SAN FRANCISCO, June 27, 2012  A record number of wines were judged during the San Francisco International Wine Competition held at San Francisco's Hotel Nikko, June 15th, 16th and 17th, by prestigious judges invited from across the United States.

Tasting 4,556 wines from over 1,300 wineries, 49 wine industry professionals convened for the 32nd year of the San Francisco International Wine Competition to evaluate wines from 26 states and 29 countries. The medal count included 202 Double Gold awards (a wine is elevated to Double Gold status when all judges on a particular panel agree that a wine deserves a Gold medal), 363 Gold medals, 1,358 Silver medals and 1,613 Bronze medals. The competition saw a nine percent increase in wine entries from last year. Big gains were seen in the Cabernet Sauvignon submissions, as well as in Viognier, Rosé, and Sangiovese Blend categories.

"Best in Show" awards went to:

-        Maryhill Winery 2011 Riesling, Columbia Valley, $10 for Best in Show White Wine

-         Kestrel Vintners 2008 Raptor Red Premium Bordeaux Blend, Yakima Valley, $60 for Best in Show Red Wine

-         Champagne Nicolas Feuillatte 2004 Vintage Brut, Champagne, $46 for Best in Show Sparkling Wine; and

-        Barboursville Vineyards 2007 Malvaxia, Virginia, $30 for Best in Show Dessert Wine.

Vincor International Inc. was recognized with "Portfolio of the Year" for excellence across a spectrum of brands. Winemaker Corey Beck, Francis Ford Coppola Winery, Geyserville, California, won the coveted Andre Tchelistcheff "Winemaker of the Year" award. The Tasting Panel Magazine "Winery of the Year" award went to Ste. Michelle Wine Estates of Woodinville, Washington.

Director Anthony Dias Blue, renowned food and wine authority, has coordinated one of the most important and comprehensive wine competitions in the world, both for the quality of wines entered and for the high level of expertise among its judges. Blue noted that "The growth of this competition highlights the strength of the wine industry, its diversity and global impact with 29 countries submitting.  It's exciting to feel the pulse of the wine industry through the views of our judges and the entries from our wineries."

"Best of Varietal" winners were awarded in 28 different categories in 2012: Best Chardonnay: Five Rivers 2010 Chardonnay, California, $11; Best Sauvignon Blanc: South Coast Winery 2011 Musque Clone Sauvignon Blanc, Temecula Valley, $14; Best Viognier: Honey Moon 2011 Viognier, California, $6; Best Pinot Gris: Kenwood Vineyards 2011 Pinot Gris, Russian River, $16; Best Riesling Maryhill Winery 2011 Riesling, Columbia Valley, $10; Best White Blend: San Antonio 2010 Heritage Blanc White Blend, Central Coast, $19; Best Gewurztraminer: Vinarstvi Libal 2011 Select Gewurztraminer, Czech Republic, $14; Best Moscato: Cameron Hughes 2010 Lot 319 Moscato, Sori, Italy, $14; Best Cabernet Sauvignon: Parallel 2008 Estate Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley, $125; Best Merlot: Summers Estate Wines 2009 Summers Ranch Reserve Merlot, Calistoga, $30; Best Malbec: Alamos 2009 Selección Malbec, Mendoza, Argentina $20..... and more.

"Best of Nation" awards were presented to 17 wineries, showcasing the international scope of entries.  "Best of Nation" awards went to:  Alamos, Argentina, importer E & J Gallo; Wakefield Wines, Australia, importer American Wine Distributors; Ponto Nero, Brazil; Castra Rubra Winery, Bulgaria; Jackson-Triggs Okanagan, Canada, importer Vincor International; Panilonco, Chile; Pavlovin, Czech Republic; Champagne Collet, France, importer Champagne Collet USA (MHW); Lyrarakis, Greece, importer Stellar Importing Co.; Castello Banfi, Italy, importer Banfi Vintners; Japan, Okunomatsu, importer Pacific Int'l Liquor; Santo Tomas, Mexico, importer Torrey Wine; Broadbent Wines, Portugal, importer Broadbent Selections; Saint Clair Family Estate, New Zealand, importer Winesellers, LTD.; Blaauwklippen Vineyards, South Africa; Gonzalez Byass, Spain, importer SF Wine Exchange; and Pasaeli, Turkey.

