Archived entries for White Wine 

Two Years Later: A Catch Up with Peter Mondavi Jr from Charles Krug

Peter Mondavi Junior, Charles Krug Co-Proprietor

Over two years ago, I had the chance to sit down with Peter Mondavi Junior, the co-proprietor of Charles Krug.  Our conversation focused on family, history, heritage, sustainability, good wine and hard work.  We talked about the strides that his father, Peter Mondavi Senior, and his innovations at Charles Krug ranging from vintage dating varietal wines, cold fermentation of white wines and fermentation in French oak barrels, and many more.

Last month while Peter was en route to the Austin Food and Wine Festival, we had the chance to sit down and visit again.

A lot has changed in two years.  Peter Mondavi Senior passed away the end of last year, but in talking with his son, his legacy will continue.  “All of Peter’s siblings lived until the 90’s and he lived until he was in his 100’s,” Peter said.  “Mark and I have worked underneath him for decades.  He taught us to be meticulous.  We will continue to carry on his philosophy and our foundation as we move the winery forward.”

Charles Krug is the oldest winery in Napa Valley and was founded in 1861 by Prussian immigrant Charles Krug.  Since 1943, and over four generations, the winery has been overseen by the Peter Mondavi Senior family.

Since the subject of women and wine and the lack of parity has been such a prevalent subject with the women winemakers I have talked to lately, I asked him about the opportunity for women and wine.  He talked about Stacy Clark, Charles Krug’s winemaker, and how he wanted to hire the best winemaker, who happened to be a women winemaker.  “It was all about carrying on the Peter Mondavi Family vision, but giving a talented winemaker the leeway needed to make great wines while still keeping alive the essence of the vineyards.”

He gave me an overview of the success of the hospitality center that was just opening during our last conversation.  The center was the final element of a $9.5 million restoration and beautification of the Redwood Cellar Building designed by noted architect Howard Backen.  It was named after the winery’s matriarch, Rosa Mondavi, and launched to celebrate Peter Senior’s 100th birthday.   They are working on putting together a culinary program as the next step as well as a vertical program to bring the extensive wine library to consumers.

There has also been an evolution in narrowing the portfolio to focus on the single vineyard, upscale, estate wines from eight vineyards over 850 acres located in St. Helena, Howell Mountain, Yountville and Carneros.

We tried several wines and Peter was still as passionate as ever in describing them and the stories associated with each one.  Each of these was delicious, but the Howell Mountain Cabernet is off the charts.

2015 Charles Krug Chardonnay – had an old-world style full of lots of citrus, tropical fruit and minerality.  This is the only wine made from non-estate vineyards from Los Carneros since they are replanting the chardonnay vineyards.

2013 Charles Krug Generations – this wine was designed to celebrate four generations of the Mondavi family.  Peter described it as a wine with “one foot in France, one foot in California.”  It was balanced with lots of licorice, anise, blueberry, blackberry and spice.   The first vintage of this was in 1991 and came about when Duckhorn had extra grapes that Mark used as an experiment when Mondavi Senior was on a sales trip.  It was their first Bordeaux blend and has evolved ever since.

2014 Charles Krug Vintage Selection Napa Cabernet Sauvignon – lots of black fruit, red fruit, mocha and cassis flavors.

2013 Charles Krug Family Reserve Howell Mountain Cabernet Sauvignon – this was the third vintage of this wine and I loved the cranberry, cassis, spice, chocolate and black fruit.

The winery has a quote that seems to still bear true from its founder, Cesare Mondavi – “Treat the land with respect, and it will show in the wine.”  It is clear the tradition, heritage and commitment to family are still important tenants at Charles Krug Winery.


Vinitaly: A Glimpse of Verona, Varietals, Vineyards and Vinology

How do you create stories about an event where more than 4,000 wineries were present, each serving an average of 6 to 10 wines over a three-day period?  Some you plan, some you experience, some are pre-arranged … and some stories are just meant to be told.  The ITA had several pre-arranged tastings – some were fantastic and I walked away with an understanding of the region and the wines offered.  One was challenging … a neighboring booth had its sound system going and only one wine was poured to the lucky folks that stayed behind to hear more.

Here’s the recap on the tastings:

Our first tasting was with the Consorzio Tutela Vini D’Irpinia, an association of growers and producers from a place known for its terroir and diverse microclimates including volcanic soil.  Irpinia is known for bringing back grapes on the edge of extinction like Aglianico (we got to taste in the Nativ Blu Onice), Fiano, Greco, Coda di Volpe and Falanghina.  Wineries represented included Greco di Tuto, Nativ, La Molara, Tenuta Cavalier Pepe, De Lisio and Manimurci Zagreo.

Our second tasting was with the Consorzio Alto Adige, a consortium of 155 members made up of cooperative wineries, estate wineries and independent grape growers who cultivate more than 99 percent of this DOC.  This is a small wine growing region with about twenty different grapes grown on 5,300 hectares.  Approximately 60 percent of the region is dedicated to white wines made up of Pinot Grigio, Gewürztraminer, Pinot Bianco, Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, Müller Thurgau, Sylvaner, Kerner, Riesling, and Veltliner.  Reds are focused on Schiava and Lagrein primarily but Pinot Noir, Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon and Cabernet Franc also are grown.

