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Gianfranco Soldera, Dedicated and Outspoken Brunello Winemaker, Dies at 82 (Wine Spectator)

February 18, 2019 - 12:45pm

Gianfranco Soldera, the outspoken winemaker and owner of Montalcino's Case Basse winery in Tuscany, died the morning of Feb. 16. According to Italian media reports, Soldera was driving on a road near Montalcino when he suffered a heart attack. Efforts to revive him at the scene were unsuccessful. He was 82.

Born in Treviso, Soldera was working as a successful insurance broker in Milan in 1972 when he and his wife, Graziella, went looking for a wine estate. He found Case Basse, near the town of Tavernelle in Montalcino. There were no vines, but Soldera believed the poor soils on the hillside were ideal for Sangiovese. He gradually planted 21 acres, farming the land without chemical pesticides. In the cellars, he took a traditional approach, aging his wines in very large Slavonian oak vats called botti.

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Soldera was one of Montalcino's most opinionated winemakers, unafraid of criticizing his neighbors when he felt their wines weren't up to Brunello's standards. He also strongly opposed proposals to allow grapes other than Sangiovese into Rosso di Montalcino. His own wines attracted a devoted group of fans.

In 2012, Soldera confronted tragedy when a disgruntled former employee broke into the Case Basse cellar at night and opened the taps on the botti, destroying the equivalent of more than 6,000 cases of wine from the 2007 to 2012 vintages. The employee, Andrea di Gisi, was later convicted and sentenced to four years in prison. The crime left Soldera with no wine to sell, but when the Brunello Consorzio offered to donate wine from other members' properties to create a special cuvée Soldera could sell, the vintner resigned from the organization, stating he believed such a cuvée would trick consumers.

Soldera is survived by his wife, two children and several grandchildren.

Italian Authorities Uncover Counterfeit Tignanello Wine Scheme (Wine Spectator)

February 15, 2019 - 12:30pm

Italian authorities have arrested three suspects in a scheme to sell at least 11,000 counterfeit bottles of the legendary super Tuscan wine Antinori Toscana Tignanello in Italy, Germany and Belgium. First reported by Italian media, the arrests were confirmed to Wine Spectator by Alessia Antinori, vice president of Marchesi Antinori. She said the bottles were labeled as the 2009, 2010 and 2011 vintages of Tignanello but were filled with low-quality wine.

The Parma Public Prosecutor and the health divisions of Italy's national police in Florence and Cremona uncovered the fraudulent bottles. The police were able to prevent the fake wine from being distributed, and arrested Matteo Fazzi, 31, who remains in jail, as well as his mother, Maria Alessandra Morini, 57, and another man, Sergio Papa, 54, both placed under house arrest. The investigation is ongoing, however, and there are at least six others who are suspected of involvement.

Alessia Antinori says that Marchesi Antinori has begun adding anti-counterfeiting measures to its wines in recent years, including Tignanello, a super Tuscan red made on a small estate in Chianti Classico. "Starting with the 2013 vintage, we put the embossed logo [on the bottle]," she said. "With the 2015 vintage we added the embossed 'Tignanello' name and since 2016 we have been using a small label on the bottles to defend against counterfeiting."

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Very Good Dogs Sniff Out TCA Taint, Rescue Wine (Wine Spectator)

February 14, 2019 - 1:00pm

Cork taint is going to the dogs—literally. Chile-based cooperage TN Coopers has enlisted the help of our furry best friends to track down TCA, TBA (2,4,6-tribromoanisole) and other harmful compounds that make wine unpleasant or even undrinkable, and plans to bring its highly trained team of wet noses and wagging tails to the greater wine world.

Dubbed "the Natinga Project," the program was inspired by airport canine security units. "The underlying principle is that dogs have a much wider olfactory threshold than humans, and thus can detect very small concentrations of specific compounds just by their sense of smell," Guillermo Calderón, the cooperage's marketing manager, told Unfiltered. Except instead of drugs and internationally-smuggled sausages, the Natinga dogs have been trained to search for compounds that create those unmistakable aromas of wet cardboard, damp newspaper or moldy basement that ruin the flavor of wine (for humans, anyway).

Courtesy of TN Coopers Moro's favorite treat is the knowledge that his work saved wine lovers from purchasing tainted bottles!

While corks get all the condemnation, there are other steps in the winemaking process that are vulnerable to contamination, including barreling. Cooperages have some tech to detect the presence of airborne chemicals, but it's not so easy to find the source of them. That's where the pups come in: "Natinga" translates to “search of origin” in the Zulu language. The project now employs five pollutant-detection experts, otherwise known as Labrador retrievers. Ambrosia, Odysé, Moro, Mamba and Zamba patrol the TN Coopers property near the town of Curacaví in Chile and also provide their services for wineries, with plenty of success stories to boast about, if they could talk.

Take, for example, this story of a winery experiencing problems with TCA (2,4,6-trichloroanisole) at its facility: "After a morning of checking every corner, one of [the dogs] found the source and pinpointed an old hose that was contaminated. The winery removed it and replaced it with a clean one, and we thought that the problem had been solved," Calderón said. But not long after, the winery called again. There was still TCA. "We brought the dogs yet again, and again the dog pinpointed the exact same spot. It was then that we realized that the dog was not only pointing at the hose, but at a very small rubber ring located where the hose was plugged." Once that part was removed and cleaned, the TCA was gone. "The interesting thing is that the dogs were not wrong; it was a human mistake in terms of interpreting what the dog was trying to say," Calderón said. "Their sense of smell is extremely reliable and rarely ever misses."

TN Coopers hopes to bring the four-legged friends and their hyper-sensitive snoots up to California and other parts of the U.S. "We have received a lot of positive feedback from Californian winemakers who come to visit us at the cooperage in Chile," Calderón said. "I can say for now that we are training a new generation of puppies that will be able to carry on with this initiative for many years to come."

Abandoned Historic Church Reborn as Wine Lounge and Restaurant

Mingling with friends and neighbors while jamming out to live music and sipping wine: A party scene at the local watering hole—or church? A new wine lounge coming to Pittsburgh is a bit of both. The soon-to-be Mary's Vine began life in 1903 as the Visitation of the Blessed Virgin Mary Church in Rankin, Pa.; the last Mass was held in 2011. But the cavernous vaulted nave and neo-Gothic pointed-arch windows reappeared—on Craigslist, seven years later—and caught the eye of a young Sacramento transplant named Jordan Stasinowsky.

Courtesy of Mary's Vine / Jordan Stasinowsky

"The pictures painted a pretty horrid picture of the interior, as the building had been neglected for many years," Stasinowsky told Unfiltered via email. It wouldn't do for a fixer-upper home, but Stasinowsky pitched another idea to his family: They could join him in Pittsburgh, renovate the place and open it up to the community again, as a restaurant and wine lounge.

One year later, the roofing, electrical wiring, plumbing, HVAC and paint have been replaced or redone, and the centerpiece, a two-story, 4,800-bottle, glass-enclosed wine cellar is rising in the chancel area behind where the altar stood. When Mary's Vine opens in April, there will be a list of 300 wines, a kitchen, and live jazz mixed in with some throwback tunes for those looking for that old-time religion. "Yes, the [original] organ will be functional," confirmed Stasinowsky.

Valentine's Day 'Bachelor' Wine Update: TV Singleton Celebrates Rosé, Copes with White

The Bachelor franchises, viewers may be aware, involve a lot of wine schemes. Drinking wine. Throwing wine. Romancing around wine. Romancing a winemaker? And of course, a winemaker, romancing.

Courtesy of 65 Roses Every day's a rosé ceremony for Colton Underwood.

Current Bachelor and former NFL player Colton Underwood knows the game—this is the show's 23rd season (!), after all. For his charity, the Colton Underwood Legacy Foundation, Underwood teamed up with Denver-based Carboy Winery to launch a new rosé, 65 Roses, to raise money for people living with cystic fibrosis.

"The story surrounding the [wine's name] dates back decades to a young child with cystic fibrosis who, when hearing the name of his disease for the first time, pronounced 'cystic fibrosis' as 'sixty-five roses,'" Underwood told Unfiltered via email. "It's just the right mix of sweet and crisp, yet silky," he said of the wine, which is 91 percent Pinot Gris and 9 percent Moscato.

Though the rose man drinks pink, Unfiltered learned that he's a white-wine guy when it comes to dealing with highly distressing on-camera situations. A recent episode saw Underwood engaging in the time-honored "being sad alone with wine" Bachelor trope, and as he tweeted, "A glass of white wine never hurt anyone … or three." While Underwood told Unfiltered that the foundation hasn't yet determined if they'll be adding more wines to accompany 65 Roses, we predict the next would probably be a nice Chardonnay or Pinot Grigio.

Haut-Brion, Juliette Binoche and Haute Couture High Society Party Down, Raise $700K for AIDS Research

Prince Robert of Luxembourg, owner of Bordeaux first-growth Château Haut-Brion and Wine Spectator Restaurant Award winner Le Clarence in Paris, is no stranger to a good time with food and wine. So Robert and his Franco-"American" wine operation teamed up with the fashion world's equally global citizenry to throw a grand “Dîner de la Mode de Sidaction" for a cause—raising money in the fight against HIV/AIDS.

Courtesy of Domaine Clarence Dillon Pamela Anderson and designer Jean-Paul Gaultier said a few words for the occasion.

Celebrities like Juliette Binoche, Line Renaud, Jean-Paul Gaultier, Monica Bellucci and Pamela Anderson were in attendance at the 17th edition of the fête at the Pavillon d’Armenonville in Paris. They noshed on Le Clarence chef Christophe Pelé's preparations of line-caught sea bass with beetroot gnocchi, foie gras, haddock and citron-caviar. To pair with Pelé's menu, gala-goers drank the 2015 vintage of Domaine Clarence Dillon's Clarendelle range, donated by the Haut-Brion parent company.

For those seeking bigger bottles and grander vins, an auction featured wines donated by Prince Robert: a magnum of Haut-Brion 2001, a magnum of Château La Mission Haut-Brion 2005 and an imperial of Château Quintus 2015. All in, the night, organized in partnership with the Fédération de la Haute Couture et de la Mode, brought in some $733,000.

