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Climate Change and Canada’s Icewine Industry

7 hours 2 min ago

Jamie Slingerland spends a lot of time checking the weather.

As director of viticulture for Pillitteri Estates Winery in Niagara-on-the-Lake, Ontario, he needs the temperature at 17–18°F to harvest grapes for ice wine. Slingerland used to pick grapes in late December, but he says warming temperatures have shifted harvest times and fewer frigid nights have made the crop less predictable.

“In the years since I started harvesting ice wine grapes, the windows of cold temperatures have become less and we’ve had fewer and fewer opportunities to harvest,” says Slingerland. “We used to pick two or three times between Christmas and the New Year. Now, that happens once every five to seven years.”

Canada is the largest producer of ice wine in the world. The crop generates more than $6.8 billion annually, but climate change could thaw the thriving industry.

“Europe used to be a competitor of ours in the ice wine industry, but they’ve had extremely warm winters these last five or six years and there has been no real ice wine crop… I worry that we will have a similar situation here.” –Jamie Slingerland, director of viticulture, Pillitteri Estates Winery

To make ice wine, grape varieties like Vidal Blanc, Riesling, Cabernet Franc and Cabernet Sauvignon are left to freeze on the vine, ideally thawing and refreezing multiple times throughout the season. The grapes are harvested while frozen, which ensures water in the fruit has separated from the sugars. Once pressed, the resulting juice is concentrated and sticky sweet, ideal for producing Icewine.

Data shows a steady decrease in the number of days where it’s been cold enough to harvest grapes for ice wine. In January 1977, there were 26 days below 18°F. By January 2007, the number of suitable days fell to just three.

To complicate matters, warming temperatures make vines more sensitive to cold, prone to freeze damage and reduce their ability to survive extreme cold. That’s caused significant reductions in yield, according to one study.

Growers are worried about the impact of climate change on ice wine production, according to Gary Pickering, researcher at the Cool Climate Oenology and Viticulture Institute at Brock University.

“I think the big concern is what lies ahead,” says Pickering.

Harvest for Icewine at Pillitteri Estates Winery in Niagara-on-the-Lake, Ontario / Photo courtesy Pillitteri Estates Winery The Race to Adapt Heats Up

Although Pillitteri Estates Winery has never missed a harvest, Slingerland admits that it’s become more difficult to gather the 50 acres of ice wine grapes needed during an ever-shrinking window of cold temperatures.

In 2002, temperatures dropped below 18°F on just two nights. A crew of 65 raced to get the grapes off the vines. Slingerland decided manual harvesting was no longer sustainable. The vineyard started to adopt mechanical harvesters. It allows the team to harvest the full crop, as regulations require picking to cease when temperatures warm up.

“Climate change has definitely impacted our grape growing and wine industry here and our ability to produce ice wine, but we, the growers, the wineries, have adapted to that change,” he says.

Mechanical harvesting is just one of the ways that growers have adjusted to a changing climate. In Ontario, vineyards are being planted further north, which has created new wine regions in areas like Prince Edward County and Georgian Bay.

“I have to ever put a positive spin on climate change,” says Pickering. “But we can migrate north. We have a lot of land up there, and we have to realize that we might fare better than most because of our geography.”

The Great Ice Wine Tradition of the American Midwest

Growers also now plant varieties once considered unsuitable to the Niagara region. Pickering cites climate change as the main reason growers are devoting increased acreage to Italian red grape varieties, like Sangiovese and Nebbiolo.

“What we’re seeing in Niagara already, and what we predict to see much more of, is much greater success with warmer and even hotter-climate varieties…because we know we’ll get warmer temperatures during the ripening season and see less extreme cold events during winter,” says Pickering.

This most recent season, the first 18°F night the Niagara wine region on November 22. Grapes harvested too soon are less sweet and produce less complex ice wines than those that remain on the vines through several freeze/thaw cycles.

“I don’t have enough [Icewine] to get us through another year, so we’d have to harvest next year, but with the weather, we never know what we’re going to get.” –Fraser Mowat, owner, Harbour Estates Winery

Based on the condition of the grapes in the fall, Fraser Mowat, owner of Harbour Estates Winery, decided not to produce ice wine this season. It’s the first year that the Niagara winery hasn’t produced an Icewine vintage since 1999.

“We had enough inventory to carry us through the year,” says Mowat. “I don’t have enough [ice wine] to get us through another year, so we’d have to harvest next year, but with the weather, we never know what we’re going to get.”

Slingerland, concerned that the weather might force him to miss a harvest, has started to build an inventory of ice wine. Pillitteri Estates Winery produced 300,000 liters of ice wine last season, and it plans to continue the practice to protect against weather-related losses. But Slingerland admits it’s not a guarantee.

“Europe used to be a competitor of ours in the ice wine industry, but they’ve had extremely warm winters these last five or six years and there has been no real ice wine crop in Europe,” he says. “I worry that we will have a similar situation here. We have enough inventory to carry us through the next ice wine harvest, [but] could we withstand two years in a row? It’d be extremely, extremely hard for us.”

Bruce Nicholson, winemaker at Inniskillin, who has produced Icewine for three decades A Chilly Response to Climate Concerns

If temperatures continue to rise over the coming decades, Pickering believes the viability of ice wine production in the Niagara region could be jeopardized.

New research claims that 60% of Canadian wine growers believe climate change has an impact on their vineyards. Some have implemented changes to adapt, but others remain skeptical.

Mowat isn’t willing to blame climate change for skipping the grape harvest this year. Instead, he calls the earlier-than-usual freeze “an anomaly,” something that can happen with any agricultural product.

“[N]o matter what’s happening climate-wise, we are always, as farmers…at the mercy of the weather,” he says.

“[Icewine] does come with risks, there’s no question about it, and that’s why it’s such a unique product. And it’s a product Canadians do so well.” –Bruce Nicholson, winemaker, Inniskillin

In Niagara-on-the-Lake, Ontario, Inniskillin winemaker Bruce Nicholson has produced ice wine for three decades. While he admits that hitting 18°F in late November 2018 made him a little nervous, he remains optimistic.

“In all of the conversations I’ve ever had about ice wine, [climate change] has never come up,” he says. “ I’ve lived here long enough…and we’re not going to get through December, January and February without having that opportunity to pick…so I don’t lose one minute of sleep thinking, ‘Is climate change going to keep us from doing ice wine next year or the year after that?’ ”

Producing a product dependent on a precise temperature is risky business, Nicholson admits, but that is part of the appeal of ice wine.

“It does come with risks, there’s no question about it, and that’s why it’s such a unique product,” he says. “And it’s a product Canadians do so well.”

Gin, Ireland’s Fastest Growing Spirit

10 hours 58 sec ago

Though Ireland is often associated with stout and whiskey, another beverage may speak better to the locality: gin. It’s the fastest-growing spirits category among Irish consumers, thanks to increased domestic production. From Lough Erne in the north to Kinsale on the southern coast, there are now 22 gin distilleries spread across the Emerald Isle, most of which use native botanicals to showcase its terroir. Here are three to try.

Dingle Distillery

The distillers here began making gin while their whiskey was maturing, but production soon became a separate, well-researched endeavor to create a flavor profile of the coastline. Located along Ireland’s Wild Atlantic Way, the longest defined coastal drive in the world, Dingle adds provenance to its Original Gin by macerating in botanicals like rowan berry, fuchsia, bog myrtle, hawthorn and heather sourced from surrounding County Kerry. It results in an herby, floral character that balances nicely with the baseline juniper and speaks to the area’s green, seaside landscape.

Poitin, Ireland’s Original Illegal Spirit, is Making a Comeback Glendalough Distillery

Glendalough is based in the Wicklow Mountains, an area that Kevin Keenan, the distillery’s co-founder/creative director, says is known as the “Garden of Ireland.” The company employs a full time forager to pick botanicals each distillation day, which ensures their freshness and has allowed for a seasonal range. Meanwhile, more unusual native botanicals, like ox eye daisies and water mint, are used to add complex layers to Glendalough’s Wild Botanical bottling. And its Ginteresting Series, featuring limited runs of the label’s most experimental infusions, has included gins made with local dillisk (seaweed) and wild blackberry.

Blackwater Distillery

Regional history is paired with regional botanicals to give this distillery’s gin a sense of place. It’s in County Waterford, which, in the Victorian era, was a major port for all sorts of exotic products. Shipping company White’s of Waterford was the country’s biggest spice importer at the time, and it “landed plenty of pickling spices for food preservation now largely unloved and unused,” says Peter Mulryan, the distillery’s founder. Though Blackwater relies on a traditional gin recipe, its No.5 bottling only uses botanicals that White’s imported during the 19th century. “One of those was myrtle pepper, and it’s fab,” says Mulryan. “It’s at the heart of Blackwater No.5.”

Gnocchi di Patate alla Trentina

February 16, 2019 - 8:30am

Little potato dumplings, or canederli dumplings made from stale bread, are served with speck, the signature cured pork of the Trento region in Northeastern Italy. Smoky meat and starchy dumplings make for a rich dish, but the freshness of local traditional-method sparkling wines will cut right through. The creamy texture of a riserva, which undergoes at least 36 months of bottle maturation on the lees during secondary fermentation, will stand up to the deliciously salty, starchy meal.

Meet Col Fondo, the Bottle-Fermented Prosecco

It’s a Golden Era for French Red Wines

February 15, 2019 - 1:00pm

A succession of superb vintages from 2015 to 2017 has produced some of the best red wines in recent decades throughout the southern and northern Rhône. Wine­makers and critics will be debating for years which vintage reigned supreme. Meanwhile, for consumers, it’s simply an unmissable opportunity to drink up.

The 2015 vintage will be remembered for its power and structure. The Grenache-based wines of the south are intensely ripe and concentrated, while even in the north—where Syrah is known for its elegance and cutting acidity—the reds are uncharacteristically hedonistic. In both cases, cellaring before opening is recommended, as massive tannins make these wines ­exceptionally ageworthy and almost unapproachable when young.

The 2016 vintage was marked by ripeness and intensity calibrated by freshness and detail. In the south, wines are ripe and deeply concentrated but keenly balanced by minerality, acidic cut and structured tannins. In the north, a cooler and more classic vintage produced wines with exceptional fruit purity and sleeker tannins.

Wine­makers and critics will be debating for years which vintage reigned supreme.

Reds from the 2017 vintage are just hitting the market, but are already exhibiting a fantastic mix of ­concentration and elegance.

Here’s the bad news: Maladies like frost, hail and mildew devastated yields in the southern Rhône in 2017. Prices have undoubtedly crept upwards for iconic appellations like Châteauneuf-du-Pape and Gigondas. However, excellent value can still be found in the crus of Vacqueyras, Rasteau and Lirac. Treasures also abound in regional bottlings of Côtes-du-Rhône Villages and underappreciated appellations like Costières de Nîmes and Luberon.

Recent yields in the north have been healthier than the south, but the north produces less than 5% of all Rhône Valley wines by quantity. In recent years, prices for Côte-Rôtie, Hermitage and Cornas have all risen. Remarkable values are still found from less expensive appellations like Crozes-Hermitage and Saint-Joseph.

A Guide to the Wines of the Southern Rhône

Delas Frères 2015 Seigneur de Maugiron (Côte-Rôtie); $67, 94 points. Ripe, juicy blackberry and mulberry flavors are muted by darker shades of dried garrigue, bramble and earth in this bold but balanced Syrah. It’s black-fruit flavors are luscious and youthful still, vibrantly edged with acidity and briskly textured tannins. Enjoyable now it should improve through 2035 and hold further. Maison Marques & Domaines USA. 

Alain Jaume et Fils 2016 Domaine du Clos de Sixte (Lirac); $30, 93 points. Fleshy plum and black-cherry flavors are juxtaposed by dark shades of anise, crushed granite and sage in this bold, richly textured wine. Polished and penetrating, the wine is lifted by tangs of crushed mineral on the midpalate. It drinks beautifully now but should continue to improve through 2026. Kysela Père et Fils.

Domaine des Coteaux des Travers 2016 Mondona (Rasteau); $22, 92 points. Pretty violet and pristine blackberry aromas are touched by crushed earth in this plush, fruit-forward blend of Grenache, Syrah and Carignan. It’s primary and pure in fruit character but deeply concentrated. Fresh acidity and ripe, chalky tannins mark the finish. Enjoy now–2024. Charles Neal Selections.

Louis Bernard 2015 Gigondas; $35, 92 points. Intensely ripe black-cherry and mulberry aromas are muted by shades of forest floor, porcini and dried violet in this full-bodied wine. The black fruit flavors are lavishly fruity but balanced by complexities of earth, leather and charcuterie. This inviting but stately wine should drink well through 2025. Boisset Collection.

Pierre Henri Morel 2016 Châteauneuf-du-Pape; $47, 92 points. Ripe black cherry and raspberry are accented by sweet spice and whiffs of banana bread in this Grenache-dominant red. Fine, feathery tannins mark the finish. Full bodied and opulent, it’s already approachable but has enough concentration to improve through 2026 and hold further. Saranty Imports.

