October 2008 issue
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NOTEBOOK, CALENDAR, HOT PICKS
Run Out or Sell Out?
Managing inventory is the core of any sommelier’s job, and along with this comes wine-list maintenance to ensure that the wines on the list are in stock. Eventually, you will be faced with the situation where a guest will order a wine that has sold out. I never say that we “ran out” of a wine—just that due to popularity, we may “sell out” of some choices.
Updating the wine list daily is not time- or cost-effective or environmentally sensitive. Therefore, the sommelier must carry a mental “86 list” of the wines that are still on the list, but no longer in the cellar. When I’m at the table and I know we’re out of wines, I’ll actively steer people away from those and “highly recommend” others in the same price range and style. But eventually, the last bottle of your go-to wine will slip away. It is important that the guests be notified as soon as possible. The less time they wait to hear the bad news, the less dissatisfied they will be when they find out the last bottle of their favorite wine is being consumed at the table next to them.
How do you make amends? One way is to offer them the next wine up in price at the same price as the one they originally ordered. This is usually met with great approval, but your wine cost will be affected, and you have to hope they don’t order a second bottle. Another solution is to bring two alternatives to the table to entice the guests with a recommendation or two in the same category. People are more apt to take a recommendation from the sommelier when they have the actual bottles in hand and can see the labels, instead of pointing to names on the list; I also find that a price difference doesn’t affect the selection as much when the recommended alternatives are present. The downside is running back and forth to the cellar, pulling and replacing wines—not good time management, but a little extra step that I believe guests appreciate. Of course, there are times when I simply let them know that the wine is “sold out” and ask if they have a second choice. The key is to read the guests, gauge the rapport that you have with them and their level of dissatisfaction, and select which method will work best for you.PETE CHEROSKE
SLOW FOOD MOVEMENT GOES WEST
Slow Food Nation took over San Francisco on Labor Day weekend for a three-day festival, modeled after Italy’s Salone del Gusto. Although dozens of free and paid experiences were available, the hottest ticket was the sold-out, 50,000-square-foot Taste Pavilions at Fort Mason Center, offering a cornucopia of foodstuffs from across the United States—wine, spirits, beer, tea, coffee, bread, charcuterie, cheese, chocolate, fish, honey, preserves, ice cream, native foods, olive oil, pickles, and chutney—and bringing attendees face-to-face with artisan producers and educators.
Renato Sardo, former director of Slow Food International and organizer of Slow Food San Francisco’s “Golden Glass” tasting, served as curator for the wine pavilion. When he asked 150 chapters across the country to select wines produced with Slow Food values that best represented the terroirs of their regions, they came up with close to 500 sustainable, organic, and biodynamic wines, ciders, and meads from more than 40 states—a list that will form the basis for Slow Food America’s Sustainable Wine Guide. “Wine is the first key to developing a regional gastronomy,” Sardo said. “In the U.S., there are many emerging areas where the terroir is distinctly different, and it is from these little-known areas that you get a different point of view.”
In fact, the “slowest” and most educational taste experiences at the Pavilions involved beverages. In addition to a by-the-glass tasting, the wine pavilion offered a 20-minute seated tasting from a choice of more than 100 different flights. At the tea pavilion, guests were treated to several steepings of rare and unusual teas, many from the private collections of tea masters. Next door at the coffee pavilion, a flight of three contrasting brews was presented to illustrate the nuance and expression that can be achieved by artisanal growers.
Local farmers and producers were showcased in a “Slow on the Go” marketplace, which surrounded a newly planted Victory Garden at City Hall. The festival also tapped visionary speakers such as author Michael Pollan and Slow Food Nation founder Alice Waters in its “Food for Thought” lecture series. Most important, attendees who ate and drank their way through the event came away determined to support a more sustainable global food system.
—Deborah Parker Wong
HARVEST EARLY IN CALIFORNIA
Heavy January and February rains, a dry spring with an April frost, and a June heat wave: these were the conditions California grape growers had to deal with in 2008. Many vineyards began harvesting the first week in August, with pickers working rapidly to pull in crops as high temperatures accelerated grape ripening. “Flowering was compressed this spring, with early and late varieties overlapping in their flowering,” explained Nick Frey, president of the Sonoma County Winegrape Commission. “As a result, early varieties like Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc are being harvested, but Zinfandel, Syrah, Merlot, and Cabernet are also beginning to be picked. It will be a short harvest period.”