Grand Cru Road Trip and Jeroboam Jaw-Droppers Entice in Burgundy/Curie Cancer Benefit Auction

Mounir Saouma has earned a reputation as a talented vigneron over the past two decades, establishing Burgundy's Lucien Le Moine and Châteauneuf's Rotem & Mounir Saouma as benchmark houses in regions where that can take hundreds of years. But he's also an ardent advocate for cancer research, and this week, he's united his passions in an epic charity auction to benefit the Institut Curie in Paris—the lab founded by Marie Curie herself.

On the block: a morning ramble through grands crus from Clos de Bèze to Montrachet, with 16 stops to taste along the way and wines from Echézeaux, Clos de Vougeot and Musigny in the mix. Bottles up for grabs—all procured by Saouma directly from the wineries—include a Salmanazar (that's 9 liters) of Lucien Le Moine Romanée-St. Vivant 2007, imperials (6 liters) of 2015 Ornellaia and J.F. Mugnier Nuits-St.-Georges 1er Cru Clos Maréchal Rouge 2008, and Jeroboams of gems like '96 Pétrus, 2007 Cristal and the rare white Margaux Pavillon Blanc 2012.

"Remember why we do this," Saouma told Unfiltered via email. "Fighting with wine against cancer." The bidding has surpassed more than $90,000 so far, but interested players can still submit bids before 4 p.m. Burgundy time on Friday, Feb. 15. Get more details here or by emailing llm@lucienlemoine.com.

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John Zimcosky Wins Wine Spectator's 2018 Sweepstakes (Wine Spectator)

February 14, 2019 - 1:00pm

John Zimcosky is on a path familiar to many wine lovers, toward a deeper engagement with the people and places that make the wines he loves. As the winner of Wine Spectator's 2018 Top 100 sweepstakes, he can now use the Top 10 Wines of 2017 as roadsigns along the way.

"I love the overall variety of the Top 10," Zimcosky says of his prize. (See the list.) "I've never had a great Gigondas. I am just beginning to explore great Bordeaux; I have a case of Pavie Macquin 2010 but haven't tried it yet. I've only had one wine from Duckhorn, and not the Three Palms Merlot. That's the one I'm most excited about," referring to Wine Spectator's 2017 Wine of the Year.

The Chicago-based options trader, 33, began his exploration of wine when his former boss encouraged him to visit Napa Valley. "It was six or seven years ago," he recalls. "My wife, Laura, and I were dating at the time. Then in 2014 we got married there, at Brix restaurant in Yountville."

The couple have approached wine from multiple angles. They've visited Napa Valley on several occasions, where they joined a number of winery wine clubs, and have made trips to Sonoma, Oregon and Tuscany. John has explored the auction market through Hart Davis Hart. They've accumulated about 300 bottles so far.

"Wine is something that's interesting and fun to learn about," he says. "I'm curious about ageable whites. I think that's an area that's overlooked. My main focus now is Oregon Pinots and Chardonnays. They offer value, and I think it's an exciting time to be involved with the Willamette Valley."

"Mostly, I like to collect wines that come from places where I have a personal connection. I have to give a shoutout to Henri and Claire Vandendriessche at White Rock Vineyards in Napa. Henri is in his 80s but still working. We've gotten to know the family. The winery was damaged in the 2017 fires, but they're recovering. White Rock has a special place in our hearts."

The couple subscribe to Wine Spectator magazine, and the publication led them to Altesino in Tuscany, where they loved the wines. Though two small children may limit their mobility and budget for the time being, Zimcosky has no thought of leaving the wine roads.

"I guess it's evolved into a bit of an obsession," he admits. "I wish we lived in wine country. I think Oregon is a great place. But for now, we'll just keep learning and enjoy the journey."

Restaurants Offering the Finest Spanish Wines (Wine Spectator)

February 14, 2019 - 8:30am

Updated: Feb. 14, 2019

From Andalusia to Rioja, Spain abounds with wines of outstanding quality, value and food-pairing versatility. And Americans have never before had such access to the diversity of Spain's many distinctive wines. These 12 restaurants from around the United States make their Spanish wine selections a focal point. To check out more great wine dining spots across the globe, see Wine Spectator’s more than 3,500 Restaurant Award–winning picks, including the 91 Grand Award recipients holding our highest honor.

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

Barcelona Wine Bar

240 N. Highland Ave., N.E., Atlanta, Ga.
Telephone (404) 589-1010
Website www.barcelonawinebar.com
Open Dinner, daily
Best of Award of Excellence

Jeff Herr Decompress and people-watch with Spanish wine and small plates at Barcelona Wine Bar.

In Atlanta’s Inman Park neighborhood, Best of Award of Excellence winner Barcelona Wine Bar offers a taste of the Mediterranean. The Atlanta outpost is one of 14 Restaurant Award–winning locations across the country, with a moderately priced, 460-selection program led by wine director Emily Nevin that offers plenty in the way of Spanish and South American bottles. Chef James Burge’s menu of tapas, charcuterie and cheese is ideal for mixing, matching and sharing, and includes creative plates such as carrot hummus, veal osso buco with cashew pesto, spicy eggplant caponata and chorizo with sweet-and-sour figs.

Casa Juancho

2436 S.W. Eighth St., Miami, Fla.
Telephone (305) 642-2452
Website www.casajuancho.com
Open Lunch and dinner, daily
Best of Award of Excellence

Casa Juancho Live Latin music completes the experience at Miami’s Casa Juancho.

Tucked away in Miami’s Little Havana neighborhood, Casa Juancho will transport you to Spain. A Best of Award of Excellence winner since 1996, Casa Juancho boasts a 450-selection wine list abundant in Spanish reds and California Cabernets. Chef Alfonso Perez’s menu focuses on seafood sourced from Spain and south Florida, as well as a variety of traditional Spanish tapas, paella and prime beef. Adding to the ambiance, live Latin music and Spanish flamenco are performed every night.

Casa Mono

52 Irving Place, New York, N.Y.
Telephone (212) 253-2773
Website www.casamononyc.com
Open Lunch and dinner, daily
Best of Award of Excellence

Kelly Campbell Among the tapas at Casa Mono is the duck egg with mojama and black truffles.

For a first-rate Spanish wine experience in Manhattan, head to Casa Mono from B & B Hospitality Group, tucked between Union Square and Gramercy Park on peaceful Irving Place. There, the menu from chefs Adrian Pineda and Andy Nusser focuses on tapas, seafood and whole animals butchered in-house. The 500-selection, Best of Award of Excellence–winning list, led by wine director Rachel Merriam, offers enormous depth in Spanish wines, including verticals of Vega Sicilia Unico back to the 1960s, Álvaro Palacios L’Ermita back to the late 1990s and five vintages of R. López de Heredia Viña Tondonia Gran Reserva. Rare wines are also available via Coravin in 3- and 6-ounce pours.

Columbia Restaurant

2117 E. Seventh Ave., Tampa, Fla.
Telephone (813) 248-4961
Website www.columbiarestaurant.com
Open Lunch and dinner, daily
Best of Award of Excellence

Columbia Restaurant Richard Gonzmart is a fourth-generation family member and owner of Tampa's historic Columbia Restaurant.

In Tampa’s historic Ybor City neighborhood, on its vibrant main street, the family-owned Columbia Restaurant has been in business more than a century. What began as a small café known for its Cuban sandwiches and coffee has transformed into a Best of Award of Excellence–winning restaurant. The wine list, designed by wine director Jim Garris, boasts 1,000 selections, with strengths in Spanish and Californian bottles, while chef Geraldo Bayona’s menu includes plenty of tapas, grilled seafood, roasted meats and paella. Guests can still opt to try the restaurant’s signature Cuban sandwich, made from the original 1915 recipe. From Monday to Saturday, the restaurant offers two flamenco shows per evening, as well as jazz shows Tuesday though Saturday.

Del Mar

791 Wharf St. S.W., Washington, D.C.
Telephone (202) 525-1402
Website www.delmardc.com
Open Lunch and dinner, daily
Best of Award of Excellence

Del Mar Del Mar’s menu draws inspiration from the coasts of Spain.

D.C.-based restaurateurs Fabio and Maria Trabocchi are known for their renowned Italian concepts such as Best of Award of Excellence winners Fiola and Fiola Mare. At Del Mar, the couple tackles Spanish cuisine, offering a wine program with the same focus. Managed by Casper Rice, the 625-selection list covers a wide range of regions, from Rioja to the Canary Islands, with maps preceding each section. Del Mar’s wine collection includes 17 dry Sherries, which are listed with descriptions of their styles and suggested food pairings to help guide guests. The program complements chef Alex Rosser’s seafood-centric menu of tapas and other Spanish specialties.

El Meson

2425 University Blvd., Houston, Texas
Telephone (713) 522-9306
Website www.elmeson.com
Open Lunch and dinner, daily
Best of Award of Excellence

El Meson The Cuba-born chef at El Meson serves an authentic menu of Latin specialties.

Near Houston’s Rice University in the Rice Village shopping district, El Meson has been serving its signature Latin cuisine for more than three decades. Chef Pedro Angel Garcia’s menu blends Spanish and Cuban influences, offering a variety of grilled and roasted meats, seafood and tapas such as piquillo peppers stuffed with lamb, raisins and pine nuts, seared foie gras with caramelized apple and pear, and bacon-wrapped dates with Riojano sausage and blue cheese. Earning Restaurant Awards since 1999, the 550-selection list is strongest in Spanish selections. It’s overseen by Pedro’s daughter, Jessica Elaine Garcia.

Julian Serrano

Aria Resort & Casino, 3730 Las Vegas Blvd. S., Las Vegas, Nev.
Telephone (877) 230-2742
Website www.arialasvegas.com
Open Lunch and dinner, daily
Best of Award of Excellence

MGM/Mirage Chef Julian Serrano's eponymous restaurant at the Aria Resort & Casino provides a taste of Spain in Vegas.

At Julian Serrano at the Aria Resort & Casino in Las Vegas, Spanish small plates take center stage. The acclaimed chef’s menu includes mouthwatering bites such as sautéed Padrón peppers with orange glaze, seared scallop skewers and foie gras with white chocolate bread. For large groups, tableside family-size dishes are available, including a 9-pound whole crispy roasted suckling pig served with seasonal vegetables. The meal isn’t complete without a pairing or two from wine director William Moss’ 410-selection list, which holds a Best of Award of Excellence for its emphasis on wines from Spain, France and California.

