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  • The 2018 New York Wine Experience: The Wine World's Greatest Show on Terroir (Wine Spectator)
    by Mitch Frank on October 19, 2018 at 10:00 pm

    "When we walked into the room, it felt like I was walking onto the field at a Super Bowl," said Jim Nantz. The longtime sportscaster knows what that is like. But last night he wasn't on the 50-yard line. He was pouring his wine, The Calling Chardonnay Russian River Valley Dutton Ranch 2016, at Wine Spectator’s 38th Wine Experience at the New York Marriott Marquis in Times Square.For many wine lovers, the Wine Experience is the big game—three days of tasting rare and aged wines with leading winemakers, lunches showcasing the wines of different regions, and the black-tie Grand Award Banquet, celebrating the best restaurant wine programs in the world. And kickoff is the Thursday night Grand Tasting, the first of two evenings where wine lovers can taste 269 of the world's greatest wines, all rated 90 points or higher by Wine Spectator editors.Fitting an all-star show, the tasting had been sold out for days. More than 2,400 guests packed two ballrooms, eager to taste everything from Burgundy to Barolo, from Washington Syrah to a Greek white, from California Cabernet to Bordeaux-style blends from Israel, Japan and Virginia. Some had drawn up detailed game plans for tasting what they thought would be the most exciting. Others just wandered freely and explored."It's overwhelming, it's exciting. I don't know where to start," said Allison Pitts, 25, a New Yorker attending her first Wine Experience. "I feel like I'm learning a lot. There's different wines from all over the country I never thought I would have the chance of tasting. It's amazing."Many opted to go bubbly, trying Krug's Brut Champagne Grande Cuvée 163ème Edition NV or Schramsberg's J. Schram North Coast 2004 from California. For elegant whites, they could sample Pascal Jolivet's Sancerre Le Grand Chemarin 2015 from the Loire or Forge Cellars Riesling Finger Lakes Dry Les Alliés 2016 from New York or Château La Nerthe's Châteauneuf-du-Pape White Clos de Beauvenir 2013.For reds, you could compare benchmarks like the 2008 vintage from both Château Lafite Rothschild and Château Margaux. For something untraditional, you could sample Orin Swift Cellars' Abstract California 2016, a Grenache-Syrah–Petite Sirah blend. You could base your tasting on exploring a range of Italian, Spanish and Portuguese producers, or opt for a New World bounty from Argentina, Chile, Australia, New Zealand and South Africa.For vintners, the evening was a chance to meet customers face to face and perhaps win new converts. "'Exciting' is the word," said Larry McKenna of New Zealand's Escarpment, who was pouring his Pinot Noir Martinborough 2015. "It's always exciting to be here with the A-class producers. Especially exciting coming from a town of 1,000 people!""This is one of the last places in the world where you can meet all of the owners and winemakers," said Stephan von Neipperg, co-owner of Bordeaux's Château Canon-La Gaffelière. "And we come here not just to drink the wines but also to touch the people—they put their hand out and say 'Hello, Stephan, how are you? I like your wine …' or they say, 'I don't like your wine!' And we talk. But everyone is happy! You look around and everyone is smiling."The Wine Experience happens thanks to the generosity of the countless vintners who share their wines and time. All net proceeds go to the Wine Spectator Scholarship Foundation, which has raised more than $20 million for scholarships and grants for the hospitality and wine industries, including Washington State University's enology and viticulture program, Sonoma State University's Wine Business Institute, the viticulture and enology program at the University of California at Davis, Cornell University's School of Hotel Administration and Florida International University's hospitality school. To the people at the Grand Tasting, the focus was on trying new wines and making new friends. Unlike the Super Bowl, everyone was a winner. "In a very short period of time, in a very small space, [you] have the experience of really top wines around the world," said winemaker Sebastian Zuccardi of Argentina's Zuccardi Valle de Uco, who was pouring for the first time at the Wine Experience. "When you see the brands that are here and the people that are here, it's fantastic to be part of."The Grand Tasting takes the field again tonight.—With reporting by Brianne Garrett, Ben O'Donnell and Robert Taylor[gallery-config={containerId:"galleryBoxhistory", flickrUserName: 'winespectator', flickrSetId:'72157674673358598', galleryTitle: '2018 Wine Experience Grand Tastings', useFlickr:true, flickrShowTitle: true, flickrShowDescription: true, shareFacebook: true, galleryHeight:'600', galleryTitlePosition: 'TOP', buttonBarPosition: 'TOP', backgroundColor: '#fff', captionBackColor: 'rgba(255,255,255,0.56)', captionBackTopColor:'rgba(255,255,255,0.56)', captionPosition:'bottom', textColor: "#55595c", textShadowColor:"rgba(0,0,0,0)"} […]

  • Restaurant Talk: Fine Dining for All at Gabriel Kreuther (Wine Spectator)
    by Lexi Williams on October 19, 2018 at 2:00 pm

