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8 & $20 Recipe: Cod en Papillote with a Zesty White (Wine Spectator)

December 12, 2018 - 11:00am

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.

Cooking is often about the total transformation of ingredients. But it’s refreshing to showcase the natural essence of a few components, especially those with delicate flavors, like the cod and zucchini in this recipe.

The key to making simple dishes delicious is seasoning at each stage. For these parchment paper–wrapped packets, you’ll salt and pepper in between layers, building flavor into each bite. The carrot and zucchini add sweetness, but you can swap in pretty much any vegetable that can be cut into thin strips, as well as your favorite herb (or herbs) in place of rosemary.

The parchment-paper packets act as individual steamers in the oven, melding all the flavors as they roast together. The cooking liquids create a juicy filet and a savory-sweet, citrusy sauce that drips down to the vegetables, infusing them with flavor. Once you pull the packets from the oven, you have a fully composed dish. Unlike most “set it and forget it” dishes, it’s ready in less than 30 minutes.

Just as the lemon, capers and tomatoes add juicy acidity that complements the cod, a bright, zesty white like a Sauvignon Blanc will balance all the flavors well. I went with one from a producer based in the Loire Valley, the Saget La Perrière Sauvignon Blanc Vin de France La Petite Perrière 2017; its herbaceous character brought out the rosemary element in the dish, while its citrus notes enhanced the lemon.

So grab a bottle—or a few—because this dish works as both a last-minute weeknight meal or a showstopper at your next dinner party. Serve the packets as is, and let guests unwrap the surprise!

Cod en Papillote

Pair with a bright, acidic white such as Saget La Perrière Sauvignon Blanc Vin de France La Petite Perrière 2017 (87 points, $13).

Prep time: 12 minutes
Cooking time: 15 minutes
Total time: 27 minutes
Approximate food costs: $25

  • 1 zucchini, julienned into 1/8-inch strips
  • 1 large carrot, julienned into 1/4-inch strips
  • 16 cherry tomatoes, halved
  • Salt
  • Pepper
  • 4 cod filets, 1/4 pound each
  • 1 lemon, thinly sliced
  • 4 teaspoons capers
  • Olive oil
  • White wine
  • 4 sprigs rosemary

1. Preheat oven to 375 F. Cut four 1-foot-by-1-foot pieces of parchment paper.

2. For each piece of parchment paper: Add about 5 zucchini strips, 5 carrot strips and 8 tomato halves. Season with salt and pepper, and place a piece of cod on top. Season cod with salt and pepper, top with 3 lemon slices and 1 teaspoon of capers. Sprinkle with olive oil and white wine, and place a rosemary sprig on top.

3. Fold opposite sides of the parchment paper so they cover the fish, then make several small, tight folds on the two other sides to seal up the packets. Place packets on a baking sheet and put in the oven for 12 minutes, or 14 minutes for slightly larger filets. When done, the fish should easily flake with a fork.

4. Transfer each packet to a plate and open carefully, being cautious of the hot steam. Serves 4.

Wine Talk: Reggae-Rock Band Pepper (Wine Spectator)

December 11, 2018 - 10:00am

Since forming in Kailua-Kona, Hawaii, in 1997, Pepper has become one of the most popular reggae-rock bands on the scene. Members Kaleo Wassman, Bret Bollinger and Yesod Williams have been traveling the world for more than two decades, releasing seven studio albums along the way, and performing everywhere from sold-out amphitheaters to surfing competitions to low-key, hyperlocal festivals. And while plastic cups filled with beer usually litter the place at these joints, on the Pepper tour bus, wine has long been the drink of choice.

In the fall of 2017, Thomas Booth, a winemaker and the owner of Wine Boss wine bar in Paso Robles (and a longtime Pepper fan), approached the band with an idea to make a wine using the cover art of Pepper's most popular album, Kona Town. It didn't take much for the trio to embrace the wine business: Less than a year after the band's initial conversation with Booth, Pepper Kona Town wine is a fixture onstage at every show—and with the creation of their second and third releases, the band have become regulars at the Paso winery as well.

Following the success of the original 75-case run of the Kona Town Red Blend 2016, the band has just released a 2017 Red Blend "2"; now more tuned in to the winemaking process, they sourced only organically grown grapes from the Clarksburg area (the wine is Certified Green by Lodi Rules), decided to limit oak influence to neutral barrels, and put out a blend of 60 percent Petit Verdot, 30 percent Cabernet Sauvignon and 10 percent Cabernet Franc. A 2017 California rosé is also available, and the wines now ship to 35 states, though the brand continues to gain fans locally—and converts among fellow reggae-rockers. "What we're doing with Pepper wine is a grassroots type of movement," Booth told Wine Spectator.

Wine Spectator assistant editor Lexi Williams spent time with the trio during a recent concert in Coney Island, Brooklyn, to talk about the band's humble wine roots, first "oh yeah!" wines and grand plans for wine to conquer the alt-rock scene.

Pepper at the Ford Amphitheater at Coney Island Boardwalk in Brooklyn; photos by Cheyne Dean/Voyage in Veil Photography

Wine Spectator: How did wine come to be a staple on your tour bus?
Bret Bollinger, 38, bassist-vocalist: Oh man. We got into wine a long time ago. There's obviously great cuisine in Hawaii, and we kind of cut our teeth just [working in restaurants]. The tourists would come in and try all these different wines. We learned a lot about wine and wine pairing. We all kind of fell in love.
Yesod Williams, 38, drummer: I worked at Roy's [the Waikoloa location of chef Roy Yamaguchi's Hawaiian-fusion restaurant chain] for years on the Big Island. We all know what we're talking about when it comes to wine and what good wine is.
Kaleo Wassman, 40, guitarist-vocalist: It was like the most important luxury that Pepper could always kind of afford, because no matter what, there's always a price range that it would fall into.

Wine Spectator: What are your personal wine tastes like?
YW: We started out with reds, but as time has gone on [we got more into whites]. My favorite white wine is Ramey Chardonnay. That shit is like—it almost coats the whole inside of your mouth. I found out about Ramey in '96, when I was working at Roy's. It was the $150 bottle of white. Someone would order Ramey, and you'd be like, "Oh yeah!"
KW: My go-to is actually Chile. Chilean Cabernets are one of my all-time favorites. Also, I was in Portugal for about three weeks … [for] a little surf trip. It was the first time that I'd ever had a Vinho Verde. It was the most incredible, effervescent white wine that I've ever had. It was so delicious with all the seafood that they served.
BB: I like Old World wines. It could be because I spend so much time in Europe—I've lived in Spain part-time for about the last five years, and I have a home that's almost done there in Madrid. I like [wines] to have a lot of personality. I love Bordeauxs. I love Riojas. I like a Chianti. I'm getting into Malbec a lot too.

Wine Spectator: People might not necessarily associate your kind of music and lifestyle with wine. What would you say about that?
KW: The one thing about that is that I'm really interested in wine. I've always been a firm believer in making sure that you fill your own cup before you try to fill anyone else's. What we've done here with Thomas [Booth] is kind of really special. It seems like every single one of our peer [bands] have launched a beer—311, Rebelution, Sublime, Dirty Heads. We're kind of like the only band in our genre that is spearheading wine.
BB: It doesn't seem like it would go, but it absolutely does. I think it can enrich and invigorate certain types of music. Do I want to go see Slayer and drink wine? Maybe not right off the top. But do I want to see Maynard [James Keenan] and Tool or Perfect Circle? I do! Especially because he's so invested in wine culture and his journey with that.
YW: Some people think like, "Oh, band guys are going to make a wine." And then they're like, "Holy shit, this is actually good." And then they're like, "Wait, I didn't mean it like that!"

Wine Spectator: What's the next step for Pepper wine?
BB: We're excited to have quality wine. We took the time with [Booth] up there in Paso Robles to enjoy it and, you know, take it nice and slow. We're not just unleashing a bunch of wines on people. We're tasting and tasting and tasting until our teeth are red.
KW: We want to make it accessible. If you are able to help a novice and get them willing to try it, that's fantastic. For people to just enjoy, and then think, is what I want. Sometimes I listen to a song and I just enjoy it. I don't think about it. I'm not even listening to the words, I'm not trying to figure out what key it's in or what the tempo is or who's it by.

I'd say our three-year plan is to make sure that our wine is at every festival that includes this genre. I'm talking a huge presence, like our own parties and after-parties. And just make it fun, make it a lifestyle, because that's what it is.

The ambition runs pretty rapid, so now it's like, what's next? [In five years], a destination concert festival for our wine with bands in our genre, maybe that is in multiple places. The Warped Tour just got done, maybe we'll take over. The Wine Tour!

Unfiltered: Scott Pruett Designs Custom Lexus Wine Car; Bugatti Gets a Carbon-Fiber Champagne (Wine Spectator)

December 11, 2018 - 8:00am

You're at the dealership ready to sign a lease on a brand-new Lexus. The 302-horsepower V6, dynamic radar cruise control, adaptive variable suspension and Apple CarPlayTM come standard, but as a discerning wine lover on the go, might you be interested in some upgrades? Onboard temperature-controlled wine fridge? Iceless bottle chiller? Insulated four-glass case? All of that set in a tasteful oak frame with repurposed wine-barrel accents in the trunk, plus wine-cork floormats and festive stemware-and-utensils headrest trim, wrapped in a zippy Tempranillo paintjob? Welcome to the Lexus ES 350 F Sport "Culinary Build," powered by champion pro race-car driver–turned–Syrah star Scott Pruett.

If that sounds like your dream car, the bad news is it probably is, in that you'll never own one. It's a concept car that's been making the rounds from auto shows to the Napa Valley Film Festival to upcoming food-and-wine fests like Pebble Beach and Aspen, and Lexus gave Unfiltered a definitive-sounding answer to our obvious question: "None of the features are expected to be available in a production car."

Photos courtesy of Lexus

Pruett has raced in all sorts of 4-wheeled contraptions, from karts to Indy cars to NASCAR to Grand-Am, and he's partnered with Lexus behind the wheel, in front of the camera and in the design studio since the early 2000s; he's also been making some of the top-finishing Syrahs and Cabernets in the Sierra Foothills since putting down roots in 2006. When Lexus needed to figure out what kinds of features a winemobile should have, they knew who should copilot the project.

