Mar 2009 issue

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PAGES (6-13) March 2009

NOTEBOOK, CALENDAR, HOT PICKS

Service Tip

Creating an inexpensive wine-list binder

In my third year of working the floor at our bistro, I decided I needed a new approach to the appearance of my wine list. When I started, the list was about 60 wines deep; since then, it has grown to about 250 wines, and the original four-page, legal-size binder was no longer displaying the material in a comprehensible manner for my guests. The font size was decreasing, the selections were becoming lost amid dissimilar wines, and my customers were having difficulty reading the list.

During our last off-season break, we gave our bar a fresh look with cocktail tables made from barrel heads branded with winery logos. To complement the tables, I deconstructed some wine boxes to display on the wine wall—which gave me an idea for my list. I took the leftover box heads to one of my best customers, a wood craftsman who volunteered to cut them to size and drill holes at the tops so I could fasten wine lists to them. I first attached a clip to each board, so that the page resembled a wine-box clipboard, but this initial approach did not work well because of the varying sizes of the boards. My next thought was to secure the pages with prong fasteners, and though these work quite well, the constant use is already starting to break them down. I am currently trying to find a brass clamp that screws into the board and will take a little more abuse.

The new wine list has been greeted with great enthusiasm. My guests are spending more time with the list, reading each page throughout the course of dinner. I’m receiving more questions about specific wines that were often overlooked in the old format and selling more of the obscure selections on my list.

GEOFF WILLIAMS JR.
Sommelier
Delicate Palate Bistro
Pacific City, Ore.

Notebook

AMERICANS ARE BUYING MORE WINE

According to a new survey from The Harris Poll, 58% of Americans are buying wine, and slightly more of it than they did five years ago. In the nationwide poll of 1,475 U.S. adults age 21 and older who buy or drink wine, 67% said they buy a bottle of wine once a month or less, while 8% buy a bottle twice a week or more—up from 3% in 2004.

Twenty percent of wine drinkers said they drink wine twice a week or more, while 18% drink two to three times a month, and 54% once a month or less. Although 90% said they drink or buy wine from the United States, the study showed Americans are also consuming more wines from Australia, Chile, Argentina, and South Africa, while consumption of Italian and French wine has declined since 2004. Respondents were currently drinking relatively little wine from countries such as Turkey, Poland, Israel, Greece, Portugal, and New Zealand, but many said they would consider buying those countries’ wines.

Since 2004, U.S. wine buyers have remained consistent in the amount of money they spend on a bottle of wine, according to the poll. Twenty-seven percent said they spent less than $10 on their last bottle of wine, while 30% reported spending $10-14. At the other end of the price scale, 20% said they spent more than $20, and 37% spent $30 or more.

CONSUMPTION EXPECTED TO INCREASE

Despite the current economic situation, worldwide wine consumption will continue to grow, increasing by more than 6% from 2007 to 2012 to reach a total of 2.8 billion cases, according to Vinexpo’s 2009 study on world wine and spirits consumption, production, and international trade. Conducted by the International Wine & Spirit Record, the study forecasts that the United States will become the world’s leading consumer of still wines by 2012, drinking an estimated 314 million cases and overtaking Italy, which surpassed France in 2007.

Between 2003 and 2007, per capita consumption levels increased in 108 of the 114 countries covered by the survey, with only Switzerland, Portugal, Austria, Argentina, Spain, and France recording decreases. According to Robert Beynat, chief executive of Vinexpo, there are several factors contributing to France’s declining numbers. “The laws in France about wine and drinking are tough,” Beynat told Sommelier Journal. “It is also the economic situation. France has more and more immigrants—the immigrants don’t drink as much wine. France is also having more children—the children don’t drink wine. It’s statistics: an increased population, but per capita consumption decreased.”

