July 31 2010 issue
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Of the many wine-producing countries I’ve visited, few have as much stacked against them as Romania. The vagaries of its infrastructure, educational system, and weather, combined with a lack of government support, an indifferent work attitude, and the absence of an icon winery, would make it disingenuous to say otherwise. On the upside, Romania has a wealth of indigenous varieties, with the red Fetească Neagră its best hope for a signature grape. Popular international varieties include Cabernet Sauvignon, Zweigelt (aka "Burgund," once referred to as Pinot Noir here), the real Pinot Noir, Merlot, Chardonnay, Pinot Gris, and Sauvignon Blanc. Regions remain basically undefined, but the areas of Alba County, Dealu Mare, Murfatlar-Cernavodă, Banat, and Craiova are noteworthy.
As its name implies, Alba County is Romania’s finest area for white wines. Sebes-Apold is an ancient growing region with some vines propagated in the same "basket" fashion as on Santorini. Its clay-chalk soils, some with sand, are home to south- and southeast-facing vines planted above 1,300 feet, and it enjoys a decidedly continental climate. Florin Dãnoaie has been director for Domeniul Boieru since 2005; his father—also named Florin—oversees operations for the large Halewood estate. The junior Dãnoaie’s 126 acres are covered with nine varieties.
Britain’s Sir John Halewood, a Mancunian of great bonhomie and candor, was prodded to acquire the government’s Prahova company in 1998 by his charismatic right hand and Romania’s greatest wine proponent, Dan Muntean. Muntean told me that though three-quarters of the vineyards in the Dealu Mare region are younger than 4 years old, wine grapes were grown here as early as 3000 B.C. Halewood farms 371 acres in this most famous of Romanian wine regions, a south-facing, 53-mile stretch of loamy hillsides with large calcareous stones. Its top red—Hyperion, a pure Cabernet Sauvignon that spends 18 months in oak—displays good varietal definition in an international style. Halewood’s sparkling-wine facility, located in the popular Carpathian Mountains skiing village of Azuga, makes a number of bottle-fermented bubblies; my favorite is a light-to-medium-bodied extra brut blend of Chardonnay and Fetească Alba. The company has also recently invested in 210 acres of organically grown, contiguous vineyards in the Murfatlar region along the Danube River. Corina Iosifescu, its viticulturalist, pictured above with me and with the river in the background, noted that "the moderating influence of the Black Sea provides humidity and cool in the hot, dry summer months; in the winter, it helps prevent freezing." Sandy soils dominate, necessitating constant summer irrigation. Coincidental with my visit last year, Halewood launched a joint venture with Piero Antinori, called Vitis Metamorfosis, whose Cantus Primus is a Cabernet Sauvignon from Dealu Mare. Antinori optimistically told me that "the vineyard has all the right ingredients to produce great wines."
Ileana Dumitru and Aurel Rotarescu run Terra Romana, a Dealu Mare winery established in 1994 by Guy Tyrel de Poix of Corsica’s Domaine Peraldi. The team works with 287 acres of six varieties and, uncharacteristically for Romania, transports grapes from other regions by refrigerated truck. In 1997, Terra Romana made the first commercial rosé in Romania, now an easy-drinking Cabernet-Merlot blend redolent of red berries, with a crisp finish. Its top cuvée, Charlotte (equal parts Cabernet Sauvignon, Fetească Neagră, and Merlot), boasts a nose of black olive, prune, earth, and tobacco and a warm, chocolatey finish.
Ponytailed Bristol native Philip Cox, co-owner of Recaş Winery, arrived in Romania 20 years ago. After running the Reh-Kendermann group’s operation, he bought a state-owned winery and vineyard 17 miles east of Romania’s second city of Timişoara. Aussie winemaker Hartley Smithers pointed out that "the most challenging aspect here is getting grapes ripe in this very cool climate." Their 1,730 acres of vineyards are on limestone-chalk bedrock with dark loams, iron-oxide bits, and chalky patches of topsoil. The floral Recaş Welschriesling has typically zesty acidity—it’s as fine a dry version of this grape as one can find—but better still is La Putere Merlot, showing spicy-oak aromas and good balance.
