August 2008 issue

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PAGES (7-14) August 2008

NOTEBOOK, CALENDAR, HOT PICKS

Service Tip

To top it all off

I have always been told that mediocre service, even when combined with the most delicious food, leaves the guest wondering whether to consider a repeat visit. On the other hand, detailed service paired with delicious food has the guest losing sleep over anticipation of the next reservation. The standards for wine service may seem clear, but they can actually vary with each individual guest.

Topping off stemware, for example, can be a confusing routine for the staff. The protocol I use is as follows: serve the dinner guests first, beginning with the women, in a consistent pattern around the table (I prefer clockwise). End with the host. Be conscious of the level at which you’re filling the stemware—wine should never be poured beyond the widest part of the glass, unless, of course, it’s sparkling—and watch for sediment. Be sure to dispense equally around the table, and always be aware of how much wine is actually left in the bottle. When a bottle is running out, show it to the host and suggest replacing it or reviewing the list; this may result in an up-sell, depending on the table.

The ability to read and understand your guests is the most powerful tool you can have. If certain customers want to pour their own wine, let them! But don’t let that practice push you away from the table. You’re there to be of service, and you should always strive for an enjoyable experience with your guests.

DAVID M. KURTZ, CWP
Food & Beverage Manager
Le Meridien
San Francisco

Notebook

FRANCE MODERNIZES REGULATIONS

The French government has created a five-year plan to help improve its country’s competitiveness in the midprice wine category. Introduced by Minister of Agriculture Michel Barnier and backed by President Nicolas Sarkozy, the plan is intended to relax some of the regulations that may have put French winemakers at a disadvantage compared with New World producers. “French wine is complicated and often little understood,” the Agricultural Ministry explained in a statement.

Wines that previously carried the Vin de Table label now belong in the Vignobles de France category, which allows the producer to include the vintage and grape variety on the label and to employ less costly winemaking techniques, such as aging with oak chips, the addition of tannins, and the use of sorbic acid as a preservative and grape-juice must as a sweetener. The other two new categories are Indication Géographique Protégée, which replaces the Vin de Pays category, and Appellation d’Origine Protégée, which corresponds to the previous Appellation d’Origine Contrôlée. Designed to bring France into line with the European Union Department of Agriculture’s wine reforms, which are set to go in effect this month, the plan also includes increased funding from the federal government to promote wine tourism.

John Laird, vice president of European estates for Diageo Chateau & Estate Wines, sees the proposed change as a step in the right direction. “I think the good thing is they understand they’ve got to do something to loosen up some of the strictures over there to improve and simplify the readability and image of the French wine labels,” says Laird. “This is not going to have any impact on the great Burgundies and great Bordeaux of France. The cool thing is there’s a genuine sense that something needs to be done. And that’s good.”

“BRUNELLO-GATE” FLAP AVERTED

The U.S. Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau (TTB) dropped its threat to block imports of Brunello di Montalcino unless Italian authorities provided lab tests proving each shipment contained 100% Sangiovese grapes, and is now accepting certification that the wines meet the requirements of the Brunello di Montalcino Denominazione di Origine Controllata e Garantita. As stated in the TTB ruling, importers who do not submit proper certification will be considered in “willful violation” and risk having their import permits suspended or revoked; thus far, however, according to Art Resnick, director of public and media affairs for the TTB, the organization has not heard any negative reaction from importers. “We were pleased that we were able to work out this diplomatic solution with the Italian government, which will allow for continued importation of Italian Brunello,” said Resnick.

The ruling comes nearly four months after Tuscan authorities accused several well-known Brunello producers of violating appellation regulations, which state that the wine must be produced exclusively from Sangiovese. Allegations that producers were adding unsanctioned grapes such as Syrah, Merlot, and Cabernet Sauvignon to the wines to make them softer, darker, and denser resulted in the impoundment of more than 1 million bottles. With several Brunello producers still under investigation, Tuscany’s new president, Montalcino native Patrizio Cencioni, has called on winemakers to work with a quality-guarantee board being formed by the Italian government to help the region emerge from the controversy.

SECONDLIVES FORBARRELS

TerraCycle, a New Jersey-based company that manufactures eco-friendly home products entirely from waste, has partnered with Kendall-Jackson Winery to transform the winery’s used 55-gallon oak barrels into its two latest products: the Rain Barrel and the Rotary Composter. “We identified the unsightly look of most plastic rain barrels and composters as a major issue for homeowners who are design-savvy,” said Albe Zakes, director of public relations for TerraCycle. “Using wine casks gives our products all the class and style of the Kendall-Jackson vineyards, which the casks once called home.”

For each inch of rainwater that falls on a 1,000-square-foot roof, 600 gallons of water can be collected; the Rain Barrel hooks onto a downspout to collect this runoff, which the homeowner can then use by connecting a hose to the barrel’s built-in spigot. The Rotary Composter, a barrel on a roller system, allows easy loading and rotating of waste material, thus speeding up the composting process and producing a natural fertilizer.

