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

February 12, 2019 - 9:00am

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Za’atar Spatchcocked Chicken with Roasted Vegetables

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

February 11, 2019 - 10:30am

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

February 8, 2019 - 12:00pm

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

February 7, 2019 - 2:00pm

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Watercolor Painter Graduates to Wine, Shares His Tricks and Techniques

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

Courtesy of Sam Debey

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

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

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

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

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

Kendall-Jackson Still at large

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

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

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

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.

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

February 7, 2019 - 2:00pm

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

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

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

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

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

February 6, 2019 - 2:30pm

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

February 6, 2019 - 9:50am

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

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

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

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

Will Tennessee's law be upheld?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Looking at the bigger picture

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What are some likely outcomes?

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

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

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

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

Pats Pop Belaire at Super Bowl LIII (Wine Spectator)

February 4, 2019 - 3:30pm

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

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

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

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

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

February 4, 2019 - 9:40am

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

February 1, 2019 - 1:00pm

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Bittersweet Chocolate-Raspberry Truffles

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

10 Recommended Wines for Pairing with Chocolate Truffles

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

Sweet Reds from Around the World

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

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

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

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

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

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

Veneto Reds

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

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

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

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

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

February 1, 2019 - 12:30pm

This story was updated Feb. 11.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

February 1, 2019 - 8:00am

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Perfect Match Recipe: Chocolate Mousse with Tawny Port (Wine Spectator)

January 31, 2019 - 3:00pm

In a Portuguese riff on classic French chocolate mousse, chef João Dias of Montreal’s Ferreira Café swaps out the traditional butter or heavy cream for olive oil and tops the dessert with a sprinkling of fleur de sel.

The mousse’s featherlight texture comes from egg whites whipped to stiff peaks, which are folded into a bittersweet chocolate custard.

With only five ingredients, the secret to the dish is to make each one count—particularly the oil. “It needs to be crazy good olive oil,” Dias counsels. “If your olive oil isn’t good, your chocolate mousse will not be good.” He uses Ferreira’s own brand of cold-pressed oil from olive groves in Portugal’s Douro region, bottled under the Carm label. If you can’t get a fine Portuguese olive oil, though, spring for the best cold-pressed, extra-virgin variety you can find.

In order to avoid winding up with dense, unctuous mousse, you need to be sure to whip sufficient air into your egg whites. This is most easily done with a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, but a handheld whisk, your dominant arm and a shot of determination could get the job done the old-fashioned way. (Just be prepared for a workout.)

How to know when you can stop whipping? “My mother [taught] me, when you turn the bowl upside-down and the egg whites don’t fall, don’t move, this is a good point,” Dias advises. Of course, you will want to approach this test gingerly—and/or with a dose of good humor and a reserve of extra eggs, since egg whites that fail the flip test will wind up on the floor, compelling you to start all over again.

A hit of flaky sea salt is stirred into the batter and more is sprinkled on top, setting off the rich, dark mousse and adding a bit of crunch. But Dias notes that if you’re not a salty-sweet person, or if you’re not sure that your guests are, you can add less to the batter, use it only as a finish, or simply set out fleur de sel at the table for guests to use—or ignore—as they choose.

When the structure of your dessert rests on tiny air bubbles, time is of the essence. After a day or so in the fridge, the bubbles in the mousse will begin to deflate, making the consistency denser and chewier—which, if you’re a lover of chewy chocolate, may be perfectly fine with you. But if it’s classically ethereal chocolate mousse you’re after, eat it within two to three hours, at which point, Dias promises, “You will have a very nice silky texture, not too dense but not too soft.”

Pairing Tip: Why Tawny Port Works with This Dish

For more tips on how to approach pairing this dish with wine, recommended bottlings and notes on chef João Dias’ inspiration, read the companion article, "Chocolate Mousse With Tawny Port," in the March 31, 2019, issue, via our online archives or by ordering a digital edition (Zinio or Google Play) or a back issue of the print magazine. For even more wine pairing options, members can find other recently rated tawny Ports in our Wine Ratings Search.

