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The Truth Behind Your Favorite Wines

October 16, 2018 - 12:47pm

Name a popular wine grape. Odds are, it’s the love child of two different varieties. Often, these parent grapes are ones you’ve heard of, like Sauvignon Blanc or Pinot Noir. But a number of well-known varieties are mixes that involve more obscure grapes many wine lovers are yet to be familiar with.

In most cases, crosses and hybrids are bred for a specific intention, either to create a grape with better pest or disease resistance, or improved characteristics like flavor, color or yield.

A “crossed variety” means a grape is bred from two different Vitis vinifera varieties, which include the most widely known and popular winemaking grapes. Grapes referred to as hybrids, meanwhile, are a crossing of Vitis vinifera and North American Vitis labrusca or (even lesser-known) Vitis riparia grapes.

Many of the most widely grown European Vitis vinifera wine grapes are spontaneous field crosses, in which two species mated with the help of the birds and the bees, producing an entirely new variety.

A “crossed variety” means a grape is bred from two different Vitis vinifera varieties, which include the most widely known winemaking grapes. Hybrid grapes are a crossing of Vitis vinifera and North American Vitis labrusca or Vitis riparia.

A prime example of a well-known crossed grape is Cabernet Sauvignon, the offspring of Cabernet Franc and Sauvignon Blanc. Its half-sibling, Merlot, is the product of Cabernet Franc and the unheralded Magdeleine Noire des Charentes.

The terms “hybrids” and “crosses” are not interchangeable. While crossed grapes are grown throughout the world, hybrids were effectively prohibited in Europe for decades, though regulations have been relaxed somewhat.

Want to out-geek your savviest wine-loving friends? Brush up on your crosses and hybrids, and order a glass or bottle next time you’re out on the town.

When two grapes love each other very much… / Collage by Matthew Dimas Grape Crosses The Grape: Pinotage The Parents: Pinot Noir and Cinsault

A cross of Pinot Noir and Cinsault, Pinotage was bred by Professor Abraham Perold in 1925 at Welgevallen experimental farm at the University of Stellenbosch. At the time, Cinsault was known in South Africa as “Hermitage,” which prompted the moniker Pinotage. Popular since the 1960s, it has been called South Africa’s signature grape.

Expect ripe black-fruit flavors with notes of smoke and earth. Pinotage is a difficult grape to work with, but in the right hands, it can be excellent. In addition to South Africa, look for bottlings from California, Virginia, Australia, New Zealand and Germany.

Notable Pinotage Producers in South Africa Kanonkop, Beyerskloof, Simonsig, Bellingham, Graham Beck The Grape: Marselan The Parents: Cabernet Sauvignon and Grenache

Named for the coastal French town of Marseillan, this cross between Cabernet Sauvignon and Grenache was created by researcher Paul Truel in 1961, who hoped his experiment would produce large berries and higher yields. The crossing resulted in tiny berries, however, and the project was discontinued.

Thirty years later, researchers who sought disease resistant varieties gave Marselan a second look due to its ability to evade mold and mildew. It’s now grown in France’s Languedoc and the southern Rhône as well as Spain, Israel, Brazil, Argentina, Uruguay and China, where it’s become a winemaker favorite. With flavors of red plum and raspberry paired with moderate tannins, Marselan is a fairly easy-drinking red wine.

Notable Marselan Producers France: Domaine Le Colombier, Domaine de Couron Israel: Recanati, Jerusalem Wineries, Barkan South America: Vinícola Salton  (Brazil), Bodega Garzón (Uruguay) The Grape: Müller-Thurgau The Parents: Riesling and Madeleine Royale

Müller-Thurgau was created in 1882 by Dr. Hermann Müller, from the Swiss canton of Thurgau, at the Geisenheim Grape Breeding Institute in the Rheingau. He crossed Riesling with an early ripening variety, Madeleine Royale, in the hopes to produce a grape with Riesling’s flavor and complexity that would ripen sooner in the season.

Today, it’s the second-most planted variety in Germany, and it’s also grown in Luxembourg, Austria, Switzerland, northern Italy, New Zealand, throughout Eastern Europe, and in Oregon and Washington State. Light in body with moderate acidity, Müller-Thurgau has flavors of apple, pear and citrus with soft floral notes.

Notable Müller-Thurgau Producers Germany: Rainer Sauer, Karl Josef, Fritz Müller Italy: Tiefenbrunner Schlosskellerei Turmhof, Kettmeir, Abbazia di Novacella United States:  Kramer, Sokol Blosser, Whitetail Ridge, Henry Estate, Season Cellars The Grape: Argaman The Parents: Souzão and Carignan

Israeli researchers developed Argaman chiefly to add color to red blends. Its name is Hebrew for a shade of purple-crimson, but it’s often referred to incorrectly as an indigenous Israeli variety. It’s a cross between Portuguese grape Souzão, used mainly in Port production, and Mediterranean variety Carignan. Argaman was first used to make inexpensive blended wines. However, it’s now being vinified by a handful of producers to make high-quality varietal bottlings. Flavors include black cherry, plum and spice in a deeply colored red wine.

Notable Argaman Producers in Israel Jezreel, Barkan The Grape:  Petite Sirah The Parents: Syrah and Peloursin

Petite Sirah is a cross of Peloursin and Syrah that was created in an experimental vineyard operated by Dr. François Durif at the University of Montpellier in the 1860s. Durif took proper credit for the resulting vine and named it after himself. It’s still called Durif in Australia, where it was originally used to create fortified, Port-style wines.

What Does it Mean When the Same Grape has Different Names?

The largest plantings are now in the U.S., particularly California, where the name Petite Sirah took hold due to early confusion with the Syrah grape. It even has its own advocacy group in California, PS I Love You. Considered an up-and-coming variety in Israel, Petite Sirah is known for its teeth-staining color and strong flavors of blueberry, plum and spice.

Notable Petite Sirah Producers California: Bogle, Spellbound, Ravenswood, Concannon, Steele, Fiddletown Cellars, V. Sattui, Stags’ Leap, Carlisle Israel: Recanati, Montefiore, Dalton, Vitkin Hybrids, when two grapes from different sides of the tracks meet / Collage by Matthew Dimas Grape Hybrids The Grape: Baco Noir The Parents: Folle Blanche (Vitis vinifera) and unknown species of Vitis riparia

Baco Noir was born in France at the turn of the 20th century, when schoolteacher-turned-grape breeder François Baco crossed Folle Blanche with Vitis riparia pollen originally thought to be from Grande Glabre, but later believed to be a mix from multiple vines. In the wake of the phylloxera epidemic, Baco Noir had a brief period of popularity in France until viticulturists started to graft American rootstocks onto their own Vitis vinifera vines.

It’s now grown throughout the U.S., including the Northeast, Midwest and Mid-Atlantic regions, as well as Nebraska, North Dakota, Montana, Oregon and eastern Canada. With flavors of cherry, raspberry and dried herbs, Baco Noir can be light and elegant like Pinot Noir, or deeply colored with cassis and cedar notes.

Notable Baco Noir Producers New York: Hudson-Chatham, Benmarl, Bully Hill Oregon: Melrose, Girardet Ontario: Henry of Pelham Estate Winery The Grape: Seyval Blanc The Parents: Seibel 5656 and Rayon d’Or (Seibel 4986)

Developed by Bertille Seyve and Victor Villard around the 1920s, Seyval Blanc is a descendant of at least one Vitis vinifera grape, Aramon. Its parents, Seibel 5656 Rayon d’Or (Seibel 4986), are two of many varieties forged by French viticulturist and physician Albert Seibel, who sought to develop disease-resistant varieties by crossing American and European grapes. It thrives in cold regions like England, New York State, Virginia, Ohio, Oregon and eastern Canada. It’s known for citrus, apple and butterscotch flavors, and is made in dry, off-dry and fortified styles.

Notable Seyval Blanc Producers New York: Knapp, Clinton Virginia: Veramar Vineyard, Bogati The Grape: Vidal The Parents: Ugni Blanc (Trebbiano Toscano) and Rayon d’Or (Seibel 4986)

This grape was developed by and named for French viticulturist Jean-Louis Vidal in the 1930s. Its original raison d’être was for Cognac production, as one of its parents, Ugni Blanc, is the main grape used in Cognac.

But Vidal displayed an incredible tolerance for cold weather, and it’s found great success being used in ice wine and sweet, late-harvest wines. It’s grown throughout Canada and in states like New York, New Jersey, Virginia and Michigan. There are also plantings in Sweden—yes, Sweden—where it’s also used to make ice wine. Expect flavors of apricot, white peach and honey with soft floral notes.

Notable Vidal Producers in Canada
Ontario: Inniskillin, Reif Estate, Pillitteri, Peller British Columbia: Mission Hill

Five Seasonal Beers for Fall

October 16, 2018 - 8:40am

The old adage, “If it grows together, it goes together,” has long been a philosophy of farm-to-table restaurants. Brewers around the world employ the same idea when they add fruits and vegetables to their beers. While numerous year-round offerings feature grapefruit, cucumber or chile peppers, these five take a decidedly more autumn-harvest focus.

GingerGueuze Lindemans

One of the most recognizable names in Belgian beer, Lindemans has experimented with different flavors in recent years. This blend of one-, two- and three-year-old lambic is fermented in oak with fresh ginger. Assertive and pleasantly sour, it’s lovely with real vanilla ice cream, or even a hearty roast dinner.

Black Dot House of Fermentology

Aged for more than a year in oak barrels stuffed with black mission figs and a touch of star anise, this wild ale has the slightly earthy, sweet, rounded flavor you’d expect from the fruit. It gets a smooth, licorice-like boost from the spice and also boasts a moderate alcohol level. It’s a perfect after-dinner beer.

Four Canned Wines for Autumn Fun Cran-bic New Glarus Brewing Co.

The brewery best known for the easy-drinking Spotted Cow is also celebrated for its fruit-infused ales. Wisconsin is one of the world’s largest producers of cranberries, and they make an annual appearance in this slightly tart, red-hued beer made in the lambic style. Effervescent and refreshing, it’s an ideal replacement for canned cranberry.

Red Velvet Ballast Point Brewing Company

A beer that’s appealing in the glass will immediately pique interest, and this nitrogenated, red-hued oatmeal stout with a fluffy white head resembles its dessert namesake. Brewed with beets to impart their distinct color, the result is more sweet than earthy. No fork required.

Carver Fullsteam Brewery

As with pumpkin, some people enjoy the spice medley attached to sweet potatoes, others don’t. For the latter, there’s this lager. It uses 200 pounds of sweet potatoes per batch, but not the spices. The result is a crisp, refreshing beer with a touch of earthy sweetness and slight hop bitterness on the finish.

Why Wine Lovers Need to Give Mead Another Look

October 15, 2018 - 11:30am

Here’s the buzz: Mead, considered by many historians to be the earliest version of wine, is having a moment. Creative mead-makers (called “mazers”) are turning out inspired versions of this honey-based beverage with medieval roots.

Mead was born 8,000 years ago, which pre-dates wine and beer by several thousand years, says author Fred Minnick in his book, Mead: The Libations, Legends, and Lore of History’s Oldest Drink (Running Press, 2018).

It likely started simply. “Somebody left a pot of honey outside in the rain,” says Minnick. “It fermented, and people drank it. Mead was born.”

Today, the mead revival parallels the craft brewing and cider movements. Most meaderies focus on intensive local production, often starting with the terroir of regional honey.

Done right, says Mark Oberle, co-owner/mead maker of San Diego’s Meadiocrity Mead, “it’s about capturing the uniqueness of the honey, not only the land, but the varieties,” like clover or orange blossom honey.

Among the growing numbers of mead makers, it’s possible for producers to jump from sparkling mead to fruit-infused pink meads reminiscent of rosé, or even into dry, barrel-aged meads that suggest Sherry or a light whiskey.

Don’t expect a super-sweet sip. A growing number of meads are relatively dry, with their honey providing nuanced flavor without overt sweetness. And while some old-school meads remain little more than a mix of fermented honey, yeast and water, producers have turned increasingly to botanicals, fruit and spices to create unique offerings.

Many meads are also aged in barrels, bringing additional, wine-like nuance.