According to George Rose, vice president of public relations for Kendall-Jackson, the barrels had previously been sent to a local landfill or given to employees to be cut up for planters. “Our barrel-recycling program with TerraCycle has been very effective at reducing our waste stream,” said Rose. “We are now looking at every avenue of our wine-production process to see where we can reduce, reuse, or recycle.” The TerraCycle products are available at garden centers nationwide for about $99 each.

AND THEWINNERSARE . . .

The 2008 James Beard Foundation Awards winners were announced on June 8 in New York. Sommelier Journal salutes the winners from the restaurant industry:
Outstanding Chef: Grant Achatz, Alinea, Chicago (see SJ’s “ Restaurant Spotlight ,” July 2008)
Outstanding Restaurateur: Joe Bastianich and Mario Batali, Babbo Ristorante e Enoteca, New York
Outstanding Restaurant: Gramercy Tavern, New York
Outstanding New Restaurant: Central Michel Richard, Washington, D.C.
Rising Star Chef: Gavin Kaysen, Café Boulud, New York
Outstanding Pastry Chef: Elisabeth Pruiett and Chad Robertson, Tartine Bakery, San Francisco
Outstanding Wine Service: Eleven Madison Park, New York
Outstanding Wine and Spirits Professional: Terry Theise, Terry TheiseEstate Selections, Silver Spring, Md.
Outstanding Service: Terra, St. Helena, Calif.
Best Chef, Great Lakes: Carrie Nahabedian, Naha, Chicago
Best Chef, Mid-Atlantic: Eric Ziebold, CityZen, Washington, D.C.
Best Chef, Midwest: Adam Siegel, Bartolotta’s Lake Park Bistro, Milwaukee
Best Chef, New York: David Chang, Momofuku Ssäm Bar, New York
Best Chef, Northeast: Patrick Connolly, Radius, Boston
Best Chef, Northwest: Holly Smith, Café Juanita, Kirkland, Wash.
Best Chef, Southwest: Lachlan Mackinnon-Patterson, Frasca Food andWine, Boulder, Colo. (see SJ’s “ Restaurant Spotlight ,” Preview Issue 2007)
Best Chef, South: Michelle Bernstein, Michy’s, Miami
Best Chef, Southeast: Robert Stehling, Hominy Grill, Charleston, S.C.
Best Chef, Pacific: Craig Stoll, Delfina, San Francisco

COMINGS ANDGOINGS

Restaurateur Drew Nieporent and chef Paul Liebrandt have announced plans to open Corton in the New York space formerly occupied by Montrachet. Named after the largest grand cru area in Burgundy, the new restaurant will spotlight French cuisine and wines. Geoffrey Zakarian of New York’s Town and Country restaurants will oversee food-and-beverage operations at The Water Club , A Signature Hotel by Borgata, scheduled to debut this summer in Atlantic City. Kelly Resignola and Deb Lickhalter have opened an Atlanta branch of Tastings: A Wine Experience , a wine bar offering a light tapas menu and more than 100 wines by the glass, half-glass, and tasting portions. The SPQR/A16 team in San Francisco plans to launch Urbino , with a menu inspired by the Marche region of Italy, in January. Owner Shelley Lindgren reports that the restaurant will feature a full bar with anisette and amaro cocktails and a wine list focusing on what she calls the “Adriatic Rim,” as well as a rosticcheria providing meals to take away or prepare at home. Chef Michael Mina and wine director Rajat Parr are set to open RN74 , a restaurant and wine bar named for the highway that runs through Burgundy, in spring 2009 at the Millennium Tower San Francisco. Napa’s Brix has reopened as 25º Brix Restaurant & Gardens , with a farm-to-table emphasis from executive chef Carlos Canada and wine director Jeff Creamer. Callaway Vineyard & Winery in Temecula, Calif., has introduced a 5,000-square-foot restaurant, Meritage at Callaway , with executive chef Michael Henry serving a Mediterranean-inspired tapas menu. Conny Anderson, former chef at the Four Seasons Hotel Los Angeles at Beverly Hills and the Beverly Wilshire, will open AK late this summer in Los Angeles. Advertising a California wine-bistro feel with Scandinavian influences, the restaurant will focus on organic and biodynamic wines. Enrico Bernardo, named the world’s best sommelier in 2005, is replacing Paris’s Chamarré restaurant with his new venture, Il Vino . The former director of Premium Port Wines, Dixie Gill Huey, has formed Trellis Wine Consulting to work with wineries and related businesses on their leadership and organizational structures, marketing and public relations, distribution and sales, and operations and finance. Margaret Duckhorn of Duckhorn Vineyards has been elected as the new chair of the Wine Institute . Allan Sichel, managing director of Maison Sichel, was elected for a sixth consecutive term as president of Bordeaux’s wine and spirits union, l’Union des Maisons de Bordeaux .