Olive Oil & Fleur de Sel Chocolate Mousse

  • 3 1/2 ounces 70-percent-cacao dark chocolate, roughly chopped
  • 2 tablespoons high quality olive oil, preferably Portuguese, plus more to finish
  • 5 scant tablespoons sugar
  • 3 egg yolks
  • 4 egg whites
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons fleur de sel, plus more to finish

1. In a double boiler or a small saucepan, bring about 1 inch of water to a boil, then reduce to a simmer. (If using a saucepan, then set a heatproof bowl on top to create a double boiler, taking care not to let the bottom of the bowl touch the water.) Add the chopped chocolate to the top pot or bowl and let melt, stirring occasionally until smooth. Remove from heat. Slowly whisk in the olive oil until well-blended.

2. In a mixing bowl, beat the sugar with the egg yolks and fleur de sel until light yellow and creamy. Whisk in the melted chocolate.

3. In a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, beat the egg whites to stiff peaks. Slowly incorporate into the chocolate mixture, stirring constantly with a whisk until well-incorporated.

4. Divide the batter among 6 small bowls and refrigerate for 2 to 3 hours, until firm.

5. Just before serving, sprinkle each serving with fleur de sel and a few drops of olive oil. Serves 6.

The 10K Race Through the World's Largest Wine Cellar (Wine Spectator)

January 31, 2019 - 10:00am

We're plenty familiar with the urge to run to the wine cellar, but what about running inside of one—for miles? On Jan. 20, more than 350 wine-loving runners (or fitness-crazed enophiles?) flocked to Mileștii Mici winery in Moldova to do just that, part of the massive historic cellar's first-annual 10K race.

Spanning more than 124 miles of subterranean wine catacombs, the state-owned Mileștii Mici certainly has plenty of room to host such an event. The cellar, which boasts nearly 2 million bottles, holds the Guinness World Record for "largest wine cellar by number of bottles"; the Soviet Union once got much of its red from Moldovan cellars like these. In partnership with sports organization Sporter and communications firm Simpals, the winery welcomed guests from more than 15 different countries, including the U.S., Canada, Romania, Russia and more, to go high-speed spelunking in what they call their "underground kingdom."

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"The purpose of our event was promotion of amateur sports and tourism in the Republic of Moldova, as well as … [to] show tourists the culture and traditions of our country," a representative from Sporter told Unfiltered.

Runners donned mandatory headlamps and used maps labeled with the cellar's "streets," named for different wine varieties, to navigate the course, which was mapped out more than 300 feet below ground. Along the way, they enjoyed views of Moldovan art, and sounds of the country's traditional music. "In the cellars, we specially placed folk musicians, so that participants would not be bored," the rep said. "But some runners were so happy when they met our artists that they stopped running and started dancing and having fun with them!"

Courtesy of Sporter On your marks, get set … GULP!

At the finish line, all the runners were greeted with Moldovan food and wine, so in true retro-communist fashion, they shared in the win no matter where they finished.

LeBron James Pours Montepulciano for 'Real Vino Heads,' Puts Pelicans on Notice

As we reported last week, the NBA's New Orleans Pelicans paid a visit to McEvoy Ranch for a wine and olive oil tasting, after star power forward Nikola Mirotic touted the winery's Marin County Montepulciano. It was a page right out of LeBron James' formidable wine playbook—his Cleveland Caberniers were the original wine-country ballers—and this week, King James took notice.

Instagram / @kingjames A LeBron-Certified Advanced vino

As is his wont, James posted his evening's pour on his Instagram account earlier this week: So happens, it was a bottle of 2010 Emidio Pepe Montepulciano d'Abruzzo, accompanied by the message, "Only for my real vino heads. Cheers to you." Translation: "I am LeBron James, the undisputed champion of wine and basketball, and I see you, New Orleans Pelicans, trifling with my claim. Behold, when I drink Montepulciano, it is a well-aged bottle from the best winery in the ancestral home region of the grape." If you think Unfiltered is reading into it a bit much, recall that James is a man who, upon defeating the Golden State Warriors in the 2016 NBA Finals, stepped off his team plane in Cleveland wearing a t-shirt depicting the wrestler Ultimate Warrior with the words "Ultimate Warrior" in big green letters, holding his trophy aloft—and then claimed it was the only shirt he happened to have in his bag.