With 4,942 planted acres, Jidvei is Romania’s second-largest winery and largest producer of whites. The Necsulescu family purchased the winery and land from the state in 1999. Winemaker Ioan Buia helps maintain a nursery of 7-foot saplings and purchases no grapes from outside the estate’s two vineyards in the Târnave appellation. Her top-selling Muscat Ottonel demi-sec is light and pleasant, with a note of orange cream.
Cheers, David Furer
In the Outstanding Recent Releases box for the article on Friuli (June 15, 2010, p. 84), the Pinot Grigio Mongris should have been identified as being by Marco Felluga rather than Livio Felluga.
NEW WINES WOW CRITICS AT VINITALY
A number of impressive wines were shown at this year’s Vinitaly expo, held April 8-12 in Verona. As Antonio Capaldo, owner of Campania’s Feudi di San Gregorio, remarked, 2009 was “especially good for white wines.” Feudi’s Greco di Tufo normale is a fine value for its complexity; the single-vineyard Feudi Cutizzi Greco promises three to five years of pleasure, as does Terredora’s Greco di Tufo Loggia della Serra. For Fiano di Avellino, the Colli di Lapio and Radici bottlings from Mastroberardino both offer distinct minerality and lush fruit. Friuli also performed brilliantly in 2009; among the finest examples were the Sauvignon Blanc from Gradis’ciutta (Collio), the dry Verduzzo Friulano from I Clivi (Colli Orientali), and the varietally pure Livon Friulano Ronc di Zorz (Collio). The 2008 Bastianich Vespa Bianco (Collio) is as harmonious a bottling as the winery has produced to date, while the 2007 Dario Coos Picolit (Colli Orientali) is a gorgeous, nutty, medium-sweet treat of a dessert wine.
From Liguria, Cantine Lunae’s 2008 Vermentino Etichetta Nera sends up a dazzling aromatic mix of elderflowers, melon, and chamomile. Its new Mea Rosa Rosato Golfo dei Poeti is a full-bodied, dry rosé from the rare Vermentino Nero grape. In Franciacorta, Bellavista has released its Vittorio Moretti Riserva for only the sixth time in more than 30 years. Named for the winery’s owner, this equal blend of Chardonnay and Pinot Nero, clearly one of the most extraordinary sparkling wines produced in Italy, displays stylish toasty, yeasty notes.
2006 looks to be an outstanding, long-lived vintage for Barolo. Most bottlings feature excellent concentration and firm tannins, making them a bit unwieldy at present, but it’s easy to sense their structure and class. Vietti’s Brunate from La Morra has the perfumes and soft tannins one expects from Barolo, but its Lazzarito from Serralunga is a much more tannic wine; the Rocche from Castiglione Falletto is the most complete. Oddero’s Barolos from Rocche di Castiglione and Villero offer ideal ripeness and are elegantly styled.
Produttori del Barbaresco presented four of its crus from 2005. Of these, the Rio Sordo shows great weight and distinct spiciness, but the most pleasant surprise was the intensely fruity Ovello, which is improving dramatically with vine age, according to winery director Aldo Vacca.
Although the 2006 Amarones are not massive, they are well balanced, with appropriate spice and tannins. Look for the Tedeschi Monte Olmi and the instantly appealing Stefano Accordini Acinatico. Accordini has also released its top Il Fornetto from the 2004 vintage—a full-bodied, remarkably complex wine that compares favorably with the region’s best. Famed Soave producer Leonildo Pieropan previewed his first-ever Amarone, from 2006; with subtle oak and polished tannins, it is remarkably graceful.
Puglia’s Alberto Longo has now turned his attention to Syrah, producing a traditional version (labeled 4.7.7—the birthdate of his son) that combines the ripeness of California with the spice and earthiness of France, as well as a late-harvest bottling called Il Griccio, which resembles a Recioto della Valpolicella with its black-raspberry and raisiny notes (the grapes were dried appassimento style.)
