It has been a while since we have written about particular California wines, but we have been so impressed with a number of them this summer that (we know you cannot wait) today is the day. The beauties we will write about below are some of those we highly and without reservation recommend for you. More will come later.

Cabernet Sauvignon:

-2007 Bressler ($85): 2007 is uniformly praised as a superb year for Napa Cabs. The reason might well be the balance that has been achieved to satisfy the desires of many modern enophiles. The fruit, while concentrated and dark, is not so ripe that it interferes with the many nuanced and identifiable layers on the palate. Thus, we find beautifully integrated wines, and the Bressler is a true representation of what the best offers.

-2008 Gargiulo “G Major 7” 575 OVX Vineyards ($125): Substantially a Cab, a healthy dose (about 11%) of Cab Franc and touches of Petit Verdot and Malbec give this wine sophistication, balance, and structure. We found that the charcoal nose effortlessly dovetailed into a violet, juicy plum palate, and then to a dusty finish reminiscent of the fruit’s Oakville home.

-2008 Gargiulo “575 OVX” ($190): 100% Cab from a single vineyard, this wine helps prove why Napa produces some of the world’s best (and its price reflects such recognition by its owners and buyers). The layers of cassis, cranapple, and blueberries are easily distinguishable as they fill the mouth at first sip and sail toward the cocoa finish. Kept together by bold, yet approachable, tannins, this is a wine worthy of its price.

-2007 Page Wine Cellars “The Stash” ($100): Here is what you look for in a big Cabernet Sauvignon – a luscious nose, gorgeous deep blue fruit up front, some smoke and structure throughout the mid palate, and a strong/long purple finish. The three varietals used (90% Cab Sauv, 5% Cab Franc, and 5% Petit Verdot) are noticeable as they come into play at every layer.

-2007 Provenance “Beckstoffer To Kalon” ($75): While marriage is usually for two, this marvelous wine comes about from the confluence of three formidable factors – the always amazing vineyards of Andy Beckstoffer, the terroir of the To Kalon vineyard, and the handiwork of winemaker Tom Rinaldi. 07 was a great year, and this is simply a great wine.

-2007 Tayson Pierce ($65):  Not yet released but available on the winery’s Website, we think you should consider obtaining some of this gem before this relatively new and still under-the-radar wine becomes a hot commodity – something inevitable with this quality and at this price. All the right fruits are in line and layered, the tannins are obvious yet integrated, and the smoothness throughout the palate is complimented by a silky long finish.


-2008 Ferrari-Carano “Tre Terre” Russian River Valley ($30): This one took us back a few years and reminded us that good acidity, tropical flavors, creamy butter on the palate, and a balanced helping of oak on the finish was, and still is, a recipe for an excellent Chard.

-2009 Papapietro Perry “Peters Vineyard” Russian River Valley ($49): Wine writers and critics are praising the 2009 Chardonnays of Sonoma, and this one is a leader of the pack. Rich from the first sip, beautifully balanced, and possessing a tapered finish with more than a nuance of “butter,” this is a perfect match for crab and lobster.

-2009 Wren Hop Vineyards “Shipwreck Savior” Sonoma Coast ($42): Apples, figs, and lovely minerality surround a huge bodied wine with the kind of balance between oak, fruit, and acidity that we miss in so many Chardonnays today. Creaminess and a touch of butter linger on your palate long after you have taken your last sip.


-2009 Tallulah “Como” ($28): Though not yet a household varietal in the U.S., the Rhone grape Marsanne is increasing in popularity due to its full body, smooth mouth-feel, and usual flavor of honeysuckle with some nutty overtones. Tallulah’s entry into the field is more than welcome as the “Como” reflects all the above descriptors and more. Drink it with most any type of light dish.


Petit Verdot:

-2007 Truchard ($35): We have to spend time searching out good stand-alone Petit Verdots as they are few and far between. While the always superior fruit from the Truchard family vineyards displays black cherry, cranberry, and baking spices, this well structured wine is available only to winery club members. We recommend checking that out (should not be a problem or an inconvenience – all the Truchard wines are wonderful).

Petite Sirah:

­-2006 and 2007 David Fulton ($45): There is nothing at all that is in any way small about these Petites. We include them both here because there are only a few cases of HALF BOTTLES of 2006 left, and at $23 you should run to your check book and order some. The 06 is characterized by depth, leather box notes, and “masculinity,” while the 07 is what some call more “feminine” with its elegant fruit, smooth tannins, and lightly spiced red fruit at the end. We bought them both.

Pinot Meunier:

-2009  Chandon Carneros ($35): One of the more surprising finds for us in many years, this bright and flavorful wine starts with a nose of cranberries, moves to cola nuts on the mid palate, shows off a satiny body, and leaves you satisfied with deep  plums on the finish. It might go with every grilled meat or veggie we can imagine.

Pinot Noir:

-2008 Coho “Stanly Ranch Carneros” ($45): A juicy and complex Pinot that shows Carneros’ characteristically pleasant nuances of smoke surrounded throughout by spice and red plums. Just as you think it is only very, very good, along comes an earthy finish that pushes this Pinot to great.

-2008 Donum Estate Russian River ($65): We would have written about the Donum 2008 West Slope, but it is already sold out. A bit less expensive, but with incredible depth, a nucleus of black cherries, weight, and a forest floor/mushroom finish, this Estate Russian River Pinot hardly takes a back seat to any other.

-2008 Frostwatch Bennett Valley ($38): Here is a shocker – a terrific Sonoma Pinot from an appellation other than Carneros or Russian River. Bret Raven only made 20 cases this year in his first foray into this varietal, and we own 1/40 of them (could not resist the quality plus price). Watch for this under the radar wine in 09.

-2008 Papapietro Perry “Peters Vineyard” Russian River Valley ($54): Cherry aromas give way to dark fruit, toast, and spice on the mid-palate, which are joined by a touch of rhubarb and earthy flavors at the finish. This is a full wine with outstanding structure and balance.