We tried some really interesting, diverse and tasty wines including a sparkling (Arunda Metodo Classico Brut) and some classic whites (Muri-Gries Wine Estate/Monastery Cellar 2016 Pinot Bianco, Cantina Kurtatsch 2015 Pinot Grigio Penoner, 2015 Manincor Terlan Sauvignon Tannenberg, 2015 Castelfeder Gewürztraminer Vom Lehm) and a delicious red, the 2014 Hans Rottensteiner Lagrein Grieser Riserva Select.  This was one of my top region discoveries and I loved the diversity, the German and Austrian influences and the wines were fabulous.

 

 

Our third tasting was hosted by the Associazione Puglia in Rose.  The association is focused on promoting the regional wine industry including rosé from Apulia, the easternmost region of Italy surrounded by water – the Adriatic Sea in the east and north, and by the Ionian Sea in the south.   The climate is Mediterranean in nature with variances in the Summer and Winter.  We tried a white wine, several roses and reds from Cantine Teanum, Cantina La Marchesa and Tenuta Zicari. I kept coming back to the Cantine Teanum ‘Alta’ Falanghina white with its notes of tropical fruit, green apple and a nice minerality.  I also enjoyed the primitivo reds with lots of black fruit that were easy to drink.

 

Renato Vezza, the winemaker at Cascina Luisin

Our fourth tasting was focused on the delicious wines of Piedmont with the Associazione Nuovo Radici.  The region has 58 DOC and DOCG zones, is the sixth largest producer in volume and has the highest percentage of Italian classified wines. And wow – these were stunners.  Piedmont is known for its variety of wines from Asti Spumante to Barbera to the swoon worthy wines made with Nebbiolo like Barolo and Barbaresco as well as Gattinara, Gemme and Roero.  What struck me was the approachability of these wines, which traditionally need time to age and open.

We tasted wines from Cantino del Pino, Comm. G.B. Burlotto, Cascina Bongiovanni, Villa Giada and Cascina Luisin.  I was so happy I had the chance to talk and taste with Renato Vezza, the winemaker at Cascina Luisin.  There are so many gems to discover at this winery with a focus on Nebbiolo, Barbera, Dolcetto and Arneis grapes.

Our final tasting was by the Consorzio Tutela Vini Colli Berici E Vicenza, an organization bringing together the 34 wineries of the region.  The Colli Berici refers to the hills between the cities of Vicenza and Padua.  The area is known for its clay, volcanic and limestone soils with varying degrees of rain through the region.

 

We tried five wines from the Colli Berici region – the 2016 Collis Decanto Sauvignon Colli Berici, the 2015 Pegoraro Tai Rosso Colli Berici, the 2015 Vitevis Tai Rosso Colli Berici, the 2013 Piovene Porto Godi Tai Rosso Thovara Colli Berici and the 2013 Gianne Tessari Pianalto Rosso Colli Berici.  And then we got to try some local delicacies, which were amazing.

I tasted hundreds of wines and had a few sit-down meetings with some wine folks that I wanted to highlight.

La Salette – Rossella Scamperie

My college friend who now resides in Veneto saw on Facebook that I was going to be attending Vinitaly.  He reached out to give me a recommendation on his favorite winery and introduced me to Rossella Scamperle, a member of the winery family and his Italian language teacher.

Me and Rossella Scamperle

La Salette was built as a sanctuary and tribute to the Madonna when she freed the vineyards from phylloxera.  The sanctuary is a church that overlooks the hills and vineyards.  One of those vineyards is owned by the Scamperle family, a historical winemaking family of Valpolicella who have the same name as the church.  For the past four generations, La Salette has been dedicated to producing classic Valpolicella and has 49 dedicated wine growing acres for grapes like Corvina, Corvinone, Rondinella, Oseleta and a little bit of Molinara, and Croatina.

We went through the portfolio of Valpolicella from the entry wines that were fresh and easy to drink to the reserve Valpolicella, Vernose and Amarone wines, that were nuanced and delicious.

Consorzio Tutela Roero

My friend Constance Chamberlain, the CEO of Wine & Co, asked me to a tasting of Roero, another new region to me.  Roero is north of Alba (Piedmont), on the left bank of the River Tanaro, between the plain of Carmagnola and the low hills of Astigiano.  It used to be part of the Goldo Padano, a sea that dates back 130 million years.  The terroir is known for its sandy soils, limestone, clay, fossil rock and sedimentary materials from the old sea.  The Roero hills are very dry in nature and get the least amount of rain in all of Piedmont.

The area is known for arneis and nebbiolo grapes.  The designation “Roero” is for red wines made from at least 95 percent nebbiolo grapes.  In most cases, Roero DOCG is 100 percent nebbiolo.  Roero Arneis is a term for white wines that are made from 95 percent arneis grapes and those that are designated Roero Arneis DOCG contain 100 percent arneis.  Other Roero DOCG wines include Roero Riserva and Roero Arneis Spumante.

