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Domaine de la Romanée-Conti 1945 Auctioned for Record-Shattering Price (Wine Spectator)

October 15, 2018 - 10:45am

Rob Rosania, a New York real-estate developer and noted wine collector, raised his paddle and left it there. “150, 160, 170, 180, 200,” auctioneer Jamie Ritchie rattled off in rapid fire, as if he was counting. Those numbers were actually thousands of dollars, salvos in a bidding war between Rosania and an unidentified online bidder at Sothebys’ auction of wines from Burgundy legend Robert Drouhin’s personal cellar on Oct. 13. The prize at stake was a bottle of Domaine de la Romanée-Conti Romanée-Conti 1945.

At $558,000 (including the buyer’s premium and taxes), Rosania conceded. But he purchased the next lot, the second 750ml bottle of Romanée-Conti 1945 in the auction, for $496,000. The two lots both shattered the previous auction record for a single bottle, a jeroboam of Mouton-Rothschild 1945 that sold for $310,700 in 2007.

“That’s why I was here,” Rosania told Wine Spectator after the session. “I thought it would go for $250,000 to $400,000.”

Rosania also snagged the next lot, one bottle of Romanée-Conti 1943, for $68,200, including fees. The ’45s were more hotly contested for several reasons: Decimated by frost and hail, the 1945 growing season was hot overall, producing just 600 bottles of concentrated and long-lived wines. And Romanée-Conti’s vines had been planted prior to the devastation of Burgundy’s vines from phylloxera. The vines, still on their own roots, were pulled out after the 1945 harvest.

Most important, the two bottles came from Drouhin’s personal collection. His family company Maison Joseph Drouhin distributed the wines of DRC from 1928 until 1964. The provenance was impeccable.

In a little more than two hours, Ritchie, worldwide head of Sotheby’s Wine knocked down $7.3 million in rare Burgundy. More than 90 percent of the sale was rare bottles of DRC, vintages 1937 to 1964, from the Drouhin cellar. Many lots sold at three to four times the high estimate, with several going for seven, eight, even 10 times the catalog price. Bidding was competitive, mostly by telephone and online clients.

Robert Drouhin was impressed with the sale. “The estimate of many wines seemed low to me, knowing their quality and scarcity, whatever the motivation of the wine lovers or collectors,” he said. “But I was amazed.”

“My first thought was for my father, Maurice Drouhin, who oriented Joseph Drouhin to the upper level of quality and created links with the Domaine de la Romanée-Conti,” he added. “My second thought was for Burgundy in general, my family and Joseph Drouhin, the prestige which they will gain from it.”

Nonetheless, he cautioned against the feverish demand for Burgundy. “For its first and grands crus, Burgundy is in a luxury world. Let us hope it will not disturb the mentality. Burgundy estates should not be a field for investments. I wish our terroir remains in the hands of families. Personally I have already ensured the transmission to my grandchildren and hopefully the family ethic.”

This sale follows a record-breaking June auction in Geneva of the remaining bottles of Henri Jayer’s personal cellar. Both offered impeccable provenance, giving collectors around the globe the opportunity to bid on extremely rare, pristine bottles. Burgundy remains the king of wine auctions.

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West Coast Wineries Are Refusing Grape Orders and Farmers Are Unhappy (Wine Spectator)

October 12, 2018 - 6:00am

Wine grapegrowers in Northern California's Lake and Mendocino counties and Oregon's Rogue Valley are unhappy after some of the industry's bigger companies refused grapes from growers they had contracts with due to potential smoke taint as a result of summer wildfires. The companies say lab tests showed high levels of compounds that could lead to smoky flavors in wines, but the growers dispute that.

In late August, Constellation Brands and Treasury Wine Estates rejected an estimated 1,200 tons of grapes from several Lake and Mendocino growers, just as harvest was getting underway. A few weeks later, Joe Wagner's Copper Cane Wines & Provisions refused 2,000 tons of grapes from 15 grapegrowers in Southern Oregon.

“This was a tough decision to make,” Wagner told Wine Spectator. “Knowing that we need to maintain our good reputation with growers as well as with our brand, we made the call after discovering that it was more widespread than we thought.”

Catching smoke

Two wildfires ignited in Southern Oregon in mid-July. One is still burning, with 75 percent containment. Fires in Lake and Mendocino counties broke out at the end of July and took more than a month to contain.

Wagner said his team initially took grape samples to test in labs, like many others, but found that the chemical analyses were all over the board. They then decided to ferment small lots from each vineyard, a tactic first used by the Australian Wine Research Institute. It was only then that they detected the impact of smoke. “If you're just testing the grapes, you're throwing money at the wind; you need to do ferments to see for sure,” said Wagner.

Smoke taint occurs when grapes are exposed to smoke-filled air for an extended period of time. The longer the smoke hangs in the area, the more a residue builds on the grapes, which permeates the skins. The smoke compounds, volatile phenols including guaicol and 4-methylguiacol, then bond with the sugars. Grapes can be analyzed for the compounds, but results can be inconclusive. It's only after fermentation that the volatile compounds are released, which can make a wine taste smoky. Grapes are most susceptible between veraison (when the grapes' color darkens), and reds are more directly affected.

Unfortunately, growers are at the mercy of contracts, which have stipulations for quality, including smoke taint. But because detecting taint is tricky, it leaves a lot of uncertainty.

Many vineyard owners say they have sent their grapes in for analysis and found they measured below the threshold for what would be considered tainted. Some vineyard owners in Oregon are claiming that Copper Cane never conducted tests on their fruit and they were left high and dry come harvesttime. Copper Cane denies that and contends that they utilized their own labs as well as a third party for testing. (It hasn't helped Wagner's cause that he has been involved in a labeling fight with Oregon vintners and politicians.)

Wagner said they worked as fast as they could to determine if grapes were suitable. “You had to give seven to 10 days for fermentation and then another seven to 10 for a return for analysis, and we let everyone know there was a problem at that point.” Wagner claimed that laboratory results were sent to all the growers and many understood the decision they had to make. “This is something we've never done before, but we still feel confident in our decision.”

Sam Tannahill, co-founder of Oregon's A to Z Wineworks, is one of Oregon's largest purchasers of Rogue Valley grapes for his 375,000-case brand, and believes it's an unfortunate situation that is difficult to blame on anyone. “A winery doesn't want to expose themselves to liability or make bad wine, and the grower is upset because they feel like they've done nothing wrong,” Tannahill told Wine Spectator. “It's frustrating, because it's not an issue of poor vineyard management; it's outside the control of both winery and vineyard.”

Tannahill noted that he has not refused any of his Rogue Valley fruit and that so far he has seen low levels of smoke-tainted grapes and believes most are isolated incidents. “It's foolish to say it's not there, but it's extremely variable, depending on the microclimate, timing and length of exposure,” said Tannahill.

Debra Sommerfield, president of the Lake County Wine Grape Commission, echoed Tannahill's comments. “It's useful to understand that Lake County's 10,000 acres of vineyard lands are planted throughout a vast, diverse topography of mountains, ridges, hills and valleys, each with a range of elevations and distinct wind patterns.” Sommerfield noted that it's difficult to generalize the impact of smoke, but that growers are working together to make informed decisions.

Brent Dodd, corporate communications manager for Treasury Wine Estates, told Wine Spectator, “Our viticulturist and winemakers are working through a third party, carefully evaluating grapes from regions effected by wildfires in 2018; if the grapes do not meet our quality standards then they will unfortunately be rejected, which is standard in the industry.” Dodd also said that they are in close communication with their growers to continue testing grapes as needed as harvest carries on.

Banding together

Lawmakers and winery owners in Oregon met last week to help mitigate the estimated $4 million in losses for Rogue Valley vintners. In response, Willamette Valley Vineyards and King Estate Winery have purchased nearly 100 tons from Rogue Valley growers. Other wineries have purchased grapes or offered tank space to help crush the crop, so growers can make the wine and sell it in the bulk-wine market.

The Lake County Winegrape Commission is spearheading a collaborative research project with the University of California at Davis, ETS Laboratories and other partners, including individual grapegrowers, to further understand the effects of smoke and look for options for future years.

Tannahill hopes that incidents like these spur more conversations for the wine industry. “My hope is for there to eventually be federally imposed insurance to keep growers stable, and mitigate the loss for the winery in contract for the grapes.” He noted that vineyard insurance in Oregon is fairly uncommon because growers rarely get enough back from their losses.

Wagner suggested that he'd be more than willing to pay an additional cost per ton to cover the expense of crop insurance for his growers, and hinted that Copper Cane is formulating a plan to offer relief to the affected growers. “We're farmers ourselves and we hope there's more crop insurance up there in the future,” said Wagner “We can't remake the past, but we know what we need to do in the future.”

Tannahill believes the problem with smoke taint isn't going away any time soon. “This is about climate change, and about how forests are managed, and vineyards just happen to be near these areas,” said Tannahill. “There's been smoke all up and down the West Coast for several years, and our industry needs to take a serious look at how to deal with it so that it doesn't become endemic.”

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Unfiltered: LeBron James Returns After Grueling 2-Week Wine Time-Out, Reveals He Lets Jr. Sip Wine like a European Kid (Wine Spectator)

October 11, 2018 - 4:00pm

LeBron James recently took his talents to the Los Angeles Lakers, and just a few months into his stint, he's apparently already bought into the hot yoga, green juice and #healthgoals lifestyle that's taken over the West Coast. According to the Los Angeles Times, the 33-year-old basketball star took a two-week hiatus from gluten, dairy, added and artificial sugars, and (gasp) wine, in hopes of boosting his health.

If you know LeBron, you know this undertaking was no slam-dunk. One of the most well-known enophiles in the NBA, he rarely goes long without drinking—and occasionally sharing a taste on social media—his beloved vino. So how did the herculean task go for him?

“It made me want wine more,” he said.

But huzzah, King James survived the task—and even took it a day into overtime: He celebrated the W and broke his dry spell with a bottle of 2007 Giuseppe Quintarelli Amarone della Valpolicella Classico Riserva.

Instagram/KingJames Amarone makes the heart grow fonder.

And it's possible he toasted this accomplishment with the people closest to him: his wife—and kids. At a Lakers practice on Tuesday, James told reporters that he lets his elder children, LeBron Jr., 14, and Bryce, 11, sip "whatever Dad and Mom's having," referring to wine.

"I got very mature 14- and 11-year-olds. My 14- and 11-year-olds drink wine. That's how mature they are," he told press. "Put it on me, though, don't put it on Mom. Put it on Dad." (Three-year-old daughter Zhuri apparently still has some growing up to do.)

Of course, while some might appreciate the four-time NBA MVP's very European approach to child-rearing, not everyone was going to champion it. Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) took to Twitter to respond to James' comments, writing, "We still have a long way to go to educate parents about dangers of underage drinking." In Ohio, the James' home court until recently, it is legal for parents to allow their children to have alcohol under their supervision. But in his new home of California, laws aren’t so lenient.

There is one thing for certain, though: When the James offspring do get sips of vino—we know it's good vino.

German Winemaker Loses, Finds, 3,500 Pounds of Grapes in Zany Riesling-Thieving Mix-Up

Nikolaus Werlé in Forst woke up after one nacht to find someone had harvested 3,500 pounds (worth $9,200) of prime Riesling grapes off his vines. Thief-harvesting, sadly, is not terribly uncommon, but the incident at Werlé’s vineyard appeared all the more brazen because his plots are located right next to a supermarket parking lot on the outskirts of the village of Deidesheim, where any number of people might have spotted a mechanical harvester at work.

"Quite a lot of our grapes got stolen and were missing for more then 10 days," the vintner told Unfiltered. But this case of missing Riesling has been solved. "A farmer from our neighborhood recognized that his harvester driver picked the wrong vineyard, got in touch with us, and agreed to replace the grapes from one of his vineyards," said Werlé. "So at the end it was just a mistake," and everything got, well … sorted.

British Wine Merchant Shares Letter of Regret from 'Titanic' Company for Losing Wine in Unfortunate Iceberg Incident

There are plenty of understandable excuses for why a wine shipment doesn't make it to its destination. (Like, "vandals poured it all out onto the ground.") But none might be as outrageous—or tragic, just in general—as the tale of the 69 cases of still wine, Champagne and spirits that sank with the Titanic in the early hours of April 15, 1912.

Courtesy Berry Bros. & Rudd Troubled waters

Berry Bros. & Rudd, a historic British wine and spirits merchant, recently found and resurfaced a letter of apology for lost wine cargo it received from the Titanic's parent company, White Star Line, the day after the ship's sinking (the day after!), and posted the missive on its Instagram page.

"Dear Sirs," the letter reads. "Referring to your shipment by this steamer it is with great regret that we have to inform you that the 'Titanic' foundered at 2:20 a.m. 15th instant, after colliding with an iceberg, and is a total loss."

A copy of the letter has been displayed in Berry Bros. & Rudd's flagship shop in London ever since the original was rediscovered 20 years ago, when a retiring employee found it while cleaning out his desk, according to Edward Rudd, third-generation family member and the company’s financial planning director. The original, usually stashed away in a safe, was given its 15 minutes of Instafame thanks to some archival work.

“One of the many wonderful things about being part of a 320-year-old business is the bountiful archives, detailing the heritage and history of Berry Bros. & Rudd," Rudd told Unfiltered. Let's hope there are some happier memories to toast in those archives as well.

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Perfect Match Recipe: Roast Chicken with Crispy Potatoes and Beaujolais (Wine Spectator)

October 11, 2018 - 8:30am

“Roast chicken is a real emotional thing for people,” says chef Andy Little. “One of my favorite things to eat at home is whole roast chicken.”