Although coastal vineyards felt the effects of the frost more than inlanders did, many producers were predicting lower yields throughout northern California. “The crop appears to be lighter than last year,” said Nat DiBuduo, president and CEO of Allied Grape Growers, based in Fresno, Calif. “Sugars are higher than they’ve been in the past, and the vine is not carrying as big of a load. I think this year’s berries are smaller—not the big, plump ones as in the 2005 bumper crop.” “As we get further into harvest, we hope yields will improve on average,” Frey added. “My early estimate of 180,000 tons, which is about 10% less than last year, may be optimistic, but it is too early to tell for sure.”
LARGEST DISTRIBUTOR TO FORM
A joint venture between Southern Wine & Spirits of America, Inc., and Glazer’s Distributors has created Southern/Glazer’s Distributors of America, which becomes the nation’s largest distributor of wine and spirits. The merged company will boast a total customer base of about 300,000 accounts in 38 states, which represent more than 80% of the total wine-and-spirits volume in the country. Harvey R. Chaplin, chairman and CEO of Southern Wine & Spirits, will be the new company’s chairman; Bennett Glazer, chairman and CEO of Glazer’s, will be the vice chairman. “The strategic joint venture of our two leading organizations—each with a great history—will create the most capable and effective U.S. distributor network in the business,” said Chaplin. The arrangement is subject to regulatory approval, and the companies said they hope to close the deal sometime this year.
Asked for comment, Dale Sparks, co-founder of Arizona distributing company Quench Fine Wines, replied, “What interests me is that given the diversity and growth in fine wine, will two massive wholesalers in each market be enough? There are very few truly medium-size distributors. Most markets have huge wholesalers and several tiny ones.” As a small distributor, Sparks said he is not worried about the competition: “The large distributors almost always have some great wines in their portfolios, but the bigger they get, the less interested they can afford to be in small, high-quality producers. As a result, small wholesalers get better brands and, most importantly, more access to high-level buyers.”
COMINGS AND GOINGS
Urban Tavern has opened in the Hilton San Francisco with Patrick Kehler as executive chef. A “green gastropub” from Laurent Manrique, Chris Condy, and Donna Scala, it features organic Mediterranean cuisine paired with Old World wine. Seattle’s new bin vivant, serving more than 80 wines by the glass, has launched with Lisa Nakamura, formerly of The French Laundry, as executive chef and Dawn Smith as wine director. Chef Michael Taus of Zealous and partner and wine director Joachim Klatzkow have opened Duchamp in Chicago, offering an eclectic mix of Mediterranean, French, and Asian cuisine. Madame Tartine has also opened in Chicago, under chef Jonathan Foster and wine director Pascal Berthoumieux. Ken Lyon’s Fratelli Lyon, now open in Miami’s Design District, embraces the Slow Food movement by serving artisanal cheeses; locally grown, organic produce; and salumi from small suppliers. The executive chef is Brian Morales, formally of Daniel in New York, and sommelier George Hock manages the 60 Italian wines on the list. Approaching its 10th anniversary, Daniel has reopened with a new interior design by Adam D. Tihany. Andrew Bradbury has opened Clo wine bar in New York’s Time Warner Center, featuring an interactive, computerized wine list and dispensing machines under the supervision of sommeliers Keith Goldston, MS, and Darius Allyn, MS. Dan Tavan, CWP, has joined Danny Meyer’s Union Square Hospitality Group in New York, where he will serve as the back-of-the-house/commissary manager for Shake Shack restaurant. A new wine bar/coffeehouse focusing on eco-friendly wines, Commissary , has launched in Washington’s Logan Circle. Jon Mathieson and Jonathan Krinn will open Inox Restaurant next month in Tysons Corner, Va., with John Wabeck, formerly executive chef at Washington’s New Heights restaurant, as wine director. Zinfandel Advocates & Producers has named its board of directors for 2008-2009: Bruce Walker of Starry Night Winery in Marin County, Calif., president; Duane Dappen of D-Cubed Cellars in St. Helena, Calif., vice president; Barbara Spelletich of Napa’s Spelletich Cellars, secretary; and John Hanhauser of WW Shipping Solutions in Napa Valley, treasurer.