    Growing up on a farm in the tiny Alsatian town of Niederschaeffolsheim, Gabriel Kreuther was always surrounded by food: His relatives were butchers, bakers and restaurant owners; his mother loved to cook. After sharpening his skills in kitchens around Europe, he made his way to the bright lights of New York in 1997 to work as a sous chef at the fine-dining landmark La Caravelle. He then moved on to establishments of equal pedigree, including Jean-Georges, Atelier at the Ritz Carlton, and the Modern. Despite his elite résumé, Kreuther, 49, has never forgotten his more humbling moments. Once, as a teenager visiting Paris for the first time, he was asked to leave an upscale restaurant because he didn't meet the dress code. "It makes you feel bad, it makes you feel angry," he says of stuffy, unwelcoming dining rooms. So, when he opened his eponymous Midtown Manhattan restaurant in 2015, he "wanted to do a place that kind of brings everything a little bit down to Earth." Philippe Sauriat, head sommelier at Gabriel Kreuther, brings a similar sensibility to the restaurant's 1,600-selection, Wine Spectator Best of Award of Excellence–winning wine list. In addition to big-ticket names from Burgundy, Bordeaux, Napa and Italy, the Burgundy native searches out lesser-known producers in hopes of exciting and educating diners. (Interested New York Wine Experience attendees might note the restaurant is a short walk from the Marriott Marquis.) During a quiet moment at the restaurant, the chef and somm sat down with Wine Spectator assistant editor Lexi Williams to talk about the wines and pairings that excite them, how they make fine dining fun, and the perils of driving yourself "crazy-brainy" over wine particulars. Wine Spectator: How do you set Gabriel Kreuther apart from other fine-dining spots in New York?Gabriel Kreuther: In the restaurant business, things tend to go really, really far in complexity, making people feel bad, making people feel out of place, making people feel uncomfortable, and I can connect with that. I wanted a place where people are comfortable, where they can have a good time and they can feel themselves. At the end of the day, it's only food and wine. And if you take it too seriously, I think that you get so boxed in. It's like people drinking wine, and they get too crazy-brainy, they miss what it's about. Or people who take one bite and think about it for 20 minutes, and then it's cold. Philippe Sauriat: It's really understanding who you're dealing with and how you come down to their level. And also listening to what they want to drink and what they want to eat, how they eat normally and how they drink normally—creating that environment for them. And really always having this awareness that we're not the stars, even though in this world, the chefs are superstars now, sommeliers are superstars now. WS: How does wine fit in with the cuisine at Gabriel Kreuther?GK: I was always interested in wine, always having conversations with the sommeliers: "What do you think? What's missing? What fits well with this pairing?" Sometimes, all it takes is adding or taking one thing off a dish to create the link for that pairing. PS: This restaurant is special in terms of how the culinary team always approaches the wine team. It's good because a lot of chefs forget that. One always helps the other, hopefully, if it's well done.GK: It's not a one-man show. WS: What is your favorite wine-and-food pairing at the restaurant?PS: There's a classic dish here. It's something that chef had started at the Modern, I think. It's a sturgeon and sauerkraut tart. It was a challenge that was given to him by someone who said to him, "Can you make a Michelin-star dish with sauerkraut?" Which he did.It goes technically very easily with an Alsatian wine, so I do with this dish, a Pinot Blanc from Marc Kreydenweiss called La Fontaine aux Enfants, the 2016 vintage. It has those bright acids that actually work really well with the acids in the sauerkraut. You're not covering anything, you're sort of going along with it. There's also sort of a little funkiness. In terms of the balance of the wine, it's gentle. There's a lot of personality in this dish. It's unique; I've never had a dish like this, ever, in my life. Together, they don't overwhelm each other, and I enjoy this pairing a lot.GK: My pairing would be something where either Guigal is involved, or Chapoutier, or Domaine du Pégaü, or an old [Paul Jaboulet Âiné Hermitage] La Chapelle. And the dish would be the squab that we do—we don't currently have it on the menu, but it's squab croustillant with foie gras in the center.WS: What do you drink on your own time?PS: Sometimes I will drink beer; it's just a refreshing thing. I will enjoy whiskey and Scotch at some points. Some good Calvados also, but really, really good Calvados. But mostly, yeah, it's wine. GK: For me, it's wine. Not that long ago, I opened a Les Forts de Latour. Maybe two months ago I had La Chapelle '89. I had the Pégaü '90 maybe three months ago. I'm a wine lover, I'm a wine buyer, I'm a wine collector—but I pop the corks. I'm just not looking at the [labels]. If I go somewhere and the wine is not to what I like, I'd rather drink water than bad wine. I don't care. It's either good wine or water. And people say, "You wine snob," but it's not about [being] a wine snob, it's just that not every wine out there is great wine. It doesn't have to be expensive, but it has to be good.WS: How do you cater to wine lovers at this restaurant?GK: We have aged bottles of wine at, I believe, fair pricing. Also, the wine list that we have, there are many discoveries that are not known in the U.S., really. Even the winemakers, when they come, they're like, "Wow, where did you get this stuff?" When you open one of those, and it's as good as a huge [name] Bordeaux, I think it's an eye-opener for people. We have a lot of winemakers that are not known as superstars, but [they] produce superstar wine …. That's where [diners] can get interested and say, "Oh, you made me discover something. I'm going to try to find that wine for myself." The big-name things, nobody needs help with that. All you need is cash [laughs].PS: It’s so true. The value wines that are on this list, people don't necessarily realize. We're looking at a lot of winemakers out there that are producing value wines—in the Languedoc, in Alsace, in the Loire Valley—that are not expensive yet. Sometimes people get annoyed at how much I taste. We work with 30-something vendors, and I taste regularly because we're always looking for something exciting to put on the list. There is always a desire to see what's out there. And also, I work with a chef who loves wine, so I am being pushed in that way, because I know he pays attention. Want to stay up on the latest news and incisive features about the world's best restaurants for wine? Sign up now for our free Private Guide to Dining e-mail newsletter, delivered every other week. Plus, follow us on Twitter at @WSRestoAwards and Instagram at @WSRestaurantAwards. […]