Francesco Monchiero, President of the Roero Consortia and of Monchiero Carbone

I had the chance to talk to the President of the Roero Consorzio, Francesco Monchiero of Monchiero Carbone, one of the biggest and oldest estates in Roero.  It seems like this region is all about family and people that have worked together for generations.   Monchiero Carbone is in Canale, and was established in the 90’s to reunite two families with winemaking ties back to 1918.  Today, Francesco and his wife, Lucrezia, focus on Arneis. When I asked him about the phrase, “Ogni uss a l’ha so tanbuss” and the crest on every bottle, he responded that it stood for “Every door has its knocker.”  He added, “if you knock on our door, you’ll find our style of wines.”

 

We tasted a variety of red and white wines and I learned that Arneis can age like Riesling.  These are very drinkable, approachable and fresh wines that can be opened today, but some of them should have “riserva” status as they were more nuanced and elegant.  One sidenote: the Arneis Reserve classification will come into effect in 2017 and requires 16 months of aging prior to bottling.

We tried Roero wines from Giovani Armando, Monchiero Carbone, Marco Porello, Azienda Agricola Malvirà, Cornarea, Careglio, Matteo Correggla, Montriggio, Nino Costa, Azienda Agricola Cascina Ca’Rossa and Deltetto.

Ruche: Luca Ferraris

Luca Ferraris of Roche Ferrari Winery

Luca Ferraris from Roche Ferrari Winery is the second largest ruche producer – a varietal that I had never heard of.  When Joe Roberts asked me if I wanted to completely “geek out over a region,” the answer was absolutely.  He took me to meet Luca, whose family has been involved in making wine since 1921.   Luca’s great-grandfather Luigi Ferraris emigrated to American and was one of the lucky folks to strike gold.  He sent the money back to his wife, Bruno Teresa, and that led to the purchase of the house that later became the first winery location.

The family began to acquire additional land, vines and bought barrels to make wines. His dad grew grapes and sold them to a cooperative until 2001 when the family started making wine. He had a big commitment to high-quality production and considered it his job to evangelize the varietal.  Today the Ferraris estate produces about 130,000 bottles of wine (about 50,000 of Ruchè) from 18 vineyards covering 25 hectares. Luca Ferraris Agricola is the largest family owned agricultural company in the seven municipalities of the Ruchè-growing region.

Ruchè is a relatively scarce, low production red varietal grown almost exclusively hillside around Castagnole Monferrato in the Piedmont region in northern Italy.  It’s also a fickle grape with its many leaves to prune that is a labor of love for those who helped it earn its DOC designation in 1987.  Overall, the wine has a bright ruby color with delicate floral and red berry aromas.

We tried three Ruchè wines – a classic good, better and best offering from the winery.  Our first was the entry level and very easy to drink 2015 Ruchè Clasic.  I got notes of black and sour cherry, rose petals and bright fruit with some earthiness.

Our next wine was the 2015 Ruchè di Castagnole Monferrato Bric d’Bianc is the name of the hill most suited for the cultivation of Ruchè.

The next Ruchè was the 2015 Ruchè di Castagnole Monferrato Opera Prima, which was a single vineyard wine.  It was delicious and elegant with notes of the cherry and flowers, but depth and complexity.  Luca dedicated this wine in memory of his grandfather and it’s very special.

We also tried the 2016 Vigna del Parroco, which had the same floral notes but with red raspberry and almost a nuttiness.

Our final wine was the 2015 Castello Monaci Primitivo Salento Artas.  This was a treat – I got tons of dark cherry, raspberry jam and black fruit with notes of rosemary, mocha and cedar.  It was elegant and continued to open during our discussion.

And here my whirlwind discussion of wines comes to an end.  It was an life-changing journey with amazing people and I feel like I have much more of an understanding of Italian wines.  I am so ready to continue to experience the wines, culture and evolution of what I learned at Vinitaly.  I consider myself a proud advocate of continuing letting you, my readers know, how my journey progresses.

 


Vinitaly: A Lone Wine Blogger’s Novice Navigation of 128,000 people, 4,000 exhibitors, 400 seminars and the quest for a story

After our trip to the Trento DOC region, I had some quality bus time with Gioia Morena Gatti, the Head of the Food and Wine Section for the ICE-Italian Trade Promotion Agency.  The agency is a government organization that promotes Italian companies globally in conjunction with the Ministry of Economic Development and provides ground cover and support to Italian companies looking to expand internationally in 86 cities around the world.  Keep your eyes open for a big focus on U.S. consumers showcasing Italian wines.  While the U.S. is the biggest market for Italian exports, increasing that market share, especially against French wines, is a key focus.

 A Group of Strangers Who Quickly Became Longtime Friends

 

 

Ornellaia Estate Director Axel Heinz and me

Finally, we arrived in Verona and were ready to begin our Opera Wine Experience.  Veronafiere, Vinitaly and the Wine Spectator host an exclusive invitation only “OperaWine, Finest Italian Wines: 100 Great Producers” event showcasing the best of the best Italian wines.  This was the sixth annual event and focused on the best wines presented by the 100 greatest Italian producers selected by “Wine Spectator.”  It was quite the adventure and copious amounts of Italian high-end dream wines were freely poured and talked about by the estate owners and winemakers.  Each room was segmented by region and you either had to have an advance game plan (note to self) or you found yourself glomming on to others that were not “experiencing their first rodeo.”