This makes for an exciting, experimental landscape. According to the American Mead Makers Association, there were over 400 commercial meaderies in the U.S. as of 2018, a more than tenfold increase from 2003.

Among the growing numbers of mead makers, it’s possible for producers to jump from sparkling mead to fruit-infused pink meads reminiscent of rosé, or even into dry, barrel-aged meads that suggest Sherry or a light whiskey.

Raphael Lyon, founder/co-owner of Enlightenment Wines Meadery in Brooklyn, New York, likens the mead movement to California’s nascent wine industry in the 1970s.

“The assumption was that American wines were bad, used cheap grapes, were mass produced and sweet,” says Lyon. Yet, had you known where to look, he says, “you would have seen the growth of natural producers in Napa, working on would become world-class wine in America.”

Today, mead appears to be headed in a similar direction. “A lot of producers are striving to make something exceptional,” says Lyon.

Here are seven makers behind the mead you’ll want to get to know.

The honey wine of All-Wise Meadery / Photo by Katie June Burton All-Wise Meadery (Brooklyn, NY)

It would be easy to discount this new meadery as a hipster vanity project. Located in Brooklyn’s Williamsburg neighborhood, it’s co-founded by former Disney child star Dylan Sprouse, who is also the meadery’s master mazer. But its debut bottling, Show Mead, is very promising. It’s dry and funky with just a hint of smoke, and it might remind wine lovers of Chenin Blanc or a lightly oaked Chardonnay.

Sprouse, along with partners Doug Brochu and Matt Kwan, has focused on natural meads made using ingredients sourced from small, growers and producers in New York, like Tremblay Apiaries in the Finger Lakes region. This local focus yields expressive bottlings with flavors that continue to develop as the beverage ages.

All-Wise Meadery’s Show Mead, dry and funky with just a hint of smoke, might remind wine lovers of Chenin Blanc or a lightly oaked Chardonnay.

Sprouse first experimented with making mead in his dorm room at New York University. After a brief stint at Brooklyn whiskey maker King’s County Distillery, he opened All-Wise in 2017.

The mead aesthetic here is dry and lightly oak-aged. Look for experimental bottlings with infusions like oolong tea, fruits and vegetables that are reminiscent of fruit and veggie brews in the craft-beer arena.

Try it: Show Mead

Left to right: Brad Dahlhofer, Kerri Dahlhofer and Paul Zimmerman of B. Nektar B. Nektar (Ferndale, MI)

This geeky, quirky meadery is a sommelier favorite, and its offerings were spotted recently at New York City’s Agern, two-time honoree on Wine Enthusiast’s America’s 100 Best Wine Restaurants list. Bottle names often are influenced by pop culture and exhibit delightfully dark humor. Current offerings include “Kill All the Golfers,” made with black tea and lemon juice, a side-eye at the Arnold Palmer, and the spiced, garnet-hued “Black Fang,” made with blackberry, clove and orange zest.

B. Nektar was founded in 2006 by Brad and Kerri Dahlhofer, along with their friend, Paul Zimmerman. Brad and Paul, avid homebrewers, started to make meads in Brad’s basement and went on to win awards at multiple homebrewing competitions.

Mead Cocktails from the Hive Mind

Brad and Kerri married in 2005, where, of course, they toasted with glasses of mead. When Kerri was laid off from her job in 2006, she began plans to open the meadery. B. Nektar opened its doors nearly two years later on August 2, 2008—National Mead Day.

A decade later, B. Nektar is among the largest meaderies in the U.S. Minnick credits it as a pioneer which has “influenced new talent to enter the category.” The meadery still churns out edgy, irreverent meads, and hosts whimsical, never-too-serious events at the facility like karaoke, comedy and quiz nights.

Try it: Black Fang

Bos Meadery’s Mead Hall Bos Meadery (Madison, WI) 

Head mead-maker Colleen Bos co-founded this meadery in 2012, along with Jeannine Bos and Peter DeVault. Colleen capitalized on her experience as a professional medievalist.

“I’m just a geek, is what it boils down to,” she says. “I’m the kind of person who ends up wanting to do deep dive[s] in whatever I’m interested in.

“I got interested in the science of fermentation and got really far into it. I got interested in medieval history, I got a master’s degree it in. Now, magically, these two things have actually come together for me.”

Bos is renowned for sparkling meads, like the award-winning Pomegranate Pyment, which is a sort of wine-mead hybrid of fermented honey and grapes. She also crafts lower-alcohol “session meads” like Hammer Smashed Cherry, made with local Door County cherries. The operation is also known for its popular mead hall, which opened in 2015.

“I’m just a geek, is what it boils down to. I’m the kind of person who ends up wanting to do deep dive[s] in whatever I’m interested in.” —Colleen Bos, Bos Meadery

“We’re a friendly, informal place, with raucous live music sometimes,” says Bos. The former medieval history instructor says that the venue is also a tip of the hat to the epic poem Beowulf, which is set in a mead hall.

Try It: Hammer Smashed Cherry

Raphael Lyon (left) and Arley Marks outside Honey’s, the tasting room for Enlightenment Wines Meadery Enlightenment Wines Meadery (Brooklyn, NY)

Run by a group of herbalists and artists, this meadery starts with honey sourced from a single beekeeper, also Tremblay, in New York’s Finger Lakes region. The mead is then made at either of two production facilities, one on a family farmstead in the Hudson Valley where many of the mead’s botanicals are sourced, or another in the Bushwick neighborhood of Brooklyn, where Enlightenment’s tasting room, Honey’s, offers straight pours and mead cocktails.

“It is a world of experimentation and curiosity. We don’t need authorization or permission from on high to know what we like or even to learn how to make it.” —Raphael Lyon, Enlightenment Wines Meadery

Co-owner Raphael Lyon started the venture in 2009 while he farmed his family’s Hudson Valley homestead. There, he focused on heirloom crops, some of which he turned into fruit wines and meads made with other local ingredients.

“It’s about what grows naturally here,” says Lyon. “The fruits, the herbs that are used…we need to use regional stuff and use it naturally.”

This meadery focuses on small-batch, seasonal offerings that are crafted with wild yeast, foraged herbs and locally sourced fruits. One example is Enlightenment’s Memento Mori bottling, made with 150 pounds of foraged wild dandelion flowers.

In 2015, Lyons partnered with Arley Marks and Tony Rock to expand operations and open Honey’s, the meadery’s tasting room and cocktail bar. Marks, also a devoted herbalist, designed and built the bar and cocktail program for Danny Bowien’s Mission Chinese restaurant in New York City.

An exploratory approach continues to drive Enlightenment, says Lyons. It’s appropriate for a company named for the philosophical movement that encouraged the first-hand experience of trial and error over traditionally-accepted wisdom.

“It is a world of experimentation and curiosity,” Lyons says of mead. “We don’t need authorization or permission from on high to know what we like or even to learn how to make it.”

Try it: Memento Mori

Hive inspection at Meadiocrity Mead Meadiocrity Mead (San Diego)

Terroir matters in mead, says Meadiocrity co-owner/mead-maker Mark Oberle.

This hyper-local “bee-to-bottle” meadery, which opened in 2016, counts a beekeeper among its four owners. The operation makes a handful of traditional-style meads, notably its flagship Foundation bottling, simply made from raw honey, water and yeast. Despite the lack of additional botanicals, the terroir instills citrus and bright apple tones into the mead.

“I can capture the essence of a growing season from a specific growing region all in a glass, and it’s going to taste different if I harvest honey in that same spot at the same time the next year.” —Mark Oberle, Meadiocrity Mead

Inspired by the booming craft beer industry, San Diego now boasts multiple mead makers. Oberle attributes the trend to “a perfect storm of Southern California weather that allows us to have all the bees, and consumers who are open to trying the products.”

Oberle, who’s trained as a sommelier, draws parallels between wine grapes and honey. Where and how they are harvested matters, he says.

“I can capture the essence of a growing season from a specific growing region all in a glass, and it’s going to taste different if I harvest honey in that same spot at the same time the next year,” says Oberle.

Even the amount of rainfall can result in variations that show up in the honey.

“One year, we had a lot of rainfall,” he says. “We got a lot of sage blooming and a lot of these lighter, floral blossoms that lasted for a very long time. And this last year, we got almost no rain, so most of the flavors are very robust—buckwheat and sage and some of these flowers that were able to withstand the dry climate.”

Eventually, Oberle aspires to set up vertical mead tastings to showcase the differences from year to year.

Try It: Foundation Mead

Melovino Meadery shows off their cans / Photo courtesy Melovino, Facebook Melovino Meadery (Vauxhall, NJ)

Its name, Melovino, is a play on the Latin words for honey and wine. So perhaps it makes sense that this producer has an affinity for both mead and wine.

Sergio Moutela, the mead maker, remembers helping his grandfather make wine from a very early age. As an adult, he began to experiment at home, where he made wine, beer and other fermented creations. Eventually, it brought him to mead.

Garrido is a deliberately “Vinho Verde-style mead” that’s fermented with grape juice and yeast from Portugal.

Indeed, many of Melovino’s creations take inspiration from the wine world. Past bottlings include Sweet Affair, which combines honey with juice from either Sauvignon Blanc or Cabernet Sauvignon grapes. A current offering, By Any Other Name, is a blush-hued, off-dry grape mead made with fresh strawberries that resembles a bottle of rosé. Garrido, meanwhile, is a deliberately “Vinho Verde-style mead” that’s fermented with grape juice and yeast from Portugal.

Try It: By Any Other Name

The lineup at Midwest Meadwerks / Photo courtesy Midwest Meadwerks Midwest Meadwerks (Chicago)

Tom Sadowski, a proponent of fruit meads, is quick to point out that his surname translates from Polish as “fruit farmer.” While he doesn’t manage orchards of his own, he’s brewed beer and mead in his Chicago home since the 1990s, a hobby he started with his brother.

“I have twin boys, and a girl who was 17 months older,” says Sadowski. “I had three in high chairs, three bottles, three in diapers. I’d sneak down and have a mead. Like mother’s little helper, it was dad’s little helper.”

“With the kids going through high school, soccer…[mead] got pushed to the side. I own a Tru-Value hardware store, too.” —Tom Sadowski, Midwest Meadworks

Over the years, he attended brewers groups and beer clubs, where he’d connect with other mead makers. One of his meads, Triskelion, a black currant, cherry and raspberry blend that’s now his flagship product, won a national award in 2006 for Meadmaker of the Year from the American Homebrewers Association. It was then that he decided it was time to turn pro.

However, as is often the case, life had its own plan. “With the kids going through high school, soccer…it got pushed to the side,” says Sadowski. “I own a Tru-Value hardware store, too.”

It wasn’t until his kids entered college that Sadowski finally built his own meadery, which opened in 2016. He continues to champion fruit meads, with offerings that include Lush, a raspberry-spiked mead, and CherryBomb, which mixes ripe cherry and jalapeño heat. Decades after he started his journey, Sadowski is still passionate about making mead.

“I don’t have much time to do anything else besides the hardware store and the meadery,” he says. “I’d like to retire into mead-making full time. That’s my goal. That’s my retirement plan.”

Try it: Triskelion

Peach Brandy, America’s Forgotten Heritage Spirit

October 15, 2018 - 7:30am

While Queen Victoria was finishing dinners with peaches, American nobility was sipping mint juleps concocted with fruit brandy—not Bourbon. Today, Southern spirit makers are attempting to ignite a renaissance of the beverage.

“Historically, fruit brandy commanded a premium over whiskey in the cottage industry,” says Chadwick Ralston, who heads marketing at American Spirit Whiskey Distillery in Atlanta.

Before Prohibition, a dry style of peach brandy was made using all parts of the fruit, its production devoid of added sugar or flavoring. American Spirit Whiskey Distillery and High Wire Distilling, based in Charleston, South Carolina, are among a handful of commercial distillers using traditional cues and exquisite varieties to bring back the brandy.

Production is dependent on cooperating weather cycles for ripe freestone peaches (where the pit easily separates from the fruit). So far, crop yields have been a challenge, and American Spirit Whiskey has moved on to other fruit brandies.

High Wire Distilling Owners Scott Blackwell and Ann Marshall, however, have persisted and made a limited-release, numbered-bottle Peach Brandy, with crops grown in state.

