September 2008 issue

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PAGES (9-14) September 2008

NOTEBOOK, CALENDAR, HOT PICKS

Notebook

STRAW WINE ALLOWED IN GERMANY

Weingut Stein, in the middle-Mosel village of Bullay, has received permission from the German authorities to make straw wine. Like the Jura and Hermitage regions of France, with their traditional Vin de Paille, the Mosel had once specialized in making sweet wines from late-harvest grapes dried on straw mats, but the German Wine Law of 1971 banned this practice. Ulli Stein lobbied the European Union to overturn a German court decision upholding the 1971 law, since producers in Austria, Italy, and France had long been allowed to make straw wines. Earlier, Stein had successfully challenged the ban (from 1933 to 1987) on producing red wine in the Mosel.

With Austria having trademarked the term Strohwein, Stein has chosen to call his wine Striehween, in the local Mosel dialect. His plantings of Bacchus and Riesling will likely be used to make the wine. "It is only fair that our winegrowers have the same rights as other producers in the EU," said Ansgar Schmitz, director of the Mosel Wine Association. "However, it will most likely be a very small niche, adding a new aspect to the already huge selection of noble sweet wines from the Mosel, Saar, and Ruwer."

—David Furer, CWE

SPAIN TAKES THE LEAD IN EXPORTS

According to the latest research by the CREDOC research group for the Vignerons Indépendants de France, Spain is predicted to surpass France in wine production by 2015. As lower-end, lesser-known French wine producers have struggled to compete with their New World challengers, Spanish winegrowers have steadily increased their exports—by 16.4% in the first quarter of 2008, compared to a 6.1% drop in French exports. According to Francisco Retamero, president of the association of vinegrowers of Serranía de Ronda in Málaga, Spanish wine production will increase by 20% with the 2008 harvest. On the other hand, by 2015, CREDOC reports that wine production in France will drop from its 2000-2004 annual average of 1.39 billion gallons to 1.16 billion gallons.

“Spain, on the whole, has truly undergone a renaissance in winemaking by embracing new technology and modern viticultural techniques, together with innovative marketing and consumer-friendly packaging,” noted Bethany Scherline, director of public relations for Palm Bay International. “As a result, the quality of Spanish wine is being recognized more than ever by wine lovers, and it has made a grand entrance into the global wine scene. Spain has demonstrated a remarkable ability to understand and evolve with wine consumers, and this is certainly a major factor in its current success.”

PROGRAM SIMPLIFIES SHIPPING

Direct-to-consumer wine sales have become easier with eWinery Solutions and ShipCompliant’s real-time integration. Using eWinery’s e-commerce sites and ShipCompliant’s software, a winery can now check its online orders instantly for compliance across all order sources, including previous orders and tasting-room, phone, and mail orders. Customers with non-compliant orders are tagged and quarantined by the program, allowing the winery to resolve the issues one on one.

“This partnership came about because of our mission to build integrations with ‘best-of-breed’ solution partners that stand out for excellence in their areas of expertise,” said Ron Scharman, chief operating officer for eWinery Solutions. “We have been working on this project for over a year, and it finally came to fruition.” The two companies’ joint clients include several of the 30 largest wine companies in North America. “Our clients are very excited about the integration because it solves a major problem for many of them, in terms of conformance with the shipping laws, managing proper staffing levels, and providing timely customer service for problem orders,” Scharman continued. “With eWinery’s new software feature, which allows clients to edit orders in each website admin panel, rejected orders can be fixed on the fly and resubmitted for processing. This is a big deal for wineries.”

ARTHUR “BOB” KUNDE DIES AT 80

Arthur “Bob” Kunde, founder of Kunde Estate & Winery in Kenwood, Calif., died July 18 at 80. Kunde established the winery with his late brother, Fred, in 1990, but the Kunde family has been growing grapes in Sonoma County for more than a century. Today, the family owns 700 acres of vineyards planted to more than 20 different grape varieties.

In addition to his winemaking, Kunde had a long involvement with the Sonoma County Fair, which appointed him as fair director in 1982. He was also president of the Sonoma-Marin Cattleman’s Association, a director of the California Association of Winegrape Growers and the California-Nevada Hereford Association, and a former director of the American Hereford Association. “Bob Kunde was a true farmer from a wonderful family that exemplifies all that is special about growing grapes and making wine in California—resilience, innovation, and commitment to community,” said Karen Ross, president of the California Association of Winegrape Growers. “We are fortunate that people like Bob were willing to provide leadership to benefit the entire state industry by serving on the boards of organizations like ours, to foster the exchange of ideas and experiences, and to continually improve our grape-growing and winemaking practices. His family is the greatest testimony to all that Bob stood for as a farmer, an entrepreneur, and a dedicated family man.”