Little’s accessible recipe for a classic whole chicken—oven-roasted to crispy, golden goodness—goes on the plate with smashed potatoes and a kale salad dressed in a grilled-scallion vinaigrette that’s quick to prepare but feels restaurant-worthy with its combination of herbaceous, smoky and creamy elements.

At his restaurant, the Wine Spectator Award of Excellence–winning Josephine, in Nashville, Tenn., Little’s deep-fried take on whole roast chicken has become a show-stopping signature menu item. It falls somewhere between the Amish farm chicken of Little’s youth in central Pennsylvania and the fried hot chicken that proliferates in Music City. He says that the dish resulted from his thinking, “Well, I wonder what would happen if I just dropped that whole thing in the deep fryer.”

Josephine’s mash-up of Southern and Pennsylvania Dutch culinary traditions is not as quirky as it may seem. “The cuisine of the American South, especially the noncoastal American South, and the cuisine of central Pennsylvania are very similar,” Little explains. “Both of them celebrate their agrarian roots, so you’re going to find food that has jumped off of the farm and onto restaurant menus using the whole animal.” The subsistence cultures of Amish country and Appalachia, he observes, are about “being very frugal with the abundance that you have.”

At home, the humble roast chicken can sometimes prove finicky. Either the skin is well-burnished and crispy but the interior is unpleasantly dry, or the meat is tender but the skin offputtingly wiggly. Little suggests cutting yourself some slack and taking the long view. “If I make something once and it doesn’t really turn out the way I wanted it to, I’m going to try it again, and I’ll probably try it three or four, maybe five times,” he says. “Continue to get in the kitchen and cook, and if you’re dead set on, ‘I’m going to make this great roast chicken recipe,’ then persevere a little bit.”

After all, you gotta eat. “Thankfully, we’re supposed to eat three times a day,” Little says, “so that’s three opportunities—if you’re into chicken for breakfast.”

For example, if the meat isn’t done to your liking when cooked to the called-for 175 F, try following visual cues instead, cooking only until the juices run clear when a leg joint is pierced with a small knife. You might pursue an even crispier skin, rubbing the inside of the skin with butter or taking your blow-dryer to the outside. Maybe you’ll discover you’re a fan of trussing the bird with twine for even cooking, or maybe that’s not your thing.

If you want to get a little more ambitious, slice a couple lemons, heads of garlic and onions in half crosswise, then stuff a few into the chicken’s cavity and place the rest cut-side down in the roasting pan. Throw in a carrot or two if you like. The resulting pan juices will be even more richly nuanced, plus you’ll have additional veggies to serve alongside.

“Hopefully, I’m able to provide a great jumping-off point,” Little says. Ultimately, though, it’s all about finding your own perfect chicken.

Pairing Tip: Why Cru Beaujolais Works with This Dish[videoPlayerTag videoId="5847012918001"]

Visit our YouTube channel to watch a version of this Perfect Match video with closed captions.

For more tips on how to approach pairing this dish with wine, recommended bottlings and notes on chef Andy Little’s inspiration, read the companion article, "A Perfect Match: Roast Chicken With Beaujolais," in the Nov. 30, 2018, issue, via our online archives or by ordering a digital edition (Zinio or Google Play) or a back issue of the print magazine. For even more wine pairing options, members can find other recently rated Beaujolais in our Wine Ratings Search.

Roast Chicken with Crispy Potatoes, Kale and Grilled-Scallion Vinaigrette

  • 2 bunches scallions, trimmed
  • 2 cups olive oil, plus more for cooking
  • Salt and pepper
  • One 3 1/2– to 4-pound whole chicken, preferably organic and/or local, giblets removed
  • 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
  • 1 egg yolk
  • 4 tablespoons Sherry vinegar or apple cider vinegar
  • 2 to 3 bunches kale (about 10 ounces), stems removed, washed and cut into strips
  • 3 pounds fingerling potatoes

1. Heat a grill pan or cast-iron skillet on medium-high. In a large bowl, toss scallions with a bit of olive oil, salt and pepper. Cook scallions, using tongs to turn, until soft and well-charred, about 5 minutes. Transfer to paper towels. Once cool enough to handle, chop roughly.

2. Preheat the oven to 425 F. Dry the chicken with paper towels. Coat the skin with olive oil and season liberally inside and out with salt and pepper. Tie the legs together tightly with kitchen twine. Place the chicken breast-side up in a roasting pan or oven-safe skillet and insert a probe thermometer between the leg and thigh joint. Transfer to the oven and roast until the thermometer reads 175 F, about 1 hour. Transfer chicken to a meat board. Tent loosely with foil. Let rest for about 15 minutes.

3. While the chicken is roasting, combine the mustard, egg yolk, vinegar and grilled scallions in a blender and blend on high until well-combined. Slowly stream in 2 cups olive oil, and season to taste with salt and pepper.

4. Dry the kale thoroughly and dress with the grilled-scallion vinaigrette (you will have some left over). Season to taste with salt and pepper.

5. Place the potatoes in a pot and cover with cold water. Bring to a boil over high heat, then reduce to a simmer and cook until the potatoes are just cooked through, about 10 minutes. Drain and submerge in an ice-water bath to stop the cooking. Once the potatoes have cooled, smash them flat with the side of a chef’s knife.

6. Coat a large saucepan with olive oil and heat over medium-high. Add the potatoes and cook, turning once, until browned on both sides. Remove from heat and season to taste with salt and pepper.

7. When ready to serve, remove the twine from the chicken. Remove the legs, and separate each thigh from each drumstick. Cut along the inside of the breastbone on either side to remove the breast meat, and slice. Remove the wings. Serve with the kale salad and potatoes alongside. Serves 2 to 4.

Restaurant Spotlight: Épure (Wine Spectator)

October 11, 2018 - 7:00am

Hong Kong’s Épure presents contemporary French cuisine in an opulent yet intimate 50-seat dining room. -la-carte items are available, but chef Nicolas Boutin’s three tasting menus are the main draw. There’s a four-course menu with themes like caviar or truffle (prices vary based on the showcased ingredient), a six-course menu for $190 and an eight-course menu for $240, with optional wine pairings. Most dishes change seasonally, but luxurious French-favored ingredients like lobster, saffron and foie gras are the common thread. The Wine Spectator Best of Award of Excellence–winning wine list is managed by wine director Sebastien Allano, who’s garnered experience in restaurants such as Grand Award winners Tour d'Argent in Paris and Daniel in New York. The program focuses on France, excelling in Bordeaux and Burgundy, and also boasts strong collections of labels from California, Italy and Australia. Standouts among the 1,290 selections include verticals of nearly all Domaine de la Romanée-Conti’s grand cru vineyards and more than 50 vintages of Château Mouton-Rothschild going back to the late 1800s.

Turning Tables: Inside the Sprawling New Location of Grand Award–Winning Wally's (Wine Spectator)

October 11, 2018 - 6:30am
Wally's Opens Restaurant and Store in Santa Monica

On Oct. 6, Grand Award–winning restaurant and wine shop Wally's Beverly Hills opened a new location in Santa Monica, Calif. Owner Christian Navarro told Wine Spectator this is the first step in expanding his restaurant-retail hybrid, which proved a "grand-slam home-run success" in Beverly Hills, he said. "We have a deep-rooted loyal client base, it's just us being able to touch them on a day-to-day basis," Navarro said.

The Santa Monica space is 50 percent larger than the one in Beverly Hills, allowing for a wine list of 4,500 to 5,000 selections. There's an impressive 130 wines available by the glass across a broad range of price points, from $13 to several hundred dollars for Coravin pours. The by-the-bottle selections go deep into Burgundy with many prestigious producers and verticals, as well as Bordeaux, California, Italy, Champagne and the Rhône Valley, among other strengths. Both locations' wine programs are managed by wine director Matthew Turner.

Executive chef David Féau is serving a similar menu to that of the Beverly Hills location, while taking advantage of this outpost's robata-style grill, rotisserie station and wood-burning pizza oven. In addition to the full-service restaurant, Wally's signature retail offerings of charcuterie, cheese, truffles and other edible gourmet items are available.

The opening comes two months after the closure of the original Wally's Wine & Spirits retail shop in Westwood, Calif., which opened in 1968. Navarro and his partners are looking to bring Wally's to several cities around the globe, such as New York, London, Hong Kong, Tokyo, Miami and Las Vegas.—J.H.

Grand Award–Winning Saison Gets a Casual Spinoff Bonjwing Lee Like its sister restaurant Saison, Angler will be committed to a sustainable menu.

The team behind Grand Award winner Saison opened Angler in San Francisco in September. Led by co-owner and chef Joshua Skenes, the casual spinoff to Saison serves à la carte, family-style, seafood-focused fare.

The wine program is spearheaded by co-owner and wine director Mark Bright and head sommelier Morgan Harris. Like Saison, Angler's 1,800-selection wine list highlights Burgundy, as well as the Northern Rhône. "Syrah is one of those grapes that unfortunately doesn't have the reputation or the prestige of Cabernet or Pinot Noir, and I think it should," Bright told Wine Spectator. The team plans to grow the wine list to 4,000 selections.—B.G.

Redd, California Wine Country Favorite, Closes

Redd, a pioneering restaurant in Napa Valley, closed Oct. 7 after operating for 13 years in Yountville, Calif. Chef Richard Reddington opened Redd in 2005, and it quickly earned the patronage of local vintners and visitors alike for its wine-friendly comfort food.

Reddington drew from his French training in kitchens such as Best of Award of Excellence winner Auberge du Soleil Restaurant in Rutherford, Calif., as well as from global cuisines, Asian styles in particular.

Redd had a wine list of more than 500 selections, mostly from California and France. The restaurant earned an Award of Excellence in 2006, eventually getting promoted to a Best of Award of Excellence, which it held until 2010. Reddington will continue operating his nearby pizzeria, Redd Wood.—J.H.

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Man Accused of $1.2 Million Wine Theft from Goldman Sachs CEO Dies in Apparent Suicide (Wine Spectator)

October 11, 2018 - 6:00am

The former personal assistant accused of stealing wines valued at $1.2 million from Goldman Sachs executive David Solomon, his then boss, apparently leapt to his death on the afternoon he was supposed to appear in court for his crimes. On Oct. 9 at around 2:30 p.m., as lawyers gathered in downtown Manhattan's Thurgood Marshall Courthouse to discuss his case, Nicolas De-Meyer fell from the 33rd floor of the Carlyle Hotel on the Upper East Side. He was pronounced dead at the scene, and a representative from the New York City Police Department (NYPD) confirmed to Wine Spectator that authorities are investigating the case as a suicide.

De-Meyer, 41, worked for Solomon for eight years, during which time the former personal assistant allegedly stole and resold hundreds of bottles of wine from Solomon's personal collection, including seven bottles ofDomaine de la Romanée-Conti worth around $133,000. According to a sworn statement from Solomon's now–ex-wife, Mary Solomon, De-Meyer admitted to the theft in November 2016 and then immediately left the country. Upon his return to the U.S. in January of this year, he was arrested and charged withone count of interstate transportation of stolen property, which carries a maximum sentence of 10 years in prison.

According to court records, De-Meyer's court date had been repeatedly postponed in order to discuss a potential plea deal. His legal team was expected to finally submit a plea at Tuesday's hearing. Sabrina Shroff, the defense lawyer representing De-Meyer in court, did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

Though the NYPD's records state that De-Meyer lived in an apartment building just south of New York's Central Park, he had most recently been living with his mother, Jane Rettig, in Findlay, Ohio. Court records show that De-Meyer had been declared indigent, and that the court had ordered the United States Marshals Service to pay for his travel from Ohio to the hearing in New York and back. He was expected to return home on Tuesday, after his scheduled appearance.

Solomon, who was recently promoted from co-president to CEO of Goldman Sachs, released a statement regarding the death of his former employee. "Mary and I are deeply saddened to hear that Nicolas took his own life," he said. "He was close to our family for several years, and we are all heartbroken to hear of his tragic end."

If you are thinking about suicide, please call the Suicide Crisis Line at 1-800-784-2433 or theNational Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255).

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Questions Surrounding Blind-Tasting Exam Leave 23 New Master Sommeliers in Limbo (Wine Spectator)

October 10, 2018 - 2:00pm

This story was updated at 11:30 p.m. Oct. 10.

The Master Sommelier certification, which has become a symbol of high achievement in the restaurant and hospitality industries, became embroiled in intrigue and heartbreak Oct. 9. The board of directors for the organization that administers the test in the U.S., the Court of Master Sommeliers Americas, announced it would be voiding the results of its 2018 deductive blind-tasting exam, which was held in September. Chairman Devon Broglie announced in an email to organization members that the board had received "a report from outside legal counsel" Oct. 5 that a Master Sommelier had improperly disclosed information about the wines in the blind tasting.

The board chose, in a unanimous vote, to invalidate the Master Sommelier title for all 23 diploma recipients who had passed the tasting portion in 2018. "We reached this decision after many hours of careful consideration of the evidence and discussion on the impact on the Court and individual members," wrote Broglie in the initial announcement. The Court also announced that it had begun proceedings to strip membership from the offending Master Sommelier and bar that person from all organization events.

The following day, Oct. 10, the board decided that all 54 candidates who sat for the exam would be given the chance to retest on one of three dates later this year or next year, with the $995 exam fee waived and “appropriate travel cost assistance” provided. “Yesterday was a tough day for everyone in the Court of Master Sommeliers, but especially for those who passed the voided tasting examination in September. There are no words I can say that will take away the disappointment and anger that our candidates are feeling today,” said Broglie. “I can only imagine how hard it hit everyone to learn that something they worked so hard for was tainted by the actions of a single individual.”