"So, obviously not wanting to have anything alcohol-based in the cockpit area," Pruett told Unfiltered of the design process. "Doing something in the trunk, and then talking through, 'How would it work, how would you use this as a consumer, going out on a beautiful day to a picnic, something romantic or special?'" Pruett provided some bottles—and even staves and heads from some old barrels to furnish the trunk.

Concept cars can get pretty fanciful and the ideas, like most of the cars themselves, don't always fly. But "people are digging it," Pruett said of the vinous ES. Lexus said there would be no commercially produced car with all the wine mods. But … maybe there should be, Scott Pruett? "Lexus just did this as a one-off. But with that being said, I think there's some elements—especially the wine fridge and stuff in the trunk—it's really cool!" he laughed. "I'm going to have to see if I can get one for myself!"

Champagne Carbon Mods Bottle into Race Car, Fuels the New Bugatti Divo

While Lexus was imagining the car-as–wine bar, Champagne Carbon in Reims has been designing its bottles like race cars. Each is clad in three layers of carbon fiber in a packaging process done by hand that takes a week to finish, head export manager Jean-Baptiste Prevost told Unfiltered. The inspiration is Formula 1 cars—also made of carbon fiber, as the polymer is considerably lighter than steel. Somewhat surprisingly, given the crowded podium of driver-winemakers out there, F1 was without a Champagne sponsor for a few years until 2017, when the relatively new winery shifted into the position. (Carbon CEO Alexandre Mea was an amateur karting jockey, Prevost explained.)

Photos courtesy of Bugatti and Champagne Carbon

After clinching the partnership with the world's fastest car sport, Carbon announced last month it would also be riding along with the manufacturer of the world's fastest sports car (or one of them, anyway): Bugatti. "Bugatti was looking for partners who have the same vision … in terms of design and quality and craftsmanship—and French!" Prevost explained. The house unveiled a special cuvée for Bugatti's 110th anniversary victory lap. Called EB01, it's a 2002 vintage Chardonnay-dominated wine from grands and premiers crus.

While Prevost and his team have created a special blend and bottle, and mind-melded with their Bugatti counterparts on events planning and sales synergy (the U.S. market is Carbon's next race), Prevost noted that a recent work trip also involved strapping into a brand-new Bugatti Divo, a perfectly street-legal automobile that happens to have a 1,479-horsepower, 16-cylinder quad-turbocharged engine, goes 236 miles per hour, 0 to 60 in 2.4 seconds and costs $5.8 million.

Which is a very impressive feat of engineering. We humbly submit if they can do that, we should also be able to get the wine fridge in the trunk thing.

Enjoy Unfiltered? The best of Unfiltered's round-up of drinks in pop culture can now be delivered straight to your inbox every other week! Sign up now to receive the Unfiltered e-mail newsletter, featuring the latest scoop on how wine intersects with film, TV, music, sports, politics and more.

Malibu Wine Region Wildfire Survivors Brace for Mudslides (Wine Spectator)

December 7, 2018 - 4:00pm

First came fire, then rain. As if recent devastating wildfires hadn’t caused enough suffering for the beleaguered Malibu Coast wine region, an unexpected severe storm dumped an estimated 2 inches of rain on Southern California yesterday. Mud and debris flowed down from the fire-scorched Malibu hills onto the Pacific Coast Highway (PCH) during the morning commute, forcing officials to close the road until late afternoon.

(The storm also dumped several inches of snow on a stretch of Interstate 5, California’s main north-south thoroughfare, that passes through the Santa Monica Mountains, forcing its closure too).

An already massive and complicated cleanup of the hills between Highway 101 and the Malibu coast that was devastated by the Woolsey fire is now even more complicated. Not only are vintners and growers in the appellation dealing with the loss of homes, vineyards and habitat due to fire, but now they’ve got to think about rain, flooding and mudslides as California’s rainy season begins. (Fires increase the risk of mudslides by stripping the hills of vegetation that holds the soil in place.)

The Malibu Coast American Viticultural Area (AVA), established in 2014, encompasses some 50 vineyards totaling approximately 200 acres spread out over 44,598 acres. None of the producers have winemaking facilities on site, due to local restrictions. Wines from Malibu grapes are generally produced in facilities in the Central Coast area. They are all small-production wines, sold mostly to high-end local restaurants in L.A. and consumers in the local tasting rooms or wine clubs.

The recent Woolsey fire devastated the area and hit many of the vineyards and wineries hard. Although the extent of damages and losses may not be fully known for many months, some vintners have lost everything: homes, vineyards and tasting rooms.

Dakota Semler, owner of Semler Malibu Estates and Saddlerock Vineyards, lost his house and vineyards and narrowly managed to save the exotic animals that were a part of Malibu Wine Safaris, his company that runs open-air vehicle “safaris” through his hillside vineyards.

Others' homes were spared, but still face damaged vineyards. Howard Leight, owner of Malibu Rocky Oaks Estate Vineyards, said, “Our vineyards and estate were originally planted for erosion and fire control, so I took everything and threw it into the house, which was like a fortress—covered French limestone. The vines actually took the brunt of the hit.”

In the days following the fires, locals and celebrities, many of whom had lost their own homes, banded together to form the Malibu Foundation to aid those who needed help the most. Gathering at the home of actor Gerard Butler and partner Morgan Brown, the celebs managed to raise $2 million to aid victims of the fire. Jamie Foxx, Sean Penn, Cindy Crawford, Rande Gerber, Pierce Brosnan, Minnie Driver and Robin Thicke, along with Butler and Brown, were among those on hand. Miley Cyrus and Liam Hemsworth (who lost their home in the fire) donated $500,000 to the cause. The Malibu Foundation’s website continues to accept donations for victims.

What’s next for Malibu’s vintners and growers? There will be a need for vine cuttings to replace damaged or destroyed vines. And more immediately, growers will need to prepare for the effects of rain. “There will be a very high potential for debris flow for the next three or four years,” said Chris Stone, assistant deputy director of the Los Angeles County Department of Public Works. “But we can identify where they will likely go. That helps us to plan, evacuate and be prepared.”

With the rains falling hard today, rebuilding will have to wait for now.

8 Gifts for Every Kind of Wine Lover (Wine Spectator)

December 7, 2018 - 12:00pm

Searching for the perfect holiday gift for the wine lover in your life? We’ve got ideas for everything from stocking stuffers (you can never have too many corkscrews!) to gifts for gadget geeks and professional-grade wine region maps for the true student of wine.

Pulltap’s Corkscrew


The classic waiter’s key is a marvel of simple, efficient design, and these double-hinged versions are Wine Spectator tasting department–approved. They’re also simple to tuck into a pocket (or a stocking), come in pretty much every color of the rainbow, can be personalized, and cost a measly 7 bucks—that’s buy-by-the-case value!

Courtesy of Artificer Wood Works Artificer Wood Works Wine Boxes

Starting at $35,

There’s a reason that so many of the world’s most sought-after trophy wines come in fancy wood boxes emblazoned with the winery’s logo—it adds an element of luxury that makes the moment you open it feel that much more special. If you’re giving a bottle of wine to a friend or loved one this holiday season, you can add that same level of sophistication with a personalized wood box from Artificer Wood Works. The boxes are made from aspen and Baltic birch, come in a range of sizes and finishes and can be customized in limitless ways. Artificer also plants one tree for every product sold through a partnership with Trees for the Future, a non-profit working to end hunger and poverty among farmers on degraded lands around the world.

Of course, you might be reading this at the last minute, in which case you'll want to check out our video for tips on how to personalize a gift bottle with all kinds of fancy gift-wrapping ideas …

[videoPlayerTag videoId="5852516410001"] Courtesy of Wine by Your Side Wine by Your Side Ice Bucket


This innovative ice bucket saves valuable space by easily but securely affixing to a table or counter via a steel extension with rubber-sleeved ends that both grip and protect your surfaces. The stainless-steel bucket is double-walled to both prevent sweating and keep ice from prematurely melting. Just add wine!

Courtesy of WineGame DIY Blind Tastings with the WineGame App

Free download,

Speaking of entertaining, any wine lover with a smartphone will appreciate the WineGame app from chef José Andrés' ThinkFoodGroup, available on iOS and GooglePlay. All your party needs is four bottles of wine and a way to conceal them for the blind-tasting element. (Kraft wrap, perhaps?) Just make sure no one peeks! Here's how it works: The designated host enters the information about the wines into the app to begin a new game. They can then invite others with the app (did we mention it's free?) to join. Each player samples the wines blind, and the app generates questions about the wines' grapes, regions and vintages. Clues and second guesses are welcome, but the attainable points diminish with each incorrect answer. Technically the person with the most points wins, but we all know that no one loses when it comes to wine tasting.

Courtesy of Savino Savino Connoisseur Wine-Saving Carafe


In a perfect world, we would open and enjoy our wine all in the same day, but there's often some leftover after cooking or having a glass after work. This wine-preserving glass carafe keeps wine fresher than leaving it in the bottle with the cork, for up to a week. Just pour your leftover wine into the Savino carafe, then insert the provided float that protects the wine from oxygen. When you're ready to have another glass, you can easily pour from the carafe—no need to remove the float. Once you've finished off the wine, just run Savino through the dishwasher and it's ready to save more wine and money!

Courtesy of Rabbit Rabbit LED Bottle Stoppers


While wine is naturally one of the highlights of any outdoor party or occasion, now it can literally light up the celebration with these L.E.D. bottle stoppers. This set of 2 batteries-included stoppers is good for 96 hours of festive bottle-topping nightlighting. They make for a great stocking stuffer!

Courtesy of De Long De Long Wine Region Maps

Starting at $20,

For the wine lover who loves to learn about where their wine came from, these De Long wine region maps are the perfect addition to a home, cellar or office. The maps, which can also be purchased handsomely framed, are available for a dozen wine regions, from California to France to New Zealand and beyond, and include index booklets for more context. Now you can learn as you sip!

Courtesy of Zingerman's Zingerman's Oil & Vinegar Odyssey Gift Box


Oil and vinegar are great staples for any kitchen, but the kitchen of a wine lover would especially benefit from a gift box filled with Spanish red wine vinegar that's been barrel aged for four years. Combine it with the extra-virgin olive oil for a vinaigrette that's something to celebrate any time of year.