Still, James' message sprinkled some pizazz around rural southern Italy. "They have been few lively days after the LeBron post: Lots of friends, clients and wine lovers showed their excitement, and people from Abruzzo felt enormously proud," Chiara De Iulis Pepe of Emidio Pepe told Unfiltered via email. "It's a sign for a notably increased knowledge and eagerness of discovery of fine wines from less renowned wine regions and less prominent grape varietals.

"We hope to welcome [LeBron] in Abruzzo to let him discover our beautiful region and let him taste some of the most historical vintages from our aging cellar. "

Sacramento Kings Source Local Bogle for Stadium

In other wine and basketball feuds that may or may not be imagined, the Sacramento Kings have announced a new home-stadium wine, a Clarksburg Petite Sirah blend called Proud Roots made by Bogle Vineyards. Bogle is known for its eco-cred, winning a California Green Medal in 2018 and earning sustainability certification from the California Rules for Sustainable Winegrowing. It's good teamwork: The Kings are green leaders on the court, and the Golden 1 Center, opened in 2016, is the first arena to receive the prestigious LEED Platinum sustainable-building designation. The Kings organization sources 90 percent of food served at the arena from within 150 miles of it, and the Bogle vineyard, Sanchez Ranch, is just a few bends down the Sacramento River 15 miles from the stadium.

“The Sacramento Kings are leaders in sustainability efforts, and our family and staff are excited to partner with them to create something our entire region can be proud of,” said Jody Bogle of Bogle Vineyard & Winery in a press release. “As longtime Kings fans, the Bogle family looks forward to enjoying the wine with other Kings fans and the Sacramento community.”

You can referee for yourself if this green wine flex has anything to do with last month's announcement that the Kings' Norcal rivals Golden State had partnered with Silver Oak to supply their own Oracle Arena with LEED-Platinum pours.

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9 Piping-Hot Pizza Places with Terrific Wine Lists (Wine Spectator)

January 31, 2019 - 8:30am

Updated: Jan. 31, 2019

Super Bowl season ignites cravings for classic bar foods like nachos, chicken wings and the MVP of Italian-turned-American grub: pizza. Whether topped with gooey cheese, pepperoni, ham, roasted veggies or "everything," this versatile dish offers something for everyone. Perfect pairings for pizza abound, from fruity reds to rich whites to crisp sparklers.

Here are nine Wine Spectator Restaurant Award–winning restaurants from around the United States whose pizzas are a delightful match with their wine lists. To check out more great wine dining spots across the globe, see Wine Spectator’s more than 3,500 Restaurant Award–winning picks, including our 91 Grand Award recipients.

This is only a partial guide to pizza and wine restaurants. Do you have a favorite you’d like to see on this list? Send your recommendations to We want to hear from you!


2355 Chestnut St., San Francisco, Calif.
Telephone (415) 771-2216
Open Lunch and dinner, daily
Best of Award of Excellence

Owner and wine director Shelley Lindgren also runs the program at Award of Excellence winner SPQR.

Just off the Presidio in San Francisco’s Marina District, A16 draws its inspiration from southern Italy for both its wine list and cuisine. Owner and wine director Shelley Lindgren’s list has earned the restaurant a Best of Award of Excellence since 2011 for its moderately priced 500-plus selections, almost all of which are Italian. Authentic Neapolitan pizza takes center stage on chef Nicolette Manescalchi’s menu, ranging from classic marinara, Margherita and Romana options to a pie topped with pancetta, pecorino and escarole.


1425 First St., Napa, Calif.
Telephone (707) 252-1022
Open Dinner, daily
Best of Award of Excellence

Alex Farnum Enjoy hidden gems of the Italian wine world alongside the signature pizzas at Oenotri.

In the heart of Napa, Oenotri attracts winemakers and tourists alike with its Italian-focused, Best of Award of Excellence–winning list. Wine director Thomas Dorman makes a point to champion lesser-known Italian wines from Refosco to Sangiovese Bianco on his moderately priced, 600-selection list. Chef Tyler Rodde’s menu offers plenty of choices to pair with Dorman’s picks, and though the menu changes daily, highlights have included a classic Margherita pie to one with cream, fontina, roasted king trumpet mushrooms and thyme.

Undici Taverna Rustica

11 W. River Road, Rumson, N.J.
Telephone (732) 842-3880
Open Dinner, daily; Lunch, Saturday and Sunday
Best of Award of Excellence

At New Jersey favorite Undici Taverna Rustica, owner and wine director Victor Rallo's list will transport you to Italy.