The 2005 Brunellos are medium-bodied with good acidity, like the 1998s. Top examples include Il Palazzone, Il Poggione, Pian dell’Orino, and Talenti. The 2004 riservas are as complete and well balanced as promised; don’t miss the Caparzo, Il Poggione, and the stunning Fuligni.
The 2007 Bolgheri reds stole the show with their intensity and balance; this should go down as one of the area’s most complete and longest-lived vintages to date. Grattamacco, Ornellaia, and Sassicaia headline this superb group of wines, and the Argentiera and Guado al Tasso offerings are equally striking.
RECENT AWARD WINNERS
The 2010 James Beard Foundation Awards winners were announced May 2-3 at the annual ceremony in New York’s Lincoln Center. Sommelier Journal congratulates the following winners in the Restaurant and Chef Awards.
Best New Restaurant: Marea, New York City
Outstanding Chef: Tom Colicchio, Craft, New York City
Outstanding Pastry Chef: Nicole Plue, Redd, Yountville, Calif.
Outstanding Restaurant: Daniel, New York City
Outstanding Restaurateur: Keith McNally, Balthazar, Lucky Strike, Minetta Tavern, Morandi, Pastis, Pravda, Schiller’s Liquor Bar, New York City
Outstanding Service: Alinea, Chicago
Outstanding Wine and Spirits Professional: John Shafer and Doug Shafer, Shafer Vineyards, Napa, Calif.
Outstanding Wine Service: Jean Georges, New York City
Rising Star Chef of the Year: Timothy Hollingsworth, The French Laundry, Yountville, Calif.
Best Chef, Great Lakes: Koren Grieveson, Avec, Chicago
Best Chef, Mid-Atlantic: Jeff Michaud, Osteria, Philadelphia
Best Chef, Midwest: Alexander Roberts, Restaurant Alma, Minneapolis
Best Chef, New York City: Daniel Humm, Eleven Madison Park
Best Chef, Northeast: Clark Frasier and Mark Gaier, Arrows, Ogunquit, Maine
Best Chef, Northwest: Jason Wilson, Crush, Seattle
Best Chef, Pacific: David Kinch, Manresa, Los Gatos, Calif.
Best Chef, South: Michael Schwartz, Michael’s Genuine Food & Drink, Miami
Best Chef, Southeast: Sean Brock, McCrady’s, Charleston, S.C.
Best Chef, Southwest: Claude Le Tohic, Joël Robuchon at MGM Grand Hotel & Casino, Las Vegas
Christopher Delalonde, MS, was crowned 2010 U.K. Sommelier of the Year at the British Academy of Food & Wine’s April competition. Last year’s runner-up, Delalonde is the sommelier at Sarment Wines in London. After a written qualifying exam, the three finalists were required to demonstrate restaurant service in front of an audience, followed by a test in which 16 glasses of Champagne had to be poured from magnum to exactly the same level on the first attempt, leaving the bottle empty. Daniel Brown of London won the inaugural U.K. Amateur Sommelier of the Year title. One of three finalists among the hundreds who answered 20 questions from the main competition exam, Brown performed the best role playing in a restaurant setting, which involved the selection of wines for a table of four with differing meals.
Winners of the 2010 Wine Blog Awards, organized by OpenWine Consortium and Zephyr Wine Adventures, were announced June 25 at the 2010 North American Wine Bloggers Conference, with the prize for best overall wine blog going to 1 Wine Dude. Other winners included Good Grape for best wine blog graphics and best industry/business wine blog, Bigger Than Your Head for best wine reviews, New York Cork Report for best single- subject wine blog, Been Doon So Long for best winery blog, Catavino for best writing on a wine blog, and Swirl Smell Slurp for best new wine blog.
The French Institut National des Appellations d’Origine has approved four new Appellations d’Origine Contrôlée (AOC) in Burgundy and the Rhône Valley. Low-priced wines from the Côtes de Nuit and Côtes de Beaune previously labeled as Bourgogne will now be included in AOC Bourgogne Côte d’Or. AOC Bourgogne Grand Ordinaire, a category for inexpensive wines made from Chardonnay or Gamay and/or Pinot Noir grapes sourced from Burgundy, including Beaujolais, has been renamed AOC Côteaux Bourguignons. In the Rhône, AOC Côteaux de Tricastin has been changed to AOC Grignon Lès Adhémar, while Rasteau’s red wines have been elevated from Côtes du Rhône Villages to AOC status. The changes are pending approval from the French Ministry of Agriculture.