  • After the Wine-Country Wildfires: One Year Later, Napa and Sonoma Rebuild (Wine Spectator)
    by MaryAnn Worobiec on October 18, 2018 at 8:30 pm

    The eve of the one-year anniversary of the start of 2017's devastating wine-country wildfires brought warm temperatures, low humidity and violent wind gusts to Napa and Sonoma. The National Weather Service issued a red-flag warning, alerting residents that conditions were ripe for wildfire combustion and rapid growth. While the night passed without event, fire was on everyone's minds.The series of firestorms that tore through Northern California last year killed 44 people, burned 245,000 acres and destroyed 8,900 structures. One year later, wineries that were damaged have broken ground on new construction, many slowed by insufficient insurance policies. Sonoma residents are facing a housing shortage, with rebuilding delayed by a lack of workers.Despite those hurdles, most residents are feeling optimistic about the future, thanks to a promising harvest and a desire to make the region even better than before the flames.Rebirth in progress"Today's an emotional day," said Rene Byck of Paradise Ridge Winery, interviewed Oct. 9. A year earlier, runaway flames consumed his Santa Rosa winery, tasting room, event space and thousands of bottles of wine. Byck described the weight of persistent local news coverage and events commemorating the anniversary. "Acting like nothing happened isn't a solution either," he admitted.The rubble at the former Paradise Ridge tasting room, event space and winery has been cleared, and the owners are in the final stages of the permit process, hoping to start construction soon, with the goal of opening the tasting room and event space in October 2019. "The sooner we can rebuild the better," said Byck. "I know people are looking at us as a symbol of rebirth, or maybe recovery."On the same day, in neighboring Napa, Ray Signorello broke ground on a new winery, fermentation building and caves, which he hopes to complete in two years. He spoke to a small crowd on the warm and sunny day, with grapes hanging on the vines and bins in the vineyards in anticipation of this year's harvest. Signorello told the guests he was in Vancouver at the time of the fire when his wife, Tanya, called to tell him what was happening. Winemaker Pierre Birebent and a crew arrived to help battle the blaze but had to leave as the fire engulfed the surrounding area. "I remember tossing and turning and wondering what was left," recalled Signorello. But at the groundbreaking, he was positive about the new chapter in the winery's history. "We're going to build everything as quickly as we can," said Signorello. "And now I get to build something [based on] all that I've learned over the last 40 years in the wine industry."Byck agrees it's a chance to rethink the business model, calling the rebuilding process a forced "do-over." "What does visiting wine country look like in 20 years?" he wondered. "We are exploring how to be relevant or maybe innovators." For one thing, he is considering reducing the number of events they host, but offering guests more exclusivity. For now, guests can visit Paradise Ridge's tasting room in nearby Kenwood. There are no plans to rebuild the winery; Paradise Ridge now makes wines offsite.Mayacamas lost a visitor center next to the Napa winery in the blaze. But it's about to open a tasting room in downtown Napa's First Street Napa center before the end of the year, which should draw more visitors.The good news for guests to Napa and Sonoma is that the before and after look much the same. Rains brought back vegetation to most areas scarred by fires. Much of the evidence of devastation is gone. Tourism is nearly back to pre-fire levels.Lessons learnedBut it took months to clear the debris, and it will take many years to rebuild all of the destroyed structures, particularly the more than 5,200 homes that burned down in Sonoma. While it's estimated that authorities have issued building permits for about 2,500 homes, owners are struggling to find construction crews. Thousands more are having difficulty obtaining proper permits, many stymied by new building codes. For wineries, the fires brought many lessons, including the importance of using fireproof materials and what kind of insurance to obtain. "We were worried about earthquake insurance," said Byck. "We had good insurance on the wine, but we were underinsured on the buildings." He estimates it will cost $14 million to replace all of the lost structures, but his insurance is only giving him $5 million. Vintners are still struggling with what to do with the wine made from grapes hanging on the vine when the air was thick with smoke, causing possible smoke taint. Some winemakers who did not want to be identified report selling off wine in bulk or to distilleries. They're frustrated with insurance companies who didn't agree with what was a loss, or where the loss occurred and whether it was insured. There are other lessons learned. The anniversary was commemorated with a test of the new Napa emergency text alert, designed to reach as many cellphones as possible in the area. Last year's fires came quickly.And a week after the fire anniversary, when risky fire weather conditions appeared again, with winds gusting from 50 to 77 mph, local power company PG&E made the decision to cut electricity for about 17,500 customers in Lake, Napa and Sonoma counties. The blackout closed public schools, and local business owners grumbled about their losses, but PG&E executives say the tactic could help prevent the next big fire. Evidence suggests downed power lines were responsible for at least some of last year's blazes. Vintners remain optimistic, particularly about the 2018 harvest, which is going along smoothly and with good yields. "The 2018 growing season has been great," said Mayacamas winemaker Braiden Albrecht. "We are very happy with the fruit quality."It's a sentiment common in wine country, as winemakers focus on the positives. "You have to have a little hope," said Byck. —With additional reporting from Kim MarcusStay on top of important wine stories with Wine Spectator's free Breaking News Alerts. […]