-2008 Papapietro Perry “777  Clones” Russian River Valley ($70): Using only one clone from many of its best vineyards, the team at Papapietro Perry was inspired on this one. Berries on the nose, great acidity and balance throughout, dark cherries toward the finish, and smooth tannins, are all influenced by various exotic spices. This wine should last a long while. 

Red Blend:

-2008 Jessup “Table for Four” ($79): When the combination of about 60% Cab and nearly equal parts Petite Sirah, Cab Franc, and Merlot are right – folks, they are just right. This wine offers a big, velvet mouthful of black fruit, a kiss of smoke, wonderful acidity, and a brier-like, leather-like finish as a result of the superb Petite Sirah.

-2007 Signorello “Padrone” ($125): Both black and red fruit are immediately apparent here, but it is the stunning cassis and black cherry juice on a velvety mid-palate that begins to make this wine something special. And even if you aren’t sure by then that the Padrone is in a rarefied class, the finish begins to fade normally, but somehow returns for a long run.

Sauvignon Blanc:

-2010 Provenance ($28): Year in and year out no one produces a Sauvignon Blanc (SB in wine country parlance) that is more compatible with food than does Tom Rinaldi. Blended with a little Semillon and aged on the lees for a creamy mouth-feel, the wine also sees some barrel in order to round out the finish – a style of which we are particularly fond.


We believe all of these wines, regardless of the cost, are fairly priced -- everyone’s budget is different -- considering the quality to cost ratio .  


krug_wines_web_locateGrapelines: Napa Valley's oldest winery leads industry through innovation

by Lou Marmon

The 150th anniversary of the Napa Valley's oldest winery, Charles Krug, will be celebrated this summer. With a $21.6 million renovation of its winemaking facilities and vineyards under way, the winery is positioning itself to remain a leader of California's wine industry.

The winery's story began when the 27-year-old Krug left Germany in 1847 and became a teacher in Philadelphia. Inspired by the French Revolution, he returned home the next year to participate in the unsuccessful attempt to establish a German Republic and was imprisoned for nine months. He returned to Philadelphia in 1851, eventually moving to California to serve as the editor of the West Coast's first German newspaper. Over the next several years, he worked as a farmer, road builder, gold and silver refiner, and clerk in the San Francisco Mint. In 1858, a farmer hired Krug to make wine from grapes grown in the Napa Valley. Using a cider press, Krug bottled nearly 1,200 gallons of the first wine ever made in the region. Several other local farmers subsequently hired him to make their wines and in 1861, he set up his own winery on the site of the current facility.

Despite an 1874 cellar fire and other hardships, Krug persisted in his belief that the Napa Valley could become a center of quality wine production. He was among the first to bottle vintage-dated California varietal wines and constantly sought out the best locations to grow premium grapes in the Napa region. Besides serving in various civic capacities, Krug also established the St. Helena Viticultural Society and the Napa and Sonoma Wine Company.

Upon Krug's death in 1893, James Moffitt purchased the property, and then sold it to Ceseare and Rosa Mondavi in 1943. When Cesare died in 1959, Rosa took over and with their sons, Peter and Robert, maintained the high standards and spirit of innovation that characterized Charles Krug wines. In 1966, Peter assumed control of Charles Krug's operations and Robert moved to Oakville to establish his own winery.

Peter Mondavi was the first to use French oak barrels in Napa, and developed several other winemaking advances including glass-lined tanks and cold sterile filtration. He was also among the first to recognize the potential of the Carneros region for Pinot Noir and Chardonnay. His sons, Marc and Peter Jr., are now at the helm.

Releases include an upper tier "Family Reserve" along with a tasting-room only "Limited Release" series. Regular bottlings are widely available, including the Charles Krug Napa Valley Sauvignon Blanc 2009 ($18), a refreshing, very fruit-forward wine displaying peach, guava and green apple flavors with nice, crisp citrus acidity and a long finish.

Also worth trying is the lemon and pineapple-scented Charles Krug Carneros Chardonnay 2009 ($20) with orange peel, vanilla and apricot notes in a medium-bodied, slightly sweet frame and only a touch of oakiness.

Grapes sourced from different vineyards were used to create the Charles Krug CarnerosNapa Valley Pinot Noir 2008 ($25) that has spicy black fruit aromas including plum, dark cherry and currants that progress smoothly into strawberries and cranberries accented with some toasty oak.

Plums, coffee and red berries predominate in the tasty Charles Krug Napa Valley Merlot 2007 ($24), while the Charles Krug Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon 2008 ($27) is more floral, with cassis, cedar and blackberries in a restrained style that has good balance and finish.


Charles Krug Napa Valley Sauvignon Blanc 2009 ($18)

Charles Krug Carneros Chardonnay 2009 ($20)

Charles Krug CarnerosNapa Valley Pinot Noir 2008 ($25)

Charles Krug Napa Valley Merlot 2007 ($24)

Charles Krug Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon 2008 ($27)