And now to Vinitaly, I’ll have some follow-up stories on the wineries that I met and a fraction of the wines that I got to taste in next week’s blog.  As a technology marketing gal, I am no stranger to large trade shows and earned my stripes at the Consumer Electronics Show, the National Retail Foundation Show, the Mobile Congress Show, etc.  I have balanced a box of 50 press kits on my head walking for miles to a booth because it was a union town (Las Vegas) and my client didn’t have union folks on call.  I’ve danced well into the late hours in a club with the Samsung dancers who were hired to drive traffic to the booth.  I’ve been in massive two-story booths where I’ve been involved with the biggest client meetings trying to get a deal done.  What I haven’t done is to be on the other side as a journalist trying to make sense of it all with copious amounts of wine.

Let me put this into perspective for you.  According to Vinitaly, the show netted out like this:

  • 128,000 visitors from 142 countries.
  • 30,000 international wine buyers, up 8% on 2016.
  • The show attracted 4,270 exhibiting companies from 30 countries, up 4%.
  • There were also a series of 400 seminars and debates looking at issues such as increased US protectionism and the implications of Brexit.
  • There were also key business deals done including China’s 1919 distribution business signing a deal with the Vinitaly International Academy to increase Italian wine sales in China by more than 2 million bottles by 2020, worth €68 million euros.

And you can’t throw a huge show like this without a little controversy.  Through no fault of Vinitaly, Italian police removed wines from the Crimea region due to be exhibited by Russian companies.

Imagine trying to navigate over 4,000 exhibitors with a large percentage of them pouring multiple wines in different exhibit halls and pavilions.  Now imagine doing it for an average of eight hours (at least) a day.   Massive.  Crazy.  Incredible.  Amazing.  Overwhelming.  Awesome.  Life Experience.  The list goes on.

Vinitaly’s Stevie Kim and me

This is what we did until our last night together where we were hosted by The Italian Trade Agency, the Economic Ministry of Italy, Vinitaly and Veronafiere for a lovely dinner at the Palazzo Gran Guardia.  Also, I had the chance to see one of my favorite power CEOs, Stevie Kim, who seemed completely put together for having just pulled off such a massive event.

Our table was filled with many of my favorites from the trip and we had this amazing dinner that showcased the brilliance of Italian food.

The first course was pasta with cherry tomatoes, basil and Campania buffalo mozzarella.


The second course was risotto with Monte Veronese cheese and diced pears with a mountain butter.

We moved on to sliced beef, chicory and parmesan cheese in balsamic vinegar, Hollandaise potatoes and celeriac gratin.

And then the grand finale, a “Millefoglie Strachin”, by the renowned Pasticceria Perbellini.  No words.  One of the best desserts that I ever had and I still regret leaving two thirds of it behind.

Joe Roberts, Zoolander Style…

Vinitaly was an incredible, bucket-list experience that is so hard to describe accurately as it is the world’s largest wine trade show.  After 14 hours of sleep in 7 days, I prepared for my 3 am wakeup call (okay, you never prepare for that) for my 4 am car pickup… There’s always time for sleep on the other side…


A Tale of Two Cities: Trento to Verona

Charles Dickens started “A Tale of Two Cities” with the famous line, “it was the best of times, it was the worst of times.”  I had my own two city experience with a focus on the best of times where I was hosted by the Italian Trade Commission on a promotional tour with importers, restauranteurs and other supporters of Italian wines.  The Italian Trade Commission has a mission to promote Italian wines with US consumers, drive market share (more than 350 varieties of Italian wine are exported) and conduct trade education events.

The stars aligned for me and I upgraded my flight to London so the 18-total hour trip ending in Venice with the transfer to Trento was a little less hard on the body than I anticipated.

Trento is located in the Adige River Valley in Trentino-Alta Adige/Südtirol in Italy.  The landscape in Trentino includes Lake Garda to the Cevedale Mountain range and includes the Dolomites.  The Trento Denominazione di Origine Controllata (DOC) is an appellation for white and rosé sparkling wine made in Trentino, Italy.  Our exclusive focus was on sparkling, which focused on varieties of Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, and Pinot Meunier all grown in the Province of Trento.  France, the leading provider of champagne and sparkling wines in the world, has a strong connection to the area.  When the chardonnay grapes were brought to the country in 1900 by Giulio Ferrari, Trento was still part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire.  After graduating from the Forschungsanstalt für Garten- und Weinbau in Geisenheim/Rheingau, Germany, Ferrari made champagne in Épernay.

Fast forward to 1984 and the region started a commitment to be recognized with the founding of the Trento DOC Institute.  Nine years later, it was given the DOC status.  Trento DOC produces its sparkling wines in the méthode champenoise style, which means the second fermentation for sparkling must occur in the bottle with old school riddling required along with disgorgement where you freeze a small amount of wine in the neck of the bottle and removie the plug of ice containing the lees.