This year's Label Competition awards recognized excellence in label design in the wine industry. Our professional judges selected these winning designs for their high artistic merit and brand-enhancing communicative qualities. For Series Design, a Double Gold was awarded to Telish Winery 2010 Merlot, 2010 Merlot & Cabernet Sauvignon Blend, and 2010 Cabernet Sauvignon, Bulgaria, design by Philip Popoff. For Individual Design, Double Golds were awards to Dearly Beloved 2009 Forever Red, design by Stranger & Stranger, VML 2010 Pinot Noir Limited Release, Russian River, design by Stranger & Stranger, and Predator 2010 Old Vine Zinfandel, Lodi, design by Mark Dolin.

The 2012 San Francisco International Wine Competition sponsors included The Tasting Panel Magazine, Joerg Lehmann Photography, Geoffrey Nelson Photos and Elements Design Group. Blue also thanked Hotel Nikko in San Francisco for hosting the event.

For a complete list of winners and judges, visit the San Francisco International Wine Competition's website:  Photos can be viewed online at


pinot grisThe newly released vintage of J’s California Pinot Gris  is clean, crisp and refreshing with a good blast of bright lemon, kiwi and melon flavors with an interesting minerality; a lively well-balanced acidity and a long, lingering finish.

As winemaker Melissa Stackhouse described it “chock full of Fuji apple, ripe cantaloupe, and apricot. The crisp, clean mouthfeel is bursting with flavors of lemon and lime. A hint of kiwi and sweet orange blossom honey on the palate complements the fruit and acid. In short, this wine rocks.”

The grapes come from Clarksburg, Monterey, Napa and Russian River Valley. The whole clusters of grapes are Coquard-pressed, fermented and slowly cooled and aged separately in stainless steel tanks. Once the wines settled and clarified they are blended together prior to bottling.  This allows for the devleopment of a range of aromatic and flavor components to create a complex wine.  No malolactic fermentation occurs during this process.

This wine stands up to a wide variety of foods from pizza to cheeses, BBQ and chicken, or seafood,  foie gras, pasta, duck and veal.

The best part is that it is on special until July 6, and can be purchased directly from the producer  or 707.431.5479 and the special offer is $180, shipping included for 12 bottles.



As they say, Zinfandel is king in Amador County, CA, in the western foothills of the Sierra Nevada mountain range*. As a result, few wineries feel the need to specialize in native Italian varietals.  Terra d’Oro  is one of them. While it is famous for its outstanding single-vineyard zinfandels produced from very old vines, and for its stylish syrahs, Terra d’Oro  ( trans. "Land of Gold"  ) has been making wines from Italian varieties  since the 1970s.

These wines, all moderately-priced, are surprisingly true to their origins while exhibiting the intensity, the richness and fruitiness of the New World’s terroirs.


tdo-v2009 bb bottle2008 Terra d’Oro Barbera, Amador, CA (  $18). After 2 weeks of maceration in stainless steel and 15 months in French and Hungarian oak barrels, this  ruby-red 100%  Barbera is elegant  with layers of juicy black fruit, exotic spice, and a silky mouthfeel spiked with pleasant tannins yet tempered by a lively acidity.  Famous in the Piedmont region of Northern Italy for Barbera d’Alba and Barbera d’Asti,  Barbera is one of the most successful of the Piemontese grapes to be adapted in California. In Amador it has found its terroir.  It pairs well with grilled meats and veggies and any food a good Pinot Noir would.