“We use recouped charred or toasted French oak barrels,” says Blackwell. “The barrels previously stored fortified wine: Madeira and Port,” He’s hoping the release will re-establish peach brandy as “the American Cognac.”

Five Wine Regions Producing America's Finest Ciders Cultivar Classics

South Carolina and Georgia have always duked it out to be the juiciest state on the Eastern seaboard. The peach varieties here are their crown jewels.

Belle of Georgia

This white-fleshed heirloom freestone is popular with backyard growers. It’s listed on the Slow Food USA Ark of Taste list of delicacies disappearing from America’s tables.


This is the queen mother of American varieties. The freestone fruit was introduced in the late 1800s and named after the wife of Georgia’s most decorated orchard owner, Samuel H. Rumph.

Big Red

This freestone reaches ripeness later in the season and contains the perfect balance of acidity and sweetness. It’s also the perfect size for modern brandy production.

Roasted Duck Breast with Pecan Purée

October 13, 2018 - 7:44am

Recipe courtesy The Grill Room, New Orleans

Cabernet Sauvignon is known for being a food-friendly wine. It’s rich red- and black-fruit flavors coupled with tannic structure make it perfect for pairing with many dishes, like this roasted duck breast.

Why it works: Cabernet Sauvignons that offer black fruit flavors will highlight the citrus based jus, while flavors from oak aging will complement the pecan purée. The Duck’s potent flavors command attention and will pair well with more rambunctious Cabernet’s with firm tannins to cut through the fat.

10 Foods Made to Pair with Cabernet Sauvignon


How to Pair Leeks with Wine

October 12, 2018 - 11:27am

The leek is the tall and handsome star of the Allium genus, which includes onions, scallions, garlic, shallots, chives and ramps. Its long stalk is made up of tightly bundled leaves, while the white part grows underground and dirt embeds between the layers as it matures. If you’re planning to serve leeks whole, split them lengthwise almost to the root end and fan out their layers to clean and rinse away grit. Like onions, leeks meld with almost any flavor, but they’re especially elegant as the main ingredient. Two of the most common uses are in vichyssoise and cock-a-leekie soup. You can also try them braised in wine or other liquid, creamed as you would onions or spinach, added to omelets, quiches and frittatas, or poached with a tarragon vinaigrette. Pile sautéed leeks onto tarts or pizza. Large leeks are great on the grill. How to Pair Wine with (Almost) Anything

Fun Facts
  • The French phrase faire le poireau—“to make the leek”—means to wait for a long time.
  • The name Leighton derives from the Old English leac tun, which means “leek garden.”
  • Leeks can grow to be two or three feet long. The heaviest on record was over 21 pounds.
  • The leek is a Welsh national symbol, akin to the Irish shamrock.
  • Roman Emperor Nero’s nickname was Porophagus, or “Leek Eater,” because of his love for the vegetable.
Pair It

“Since they’re reminiscent of a mild onion with a slight vegetal quality, the obvious pairing would be Sauvignon Blanc, but I like Verdejo,” says Morgan Slade, food and beverage director of the buzzy Quirk Hotel, a Two Roads Hospitality hotel, in Richmond, Virginia. “It brings that same direct crispness, with added nuttiness and notes of honeysuckle and citrus blossom that pair well with leeks’ sweetness, as in a caramelized leek tart. “With cheese or cream, like our leek, oyster mushroom and Gruyère fondue, I like Grenache Blanc, with its fuller body and notes of green almond and creamy lemon curd,” says Slade. “On the lighter side, leeks in vinaigrette or pickled bring to mind something crisp, clean, aromatic and unoaked, like Friulano or Garganega.”

South Africa’s Pinotage Pleasures

October 12, 2018 - 6:35am

While South Africa has a long and rich winemaking history that’s hard to define with just one grape, many assert that Pinotage is the country’s most characteristic red-wine variety.

A hybrid between Pinot Noir and Cinsault, Pinotage was first created in 1925 by chemist Abraham Izak Perold, who was tasked by the Cape government to find grape varieties that could be successfully cultivated in South Africa. The first documented commercial planting of the grape was in 1943, with many award-winning successes that followed.

But early Pinotage bottlings, especially in their youth, had a tendency to exhibit acetone-like, chemically or rubbery aromas within brute, robust structures that were hard to enjoy and move beyond once you experienced one that hit those notes.

The Pinotage Association was formed in 1995 to help remedy the grape’s less-than-stellar reputation. Thanks to better winemaking practices, increased regional and vineyard understanding, the sharing of winemaker experiences and criteria to define the best examples, the country’s Pinotages became better and more consistent than ever before. The winemaking camaraderie and information sharing achieved through this initiative combined with developing technological and viticultural advancements ushered in a new era for Pinotage.

Today, South Africa’s third most-planted red variety is again experiencing a renaissance. New life is being breathed into wines made from Pinotage by winemakers that now treat the grape more thoughtfully and with more reverence to its lineage and long-term potential. Bold, powerful, concentrated and firmly structured examples still exist, but are now joined by selections that exhibit surprising nuance, restraint and elegance, more in line with the grape’s Pinot Noir parentage.

Watch this space, as respect and admiration for these complex, cellar-worthy wines will only continue to grow as savvy wine lovers catch on to the grape’s beauty and true potential. In the meantime, here are some of our favorite bottles to check out now.

How BLACC is Changing the Game in South Africa

Kanonkop 2014 Black Label Estate Wine Pinotage (Simonsberg-Stellenbosch); $275, 93 points. There’s a lifted, vibrant impression to the nose of this impressive, well-crafted wine. It’s a pleasant surprise, as it lends levity and definition to the notes of black cherry, crushed purple flowers, licorice root and earth. The mouthfeel is plush and mouthfilling, yet not oppressively so, with ample acidity and structured but velvety tannins. The rich, ripe and robust palate leads into a long finish. It promises a long life of beautiful evolution ahead, maturing to reveal greater nuance and elegance, so cellar through 2030. Cape Classics.

David & Nadia 2015 Pinotage (Swartland); $30, 92 points. An enticing and layered expression of the grape, this well-balanced bottling offers hints of cured meat, campfire, asphalt and iris that masterfully augment the brambly red berry and wild raspberry core. Those notes all continue through to the medium-weight palate, framed by a crushed-velvet texture and notes of tilled earth and root spice on the enduing finish. It’s hard to resist now, but it should mature well through 2025. Pascal/Schildt Selections. Editors’ Choice.

Beeslaar 2015 Pinotage (Stellenbosch); $50, 92 points. From longtime Kanonkop winemaker Abrie Beeslaar comes this stellar expression of the grape. Ripe, full and powerful, it’s wrapped in a plush yet firm and well-balanced package that should mature well through 2026. Upfront oaky notes of cocoa, toasted vanilla and cedar should further integrate into the rich plum, cassis and boysenberry fruit with time. Earthy and herbal tones of tree bark, fallen leaves and licorice root dance in the background. Broadbent Selections, Inc.

Eikendal 2015 Pinotage (Stellenbosch); $20, 91 points. A superbly balanced selection, this opens with tight, slightly reserved notes of blackberry, plum and boysenberry that are graced with earthy hints of tobacco leaf, licorice and sweet-cured meat. The palate is rich and tasty, yet kept in check by ample, bright acidity and structured tannins. The evolving finish leaves you wanting more. Drink now–2023. Meridian Prime Inc. Editors’ Choice.

Spier 2015 Vintage Selection Pinotage (Coastal Region); $20, 91 points. There’s currently an upfront oaky presence to this wine, with bold notes of toasted vanilla, char and sweet spice that sit atop a brambly, ripe dark-fruit core. Flavors of cherry pie, baked plum and boysenberry abound on the medium-weight palate, framed by structured tannins that result in a texture like crushed velvet. Notes of pepper, game and leather unfold on the evolving finish. Drink now–2022. Saranty Imports. Editors’ Choice.

Southern Right 2015 Pinotage (Hemel en Aarde); $24, 91 points. Ripe boysenberry, blackberry and cherry tones are accented by hints of game, licorice root and lemon oil in this well-balanced and accessible Pinotage. The palate is smooth and plush, with well-integrated tannins and enough acidity to balance the opulent fruit flavors. Vineyard Brands. Editors’ Choice.

Neethlingshof 2015 The Owl Post Pinotage (Stellenbosch); $28, 90 points. This wine starts off a bit tight and closed, dominated by cocoa nib and espresso bean notes that are coupled with char and earthy, rooty accents. The palate is similarly tightly wound, with black fruit flavors that are eager to harmonize with the overt oaky tones. It’s all there, it just needs some time to align; drink 2020–2023. Saranty Imports.

Fram 2015 Pinotage (Citrusdal Mountain); $30, 90 points. This is a surprisingly bright and herbal Pinotage, with an intense fynbos streak to the bouquet and a distinct, almost mentholated character that lifts the ripe plum, cherry and berry fruit. Framing tannins lend structure to the medium-weight palate, while notes of lightly charred black fruit and espresso unfold on the spicy close. Pascal/Schildt Selections.

MAN Family Wines 2015 Bosstok Pinotage (Coastal Region); $12, 87 points. A touch shy upon first sniff, this wine opens up more with time to reveal bright aromas of brambly berry, raspberry and cherry, all hit by a decent dusting of cinnamon. The medium-weight palate is straightforward and approachable, with moderate tannins and a mouthwatering finish that leaves the palate refreshed. Drink now. Vineyard Brands. Best Buy.

David Frost 2015 Pinotage (Western Cape); $13, 87 points. Scents of biltong, black cherry, plum sauce and potpourri waft from the glass of this savory red. The palate is smooth and easy drinking, with soft tannins and plenty of black fruit flavors at the core. Hints of peppery spice and fruit skin grace the close. Drink now. David Frost Wines.

How Founder of VOS Selections Victor Schwartz Turns Passion into Profit

October 11, 2018 - 10:20am

Victor Owen Schwartz, a New York-based wine and spirits importer, is among the lucky people who found success by following their joy. In the 31 years since he founded VOS Selections, the business has grown from a one-man operation to having a couple of dozen employees. It also grew from just a couple of stock keeping units (SKU) from France to more than 800 SKUs from wineries and distilleries on six continents, and grossing eight figures annually.

Schwartz graduated from college in the ’80s and went into commercial banking, but this New Jersey native’s first love was food and wine.

“I was a pretty good cook. I could follow a recipe, but I didn’t have that magic you need to be a professional chef. On the other hand, I was really good at matching wines to food.”

His parents, especially his mother, introduced him to good wine. They would visit Sokolin, one of New York’s fine wine merchants “to get her classified growth Bordeaux, back in the day when you didn’t have to break the bank for a bottle.”

He realized early on that he wasn’t happy in banking, but “it was a good introduction to business,” and came in handy later when he had to deal with financing, loans and hedging currencies.

So, he decided to “follow [my] joy.”

Like an oyster

Schwartz’s days start early.

“I’m dealing with suppliers in Europe and that’s when they’re up. These days, I’m getting a lot of harvest reports and I’m looking at those reports and pictures. There’s always pricing, and these days, the market is extremely interested in all aspects of production, and that’s an understatement,” Schwartz says. “We’re constantly talking about looking for natural wines, now more than ever.”

“My basic stance is to have honest wines. We’re going to convey all the information that we possibly can from our wineries and you can make the educated decision,” he says.

When he gets to his Midtown Manhattan office, he is in “either meetings with existing suppliers coming to town, or potential new suppliers who want to meet me. Being in New York City, everybody wants to see you.” Schwartz also spends time culling through dozens of daily emails from potential suppliers.

“I sometimes feel that being a New York importer, you’re a bit like an oyster. Oysters process gallons and gallons of water for nutrients. We sort of process gallons and gallons of emails to find the gem,” he says.

As for trying the samples that come in, Schwartz carves out time to taste with his managers, usually Friday afternoons. “It takes time to taste. You have to give the product respect. Someone worked very hard to make it, to ship it here, and you really have to put your mind to the region or the grape variety that you’re tasting.”

He also keeps a sharp eye on the finances, not just his, but his customers’ as well. New York State has a 30-day rule for wine and spirits retailers requiring all outstanding bills be paid within 30-days of delivery or the wholesaler is required to report them to the authority. The customers then find themselves on the COD delinquent list for failing to report.