Unfiltered: Silver Oak at Golden State: Winery Unveils Throwback Warriors Logo Bottles, Becomes In-Arena Pour (Wine Spectator)

December 6, 2018 - 3:00pm

The Bay Area is joining the NBA's wine league with a splash. The Golden State Warriors are partnering with Silver Oak, and the Napa and Sonoma Cabernet house announced it will be providing the team's official in-seat pours at Oracle Arena and releasing an etched set of five Warriors-themed Cabernet bottles.

Courtesy of Silver Oak The starting lineup suits up.

Platinum–ranked Silver Oak first came to Golden State in 2015 through All-Star Draymond Green. The power forward and Michigan State alum made a wager against LeBron James over a college football game: Green's alma mater versus James' home team Ohio State. Because James is the dean of NBA enophiles who drains Cabernet like he does three-pointers (enthusiastically but in moderation), he set the terms at two cases of wine. The Spartans won, and Green found 2 cases of Silver Oak Napa Cabernet in the mail.

"The [bet] really kicked this off. We saw this incredible energy and very authentic interest, and a lot of new customers discovering us through that initial introduction," explained Silver Oak director of marketing Ian Leggat to Unfiltered. Soon after, Silver Oak partnered with the San Francisco Giants and discovered sports and wine fandom made for a natural pairing, with "people being kind of ritualistic in their sports routines, where they have certain traditions in terms of what they want to eat and drink." After the introduction at Oracle, the plan is for Silver Oak to follow the Warriors to the new Chase Center, where the Warriors will relocate next season. Warriors chief revenue officer Brandon Schneider told Unfiltered via email that his team is "looking forward to collaborating together on content and experiences we think our fans will enjoy, in addition to some great co-branded wine we know our fans will love."

The first such wines are a collector set for superfans of the Silver and Golden, a 5-bottle pack of 2014 Alexander Valley Cabernets, each etched with the Warriors' five historical logos over the past half-century, to open "for five winning Warrior moments"—individual player records, going to the playoffs, winning the championship, winning the championship again ….

'Three Days of Glory' Film Follows Five Months of Misery in Burgundy's Brutal 2016 Vintage

When frost smashed Burgundy vineyards on April 27, 2016, ultimately causing some winemakers to lose more than 80 percent of their crop, director and producer Scott Wright and his crew were in the middle of shooting a documentary—about the struggles of grapegrowing. "The idea was to show the stories of these small family winegrowers and the difficulties they were facing after all these difficult vintages [since 2009]," Wright told Unfiltered. "Then suddenly on top of this comes this crushing 2016 vintage. It just amplified the story we had already intended to tell, and it created a lot more drama then we had anticipated."

The resulting film, codirected by Wright (himself an Oregon winemaker) and American Wine Story director David Baker is Three Days of Glory, which debuted last month for American audiences on streaming platforms like iTunes and Amazon.

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The severity of the 2016 vintage and the tiny crop it yielded might have caught the filmmakers by surprise, but the goal of telling the story of the small family wineries, remained intact and became perhaps even more urgent. "People probably think these winemakers are rich, and they have this very sexy, glamorous life, and that's not necessarily the case," Wright said. "They live wonderful lives, but at the end of the day, these are farmers out working in the dirt with their own hands." Still, even in the face of 2016's grind, vintners, merchants, chefs, critics and connoisseurs of Burgundy gathered to bid the harvest adieu with an epic annual fête—the titular Les Trois Glorieuses.

Three Days of Glory Château des Rontets on a "Burgundy tropical" day

After the headaches of 2016 subsided and filming wrapped, good news was on the horizon, with auspicious seasons for many in 2017 and 2018, Wright added. The vignerons "now have the ability to start digging themselves out of the hole that they were in."

Take Note: 'Fantastic Beasts' Star Ezra Miller's Champagne Pen

Ezra Miller is certainly not the first celebrity to accessorize with wine, but his intellectual-chic ensemble at a recent Dior fashion show in Tokyo made a splash nonetheless.

Twitter / @bestofezra The vibes of Grindelwald

Stepping in front of the paparazzi, Miller—known for his roles in the Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them series and as the Flash in DC Comics' superhero movie universe, among others—took on a studious persona on the red carpet, wielding a clipboard and taking notes with Unfiltered's new favorite writing tool: a handsome silver pen that doubles as a stem for the flute of sparkling wine that rested atop it. No word on what the bubbly was, or who made the fantastic contraption that contained it, but there is one thing that those who follow the happenings in wine-style might speculate about this fashion choice: Rihanna would approve.

Enjoy Unfiltered? The best of Unfiltered's round-up of drinks in pop culture can now be delivered straight to your inbox every other week! Sign up now to receive the Unfiltered e-mail newsletter, featuring the latest scoop on how wine intersects with film, TV, music, sports, politics and more.

Restaurant Spotlight: La Grotta (Wine Spectator)

December 6, 2018 - 8:00am

In South Korea’s Konjiam Resort, La Grotta delivers a wine-centric experience inspired by vineyard dining. Named for the Italian term for “the cave,” La Grotta is located in an actual wine cave, carved into the side of a mountain to create natural temperature control. The space protects an inventory of 30,000 bottles supplying the 800-selection, Wine Spectator Best of Award of Excellence–winning wine list. Overseen by wine director Hyo Keun Lee, the program is strongest in Bordeaux, with numerous vintages from the region’s top producers such as Château Mouton-Rothschild, Château Lafite Rothschild and Château Latour.

There are also exceptional labels from Italy, California and Burgundy. Selections are presented on an iPad for regularly updated inventory and vintage information, and to make the list easier to read in the dimly lit atmosphere. Elements like the soft lighting, arched ceilings and warm color palette are meant to evoke the feeling of dining in a Napa Valley winery. Yet the cuisine is distinct, blending Italian tradition with seasonal ingredients and Korean flair. Chef Jong Hun Ahn’s menu consists of signature entrées and pastas like spaghetti in an olive oil sauce with mackerel and basil. Except during a few months in winter, the herbs and vegetables are sourced from the on-site organic garden.

2018 Wine Harvest Report: Sonoma Sings of an Ideal Year (Wine Spectator)

December 6, 2018 - 7:00am

After the stress of 2017, Sonoma winemakers hoped for a more relaxed harvest this year, and Mother Nature gave it to them. Last year brought scorching temperatures that triggered picking on Labor Day weekend. And that was before the wine-country wildfires began. But 2018 brought moderate temperatures and a long growing season, leading to relaxed picking and promising wines.

Welcome to Wine Spectator's 2018 Wine Harvest Report, our coverage of Northern Hemisphere wine regions. (Our Southern Hemisphere 2018 harvest reports were published earlier this year.) While we won't know how good a vintage is until we taste the finished wines, these reports offer firsthand accounts from top winemakers in leading regions.

A cool start

Despite a warm February, the 2018 growing season started off cooler than the past few vintages. Stonestreet winemaker Lisa Valtenbergs reported a two-week cold snap in Alexander Valley, with frost fans blowing for two weeks straight. "We even witnessed some snow in our higher elevation vineyards," she said.

A cool spring meant bloom lasted longer than usual, but fruit set was consistent. "There were a couple small weather events during set, but most Russian River and Sonoma Coast sites were not affected, and fruit set was very good in almost every vineyard site," said winemaker Jeff Stewart of Hartford wines.

Summer temperatures were moderate with fewer heat spikes than in recent years. Veraison started later as well. "A cooling [period] in late July put the brakes on and meant that we avoided the late summer heat spikes that drove an early and compressed harvest in the two previous vintages," said La Crema winemaker Craig McAllister.

Pick when ready

As a result, harvest started two to three weeks later than in recent years, but some winemakers said it was historically more typical. "Harvest stared 'later' but really back to 'normal' compared to the previous four years," said Valtenbergs. "It was the first Labor Day holiday our team enjoyed in the past six years or so."

"The 2018 vintage required patience from growers and vintners alike, given that the development and flavor maturation took extra time," said Nicole Hitchcock of J Vineyards & Winery. "Wet weather in early October was followed by dry spells and moderate heat, rewarding those patient enough to sit tight."

For Paul Hobbs, 2018 was "the most benign growing season in over 40 years," he said. It started with near-perfect fruit set in the spring, which led to large grape clusters that translated into a large potential crop, leading him to reduce the fruit ripening on the vine to enhance quality.

"I was forced to convert several per-ton to per-acre contracts mid-growing season to coerce growers to perform the intensive thinning work needed—up to four full thinning passes," said Hobbs, adding that two passes is typical. "This long growing season, largely a function of fine weather—a full two weeks longer than average—is always a highly desirable thing. We are already seeing the benefits in the cellar with fully mature, sweet tannins, outstanding color and brightness, depth of fruit, naturally beautifully balanced wines." He called 2018 an exceptional vintage.

Courtesy Stonestreet A worker brings fresh-picked Chardonnay down from the Red Point vineyard.Potential for greatness

Vintner David Ramey, based in Healdsburg, concurred with Hobbs' characterization of the harvest as one of the smoothest on record. "Honestly, [it was] the easiest harvest ever," he said. "Never had to force a picking decision to stay ahead of rain or a hot spell—just beautiful, from start to finish."

"[2018] has a lot of potential for greatness," said Jason Kesner, the winemaker at Kistler Vineyards in Sebastopol. "I was very pleased with all of the fruit and the resultant juices. In general, the weather being as mild as it was allowed for a relatively relaxed pace of things and excellent development of flavors and retention of great natural acidity across the wines. In most instances, we were waiting almost solely on pH [a marker of acidity] to shift to make our picking call. That applies to both Chardonnay and Pinot Noir."

Yields varied, depending on site, variety and clone, but overall appeared to be average or slightly higher. "Across the board, Pinot Noir yields tended to be up, with crops reminiscent in size of 2012 and 2013," said McAllister. He reported that Chardonnay yields were also higher, but varied more based on site and clones.

Winemakers report that the long growing season means that wines are showing structure and concentration without being overripe. "The Chardonnays really stand out to me," said Valtenbergs. "Harvesting with cool mornings compared to the heat waves of 2017 was a pleasure and far less stressful. The quality of the clusters, the juice and the natural acidity are going to produce some stunning wines."

"At this point the 2018s seem to have good backbone, acidity and balance," said Stewart. "Chardonnay in the Russian River has good fruit intensity, with Chardonnay on the Sonoma Coast having more acid drive and finesse. Pinot and Zinfandel are both fruit-driven, but with very good sense of place and complexity showing from all our vineyard sites."