2008 Terra d’Oro Sangiovese, Amador, CA  ($18) An eminently Tuscan grape used in Chianti, Brunello di Montalcino and Vino Nobile di Montepulciano among others, the temperamental Sangiovese was brought to California by Italian settlers during the Gold Rush in the late 1800s. The high acidity and light body characteristics of sangiovese grape are tamed by minimizing crop to increase concentration and color.  Aged in old and new American oak  for 14 months the result is a bright and juicy Sangiovese with aromas of red fruit and spices with  silky tannins and a refined finish which  pairs with beef; boar ragout over pasta, burgers and goat cheese.


2008 Terra d’Oro Aglianico Amador, CA  ($18) When I hear aglianico what immediately comes to mind in the Aglianico del Vulture, a black grape grown in the south of Italy -  namely  Basilicata and Campania where it was brought by ancient Greek settlers before Roman times.    The name may be a corruption of Vitis hellenica, Latin for "Greek vine”. It is a relative rarity in California. This deep garnet 100% Aglianico comes from the Shenendoah Valley in Amador County and makes a light medium-bodied wine, with a complex aroma of smoked bacon and juicy fruit, fleshy and round with plum, cherry and jam  notes, rich with mocha and vanilla and a velvet-like texture, with  good acids and a bit of spice. It works perfectly with BBQ ribs and 4th of July fare .


2008 Terra d’Oro Forte “Super Tuscan” Blend, Amador, CA  ($28) Fruit and spice, muscle and finesse, Dark red fruit flavors, jam and candied apple spiced with nutmeg, dried vanilla bean and cracked black pepper! This full-bodied dark red wine is a blend of Amador County Sangiovese and Napa Cabernet Sauvignon vinified separately until settled, because of their different characteristics, and then blended and aged together in 100% new French Oak for 6 weeks prior to bottling.  Just like a Super-Tuscan it pairs well with a variety of dishes from steak and stews to pan-seared salmon over sweet corn risotto and crispy pancetta with a tomato beurre blanc, and cheeses.


tdo-v2009 ag bottleHistory of Amador county

*Wine and gold came hand in hand in Amador county , the epicenter of the Mother Lode during the Gold Rush in the 1850’s. Fortune-seekers, attracted by the discovery of the famous “Mother Lode” — Mother Lode is the name given to the long alignment of hard-rock gold deposits stretching northwest to southeast in the Sierra Nevada of California, one of the most productive gold-producing districts in the United States — chose to plant vineyards first to satisfy the thirst of thousands of miners and later to make a living after the mines began to run dry. By the 1890s, the foothill region had over 100 wineries (more than any other region in California).

By 1920 most of the gold mines had closed and Prohibition laws compelled wineries to shut their doors. This region was revived in 1970, when a young winemaker named Cary Gott and his father-in-law, Walter Field, established Montevina Winery. As the first new post-Prohibition winery in the Sierra Foothills, Montevina helped to return both Amador County and Zinfandel to the attention of fine wine aficionados and to remake the Sierra Nevada foothills as one of the best wine regions around.

Terra d’Oro wines were first released in 1973 under the Montevina label and today Terra d’Oro Winery makes world-class wines.


Four Mondavi Sisters — Angelina, Alycia, Riana, and Giovanna — the grand daughters of Peter Mondavi — who retained the direction of winemaking at Krug after the legendary feud with his brother Robert in 1965 which resulted in the latter being fired and opening his own winery in 1966 —  have inaugurated Dark Matter Wines in Napa Valley with the launching of Dark Matter Zinfandel from their vineyard in Howell Mountain, Napa Valley.

The 28-year old Angelina is assistant to winemaker and partner Jayson Woodbridge. She began her career at the age of 10 assisting the lab manager at Charles Krug before landing her first job with Hess Collection. While working for her Masters degree in enology at the University of Adelaide she worked at Yalumba, Australia’s oldest family-owned wine company in Barossa Valley, but on her return to the US she worked in Pine Ridge Vineyards in Stags Leap District, as their assistant winemaker until 2010.