E. Guigal 2015 Crozes-Hermitage; $28, 91 points. The nose is subtle on this elegant Syrah but the palate opens gradually to introduce layer upon layer of silky, sun-kissed blackberry and plum flavors. It’s ripe but restrained, muted by a granitic mineral tone and crisp red-currant acidity. The long finish lingers on fine, framing tannins. Ready now it should improve through 2025, hold further. Vintus LLC.

Brotte 2016 Création Grosset (Cairanne); $15, 90 points. This well-priced Grenache-blend is buoyantly perfumed, offering loads of ripe black-cherry and blackberry notes shaded with thyme, wild mint and juniper. It’s a rich and spicy sip with a long, juicy finish. Enjoy now–2024. Best Buy. Monsieur Touton Selection Ltd.

Famille Perrin 2016 Red (Côtes du Rhône Villages); $15, 90 points. Inviting black-cherry and plum flavors are nuanced by layers of bramble, garrigue and forest floor in this impeccably balanced wine. Black-fruit characteristics are ripe and pristine, finishing on fine-grained tannins and a peppering of sweet anise. It’s a fantastic value to enjoy now through 2021.Vineyard Brands. Best Buy.

M. Chapoutier 2017 Belleruche Red (Côtes du Rhône); $17, 89 points. Intensely ripe blackberry and plum flavors are pristine and lip smacking in this fruit-forward yet elegant wine. Soft and plummy on the palate, it has a hint of granite minerality. Ripe, feathery tannins accentuate its rounded appeal. Enjoy now–2021. Terlato Wines International.

Tortoise Creek 2015 Le Charmel (Costières de Nîmes); $12, 88 points. Made from 70% Syrah and 30% Grenache, this rich, meaty wine juxtaposes rich black-cherry and plum flavors against layers of charcuterie, coffee grinds and bramble. It’s plump and mouthcoating, enveloped in fine, easy tannins offset by welcome briskness on the finish. Enjoy now–2021. Winesellers, Ltd. Best Buy.

A Tour of Australia’s Historic Wineries

February 15, 2019 - 10:30am

Envision a noble stone winery, one where cobwebs intertwine bottles that lie sleeping in a hand-dug cellar below. Outside, gnarled vines older than any living human penetrate deep into soils formed some 200 million years ago.

You’re picturing somewhere in Europe, right? France, perhaps? Italy?

Actually, this is Australia. Home to many of the planet’s oldest vines, this New World country boasts a rich history of wine production that stretches to the mid-1800s. Dozens of these lovingly preserved wineries still dot the landscape, vinous gems that can feel as though the winemaker went out for lunch 150 years ago and never returned.

Take a step back in time to ten of Australia’s most treasured historic wineries.

Workers in the Concongella Vineyard circa 1900 / Photo courtesy of Best’s Great Western Best’s Great Western Great Western/Grampians, Victoria
Founded in 1866

Most famous wines: Bin No. 0 Shiraz, Sparkling Shiraz, Old Vine Pinot Meunier, Foudre Ferment Riesling

Past: Like many at the time, brothers Joseph and Henry Best turned to wine in the wake of a waning gold rush. In 1865, Joseph planted vines at what’s now Seppelt winery, another historic Australian gem. A year later, Henry purchased nearby land, and Best’s was born. He and his family planted the land to vineyards in 1867, while miners assisted him in building a winery and underground cellar that are still in use today. Upon Henry’s death in 1920, Best’s was purchased by Frederick P. Thomson, a neighboring winegrower. Today, Thomson’s grandson, Eric Viv Thomson, is the fourth-generation vigneron, with more than 50 consecutive vintages to his credit.

Present: Best’s is a history lover’s paradise. Beneath ancient red gum slabs and surrounded by relics, visitors can sip current releases and often some older vintages, too. Tour the perfectly preserved underground cellars, or head outside to the Nursery Block vineyards, which may be the most extensive pre-phylloxera plantings in the world. The 39 varieties planted, eight of which are so rare they remain unidentified, are made into a white and a red field blend that are available only in the tasting room.

From left: Paul Gotthard and Johanne Mathilde Henschke with family in 1898 / Photo courtesy of Henschke Henschke Eden Valley, South Australia
Founded in 1868

Most famous wines: Hill of Grace, Mount Edelstone, Julius Riesling, Cyril Henschke Cabernet Sauvignon, Henry’s Seven

Past: The Barossa Valley and neighboring Eden Valley possess an embarrassment of riches. They boast ancient vines, historic stone buildings and families long entrenched in the area’s development. But few can claim a 151-year-old lineage that traces to the region’s earliest settlers like Stephen Carl Henschke can. He and his wife, Prue, have been tireless champions here. Stephen took the reins from his father, Cyril, in 1979, though the family’s stewardship extends five generations to 1868, when the first commercial sale of Henschke bottling was recorded as a single-vineyard table wine. The style was out of step from the fortified wines that were in fashion at the time, showing remarkable vision.

Present: Henschke’s stone winery and tasting room built in the 1860s are modest, considering the brand’s iconic status. They represent Henschke’s past and present: low ceilings and narrow archways, portraits of family members, open concrete fermenters and an old basket press. While the winery is romantic, it’s the Hill of Grace Vineyard that really takes one back in time. Planted in the 1860s, the gnarly vines of Australia’s most famous vineyard are perched, like sentinels, across from a Lutheran church of the same age.

Left: Murray Tyrrell in 1963; Right: Tyrrell’s cellar door and old hut / Photos courtesy of Tyrrell’s Tyrrell’s Wines Hunter Valley, New South Wales
Founded in 1858

Most famous wines: Vat 1 Semillon, Vat 8 Shiraz-Cabernet, Vat 9 Shiraz, Stevens Single Vineyard Shiraz

Past: The Tyrrell’s family tree can be traced to the early 11th century, when Walter Tyrrell arrived in England with William the Conqueror. Fast forward to 1858, when Edward Tyrrell snapped up one of the last available properties in the Hunter Valley, two hours north of Sydney, and founded the namesake winery. Tyrrell’s infrastructure was built in 1863, and the brand’s first vintage was 1864. Today, the family produces some of the country’s finest and most ageable Semillon.

Present: Tyrrell’s is like a living shrine. The original slab hut, built in 1858, beckons those who visit to delve deeper into the family’s beginnings. In the winery, rows of old oak vats stand against walls of corrugated iron, one of Australia’s most iconic building materials. In the tasting room, portraits of the Tyrrells of yesteryear keep watch as you taste the fruits of their descendants’ labor, but history speaks loudest from the vines themselves. Tyrrell’s owns seven of the Hunter Valley’s 11 blocks of own-rooted vineyards that are more than 100 years old. Each one is a reminder of the Hunter’s important role in Australian wine history.

Max Schubert circa 1970s / Photo courtesy of Penfolds Penfolds Magill Estate Adelaide Hills, South Australia
Founded in 1844

Most famous wines: Grange, St. Henri, Bin 707, RWT

Past: Penfolds may be Australia’s most famous export, but it’s also one of its most historic producers. Established in 1844, Dr. Christopher Penfold and his wife, Mary, planted French vine cuttings they brought on their voyage from England on nearly 500 acres just east of Adelaide. As demand for the doctor’s medical services grew, Mary increasingly took over viticulture and winemaking at the estate. She expanded the business exponentially before passing it on to her daughter, Georgina, in the late 1800s. By 1907, Penfolds had become South Australia’s largest winery. Since the shift from fortified bottlings to table wines starting in the 1940s, there have been just four chief winemakers here.

Present: On the outskirts of Adelaide, the juxtaposition of this urban winery as both contemporary and historic is striking. While the tasting room reflects Penfold’s sleek modernism, the underground cellars evoke history. An array of famous figures—like Helen Keller, who visited in 1948—have lurked in its lairs. It’s also where Penfolds’s first chief winemaker, Max Schubert, made his famed Grange wine in secret, before his peers accepted the atypical blend. Back above ground, Grange Cottage, the original 1844 home, is a beautiful glimpse into the lives of the founding Penfolds. Nearby, the 118-year-old still house is where some of Penfolds’s first spirits were made.

Sandra and Guill de Pury in 2013 / Photo courtesy of Yeringberg Yeringberg Yarra Valley, Victoria
Founded in 1863

Most famous wines: Chardonnay, Marsanne-Roussanne, Red blend

Past: One of Yarra Valley’s earliest winegrowers, the family-run Yeringberg remains as low tech as it was when Swiss Baron Frédéric Guillaume de Pury purchased part of the original Yering Station in 1863. The region’s winegrowing fortunes plunged in the early part of the 20th century, and the last of Yarra’s original vines were pulled out in 1921. The Yeringberg winery sat untouched until 1969, when the Baron’s grandson, Guill, replanted vines. He was one of the first to revive the local wine industry, which now thrives.

Present: Yeringberg is now run by Guill’s daughter, Sandra. The winery invites the public to visit just twice a year, but that’s not without its advantages. Partly because it has seen so little foot traffic, the winery is almost exactly as it was during the time of Sandra’s great-grandfather. Like a glimpse back in time, a horse-drawn carriage gathers dust beside a large vat and hand-operated corker, while tools from a small cooperage sit nearby. Up a set of narrow wooden stairs, small carts are parked along railway tracks, seemingly halted midway through receiving and transporting grapes. In the active cellar, new barrels sleep beside antique tools. The winery is a rare and treasured relic, yet still a fully functional operation with an annual production of 20,000 bottles.

The Supreme Australian Cabernet Sauvignon Regions Mount Pleasant Hunter Valley, New South Wales
Founded in 1921 (First vines planted 1880)

Most famous wines: Maurice O’Shea Shiraz, Lovedale Semillon

Past: Considered one of Australia’s most talented, forward-thinking winemakers, Maurice O’Shea began to plant grapes and make wine in Hunter Valley in 1921. O’Shea’s mother purchased land from Englishman Charles King, a portion of which was planted to vines in 1880. In 1932, the McWilliams family, well-known fortified producers, purchased half of the winery, and they bought the rest in 1941. The family retained O’Shea as chief winemaker and manager. In an age when Aussies favored primarily fortified wine, O’Shea was crafting beautiful, long-lived, dry table wines.

Present: O’Shea died of cancer in 1956 at 59. But his legacy lives on at Mount Pleasant in several forms. A flagship Shiraz bears his name, and his original wagon and press are on display, along with photos that depict O’Shea in action. The best way to channel O’Shea’s spirit, however, is to stroll the vineyards and take in the landscape that’s changed very little since his stewardship.

Filling wine bottles by the batch / Photo courtesy of Yalumba Yalumba Barossa Valley, South Australia
Founded in 1849

Most famous wines: The Signature, The Caley, The Virgilius Viognier

Past: Fresh from England and employed as a gardener for one of Barossa’s founding families, Samuel Smith started to plant his own vineyards. By 1852, he purchased 80 acres and released Yalumba’s first wine the following year. In 1894, Smith’s grandson, Fred Caley Smith, a horticulturist, brought cuttings back from his adventures around the world. Those vines still produce fruit today. Yalumba’s now-iconic winery and clocktower were built in 1908 from local Angaston marble. Smith’s son, Sidney, died just after its completion. Yalumba was managed until 2015 by Robert Hill-Smith, who represents the fifth generation of the family. Today, he chairs the company’s board.

Present: The manicured grounds and Yalumba’s Wine Room gives visitors a taste of the winery’s history. The wine room was once the company’s brandy bond store, and now it serves as a tasting room that showcases family artifacts. For a deeper dive, embark on one of Yalumba’s themed guided tours. You can explore everything from the winery’s unique onsite cooperage to its underground cellar and several treasured old vineyards.

Kay Brothers basket press and their pre-phylloxera Hermitage clones / Photos courtesy of Kay Brothers Kay Brothers McLaren Vale, South Australia
Founded in 1890

Most famous wines: Block 6 Shiraz, Basket Pressed Grenache

Past: After brothers Herbert and Frederick Kay purchased their Amery property in October 1890, they began to write a meticulous diary of daily life there. The writings document seven years where they planted more than 90 acres of vines, built a gravity-fed stone winery and produced their first 2,403 gallons of wine using grapes crushed by hand with a spiked wooden roller. After 57 years in business, the brothers’ winery passed to Herbert’s son, Cuthbert. It was later run by Colin Kay, who now holds a director title, along with with several family members.

Present: The Kay Brothers’ rich history is evident across the Amery property. The family homestead, partially built before the winery existed in the 1850s, perches behind a tasting room that’s housed in a former 1920 storeroom. The family diaries are displayed there. A tour of the historic working winery yields a 1928 basket press and the original open fermenters. The renowned 1892 Block 6 vineyard sits in a picturesque valley below.