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Wine & Design: Michael & Kim McCarty's Abiding Abode (Wine Spectator)

December 5, 2018 - 11:00am

In 1979, Michael McCarty was getting ready to open his inaugural restaurant, Michael's, in Santa Monica, Calif. It would become a beacon of the California cuisine movement. (If McCarty flies under the radar as a founder of the genre, his pioneering influence is nonetheless unmistakable; Wolfgang Puck notably opened Spago three years later, in 1982.)

1979 was a busy year for Michael: He and his girlfriend, artist Kim Lieberman, were also renovating their Douglas Rucker–designed post-and-beam house in Malibu. With the help of Rucker himself, they knocked down the walls between the dining room, living room and kitchen to create one big free-flowing space. Today, open floor plans, much like farm-to-table cuisine, enjoy great cachet. But not so in 1979. "I just wanted it open," Michael, 65, shrugs. "Drove me crazy. It was so beautiful."

Five years on, Kim and Michael were married on their tennis court, cantilevered over the ocean. In 1985, they added a vineyard. "We were having a wild party at my house, and I had just received the sixth notice from the L.A. County Fire Department saying, ‘You must clear the obnoxious weeds that are surrounding your property,' because we had fire problems," Michael says. "So I said to Dick [Graff, of Chalone Vineyard], I said, ‘This is killing me, this is costing me thousands of dollars.' He said, ‘Why don't we plant a vineyard?' I said, ‘Done! We're doing it!' "

They cleared an acre and planted cuttings of Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Cabernet Sauvignon from Mount Eden Vineyard in the Santa Cruz Mountains, and Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Cabernet Franc from Joseph Phelps in Napa. When the McCartys' daughter, Clancy, was born in 1986, the neighbors strung the vineyard posts with pink streamers. Son Chas followed in 1989, the year of the vineyard's first vintage.

But in 1993, disaster struck. The Old Topanga Fire leveled much of the area, including the McCartys' home. Michael had just landed in New York to visit his satellite Manhattan restaurant when he got the call. "It was the winds that changed; that's what always happens," he says. "We got nailed." Vines often act as a firebreak because of their water content, but located downwind from the house, they couldn't save it.

The McCartys called on Rucker again, this time to rebuild the house in its former image, only larger, stretching the noted Malibu architect's typical proportions. "He made beautiful little Craftsman-style houses, more what you would think about as a California bungalow," Michael explains. The home shot up from 3,000 square feet to 5,000, mostly thanks to the additions of a big deck and an upstairs master bedroom suite.

But the footprint of the rest of the house expanded too. Pitched over the living space, Rucker's tongue-and-groove Douglas fir ceilings were done using wider-than-usual beams—6 inches across rather than 4—to better suit the room's amplified, 1,500-square-foot scale.

Though it wasn't destroyed, "The vineyard was shocked," Michael says. It didn't produce fruit for three years. In 1999, the team, led by winemaker Bruno D'Alfonso, decided it just wasn't working—"so we took the whole goddamn thing out," Michael says. They had seen the most consistent success with Pinot Noir, so they added a second acre and replanted the land to three Dijon clones of the grape and updated the trellising. The wine was labeled The Malibu Vineyard. Since its first vintage in 2005, it has produced 100 to 200 cases a year, sold at Michael's Wine Spectator Award of Excellence-winning flagship restaurant in L.A. and his Best of Award of Excellence winner in New York, as well as at a few Malibu and Santa Monica restaurants and shops.

At home, Michael often goes for Minuty rosé or a big Barolo; Kim favors Sancerre. They keep four or five cases at home—"and it gets consumed rapidly!" Michael says. "We always entertain on Sundays. We always cook." The patio can hold up to 80 people, as it does for their annual day-after-Thanksgiving get-together featuring Michael's turkey BLTs. Beyond the main house, two guest houses, one with a pool, provide ample hangout space. "We're not precious," Kim, 62, says. "People come by with thousands of dogs, and our kids still come and destroy our pool house many times a year with all their friends."

After four decades—including multiple renovations, a full-scale rebuilding, a home wedding, the growing-up of two kids, and the planting and replanting of an estate vineyard—Kim and Michael's place has endured. "Building something takes a long time," Kim reflects. "But we got to build the house we wanted."

A version of this story appeared in the Dec. 31, 2018, issue of Wine Spectator, which went to press in early November. Shortly thereafter, the Woolsey fire ravaged parts of Los Angeles and Ventura counties, including Malibu, displacing tens of thousands of residents and scorching local vineyards. Michael and Kim McCarty gratefully report that the fire did not directly affect their home or vineyard. However, relief efforts are ongoing. The McCartys encourage you to help by donating to the Malibu Foundation.

Photo Gallery

Photos by Joe Schmelzer; click any image to enlarge

Turning Tables: The New Intersect by Lexus Is Danny Meyer–Driven (Wine Spectator)

December 5, 2018 - 7:30am
Intersect by Lexus Opens with Danny Meyer Dining Concepts

Danny Meyer's Union Square Hospitality Group is operating the dining concepts in the newly opened Intersect by Lexus, a three-story, multifunctional space with a first-floor cafe, a restaurant and a cocktail bar upstairs, as well as a retail area, a public gallery and a private space on the third floor.

The restaurant will have rotating chefs: Every four to six months, it will transition to a new executive chef and an entirely different menu, highlighting up-and-coming chefs from different countries. First up, London-based French chef Gregory Marchand is showcasing dishes like duck with sunchoke and sesame, and beef tenderloin served with short rib and artichoke.

The wine list will remain around 100 selections but will rotate with the resident chef. "It is a challenge, but it's one that I'm really excited about," said beverage director Andrea Morris. The opening list is mostly French, with focuses on the Rhône and Burgundy, Marchand's favorites, and the Loire, which is his birthplace. Value is a big priority for Morris: There are currently plenty of bottles under $100 and more than 20 wines available by the glass.

Though an unlikely one, Morris says the partnership between the car company and the restaurant group, which has six Wine Spectator Restaurant Award winners, was a natural fit. "[There's] a lot of the same sort of desire for over-the-top hospitality as well as more environmental initiatives," she said. "So I think the two companies just felt aligned and it was a really cool opportunity."—J.H.

Michael Mina Brings Hawaii to San Francisco Nicola Parisi The arancini at Trailblazer Tavern

On Dec. 3, chef Michael Mina opened Trailblazer Tavern in San Francisco's East Cut neighborhood, a new casual concept in partnership with wife-and-husband chefs Michelle Karr-Ueoka and Wade Ueoka showcasing Hawaiian comfort food.

The menu includes starters like unagi and butterfish arancini, hearty meat entrées like short rib pot roast with black truffle and soy, as well as fresh seafood, noodle and rice dishes, and a raw bar. Sommelier Rajat Parr's wine list reflects the eclectic menu, covering regions from the Jura to Australia's Tasmania, including low-intervention wines with the freshness and vibrancy to complement the dishes' sweet, spicy and fermented flavors.

At around 80 selections, the list is shorter than the ones at Mina's Restaurant Award winners (which include five Bourbon Steak concepts, two Michael Mina locations and RN74 Seattle), yet Parr says it's the most interesting, personal wine list he's ever written. "This wine list is very current. It's a wine list of now," he told Wine Spectator. "It's producers and wines which are either hot or going to get hot very soon." He'll also be launching a reserve list with more heavy-hitters and older vintages in the next few weeks.—J.H.

Noosh Opens in San Francisco

Laura and Sayat Ozyilmaz, the chef-couple whose resumes include Grand Award winner Saison and Best of Award of Excellence winner Mourad, are gearing up to open Noosh, in partnership with restaurateur John Litz, by the end of the month.

"It's eastern Mediterranean–inspired, California-made," Litz said. "The goal with this is to really create a top tier in the casual dining space."

There will be a main casual dining area and a ticketed pre-fixe, family-style concept. The latter will have a 60-selection wine list, overseen by beverage director Andrew Meltzer, highlighting countries like Georgia, Hungary, Turkey, Greece and Lebanon, as well as local California selections and a few Champagne options.

"As somebody who has lived in the conflict of the region all his life before moving here, I just get really excited that all of these flavors from a food perspective as well as from a beverage perspective can co-exist within one menu," said Sayat, who's originally from Turkey.—B.G.Wally's Beverly Hills Says Goodbye to Its Chef

David Féau is no longer the executive chef of Grand Award winner Wally's Beverly Hills and its new Santa Monica location. According to co-owner Christian Navarro, Féau left to pursue other projects, including his vegan food line JeCook.

His replacement is Ryan Kluver, who as chef de cuisine helped create the menus at Wally's Beverly Hills and Santa Monica. Navarro said the shift won't cause any major changes; the core menu will remain the same, with a few added seasonal items.

"We're going to empower our entire staff to continue to execute and create things," Navarro said. "I'm happy for [Féau], and he'll carry our lineage with him and it'll be great."—J.H.

Del Frisco's Opens First West Coast Double Eagle Auda and Coudayre Photography Del Frisco's plans to further expand the Double Eagle brand in 2019.

A Del Frisco's Double Eagle Steakhouse is now open in San Diego's InterContinental Hotel, the first West Coast location for the restaurant chain, which has 13 Restaurant Award winners. (The Del Frisco's Restaurant Group also owns Del Frisco's Grille and Barcelona Wine Bar.)

Wine director Faith Fulginiti oversees the San Diego wine program, after serving on the sommelier team in the Grand Award–winning flagship in New York. The 1,100-selection list covers classic regions and emphasizes local producers from Southern California and Mexico's Baja California. Napa Cabernets are another point of focus, with verticals of cult producers like Dominus Estate, Opus One and Shafer Hillside Select.

"I hope that it elevates the wine scene in the area," Fulginiti said. "We're kind of pushing the envelope for what the standard should be." There are more than 30 wines available by the glass and an additional 15 poured by Coravin. Fulginiti plans to build the program with the goal of reaching nearly 2,000 selections by the end of 2019.—J.H.

New York's Lambs Club Names New Executive Chef Alison Hale Geoffrey Zakarian (right) welcomes chef Galen Zamarra to the Lambs Club.

Best of Award of Excellence winner the Lambs Club in New York has a new executive chef, Galen Zamarra, who previously owned two restaurants in the city, the now-closed Mas (Farmhouse) and Mas (La Grillade).