Our welcome gathering was at the Sartori’s Hotel with a four course menu paired with wine from 12 producers – Abate Nero, Bellaveder, Cantine Ferrari, Cesarino Sforza Spumanti, Letari, Maso Nero, Cantina D’Isera, Cantina Aldeno, Cantina Rovere Della Luna Aichholz, Cesarini Sforza Spumanti, Pisoni and Revi.

We gathered mostly jetlagged – some with lost luggage, some sporting credentials, some with more complex delays than others – all with the end goal of immersing in our experience.  I’m going to talk about our “Breakfast Club group” in a future column – but it was an amazing group of passionate wine folks that covered all stereotypes and defied them all by week end.

 

 

The next day we started at Palazzo Roccabruna, the Chamber of Commerce of Trento’s location, that houses the Enoteca Provinciale del Trentino (the Provincial Wine Promotion Board of Trentino) and is dedicated to the development and promotion of culture, tradition and products of Trentino showcasing the storied wine history of the region.

 

Roberto Anesi, a local wine expert, led us in a master class on eight Trento DOC wines including 2012 Revi Brut Millesimato, 2012 Tananai Brut Borgo dei Posseri, 2011 Maso Martis Dosaggio Zero Riserva, 2010 Cantine Ferrari Perle, 2010 Letrari Brut Riserva, 2009 Cavit Altemasi Riserva Graal, 2008 Cantina Rotaliana di Mezzolombardo Redor Riserva and 2008 Rotari Flavio Riserva.  The region has more than 45 producers and 100 labels.  The terroir is very diverse in climate, soil, weather and temperature.  There were lots of references throughout the two days of the “towering palisades” that are also known as the Dolomites, a mountain range that has a material impact on the region’s weather, grape growing, and how wines are made.

 

 

We then moved to our lunch at Scrigno del Duomo Restaurant, which was located near the historic and original wine cellar and 2,000-year-old door in the old City that came from a column from a Roman church.

 

Our Gracious Tourguide, Daughter Alessandra Stelzer

Our first winery stop was Maso Martis where we got to walk through the vineyards of this second-generation vineyard.  Maso Martis has been making wines since 1986 and is known for its terroir – calcareous soil and Trentino red rock.  Since 2013, the winery has been organically certified and makes 60,000 bottles per year with 45,000 of them dedicated to Trento DOC.  We had a chance to taste four other wineries – Maso Martis, Revi, Borgo del Posseri e Cantina Rotaliana.

Rotari Winemaker Matteo Covazzi

 

Our second winery stop was Rotari – Mezzocorona, which has been making wine since 1987 – with a very different business model of sourcing from more than 1,500 member farmers – many who do this as a second job.  This is a much bigger operation with more than 500,000 bottles hand-picked with a mix of NV and vintage affiliations.  We tried a combination of these wines and I adored the 2008 Rotari Flavio Brut, which has been made since 1998 with an average production of 5,000 to 10,000 bottles.

We returned that night to Palazzo Roccabruna where we were hosted at a dinner showcasing all things Trento DOC including more sparkling wines.

Our morning stop was at Altemasi, which is part of CAVIT’s premium range of sparkling wines focusing on the Methodo Classico winemaking procedure made from grapes from Trento hillsides, the Brentonico plateau and Valle dei Lahi Valley.  The CAVIT winery is quite the production – a four level, highly functioning, high producing and high technology facility.

Export Manager Massimiliano Giacomini

Our last stop before we hit the road to Verona was Ferrari which was led by Brand Ambassador, Jamie Stewart, who was quite the quotable and passionate host for all things Ferrari and the region.  My favorite, “the discovery of champagne was like man discovering fire for the second time.”

Ferrari started with the dream of Guilio Ferrari after working in Champagne France to create a sparkling wine in Trentino with the ability to compete with top French champagnes, which was a vision as none of the champagne grapes were grown in Italy.  He planted Chardonnay in the region and started to produce a few selected bottles with success.  Ferrari did not have an heir for the business so we started a search for the right owner to continue his dream.

He chose Bruno Lunelli, who owned a wine shop and shared the same passion.  The winery has continued to be run by family members and they kept Guilio at the winery until his death in the late 60s.  Today the winery has a large production 4.5 million bottles and are known for its brands — Ferrari Rosé, Ferrari Perlé and Giulio Ferrari Riserva del Fondatore.


A Conversation with Merry Edwards: Icon, Trailblazer, Philanthropist and Winemaker

Merry and Ken, Courtesy of Merry Edwards Winery 

This week, I had the pleasure of talking with Merry Edwards, an icon, a trailblazer, a philanthropist and a winemaker who has single-handedly shattered the glass ceiling for women in wine in California and at UC Davis in the 70s.  Merry is being honored next weekend in Dallas with the Tête du Cuvée award, the highest award given at the Côtes du Coeur, the annual fine wine auction and celebrity chef dinner benefitting the American Heart Association (AHA).

Merry’s passion for cardiovascular research was first related to love.  Her husband, Ken Coopersmith, had a history of heart disease in the family, but wasn’t aware of how serious his condition was.  Shortly after they were married, his heart started to fail and he had a heart valve replacement.  Ten years later, he kept putting off the doctor because he knew he had gained some weight with the Sonoma food and wine lifestyle.  That decision literally almost killed him.  He went into congestive heart failure and was a two of 100 statistic that lived through the operation. At that point, Merry knew that this was a cause that has a direct meaning and impact for her and millions of others.