The decision sent waves through the wine and restaurant industries. The candidates who have now had their degrees invalidated had, in many cases, spent years on the path to certification—most candidates retake the test several times before passing. Some now felt uncertainty about job prospects and responsibilities tied to their exam successes.

"As a member of the first class in the Court's illustrious history to be named, and subsequently, have an asterisk drawn next to the title we sacrificed so much to obtain, I offer a very earnest and valid question: What now? … What do I say to my employer who extended new benefits and responsibilities?" wrote Christopher Ramelb, one of the candidates and an employee of Southern Glazer's Wine & Spirits, on the online message board for wine-education organization GuildSomm. "I feel so stupid and lost, as if the years of preparation and discipline, the stress of performing, and the jubilation of finally doing so, have been for nothing."

Candidates often train with each other in small groups or with established Master Sommeliers to hone their skills, building strong relationships. “I have encountered some of these folks professionally over the years for a long, long time," said Master Sommelier Emily Wines, a former board member. "I have multiple candidates who I've done blind-tasting practice with, one of whom I met with once a month for the last year. It's pretty devastating to see somebody go through what is the happiest moment of their professional life turn into something like this.”

The Court aims to raise sommelier wine-service standards by conducting education programs and administering certification exams, typically to members of the beverage service industry. There are four levels of difficulty—Introductory, Certified, Advanced and Master Sommelier. Currently, 249 hold the title of Master.

Master Sommelier candidates must pass three segments of the test, each of which is administered only once a year: a 50-minute verbal theory exam, a practical exam involving a mock wine service, and finally, the segment that is arguably toughest to prepare for, a blind tasting of six wines in 25 minutes, in which the tasters try to identify grape, place of origin and vintage of wine. This is the portion that the board says was compromised at last month's exam when information about the wines was leaked. The board did not provide the identity of the culprit or indicate which, or how many, candidates received the information.

Shock and frustration

The reaction from many in the wine community was one of surprise, anger and sadness. "My heart goes out to any candidates who were negatively affected by any unethical actions related to this most unfortunate situation," said Andy Myers, wine director of chef José Andres' ThinkFoodGroup, who earned his Master Sommelier certification in 2014. "I have the utmost faith in the Court and its leadership and trust they will address the situation in the most fair and professional manner."

"It's shocking to think that anyone that has these credentials would have done something like that," said Alex LaPratt, partner and wine director of Wine Spectator Best of Award of Excellence winners Beasts & Bottles and Atrium Dumbo in Brooklyn, N.Y., who became a Master Sommelier in 2014.

A 24th 2018 Master Sommelier recipient, Morgan Harris of San Francisco, had previously passed the tasting portion and thus kept his diploma. But he spoke of the frustration his would-be classmates faced. “Inevitably, it is unlikely that all of those people who sat it honestly would pass again. It took me four years to pass [the] tasting," said Harris. "And it’s just so heartbreaking and devastating on so many levels, because it’s just one or two dishonest people ruining stuff for a lot of other people."

Other wine professionals outside the Court felt the breach and its handling shed light on issues with the exam process and the organization. "I think it needs to be a more transparent process," said Max Coane, wine director of Prime Cellars in San Francisco and former head sommelier at Grand Award winner Saison.

"I am confident we will implement processes to maintain the integrity and rigor of our examination process moving forward," wrote Broglie. "And we will be a stronger organization as a result."

—With reporting by Lexi Williams

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Rare Wine Auctions Show No Signs of Slowing (Wine Spectator)

October 10, 2018 - 5:00am

Summer is often a quiet time in the wine-auction market, but September brings exciting opportunities, and collectors took advantage last month, adding impressive rare wines to their cellars by pushing winning bids toward or above presale high estimates set by auction houses.

In the third quarter of 2018, global sales of fine and rare wine at auction totaled $70.4 million, up a whopping 31 percent over 2017’s third-quarter total of $53.7 million. U.S. sales totaled $36.1 million, up 19.1 percent. Hong Kong sales rose 49 percent, to $26.3 million, and London sales increased by 40 percent to $8 million. As in the previous two quarters, pristine single-owner cellars and winery-direct consignments generated much of the heated bidding.

This was a quarter for collectors with deep pockets. The average price per lot was $4,525 in the U.S., $8,789 in Hong Kong and $3,022 in London. And in an interesting twist, Bordeaux appears to be staging a comeback with collectors, after several years in the doldrums.

Below, we analyze recent U.S. commercial auctions and offer a preview of fourth-quarter sales.

Acker Merrall & Condit

Acker Merrall & Condit’s first September sale, held in New York, brought in $7.2 million against a presale high estimate of $7.3 million. It was 96 percent sold. “Burgundy didn’t take a vacation this summer,” quipped Acker Merrall and Condit CEO John Kapon, in a statement. All 25 of his sale's top lots hailed from the French region.

Foremost among the featured consignments was a colossal 300-plus lot collection from West Coast entrepreneur Wilf Jaeger, a collector of 30 years, which exceeded its high estimate of $2 million. The showstopper was a 45-bottle offering of Armand Rousseau Chambertin, spanning the 1964 to 2014 vintages, which sold for $124,000. A case of Domaine Leroy Richebourg 2009 sailed over its presale high estimate of $48,000 to fetch $62,000. A single bottle of Bouchard Père et Fils Les Vaucrains 1865 sold for $10,540, more than double its high estimate. So much for historical curiosities.

A jeroboam of Domaine de la Romanée-Conti La Tâche 1991 from another anticipated collection, dubbed the French Connection, sold above estimate for $44,640. Two magnums of Domaine Dujac Bonnes-Mares 1985 also exceeded estimates, selling for $37,200. Six bottles of Armand Rousseau Chambertin 1999 fetched $32,240, above the high estimate.


Nearly 1,900 lots brought $9.8 million at Zachys’ first New York auction of the fall season. It was 95.8 percent sold. The sale consisted of several highly curated consignments, the most notable of which was a 309-lot collection of Richard and Susan Rogel, offered by the University of Michigan to benefit the Rogel Cancer Center. Their collection brought $3.4 million.

Six bottles of their DRC Romanée-Conti 1966 were snapped up for a record $111,150. Four magnums of DRC La Tâche 1971 sold for $104,975 and six magnums of Pétrus 1982 commanded $67,925. Five bottles of Henri Jayer Vosne-Romanée Les Brulées 1978 sold above estimate for $35,520

Highlights from other collections included four magnums of Château Palmer 1961 that sold above estimate for $67,925. Six magnums of Dujac Clos St.-Denis 1999 also sold above estimate for $44,460, as did six bottles of Château Cheval-Blanc 1948 that fetched $24,700. A three-bottle lot of E. Guigal Côte-Rotie La Mouline 1976 sold at the top of its estimate for $13,585.

Hart Davis Hart

Hart Davis Hart (HDH) kicked off its fall season with a massive three-day, 3,314-lot auction which sold over estimate and brought $16.7 million, the firm’s largest total ever. The sale was 100 percent sold.

Not surprisingly, choice Burgundies dominated. A small but exceedingly valuable collection realized a total of $3.9 million against presale estimates of $2.5 million to $3.8 million, with over 43 percent of lots selling above their high estimate. The consignment featured six magnums of DRC Montrachet 1996 that fetched $113,525 (above the $90,000 high estimate), six magnums of Armand Rousseau Chambertin-Clos de Bèze 1991 which sailed above its $65,000 high estimate to bring $107,550, and a case of Domaine Leroy Musigny 1991 that also sold for $107,550 against a top estimate of $90,000.

Bordeaux prices have been somewhat soft as of late, but a 909-lot consignment of first-growth Bordeaux met with resounding success, bringing in $4.3 million against presale estimates of $2.8 million to $4.2 million. “We predicted a strong sale and in fact we took a record number of bids,” CEO Paul Hart told Wine Spectator via email. “The depth of bidding and high hammer prices confirms the excitement around Bordeaux, particularly large-format bottles. A few examples were five jeroboam lots of Château Lafite Rothschild 1986 that each sold for $11,352 each against a top estimate of $7,500. Six magnums of Château Margaux 1990 brought in $7,767 against an estimate of $4,500 and a single magnum of Château Haut-Brion 1929 sold for $10,157, well above the top estimate of $6,000.”


Is Bordeaux enjoying a comeback? According to Frank Martell, director of fine wine at Heritage Auctions in Beverly Hills, Calif., it is. The five most expensive wines at his small Sept. 15 auction (742 lots, with an aggregate of $1.5 million) all hailed from Pétrus. A dozen bottles from the 2000 vintage brought $51,660 against a top estimate of $47,500. A case of the 1990 sold for $44,280, and 12 bottles of the 1998 fetched $38,130, both above estimate.

“The Bordeaux market has certainly seen a swell in attention as the Burgundy market continues to price itself beyond the reach of many longstanding Burgundy lovers,” said Martell, via email. “This is the first time in my career that Pétrus appears to be a relative bargain, even to trophy hunters, but the shift in the market will soon be widespread. Mature Bordeaux currently offers a disproportionately high level of quality compared to other comparable wines."

Fourth-Quarter Preview

Acker Merrall & Condit hosts New York City sales on Oct. 12, Nov. 17 and Dec. 2.

Christie’s hosts a New York sale on Dec. 7 and 8.

Hart Davis Hart hosts a Chicago sale Nov. 9–12, focused on Bordeaux, and another sale Dec. 12.

Sotheby’s New York will be hosting a sale on Oct. 12 and 13 featuring a 750ml bottle of The Macallan 1926 60-year-old whisky with a Sir Peter Blake–designed label. It may fetch a record $1.2 million, as well as an historic collection of Domaine de la Romanée-Conti from the personal cellar of Burgundy's Robert Drouhin. Sotheby's has another sale on Nov. 17.

Zachys will host a New York sale on Oct. 20 titled “The Vault III,” offering a selection of large-format Bordeaux and an extensive array of premium Burgundies.

Want to get the latest news on collectible wines and the auction market? Sign up for Wine Spectator's free Collecting e-mail newsletter and get a new top-rated wine review, collecting Q&As and more, delivered straight to your inbox every other week!

8 & $20 Recipe: Pork Chops with Roasted Beets and Beet Greens (Wine Spectator)

October 9, 2018 - 8:30am

Eight ingredients, plus pantry staples. That's all it takes to make an entire meal from scratch. Add in a good bottle of wine for less than $20, and you've got a feast for family or friends.

I love it when you can get multiple uses out of one ingredient—extra bang for the buck! This recipe for sweet, juicy, spiced pork chops extends the use of two different ingredients: beets for a nutrient-packed side and bacon for added depth of flavor.

Beets, it may surprise you to learn, are members of the same species as leafy chard, so the greens can be prepared in much the same way. Their light bitterness provides a counterpoint to the sweeter root. (I used a mix of golden and red beets here.) Look for beets with leaves still attached that are in good condition, but if you can only find beets with the leaves removed or the greens look less than appetizing, simply substitute chard. Greens such as kale and spinach will also work as well, but for some, you may not need to trim the stems and fleshy ribs from the leafy part and cook them first.

Bacon gives the dish a decadent touch. Crisp up strips in a pan to make bacon bits, and you’ll have the fat left over to cook the greens in. (If you're aiming to make your meal on the healthier side, swap in another cooking oil or omit the bacon completely.) Goat cheese and toasted pecan pieces provide final embellishments for this autumnal dish.

A lightly spiced, fruit-forward red wine seemed ideal for this recipe. I decided to try a California Pinot Noir, a classic match for pork, and a more robust Monastrell (Mourvèdre) from Spain’s Alicante region. The Monastrell was rich and ripe, with dark plum and blackberry notes, but the tannins, while smooth, were a bit heavy for light pork meat.

The Pinot Noir was also ripe and lightly spiced, but it showcased red berry and cherry fruit. Lighter in body than the Monastrell, the wine’s weight and subtler tannins were ultimately a better fit for the pork chops.

Pork Chops with Roasted Beets and Beet Greens

Pair with a medium-bodied red such as Rickshaw Pinot Noir California 2014 (87 points, $15). Additional Wine Spectator suggestions from recently rated releases: The Crusher Pinot Noir California 2016 (87, $15), Edna Valley Pinot Noir Central Coast 2016 (87, $17) and Murphy-Goode Pinot Noir California 2016 (87, $15).

Prep time: 20 minutes
Cooking time: 40 to 55 minutes
Total time: 60 to 75 minutes
Approximate food costs: $22

  • 3 bunches, or about 9 medium to large, beets (such as a mix of red and golden) with greens, scrubbed and cleaned thoroughly
  • 2 tablespoons cooking oil, such as canola
  • 4 slices of bacon
  • 4 bone-in pork chops, 1 to 1 1/2 inches thick
  • 1/4 teaspoon allspice
  • 1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
  • 1 shallot, diced
  • 1/8 cup toasted pecan pieces (optional)
  • 2 ounces goat cheese, crumbled
  • Salt
  • Pepper

1. Preheat oven to 425 F. Separate the beets, stems and leaves. (Check that the stems and leaves are free of grit and rinse again, if needed.) Peel the beets and cut them into small wedges. Slice the stems into small pieces and the leaves into shreds, keeping them separate.

2. Place beets in a roasting pan. Lightly drizzle beets with cooking oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Loosely cover pan with foil. Place the beets in the oven. Cook for 30 minutes, turning once midway through, for beets that are fork-tender, and up to 45 minutes for beets that are more candied and browned.