"Galen's world understanding about the techniques driving food today, combined with his classical French training, speaks to his sophistication and his adept culinary talents," chef and partner Geoffrey Zakarian told Wine Spectator via email. "I'm honored to work alongside him daily at my flagship restaurant."

Zamarra plans to emphasize the Lambs Club's seasonality through more frequent menu changes, and has already added dishes like Piedmontese steak tartare and bone-marrow gratin.

The shift won't impact wine director A.J. Ojedas-Pons' list, but Zamarra stressed the importance of creating dishes with wine in mind. "I think the celebration of a meal isn't complete if the wine and food haven't been considered together," Zamarra said. "It is a massive learning experience to take on, but for a chef it is very rewarding."—J.H.

San Francisco's West Coast Wine & Cheese Branches Out

On Nov. 30, after more than a yearlong location search, the team behind San Francisco's West Coast Wine & Cheese opened its second wine bar, in Mill Valley. "In San Francisco, the business is fast-paced with very high foot traffic and relatively quick turn of seats," said owner and wine director Chris Wanner. "In contrast, Mill Valley will be a little slower paced, so we are investing more in the comfort aspects of the space for customers to hang out with us and stay a while."

Like the original outpost, the Mill Valley bar has a 325-selection wine list, with strengths in California, Washington and Oregon. The menu will be smaller, focusing on high-quality local cheese and charcuterie selections. "We're hoping to establish ourselves as the neighborhood gem that we've become in San Francisco," Wanner said.—B.G.

Philadelphia's Vetri Cucina Gets Second Location Steve Legato The new Vetri Cucina's dining room has great views of the Las Vegas cityscape.

Philadelphia-based chef Marc Vetri opened a second location of his Best of Award of Excellence Vetri Cucina in the Palms Casino Resort in Las Vegas. The menu will feature the same Italian-inspired fare, with a 450-selection wine list strong in Piedmont and Tuscany, which will soon grow larger than the Philadelphia location's 500 selections.—B.G.

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Co-Owner of Château Cheval-Blanc Albert Frère Dies at 92 (Wine Spectator)

December 5, 2018 - 6:00am

Albert Frère, co-owner of Bordeaux's famed Château Cheval-Blanc in St.-Emilion, died Dec. 3 at age 92. The Belgian billionaire was a co-investor with Bernard Arnault, chairman and CEO of LVMH, when they acquired the legendary estate in 1998.

"I am deeply saddened by the death of my friend," said Arnault, in a statement. "Albert was an extraordinary man and a truly exceptional entrepreneur. Throughout our 35 years of faithful friendship we forged extremely close ties, both personal and professional."

With diverse investments that stretched from steel to fashion to oil, the Belgian business titan was also famously passionate about wine. He enjoyed his times at Cheval-Blanc, where he developed a strong camaraderie with the team running the estate.

"He was both a businessman and a man of the Earth, a real vigneron. He often came to see us and he was a great ambassador for our wines," Pierre Lurton, director of Château Cheval-Blanc and Château d'Yquem, told Wine Spectator. "He was a real visionary."

Frère was the wealthiest man in Belgium, with a fortune estimated at $5.8 billion. King Albert II of Belgium made him a baron in 1994. Frère started his rise to riches during World War II, at age 17, when he left school to run the family's modest nail business.

From the start, he was a savvy entrepreneur, rebuilding the company in the years after the war. By the 1950s, he was investing in steel factories. Two decades later, he dominated Belgium's steel industry. Eventually, after a lucrative merger, he sold his steel business and created a holding company, Groupe Bruxelles Lambert, that invested in oil, insurance, telecommunications, finance and other sectors. He helped negotiate some of France's largest mergers and acquisitions.

In addition to Cheval-Blanc, Arnault and Frère bought Château Quinault l'Enclos, also in St.-Emilion, in 2008. "Beyond his innate business sense, I will always remember Albert's passionate love of life, his great skill in unifying people and his tremendous commitment to everything he undertook to accomplish," said Arnault.

Frère is survived by his wife, Christine, two of his three children and several grandchildren.

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Cheese Talk: Austin’s John and Kendall Antonelli Pick 3 Top Cheeses (Wine Spectator)

December 4, 2018 - 9:40am

What are the cheese pros excited about right now? Like wine, the world of cheese is vast and diverse—potentially overwhelming, but rewarding to explore. No one is happier to guide you than your neighborhood cheesemongers. You should talk to them! In "Cheese Talk," we introduce you to a top cheesemonger and ask them for three cheeses to look for this month, as well as what wines or other beverages to pair with them.

Not many labors of love begin with a mid-honeymoon announcement that your new spouse wants to quit his career, but that’s exactly how Kendall and John Antonelli’s journey to the top of the cheese world began.

The couple met as students at Georgetown University. John, from Suffern, N.Y., was chairman of Students of Georgetown, Inc., the student-run business that includes a campus grocery store, coffee shops and more; Kendall, a literal cowgirl who grew up on a ranch in north Texas, served as “The Corp’s” V.P. of grocery. John followed Kendall back to Texas after graduation. When the couple married in 2008, he had a successful career as a CPA at Deloitte; she was practicing immigration law and advocating for human-trafficking victims.

“We were on our honeymoon in Grenada,” says Kendall. “John was reading a sci-fi apocalyptic teen novel and thinking, ‘If the world ends today, was it all worth it?’ and he turns to me and says, ‘I just had the perfect wedding. I have the perfect wife. I love our home. I love our dogs. I love our city. … I just can’t stand my job.’ I said ‘OK … what do you want to do?’ and he said, ‘Something in cheese.’”

It wasn’t completely out of the blue. In high school, John’s older brother had given him a George Foreman Grill. It inspired him to start a grilled-cheese club with his classmates and a few teachers. “We were debating the merits of white Kraft vs. yellow American singles,” laughs John. “We weren’t working with the cheeses we work with now … there was a lot of Velvee.”

Post-honeymoon, John threw himself into cheese. He attended the first-ever Murray’s Cheese Boot Camp in New York. (Kendall’s mother helped talk the specialty retailer into creating the program, and Kendall took the course not long after John.) He interned with legendary affineur Hervé Mons in France, and the couple explored the cheese cultures in Italy and Spain as well.

“Then we started running a gourmet grilled-cheese club out of our house,” Kendall says. “It was a six-course grilled-cheese dinner. And we learned a couple things about ourselves. One, we don’t really like slaving away over the stove. And two, we love being with people and building community through food; we love eating and talking. So we put that together and said, ‘Hey, what if we tell the story of artisanal food?’”

Andrew Bennett Austin’s favorite mom-and-pop cheese shop

Antonelli’s Cheese Shop opened in 2010, and it’s been full-steam ahead ever since. “Now we have two shops, one with a kitchen,” says Kendall. “We have a warehouse selling wholesale to about 150 chefs and caterers. We have a Cheese House private-events venue hosting more than 200 events a year. We ship cheese nationwide, and we have 30 to 40 employees, but we still consider ourselves a small mom-and-pop. We joke that our cheese shop was our first baby that kept us up for sleepless nights, but since then we’ve had two biological babies. And they love cheese and prosciutto as well!”

Along the way, John was named to the board of directors of the American Cheese Society; he recently concluded a term as president. Kendall is on the board of the American Cheese Education Foundation, a non-profit alliance overseen by the ACS. “American cheeses are gaining a stage in the world market,” says John, “and that will continue, because our cheesemakers are so tremendous at what they do, so creative—it’s amazing.”

Their flagship shop carries 100 or so cheeses, about 70 percent of them domestic, along with jams, fresh-baked bread, charcuterie, pickled goods, mustards, chocolates and more. They also carry about 30 wines, all organic, sustainable or biodynamic, plus a few dozen beers.

“Our goal is that a customer comes in and sees something they know, and that becomes an entry point for us to get them talking and tasting and trying other things,” says Kendall. “Our mission is ‘Do good, eat good.’ We support artisans who make their food in a way that’s great for their animals, their land, the planet, their team and, most important, is delicious.” Each month, through the Antonellis’ philanthropy plan, they select one Charitable Cheese Cause to spotlight and support; this year's recipients have included Big Love Cancer, the Texas Land Conservancy and Keep Austin Fed, among others. They also regularly contribute to charity events and fundraisers, including raising nearly $10,000 for hurricane-relief efforts in 2017.

Antonelli’s Cheese Shop
4220 Duval St., Austin, Texas
(512) 531-9610

Courtesy of Cellars at Jasper Hill Oma is made at Von Trapp Farmstead and ripened to perfection at the Cellars at Jasper Hill. Von Trapp Farmstead–Cellars at Jasper Hill Oma

Milk: Cow
Category: Washed-rind tomme
Region: Waitsfield, Vt.
Age: 10 to 14 weeks
Price: $35 per pound

Kendall says: I love Oma, but especially this time of year. Made by the Von Trapps—yes, relatives of those Von Trapps—on a farmstead operation in Waitsfield, Vt., Oma means "grandmother" in German. And this cheese is like a big ole hug from Grandma. It's comforting, bulging and a little stinky. It's a washed-rind cheese, resulting in an orange-hued rind with a straw-yellow paste that comes from the milk of primarily Jersey cows on their farm. While perhaps [smelling] a little funky, it actually has sweet and nutty flavors with a hint of garlic scapes.

Kendall's recommended pairing: The appearance, the texture, the flavor … it all makes me want to curl up on the couch in front of a fireplace with a plate of cured meats, pickles, mustard and pumpernickel bread with a nice stout—cuddled up in that orange-and-green afghan blanket Grandma made in the ’70s. Waxing poetic? Yes. Overstated description? Perhaps. But that's exactly what this cheese makes me feel. (For the record, my grandmother never crocheted an afghan, but eating this cheese makes me feel like she did.)

Wine Spectator picks: Most tomme-style cheeses (a category of small to medium-size wheels that originated in the French and Swiss Alps) share a nutty characteristic, and Oma is no different. But it also has a washed rind, which gives it a marked pungency. Aromatic whites like dry Riesling, Viognier and Gewürztraminer, as well as Grüner Veltliner and Pinot Gris, are lovely complements to Oma, along with light-bodied reds like Merlot, Pinot Noir (especially Spätburgunders) or Gamay. Try the delicate A to Z Wineworks Pinot Gris Oregon 2017 (87 points, $15, 66,726 cases made) or intense Yalumba Viognier South Australia The Y Series 2017 (90, $13, 19,000 cases imported, 2018 Top 100: No. 56).