Two countries reporting sharp growths in consumption are Russia and China, which Beynat predicted will eventually play major roles in the industry. In 2007, Russia became the eighth-largest consumer of still wine; China ranked ninth. Together, the two countries will contribute more than 58% of the growth in volume consumed worldwide between 2008 and 2009, and the study predicts that by 2012, both will be drinking more wine than Spain. “The Russians are evolving,” said Beynat. “India and China want to understand how to produce wines, and there are good regions to do so in both countries. The more they produce, the more they will drink, and the more they will import. The future is very bright.”

In 2007, Russia became the fourth-largest consumer of imported wine. Italy passed France as the leading wine exporter, sending out some 170 million cases, but France remained the leading producer in terms of value, exporting wine worth $9 billion. In the United States, imported wine consumption reached 83.3 million cases in 2007, accounting for 29% of the country’s total wine consumption. The Vinexpo study believes that total imported wine consumption will pass the 100-million-case threshold by 2012, a 17.9% increase over 2008.

When asked if other countries are beginning to make their mark on the industry, Beynat pointed to Brazil, noting the country’s first appearance at Vinexpo, which will be held June 21-25 in Bordeaux.

INNOVATOR ANDRUS DIES AT 63

Robert Gary Andrus, founder of Napa Valley’s Pine Ridge Winery and Oregon’s Archery Summit Winery and Gypsy Dancer Estates, died Jan. 30 of complications from pneumonia. He was 63. A former Olympic downhill skier, Andrus became a leading advocate for the recognition of American appellations when he founded Pine Ridge in the Stags Leap District in 1978. In 1993, he established Archery Summit in Oregon’s Dundee Hills, where he helped change the perception of Oregon Pinot Noir with his highly regarded, and highly priced, label. He then took his love for Pinot Noir to New Zealand, where he bought land in Central Otago for his Gypsy Dancer Estates. “Andrus cast a giant shadow over both the Napa and Willamette valleys and was an innovator until the very end, tying together the cold-climate terroirs of Oregon and New Zealand with his Gypsy Dancer label,” said Randy Caparoso, SJ Bottom Line columnist. Andrus is survived by his five children. “He taught us to love unconditionally, give freely, and enjoy a great glass of wine,” said his son-in-law, Laurent Montalieu of Southern Oregon’s Soléna Cellars.

COMINGS AND GOINGS

City Winery, a 21,000-square-foot custom crush pad and music venue, has opened in New York City’s west Soho district. Along with founder and CEO Michael Dorf, the staff includes chef Andreas Barrea, head winemaker David Lecomte, and co-wine director Stephanie Johnson. New York is also welcoming Vino 313, under chef Michael Vassallo and consulting wine director David Burke, who oversees an international wine list of nearly 200 bottles and 30 by-the-glass offerings. Gus & Gabriel’s Gastropub, by Donatella Arpaia and chef Michael Psilakis, will open in the spring. Cyril Renaud’s Fleur de Sel has closed after 10 years of doing business in the city, and the space formerly occupied by Grayz is being filled by Atria, with Gray Kunz’s chef de cuisine, Martin Bock, serving French-inspired, global fare. Scott Bryan, once the chef at Veritas, has returned to New York to become executive chef at Apiary. Chef Rafael Gonzalez has taken over at the Four Seasons Hotel Philadelphia, and Joe Palma, formerly of New York’s Le Bernardin, has become the new chef de cuisine at Westend Bistro by Eric Ripert in Washington, D.C. Inox is now open in Tysons Corner, Va.; co-owners Jonathan Krinn and Jon Mathieson will be the chefs, and John Wabeck the wine director. In Chicago’s Lincoln Park neighborhood, the Italian restaurant Terragusto has opened under executive chef Theo Gilbert and wine director Brian Trolia. Cellar 56 has launched in Atlanta, with executive chef Paul Agnelli’s small plates matched by 56 boutique wine choices, 30 of which are priced at less than $24 and available in glass and tasting pours for $3-5. Mark Militello is the new executive chef at The Regent Bal Harbour in Miami. In San Antonio, Texas, chef Scott Cohen and hotelier Patrick Kennedy have opened Brasserie Pavil, with Adam Spencer as wine director. Silks in the Mandarin Oriental, San Francisco, has a new culinary team: executive chef Joshua Nudd; chef de cuisine Orlando Pagan; pastry chef Nicolas Rose-Rankin; and sommelier Nicole Kosta, who has trained under Madeline Triffon, MS. Chef George Morrone of San Francisco’s Aqua and Fifth Floor has taken over at the Cliff House. Chef Anne Gingrass-Paik has joined Napa Valley’s Brix Restaurant & Gardens, which has reverted to its original name after a brief period of being called 25º Brix. Prime Cut Café & Wine Bar has opened in the Stadium Promenade in Orange, Calif.; consulting chef Kelly Mullarney and executive chef Ronnie Arnold serve American comfort food that Corey Klass matches with a wine list featuring 70% of the bottles at less than $50. Pete Knight, owner of Quivira Vineyards in Dry Creek Valley, Calif., has bought Sonoma’s Tandem winery. E. & J. Gallo Winery has purchased the value-priced Las Rocas brand of Catalayud, Spain, from European Cellars and will begin importing its wines in April. Paula Kornell, general manager of Oakville Ranch Winery, has been elected president of the Napa Valley Vintners Board of Directors.