“There are procedural things that many people in the business are not aware of and as an importer who distributes in state, we deal with all kinds of people,” he notes.

“We are in as much a service business as we are in a product business,” Schwartz says and for him. His customers can range from mom and pop shops to New York’s Sherry- Lehmann or chain stores like Total Beverage & More.

When the day’s meetings are done, he heads back to his emails where he will be handling suppliers on the West Coast, New Zealand as well as Japan for sakes. Often, he is working until 11 pm.

“I honestly think I’m never working hard enough,” Schwartz adds. “I really enjoy what I do.”

Meet Abruzzo’s Indigenous Italian Grapes

October 11, 2018 - 10:12am

A two-hour drive east from Rome, Abruzzo is an unspoiled gem of natural beauty. The land is defined by the Apennine Mountains, particularly the Majella and Gran Sasso massifs, in the west, which pose a grand backdrop to the gently rolling hills that cascade into the Adriatic Sea to the east.

The region is home to three national parks and numerous reserves full of old-wood forests that preserve ecological diversity. It also has a provincial side, where small farms grow tomatoes, olives, heritage grains and figs.

Beyond these appeals, however, are bottled beauties that, for the most part, have yet to be discovered abroad. Abruzzo’s winemaking traditions date back centuries, and quality has improved significantly over the last few decades.

Montepulciano and Trebbiano are the star grapes here, while long-lost varieties are also in the midst of a resurgence. There’s plenty to discover from this majestic region, and there’s no better time to explore.

From left to right; Emidio Pepe 2010 Montepulciano d’Abruzzo, Illuminati 2013 Zanna Riserva (Montepulciano d’Abruzzo Colline Teramane, Pasetti 2014 Fonte Romana (Montepulciano d’Abruzzo), Tenuta I Fauri 2017 Baldovino (Cerasuolo d’Abruzzo), Annona 2016 Cerasuolo d’Abruzzo and Cantinarte 2016 Gaia (Cerasuolo d’Abruzzo) / Photo by Ashton Worthington Montepulciano

Once regarded a simple, workhorse red grape, Montepulciano has proven it’s a thoroughbred in Abruzzo, thanks to its high-quality wines of distinction. The variety thrives in a range of microclimates, from the cooler, high-altitude foothills of the Apennine mountain range in the west and north, to the warmer hills along the central coast and in the south.

It can produce everything from soft, approachable reds that are typically well-priced to more complex, bold, structured offerings, often from specific sites or subappellations.

The widespread Montepulciano d’Abruzzo Denominazione di Origine Controllata (DOC) touches all of the area’s four provinces, and is the largest appellation for Montepulciano production.­ In the northern province of Teramo, Montepulciano grown in limestone- and clay-rich soils produces exemplary selections from the region’s only Denominazione di Origine Controllata e Garantita (DOCG), Montepulciano d’Abruzzo Colline Teramane.

“Our soils are predominantly clayey,” says Stefano Illuminati, general manager and owner of Azienda Agricola Illuminati. “This is important, because the winter and spring rains are held by clay. Later, the water will be made available during the summer when the vineyards will need it.”

Illuminati’s Zanna bottling is sourced from a single vineyard in the Montepulciano d’Abruzzo Colline Teramane appellation. Coupling the richness from the clay soils with two years in Slavonian oak, it’s a powerful wine when young, so it’s only released after an additional two-and-a-half years in bottle.

Also based in the Teramo province is iconic producer Emidio Pepe, who’s championed Montepulciano since founding the winery in 1964. A traditionalist at heart, Pepe planted his vines using pergola Abruzzese, a trellis system where the vines are trained to grow on latticework about six feet above the ground, which covers and shades the vineyard below. The system is still used by many producers in the area, especially those with older vines.

“[Emidio] has always thought of a vineyard as a solar panel: The more the leaves are exposed to the sun, the more photosynthesis you will have and more energy captured,” says Chiara De Iulis Pepe, Emidio’s granddaughter and the winery’s export manager. “While all this happens, the grapes are covered and protected, developing high levels of acidity and higher quality of tannins.”

Puglia Flourishes with Wines Made from Indigenous Grapes

Emidio Pepe 2010 Montepulciano d’Abruzzo; $175, 95 points. Made from biodynamic estate-grown grapes, this is a powerful, intense offering from an Abruzzo icon. A heady mix of Thai basil, anise seed and purple flowers meld within a dense wild berry core. The palate is broad and gripping in youthful tannins, yet plush with a thick-skinned dark berry tone, and speckled notes of herbs and game that linger on the extended finish. Drink 2022–2030. Polaner Selection. Cellar Selection.

Illuminati 2013 Zanna Riserva (Montepulciano d’Abruzzo Colline Teramane); $40, 91 points. Well-honed aromas of spiced black currant and dark cherry meld with bits of anise, clove and wild mint on the nose of this single-vineyard wine. The medium-bodied palate is taut in feel, broadened out by some dark fruit weight and supported by finely meshed tannins. Montcalm Wine Importers.

Pasetti 2014 Fonte Romana (Montepulciano d’Abruzzo); $13, 88 points. Aromas of fresh red berries, Mediterranean herbs and a bit of peppery spice show nice intensity on the nose. While light in body and soft in tannins, the palate offers a great sense of vibrancy and persistence in its brisk red-currant and broader red-cherry flavors that end on a lingering cranberry skin note. Angelini Wine. Best Buy.

Cerasuolo d’Abruzzo

Montepulciano is by no means a one-trick pony. Beyond the ability to produce a range of stylized reds, it’s also the star grape for the cherry-red rosatos of Cerasuolo d’Abruzzo. Established as a DOC in 2010, this was among the first Italian denominations to champion the style, and it’s long been considered one of the country’s top appellations for rosato.

Bold and structured, yet immensely refreshing, the wines drink more like light-bodied reds. As the rosé craze shows no signs of slowing, Cerasuolo d’Abruzzo is coming into the light for American consumers that are beginning to explore the darker side of the category.

“I think that there’s still a strong market for pale pink rosé, but people are definitely experimenting more across all types of wine,” says Joe Campanale, owner and beverage director of Fausto in Brooklyn, New York.

Campanale is also the founder of Annona, which produces a Cerasuolo d’Abruzzo from Loreto Aprutino in the central province of Pescara. The wine benefits from the vineyards’ prime location between the cooling slopes of Gran Sasso and the gentle coastal breeze of the Adriatic.

The color of Cerasuolo d’Abruzzo is the wine’s defining element. With a vibrant cherry-red hue, it may seem like the skins must be in contact with the juice for an extended time. But that’s not the case.

“The anthocyanin [pigment] potential is very high in Montepulciano.” says Valentina Di Camillo, who, with her brother, Luigi, makes the wine for Tenuta I Fauri. “This fact can easily explain the reason why the result of a short maceration is the naturally rich color.”

The grape’s inherent structure makes it a strong contender to produce robust, ageworthy rosatos. The best examples offer plenty of juicy red fruit up front, with a delicate grip of tannins and a tangy, mineral-laden finish. They’re versatile offerings that can be enjoyed beyond the year mark. According to Campanale, his 2015 Cerasuolo d’Abruzzo is currently drinking wonderfully.

Cantinarte 2016 Gaia (Cerasuolo d’Abruzzo); $25, 91 points. Aromas of strawberry and Mediterranean herbs carry a tangy element on the nose. The palate is simultaneously creamy, lush and vibrant in acidity, dazzling in flavors of ripe cherry, strawberry and thyme, with a sour cherry note ringing on the finish. This wine is a clear case for drinking rosato all year long. Grand Cru Selections.

Annona 2016 Cerasuolo d’Abruzzo; $30, 90 points. This concrete-fermented and -aged Cerasuolo is not your typical fruity offering. A slightly funky nose carries plenty of red-cherry, tarragon and earthy floral tones. The palate is rounded in feel yet persistently juicy, ending on lingering saline and cranberry skin sensations. Third Leaf Wines.

Tenuta I Fauri 2017 Baldovino (Cerasuolo d’Abruzzo); $14, 90 points. Broad tones of Bing cherry and wild strawberry carry an undercurrent of lemongrass on the nose. This is rounded and structured on the palate, boasting thick-skinned red-berry flavors that turn taut and grippy toward the white-pepper and cherry-skin finish. This is a rosato for cool-weather enjoyment. Wineberry America LLC. Best Buy.

Cataldi Madonna 2017 Trebbiano d’Abruzzo (right), Masciarelli 2015 Marina Cvetić Riserva (Trebbiano d’Abruzzo) (top) and Valle Reale 2016 Trebbiano d’Abruzzo (left) / Photo by Ashton Worthington Trebbiano

The second-most planted variety in Abruzzo, Trebbiano also has a less-than-noble past. Often considered an innocuous white wine, many producers now focus on site, yield and cellar production methods to bolster the grape’s reputation.

Producers like Valentini, Emidio Pepe and Masciarelli are the forerunners of this quality-driven approach. Each employs its own methodology—some use oak, while others look for the purest fruit expression—but all are devoted to the production of ageworthy Trebbiano.

“It is essential to respect and understand the nature of the Trebbiano grape, which is extremely delicate and what [Gianni] Masciarelli deemed a ‘noble grape,’” says Miriam Lee Masciarelli, the daughter of Marina Cvetic and the late Gianni Masciarelli, as well as the international brand manager for her family’s namesake winery.

Gianni Masciarelli worked harvest in France and eventually returned to Abruzzo to start his own winery in 1981. With French methods fresh on the mind, he chose to forgo traditional pergola trellising in favor of planting vines using the guyot system. Masciarelli was one of the first in the region to do so, as well as one of the first to age Montepulciano and Trebbiano in French barrels, which gives the wines added structure and aging potential.

Well-made Trebbianos don’t have to come at an exorbitant price. Producers that focus on site and quality in the vineyard can produce bottlings that marry rich stone-fruit and floral flavors, all balanced by racy acidity.

The estate-grown Trebbiano of Valle Reale sits in the shadow of the Apennine mountain range. Around 1,000 feet in elevation, the grapes undergo slower development than those grown closer to the coast.

“The large Gran Sasso and Majella mountains surround our vines, creating wide temperature ranges,” says Leonardo Pizzolo, owner of Valle Reale. “Sunny days and cold nights are the perfect combination for a slow maturation, resulting in nice acidity and a perfumed bouquet.”

Masciarelli 2015 Marina Cvetić Riserva (Trebbiano d’Abruzzo); $50, 91 points. A mix of grilled pineapple, citrus oil and sea spray starts off this rich white. Time in oak is apparent yet integrated, offering a delicate brûléed edge to the citrus, pineapple and apricot flavors. Persistent acidity balances it all, leading to a lingering cured lemon finish. Vintus LLC.

Valle Reale 2016 Trebbiano d’Abruzzo; $15, 90 points. A broad nose of yellow apple, golden pear and white flowers mark the nose of this wine made from organic grapes. The medium-bodied palate offers a concentration of crisp orchard fruit, dusted with a chamomile tone and shot through with a bright lemon-lime twang. A salty mineral note lingers on the finish. Leonardo LoCascio Selections–The Winebow Group. Best Buy.

Cataldi Madonna 2017 Trebbiano d’Abruzzo; $18, 89 points. Bright aromas of lemon peel, fleshy yellow apple and powdered minerals carry to the well-balanced palate. This is lively and mouthwatering in feel, broadened out by plenty of crisp orchard-fruit tones. Vias Imports.

From left to right; De Fermo 2016 Don Carlino Pecorino (Abruzzo), Ferzo 2017 Pecorino (Terre di Chiet) and Cantina Valle Tritana 2017 Passerina (Terre di Chieti) / Photo by Ashton Worthington Up-and-Coming White Grapes

As with many regions in Italy, there are countless grapes indigenous to Abruzzo that fell by the wayside as others were championed. Most notable of this forgotten fruit are the white grapes of Pecorino, Passerina and Cococciola.

Pecorino has gained notoriety in the last decade, thanks to the revitalization efforts of producers. Its name references a supposed historical tie to shepherds (pecora means “sheep” in Italian) who snacked on the sweet grapes as they watched their flock.