Seppeltsfield’s Employees in the gravity cellar in 1890 / Photo courtesy of Seppeltsfield Seppeltsfield Barossa Valley, South Australia
Founded in 1851

Most famous wines: 100 Year Old Para Vintage Tawny, Para Liqueur Tawny

Past: Joseph and Johanna Seppelt purchased 158 acres here in 1850 after the couple emigrated from Silesia. After an ill-fated tobacco farm in the Adelaide Hills, the Seppelts moved to Barossa Valley and their focus soon shifted to wine and spirits. In 1867, Joseph drew up plans to build a bluestone cellar. It would be completed 11 years later by his son, Benno. In 1878, Benno began the long tradition of maturing single-vintage tawny Port for a century before release. The winery is also a treasure trove of old Australian Sherry (also called Apera) and boasts the country’s longest-standing wine brand, Para.

Present: The tasting room inside the former 1900 bottling hall is fairly sleek and contemporary, but modernity stops there. History lovers will ogle over the 1851 Seppelt homestead, 1877 distillery and 1860s blending cellars. They can also taste barrel samples from any year since 1877 in the atmospheric Centennial Cellar.

Australia's Underdog Wine Region Chambers (Rosewood Vineyards) Rutherglen, Victoria
Founded in 1858

Most famous wines: Rare Muscat, Rare Muscadelle

Past: William Chambers, originally from Norfolk, England, established his winery in the small town of Rutherglen with his son, Phillip, in 1858. Today, Stephen Chambers, who represents the family’s sixth generation, runs the show. His father, Bill, a well-respected figure in Australian wine, is still heavily involved in the business. Stephen crafts wines primarily in the style for which Rutherglen is famed: decadent and long-lived fortified wines. Some of these come from vines more than a century old and from a solera started by the family in the 1890s.

A visit to Chambers is a rustic, understated affair, particularly considering the stature of its top wines. The winery has changed little in 160 years. The tasting room is housed inside what feels like a large corrugated-iron shed. Guests can taste more than 30 dry and fortified wines, some from rare grape varieties. Historic winemaking equipment and old barrels, some with fascinating stories attached, are found both above and below ground on the property. Outside, the gnarly old vines of the Rosewood vineyard whisper of the winery’s rich past.

La Paz, Bolivia’s Emerging Wine Destination

February 15, 2019 - 8:29am

A Bolivian winemaker describes La Paz as “chaos, color and kitsch.” Indeed, the city bursts with dozens of ethnic groups that intersect over food, culture and dress. It’s the world’s highest capital, at nearly 12,000 feet in elevation, and it’s packed with dynamic restaurants, internationally recognized wineries and gripping scenery. It has all the makings for a trip of a lifetime.

The Atix Hotel / Photo by Lauren Mowery Drink

Bolivian wine is commonplace at restaurants, though selections typically cover the bigger players: Campos de Solana, Bodegas Kohlberg, Bodegas y Viñedos La Concepción, Aranjuez and higher end Vinos 1750. To taste pours from tiny labels, try Hay Pan. The owner, Sukko Stach, opened this wine bar to fill a niche, along with a coffee shop based on a similar premise, Antigua Miami. Umawi Coffee & Bar, which translates to “let’s drink” in the indigenous language of Aymara, taps the region’s flora for its creative cocktail program.

It also serves Bolivian espresso drinks and quirky, minimal-intervention wines. For city views in swank surroundings, savor a glass of Tannat at +591 Bar inside the Atix Hotel, the city’s sleekest property. In addition to creative burgers and custom toppings, Crafted Burgers N’ Beers offers a solid roster of Bolivian craft beers.

A meal at Gustu / Photo by Patricio Crooker Eat

Gustu kicked off La Paz’s restaurant revolution. Established in 2013 by Noma co-founder Claus Meyer, the nightly tasting menu offers a paean to Bolivian products. Its sommelier, Bertil Levin Tøttenborg, works closely with small producers and champions natural wines. In a similar vein, vegan eatery Ali Pacha plays with texture, flavor and presentation. Sebastián Quiroga sources ingredients from the Amazon to the Altiplano, reconstructing everything from potatoes to corn. He also supports natural wine producers.

Behind the Bottle with South American Sommeliers

For handmade pastas and vegetables from Gabriela Prudencio’s garden, visit Italian-leaning Propiedad Pública. Jardín de Asia prepares Andean-Amazonic food with an Asian twist alongside mainstream Bolivian brands. Popular Cocina Boliviana, opened by Sukko Stach, serves an updated version of the three-course lunch. The Atix Hotel’s Ona has a strong local wine list to pair with its modern Bolivian cuisine.

Mercado de las Brujas or Witches’ Market / Photo by Lauren Mowery Shop

Second only to its wines are La Paz’s textiles, and you can snag traditional rugs and colorful pillow shams at bargain prices. Start a spree in Mistura, a lifestyle and concept store co-owned by a member of the Bodega Sausini family. Sausini wines are for sale alongside alpaca ponchos and scarves. For fine wares by Bolivian artisans, Walisuma stocks clothes and jewelry. Spend an afternoon in the mystical Mercado de las Brujas, or Witches’ Market, which focuses on tourist trinkets. Adjacent streets are chock-full of vendors, including Fair Trade markets like Ayni Bolivia.

Salar de Uyuni / Photo by Lauren Mowery See

To skip the world’s largest salt flat would be folly. The mesmerizing Salar de Uyuni, created by prehistoric lakes that dried into a mind-bending crystalline plain, is a great day trip. Tour operator Black Tomato arranges custom tours (pricing upon request) that include lunch paired to Bolivian wines amid the dazzling flats. It also serves sundowners that feature a selection of wines and singani, the local grape spirit. Bring your camera.

Valle de Concepción / Photo by Lauren Mowery 4 Hour Getaway

Practically kissing the Argentine border, Tarija is home to Bolivia’s critical mass of vineyards and only organized wine route. Valle de Concepción, just beyond the city, is the main production valley. Grapes grow at around 6,200 feet, and the resulting wine is high quality. You’ll find big reds like those from Salta, Argentina. Campos de Solana delivers the most sophisticated experience, with polished wine offerings. Its white, TRIvarietal, wins awards. Also visit Aranjuez, Bodegas y Viñedos La Concepción and Bodegas Kohlberg. For lunch, sip robust reds with beef at El Fogón del Gringo.

The World’s Best Wine Hotels

February 14, 2019 - 12:08pm

It’s not hard to find a hotel in wine country. However, wine lovers can take explorations and tasting getaways to new levels at a growing number of wine-themed resorts. These places feature wines and vines front and center, with decor, spa amenities, recreational and educational opportunities that are equally on point.

Full-on wine hotels are now found from Argentina to Australia and New York, and some of the most creative retreats have turned up in less-expected regions. These wine oases are found at a wide range of price points. Ultra-luxury options are available for those looking to splurge, but others go for $100 per night, perfect for an affordable weekend getaway.

Here are some of the most unique global hotel finds.

The Yeatman The Yeatman | Porto, Portugal

The global capital of Port wine, Porto was named a UNESCO World Heritage Site for great reason. The impressive stone-laden medieval city is connected by graceful bridges that span the serene Duoro River.

At The Yeatman, you can soak up the region’s heritage with a dip in an infinity pool shaped like a decanter that overlooks the city. Each room is named for a different notable Portuguese winemaker, while the Presidential Suite and The Taylor’s Suite have beds made from gigantic barrels that once held 27,000 liters of Port.

Classic Old-World Destinations for Wine Lovers

The hotel offers tastings, master classes, weekly winemaker dinners and sunset wine parties during summer. Chef Ricardo Costa presides over the hotel’s restaurant, Gastronomic, itself a recipient of two Michelin stars. Perhaps the best feature of all? A cellar stocked with what the proprietors say is one of the world’s largest collections of Portuguese wine—up to 30,000 bottles at any given time.

The Louise, Barossa Valley, Australia The Louise | Barossa Valley, Australia

Like sunrise picnics with kangaroos, or hot-air balloon rides over vineyards? You’ll love this ultra-luxe pick in South Australia’s Barossa Valley. The hotel boasts sweeping views that overlook thousands of acres of big, bold Shiraz country. Take a wine blending class before dinner at the onsite restaurant, Appellation, where chefs will craft a meal to pair with your creation. There are also immersive tours and personalized tasting experiences offered at Barossa wineries, often led by the winemakers themselves.

The region’s scope ranges from historic family vineyards planted in the 19th century to new boutique biodynamic wineries. Taste Australia’s history by having The Louise arrange a day trip to nearby Seppeltsfield, the only winery known to release a 100-year-old wine annually, currently serving their 1919 vintage. Or take a trip to Hutton Vale Farm, where you can pet lambs raised by sustainable grapegrowers John and Jan Angas, whose estate also produces fine merino wool.

WineBox Hotel, Valparaíso, Chile / Photo by Lynn Freehill-Maye WineBox Hotel | Valparaíso, Chile

Not all wine hotels are about over-the-top indulgence. The edgy new WineBox Hotel in Chile’s colorful port city of Valparaíso is set up in 25 decommissioned shipping containers stacked to create private balconies and a dramatic rooftop bar. The city rolls across more than 40 hills, and its slopes are jammed with both decorative Victorian buildings and ramshackle galvanized-metal homes, all colorfully painted and often covered in graffiti.

In true Valpo style, WineBox’s containers are brightly colored and imparted with the city’s signature clever street art. The hotel also plans to add a hot tub made from a 400-gallon Chilean wine barrel. The hotelier behind the project, winemaker Grant Phelps, often conducts “how-I-built-this” tours and tastings of boutique Chilean wines. You can also help Phelps and his staff crush grapes, as the hotel also serves as an urban winery that produces its own wine.

Hotel Marqués de Riscal, Rioja, Spain / Photo courtesy Hotel Marqués de Riscal Hotel Marqués de Riscal | Rioja, Spain

This grand wine hotel in Rioja, Spain, stands out for its bold design and signature wavy metal roof. To date, the Marqués de Riscal is the only hotel designed by architect Frank Gehry, renowned for his world-class museums and dramatic public pavilions. Also housed in the hotel is the Vinothérapie spa, which touts “the health and beauty properties of the grape.” It offers treatments like honey and wine wraps, and a crush Cabernet scrub.

The hotel is surrounded by its own Ciudad de Vino, a complex devoted to the production, study and storage of wine. For guests, complimentary guided tours are available of the bodega, which dates to 1858. Bicycles are also provided to pedal to other nearby wineries and the Museo del Vino Dinastía Vivanco, Europe’s largest wine museum.

The Vines Resort & Spa, Mendoza, Argentina The Vines Resort & Spa | Mendoza, Argentina

If you’d like to focus on the finer points of winemaking, this West Argentinean property is for you. The Vines offers harvest Wine Camp experiences, terroir discovery sessions led by agronomists, detailed sensory lessons and guides to grape varieties. There is even a class devoted entirely to wine defects, glassware and temperatures.

How Argentina’s Uco Valley is Creating First-Class Wine Experiences

Enjoy a sunrise (or cocktail-hour) horseback ride in the Andes, led by local gauchos. Or unwind with a yoga session amid the 1,500 acres of private vineyards. Celebrity chef Francis Mallmann houses his Siete Fuegos restaurant here, so you can pair local wine with the country’s famous grilled steak. Argentina’s best-known winemakers have set up boutique projects in the The Vines of Mendoza’s Winemaker’s Village, too.

Want to become a winemaker yourself? The Vines’ private plots allow guests to purchase their own three- to 10-acre professionally managed vineyard and make custom wine.

Pałac Mierzęcin Wellness & Wine Resort, Mierzęcin, Poland / Photo courtesy Pałac Mierzęcin Pałac Mierzęcin Wellness & Wine Resort | Mierzęcin, Poland

Poland’s Lubuskie wine country is an idyll of dense beech forests, stunning medieval castles, 500 mirrored lakes and thousands of acres of grapevines.

Mierzęcin Palace is a boutique winemaker, but a high-profile one, helping supply wine to everyone from ordinary drinkers to the Polish president himself. The winery produces around 28,000 bottles annually, most from cool-weather white varieties. The resort’s 76 rooms are part of an estate that includes a stud farm, riding school, and restored botanical gardens in both the English and Japanese styles.

Guests can also kayak on the nearby Mierzęcin River or the estate’s surrounding lakes. And Mierzęcin’s Grape Spa offers decadent treatments like a Burgundy wine bath for two, a facial with Viniferin grapevine-shoot extract, or a scrub with grape seeds from the estate’s own vineyard.

Belhurst Castle and Winery, The Finger Lakes, New York Belhurst Castle and Winery | The Finger Lakes, New York

Even the East Coast of the United States can offer top-quality wine travel, like New York’s Finger Lakes region. The area’s rolling, pastoral countryside, cleaved by nearly a dozen long glacial lakes, has long been known for Rieslings, but lately has received acclaim in other varieties.