According to Robert Parker who awarded 2006 Dark Matter Zinfandel 92 points:  "Extremely complex by Zinfandel standards, this medium to full-bodied effort reveals no evidence of oak aging, and it finishes with tremendous balance in spite of its substantial size and fruit "   The cost: $100 or  $300 for a 3-pack.

The wine is sold for $300 for a three-pack. For information, send an email to or call 548-9651.

By ERIC PFANNER ,  the NYTimes

dsc01764Verona, Italy, - Across much of Europe, wine consumption is flat or sinking. The United States is only slightly more buoyant. To stay in the game, the industry is trying hard to develop new markets, especially in Asia.

In China, perhaps the most promising Asian country for European producers, France has been the main beneficiary of growing consumer interest in wine. Now Italy is trying to catch up.



dsc01755This week at the Vinitaly wine fair in Verona, which bills itself as the largest wine gathering in the world, with more than 4,500 producers represented and more than 150,000 visitors expected, the organizers announced a partnership with the Hong Kong International Wine and Spirits Fair, under which they will promote each other’s activities.

Among other things, Vinitaly will encourage Italian producers to exhibit their wines at the Hong Kong event — an important promotional tool for a highly fragmented industry.

Over all, Italian wine exports rose 13 percent last year, to 4.4 billion euros, or $5.8 billion, according to Vinitaly. But in Asia, Italy has some ground to make up. In the first six months of last year, France exported 5.5 million cases of wine to China, accounting for 48 percent of total imports, according to Chinese customs data. Italy, with fewer than one million cases, claimed a mere 8.3 percent of Chinese imports, putting it in third place, behind Australia.

“We need to do more to educate consumers,” said Lamberto Vallarino Gancia, president of Federvini, a trade group. “Asian consumers are very brand-conscious.”

Italy’s late start in Asia contrasts with its consistent strength in the United States, where it is the biggest foreign producer. In 2010, it supplied 30 percent of total American wine imports by value, according to the Commerce Department, compared with 24 percent provided by France.

Cultural ties have helped Italian winemakers in the United States, where French producers are still recovering from anti-French sentiment after the American invasion of Iraq in 2003, which the French government opposed.

In China, on the other hand, French wines have benefited from a perceived association with luxury and status. Wine from Bordeaux houses like Lafite-Rothschild, Mouton Rothschild and Latour have soared in price in recent years, in part because of Chinese demand, wine dealers say. Chinese investors have even bought several historic Bordeaux chateaus.

Now there are signs that the Chinese enthusiasm for high-end Bordeaux may be waning slightly, with the price of Lafite-Rothschild easing from the highs recorded a year or two ago.

Is this the opening that the Italians needed? Italy has some noted wines, like Sassicaia from Tuscany and those produced by the house of Gaja in Piedmont, but few of them fetch the four-digit prices that are not uncommon for top Bordeaux in great vintages.

To try to strengthen the link in consumers’ minds between Italian wines and other examples of the finer things in life, the country’s wine industry has recruited the Altagamma Foundation, which represents Italian fashion houses and luxury goods producers, as another partner.

Santo Versace, brother of the fashion designer Donatella Versace and president of Altagamma, said at a news conference during Vinitaly that members of the group would feature Italian wines at fashion shows and other events around the world.

“Fashion, design, jewelry, food, hospitality — they all give shape to the way in which Italy is identified abroad, being at the same time the true engine of our economy,” Mr. Versace said in prepared remarks. He also said that promoting “synergy” among these industries could be beneficial.

To promote the association with fashion, Vinitaly organized an unusual tasting in which more than 100 of the best winemakers in Italy poured their wines to an invitation-only crowd — including a handful of Asian critics, bloggers and buyers.

Coordinated action like this is often lacking in the European wine industry, which celebrates the diversity of its producers, geographical origins and wine styles.

Thierry Desseauve, a French wine critic who has promoted French wines in Asia, said European vintners should look beyond old rivalries that have divided wine regions and countries, and work together to promote their products in growing Asian markets.

“We think there is not one country in the wine world, but one civilization, mostly a European civilization, and we need to develop this civilization in Asia,” he said at Vinitaly, which continues through Wednesday.