Not far from the banks of the Navesink River, you’ll find Undici Taverna Rustica, a recreated Tuscan farmhouse in Rumson, N.J. The Italian influence carries over to the Best of Award of Excellence–winning wine list, overseen by owner and wine director Victor Rallo, offering 800 selections and focusing on Tuscany and Piedmont. In addition to roasted fish dishes, meats and house-made pastas, chef Giovanni Atzori’s menu features handmade pizzas with classic toppings, all wood-fired at 800 F.

360 Uno Pizzeria, Espresso, Vino

3801 N. Capital of Texas Highway, Suite G-100, Austin, Texas
Telephone (512) 327-5505
Open Lunch and dinner, daily
Award of Excellence

360 Uno Pizzeria, Espresso, Vino 360 Uno Pizzeria, Espresso, Vino features both a traditional dining room and a more casual bar and counter-service space.

In Austin, Texas, the family-owned 360 Uno Pizzeria, Espresso, Vino has earned an Award of Excellence every year since 2005. Wine director Chris Hightower’s list offers 235 selections, with strengths in Italy and California, a handful of which are available on tap. Choose from 12 pizza options with a variety of toppings, all available on gluten-free crust by request.


27 Housatonic St., Lenox, Mass.
Telephone (413) 637-9171
Open Dinner, daily
Award of Excellence

Brava At Brava, European eats complement a classic wine list.

Brava brings the cozy charm of a European wine bar to the heart of Lenox, Mass. Whitney Asher owns and operates the 30-seat restaurant, overseeing the 125-label, Award of Excellence–winning wine list. The selections focus on classic regions, excelling in Italy, France and Spain. Brava boasts an ambitious by-the-glass program, with 40 to 50 options depending on the season, as well as themed wine flights such as “Italy’s traditional white wines” and “Fun reds from all over France.” The menu is a mix of tapas plates like seared scallops with Dijon balsamic–sauce and grilled lamb chops with mint sauce, and hand-made pizzas with toppings like merguez sausage and wild mushrooms.

Il Fornaio Cucina Italiana

600 Pine St., Suite 132, Seattle, Wash.
Telephone (206) 264-0994
Open Lunch and dinner, daily
Award of Excellence

With 19 Award of Excellence–winning locations across the country, Il Fornaio Cucina Italiana is proof that pizza and wine make for a winning pair. The Seattle location’s 90-selection, inexpensive list is managed by corporate wine director Octavia Monelli and has good representation from Italy and California. Those looking for local offerings will also find several Washington options on the list to sip with Il Fornaio’s signature thin-crust pies made with mozzarella.


29 E. 29th St., New York, N.Y.
Telephone (212) 651-3800
Open Lunch and dinner, daily
Award of Excellence

Marta At Marta, wine director Jenni Guizio’s list highlights bottles from Italy and Champagne.

Opened by restaurateur Danny Meyer in 2014, just north of Manhattan’s Madison Square Park, Marta earned its first Award of Excellence the following year. Wine director Jenni Guizio guides the 550-selection list, with strengths in Italy and Champagne, and featuring many options in the $50-to-$100 range. Pair your pick with one of chef Lena Ciardulla’s traditional Roman-style, crackly-crust pizzas.

Pizza Man

2597 N. Downer Ave., Milwaukee, Wis.
Telephone (414) 272-1745
Open Dinner, daily
Award of Excellence

Brad Krawczyk Pizza Man features several dining spaces including a terrace that opens to the outdoors.

Pizza Man has grown from its 1970s identity as a modest takeout concept to a pizza-and-wine destination with three Award of Excellence–winning locations throughout Wisconsin. The Milwaukee outpost has held the title since 2014 for wine director Carlie Nesgoda’s well-rounded, value-filled list. California and Italy stand out, but you’ll find wines from Germany, France, Argentina and beyond. Nearly all of the 125 selections are under $100 and also available in half-bottles. Pizza Man offers Italian appetizers and pastas alongside signature pizzas available in three different sizes, with plenty of vegetarian options.

Pizza Republica

890 14th St., Denver, Colo.
Telephone (303) 623-2811
Open Lunch and dinner, daily
Award of Excellence

Pizza Republica Pizza Republica is a hot spot for wood-fired pies and affordable Italian wine.