WORLD'S TOP SOMMELIER DETERMINED
Just six weeks after the ruinous February earthquake, the resilience of the Chilean wine industry was on near-heroic display at the Association de la Sommellerie Internationale’s 13th Concours du Meilleur Sommelier du Monde, which kicked off on April 10 at the Hotel Santa Cruz in the Colchagua Valley and wrapped up five days later at the W Santiago. Fifty-three contestants from around the world entered the quarterfinals, a grueling combination of written, oral, and practical tests covering everything from viticulture and cellar management to sales and service, with blind tastings of spirits as well as wine. A mere dozen proceeded to the semifinals, including, for the first time, four women—Norway’s Merete Bø, Romania’s Iulia Gosea, and Canada’s Élyse Lambert and Véronique Rivest.
The trio of finalists—French-born U.K. hotelier Gérard Basset, Paolo Basso of Switzerland’s Ceresio Vini Sagl, and David Biraud of the Hôtel de Crillon in Paris—competed in a ballroom at the W before a crowd of hundreds, including a few French enthusiasts decked out in red-and-blue sportswear. A spectator from Chicago, Alpana Singh, MS, observed, “This must be what other people feel like watching a basketball tournament.”
The finals started with a whopper of a theoretical question: “What is a sommelier?” Lining the stage were four tables—the leftmost designated for tasting, the others set for four. The finalists’ first task was to prepare Negronis for the pair of gentlemen and serve Champagne to the two ladies within six minutes. The suspense was almost comically palpable, measured in frequent collective murmurs—as when an apparently nervous Biraud, the first to undergo the trial, started to reach for a bottle of vodka instead of gin (not to fret, Negroni fans, he corrected himself just in time).
Matching was the mission at the next table, where the finalists had seven minutes to recommend suitable dishes for a list of six wines. All three selected classic pairings, from oysters for the 1990 Dom Pérignon and sushi for the Gekkeikan Junmai Daiginjo sake to beef with a 2000 San Pedro de Yacochuya Malbec. But only Basset—a triple threat with an MS, MW, and wine MBA—summoned the nerves to provide crowd-pleasing flourishes, inquiring promptly about dietary restrictions and even drawing a chuckle with his offer to give the group a tour of the kitchen after the meal. By the final service test, it was becoming clear that this was the six-time contestant and four-time finalist’s turn to shine; his movements quick and smooth, almost minimalist, he alone completed the task of decanting and serving from a basket within the allotted six minutes.
A tasting round required the identification and analysis of four wines in 12 minutes, followed by a three-minute race to name eight spirits (including, we later learned, kirsch and Amarula). Next, a proofreading test called for the correction of 10 errors on a list of as many wines; the hometown crowd was especially amused by the “2009 Viña Leyda Single Vineyard Riesling Neblina, Casablanca Valley, Chile.” Finally, in a slideshow geography quiz, the competitiors had to identify regions or estates from Cinque Terre to Opus One.
Ultimately, Basset prevailed, succeeding Sweden’s Andreas Larsson as the World’s Best Sommelier. At the closing gala, the announcement that two of the female semifinalists had also won special recognition (Gosea, the San Pellegrino-Acqua Panna Prize, and Rivest, the Peter Lehmann Shiraz Award) raised the stakes for a woman finalist at the 14th Concours, to be held in Strasbourg, Germany, in 2013.
NEW YORK REMEMBERS WAGNER
Stanley A. Wagner, a pioneer of the Finger Lakes wine industry, died at his home in Lodi, N.Y., on June 26, 2010, at 83. He was internationally recognized as an innovator, a risk taker, an optimist, a leader, and a team player.