Taberna de Haro

999 Beacon St., Brookline, Mass.
Telephone (617) 277-8272
Website www.tabernaboston.com
OpenDinner, Monday to Saturday
Best of Award of Excellence

Taberna de Haro An extensive Sherry selection awaits at Taberna de Haro.

Just a short walk from the Charles River and Boston University in Brookline, you’ll find Taberna de Haro, modeled after the tabernas of Madrid. The menu includes a variety of tapas and large plates, focusing on meats and seafood, with dishes such as squid ink and cuttlefish paella, grilled lamb chops with garlic-vinegar fries, and spiced pork skewers. The Best of Award of Excellence–winning wine list is overseen by owner, chef and wine director Deborah Hansen; of the 320 selections offered, more than 80 are Sherry.

Barcelona Restaurant and Bar

263 E. Whittier St., Columbus, Ohio
Telephone (614) 443-3699
Website www.barcelonacolumbus.com
Open Lunch and dinner, daily
Award of Excellence

Barcelona Restaurant and Bar Opt for a table on Barcelona Restaurant and Bar’s outdoor patio to dine surrounded by lush greenery.

In Columbus’ German Village, Barcelona has been earning Restaurant Awards each year since 2005 for its strengths in Spanish and Californian wines. More than 60 of the 235 selections on wine director Tim Hawkins’ moderately priced list are available by the glass, and guests can also select from four types of house-made sangria by the glass and carafe. Chef Julian Menaged’s menu of large and small plates includes dishes such as sautéed mussels, braised beef short ribs with scallops and aioli verde, and pan-roasted red fish with wild rice pilaf and coconut-curry cream.

Bocado Tapas Wine Bar

45 Church St., Wellesley, Mass.
Telephone (781) 772-2390
Website www.bocadotapasbar.com/wellesley
Open Lunch and dinner, daily
Award of Excellence

Scott Erb Whether you opt for Spanish wine, Sherry or sangria, a meal at Bocado Tapas Wine Bar is reason enough for celebration.

Seeking great food and wine in Wellesley? Head to Bocado Tapas Wine Bar. Wine director Cassandra Carruth manages the restaurant’s 130-selection list, which holds an Award of Excellence for its strength in Spanish bottles; 20 Sherries are available, as well as several house-blended sangrias. Choose from diverse tapas dishes on chef Steve Champagne’s menu, including seared foie gras, grilled lamb chops and tortilla Española.

Clay

553 Manhattan Ave., New York, N.Y.
Telephone (212) 729-1850
Website www.claynyc.com
Open Dinner, Tuesday to Sunday
Award of Excellence

Jason Greenspan Clay’s airy space sets the stage for farm-driven American cuisine.

Clay delivers a polished yet unpretentious dining experience in the heart of Harlem. Chef Gustavo Lopez sources ingredients from small farms across New York and Pennsylvania to create seasonal dishes like grass-fed steak tartare and confit duck leg with butternut squash and Concord grape gastrique. Wine director Gabriela Davogustto relies on close relationships with distributors to secure the many limited-release wines on her 225-label list. While the international wine program stands out in Italy and France, Spain is its strongest region. Names such as Bodegas y Viñedos Raúl Péréz and Cesar Marquez y Raul Pérez are well-represented, in addition to smaller producers like Casa Aurora.

Jaleo

480 Seventh St. N.W., Washington, D.C.
Telephone (202) 628-7949
Website www.jaleo.com/dc
Open Lunch and dinner, daily
Award of Excellence

Greg Powers Jaleo is set in a prime location in Washington, D.C., just blocks from the National Mall.

Opened in 1993, Jaleo is where celebrity chef José Andrés kicked off his career in D.C.’s culinary scene. The concept now has four Award of Excellence–winning outposts, with plans to expand in Dubai and Orlando, Fla. Its flagship location boasts 230 selections on the exclusively Spanish wine list, overseen by wine director Andy Myers. Chef Andrés’ tapas menu ranges from classics like patatas bravas to more inventive dishes such as salmon tartare in a trout-roe cone and a spinach fritter with apple-mustard aioli.

Keep up with the latest restaurant news from our award winners: Subscribe to our free Private Guide to Dining newsletter, and follow us on Twitter at @WSRestoAwards and Instagram at @WSRestaurantAwards.

Restaurant Spotlight: Settlers Tavern (Wine Spectator)

February 14, 2019 - 8:00am

In Australia’s Margaret River wine region, Settlers Tavern is a bustling bistro, music venue and microbrewery. The restaurant's diverse live music performances attract a crowd, but the main draw for wine lovers is the Wine Spectator Best of Award Excellence–winning wine program. The 600-selection list excels in France but keeps the spotlight on Australia, offering sparklers, reds and whites from around the country with an emphasis on the surrounding region. Wine director Karen Gough makes frequent changes to the extensive by-the-glass program, always including a couple of high-end examples of local Cabernet Sauvignon and Chardonnay to showcase Margaret River’s strengths. On chef Rob Gough’s produce-driven menu, you’ll find everything from small bites like Korean fries and bruschetta to barbecue, burgers and international regional specialties. Using local ingredients is a big priority for the restaurant, which lists sources on the back of the menu. With a serious wine program and a fun, friendly atmosphere, Settlers Tavern is a destination for excellent wines without the fuss.

Turning Tables: Exciting New Restaurant Opens in Miami's Ritz-Carlton Coconut Grove (Wine Spectator)

February 14, 2019 - 7:30am
LDV Hospitality Debuts Isabelle's in Miami's Ritz-Carlton Coconut Grove

LDV Hospitality, the group behind Wine Spectator Restaurant Award winners Scarpetta and American Cut Steakhouse, opened a new restaurant in Miami's Ritz-Carlton Hotel Coconut Grove, next to their Commodore bar. Isabelle's Grill Room & Garden serves a wide range of dishes, from raw-bar starters and salads to steaks and main courses such as lobster pappardelle and grilled jumbo prawns.

To reflect the menu's diversity, beverage manager Eman Rivani built a well-rounded, international wine list of about 115 selections. The program also emphasizes U.S. wines, including plenty of California Cabernets, as well as less familiar wines like white Malbec and Texan bottlings.

"I wanted to bring in some wines that are very, very unique—I guess you would say 'cool'—without costing a lot of money for our guests," Rivani said. The by-the-glass program offers 18 wines, and guests can create their own flight of any three selections.—J.H.

Dell'anima Reopens in Smaller Format Noah Devereaux The Italian fare at the new Dell'anima outpost

Just a few months after closing its doors in New York's West Village, Dell'anima, the Italian restaurant from the team behind Award of Excellence winners Anfora and L'Artusi, reopened in Gotham West Market.

The new concept, scaled down from the former 45-seat restaurant, is a 22-seat chef's counter in the Hell's Kitchen food hall; there are also communal tables where guests can sit and receive full service from Dell'anima staff. "People can really still get an elevated level of service," said managing partner Jacob Cohen.

The 30-selection wine list highlights Italy's Piedmont, Sicily and Tuscany and complements executive chef Andrew Whitney's dishes such as pollo al diavolo and a variety of panini on the lunch menu.—B.G.

Barcelona Wine Bar Comes to North Carolina

Barcelona Wine Bar, the chain that has 14 Best of Award of Excellence winners, opened its 16th location in the historic South End neighborhood of Charlotte, N.C.

"We love being a part of these kinds of special neighborhood-driven communities," said Gretchen Thomas, vice president of beverage for Barcelona Wine Bar's parent company.

Nearly half of the menu's Spanish-style tapas, crafted by executive chef and Charlotte native Nic Daniels, are unique to this location, but "the soul of the wine list is the same," said wine director Emily Nevin-Giannini. The list, consisting of more than 50 by-the-glass selections and nearly 400 by the bottle, will keep the chain's spotlight on Spanish wines, with other global picks from Portugal, South America and beyond. "We aim to have something for every palate and price point," Nevin-Giannini said.—B.G.

Keep up with the latest restaurant news from our award winners: Subscribe to our free Private Guide to Dining newsletter, and follow us on Twitter at WSRestoAwards and on Instagram at wsrestaurantawards.

Is Red Wine Triggering Your Migraines? (Wine Spectator)

February 12, 2019 - 12:48pm

Migraines can be debilitatingly painful, and regular sufferers will do almost anything to prevent them, including giving up something they dearly enjoy, such as wine. But should they? New research from the Netherlands' Leiden University Medical Center shows that while many people report alcohol—and red wine in particular—as a trigger for migraines, the relationship between the two isn't so simple.

"Alcoholic beverages have been reported in top 10 trigger factors for migraine," Gisela Terwindt and Gerrit Onderwater, both researchers from the study, told Wine Spectator via email. "We aimed to investigate which particular beverages are frequently reported by patients as triggers for their attacks, and also estimate the triggering consistency and time to attack onset after consumption of these beverages. Furthermore, we wanted to investigate the effect this has in alcohol-consumption behavior in migraine patients."

Using the Leiden University Migraine Neuro-Analysis study population, the researchers conducted surveys of 2,197 Dutch adults, ages 18 to 80, who suffer from migraines and fulfilled the International Classification of Headache Disorders criteria. They asked questions about each patient's drinking habits, whether they believed alcohol was a trigger for migraines, and how often and in what timespan drinking brought on an attack.

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The results, published in the European Journal of Neurology, revealed that roughly 36 percent of the patients did consider alcohol as a migraine trigger. This belief affected many of their decisions around drinking: Among the 650 participants who said they had either stopped drinking or never drank, more than 25 percent said they did so because of alcohol's presumed triggering effects.

Of the 1,547 participants who were drinkers, nearly 45 percent did not report alcohol as a trigger, while roughly 43 percent did. (The remainder were unsure.)

When drinkers who considered alcohol a trigger were asked about a particular alcoholic beverage bringing on a migraine, red wine was mentioned most frequently (77.8 percent of the answers) and vodka least frequently (8.5 percent). Interestingly, though, only 8.8 percent of participants reported getting migraines after drinking red wine 100 percent of the time. "[This implicates that] other factors may also be involved," the researchers wrote. "Therefore suggesting total abstinence should not be a direct consequence taken by patients."

That finding is the primary takeaway of the study: "The association between trigger and attack is a complex one, likely influenced by other internal and external triggers and varying susceptibility," said the researchers. "It can be debated if alcohol is a factual or presumed trigger."

Even among those who do believe alcohol to be a trigger, there is no clear understanding of why. Is it the alcohol itself? Or, considering that so many believe red wine is a leading culprit, is there something in wine specifically?