Emerging New-World Destinations for Wine Lovers

Belhurst is home to three properties. White Springs is a 1900’s Georgian Revival farmhouse mansion where antiques abound, while the Vinifera Inn offers guests amenities like an in-room fireplace, Jacuzzi and lake views. Meanwhile, the flagship Castle Chambers Hotel is a historic stone mansion on Seneca Lake with a dramatic history.

Legend has it that 50 men spent four years building the castle for an heiress and her prized golden pheasants, which once roamed the grounds. The estate is located in an emerging farm-to-table foodie destination, the town of Geneva. The castle’s fun perks include monthly pairing dinners and a “wine spigot” in the hallways—a communal, free-flowing tap where guests can pour themselves complimentary red wine during their stay.

Washington’s White Wine Paradox

February 14, 2019 - 8:33am

In Washington’s earliest days as a grape-growing region, the state was thought too cool to successfully ripen many warm-climate red grape varieties. Subsequently, cool-climate white grapes, especially Riesling, dominated production and brought early acclaim.

But as the industry developed, successful cultivation of Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah and others showed that red wines could also excel. This led to increased plantings, so much so that by 2013, for the first time, the majority of Washington’s grape production tilted from white varieties to red. And now, there have been several points over the past 20 years at which the state’s red wines have seemed to overshadow their white wine counterparts in focus and recognition.

Today, 50 years into the state’s development as a wine producer, white bottlings seem both imperiled and ascendant. Some white varieties are being ripped out, while there are also winegrowers exploring new varieties and locations with impressive results. And the exceptional 2017 vintage illustrates just how good the state’s white wines can be.

The White Wine Paradox

Washington has long experienced a white wine paradox. Its white wines don’t typically command as much money or regard as their red counterparts, and it becomes harder for growers and producers to turn a profit.

Because of this, white grapes often don’t receive the same amount of care in the vineyard and winery as reds. The resulting wines can be of high quality, but they’re not necessarily transcendent. They don’t receive as much attention, and they can’t command higher prices.

“It’s a Catch-22,” says Marty Clubb, co-owner and managing winemaker of L’Ecole No. 41. “Small wineries focusing on reds can sell them for fairly substantial price points and make a living at it. The whites are more challenging, particularly if you go above $20.”

While red grape plantings have surged in recent years, white grape plantings have increased at a much more modest pace. Some old-vine varieties, Chenin Blanc in particular, have even been pulled out to plant more profitable offerings.

An increasing number of winemakers are giving renewed focus to white wines.

“We’re fortunate that in the early days of viticulture in Washington State, there were a lot of whites planted,” says Clubb. “If you look at new plantings, it kind of paints a bit of a dire picture.”

Though the state’s larger producers have long championed the category, white wines have often been nearly ignored by Washington’s army of small wineries, which includes some of its most iconic brands.

“If you look at the best producers in the state of Washington, a lot of them aren’t even making white wines,” says Brennon Leighton, director of winemaking and viticulture for the Wines of Substance portfolio, which includes K Vintners, Sixto, B. Leighton Wines and others.

“Whites are far more difficult to make well than reds,” he says. “A lot of young winemakers, which is what Washington has, are more capable of being consistent with the reds and making really good red wine.

“White wines are harder. The more you mess with them, the worse it gets.”

From left to right; DeLille 2017 Chaleur Blanc (Columbia Valley); Alleromb 2017 La Gran Flor Blanc Sauvignon Blanc (Columbia Valley); Gramercy 2017 Viognier (Columbia Valley); Poet’s Leap 2017 Riesling (Columbia Valley); Rôtie Cellars 2017 Southern White (Walla Walla Valley); and Syncline 2017 Boushey Vineyard Picpoul (Yakima Valley) / Photo by Meg Baggott Shifting the Paradigm

The calculus may be changing, as an increasing number of winemakers give renewed focus to white wines. While Chardonnay, Riesling and, to a much lesser extent, Sauvignon Blanc, still dominate production, more wineries are experimenting with alternatives.

“There’s a growing group of winemakers who are excited about white winemaking and who are exploring different sites and different varieties,” says James Mantone, co-founder, winemaker and vineyard manager of Syncline Winery.

At Syncline, Mantone focuses largely on traditional white Rhône grapes.

“Looking at all of these other varieties, they offer so much more potential than just Chardonnay, Riesling and Sauvignon Blanc that so drive the industry, not just the Washington industry, but the wine industry in general,” he says. “Grenache Blanc is a lot fresher in Washington than it is in a lot of other places.”

Site selection for whites is also improving. Growers seek out higher elevations and northern aspects to gain longer hang time, additional flavor development and increased complexity at lower sugar—and therefore alcohol—levels.

Eating and Drinking in Walla Walla and Woodinville, Washington

“We’ve been going to higher and higher elevations with really good results, both for reds and whites,” says Leighton. “White grapes need cool nights. The most important part about white wines is retaining acidity. Washington, in general, has those [cooler nights] predominantly at higher elevations.”

Farming has evolved as well. “Ten years ago, whites were farmed pretty much like the reds,” says Mantone. “Now you’re seeing much more intentional farming to shape the white wines in the direction that you want them to go: more cover, less sun exposure, paying attention to crop load.”

These advances have not just increased quality, but they’ve given the state tremendous diversity. More than 30 white varieties are planted, and they produce high-quality examples of everything from Chardonnay to Riesling, Picpoul, Grüner Veltliner, Sauvignon Blanc, Roussanne, Sémillon and beyond.

“We’re not mature enough yet as a wine industry to always be consistent in what we do [with white wines],” says Leighton. “But you can see the jewels come out, and when they do, they are some of the best white wines in the world.”

DeLille 2017 Chaleur Blanc (Columbia Valley); $35, 94 points. The wine’s aromas are arresting in notes of lemon pith, herb, stone fruit, fig, spice, mineral and citrus. Full-bodied, layered and exquisitely balanced fruit flavors follow with a zing of electric, lemony acidity stitching it all together. The fig- and tropical fruit-filled finish seems near endless. It’s showing beautifully now, but should only get better with some time in the cellar. Best 2020–2025. Cellar Selection.

Gramercy 2017 Viognier (Columbia Valley); $22, 92 points. All of the fruit for this wine comes from Antoine Creek Vineyard, north of the Lake Chelan appellation. Aromas of lemon balm, white peach and honeysuckle are followed by generous but still sleekly styled fruit flavors that show beautiful depth, balance and tension. Lemony acidity heightens the interest. The winery’s best offering of this variety to date. Editors’ Choice.

Alleromb 2017 La Gran Flor Blanc Sauvignon Blanc (Columbia Valley); $48, 92 points.The aromas here are vivid, with notes of pear, pineapple, citrus, melon and herb. The palate explodes with kiwi, papaya and passion fruit flavors that carry on the finish. It’s flat-out delicious, showing a captivating sense of richness and texture as well as a lingering finish.

Poet’s Leap 2017 Riesling (Columbia Valley); $20, 91 points. Generous aromas of lime leaf, citrus, wet slate and white peach lead to off-dry stone-fruit and citrus flavors that stretch out on the palate. It brings a beautiful sense of acid balance with an impressively long finish. Give it some additional time in bottle to see it at its best. Editors’ Choice.

Syncline 2017 Boushey Vineyard Picpoul (Yakima Valley); $25, 91 points. Aromas of lemon pith, citrus rind, wet stone and sweet herb lead to an elegantly styled palate backed by a blast of tart, lemony acidity. It requires food alongside it to be properly appreciated; shellfish should fit the bill. Editors’ Choice.

Rôtie Cellars 2017 Southern White (Walla Walla Valley); $32, 91 points. White wines are an extreme rarity in the valley. This one shows the area’s potential. A blend of Viognier (66%), Roussanne (18%) and Marsanne, the aromas are vibrant in notes of honeysuckle, pear, tangerine and wet stone. The palate is redolent with sleek, lively stone-fruit flavors that show a dazzling sense of purity and linger on the finish. Editors’ Choice.

The Thrilling 2017 Vintage

Washington’s 2017 vintage offers an abundance of jewels. In addition to the winemaking and viticulture advances, unique factors made the year outstanding for white wines.

In contrast to recent years, the growing season started cool. Early wet weather, an anomaly for ever-dry eastern Washington, led to significant canopy growth and mildew pressure in white grapes.

Some believe this benefitted the vintage.

“In order to clean things up, we had to aggressively go in and thin fruit,” says Clubb. “What that did was drop the crop size down a little bit. Quite frankly, I think that led to better quality on what was left.”

Surprisingly, smoke from distant wildfires may have also aided things. While many winemakers avoid the mention of smoke to prevent concerns about potential taint, the conditions appeared to have possibly helped protect the grapes.

“It slowed down ripening a lot,” says Leighton of the smoke that was in the air for stretches in August and September. “There was probably a week or more where we had really hot temperatures forecast, and it just wasn’t that hot. It was, like, a 10- to 15-degree shift, especially at night.”

Many factors have resulted in one of the states best-ever white wine vintages.

When the smoke cleared toward mid-September, moderately warm days and cool nights took root. This slowed sugar accumulation, preserved acidity and pushed back harvest.

“Any time we can pick a little later, it’s always a good thing,” says Mike Januik, winemaker at Novelty Hill and owner/winemaker of Januik Winery. “Even if you can push harvest out seven to 10 days, I think it can make a big difference… you see more aromatically intense wines.”

Together, all of these factors have resulted in one of the state’s best-ever white wine vintages.

“There’s that ripe fruit character, but there’s also an elegance to the balance of the wines and the acid structure,” says David Rosenthal, white winemaker at Chateau Ste. Michelle, the world leader in Riesling production by volume. “There’s also a titch more acidity that brings a sense of freshness.”

“2017 really stood out as a white wine vintage,” says Januik. “I’ve been through 35 of them now, and it would be in my top five.”

From left to right; Woodward Canyon 2017 Chardonnay (Washington); W.T. Vintners 2017 Underwood Mountain Vineyard Grüner Veltliner (Columbia Gorge); Januik 2017 Sagemoor Vineyard Sauvignon Blanc (Columbia Valley); K Vintners 2017 Art Den Hoed Vineyard Viognier (Yakima Valley); L’Ecole No. 41 2017 Semillon (Columbia Valley); and Chateau Ste. Michelle 2017 Dry Riesling (Columbia Valley) / Photo by Meg Baggott A Bright Future

White varieties made up some of Washington’s earliest plantings, yet many believe it’s still early in their development.

“I think that we’re just kind of at the beginning of Washington’s white wine phase, even though we’ve been making Chardonnay and Riesling for a long time,” says Mantone. “On a smaller producer side, things are just getting going. I’m really looking forward to other people being courageous and trying some of these different varieties to see what all we can do.”

“As good as the wines are in Washington, now that we’re getting into this next generation of winemakers and winegrowers, we are really figuring out what grows well and where,” says Rosenthal. “You’re going to see this whole thing kick into another gear in the coming years.”

The Diversity of Washington Wine

While Leighton believes the state’s white wines often fly below the radar, he agrees that the best is yet to come.

“We have this incredible opportunity to make world-class white wines, and a lot of it is finding the sites and finding the people to do it,” he says. “As the next generation of winemakers come through, they are going to have a much better understanding of winemaking and how to make Washington white wines, and how to make them great. I think they are going to be some of the best white wines in the world.”

Woodward Canyon 2017 Chardonnay (Washington); $44, 91 points. This wine is equal parts fruit from Celilo and the winery’s Estate vineyard. Seeing a kiss of 20% new oak from Burgundy barrels, the aromas draw you into the glass, with notes of spice, lemon curd, pear, mineral and apple. Sleek, seamless flavors backed by bright, lemony acidity follow. The finish sails into the distance. The balance is exquisite. This one is all about delicacy and restraint but it brings both in abundance. Best from 2020–2025. Cellar Selection.

Januik 2017 Sagemoor Vineyard Sauvignon Blanc (Columbia Valley); $20, 90 points. Pear, grass, fig, toast and lemon-peel aromas are followed by medium-bodied, textured fig, melon and barrel-spice flavors that persist on the finish. The Sémillon blended in (22%) gives the palate extra weight and depth. Editors’ Choice.

W.T. Vintners 2017 Underwood Mountain Vineyard Grüner Veltliner (Columbia Gorge); $23, 90 points. One of the few bottlings of this variety in the state, this brings spicy herb, white peach, citrus rind and white pepper aromas. The flavors are light, sleek and acid-driven, with a drawn-out finish. It provides a lot of appeal and versatility at the table.

L’Ecole No. 41 2017 Semillon (Columbia Valley); $15, 90 points. Aromas of fig and spice carry the nose of this lush white. The palate brings a lovely sense of texture, with notes of honeycomb, fig and tropical fruit. A warm finish caps it off. Like most examples of this variety, it needs time in the bottle to be fully appreciated, but it has all the stuffing. Best after 2019. Best Buy.