Wines made from Pecorino are typically medium in body and offer nuances of dried herbs and flowers against a fresh orchard-fruit backdrop. While most are fermented and aged in stainless steel, producers like De Fermo are experimenting with aging the wine in medium to large-format barrels to offer more textural roundness.

It’s not just small producers, however, that seek to revive these grapes of the past. The largest cooperative in Abruzzo, Codice Citra, recently launched the Ferzo line, which focuses solely on single-variety bottlings of indigenous grapes, including Pecorino, Passerina and Cococciola.

The Pecorino is the most compelling, with a mineral-driven, zesty nature. However, the Passerina and Cococciola provide interesting glimpses into the nature of the grapes. The former is enjoyable for its soft melon and yellow apple tones, while the latter offers a mix of herbal and citrus notes. That a producer of this magnitude focuses resources on smaller players in the region shows promise for increased quality in the years to come.

De Fermo 2016 Don Carlino Pecorino (Abruzzo); $30, 92 points. Immensely fresh and intense on the nose, aromas of apple, dried chamomile, sea spray and lime zest kick off this wine. Fermented and aged in tonneaux, this has some textural roundness on the palate yet searing acidity keeping it fresh and persistent. There’s plenty of ripe fruit flavors to maintain balance, but give this another few years in bottle to help soften the acidity and this will find its sweet spot. Drink from 2020. Grand Cru Selections. Editors’ Choice.

Ferzo 2017 Pecorino (Terre di Chieti); $26, 89 points. An intensely focused nose of crushed stone, white blossoms, citrus and pear gives a vibrant, fresh start to this wine. While the palate is broad in rounded pear and apple flavors, there’s a tangy undercurrent of lime zest and wet stone keeping focus. Leonardo LoCascio Selections–The Winebow Group.

Cantina Valle Tritana 2017 Passerina (Terre di Chieti); $14, 88 points. A fresh, vibrant nose of yellow apple, pineapple rind and crushed stone translates to the light- to medium-bodied palate. Bright acidity carries these flavors to a crisp, clean finish. Vias Imports.

Minneapolis, One of the Best Wine Scenes in America

October 11, 2018 - 7:47am

With its northern latitude and snowy winters, Minneapolis isn’t an obvious destination for wine lovers. But the unique bottles stocked by local wine shops and restaurants’ impressive selections tell a different story. The Minneapolis wine scene has come into its own.

“It’s super fun to live here at this point in time, to see people grow in the wine industry,” says Leslee D. Miller, a Minneapolis-based certified sommelier and owner of wine consulting firm Amusée, along with a national wine club, Sip Better. “There’s been pretty significant development in the last five to six years.”

Miller notes that the level of Minneapolis’ wine scene has risen in tandem with the city’s vibrant dining culture.

“People aren’t necessarily familiar with the grapes. Marquette, Frontenac, La Crescent…they shouldn’t taste like Pinot and Cabernet. They have their own flavor. I encourage people to try them all. It’s a really, really fine time to be drinking in Minnesota.” — Leslee D. Miller, owner, Amusée and Sip Better

“You’re seeing interesting, explorative and adventurous [wine] lists,” she says. “We have a lot more available [that] we haven’t seen in the past.”

According to Miller, distributors have expanded what’s available, buyers are furthering their educations and consumers are open to trying wines from up-and-coming regions. “There’s a lot more on the shelf, a lot more to choose from,” she says.

In addition to an ever-increasing array of wines from across the globe, there are also more than 70 Minnesota wineries from which to sip.

“We’re a young wine growing region, with some grapes being developed in the 1990s through today,” says Miller, who has served as a board member and spokesperson for the Minnesota Grape Growers Association. “People aren’t necessarily familiar with the grapes. Marquette, Frontenac, La Crescent…they shouldn’t taste like Pinot and Cabernet. They have their own flavor. I encourage people to try them all.

“It’s a really, really fine time to be drinking in Minnesota. Everybody has their own niche. [There are] so many different wines.”

Bubbles and wine cocktails at Trapeze / Photo by Morgan Marks Wine Bars

Troubadour Wine Bar is a cozy retreat in the see-and-be-seen Uptown neighborhood. It offers more than 40 wines available by the glass and nightly live music. The straightforward food menu, with sandwiches, cheese and charcuterie boards, is designed to pair with the wines.

Another Uptown wine destination is Trapeze, an intimate bubbly bar open Thursday through Saturday with bright pink walls and a funky floral mural. There’s a rotating selection of three sparkling and three still wines, plus more than a dozen wine- and spirits-based cocktails.

“We focus on any regions and varietals as long as the wines are made by independent artisan winemakers that support sustainable farming and practice low-intervention winemaking. We’re really committed to sustainable agriculture and supporting diversity.” —Gretchen Skedsvold, co-owner, Henry & Son

About 50 sparkling wines are available by the bottle, which range from a diminutive 350 ml to three-liter bottles sized for celebrations. A food menu features light bites that include oysters, beef carpaccio, chocolate mousse and creme brûlée.

Haskell’s has been one of city’s most prominent wine purveyors since 1934, with more than a dozen stores throughout the metropolitan area. Haskell’s Wine Bar is located on downtown’s Nicollet Mall and offers more than 20 wines by the glass and bottle. A separate list of reserve wines is offered in three-ounce and five-ounce pours, as well as by the bottle. Food options include sandwiches, cheese-focused small plates and daily soup and salad specials.

Kansas City Needs to Be Your Next Wine Destination Wine Shops

Surdyk’s stocks more than 3,500 wines, including a cellar with 250 collectable wines that include cult California Cabernets as well as high-end classics from Bordeaux and Burgundy. While wine regions from across the globe are represented, Surdyk’s is especially known for its impressive selection of German wines. On “4 for $40 Thursdays” customers choose bottles from a selection of reds and whites that are made available for tasting. There’s also a wide range of spirits and beer, and the adjacent cheese shop features more than 350 varieties of cheese, as well as specialty groceries and a deli counter.

Wine focused on sustainable agriculture and diversity on display at Henry & Son / Photo credit Dodd Demas

For unique finds from independent producers, check out Henry & Son, which showcases an ever-changing selection of around 500 wines.

“We focus on any regions and varietals as long as the wines are made by independent artisan winemakers that support sustainable farming and practice low-intervention winemaking,” says co-owner Gretchen Skedsvold. “We’re really committed to sustainable agriculture and supporting diversity.” This means selections might include bottlings from France and Italy featured as prominently as local Minnesota wines, or even a sparkling wine from Armenia.

Tastings at France 44 / Photo courtesy France 44 Wines & Spirits

France 44 Wines & Spirits carries more than 3,000 wines, though keeps a special selection focused on smaller producers. The store has a strong tasting program, with free tastings on Fridays from 4–7 pm and Saturdays from 1–6 pm.

“It’s the best way to learn about wine you’d rarely get a chance to try,” says owner Rick Anderson. The samples are selected in-house, he says, rather than being supplier-directed, with an eye toward wines that customers may not have tried. In addition to wine, France 44 stocks beer and spirits, while the cheese shop and deli offer sandwiches, salads, cheeseboards and wine by the glass.

Selections at Urban Forage Winery & Cider House Local Wineries

Co-owner/winemaker Jeff Zeitler has a unique approach to sourcing ingredients. He relies on fruit, flowers and honey foraged from local backyards to produce Urban Forage Winery & Cider House’s hard ciders, honey mead and fruit wines. Current selections include dandelion wine, rhubarb wine and a red wine made with Minnesota-grown Frontenac grapes. Wines are sold by the glass at the on-site taproom, and winery tours and tastings are offered on Sundays.

Alexis Bailly Vineyard / Photo by Tony Kubat Photography Regional Wineries

Thanks in large part to the University of Minnesota’s efforts to develop high-quality, cold-hardy grapes, there are several wineries within an hour’s drive of Minneapolis. Before setting off, purchase a Minnesota Wine Passport to receive discounted tastings at 48 participating wineries across Minnesota and across the border in Wisconsin and Iowa.

Founded in 1973, Alexis Bailly Vineyard in Hastings, 45 minutes southeast of Minneapolis, is the state’s oldest operating winery. It released the first commercial wines made entirely with Minnesota-grown grapes in 1978, and is today known for its complex reds.

Saint Croix Vineyards

Stillwater’s Saint Croix Vineyards, 30 minutes east of Minneapolis, produces a wide range of award-winning red, white and dessert wines. The tasting room is housed in a restored century-old barn with a deck perfect for sipping and picnicking.

Wild Mountain Winery is perched on a hillside just outside Taylors Falls, located one hour northeast of Minneapolis. All wines are made with locally grown grapes, and the winery also produces a handful of ciders.

Ricotta Cavatelli and Italian fine wines at Terzo Restaurants with Stellar Wine Lists

Terzo is a restaurant and wine bar featuring seasonal Italian cuisine and a wine program with more than 400 bottlings that span all regions of Italy. The by-the-glass options change often, and a daily happy hour from 5–6 pm offers $7 wines and snacks like chips with aioli, olives and arancini.

The spread at Alma Cafe & Restaurant / Photo by Ellen Schmidt

Alma Cafe & Restaurant offers inspired wine pairings with its seasonal three-course prix fixe menu. The expansive wine list can also be enjoyed by the glass or as a flight, with unique selections from under-the-radar wine regions like Quebec, Hungary, the Republic of Georgia and Lebanon.

A new addition to the Linden Hills neighborhood, Martina has garnered plenty of attention for its elegant fusion of Argentinian and Italian cuisines and intricately garnished cocktails. The wine list also deserves praise, with a global selection from France, Italy, Argentina, Chile and more, including interesting highlights like Jean Michel Pinot Meunier Champagne, Field Recordings Chenin Blanc and Pilizota Babić from coastal Croatia.

The Bachelor Farmer

Located in a historic warehouse in the trendy North Loop, The Bachelor Farmer’s oft-changing menu is based on seasonal northern ingredients, like locally-raised pork, smoked lake whitefish and foraged hen-of-the-woods mushrooms, to regional specialties like crabapple butter. Similarly, the wine program highlights small, independent producers from cooler-climate regions, particularly Germany and Austria, at a range of prices.

All things pickled and fermented at GYST Fermentation Bar

Gyst Fermentation Bar celebrates all things fermented, including cheese, pickles, chocolate, kombucha, beer and wine. An interesting selection of natural wines, like Occhipinti SP68 from Sicily, are available by the glass and bottle, in addition to wine cocktails. Get a $10 discount off any bottle of wine when you order their signature meat and cheese boards, affectionately named The Mother and ½ Motherboard.

Out and About Drinking Destinations

Pair wine sipping with crafting at Upstairs Circus, a DIY bar in the North Loop. Patrons can sip wine while they make projects like bracelets, home décor, wine bottle tumblers and leather wallets. In addition to wines by the glass and bottle, the drink menu features Champagne- and Moscato-based cocktails.

There’s no wine in this photo, but we’re all about the beef hot dog topped with kimchi and fried egg at Sandcastle

The seasonal restaurants in Minneapolis’ most popular parks also specialize in gourmet twists on concession stand fare, and offer a variety of wines available by the glass or carafe. Visit Sea Salt Eatery (open late March–October 31) in Minnehaha Regional Park for fare like scallop tacos, Bread & Pickle, (open April–Labor Day) on the shore of Lake Harriet for truffle popcorn, and enjoy a beef hot dog topped with kimchi and a fried egg at Sandcastle (open April–October) in Lake Nokomis Park.

Wine Enthusiast Podcast: The Science of Wine and Food Pairing

October 10, 2018 - 1:56pm

Contributing Editor Nils Bernstein discusses the science of food and wine pairing with a top NYC chef and sommelier, plus Spirits Editor Kara Newman chats with the owner of New York’s first CBD restaurant and bar.

Brought to you by The Wine Enthusiast Podcast

Why Chablis is the Purest Chardonnay

October 10, 2018 - 12:30pm

Driving into Chablis, the town at the center of Burgundy’s northernmost region, the road descends into what feels like another world. It may be just 10 miles off the A6 highway that runs from Paris to the South of France, but quiet, wine-dominated Chablis is a step back in time.