On the 35th Anniversary of the 1976 Paris Tasting, Stag’s Leap Wine Cellars announces the creation of a unique “Judgment of Paris Seal” for its iconic Cabernet Sauvignons.  The Stag’s Leap Wine Cellars 1973 S.L.V. Cabernet Sauvignon took top honors among the red wines at the historic Judgment of Paris tasting that took place on May 24, 1976.
The Judgment of Paris Seal is a circular emblem with the words “Estate Winner Paris Tasting 1976” surrounded by an olive branch wreath, which in Ancient Greece symbolized victory.  The commemorative design will debut on the 2009 vintage of Stag’s Leap Wine Cellars FAY, S.L.V., CASK 23 and ARTEMIS Cabernet Sauvignon.  This seal of authenticity reinforces the winery’s heritage as the winner of the Paris Tasting and will aid consumers in identifying the wines of Stag’s Leap Wine Cellars in fine wine shops and at restaurants.
“Anniversaries are fitting times to reflect back and to look forward,” said Ted Baseler, President and CEO of Ste. Michelle Wine Estates.  “The Paris Tasting was a defining milestone for Stag’s Leap Wine Cellars and the entire California wine industry and this iconic emblem pays homage to this rich history.”
Since acquiring Stag’s Leap Wine Cellars in 2007, the Antinori family of Tuscany and Ste. Michelle Wine Estates of Washington have focused on preserving the legacy of Stag’s Leap Wine Cellars while setting the bar even higher for the next 35+ years.  Investments have been made at the facility and in the vineyards to ensure that Stag’s Leap Wine Cellars remains one of America’s benchmark producers.
This fall, Winemaker Nicki Pruss will be releasing the 2008 estate-grown Cabernet Sauvignons—CASK 23, S.L.V. and FAY.  These 2008 vintage wines are the first to be completely grown, made and bottled under this new partnership.  The 2008 vintage also marks the 35th Anniversary of the winning 1973 vintage at the 1976 Paris Tasting.  “I’m very excited about the release of our 2008 estate-grown Cabernets,” said Nicki Pruss.  “With these wines we’ve enhanced the purity of fruit from this incredible estate while retaining the balance, elegance and restraint that have made our wines some of the most highly regarded and collected worldwide.”
Background on the 1976 Paris Tasting:
In the early 1970s, Stag’s Leap Wine Cellars was a small, family-run winery that was little known outside the Napa Valley. That changed, however, on May 24, 1976 when French wine experts judged, in a blind tasting, that two California wines were as good as, or better than, the best wines of France. In what is now referred to as the historic “Paris Tasting,” the Stag's Leap Wine Cellars 1973 S.L.V. Cabernet Sauvignon took top honors among the reds, triumphing over two first-growth and other renowned wines of Bordeaux. The surprise win was covered by TIME magazine and picked up by media around the world.  The story of “The Judgment of Paris” brought international recognition to the Napa Valley and to Stag's Leap Wine Cellars.
Twenty years after the Paris Tasting, in the spring of 1996, the Smithsonian Institution created a display documenting the Paris Tasting and the story of wine’s coming of age in North America.  The winning red and white wines of the 1976 tasting are now part of the permanent collection in the National Museum of American History.
About Stag’s Leap Wine Cellars
From the beginning, the Stag’s Leap Wine Cellars vision has been to create wines that speak of the place from which they come, with distinctive elements of aroma, flavor and texture.  These goals are realized in our three limited-production estate-grown Cabernet Sauvignons – CASK 23, S.L.V. and FAY—which are crafted from vineyards surrounding the winery, and in our single vineyard Chardonnay from ARCADIA VINEYARD located at the foot of Mt. George. The same classic style of the Estate and Single Vineyard Collection is also expressed in the Napa Valley Collection, which includes KARIA Chardonnay and ARTEMIS Cabernet Sauvignon.
More information about Stag’s Leap Wine Cellars and the historic Paris Tasting can be found on

The Italian capital, Rome, a bustling metropolis, is still surrounded, like 2,000 years ago, by agricultural land and by vineyards that dot the landscape of the Castelli Romani, traditionally sought out by Romans in the look out for the Sunday family meal of amatriciana with Romanella — a wine widely credited with sparking the new "Roma DOC."

The new denomination of quality will include all the quality wines of the Roman province.

Assemblage: 51% Chardonnay, 26% Pinot Noir, 23% Pinot Meunier
Disgorging: November 2009
Suggested Retail: $69.99
Dosage: 5.5 g/l

Tasting notes: Grand Vintage 2002 is mature, harmonious and precise. Seven years in the cellars have developed the mature, toasty flavors, both sweet and dry, with warm notes of grain and frangipane along with toasted almonds and malt, mocha and light tobacco. Notes of ripe fruits follow: pear, candied citrus, plum, nectarine and white peach. On the palate, the construction is precise and the substance is velvety. The first impression of creamy roundness progressively allows the linear, tight structure to appear.  The flavors of fruit become fresher: mandarin orange and pink grapefruit. The deliberately light dosage (5.5 g/l), creates a firm, precise finish, deliciously tonic and refreshing, with notes of rhubarb and currant as well as quinine and citrus.
“Grand Vintage 2002 is characterized by the aromas of cereals and frangipani, white peach and nectarine, with a velvety texture and a precise finish, creating an exceptional Champagne.” Benoît Gouez, Chef de Cave

yarden kazrin2The "Wine World Cup" goes to Golan Heights Winery based in Katztrin (Israel). Azienda Agricola G. Milazzo, Campobello di Licata (Agrigento), and Bodegas Marques de Carrion, Spain, take the special "Vinitaly Nation 2011" award.

Verona, 2 April 2011. And the best wine producer in the world ... comes from Israel. The 2011 edition of the International Wine Competition rewarded the Golan Heights Winery - a relatively young reality founded in 1983 at Katzrin (Israel).
It is the first time that the Gran Vinitaly Special Award has been assigned by the jury to an Israeli wine-maker. The award is made to the producer achieving the highest scores for two wines taking medals in different categories.
Golan Heights Winery had already taken important Vinitaly awards in previous editions of the International Wine Competition (with Grand Gold Medals in 2004 and 2006).
The Israeli cellar convinced 105 jury members – chosen from among authoritative oenologists and sector journalists from all over the world for this prestigious preview of the 45th Vinitaly – ahead of the “competition” comprising 3,720 bottles (3,646 in 2010) presented by more than 1,000 wine-making companies taking part from 30 countries world-wide: Australia, Austria, Brazil, Bulgaria, Canada, Chile, Columbia, Croatia, Ecuador, France, Georgia, Germany, Greece, Israel, Italy, Mexico, Portugal, United Kingdom, Czech Republic, Republic of San Marino, Rumania, Serbia Montenegro, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Switzerland, Turkey, Hungary, Uruguay and Venezuela.
The event enjoys the patronage of the Organisation Internationale de la Vigne et du Vin, the Union Internationale des Oenologues, the Ministry for Agricultural Policies and the Ministry of Production in collaboration with Assoenologi and ICE.
The Vinitaly International Wine Competition 2011 confirmed is status as the most selective and rigorous in the world by awarding only 71 medals (the same number as in 2010, compared to 113 in 2009) to participants through procedures intended to ensure the anonymity of wines under the supervision of Maria Maddalena Buoninconti, Notary Public in Verona.
As defined in the regulations, all producers taking a medal will be able to affix a label indicating the distinction "International Wine Competition 2011" only to the batches of wines taking awards).
Overall, 1,042 "Special Mention" diplomas were awarded this year: the first twenty wines in each category and group achieving the best score were assessed again by three different juries. Among these, those obtaining the best performances respectively took the Grand Gold Medal, Gold Medal, Silver Medal and Bronze Medal.
Sixteen Grand Gold Medals, 17 Gold Medals, 19 Silver Medals and 18 Bronze Medals were awarded.
Roll of Honour - International Wine Competition