3. Once the beets have been in the oven for 15 to 20 minutes, add bacon to a cold pan and cook over medium heat until browned and crisp, flipping once. Transfer the bacon to a plate lined with paper towels. Once cool enough to handle, crumble bacon into pieces and set aside. Reserve a couple tablespoons of bacon fat in the pan. (If there is additional bacon fat left over, save it for another use.)

4. Season the pork chops with salt and pepper to taste and 1/4 teaspoon allspice. Add chops to the pan and cook over medium-high heat for about 3 minutes per side, until golden-brown. Work in batches if necessary to avoid overcrowding the pan. Transfer pork chops to a platter and set aside.

5. Deglaze the pan with apple cider vinegar, scraping up any brown bits. (If there are blackened bits in the pan, wipe out before adding the vinegar.) Add the shallots and the beet stems to the pan, and season with salt and pepper to taste. Cook for 5 to 7 minutes, until the stems start to soften. Add the leaves and sauté until the leaves are wilted and tender. Taste and adjust seasoning if needed. Remove pan from heat.

6. Serve the chops with greens and beet wedges. Garnish with the bacon crumble, pecan pieces and goat cheese. Serves 4.

Sommelier Roundtable: What's Your Biggest Pet Peeve? (Wine Spectator)

October 5, 2018 - 12:00pm

Diners who refuse to be open-minded about wine or won't let sommeliers do their jobs. Sommeliers who condescend to diners or push their own wine agendas. Servers who refuse to believe your wine is corked or use nails-on-a-chalkboard clichés. These are just a few of the pet peeves on all sides of the dining equation that can mar an otherwise delightful restaurant experience.

We spoke to 14 sommeliers and chefs from Wine Spectator Restaurant Award winners about the annoyances and irritants large and small they feel in restaurants—both from their guests and their peers—and how to fix them.

And if you want to meet some somms who've really got things figured out, say hi to several of the respondents below at our New York Wine Experience, Oct. 18 to 20, where they'll be tasting to ensure all the pours are in stellar shape. They'll be donating their time for an event that benefits the Wine Spectator Scholarship Foundation, which underwrites grants to students and funds educational initiatives in the wine industry.

Wine Spectator: What's your biggest pet peeve in wine or dining—or one that's bugging you right now?

Daniel Humm and Cedric Nicaise, chef/owner and wine director of Grand Award winner Eleven Madison Park in New York

DH: I think one overarching thing in general is, don't have an ego. Don't have an ego as a chef, don't have an ego as a sommelier. It's one of the most annoying things ever when the sommelier wants you to drink something you don't want to drink. It happens all the time. We're here to serve the guest and give them what they want, and hopefully make it cohesive. It's not about me, it's not about [Cedric]. It's really about this experience that people come to have.

CN: I remember when I was first becoming a sommelier, somebody told me that at the beginning of every month, you should essentially make a list of all the wines you want to taste that month, and basically sell from that list so you get to taste things you want to taste. And I couldn't disagree with that philosophy more. I would sell the same bottle a hundred times, if that's what the guest wanted. The way the wine world is going now, I think it's becoming more about what the wine you're selling is than what the guest wants. As chef points out, that's so about your own ego.

Cheryl Wakerhauser, owner and wine director at Best of Award of Excellence winner Pix Pâtisserie & Bar Vivant in Portland, Ore.

When someone doesn't believe you or feels the need to "double-check" when you tell them a wine is corked. I am speaking as a customer here, but I always train my staff to never question, just get a fresh bottle.

Once, I was sitting at the bar of a restaurant when a corked glass of wine was served to me. After I pointed it out, the server got me a glass from a fresh bottle, but then put the old bottle on the back counter and motioned to the manager. The manager came over, tasted the wine and shook their head, and proceeded to put the corked bottle back in the ice bucket for serving. I was sitting 10 feet away the whole time. Agh. If you don't believe it is corked, at least wait until I leave to start serving it again!

Nicholas Stefanelli, chef and owner at Best of Award of Excellence winner Masseria in Washington, D.C.

When people blow their nose at a table. We spend a ton of money on our napkins, and when I see someone do that with a napkin, it’s like, "Did you really just do that?" It’s like, "Please go to the restroom. That’s $7.”

Jon McDaniel, founder and wine consultant, Second City Soil in Chicago; former wine director of Gage Hospitality Group

My biggest pet peeve is lack of communication. As a diner, it’s a lack of communication from the service staff, from the menu and from the restaurant about what it is that I am getting myself into and why. As a sommelier, it’s a lack of communication from the guest about what it is that they are really looking for. If you know that you are really into Merlot and your budget is $50, the sooner that you can convey the information to me, the sooner I can help you select a wine that will exceed your expectations, for $40. Guests are still very afraid to be honest at the table because they think I am going to judge their desires or that I will try to rip them off, but my only goal is to provide over-the-top value and service.

Sabrina Schatz, sommelier at Best of Award of Excellence winner Bobby Flay Steak in Atlantic City, N.J.

One of my biggest pet peeves in dining is a wine list that only has “supermarket” wines. That happens a lot in South Jersey. You’ll see the same 10 to 20 bottles of wine in every restaurant and store. The wine selection doesn’t need to be super-esoteric either, but a variety is important. Another pet peeve of mine is if I don’t see anything under $100 in a restaurant or under $20 in a shop.

Erik Segelbaum, wine director for Philadelphia-based Starr Restaurants, including Best of Award of Excellence winners Upland, the Clocktower and Le Coucou in New York; Barclay Prime and Butcher & Singer in Philadelphia; Upland in Miami Beach and Steak 954 in Fort Lauderdale, Fla.; and Le Diplomate in Washington, D.C.

A lot of my colleagues on either side of the table, whether winemakers, vendors, distributors or—worst—sommeliers, are unnecessarily boring. And I get it. If you're great at making wine, you're not necessarily great at meeting with people and translating your passion for, like, soil pH. But if you're in a capacity where you sell, you need to be passionate and you need to be personable.

I won't let people rinse my glass with water [at a tasting]. I don't want to put chlorine in my glass. I don't care what the wine is, so long as you rinse it with something. I also hate when you have to wait until you're acknowledged [by someone behind a table pouring]. If you let me pour my own wine, I will pour less, I will waste less of your wine and I will have a better appreciation of what you're doing—I just wanted a taste of it. And a lot of people think that's rude.

Jennifer Foucher, head sommelier at Best of Award of Excellence winner Fiola in Washington, D.C.

When guests say that they need to decide what they would like to eat before they order wine. They always end up choosing a full-bodied red; I really would prefer that they make their wine selection first so that I can open and decant it before they drink it. They can enjoy their cocktails while looking at the menu. If everyone was deciding to drink white because it went better with their meal, it would be a different story.

Matthew Conway, wine director at Best of Award of Excellence winner Restaurant Marc Forgione in New York

There are a lot of chefs out there who would never let their beverage directors taste the food. They put up the food, the guy pairs the wine. [Chef Marc Forgione and I] have been places together where we've had a dish at very high-end restaurant, and it was like the worst wine pairing in the world, and there's no way any human could have put those two things in their mouth and said they were going to put it on the menu.

And that happens in a lot of places. Some of it is time constraints, some of it is the back of the house doesn't think the front of the house deserves it, some of it is cost.

Josh MacGregor, sommelier at Best of Award of Excellence winner DB Bistro Moderne in New York

My biggest pet peeve in wine is when a dry wine is fruit-forward in style and the [drinker's] reaction is simply, "It's good … It's a little sweet, but its good." It's totally understandable that fruity aromas can be confused with actual sugar in the wine, but it's the pejorative nature of the statement that can cause a delicious fruit-forward wine to be aligned with a false negative stigma.

Jill Gubesch, wine director at Award of Excellence winner Frontera Grill/Topolobampo in Chicago

Closed-minded people and grape-haters.

Jenni Guizio, wine director at Union Square Hospitality Group's Best of Award of Excellence winner Maialino and Award of Excellence winner Marta in New York

Personally, I’d like for “How’s everything tasting here?” to be retired from the restaurant lexicon—but maybe there’s something I say that is someone else’s pet peeve ….

Kevin Bratt, wine director of Best of Award of Excellence–winning Joe’s Seafood, Prime Steak & Stone Crab locations in Chicago, Las Vegas and Washington, D.C.

One would be pairing the wrong wines with the wrong food. Taking [sommeliers'] advice, we can always find a great wine to pair with any dish, but I often find so many people are drinking current-vintage Napa Valley Cabernet with stone crab, and that just doesn't work. I don't really vocalize that pet peeve very often. If somebody wants that wine, I will gladly pour it for them and say nothing about it.

Sian Ferguson Nagan, wine director at Best of Award of Excellence winner Alinea in Chicago

Guests and somms alike can be quick to decide that a certain grape or region is inferior or less worthy of attention or dollars. Just consider that our palates, preferences, situations change all the time, and [you should] be open to revisiting something that you maybe didn't love the first time. I hated peas as a kid, yet bit my tongue (literally) as I was so enthusiastically chowing down on them in the salad today.

Wine is the same: That fiasco of Chianti from that red-and-white-checkered-plastic-tablecloth Italian restaurant in the late ’80s was probably very different than the stellar Chianti options available to you now.

Want to stay up on the latest news and incisive features about the world's best restaurants for wine? Sign up now for our free Private Guide to Dining e-mail newsletter, delivered every other week. Plus, follow us on Twitter at @WSRestoAwards and Instagram at @WSRestaurantAwards.

Unfiltered: Mariah Carey 'Might as Well Down this Caymus Bottle' in New Song 'GTFO'; Prosecco Tank Overflows in Viral Veneto Video (Wine Spectator)

October 4, 2018 - 2:00pm

Mariah Carey is coming out with her first new album in four years, and it might be an ode to wine. The first song released, sassy break-up ballad "GTFO," describes Carey ditching a zero to get with a hero—a bottle of Caymus Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon, specifically. In the song and accompanying video, the diva legend trills, wineglass in hand, that she "could've sworn you loved me harder / Might as well down this Caymus bottle” to help put her no-good ex in the rearview.

Reference to the Napa winery didn’t go unnoticed by fans, many of whom took to social media to share videos and memes of themselves with a glass (or bottle) of Caymus, and a number of whom have called the source in Napa looking to buy their own bottles of heartbreak salve, the winery told us. Carey herself tweeted this week, "Caymus 2014 is one of my favorite wines ever!" to which the vineyard's social media account swooned, "Mariah + Caymus = We Belong Together," a nod to another of Carey's hit singles.

But the history is undeniable: "Mariah came to Caymus Vineyards some years ago, and I was pleased to personally taste and tour her and a guest," vintner Chuck Wagner told Unfiltered. "Of course we would love for her to make a return visit any time she is in the area." (A little more history: With the fruits of one specific vintage, Carey and Caymus would reach their respective fields' top spots, with her debut album eventually topping the music charts and their Cabernet snagging Wine of the Year—that was 1990.)

“We’re appreciative that Mariah thought of Caymus during her creative process,” added Wagner. “We can only imagine what goes into writing a song, but we can relate to the work and even the struggle behind it. Probably not so different from creating a great bottle of wine.”

In the brief time since "GTFO" dropped, Carey released another new song—today—"With You," which is more Cognac-flavored: Rémy Martin gets the mention. Onetime Carey favorite Champagne, alas, has evidently been sent TFO.

Prosecc—Oh No! Fermentation Tank Overflows, Spilling Thousands of Gallons of Booze in Viral Veneto Video Fail

Don't bother pouring one out for the poor folks involved in the latest vinous viral video—there has already been plenty of innocent booze spilled: Last week, Italian wine shop L'Enoteca Zanardo Giussano posted footage on Facebook of a giant fermentation silo hemorrhaging copious amounts of what is likely would-be Prosecco.

The spillage, which took place last month, reportedly occurred at a large, unnamed winery in the Prosecco DOC area, in the village of Fontanelle. Though the post identified the beverage in the waterfall as Prosecco, according to Prosecco DOC Consortium director Luca Giavi, it could've been something else. "In those areas there is a significant production of other types of wines," Giavi told Unfiltered. ("Trebbia—No Bueno!" "Soay Vey!")

In any case, some Italian winery has a big cleanup on its hands. According to the Facebook post, the overflow could have resulted in a loss of as many as 30,000 liters (or 8,000 gallons) of wine, an estimate that Umberto Cosmo of Conegliano-based producer Bellenda thinks checks out. He broke down a scenario for us:

"What you saw on the Internet is something that can happen when a tank, during the first few days of the fermentation process, has a smaller-than-required space to allow the expansion that occurs during this fermentation phase. In particular, this harvest has been characterized by a maturation of grapes that occurred in a shorter timeframe than usual, so some wineries, overwhelmed by grapes arriving from growers, filled the tanks over the level that is considered safe for fermenting.

"When such things happen, you may easily lose up to half of the tank, so the estimate of 30,000 liters lost is not far from real."

Among all the layperson Facebook comments, posted in a number of different languages, one "Giuliano" summed up his take more succintly: "Noooooo."

Director Jason Wise Gives Us 'Somm 3' Sneak Peek, Coming Soon to Theater Near You (and John Legend)

Grab your popcorn and favorite glass of wine, Somm 3 is here. The third installment of the enophile trilogy will be screening in Orlando, Denver, New York, Santa Barbara, San Francisco and beyond in the coming days and weeks, including a run at the Cameo Cinema in St. Helena from Oct. 19 to 25. It hits iTunes Nov. 30.