After World War II, Wagner—who was better known as “Bill” (his mother wanted to name him Stanley, but his father preferred William)—returned to Lodi, where he was a grain, fruit, and dairy farmer. By the end of the 1950s, he had shifted his focus exclusively to grapes. He grew everything from native varieties to Cornell creations to international types, including Riesling, when it was still relatively unknown and viewed as risky for the region. In 1979, he launched Wagner Vineyards; the estate now comprises 250 acres of vineyards and produces some 50,000 cases a year. Wagner’s two sons, John and Stephen, and daughter, Laura Wagner Lee, are all active in the family businesses.
When Wagner started his winery more than 30 years ago, there were only 10 others in the Finger Lakes region, according to Jim Trezise, president of the New York Wine & Grape Foundation. Today, there are more than 100. “I’m sure many have already called Mr. Wagner a pioneer, but he was much more than that,” notes author and educator Kevin Zraly. “He was able to prove to the New York state wine pundits that high-quality Finger Lakes wine from
grapes could be made on a commercial level. Without his foresight and determination, the wines of New York would not have the great quality reputation that they enjoy today.”
ARIZONA WINE TAKES ON THE WORLD
In Arizona—where the wine industry comprises 45 licensed and bonded wineries in two growing regions south of Tucson (Sonoita, the state’s only American Viticultural Area, and Willcox) and one in the northern part of the state (Verde Valley, near Sedona)—local wines are still making inroads in the restaurant scene. But Pavle Milic has served almost exclusively Arizona wines since the early days of his tiny, eight-month-old Scottsdale restaurant, FnB, which he co-owns with wife Emily Pullen, chef Charleen Badman, and veteran restaurateur and wine enthusiast Peter Kasperski.
Positive response from his guests led Milic to stage a blind tasting on June 10 of 10 reds and 10 whites—half from Arizona and half from the rest of the world—which he dubbed the Arizona Judgment. The Arizona entries were selected from a preliminary blind tasting of 15 whites and 14 reds, submitted by state winemakers and judged by a group of local experts in May. Comparably priced popular wines were selected for the world lineup.
The panel featured James Beard award-winning chef Chris Bianco (Phoenix’s Pizzeria Bianco), winemaker Tadeo Borchardt (Napa Valley’s Neyers Vineyards), chef Payton Curry (Scottsdale’s Caffe Boa), chef-restaurateur Anne Rosenzweig (New York’s Arcadia and Lobster Club), chef-restaurateur Mark Tarbell (Phoenix’s Tarbell’s), author-personality Gary Vaynerchuk (Wine Library TV), and sommelier Laura Williamson, MS (Tucson’s VinTabla). Panelists rated each wine on a scale of 1 to 20 for tabulation by Sommelier Journal , using the magazine’s boxplot analysis.
Three Arizona wines finished among the top five whites, including the No. 1 entry, the 2008 Callaghan Vineyards Lisa’s Blend. Second was the 2008 Santa Margherita Pinot Grigio from Italy, followed by the 2008 Cakebread Cellars Chardonnay from Napa Valley and the 2008 Caduceus Cellars Dos Ladrones from Arizona. (Because of a miscommunication with Arizona’s Carlson Creek, the fifth-place Chardonnay was later disqualified when it was found to have been partially made with California fruit.)
The top five red wines also included three from Arizona: the 2008 Caduceus Cellars Cabernet Sauvignon Nagual del Judith (first), the 2007 Keeling Schaefer Vineyards Syrah Three Sisters (third), and the 2008 Arizona Stronghold Nachise (fourth). The 2006 Condado de Haza Ribera del Duero from Spain placed second, and the 2008 Mollydooker Shiraz The Boxer from Australia was fifth.