2010 Gianni Zonin Vineyards of Gambellara - Italy

2001 Ernest & Giulio Gallo Winery – USA

2009 Inniskillin Wines Inc. - Niagara On The Lake - Canada

2000 Banfi – Italy

1999 Cellars Tollo – Italy

2008 Divino Nordheim – Die

Winzergenossenschaft - Germany

1998 Ernest & Giulio Gallo Winery – USA

1997 Tasca D’Almerita

2007 Wyndham Estate – Australia

1996 Banfi - Italy

2006 Segura Viudas  – Spain

1995 Banfi - Italy

2005 Cavit S.C - Italy

1994 Banfi - Italy

2004 Azienda Vinicola Miceli - Italy

1993 Cantine Marchesi di Barolo - Italy

2003 Vineland Estates Winery – Canada


2002 Ernest & Giulio Gallo Winery - USA


Two companies won the Special “Vinitaly Nation 2011” Award, made to the producer in every country obtaining the best score on the basis of the sum of assessments for the best three wines taking Special Mention diplomas.
This prestigious recognition this year went to Azienda Agricola G. Milazzo – Terre della Baronia Spa, Campobello di Licata (Agrigento, Italy), that also took the "Vinitaly Region 2011" award, and Bodegas Marques de Carrion S.A., Cabastida – Alava, Spain.
The second edition of the Special “Vinitaly Region 2011” Award  for the producer in every Italian region achieving the best result on the basis of the sum of the highest scores for the three best wines taking Special Mentions – went to the following cellars: Veneto: Cantina Valpolicella Negrar Sca – Negrar (Verona); Puglia: Azienda agricola La Mea di Maci Marco – Cellino San Marco (Brindisi); Tuscany: Banfi Distribuzione srl – Montalcino (Siena); Sicily: Azienda agricola G. Milazzo – Terre della Baronia Spa di Campobello di Licata (Agrigento); Lombardy: Le Cantorie azienda agricola – Gussago (Brescia); Abruzzo: Società cooperativa agricola olearia vinicola Orsogna – Orsogna (Chieti); Sardinia: Carpante Usini srl – Usini (Sassari); Emilia-Romagna: Cantine Ceci spa – Torrile (Parma); Piedmont: Vigne Regali srl – Strevi (Alessandria); Lazio:  Cantina Sant’Andrea azienda agricola – Terracina (Latina); Friuli Venezia Giulia: Eugenio Collavini Viticoltori spa – Corno di Rosazzo (Udine); Marches:  Terre Cortesi Moncaro società cooperativa agricola – Montecarotto (Ancona); Trentino-Alto Adige: Cavit s.c. – Trento ; Basilicata: Cantine del Notaio società agricola a r.l. – Rionero in Vulture (Power); Umbria: azienda agricola Dott. Valentino Cirulli – Ficulle (Terni).
The Special "Banca Popolare di Verona" award was made to Trentino Doc Vin Santo “Arele” 1999 by Cavit S.c. - Trento for the best score among all wines from the Veneto, Emilia-Romagna, Trentino of Friuli in all categories envisaged by the regulations of the 19th International Wine Competition.



ROCHESTER, N.Y.,   March 30, 2011 – A total of 3,298 wines from 788 wineries, 19 countries, 6 Canadian provinces, and all 50 states entered to compete for awards in the 11th Annual Finger Lakes International Wine Competition (FLIWC) – the most wines entered to-date in the history of this competition.

Sixty renowned national and international judges from 15 countries participated in the two-day competition March 26 and 27, which took place in Rochester, N.Y., about 45 minutes from the heart of Upstate New York’s Finger Lakes wine region. David G. Male, of Buffalo, N.Y., certified international judge, served as the competition chairman. Ron Dougherty of Rochester, N.Y., was the Assistant Competition Chairman.

The judges awarded 76 Double Gold, 261 Gold, 1,028 Silver and 1,326 Bronze medals -- For a complete list of winners visit . The highest awards were:

  • JOHN ROSE AWARD: Zugibe 2009 Finger Lakes Late Harvest Riesling
  • CRYSTAL GRAPE AWARD: Vignoble Riviére du Chêne, 2009 Monde Vidal
  • BEST CABERNET: J. Lohr 2007 Hilltop Cabernet Sauvignon
  • BEST CHARDONNAY: Santa Barbara Winery 2008 Chardonnay

The event culminates with the Annual Camp Good Days Wine Auction & Dinner on Saturday, May 7, at the Rochester Plaza, Rochester, N.Y. with 250 Double Gold, Gold and Silver Medal winners of the competition from around the world. In addition, 60 live auction lots and more than 200 silent auction lots include FLIWC medal winning wines, plus rare wines from private collections, and other fabulous items. The beneficiary of the event, Camp Good Days and Special Times, is a not-for-profit organization dedicated to improving the quality of life for children and families all over the world,

For a complete list of winners visit For tickets to the Annual Camp Good Days Wine & Auction Dinner, call Camp Good Days & Special Times at 585-624-5555.

SAN FRANCISCO – The U.S. surpassed France as the world's largest wine-consuming nation in 2010, with wine shipments to the U.S. from California, other states and foreign producers growing 2% from the previous year to nearly 330 million cases, a record high for the industry, according to wine industry consultants Gomberg, Fredrikson & Associates in Woodside. The estimated retail value of these sales was $30 billion, up 4% from 2009. Total French consumption was 320.6 million cases in 2010.

California wine accounted for a 61% volume share of the total U.S. wine market with sales at 199.6 million cases, up 1% from the previous year. Retail value was $18.5 billion. California's total wine shipments worldwide to all markets in the U.S. and abroad (including exports) were 241.8 million cases, up 2% from the previous year.