At Pizza Republica, wine directors George Eder and William Graves make Italian wine approachable. The small Colorado chain has two other Award of Excellence–winning locations in Greenwood Village and Glendale, and they all offer a list of 110 exclusively Italian labels. Each selection identifies the grape variety and body (light, medium or full) to help guests select the perfect bottle. Pair your pick with one of their Neapolitan-style pies, baked at 1,000 F.

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

Restaurant Spotlight: De Vine Restaurant (Wine Spectator)

January 31, 2019 - 8:00am

On a quiet, lakeside property in western Ukraine, about an hour-long drive from the city of Lviv, Edem Resort Medical & Spa Hotel goes beyond what you’d expect from a luxury resort. There are charming suites, diverse dining options and a state-of-the-art spa, as well as art exhibitions and immersive health treatments like a three-day “anti-stress” program. Edem’s Wine Spectator Best of Award of Excellence winner, De Vine Restaurant, boasts a growing wine program of more than 350 selections. There are nearly 30 labels available by the glass, including 21 by Coravin. France, especially Bordeaux, is a big focus of the list, but wine director Yevhen Ivanov also emphasizes Italy and rounds out the offerings with regions like Greece, Israel, Austria and Switzerland. The hotel has even started experimenting with its own wine production, recently planting four test grape varieties on a small piece of land purchased in Freiburg, Germany. Ivanov hopes to eventually add these bottlings to De Vine’s list. The international program complements regional European dishes from chef Artur Tumanyan, such as smoked eel on cucumber carpaccio and minced turkey kebab with spinach and peanut-carrot cream.

Turning Tables: Upcoming Del Frisco's L.A. Will Have Brand's Largest Opening Wine List (Wine Spectator)

January 31, 2019 - 7:30am
Opening Soon in Los Angeles: Del Frisco's Double Eagle Steakhouse

A new Del Frisco's Double Eagle Steakhouse is coming to Los Angeles Feb. 9, the second California location for the steak-house chain. A total of 13 Double Eagles have a Wine Spectator Restaurant Award, including a Grand Award winner in New York. The parent company also owns the Del Frisco's Grille and Barcelona Wine Bar concepts.

The L.A. outpost is in a two-story space in Westfield Century City, a recently renovated mall just outside Beverly Hills. It boasts the largest opening wine list for the brand, with more than 2,000 selections and 45 wines by the glass, including 15 available via Coravin. While wines from California are a typical focus for the steak house, wine director Mandy Sparacino aims to provide a diverse, international program.

"Our guests expect to find the most rare and allocated wines in the world at our locations, and L.A. is definitely not going to be an exception," Sparacino said. "Our New York location is kind of our heartbeat on the East Coast, and we plan to be that heartbeat on the West Coast."

Standout verticals will include more than 38 vintages of Domaine de la Romanée-Conti and 45 vintages of Gaja. There's also a solid selection of large-format bottles and half-bottles. Bubblies will be emphasized as well, with a designated Champagne lounge on the second floor.

Sparacino expects the list to grow with time. She says diners can look forward to high-profile wine dinners and an upcoming Sherry program.

Emeril Lagasse Makes New York Debut Julie Harans Greek-Creole-Cajun cuisine has hit New York with Rodos.

On Jan. 8, celebrity chef Emeril Lagasse launched his first New York City restaurant, Rodos, in Chelsea's Hotel Henri. It's also the first concept of a new consulting division of Lagasse's company, We Love Food Hospitality, and a collaboration with restaurateur Yiannis Chatiris, whose Greek home island of Rhodes inspired the restaurant's name. The menu blends Chatiris' heritage with Lagasse's signature Cajun-Creole style, featuring dishes like octopus beignets and crawfish-stuffed clams.

The wine list includes more than 60 selections with 13 available by the glass, highlighting Greek producers like Hatzimichalis and Evangelos Tsantalis. France, Italy, Spain and the United States are also represented.

Lagasse is known for more extensive wine programs in many of his restaurants, such as his two Grand Award winners, Delmonico Steakhouse in Las Vegas and Emeril's New Orleans, as well as five Best of Award of Excellence winners in Las Vegas, New Orleans, Florida and Pennsylvania.