“The AHA has a hard-core benefit.  This is a cause that I am passionate about, I believe in this charity and I will continue to be supportive.” she said.  “I believe in giving more.  It’s my job to do my day job, but to be a leader and inspire others to give.”  Merry focuses on charities that have directly impacted her family, which also include the disabled and children’s health.  Merry lives her life facing challenges head on – from raising a disabled child to becoming an advocate for women in any industry.

Several years ago, I attended a wine dinner at Lakewood Country Club where Merry told her story.  After a storied career in wine working for others it was time for Merry to do her own thing, to found Merry Edwards Winery.  She did that in 1997 with a focus on producing Pinot Noirs with a true sense of place from Russian River Valley and Sonoma Coast.

We spent some time talking about her breaking ground and being one of the first women winemakers and the work to be done to recruit more women to the industry.  After 44 harvests, she told me that very little progress has been made.

“If you look at the current studies done on the subject by UC Davis, the statistics are not that encouraging as female winemakers have increased to ten percent today from six percent in the 70’s,” she said.  We talked about the rampant problem in science, in technology and in farming.

“Even my own father thought I should be in a supportive role so I went to Berkeley to be an RN.  Then my career morphed to nutrition and then to food science and finally to wine making,” she said.

She talked about approaching life to try to fix what wasn’t right – not only as a woman, but as a human.  When she was first at UC Davis, affirmative action had just been implemented.  She wasn’t invited to interview on recruiting day because she was a women and marched to the chancellor’s office to help reverse that decision.

She still feels that way today.  “Most people respect me for being here.  I am a role model to prove this can be done,” she said.  “I’m not just talking about women in wine, but for other women in other professions that love wine.”

She left me with the words – “Be an inspiration to others.”  And through her commitment to helping prevent cardiovascular disease in a place where one of every three deaths in the US are from heart disease, stroke and other cardiovascular diseases, she continues to live those words.

My personal affiliation with the American Heart Association is also due to family.  When my younger brother was 17, we discovered a heart condition that took way to long to diagnose that resulted in an emergency open heart surgery.  Because of the life-saving research that was conducted by the AHA, his life was saved.  My husband and I were chairing the Dallas Heart Ball at the time and found out later that the surgeon who saved his life was in the audience.

Proceeds from Côtes du Coeur go directly to the AHA for cardiovascular research and heart health educational programs both locally and nationwide. During its 25-year history, Côtes du Coeur has attracted more than 22,000 attendees and has raised more than $30 million.  The event is scheduled this Saturday, April 22 at the Omni Hotel Dallas.  For more information, click here.


A Dallas Wineaux Journey into Pennsylvania Wines

When my Dallas soul sista, top blogger and general partner in crime, asked a few of us to come to her house to try some Pennsylvania wines, I was immediately intrigued.  The Keystone State is named for its role in early America where it credited in helping hold together the states of the newly formed Union.

Even with Pennsylvania’s designation as the fifth top grape grower (also includes grape juice) and the seventh largest wine producer, I just haven’t had the exposure to their wines.  That all changed on a Thursday afternoon.  Eight wineries including Allegro Winery (Brogue), Karamoor Estate Winery (Fort Washington), Blair Vineyards (Kutz Town — Berks County), Galen Glen (Andreas – Lehigh Valley) Waltz Vineyard (Manheim – Lancaster), Va La (Avondale – Brandywine Valley), Penns Woods (Chadds Ford – Brandywine Valley) and Galer Estate (Chester County – Brandywine Valley) sent over 50 bottles.  Unfortunately, with not a lot of background, so the four of us were left to make some assumptions about blends, types of wines, etc.

The varietals in Pennsylvania are diverse according to the Pennsylvania Wine Association — Cabernet Sauvignon, Catawba, Cayuga, Chambourcin, Chardonnay, Gewurztraminer, Pinot Gris, Pinot Noir, Riesling, Seyval Blanc, Vidal Blanc, Vignoles are all planted here on a dozen wine trails.

With more than 50 wines, we had our favorites that were pretty consistent across the board. You’ll see our favorites by producer.  We do feel like one very well regarded winery that we were all excited about trying had something off with the bottles we tried and we missed the experience that had enchanted others we admired.   Thanks to Michelle for all the great photos as a few of us ran out of time with work meetings and other life commitments.

It was a fun day for several of the Dallas Wineaux to experience the diversity of Pennsylvania.

 


The Montes Family Tour: Like Father, Like Son – A Tale of Two South American Cities

Aurelio Montes Jr, me and Aurelio Montes, Sr – taken by Michelle Williams

One of the most iconic families in South American wine rolled through Dallas during a several city tour this week for a side-by-side tasting of their finest wines.  I was lucky enough to meet Aurelio Montes Sr., a pioneer in making fine wines in Chile and the president of Montes Winery, and his son, Aurelio Montes, Jr., who is the former leader of the Argentinian Kaiken project and now tours international markets to promote his family’s winery.