OREGON'S WINERIES GO ORGANIC

Six Oregon wineries have been awarded Oregon Certified Sustainable (OCSW) status, a certification intended to showcase the Oregon wine industry’s commitment to responsible, sustainable viticultural and winemaking practices. WillaKenzie Estate, the first winery to achieve this status, will use the OCSW labels on its entire 2008 vintage; Adelsheim Vineyard, Bethel Heights Vineyard, Panther Creek Cellars, Ponzi Vineyards, and Willamette Valley Vineyards have also earned the right to use the logo. “We believe the OCSW program and the accompanying logo will be an increasingly useful tool in the market as more of our consumers seek environmentally considerate products,” said Laurel Dent, marketing communications coordinator for Ponzi Vineyards. “Our hope is that the OCSW logo on our labels will communicate to consumers the level of pride and care we take in responsibly cultivating and crafting our product.”

The OCSW logo guarantees that the wine was made using agricultural and vinicultural practices certified by an independent third party. Although the program does no certifying itself, it accepts the standards of groups such as the Low Input Viticulture and Enology (LIVE) program, Food Alliance, National Organic Program, and Demeter Biodynamic. “We are fortunate to have the leadership of the Oregon Wine Board, along with LIVE, to guide us,” said Bill Hanson, CWE, assistant winemaker for sales and marketing for Panther Creek Vineyards. “The certification validates something that we feel strongly about and gives us the chance to take deliberate and measured steps toward improving our sustainable practices.”

A wine can become OCSW-certified if the bottling lot contains at least 97% fruit certified by one of these agencies; if 100% of the grapes are grown in Oregon and bottled either in Oregon or in a cross-state appellation that includes Oregon; and if the bottling lot is produced in a facility also certified by one of the groups. Beginning Jan. 1, 2011, 97% of the fruit must also be certified by Salmon-Safe. Six other wineries, including Anne Amie Vineyards, Sokol Blosser Winery, Soter Vineyards, Stoller Vineyards, and Woolridge Creek Vineyard, have begun the certification process. “We are thrilled that Oregon now has a statewide program with meaningful standards that will help consumers find wines created not only with great artistic vision, but also with a commitment to the health of the earth,” said Ronni Lacroute, co-owner of WillaKenzie Estate.

BAR SERVES WINE FROM THE TAP

Left Foot Charley Winery and Wine Bar in Traverse City, Mich., is offering wines on tap in an effort to reduce its bottle use. Inspired by a practice common to microbreweries and European wineries, the wine bar is now serving its popular Pinot Grigio and Riesling on tap and will later add its Murmur and Red Drive blends to the lineup. “I saw this concept in action when visiting Gigondas a few years ago,” said owner and winemaker Bryan Ulbrich. “A man walked with his kids pulling a wagon full of empty 1-to-3-gallon containers. They filled right off a little tank and went on their way. I kept imagining how good the meal they were going to eat that night would be.”