Courtesy of Peterson Cheese The Terre des Volcans imprint of Fourme d’Ambert comes from the cave of French cheese star Hervé Mons. Fourme d’Ambert Terre des Volcans

Milk: Cow
Category: Semi-firm blue
Region: Auvergne, France
Age: 3 months
Price: $21 per pound

John says: One of the first cheeses I fell in love with was Fourme d'Ambert Terre des Volcans. Sometimes you want a blue that smacks you in the face; sometimes you want a blue that lures you in with a friendly approach and just reminds you what a good, reliable cheese is. This pasteurized cow's-milk blue is the latter, offering even folks who don't love blue a new chance to change their minds with its fudgelike texture that's rich, creamy, milky and earthy. The flavors can range from fruity to mushroomy.

John's recommended pairing: I recently took this home and enjoyed it with a bar of dark chocolate and a bottle of Nebbiolo.

Wine Spectator picks: Blues are perhaps the most strongly, sharply flavored category of cheeses and, not coincidentally, they’re most classically paired with rich and powerfully flavored wines (see: Stilton with Port; Roquefort with Sauternes). Fourme d’Ambert is on the gentler, creamier end of the blue spectrum, which is why it’ll pair beautifully with a young Langhe Nebbiolo like Michele Chiarlo Nebbiolo Langhe Il Principe 2016 (89, $20, 10,000 cases made). But for an eye-opening study in contrasts, try it with a bracingly tart sparkling wine like an extra brut or brut nature (aka “zero dosage”) like Bruno Paillard Extra Brut Champagne Première Cuvée NV (92, $50, 20,000 cases made). The lively acidity and minerally effervescence is a bright foil to a mouthcoatingly creamy, salty blue.

Courtesy of Veldhuizen Cheese Fat Tailed Tomme matures from a fudgy-textured youth into a firm, almost crumbly Manchego-style Texas original. Veldhuizen Fat Tailed Tomme

Milk: Sheep
Category: Washed-rind tomme
Region: Dublin, Texas
Age: 3 to 10 months
Price: $36 per pound

John says: If Oma is an everyday fave and Fourme d'Ambert is an old friend, then Fat Tailed Tomme is the novelty that recently came into our lives. Made in Dublin, Texas, by the Veldhuizen family, this is their first attempt at sheep's-milk cheeses, a rarity in Texas—if they existed at all! Stuart and Connie have been making raw cow's-milk cheeses for decades and aging them in their caves built in the side of a hill, and we're excited they've added this to their lineup. When their daughter Rebecca wanted to move back to the family farm, they told her she needed to earn her keep. It was her dream and hard work that launched their farmstead sheep’s-milk creamery.

Taking inspiration from popular Manchego styles, Fat Tailed Tomme is named after the Awassi breed of sheep, known for their high milk production and—you guessed it—fat tails. Made with raw milk, it's aged a minimum of two months, but they're finding that flavor peaks around eight to 10 months, with notes of pineapple and other tropical fruit flavors, as well as hints of pasta. It develops a natural rind that is rubbed with olive oil.

John’s recommended pairing: Pair it with a dry sparkling cider.

Wine Spectator picks: Sheep’s milk has more than twice the fat content of cow’s milk, yielding cheeses with especially rich pastes. Fat Tailed Tomme is a Lone Star tribute to Spanish Manchego, so try it with a late-release Rioja Crianza like Bodegas Faustino 2014 (88, $14, 88,000 cases made), Bodegas LAN 2014 (88, $14, 96,000 cases made) or Cune 2015 (88, $13, 10,000 cases imported).

Burgundy's Hospices de Beaune Raises Nearly $16.2 Million (Wine Spectator)

December 4, 2018 - 8:45am

Burgundy's Hospices de Beaune charity wine auction celebrated its 158th year by raising a new record total for health and education causes. This year's auction, on Nov. 18, generated nearly 14.2 million euros, or $16.2 million, from its sale of 631 barrel lots of red wines and 197 lots of whites, just over last year's 13.5 million euro total.

"We are amazed and very proud of this year's record," François Poher, director of the Hospices de Beaune, told Wine Spectator. "As it's an auction, we do not really have a specific goal; we never know how bidders will react in the auction room."

The average barrel price at the auction was $19,150, an increase from last year, which was "largely due to the success of the grands crus," said Poher. The Bâtard-Montrachet grand cru lot sold at the highest single-barrel price in the auction's history, for 135,000 euros, or $155,000.

This year, enthusiasm in the auction room was high, Poher noted, particularly during the auction's traditional Pièce des Présidents portion. French actors Nathalie Baye, Emmanuelle Béart and Pascal Elbé and writer Erik Orsenna all took the podium to encourage buyer participation in that part of the sale, which included two lots: Corton Clos du Roi grand cru and Meursault Les Genevrières premier cru. The combined lots brought in $260,000 for three foundations aimed at improving global health and education.

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Italian Fashion Mogul and Vintner Is Under House Arrest (Wine Spectator)

December 3, 2018 - 10:00am

The man behind the famed super Tuscan wine Oreno has been confined to his villa near Arezzo by Italian authorities, accused of taking part in money laundering, bank fraud and tax fraud schemes. The Guardia di Finanza, Italy’s financial crimes force, has placed Antonio Moretti, the owner of the Sette Ponti winery in Tuscany and the Feudo Maccari winery in Sicily, under house arrest, along with his son Andrea, as it investigates crimes related to Moretti’s clothing brands and its retail chain, according to Italian media reports.

The wineries have not been implicated in the alleged financial crimes, but the authorities have seized control of them for the time being, as well as Moretti’s other assets, worth a total of $28.9 million, according to authorities.

“The operation of the [wine] companies is not compromised. The [wines’] quality are 100 percent guaranteed,” Stefano Maggini, the wineries’ export manager, told Wine Spectator. “[The Morettis] are accused, but nothing is proven at the moment and [the charges] don’t involve the wine companies.”

Moretti, 67, became famous as a fashion footwear mogul, building the brand called Car Shoe and later partnering with Prada. In 1997, he launched Tenuta Sette Ponti and its flagship wine, Oreno, a blend of Cabernet and Merlot that has consistently earned outstanding ratings from Wine Spectator and twice earned Top 10 rankings in Wine Spectator's Top 100 Wines of the Year. In 1999, he began buying land in southwestern Sicily, establishing Feudo Maccari. He also owns Orma in Bolgheri.

According to Italian reports, more than a dozen executives for Moretti’s family companies have been implicated in financial schemes related to the clothing firms. A total of 14 companies and assets owned by the family have been seized by authorities. Several relatives, including son Alberto Moretti, a famous fashion designer, have not been arrested but are named in the investigation and are forbidden from managing public companies while the case is ongoing.

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Can Brazil's Wine Industry Capture an American Audience? (Wine Spectator)

December 3, 2018 - 7:00am

Brazil's wine industry is more than 100 years old, but until recently, very little of its wines have left the country. However, for the past five years, the South American nation's vintners, with government support, have ramped up their export efforts. And their three major targets are the United States, China and the U.K.

“The U.S.A. is our No. 1 target export country,” explained Diego Bertolini, director of marketing for Wines of Brasil. “The fact that more than 120 million Americans drink wine, and the market continues to grow, makes the U.S. an ideal export destination.” But Brazil faces several challenges, none more significant than Americans' unfamiliarity with Brazilian wine.

"Brazil is a country more famous for its colorful culture, rain forests and pristine beaches than the quality of its wine, although this is quickly changing,” said Master Sommelier Ian Cauble, cofounder of a digital wine merchant. “A dedicated wine-producing community, centered mostly in the Serra Gaúcha region, is producing delicious wines in many styles and colors."

Brazil's wine industry dates to the 1880s, when a handful of wineries were established by northern Italian immigrants, but has now grown to more than 1,100 wineries. During the past decade, the wine industry has expanded, with revenues increasing from US$213 million in 2007 to more than $640 million in 2017. Production was 33.7 million cases last year, according to Wines of Brasil. Today there are 195,000 acres of vineyards in the country.

Close to 90 percent of Brazil's wine production comes from the Serra Gaúcha region of southern Brazil. The lead grapes there are Chardonnay and Pinot Noir for sparkling-wine production. Farther south, near the Uruguay border, Cabernet Franc, Marselan and Merlot are popular varieties. Asti-style sparkling Muscat and sparkling Glera (the grape in Prosecco) are other growing categories.

“Our expertise is sparkling wine,” said Bertolini. “We have been making it for decades, and it matches our culture of celebration. We make all styles of sparkling, from high-end méthode traditionnelle aged for years on the lees to semi-sweet sparkling Moscato.”

Some industry experts agree. “Sparkling wine is a particularly bright spot on Brazil's diverse and far-flung vineyard landscape,” said Doug Frost, a Master Sommelier and wine consultant. “There are worthy red and white Brazilian wines, but I think that there is value and even novelty in offering Brazilian bubbly.”

That focus on sparkling wine is the foundation of Brazil's export strategy. They're hoping to take part in the growth in sparkling wine sales around the world and continued growth in the category in the U.S. market—according to Impact Databank, a sister publication of Wine Spectator, sparkling wine sales grew 3 percent in 2017, compared to 0.3 percent for all wine. And Brazilians believe bubbly sets them apart from the two leading South American wine-producing nations, Chile and Argentina, which are best-known for still reds.

Currently only 11 Brazilian wineries export wine to the U.S., primarily to cities on the East Coast, such as New York and Miami. But Brazilian wine remains relatively unknown among American consumers. And the wines are still arriving in small numbers, with only 16,739 cases of Brazilian wine shipped to the U.S. in 2017, according to U.S. Customs reports. So there is still a lot of work that needs to be done.

“It's not that we don't want to have wines from Brazil,” said founder Mike Osborn. “We simply don't seem to have suppliers or mainstream wholesalers making them available nationally yet.”