COMINGS AND GOINGS
Prospect has been launched in San Francisco by Nancy Oakes, Pam Mazzola, and Kathy King, with Ravi Kapur as executive chef, Amy Currens as wine director, and Brooke Arthur as mixologist. Also open is Marengo , under the ownership of Kevin Toomajian and Jim Gruettner, where chef Rayna Toomajian’s menu is paired with more than 50 whiskeys and 75 wines, 20 by the glass. Café des Amis , a French brasserie from the Bacchus Restaurant Group, is soon to open under executive chef Ed Carew, with sommeliers Andrew Green and Skye LaTorre focusing on little-known French wines. Bar Agricole from Thad Vogler will feature seasonal California cuisine sourced by chef Brandon Jew from local organic and biodynamic farms and served with natural wines; among the operating partners, Mark Ellenbogen will oversee the wine program, Eric Johnson will serve as bar manager, and Andreas Willausch will be the manager. 1550 Hyde Café & Wine Bar will be closing in August. Opening in Sausalito, Calif., is Plate Shop from Kim Alter (formerly of Aqua), who will serve locally sourced California cuisine. Open in Chicago is Girl and the Goat from chef Stephanie Izard, who offers small plates along with her own signature wine; Rob Katz and Kevin Boehm are co-owners. Also open is One. Six One , featuring international small plates and an international wine list, with William Alexander as executive chef. Perry Hendrix is replacing Aaron Deal as executive chef at Chicago’s Custom House Tavern ; Roland Liccioni has left his executive chef position at Miramar ; and Anthony Martin has become executive chef and partner of Tru. Craft-beer-focused Meridian Point is opening in Washington, D.C., featuring tables with pour-your-own taps. In Boston, Patrick Lyons, Ed Sparks, and partners have opened Towne Stove + Spirits , featuring a lobster menu, with Mario Capone as executive chef. In Philadelphia, Edward Bianchini has opened Tweed , with David Cunningham as chef, while chef Shola Olunloyo has opened the New American restaurant Speck Food + Wine . Chef Matteo Boglione has launched II Matto in New York, with Christina Bini serving as mixologist and Antonello D’Ambrosio as sommelier. Also open are Eric Milon and Andre Hnatyszak’s Covet Restaurant & Lounge , where John Keller is the executive chef and Orson Salicetti the mixologist; The Local Store , where Richele Benway has turned her year-old bakery into a farm-to-table restaurant, café, and wine bar; and Restaurant North from Stephen Mancini and Eric Gabrynowicz. Laurent Manrique will soon be opening Millésime under executive chef Alan Ashkinase; opening in late September is Lincoln , where executive chef Jonathan Benno, formerly of Per Se, will create the contemporary Italian menu. Keith Kornfeld is the new executive chef at Pranna , while David Burke has been named culinary director for Bowlmor . David Bouley’s Upstairs and Le Boeuf à la Mode have closed. In Seattle, Thierry Rautureau has opened a French-American café, Luc. Bar Boulud London is open at the Mandarin Oriental Hyde Park, with a wine list focusing on Burgundy and the Rhône Valley. Swiftwater Cellars near Seattle has hired Linda Trotta as its associate winemaker, while in Oregon, Van Duzer Vineyards has appointed Jerry Murray as winemaker. In Sonoma, Quivira Vineyards & Winery has named Hugh Chappelle as winemaker, and Brandon Lapides has become Armida Winery’s new winemaker. In Napa Valley, Crushpad has hired Adam Smith as winemaker, Barbour Vineyard Wines has appointed Celia Welch as winemaker, and Gargiulo Vineyards has hired Justin Dragoo as its president/general manager. Leslie Mead is the new winemaker at Santa Barbara’s Lincourt Winery, and Eric Johnson has been promoted to assistant winemaker at Talley Vineyards on California’s Central Coast. David Beckstoffer has been elected president of the Napa Valley Grapegrowers; Janis MacDonald has been appointed executive director of the Anderson Valley Winegrowers Association. In Chicago, Ken Fredrickson, MS, has formed Tenzing—A Wine and Spirits Company, with Fernando Beteta, MS, and Doug Marello on staff. Sheldon Stein has been appointed president and chief executive officer of Glazer’s Distributors, while Susan Doyle has been named director, winemaking, at Diageo Chateau & Estates.
2009 Mount Nelson Sauvignon Blanc, Marlborough $18
I’m seldom moved by screwcapped New Zealand Sauvignon Blancs, finding them either too weedy or too fruity and often too alcoholic (nor does describing them as having “gooseberry” aromas make them any better). But here’s one that manages to go in the opposite direction—just the slightest leafiness beneath guava, mango, lemon, and pineapple—while managing a tight, razor-sharp, silky, finesseful feel on the palate. Not that every Sauvignon Blanc should be Sancerre-like in lightness, crispness, and bone-dryness, but it sure does help when you’re looking for a wine for, say, hiramasa sushi in a white soy yuzu vinaigrette or two-bite Northwest oysters in a classic mignonette. Importer: Wilson Daniels, Ltd., www.wilsondaniels.com .