  • Unfiltered: Chef Tyler Florence's New Docu Film 'Uncrushable' Forged in the 2017 Wine-Country Fires (Wine Spectator)
    on October 18, 2018 at 7:00 pm

    When wildfires devastated Napa and Sonoma in October 2017, chef Tyler Florence’s first instinct was to put his skills as a veteran Food Network emcee and kitchen whiz to use by throwing a benefit bash to raise money for relief efforts. But the star of The Great Food Truck Race and Bite Club quickly realized that the event he organized would be part of a much bigger story. Florence's "The Grateful Table" last November seated 500 first responders, winemakers, chefs and more, but the North Bay local felt “there [was] no real, thorough documentation of what happened” as communities grappled, and rallied, in the fires' aftermath, he told Unfiltered. Hence, Florence's new documentary film Uncrushable, a compilation of interviews with more than 50 residents, emergency personnel, vintners and more, shot in just three weeks, “while the fires were still burning," he said. "The entire story just started to unfold in front of us; it was thoughtful, and it was scary, and it was human, and it was real,” Florence said. “I think it’s my best work.” The 72-minute documentary debuted at the New York City Wine & Food Festival and screened in Toronto earlier this week; a first-look trailer also dropped last week. The film now comes home, with a showing in partnership with Visit California and Sonoma County Tourism on Oct. 19 in Santa Rosa, Calif. Then on Nov. 9, the Napa Valley Film Festival is partnering with Robert Mondavi Winery for a fundraising dinner and screening of the film. Uncrushable Chef Tyler Florence and his team hosted a "Grateful Table" dinner among the vines last November to benefit fire victims. “There’s been an unbelievable amount of progress,” Florence reflected on the year that has passed. “The big question I’ve got [for wine]," he added, "is, ‘What’s the 2018 vintage going to taste like?' I think the interest in the 2018 vintage is going to be very special.” Lenny Kravitz Tastes the Stars with Dom Pérignon in New Film, Photo SeriesChampagne is like Lenny Kravitz: a little fresh and a little tart, by turns smooth and mellow, then exuberant and effervescent. So it's a natural fit that Kravitz is the latest artist to collaborate with Champagne Dom Pérignon, on a new photo and film series with the rocker behind and in front of the camera. “I’ve long been a fan of Dom Pérignon—an avowed believer," the four-time Grammy winner for Best Male Rock Performance told Unfiltered via email. "My experience with Dom Pérignon has been over the last 10 or 11 years; I’ve become friends with chef de cave Richard Geoffroy. So our collaboration is a story of authentic friendship, mutual respect and love." Courtesy of Dom Pérignon / Mathieu Bitton Are you gonna clos my way? In May, Kravitz visited the maison and spent some hangtime in the vineyards, and last month, the fruits of his creative efforts were unveiled, footage of Lenny and his glamorous friends/progeny like Susan Sarandon, Harvey Keitel, Alexander Wang and Zoë Kravitz posing, doing artsy-type stuff and sipping Champagne. The exhibition now travels from New York to London, Milan, Tokyo and beyond, and the material will be used in ads rolling out this month. As Kravitz stays on in his role at Dom into 2019, we thought we might be able to help out with a few potential Pérignon jingles inspired by some of our favorite Kravitzms—gratis, LVMH: "Let's go and taste the stars / at the Abbaye / pressure 6 bars …I want to get away / I wanna Hautvilleeeers / Oui Ouiii Ouiiii""American sparkling / stay away from meAmerican sparkling / steal my AOC-eee" …Beyoncé, Jay Z, Tiffany Haddish and The Prisoner (Wine) Star at City of Hope Charity GalaSuperstars lit up the night last week, as artists and musicians gathered at Santa Monica, Calif.'s Barker Hangar for the Spirit of Life Gala, supporting the City of Hope nonprofit clinical research and treatment center. And wherever there's a celeb-studded charity event, you know a wine sponsor can't be too far away. This particular evening, The Prisoner Wine Company had its Prisoner red blend and Blindfold white blend on-pour for gala-goers including Tiffany Haddish, Dr. Dre, Rita Ora, special performer Beyoncé, and the evening's hosts, Pharrell Williams and Jay Z. Michael Kovac/Getty Images for The Prisoner Wine Company Tiffany Haddish is captivated by the Prisoner. Honoring music executive Jon Platt for his dedication to City of Hope, the gala raised $6 million raised for the organization's efforts to fight cancer, diabetes, and other life-threatening diseases.“We were honored to support the City of Hope’s important efforts through our involvement in this year’s Spirit of Life gala," John Seethoff, VP of marketing at The Prisoner Wine Company, told Unfiltered via email. "It was a natural fit for The Prisoner Wine Company, whose wines of character and quality echo the luminaries from music, film and philanthropy who filled the room that evening.” Enjoy Unfiltered? The best of Unfiltered's round-up of drinks in pop culture can now be delivered straight to your inbox every other week! Sign up now to receive the Unfiltered e-mail newsletter, featuring the latest scoop on how wine intersects with film, TV, music, sports, politics and more. […]