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We got a sneak peek at the second follow-up to the 2013 documentary, and found it focused, detailed and harmonious. DLynn Proctor, Ian Cauble, Brian McClintic and Dustin Wilson (the diligent young wine disciples pursuing their Master Sommelier degrees in the course of the original Somm) all make appearances, but director and producer Jason Wise told Unfiltered he had been meditating more on the nuances of age lately.

Wise's 2017 non-wine movie documentary, Wait for Your Laugh, told the story of Rose Marie, who had a 90-year career in show business. Spending all of that time with an older subject, “made me realize young people don’t know shit,” explained Wise. “I didn’t want [Somm 3] to only be about young people. It was more important to hear from" more matured figures in the wine scene too.

So the film takes a walk down memory lane, gathering Master Sommelier Fred Dame, wine writer Jancis Robinson and British merchant Steven Spurrier to reflect on their lives in wine and revisit their “a-ha” wine bottles in one sentimental exchange. Meanwhile, the younger somm crew busy themselves setting up a blind tasting, with the expected wine-geek discussions throughout. (“The Wine Spectator Grand Award is the brass ring that wine-savvy restaurateurs are going for,” notes one particularly astute and discerning character during the proceedings.)

Courtesy of Jason Wise A mixed case of assorted wine pros on set during Somm 3 filming

As for what’s next? Wise told us he has some more wine projects in mind, including a nature documentary about the world of wine. Or ask him yourself: The director will be at several of the upcoming screenings to chat about the film, sometimes over some wine. (Find a theater near you!) It'll give you something to gab about next time you run into model/actor/cookbook author Chrissy Teigen, who this week tweeted a wine-whimsical review: "Going to force John [Legend, her husband and noted vintner/wine hacker] to watch Somm—my 3rd time but it's still delightful to me, like a freshly cut garden hose or the scent of a can of tennis balls, very earthy and indigenous to the northernmost point of Tuscany."

Scott Crawford, Top Carolina Chefs to 'Come Together for the Coast' in Food-and-Wine Hurricane Relief Fêtes; José Andrés Cooks Up Thousands of Meals on the Ground

Hurricane Florence ripped through the Carolinas last month, stirring up floods and tornadoes, dumping record amounts of rain, and leaving behind damage that may put it in league with some of last year's superstorms in terms of destructive cost. But as in the wake of Harvey, Maria and Irma last fall, local food and wine communities are rallying to raise money for relief, drumming up star power and resources to host a good time for a good cause.

The Sunday Supper Chefs Jake Wood (left) and Scott Crawford, with Sunday Supper board chair Willa Kane

The festivities start this Sunday, Oct. 7, at the Dillon in Raleigh, N.C., with a "Come Together for the Coast" dinner and auction, a collaboration between the Supper Table series of charity events and chefs like Scott Crawford (Crawford and Son), Jake Wood (18 Seaboard), Vivian Howard (Chef and the Farmer, the Boiler Room) and Beth LittleJohn (Players' Retreat). “From farmers and fishermen to restaurateurs, we have one of the richest food communities in the country," said Crawford to Unfiltered via email. "These small, family-owned businesses who feed us every day have been devastated. Now it’s our turn to take care of them."

We got a peek at the menu and spied dishes like scallop aguachile, tomatillo “caviar” and sesame rice puff, as well as duck confit tostada, white bean puree, roasted poblano and maduros with cilantro chimichurri. Wine companies Queen of Wines and Advintage Distributing will be providing pours, including Bedrock rosé and old-vine Zinfandel, Hirsch San Andreas Fault Pinot Noir 2014, Vivacé, a bubbly from Oregon's Montinore Estate, and Riesling and Pinot Noir from State of Mind Wines. The evening's auction lots should excite wine lovers as well, with a stay at Georgia's Sea Island Resort and dinner prepared by chef Danny Zeal among them, as well as two nights at Smoky Mountains destination and Wine Spectator Grand Award winner Blackberry Farm.

Then, on Nov. 11, the Sunday Supper will host a community lunch for 1,000 diners in downtown Raleigh; Crawford and some friends will also be putting together the menu for that party. Proceeds for both this weekend's dinner and next month's lunch go toward the Sunday Supper Gift Fund of the North Carolina Community Foundation; tickets to both are still available.

We'd be remiss not to mention chef-humanitarian José Andrés, whose hunger heroics after Hurricane Maria in Puerto Rico have helped turn his World Central Kitchen into a fine-tuned, food-dispensing, disaster-battling machine. The Spanish-American chef once again brought his mobile kitchens into the storm zone, setting up shop in Wilmington, N.C., doling out tens of thousands of meals in the immediate aftermath of Florence and posting status updates along the way:

Quick report from a flooded community near Lumberton, North Carolina. @WCKitchen are visiting with @JPHRO to understand the impact of Hurricane #Florence and see how we can be better prepared... #ChefsForCarolinas

— José Andrés (@chefjoseandres) September 23, 2018

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Bordeaux Magistrate Investigating St.-Emilion Wine Rankings (Wine Spectator)

October 4, 2018 - 10:00am

An investigating magistrate in Bordeaux has placed two well-known wine figures, Philippe Castéja, a négociant and owner of Château Trotte Vieille, and Hubert de Boüard, the former co-owner of Château Angélus and a consulting winemaker, under formal investigation for "prise illégale d'intérêt," which translates roughly as unlawfully taking an interest. The two men are under suspicion of having used their public roles in the organizations responsible for the 2012 St.-Emilion Classification for personal gain. The case threatens to up-end the classification, calling into question Angélus' status as one of the four Premier Grand Cru Classé A wineries in the Right Bank appellation.

The St.-Emilion ranking was made official in the 1950s and, unlike the more famous Left Bank classification system, is revised every 10 years. The 2006 ranking was annulled after bitter lawsuits by châteaus whose owners felt the rankings were unfair and biased. The 2012 ranking—which includes 82 châteaus in the St.-Emilion Grand Cru appellation—was painstakingly designed to be lawsuit-proof. It drew headlines when Angélus and Château Pavie were promoted to join Ausone and Cheval-Blanc in the top rung.

Conflict of interest or sour grapes?

The current investigation stems from a criminal complaint lodged in early 2013 by the owners of three châteaus—Corbin Michotte, Croque-Michotte and La Tour-du-Pin-Figeac—who failed to make the 2012 ranking. They have objected to the criteria used in the rankings and have alleged that the judges had conflicts of interest.

Under French law, it is a crime for officials to use their position in a public body for profit or to take part in decisions in which they have a personal interest. In the case of St.-Emilion, the ranking falls under the auspices of the Institut National des Appellations d’Origine (INAO), the national body that oversees wine appellations. Both de Boüard and Castéja have long held influential posts within the INAO's wine section. De Boüard was also the president of the St.-Emilion Grands Crus, the association at the heart of the classification.

Both men deny playing any part in the rankings, however. Speaking for her father, Stéphanie de Boüard-Rivoal, co-owner of Château Angélus, told Wine Spectator, "this is an additional investigation with the presumption of innocence."

"This is a stage in the judicial process, but they haven't been found guilty," said Franck Binard, director of the St.-Emilion Wine Council. "We'll let justice do its job."

A serious allegation

While they have not been charged and no court date has been set, the move by Bordeaux magistrate Clémentine Chauvin is a serious development for two reasons. First, it means that the gendarme investigators and magistrate believe they have enough evidence to potentially take the case to court. If found guilty, the two men face prison sentences and heavy fines.

As an example of how the law has been used recently in France, the former mayor of the massively popular tourist destination Mont-St.-Michel was found guilty and fined $57,600 for taking an illegal interest while in office when he stationed tourist shuttle stops in front of his businesses. A great deal more money is in play in St.-Emilion: The wine rankings add millions of euros to land values alone, not to mention how much châteaus can charge for their wines.

De Boüard is a consultant, estate owner and former co-owner of Château Angélus (he sold his shares to his daughter in 2016). Castéja is a major négociant and co-owner of several estates with his family, including Château Trotte Vieille, a Premier Grand Cru Classé B. With the 2012 ranking, Trotte Vieille was allowed to absorb the 10-acre Château Bergat, previously an ordinary classified growth.

Both men maintain that they absented themselves from decision-making related to the ranking. They have asked the Bordeaux court to dismiss the investigation.

The second reason that this criminal investigation is so serious revolves around a lawsuit the plaintiffs filed in Bordeaux's Administrative Tribunal in 2013, challenging the validity of the classification. They lost, and the case is on appeal. A decision is expected by the end of the year.

Pierre Carle, owner of Croque-Michotte, a 33-acre estate, told Wine Spectator that he felt the criminal case would put pressure on the Administrative Tribunal. "They will be prudent when it comes to validating the classification."

The legal fracas has left the St.-Emilion Wine Council in limbo, even as it should be preparing for the 2022 ranking. Should the classification come through this latest round of lawsuits unscathed, Binard feels confident they could quickly swing into action, and more important, he believes the classification would stand the test of time.

"It'll have been through the fires of justice," said Binard.

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Oregon Takes Aim at California Winery Making Oregon Pinot Noir (Wine Spectator)

October 3, 2018 - 12:15pm

Wine labels are legally required to identify where the grapes were grown. But can they name a viticultural area if the winery is located in a different state? That’s one of the issues being raised in a controversy facing California vintner Joe Wagner and Copper Cane Wines & Provisions. The dustup centers on two of Wagner’s Oregon brands, Elouan and Willametter Journal, which are made with Oregon grapes but vinified and bottled in California’s Napa Valley.

The wines have riled Oregon winemakers and lawmakers who feel that the labels and related advertising are misleading. The Oregon Winegrowers Association (OWA) and Oregon state representative David Gomberg allege that Copper Cane may have overstepped state and federal labeling laws by misusing Oregon’s appellations or American Viticultural Areas (AVA) on its labels and packaging.

Grown in Oregon, fermented in California?

Wagner, whose family owns Caymus Vineyards in Napa Valley, made a big splash with his California Pinot Noir brand Meiomi, a regional blend from coastal vineyards in Monterey, Sonoma and Santa Barbara counties. (He sold the brand to Constellation in 2015.) He takes a similar approach with his Elouan brand, blending grapes from 50 growers in Oregon's Willamette, Umpqua and Rogue valleys.

At issue is whether Elouan can include references to those appellations since its grapes are trucked from Oregon to a Rutherford, Calif., facility for winemaking. Oregon law stipulates that if a winery produces wines out of the state it can only use the Oregon appellation, not one of its subappellations such as Willamette Valley.

While the Elouan Pinot Noir bottles are labeled with the Oregon appellation, the case boxes the wines are shipped in mention the Willamette, Umpqua and Rogue valleys. The OWA argues that this constitutes misleading advertising since the wine does not qualify to use any of those AVAs. The organization sent a complaint to the Oregon Liquor Control Commission (OLCC).

Oregon’s labeling rules are more stringent than the federal standards. Federal rules require 85 percent of the grapes to be from an AVA to qualify it to be listed on the label. But in order to qualify for one of Oregon’s viticultural areas, at least 95 percent of the grapes must come from the specific AVA, and the wine must be fully finished within the state.

Wagner contends that the company has done nothing wrong. “We have a difference of opinion, that’s all there is to it,” he told Wine Spectator. He says the company is aware of the regulations and is technically using the Oregon appellation for its wines. “The question is how firmly should those regulations be held to, from a marketing standpoint.” For Wagner the most important factor in a wine is where the grapes are grown, not how the wine is produced. He argues that if he is paying the same price for grapes as other producers in an AVA, he should be able to talk about where the grapes come from.

But critics don’t see it that way. On Sept. 24, Rep. Gomberg raised his concerns before the House Interim Committee on economic development and trade. Gomberg, who represents District 10 in Oregon, which includes part of Willamette Valley, also takes issue with the case markings for the Elouan Pinot Noir, which include “Oregon Coast” on the box. He argues that it implies that the “Oregon Coast” is an American Viticultural Area, when no such AVA exists.

Critics also say that the inclusion of the Willamette Valley, Umpqua Valley and Rogue Valley AVAs in the marketing also creates the impression that they are nested within a larger Oregon Coast AVA. “Oregon wineries have spent the last 50 years building a valuable brand and it troubles me that someone is trying to take advantage of that branding to promote a product that is made someplace else,” Gomberg said.

“Oregon lawmakers are as furious as Oregon winemakers are,” said Jim Bernau, founder and winegrower at Willamette Valley Vineyards. Bernau compares it to taking grapes from the Champagne region of France and vinifying them in California, but still calling the wine Champagne.

Wagner denies that the company was trying to mislead consumers. “It was never our intention to make [Oregon coast] sound like an appellation,” he said. Instead, he says, he was using what he calls “romance copy” to highlight the coastal influence on the winegrowing regions.

Storytelling or misleading?

The use of marketing language is also at the heart of the Willametter Journal label controversy. The front label states that the wine is from the “Willamette region of Oregon’s coastal range,” which the Oregon Winegrowers Association (OWA) believes is misleading because the wine doesn’t qualify for the Willamette Valley AVA, since it’s produced out of state. “It may be misleading to consumers and fail to protect Willamette Valley winemakers who truly do grow and finish their wines there,” OWA CEO Tom Danowski told Wine Spectator via email.

The OWA also takes umbrage with language on the back label that says the wine is sourced from the “territory of Oregon,” which is not an official AVA. But Wagner contends that the wording isn’t meant to imply it’s a different appellation, it’s part of the wine’s theme of an old telegraph—the label looks like a historic news story from when Oregon was still a territory. “We have to be winemakers and growers, but we also have to be storytellers,” he said.