K Vintners 2017 Art Den Hoed Vineyard Viognier (Yakima Valley); $25, 90 points. Fruit for this wine comes from a vineyard at 1,300 feet of elevation—high for the state. All aged in neutral French oak, the wine has aromas that bring notes of ripe peach, apricot and flower. Full-bodied, well-structured stone fruit and creamsicle flavors follow. There’s much to enjoy.

Chateau Ste. Michelle 2017 Dry Riesling (Columbia Valley); $9, 89 points. The bouquet of this wine pops with aromas of rubbed lime leaf, citrus, white peach and cut green apple. Sleek and bone dry, a lemon iced tea flavor follows and leads into a sailing finish. This is always one of the best wine values on the shelf, and this vintage does not disappoint. Best Buy.

U.S. Consumers Bought More Spirits in 2018

February 13, 2019 - 2:55pm

Distilled spirits continued to power ahead in 2018, marking the ninth consecutive year of record sales and volumes, the Distilled Spirits Council (DISCUS) reported Tuesday at their annual economic briefing.

United States’ supplier sales were up over 5.1% for the year, rising $1.3 billion to a total of $27.5 billion, while volumes rose 2.2% to 231 million cases, which is up 5 million cases from the prior year.

In 2018 spirits gained market share, with sales rising 0.7% to now comprise 37.4% of the total beverage alcohol market.

It’s the ninth straight year of market share gains overall. Each point of market share is worth $740 million in supplier sales revenue.

“These robust results show adult consumers are continuing to favor spirits over beer and wine, particularly among millennials,” said DISCUS President/CEO Chris Swonger.

“The spirits sector is benefiting from millennials who demand diverse and authentic experiences, and desire innovative and higher-end products.”

The “star of the show” continued to be American whiskey, with volume rising by 5.9%, driven by Bourbon and Tennessee whiskey.

In addition, Irish whiskey was up 10.2%, and Scotch whisky rose 7.6% for single malt, turning around 2017’s decline. Rye whiskey increased by 15.9%, breaking the 1 million cases-sold barrier for the first time.

Tequila and mezcal, up a total of 7.7% together, were led by strong sales in high-end Tequila. Cognac also saw an uptick in sales, with an increase of 12.5%.

Vodka, which represents nearly one-third of the market overall, grew by 1.6% last year. Meanwhile, gin and rum sales saw declines in both volume and revenue.

Millennials and the Spirit Market

In recent years, consumers have showed a willingness to pay more for spirits. The value category, bottles less than $12, fell slightly in terms of incremental growth, which is a continuing a trend from 2017.

But high-end ($20-$35) and super-premium ($35 and over) products showed strong growth in terms of case sales and gross supplier revenue, which also extends a 2017 trend.

“I’ve been doing this for about 18 years, and it’s the first time I’ve seen the growth patterns so lopsided,” said DISCUS Council Chief Economist David Ozgo.

“This screams millennial buying patterns… They’re willing to spend for something that gives them a little bit more.”

Even as sales of beer fall and some express concern about the future trajectory of wine, particularly among millennials, DISCUS seemed unconcerned about the future of distilled spirits and alcoholic beverages in general.

“The spend is definitely going up,” Ozgo noted. “Even when you look at spirits, beer and wine, the price points are moving up.”

Although he hasn’t studied retail trends, he said, in terms of U.S. supplier revenues “beer volumes are going down, and wine is flat or down slightly, but the revenues are going up, and that’s always a good thing. The total number of drinks consumed on a per capita basis is remaining constant.”

Ozgo also focused on results from a recent DISCUS study showing continued growth in spirits consumption in states where recreational marijuana has been legalized.

“In mature markets, there has been no impact on growth” in terms of spirits consumption, Ozgo concluded.

Tariffs Curtail Rapid Export Growth

However, new data showed the negative impact retaliatory tariffs are having on U.S. whiskey exports.

“For the first time, data can demonstrate the negative impact of retaliatory tariffs on what had been a booming export growth story,” said Council Senior Vice President for International Affairs Christine LoCascio.

American whiskey exports to the European Union—the largest market for American whiskey exports—had been growing briskly in the first half of 2018, up 33%, but plunged 8.7% compared to the same period in 2017, July–November, after the tariffs went into effect.

Other countries, including Mexico, China and Canada, have also leveled tariffs on American whiskey.

Swonger added, “We strongly encourage the [Trump] administration and our trading partners in the European Union, Canada and Mexico to quickly resolve these harmful tariffs that are undercutting economic growth in this sector and adversely affecting American workers.”

What Makes This Year’s ProWein So Special? It’s the Silver Anniversary.

February 13, 2019 - 12:46pm

In advance of March’s ProWein, the annual trade fair in Düsseldorf, Germany, Wine Enthusiast’s Contributing Editor Anne Krebiehl MW spoke with Eva Rowe, vice president of Messe Düsseldorf North America, the U.S. arm of ProWein’s organizers.

What is so special about the upcoming anniversary edition of the industry’s largest trade show?

We want to celebrate this 25th year with an opening ceremony, a ProWein special edition of the local Düsseldorf liquor “Killepitsch,” a merchandising shop for our “Coming Home for ProWein” campaign and many little extras.

What makes the show a must-attend event for U.S. wine and spirits professionals?

I think it is the broad selection and the business orientation that makes the learning and buying so effective. Anyone who is trying to find out about trends, offer their clients something no one else has, or just wants to meet with the Who’s Who of the industry will benefit from attending ProWein.

ProWein is known for its business-like approach. What does that mean?

I think with our trade-only approach and the clearly structured layout we have succeeded in offering the best and most comprehensive selection of wine and spirits in one place. We have also kept the promise of easy access and straight-forward navigation. For American buyers and influencers trying to broaden their offer, ProWein is the place to do this within three days.

Eva Rowe, vice president of Messe Düsseldorf North America / Photo courtesy of Messe Düsseldorf

How has the American presence at Prowein changed over the past five years regarding exhibitors and visitors?

On the visitor side, we have been able to triple attendance numbers. This demonstrates the show has real momentum. As far as the exhibitors are concerned, we are in a bit of a bind. There is a waiting list. That said, over the past five years we have brought many new exhibitors from the U.S. especially on the spirits side, as well as group wine stands from California, New York, Oregon and Washington. U.S. space has increased by about 30% over the last five years.

What was your focus on getting more U.S. visitors to ProWein?

Initially we focused on importers to come over, but over the last five years we have been addressing wholesalers and retailers. We also started targeting more on-premise decision makers such as sommeliers, among other activities we have been a major sponsor at TEXSOM since 2017.

You’ve been known to polish glasses at TEXSOM. Are you always so hands-on in your job?

I have always tried to establish a personal relationship with our clients. I want everyone to feel comfortable enough to call me during show preparations and onsite with the smallest issue they might have. If that means my finding a restaurant for them to take their clients, carrying a box over to someplace or even staff a booth for a while, I am happy to do it.

In 2017 you released data on how many decision makers attended and how many deals were done. Do you have 2018 figures and what do you expect in 2019? 

Yes, we do. 66% of attendees are direct decision makers, and we are convinced this will stay that way for 2019. Our most impressive statistical figure to me is that 98% of all visitors would recommend ProWein to others.

What tips do you have for attendees to make the most of ProWein?

Have a plan. Everyone who comes and just wanders will certainly get overwhelmed and will not be able to make the most of the visit. I would suggest making your appointments in advance with the people you really want to see and leave enough room to explore. When you meet friends and known faces, chat but know when to say good-bye in order to keep going. There is lots to see.

How does Route USA work for U.S. buyers attending the fair?

The U.S. is not an easy market to conquer. Hence there are many producers at ProWein who will not, and maybe should not, attempt exporting to the U.S. There is no reason for American attendees to waste their time visiting those booths. In order to provide guidance, together with Wine Enthusiast, we came up with Route USA. This tells U.S. buyers which exhibitors want to bring their wines over and have the capabilities and capacities needed to be successful here in the States. By consulting the list online at the U.S. buyer can substantially increase the effectiveness of the ProWein trip immensely.

Our Last Interview with Dave Pickerell

February 13, 2019 - 11:46am

It’s hard to talk about American whiskey and not mention Dave Pickerell, who died on November 1, 2018. Widely considered the country’s preeminent distiller, he spent 14 years as master distiller at Maker’s Mark before becoming a craft-distilling consultant and helping to create iconic brands like WhistlePig and Hillrock Estate Distillery.

An advocate for authentic rye, whiskey terroir, adventurous finishing techniques and barrel aging methods, Pickerell pushed boundaries and carried the craft distilling movement forward.

Sweet Amber Distilling Co. provided Pickerell with one of his most his most ambitious adventures. He served as master distiller for Blackened American Whiskey, a collaboration with legendary metal band Metallica.

In one of his final interviews, conducted October 25, 2018, before Metallica’s concert at the Wells Fargo Center in Philadelphia, Pickerell discussed his work with the band, his penchant for innovation and the path he forged to become a distilling legend.

Sadly, he passed away a week after this interview. However, his legacy and whiskey live on.

Robert Trujillo on Metallica's Blackened Whiskey

Dave Pickerell, master distiller for Blackened American Whiskey and all-around whiskey guru. Say the word “whiskey,” and immediately your name comes up. So, Mr. Whiskey, we’re here to talk about Blackened, a new product in collaboration with Metallica. First off, I have to ask, what was it like working on a whiskey with Metallica?

It was really fun to work on this project. It’s not like they hired me, it’s like they commissioned me, one artist to another. So there was no monkeying with the process. It was, “Dave, we want to reach out and touch our fan base in new and interesting ways, and we think whiskey is one of those ways. Go make us something that we can be proud of and that we can touch our fan base with.” And just let me go. And they allowed me to go really off the radar screen.

There’s three major processes that we’re doing that are totally different than anything that’s been done before. I actually flew to Stockholm in May to go just spend time with the band. I was aware of their music, but I really needed to know the ethos of the band. And I took away three things.

First of all, they’re collaborative. They are a team. Even to the point of they’ve agreed between them no one band member is allowed to sign a bottle. It’s either all or none. The second thing is that they think out of the box. They do things that are unexpected. And the third thing is they have this process that’s called “metallicizing,” which is taking something that’s already good and kicking it up a notch or two.

To 11?

Or 12. Or 16. [laughter] And I said, “Great, that’s what I’m gonna do.” And so I said, the only rule is that whenever I’m done, you need to convene a murder board. And I mean an intense, tear-me-up, murder board. And only if I pass are we good. Otherwise, I go back and keep working.

And so the first thing I did was just networked. One of the nice things about being an old distiller is you’ve got guys everywhere. And I just started calling people up. And I got an assemblage of whiskeys, nice whiskeys from all over North America: rye whisky from Canada, Bourbon whiskey from Kentucky, Tennessee whiskey, rye whiskey from Indiana, corn whiskey, just really nice whiskeys that one could be happy just slapping their name on and be done with it.

But that wasn’t collaborative. So then we married all of them together, which, to this extent, has never been done before with that many different types and styles of whiskies. So now we’ve got collaboration, we’re out of the box a little bit, now we’ve gotta kick it up. And since we were gonna call it Blackened, I thought I need to do things that are black. And so we got black Spanish brandy barrels, and we put the whiskey in there, and that had never been done. And then, we trademarked the term, “black noise,” which was hitting the whiskey with ultralow-frequency Metallica music. And they actually gave me a fairly substantial amount of money to just experiment and prove concept [because] I didn’t want to just do something for fun marketing. You know, if it’s not real, I didn’t want to do it. And so we had this philosophy, this theory.

“It’s the point where you can take two batches side by side, and you can taste the difference, and the only difference is the playlist. So it’s real stuff.”

I was fascinated with ultralow frequency sound all the way from my days as a cadet at West Point. And Metallica’s sound company is Meyer Sound, and they’ve got patents on ultralow-frequency subwoofers. And Metallica’s got this big, resonating music with really crisp, clean notes. I thought, “We need to do this.”

So we got two barrels that were already aged, just set one aside and took the other one and put transducers on it and hit it with ultralow frequency Metallica music. And then, every so often, we’d pull samples to see. We’d do gas chromatography, mass spectrometry and spectrometry. And we’re just looking for all the markets of extracts. So we’re looking for guaiacol and eugenol and caramels and lactones, and we just checked for all of the markers of things that commonly extract from oak during maturation, and we were able to prove in eight days it was, the difference was visible to the naked eye. And by 10 weeks, we had massive differences. It’s the point where you can take two batches side by side, and you can taste the difference, and the only difference is the playlist. So it’s real stuff.

You know, I’m gonna use this phrase, if you gotta edit it out, go ahead. Bill Sandwich used to have a saying: “The fun thing is the bullshit’s all real.” And that’s what we did here. We proved the bullshit’s all real.

So we trademarked the name Black Noise, and we’re going for a patent on the process. And once we get it, we’re going to publish [a] scientific [paper] to show people, yes, this really does work and we own the technology for it.

