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Restaurant Spotlight: Olivella (Wine Spectator)

December 20, 2018 - 8:00am

About 70 miles north of Los Angeles is Ojai, Calif., a city in a scenic valley setting with a charming downtown area. Ojai Valley Inn & Spa has been one of the city’s top resorts since 1923, and its Olivella restaurant has held Wine Spectator’s Best of Award of Excellence for more than a decade. Olivella takes its connection to the region very seriously, sourcing ingredients from nearby farms, orchards, ranches and waters through its “valley-to-table” program. Chef Andrew Foskey blends inspiration from Italian cuisine with local ingredients. The result is a menu of Italian staples with a distinct Californian twist, like bison carpaccio with pine nut and a frutti di mare with uni and almond crumb.

With its most recent renovation in 2015, the resort created what is now the trophy piece of the restaurant: the Olivella Wine Room. The impressive private-dining space holds about 500 of the restaurant’s 10,000 bottles in temperature-controlled, glass-enclosed units lining the walls. Managed by wine director Melissa Lamb, the 850-label list features standouts from California—with special attention paid to its closest wine region, the Central Coast—as well as France and Italy. While the list is expensive overall, each there are picks for under $100 from all three countries, and there are two pages of half-bottle selections. For guests seeking a deeper understanding of the labels on their list, Olivella regularly hosts winemaker dinners with prominent producers like Dom Pérignon and Opus One.

2018 Wine Harvest Report: Burgundy Starts Fast and Finishes Slow (Wine Spectator)

December 19, 2018 - 1:00pm

The 2018 growing season kept Burgundy’s vintners on their toes, with a quick start following by erratic rains and a slow harvest. However, in the end, yields were good and quality appears to be very good to outstanding.

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

A fast start and a slow finish

“Although it has sometimes been tough to keep up with the rhythm, it has been an almost ideal season,” said Alexandre Brault, manager of Maison Alex Gambal. “We have had enough water and sun, and everything has grown perfectly, resulting in good volumes. In terms of crop quality, I don’t believe I have seen a rotten berry in all of the harvest. The grapes were in absolutely perfect condition, which has helped us wait for them to ripen.”

The rhythm and ripeness issues Brault was referring to were the varying amounts of rainfall during the summer, thanks to storms that impacted some areas but not others. It was possible to have 2 inches in Meursault and nothing in Chassagne-Montrachet on a given day. Vintners reported rain in one part, but not in another, of the same parcel.

The year began with a rainy spring that helped the vines to grow quickly once the sun appeared and temperatures rose toward the end of April. The flowering was also fast, starting in late May.

Hail struck Nuits-St.-Georges, specifically in the Prémeaux-Prissey section, in early July, while a second storm, two weeks later, dropped 7 inches of rain, according to Géraldine Godot, technical director of Domaine de l’Arlot. Though the moisture made working in the vineyards difficult, and workers had to make anti-fungal treatments by hand, Godot was pleased with the resulting yield and quality of the grapes. “Despite two violent hailstorms at Prémeaux-Prissey, [yields] are almost similar to 2017,” she said. (In 2017, the crop was one of the largest of the past decade.)

Dimitri Bazas, technical director of Maison Champy reports that July and August were hot, with abundant sunshine. Yet it was the uneven pattern of rainfall that required patience and planning during the harvest. Expecting to start harvest early, on Aug. 25 due to the heat, the team at Gambal discovered that not all their parcels were ripe. In fact, the typical picking pattern according to each climat was quickly abandoned.

Courtesy Maison Alex Gambal Chardonnay grapes just off the vine in Bâtard-Montrachet.

“We generally harvest our Bâtard on the same day as our Enseignères; this year we picked them a week apart,” recalled Brault. “Our small plot of Meursault Narvaux is usually one of the last whites; it was one of the first this year. We generally harvest most of the whites first; this year we were harvesting both whites and reds at the same time. We harvested between Aug. 27 and Sept. 20, almost four weeks … never heard of.”

In the end, yields were good—less than the abundant 2017 harvest, but much higher than 2016, when frost struck some areas, as well as the small volume in 2015 and the hail-impacted 2014, 2013 and 2012 vintages.

In Chablis, Gregory Viennois, technical director for Domaine Laroche, reported good ripeness and acidity in the newly fermented whites. He says he was one of the first to start picking, on Aug. 27, in order to preserve that acidity. “We took our time and we finished the 13th of September. No rot, no disease, beautiful conditions”

In Pouilly-Fuissé, the spring rain also lessened impact of the subsequent hot, dry summer, according to Antoine Vincent, proprietor and winemaker at Château Fuissé. The early flowering suggested a mid- to late-August harvest, but “the vines continued slowly mature, so we decided to wait until Sept. 1, to [aim] for the physiological maturity.” Vincent also said there was a good volume of juice in the berries, resulting in healthy yields.

Overall, 2018 was a year that delivered new challenges for growers in Burgundy, but also brought promising results. However, as the Burgundians say: "On verra." We’ll see.

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Turning Tables: EMP Winter House Debuts in Aspen (Wine Spectator)

December 19, 2018 - 7:30am
EMP Winter House Debuts in Aspen

After the success from two summers of EMP Summer House in New York's Long Island, Wine Spectator Grand Award winner Eleven Madison Park is launching a second seasonal pop-up, EMP Winter House, in Aspen, Colo. The restaurant opened Dec. 15 in the St. Regis Hotel and will remain open through the first week of April 2019. "EMP Summer House and EMP Winter House are two totally different restaurants," said Eleven Madison Park wine director Cedric Nicaise. "The menu, decor and feel of the restaurant is different, but the amazing staff is the same."

The 250-selection wine list follows the same "ethos" as Eleven Madison Park's but on a smaller scale, said Nicaise, showing strengths in California, Burgundy, the Rhône and Piedmont. But the menu shakes things up, drawing inspiration from chef Daniel Humm's home country with classic Swiss dishes like Zurich-style chicken, as well as schnitzel and fondue. "One of the things that makes these pop-ups unique is that we are not replicating the same concept," said Nicaise. An après-ski menu includes the famed Humm dog and a Thermos of bone broth for the table.—B.G.