SEND USYOUR NEWS

Have you recently achieved a professional wine certification or passed a level of a major wine education program? Have you been recognized for excellence as a sommelier, wine writer, or wine educator? Have you landed a new job as a restaurant wine director? Send your announcement to Rachel Zawila, Assistant Editor, Sommelier Journal , 7010 Broadway, Suite 204, Denver, CO 80221, or e-mail rachel@sommelierjournal.com , and we’ll publish your good news in this space.

Hot Picks

VALUE WHITE

2007 Burgáns Albariño, Rías Baixas $11

Albariño has been a relatively recent, and most welcome, sight on many by-the-glass lists. Although the Burgáns is a second-tier Albariño made by Martin Códax, it has consistently outperformed pricier counterparts in tastings. More important, its lush, honeyed, peach-infused profile makes it a perfect introductory style for most consumers. The classic varietal citrus and flint qualities are manifested on the palate, with a mild, lemony crispness highlighting the peach and mineral flavors, finishing with a soft-yet-mouthwatering dryness. It calls out for raw or grilled oysters, flash-seared American wild shrimp, white fish in herb-infused oil or vinaigrette, or, of course, seafood paellas and ceviches. Importer: Eric Solomon Selections, www.europeancellars.com .

HIGH-END WHITE

2007 Bokisch Vineyards Albariño Clements Hills, Lodi $22

It might not make sense that a California Albariño should cost twice as much as a Spanish Albariño, but this wine is more than worth your guests’ attention. It’s a true breakthrough wine—the first American-grown Albariño to capture the crisp-yet-lithe, balanced, flowing stone-fruit qualities that come so easily to Spanish growers, but with unique, tropical, creamy-textured California accents (although the Bokisch sees no oak). It has a pure, almost epiphanic deliciousness, bursting from the core with flowery, wild-honeyed, apple-pear fragrances and mandarin-rind nuances that transition into a fresh-grapefruit, vivid-fruit lushness on the palate. This Albariño is sourced from Clements Hills at the far eastern edge of Lodi, a terroir extending into the lower Sierra Foothills. www.bokischvineyards.com .

VALUE RED

2005 L’Ostal Cazes Minervois Estibals, Languedoc $18

Jean-Michel Cazes of Château Lynch-Bages is one of many outsiders who has recently been lured to southwest France by its ideal terroirs and Mediterranean climate. Now, his team is making one of Languedoc’s finest wines, a blend of mostly Syrah and Grenache, with a little Carignane. It’s a fistful of fruit—a sweet, berry nose tinged with violet and pungent garrigue, accompanied by terroir-related notes of lavender, thyme, rosemary, and wild scrub. Unlike so many Minervois blends that disappoint you with weak, plodding flavors or coarse, drying tannins, this wine grabs you from the start with snappy, lush, juicy blackberry flavors, floating on the palate with freshness and elegance. Your staff will love its food-flexibility: wood-roasted red meats, cassoulets, truffles, and wild mushrooms are obvious choices, yet it’s soft enough for grilled tuna or salmon. Importer: Palm Bay International, www.palmbay.com .

HIGH-END RED

2005 Jean-Luc Colombo Cornas Les Ruchets, Rhône Valley $80

Cornas is a classic Rhône appellation, but it remains perhaps the most underappreciated source of great Syrah in the world. There’s never really enough Cornas to go around, with barely 16,000 cases produced each year; the toll taken in tilling these spectacularly steep, crushed-granite-and-limestone slopes, lashed by the brutal mistral wind, demands nothing less than a vigneron’s heart, soul, and blood. The modernist Colombo instills a hint of violet and raspberry into the nose of his ’05, but it’s buried beneath whiffs of granitic terroir, scrubbed with oily, shrubby garrigue and green-olive herbaceousness. The wine is burly and brickish, and although the tannins are neither hard nor astringent, they definitely drive the palate, all but obliterating the flavor of classic Syrah juice—a chewy, violet-scented, black-and-blue fruitiness—that seeps into the finish. This, of course, is wine for wood-grilled meats, especially well-aged beef and fenneled sausages. Importer: Palm Bay International, www.palmbay.com .

RANDY CAPAROSO
Contributing Editor
Sommelier Journal

VALUE WHITE

2007 Persimmon Creek Vineyards Seyval Blanc, Georgia $19

Mary Ann Hardman and her husband, William, own the small Persimmon Creek winery in the northern Georgia mountains. The vineyards are planted at 2,000 feet, so the temperature is cool enough for grape growing. This Seyval Blanc has a soft perfume of peach, apricot, and hay. On the palate, it is light, creamy, and very slightly sweet, with notes of peach and white nectarine. It’s a great choice for sommeliers looking for a unique, all-American pick. www.persimmoncreekwine.com .