"We currently do not know which compound(s) might be responsible for the presumed triggering effect, or whether other trigger factors may be in play," said Terwindt and Onderwater. "Testing various factors in an experimental, placebo-controlled fashion, one would be able to specifically investigate this." However, they note, these studies are difficult to carry out, and expensive, too.

Past studies have looked at whether specific compounds in wine, such as histamines or tannins, can trigger migraines, but the results have been inconclusive.

Keeping a record of when migraines occur, and the circumstances under which they are brought on, can lead to a better understanding of one's triggers, but migraine sufferers should continue working with their physician to best cope with the problem.

8 & $20 Recipe: Za’atar Spatchcocked Chicken with Roasted Vegetables (Wine Spectator)

February 12, 2019 - 9:00am

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 roast chicken. It’s so easy to adapt to any season and occasion. Spatchcocking the chicken before roasting makes it even more versatile by reducing the cooking time to well under an hour—just the right amount of time to also roast a selection of seasonal vegetables. This makes it easy to get an entire dinner out in one pan.

All you need to spatchcock a chicken is a pair of kitchen shears. Removing the backbone butterflies the chicken, allowing it to lay essentially flat so that it cooks more evenly than roasting it whole. It’s easier to do than you might think, but if you feel hesitant, you can ask your butcher to do it. Many grocery stores now also sell pre-spatchcocked, pre-packaged chickens.

I opted to use za’atar (aka zahatar), a Middle Eastern blend of herbs and spices that adds a lot of flavor in one easy move. Earthy and slightly warming, it’s ideal for this time of year.

An assortment of root vegetables completes the meal. I chose a selection of seasonal favorites and tried to keep the prep as quick and easy as possible. My mix included carrots that were moderately thin and small cipollini onions, both of which can be roasted whole, reducing chopping time.

Given the chilly temperatures this time of year, I was craving a red wine to pair with this dinner. To avoid overpowering the light meat, I selected reds with light to moderate tannins: a Pinot Noir from Oregon's Willamette Valley and a medium-bodied Côtes du Rhône.

The Côtes du Rhône had a mix of red berry and blackberry notes, with a hint of smokiness, black pepper accents and lots of herbal touches. The Pinot Noir showed bright red fruit, with a refreshing beam of acidity and details of spice. Both wines worked really well with the chicken, so the selection came down to how each paired with the vegetables.

With certain bites, the Côtes du Rhône soared; the herbal notes in the wine resonated beautifully with the za’atar spice blend. However, the wine soured just a bit against the sweeter vegetables in the mix. This is a great match if your vegetable selection tends toward the savory side.

Though the Pinot Noir had savory touches, it was more fruit-forward, which worked with all of the vegetables, making it the more consistent match across the board.

Za’atar Spatchcocked Chicken with Roasted Vegetables

Pair with a red with moderate tannins such as Oregon Trails Pinot Noir Willamette Valley 2015 (88 points, $20).

Prep time: 10 minutes
Cooking time: 40 to 50 minutes, plus 5 to 10 minutes resting time
Total time: 55 to 70 minutes
Approximate food costs: $26

  • One 4 1/2 pound chicken
  • 2 tablespoons butter, room temperature and cut into pieces
  • 1 1/2 to 2 tablespoons za’atar
  • Salt
  • Pepper
  • 6 to 8 thyme sprigs
  • 8 slim carrots
  • 8 cipollini onions
  • 1 small head of cauliflower, cut into florets
  • 2 medium turnips, cut into bite-sized chunks
  • 1/8 cup apple cider vinegar (or lemon juice or white wine)
  • 2 to 3 tablespoons olive oil, or as needed

1. Preheat oven to 450 F. Lay the cleaned chicken, with innards removed, down on a cutting board with the legs pointing toward you and the breast side down. Using kitchen shears, cut along both sides of the backbone to remove it. Flip the chicken over, breast-side up, and open it up so that it lies flat. Press hard on the center of the breast to crack the sternum and help flatten the chicken further.

2. Tuck the pieces of butter under the skin of the chicken, distributing as evenly as possible. Sprinkle half the za’atar, salt and a generous pinch of pepper on the skin of the chicken, then rub to distribute well. Tuck a few of the thyme sprigs beneath the skin of the chicken as well.

3. Lightly grease a roasting pan. Arrange the vegetables in a single layer in the roasting pan. Drizzle the vegetables with the apple cider vinegar and olive oil, then sprinkle on the remaining za’atar, plus a generous pinch of salt and pepper. Toss to coat well, then place the remaining sprigs of thyme on top.

4. If you have a roasting rack, set it in the pan, then place the chicken on top, breast-side up. If not, simply lay the chicken on top of the vegetables, breast-side up. (You can add the backbone to roast with the rest of the chicken and vegetables, or discard as desired.) Place in the oven and roast for 40 to 50 minutes, or until a thermometer inserted into the thickest part of the thigh reads 165 F and the skin of the chicken and the vegetables are lightly browned. Halfway through cooking, toss the vegetables and add an additional splash of apple cider vinegar if needed. If parts of the chicken are beginning to brown faster than the rest, tent lightly with foil or parchment paper.

5. Remove the chicken from the oven and let rest for 5 to 10 minutes before carving. If the vegetables need additional browning, continue cooking them in the oven while the chicken rests. Toss the vegetables in the chicken drippings before placing them on a platter, then arrange the chicken on top. (You can carve the chicken in advance, or serve whole for presentation and carve at the table.) Serve any additional chicken jus on the side. Serves 4.

Foley Family Wines Buys New Zealand's Mt. Difficulty Winery for $35 Million (Wine Spectator)

February 11, 2019 - 10:30am

Bill Foley is expanding his footprint in New Zealand. The owner of Foley Family Wines and the Las Vegas Golden Knights hockey team, has purchased Mt. Difficulty, known for its Pinot Noir and Riesling. The deal includes the Central Otago winery, an onsite restaurant, more than 172 acres of vineyards and Mt. Difficulty's second label, Roaring Meg. The price tag was US$35 million.

Winemaker Matt Dicey’s family has sold its shares, but he will remain in his role.

Foley had been looking for a high-profile winery to add to his six New Zealand brands, which include Grove Mill, Goldwater and Te Kairanga. He was also interested in expanding into Central Otago, one of the country's premier Pinot Noir areas on the South Island, and Mt. Difficulty checked both of those boxes. "It's such an iconic producer in that region and highly regarded," Foley Family Wines president Hugh Reimers told Wine Spectator.

Mt. Difficulty was founded when the owners of five vineyards in Bannockburn, the warmest subregion of Central Otago, decided to produce wine under a single label. The winery is best-known for its Pinot Noir but also produces Riesling, Pinot Gris and Sauvignon Blanc from both estate and leased vineyards. The winery produces 80,000 cases of wine a year under both brands.

Foley Family wants to increase sales of Mt. Difficulty's Pinot Noirs in the U.S., including some of its single-vineyard wines. Reimers says the main goal is to make it a global brand, but to grow smartly. "It's all about maintaining the style and quality of the wine that has made this estate famous," said Reimers. They are also planning on expanding the winery restaurant to attract more visitors.

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The company entered the agreement to purchase Mt. Difficulty in November 2017, but the sale had to be approved by New Zealand's Overseas Investment Office (OIO). (Non-residents and companies with more than 25 percent overseas ownership must receive consent from the OIO to invest in New Zealand's significant business assets.) To raise capital, Foley Family Wines sold shares of its New Zealand division to Japanese beer giant Kirin Holding's Australia-based food-and-beverage subsidiary, Lion.

New Zealand has seen increasing attention from outside investors in recent years, including Foley's own buying spree, which started with purchasing the New Zealand Wine Trust Ltd. in 2009. In 2018, Aotearoa New Zealand Fine Wine Estates, cofounded by wine veteran Steve Smith and U.S.–based wildlife conservationist Brian Sheth, bought Pyramid Valley in North Canterbury. That same year, the owners of Australia's Torbreck winery bought Escarpment in Martinborough.

After working in finance for decades, Bill Foley started a second career in wine when he founded Lincourt in Santa Barbara in 1996. Over the following decades he amassed a wine empire that now includes two dozen wineries in California, Washington, Oregon and New Zealand. Foley Family Wine's total production exceeds 1.3 million cases of wine annually.

Sommelier Roundtable: What's in Your Personal Cellar? (Wine Spectator)

February 8, 2019 - 12:00pm

On the job, sommeliers may nudge diners toward certain personal favorites, but ultimately they serve the wines their customers demand. On their own time, in their own cellars, though, they can lay down the wines they love best.

We asked nine wine pros from Wine Spectator Restaurant Award winners what's in their personal cellars, and their answers included both the classics and the up-and-comers, from Rhône legends to Aussie Rieslings—to "I just end up drinking it all." Read about these experts' collections, and get some inspiration for your own!

Wine Spectator: What's in your cellar now? What types of wine do you personally collect?

Richard Hanauer, beverage director for Chicago-based RPM Restaurants, including two locations of Best of Award of Excellence winner RPM Italian and RPM Steak

Hermitage—buckets and buckets of Hermitage, red and white. Since my youngest wine-drinking days, I have always been obsessed with “the wines of the hill.” Chave, Chapoutier and Jaboulet are the regular occurrences, but I also have bottlings from smaller wineries and co-ops. When I'm not focusing on my favorite hill during the weekends, I love drinking Australian whites and Loire reds during the week.

Nancy Oakes, chef and co-owner, and John Lancaster, wine director, of Best of Award of Excellence winner Boulevard in San Francisco

Oakes: Right now I’m on a big white Burgundy kick—[and] I picked the wrong time to be on a white Burgundy kick because other people are on it too. I have a whole wall of Cabernets that I rarely touch.

We have a house in Healdsburg, [Calif.], so I also try to collect the wine of my friends up there, so like Radio-Coteau, and I still love Kistler and Rochioli, my direct neighbors.

Lancaster: At home we drink a lot of Loire Valley whites, Sancerre, stuff like that. Like Nancy, I love Burgundy, white and red. I have some Bordeaux in my cellar; when I first started collecting wine I collected Mouton-Rothschild. But mainly my cellar is Northern Rhône, white and red Burgundy, and a little bit of New World stuff.

Lenka Davis, wine director at Award of Excellence winner Barbareño in Santa Barbara, Calif.