Two Restaurants in the Venetian Las Vegas Close Courtesy of Gen3 Hospitality Public House was one of many dining concepts at the swanky Venetian in Las Vegas.

Aquaknox and Public House, two Award of Excellence winners in Las Vegas' Venetian resort, have closed.

Seafood restaurant Aquaknox had a 335-selection wine list with strengths in California and France. The concept was part of Tavistock Restaurant Collection, which includes Best of Award of Excellence winners Abe & Louie's in Boston and Atlas in Atlanta, as well as six Award of Excellence winners across the country.

Public House featured American cuisine and a 310-selection, California-focused wine list. The restaurant is also part of a Restaurant Award–winning group, Billy Richardson's Gen3 Hospitality, which owns Best of Award of Excellence winner the Barrymore in Las Vegas.

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

New Game Plan as Yellow Tail Charges Back to the Super Bowl (Wine Spectator)

January 30, 2019 - 9:00am

The Shiraz is going back to the Super Bowl! On Sunday, Yellow Tail will return to the airwaves for the third year in a row, matching the latest streak of consecutive appearances the New England Patriots have made in the championship game and the Los Angeles Rams have made in the National Football League. This year, however, Yellow Tail and importer Deutsch Family Wine & Spirits are debuting an entirely new ad campaign, "Tastes Like Happy," which toasts such happy occasions as "lifelong bonds and well-deserved promotions" and "the online date who actually looks like their profile picture."

"It just felt like it's kind of a great moment in time to share images and moments that are probably seen as universally happy at a time when the country doesn't agree on a lot of stuff," Deutsch Family president Tom Steffanci told Unfiltered.

It's a departure from the past two years' irreverent duo of mascots Yellow Tail Guy and Roo, and before 2017, no wine commercials had appeared at all in the big game since 1988.

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"When we first did this, we thought it was going to be a one-year investment," Steffanci recalled. That year, sales of the most-imported brand in the U.S., made by Australian company Casella, were trending down about 5 percent. But in January and February 2017, growth spiked 8 percent, with the following February improving another 5 percent. By some metrics, these are the most sluggish wine sales months of the year; they are now Yellow Tail's strongest. This year, Deutsch Family will spend slightly under $6 million to reach an estimated audience of 100 million. The company hopes to post an additional 2 percent growth in sales in each of those months.

The creation process for this year's ad began with about five different campaign ideas, put in front of focus groups of consumers, Steffanci told us. "As we came up with, 'What are these moments that our consumers would associate with happiness and Yellow Tail?' it was kind of a natural progression to say, 'Well, why don't we allow consumers to suggest what that might look like?'" And so a video contest was born: Entrants were invited to create 6-second videos, and the two winning clips would be woven into the 30-second Super Bowl ad. (Eagle-eyed viewers should look for a salsa dancer on the beach and a woman on a rope swing.)

As in previous years, Deutsch Family has had to get creative to circumvent Anheuser-Busch InBev's exclusive national rights to advertising alcohol during the game, instead placing local ad buys piecemeal. In 2019, that will be 81 markets, to reach an estimated 90 to 95 percent of total viewers.

New "Tastes Like Happy" spots will appear later on TV, YouTube, Hulu and Yellow Tail's social media platforms, although Deutsch has not yet decided if they'll be returning in 2020's Super Bowl LIV. As for Yellow Tail Guy and Roo, "like all hardworking, successful people, they are enjoying their retirement," no doubt keeping the Chardonnay on ice on a beach somewhere for Rob Gronkowski.

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.

Wine Talk: Yumi Tanabe, Japan’s Woman of Wine (Wine Spectator)

January 29, 2019 - 10:00am

Like many wine pros, Yumi Tanabe was a child of winemakers. But her story doesn't begin in Napa or Bordeaux—the family winery where she grew up was on the northern Japanese island of Hokkaido, at a time when Japan's domestic wine scene was just getting started. Tanabe eventually found her own way to wine during her studies at Cornell University, and in her 39-year career, she has become one of the most influential figures in the Japanese wine scene, as a writer, educator, importer and occasionally even a winemaker herself.

In 1992, Tanabe founded Japan’s first school for wine professionals, and in 2013, established the increasingly successful Sakura Japan Women’s Wine Awards. The next year, Tanabe made her first vintage.