  • Wine Giant Constellation Has a New CEO (Wine Spectator)
    by Daniel Marsteller on October 18, 2018 at 4:55 pm

    In a major move late yesterday, Constellation Brands announced that its current president and COO, Bill Newlands, will take over chief executive duties from Rob Sands, effective March 2019, with Sands becoming executive chairman. With the transition, Newlands will become the first Constellation CEO from outside the Sands family. He takes the helm during a heady time for Constellation, which has seen its market value rise from $6.3 billion in 2012 to $43 billion today, following a string of acquisitions across the wine, spirits and beer businesses. Most recently, Constellation made another bold move with its $4 billion investment in Canadian cannabis producer Canopy Growth. Shanken News Daily managing editor Daniel Marsteller caught up with Newlands to discuss his new appointment and the future of Constellation. Read the interview at Shanken News Daily. […]

  • Domaine de la Romanée-Conti 1945 Auctioned for Record-Shattering Price (Wine Spectator)
    by Bruce Sanderson on October 15, 2018 at 5:45 pm

    Rob Rosania, a New York real-estate developer and noted wine collector, raised his paddle and left it there. “150, 160, 170, 180, 200,” auctioneer Jamie Ritchie rattled off in rapid fire, as if he was counting. Those numbers were actually thousands of dollars, salvos in a bidding war between Rosania and an unidentified online bidder at Sothebys’ auction of wines from Burgundy legend Robert Drouhin’s personal cellar on Oct. 13. The prize at stake was a bottle of Domaine de la Romanée-Conti Romanée-Conti 1945.At $558,000 (including the buyer’s premium and taxes), Rosania conceded. But he purchased the next lot, the second 750ml bottle of Romanée-Conti 1945 in the auction, for $496,000. The two lots both shattered the previous auction record for a single bottle, a jeroboam of Mouton-Rothschild 1945 that sold for $310,700 in 2007.“That’s why I was here,” Rosania told Wine Spectator after the session. “I thought it would go for $250,000 to $400,000.”Rosania also snagged the next lot, one bottle of Romanée-Conti 1943, for $68,200, including fees. The ’45s were more hotly contested for several reasons: Decimated by frost and hail, the 1945 growing season was hot overall, producing just 600 bottles of concentrated and long-lived wines. And Romanée-Conti’s vines had been planted prior to the devastation of Burgundy’s vines from phylloxera. The vines, still on their own roots, were pulled out after the 1945 harvest.Most important, the two bottles came from Drouhin’s personal collection. His family company Maison Joseph Drouhin distributed the wines of DRC from 1928 until 1964. The provenance was impeccable.In a little more than two hours, Ritchie, worldwide head of Sotheby’s Wine knocked down $7.3 million in rare Burgundy. More than 90 percent of the sale was rare bottles of DRC, vintages 1937 to 1964, from the Drouhin cellar. Many lots sold at three to four times the high estimate, with several going for seven, eight, even 10 times the catalog price. Bidding was competitive, mostly by telephone and online clients.Robert Drouhin was impressed with the sale. “The estimate of many wines seemed low to me, knowing their quality and scarcity, whatever the motivation of the wine lovers or collectors,” he said. “But I was amazed.”“My first thought was for my father, Maurice Drouhin, who oriented Joseph Drouhin to the upper level of quality and created links with the Domaine de la Romanée-Conti,” he added. “My second thought was for Burgundy in general, my family and Joseph Drouhin, the prestige which they will gain from it.”Nonetheless, he cautioned against the feverish demand for Burgundy. “For its first and grands crus, Burgundy is in a luxury world. Let us hope it will not disturb the mentality. Burgundy estates should not be a field for investments. I wish our terroir remains in the hands of families. Personally I have already ensured the transmission to my grandchildren and hopefully the family ethic.”This sale follows a record-breaking June auction in Geneva of the remaining bottles of Henri Jayer’s personal cellar. Both offered impeccable provenance, giving collectors around the globe the opportunity to bid on extremely rare, pristine bottles. Burgundy remains the king of wine auctions. Want to get the latest news on collectible wines and the auction market? Sign up for Wine Spectator's free Collecting e-mail newsletter and get a new top-rated wine review, collecting Q&As and more, delivered straight to your inbox every other week! […]

  • West Coast Wineries Are Refusing Grape Orders and Farmers Are Unhappy (Wine Spectator)
    by Aaron Romano on October 12, 2018 at 1:00 pm