After evacuating our house twice last winter, I drank the best bottles with close friends. I don't have a single regret and keep the stock now to bare minimum. After all, I built the wine list in the restaurant I work for around the wines I would like to drink anytime, and have 200-plus choices I can make every night.

Ryan Bailey, wine director at Best of Award of Excellence winner NoMad Los Angeles

My cellar is pretty diverse and consists of stuff I am aging, as well as bottles close at hand to drink when friends come over. I have a solid amount of Champagne, older Rieslings, white Burgundies, younger Northern Rhône Syrahs and some random older bottles from California.

Luciano De Riso, wine director at Best of Award of Excellence winner Grand Old House in George Town, Cayman Islands

I enjoy mature Italian wines—Guado al Tasso, Giusto di Notri and Flaccianello are my favorites. Southern Rhône reds are always present—Pégaü, old Beaucastel—and Cornas from Clape are standouts for me.

I do collect based on important dates. I was born in 1982, and I have a few of them, including Sassicaia and Cheval-Blanc. 2015 is the year that I will invest the most in, as it is my son's birth year. I already have a Duclot case, Sassicaia, a few Rhônes, and Leflaive whites from this great vintage.

Seán Gargano, wine director at Award of Excellence winner The Legal Eagle in Dublin, Ireland

My cellar only holds what I drink on a weekly basis. My big regret is that I did not begin collecting earlier. I used to tend to get impatient and drink most of what I had intended to lay down. Then my children came along, and they suck up all of the money I would use to invest in wine. Little nuisances.

Elizabeth-Rose Mandalou, wine director at Award of Excellence winner Allora in Sacramento, Calif.

My restaurant focuses on Italian wine, so naturally I have a mostly Italian wine at home. I also have a lot of wine that is sentimental; several bottles of Franciacorta I picked up on my last visit to Italy a few months back, gifts from friends and guests, and lots of magnums.

I am an equal-opportunist when it comes to wine, so sometimes there will be something really random; Georgian or Macedonian, just for the sake of trying new wine! I do have a few nice bottles of Rioja and Bordeaux, too. The most unfortunate aspect of my collection at home is that it is shockingly humble considering my line of work.

Carlin Karr, wine director at Best of Award of Excellence winner Frasca Food & Wine in Boulder, Colo.

I like to drink all kinds of wines but always have grower Champagne, Chablis, Grüner Veltliner, Northern Rhône Syrah, Sangiovese, southern French reds and whites from producers like Mas Jullien and Château Simone, Nebbiolo and Bordeaux with age in our wine fridge at home. Those are on my regular playlist. My husband and I also have an off-site cellar where we stash away full cases of more blue-chip Burgundy, Barolo and Rhône producers.

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Zooey Deschanel Kicks the Dirt at Long Meadow Ranch; Gronk Chugs Hundred Acre from Bottle (Wine Spectator)

February 7, 2019 - 2:00pm

Zooey Deschanel, actor, musician and OG Millennial, has played a kooky roommate (New Girl), elf love interest (Elf) and ukulele (her band She & Him), and she can now add vineyard farmhand to her résumé. Deschanel visited Napa's Long Meadow Ranch with MasterChef emeritus and host of the online series Purpose Project Alejandro Toro, on the show's latest episode—and the ranchers quickly put them to work.

In the segment, the property's farm to table manager Kipp Ramsey first takes the duo out to massage some dirt and plant kale, then leads them in picking tomatoes and herbs, and preparing a salad and squash risotto in the kitchen. Finally, all sit with Long Meadow owner Laddie Hall for a midday repast: tomato tartare with kasundi and egg yolk, and pork belly with green tomato and beet BBQ, among other dishes, Ramsey relayed to Unfiltered. The group wash it down with glasses of the winery's Anderson Valley Chardonnay and rosé of Pinot Noir, as well as Napa Cabernet and Sauvignon Blanc.

"I believe [Deschanel and Toro] are doing a great job to spread the word on how people can source and grow their food,” Ramsey said via email.

The visit came about because, while Deschanel once played a woman fleeing a toxic attack on humanity launched by the earth's trees (The Happening; spoiler alert?), her relationship with the plant community in real life is much more positive: She's a sustainable food activist, and Long Meadow practices organic and biodiverse farming. The garden powers on-site restaurant Farmstead, a Wine Spectator Restaurant Award winner.

Greg Caparell Zooey Deschanel, Kipp Ramsey and Alejandro Toro show how the salad gets made.

"We had a chance to peek at the 'whole process,' understanding that what truly completes full-circle farming, in this case, is the commitment to community people like Kipp Ramsey and Laddie Hall have," Toro told Unfiltered via email. "So once again I get to circle back on my mission, which is spreading the good word through food, travel and community."

Courtesy of Ceja Vineyards Alejandro Toro and Dalia Ceja crush it real good.

Purpose Project, produced by Tastemade and Capital One, isn't done with North Bay wine country there, though: Toro later visits Garden Creek Vineyards and noshes at Sebastopol's Zazu Kitchen with wine folks Chris Benziger, and Dan Barwick and Sonia Byck-Barwick of Paradise Ridge; the former lost his home and the latter their winery in the 2017 wildfires. He ends his trip picking clusters and tasting wine at Ceja Vineyards, owned and run by the kids and grandchildren of immigrant campesino vineyard workers.

"We even had the opportunity to stomp on some of our grapes. It was the classic 'I Love Lucy' old-fashioned introduction to winemaking—unforgettable experience to say the least!" marketing and sales director Dalia Ceja, who also appears in the segment, told Unfiltered.

Rob Gronkowski's Breakfast of Champions: A Bottle of Hundred Acre Cab at the Super Bowl Parade

Perhaps no Bostonian this side of Sam Adams is more closely associated with beer than New England Patriots tight end and spring break avatar Rob Gronkowski. But after a long and illustrious career of crushing defenses and Buds Light, the 29-year-old has earned a respite from the years of cheap hits and suds his body has been subjected to, and at this week's Super Bowl victory parade, Gronk signaled as much with his beverage of choice: a bottle of 2014 Hundred Acre Napa Valley Cabernet.

Steve Anneari/The Boston Globe/Getty Images On to St. Helena

"A lot of these guys, their public persona is that they're rough and tough football players, but they've got sophisticated tastes," Hundred Acre founder and owner Jayson Woodbridge told Unfiltered. While the rest of the team partook of Luc Belaire bubbly after Sunday night's triumph, Gronk kept the wine party flowing on his duck boat in Boston before switching to beer and the other questionable edible he is known for, Tide Pods.

"I'm in Australia right now, so at the crack of dawn here, before I even woke up, my phone just starts going crazy," Woodbridge said, after photos of Gronk swigging his wine started appearing online. "People writing everything from, 'I hate the Patriots, but I love this guy's tastes' to 'He's awesome, he's an animal, I love it.'"

Woodbridge could not confirm or deny if Gronkowski ever visited the winery, though he did acknowledge he is pro-Patriots. "How they get people riled up—that's the fun part."

Watercolor Painter Graduates to Wine, Shares His Tricks and Techniques

When artist Sam Debey accidentally spilled coffee on a watercolor he was painting years ago, his first thought was that the project was ruined beyond repair. But he noticed that the way the coffee stretched and dried across the page "had a really neat effect," and the mistake turned into a medium, with Debey gaining a reputation for his coffee paintings. It wasn't long before Debey tried another drinkable, dark substance that proved to be even more difficult but stimulating to work with: wine.

Courtesy of Sam Debey

"With coffee you can make it extra strong for darker values or dilute it for lighter ones, but with wine you don’t have that flexibility," Debey told Unfiltered. Now, his wine purchases are two-fold—he'll pour out less than a sip for each painting and then sip the rest himself. Both his palate and palette require drier, more tannic reds. "To anyone giving wine-painting a shot, I would suggest steering clear of white wines, unless you’re painting a polar bear on a snowy backdrop," he said. "Also you don’t want anything too sweet, because that will make the painting sticky or maybe even rot over time."

Debey's subject matter differs from past wine-artists who've dabbled in comics, architectural renderings and blotches. Using a calligraphy quill and a fine brush, Debey sketches "quirky" ideas that tell a story—like his plane-with-wine-glasses-instead-of-engines painting. "Subjects [as] absurd as the medium I’m using [are] the way I like to go."

#WhiteWineEmoji Snubbed in New 2019 Emoji Announcement; Chard Lovers &#x1F621

You may have &#x1F440 the news yesterday about the Unicode Consortium's new batch of emojis for 2019. Did you need a visual shorthand while texting "garlic," "yo-yo," "falafel," "safety vest," "banjo" or "orangutan"? Congratulations, you have been given voice.

But if you were invested in the Great #WhiteWineEmoji Campaign of last summer and fall, you no doubt immediately scrolled down to the "drinks" category of the new v.12 emoji list only to find "mate" (hipster tea), "ice cube" (famously not a liquid) and "beverage box," which theoretically could contain white wine, but it's not quite what the wine-emoji agitators at Kendall-Jackson had in mind.

Kendall-Jackson Still at large

The company, which has spearheaded the design and Unicode proposal for the white wine emoji, fired off an admirably salty press release this morning: "Where’s a white wine emoji when you need one? That’s what Kendall-Jackson is asking. It would’ve come in handy for their virtual cheers yesterday, when news broke of the 230 new emojis just announced."

K-J director of marketing Maggie Curry obliged us with a more detailed update on the situation. "The development of a new emoji is a technical and lengthy process, and one of the obstacles facing the white wine emoji actually involves the adoption of a new technology for color variation for all emojis," she explained via email. "Once in place, it would allow for different colors of the same emoji—as with skin tones" if you press and hold on your phone.

"Who would ever think a winery would have a part in new technology implementation and an emoji for the global keyboard across the world’s billions of phones? It is exciting to say the least." K-J is now submitting a new proposal and hoping the Consortium approves it at one of their upcoming conclaves in April or July. That would allow a rollout sometime in the spring-to-fall 2020 timeframe. For now, we raise our beverage boxes to that.

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Domaine de la Romanée-Conti Appoints New Co-Director (Wine Spectator)

February 7, 2019 - 2:00pm

The shareholders of Burgundy’s Domaine de la Romanée-Conti have appointed Perrine Fenal to replace Henry-Frédéric Roch as co-director together with Aubert de Villaine. Fenal is the daughter of Lalou Bize-Leroy, who served as co-director from 1974 until 1992 and now heads Domaine Leroy.