Andrew Carmellini Opens San Morello in Detroit Nicole Frazen San Morello is NoHo Hospitality Group's first restaurant in Detroit.

Chef and restaurateur Andrew Carmellini and his NoHo Hospitality Group, which is behind Best of Award of Excellence winner the Dutch in Miami, opened San Morello in Detroit's Shinola Hotel Dec. 18. "The amount of opportunity and creativity in Detroit is amazing right now," said NoHo beverage director Josh Nadel.

The 300-selection wine list offers mainly Italian wines from Piedmont and Tuscany, with a few selections from France and the U.S. To pair with the menu's southern Italian cuisine, there's also a large spotlight on the lesser-known Italian wines from regions like Campania, Basilicata and Sicily "that really are just meant to go with food," said Nadel.

"I think it's very important to have wine with which people are really comfortable, but one of my favorite things to do is bring a lot of those wines that are a lot less familiar to people," Nadel said. "Some of the wines I'm bringing here haven't even been into the state before."—B.G.

Piero Selvaggio Will Follow Valentino Closure with an Opening in Newport Beach

On Jan. 3, restaurateurs Piero Selvaggio and Ron Salisbury will open Louie's by the Bay in Newport Beach, Calif., days after Selvaggio closes his Santa Monica restaurant, Valentino, which was one of the first to earn a Grand Award in 1981 and maintained the title for 37 years. The restaurant will serve its final dinner Dec. 31.

"[We] want to really make this a wine-driven restaurant, and we have all of the tools to do that," Selvaggio said. "It's my first new challenge in a long time."

The opening list will have more than 150 mostly Italian selections, with plenty of classics like Barolo and Brunello, as well as picks from small producers in regions like Sicily and Sardinia. About 70 to 80 percent of the program will come from Valentino, especially old bottlings like Biondi-Santi Brunello di Montalcino Riserva 1891 and Bertani Recioto della Valpolicella Amarone Classico Superiore 1968.

Like Valentino, Louie's by the Bay will serve a mix of classic and creative Italian dishes, from eggplant Parmigiana and veal Milanese to grilled octopus with squid-ink couscous, as well as various dry-aged meat cuts. The restaurant will source its pasta from an independent producer in Naples, Italy, and turn to Southern California for produce and cheeses.

Selvaggio is looking forward to bringing something new to Newport Beach, an area he feels is lacking a substantial fine-dining scene. Still, closing his historic restaurant and welcoming a new one has been bittersweet. "It's an emotional, painful passage, but it's time for the passage," Selvaggio said.—J.H.

Tom Colicchio Opens Small Batch in Long Island's Roosevelt Field Jim Franco Chef Tom Colicchio

On Dec. 12, celebrity chef Tom Colicchio, whose Crafted Hospitality operates Best of Award of Excellence winners Craft and Craft Los Angeles, opened his newest farm-to-table restaurant, Small Batch, in Long Island's Roosevelt Field shopping mall.

"We've been looking for a while for something outside a major metropolitan area," Colicchio told Wine Spectator. "There's a tremendous food movement and spirit movement in Long Island, so we thought that this was a great opportunity."

Colicchio wanted to make Small Batch more casual and accessible than his other concepts. Beverage director Natalie Grindstaff kept this in mind when crafting the wine list, which has roughly 100 selections and focuses on Long Island wineries and other domestic regions. "I have a passion for American wine and I think with the style of food that we're doing, American wine really makes a lot of sense," said Grindstaff.

Roosevelt Field will also be home to Osteria Morini, an Italian concept by the Altamarea Group and chef Michael White, come next summer. Stay tuned for more details.—B.G.

Mott 32 Comes to Las Vegas Courtesy of Maximal Concepts The Mott 32 team tasted more than 60 birds before deciding on a source for their signature applewood-smoked Peking duck.

On Dec. 28, Maximal Concepts' modern Chinese restaurant Mott 32 is opening its third location in the Palazzo Hotel in Las Vegas. The Vancouver, Canada, outpost has a Best of Award of Excellence.

"We're staying true to a lot of our traditional methods, but doing it in a fun, energetic, approachable and attractive way," Michael Main, senior group director of operations for Maximal Concepts, told Wine Spectator.

Managed by head sommelier Chloe Helfand, the nearly 600-selection wine list will have substantial Champagne, Bordeaux and Burgundy sections, as well as major California labels and big-name producers from around the world. There will also be 35 wines by the glass to accommodate guests in the large bar and lounge area.—J.H.

Closing Soon: Baltimore's Wit & Wisdom

Best of Award of Excellence winner Wit & Wisdom in the Four Seasons Baltimore will close after dinner service Dec. 31. The restaurant is a concept from Michael Mina, who owns nine Restaurant Award winners including five Bourbon Steak concepts and two Michael Mina outposts.

According to a Four Seasons Baltimore representative, the hotel's contract with the Mina group ended, and the closure was a mutual decision. The Baltimore-based Atlas Restaurant Group will be taking over the space Jan. 1, 2019, which owns two Restaurant Award winners already located in the hotel, Azumi and Bygone, as well as Ouzo Bay and Tagliata. The new restaurant is slated to open early next summer. While details have not yet been released, the group's director of marketing Joe Sweeney told Wine Spectator via email: "You can be sure it will be another restaurant that continues to elevate Baltimore's dining scene.—J.H.

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Unfiltered: New Mouton 2016 Art Label Is Here to Party (Wine Spectator)

December 17, 2018 - 11:30am

Bordeaux's Château Mouton-Rothschild makes a serious wine, but the newly unveiled label for the 2016 vintage shows it's not afraid to cut loose and get down. Following in the first-growth's famous annual tradition, the label features original artwork, and William Kentridge's creation, titled Triumphs of Bacchus, depicts a scene of full-on claret merriment, with a joyful procession of chalice-wielding, vine-crowned figures in silhouette.

“I am especially happy with the choice of William Kentridge for the label of Mouton 2016 and with the work he has offered us for the vintage," Mouton co-owner Julien de Beaumarchais de Rothschild told Unfiltered of the Johannesburg-born painter, sculptor, video artist and stage director, "not only because he is the first artist in the collection from the African continent but also because his talent is that of both a great graphic artist and a man of the theater, which in that respect corresponds to a passion that runs through the family from my great-grandfather Baron Henri, a playwright, to my mother Baroness Philippine, a well-known actress."