TEXAS NAMES TOP SOMMELIER
Scott Barber of Dallas’s Rosewood Mansion on Turtle Creek was named Texas’s Best Sommelier for 2008 at TexSom, the annual wine-education conference hosted by the Texas Sommelier Association and the Wine and Food Foundation of Texas. Competing against 25 other sommeliers, Barber received the highest score on a three-part examination covering wine tasting, service, and theory. He earned a $2,500 scholarship from the Guild of Sommeliers Education Foundation to further his wine studies. Laura Atkinson of Horizon Wines in San Antonio finished second and received a $1,500 scholarship; Kim Wood of Pappas Bros. Steakhouse and D’Lynn Proctor of Wine’tastic tied for third, each receiving $1,000 scholarships. The competition was judged by a panel of Master Sommeliers during the TexSom conference, which took place Aug. 17-18 at the Four Seasons Hotel in Austin. With the winner determining the location of the following year’s conference, TexSom 2009 will be held in Dallas.
“The wine-service industry in Texas continues to grow and to improve at a dramatic rate,” said James Tidwell, co-founder of TexSom with Drew Hendricks, MS, and Guy Stout, MS. “Texas had one Master Sommelier and four Master Sommelier candidates when the conference began, and now has three Master Sommeliers and nine Master Sommelier candidates. All of the Master Sommelier candidates have been involved with the conference, most having competed in Texas’s Best Sommelier competition. In addition, numerous wine experts, including Masters of Wine, Certified Wine Educators, and 20 Master Sommeliers, volunteered their time to educate and train both Texas wine professionals and the public. This impact on both the state and national wine-service scene is the most important aspect of the conference.”
VWGA ADOPTS NEW NAME
The Vinifera Wine Growers Association (VWGA) has changed its name to the Atlantic Seaboard Wine Association (ASWA). While the association will continue to promote wine education and appreciation, the planting of vinifera grapevines, and the production of vinifera wines in the eastern United States, it will now pay more attention to boosting the East Coast as a top-quality wine-producing region. In addition to adopting a new seal, the association has made changes at the top after the resignation of former president Gordon Murchie. Carl Brandhorst is the new president, and David Barber the new vice president. “Gordon Murchie has accomplished much over the 19 years he has led VWGA, and he will be a hard act to follow,” said Brandhorst. “I have worked with Gordon over the past 10 years, and we both agree that while our organizational goals remain the same, change is in the wind.”
The ASWA will still conduct two wine competitions, Brandhorst explained. “Now that Virginia wines have come to be recognized in their own right, we thought it was time to begin to focus our efforts in a more regional direction,” he said. “We will continue to sponsor the Virginia Wine Festival because it is good for the wine industry, but we initiated the Atlantic Seaboard Wine Competition in 2005 to recognize efforts beyond Virginia. The name change basically reflects this change to a regional emphasis, but the organization will now highlight the inclusion of hybrids and native American varieties, as well as vinifera. The East Coast has a lot to offer in the way of wines, and we want to be sure that message is heard.”
2007 Ameztoi Txakolina, Getaria $17
Ameztoi is one of the top producers of Getariako Txakolina, with about 50 acres under vine in the best locations of Spanish Basque country. The iconic winemaker, Ignacio Ameztoi, is part of the seventh generation to carry on the family tradition. Txakolina wines, blended from the indigenous grape varieties of the white Hondarribi Zurri and the red Hondarribi Beltza, display a fresh, crisp style with residual carbon dioxide, making them lovely aperitifs. Ameztoi’s version has piercing aromas of citrus and ocean breeze. Close your eyes, take a sip, and find yourself whisked away to the beaches of San Sebastián. Importer: De Maison Selections, www.demaisonselections.com .
2005 Arietta On the White Keys, Sonoma $60
Fritz Hatton, head auctioneer for Zachys, founded Arietta with winemaker John Kongsgaard in 1996, based on their mutual admiration for fine wine and classical music. After Kongsgaard produced a string of highly sought-after bottlings, the talented Andy Erickson took over the winemaking in 2006. He created this beauty from some tiny parcels of mountainside Sauvignon Blanc and old-vine Sémillon. The wine spends eight months in a combination of stainless steel and French oak, and the result is an outstanding Bordeaux Blanc-style blend with great depth and complexity, boasting fig, honeysuckle, and melon aromas and mouthwatering citrus flavors. www.ariettawine.com .
