Jumilla. Alongside, are a collection of light bodied, citrus-driven whites of Albarino, aromatic Verdejo’s and mineral scented Godello’s, complimented by refreshing rosado (rose’), and finely tuned sparkling Cava’s. Let’s not forget the nutty and complex, aged Spanish Sherries, which predate the Roman Empire, from the town of Jerez. Of these notable growing regions
A Worldly Celebration of Pinot Noir
There are few destinations in the world where you can fully immerse yourself in the culture and community of finely crafted Pinot Noir. In the United States this sweet spot is
Willamette Valley, Oregon. On July 26-28 the 33 rd International Pinot Noir Celebration (IPNC) commenced in the heart of Willamette Valley on the Linfield College campus in McMinnville, Oregon. A yearly pilgrimage for Pinot Noir enthusiasts, the 2019 IPNC attracted 830 participants along with many of the most well respected winemakers and pioneers of Pinot Noir in the world. Since its inception in 1987, IPNC has attracted over 17,535 wine enthusiasts to this acclaimed wine-growing region. Seventy-eight featured wineries representing Burgundy, Austria, Alsace, Champagne, Germany, New Zealand, Canada and Chile along with Oregon and California, participated in this three-day venue.
Oregon Chardonnay Gains World Acclaim
Why has there been an increasing fascination, and of course consumption, of Chardonnay from Willamette Valley, Oregon? Statistics reveal that this grape in the near future may overtake Pinot Gris as the second most widely planted grape in the state. In all likelihood, Pinot Noir will always hold the coveted number one spot. The charisma of this varietal is well-known among Oregonians, yet interest in this grape is spreading beyond their borders. The resurgence of interest in Chardonnay from Willamette Valley may be attributed to factors including clonal selections, geographical vineyard location, advances in vineyard management and winemaking techniques. More importantly, consumers have been attracted to this cool climate grape in Oregon because it is lively and expressive, laced with minerality and mixed with an overflow of stone yellow fruits.
Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon Unveiled
One of the most frequented travel destinations in the world with nearly 500 wineries laced throughout the valley floor and mountainside, Napa Valley is a captivating and romantic indulgence. It combines casual elegance, culinary genius and an endless sensory experience of artisan wines in which Cabernet Sauvignon dominates.
A little more than an hour across the Bay Bridge from San Francisco, you enter the narrow corridor of Highway 29 guiding you through the soul of Napa. Nestled between the Mayacamas Mountains on the west and the Vacas Range on the east, the visual splendor of rolling hills and lush green vineyards of the valley stretches 30 miles long.
The Essence of Champagne
Champagne is a name bestowed on a prestigious winegrowing region that resides 93 miles northeast of Paris. This expansive enclave has a reserved character that is steeped in Old World history. It is a community of understated elegance with a geographic identity that extends beyond any other province in the world. The historic perspective of Champagne dates back to the 5th century when the Romans excavated deep mines into the rigid chalk and limestone soils that encircle the city.These caves, called “crayeres” served as a protective lifestyle for the city of Reims and the French underground during the wars of 1914-1918. Within a community of markets and hospitals, quarries protected soldiers and residents during the German invasions. The subterranean matrix of tunnels is cool and dimly lit with high cathedral-like ceilings that dwell 125 feet below ground. Ruinart was one of the first Champagne houses to use these ancient cellars for the aging and maturing of their cuvées.
The Pedigree of
Russian River Valley
While some are familiar with the intricate flavor profile of Pinot Noir and Chardonnay, most are unaware of the grandeur and distinction these wines can achieve in Russian River Valley. Russian River Valley is an idyllic growing region along the northwest coastal fringes of Sonoma County. It’s close proximity to the Pacific Ocean favors a fog-laden grape growing region with redwood forests set as a backdrop. Wines from Russian River Valley are often referenced to as Burgundian in style, as they are among the most captivating of worldly wines with a spectrum of aromatic red and black spices framed with complex minerals and textures.
Far from Ordinary
This winter, Australia has been much on my mind. After watching news report after news report about the devastating fires which seemed to encircle the entire continent/country of Australia, and hearing of the decimation of so many of Australia’s iconic animal species, I was being constantly reminded of things that I had seen and experienced in my travels to this unique country.
For decades, much of the general public had perceived the wines of Australia as essentially two varieties: Chardonnay and Shiraz (usually with labels that have some sort of cute animal prancing around.) As we got more comfortable with wines coming from such an exotic place, we were then suddenly surprised to find that winegrowing in Australia didn't just start in the 1970's! Imagine that!
Essential Whites for Summer Sipping
Given the circumstances, it may be difficult to think of anything outside of the spread of Covid-19. We are overwhelmed by statistics and the illness that surrounds us in our state and local communities. It may be time to step back and reflect on our good fortune and blessings, memories from the past and the friendships we've shared. We can look forward to creating new experiences and be cautiously optimistic about the near-term future. Aside from our immediate concerns, we may benefit by looking to the horizon as the emergence of summer is upon us.
During these times, I find myself consuming less wine with the companionship of others, yet I am happily partaking in virtual tastings. Needless to say, I dare to imagine the summer solstice when hopefully we will gain some normality in our lives.
The Grandeur of Bordeaux
This year unfolded in an unusual fashion with the global pandemic. As events and gatherings were canceled around the world, time also stood still in Bordeaux, France. Usually in late March, a pilgrimage of over 6,000 people, most of whom are wine professionals and journalists, converge on Bordeaux for an early preview tasting of wines that are still resting in barrels. In this case it was the wines from the 2019 vintage. Referred to as en-primeur, this glimpse of quality sets the tone for worldwide interest as scores are assessed and prices are etched in stone soon afterwards. Due to Covid-19, this year’s en-primeur venue in Bordeaux was placed on pause.
Rose´ Throughout theYear
The popularity of rose´ continues to surge in the U.S. as it may well become the fashionable beverage of choice throughout the year. Americans have an unquenchable thirst for rose´ with young consumers sharing the greatest interest in these visual beauties. It has been referred to as the “Champagne of Millennials.” Although wine sales in restaurants have declined since the beginning of the Covid-19 pandemic, taking up the slack have been increases in retail and online purchases as people choose to dine in at home.
Natural Treasures of Tuscany
Tuscany is a picturesque countryside with a romantic identity that can never be forgotten. Its capital is Florence, the birthplace of the Renaissance and the cultural revolution of scholars and influential artists of Donatello, Michelangelo and Leonardo da Vinci. Outside this historic enclave is the inescapable beauty of lush rolling landscapes, olive groves and stunning hilltop vineyards surrounded by medieval towns and quaint rural villages such as Greve, Panzano and San Gimignano. Yet, Tuscany is most recognized for its illustrious wines.
A Time to Gather
Together With Wine
As autumn colors disappear, the Thanksgiving holiday is quickly upon us. It is a cherished time of year as we gather at the dinner table to express our gratitude with our family and celebrate an all-American feast. Instinctively, wine is chosen as the essential catalyst for these bountiful seasonings. While some might insist that you adhere to steadfast rules with regard to what is poured alongside an oven roasted fowl, it is more a matter of balancing flavors, occasionally with some minor adjustments, while walking the line and pleasing the relatives.
Champagne & Holiday Wine Buying
I can’t help it. Whenever the Winter Holidays approach, I begin to really crave wines that are loaded with bubbles. It’s not that I don’t like them during the other seasons, but there is just something about bubbly and the ending of another year that makes me feel somewhat like the Roman god, Janus. I find myself looking both backward to the past and forward to the future. (If THIS year, 2020, doesn’t make you want to look forward to the future, I’d like to have some of whatever you’re having...)