Gabled houses with slate roofs surround a massive church. Narrow streets are full of the essentials of French country life. Bakers, butchers and cafés flourish despite modern supermarkets. And then there are the wineries. You find them down every street, where they sit behind discreet doors that lead to interior courtyards and underground cellars.

You can’t escape vines. They are what Chablis (pronounced cha-BLEE) lives and breathes. The vineyards dominate the surrounding area, rising up on both sides of the Serein (ser’-EN) River. The river is the reason for Chablis’ namesake wine. Without its steep-sided valley and temperature moderation, the vines would not be able to flourish.

Getty What makes Chablis special?

Chablis, the wine, is 100% Chardonnay. No other grape is allowed in the four Chablis Appellation d’Origine Contrôlée (AOC), and no one has seen the need to change that. The two meld together so well. The grapes prosper in the cool climate and clay-limestone soil, which results in possibly the purest Chardonnay on the planet.

The full expression of terroir is present in the taste of Chablis in a way that’s impossible to find in warmer regions, even Chardonnay grown in the great vineyards of Burgundy’s Côte d’Or. Tropical, rounded or oaky are never used as descriptors.

Wood is sometimes used for aging at the higher-end, but most Chablis producers encourage the purity of their fruit with steel-tank fermentation. This allows the wines to be deliciously fruity, crisp and textured.

The Essential Guide to Chardonnay The Chablis hierarchy

Like all the regions of Burgundy, Chablis has a legally enshrined hierarchy based on the quality of the land and soil. The cool-climate region is actually closer to Champagne vineyards than more southerly, and slightly warmer, regions of Burgundy, which makes orientation critical. Vineyards that face south, southeast or southwest, where they can experience more sun exposure, grow better fruit and, therefore, make better wines. Proximity to the Serein adds a few extra degrees of warmth, which also results in richer wines.

There are four levels in the Chablis hierarchy of appellations: Petit Chablis, Chablis, Chablis Premier Cru and Chablis Grand Cru. Most growers make wines in two of these categories, and many do in three. Only a few make wines in all four.

When to drink?
Chablis: Now
Premier Cru: 2–3 years from release
Grand Cru: 5 years from release

The three most lauded appellations are Chablis, Premier Cru and Grand Cru, which are vineyards planted on Kimmeridgian chalk, named after the English village of Kimmeridge, where it was discovered. This chalk soil dates to the Jurassic, and it stretches to Chablis, and Champagne, from the south of England. Made up of a slew of fossilized sea creatures, it gives Chablis its backbone and steely or flint character.

With 8,880 acres of vineyards, the classification most widely available is called simply “Chablis” on the label. The wines should be fruity yet balanced by a steely, mineral character that’s the epitome of Chardonnay this far north. The vineyards tend to be higher up the slopes or further away from the main valley of the Serein. These wines are not well-equipped for aging and can be enjoyed young.

Getty The difference between Premier Cru and Grand Cru

Higher in quality, but still in wide availability is Chablis Premier Cru. Almost 2,000 acres of Premier Cru vineyards are spread on the slopes above both banks of the Serein, as well as in some side valleys, but all face either southeast or southwest.

There are 40 vineyards designated as Premier Cru, based on their exposition, the slope and the density of the Kimmeridgian chalk. However, many of their names rarely appear on wine labels.

Some of the smaller Premier Crus banded together with neighboring plots and are produced under brands with greater recognition. In effect, those 40 vineyards have been reduced to 17, and it’s those names you’ll see on the labels. Producers have the choice of using the name of the smaller Premier Cru or the larger, depending on their commercial preferences.

The Premier Cru vineyards on the right bank produce wines that are warm, rich and powerful. Some of the most well-known vineyards on this bank are Mont de Milieu, Montée de Tonnerre, Fourchaume and Vaucoupin. On the left bank of the Serein, Premier Crus tend to produce more austere wines that bring out a flinty character. Vineyards to look for are Côté de Léchet, Vaillons, Montmains, Vosgros and Vau de Vey. Enjoy most Premier Cru wines after two to three years from release.

The Premier Cru vineyards on the right bank produce wines that are warm, rich and powerful. On the left bank of the Serein, Premier Crus tend to produce more austere wines that bring out a flinty character.

Top of the heap in taste and price are the Grand Crus. The seven south-facing vineyards cover 247 acres on one steep slope that looms over the town of Chablis, on the right bank of the Serein.

It may be one slope, but each Grand Cru has its own character, which depends on the steepness and exposure. No single producer owns an entire Grand Cru vineyard, just an acre or two here or there. It’s fascinating to taste the differences, particularly if a producer has vines in different plots.

Here are the seven Grand Cru, going from northwest to southeast:
• Bougros (boo-GROW) is lively, crisp and mineral.
• Les Preuses (pruhz) is elegant with a long, taut aftertaste.
• Vaudésir (voh-DEH-zer) is powerful, generous and can be opulent.
• Grenouilles (gren-OU-eeye) exudes great fruitiness as well as structure.
• Valmur (vahl-MUR) is intensely fruity, yet balanced by minerality.
• Les Clos (cloh), perhaps the greatest as well as the largest in size, is dry, mineral with a great aging ability.
• Blanchot (blong-CHOT) is supple and perfumed.

Grand Cru wines can age, and should rarely be enjoyed before five years from release and they’ll start to hit their stride after a decade. Keep an eye out for older Grand Cru in a bin sale or at a bargain price on a poorly managed wine list.

Why Aligoté is Burgundy’s Rising White Star What is Petit Chablis?

There’s one other category in the Chablis hierarchy: Petit Chablis, or “little Chablis.” An unfortunate name if ever there was one, these Chardonnay vines are planted on a different type of chalk soil that also originates in southern England, called Portlandian. It’s less rich in fossils and is found as a more recent layer, by a few hundred million years, on top of Kimmeridgian.

These vines grow on the plateau at the top of slopes. Petit Chablis is an attractive, light and fruity style of wine, crisp and ready to drink within a few months of harvest. The local cooperative, La Chablisienne, produces a wine it calls Pas Si Petit, or “not so little,” which sums up these inexpensive wines very well.

For Chardonnay lovers, Chablis is pure heaven. For those wine lovers who’ve tired of Chardonnay, give your taste buds a happy shock. This is Chardonnay as you have never had it before.

Eight Wines for Pumpkin Spice Lovers

October 10, 2018 - 7:00am

It’s the same thing every autumn. Pumpkin spice lattes, Triscuits, chai, Cheerios, and a host of other pumpkin-laced foodstuffs flood grocery stores. It’s become apparent the seasonal craze is less a trend than a way of life. Lucky for you, the baking spices that make up “pumpkin spice”—cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger, clove and sometimes, allspice—are quite prevalent in a range of wine styles.

So if you’re looking for a fine red, white or sparkling wine with hints of pumpkin perfection for fall sipping, here are eight wines to drink until eggnog hits the shelves.

Recommended Wines with Fine Pumpkin Spice Vibes

Heinrich 2011 Terra O. Red (Burgenland); $75, 93 points. A roasted rich note of espresso and grilled pumpkin appears first. The palate is still dense with rich dark-berry fruit. This is full bodied but pervaded by freshness. The finely woven tannin structure is still very firm, very grippy, even though the fruit underneath it begins to show. This is now five years old and has barely begun its trajectory. Lovely now  if you like full-bodied wines. Drink now through 2030. —Anne Krebiehl, MW

Sixto 2014 Moxee Chardonnay (Washington); $55, 93 points. Coming from a vineyard planted in 1973 at an elevation of 1,450 feet, the aromas draw you into the glass, with intoxicating notes of cream, ginger, pumpkin spice and chamomile. The palate possesses a creamy texture but also a sense of weightlessness that provides a lot of appeal. The balance is exquisite. —Sean P. Sullivan

Spindrift Cellars 2014 Late Harvest Pinot Gris (Willamette Valley); $17/375 mL, 92 points. Breakfast tea, grapefruit and orange peel scents and a hint of spiced pumpkin come out of this well-priced sweet wine. With 67 g/L residual sugar and 12% alcohol, it’s not shy by any standard. The acid is sufficient to balance out all that sugar, and it’s rich enough that one half bottle can provide a dessert sip for a party of four. —Paul Gregutt

Whiskey Pumpkin Pie

Abeja 2016 Chardonnay (Washington); $40, 91 points. This wine’s toast, pumpkin spice and peach aromas are followed by lithe, textured stone fruit flavors. It hits a lot of high marks and shows beautiful balance. —S.S.

Bookwalter 2016 Double Plot Conner-Lee Vineyard Chardonnay (Columbia Valley); $38, 91 points. The heart of this wine comes from a block of this vineyard planted in 1989. The aromas recall peaches, lees, pumpkin spice, candy corn, chamomile tea and toast. There’s a sense of seriousness to the palate, with rich fruit flavors and a compelling texture. —S.S.

Emile Beyer 2015 Lieu-Dit Sundel Pinot Noir (Alsace); $45, 90 points. There is a hint of earth and roasted pumpkin on the nose. The palate has a similarly smoky and dusky aspect and surrounds crisp red-cherry fruit. The body is light with a slight but fine tannic grip. A pleasantly bitter finish counters the pumpkin richness. The finish is very fresh and dry but strangely moreish. This will benefit from a bit of bottle age. Drink now through 2022. —A.K.

Casas Del Mar NV Pinot Noir (Cava); $14, 86 points. Subtle aromas of squash and pumpkin open this brut rosé. A basic but honest palate displays good balance and health. Burnt orange and pink-grapefruit flavors finish steady, mild and reflective of a good but regular Pinot Noir-based Cava. —Michael Schachner

Pere Ventura 2013 Gran Reserva Rosé Brut (Cava); $45, 85 points. Pumpkin, root beer and creamy berry aromas are frankly a touch less than fresh. This vintage rosé is narrow and wanting, with an oxidized character infiltrating sour plum and cherry flavors. A skins-like feel and mild oxidized flavors control the finish. —M.S.

What Really Happens as Wine Ages?

October 9, 2018 - 12:26pm

Most wines sold in the U.S. are made for immediate consumption without the need for cellaring. Some wine lovers, however, prefer to “lay wine down,”—or store bottles for a few years in order to enjoy them when the flavors have evolved.

So what happens as wine ages, and how do its flavors change? Which wines should be aged? And, most importantly, why do we age wines at all? Here’s what you need to know.

What happens to wine’s flavor as it ages?

When wines are young, we taste their primary flavors, like grassiness in Sauvignon Blanc, plum in Merlot, apricot in Viognier or citrus in Riesling. We may also notice some secondary notes associated with winemaking techniques, like the vanilla flavor of oak or buttery nuances from malolactic fermentation.

When wines age, we start speaking about tertiary notes, or flavors that come from development. This could mean young, bold notions of fresh fruit that become gradually more subdued and reminiscent of dried fruit. Other flavors, previously hidden by bold primary notes, come to the fore, like honey, herbal notes, hay, mushroom, stone and earth.

What causes these changes? Nothing in wine is ever static. Acids and alcohols react to form new compounds. Other compounds can dissolve, only to combine again in another fashion. These processes happen constantly and at different rates. Every time you open a bottle, you catch the wine at another stage in its development, with new and different nuances. While the proportion of alcohol, acids and sugars stay the same, the flavors continue to change.

How texture develops in wine

Texturally, the wines also change. Dry, aged white wines can become almost viscous and oily, while reds tend to feel smoother. This is due to phenolic compounds like tannins falling out as sediment over time.

What are Tannins, Really?

In a young wine, these compounds repel each other, staying small enough to remain suspended in the wine. As the wine ages, they lose their charge and start to combine, forming chains and becoming larger and heavier. This reduces the surface area of the tannins, causing them taste smoother, rounder and gentler.

Once these combined compounds become too large, they fall out of suspension as sediment. Some red wines throw heavy sediment, others almost none.

How wine color changes with age

One of the most visible processes in an evolving wine is slow oxidation. Color is the most obvious indicator of this.

As white wines age, they often evolve from pale lemon or golden to amber and even brown. Vivid salmon-hued rosés can take on onion skin tones as they age. As reds develop, oxidation often moves them from the purple end of the spectrum toward tawny or brown hues.

While young reds can be opaque when held against a white background, mature reds often show a lighter color around the edges. This is known as “rim.”