Kentridge drew his inspiration for the label from the paintings of great masters like Titian and Matisse. The artist has exhibited in venues ranging from the Venice Biennial to the MoMA in New York. Most recently, he conceived and directed the 2018 performance piece The Head and the Load, about Africans who served in Europe during World War I.

Art, of course, has long been central to the narrative at Mouton, owned by siblings de Beaumarchais de Rothschild, Philippe Sereys de Rothschild and Camille Sereys de Rothschild. Since 1945, the estate has commissioned a design by a celebrated artist to illustrate the label of the latest vintage ready for shipment; artists are paid in wine.

Deepix, Courtesy of Château Mouton-Rothschild The Versailles Celebration case art labels, from left: Lee Ufan, Jeff Koons, Anish Kapoor, Bernar Venet and Giuseppe Penone

It's no surprise, then, that the Kentridge label isn't the only artistic endeavor for the estate this year: Mouton also recently announced an auction of 75 "Versailles Celebration" cases of five vintages each, to benefit restoration projects at the Palace of Versailles. For the boxed set, Mouton chose vintages with labels from five contemporary artists—Giuseppe Penone (2005), Bernar Venet (2007), Anish Kapoor (2009), Jeff Koons (2010) and Lee Ufan (2013)—who have also exhibited at the former royal residence and Unesco World Heritage Site.

Courtesy of Château Mouton-Rothschild "Cel-e-bra-tion case, come on! (It's a celebration.)"

"Interestingly enough, the artists are very international," Philippe Sereys de Rothschild, chairman and CEO of Baron Philippe de Rothschild SA, told Unfiltered. "A hundred percent of the profits go to Versailles. And we decided right in the beginning that we would do a limited series." The case for the 75 five-bottle sets is designed to evoke an intricate puzzle box.

Sotheby's will be auctioning the sets in Hong Kong, London and New York, starting on April 1, 2019, and successful bidders will also win a ticket to a Versailles celebration gala and a private tasting at Mouton. Meanwhile, based on reviews so far, the 2016s coming out in the coming months should put a spring in the step of all Bordeaux lovers.

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2018 Wine Harvest Report: Oregon and Washington Vintners Are Pleased Despite a Hot Summer (Wine Spectator)

December 17, 2018 - 11:30am

Both Washington and Oregon vintners weathered a hot, dry summer in 2018, and even drifting smoke from wildfires in other regions. But timely rains and cooler temperatures in early fall led to lovely fruit and potentially great wines.

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

Oregon sees smoke, but also promising wines

Willamette Valley's winemakers are accustomed to curve balls in the weather, especially during harvest, but 2018 is the fifth year in a row that nature cooperated. "It was a beautiful year," said veteran winemaker Ken Wright of Ken Wright Cellars, a man who's typically blunt about a vintage's flaws.

Josh Bergström of Bergström Wines agreed. "Oregon has never seen so much sunshine," he said. It was also one of the largest Oregon harvests on record.

The growing season was uneventful in the early months. Budbreak and bloom progressed smoothly. May was dry by Oregon standards and there was little or no rain in summer, which was also unusually sunny. "It wasn't as hot [overall] as 2016 or 2017," Wright said. "But throughout the summer it was crazy dry and crazy hot."

Those conditions touched off numerous wildfires in the Pacific Northwest, first in southern Oregon in July and then British Columbia and eastern Washington in August. As a result, a haze of smoke hovered over large parts of Willamette Valley for several days. Smoke taint doesn't appear to be an issue, winemakers said, although it can be difficult to identify early in the winemaking process.

By mid-September the vines were weary from too much sun and not enough water, and began shutting down as ripening stalled. Growers and winemakers started to worry, but then a half an inch of rain arrived, reviving stressed vines. What followed was about two weeks of cool nights and warm but not blistering days. "That cooling kind of saved us," said Argyle winemaker Nate Klostermann. "If we hadn't had cooler weather, it might have been off the charts, ripeness-wise."

As temperatures warmed again, harvest moved into a fast gear, with white and red grapes ripening quickly. "It was very compact at that point," Klostermann said.

Most vintners were pleased with their Pinot. Bergström was a bit concerned with tannins, because of the hot and dry conditions. "We suspected they might be hard and bitter," he said. Bergström has increasingly used a higher percentage of whole-cluster fermentation as recent vintages have grown warmer. This year he decided to go 100 percent for the entire crop. "The tannins are finely knit but there's structure," he said. "The Pinots are deeply colored and rich."

Despite the warmer than typical weather, Klostermann said his Pinots retained a much higher level of acidity than recent vintages. "There's lots of purity from the Pinot Noir. They're harmonious and balanced," he said.

Courtesy Argyle Oregon Pinot Noir grapes await picking.Washington withstands the heat

To the north, 2018 delivered a kind growing season for Washington vintners. "The first surprise was how long it lasted," said Mike Januik, winemaker at Novelty Hill and Januik wineries. "But it was a great vintage overall."

As in Oregon, Washington experienced a warm growing season, but one balanced by moderate weather as harvest approached. "It was a hot start to the vintage and for a while we thought it would be the hottest on record," said Juan Muñoz-Oca, head winemaker at Ste. Michelle Wine Estates.

"In June we had very nice weather, and then it got hot all of July and most of August," said Cayuse winemaker Christophe Baron.

Just before Labor Day, a brief rain shower moved through the state. It brought a breath of cooler air that lasted through much of September and October. "The weather was just perfect," said Muñoz-Oca. "It was warm, but not hot, during the day and really cold at night."

Ripening slowed, allowing more time for the grapes to develop mature flavors and for the white grapes to retain freshness and acidity. When it finally came time for harvest to start, Baron said, "The vines were just cruising. They were not under any stress."

Januik said it was a particularly good year for Cabernet Sauvignon. "Especially Red Mountain," he added. Syrah and other Rhône-style reds thrived in Walla Walla. "Especially in The Rocks [region]," said Baron. "There's a big tannin profile but nice, ripe tannins and very pure and full of fruit."