"U.S. wine market conditions remain highly competitive, but we are optimistic that this growth trend will continue. Americans are increasingly interested in a lifestyle with wine and food, demonstrated by the presence of wineries in all 50 states and 17 consecutive years of growth in U.S. wine consumption," said Robert P. (Bobby) Koch, President and CEO of Wine Institute.

"This year we will celebrate the 20th anniversary of the CBS TV 60 Minutes news broadcast on French Paradox news report which expanded awareness of how moderate wine consumption can be part of a healthy lifestyle. Wine consumption is still a low 2.6 gallons per capita, but the adult population is growing every year as echo boomers come of age and adopt wine just as their baby boomer parents did," said Jon Fredrikson ofThe Gomberg-Fredrikson Report. Many new creative wines were introduced last year to keep consumers excited, including value-priced Moscato, Pinot Grigio, Riesling and off-dry wines, as well as affordable Pinot Noir from inland California regions. Sales of high-end wines remained challenging, but marketers used social media technology to reach increasingly wired consumers, said Fredrikson.

California Varietal Table Wine Trends

Fredrikson estimates for California bottled table wine volume to the U.S. market by varietal were led by Chardonnay, up 5% to over 53 million cases. Cabernet Sauvignon also grew rapidly, rising 6% to nearly 33 million cases. Other California bottled varietals growing notably in sales included Pinot Noir, Zinfandel, Riesling and Muscat.

Sparkling Wine/Champagne Sales in the U.S.

Sparkling wine and champagne had a remarkable year, up 10% in the U.S, suggesting that consumers may be broadening their use of these wines beyond special occasions. The category's 15.4 million cases represent 4.6% of all wine sales in the U.S., of which the majority is produced in California, according to The Gomberg-Fredrikson Report.

U.S. Wine Exports Rebound

In 2010, U.S. wine exports, 90 percent from California, jumped 25.6% in value to an estimated $1.14 billion in winery revenues. Volume shipments rose 1.9% to 47.3 million nine-liter cases, according to U.S. Department of Commerce data. U.S. wine export volume has nearly doubled in the last decade.

Thirty-eight percent of U.S. wine exports by value were shipped to the 27-member countries of the European Union, accounting for $435 million of the revenues, up 14% from 2009. Volume shipments to the EU reached 27.6 million cases in 2010, up 11% from the previous year. Changes in the dollar exchange rate, a gradually recovering economy and California's effective marketing and high wine quality have helped exports rebound. Other top markets were: Canada, $308 million; Hong Kong, $116 million; Japan, $76 million; and China, $45 million.


70 participants and distilleries from 33 nations (islands) took part in the "World-Spirits Award 2011", submitting 337 spirits for consideration at WSA 2011: the eighth edition of the top-quality award ceremony and exhibition at the GAST in Klagenfurt, Austria  from 20 to 23 March 2011.

331 medals were awarded - 8 double golds (3 of them Spirits of the Year), 186 golds, 131 silvers and 6 bronze medals. 13 products received the title of "Best in Category".

For the first time in the history of the WSA, six awards were handed out – five for the title of "Distillery of the Year" and one for "Spirit of the Year".

The superstar of 2011 was the German distillery Hubertus Vallendar which won two awards. The Tyrolean distillery Christoph Kössler also won its sixth award. Two additional World-Spirits Awards went to the rum distilleries of Appleton Rum and St. Lucia Distillers. Rossbacher Bitter from Top Spirit secured an award for the first time. 35 distilleries were classified into the various categories (from fruit brandies to whiskies, grappas and rums) with 21 of them being awarded the title of "World-Class Distillery", 7 being named as a "Master-Class Distillery" and 7 as a "First-Class Distillery".

The results are based on the WOB 100 point evaluation system, which is specially tailored to the world of spirits. An experienced international jury of tasters ensured an objective assessment. Detailed press documents are available at

For additional information: or World-Spirits . Wolfram Ortner Untertscherner Weg 3 . 9546 Bad Kleinkirchheim . Austria Tel.: 0043-4240-760 . Fax: 0043-4240-760-50,

The Austin Hope family has been making wines in Paso Robles since 1978 and their labels include Liberty School, Candor, Treana, Austin Hope and Westside Wines. They’ve planted  French varieties such as Mourvèdre, Grenache, Marsanne, Syrah and viognier in addition to the known international varieties. 

Austin Hope  produces “boutique wines from artisan winemaking” which have scored high ratings from all the wine mavens. 

 Click here to listen as Austin Hope, President and Director of Winemaking for Hope Family Wines, talks about his region, his vineyards, his dreams and his wines

Everybody knows about the wines from Ribera del Duero, one of the most prestigious wine regions in Castilla y Leon in Spain with iconic wineries like Vega Sicilia and Pingus. 

But few know about TORO , a relatively unknown DO denomination of origin appellation in Castilla y Leon  with a unique terroir that proves that this harsh and arid region is capable of producing exquisitely expressive reds.

 Like in Ribera or in Rioja, the grape is Tempranillo, but in Toro it is called Sangre de Toro or Tinto de Toro. It has been the primary grape grown in the region since the times of the Christian Reconquest, when an influx of bishops, priests, scholars and members of the royal family created a sophisticated market for fine wines in the 11th and 12th centuries. The DO was created in 1987 with just four wineries, but the area's success, combined with ever-rising land prices in other Spanish regions, have pushed the number to more than 40 wineries.

click here to Listen to Manuel Louzada Estate Director of Bodega Numanthia - Moët-Hennessy Spain, as he talks about making extraordinary wines from 80-year-old vineyards and sometimes older.  