It was a discussion about place, people, passion and a pedigree for wine making passed from father to son.  It was a very honest discussion and dynamic between an iconic father and a son who clearly continues to carry on the company’s tradition with pride, but with his own approach.

The senior Montes talked as a man who had the benefit of years of perspective.  He discussed the energy of the land – the stones, water and wood – combined with the importance of taking care of people (everything from scholarships to taking care of the schools where the workers children attend) and the land.

He jokingly told us that we needed to buy wine to support his family of 28.  He had a master plan to take his son, Aurelio Jr., to Napa knowing that would a great opportunity to make him love the business.

Per the junior Montes, his first experience of wine was documented in a cradle made from a wine barrel.  He talked about looking at his father as a hero and wanting to just love what he did as much as his dad did.  When he was 13, he worked in France during a harvest so he could understand how to make wine from the roots.

I love that the Montes family tackled both sides of the Andes – bringing in new methods that were once considered to be completely against all wine making wisdom at the time in each region – from the places they planted (steep slopes), to how they planted, to how the wines were harvested.  The common theme is believing in the grapes and terroir over winemaking.   He credits Robert Mondavi for teaching him a great lesson – make the best.

We tried several wines from Montes and Kaiken side by side and I was struck by the different nuances that clearly came from the land.  I laughed at the banter between the two men as Montes Sr talked about how Argentina has everything like the tango, for example, and he just wanted to push the limits in Chile in wine making especially with Malbec while his son wanted to push the limits beyond Malbec in Argentina.

Here were the wines that we tried in our tasting.

 

- 2014 Montes Alpha Chardonnay and 2014 Kaiken Ultra Chardonnay

- 2014 Montes Alpha Cabernet Sauvignon and 2014 Kaiken Ultra Cabernet Sauvignon

- 2014 Montes Alpha Malbec and 2014 Kaiken Ultra Malbec

- 2015 Montes Outer Limits (a blend of Carignan, Grenache and Mouvedre – who knew) and 2014 Kaiken Obertura Cabernet France (again, who knew?)

- 2012 Montes Alpha M (Bordeaux blend) and 2013 Kaiken Mai Malbec

Then we were treated to an amazing vertical of Taita Cabernet Sauvignon from 2007, 2009 and 2010.  Taita is the family’s hallmark wine from the best vineyards with a quest from perfection and was meant to go head to head with French top quality wines.  Taita loosely translated means the knowledge that a father or grandfather passes down with devotion, respect and love.  Tasting these, I was honored to be part of this special family legacy.

 

 

 

 

 


February: The Month of Just Opening That Bottle(s)

We have all done it.  Spent a ton of time cultivating some great wines in our cellars (or even holding on to a special bottle or two) and then let it sit … and sit … and sit.  Occasionally, when we finally get to that special bottle, it is past its prime and so frustrating to experience.

Chef Mike Smith Explains the Third Course

For me, it’s been an epic month of finally getting to break into the cellar and enjoy some wines that needed to be consumed.  We had a few great opportunities.  First, we had an amazing dinner that we purchased at a North Texas Food Bank auction, an organization that does amazing things to help feed the hungry in DFW.  It was a dinner with well-known chef, Mike Smith, who has a storied career at The Green Room, Arcodoro/Pomodoro and The Common Table before he joined Utopia Food and Fitness, the group who donated the dinner.  They have a great fundraising campaign going right now  – click here to help.

Zach Coffey, Musician

We all brought amazing wines and I’m not going to admit how much wine we consumed, but it was an incredible time with friends who are like the family you would choose, if you could.  We even had a private concert from Zach Coffey, a well-known Texas musician.

For me, it was time to break out a magnum of Reserva Barolo that was off the charts delicious and opened at the perfect moment.   Pol Roger, Gary Farrell, Paul Hobbs and Domaine du Pre Semele were the dinner wines and several were opened after the fact.  It may have been a foggy Sunday, but well worth it.

 

My husband took our daughter on her first ski trip to Vail and I had an opportunity for a girl’s overnight at a friend’s lake house.  She is an amazing cook and consummate entertainer, so we knew we had to bring wines that live up to her culinary skills.  And, well, we did.  There were several of us (I am not going to disclose how many) and work has been a little crazy for all of us.  This was about 30 hours of great food, amazing wine (I got to open another magnum – this time of Tablas Creek Esprit de Tablas).  I also brought Ehlers, Foresight, Naia, Fel, Cartograph, Veuve Clicquot and my friend, Julie, may have brought a few more.  In terms of left overs … well, not so much.  It was Cards Against Humanity (kinda), lots of discussions about life in general, amazing food, Saturday Night Live and old movies.  I even met a person who followed me on Instagram who happened to know Jennifer and came down for a glass of wine.

And, I got to bring our new rescue pup who did well except for his walkabout when we were cleaning up on Sunday morning.

After all, what good is keeping great wines in the cellar if you don’t share them with good friends?

 


Deciphering the German Riesling Puzzle and Why You Should

This month’s #winestudio focused on the Riesling wines.  Specifically, Massanois, a distributor of high-quality and boutique wines, introduced us to wines from Karthaeuserhof and Weingart Max Ferd. Richter, two wine estates located in Germany’s Mosel region.