Have you heard of anybody doing anything similar to this previously? Where did the inspiration for this idea, aside for your talking about your experiences at West Point in the church, or the idea to incorporate that into whiskey production actually come from?

So, there are other people that are playing music to barrels, you know, and it’s everything from people that are nonscientific, just making the barrels happy, to people that are doing really high-frequency things, but nobody was doing ultralow frequency. And that’s really where the energy is, and the concept behind that. You know, I knew that we needed to incorporate Metallica sound, somehow.

“And when he got done, it’s like he went Emperor Palpatine—he looks at me and he goes, ‘And now, for the full effects of the organ.’ ”

I remember sitting in West Point’s church, the cadet chapel, and it was just Dr. Davis [the church organist] and I. . . He was practicing and he sat down and played Toccata and Fugue in D minor for me. And, I love that music, it’s perfect pipe-organ music. And when he got done, it’s like he went Emperor Palpatine—he looks at me and he goes, “And now, for the full effects of the organ.” And he hit the lowest note on the register, and you could just feel it shaking your guts and shaking the building, and he goes, “I can only play this for a few seconds [because] I’ll actually do structural damage to the building.”

And that’s when I went, that’s the answer. It’s ultralow-frequency sound, cause that’s where you get the vibrations, the molecules at that lower level. And it just seemed that this was the perfect time to do it.

And what great music, and what a great band to work on this project with. Before working on this project, were you a fan of Metallica? For some reason, you strike me as more of a country guy…

I am not a country guy at all, believe it or not. I mean, I like all well-executed music, except twangy country. . .I may look like the country guy, [because] you know, I’m kind of a bumpkin, the way that I dress and everything, but, you know, my playlist has got everything, and certainly Metallica is in the playlist. I can even tell you that “Motorbreath,” “Unforgiven” and “Unforgiven II” are my three favorite Metallica songs because if you listen to the lyrics on those, they pretty much describe my life.

I have never been much of a concert goer, just [because] I’ve always been so busy with life. And so, this is new, to be able to get to join the band and go to concerts with them, and it’s really fun.

You guys decided you were going to label it Blackened American Whiskey, “Blackened” obviously being one of the names of their songs, it’s the opening track on . . .And Justice For All. Was that a reason why you guys went with Blackened?

Well, there were a lot of potential choices, at least I thought early on. Like, Whiskey In A Jar would have been cool.

Duh. I’m gonna wait for Ride The White Lightning.

Yes! But, unbeknownst to me, they covered [“Whiskey in the Jar”]. That wasn’t an original. And so, we couldn’t use that. Then, we thought okay, how about Unforgiven? And the lawyer said, well, you know, Wild Turkey’s got Forgiven, you know, maybe that’s a little too close. And what I wanted to say was, do you got a bunch of wusses for lawyers?

So we worked around. We picked Sweet Amber for the name of the company, Sweet Amber Distilling Co. And then Blackened, because of the song, Blackened because of the Black Album, and the recording studio is Blackened [Recordings]. So for all those reasons, we said Blackened is really good.

And it gave me context to be able to say we’re going to blacken the world. And so, we’re gonna hit it with black Spanish brandy and Black Noise and it does come out a really nice, dark color. It just all seems to have fit, and it’s nice and clean. The bottle is gorgeous.

“Then, we thought okay, how about Unforgiven? And the lawyer said, well, you know, Wild Turkey’s got Forgiven, you know, maybe that’s a little too close. And what I wanted to say was, do you got a bunch of wusses for lawyers?”

So it all came together beautifully under that very surprising black label. If you taste the whiskey, our Spirits Editor, Kara Newman, noted that there’s an almost effervescent effect on the finish that’s not typical of whiskey.

Yup. I think what she’s picking up is the top-note apricot. Which, to me, it was like, after it came out of the process, was like, “Ah! Okay! This is really cool! I love this!”

So it’s a plurality of rye. It’s not 51% anything, but it’s a plurality of rye, which gives it its spiciness, but it’s a well-balanced spiciness, with the sweetness at the core. Then you get all the good wood extracts and then over the top of it, you just dump that brandy note that gives it this unbelievable dried apricot note.

Delicious. Did you ever expect to be making a whiskey with Metallica?

Never in a million years would I have thought that Metallica would come get me. The first thing is just to understand my background. I grew up in kind of a slummy area just outside of Dayton, Ohio. Technically, it was lower blue collar. But I was a hustler, I was a dumpster diver, I was getting bottles for nickels, I sold rocks to the neighborhood kids for nickels. I shoveled snow and mowed the grass and delivered newspapers and cut trees, anything just to get by. And I was destined to be a burger flipper at McDonald’s, you know?

That’s the background that I was anticipating, and if it hadn’t been for a lot of well-intentioned people giving me things I didn’t deserve, that’s where I’d probably be, a general manager of some burger joint. So to wake up and find all of this and, what, a month ago, being on Rolling Stone magazine?! I couldn’t resist. I took the picture out of the magazine and posted it on Facebook and just bannered it [sings]: “On the cover of the Rolling Stone, gonna buy five copies for my mother.” [laughs]

I never would have thought it in a million years that that kind of thing could happen to this kid.

Speaking of happening, you have a lot of that going on, with numerous distilleries and brands that you work on across the states. How do you find the ability to take a different approach and style to each individual project?

The first thing is, you need to know—this is bizarre—I’m a rare combination of ADD and OCD. Which means, I have to count everything over and over again, [because] I get distracted halfway through it and go, “Wait, wait, wait.”

But, you have to be ADD to understand this. You give a kid Ritalin, you know, speed, when they’re ADD to slow ‘em down. The way I’ve managed myself is with tons of activity. It helps me to focus. If I’ve just got one or two things, I’m gonna get in trouble. And so just by having this plethora of activity just falling around my shoulders all the time, I have to stay focused.

And I can get unbelievable focus. You know, the other day, I was sitting down, writing down all of the design criteria issues for a new distillery in Europe, and just boom, boom, boom, boom, boom and, you know, [for] two-and-a half-hours, I didn’t stop typing. I can’t explain it, but it’s there.

“I never would have thought it in a million years that that kind of thing could happen to this kid.”

The first batch of Blackened American Whiskey was Batch number 081, named after the band’s formative year. But there are going to be additional batch releases. Can you tell me a bit about the differences between them?

Well, the only material difference between the batch is the playlist. Literally, each band member submitted playlists to us, and they each had their own rationale. Maybe Robert [Trujillo] wanted stuff that featured his bass and songs that he really liked, but each submitted their own playlist. I’d love for them to ask me to submit a playlist.

But the absolute astounding thing is when I’ve done a couple of tastings where we’re tasting two different batches, everybody can tell the difference and they’re going, “Why are these different?” And I’m going, “Because they have different playlists.” And they’re just astounded that you can actually taste the music.

It all goes back to that science behind Black Noise. So, each batch number after 081 is going to be a result of an individual bandmate’s playlist?

Yes, so what you can do is, each bottle has a batch number on the necker. You can go to and enter the batch number. [Then you can] pull down the Spotify playlist, and you can enjoy your whiskey while listening to the playlist that your bottle was aged to. It’s just fun.

That’s why I’m really liking this. I mean, they tolerated an awful lot from me. That whole idea was mine. . . Not only do we want to play music to them, but we want to give everybody the opportunity to download the playlist, and do it legally through Spotify. And so, it’s just a really cool thing.

10 West Coast Pinot Noirs for Galentine’s Day

February 13, 2019 - 9:26am

Originating from the hit television series Parks and Recreation, Galentine’s Day, or the day before Valentine’s Day, is when fictional character Leslie Knope unites her gal-pals over brunch in celebration of the amazing women in her life.

Or, in Knope’s own words, “Every February 13th, my lady friends and I leave our husbands and our boyfriends at home, and we just come and kick it, breakfast style. Ladies celebrating ladies. It’s like Lilith Fair, minus the angst. Plus frittatas.”

Whether your celebration includes frittatas or not, good wine is a must (more tips on pairing wine with eggs here). So, grab a bottle from California or Oregon, where Pinot Noir thrives on the U.S. West Coast.

How Rosé Champagne is Made

Center of Effort 2015 Pinot Noir (Edna Valley); $50, 96 points. Dark raspberry, packed lilacs, crushed lavender and a hint of game make for a powerful yet elegant nose. The palate is framed by strong, silty and grippy tannins, with zippy acidity that delivers flavors of black raspberry, pepper spice and roasted boar. —Matt Kettmann

Leitmotif 2016 Duvarita Vineyard Pinot Noir (Santa Barbara County); $46, 95 points. This is a phenomenal start for the small-batch side project by Stephen Searle, whose main job is running Jaffurs Winery. Intense aromas of Bing cherry jelly, crushed rocks and dried sage show on the nose, while the palate combines wild berry and minty flavors with a strong chalky grip, proving both luxurious and refreshing. —M.K.

Sineann 2017 Yates Conwill Vineyard Pinot Noir (Yamhill-Carlton); $42, 94 points. This outstanding value showcases the fruit from a vineyard adjacent to Jadot’s Résonance vineyard. It’s an under-the-radar site beautifully expressed here by winemaker Peter Rosback. Densely packed with strawberry and cherry fruit, it’s textural, deep and long, wrapping up in a tight citrus-framed finish. Drink now and over the next decade. Cellar Selection. —Paul Gregutt

Friedeman 2016 UV Lancel Creek Pinot Noir (Russian River Valley); $60, 94 points. Soft and nicely integrated, this full-bodied wine is robustly built yet sublime in its grasp of firm tannin and fresh acidity. Flavors of raspberry, cherry, mint and an earthy forest floor component complement each other well. —Virginie Boone

Owen Roe 2016 Sojourner Vineyard Pinot Noir (Eola-Amity Hills); $42, 93 points. A lush and textured wine, this suggests strawberry compote and cherry pie in the nose, with ripe fruit flavors to follow. Threaded with sandalwood and graphite streaks, its balanced ripe tannins carry a finishing flicker of mocha. Editors’ Choice. —P.G.

Failla 2016 Björnson Vineyard Pinot Noir (Eola-Amity Hills); $45, 93 points. Another in a series of single-vineyard offerings from Ehren Jordan, this shows earthy richness and brambly strawberry and raspberry fruit. It’s pretty and complex, with the sort of elegant density that promises further development over the next decade or longer. Editors’ Choice. —P.G.

Black Kite 2016 River Turn Pinot Noir (Anderson Valley); $60, 93 points. Long on flavor and complexity, this full-bodied wine bursts with black-cherry, black-tea and redwood-forest aromas, before flooding the palate with delicious, just-ripe fruit flavors that come with a nicely gripping texture due to fine-grained tannins and medium to full body. —Jim Gordon

Cramoisi 2016 Sofia’s Block Pinot Noir (Dundee Hills); $62, 93 points. Drawing upon young vines planted in 2012, this all-Dijon clone wine shows amazing length and strength. Mixed berry fruit flavors are rich and juicy, while the overall balance is supple and refreshing. There’s a burst of spice as it trails in a finish elevated with flavors of blood orange. —P.G.

Williams Selyem 2016 Ferrington Vineyard Pinot Noir (Anderson Valley); $65, 93 points. A deep color, gorgeous fruit aromas and mouthfilling richness make this full-bodied wine memorable. The aromas show everything from strawberry syrup to sour cherries to cinnamon, while the flavors are fully ripe without seeming fat or sweet. —J.G.

MacPhail 2016 Toulouse Vineyard Pinot Noir (Anderson Valley); $55, 92 points. Full bodied and very plush in texture, this supersmooth wine starts with aromas of cooked cherries and plums, moves to richer, sweet-seeming strawberries and red cherries on the palate while it coats the tongue and sides of the mouth with an appealing, creamy texture. —J.G.

A Beginner’s Guide to Wines from Italy’s Piedmont

February 12, 2019 - 2:00pm

Piedmont. Or Piemonte. Whichever way you say it: hard two-syllable, American-style or lilting with three syllables like an Italian, the word carries mystical qualities. It conjures visions of fog-shrouded hills, white truffle-sniffing dogs and noble wines. Most wine lovers associate Piedmont with the famous reds of Barolo, but as anyone who has visited the region knows, it’s large, complex and full of surprises. A thousand books could be written on Piedmont.

For now, let’s start with the basics.

Learn About Italy’s Secret Nebbiolos Piedmont = Location, Location, Location

Located in northwest Italy, Piedmont sits at the foot of the western Alps. This unique geographical spot lends two key features that influence the region’s climate: the cool Alps and the balmy Mediterranean. These forces contribute wide day-night temperature variation, known as diurnal range. And cold nights, foggy mornings and sunlit days make for good wine.

Captivating Nebbiolo

True wine lovers appreciate the interplay between power and beauty that defines Nebbiolo-based wines. It’s often considered an alternative to great Burgundy, whose prices soar out of reach for most consumers. Nebbiolo can be compared to Pinot Noir for its transparency or ability to convey a sense of place.