 The Wines:

Numanthia Termes, Toro, Spain 2008 $29.99 

Numanthia, Toro, Spain, 2007  $50.00  The nose begins tight and clustered, with little flow or development. Florals are mixed with spicy cologne, as notes of blackberry and dark fruits waft through fleetingly, giving only hints of what might still be coming. Beets and cloves add an edgy, astringent tone. The palate also launches a bit closed, with heat and spice escaping intermittently from the dense core. Beets and vegetable flavors join with mulchy earth, cut garden stems and pomegranate to leave a bitter aftertaste following a medium spicy finish. But if one guesses that there is more, one would be right. At two hours, aromas deepen and broaden as the layers begin to unwind and release scents of garden flowers, freshly cut cedar limbs, forest floor roots, peat, and shovel-turned soil. A complex palate evolves, with the help of a sustained and pleasant acidity and strong tannins, to include a center of increasingly full and concentrated dark fruit, helping the ongoing presence of zesty spice toward balance, integrating notes of chocolate and cinnamon, and extending the finish. This wine is a perfect example of seeing through first impressions to a richer essence . ad more:

According to Robert Beynat, chief executive of Vinexpo  a new study commissioned by Vinexpo — the wine and spirits exhibition held every two years in Bordeaux, France —and  conducted by the International Wine and Spirit Research group concluded that “Within the next 10 years, wine consumption in the Unites States will have increased three times faster than the global averages.”  

Over the last five years, American light wine consumption has surpassed that of France, making it the 2nd largest consumer country worldwide of still light wines, right behind Italy. By 2012, they project that America will move to the number one spot.

And that’s not the only area of growth, according to IWSR and Vinexpo: Between 2005 and 2009, the U.S. experienced a 10.7% increase of imported wines consumed by volume, accounting for 27.8% of all volumes of wine consumed in the U.S. They forecast that this trend will continue through 2014. In 2010, wine consumption grew in the U.S. and by 2014 it’s projected to further increase by 9.35%.

Top suppliers of wine to the U.S. market include Italy, Australia, France and Chile, but Argentina shows the most growth, with a 114.13% increase from 2005 to 2009. Those importing American wine include U.K., which increased by 29% increase from 2005 to 2009, followed by Italy and Canada.

In the spirits category, American consumption of spirits reached 182.56 million 9-liter cases, up 10% in 2009 compared with 2005. It’s the leading consumer nation of Tequila, Bourbon, liqueurs and Cognac.

When it comes to wine production trends internationally, both France and Italy decreased production from 2005 to 2009, while China experienced significant growth and is projected the increase by 77.11% in 2014. Top wine exporters Italy and Australia experienced grow from 2005 to 2009, but France decreased their exports by 1.14%. By 2014, Vinexpo projects that Italy will take the top exporter spot.  

Vinexpo will take place in Bordeaux from June 19-23. For more information, visit



xanteThe rich, dark gold hued XANTÉ made from selected French cognacs and ripe pears with a unctuous touch of vanilla is a new experience (for us here in the US) in premium liqueur which has been around for over 10 years in Europe and is now distributed in the US.

Made by the same Swedish company that produces the 190-year-old Cherry Heering, the cognac and pear-based spirit is one of the most popular liqueurs in Scandinavia.  To make it more accessible in the US they devised an I phone app: Drink Xanté which features Xanté Cocktail Guide, Xanté Bar locator,Xanté Store Locator,Facts and News about Xanté and a Link to Face book!

As touted in its website,  XANTÉ is “the intimate result of a ménage à trois between the finest French cognacs, the affection of French Limousine (sic… it took me a while to figure out they didn’t mean the elongated car favored by celebrities and graduation party goers ) Oak with its touch of vanilla, the perfect penetration of pear, and the slow tender mating process which seals the great conception delivering a flavor and taste beyond all known experience.”

But verbiage aside, the dark gold, dense-bodied and syrupy, yet not too sweet liqueur — one can actually taste the natural fruit sugars — exhibits all the complexity and floral overtones of aged cognac and the freshness and fruitiness of a ripe pear in the palate, combined with the subtle creamy vanilla undertone imparted by aging in French oak.   

I found it seductive and smooth and I enjoyed it as I would a cognac, instead of dessert, at room temperature or chilled. But whether I had it alone, on the rocks or in a cocktail (you can find many suggestions in their website or in the new Xanté I phone application named Drink Xanté where you can find recipes for Xanté cocktails, short and long, hot and cold, straight and on the rocks…) the taste lingers on in a long and fragrant finish.  

According to several sources, Xanté is currently ranked number two in the Scandinavian liqueur segment and 10th most popular liqueur in Europe. Over the past decade sales have increased in volume by over 500% worldwide. Xanté is available in 20 countries, such as the US, the UK, the Nordics, the Benelux countries and Russia.

Xanté Crush will be available at the Sunset Lounge at the Mondrian South Beach on Valentine's Day.


220px-prosecco_di_conegliano_bottle_and_glassThere's nothing that sets the celebratory tone of taste, style, and love like the "pop!" of a bubbly.  And when the price is right all the stops are out… This is why Prosecco sales in the U.S. rose over 30% last year and is going up this year.

Prosecco is easy to drink, even when it is young – and preferably so.  It is fresh and lively, unpretentious as it is refreshing, elegant, mineral, flinty or crisp, floral, aromatic, and fruity, with notes of melon, peach, pear and citrus. It is consumed as an apéritif, a complement to food, or a lightly sweet palate cleanser before dinner.

Unlike Champagne which takes a long period of elaboration (hence the term “méthode Champenoise”), most Prosecco is made according to the Charmat process or  Metodo Italiano - in which the secondary fermentation takes place in stainless steel tanks,  and is bottled under pressure, making the wine less expensive to produce. This method produces smaller, longer-lasting bubbles and is now used widely around the world to produce light, delicate sparkling wines.

The zone

DOCG Prosecco is a wine that comes from prime Italian vineyard estates and appellations - between the towns of Conegliano and Valdobbiadene, and not too far from Venice, and runs through the Pre-alps and the Dolomites to the north and the Adriatic sea. 

 In 1962 a group of eleven producers, representing the major viticultural cooperatives and the largest makers of sparkling wines, set up the Tutelary Consortium of Prosecco and proposed a discipline to govern production.  As a result, on April 2nd, 1969, Conegliano and Valdobbiadene were officially recognized as the only D.O.C. (Controlled Denomination of Origin) production zone for ‘Prosecco’ and ‘Prosecco Superiore di Cartizze’. Prosecco was promoted to DOCG status on April 1, 2010


The total production zone is spread between 15 communities and covers an area of approximately 18,000 hectares (approx. 45,000 acres) of cultivated land between Conegliano and Valdobbiadene.. This comprises 6,100 hectares of vineyards, with the super special Cartizze covering 106.   