In the end, the 2018 crop was larger than expected, but by all early indications quality is high. Washington winemakers and growers aren't complaining.

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Take Your Holiday Roast Chicken to the Next Level with Lee Wolen's Recipe (Wine Spectator)

December 14, 2018 - 2:00pm

Lee Wolen knows how to exhibit art on the plate. After all, the Cleveland-born chef has worked everywhere from Moto, the now-defunct Chicago restaurant specializing in high-tech molecular gastronomy, to New York fine-dining spot Eleven Madison Park, known for its showstopper dishes.

At his Chicago restaurant Boka, however, presentation is considered, but taste is primary. "Yeah, we like [food] to look nice and impress guests, but when it comes down to it, the most important things at Boka are flavor, texture and deliciousness," Wolen says.

The Wine Spectator Award of Excellence winner, located in the Lincoln Park neighborhood, executes these elements well across the board, but its poultry dishes in particular have become favorites among local diners. Wolen credits his success in part to his tenure at Eleven Madison Park, where he worked as a sous chef from 2008 to 2012, during which time the restaurant earned numerous accolades. "I can thank Eleven Madison for a lot of things that I've learned with cooking fish and meat," Wolen said. "I think they do an amazing job of it."

Wolen, who jokes that he "pretty much only eats chicken," naturally recommends a classic roast chicken—a mainstay on Boka's menu—for the winter holiday table. Not the parts, he emphasizes, but the whole bird.

"I think it's really important, when you can, to cook things whole," he says. "They are more delicious, rest properly, and there's a visual effect to seeing a whole roasted chicken, rather than just a boneless skinless chicken breast on the plate."

But this isn't your average roast chicken recipe. Mushrooms, sautéed celery root and pickled mustard seeds add extra moisture and flavor, while wet-brining the chickens, then letting them sit and dry for 24 hours or so, promises a perfect golden-brown color.

"I know it's a bit [much]," Wolen says, "but if it's possible to dry them for two days, it makes a big difference when you do roast."

The effort of planning one to two days ahead for the chicken is compensated for by a quick side dish: honeynut squash salad with bitter greens, honeycrisp apple, goat Gouda and an apple cider vinaigrette.

"I don't like peeling butternut squash," Wolen says. "[Honeynut squash] is really easy to work with; you don't have to peel them because you can eat the skin."

Ally Straussner Team Boka: Sommelier Alisandro Serna, executive chef Lee Wolen and general manager Jon Leopold

For wine pairings, Wolen looks to Boka's general manager Jon Leopold and head sommelier Alisandro Serna for guidance. For the roast chicken on its own, they recommend a fruit-forward Rhône red like the 2015 Georges Vernay Côtes du Rhône Ste.-Agathe. "[It works] especially with the oyster mushrooms that are on the chicken, which have a little bit of a grilled touch to them; it adds a nice complement to that sort of smokiness," Leopold says.

For the full meal with the honeynut squash salad, Leopold and Serna recommend a California white, the 2015 Arietta On The White Keys, which consists mainly of Sauvignon Blanc, with some Sémillon. "You get some green elements from the Sauvignon Blanc, but it's mostly a big, full-flavored wine with some nice, round melon flavors," says Leopold. "The oak just really [makes] a nice complement to the flavors of the squash, the apple and the Gouda."

Below, Wine Spectator shares recently rated selections of similar Sauvignon-Sémillon blends and Rhône reds.

Though it's certainly not the first time Wolen will be making these dishes for the holiday table, this year will bring a fresh new take to his traditions. He reveals, "It's our son's first Christmas."

Roast Chicken with Celery Root, Mushrooms and Pickled Mustard Seeds

For the chicken

  • 1 cup salt
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 gallon warm water
  • 2 whole 3- to 4-pound chickens
  • 3 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • Sautéed celery root (recipe follows)
  • Roasted mushrooms (recipe follows)
  • Pickled mustard seeds (recipe follows)

1. In a large pot or brining bag, combine the salt and sugar with 1 gallon warm water, then transfer to the refrigerator to cool completely.

2. Add the whole chickens and submerge. Cover and refrigerate overnight, for a total of 24 hours.

3. Remove the birds from the brine, pat them dry and truss them using kitchen twine. Place in the refrigerator uncovered on a roasting rack for another 24 hours to dry out the skin for best color while roasting.

4. Preheat oven to 475 F. Pull the chickens from the refrigerator and rub the 3 tablespoons of butter on the skin.

5. Place the chickens on a rack in a roasting pan, breast-side up. Transfer to the oven and roast for 35 to 40 minutes; as the skin begins to turn golden-brown, rotate the pan to ensure even cooking. When a meat thermometer inserted between a leg and a thigh joint registers 160 F, remove and let rest for at least 30 minutes.

6. Place the celery root and roasted mushrooms on a platter. Carve the chickens into quarters and serve on the platter with the vegetables. Finish with the pickled mustard seeds and the chicken pan drippings. Serves 4.

For the sautéed celery root

  • 1 teaspoon caraway seeds
  • 2 heads celery root (celeriac), peeled with a vegetable peeler and grated on a cheese grater
  • 3 tablespoons butter
  • Salt, to taste
  • Lemon juice, to taste
  • 1 cup chopped chives

1. Heat a small saucepan over medium and add the caraway seeds. Cook, shaking the pan occasionally, until toasted and fragrant, about 3 minutes. Let cool, then grind in a spice grinder. (Alternatively, use a mortar and pestle; or, in a pinch, put them in a plastic bag and crush them with a rolling pin or heavy pan).

2. In a medium sauté pan, on low heat, add the butter and cook until melted and beginning to foam. Add the celery root and slowly cook, stirring until tender and the butter becomes brown.

3. Transfer celery root to a medium bowl and season with salt, lemon juice and caraway seeds. Finish with chives, and reserve.

For the roasted mushrooms

  • 1 pound king trumpet mushrooms, cleaned
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 4 sprigs fresh thyme
  • Salt

1. Slice the mushrooms into quarters.

2. In a medium pan, warm the butter over medium heat until foamy and starting to turn brown, then add the mushrooms and thyme. Cook until tender, and season with salt to taste.