The estate and winery will now be run by the Kunde family’s fourth generation, which includes Bob’s sons, Jeff and Keith. Kunde is also survived by his wife, Leslie, his daughter, Marcia, and six grandchildren.

COMINGS AND GOINGS

The all-seafood restaurant Marea (“tide”), from chef Michael White and restaurateur Chris Cannon, will open in New York early next year. Chef Anthony Mazzotta, formerly of The French Laundry, Per Se, and Toro, has signed on at Sasso in Boston. David Singer, CWE, has been named sommelier and beverage manager for Boston’s new Mandarin Oriental. 2941 Restaurant in the Washington suburb of Falls Church, Va., has hired Stefano Cappelli as sommelier. Texas de Brazil has opened its second Chicago location, spanning two floors and featuring a glass-encased wine cellar with an aerial wine artist; the executive chef is Adriane Schallinf, and the wine director is Marcelo Proenca. Chef Claude Postel and his wife, Callie, have launched Miami’s Buena Vista Bistro with affordable French and Italian Riviera-style food and wine. Restaurateur Agostino Sciandri has opened a Las Vegas branch of Ago in the Hard Rock Hotel & Casino with partner Robert De Niro. In San Francisco, celebrity chef Gastón Acurio plans to open La Mar, with an exhibition kitchen for the Peruvian fare of chef de cuisine Jose Luis, before the end of the year; Emmanuel Kemiji, MS, is consulting on the wine list. Bar Norcini, a salumi, cheese, and wine bar (“Norcini” means “pork butcher” in the Umbrian dialect), recently opened in San Francisco under executive chef Bob Helstrom and wine director Ron Siragusa. Another new San Francisco wine bar focusing on Italian varietals, Bellanico, features mid-priced Italian cuisine from owner and executive chef Chris Shepherd. The former director of operations for The French Laundry, Laura Cunningham, is opening her own restaurant, Vita, in Napa Valley, also featuring contemporary Italian fare. Chris Blanchard, MS, has been named educational director of Napa’s Chappellet Winery. Sommelier Enrico Bernardo has built on the success of his Paris Il Vino by opening a second “wine restaurant” in Courchevel, France. Wines are paired with dishes by chef Guillaume Monjuré, and a blind-tasting menu is also offered. Just in time for the Olympic Games, Daniel Boulud has opened Maison Boulud in Beijing’s Legation Quarter; Brian Reimer is the executive chef.

CHANGES IN BORDEAUX REGULATIONS

The 2006 St. Émilion classification was again declared invalid by a Bordeaux court in July. The ruling means that labels with 2006 classifications of premier grand cru classé A or B or grand cru classé must be removed—which will be a challenge for vintners, considering the 2006 vintage was scheduled to be bottled around the time of the decision.

St. Émilion producers have been reclassified every 10 years since 1954. In an appeal from seven of the 11 châteaux that were declassified in 2006, the court decided the procedure could not be impartial when tasters were told they were comparing a group of already classified wines to another group of candidate wines. Although there were no changes in the premiers grands crus classés A between 1996 to 2006, two châteaux—Pavie-Macquin and Troplong-Mondot—must now revert from premier grand cru classé B to grand cru classé.

Also in July, Bordeaux established a new quality-control system for its wines. Rather than being tested by the Institut National de l’Origine, the body that governs French wine appellations, 90% of Bordeaux producers will now have their wines examined by an independent group called Quali-Bordeaux. Instead of simply testing samples provided by the châteaux, the organization will appraise the entire chain of production, from vineyard to bottle, on a random basis. Diane Flamand, winemaker for Lafite Réserve Spéciale wines, said that although it is still too early to draw definitive conclusions about the new system, the reform was necessary, and the region’s wines, both in bottle and in bulk, will be improved because of it. Handing complete control to an independent agency, Flamand said, will make the system more reliable; even though it means more procedures and rules for Bordeaux producers to follow, the vast majority are in favor of the reform.