2004 Feudi di San Gregorio Aglianico Rubrato, Taurasi, Campania $16
Feudi di San Gregorio started producing wines in 1986 and has since become a benchmark winery in the Campania region of Italy, focusing on the indigenous varietals Aglianico, Fiano di Avellino, and Greco di Tufo. The Rubrato is a juicy, rustic, entry-level Aglianico, with intense aromas of red berries, spice, crushed flowers, and earth. This wine can be drunk young, but will also age for as long as five years. Importer: Palm Bay International, www.palmbayimports.com .
2004 Neyen Espíritu de Apalta, Colchagua Valley $58
This newcomer is from the deft hands of enology consultant Patrick Villette of Château Pavie. The vines, some of them 120 years old, are in one of the best spots in Chile’s Apalta Valley. The wine, made from 70% Carménère and 30% Cabernet Sauvignon, is spectacularly deep and rich, with square-shouldered tannins, ripe blackberry fruits, and supple earthiness. It should be decanted if consumed now, but will age as long as 15 years. Grab a nicely marbled ribeye and enjoy! Importer: T. Edward Wines, www.tedwardwines.com .
FRED DEXHEIMER, MS
National Wine and Beverage Director
BLT Restaurant Group
2007 Anselmo Mendes Alvarinho Muros Antigos, Vinho Verde $18
The Albariño grape, which has found fame in the Rías Baixas region of Spain, changes its name when it crosses the Portuguese border into the Vinho Verde Denominação de Origem Controlada. Although most of the wines from the region are blends, this Muros Antigos (“old vines”) is 100% Alvarinho, showing fresh floral and citrus aromatics, bright acidity, and surprising richness. Importer: Grape Moments, www.grapemoments.com .
N.V. Pierre Peters Blanc de Blancs Brut Cuvée de Réserve, Le Mesnil sur Oger, Champagne $50
If you haven’t already noticed, expect most Champagne prices to jump dramatically within the next year. Pierre Peters, a small grower producing grand cru Champagne of tête de cuvée quality, still provides good value. His reserve blanc de blancs (100% Chardonnay) features crisp acidity, balanced yeastiness, and great length. Importer Terry Theise introduced grower Champagne to the United States, and this is one of the pearls from his portfolio. Importer: Michael Skurnik Wines, www.skurnikwines.com .
2005 Salentein Malbec, Mendoza $18
Salentein’s beautiful gravity-flow winery is symbolic of the winemaking renaissance in Argentina, and Mendoza is now regarded as one of the best growing regions in the world for quality and value. This Malbec offers deep, dark fruits with touches of vanilla, a medium-full body, and surprising depth. Importer: Palm Bay International, www.palmbayimports.com .
2004 Robert Foley Charbono, Napa Valley $43
Originally planted in the late 19th century to add body to Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignons, Charbono became a cult favorite for Inglenook in the 1960s and ’70s. Now, working with the same vineyards as Inglenook did, renowned winemaker Bob Foley has personally rescued Charbono from extinction in California. This full-bodied red wine has fascinating red and dark fruits, along with balanced tannins. www.robertfoleyvineyards.com .
ROBERT BATH, MS
Robert Bath Imports
St. Helena, Calif.
Bodegas Hidalgo Manzanilla La Gitana, Sherry $14
Manzanilla is a unique style of Fino Sherry from the town of Sanlúcar de Barrameda, where the Guadalquivir River flows into the Gulf of Cádiz. Here, cool temperatures and high humidity provide the ideal conditions for flor, the indigenous yeast that protects the wine from oxidation as it ages. Hidalgo’s La Gitana (“the gypsy”) is an aromatic, yellow-gold aperitif: light-to-medium-bodied, with laser-sharp acidity that mellows into a lingering finish of stone fruit, Spanish almonds, and green olives. Serve it chilled with Manchego cheese, green olives, and cured meats, or mix it into the Flame of Love cocktail, which made Chasen’s bartender Pepe Ruiz famous. Importer: Classical Wines of Spain, www.classicalwines.com .