Due to growth in demand for Italian Nebbiolo, producers around the world have tried to replicate the wines, to little success. Barolo and Barbaresco, the two most well-known regions that produce the variety, offer singular expressions of site and climate that are virtually impossible to duplicate. Unlike Cabernet Sauvignon, a grape capable of interesting results in a variety of places, nobody has cracked the code of creating thrilling Nebbiolo outside of Italy.

What makes great Nebbiolo such a haunting experience? The wine has high acidity, a pale garnet color, intense grippy tannins, flavors of cherry, rose and tar, as well as a moderately high alcohol content of 13–15%. These wines, especially with a decade of aging to soften tannins and integrate acidity, inspire flocks of devotees.

Barolo, Italy / Getty Barolo DOCG

Barolo has long been called the “King of Wine.” Such is the reputation of Barolo and its hills, a region which has earned UNESCO World Heritage status, along with Barbaresco.

Located just south of Alba, the appellation comprises 11 villages: Barolo, Castiglione Falletto, Serralunga d’Alba, Cherasco, Diano d’Alba, Grinzane Cavour, La Morra, Monforte d’Alba, Novello, Roddi and Verduno.

Of those 11, the most recognized for quality are La Morra, Serralunga d’Alba, Monforte d’Alba, Barolo and Castiglione Falleto, though many sommeliers are fond of the finesse of Verduno.

The soil, and the resulting structure of the wine, differs in these villages. In La Morra and Barolo, compact limestone-heavy Tortonian marl, often called blue-gray marl, offers wines of delicacy, perfume and fruit. In Castiglione Falletto, Monforte d’Alba and Serralunga d’Alba, the vineyards sit on looser sandstone and limestone Helvetian soils, often called white-yellow marl, which result in a fuller body with more concentration and structure. Of course, these generalizations exclude producer style.

The appellation has earned Denominazione di Origine Controllata e Garantita (DOCG) status, and regulations dictate that Barolo must age a minimum of three years before release, and five years for Riserva. To further ensure quality, only vineyards on southern-facing hills fall within its purview, though with climate change and creeping alcohol, this could change.

Nebbiolo grapes / Getty Barbaresco DOCG

Barbaresco is located northeast of Alba near the Tanaro River, and it also carries DOCG status for wine made from the best south-facing vineyards of Nebbiolo. Barbaresco has four villages: Barbaresco, Neive, San Rocco Seno d’Elvio and Treiso.

Though there are many exceptional producers of Barbaresco, Angelo Gaja, Bruno Giacosa and Produttori del Barbaresco, a quality-minded co-op founded in 1958, helped elevate the wine’s reputation.

Barbaresco has long endured comparison to Barolo. It’s been often considered, erroneously, to be a lesser wine because it lacks the sheer austerity, tannic structure and ageability of Barolo.

How did this distinction arise? A difference in soils and climate. Barbaresco grows primarily on a limestone base, which lowers tannins and highlights fruit similar to Barolo grown on blue-gray marl. Proximity to the river and lower elevations contribute to earlier ripening of grapes, a benefit in hotter years. Thinner skins translate into less tannin balanced against more fruit. Thus, Barbaresco tastes lighter than many Barolos.

Ask a winemaker what they drink, and they’ll likely answer Barbaresco for its accessibility. Why wait 20 years to enjoy a wine? And if not Barbaresco, they’ll likely drink Barbera.

The Beauty of Barbaresco Barbera, the Workhorse

Barbera is Piedmont’s most widely planted grape. Barbera d’Asti DOCG and Barbera d’Alba Denominazione di Origine Controllata (DOC) are the most well-known appellations in Piedmont.

Today, Barbera grows around Italy and the world. Barbera is a dark-skinned grape that produces ruby-hued wines with bright cherry flavors and tannins distinctly softer and rounder than Nebbiolo. Thanks to its high acidity, Barbera thrives in warmer climates yet doesn’t produce flabby, flat wines. Hence its appeal to New World growers in California and Australia. But Piedmont remains its spiritual home.

Barbera d’Alba DOC covers the Alba viticultural area, from the town of Alba and nearby Langhe hills, with overlap in Barolo and Barbaresco. Alba’s well-known, undulating landscape is laid across chalky, limestone-rich clay soils. The best Barbera d’Alba wines come from hillside sites near Barolo.

Barbera d’Asti DOCG covers some of the most famous wines in Piedmont. The appellation was upgraded to a DOCG in 2008. The hills around Asti and Alessandria provinces provide fertile planting ground for Barbera. The wines must be 85% Barbera, with the remainder comprised of Freisa, Grignolino and Dolcetto. The Superiore designation requires 14 months of aging, with at least six months in barrel. D’Asti has the best potential for aging, as it often matures favorably for 6–10 years in the cellar.

The Langhe e Roero vineyards in Cuneo province, Piedmont / Getty Dolcetto or “Little Sweet One”

Dolcetto, which translates to “little sweet one,” is Piedmont’s third internationally significant red variety. Typically found in the provinces of Cuneo and Alessandria, its appealing fruitiness, moderate-to-low acidity, deep color and affordable price point make it a consumer favorite.

It’s also a favorite of producers that look to derive the most value from their property. Dolcetto ripens nearly a month before Nebbiolo, and it also can be planted on sites with less favorable sun exposure or higher elevations. Generally made to be enjoyed in its youth, it provides a foil for producers to longer-aging wines like Barbera and Nebbiolo.

Usually bottled as a single-varietal wine, Dolcetto’s soft, fruity style doesn’t lend itself to long-term aging. However, great producers, especially from Dolcetto d’Alba DOC, Dogliani DOCG and Dolcetto d’Ovada DOC, can last half a decade or more. These three appellations of the seven Dolcetto-focused regions also account for the greatest quantity of production.

Now is the Time to Drink Barbera from Piedmont

Dolcetto d’Alba DOC is often regaled as the source of the grape’s finest wines. It’s only produced in the provinces of Asti and Cuneo, and has traditionally been the most consumed table wine of locals in Langhe.

The region delivers a range of styles from soft to structured. It’s typically dry, ruby-red in color with juicy cherry and almond notes. It boasts low-to-moderate acidity, as well as moderate alcohol (12% abv) and tannin levels. Dolcetto d’Alba typically shows more floral aromatics like violets and lavender than its counterparts, and it’s not as robust as Dogliani Dolcetto. Dolcetto d’Alba Superiore requires a minimum of 12 months aging.

Dolcettos from Dogliani DOCG lean toward a fuller-bodied, perfumed expression. The appellation was promoted in 2005 from DOC to DOCG for its Superiore wines, in recognition of its dedication to quality Dolcetto. Superiore wines mature for 12 months before release. And Dolcetto diOvada DOC or Superiore DOCG, long known in Italy for its fine wines, has been relatively obscure outside its borders. If you find one, try it.

The Church of San Secondo in Asti, Italy / Getty Moscato d’Asti and other White Wines

For most consumers, Piedmont equals red wine. But bubbles and several delicious whites should not be overlooked.

Well-known to American drinkers: the affable Moscatos. Moscato d’Asti DOCG and Asti Spumante, now called Asti with its elevation to DOCG status, are made with Moscato Bianco grapes grown around Asti. Moscato d’Asti tends to be sweeter, fruitier more gently sparkling and of higher quality. It’s typical for producers of Barolo to make Moscato on the side.

The top white grapes of the region are Cortese and Arneis. The former grows in the appellation of Cortese di Gavi DOCG, while the latter at its best in Roero DOCG.

Known colloquially as Gavi, Cortese di Gavi has long been considered the more prestigious of the two. It’s generally enjoyed young to take advantage of its crisp acidity and white peach, almond and floral qualities on a bone-dry palate. The region, in the province of Alessandria, is close to the Ligurian border and the Mediterranean Sea. Some believe that the relative proximity to coastal culture influences the youthful, fresh style of the wines.

However, the world is waking up to Arneis. Located in Roero, north of the Tanaro River and Barolo, the wine brims with minerality layered between flavors of white flowers, peach, apple and green hazelnut. The vineyards are planted on sandy soils from an ancient seabed.

Two more obscure whites with character are floral, lemony Erbaluce and spicy, saline Nascetta.

Torre delle Castelle in Gattinara, Piedmont / Getty Northern Piedmont or Alto Piemonte

Before Barolo or Barbaresco, there were Ghemme, Gattinara, Lessona and Bramaterra. Located northeast of Turin, these sub-Alpine regions produce Nebbiolo-based wines that were once popular both at home and abroad. Enjoyed by the nobility and Milanese denizens alike during the 19th century, the wines were sought across the Austro-Hungarian Empire. However, a variety of factors led to the collapse of the industry. Producers are now trying to replant and reignite a renaissance in the region.

There are five appellations of northern Piedmont where wines are produced at enough scale to be accessible to most Americans. Gattinara DOCG, Ghemme DOCG, Lessona DOC, Bramaterra DOC, and Boca DOC. Typically, these wines are made from a blend of Nebbiolo, locally called Spanna, and other native grapes like Vespolina, Croatina and Uva Rara. Quality in the region is high and generally presents a great value for Nebbiolo lovers.

Casale Monferrato, Piedmont / Getty The Unusual and Indigenous

The region is also a treasure trove of indigenous varieties.

Ruché, mostly grown around Castagnole Monferrato in the appellation of Ruchè di Castagnole Monferrato DOCG, is best bottled in its youth without oak. This pale, ruby-hued wine brims with fascinating aromas of ripe strawberries and cherries, flowers, cinnamon and white pepper.

Grignolino, common around Piedmont, is elusive beyond Italy, though it’s a darling of American sommeliers. The grape has two DOCs: Grignolino d’Asti and Grignolino del Monferrato Casalese. Grignolino typically has high tannins and acidity, pale color and fabulous aromas of violets, roses and red berries.

Freisa, grown around Monferrato, has two DOCs: Freisa d’Asti and Freisa di Chieri. This floral, fruity and vivid red is a captivating wine. As a relative to Nebbiolo, it’s one of the oldest varieties in Piedmont and capable of a range of styles.

Using Champagne to Elevate Your Chocolate Experience

February 12, 2019 - 1:06pm

If the graphics seen commonly on greeting cards are any indication, Valentine’s Day is the season of Champagne and chocolate. While you can opt for a bottle and a box of gourmet truffles, it’s never been easier to combine the two. Artisan chocolatiers across the country are incorporating Champagne to make exquisite creations.

But infusing chocolate with sparkling wine is not without challenges.

“It’s like walking a tightrope with Champagne,” says Valerie Gordon, co-founder of Valerie Confections. “You want the full flavor, but if you put too much alcohol in it, you get collapsed truffles. You see cracks or a depression in the top of the truffle. That happens due to evaporation.”

The correct Champagne is key when added to chocolate. According to Mary Leonard, owner, founder and chocolatier of Chocolat Céleste, sweeter wines make for a better treat.

“The Champagne is meant to blend, and not compete, with the chocolate,” says Leonard. “I believe it should always be two sweets with each other, not competing, like [they would] with a brut that’s dry.”

Leonard points out that while spirits like whiskey and Frangelico blend with chocolate to enhance flavors, wines like Champagne tend to offer contrast.

“With Champagne, you are tasting two separate flavors in your mouth,” she says. “[They] interact with different parts of your palate. The different flavors pop in your mouth, and you don’t taste them at the same time. You’re left with two different tastes.”

For Kee Ling Tong, owner/chocolatier of Kee’s Chocolates, the flavor pairing draws on psychology.

“It’s more a mindset,” she says. “People associate Champagne with celebration. That pairs well with chocolate. Chocolate makes you happy, and Champagne makes you happy as well.”

Gordon agrees. “I think it’s a flavor pairing, but also, it’s the idea of the two things that works the best. As a society, we hold both chocolate and Champagne as a treat. By infusing chocolates with Champagne, you’re checking two boxes with one box of chocolate.”

The distinctive pyramid shape of Kee’s Chocolates Kee’s Chocolates Champagne Chocolates

The striking pyramid shape is the first indication that Kee’s Chocolates are crafted with impeccable attention to detail. Tong works seven days a week to keep her two New York shops stocked with fresh chocolate.

Kee’s Champagne chocolates are based on a recipe that Tong received in baking school, with her own unique twists and original creations. She starts by boiling down Champagne to reduce the alcohol content before it’s added it to a dark chocolate ganache.

“You want the sweetness to come through with the Champagne and balance off the dark chocolate,” says Tong.

“Because I do things daily, I don’t make a large batch. There’s a little bubble to them, [so] you can tell it’s fresh. People love the chocolate. They say it’s the freshest thing they’ve ever had. It’s like drinking Champagne with chocolate.”

Boxes of happiness from Chocolat Céleste Chocolat Céleste Champagne Truffles

Mary Leonard of Chocolat Céleste in St. Paul, Minnesota, makes her truffles with sustainably sourced 64% dark chocolate, heavy cream and small-batch butter from local creamery Hope.