WINERY TRANSACTIONS

After winning the 1976 “Judgment of Paris” tasting with its 1973 Chardonnay, Calistoga’s historic Chateau Montelena Winery has been bought by Michel Reybier, owner of second-growth Château Cos d’Estournel. Montelena has been owned since 1972 by Jim Barrett, who transformed the winery into one of the world’s most celebrated estates. Barrett’s son, Bo, who has been Montelena’s winemaker since 1982, will continue his work during the transition. "For 35 years, I've put my heart and soul into this winery and vineyard, so I am delighted that Cos d'Estournel will become the new owner,” said Barrett. “Why? Because Cos d'Estournel, like ourselves, has complete dedication to quality."

Don and Rhonda Carano, owners of Sonoma’s Ferrari-Carano Vineyards and Winery, have purchased Lazy Creek Vineyards in Anderson Valley. Established in 1973 and bought by Josh and Mary Beth Chandler in 1999, Lazy Creek sits on 90 acres of planted land, including 40 acres of organically farmed vineyards. According to the Caranos, the vineyard, which produces about 3,000 cases of cool-climate Pinot Noir, Chardonnay, and Gewürztraminer each year, will continue to run as a separate facility. “We intend to honor and respect the beauty of the land and continue the philosophy and tradition of beautiful winemaking,” they said. “The vineyards and wines are exceptional.”

Hot Picks


VALUE WHITE

2006 Pedralonga Albariño, Rías Baixas $20

Some Rías Baixas wines are bright wisps of the simplest sort: mineral, light, and crisp, with the depth of a puddle, asking to be tossed back with little consideration alongside shellfish and tapas. And then there are those trying desperately to be formidable: fuller body, riper fruit, and honeyed power to impress the palates that might mistake extract for quality. The biodynamically farmed and classically vinified Pedralonga lies on the edge between both styles. Showing medium weight, incredible complexity, and surprising length, it lacks richness, but provides gossamer layers of citrus-dripped green melon, earth, and honeysuckle bloom. Importer: David Bowler Wine, www.bowlerwine.com.

VALUE ROSÉ

2007 Domaine des Lambrays Rosé La Rose du Clos, Burgundy $20

Could this is be why the Clos du Lambrays is so rich, textured, and dark? Perhaps a bit of saignée is going on? Rarely does Pinot Noir from this region supply enough color and extract to deepen its own red wine, much less leave room for a medium-ruby-salmon-colored rosé of such an unctuous mouthfeel. Of course, the bursting wild-green strawberries, elegant white flowers, and clay-chalk underlining make this what every rosé sipped with cured meats and fruit-driven salads should be—fun and delicious. Importer: Weygandt Metzler Importing, Ltd., www.weygandtmetzler.com.

HIGH-END RED

2001 Gaja Brunello di Montalcino Pieve Santa Restituta Rennina, Tuscany $95

As if Gaja’s status as the Crown Prince of Barbaresco weren’t enough, he has to do similarly majestic work in Tuscany’s most fabled region. It may be the tannins that set this wine apart—somehow, the notoriously gritty, aspirin-like tannins associated with the Sangiovese Grosso clone become silken here. The midpalate is comprised of powerful, dried sour cherries; green, sweet tobacco; and ripe saddle leather, but the mouthfeel makes this the ideal modern Brunello to drink while the more classic legends from the great 2001 vintage take their time softening up. Importer: Terlato Wines International, www.terlatowines.com.

HIGH-END RED

2005 29 Songs Syrah, Napa Valley $48

It may be criminal to recommend this glorious wine, since it’s a micro-micro-micro-production lot from the nonpareil Jamet imitator, Kelly Wheat. A bit riper than its Côte-Rôtie counterparts, it nonetheless exhibits many a precise layer of dark berry fruit, bacon fat, cracked pepper, tar, and purple violets. As with my other high-end pick, its most seductive aspect may be its round, talc-like tannins, which give this graceful wine a serious heft. From a small parcel in Carneros, this ranks among California’s finest cooler-climate Syrahs. www.29songs.com.

SHAYN BJORNHOLM, MS
Wine Education Director
Washington Wine Commission

VALUE ROSÉ

2007 Château des Sarrins, Côtes de Provence $18

This gorgeous rosé nicely bridges the red-white divide, combining the fresh aromatics of a cool white with a rich, full body. Packed with redcurrant and raspberry fruit, it is nevertheless completely dry and deliciously crisp, with a long, herbal finish. www.chateaudessarrins.com.