Tanabe's publications include, USA Winery Guide, Californian Wine, Yumi Tanabe’s Wine Book and Yumi, Are You Making Wine? Wine Spectator contributor Julian Littler spoke to Tanabe in Tokyo about the past and future of Japanese wine, what she has done to champion women in her work, and how to pair some of the trickiest flavors in Japanese cuisine with wine. The 2019 Sakura Awards begin on Jan. 29; 530 woman sommeliers will be evaluating 4,326 wine entries from 33 countries.

Wine Spectator: How did you first become interested in wine?
Yumi Tanabe: I was born and grew up in a wine region in Hokkaido. At that time, there was only one winery in Hokkaido. This was founded by my father. The vineyard surrounded my home. It doesn’t exist anymore, but I was very interested in taking care of the vines and harvesting the grapes. I had many chances to taste wine at home with dinner, even as a child. I grew up with wine. But when I was at school I was not so interested in the wine industry at all. I studied mathematics; maybe I wanted to be a computer programmer or an engineer, a computer engineer or a teacher [of] mathematics.

I had a chance to visit Cornell, [and] there is a hotel administration [school] there. I just happened to sit in on some wine tasting classes. Cornell changed my idea from mathematics to wine.

WS: In your years experimenting with wine since then, what Japanese foods would you say are most difficult to pair with wine?
YT: Shiokara [Japanese fermented dish often made using squid with salted guts]. Sometimes it’s good with Georgian wine; orange wine is very good with shiokara, Sherry is good. Of course, Japan has unique food. There is a lot of vinegar, sugar and soy sauce—the main [ingredients] for Japanese food.

Also, unlike the French, for Japanese there are many different kinds of food on the table [at the same time]. Rosé, not bone-dry, but a little sweet, is good for all the food together. Sparkling wine is good with sushi; generally speaking, no misses—no mistakes if you select sparkling wine.

For example, yesterday I had Italian sparkling wine with fish, with tai [Japanese sea bream]. I’m lucky I was born and grew up in Japan. If I’d grown up in a winegrowing country, like France or Italy, maybe I’d only drink local wine.

WS: Why did you decide to set up a wine school?
YT: I came back to Japan in 1980, when the wine market was still very small, and worked for five years for a wine distributor and importer. At that time, I found that wine service people had no education, no knowledge about wine at all. I thought we needed education about wine to help the development of wine. So I decided to teach what we should know in the Japanese market; we needed more wine professionals in the Japanese market.

WS: Why did you feel the need to establish the Sakura Awards?
YT: I’d been teaching wine for 25 years, and many young people started to work in the wine business and the wine industry, and the wine market in Japan became bigger and bigger. Many people gained the title of sommelier—it’s around 30,000 in Japan now. It’s enough, it’s more than enough. Actually, 43, 44, nearly 45 percent of those who got the title of sommelier are women.

But also, on the consumer side, women drink wine, women like wine more than men in Japan. Women want to know how to drink wine with food for daily drinking. Women are looking for wine they can get in the supermarket for 2,000 yen or 3,000 yen ($18–27), not icon wine.

Looking at the industry [when I started the Awards], in restaurants, the chef sommelier was always a man. He decided what was on the wine list. Even the importers, most of the buyers were men. They decided what kind of wine should be imported. The wine imported into the Japanese market was all the men’s view, not women’s.

OK, [I thought], what should I do next, after the school? The target is women. So, for the Sakura Awards, judges are only women. I want to sell the wine for women’s palate. Some people say, "Oh, Yumi Tanabe is only looking for women, Yumi Tanabe doesn’t like men." Yes, I like men [laughs]. But in the case of the Sakura Awards it is different, because most of the wine tastings and wine competitions are the men’s side.

This competition is not only to select the wine that women like, but also to involve women in the wine market, to change the wine market in Japan. I want to give some shock to the old liquor industry in Japan. In five years, I think women will have more of a chance for power in the industry, with bosses also thinking about how women are important for the wine industry.

WS: What’s happening with domestic wine?
YT: Of all the wine we consume in Japan, less than 4 percent is Japanese wine. But also, we Japanese like Japanese things. Some young Japanese people are very interested in making wine. Some younger people want to move back to the countryside to work in agriculture, and winemaking has a European image, a good image, not [like] growing rice or potatoes—making wine is a kind of status. We have a lot of new winemakers, new wineries established over the past 10 years. For example, in Hokkaido, before 2000 there were just seven wineries; now there are 36.