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Sommelier Roundtable: How Do You Stay Fit and Healthy? (Wine Spectator)

November 30, 2018 - 12:00pm

Restaurant work at the highest level of service is notoriously grueling, but the job of sommelier is particularly suited to taxing one's health: lugging cases up and down from the cellar, racing from table to table bearing knowledge and bottles, long hours late into the night, days of wine tasting that blur into dinners and then parties. Add in the challenges of raising young families and an industry-wide vitamin-D deficiency, and it's easy to see why self-care is necessary for wine pros.

Here, 11 somms and chefs from Wine Spectator Restaurant Award winners share their workout and fitness regimens, from yoga to rock-climbing, golf to marathon-running, and discuss how their activities have made them healthier and happier. But these routines aren't just for restaurant workers—you casual connoisseurs of the good life may find some handy tips too!

Wine Spectator: How do you stay in shape/healthy in a job that often involves a lot of eating, drinking, stress and unusual hours? Do you play any sports or have any fitness hobbies?

Anncherie Saludo, beverage director at Award of Excellence winner L'Artusi in New York

I do a lot of heavy lifting and run a lot of stairs at L'Artusi, so fitness is already built into my workday. When the weather is warmer, I like to cycle around Brooklyn and to work. To further stay in shape, I really pay attention to what I'm eating and when. I typically don't eat breakfast, so I splurge more on lunch than other meals in the day, and I avoid heavy meals late at night.

As for alcohol, I make sure to take days off. I think this moderation is very important for me. Tasting for work is unavoidable, but I can easily forgo a nightcap or two if it meant I'd be sacrificing a good night's rest before an early inventory day. To cope with stress, massages are definitely key. I also like to lose myself in quiet projects like knitting, or call my best ladies to let loose for a raucous night out on the town.

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

Humm, on the restaurant group's Make It Nice running club: What started as a small group of our team running occasionally has turned into something so much more with the Make It Nice Running Club. We now have a couple dozen runners from all different positions at our New York–based restaurants running together on a weekly basis, many of whom went on to run the NYC Marathon this year. It’s really deepened the bond we all have—taking time to connect as a team, do something good for our bodies and push ourselves in different ways.

Courtesy of Daniel Humm The Make It Nice Running Club puts the "ran" in "Grand Award."

Nicaise: I try to stay as active as possible. I am friends with a group of very active people; we play soccer, or volleyball or other sports from time to time. I’ve been introduced to an amazing fitness community through my wife and have friends that are trainers or coaches. I use the gym in my building as often as I can find the willpower, and ride SoulCycle from time to time.

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

I drink a lot of water, especially when I drink wine. Being in the Caribbean also allows me to go to the beach a lot for swims. How I stay fit, though, is all due to running around and chasing my 3 1/2-year-old child, which also releases my stress and induces me to drink more when he finally goes to sleep.

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

It’s always a battle! I have the fortunate double-whammy: I married a chef, so it is difficult to a whole new degree, because I don’t escape delicious food or being fed. I spend my time tap-dancing at home or practicing yoga. Yoga, in my humble opinion, is very beneficial for hospitality professionals. The stresses of the day-to-day, standing on hard surfaces, the stiffness/dehydration cramps that drinking too much brings … can all be saved by yoga. It’s a good way to focus on the task in front of me versus future-tripping about the evening’s service. I often find the feeling I have on my mat follows me well into service, and I am better physically and mentally for it.

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

It is really hard to stay healthy in the restaurant industry. For me, eating healthfully, not drinking any alcohol at least two to three nights per week, and working out are very important for my physical and mental health. Over the last two years, I lost 45 pounds by modifying my lifestyle and making sure I am conscientious of my energy levels and mood. I do a quick, 30- to 40-minute workout three to five times a week first thing in the morning. Cheesy enough, I do Jillian Michaels and Tracy Anderson videos at home, because they are super-convenient and have been really effective for me. I always have a better day on the days I work out.

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

I don't stay in shape. The only exercise I get is carrying cases of wine up three flights of stairs. I'm not proud of it, but it's the truth.

Richard Nielsen, sommelier at Best of Award of Excellence winner Angel Oak at the Ritz-Carlton Bacara in Santa Barbara, Calif.

The great thing about being a sommelier is that you are both physically and mentally challenged. You rarely miss out on daylight, particularly in Santa Barbara, where the weather is perfect. On any given day I like to go golfing, rock-climbing, surfing or hiking. The biggest challenge is diet—take what you can get!

Thomas Pastuszak, wine director at Best of Award of Excellence winner The NoMad in New York

I try to squeeze in a little time running, and a bit at the gym, to try and stay in shape. An ideal workout would be running a 5k, which I can do in about 20 minutes, followed by another 20 to 30 minutes of light weight-lifting. The balance of cardio and weights keeps me feeling both strong and energized for a long day of restaurant and wine work. With two kids now, it’s a bit more challenging to find the time, but I’ll take it when I can get it!

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

For whatever reason, whenever I was studying for sommelier exams, I had great success with retaining information while on a bike or treadmill. Eventually, going to the gym became synonymous with studying. When not in test mode, I like to start my workday at the gym reading the restaurant reports from the night before.

I love golf! It's one of the rare sports where one can finish a bottle of both red and white before the game is complete.

Alex LaPratt, owner and wine director at Best of Award of Excellence winners Beasts & Bottles and Atrium Dumbo in Brooklyn, N.Y.

Self care is underappreciated in our industry, if it's on anyone's radar at all. The physical demands of our jobs are intense and, when coupled with the hours that are both long and finish late, create a perfect storm that can quite easily lead to a downward spiral of staying out late, eating around or after midnight, drinking too much and not getting enough sun, along with looking at more destructive avenues for stress release, be it alcohol, drugs or whatever.

For years, this really bothered me, as what I wanted—to be in good shape and be healthy, happy and confident—was at odds with my lifestyle outlined above. So I began devoting more attention to my personal life. I avoid staying out late drinking, save on special occasions, and wake up early and start my routine, which is as follows:

Courtesy of Alex LaPratt Alex LaPratt brought the gym to him.

I don't eat, as I'm practicing intermittent fasting. So I'll fast for 16 to 18 hours and then eat within that six- to eight-hour window, and back to fasting. I drink a good amount of coffee to wake me up and curb my appetite. I don't have time to go to the gym, so I have decided to bring the gym to me. I've set up in my new apartment a pull-up bar, rings, a dip station, plyometric box, exercise ball, a couple kettle bells and added in a weighted vest, jump rope and a few [other] odds and ends. This allows me to do a full-body workout every other day and increase joint health and flexibility, which I've found to be key as I've aged and am running up and down stairs, carrying boxes, working in tight spaces, etc. On the off days, I'll often fill in with a one- to two-hour cardio session, most often on my bike. I'll ride over to Prospect Park and do three to five laps, and back to my apartment.

I've found that I have so much more energy, am happier and certainly in much better shape. My overall attitude is a bit more Zen, even though New York is so intensely stressful!

Another thing that I've found is that depression in this industry is widespread. We are starting to talk about it more and more. When I'm working out regularly and am being conscientious about what I'm eating, this becomes a non-issue for me. When I stay out late, drink too much, don't get enough sun … it gets bad.

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Wine and Food Industries Step Up Again with 2018 California Wildfire Relief (Wine Spectator)

November 30, 2018 - 7:00am

Long after the embers cooled from the 2017 California wildfires that ripped through North Bay wine country, many families and businesses are still recovering, and efforts by the wine and dining industries to help are ongoing. But the November 2018 fires in Butte County and Malibu have displaced tens of thousands of people, and the industry is stepping up once again.

The most high-profile of the initiatives on the ground is that of chef José Andrés' World Central Kitchen (WCK), the fine-tuned meal-making machine that has fed displaced and hungry victims of natural disasters from Puerto Rico, in the wake of 2017's Hurricane Maria, to Indonesia, where communities were ravaged by earthquakes last month. Andrés—who has reportedly been nominated for a Nobel Peace Prize—has been in California with area chefs, including Tyler Florence and Guy Fieri, and 1,000 volunteers, including restaurant owners from Paradise, Calif., who lost their homes. WCK staff told Wine Spectator that they've cooked 175,000 meals for victims of the Woolsey and Camp fires, including a Thanksgiving extravaganza at Chico State University that put away 7,000 pounds of turkey, 3,500 pounds of mashed potatoes, 100 gallons of gravy, 3,000 pounds of green beans and 1,000 pumpkin pies.

California wine retailer K&L Wine Merchants is holding an epic raffle through Dec. 4 of wines from that "impossible category of bottling where we never get enough quantity to satisfy customer demand," said co-owner Brian Zucker, via email. Raffle ticket holders have the chance to take home a bottle of 2008 Cristal rosé, a duo of red and white Chave Hermitages, a rare magnum-and-then-some 1.92-liter bottle of 1961 Bartolo Mascarello Barolo or the Karuizawa 34-year-old Japanese whiskey K&L usually sells for $10,000. The effort has already raised more than $100,000.

Wineries have been pitching in as well. Grable Vineyards in Knights Valley is pledging half the proceeds from all magnum sales to the North Valley Community Foundation's Camp Fire Relief Fund, repeating an initiative they did last year after the Tubbs fire came very close to their property. "It's awareness, and we're happy to contribute, and it's a way for us to get other people involved," co-owner Amy Grable said. Over in St. Helena, Correlation Wine Co. is giving 25 percent of proceeds from case sales to Camp fire victims.

One wine industry pro put a slightly different twist on the theme. Jordan Vineyard director of marketing and communications Lisa Mattson moonlights as a memoirist, and is donating all proceeds from the just-released second edition of her book The Exes in My Glass: How I Refined My Taste in Men & Alcohol to Sonoma Family Meal. "I remember how bad I felt physically while being displaced during the Tubbs fire, eating fast food in a hotel room, waiting to be allowed back into our neighborhood," she said via email. "Sonoma Family Meal is providing that vital, healthy meal for fire victims at a time when eating well is the last priority on their minds."

Finally, Sierra Nevada Brewing Co., whose staff voluntarily evacuated its Chico facility in the Camp fire, announced the launch of the Sierra Nevada Camp Fire Relief Fund, putting up $100,000 to kick things off and brewing up a Resilience Butte County Proud IPA for release early next year.

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SND: Appeals Court Backs Wine Retailers in Illinois Shipping Case (Wine Spectator)

November 29, 2018 - 3:30pm

The ongoing national debate over interstate retailer shipping took another twist yesterday, as a federal appeals court reversed an earlier decision that had allowed Illinois to bar shipments from out-of-state retailers, as reported by Shanken News Daily, a sister publication of Wine Spectator.