2009 Crocker & Starr Sauvignon Blanc, Napa Valley $30
California Sauvignon Blancs are another ball of wax. When they’re bad or average, they can be annoyingly fat and fruity, but when they’re great, they can be downright hedonistic, while remaining crisp and dry. Forgive me, Father, for I have fallen under the spell of Crocker & Starr’s obvious charms: its billowing, exotic, tropical arboretum of a nose more like a pealing Megan Fox than a lean and taciturn Noomi Rapace; its voluptuous layering of peaches and cream on the palate suggesting Marilyn Monroe rather than Katharine Hepburn. What’s not to like, especially with snowy white veal or roasted chicken in plush sauces? www.crockerstarr.com .
2005 Tenuta di Biserno Coronato, Bolgheri, Tuscany $65
Yes, this is a value red, considering the cost differential between the Coronato and more established, vaunted super-Tuscans of no greater quality, selling for three times more. 2005 is the inaugural vintage of this new project from the brothers Lodovico and Piero Antinori. Their 3-year-old vines have yielded a wine of gorgeous concentration and proportion: violet and blackcurrant perfumes emanating from a subtle, herbal-smoky-tobacco core; thick, plush, flowing sensations punctuated by zesty acidity (in this sense, very Italian); and muscular yet fine, meticulously sculpted tannins. For all that, it’s an eminently approachable, Cabernet Sauvignon-based super-Tuscan (with Cabernet Franc, Merlot, and Petit Verdot) that no red-wine-loving guest should have a problem identifying with. Importer: Wilson Daniels, Ltd., www.wilsondaniels.com www.wilsondaniels.com .
2006 Crocker & Starr Cabernet Sauvignon Stone Place, Napa Valley $90
As the rehabilitated vines in this St. Helena estate (dating back to the 1870s) have evolved since winemaker-partner Pamela Starr’s arrival, the Stone Place bottling has become 100% Cabernet Sauvignon for the first time in its 10-year history. The nose is an intriguing mix of shriveled plum, blackcurrant, rope tobacco, and roasting espresso, translating into black-chocolate-covered blueberry with dashes of cinnamon and clove on the palate. As always, the textures are perfectly scaled, seamless, sumptuous, and sinewy. www.crockerstarr.com .
2009 Weingut Stadt Krems Grüner Veltliner Wachtberg Reserve, Kremstal $25
Labeled with the new Austrian “Erste Lage” designation, the Wachtberg shows a bumped-up “Veltliner-pfeffer” character, with significant spice, lemon, grapefruit, and white-flower aromas. Dry on the palate, it displays fresh acidity; excellent concentration, density, and richness; and much more hard-stone minerality than the other Stadt Krems bottlings. It finishes fresh, dry, and very long. Importer: Winebow, www.winebow.com .
2009 Prager Riesling Smaragd Wachstum Bodenstein, Wachau $70
From the highest Riesling vineyard in the Wachau, this is the sharpest, most focused of Toni Bodenstein’s wines. (As Bodenstein says, “Austria is the only place in the world that can get this result.”) Hard and intensely mineral, it evinces pungent aromas of sea salt, limestone, white flowers, peach blossoms, and fresh-cut lime, accompanied by super-exciting, nervous acidity. Extremely long, complex, and very powerful. Importer: Winebow, www.winebow.com .
2007 Domaine Gachot-Monot Côte de Nuits Villages, Burgundy $23
A moderately intense, youthful nose of wild black cherry and black raspberry is backed by gorgeous, exotic perfumes of wild purple flowers, incense, black licorice, and briarwood. On the palate, the wine is dry and medium-bodied, revealing juicy, wild-black-raspberry fruit, fennel pollen, and complex wood spices. Although some foods will overwhelm this wine’s light, fresh profile, you couldn’t go wrong with jambon perseille , a simply prepared chicken or duck breast, or a lightly dressed salad garnished with lardons. Importer: Kermit Lynch Wine Merchant, www.kermitlynch.com .