Ulbrich estimated that his wine bar went through 2,000 bottles in 2008. “It’s just a waste to pour so much young wine through elegantly packaged bottles when we have a full winery right behind the wall and all the equipment to hold wines in bulk,” he said. “Glass is becoming expensive, heavy to ship, yet it is easy to clean and can be reused multiple times.” The winery, located in an old asylum in the middle of the city, is currently using 1-liter bottles for its tap wines, but has 1-liter “growlers” on order from Germany. These “Little Green Jugs” will cost $15, or customers can bring in empty, clean, label-free, 750-ml bottles to refill for $12. “We will also reclean the bottles, rinse them with ozonated water, and sparge with CO2 prior to filling,” said Ulbrich. The winery further plans to swap its polyvinyl-chloride-based capsules with locally made beeswax for sealing its bottles. For longer-aging wines and for its restaurant and retail sales, Left Foot Charley will continue to use traditional bottles and corks.

Hot Picks

VALUE WHITE

N.V. Emilio Lustau Fino del Puerto Almacenista, Jerez $20
Fino Sherry has long been regarded (and rightly so) as one of the undisputed heavyweights of the aperitif world, even though it’s too often served oxidized and at the wrong temperature. Lustau’s Fino del Puerto is richer than most, but still manages to walk the tightrope between nutty, briny fruit and thrilling acidity. Serve chilled and often. Importer: Michael Skurnik Wines, www.skurnikwines.com .

HIGH-END WHITE

2006 Planeta Cometa, Sicily $38
Simply put, Planeta’s Cometa is one of a kind; I’ve even heard it described as “Fiano on steroids.” In any case, this rich, immensely flavored white is fashioned from 100% Fiano, a grape found far more often in Campania than Sicily. Look for flavors of honey, golden apple, anise, and pronounced mineral. Good now and over the next three years. Importer: Palm Bay International, www.palmbayimports.com .

VALUE RED

2006 Viñedo de los Vientos Tannat, Uruguay $16
Tannat? Uruguay? Absolutely. Put any and all previous experiences with Tannat aside—winemaker Pablo Fallabrino has divined the mysteries of this often-rustic grape and crafted a beautifully balanced and considerably rich red from his estate vineyards, less than an hour from Montevideo. Look for flavors of deep black fruits, freshly crushed green herbs, and barrel spice. Drink now and over the next seven to 10 years. Importer: Bossa, LLC, www.bossawines.com .

HIGH-END RED

2006 T-Vine Cellars Cabernet Sauvignon Monte Rosso Vineyard, Calistoga $55
Greg Brown of T-Vine is known for utterly hedonistic reds that push the envelope in terms of ripe, concentrated fruit. His 2006 Cabernet from the hillside Monte Rosso is all that and more—one of the finest wines I’ve ever tasted from this legendary Sonoma vineyard. Enjoy now and over the next 15 years. www.tvinecellars.com .

TIM GAISER, MS
Director of Education
American Chapter, Court of Master Sommeliers

VALUE WHITE

2007 Orsolani Erbaluce di Caluso La Rustìa, Piedmont $20
A native of Piedmont, Erbaluce was once widely planted in the region and is now all but forgotten. Gianluigi Orsolani is the fourth generation of his family to produce this varietal. Think Cortese meets Arneis, as clean citrus aromas with a slightly herbal note lead to surprising richness, accented by bright acidity. Importer: Domenico Valentino, www.domenicovalentino.com .

HIGH-END WHITE

2006 Philippe Faury Condrieu, Rhône Valley $60
Philippe Faury is part of a new generation bringing the region of Condrieu back to its historical prominence. Viognier has many expressions, from subtle and dry to forward and rich, but this powerful wine is evidence of how dramatic and captivating it can be. Faury offers an intense combination of toasted brioche, lemon curd, lime, and marzipan, complemented by notes of ginger and honey. Importer: Kermit Lynch Wine Merchant, www.kermitlynch.com .