The Oregon Liquor Control Commission is now weighing in on the debate. On Aug. 30, it sent a letter to Copper Cane requesting the production, transfer in bond and bottling records for seven of its wines by Sept. 28. It also contacted the federal Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau (TTB) requesting that it evaluate the company’s certificates of label approval to ensure compliance with federal regulations and, “bring Copper Cane into compliance with those regulations if necessary.”

Jim Blumling, vice president of operations at Copper Cane, says the company is complying with the OLCC’s request. He also notes that company executives met with the OWA and other vintners in late August to try understand their points of view. “We were looking to work towards some solutions,” he said. (The company may have added to its troubles when it notified multiple Rogue Valley growers this week that it is cancelling 2018 grape contracts due to concerns over smoke taint from wildfires.)

The main concern for winemakers is protecting the reputation of their terroir—the combination of climate, geography and soils that make an appellation distinct. Pinot Noirs that carry the Willamette Valley AVA, or one of its subappellations, carry more prestige than wines with the broader Oregon appellation, and can command higher prices. “The geographic equity that has been created in the Willamette Valley AVA is essentially being taken and used when it has not been earned,” Bernau argued.

For now Copper Cane is working with the TTB for guidance on the matter. Blumling notes that the company is willing to make changes to protect the brands and satisfy the needs of consumers. “Once we get clear directions we would certainly make corrections that are agreed to,” he said.

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Health Watch: Consistent, Moderate Drinking Linked to Lower Heart Disease Risk (Wine Spectator)

October 2, 2018 - 12:00pm

Studies have shown that it's not just the amount of alcohol we drink that influences our heart health, but also how frequently we drink it. And a recent meta-analysis on the relationship between alcohol and coronary heart disease (CHD) supports this claim, finding that those who consumed alcohol in moderation on a consistent basis were least likely to suffer a heart attack.

The analysis, carried out by researchers from University College London and the University of Cambridge and published in the BMC Medicine journal, looked at six cohort studies (five British and one French) that examined people's drinking patterns and their risk of developing CHD. Alcohol-consumption for more than 35,000 participants (62.1 percent of whom were male) was assessed at three different points over the course of 10 years.

Consumption levels were measured based on the alcohol content in each person's reported number of drinks, according to each country's guidelines. Moderate drinking was considered to be up to 168 grams of ethanol (or 12 standard drinks, by U.S. standards) per week for men and up to 112 grams of ethanol (or 8 standard U.S. drinks) per week for women. The researchers also used this data to determine whether each individual's drinking habits remained consistent over time.

Over the course of the observational period, about 5 percent of the participants experienced a CHD “event,” meaning a heart attack. Compared with consistently moderate drinkers, those who inconsistently drank in moderation, nondrinkers and former drinkers all had a higher risk of developing CHD, with former drinkers having the highest risk.

The researchers then took a closer look: When subdividing the participant data by gender, they found that in the non-drinking category, the higher CHD risk appeared to only apply to women. When they split the data by age, they discovered that the elevated risk among inconsistently moderate drinkers was only present in participants older than 55. The study's text suggests lifestyle changes—such as retirement, which is known to occur in conjunction with higher levels of drinking—as an explanation for this particular finding.

"Overall, the findings from this study support the notion of a cardioprotective effect of moderate alcohol intake relative to non-drinking," the study's text states. "However, crucially, stability in the level of alcohol consumption over time appears to be an important modifier of this association."

Because these cohort studies were observational and not randomized clinical trials, we can't come to any conclusions about the direct effects of drinking patterns on cardiovascular health. However, this analysis is an indication of the possible links between the two. Further research will help make more sense of the connections.

Red Wine Considered Part of a Life-Extending Anti-Inflammatory Diet

A study of the diets of 68,273 Swedish men and women has found that following an anti-inflammatory diet can lead to a longer life. Among the items considered part of this life-lengthening menu? Fruits, vegetables, low-fat cheeses, olive oil, tea, coffee, chocolate and moderate amounts of both beer and red wine.

The study, published this month in the Journal of Internal Medicine, followed participants ages 45 to 83for a period of 16 years, and used an index of anti-inflammatory foods to rank participants based on what they consumed—the higher the score, the more anti-inflammatory the diet. The researchers found that participants who most closely followed an anti-inflammatory diet had an 18 percent lower risk of death from all causes, a 20 percent lower risk of cardiovascular-related death, and a 13 percent lower risk of cancer-related death, when compared with those who scored lowest on the anti-inflammatory index.

What's more, even those who only somewhat followed the diet might enjoy longer lives. "Our dose-response analysis showed that even partial adherence to the anti-inflammatory diet may provide a health benefit," lead author Joanna Kaluza, an associate professor at Poland's Warsaw University of Life Sciences, said in a press release.

Wine, specifically red wine, and its compounds, such as resveratrol and quercetin, are often studied for the ways that their anti-inflammatory properties can provide protection against a wide variety of inflammation-linked ailments, including depression, respiratory infections and heart problems.

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Michigan Court Overturns Ban on Wine Retailer Direct Shipping (Wine Spectator)

October 2, 2018 - 7:30am

After two years of legal volleys, lawyers challenging restrictions on wine direct shipping notched an important victory on Sept. 28. A federal judge in Michigan has ruled that the state's prohibition on direct-to-consumer wine shipping from out-of-state retailers is unconstitutional. If the ruling stands, Michigan residents will be able to purchase wine from stores anywhere in the country and have it shipped to their homes.

Robert Epstein, lawyer for Cap n' Cork, an Indiana chain of wine stores and plaintiffs in the case, hopes it is a bellwether for the shipping options of wine lovers across the country. "What has been accomplished is a first step in opening up shipping by retailers around the country to out-of-state clients," Epstein told Wine Spectator.

Lebamoff Enterprises, Inc. et al v. Snyder et al is one of three similar cases undertaken by the Indianapolis-based law firm Epstein, Cohen, Seif & Porter. The other two were filed in Illinois and Missouri. In each, the plaintiffs argue that state bans on out-of-state retailer direct shipping violate the U.S. Constitution's dormant Commerce Clause and Privileges and Immunities Clause.

"For Michigan consumers, it's a big win"

The Lebamoff complaint was filed in the Federal District Court for Eastern Michigan on Jan. 20, 2017, just 11 days after the state's legislature passed a bill allowing in-state retailers to deliver wine, beer and spirits to Michigan residents via common carriers like FedEx and UPS—but blocking out-of-state merchants from doing the same. "The law thus expanded the shipping rights of Michigan retailers while eliminating the shipping rights of out-of-state retailers," summarized Judge Arthur Tarnow, in his opinion granting the plaintiffs' motion for summary judgment.

"The governing question, therefore, is whether Michigan is permitted to enforce a statute that explicitly denies out-of-state retailers a privilege available to their in-state competitors. The answer at this stage must be no," wrote Tarnow.

"For Michigan consumers, it's a big win, because now they have access to nearly every wine that is sold in the United States," said Tom Wark, executive director of the National Association of Wine Retailers, which has supported the plaintiffs' case. If the Michigan legislature now acts to put a system in place for issuing permits to out-of-state retailers and collecting taxes on shipments, "then consumers will win, out-of-state retailers will win, and the state will win, too, because they'll start getting a lot of tax revenue. That's the win-win-win situation."

The Michigan Beer & Wine Wholesalers Association joined the case in support of the existing law blocking out-of-state retailer shipping. "We are disappointed in the ruling," MB&WWA president Spencer Nevins told Wine Spectator via email, "which would allow unregulated and untracked out-of-state retailers to ship alcohol direct to consumers, sapping the state of much-needed tax revenue and undermining small businesses that choose to call Michigan home, including retailers, wineries, breweries and distributors, as well as providing another avenue for underage alcohol abuse."

Potential precedent

Michigan might be the most contentious territory in the direct shipping wars. Along with New York, it was one of two defendants in the 2005 Granholm v. Heald Supreme Court ruling that in-state and out-of-state wineries should have the same shipping privileges from state to state.

But does Granholm apply to retailers? "Michigan … cannot demonstrate that permitting in-state retailers to ship directly to consumers while denying out-of-state retailers the right to do the same is inherent to its three-tier system," wrote Tarnow. "Michigan retains its 21st Amendment powers to maintain a closed three-tier system, just as it remained free after Granholm to prohibit wineries from shipping directly to consumers. But when it starts carving exceptions out of that system, it must do so without resorting to economic protectionism."

In addition to challenging the ban's constitutionality, Epstein presented the wine-buying difficulties he argued that Michigan's system imposed on his clients, Lebamoff Enterprises (the company that owns Cap n' Cork) and Michigan consumers Jack Stride, Jack Schulz and Richard Donovan.

Schulz's fiancée is Greek-American "and his claim was that he can't get a decent supply of Greek wine in Detroit." Epstein contacted a Binny's store in Chicago. "I said, 'Give me a photograph of your Greek wine section,' which was about 75 wines. So I blew that up on a poster, which I brought to court. And the judge said, 'I get it.'"

He also presented a bottle of Domaine de la Romanée-Conti La Tâche 1964 to make his case. "This was a fairly expensive bottle of wine. But the only way you can get a bottle of wine like this would be the Internet or from a specialty retailer," he argued.

What happens now? For the moment, Wark has been advising retailers that direct shipping is back for Michigan residents. "I'm telling them, 'Until Michigan does something [in the courts or legislature], you can ship.' So I would suspect that a number of them will be contacting their former Michigan clients, letting them know that they're open for business."

Supreme fight

Epstein would like to see the Supreme Court hand down an ultimate decision on whether Granholm applies to retailers. He hopes that the state appeals to the Sixth Circuit Court, "and we win." But the state legislature could also ban retailer direct shipping once again, barring it for both in- and out-of-state merchants.

The Illinois case, Lebamoff Enterprises, Inc. et al v. Rauner et al, awaits decision from the Seventh District Court of Appeals, where it was taken up after the plaintiffs' complaint to federal court was dismissed June 8, 2017. The Missouri case, Sarasota Wine Market LLC et al vs. Greitens et al is awaiting a ruling on the defendants' motion to dismiss.

Hanging over all three cases is the announcement last week that the Supreme Court will hear Tennessee Wine & Spirits Retailers Association v. Byrd, a case challenging a different but tangential regulation regarding retailers and interstate commerce. Whether the ruling on Byrd also addresses out-of-state retailer shipping is an open question; even if not, the lower-court cases could be stalled until their judges can observe how Byrd is decided. "Depending on what the Supreme Court does with Byrd, it may or may not control these other cases," said Epstein. "The takeaway is let's wait and see."

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Could the Supreme Court Strike Down Bans on Wine Retailer Direct Shipping? (Wine Spectator)

September 28, 2018 - 10:00am

While the nation's eyes were focused on Senate hearings on a nominee to the U.S. Supreme Court yesterday, a few blocks away, the eight current justices were deciding to hear a case that could potentially change how consumers buy wine. The Supreme Court announced that it will hear the case of Tennessee Wine & Spirits Retailers Association v. Byrd during its next session. The justices will decide whether the 21st Amendment allows states to have a residency requirement for alcohol retailers and wholesalers, preventing out-of-state retailers and wholesalers from obtaining a license if the owner or company has not been a resident for a certain amount of time.

But while the residency requirement is the crux of this case, some believe the court could also decide whether state bans on shipping by out-of-state retailers are unconstitutional. That has wineries, retailers and wholesalers around the country paying close attention.

It has been 13 years since the Supreme Court's decision in Granholm v. Heald, which ruled that, because of the Constitution's Commerce Clause, states could not allow in-state wineries to ship wine directly to consumers while prohibiting out-of-state wineries from doing the same. The landmark decision made it easier for wine lovers to access their desired bottlings and for wineries to expand their business.

But restrictions against out-of-state retailers went untouched. Bitter fights in courts and legislatures have ensued, with retailers arguing they should have the same protections as wineries under the Commerce Clause. Retailer direct-shipping advocates have been hoping that a case similar to Granholm, but with a retailer plaintiff, would make it up to the highest court.

In 2016, alcohol retail giant Total Wine & More applied for a license in Tennessee. The Tennessee Wine & Spirits Retailers Association (TWSRA), a trade organization representing local retailers, pointed out that state law requires retailers to be residents for two years before being granted such a license.

The constitutionality of the law came into question: Does a state have the right to restrict the allocation of its licenses exclusively to its residents? Clayton Byrd, the executive director of the Tennessee Alcoholic Beverage Commission, was unsure of the answer and asked the courts. A federal district judge ruled that Tennessee's law was indeed unconstitutional. The Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals upheld the ruling. The ruling has a wider potential impact too—21 other states have similar laws.

Wider Implications

And here's the key: The Sixth Circuit cited Granholm as one of the bases for its ruling, stating that because there was an attempt to discriminate in favor of in-state businesses, the law violated the Commerce Clause. The Sixth Circuit's decision stated: "Does scrutiny under the dormant Commerce Clause apply only when an alcoholic-beverages law regulates producers or products? And does the 21st Amendment automatically immunize a state law regarding retailers and wholesalers of alcoholic beverages?" The judgment was no. The TWSRA disagreed and petitioned the Supreme Court to hear the case. (TWSRA representatives could not be reached for comment.)

"[The Supreme Court] almost [has] to answer the question, to what extent does Granholm and the protections it provides for wineries also apply to retailers, in addition to answering the residency question," said Tom Wark, executive director of the National Association of Wine Retailers, a group that has advocated for direct-shipping rights for retailers. "It's not guaranteed, but I'd be hard-pressed to figure out how they wouldn't do that."

But it is possible that the court will rule narrowly, focusing solely on the residency requirement issue.