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit found that the earlier district court decision in favor of Illinois failed to adequately examine the state’s justifications for the law, which was challenged on Commerce Clause grounds by Indiana chain Cap n’ Cork (Lebamoff Enterprises). But while it overturned the ruling, potentially opening the door to shipments into Illinois from out of state, the appeals court noted that the looming Tennessee v. Byrd case before the Supreme Court could have significant implications for this and other similar cases looking ahead.

The Illinois case stems from the state’s refusal to allow out-of-state retailers to ship to its residents, while allowing shipping by retailers with a physical presence in the state. While Cap n’ Cork and several wine consumers assert that the law is discriminatory and unconstitutional under the Commerce Clause, Illinois says “its restrictions fall within its reserved powers under the 21st Amendment,” in the words of the court.

The appeals court decision continued, “The district court accepted Illinois’ reasoning and dismissed the case with prejudice. We conclude that it was too quick to do so in the face of material contested issues about the necessity for and justifications behind the Illinois statute.”

For more on this case and other legal challenges, read the full story in Shanken News Daily.

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Unfiltered: Wu-Tang's Raekwon Cooks Up 'Special Potion' Lambrusco-Based Wine (Wine Spectator)

November 29, 2018 - 3:00pm

Hip-hop all-star Raekwon may go by "Raekwon da Chef," but his latest concoction comes not from the pantry but the cellar: a new fizzy wine called Licataa, made in collaboration with Lambrusco producer Cantine Ceci and just launched this month in New York. Raekwon told Unfiltered he recently traveled to Italy to do tastings that helped determine the "special potion" Lambrusco-based blend. "It's a velvety, smooth taste that still has a little sparkling feeling to it," he said. "Licataa won't be something that you feel like is a little too dry, or too fruity; [it's] right in the middle."

The Only Built 4 Cuban Linx … rapper joked that he could have easily named his wine "Raekwon the Chef," but, as in his lyrics, he wanted to tell a story. "Licata [one "a"] is a small [town] in Sicily where a lot of people that were immigrants to America came from," he said, drawing a connection to the Wu-Tang Clan's home borough, which also requires a bit of a journey. "In Staten Island, we're the farthest out from New York City—you have to go across the water. I love the name; it's relatable." When choosing a design and logo on the blue-chrome bottles, Raekwon came up with the silhouette of an archer. You shoot the arrow "to make sure it sticks," he explained. "I wanted to be able to have a wine that, when I give to you, it sticks."

Courtesy of Licataa Somethin' to fizz with

Licataa is now available in NYC at $35 a pop—Staten Island's Shaolin Liquor is among the stores that carries it—and will launch next month in California, Florida, Atlanta and New Jersey. Despite all the archery, there are no plans to weaponize the bottle's corks on national TV.

Anna Faris, Tituss Burgess 'Sleigh' in Barefoot's Holiday Music Video

'Tis the season for celebratory sips, holiday headaches and catchy tunes that will be stuck in your head until after the New Year. Bundling all three of these yuletide traditions together is the new song and music video "Sleighin' the Holidays" from Barefoot Wine's "Slay Team," an all-star cast including Anna Faris, Saturday Night Live's Cecily Strong, Yvonne Orji (from HBO's Insecure) and Chrissie Fit (Pitch Perfect 2 and 3), with a special appearance by "Peeno Noir" lover Tituss Burgess.

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With the help of ever-present bottles of wine, the group cheerfully navigate a gamut of holiday mishaps, such as oversized luggage at the airport, a cancelled office party, a surprise visit from a great aunt and, of course, the dreaded re-gift: "Socks, candles, scarves and ties," Burgess raps/laments. "All I want for Christmas is sparkling wine."

Courtesy of Barefoot Wines "Alkaline, midsize shrine, spaaaaarkling wiiine …"

According to Anna Bell, vice president of marketing for Barefoot, the fun didn't end when cameras stopped rolling. "There were a ton of great moments on set, especially seeing the Slay Team members bond so quickly, as this was the first time that each of them have had the opportunity to work together," she told Unfiltered. "One of my personal favorite moments was watching Anna Faris attempt to stay in character throughout the entire time she was on set—talk about commitment!"

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Is Copper Safe for Wine? (Wine Spectator)

November 29, 2018 - 10:45am

It's a top tool of organic grapegrowers. But is copper sulfate truly safe for vineyards? A new push by European leaders to reduce—and eventually eliminate—copper compounds used by organic and biodynamic winegrowers is making the future of organic viticulture uncertain in some wine regions.

Vintners say that without effective alternatives to copper, crop loss in damp years will make organic vineyards economically unsustainable, forcing them to turn to synthetic chemicals or bankruptcy. But as the E.U. moves toward a vote on whether or not to reauthorize the use of copper compounds, leading winemakers argue that Europe's current approach to organic farming is too simplistic, and advocate a more nuanced strategy.

"Natural is good, synthetic is bad? It's too basic to reason that way," said Charles Philipponnat, CEO of Philipponnat Champagne. "The objective is to make fine wine in a way that doesn't leave a negative impact for our children."

Since the 1880s, copper compounds, typically copper sulfate mixed with lime, have been used by grapegrowers to fight fungus and bacteria threats to vines. For organic growers, who cannot use modern fungicide sprays, copper sulfate remains the most effective weapon against downy mildew. While wine grapes were the original target crop, copper compounds are also widely used for organic potato, tomato and apple farming.

But risk assessments by public authorities like the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) show that copper compounds pose risks for farm workers, birds, mammals, ground water, soil organisms and earthworms. These risks make copper unpalatable to many vintners.

"Copper is a heavy metal and it stays in the topsoil. It's not natural; it's not clean," said Philipponnat. While his Champagne house has eliminated herbicides and chemical fertilizers and uses natural vine treatments, he doesn't rule out synthetic remedies. "I don't think it's bad to use synthetic molecules. Some synthetic molecules disappear much more rapidly. Some synthetic treatments are better than copper, but they aren't accepted for organic viticulture."

Can organic farming endure with less copper?

Nearly 17 percent of Italy's vineyards are certified organic. In France, 10 percent of the country's vineyards are certified organic or in the process of certification. In Italy, Hungary and Slovenia, roughly half of small and medium-size estates are organically farmed.

Under current E.U. rules, certified organic growers are allowed to spray about 5 pounds per acre per year. But there is also a so-called smoothing mechanism: Growers can spray more in wet years as long as they don't exceed 27 pounds per acre over a five-year period.

"In some areas they used [6 pounds per acre] this year," said Lorenza Romanese, policy advisor for the E.U. Confederation of Independent Growers.

Those days are numbered. E.U. lawmakers are currently leaning toward a 25 pound per acre limit over a seven-year period (3.5 pound per acre per year average) starting in January 2019. Initially, E.U. lawmakers did not include the "smoothing mechanism," but the French predicted more than half of the organic vineyards would return to conventional farming. Lawmakers acquiesced to a smoothing mechanism.

"At least we're not dead," said Romanese. "For all of Europe, with the smoothing mechanism, we can survive." But he says organic farming will shrink. "We lose Champagne and a few regions in the Loire. The Prosecco region and Trentino–Alto Adige, those two won't make it with [3.5 pounds]."

In Burgundy, Philippe Drouhin of the Beaune-based merchant house Joseph Drouhin, told Wine Spectator, "I think that will be a hard challenge for all of us, big and small estates."

Not all regions will be as impacted. "It depends where you grow the vineyard. If you are in Bordeaux or Alsace, it's different than if you are in Châteauneuf-du-Pape or Provence," said César Perrin, a fifth-generation grower in the Rhône whose family owns Château de Beaucastel and multiple other properties. "The last rainy vintage was 2008. This year we used [2.7 pounds per acre]."

While the concerns of organic farmers have not been ignored, E.U. Health Commissioner Vytenis Andriukaitis said, "The protection of health and the environment is my main priority."

With environmental and economic sustainability on the line, leading Spanish winemaker Miguel Torres told Wine Spectator, it's time to reconsider where we grow wine: "The most important challenge is climate change. Some organic vineyards have a higher carbon footprint than conventional vineyards. If we listen to nature more, ask ourselves, are we in the optimal place to grow wine grapes?"

What are the options for a greener future?

Some vintners believe they must look beyond copper. "We believe in organic viticulture, but I don't believe it's enough. It's the past. We have to look to the future," said Torres. "You have to listen to nature. If you have a warm, dry climate, then organic viticulture is fantastic. But if you try organic viticulture in places with high amounts of rain or humidity, the only recourse is fighting with copper, and you will pollute your vineyard with copper."

At the same time, Drouhin emphasized that vintners know the disease much better than they used to. And more precise weather forecasts—"To the millimeter is essential," said Drouhin—would allow growers to use sprays more effectively.

"I see a future for using essential oils and certain bacteria for fungicides," said Philipponnat, who said they had also had good results with a nettle-based spray.

In the Rhône, Perrin said, "We use an orange peel spray that helps a lot, and we use a 10 percent whey mixture spray that helps fight mildew. We are pleased with the results."

Both Perrin and Drouhin have also adopted the biodynamic philosophies. "With biodynamics, we help the vine be more resistant against those pathogens," said Drouhin. The frustration for biodynamic growers is the dearth of scientific research to back up their anecdotal claims. "Scientists say it's not a science," said Drouhin.

Scientists have, however, come up with promising innovations, some with ties to organic and biodynamic methods. For instance, in Bordeaux trials are underway using a spray made with Atlantic algae that has been successful in fighting mildew and has had mixed results in fighting botrytis. The product, created by engineer-enologist Laurent de Crasto and Lionel Navarro of the French National Center for Scientific Research, should be commercially available by 2022.

Meanwhile, the French National Institute for Agronomic Research, INRA, has been busy creating disease-resistant grape varieties. In October, they announced the sale of 400 cases of wine made from Artaban, one of the four new grape varieties recently approved for production that are more resistant to fungi. But many winegrowers are skeptical. "The ones we've tried, they've changed the taste of the grapes and the final wine," said Torres. "Will consumers accept the taste?"

The main lesson seems to be that organic farming cannot only look to past methods if it is to move into the future. "I'm convinced that if we invested [enough] financial means," said Drouhin, "we would find [an alternative] to copper."

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