8 & $20 Recipe: Steak-Loaded Cheesy Baked Potatoes (Wine Spectator)

January 29, 2019 - 7:00am

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.

Twice-baked potatoes are already a favorite party appetizer, but topping them with steak takes them to the next level. This version gets a Tex-Mex twist by adding pico de gallo (fresh Mexican salsa), shredded cheese and chives. It's hearty enough to make a meal out of by having a couple potatoes with a simple salad on the side.

The potatoes are easy to prepare, but do take a bit of time to bake, during which you can take care of other things. If you’re having a party, you can even do most of the cooking and assembly ahead of time, then finish warming the potatoes in the oven just before your guests arrive. The simple steak topping takes just a few minutes to cook and adds a substantial final flourish. Heap it abundantly on top of the potatoes.

With this meaty topping and rich filling, the potatoes seemed like they could stand up to a moderately big red, so I tried two: a Spanish Garnacha and a Chilean Carmenère.

The Garnacha had flavors of sweet, smoked cherries and vanilla, along with a pleasant acidity that helped balance out the food. However, the fruit had a confectionery note that wasn’t ideal with this dish.

The Carmenère offered deeper black cherry, plum, pepper and herbal notes. The weightier of the two wines, it had more prominent tannins. Initially, I thought this might be a problem, but the tannins grew increasingly plush as the wine got air. Smoky notes in the wine matched the light char on the steak, while its herbal character worked well with the pico de gallo and, in particular, any bites containing guacamole. Over the course of the meal, the Carmenère emerged as the clear favorite.

Tex-Mex Steak-Stuffed Twice-Baked Potatoes

Pair with a moderately tannic red such as De Martino Carmenère Maipo Valley Legado Reserva 2016 (87 points, $20) from Chile.

Prep time: 10 minutes
Cooking time: 90 minutes
Total time: 1 hour, 40 minutes
Food Costs: $18

  • 4 medium russet potatoes, thoroughly washed
  • Cooking oil (such as canola or olive oil)
  • Salt
  • Pepper
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 1/2 cup shredded cheese (cheddar, Monterey Jack or a Mexican blend), plus more for serving
  • 1/3 cup sour cream, plus more for serving
  • 3/4 cup pico de gallo, divided, plus more for serving
  • 1 pound steak strips (such as sirloin or round), cut into small chunks
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 tablespoon chives, finely chopped, for garnish
  • Guacamole, for serving (optional)

1. Preheat oven to 400 F. Rub the potatoes with a little cooking oil and sprinkle with salt, then set on a baking pan or baking dish. Place them in the oven and cook for 1 hour, or until the potatoes are completely cooked through and a knife inserted into the middle encounters no resistance. Remove them from the oven.

2 . Once the potatoes are cool enough to handle, slice them in half lengthwise. Scoop out about 2/3 to 3/4 of the insides of each potato into a bowl, making sure to leave enough of the potato intact on the bottom so that it is able to hold its form. Line up the potato shells on a baking sheet and set aside. Reduce the oven temperature to 350 F.

4. Add the tablespoon of butter, salt and pepper to the bowl of potato flesh and mash up well. Once it has cooled down a bit, mix in the shredded cheese, sour cream and 1/4 cup of the pico de gallo and combine well. Season with additional salt and pepper as needed. Evenly distribute the mixture back into the potato shells. Place them back in the oven and continue cooking for another 15 to 20 minutes or until the potatoes are completely warmed through.

5. While the potatoes are in the oven, heat a small amount of oil in a sauté pan on medium-high. Add the steak cubes to the pan and cook until lightly browned, about 2 to 3 minutes. Add the minced garlic and 1/2 cup of the pico de gallo to the pan, stir to combine and cook for another minute. Remove the pan from the heat.

6. Once the potatoes are warmed through, arrange them on a platter. Top each with some of the steak mixture and garnish with the chives and additional shredded cheese. Serve with extra pico de gallo, sour cream and guacamole, if desired, on the side. Makes 4 lunch-sized servings or 8 appetizer portions.