    Wine grapegrowers in Northern California's Lake and Mendocino counties and Oregon's Rogue Valley are unhappy after some of the industry's bigger companies refused grapes from growers they had contracts with due to potential smoke taint as a result of summer wildfires. The companies say lab tests showed high levels of compounds that could lead to smoky flavors in wines, but the growers dispute that.In late August, Constellation Brands and Treasury Wine Estates rejected an estimated 1,200 tons of grapes from several Lake and Mendocino growers, just as harvest was getting underway. A few weeks later, Joe Wagner's Copper Cane Wines & Provisions refused 2,000 tons of grapes from 15 grapegrowers in Southern Oregon.“This was a tough decision to make,” Wagner told Wine Spectator. “Knowing that we need to maintain our good reputation with growers as well as with our brand, we made the call after discovering that it was more widespread than we thought.”Catching smokeTwo wildfires ignited in Southern Oregon in mid-July. One is still burning, with 75 percent containment. Fires in Lake and Mendocino counties broke out at the end of July and took more than a month to contain.Wagner said his team initially took grape samples to test in labs, like many others, but found that the chemical analyses were all over the board. They then decided to ferment small lots from each vineyard, a tactic first used by the Australian Wine Research Institute. It was only then that they detected the impact of smoke. “If you're just testing the grapes, you're throwing money at the wind; you need to do ferments to see for sure,” said Wagner.Smoke taint occurs when grapes are exposed to smoke-filled air for an extended period of time. The longer the smoke hangs in the area, the more a residue builds on the grapes, which permeates the skins. The smoke compounds, volatile phenols including guaicol and 4-methylguiacol, then bond with the sugars. Grapes can be analyzed for the compounds, but results can be inconclusive. It's only after fermentation that the volatile compounds are released, which can make a wine taste smoky. Grapes are most susceptible between veraison (when the grapes' color darkens), and reds are more directly affected. Unfortunately, growers are at the mercy of contracts, which have stipulations for quality, including smoke taint. But because detecting taint is tricky, it leaves a lot of uncertainty. Many vineyard owners say they have sent their grapes in for analysis and found they measured below the threshold for what would be considered tainted. Some vineyard owners in Oregon are claiming that Copper Cane never conducted tests on their fruit and they were left high and dry come harvesttime. Copper Cane denies that and contends that they utilized their own labs as well as a third party for testing. (It hasn't helped Wagner's cause that he has been involved in a labeling fight with Oregon vintners and politicians.)Wagner said they worked as fast as they could to determine if grapes were suitable. “You had to give seven to 10 days for fermentation and then another seven to 10 for a return for analysis, and we let everyone know there was a problem at that point.” Wagner claimed that laboratory results were sent to all the growers and many understood the decision they had to make. “This is something we've never done before, but we still feel confident in our decision.”Sam Tannahill, co-founder of Oregon's A to Z Wineworks, is one of Oregon's largest purchasers of Rogue Valley grapes for his 375,000-case brand, and believes it's an unfortunate situation that is difficult to blame on anyone. “A winery doesn't want to expose themselves to liability or make bad wine, and the grower is upset because they feel like they've done nothing wrong,” Tannahill told Wine Spectator. “It's frustrating, because it's not an issue of poor vineyard management; it's outside the control of both winery and vineyard.”Tannahill noted that he has not refused any of his Rogue Valley fruit and that so far he has seen low levels of smoke-tainted grapes and believes most are isolated incidents. “It's foolish to say it's not there, but it's extremely variable, depending on the microclimate, timing and length of exposure,” said Tannahill.Debra Sommerfield, president of the Lake County Wine Grape Commission, echoed Tannahill's comments. “It's useful to understand that Lake County's 10,000 acres of vineyard lands are planted throughout a vast, diverse topography of mountains, ridges, hills and valleys, each with a range of elevations and distinct wind patterns.” Sommerfield noted that it's difficult to generalize the impact of smoke, but that growers are working together to make informed decisions.Brent Dodd, corporate communications manager for Treasury Wine Estates, told Wine Spectator, “Our viticulturist and winemakers are working through a third party, carefully evaluating grapes from regions effected by wildfires in 2018; if the grapes do not meet our quality standards then they will unfortunately be rejected, which is standard in the industry.” Dodd also said that they are in close communication with their growers to continue testing grapes as needed as harvest carries on.Banding togetherLawmakers and winery owners in Oregon met last week to help mitigate the estimated $4 million in losses for Rogue Valley vintners. In response, Willamette Valley Vineyards and King Estate Winery have purchased nearly 100 tons from Rogue Valley growers. Other wineries have purchased grapes or offered tank space to help crush the crop, so growers can make the wine and sell it in the bulk-wine market. The Lake County Winegrape Commission is spearheading a collaborative research project with the University of California at Davis, ETS Laboratories and other partners, including individual grapegrowers, to further understand the effects of smoke and look for options for future years.Tannahill hopes that incidents like these spur more conversations for the wine industry. “My hope is for there to eventually be federally imposed insurance to keep growers stable, and mitigate the loss for the winery in contract for the grapes.” He noted that vineyard insurance in Oregon is fairly uncommon because growers rarely get enough back from their losses.Wagner suggested that he'd be more than willing to pay an additional cost per ton to cover the expense of crop insurance for his growers, and hinted that Copper Cane is formulating a plan to offer relief to the affected growers. “We're farmers ourselves and we hope there's more crop insurance up there in the future,” said Wagner “We can't remake the past, but we know what we need to do in the future.”Tannahill believes the problem with smoke taint isn't going away any time soon. “This is about climate change, and about how forests are managed, and vineyards just happen to be near these areas,” said Tannahill. “There's been smoke all up and down the West Coast for several years, and our industry needs to take a serious look at how to deal with it so that it doesn't become endemic.”Stay on top of important wine stories with Wine Spectator's free Breaking News Alerts. […]