DRC has been run by members of the de Villaine and Leroy families since Henri Leroy, grandfather of Perrine Fenal, bought 50 percent of its shares in 1942. Leroy was succeeded by his daughter Lalou. When she left in 1992, her late sister Pauline Roch’s son Charles took the helm with de Villaine, but died in a car accident three months later. His brother, Henry-Frédéric replaced him, serving until November 2018, when he passed away.

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“For 26 years, he has accompanied me with competence and friendship,” de Villaine told Wine Spectator. “Henry had a strong idea of the duties of our families regarding the domaine. He was on my side for all the important decisions we had to take. Our collaboration was excellent. He was very appreciated at the domaine and by all his peers in Burgundy for his kindness, human approach and generosity.”

From 1992 until 2004, Fenal, 55, was DRC’s exclusive importer and distributor in Switzerland, where she resides. Since then, she has been a member of the domaine’s advisory board. That role will now be filled by her cousin, Isabelle Roch.

Marvin R. Shanken Honored with Lifetime Achievement Award by Association of Magazine Media (Wine Spectator)

February 6, 2019 - 2:30pm

Marvin R. Shanken, the chairman and founder of M. Shanken Communications Inc., was presented with the lifetime achievement award by the Association of Magazine Media last night in downtown Manhattan. Shanken is the editor and publisher of Wine Spectator, Cigar Aficionado, Whisky Advocate and Market Watch magazines, as well as many print and digital newsletters.

After a video introduction by famed sportscaster Jim Nantz, Jonathan Newhouse, chairman of Condé Nast International, introduced Shanken and presented him with the award.

“Marvin belongs to the elite coterie of magazine makers, the geniuses of our business,” said Newhouse. He praised Shanken’s long history in publishing, particularly his refusal to compromise editorial integrity for advertising revenues. “In today’s media landscape, where the walls between ads and edit are nonexistent, Marvin maintains an iron curtain.”

Shanken’s publishing success story began with the modest acquisition of a wine-and-spirits industry newsletter called Impact in 1973. The book had annual revenues of $10,000, and Shanken bought it for $5,000 with money he borrowed from his sister Elaine and her husband, Danny. In 1979, he acquired the struggling newspaper Wine Spectator, and later redesigned it into the glossy and successful magazine it is today, broadening its focus from the wines of California to the wines of the world, and adding lifestyle coverage.

In 1992 he founded Cigar Aficionado, despite objections from those at his company, and it was profitable from the start. Shanken’s company has grown considerably, from a struggling, small publishing house to one with millions of readers.

With all this achievement has come philanthropy. Shanken’s Wine Spectator Scholarship Foundation has raised more than $25 million for educational and charitable institutions; his Cigar Aficionado Night to Remember dinners have raised more than $20 million for prostate cancer research; and the Els for Autism Pro-Am, which he created with pro golfer Ernie Els, has raised more than $10 million for autism in only 10 years. Its centerpiece is a school in Jupiter, Fla., called the Els Center of Excellence, that currently has 260 students.

Shanken’s acceptance speech was brief, and he was visibly emotional. He gave a special thanks to his wife, Hazel, and his daughters Samantha, Allison and Jessica, who were in the audience with their husbands. He also thanked the employees of his company. There were eight in the audience who had worked for him for more than 30 years, and another eight who had been with him for more than 20 years. “I wouldn’t be here without all the people who are here that have given their lives to M. Shanken Communications,” he said. “Right now I’m just overwhelmed, and thank you all for coming.”

At the conclusion of the event, all in attendance were offered a glass of Nikka from the Barrel Japanese Whisky (Whisky Advocate's 2018 Whisky of the Year) for a celebratory toast.

How Far Will the Supreme Court Go in Wine Retailer Case? (Wine Spectator)

February 6, 2019 - 9:50am

Supreme Court rulings are difficult to predict, especially when the justices are considering arguments that don't fall neatly into conservative or liberal ideologies. That is the case with Tennessee Wine and Spirits Retailers Association v. Zackary Blair, which asks whether a Tennessee durational residency requirement for wine and spirits retailers is constitutional. The justices heard oral arguments Jan. 16 and are expected to reach a decision by summer.

The Tennessee law under challenge mandates a two-year residency to obtain an initial liquor retail license, and a 10-year residency for a renewal (even though the license expires after one year). Additionally, 100 percent of owners, directors and officers have to satisfy these criteria. Two lower courts ruled that this violates the Commerce Clause of the Constitution by discriminating against out-of-state businesses—and they cited Granholm v. Heald, the 2005 case that struck down bans on direct shipping by out-of-state wineries in states that allowed shipping by in-state wineries, as a precedent.

We asked leading constitutional scholars and court watchers what they expect the court to do, based on the case and oral arguments. Will Tennessee's law survive? And will the highest court in the land rule broadly and strike down other restrictions on wine sales?

Read our report on the Jan. 16 oral arguments
Learn more about the case with our comprehensive background report
Find out your state's wine-shipping laws

Will Tennessee's law be upheld?

Scholars and lawyers who have been watching the case agree on one thing: Most justices did not seem sympathetic to Tennessee's durational residency requirement. The attorney defending the law, Shay Dvoretsky, who represented the petitioner, Tennessee Wine & Spirits Retailers Association (TWSRA), was peppered with questions that conveyed skepticism for the utility and constitutionality of Tennessee's law.

From the oral arguments, court scholars believe there's a strong chance justices will strike down the 10-year requirement for renewing a liquor license, and may eliminate the two-year initial waiting period too. "Best-case scenario [for the TWSRA: the justices] could sever that statute and cut out the 10-year and potentially leave the two," said Alva Mather, partner at DLA Piper. The lone dissenting judge in the Sixth District Court of Appeals decision in the case argued for that option.

The TWSRA made the argument that the 21st Amendment, which gives states broad authority to structure their liquor laws, always trumps the Commerce Clause, which prohibits discrimination against out-of-state business interests. In other words, it doesn't matter if it discriminates, because it's alcohol. That argument didn't appear to succeed.

"The justices were very focused on the concern that, if they subscribed to the argument that was being offered, that would allow complete rampant economic protectionism," said Mather.

Marc Sorini, partner at McDermott Will & Emery, agreed, saying that "all of [the justices] seem to reject the idea that something that was blatantly protectionist would be upheld."

However, Sorini adds that the justices were more receptive to the notion that public health and safety concerns should be taken into consideration when evaluating liquor laws that mandate residency. Jerry Ellig, an economist and research professor at George Washington University, agrees. "They would need to do what the states failed to do in Granholm, which is provide some evidence that there's actually a legitimate state reason for this requirement," he said. Whether the petitioner convinced the justices that the state's law serves a legitimate public health and safety concern is up for debate.

The struggle between public health and commerce frames the main tension of this case: How have the 21st Amendment and the Commerce Clause interacted historically, and how should they in the future? The petitioner tried to make a historical appeal, arguing that states should have the same powers to regulate their liquor laws as they did before Prohibition, and that restoring those powers was the goal of section 2 of the 21st Amendment.

A few justices, notably Justices Sonia Sotomayor and Stephen Breyer, were not sympathetic to the historical argument, saying that back then, racial and gender discrimination were also considered valid. Justice Brett Kavanaugh said he viewed the amendment as aiming to protect states that wished to remain dry after Prohibition. "But it didn't empower them to then come up with protectionist laws within the state," said Ellig, recounting Kavanaugh's argument.

If the past is behind us, then the future should frame how we can "treat alcohol as a different commodity but also as a commodity," said Mather. There has to be a middle ground, she said, because she doesn't think that the justices will see one statute—the 21st Amendment or the Commerce Clause—as trumping the other completely. Figuring out what that middle ground should be is what they are tasked with in this case.

Looking at the bigger picture

"[The justices had] a fairly expansive series of questions that went beyond durational residency requirements [like Tennessee's] and onto physical presence requirements that are currently there under the three-tier system," said Tracy Genesen, general counsel for the Wine Institute, a winery trade group. She believes that, while this was not the argument of the respondents, who were merely challenging Tennessee's residency law, the justices could weigh in on laws requiring wine and liquor retail stores to have a physical presence in a state, and whether or not that requirement is also protectionist and should be subject to the Commerce Clause.

But not all agree the justices will go there. "I doubt the opinion [will] say anything about physical presence," said William Cheek III, partner at Waller Lansden Dortch & Davis, who thinks the court will make a narrow ruling. "I strongly doubt that they have some sort of sweeping opinion." He did observe certain justices thinking about the concept during the oral arguments, however. His take was that, while they don't think durational residency requirements pass muster, physical presence of a liquor store makes sense to them.

Whether or not the justices will make a broader ruling on brick-and-mortar stores, it's very plausible that the notion will shape how they decide this case and write a majority opinion. "A lot of the justices who spoke up seemed to be trying to figure out how to rule against the Tennessee law without at the same time saying that the three-tier system requiring in-state wholesalers is discriminatory," said Ellig.

Sorini thinks the justices are concerned that too broad a ruling will affect potential future cases that will go after physical presence requirements, noting that Justice Neil Gorsuch posited that opening this case up will allow an "Amazon of liquor" business model. "He totally recognizes that that's the next issue, and I think they don't want to decide that here," said Sorini.

"I think they're assuming this is where life in the 21st century is going," said Genesen, who thinks Gorsuch wasn't necessarily viewing this idea negatively, but was just "testing out the waters."

The opening up of interstate retailer shipping is what some parties are advocating for in this case, notably the National Association of Wine Retailers, who filed an amicus brief. But it seems like they would need a very broad ruling from the justices to get to that, and most legal analysts are unsure the court will do this. However, the decision in Tennessee Retailers v. Blair is still crucial to their cause.

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"If they lose the big-win argument of the states"—if the court says laws regulating alcohol retailers are immune from Commerce Clause scrutiny—"there is no second case, they're done," said Sorini. But if the court narrowly strikes down Tennessee's law, that leaves the door open to continue fighting in other relevant cases. "I think the ruling they're going to get is going to say: 'You live for another day,'" Sorini added.

What are some likely outcomes?

Let's start with the curveball outcome: The court throws the case out on a technicality. "Is the retailers' association the appropriate party to be bringing this case, and can they bring it if the state of Tennessee doesn't even appear?" asked Cheek, referring to the fact that the petitioner defending Tennessee's law is the association, and not the state itself. Several court watchers say this outcome is possible, but they concede it's not the most probable at this point.