VALUE RED

2007 Palin Carménère, Rapel Valley $13
This wine has no political affiliation—Palin winery is named after the ball used to play an indigenous Chilean sport similar to field hockey. Its Carménère is made by Álvaro Espinoza, a leading Chilean proponent of Biodynamic and organic winegrowing, and shows clean, dark, rich aromas and flavors. It’s hard to believe a wine at this price has so much depth. Importer: North Berkeley Imports, www.northberkeleyimports.com .

HIGH-END RED

2005 Château Angélus, St. Émilion $250
Hubert de Boüard took over at Château Angélus in 1985, and by 1996, Angélus had been promoted to premier grand cru classé. With the 2005 vintage, Boüard has taken the winery to even greater heights. The youthful structure of this bottling makes it hard to believe that the cépage is 50% Merlot. Stunning blackberry and dark-cherry aromas are just the beginning, but the centerpiece of this wine is its concentration and balance. Importer: Diageo Chateau & Estate Wines, www.diageowines.com .

ROBERT BATH, MS
Robert Bath Imports
St. Helena, Calif

VALUE WHITE

2007 Viñedo de los Vientos Estival, Uruguay $14
Viñedo de los Vientos, or “Wines of the Wind,” was founded by the iconoclastic Pablo Fallabrino in 1998, using a vineyard that had been in his Italian immigrant family since the 1920s. Rather than making wines that are fashionable, Fallabrino chooses to make wines that pique his imagination and creative senses. One example of his work is the unique Estival, made of 60% Gewürztraminer, 30% Chardonnay, and 10% Moscato Bianco. This wine is fairly full-bodied, offering tons of exotic peach, ripe apricot, and pineapple aromas and notes of honeysuckle. With its crisp acidity, it’s delicious on its own or with seafood dishes and salads—a perfect picnic wine, showing the potential of this relatively unknown wine country. Importer: Bossa, LLC, www.bossawines.com .

HIGH-END WHITE

2005 Marcel Deiss Burg, Alsace $60
The Deiss family, which has been making top-notch wines in Alsace since 1744, is truly one of the most recognized producers of that region, not only for quality, but also for its efforts to capture terroir through Biodynamic farming practices and field-blend, single-vineyard bottlings. Deiss’s Burg is a premier cru blend that combines the characteristics of Gewürztraminer and Riesling, but can contain as many as 13 varietals. The wine is almost liqueur-like in its aromas of Cointreau, botanical herbs, candied citrus, and crème de pêche. Full and unctuous, it exhibits tremendous length and concentration with a solid underpinning of acidity and minerality. This wine will benefit from some bottle aging, but it’s absolutely tasty right now! Importer: VINTUS, www.vintuswines.com .

VALUE RED

2006 Domaine du Cros Marcillac Cuvée Lo Sang del Païs $15
This 52-acre estate, located in the tiny appellation of Marcillac in Southwest France, produces delicious, deep, and rustic red wines from the little-known Fer Servadou grape. The Cuvée Lo Sang del Païs delivers earthy, soil-driven flavors, aromas of dried red fruits, and notes of bell pepper and white pepper. This medium-bodied wine offers a healthy dose of chewy tannins that give it great grip. An outstanding value, it’s perfect for grilled meats and other simple fare. It will benefit from decanting and drink well a day later. Importer: Wine Traditions, Falls Church, Va.

HIGH-END RED

2004 Cantina del Pino Barbaresco Ovello, Piedmont $60
The Vacca family has been farming and making wine in Barbaresco since the 1800s. Cantina del Pino was founded by Renato Vacca, who quickly rose to the top of his class by using techniques both old and new to create lovely wines of balance, elegance, and purity. Vacca’s father has been farming the Ovello vineyard since Renato was born, and the family’s intimacy with the vineyard truly shines in this bottling. The 2004 possesses ripe, dark fruits, notes of cedar and vanilla, and floral aromas. Medium-bodied, it packs a fair amount of chewy tannins and could lay down for 10-plus years; I recommend decanting before serving. Importer: CS Wine Imports .

FRED DEXHEIMER, MS
National Wine and Beverage Director
BLT Restaurant Group
New York