The Wine and Spirits Wholesalers of America (WSWA), which opposes retailer direct-shipping, released the following statement from president and CEO Michelle Korsmo: "WSWA has always been a staunch supporter of state regulatory authority, we will examine the issues at question in this case and assess the potential for it to impact that authority."

It may seem odd that the TWSRA, a retailers association, is the plaintiff in a case that would legalize shipping for retailers if they lose. "Local retailers simply don't want the competition," said Wark. "The vast majority of wine retailers in this country don't ship wine. It's a relatively small core of retailers who serve this sort of national market, and they deal in rare and fine wines."

For consumers, anyone who has ever searched for a specific bottle of wine on a retailer's website and been unable to order it because of where they live, the case will be one to watch. At press time, a date for arguments had not been set.

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Unfiltered: Long-Dead Napa Winemakers Come to Life in St. Helena Cemetery; Paranormal Activity at 'Ghost Winery' (Wine Spectator)

September 27, 2018 - 1:00pm

On Sunday, beloved Napa wine-industry pioneers like Jacob Schram and Charles Krug briefly rose from their graves and walked among the living, brought back to life not by sorcery, witchcraft or other interventionist methods, but by the spirit of historical celebration through reenactment, and a touch of dramatic flair.

The annual "Spirits of St. Helena Cemetery Discovery Walk," put on by the St. Helena Historical Society, celebrates—and reanimates—the historical figures that lived, died and are buried in the small city in California wine country. For each of the past 16 years, the event has highlighted a different aspect of the community's past, including Civil War vets in 2016 and Chinese immigrants in 2017. This year's theme: "Gesundheit! German Stories in St. Helena." And where there were the Germans in Napa history, there flowed das wein, from the famed winery founders to the laborers who planted many original vines and rootstocks.

Portrayed by drama students of St. Helena High School, figures like Mr. Krug, Mr. Schram (and wife, Anna, founders of Schramsberg) and the Lemme family (who built La Perla winery, now part of the Spring Mountain Vineyard estate) were among the notables in attendance. Though themselves not old enough to drink, the young thespians depicted the achievements, trials and tribulations of the 19th-century German immigrants right there among the tombstones, steps away from where they are laid to rest in the St. Helena Cemetery. About 100 townspeople and tourists came out for the cemetery walk-though, a turnout that the St. Helena Historical Society called "a tremendous success."

St. Helena Historical Society A "Charles Krug" (center) and fiancée "Carolina Bale" (left) meet with "her mother" over an unspecified vintage of Napa "wine."

But if you missed the chance to commune with Napa's dead last weekend at the St. Helena Cemetery, fear not: There are plenty more spectral vintners doomed to roam the terroir for all time (it's been said some Napa winemakers even sold their souls), and not a few so-called "ghost wineries" they're thought to haunt. The old Rennie Brothers Winery, completed in 1900, is one—the once-thriving wine factory sat derelict through Prohibition before its rebirth as Flora Spring Estate. On Oct. 28, the winery is bringing in local paranormal investigators/Napa history fiends Ellen MacFarlane and Devin Sisk, who most recently appeared together on the Travel Channel's Ghost Adventures, to lead a haunted tour and wine lunch in the old stone cellars and caves. "As one of the few remaining Napa Valley 'ghost wineries,' we are constantly reminded that there are phantoms and spirits who walked here before us," noted general manager Nat Komes to Unfiltered.

As in past years, Flora Springs is also releasing a set of Halloween-themed wines next month with limited-edition label art from painters and illustrators: All Hallow's Eve Cabernet Franc, Ghost Winery Malbec, Black Moon Cabernet Sauvignon and Drink in Peace Merlot (glow-in-the-dark label; comes in coffin-shaped gift box) are a few representative treats.

With Extended Tirage, Hair, Argyle Uncorks Next Generation of Wine Artists with 'Art of Sparkling' Labels

The Willamette Valley's Argyle Winery has spiritual ties to the Portland, Ore., hipster-artist scene going back to Rollin Soles' founding moustache in 1987, but in the past few years, the Dundee sparkling specialists have made their ties to the art community more formal (though no less fashionable) than in the early days.

Courtesy of Argyle Student artist Levi Hylton and the fruits of his labor await TTB approval.

When the winery was opening a new tasting room in 2015, it occurred to management that the light-filled space and high ceilings could use some wall art to spruce it up. Soon, a scholarship program with the Portland Northwest College of Arts was underway, and last week, the third annual class of recipient students unveiled Willamette wine–inspired works that will decorate both the Argyle tasting room and bottles of Argyle's limited-edition Art of Sparkling vintage 2015 brut wines.

Courtesy of Argyle From left, the creative dégorgements of Rebecca Giordano, Levi Hylton and Jeff Cravath

The scholarship program begins each year in January, with PNCA and Argyle reps selecting three student recipients. The trio this year—students Jeff Cravath, Rebecca Giordano and Levi Hylton—made the trip to Argyle in April to find inspo in the vineyards and cellars, and get a brief crush course in how traditional-method wine gets made. "After visiting the vineyard and winery I was taken aback by how simple and elemental the process was," said Cravath to Unfiltered via email. "Since then, I’ve thought a lot about how little I know of what I consume daily. Where and what it comes from, its maker, and how far it travels to get to me.”

In May, the students unveiled their designs on canvas, then the Argyle team fired up the label printer, the vintage bubbly rounded out its third year of aging, and the Art of Sparkling bottles were launched. The pop of bubbly wine completed the cycle of art-world patronage, from commission to exhibition, and the young creatives got a brush with the business side that was less commercial-crass than warm and, uh, fizzy. "In addition to generous scholarships, students have a true client experience—researching and exploring how their creativity can be deployed to represent the essence of the Art of Sparkling and Argyle," Don Tuski, PNCA president explained to Unfiltered.

Latest Wine-Smuggling Venture Discovered: Actually $808,000 of Cocaine

Seizing the torch of wine swashbuckling from last week's genteel Scottish cave smugglers and carrying it into the 21st century is an Australian man whose contraband enterprise was grounded earlier this month by the Australian Border Force. The man was apprehended at Sydney International Airport after two bottles of wine in his baggage tested positive for an unusual and most illegal enological additive: cocaine. $808,000 worth of cocaine.

Australian Border Force A wine deal that fell through

“While there are ever-changing and creative attempts to beat our border processes, criminals continue to be undone by our mix of intelligence, officer skill and state-of-the-art technology," ABF regional commander Danielle Yannopoulos said in an Australian police press release. Points for creativity then, but a D for execution on the perp's part: The ABF estimated they collected more than 7 pounds of cocaine from the 2-bottle bust, but most wine bottles, full (of wine), weigh noticeably less at 2 to 3 pounds. The smuggler was remanded into custody and charged with importing a commercial quantity of a border-controlled drug; let him be a reminder to all you kids out there reading who the real wine ghouls and gremlins are.

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Perfect Match Recipe: Spiced, Roasted Cauliflower Tagine with Chickpeas, Golden Raisins and Olives (Wine Spectator)

September 27, 2018 - 8:00am

When’s the last time you whipped up a tagine? If the answer is “never,” don’t panic. “For the novice tagine-maker, I would say, first of all, don’t be afraid. If you can make a soup or stew, then you can certainly make this,” Perry Hendrix, chef of Avec in Chicago, assures us. The very name “tagine,” as he points out, roughly translated from Arabic, is “stew.”

Typically cooked in an earthenware pot, a North African-style tagine can also be made on your stovetop—but the results are far from ordinary. “What differentiates it over [other stews] is probably the spices,” Hendrix reflects.

During the numbing Chicago winters, Hendrix serves a version at Avec that combines cauliflower, chickpeas, olives and golden raisins, flavored with tomato paste and a complex spice blend from New York’s La Boîte spice shop. “He’s pretty secretive about it,” Hendrix says of La Boîte owner and spice blender Lior Lev Sercarz. “He gives a few descriptors.” Tasting it and trying to figure it out, Hendrix gives us five spices—cumin seeds, coriander seeds, cinnamon, cardamom and saffron—in the recipe that follows.

After you’ve softened some onions in hot oil, you’ll rain a small mountain of spices down into your pot—about five teaspoons’ worth, including salt and pepper. “Don’t be afraid of the amount of spice,” Hendrix counsels. “That’s one thing that Avec has taught me.”

While the preparation is straightforward and relies on ingredients you can find at any well-stocked supermarket, bringing the meal from start to finish can take a few hours.

Don’t rush it. “That low, long heat really brings out the flavor of the spices, so it’s not that you’re just throwing these spices on at the end and getting the top, more acrid notes; it’s really developed flavor,” he says.

The spices and onions may stick to the pan initially—and that’s OK, Hendrix advises, as long as you don’t smell full-on burning (in which case, it’s burned, and you should start over). “There’s a line between being burnt and being charred,” he notes, “but I always ask the cooks [at Avec] to make it more rustic.” The flavors and aromas of the spices will darken with the initial pan contact, and you can trust your nose and eyes on how far to take it. “When you add the wine, it’ll deglaze and all come up from the bottom,” he says.

What else makes for a great home-cooked tagine? “Make sure that your spices are fresh,” Hendrix says. “And just go for it.”

Pairing Tip: Why Nero d'Avola Works with This Dish[videoPlayerTag videoId="5840454243001"]

Visit our YouTube channel to watch a version of this Perfect Match video with closed captions.

For more tips on how to approach pairing this dish with wine, recommended bottlings and notes on chef Perry Hendrix’s inspiration, read the companion article, "A Perfect Match: Cauliflower Tagine With a Sicilian Red," in the Nov. 15, 2018, issue, via our online archives or by ordering a digital edition (Zinio or Google Play) or a back issue of the print magazine. For even more wine pairing options, members can find recently rated Sicilian reds in our Wine Ratings Search.

Roasted Cauliflower Tagine with Golden Raisins, Olives and Secret Spices

For the tagine:

  • Olive oil, to taste
  • 1 Spanish onion, peeled and thinly sliced
  • 1 teaspoon cumin seeds
  • 2 teaspoons coriander seeds
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cardamom
  • 1/2 teaspoon saffron threads
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
  • 1/3 cup tomato paste
  • 1 cup white wine
  • 3 cups chicken stock or water
  • 2 cups canned chickpeas, drained and rinsed
  • 1 cup golden raisins
  • 1/2 cup Moroccan oil-cured olives
  • 1/2 head cauliflower, left intact

For serving:

  • 1 cup dried couscous
  • 2 cups plain, full-fat Greek yogurt
  • 1 cup whole cilantro leaves
  • Lemon juice, to taste

1. Preheat the oven to 400 F. Coat the bottom of a large Dutch oven with olive oil and heat over medium. Add onions and cook, stirring occasionally, until slices start to soften, about 4 minutes. Add cumin, coriander, cinnamon, cardamom, saffron, salt and pepper. Cook until onions begin to brown, about 10 minutes more. Add tomato paste and cook until it darkens, about 5 minutes. Spices may begin to stick to pan.

2. Add white wine and chicken stock. Bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer over medium-low heat. Reduce sauce by half, about 35 minutes. Add chickpeas, raisins and olives. Return to a simmer and cook until raisins are soft, about 5 minutes. Place cauliflower cut-side down on a cutting board and sprinkle with olive oil, salt and pepper. Transfer to pot, cut-side down.

3. Cover pot with a tight-fitting lid and transfer to oven. Cook until cauliflower is just tender, 15 to 20 minutes. Baste the cauliflower with the cooking liquid and cook, uncovered, until cauliflower is glazed and taking on a nice golden-brown color, another 15 to 30 minutes, roasting to your desired degree of doneness.

4. While the cauliflower finishes cooking, bring 1 1/2 cups water and 1 tablespoon oil to a boil in a medium pot. Remove from heat, stir in couscous and 1/2 teaspoon salt, and cover. Let sit 10 minutes, then fluff with a fork, cover and set aside in a warm place.

5. Remove pot from oven. Cut off tough bottom of cauliflower and discard. Break up remaining cauliflower into florets and add back to tagine. Divide couscous among four plates, top with tagine and finish with a dollop of yogurt, a scattering of cilantro and a squeeze of lemon. Serves 4.

Prime Wine Restaurants in the Pacific Northwest (Wine Spectator)

September 27, 2018 - 7:30am

The Pacific Northwest is home to some of the United States’ best wine regions—and some of its best wine restaurants. All 70 Wine Spectator Restaurant Award winners across Washington and Oregon contribute to the thriving wine scene in this corner of the country, but these 12 stand out. From classic fine-dining experiences to casual neighborhood joints and an underground concert venue, the destinations here offer benchmark wines while championing producers in their own backyard.

To check out more wine-and-food destinations around the world, see Wine Spectator’s more than 3,700 Restaurant Award–winning picks, including the 91 Grand Award recipients worldwide that hold our highest honor.

Do you have a favorite you’d like to see on this list? Send your recommendations to We want to hear from you!

Brian Canlis Canlis has been delivering exceptional fine-dining experiences in Seattle since 1950.