The rate of oxidation depends on the amount of air left in the neck of the bottle after it was sealed, and how permeable the closure is. Traditionally, natural cork has allowed minimal oxygen exchange, which is why most wines deemed ageworthy are still bottled under cork. However, since cork is a natural product, there is no such thing as uniformity. This can cause considerable bottle variation in the same case of wine.

Meanwhile, sophisticated synthetic closures like Nomacorc mimic this oxygen exchange in a more predictable fashion. Even the liners of screwcaps can allow for a certain amount of oxygen exchange, and it’s perfectly possible to age and cellar these wines.

Which to drink now and which to lay down? / Getty Which wines can age?

It’s often assumed that only the finest, most expensive wines can age, but any well-made wine stands a good chance of developing.

Entry-level wines from good wineries can easily age from three to five years, unless they’re made for primary, aromatic appeal like an easy Moscato. Wines that have real concentration of flavor, with a good balance of alcohol, acidity and texture, should age well.

But some wines are made specifically for extended aging, like very extracted reds with bold tannins that need some time to mellow. These comprise many of the fine wines of classic European and New World regions.

White wines that can especially benefit from aging include Riesling, Sémillon, Chenin Blanc, Furmint, white Bordeaux-style blends, white oak-aged Rioja, oak-aged Sauvignon Blanc and good Chardonnay. Some Albariño, Garganega and other lesser-known regional grapes can also age well.

Flavors to taste for as wine ages Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot: Dried tobacco leaf, cigar box
Pinot Noir: Fallen leaves, earth, undergrowth.
Syrah: Smoky cured meat, violets
Nebbiolo and Sangiovese: Sour cherry, rose
Riesling and Chenin Blanc: Chamomile tincture

Well-made reds age wonderfully, even for just three to five years. It’s often surprising how well they can keep their freshness. Some countries have legally defined terms for wines that were aged before release. Look out for Reserva and Gran Reserva (Spain), Riserva (Italy) and Garrafeira and Reserva (Portugal). These wines already have some bottle age, but they can be cellared further. Also look out for so-called “library” or “museum” releases from wineries.

Some very high-quality rosés can also age, though the vast majority are made for immediate consumption.

Quality sparkling wines, particularly those made by traditional bottle fermentation, can also age. This includes both white and rosé sparkling wines. If they are still on their lees (yeast residue from the second fermentation) in the cellar of the producer, they can age for decades. In this scenario, the lees act as protection from oxidation.

Your Guide to Becoming an Expert on Sparkling Wine

However, once sparkling wines are disgorged and taken off this yeast residue, they can still age well. In fact, very young sparkling wines often benefit from a year or two of bottle age. With many years of post-disgorgement bottle age, the mousse, or foam you get when you pour a glass, becomes softer.

Fortified wines are released generally when they’re ready to drink. Due to their high alcohol levels, they’re more protected from the ravages of time than unfortified wines. A prime example here is Madeira, which can age effortlessly for decades. Two fortified wines that prove exceptions are fino and Manzanilla Sherry, which should be consumed while young and fresh.

Very sweet wines, with their high sugar concentration, also age immensely well. The sugar acts as a preservative, even if the alcohol is low.

Cellar dreams / Getty How should wine be stored for aging?

Bottles destined for aging need dark and cool storage around 53–57°F. The temperature should remain constant to allow for slow, even maturation. Higher temperatures accelerate the rate of chemical reactions in a wine, which can be detrimental to the wine’s structure and cause it to “cook,” making fruit flavors taste mushy and baked. Darkness is also important, as ultraviolet rays in light can spoil wine.

7 Wine Storage Tips to Keep You and Your Bottles Happy How can I tell if an older wine is still good to drink?

To tell if an older vintage is past its prime, use the same technique you’d use to judge any wine. Bring it to the correct drinking temperature, open it, pour, swirl and smell. If it smells good, taste a little. If you like it, it’s good to drink.

Red wines which have thrown sediment should be stood upright for 24 hours before opening so the sediment can settle. These may also benefit from being decanted.

When is too long, too long? / Getty Why age wines?

Some wines take time to reveal their true nature. While softened tannins are one way that a wine’s age expresses itself, its tertiary notes are also often more complex and rewarding than younger, more one-dimensional primary fruit notes.

Once age allows fruit flavors to subside, a magical new world of flavor opens up. Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot become suggestive of dried tobacco leaf and cigar box. Syrah develops smoky, visceral notes of cured meat and violets. Nebbiolo and Sangiovese become heady with lifted notes of sour cherry and rose. Riesling and Chenin Blancs can seem like chamomile tincture, while Pinot Noir attains an aura of fallen leaves, earth and undergrowth.

These are all acquired tastes, far removed from the initial accessibility of youthful fruit. But these are sought specifically by many wine lovers. Even after years, you may feel the restraint of a cool season or the dry heat of a hot summer in these wines. At the height of their development, mature wines speak eloquently of time and place.

Tasting historic wines that have withstood decades, and even centuries, is a transcendent experience.

Get to Know Austin’s Wine Scene

October 9, 2018 - 8:30am

You’ve likely heard of Austin’s fondness for barbecue, beer and music. That’s all true, but there’s more to it. The city is transforming into a haven for wine lovers, thanks to an influx of discerning young professionals and organizations like the Wine & Food Foundation of Texas and the just-launched ATX Somm Society. And with appreciation for local, natural and small-production, the wine scene is in line with the city’s eclectic vibe.

Boiler Nine Bar + Grill / Photo by Casey Dunn Drink

Start the day on South Congress Avenue, or SoCo, a popular zone that draws locals and tourists to its watering holes. Grab some breakfast tacos and cold brew at Jo’s Coffee before the line snakes. Nearby, South Congress Hotel boasts five drinking spots, including café Mañana for creamy cortados, Café No Sé for all-day rosé and clandestine Watertrade for refined cocktails. Up the road, slurp fresh-shucked bivalves and chilled bubbles at Perla’s.

Is Texas the Next Great Wine Region to Watch For?

After 10 pm, slip on your cowboy boots for live music at The Continental Club. For a proper sniff-and-swirl, head to Vino Vino, Aviary Wine & Kitchen or Winebelly, all scattered across the city. Sip local beer and take in the deck views at Boiler Nine Bar + Grill, which occupies a former power plant. For off-beat natural wines, sips at dusk beneath the oak trees on Lenoir’s back patio is utter perfection.

Bufalina / Photo by Eva Claycomb Eat

Breakfast tacos are a point of pride and fierce loyalty here. Try the offbeat wild boar version at Dai Due Taqueria, in the city’s gleaming new food hall, Fareground. For pizza, Bufalina’s gives any serious New York City outfit a run for its money, especially with its killer wine list. June’s All Day, helmed by Master Sommelier June Rodil, wins for best wine selection in a relaxed setting. Rodil also controls the deep cellar at Jeffrey’s, the city’s swankiest address. Dine next to peacocks at Mattie’s, where Paula Rester directs the wine list. Don’t miss fried chicken paired with Dandy Bubbles from local winemaker Rae Wilson. And you can’t leave without brisket. Try La Barbecue, and sip local draft suds.

Barton Springs / Shutterstock See

Despite the heat that grips Austin half the year, its denizens live for the outdoors. Take a dip in Barton Springs, a spring-fed municipal pool that attracts hippies, hipsters and hip moms. Close by and far less crowded, zip over to McKinney Falls State Park. Pack a picnic to enjoy after a hike or swim in Lower Falls. Rent kayaks, stand-up paddleboards or bikes to cruise around Lady Bird Lake downtown.

Tesoros Trading Company / Chris Kirzeder Shop

Austin’s a city of neighborhoods stacked with cool, independent stores. South Congress is no exception, and it’s easy to navigate on foot. Step into the Western world of Allens Boots. Stetson hats and dazzling designs will inspire homestead fantasies. Nearby, pricey competitor Heritage Boot Co. stocks gorgeous, limited-run Western boots. Shift back to contemporary designs with apparel and lifestyle goods at ByGeorge. Women can snag affordable jewelry popular with celebs at Kendra Scott. If you do make a move on real estate, accent new digs with colorful south-of-the-border housewares from Tesoros Trading Company.

Jester King Brewery / Photo courtesy of Jester King Brewery 4 Hour Getaway Hill Country

The lush knolls of Hill Country surprise first-time visitors. It’s Texas, sure, but heavy, sporadic storms keep things green and growing. An exciting addition: Southold Farm + Cellar. Regan Meador, a native Texan, relocated his winery from Long Island, and brings natural winemaking to a stunning hilltop site. Nearby, William Chris produces thoughtful, balanced wines, especially from single-vineyard Mourvèdre. As you head back into Austin, chill out at Jester King Brewery, a farm and brewery that uses wine grapes and wild yeast to create complex, wine-like beers.

Constellation Brands’ Q2 Results Blow Past Estimates

October 8, 2018 - 10:39am

Constellation Brands reported second-quarter results, with net income rising to $1.15 billion, or $5.87 per share, for the three months that ended on August 31. This is up from $1.6 million, or $2.49 per share, from the year-earlier period. The analyst consensus was $2.61 a share.

The 10.1% rise in net sales to $2.30 billion was driven by demand for Corona and Modelo beers during the summer quarter. Cowen Managing Director Vivien Azer, in a note to investors before the market open, said the beer business operating margin of 41.3% was up more than 10 basis points year-on-year as pricing offset increased transportation costs.

Wine and spirits saw net sales growth of 9.3%, the company said. The segment benefited from 8.8% volume growth primarily due to timing, as shipments outpaced depletion volume to ensure the wine and spirits portfolio is well-positioned heading into the holiday selling season.

Benefit expected to reverse

“Most of the shipment timing benefit is expected to reverse in the third quarter,” Constellation Brands acknowledged. It added that the wine and spirits business operating margin decreased 20 basis points to 26.1% as the cost of goods rose, driven primarily by increased grape prices, transportation and marketing.

Constellation Brands continues to concentrate on higher-priced wine offerings above $11 a bottle led by Meiomi, Kim Crawford and Prisoner brands.

The beverage alcohol giant expects beer net sales and operating income growth of 9%–11%; and wine and spirits net sales and operating growth to be in the range of 2%–4%. It raised its expected earnings per share for the 2019 fiscal year to $9.60–$9.75 vs. its previous $9.40–$9.70.

None of the figures given factors in Constellation Brands’ investment in Canadian cannabis company Canopy Growth as that deal is expected to close at the end of October.

Wells Fargo Senior Analyst Bonnie Herzog reiterated her outperform rating on the shares, noting the company “is clearly managing transport/marketing cost headwinds adeptly while continuing to drive significant growth in the high-end segment of beer/wine. Robust premium beer trends and market share gains in both beer/wine give us confidence that STZ’s growth engines are well intact.”

Constellation Brands’ shares were up 4.3% at $219.94 in midday trading.

Meet the New Champagne-Style Brut Ales

October 8, 2018 - 10:31am

Since its beginnings in the late 1970s, the American craft beer movement has exalted India pale ales (IPAs). They’ve gone through several incarnations, from those made with floral, earthy hops and a backbone of toasted malt, to a hops arms race to see which producer could make the most bitter IPA. But in this ever-changing world, the latest palate-shifting ales illustrate a move in a different direction. Meet the brut IPA.

Similar to the Champagne style from which it gets its name, brut IPAs are straw-colored in appearance, bone-dry and refreshingly effervescent. The secret ingredient for their perfect dryness? The amylase enzyme, which, when added after fermentation, converts residual sugars into fermentable sugars and yields a lighter body and reduced sweetness in high-alcohol beers.

“We really enjoy dry white wine in general, and admire the similarities between some white wines and IPAs, in both aromatics and flavor. So, we decided to blur the lines a bit.” —Adam Cieslak, co-founder/head brewer, Maplewood Brewery & Distillery

Kim Sturdavant, brewmaster at San Francisco’s Social Kitchen & Brewery, is credited widely as the style’s inventor.

“The inspiration for the beer came from using the enzyme in my triple IPA to get that beer as dry as possible because that is normally a very perceivably sweet style,” says Sturdavant.

Inside Social Kitchen & Brewery, San Francisco

His experiment worked. And while it was conceived in Northern California, seen by many as the cradle of American craft beer, breweries nationwide are now making this dry delight.