For the pickled mustard seeds

  • 1 cup yellow mustard seeds
  • 2 cups white balsamic vinegar
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup salt

1. Add the mustard seeds to a large pot of cold water. Bring to a boil and strain. Repeat this process 3 times.

2. In a separate bowl, combine 1 cup water with the vinegar, sugar and salt, and bring to a boil. Add the mustard seeds and cook for 10 minutes. Pour into a heatproof container, cover and transfer to the refrigerator. Chill overnight to let the mustard seeds bloom and absorb the pickling liquid.

Honeynut Squash Salad with Bitter Greens, Honeycrisp Apple, Goat Gouda and Apple Cider Vinaigrette Ally Straussner A perfect fall-to-winter accompaniment for the chicken, this salad (right) is centered around easy-to-work-with honeynut squash.

For the squash

  • 4 whole honeynut squash, quartered but not peeled
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • Pinch of salt
  • 1 sprig fresh thyme
  • 2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar

Preheat the oven to 400 F. Toss all ingredients in a bowl. Place the squash on a parchment-lined cookie tray and roast for about 15 minutes or until tender. Set aside.

For the cider vinaigrette

  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 1/2 cup good-quality apple cider vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons minced shallots
  • 3 tablespoons sugar
  • 2 tablespoons salt
  • 1 cup canola oil
  • 1 tablespoon chopped thyme
  • 1 tablespoon honey

1. Set a small saucepan over medium heat. Add the butter and let melt, swirling pan occasionally. Butter will foam and then begin to darken. When butter is brown and fragrantly nutty, remove from heat.

2. Combine all ingredients with a whisk. (This creates a "broken" vinaigrette that can be whisked lightly back together, if needed, just before serving.) Reserve at room temperature.

For the salad

  • 3 heads endive
  • 2 heads Castelfranco radicchio
  • 1 head escarole
  • 2 heads Little Gem lettuce
  • 2 Honeycrisp apples, sliced
  • 1/2 cup chopped chives
  • 1/2 pound goat Gouda cheese

Tear all the lettuces into bite-size pieces and combine with the apple, roasted squash and chives in a large bowl. Dress to your liking with the cider vinaigrette and place on a platter. Using a Microplane grater, finish with a heavy topping of goat Gouda. Serves 4.

12 Recommended Value Wines

Note: The following list is a selection of outstanding and very good red and white wines from recently rated releases. More options can be found in our Wine Ratings Search.

Full-Flavored Sauvignon Blanc– and Sémillon-Based Whites

CHÂTEAU LATOUR-MARTILLAC Pessac-Léognan White Lagrave-Martillac 2016 Score: 90 | $30
Alluring, with white peach, brioche, wet straw, honeysuckle and meringue notes all gliding through in lockstep. Shows lovely feel and length. Drink now through 2019. 1,500 cases imported.—James Molesworth

RODNEY STRONG Sauvignon Blanc Northern Sonoma Charlotte's Home 2017 Score: 89 | $17
Distinctive, opening with a smoky, toasty note that melts into marmalade, yuzu and pomelo flavors, with vibrant acidity, spice accents and a terrific sense of harmony on the finish. Drink now. 90,000 cases imported.—MaryAnn Worobiec

CHÂTEAU DE CAROLLE Graves White 2017 Score: 88 | $20
This offers a mix of plump nectarine and tangerine notes offset by zippy floral, citrus pith and quinine accents, which all marry nicely through the finish. Sémillon, Sauvignon and Muscadelle. Drink now through 2020. 1,500 cases imported.—J.M.

CHÂTEAU DE LAGARDE Côtes de Bordeaux St.-Macaire White Cuvée Prestige 2015 Score: 88 | $20
A plump and friendly style, with orange curd and yellow apple notes mixed with fennel, honeysuckle and salted butter notes. A crowd-pleaser. Sauvignon Blanc and Sémillon. Drink now. 1,250 cases imported.—J.M.

GROTH Sauvignon Blanc Napa Valley 2017 Score: 88 | $24
Distinctive, with an overtone of marmalade and honey and a whiff of smoke and white pepper to the core of lemon-lime flavors, on a juicy body. Drink now. 31,000 cases imported.—M.W.

MAHANA Sauvignon Blanc Nelson 2015 Score: 88 | $30
Honey, nut and floral notes add a richness to the core of peach, apricot and pear flavors in this white, with a lushness to the full body and fresh acidity. Drink now. 1,645 cases imported.—M.W.

Côtes du Rhône Reds

BOUTINOT Côtes du Rhône-Villages Séguret Les Coteaux Schisteux 2015 Score: 91 | $20
Inviting, with a mix of blueberry, raspberry and blackberry pâte de fruit flavors scored with a licorice note on the finish. A light-handed apple wood note gives this a frame. Grenache and Syrah. Drink now through 2022. 3,333 cases imported.—James Molesworth

CHÂTEAU DE MANISSY Côtes du Rhône Oracle 2016 Score: 91 | $12
The lovely dark plum and blackberry fruit is inlaid with singed mesquite, tobacco and dried lavender notes. Shows subtle grip through the finish. A solid wine, with character. Grenache, Carignan and Counoise. Drink now through 2019. 10,000 cases imported.—J.M.

CLOS DU MONT-OLIVET Côtes du Rhône Vieilles Vignes 2016 Score: 90 | $20
This ripples with delicious cherry paste and plum preserve flavors, inlaid with light violet, incense and lavender notes. The fleshy finish lingers. Drink now through 2019. 1,000 cases imported.—J.M.

GUY MOUSSET & FILS Côtes du Rhône 2016 Score: 90 | $13
Shows the vivid ripeness of the vintage, featuring a blast of blackberry and boysenberry confiture flavors. Stays focused and racy, with black tea, anise and graphite notes sparkling throughout. Drink now through 2019. 4,000 cases imported.—J.M.

HALOS DE JUPITER Côtes du Rhône 2016 Score: 90 | $16
Ripe and inviting, with warm plum and raspberry puree flavors backed by light tea, anise and fruitcake notes. Offers a fleshy, open-knit finish. Drink now through 2019. 2,000 cases imported.—J.M.