Monty and Sara Preiser

The Appellations of Sonoma County

Most enophiles are aware of the Russian River, Chalk Hill, and Carneros districts of Sonoma, but few others. As Sonoma county winemakers continue to refine their decisions as to what varieties grow best in what locations, the designation of the wine’s appellation will become more and more important.

In Sonoma County, as in other wine producing areas of this country, there are grape growing/producing regions that each possess characteristics approved as unique by the Government, and, thus, are granted status as an American Viticultural Area (commonly referred to as “AVA” or “Appellation). While memorizing these AVAs is not necessary, it will enhance your understanding and fun to have at least a general working knowledge of each one, and what you can expect from a wine that bears an Appellation name on its label.

Modern enology allows the luxury of matching grape varieties with the locations that are best suited to grow them. Individual regions feature distinct meso or microclimates (functions of wind, rain, temperature, and time-in-the-sun) as well as terrain – hill, valley, foothills, type of soil, etc. When all of these factors, which obviously affect the grapes, are put together, they can be said to create a specific “terroir,” or, for lack of a better definition, “sense of place.”

Why is it important to know a wine’s AVA? For many reasons, most of which have to do with predicting how a wine should taste or be paired, before you actually taste or purchase it. Being cognizant of what an AVA brings to the bottle can help you select a wine to go with a particular dish, or decide whether a price is fair. For example, the Russian River AVA is well known for producing cooler climate varietals like Pinot Noir and Chardonnay. If you saw a Zinfandel with a Russian River Appellation, you might have some doubts about ordering it before having the opportunity somewhere to taste it.

But the good thing about drinking wine is that once a bottle is opened and you actually taste the wine yourself, all bets are off. You can then make the call as to whether you like it and what foods you want to accompany it. If you are satisfied, that is all that matters. Let’s discuss the various Appellations below.

Sonoma County: Placing this first since all the other fifteen smaller appellations are a part of it, a winery might use this appellation if a bottle of its wine contained grapes from more than two viticultural areas other than those in the Northern Sonoma (see below) region. If it sounds like “Sonoma County” is a catch-all, it is. There is no unifying description of its characteristics.

Alexander Valley: Located in the northern part of the county, Alexander Valley includes both the flatlands and the hills to the east and west (22 miles long and from 2-7 wide). The diverse micro-climates support the growing of a number of grape types, though Cabernet Sauvignnon is the star. Best Varietals: Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Zinfandel, some Chardonnay.

Bennett Valley: This is a small AVA, but rising in stature all the time. It benefits tremendously by being bordered by three mountains which permit the cool early fog and winds to blow from the Pacific down the gap which is Bennett Valley. The extra hang time needed to obtain ripeness allows for very balanced wines. Best Varietals: Pinot Noir, Chardonnay, Syrah, Zinfandel.

Carneros (formally “Las Carneros”): Don’t be confused as this Appellation is partly in Napa as well (one of only three places in the U.S. of which we are aware where an Appellation crosses county lines – we only knew of two until a few months ago when the TTB approved the Pine Mountain – Cloverdale Peak appellation right here in Sonoma). As Carneros is just off the San Pablo Bay in the county’s southernmost area, it is quite cool. Best Varietals: Pinot Noir, Chardonnay, and, recently, some excellent Merlot.

Chalk Hill: This name comes from the soil of white, chalky, volcanic ash found in the mountains (actually there is no chalk – it is a mixture of quartzite, sand, and loam). The region, north of Santa Rosa, experiences plenty of sun and heat from a thermal belt that influences the temperatures. Best Varietals: Cabernet Sauvignon, Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc.

Dry Creek Valley: Named for Dry Creek, a tributary to the Russian River, and irrigated by Lake Sonoma, this region is about 16 miles long and 2 miles wide and experiences warm late mornings and afternoons following morning fog from the Pacific. Wines are grown on the Valley floor and hillsides above. Best Varietals: Zinfandel, Sauvignon Blanc, some Chardonnay.