“The flavor lasts on the palate for so long due to the dark chocolate,” she says. “When people taste my chocolates, they are truly amazed and surprised by the flavor.”

Leonard’s truffles have only a slight sparkling wine flavor, due to Minnesota laws that restrict alcohol levels in foods. She uses a sweet sparkling wine from Toad Hollow Vineyards in Sonoma County, California, for her confections.

“The biggest thing [sparkling wine] does is add a different consistency,” she says. “The effervescence opens up the ganache to air bubbles, which makes it softer on the palate as far as mouthfeel.”

Champagne is one of Chocolat Céleste’s most popular truffle flavors, and there’s an uptick in demand around Valentine’s Day. “For this holiday, it just sounds so darn romantic to have Champagne and chocolate together,” says Leonard with a chuckle.

How Rosé Champagne is Made Piece, Love & Chocolate Bubbly Champagne Truffles

“If I could only have one truffle in the entire case, the Champagne is the one I would take,” says Greg Amorese, co-owner of Piece, Love & Chocolate in Boulder, Colorado. “When we first opened eight years ago, it was one of the first four [chocolate] flavors we made: milk, white, dark and Champagne.”

Amorese says Champagne is the ideal pairing partner for various chocolates because it helps maintain a neutral palate to best experience the different flavor notes. Piece, Love & Chocolate’s truffles are made with a 54% dark chocolate ganache infused with Champagne Cognac.

“That Cognac maintains that nice, smooth Champagne flavor,” he says. “It’s an enhancement without being too dominant. Cognac is a nice complement to chocolate.”

Sparkling wine-infused creations from Valerie Confections Valerie Confections Champagne Truffles

For Gordon of Los Angeles-based Valerie Confections, her Champagne truffles stand out from the crowd thanks to their heavy incorporation of sparkling wine.

“There’s an enormous amount of Champagne in the Champagne truffles,” she says. “My main goal, when you bite into the truffle, is that there’s no mistake what you’re biting into. There’s a clear and exciting amount of Champagne.”

Gordon accomplishes that impressive flavor with a non-traditional technique. She replaces some of the cream in the ganache with sparkling wine, which serves as an emulsifier. The truffles also include brandy, which backs the wine’s flavor on the palate.

“Having an underbelly of brandy projects the Champagne flavor more distinctly and preserves it,” she says.

While most chocolatiers pair sparkling wine with dark chocolate, Valerie Confections’ truffles feature a milk chocolate shell.

“I think Champagne in ganache form plays better with milk chocolate,” says Gordon. “I find the acid fruit notes you get in bittersweet dark chocolate downplay the Champagne. The flavor can become muddy. By blending Champagne with milk chocolate, you taste more Champagne, and you also get the creaminess.”

Does Formal Wine Training Matter?

February 11, 2019 - 1:45pm

After he pursued a master’s degree in political theory at the University of Chicago, Warren Winiarski learned winemaking in the cellars of Chateau Souverain and Robert Mondavi. In Great Winemakers of California: Conversations with Robert Benson (Capra Press, 1977), Robert Benson asked Winiarski if it was unusual for someone to move to California to become a winemaker.

“Many people have chosen deliberately to pursue [winemaking] as a second career and have infused a great deal of enthusiasm and dedication in the industry,” he said. “These people are in it because they love it, and the love heightens their powers of observation, intensifies their interest, intimacy and knowledge.”

Winiarski says that this brings winemaking closer to the European tradition, where “observations, techniques, judgment and art are all passed on [through the generations].”

How to Taste Wine Like a Pro

Much of California’s wine history was forged by men from similar paths. Pioneers like Robert Mondavi, Donn Chappellet, Martin Ray, Paul Draper and Bob Travers didn’t earn degrees in viticulture before they started winemaking careers. Some, like Mondavi, were from winemaking families, while others came to it after prior careers or disciplines.

Davis Bynum, a former journalist at the San Francisco Chronicle, was the first to make single-vineyard Pinot Noir from Sonoma County’s Russian River Valley in 1973. He was famous for saying “any idiot can make wine, but he has to be a tireless idiot. Winemaking takes enormous work and attention.”

And so it still goes across Napa and Sonoma. Winemakers often don’t have any formal education in the work, but they’ve earned success through experience and hard work.

Pete Soergel / Photo courtesy of Lynmar Estate

“By not having a degree, you try to take advantage of as many opportunities as you can,” says Pete Soergel, winemaker at Lynmar Estate in the Russian River Valley. “Working abroad, reading wine books, reading soil books, holding tasting groups, making and tasting as much wine as possible—my learning style is more hands-on.”

The path involves more trial and error, he says, but it encourages him to use his senses and intuition.

Mentorship is key, too. Soergel gives credit to his earliest winemaking mentor, Michael Browne, co-founder of Kosta Browne. Like Soergel, he didn’t have a winemaking degree. Browne told Soergel that it takes two lifetimes to ever become good at winemaking.

It wasn’t until he was a senior in college that Soergel became interested in wine. He worked a few harvests and became hooked. Soergel then decided to see how far he could go with it.

“Having a winemaking degree does give you a foot in the door,” says Soergel. “For me, having good connections and relationships has been important. I’ve had good opportunities arise out of hard work.”

Jennifer Higgins sorting Petite Sirah at Lambert Bridge / Photo by Adam Decker

Jennifer Higgins, winemaker at Lambert Bridge in Dry Creek Valley, earned an undergraduate degree in biochemisty from University of California, Davis with an eye toward a career in medicine. A Sonoma County native, she worked in tasting rooms during summers.

Before long, she started to shadow others in winery labs and help out with harvest. She loved it and switched careers.

“Experience is so important,” she says. “I’ve gone to smaller, high-end, family-owned places where I was given the chance to get experience. You have to get out and start doing.”

“I tried to learn everything I possibly could and would bring the work home: tasting, looking things up, meeting with other winemakers. Choose your teachers wisely.” —Jennifer Higgins, winemaker, Lambert Bridge Winery

Higgins says that some new viticulture grads expect assistant or head winemaker jobs right out the gate. She prefers to hire those who have paid some dues, worked a few places and ask lots of questions.

“When I was starting off, not having a degree, I worked for great teachers,” says Higgins. “I tried to learn everything I possibly could and would bring the work home: tasting, looking things up, meeting with other winemakers. Choose your teachers wisely.”

Jeff Ames of Rudius Wines / Photo by Collin Krauthhamer

Jeff Ames did. He worked at a Memphis wine shop to put himself through school, and he developed the itch to work a harvest out West. In 1998, Lynn Penner-Ash, of Penner-Ash Wine Cellars in Oregon, was the first to give him a chance.

A year later, he landed a job in the tasting room at Napa Valley’s Freemark Abbey. Along the way, he wrote for Decanter and was an early employee at

Eventually, he met Thomas Rivers Brown, one of the most sought-after winemaking consultants in the Napa Valley. Like Ames, he didn’t possess a formal wine-related degree. In 2001, Ames became Brown’s assistant, where he worked with clients like Outpost, Schrader, Tamber Bey and Tor Kenward.

“I had to learn by doing,” says Ames. “I was a wine geek that turned into a winemaker.”

Lacking formal education, Ames made up for it with a laser-like focus.

“You can’t let something go off the rails,” he says. “You have to keep it nice, neat and tight in the winery and taste all the time, so you pick up a potential problem before it becomes a real problem. You have to learn the early indicators of a wine.

“With a formal education, sometimes the downside is you can get numbers-centric. You forget it has to taste good.”

In addition to consulting work, Ames has his own brand, Rudius, on Howell Mountain. Ames says that because of his success, as well as others like Brown, wineries are more open to hire those like him.

“But you’re less likely to be hired by a big corporation,” says Ames. “I look for someone who wants to make wine so bad they’ll sleep on the floor for six months. I can relate to that.”

Your Quick Guide to New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc

February 11, 2019 - 9:00am

We can’t get enough of this extroverted sipper. It burst onto the scene with heady-fruit and green-vegetable aromas and crisp acidity in the mid-1980s, and there’s one region in particular to thank: Marlborough.

Tucked into the northeast corner of New Zealand’s South Island, Marlborough grows the lion’s share of the country’s Sauvignon Blanc across two subregions, Wairau Valley and Awatere Valley. Both are relatively dry and maritime influenced, but the cooler, more seaward Awatere produces slightly more herbaceous, saline Sauvignon than Wairau.

Elsewhere in New Zealand, the style changes with the terroirs, but not drastically. Sauvignon Blanc is produced across the country, from Nelson to Canterbury and Wairarapa to Gisborne.

Toward the bottom of the South Island, Central Otago’s semi-continental climate leads to wines with more gunflint and herbal tones overlain with pineapple and passion fruit. About midway  up the east coast of the North Island in Hawke’s Bay, warmer, milder growing conditions produce unsurprisingly riper, richer wines.

Ultimately, though, winemaking choices affect the final wine most noticeably. Try Sauvignon aged in oak and/or on its lees and compare it to one picked early­ and sent straight to stainless. Sample “naturally” made, cellar worthy or sparkling Sauvignon Blanc. You’ll be sipping your way to Sauvignon Blanc savviness in no time.

An Eco-Friendly Wine Tour of New Zealand's South Island Eight bottles to try

Villa Maria Private Bin (Marlborough); $14. A Marlborough standard-bearer from one of the country’s most well known names.

Mt. Beautiful (Canterbury); $16. A textured, bright-fruited expression from south of Marlborough.

Glover Family Zephyr (Marlborough); $17. An emerging, family-run winery with vineyards right by the sea in the Wairau Valley.

Trinity Hill (Hawke’s Bay); $17. A delicate, mineral-driven Sauvignon from one of Hawke’s Bay’s leaders.

Clos Henri Petit Clos (Marlborough); $18. Terroir expression at its finest from a boutique biodynamic producer.

Ata Rangi (Martinborough); $20. Barrel fermentation, skin contact and partial malolactic fermentation make a complex wine.

Hillersden Sparkling (Marlborough); $22. A fruity Prosecco-style bubbly from a relatively small, family-run operation.

Greywacke Wild (Marlborough); $29. Wild yeast, lees stirring and oak make for a full-bodied expression.

A Berry Eton Mess

February 10, 2019 - 8:00am

Named after England’s Eton College, where the dish is traditionally served after the annual cricket match versus Harrow School, Eton Mess is a dessert always on the cusp of being trendy. The simple dish involves layering fresh berries, whipped cream and broken pieces of meringue until your glass looks more like a fancy sundae than strawberry shortcake.

This version calls for a quick maceration of the strawberries in fruity red wine, like Merlot, as you pull together the rest of the ingredients. You’ll be adding a touch of rosé and coloring to the meringue batter, which gives the finished cookie a beautiful pink hue. Pick a wine that’s made from Pinot Noir or Gamay grapes. As you pipe out the batter, don’t worry about being perfect as the cookies can all be broken up in the end.

And if you’re short on time, all the ingredients can be picked up from the grocery store for quick assembly.

Three Meals Perfect for Valentine's Day Dinner

Three Meals Perfect for Valentine’s Day Dinner

February 9, 2019 - 8:34am

Valentine’s Day often brings to mind a quiet dinner at a posh restaurant, but between the wait, the crowds and the noise, reality rarely lives up to expectation. This year, skip the hassle and prepare a charming dinner for you and your sweetheart. After all, who needs Cupid when you can choose one of these three chef-driven meals to fan the flames of love?

Jump Straight to a Recipe  Smoked Salmon Cakes with Red Remoulade Presa Ibérico with Mojo Verde 28-Day, Dry-Aged Ribeye Steak With Pureed Potatoes

28-Day, Dry-Aged Ribeye Steak With Pureed Potatoes

February 9, 2019 - 8:33am

Adapted from Danny Grant, executive chef/partner, Maple & Ash, Chicago

Steak is the star at upscale Chicago eatery Maple & Ash, but you’ll receive the accolades when you whip up Danny Grant’s ribeye at home. Seared beef may be a heavy choice for a romantic dinner, so you can save leftovers for a hearty steak and eggs breakfast in bed. This meal channels a mix of cozy simplicity—it’s just steak and potatoes—and extreme opulence. Indulge in this lavish dinner if your idea of a romantic evening is pure creature comfort.

Three Meals Perfect for Valentine's Day Dinner


Smoked Salmon Cakes with Red Remoulade

February 8, 2019 - 4:34pm

Adapted From Table 3 Restaurant and Market, Nashville

Nashville’s Table 3 Restaurant and Market offers traditional French brasserie cuisine alongside a French-centric wine list selected by co-owner Elise Loehr. These smoked salmon cakes have a casual bistro feel that belies a lot of preparation.

This recipe requires two separate remoulade sauces and a slaw, but don’t fret: You can prepare both sauces a day in advance and toss the slaw an hour before serving. If your date-night vibe is casual and lighthearted, this will still be perfect.

Three Meals Perfect for Valentine's Day Dinner