The consensus seems to be that the justices will rule against Tennessee's durational residency law—some experts think they will do so overwhelmingly. But it gets trickier from there: Beyond the decision itself is what kind of opinion a majority of justices can get behind.

"One of the challenges may be that while all the justices seem to want to go in the same direction, you have these seemingly different approaches emerging from the discussions coming from the bench," said Sorini. He explains that there needs to be some kind of standard for whether or not a state liquor law is discriminatory for a legitimate reason. If no majority of justices agrees on one standard, this gives no guidance to the lower courts for similar cases that may be presented to them in the future, including some they are considering now.

"It's going to raise more questions than it answers," said Cheek. For example, if the state's durational residency requirement for retailers is unconstitutional, is a similar requirement for wholesalers also unconstitutional? What about other states' residency requirements, or all other state liquor laws nationwide that may infringe on interstate commerce? The Supreme Court may decide to address this in their opinion. Or, they could strike down the specific law that's in front of them today, and leave all these questions for another day.

Pats Pop Belaire at Super Bowl LIII (Wine Spectator)

February 4, 2019 - 3:30pm

Super Bowl LIII was decidedly low on explosive touchdown plays, but with plenty of sparkling wine on ice, the New England Patriots' championship celebration was no less sweet. (Or was it actually "dry"?) An inside source (aka a representative from importer Sovereign Brands) tells Unfiltered that the Pats were supplied with 100 bottles of Luc Belaire brut sparkling wine for the big game. If the name "rings" a bell, that's because the 2018 NBA Champion Golden State Warriors were spraying it all over their fans in Oakland last summer.

Courtesy of Luc Belaire Not pictured: Bill Belichick's disapproval.

Owner Robert Kraft also broke out cigars in the locker room—and not just any cigars. These were Padrón 50th Anniversary cigars, packed inside a special Patriots-themed version of the Padrón 50th Anniversary Limited Edition humidor. (Sister publication Cigar Aficionado has the full story.)

Whether it was just because the Patriots know how to act like they've been there (five times) before, or just the result of a real slog of a contest, there wasn't a great deal of shouting or bottle-spraying going on in the locker room after the game. Unfiltered, for one, tips our glass: Nothing makes us sadder than wine on the floor.

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Portugal's Largest Wine Company Bets Big on White Wine Grape Arinto (Wine Spectator)

February 4, 2019 - 9:40am

The Portuguese wine group Sogrape Vinhos is making a big bet on a white grape you may not have heard of: Arinto. Last month, the company acquired Quinta da Romeira, owners of Portugal's largest Arinto vineyard, from the Ferreira family. The sale price was not disclosed.

Quinta da Romeira's labels include Prova Régia and Morgado de Sta. Catherina. The winery, located in Bucelas, about 15 miles outside Lisbon, owns 445 acres, of which nearly 185 acres are planted to Arinto. The winery produces more than 50,000 cases per year. The sale allows Sogrape to grow its regional diversity, and confirms the belief among the company's principals that there is quality winemaking potential beyond the Douro Valley.

"The move for the Lisbon region was mandatory for Sogrape," Fernando da Cunha Guedes, Sogrape's CEO, told Wine Spectator. "And to make it in the Bucelas subregion is a source of great joy and pride, but also of great responsibility." António Braga, head winemaker of Sogrape in charge of Mateus, Vinhos Verdes and Dão, will be responsible for the Romeira wines.

Sogrape is the biggest wine company in Portugal, with annual revenue around US$250 million, more than the seven next biggest producers combined. The firm exports 70 percent of its total production, and the United States comprises around 15 percent of its export sales. Historically built on the success of Portuguese rosé Mateus, the family-run company was founded in 1942. The company performs well with both big-volume wines and high-end, terroir-driven cuvées like Casa Ferreirinha's Barca-Velha.

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The company's expansion has been steady, encompassing investments both in Portugal and abroad. Today, Sogrape owns vineyards and brands in New Zealand, Argentina, Chile, and Spain. In Portugal, Sogrape has been working to diversify its regional offerings, with wineries and brands in the Douro and Porto, Bairrada, Vinhos Verdes, Dão, Alentejo and even Madeira.

Arinto, a very aromatic, high-acidity grape that makes expressive and balanced wines, is arguably one of Portugal's best white wine grapes. It's native to the Bucelas appellation, which was established in 1908, but whose wines have earned praise for centuries: During the Napoleonic Wars, the Duke of Wellington, commander of the Portuguese-English allied army and a food and wine lover, carried Arinto de Bucelas wines home to London as an offering to King George III.

Bittersweet Symphony: Chocolate-Raspberry Truffles and Red Wines for Valentine's Day (Wine Spectator)

February 1, 2019 - 1:00pm

Executive pastry chef Jessica Craig is the creative mind behind the sweet treats, or dolci, that grace L'Artusi's Italian-inspired menu in New York City's West Village.

But long before she settled into the dessert zone of the Wine Spectator Award of Excellence winner, Craig was earning broader degrees in the general culinary arts and hospitality management from the New York Institute of Technology.

"My culinary background definitely plays into the mantra of L'Artusi in the fact that we do make sure that we have a balance in all of our dessert dishes," says Craig, who also oversees pastry for sister restaurants Dell'anima and Anfora. "It helps me to be a bit more creative; I definitely use herbs and ingredients that maybe your typical pastry chef wouldn't use.” Her approach is evident in the savory qualities found in menu staples like L'Artusi's olive oil cake.

Evan Sung Before joining L'Artusi in 2017, Craig worked in various kitchens around New York, including Locanda Verde and Costata.

For Valentine's Day, Craig turns to a more classic dessert “that's easy to make, accessible, fun and sexy"—her recipe for chocolate-raspberry truffles.

Since quality raspberries are easier to find in the summer, Craig suggests using either raspberry preserves (a combination of juice, fruit and seeds) or jam (only the fruit juice), depending on your taste. Craig prefers the preserves.

Choosing the chocolate is also up to you. "The brand of chocolate doesn't matter as long as it's a chocolate that you enjoy," she says.

When it comes to making the ganache, Craig recommends carving out time to prepare it in advance—if not the day before, then at least six hours ahead so it has time to set. "Then, once it sets, the rest is easy,'' she says. To finish the truffles, she recommends using coating chocolate (Ghirardelli, among others, offers the product) for a shell with shine and snap. However, she notes, if you can't find that, you can just use additional bittersweet chocolate, as the truffles are rolled in cocoa, which will cover any streaks or dullness to the finish.

With a relatively easy dessert, why not put some extra creativity into the wine pairings? L'Artusi's wine director, Anncherie Saludo, picks two out-of-the-ordinary Italian selections to pair with the truffles.

Evan Sung Wine director Anncherie Saludo manages L'Artusi's 275-selection wine list, with strengths in Tuscany, Piedmont and Sicily.

Her first choice is a Brachetto, an aromatic red grape grown in the Piedmont region. Though it's better known as a lightly sparkling, lightly sweet wine full of berry flavors, she turns instead to a still version made from late-harvested, raisined grapes—the 2013 Forteto della Luja Piemonte Brachetto Passito Pian dei Sogni—as a non-fortified alternative to the classic pairing of chocolate and Port. She describes it as packed with candied cherry notes and a bit more restrained in sweetness. With the dark chocolate, "This could play really well and be fun … since Brachetto is a grape that maybe a lot of people haven't heard of or maybe haven't given much attention to," Saludo said.

For a different approach to the pairing, Saludo goes with a dry red from the Veneto in northern Italy. The 2014 Giuseppe Quintarelli Primofiore is a blend of Corvina, Corvinone, Cabernet Sauvignon and Cabernet Franc, with the Cabernet grapes being partially dried, a traditional technique in the region to concentrate the flavors. The wine's lush, dark fruit flavors, pepper and herb notes, and rich palate, she says, "will meld well with the nuanced bitterness of the chocolate, yet will not overwhelm the tart raspberry-truffle filling."

Below, Wine Spectator shares recently rated selections of sweeter-style and Veneto reds to spoil your loved one with this Valentine's Day.

Bittersweet Chocolate-Raspberry Truffles

  • 10 ounces bittersweet chocolate (such as Ghirardelli 60 percent cacao or Valrhona 60 percent gianduja), broken into small chunks
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 4 ounces raspberry preserves or jam
  • 1 pint heavy cream
  • 1 tablespoon framboise liqueur or brandy (optional)
  • 1 pound of dark coating chocolate (You can use additional bittersweet chocolate instead; dusting the truffles in cocoa powder will cover the finish.)
  • 2 cups Dutched cocoa powder

1. Put the pieces of bittersweet chocolate and the salt in a heatproof bowl. Place the raspberry preserves or jam in a heavy-bottomed pot with the heavy cream. Whisk them together and allow to come to a simmer. Allow the liquid to bubble for a minute before pouring the mixture over the chocolate to melt it.

2. If desired, add framboise or brandy to the bowl. Whisk together the chocolate and the cream mixture, smoothing out any lumps.

3. Transfer the mixture to an appropriately sized container and put into the fridge for at least 6 hours, preferably overnight, to allow the chocolate-raspberry mixture to cool and set. To speed up this process, put the mixture in the freezer for 2 to 3 hours, but make sure to transfer it to the refrigerator after that time or you'll have a solid block of chocolate on your hands.

4. Once your chocolate mixture has cooled and become firm, put your coating chocolate in a microwave-safe bowl. Heat the chocolate in 30- to 45-second intervals, stirring in between, until the chocolate is mostly melted. If there are only a few lumps left, simply stir until those lumps are melted and smooth.

5. Take the chocolate-raspberry mixture out of the fridge and scoop out small (about a 1/2- to 3/4-inch-diameter) balls, placing them on a sheet tray lined with wax or parchment paper. Roll the scoops between your hands to smooth the edges and create nice spheres. Chill the scoops if they seem to be getting warm as you work.

6. Once your scoops are prepared and chilled completely, dip them in the melted coating chocolate one at a time and return them to the tray. Once they are all dipped, roll them in a bowl lined with the cocoa powder. Chill until ready to consume. Makes 24 to 36 truffles.

10 Recommended Wines for Pairing with Chocolate Truffles

Note: The following lists are selections of outstanding and very good wines from recently rated releases. More options can be found in our Wine Ratings Search.