PIERRE AMADIEU Côtes du Rhône Grande Réserve 2016 Score: 90 | $16
Ripe and juicy, with a beam of black cherry and plum compote flavors driving atop a graphite spine. Reveals a flash of tobacco on the finish. Drink now through 2019. 2,000 cases imported.—J.M.

Patrick Léon, Former Winemaker at Mouton-Rothschild and Opus One and Consultant at Château d’Esclans, Dies at 75 (Wine Spectator)

December 14, 2018 - 11:45am

Patrick Léon, one of France's most influential winemakers and owner of Château Les Trois Croix, in Bordeaux’s Fronsac region, died on Dec. 11. He had been battling cancer for more than a decade and developed an infection a few days earlier. Léon was 75 years old and still an active winemaker.

"He loved people. He never had a job but a passion—wine—and it was a way of living for him around the world," his daughter Karine Léon told Wine Spectator.

The Bordeaux native enjoyed a career that spanned 50 years and four continents, crafting wines at iconic estates like Château Mouton-Rothschild and Château Lascombes in Bordeaux, Château d’Esclans in Provence, Almaviva in Chile and Opus One in Napa Valley.

"Patrick was a new type of man for Bordeaux," Tim Mondavi told Wine Spectator. The two men worked as co-winemakers at Opus One for 16 years. "The French wine world following World War II was provincial. Patrick was part of a generation that had a more open perspective."

Léon earned his enology diploma at Bordeaux University in 1964, studying under the legendary professor, researcher and consulting enologist Emile Peynaud. In 1967, Léon started an enology laboratory with Jacques Blouin at the Gironde Chamber of Agriculture. By 1972, he was technical director for Alexis Lichine, making wines at Château Lascombes in Margaux and Château Castera in Lesparre-Médoc.

Léon entered the Mouton-Rothschild group in the early 1980s, taking over as technical director in 1984 and eventually rising to group managing director on the board. He oversaw winemaking at the Rothschilds’ many estates during his two decades working with them.

"On Patrick's watch, Mouton-Rothschild spread its wings to the world, and that appealed to Patrick," said Mondavi. "He was apt technically, active in syndicates in Bordeaux and Burgundy, and he had an interest beyond Bordeaux."

Leon's open-minded approach, combined with a tremendous technical skill, made him one of the forerunners to international winemakers we have today. "He had an insatiable appetite for adventure and exploration in the world of wine," Opus One winemaker Michael Silacci told Wine Spectator. "His curiosity and passion allowed him to make great wines in all colors, from a wide range of grape varieties and in many countries."

Léon retired from the Mouton-Rothschild group in 2004. Throughout his long career, he gained a reputation as a respected mentor. "Patrick’s enthusiasm was contagious. His leadership, caring nature, and deep capacity to share were gifts that allowed his ‘students’ to learn and grow in a challenging, yet safe environment," said Silacci.

Although Léon had retired from Mouton, he didn't retire from winemaking, working as an international consultant. In 2006, he began consulting with Alexis Lichine's son Sacha at Château d’Esclans in Provence, helping to create premium rosés Garrus and Whispering Angel. The brand was one of several that energized the rosé category in the United States.

Léon and his wife Yvette bought Château Les Trois Croix in 1995. The 37-acre estate in Fronsac, looking out over the Dordogne River, was their home. The estate is run today by their son Bertrand. Léon is also survived by his wife Yvette and their daughters Karine and Stéphanie.

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Sommelier Roundtable: Your Wine Predictions for 2019 (Wine Spectator)

December 14, 2018 - 11:00am

When 2018 kicked off, we asked in-the-know wine pros what to expect for the year: more bubbles, more New Zealand, more Napa and, they hoped, better "natural" wine. The past 12 months have borne out many of their prognostications—but thrown some curveballs as well.

What's in store for 2019? Or rather, what should wine drinkers be paying attention to? We asked these nine sommeliers from Wine Spectator Restaurant Award winners to peer into their crystal ball–ware and tell us what they foresee—but they also wanted to tell us what they'd like to expel into the spit bucket of wine-fad history.

Wine Spectator: What's the biggest wine trend you predict for 2019? Or what would you most like to see (or see disappear)?

John Lancaster, wine director at Best of Award of Excellence winner Boulevard in San Francisco

One of the wine trends I see coming next year is the oversupply of rosé—too much rosé out there; too much is getting made in California. Demand is increasing, but not at the rate of production.

The one thing that I would like to see go away—and I think it has started to already—is the proliferation of orange wines. I just have never quite understood the oxidized-white-wine thing outside of Sherry. So if those went away, it would be just fine with me.

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

I think the biggest wine trend coming in 2019 is the rise and appreciation for the wines of Puglia and other not-so-popular Italian regions. I think the wines of Puglia are on the rise, especially since travel and vacation trends are increasing to the region. I think people want to see more from the countries they love, but maybe branch out and be a bit more adventurous with their selections.

A trend I am hoping to see disappear would be natural wines made just for the sake of being "natural." By that I mean, that is the sales pitch versus wines that just so happen to be natural, because they don’t need to do X, Y, and Z to still have freshness. I am all for minimal intervention with wines, if you have the terroir, grapes and hand to back it up.

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

I believe that next year, we will see people looking to drink more mature wines and large-formats, as they are becoming more affordable and readily available.

I hope the Coravin trend goes away. Most wines are made with love, passion and tremendous hard work; when we open a bottle, we pay respect to that. Why do we need to steal a sip today or tomorrow with the Coravin?

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

Allowing some mental space for the proliferation of legal cannabis into our industry is crucial. As the drug sheds the social stigma, I foresee more experts in the cannabis field being more prominent and crossing paths with wine. The recent Constellation Brands investment in the cannabis industry proves just that.

My biggest desire is to one day see nutritional labels on wine bottles that would list the contents and all the additives so the consumers can make informed decisions. In the age of ubiquitous allergies, it is paramount that we can explore which components of the wines react with individual consumers.

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

I think the Iberian Peninsula is ready to blow up. More fuller-bodied wines are now being sought out, and the two countries there, Spain and Portugal, produce some of the world's finest—and they produce them very differently, for that matter. While Spain is capitalizing on international varietals being delivered with ridiculous value, Portugal is staying true to its native varieties. Either way, both countries are making incredibly valued full-bodied wines that are great alternatives to similar New World renditions.