A time-honored tasting menu
2576 Aurora Ave. N., Seattle, Wash.
(206) 283-3313
Open for dinner, Monday to Saturday

Grand Award
Wine list selections 2,600
Inventory 18,000
Statement space Designed by local architect Roland Terry, a pioneer of modernist architecture in the Pacific Northwest, Canlis became a near-instant icon of Seattle's modern architecture movement when it opened in 1950, and its starkly midcentury-modern glass-and–cedar timber façade continues to gain acclaim. The view out from the dining room is nearly as impressive, with floor-to-ceiling windows overlooking Lake Union, Gas Works Park and the Cascade mountains.
Ongoing legacy Canlis has been a celebrated Seattle dining destination for more than half a century. Brothers Mark and Brian Canlis are third-generation owners, and the restaurant earned its first Grand Award in 1997.
Wine strengths The wine list has stunning selections in Burgundy, California, Bordeaux, Washington, the Rhône, Italy, Oregon, Germany and Champagne. While maintaining these strengths, wine director Nelson Daquip continues to bolster the list in areas like Friuli and Côte-Rôtie, as well as natural and orange wines.
Cuisine For $125, enjoy four courses of regional American cuisine from chef Brady Williams. The artfully presented plates include salmon glazed in caramelized onion juice, pork with smoked plums and sweet-and-sour cherries with cucumber granita.

Brooke Fitts The Seattle steak house makes a point of promoting in-state wines.

Top-notch steaks and Washington wines
820 Second Ave., Seattle, Wash.
(206) 624-3287
Open for lunch, Monday to Friday and dinner, daily

Grand Award
Wine list selections 2,900
Inventory 17,300
Wine strengths Washington wines are the star of the program managed by wine director Aaron Wood-Snyderman. The list also excels in California, Italy, Burgundy, Bordeaux, the Rhône and Oregon.
Big on large formats Metropolitan Grill’s wine list also stands out when it comes to large-format labels. More than 150 options represent a snapshot of the greater list, with several vintages of magnums from Château Mouton-Rothschild, Figgins and Harlan Estate.
Cuisine Chef Stan Ross puts his own spin on steak-house classics, supplanting the standby shrimp cocktail with a prawn martini and topping scalloped potatoes with poblanos. The steak selection remains fairly traditional, with cuts like New York strip, porterhouse and filet mignon sourced from local farm Double-R Ranch.
Seattle staple In 1983, Metropolitan Grill was opened by a local family-owned hospitality group, which is currently overseen by the founder’s son, Ron Cohn. The restaurant quickly gained acclaim after opening, earning its first Award of Excellence in 1996.

Wild Ginger Wild Ginger’s sweet and spicy dishes, like the seven-flavor beef, make for exciting pairings with the Grand Award–winning wine list.

Asian flavors meet a global wine list
1401 Third Ave., Seattle, Wash.
(206) 623-4450
Open for lunch and dinner, daily

Grand Award
Wine list selections 1,800
Inventory 9,000
Wine strengths To play off Wild Ginger’s Southeast Asian flavors, wine director Martin Beally leans toward bright whites and low-tannin reds. The list is strongest in California, Washington, the Rhône, Germany, Burgundy, Italy, Oregon and Bordeaux. A “Market Selection” at the front of the list rounds up 150 labels to make the options more approachable.
Cuisine The dishes draw influence from regions such as Cambodia, Thailand, Indonesia, Vietnam and Malaysia. From cracking coconuts for milk to grinding spices for curries and creating oyster sauce using fresh oysters, everything is made from scratch.
Three of a kind Wild Ginger shares its wine list and inventory with the Triple Door, a Best of Award of Excellence winner with a similar menu. Owners Rick and Ann Yoder also own a Bellevue, Wash., location of Wild Ginger, which holds an Award of Excellence for a 120-label list.
Everyday destination Even though it boasts a Grand Award–winning wine list, the restaurant has a casual atmosphere and moderate pricing. Twenty-five wines are available by the glass and hundreds of bottles are priced at less than $100.

The Butcher’s Table The Butcher’s Table’s Restaurant Award–winning wine list is also available in the upstairs bar.

A luxurious meat mecca
2121 Westlake Ave., Seattle, Wash.
(206) 209-5990
Open for lunch and dinner, daily

Best of Award of Excellence
Wine list selections 510
Inventory 4,210
One-stop shop The two-story space houses a butcher shop, deli, cocktail bar and raw bar, with the main dining room on the first floor. Upstairs, guests can grab inventive, meat-centric fare like steak tartare salad, beef-fat fries and a ribeye flight.
Wine strengths Wine director Jason Sanneman’s list is strongest in Washington labels, from Cabernet Sauvignon staples to less familiar picks like Tempranillos from more obscure producers. California and France are also well-represented.
Cuisine The on-site butcher shop supplies chef Morgan Mueller’s steak-house menu with carefully sourced cuts from family-owned ranches. Non-meat eaters will still find plenty of options, including seasonal salads and a cauliflower steak entrée.
Coveted cuts The Butcher’s Table is part of the Sugar Mountain family of businesses, which also includes Mishima Reserve, where the restaurant sources its Wagyu beef. Enjoy the signature cut in the dining room or pick up a piece at the market to take home.

An authentic Italian go-to since 1990
8075 S.E. 13th Ave., Portland, Ore.
(503) 234-8259
Open for dinner, daily

Best of Award of Excellence
Wine list selections 2,000
Inventory 15,000
Wine strengths Portofino boasts the largest Restaurant Award–winning wine list in Portland, excelling in Tuscany, Piedmont, Burgundy, Bordeaux, California, the Rhône and Australia. Owner and wine director Seth Matasar also presents a hefty selection of Oregon and Washington wines.
Cuisine Chef Jason Tom sources ingredients from nearby farms and the restaurant’s own garden. Nearly every component—pastas, sauces, cured meats, cheeses and more—is made in house.
Top-notch Tuscany The wine list contains dozens of strong Tuscan verticals from top producers such as Antinori, Livio Sassetti and Isole & Olena, and Chiantis dating back to the 1960s.
Last but not least Don’t overlook Portofino’s dessert wines. There are more than 120 international labels and numerous vintages of Château d'Yquem, Graham and Bodegas Toro Albalá.

RingSide Steakhouse RingSide Steakhouse has been a family-owned favorite for decades.

A landmark in Portland’s Nob Hill neighborhood
2165 W. Burnside St., Portland, Ore.
(503) 223-1513
Open for dinner, daily

Best of Award of Excellence
Wine list selections 850
Inventory 16,000
Wine strengths The wine program is strongest in California, France (especially Bordeaux), Washington and Oregon, and the list includes corresponding maps to provide context for guests browsing the list.
Cuisine There are a plethora of seafood dishes, but RingSide Steakhouse specializes in steaks aged and hand-cut in house. Chef Beau Carr’s menu provides a plethora of seafood dishes, but RingSide Steakhouse specializes in steaks aged and hand-cut in house. The restaurant's celebrated onion rings are billed as a favorite of late cooking legend James Beard.
Family management RingSide Steakhouse is operated by the third generation of the Peterson family, which has owned the restaurant since it opened in 1944, and many of the servers are longstanding employees.
Worth the wait General manager and wine director Didier Porteaud prioritizes on-premise bottle aging to ensure wines are available at their optimal drinking time. Many wines have been aging in the cellar for decades, and only about 45 percent of the inventory is available on the wine list.

RN74 Seattle RN74’s train station–style board displays discounted wines instead of departure times.

French dining with a Pacific Northwest flair
1433 Fourth Ave., Seattle, Wash.
(206) 456-7474
Open for dinner, Monday to Saturday

Best of Award of Excellence
Wine list selections 2,200
Inventory 9,500
Wine pioneer Chef Michael Mina and sommelier Rajat Parr opened the original RN74 in San Francisco in 2009, earning the Grand Award the following year and adding the second location in 2011. The San Francisco outpost closed in October 2017, but it left a lasting legacy of a serious yet unpretentious wine program that lives on in Seattle. Mina owns eight other Best of Award of Excellence winners: five Bourbon Steaks, two Michael Minas and Stripsteak in Las Vegas.
Wine strengths The program’s crown jewel is its Burgundy collection, which displays exceptional breadth and depth. Wine director Jeff Lindsay-Thorsen also champions local labels; several pages of featured Washington wines highlight producers such as DeLille and Charles Smith.
Cuisine Chef Thomas Griese treats ingredients like local organic produce and seafood from the Puget Sound with classic French techniques. The seasonal menu features smoked bone marrow, escargots à la Bordelaise and dry-aged duck breast with Rainier cherries.
Locomotive influence The space is adorned with railroad-themed elements like lanterns, arched beams and a train-station departure and arrivals board, which lists last-bottle selections at discounted prices. Once a bottle is purchased, the board shuffles its letters with the familiar clattering sound and reveals a new selection.

The Triple Door The Triple Door pairs an exceptional wine list with live performances.

Superior wine and food in an intimate music venue
216 Union St., Seattle, Wash.
(206) 838-4333
Open for dinner, daily

Best of Award of Excellence
Wine list selections 1,800
Inventory 9,000
Dinner and a show In a historic underground theater in Seattle’s financial district, the Triple Door hosts a broad range of performers—from indie groups and jazz trios to comedians and rock ‘n’ roll bands—along with full-service dining.
Wine strengths The Triple Door offers the same wine list as its Grand Award–winning next-door neighbor, Wild Ginger, built by wine director Martin Beally. Be sure to ask for the extended list; there’s also a shorter list with 45 selections available by the bottle and about 15 available by the glass.
Cuisine The abbreviated menu has many of Wild Ginger’s signature dishes such as fragrant duck and Thai passion tofu, as well as items exclusive to Triple Door like shumai dumplings and vegetable curry.
Two venues in one In addition to the main stage in the theater, the Triple Door has another stage in the lounge, where guests can enjoy the Best of Award of Excellence–winning wine list in a bar setting, and glassed-in suites are available for private events.

Ava Gene’s Down to the flour that’s milled in-house, Ava Gene’s turns out pastas completely from scratch.

Italian wines complement hyper-seasonal cuisine
3377 S.E. Division St., Portland, Ore.
(971) 229-0571
Open for dinner, daily

Award of Excellence
Wine list selections 260
Inventory 2,250
Wine strengths Overseen by beverage director Caryn Benke, the wine program is a diverse and comprehensive showcase of Italian regions, rounded out by some domestic wines made with traditional Italian varieties.
Cuisine Chef Joshua McFadden puts contemporary, seasonal twists on Italian classics. The September 2018 menu features burrata with nectarines and hot peppers, bucatini with cherry tomatoes, and beef short ribs with corn, scallions and horseradish.
Respecting roots Ava Gene’s takes exceptional care when sourcing ingredients, working with dozens of local purveyors—listed by name on their website—and milling their own flour to create pastas completely from scratch. The menu features a rotating “producer highlight” introducing diners to the restaurant’s partnering farms.
Sharable experience In true Italian fashion, Ava Gene’s offers a family-style menu of frequently changing dishes for $75 per person. The restaurant requires parties of eight or more to dine with this prix-fixe format.

Suzi Pratt With authentic dishes and top wine labels, Cascina Spinasse brings Piedmont to the Pacific Northwest.

A piece of Piedmont in Seattle’s Capitol Hill neighborhood
1531 14th Ave., Seattle, Wash.
(206) 251-7673
Open for dinner, daily

Award of Excellence
Wine list selections 95
Inventory 1,100
Regional theme From the rustic, trattoria-inspired dining room to the traditional menu and focused wine list, Cascina Spinasse is a love letter to Piedmont.
Wine strengths General manager and wine director Angela Lopez oversees the all-Italian program. The approachable wine list is confined to one page, but it’s filled with strong vintages and renowned producers.
Cuisine Chef Stuart Lane, who attended the Italian Culinary Institute in Piedmont, incorporates local ingredients into Northern Italian specialties such as handmade lamb agnolotti and pan-roasted rabbit meatballs.
Casual counterpart Lane also serves as chef at the adjacent bar, Artusi, which serves Italian-inspired cocktails and small plates in a more laid-back setting.

Carly Diaz Coquine serves serious wine and food in a not-so-serious setting.

Big wines and bold flavors in a small space
6839 S.E. Belmont St., Portland, Ore.
(503) 384-2483
Open for lunch, daily and dinner, Wednesday to Saturday

Award of Excellence
Wine list selections 430
Inventory 1,500
Wine strengths Owner and wine director Ksandek Podbielski showcases an outstanding selection of Oregon wines. You’ll also find standout French picks, especially in Burgundy and Champagne.
New Age labels Alongside classic labels, Coquine offers plenty of orange and vin jaune from regions around the world.
Cuisine Chef Katy Millard draws influence from global cuisines while putting local ingredients in the spotlight. The menu items are seasonal but may include dishes like chicken-liver mousse with rhubarb jam, artichoke soup with flowering oregano and lamb loin with a nectarine sauce.
Happy medium The restaurant strikes a balance of comfort and refinement through the informative, moderately-priced wine list covering a range of prices and bottle formats, inexpensive food menu and cozy, neighborhood feel.

Héctor Núñez Chef-owner Simone Savaiano honors his Roman roots at Mucca Osteria.

Roman inspiration and organic ingredients
1022 S.W. Morrison St., Portland, Ore.
(503) 227-5521
Open for dinner, Monday to Saturday

Award of Excellence
Wine list selections 365
Inventory 2,140
Wine strengths General manager and wine director Carter Hunt presents a balanced list that’s exclusively Italian with the exception of Champagne. In the past five years, Mucca Osteria’s selections have grown from 30 labels to more than 350.
Cuisine Chef-owner Simone Savaiano draws on the cuisine of his hometown of Rome and works with ingredients from local organic farms. Housemade pastas include egg pappardelle with boar ragù and mushroom tortellini.
The boot on a budget Classic bottles can run several hundred dollars, but the wine list has an array of value options. About half the selections are priced at less than $100, in addition to a handful of wines available by the glass or in half-bottles.
Approachable prix-fixe Mucca Osteria offers six courses for $75 or eight courses for $90, a noteworthy value for tasting menus.

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