Sweet Reds from Around the World

QUINTA DO CRASTO Late Bottled Port 2013 Score: 88 | $25
Solid, with dark chocolate, warm plum and blackberry cobbler flavors woven together, backed by a flash of roasted vanilla on the fleshy finish. Drink now. 4,100 cases made. From Portugal.—James Molesworth

ICARDI Brachetto Piemonte Surì Vigin 2016 Score: 87 | $16
Lightly sweet and candied, with tangy acidity balancing the easy-drinking profile of cherry pie, baking spices and candied orange zest. Drink now. 2,500 cases made. From Italy.—Alison Napjus

MARENCO Brachetto d'Acqui Pineto 2017 Score: 87 | $24
A balanced Brachetto that's just off-dry, with expressive notes of candied cherry and raspberry fruit, milk chocolate shavings and mandarin orange peel, and hints of herb and spice on the lightly tangy finish. Drink now. 1,666 cases made. From Italy.—A.N.

CLOS FIGUERAS Priorat Sweet 2017 Score: 86 | $25
Candied flavors of kirsch and maraschino cherry are bright and sweet in this lively red. Firm tannins and citrusy acidity give it a red-wine structure. Expressive, distinctive. Garnacha. Drink now. 91 cases made. From Spain.—Thomas Matthews

MORINI Vino da Tavola-Emilia-Romagna Mood Wine Sweet On You Red NV Score: 86 | $15
Floral and well-spiced, with a ripe profile of steeped and candied black cherry and raspberry fruit. Medium-bodied and balanced overall, with a chewy finish. Sangiovese with Syrah. Drink now. 10,000 cases made. From Italy.—A.N.

JAM JAR Shiraz Western Cape Sweet 2017 Score: 85 | $12
An off-dry style, with a friendly core of cherry and strawberry jam notes that have just enough energy to stay honest on the finish. Serve with a light chill alongside heavily sauced barbecue. Drink now. 88,889 cases made. From South Africa.—J.M.

Veneto Reds

MICHELE CASTELLANI Valpolicella Classico Superiore San Michele Ripasso 2016 Score: 91 | $28
This fresh, harmonious red shows a lovely, creamy mix of crushed black cherry, subtle spice and mineral, leather and smoke. Medium-bodied and elegant, with supple tannins firming the finish. Drink now through 2023. 5,000 cases made.—Alison Napjus

TOMMASI Valpolicella Classico Superiore Ripasso 2015 Score: 90 | $27
A well-balanced, medium-bodied red, with a fresh mix of crushed cherry, toasted spice and tobacco flavors underscored by iron and mineral notes. Elegant, with supple tannins firming the finish. Drink now through 2025. 2,300 cases imported.—A.N.

ZENATO Valpolicella Superiore Ripassa 2015 Score: 90 | $30
This elegant red is well-balanced, layering light, creamy tannins and flavors of plumped cherry, anise and orange peel in a medium-bodied frame. A hint of graphite-laced mineral lingers on the finish. Drink now through 2024. 35,000 cases made.—A.N.

BRIGALDARA Valpolicella Superiore Ripasso 2015 Score: 89 | $28
A well-knit, medium-bodied red, with light, supple tannins layered with a pleasing mix of baked plum, crushed black cherry, and hints of cured tobacco and star anise. Drink now through 2021. 4,500 cases made.—A.N.

Naples Winter Wine Festival Raises Nearly $16 Million for Children (Wine Spectator)

February 1, 2019 - 12:30pm

This story was updated Feb. 11.

The nation's top charity wine auction event retained its crown and raised nearly $16 million, in online and live auction bids, for children in need last week. Murky weather did not dampen the excitement at the 2019 Naples Winter Wine Festival, held Jan. 24-27 at the Ritz-Carlton Golf Resort in Naples, Fla. Saturday's live auction raised nearly $13.1 million, passing last year's $12.8 million. Since its 2001 inception, the festival has raised more than $191 million for children in need in Collier County, Fla.

"The incredible amount of support that we receive year after year continues to blow us away and we are honored to have been a part of such a successful year," Naples Children & Education Foundation CEO Maria Jimenez-Lara told Wine Spectator via email.

A vintage vertical wine tasting and luncheon on Thursday, highlighting Maison Joseph Drouhin and Domaine Drouhin Oregon wines, kicked off the weekend. That was followed by Meet the Kids Day and a Vintner's dinner on Friday, which showcased 18 celebrity chefs, including Charlie Palmer and Tom Colicchio, and more than 30 winemakers including honored vintners Daphne and Bart Aruajo of Accendo Cellars in Napa.

The excitement persisted during the event's main live auction event, featuring 60 lots offering a range of experiences including fine wine, luxury cars and a trip to the 2020 Olympics. The live auction's Fund-a-Need lot, with the goal of improving children's mental health, raised $2.8 million alone.

"The topic [of mental health] is very sensitive and relevant in our community," said Jimenez-Lara. "After meeting and hearing personal stories from children who have been aided and bettered by NCEF’s programming and initiatives [during Meet the Kids Day], everyone left feeling inspired and excited for the Saturday live auction."

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Other top wine lots included a four-person visit to all of Bordeaux's First Growth vineyards and a set of bottles from the 1982 vintages of Château Haut-Brion, Château Latour, Château Margaux and Château Mouton-Rothschild. The lot sold for $240,000. A lot featuring a rare 8 double magnum collection of Screaming Eagle's first Cabernet Sauvignon bottles, from 1992 to 1999, sold for $350,000.

Four couples won the chance to join Shahpar and Darioush Khaledi of Napa's Darioush winery aboard a luxury yacht for a cruise along the coasts of Southern Italy and Croatia, and four double magnums of Darioush Darius II Cabernet Sauvignon 2015. The lot sold for $400,000.

Wine Talk: Zac Posen's Designs on Food and Wine (Wine Spectator)

February 1, 2019 - 8:00am

You’ve probably seen Zac Posen’s gowns, handbags and accessories on red carpet–strutting celebrities, or his appearances as a judge on Project Runway and on his 2017 Netflix documentary House of Z. But long before his career in fashion began, the American designer spent his childhood in the kitchen mimicking his mom’s baking with clay models of pies. “Experimenting with food developed into a great love of the creative,” Posen says.

In 2017 Posen, 38, published a cookbook, Cooking with Zac: Recipes From Rustic to Refined (Rodale Books); he frequently posts pictures of his kitchen successes on social media under the hashtag #cookingwithzac. “Food for me is my fashion detox,” he explains. “It’s what I do on the weekends, it’s what I do when I go home. It’s really my fashion release.”

The longtime love affair with food eventually sparked a passion for wine. Adding to his typical client list of models and celebrities, Posen has dressed up bottles of VieVité rosé and Ecco Domani Pinot Grigio, deeming fashion and wine the “perfect match.” Posen spoke to Wine Spectator editorial assistant Brianne Garrett about his favorite pairings from his cookbook, his “nerdy” fascination with the history and science of wine, and his surprising connection to the Champagne region.

Courtesy of Zac Posen / Rodale Books Zac Posen in his garden

Wine Spectator: What cultivated your love of food and wine?
Zac Posen: I’ve always cooked. I grew up in a very creative household, and my father [is] a painter, Stephen Posen. At the end of the day he would cook, every day, and he believed very strongly about having dinner together as a family in a very traditional manner.

Growing up, I have to give major credit to New York City, a food capital. I grew up in SoHo, and SoHo was not a residential area, so there weren't really supermarkets or food shops. But what we did have was Chinatown, from the produce to the fish to the Asian ingredients. And we had Little Italy—amazing pastas, cured meats [and] cheeses.

By the time I was in my early teens, I would voraciously read cookbooks and watch pretty much any cooking shows that I could find on TV. I love to entertain, and I have cultivated a repertoire of different menus and learning about different ingredients, and then that leads us to wine.

WS: When did wine enter the mix?
ZP: My grandfather on my mother's side opened a liquor store shortly after Prohibition in New York City. My grandparents were kind of self-cultured people, and although I never knew the wine store—it wasn't around by the time I was born—I think that heritage, and understanding his search and quest for importing and bringing different wines and spirits to his store, was something that was in my household.

My first fashion show experience was sponsored by Ecco Domani over 17 years ago. I won something the first year called the Ecco Domani Award—a fashion fund where they found emerging designers and talent and gave them a prize. If I [hadn’t won] the prize, I would never have been able to put on my [own] fashion show. Then, three years ago, we started on a two-year project on the development of labeling [with Ecco Domani], and then that led to last summer’s introduction to a really luxe, niche brand called VieVité and developing a gorgeous rosé for the summer. It all starts with tasting the wine.

WS: How does wine play a role in your cookbook?
ZP: I feel like wine is like a great perfume, and it’s a really personal thing. There was a big question when I was doing my cookbook [whether] we were going to do a cocktail section or a wine-pairing element to it. I definitely have some writings in the book about pairing with wine, but I really wanted to give that personal trust to the reader and to the creator. But certainly there are numerous pairings and [examples of] cooking with wine throughout the book.

Wine is an ingredient within the book, so whether it’s a roast or braising with wine, it’s definitely part of how to elevate the experience. The VieVité rosé pairs incredibly well with my branzino. The floral notes in the wine, the dryness to the sweetness of the fish—it’s perfect. I recently made my lamb chops about two weekends ago at my parents’ farm, where I do a lot of my cooking, and I brought out a very precious and rare bottle of Lafite, and it was delicious, absolutely delicious.

WS: Are you involved in any other creative wine and food projects at the moment?
ZP: I’m part of the Order of Champagne, and I was inducted into this years ago. One time I had contemplated wanting to put together a feature film on the history of the making of Champagne. I just find the whole history of [wine] brilliant and fascinating and special. It’s a special, decadent side of our history and of our luxury. Even being in Rome a few months ago and seeing these ancient, clay transport pots of wine or oil—it’s unbelievable, the history of this and the importance of it.

I’m [also] deep into agriculture. I garden and I plant and I grow a lot of my vegetables, so just understanding the cultivation of vines and of the soil and the vineyard is something that—in my nerdiest, science side—is fascinating to me.

I think food, wine and fashion are love, and I want to share that love. And I also feel like my place here on this planet is to promote and empower people to get in touch with their own creativity. Food and wine are great avenues and stimulators for that.

A version of this interview appears in the March 31, 2019, issue of Wine Spectator, "Bordeaux's Classic Cabernets," on newsstands Feb. 19. See what else is new!