Tchotchkes [I'd like to see disappear]. I'd be happy if I never saw an engraved reverse-aerating decanter that connects to your Alexa. Wine inside the bottle is awesome on its own!

Cedric Nicaise, wine director at Grand Award winner Eleven Madison Park in New York:

I’m pretty over “natural wine.” Not wine that is made using sustainable and environmentally viable methods. [Rather] I am hoping to see an end to the catchall category of “natural wine,” where the story is much better than what’s in the bottle. I don’t want to taste flawed wines because someone else thinks they are cool in 2019.

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

I think the Jura is really exciting again. Producers like Tissot and Domaine du Pélican are making better wines than ever before. I can’t get enough of their Chardonnays, and they offer a value-driven alternative to Burgundy. I also think we are going to see a lot more exciting, small, great producers from Chianti. Chianti Classico, in general, is getting better and better, and there are a ton of exciting new producers making 100-percent Sangiovese wines that are fresh, lively and utterly delicious.

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

I'm very impressed with unfortified Palomino from Andalucía. I think it could be the savior of Sanlúcar and Jerez as Sherry sales continue to decline. Unfortified Palomino makes a fantastic aperitif wine with smoked almonds but also works superbly with fish and grilled vegetables. My favorites are Callejuela Blanco de Hornillos and Ramiro Ibáñez's Cota 45. I sell Ramiro's UBE Miraflores, but I'm also crazy about UBE Maina when I can afford it.

Jeremiah Morehouse, wine director at Grand Award winner Restaurant Gary Danko in San Francisco

Wine trends can be tricky to predict. I would like to see people become more adventurous with their wine choices, expand out of the norm or the comfort zone, and trust us sommeliers to recommend tasty wines the same way they would trust any other specialist. Get off those phones and talk to us instead.

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Unfiltered: Extreme Winemaker Rowing 3,000 Miles Solo Across the Atlantic (Wine Spectator)

December 13, 2018 - 3:00pm

What has two oars and is on the way to breaking records as he rows solo across the Atlantic Ocean? This guy: Isaac Giesen, a 26-year-old winemaker and member of New Zealand's Giesen Wines family. On Dec. 12, the young athlete-vintner embarked on a roughly 3,000-mile journey, alone, from the Canary Islands to Antigua; a solo crossing is a feat accomplished by fewer people than have climbed Mount Everest.

"When he first told us that he would do this … we said, 'Wouldn’t you rather go cycle up and down the country, or go across Australia, or from Singapore to London?'" Giesen's father, Theo, who is a co-owner of the family winery, told Unfiltered. "But that's Isaac."

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Giesen is rowing in the Talisker Whisky Atlantic Challenge, an extreme rowing race usually held once every two years. There are 28 boats this year, but only five of them are in the solo division. When he reaches Antigua some 75 to 90 days from now, Giesen will be the first Kiwi to complete a solo row across the Atlantic and, thanks to a trek from Portugal to Cuba with five other teammates in the spring, he is expected to be the first Kiwi to complete two transatlantic rowing adventures in one year.

The Blue Rower Isaac Giesen and his trusty vessel, the Bonnie Lass.

A trained winemaker with a degree in viticulture and winemaking, Giesen put his vinous life and career on hold to train for this quest; as Theo pointed out, his son can make wine "till he's 80."

Giesen is also using the voyage as a platform to raise money for organizations that support mental-health awareness, research and counseling. It's a cause that is close to his heart; he has lost an aunt and two friends to suicide. "He wants to make a difference; he wants to raise awareness," the elder Giesen said. "When people say, ‘What should we do?’ he says, ‘Just talk. Make it easier for people to talk about it. Don’t stigmatize it.' … We as a family are thinking of setting up a foundation somehow. For the safety and the good of people, we have to look at this more and tackle the problem."

Instagram / @thebluerower Isaac Giesen out to sea on day 1, Dec. 12, 2018.

Giesen is only one day out on the water but has raised nearly $43,000 of his $1 million goal; those interested in supporting him can donate at his website, TheBlueRower.com. You can also go to the official race website, TaliskerWhiskyAtlanticChallenge.com, to view his progress on the satellite race tracker.

Hot New Wine-Country Escape: Escape from Chateau St. Jean

Anyone who's ever been locked in an "escape room" knows the rules: Figure out clues and solve puzzles to escape the room before the clock runs out, lest you be rewarded with the shame of failure. It's a powerful motivator, but what if instead, players were rewarded with … wine?

Laura Hughes Chateau St. Jean's captives, captivated.

Sonoma's Chateau St. Jean has become the latest winery to set up an "escape the cellar" experience with its new Unlock the Chateau game. It sounds at first like most escape games: Groups of six to 12 are given one hour to solve a series of puzzles and riddles in three different rooms of the historic chateau. "With the popularity of escape rooms, it seemed like it could be an offbeat offering for us, since we had space in the chateau to make an experience like this come alive," Ingrid Cheng, a marketing manager/warden of Chateau St. Jean told Unfiltered.

In St. Jean's lockup, they even give you bubbly before you manage to escape, to help get those synapses firing as you solve the puzzles. While that actually might be a trick now that we think about it, a few competitive groups have managed to successfully unlock the chateau and win the game. "It's achievable," Cheng said. "But I [wouldn't] say the majority [have won]." Still, with a tasting flight to end the experience regardless of escape outcome, is anyone really losing?

Swirl, Sip, Pass: Green-Hued Cannabis Wine Joins Growing Field of Weed Drinks, Jokes

Hear me out: So they're making all these new wines in trippy colors like Gïk Blue, Vindigo Indigo and Orange now, right? And they're also making cannabis-infused wines like CannaWine in Spain and Rebel Coast's California Sauvignon Blanc. What if we made a wine that was neon green and THC-infused?