The steep slopes of the hills make it difficult to mechanize the work and consequently managing the vineyards has almost always been left in the hands of small growers.There are over 3,000 viticulturists, 1,500 Winemaking Professionals and 250 oenologists.  There are 166 producers of Sparkling Wine. 

The 2009 production was 60,840,000 bottles of which 51,656,000 were Conegliano Valdobbiadene DOCG.  Cartizze produced 1,299,000 bottles.  Finally the total number of bottles of CONEGLIANO VALDOBBIADENE PROSECCO SUPERIORE exported was 52,955,000 bottles and the total retail value of the product 380 million Euros;

What grapes are in the bottle and where do they come from? 

The Prosecco guarantees the base structure of the wine of Conegliano-Valdobbiadene.   Verdiso, Perera and Bianchetta can be used up to a maximum of 15%.  They can contribute, on account of their specificity, to the organoleptic balance of Prosecco.

The Prosecco is a vigorous and hardy vine, with nut-colored shoots and quite large, loosely-packed winged clusters of beautiful golden yellow berries nestled amongst large bright green leaves.

The Verdiso is documented as having been present in the Conegliano zone as early as 1700;  Verdiso plays an important role in balancing Prosecco’s acid component in hot years.

The Perera, a variety cited as already being grown in the Treviso province in the last century, was used in small quantities in the vinification of Prosecco, above all in the Valdobbiadene zone, to enhance its perfume and aroma. (Pera in Italian means Pear)

The Bianchetta, a vine mentioned by name as early as the XVI century and claimed by some authors to be indigenous to the Treviso area, was used, on account of its early maturation, to ‘refine and polish’ the Prosecco, especially in cold years. 

The wines 

Bisol Prosecco di Valdobbiadene Brut Crede DOC 2009. ($19.99) The Pale straw-colored spumante with a strong mousse with aromas of green apples, flowers and peaches, a creamy mouth feel with lively acidity and fruity hints of apples and pears,  and a soft, long-lasting finish on the palate is one of the yummiest Proseccos… It is made from Prosecco, Verdiso and Pinot Bianco grapes grown on the steep hills of the Poderi Bisol.   “crede”means the clayey soils and subsoils of marine clay  where they grow and they develop unusual richness, acidity, varietal aromas and fruitiness.   Ideal as an aperitif, it goes much better with food than you might imagine.  

 Villa Sandi Prosecco di Valdobbiadene DOC ($17.99) Very pale straw yellow and fine, persistent perlage. The aroma is fruity and flowery with hints of ripe golden apple and small mountain flowers. The dry, fresh and flavorsome sensation on the palate is followed by a fruity and harmonious aftertaste.  Straw yellow with agreeable floral notes touched by tropical fruits, this versatile Prosecco can serve as an aperitif, a complement to food, or a lightly sweet palate cleanser before dinner.

Fantinel Prosecco Brut Extra Dry NV , ($16.00). A velvety Prosecco, bright, lively and elegant, with delightful floral notes touched by tropical fruits, this versatile Prosecco can serve as an aperitif, a complement to food, or a lightly sweet palate cleanser before dinner.

Cima da Conegliano Prosecco Extra Dry NV, ($22.14) Made entirely of Veneto's Prosecco grape, this dry Spumante is straw-colored with aromas of green apples and a soft, long-lasting finish on the palate. It's perfect as an aperitif or with smoked fish.






















Castello dei Rampolla, Panzano, Tuscany, Italy :
 Luca di Napoli Rampolla,  Rebel with a Good Cause
By Simone Zarmati Diament

When agronomist Maurizio Conti recommended that I visit Castello dei Rampolla, he only said that winemakers Luca di Napoli Rampolla and his sister Maurizia were doing amazing things with the land and that the wines were outstanding.

So I hopped in my car and headed to Greve where I stopped for coffee and a delicious panforte of figs and walnuts, at a café across from the famous Macelleria Falorni – a butcher shop well known for its sausages and meats since the 13th century.  I was ready to continue  to nearby Panzano -  the “Conca d’Oro” in the heart of the Chianti Classico - where the di Napoli family has owned and managed the 13th-century estate of Castello dei Rampolla since 1739. 

At the end of a dirt road - where it looks like no GPS had treaded before - in Santa Lucia in Faulle I arrived at Rampolla, a biodynamic winery and farm since 1994.    Luca and his family have created an energetic field in and around the 120 hectares of land, forests and brooks, only 30 hectares of which are vineyards: Sangiovese, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Petit Verdot and the white varieties Traminer, Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay and Malvasia.  

Between the rows of vines, there’s an entire microorganism of weeds, flowers, stones.  Luca lifts a stone and shows me the worms and ants burrowing the rich top soil of clay, lime and sand.  “They’re doing all the work,” he jokes. “The water seeps down without our interference.  No one fertilizes the Amazon forest,” he laughs. “We don’t either… we let nature work its magic.”

At Castello dei Rampolla the air is humming with birds, insects and frogs - “bees, frogs and cows are essential in biodynamic agriculture: the bees pollinate, the frogs eat the bugs and the cows..,” Luca explains – “they walk slowly and  heavily, they give a sense of quiet rhythm and reassurance to the earth and attract energy through their horns and hooves.”  Even the water used for the esoteric solutions to fertilize the earth is energized in flow form basins.   

It’s been 16 years since the estate’s conversion into a wholly biodynamic farm. According to Luca, it has now reached its balance: “it took five years for the stony soil that was turned upside down by heavy machinery to settle down; five more years for the top soil to settle and create its own hummus and microorganism; and five more years for the biodynamic treatment to work,” he reflects. Castello dei Rampolla  is now known and well-respected for its rigorous, uncompromising viticultural practices in the vineyards and in all phases of the production of wines.