Adam Smith, special projects lead brewer/brand manager of Chicago’s Maplewood Brewery & Distillery, and Adam Cieslak, co-founder/head brewer , were prompted by their love of dry white wine to create their Mega Dry brut IPA. “We really enjoy dry white wine in general, and admire the similarities between some white wines and IPAs, in both aromatics and flavor,” says Cieslak. “So, we decided to blur the lines a bit.”

Their brut recipe is constantly evolving.

Adam Smith (left) and Adam Cieslak (right) of Maplewood Brewery & Distillery

“With our first batch, we tried to mimic the gooseberry and grapefruit notes often found in a New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc,” says Smith. “With the second batch, we used a French Champagne yeast and hops selected to mimic a true brut Champagne.

“With our third upcoming batch, we’ll follow that same process—finding a dry white wine we enjoy and trying to capture those notes and characteristics and get them into a beer.”

The name Blanc Stare came from a mutual look of astonishment that [head brewer Joel] Kodner and his assistant gave each other after they sampled the finished beer.

Kevin Blodger, co-founder/director of brewing operations for Union Craft Brewing in Baltimore, was intrigued when he heard about the brut IPA. He didn’t know where to start, but then he caught a lucky break.

“Prior to brewing a brut IPA, I had never had one,” says Blodger. “So I did a ton of research because I wanted to know everything about it [that] I could.”

The tanks at Union Craft Brewing, Baltimore / Photo by Jordan August

He stumbled upon a video where Sturdavant discussed the brut IPA. From there, Blodger brought his vision to life as part of Union’s Rough Draughts series of experimental, small-batch beers. Starting with Sturdavant’s blueprint, Blodger added his own distinctive touch.

“I used Nelson [Sauvin] and Hallertau Blanc because I wanted the hops to be fruit-forward and flavorful,” he says.

“I started thinking about how we could create a sparkling version of a Sancerre [rosé], I knew it would have to be a kettle-soured beer. And then I read a bit about Kim Sturdavant’s brut IPA and how he was able to achieve the dryness.” —Joe Ploof, founder/CRO, Hanging Hills Brewing Company

The brut style isn’t just limited to IPAs. Head brewer Joel Kodner, of Florida’s West Palm Beach Brewery & Wine Vault, was eager to try his hand at a brut brew, but first applied the process to a French-style saison to create his Blanc Stare brut offering.

Joel Kodner, head brewer at West Palm Beach Brewery & Wine Vault / Photo by Jax Streng

“I figured a super-dry saison could be a good guinea pig for tinkering with the enzyme,” says Kodner. “Once it was finished, we conservatively dry-hopped it with Hallertau Blanc to maintain the saison character, but still impart that terrific white grape and subtle tropical note you can get from those hops.”

Wine-Beer Hybrids are Making the Best of Two Worlds

The name Blanc Stare came from a mutual look of astonishment that Kodner and his assistant gave each other after they sampled the finished beer.

West Palm Beach Brewery’s Blanc Stare brut saison / Photo by Jax Streng

In Hartford, Connecticut, Hanging Hills Brewing Company’s version of the brut-style beer took a more colorful approach. Its Lucada brut rosé ale is made with pomegranate and hibiscus.

“We wanted to create a non-IPA beer that was both elegant and unique with a low [alcohol content],” says Joe Ploof, founder/CRO of Hanging Hills.

A huge wine fan, Ploof was inspired by the delicate and balanced acidity of French rosés.

The taproom at Hanging Hills Brewing Company

“I started thinking about how we could create a sparkling version of a Sancerre [rosé],” he says. “I knew it would have to be a kettle-soured beer. And then I read a bit about Kim Sturdavant’s brut IPA and how he was able to achieve the dryness.

“We figured the dryness created by the enzyme would emphasize not only the pomegranate and hibiscus, but also the tartness of the beer.”

It’s that complementary aspect that makes brut beers so appealing. As an option for both wine-loving beer-drinkers and beer-drinking wine lovers, the style has broad appeal. Its versatility and crispness are likely to continue winning over new fans.

How Two Friends Forged a Future in Wine

October 8, 2018 - 7:11am

I met Laura at the storied Clermont Lounge, a strip club in Atlanta.

I was a regular there in my early 20s, mainly because my buddy Robyn was a bartender. I made lots of friends, and on a bleary-eyed weeknight, I met Laura Brennan-Bissell, another bartender.

At the time, Laura and I worked odd jobs at restaurants, got around on bikes and spent way too much time in bars. We learned that, despite my Puerto Rican roots and her Virginia/Washington, D.C. heritage, we had similar upbringings. We’d both experienced financial hardship, struggled with unstable families and survived extreme violence.

Wine and food emerged as a way for us to connect and carve out a future. I talked to Laura about the famous buttermilk-brined fried chicken from the Watershed, where I was a host. She showed me how to make baked mac and cheese, inspired by the black Southern women who’d taught her mother to cook. We talked for hours about grocery shopping, knife skills and what made things taste good.

Wine and food emerged as a way for us to connect and carve out a future.

Laura left Atlanta less than a year after we met. In the 12 years since, she has traveled across Asia and lived in Barcelona, where she fell in love with natural wines and decided to become a winemaker. She ended up in California and started her own brand called Inconnu. I relocated to New York City and became a radio producer and food writer, traveling to Cuba, Oaxaca and across the U.S. to record oral histories about Latino food and culture.

Laura and I came together to organize and host an evening of food and wine at 18 Reasons, a nonprofit community cooking space in San Francisco. The chefs there will prepare recipes from my cookbook, Coconuts and Collards (University Press of Florida, 2018), and Laura will pair with her wines. It will be a hybrid of my Puerto Rican and our Southern backgrounds: fried plantain soup, slow-cooked pork ribs with guava barbecue sauce and coconut-braised collard greens. We’ll bridge our pasts over rosé and sofrito.

Cabernet Sauvignon Conversations

“It’s unusual for women like us to end up here,” she said on a recent phone call.

She’s right. It’s no secret that the world of food and drink needs to diversify and celebrate the contributions of women. My hope is that Laura and I—two friends who met over cheap drinks—can pave the way for more scrappy, independent women to have a place at the table.

Simple Meatballs and Cabernet Sauvignon Pairing

October 6, 2018 - 7:44am

Recipe courtesy Jonathon Sawyer, chef/owner, Trentina, Cleveland

If you’re looking for a dish to pair with your favorite Cabernet Sauvignon look no further than these simple meatballs. Filled with fresh herbs and stuffed with two types of cheese, this recipe pairs perfectly with this rich red wine.

Why it works: Robust and fruit-forward Cabs are best for meatballs and any red sauce dishes. The bright acidity of the wine should match the acidity of the tomatoes, but should also be firmly structured enough to match this recipe.

10 Foods Made to Pair with Cabernet Sauvignon

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

October 5, 2018 - 11:37am

One of the benefits of covering a particular wine region for a long time is the opportunity to witness evolution. Over two decades of exploring the wines of Spain and South America, Mendoza in Argentina has come farther than arguably any other locale. That’s especially true of the budding area known as the Uco Valley, where wine tourism has become as big as the Andes that tower to the west.

This month, we’ve explored the people and bottlings behind this once-modest region’s rise to prominence. The following are recommendations to get the most out of a wine-oriented trip to the Uco Valley, a high-desert region that begins about 30 miles to the south of Mendoza city and extends southward for another 45 miles before temperatures become too cold for grapes.

The Transformation of Uco Valley's Wines

Blessed by high elevations that can top 5,000 feet, pollution-free air, abundant sunshine and alluvial soils made fertile by snowmelt from nearby mountain peaks, the Uco Valley not only produces great Malbecs and other wines, it’s a thrilling destination to visit.

Casa de Uco Vineyards & Wine Resort in the Chacayes subzone of the Uco Valley / Photo by Matt Wilson The All-In-One Experience

Located in the Chacayes subzone, Casa de Uco Vineyards & Wine Resort ranks as the best full-service hotel in the Uco Valley. With inspiring views of vineyards and the Andean foothills, Casa de Uco, opened in 2014 by Buenos Aires-based Tonconogy family, is an architectural spectacle.

The hotel consists of 16 well-appointed rooms and three private villas, many of which look out onto a pair of irrigation ponds favored by ducks and desert fowl. Casa de Uco has a serious restaurant with vaulted ceilings and two-story windows as well as its own winery, located less than a mile away.

Should you fall in love with the place, vineyard plots are for sale. These allow you to get into the wine and/or grape-growing business from a distance.

An outdoor feast at The Vines of Mendoza

Not far from Casa de Uco is The Vines of Mendoza and The Vines Resort & Spa, created by an American, Michael Evans, in partnership with Pablo Giménez Riili. The property’s stylish stone-and cement hotel opened in 2014. It features the Siete Fuegos (Seven Fires) restaurant, headed by famed Argentine grill master Francis Mallmann. Like Casa de Uco, The Vines sells vineyard plots and shares, and allows one to make their own wine at the on-site bodega.

Dining with a view at Salentein’s Restaurante Killka Winery Touring, Tasting and Dining

Fifteen or so years ago, only a handful of wineries existed in this region. Now there are dozens in all shapes, sizes and outputs, with more under construction. Several of the region’s pioneers—Salentein, Domaine Bousquet and Andeluna—boast on-site restaurants. After a winery tour, guests can pair each bodega’s wines with local dishes, most of which are grill-based and include various cuts of beef, roast goat, trout and Argentina’s famous empanadas. At Salentein’s Restaurante Killka, the views of the Andes are impeccable. The popular Sunday asado (a traditional mixed grill) regularly draws families from Mendoza city and beyond eager for an afternoon in the countryside.

At Gaia, the indoor/outdoor restaurant at Domaine Bousquet in Tupungato, Chef Adrian Baggio turns out set meals that span four to six courses. Andeluna, founded in 2003 by American corporate executive Ward Lay, is now owned by the Argentine Barale family. It boasts a comfy, lodge-like restaurant with high ceilings, authentic Mendocino food and first-rate views of vineyards and the Andes.

José Alberto (left) and Sebastián Zuccardi (right) with the concrete tanks of Bodega Piedra Infinita / Photo by Matt Wilson

The most physically impressive winery in the Uco Valley is Bodega Piedra Infinita, opened two years ago by the Zuccardi family. Located in the Altamira subzone of San Carlos, the structure was constructed from solid stone. There’s not a traditional barrica (225-liter barrel) on site, as winemaker Sebastián Zuccardi has outfitted the winery with cement tanks, 3000-liter foudres and used 500-liter barrels. The restaurant here is casual and comfortable. You simply can’t go wrong with a well-grilled steak paired with the winery’s new age, no-oak Malbecs labeled Concreto and Polígonos.

The garden at Bodega SuperUco

For the pinnacle in Uco Valley dining, plan your trip for harvest time, which runs from late February into April, when Mendoza’s weather is at its best. It’s when Germán Martitegui, a star chef and owner of Buenos Aires’ Tegui, brings his entire crew to the Uco Valley to run a 40-day pop-up restaurant at Bodega SuperUco, located in Chacayes and owned by the Michelini brothers. At these multicourse dinners, all the wines are from the four hermanos Michelini, with selections that range from highly unusual to spectacular.

Martitegui’s team of talented young chefs hits you with small plate after small plate of marvelousness. If dining under the stars surrounded by grapevines, local winemakers and celebrities from Buenos Aires and São Paulo sounds like a memorable blast, well, it is.

Your glass, the mountains and a lot of rock, at the annual Wine Rock festival, Monteviejo / Photo by Celeste Urreaga Harvest Rock N’ Roll

In early April, as the harvest enters its final phases, head to Monteviejo, one of the wineries that comprise the Clos de los Siete project, for the ninth-annual Wine Rock concert and wine festival.

The event is the brainchild of Monteviejo head winemaker Marcelo Pelleriti, who looks the part of a true rock-and-roller. The daylong concert features multiple bands, most geared toward rock and metal, while attendees eat, drink, shop for arts and crafts, and bang heads.

Hands down, this is one of the Uco Valley’s premier annual events. Its tag line, “Tu copa, la montaña y mucho rock,” translates to, “Your glass, the mountains and a lot of rock!”