Courtesy of Winabis Certified "green," no papers needed

"Thinking outside the box and forgetting all about wine etiquette is our credo," and that's how "Winabis" was born, explained export manager Rowdy Lohmuller to Unfiltered via email, in Comic Sans font. A new fusion product from Spain's Bodegas Santa Margarita, the 9.5 percent ABV wine product is "medium-sweet with a daring high blend of Mary Jane aromas," Lohmuller said. "The Verdejo grape has mainly been used in this 'joint' venture," he added, doing his best to rob Unfiltered of pretty much all the marijuana puns we had lined up for this article.

While it is still illegal to sell a joint sigh, combined tonic of alcohol and cannabis in the United States (Rebel Coast's wine is alcohol-removed), Winabis is all good in the E.U., since levels of the cannabinoids THC and CBD are below 0.01 percent; it's already distributed in eight countries. Lohmuller wouldn't divulge much about how Winabis was made. ("This is something we would like to keep a secret between Mother Nature and ourselves.") But cannabis-wine recipes are something European cultures have been hashing out for thousands of years, so all these new formulas are merely … re-creational.

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10-Year-Old Winemaker Helps Emeril Lagasse Raise $3 Million for Children’s Charities (Wine Spectator)

December 13, 2018 - 10:55am

No one could blame Cruz Bilbro for being nervous. For one thing, the vintner had never spoken to a ballroom packed with hundreds of people before. For another, it was past his bedtime. The 10-year-old was on stage at Carnivale du Vin, the New Orleans charity auction founded by chef Emeril Lagasse. Cruz is the son of Limerick Lane Winery owner Jake Bilbro, and he had made his own barrel of Grenache from the family’s Russian River Valley property to auction. All proceeds went to the Emeril Lagasse Foundation.

“Emeril Lagasse came to my farm and gave me a hundred bucks, and now we are partners and I am thankful for it,” explained Cruz. “I gave him a barrel of my wine and we are going to help a school.”

Cruz’s wine proved to be a highlight in a weekend of generosity that raised more than $3 million for youth-oriented culinary, nutrition and arts education programs in New Orleans and beyond. The live auction on Nov. 10 raised close to $1.1 million.

Named Too’s Babor Grenache 2016, for the name the boy called himself before he could say Cruz Bilbro, the wine came adorned with a crayon drawing of Cruz’s favorite tractor. For several years now, Jake has been putting his kids to work, both in the vineyard and the cellar. But after meeting Emeril, Cruz was moved to do something more. He also traveled to New Orleans for the weekend, visiting several of the charities helped by the foundation, including St. Michael’s School, which serves children with special needs.

For other guests, the weekend started Nov. 9 with performances by beneficiaries at the Youth Empowerment Project, followed by a lunch at Café Reconcile, a nonprofit restaurant staffed by at-risk youth receiving job training. A cold rain stopped in time for the evening’s main event, Boudin, Bourbon & Beer, where thousands of guests enjoyed dishes from more than 70 chefs and top-notch whiskeys and craft beers while listening to music outside the Superdome in Champions Square.

Saturday night saw the action move to the Hilton New Orleans Riverside for the live-auction gala. Attendees could enjoy wines from some of California’s best vintners, including this year’s “Honorary Bacchus,” Barbara Banke, chairman of Jackson Family Wines. “You do fabulous work here,” she told the crowd. “I’m so impressed.”

As the crowd enjoyed a grand dinner cooked and served by young talents working at beneficiaries like Café Reconcile, Liberty’s Kitchen and the New Orleans Center for Creative Arts (NOCCA), the live auction began. Top wine-themed lots included 5L & 5 Courses, a meal for three couples, prepared by Emeril at his house in New Orleans, paired with a 5-liter bottle of the 2011 Wine Spectator Wine of the Year, the Kosta Browne Sonoma Coast 2009, opened by Kosta Browne founder Dan Kosta at the table. The lot sold for $100,000.

The Danica’s Exclusive Napa Valley lot offered a weekend in Napa for six couples, hosted by retired race-car driver and Napa vintner Danica Patrick. As bidding ramped up, Patrick stood up and offered to throw in one of her old racing suits. The lot brought in $32,000.

But perhaps the biggest moment of the night was when Cruz took the stage with his dad and Emeril to offer cases and bottles of Too’s Babor. Bidders raised paddles at varying prices. By the time the dust settled, 22 bidders had donated $325,000 to the foundation, making it the biggest lot of the evening. Then the young winemaker went upstairs to bed.

Bottles of Too’s Babor can still be purchased at the foundation website. Since 2002, the Emeril Lagasse Foundation has given more than $10.5 million to charitable efforts.

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

December 12, 2018 - 11:00am

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

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

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

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

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

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

Cod en Papillote

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

December 11, 2018 - 10:00am

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

December 11, 2018 - 8:00am

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

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

Photos courtesy of Lexus

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

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

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

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

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

Photos courtesy of Bugatti and Champagne Carbon

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

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

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

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

December 7, 2018 - 4:00pm

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

December 7, 2018 - 12:00pm

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

Pulltap’s Corkscrew

$7, iwawine.com

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

Courtesy of Artificer Wood Works Artificer Wood Works Wine Boxes

Starting at $35, artificerwoodworks.com

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

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

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

$110, enjoywinebyyourside.com

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

Courtesy of WineGame DIY Blind Tastings with the WineGame App

Free download, winegame.com

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

Courtesy of Savino Savino Connoisseur Wine-Saving Carafe

$50, savinowine.com

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

Courtesy of Rabbit Rabbit LED Bottle Stoppers

$16, rabbitwine.com

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

Courtesy of De Long De Long Wine Region Maps

Starting at $20, delongwine.com

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

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

$45, zingermans.com

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

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

December 6, 2018 - 3:00pm

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

Courtesy of Silver Oak The starting lineup suits up.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Twitter / @bestofezra The vibes of Grindelwald

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

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

Restaurant Spotlight: La Grotta (Wine Spectator)

December 6, 2018 - 8:00am

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

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

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

December 6, 2018 - 7:00am

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

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

A cool start

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

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

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

Pick when ready

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

December 5, 2018 - 11:00am

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Photo Gallery

Photos by Joe Schmelzer; click any image to enlarge

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Noosh Opens in San Francisco

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

San Francisco's West Coast Wine & Cheese Branches Out

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

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

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

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

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