HIGH-END WHITE

2007 Hatzidakis Assyrtiko, Santorini $21

The dry white wines of Greece always offer intriguing flavors, and their profile is ideal for matching with food. This Assyrtiko is fresh and lemony, with rich, dry, savory flavors. It has a lovely mouthfeel and persistence, and it manages to achieve intensity without a hint of heaviness. Importer: Trireme Imports, Inc., www.triremeimports.com.

VALUE RED

2007 Domaine des Terres Dorées Fleurie Vieilles Vignes, Beaujolais $16

Good Beaujolais producers are worth seeking out, and Jean-Paul Brun of Domaine des Terres Dorées is one of the best. All his wines are made with a real feel for the place they come from, and all show the balance, freshness, and moderate alcohol that make Beaujolais such a great choice with food. This one displays perfumed, juicy fruit typical of the Fleurie cru. “Vieilles vignes” means more in Beaujolais than in most places in the world; the old vines here are truly old. Importer: Louis Dressner Selections, www.louisdressner.com.

HIGH-END RED

2006 Viña Matetic Syrah EQ, San Antonio Valley $31

This powerful red from the biodynamic Chilean producer Matetic is a pure, blackcurrant-filled, intense Syrah. Despite its weight, it retains the elegance one would expect from cooler, coastal Chile. Importer: F.P.D. Inc., Carson, Calif.

BEVERLEY BLANNING, MW
Wine Journalist
London

VALUE WHITE

2007 Colomé Torrontés, Cafayate, Salta $14

Torrontés is the signature white wine from the northwest corner of Argentina, where vines grow between 6,000 and 8,500 feet. A natural cross of the Mission grape, brought by the Spanish conquistadors, with the Muscat of Alexandria, this light, refreshing wine is a perfect aperitif that pairs well with seafood, Japanese, and Thai cuisine. Aromas of orange blossom, jasmine, and honeysuckle fill the glass in this clean, stainless-steel-fermented white. Importer: The Hess Collection Import Co., www.hesscollection.com.

HIGH-END WHITE

22006 Charles Hours Jurançon Sec Cuvée Marie, Southwest France $28
2004 Charles Hours Jurançon Clos Uroulat, Southwest France $40

From the hillside vineyards in the Pyrenees Mountains above Pau come these rare and sumptuous wines. Legend holds that they were used to baptize King Henry IV, and the tradition lives on: first, a clove of garlic is rubbed on the tongue, then drops of Jurançon. In the dry version, the Gros Manseng grape is fermented in neutral barrels to produce an exotic wine that has the impression of sweetness, yet is fresh and lively, with hints of pink grapefruit, passion fruit, and almonds. Clos Uroulat, from Petit Manseng grapes partially dried on the vine, ages a year in barrel to make an elegant, noble vin moelleux, dominated by exotic flavors and tropical fruit. Importer: Martine’s Wines, www.mwines.com.

VALUE RED

2005 Bodega Bouza Tempranillo Tannat, Montevideo, Uruguay $20

Uruguay is making a name for itself as the country with the most plantings of Tannat, brought over by Basque immigrants in the 19th century. In this hemisphere, Tannat has taken on a unique personality, outshining its homeland of Madiran and the Basque region just as Malbec has done in Argentina and Carménère in Chile. Uruguay’s Atlantic climate creates a style of wine in which Tannat, blended with Tempranillo or Merlot, can show elegance and finesse balanced with structure. The quality renaissance has been led by boutique wineries such as Bouza, which originally catered to the international jet set visiting the beaches of Punta del Este, but is now looking to export small quantities of wines with character and personality. Bouza’s Single Parcel A6 is even more distinguished, at twice the price. Importer: Barterhouse, www.thebarterhouse.com.

HIGH-END RED

2004 Viader Petit Verdot “V,” Napa Valley $70

This exclusive blend of 64% Petit Verdot, 16% Cabernet Sauvignon, and 20% Cabernet Franc originates on the vertically planted slopes of the Viader Estate, at 1,200 feet on Howell Mountain. The rocky terrain of the organically farmed, northwest-exposed vineyard limits yields and creates a wine of great intensity and structure. “V” highlights the sophistication of Petit Verdot, a common blending grape that is rarely seen as a dominant varietal. www.viader.com.

GILLES DE CHAMBURE, MS
Director of Wine Education
Meadowood, St. Helena, Calif.