Fort Ross – Seaview: The county’s newest appellation, approved by the TTB in late 2011, its 27,500 acres were carved out of the 480,000 acre Sonoma Coast, the latter of which actually extends somewhat inland. Truly located on the shoreline, this AVA was granted its distinct status because much of it is mountainous and thus above the fog line that often affects the rest of the older, larger appellation. Best Varietals: Pinot Noir and Chardonnay.

Green Valley (formally Green Valley of Russian River): This small, beautiful area near Sebastopol is worth exploring on many levels (redwood forests, llama farms), but from a wine standpoint is is significant that it may be the coolest, foggiest region in Sonoma County – even cooler than the rest of the Russian River Valley. Best Varietals: Chardonnay and Pinot Noir.

Knights Valley: Located next to Napa Valley, and protected from the cool Pacific Ocean influences due to its geography, this region is the warmest in all of Sonoma County. Its warm days and cool nights provide the ideal weather for producing Bordeaux grapes of all kinds. Best Varietals: Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Sauvignon Blanc, Petit Verdot.

Northern Sonoma: This region encompasses a half dozen other appellations (Chalk Hill and the Alexander, Dry Creek, Green, Knights, and Russian River Valleys) and was primarily championed by giant Gallo, which wanted a definitive umbrella appellation so it could make an “estate wine” at its winery in Dry Creek using grapes from the other aforementioned areas. Gallo is the only winery using this AVA designation, which is cooled by the Pacific rather than the San Pablo Bay, and has sedimentary rather than volcanic soils.

Pine Mountain – Cloverdale Peak: This is an interesting new (Fall of 2011) AVA, in that it includes part of northeastern Sonoma County and portions of Mendocino County. Only about 5% of its 4,600 acres are planted with just a bit more under development. The area is relatively fog free, so it has ample sunlight, and is cooler than the Alexander Valley, much of which stretches below. Best Varietals: Zinfandel, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, some Chardonnay.

Rockpile: The county’s newest appellation, its name is quite descriptive of the hardscrabble soils and actual rocks in and around which the vines here must struggle to grow (survival of the fittest, as they say). Rockpile is also above the fog line, so, while ocean cooled, the evening mist is not a factor and sun is plentiful. Best Varietals: Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah, Petite Sirah, Zinfandel.

Russian River Valley: Not really including the entire Russian River Valley, this region follows the river from Healdsburg south to Santa Rosa and then west to Occidental. It is remarkable for the fog that rolls down the river banks from the ocean and lasts until late morning, creating the perfect cool climate for world class wines. Best Varietals: Pinot Noir, Chardonnay, some Syrah.

Sonoma Coast: A huge geographical area abutting the Pacific coast (San Pablo Bay in the south all the way to the Mendocino border) belies the fact that it is sparsely planted. Cooler and wetter than most of Sonoma, the vineyards benefit from being above the fog line, and ultimately achieve great balance due to a long growing season. Best Varietals: Pinot Noir and Chardonnay.

Sonoma Mountain: East of the Sonoma Valley near the town of Glen Ellen, this region allows a number of varietals to be successfully grown because of its diverse micro climates created by mountain crevices and some rolling slopes. Primarily eastern facing and above the fog line, sunshine is abundant. Best Varietals: Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah, Sauvignon Blanc, Zinfandel.

Sonoma Valley: Running north/south between the town of Sonoma and Santa Rosa, this is also called “The Valley of the Moon.” The mountains on both sides protect the area from Pacific weather and so the southern part is cooled from the San Pablo Bay while the northern areas can become quite hot. Best Varietals: Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, Zinfandel, Semillon, Merlot.


jenny benzie                                                      Oak in the wine glass?

Wine tasting notes often refer to wines as oaky, but what exactly does that mean?  The use of oak in winemaking can play an important role in the final product in several different ways.