  • Unfiltered: LeBron James Returns After Grueling 2-Week Wine Time-Out, Reveals He Lets Jr. Sip Wine like a European Kid (Wine Spectator)
    on October 11, 2018 at 11:00 pm

    LeBron James recently took his talents to the Los Angeles Lakers, and just a few months into his stint, he's apparently already bought into the hot yoga, green juice and #healthgoals lifestyle that's taken over the West Coast. According to the Los Angeles Times, the 33-year-old basketball star took a two-week hiatus from gluten, dairy, added and artificial sugars, and (gasp) wine, in hopes of boosting his health. If you know LeBron, you know this undertaking was no slam-dunk. One of the most well-known enophiles in the NBA, he rarely goes long without drinking—and occasionally sharing a taste on social media—his beloved vino. So how did the herculean task go for him? “It made me want wine more,” he said. But huzzah, King James survived the task—and even took it a day into overtime: He celebrated the W and broke his dry spell with a bottle of 2007 Giuseppe Quintarelli Amarone della Valpolicella Classico Riserva. Instagram/KingJames Amarone makes the heart grow fonder. And it's possible he toasted this accomplishment with the people closest to him: his wife—and kids. At a Lakers practice on Tuesday, James told reporters that he lets his elder children, LeBron Jr., 14, and Bryce, 11, sip "whatever Dad and Mom's having," referring to wine. "I got very mature 14- and 11-year-olds. My 14- and 11-year-olds drink wine. That's how mature they are," he told press. "Put it on me, though, don't put it on Mom. Put it on Dad." (Three-year-old daughter Zhuri apparently still has some growing up to do.) Of course, while some might appreciate the four-time NBA MVP's very European approach to child-rearing, not everyone was going to champion it. Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) took to Twitter to respond to James' comments, writing, "We still have a long way to go to educate parents about dangers of underage drinking." In Ohio, the James' home court until recently, it is legal for parents to allow their children to have alcohol under their supervision. But in his new home of California, laws aren’t so lenient. There is one thing for certain, though: When the James offspring do get sips of vino—we know it's good vino.German Winemaker Loses, Finds, 3,500 Pounds of Grapes in Zany Riesling-Thieving Mix-UpNikolaus Werlé in Forst woke up after one nacht to find someone had harvested 3,500 pounds (worth $9,200) of prime Riesling grapes off his vines. Thief-harvesting, sadly, is not terribly uncommon, but the incident at Werlé’s vineyard appeared all the more brazen because his plots are located right next to a supermarket parking lot on the outskirts of the village of Deidesheim, where any number of people might have spotted a mechanical harvester at work. "Quite a lot of our grapes got stolen and were missing for more then 10 days," the vintner told Unfiltered. But this case of missing Riesling has been solved. "A farmer from our neighborhood recognized that his harvester driver picked the wrong vineyard, got in touch with us, and agreed to replace the grapes from one of his vineyards," said Werlé. "So at the end it was just a mistake," and everything got, well … sorted. British Wine Merchant Shares Letter of Regret from 'Titanic' Company for Losing Wine in Unfortunate Iceberg IncidentThere are plenty of understandable excuses for why a wine shipment doesn't make it to its destination. (Like, "vandals poured it all out onto the ground.") But none might be as outrageous—or tragic, just in general—as the tale of the 69 cases of still wine, Champagne and spirits that sank with the Titanic in the early hours of April 15, 1912. Courtesy Berry Bros. & Rudd Troubled waters Berry Bros. & Rudd, a historic British wine and spirits merchant, recently found and resurfaced a letter of apology for lost wine cargo it received from the Titanic's parent company, White Star Line, the day after the ship's sinking (the day after!), and posted the missive on its Instagram page. "Dear Sirs," the letter reads. "Referring to your shipment by this steamer it is with great regret that we have to inform you that the 'Titanic' foundered at 2:20 a.m. 15th instant, after colliding with an iceberg, and is a total loss." A copy of the letter has been displayed in Berry Bros. & Rudd's flagship shop in London ever since the original was rediscovered 20 years ago, when a retiring employee found it while cleaning out his desk, according to Edward Rudd, third-generation family member and the company’s financial planning director. The original, usually stashed away in a safe, was given its 15 minutes of Instafame thanks to some archival work. “One of the many wonderful things about being part of a 320-year-old business is the bountiful archives, detailing the heritage and history of Berry Bros. & Rudd," Rudd told Unfiltered. Let's hope there are some happier memories to toast in those archives as well. 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. […]

  • Perfect Match Recipe: Roast Chicken with Crispy Potatoes and Beaujolais (Wine Spectator)
    by Hilary Sims on October 11, 2018 at 3:30 pm