HIGH-END WHITE

2000 Château Musar White, Bekaa Valley, Lebanon $40

While the red Château Musar is a classic listing, the white is rare. This current release is golden yellow in color, with aromas of honey, tangerine, dried apricot, white raisin, and vanilla. Light and delicate on the palate, it has a gorgeous, creamy texture and a vivid, underlying, natural acidity that brings everything into sharp focus. Made with one-third Merwah and two-thirds Obeideh (grapes indigenous to Mount Lebanon and believed to be the ancestors of Sémillon and Chardonnay, respectively), the wine is similar in style to a mature, high-quality white Graves. Importer: Broadbent Selections, www.broadbent.com .

VALUE RED

2005 Ceja Vineyards Vino de Casa Red, Napa Valley $20

Winemaker Armando Ceja, one of 10 children whose parents moved to the Napa Valley from Mexico in 1967, owns and operates this small Carneros winery with his wife, Amelia, and other family members. Their house style is elegant and understated; the Vino de Casa (“house wine”), a blend of 62% Pinot Noir and 38% Syrah, has bright cherry notes and a sweet-sour quality fleshed out by the more voluptuous Syrah, with back notes of vanilla. It would be an excellent by-the-glass or tasting-menu choice, and the story makes it an easy sell. www.cejavineyards.com .

HIGH-END RED

2005 Chanticleer Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley $55

This blend of 98% Cabernet Sauvignon and 2% Sangiovese captivates immediately with aromas of cassis, fraise des bois, Morello cherry, cantaloupe, spearmint, tarragon, cedar, and vanilla. It offers luscious, ripe, dark-berry fruit, juicy natural acidity, and creamy oak notes. The silky, mouth-filling Cabernet shows its tannic structure only on the slightly drying finish, which is also imbued with a gorgeous, long-lasting blackcurrant note. A mere 405 cases were produced. www.chanticleerwine.com .

CATHERINE FALLIS, MS, CWP
Planet Grape LLC
San Francisco

VALUE WHITE

2006 Adegas Galegas Albariño D. Pedro de Soutomaior, Rías Baixas $14

Classic Albariño from one of the better-known producers. A restrained minerality prevails, with back notes of tropical and yellow tree fruit on a light-to-medium body, belying a surprisingly long finish. You could do much worse for an inexpensive bottle or by-the-glass choice. Importer: Maja Imports, Inc., Milford, Conn.

HIGH-END WHITE

2007 St. Urbans-Hof Piesporter Goldtröpfchen Spätlese, Mosel-Saar-Ruwer $35
2007 Reinhold Haart Piesporter Goldtröpfchen Spätlese Erste Lage, Mosel-Saar-Ruwer $45

Crystalline in appearance, both Rieslings give off a sulfur-induced pungency that is typical for their youth. The Haart has a layer of lanolin on the nose and a polished, seamless palate, while the St. Urbans-Hof offers a delightfully complex and forward fruitiness. Both are classics with long, elegant finishes and the ability to improve for as long as 20 years. Importers: HB Wine Merchants/R. Shack Selections, www.hbwinemerchants.com ; Rudi Wiest Selections by Cellars International, www.germanwine.net .

VALUE RED

2005 Valle dell’Asso Piromáfo, Puglia $33

This Pugliese winery uses an owl as its logo, with a nod to the region of Galatina and the Greek goddess Athena. The Piromáfo, a 100% Negramaro lavishly aged in large, neutral oak barrels, is its star—medium-bodied and lightly spicy, with a fine minerality to the finish. As with all of Valle dell’Asso’s wines, it is culled from organically grown, dry-farmed vineyards. The 2005 is not yet available; until it is, scoop up the nearly-as-good ’03. Importer: Tesori Wines, www.tesoriwines.com .

HIGH-END RED

2002 Château Kefraya Comte de M, Bekaa Valley, Lebanon $43

This is the bottling that awoke the world to Lebanese wines (other than the famed Château Musar) when Robert Parker gave the premiere 1996 vintage a 90+ rating. The 2002 is the equal of the great 2000 and close in quality to that inaugural ’96. A Cabernet Sauvignon-Syrah blend that spends 12 months in new French oak, it wafts brown spices, coffee, prune jam, and fresh mushrooms over the nose. It’s international in style, but with its spice notes and chewy, earthy palate, clearly a son of the Bekaa Valley. The relatively full body, dense texture, moderate acidity, and warm, spicy finish are balanced by plenty of polished tannins. Strikingly good, but not cheap. Importer: Volubilis Imports Inc., www.volubilis2000.com .

DAVID FURER, CWE
Wine Writer and Lecturer
Brighton, England