2006 Dard et Ribo Crozes-Hermitage, Northern Rhône $50
This wine is nearly opaque, showing a deep ruby color and a dark-purple core. The captivating nose offers oven-dried black cherry, macerated plum or plum-alcohol infusion, and wild black raspberry. An incredibly complex array of non-fruit aromas includes wood smoke, cedar, tanned leather, hung meat, salumi mold, ash, menthol, and medicine. The palate is dry, showing a combination of hung and minced meats, Christmas spices, dates, almond, and cherry. Tannins are moderate, but the wine has juicy acidity and a long, complex finish. The same bottle was superb two nights in a row. Importer: Louis/Dressner Selections, www.louisdressner.com .
JESSE BECKER, MS, CWE
Périphérique Wine Services
2007 Château Doisy-Védrines, Sauternes (375 ml) $18
In a half-bottle, this can legitimately be considered a bargain. Referring back to my en primeur notes, the wine remains true to its promise, showing rich, marmelade-laden botrytis notes and a delicious, youthful freshness. Hugely pleasurable now, but with plenty of substance to age. Importer: Atlanta Wholesale Company, Atlanta.
2003 Domaine des Baumard Clos du Papillon, Savennières, Loire Valley $38
A rarity indeed: a Savennières sealed with a screwcap. The effect of this wine is immediate—first from its color, which is remarkably pale for a wine of its age (especially one from the hot 2003 vintage), and second from its exuberant aroma. The nose has a wonderful floral freshness, underpinned with unmistakable Chenin notes of beeswax and lanolin. Equally lively on the palate, the wine is full of ripe, zesty fruit, finishing super-crisp and clean with mineral length. Importer: ExCellars Wine Agencies, www.excellars.com .
2008 Quinta do Crasto, Douro $15
Even if Portugese winemaker David Guimaraens describes Douro table wine as “Port for diabetics,” this Quinta do Crasto is a good argument for its continued popularity. It is full-bodied, mineral, herbal, balanced, and fresh, with nuances of dried griottes on the finish. Delicious now, but could easily be cellared for another five years or more. Importer: Broadbent Selections, www.broadbent.com .
2007 Gimblett Gravels Sacred Hill Helmsman Cabernet Merlot, Hawkes Bay $28
In blind tastings organized by the Gimblett Gravels growers, this wonderful Bordeaux blend has held its own against French crus classés at 10 times the price. The most recent vintage is deeply colored, with powerful blackcurrant and cedar fruit. Finely balanced, complex, and long, it is well worth the price. Importer: Diageo Chateau & Estate Wines, www.diageowines.com .
BEVERLEY BLANNING, MW
Huntsville, Ala.: Looking for Food and Beverage Director for private club in Huntsville, Ala. Club has 1,000-plus members. Please send resume to email@example.com.
Thornton Winery, Temecula Valley, Calif.: Thornton Winery, a small (60 employees), award-winning winery in Temecula Valley (Southern California) is seeking a Winemaker/Production Manager to produce premium wines and Champagnes. We are well established (founded 1988) and are well known for the quality of our still wines as well as méthode champenoise Champagnes. Thornton Winery has a full banquet/wedding facility and a 4-star restaurant on site as well as our Champagne Jazz Series, featuring the top names in smooth jazz. The Temecula Valley wine region includes 30-plus wineries.
The Winemaker/Production Manager will oversee all areas of the winemaking and production process and will represent the winery in winemaker dinners, special events, press relations, etc. Benefits include medical/dental, 401(k), paid vacation, sick leave, and employee discounts. The successful candidate must possess excellent winemaking skills, including riddling, aging, blending, and finishing wines. A minimum of five years’ professional winemaking experience required.
Fax resume to (951) 699-3639 or mail to Human Resources at Thornton Winery, P.O. Box 9008, Temecula, CA 92589, or apply online at firstname.lastname@example.org.