First, consider the source of the wood.  Most American oak barrels typically come from the species Quercus alba, which is a white oak species.  This oak has wider grains and lower wood tannins.  The wider grains allows for a quicker, more concentrated release of aromas into the wine.  American oak typically imparts flavors with sweeter nuances like vanilla, along with coconut (think sunscreen) and dill (think pickles).  This oak is used for big, powerful reds and Chardonnays from warmer climates.

In France, Quercus petrea is more common for its finer grain and richer aromatic components.  This produces silky, softer style tannins.  Warm sensations such as baking spices (cinnamon, clove, nutmeg) are more apparent with this type of wood.  Some winemakers choose their wood from one specific forest as each forest may add slightly different nuances to the final blend.  Due to the finer grain of French oak, less of the tree may be used in barrel production.  Therefore, the cost of French barrels is higher than that of American barrels.

Another varying degree is the intensity of 'toast' inside the barrel.  Yes, it's the same concept as when you 'toast' a piece of bread (not the toast at your friend's wedding...).  Toasting ranges from lightly charred, medium toast, to heavily toasted.  The lighter the toasting, more of the original oak flavor is imparted on the wine. The heavier the toast, the greater impact it has on the wine's taste and color.  

The size of a barrel is important in regards to the ratio of surface area to volume.  The most common size is the Bordeaux barrique which hold 59 gallons (225 liters).  The next most common is the Burgundy barrique at 60 gallons (228 liters).  Some winemakers use a foudre, a large barrel made of oak (or chestnut) that ranges in size from 150-350 hectoliters.  These large vessels are used more for ageing the wine than for the qualities the wood imparts on the wine

This takes us to the age of a barrel and it's varying effects.  The first time a barrel is used, it provides a wine with good texture and a substantial amount of tannins.  With each subsequent years the barrel is in use, the nuances it offers become less.  Some wineries use only 100% new oak every year (now you know why that wine costs so much!).  Others will use the barrel up to three years, then scrap the inside of the barrel, retoast it to their specifications, then put it back into rotation. 'Seasoned' barrels (used several years without a retoasting) are referred to as neutral barrels and impart very little on the wine, but allow it to age with a slight exposure to oxygen.

Next time you open a wine from your wine collection, think about all these barrel factors and how they help to create the tastes and aromas of your fine wine.


Sommelier Jenny Benzie ( 561.779.7687)  is a wine educator who works with individuals and groups and creates wine events.


CONEGLIANO, Italy - PROSECCO came down from the hills of Treviso after World War II, making a name for itself in the chic cafes of Venice, and later around the world, as a fresh, simple and appealing sparkling wine.

But lately it’s become a lot less simple. Two years ago, a new area for prosecco production was created in the flat valley extending into the Friuli region, and this has encouraged winemakers in the original zone to set their wines apart from the new ones.

In the new area, which encompasses nine provinces, most vineyards are large and their permitted yields high, and the vines can be mechanically harvested, all of which facilitates more-generic, lower-priced wine.

Here in the original zone, amid the steep conical hills between the towns of Conegliano and Valdobbiadene in the province Treviso, most of the tiny plots carved out of the twisted earth centuries ago continue to be worked by hand by independent farmers. This area, now called prosecco superiore and designated a Denominazione di Origine Controllata e Garantita (D.O.C.G.), the highest level in Italian wine, is a complex mosaic of microclimates. Many winemakers are trying to showcase these distinctions, with noteworthy results.

While most prosecco is nonvintage, enabling producers to blend wine from the previous year, more and more superiore wineries are making a millesimato, in which all the grapes must be from one vintage. Moreover, a new system called rive indicates vintage-dated proseccos made entirely of grapes from a single town or hamlet.

“Every hillside — or rive, as we say in dialect — has a name, and each offers small particularities in pedoclimatic conditions,” said Franco Adami, winemaker and former president of the consortium of producers that is responsible for creating and administering the D.O.C.G. regulations. “The Rive Farra di Soligo is different from the Rive di San Martino, which is different from the Rive di Ogliano. This specialization of micro-zones, as exemplified by the rive system, was something I was committed to bringing to this region.”