The harvest is done manually by selecting only the best grapes at the peak of their maturity,  following the lunar phases, and the biodynamic calendar.  

In the cellar, there’s Luca and there’s Cellar Master Marcus.  The winemaking is done in vats: enameled iron and concrete vats instead of stainless steel – “stainless steel is nervous, especially for red wines,” explains Luca – and now with terra cotta vats. “We want to have a wine that tastes of grapes, not wood. We’re going back to the old practices…”  The fermentation proceeds with natural yeasts and no sulphur and the aging is done in oak barrels and French barriques.


The result are superb wines which Luca set out for a tasting outdoors:   Vigna d’Alceo,  Sammarco, Chianti Classico, “no riserva,” he said, and a white dessert wine: Trebianco Vendemmia Tardiva.


Listen to an interview with Luca di Napoli Rampolla on FOOD & WINE TALK    


 Castello dei Rampolla Chianti Classico DOCG 2008, ($20) is made according to the strict rules of Chianti from 90% Sangiovese, 5% Cabernet Sauvignon and 5% Merlot, remains in woods barrels for 12 months and in bottle for 6 months before its release. Medium bodied, bright ruby-purple  with an earthy nose ripe with black cherry and fruit. Iit is well balanced with the feisty Sangiovese tannins tamed by a good acidity and a full range of flavors in the mouth: from tobacco, licorice and chocolate  to herbs and fruit. Long finish.   A realy bargain for the price.

2004 Castello dei Rampolla "Sammarco" IGT Tuscany Italy . ($130-$140) This red Super Tuscan – 90% Cabernet Sauvignon, 5% Sangiovese and 5% Merlot, planted on slopes with southeastern exposure and calcareaous, marly rocky soils, at an altitude of 1140 ft.  It created a sensation when it was first produced in 1980. Each wine is vinified separately and is aged 18 -24 months (Sangiovese in Slavonian oak, Cabernet Sauvignon in barriques, of which 30% new) and remains from 6 to 8 months in bottle.  2004 was an excellent vintage in Tuscany and the resulting wine is quite impressive. The nose is ripe and rich with cigar box spices and tobacco notes intermingled with dark wild berries, smoke, minerals, black currants, and toasted oak hints. Medium to full-bodied, with good intensity, the palate is dense, rich, with a very good sense of purity and harmony. The finish is long and structured with bright acidity and supporting tannins that enhance the quality of the fruit. Pair it with game, red meats and aged cheese.

1996 Castello dei Rampolla Vigna d'Alceo Toscana IGT.  According to The Wine Spectator  this wine is “potentially the Château Mouton-Rothschild of Tuscany. A blend of Cabernet Sauvignon and Petit Verdot it is aged in a 500-year-old vault, “the oldes room in the house,” says Luca, “where everything is round: the ceiling, the barrels, the wines…”  It is a fabulous, superbly structured red, overflowing with deep aromas of cassis and black raspberry, licorice, minerality and mint aromas. Full-bodied, with harmonious  layers of velvety tannins and firm acidity and an endless aftertaste of ripe fruit and spearmint. Gorgeous.    .

2005 Castello dei Rampolla Trebianco Vendemmia Tardiva (late harvest) Toscana.  25% Chardonnay, 15 % Traminer, 60% Sauvignon Blanc from vines planted in  calcareaous and rocky soil.  “This is a very rare wine and 2005 was the last time we made this wine. We aren’t making this anymore,” explained Luca.  The reason: the harvest is done on several phases from the end of October to the end of December. The grapes are left on the plants to dry up and if they are not eaten by wandering deers or if they don’t rot from Fall rains.” ot This is not Vin Santo – a specialty of the region – but a dessert wine that is both unctuous and with a lively acidity, aromas of almonds and nuts and, like all the Castello dei Rampolla wines, a long, endless aftertaste.  Would pair perfectly with foie gras, crostini di fegato, appetizers of all types and desserts.

by Simone Zarmati Diament

It is at the onset of the wine revolution in Italy at the end of the 1960’s and at the end of the mezadria practices in Italy – a social system of metayage with roots in the Middle Ages in which landowners would lend parcels of land to peasants against a 50% of their work – that the legend that Wine Spectator would call in 1998 “ potentially the Château Mouton-Rothschild of Tuscany” began.  

 From 1964 Alceo Di Napoli devoted himself to grape growing, using modern methods. The first vinifications were in 1970’s; the first bottling of wine was done from the grape harvest of 1975.

Alceo  was selling most of the grapes he grew to the Antinori family until, spurred by the success of the first Super Tuscan Sassicaia, he started planting Cabernet Sauvignon with the help of the Antinori then oenologist Giacomo Tachis.  In 1980, the  vintage debut of Sammarco—a predominantly Cabernet-based blend (featuring a small percentage of Sangiovese, and, in more recent vintages, Merlot)- positioned him at the top of the Super Tuscan movement.

But viticulture was aggressive, chemicals were used, heavy machinery upturned the soil which has been leveled from the soil-holding terraces used until the 60’s.  This is when Luca envisioned a new way of doing things. And, after his father Alceo passed away, the winery became completely biodynamic and started producing Vigna d’Alceo in homage to his father. The blend of Alceo’s signature Cabernet Sauvignon with Petit Verdot has become a cult.

"Castello di Rampolla, "  Via Case Sparse 22, Panzano (Greve in Chianti)



pict2877 cognac from 1805 ae dorpict2861 crystal decanter 


A Slow Path to Perfection
Around Cognac, the land, history and a river meet to produce the liquor of the gods.  
By LENNOX MORRISON Wall Street Journal
pict2972In 1795, Baron Jean-Baptiste Otard, having escaped death-by-guillotine in the French Revolution, found the perfect premises for his new business—the Château de Cognac, overlooking the River Charente, 400 kilometers south-west of Paris.
What sold him wasn't the property's 11th-century origins as a fortress, nor the luminous Renaissance halls designed by Leonardo da Vinci, nor even the fact that King Francis I of France was born there.
As a cognac trader, the baron bought the site for its location. Read more…    

 Barrel  making at Courvoisier        and       barrel charring                                               

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