The Flame of Love
2 1/2 ounces vodka
1/2 ounce Manzanilla Sherry
2 large slices orange peel
Flame a large orange peel into a chilled coupe. Pour vodka and Sherry into a mixing glass, then add ice. Stir and strain into the prepared cocktail glass. Garnish with an orange twist.
Emilio Lustau Almacenista Manzanilla Pasada Manuel Cuevas Jurado, Spain $35
Lustau offers a series of almacenista bottlings from well-respected producers who buy the wine or must from farmers and age the Sherry independently in their own bodegas. Pasadas are aged just long enough to weaken the cap of flor, providing some of the complexity of an Amontillado without losing the clean minerality and nutty finish of younger Manzanillas. This bottling, matured by Don Manuel Cuevas Jurado, is copper-colored at the center of the glass, turning silver at the rim. Dense aromas of caramelized butter, toffee, overripe cantaloupe, and prunes characterize the nose, and the full-bodied palate retains the wine’s characteristic bright acidity. Roasted walnuts, apricots, and plums follow through on the persistent finish. Serve it chilled with braised pork, barbecued chicken, or smoked nuts, or substitute it for Palo Cortado Sherry in PDT bartender Daniel Eun’s No. 8 cocktail. Importer: Michael Skurnik Wines, www.skurnikwines.com .
2 ounces Tequila Reposado
3/4 ounce Palo Cortado Sherry, or substitute Manzanilla Pasada
1/2 ounce Bärenjäger Honey Liqueur
2 dashes orange bitters
Pour all the ingredients into a mixing glass, then add ice. Stir and strain into a chilled coupe. Garnish with a lemon twist
Lucas Bols Galliano L’Autentico, Amsterdam $36
Made with 30 different herbs and spices, including anise, juniper, lavender, peppermint, and vanilla, Galliano requires seven infusions and six distillations to produce. It was introduced in 1896 and named after an Italian war hero, Maggiore Galliano, but became famous in America in the 1960s through the marketing of the Harvey Wallbanger cocktail. Slumping sales have now prompted Bols to give the brand a makeover. This newly formulated and packaged liqueur, made from the original recipe, displays bittersweet notes of vanilla, licorice, ginger, and mint on the palate, not to mention an extra 11.2% alcohol. No longer just a Screwdriver topper, it’s perfect for mixing drinks such as the Mini Cooper, a cocktail I came up with during a recent trip to Amsterdam. Importer: William Grant & Sons USA, www.grantusa.com .
The Mini Cooper
1 1/2 ounces Appleton Estate White Rum
3/4 ounce Galliano L'Autentico
1 ounce fresh-squeezed orange juice
1/2 ounce simple syrup
2 dashes orange bitters
Pour all the ingredients into a mixing glass, then add ice. Shake and strain into a chilled coupe. Garnish with an orange twist.
Chartreuse Green V.E.P., France $130 (1L)
Chartreuse was formulated in southeastern France in 1764 by Carthusian monks, who originally marketed the liqueur as a life-giving elixir. Two formulas are now available: Green, made from a proprietary blend of 130 different herbs and spices, and Yellow, sweetened with honey and bottled at a lower proof. Both are aged for several years in large oak casks before bottling, and a limited quantity of each style is reserved to age even longer for the V.E.P. (Vieillissement Exceptionnellement Prolongé) versions. The characteristically evergreen-hued Chartreuse Green V.E.P. is full-bodied and hot on the palate, yielding pine, cinnamon, vanilla, and clove flavors. Sip it after dinner, or add a precious half-ounce to take the Champs-Élysées cocktail from the 1930 Savoy Cocktail Book to the next level. Importer: Frederick Wildman and Sons, Ltd., www.frederickwildman.com .
2 ounces Frapin Château de Fontpinot Cognac X.O.
3/4 ounce fresh-squeezed lemon juice
1/2 ounce Chartreuse Green V.E.P.
3/4 ounce simple syrup
2 dashes Angostura bitters
Pour all the ingredients into a mixing glass, then add ice. Shake and strain into a chilled coupe. Garnish with a lemon twist