Rieslings, while like candy to people who love wine, are often misunderstood in the United States – even though it remains the most important export market for German wines.  Perhaps it is because of the transformative nature of different Riesling wines?  Perhaps it is because the labels are a puzzle that are hard for consumers to solve?  Perhaps it is the varying styles of Riesling – from peach to mineral to floral to fuller body with notes of mineral and steel?

Our first wines were from Karthaeuserhof – the 2012 and 2015 Rieslings – which is located on the Ruwer, a tributary of the upper Mosel near the town of Trier.  On the Mosel, the banks with their blue slate soil rise so sharply that the vineyards are some of the steepest in the world.  It was also said that there was no back label on the wines because with the secret picnics (often with mistresses) that would occur on the River, they would wash off.

The next session focused on a wine from the estate of Weingart Max Ferd. Richter.  The estate has been passed down from father to son for the past 300 years and is currently on its ninth generation.  The wines are from single vineyards, are sustainably farmed and have a similar steep terroir that influences the wines.

We tried the 2015 Juffer Kabinett Riesling and the 2015 Graacher Himmelreich Riesling Kabinett and both were a great representation of fruit, minerality and floral notes.

 

 

Our last session focused on how to decipher those tough to read bottles.

  • The word trocken means dry, but always check the alcohol percentage listed – at 12.5 percent or higher, the wine will taste dry; 11 to 12.5 percent will show some off-dry sweetness; while alcohol that is lower around 8 or 9 percent is the sweetest.
  • Look at the region.  Different regions have different styles.  Here’s a great link to find out which one aligns to your taste.
  • Different Rieslings have different quality levels.  Qualitätswein, or QbA, is good; and Prädikatswein, or QmP, is known to be best.  But a group of wine estates (Verband Deutscher Prädikatsweingüter) banded together when they were tired of the confusion and created four categories to help consumers.

- Gutswein: estate wine, dry

- Ortswein: village wine

- Erste Lage: first growth from one site

- Grosse Lage (dry wines can also be labeled as Grosses Gewächs): great growth/grand cru (from dry to sweet), from one site.

  • With a QmP designation, the label will include one of five designations, known as a Prädikat, to designate the grapes’ ripeness level when it was harvested.

- Kabinett: the lightest with defined fruit and the least ripe.

- Spätlese: More textured, rounded and full-bodied.

- Auslese: The most body and substance with layers to texture.

If you remember one thing, seek out the VDP logo and the phrase Grosses Gewächs, which means great growth.  And seek out a German Riesling.  There was a question from Tina Morey from #winestudio asking the participants about Riesling.  “It is transparent, pure, balanced and quite the chameleon – is that the problem?” It shouldn’t be with wines made this well, at this price point and with such history.

 


Pinot in the City: Wine Event Now Bigger With the Texas Addition

 

Beacon Hill Liberty Pinot Noir

I’ve said it often and I’ll say it again.  Texas is a force to be reckoned with in the wine drinking market and wineries from all over the world have taken notice.  But, we have never had the highly-regarded Pinot in the City event come to not one, but two Texas cities – until this week.

Oregon Wine Country and the Willamette Valley Wineries Association, a non-profit focused on achieving recognition for the region – still not over the euphoria of the Willamette Valley being named the Wine Enthusiast ‘s 2016 Wine Region of the Year – assembled a crew of 65 winemakers and winery owners, the largest number of Willamette Valley wineries to ever visit Texas at one time.  The Pinot in the City  event has been at maximum capacity from coast to coast since it began in Seattle five years ago.  The event focuses on Pinot Noir – Oregon’s flagship wine — along with several other varieties, from Chardonnay to Riesling.  The event first came to Dallas at the Westin Downtown with a consecutive event in Austin, that started with trade in the afternoon and then a consumer event in the evening.

The trade and consumer response illustrated that Oregon wines are well loved in this city and the wineries that attended make fantastic wine.  Because I spent some time in the Willamette Valley at the Wine Bloggers Conference in 2012 and got to meet many of the participants paired with the fact that you never want to be an over served carpool mom, I narrowed my strategy, for the most part, to wineries that I had not yet tried.

Me, Terry Hill (Texas Wineaux), Michelle Williams (Rocking Red Blog) and Lori Sullivan (Lori’s Twisted Cork and Spork)

I met up with several of the #dallaswineaux and we met with a number of wineries that were recommended, that others had tried and loved, those where we were literally dragged across the room with someone we respected who said, “you’ve GOT to taste this one,” or were on the radar for a story that someone in the group was writing.  There is never enough time and I know I missed some amazing wineries.

Here’s the photo line-up of my notable wineries, some of the wines that we tried and characters that made the story fun, the wines great and kept us entertained.

John Grochau, Owner and Winemaker, Grochau Cellars

Jim Prosser, Owner and Winemaker, J.K. Carriere Wines

Pat Dudley, President and Co-Owner, Bethel Heights Vineyard

Clare Carver, Cow Boss (Best Title Ever), Big Table Farm

Chris Williams, Winemaker, Brooks Winery

Sanjeev Lahoti, Owner, Saffron Fields Vineyard

All  with that “It’s Willamette.  Dammit” sense of fun.  Charm that I adore.




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