    “Roast chicken is a real emotional thing for people,” says chef Andy Little. “One of my favorite things to eat at home is whole roast chicken.”Little’s accessible recipe for a classic whole chicken—oven-roasted to crispy, golden goodness—goes on the plate with smashed potatoes and a kale salad dressed in a grilled-scallion vinaigrette that’s quick to prepare but feels restaurant-worthy with its combination of herbaceous, smoky and creamy elements. At his restaurant, the Wine Spectator Award of Excellence–winning Josephine, in Nashville, Tenn., Little’s deep-fried take on whole roast chicken has become a show-stopping signature menu item. It falls somewhere between the Amish farm chicken of Little’s youth in central Pennsylvania and the fried hot chicken that proliferates in Music City. He says that the dish resulted from his thinking, “Well, I wonder what would happen if I just dropped that whole thing in the deep fryer.” Josephine’s mash-up of Southern and Pennsylvania Dutch culinary traditions is not as quirky as it may seem. “The cuisine of the American South, especially the noncoastal American South, and the cuisine of central Pennsylvania are very similar,” Little explains. “Both of them celebrate their agrarian roots, so you’re going to find food that has jumped off of the farm and onto restaurant menus using the whole animal.” The subsistence cultures of Amish country and Appalachia, he observes, are about “being very frugal with the abundance that you have.”At home, the humble roast chicken can sometimes prove finicky. Either the skin is well-burnished and crispy but the interior is unpleasantly dry, or the meat is tender but the skin offputtingly wiggly. Little suggests cutting yourself some slack and taking the long view. “If I make something once and it doesn’t really turn out the way I wanted it to, I’m going to try it again, and I’ll probably try it three or four, maybe five times,” he says. “Continue to get in the kitchen and cook, and if you’re dead set on, ‘I’m going to make this great roast chicken recipe,’ then persevere a little bit.” After all, you gotta eat. “Thankfully, we’re supposed to eat three times a day,” Little says, “so that’s three opportunities—if you’re into chicken for breakfast.”For example, if the meat isn’t done to your liking when cooked to the called-for 175 F, try following visual cues instead, cooking only until the juices run clear when a leg joint is pierced with a small knife. You might pursue an even crispier skin, rubbing the inside of the skin with butter or taking your blow-dryer to the outside. Maybe you’ll discover you’re a fan of trussing the bird with twine for even cooking, or maybe that’s not your thing.If you want to get a little more ambitious, slice a couple lemons, heads of garlic and onions in half crosswise, then stuff a few into the chicken’s cavity and place the rest cut-side down in the roasting pan. Throw in a carrot or two if you like. The resulting pan juices will be even more richly nuanced, plus you’ll have additional veggies to serve alongside.“Hopefully, I’m able to provide a great jumping-off point,” Little says. Ultimately, though, it’s all about finding your own perfect chicken.Pairing Tip: Why Cru Beaujolais Works with This Dish[videoPlayerTag videoId="5847012918001"]Visit our YouTube channel to watch a version of this Perfect Match video with closed captions.For more tips on how to approach pairing this dish with wine, recommended bottlings and notes on chef Andy Little’s inspiration, read the companion article, "A Perfect Match: Roast Chicken With Beaujolais," in the Nov. 30, 2018, issue, via our online archives or by ordering a digital edition (Zinio or Google Play) or a back issue of the print magazine. For even more wine pairing options, WineSpectator.com members can find other recently rated Beaujolais in our Wine Ratings Search.Roast Chicken with Crispy Potatoes, Kale and Grilled-Scallion Vinaigrette2 bunches scallions, trimmed2 cups olive oil, plus more for cookingSalt and pepperOne 3 1/2– to 4-pound whole chicken, preferably organic and/or local, giblets removed 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard1 egg yolk4 tablespoons Sherry vinegar or apple cider vinegar2 to 3 bunches kale (about 10 ounces), stems removed, washed and cut into strips3 pounds fingerling potatoes1. Heat a grill pan or cast-iron skillet on medium-high. In a large bowl, toss scallions with a bit of olive oil, salt and pepper. Cook scallions, using tongs to turn, until soft and well-charred, about 5 minutes. Transfer to paper towels. Once cool enough to handle, chop roughly. 2. Preheat the oven to 425 F. Dry the chicken with paper towels. Coat the skin with olive oil and season liberally inside and out with salt and pepper. Tie the legs together tightly with kitchen twine. Place the chicken breast-side up in a roasting pan or oven-safe skillet and insert a probe thermometer between the leg and thigh joint. Transfer to the oven and roast until the thermometer reads 175 F, about 1 hour. Transfer chicken to a meat board. Tent loosely with foil. Let rest for about 15 minutes.3. While the chicken is roasting, combine the mustard, egg yolk, vinegar and grilled scallions in a blender and blend on high until well-combined. Slowly stream in 2 cups olive oil, and season to taste with salt and pepper.4. Dry the kale thoroughly and dress with the grilled-scallion vinaigrette (you will have some left over). Season to taste with salt and pepper.5. Place the potatoes in a pot and cover with cold water. Bring to a boil over high heat, then reduce to a simmer and cook until the potatoes are just cooked through, about 10 minutes. Drain and submerge in an ice-water bath to stop the cooking. Once the potatoes have cooled, smash them flat with the side of a chef’s knife.6. Coat a large saucepan with olive oil and heat over medium-high. Add the potatoes and cook, turning once, until browned on both sides. Remove from heat and season to taste with salt and pepper.7. When ready to serve, remove the twine from the chicken. Remove the legs, and separate each thigh from each drumstick. Cut along the inside of the breastbone on either side to remove the breast meat, and slice. Remove the wings. Serve with the kale salad and potatoes alongside. Serves 2 to 4. […]

  • Restaurant Spotlight: Épure (Wine Spectator)
    on October 11, 2018 at 2:00 pm

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