Many of the winemakers are specializing even further by producing a wine from a single vineyard. An excellent example is the Brut Prosecco Particella 68, made by Sorelle Bronca from a tiny parcel in the Rive di Colbertaldo. It has a subtle yeasty aroma of roasted peaches and dried flower petals, with a long, refreshingly acidic finish.

Winemaking itself is changing in the region. Prosecco is generally made using Charmat (also known as the Italian method), whereby wine, following its primary fermentation in stainless steel, undergoes a second fermentation in large pressurized tanks called autoclaves to make it sparkling. This practice was developed in the late 1800s at the Scuola Enologica in Conegliano, Italy’s oldest wine school, and local producers have an almost paternal affection for it. But there is nothing that says prosecco must be made this way.

A growing number of winemakers are experimenting with classic method refermentation in the bottle. Usually, sugar is added along with the yeast to induce the second fermentation, but some, like Bellenda in the S.C. 1931, are making a bottle-fermented pas dosè (without added sugar), creating a wine that is drier, yeastier and more complex than most proseccos.

There is nothing that says a prosecco must be bubbly, either. Though uncommon, nonsparkling prosecco is an intriguing wine that retains the inimitable character of the glera grape, as the prosecco grape is now called, and the unique terroir it comes from. Adami, for example, makes a beautifully aromatic prosecco tranquillo in which the absence of bubbles seems to make the particularities of site and grape stand out even more.

Prosecco is made predominantly from glera, but the regulations permit up to 15 percent of other approved grape varieties to be used. Cuvée del Fondatore by Valdo, one of the oldest wineries in the region, is made with 10 percent chardonnay matured in small oak barrels for six months, blended with 90 percent glera. The wine is then slowly refermented in autoclaves for one year, resulting in an unusually sophisticated prosecco that seems more mature than it is.

While some winemakers are exploring new techniques, others are looking to the past. One promising example of this is sur lie, which is how prosecco was made before the advent of the autoclave. After the wine is bottled, a small amount of yeast is added and refermentation occurs. But, unlike the classic method, here the sediment remains in the bottle.

This makes for a slightly cloudy, fizzy wine that combines a distinctly rustic quality with straightforward elegance and restraint, like the Sottoriva Sur Lie of Malibrán, which has the aroma of rising bread dough and a lean, almost metallic attack with prickly bubbles, followed by tart crabapple and a bone-dry finish.

Another taste of the past comes from Paolo Bisol of Ruggeri winery. “I was fascinated by the old vines — 80, 90, 100 years old or more — scattered throughout Valdobbiadene with their thick contorted trunks and roots that go way, way down into the earth,” said Mr. Bisol. “They give a prosecco that is more robust, more profound and a bit more mineral than a regular one.”

Indeed, Ruggeri’s Vecchie Viti prosecco made from ancient glera, verdiso, bianchetta and perera vines is an extraordinarily subtle though lively, elegant and unique wine, of which less than 5,000 bottles are made annually.

While the existence of two prosecco appellations is bound to create some confusion, the much stricter D.O.C.G. regulations will limit yields and ensure that the grapes actually come from the hilly area, while the need to distinguish prosecco superiore from the regular one will encourage producers to excel.

Still, results remain to be seen.

“We can make regulations,” said Franco Adami, the former president of the producers’ consortium, “but we can’t regulate the market. People must be able to taste the difference. The qualitative value of these changes is up to consumers to decide.”

Taste for Yourself

Here are new and noteworthy proseccos from D.O.C.G. producers available in the United States.

ADAMI Valdobbiadene Prosecco Tranquillo Giardino; imported by Dalla Terra Winery Direct and Martin Scott; $16.

A great example of the little-known still version of prosecco. Aromatic and medium-bodied with tropical fruit flavors.

MALIBRÁN Valdobbiadene Frizzante Sottoriva 2009; the Admiralty Beverage Company and George Wines; $18.

Bottle-fermented in the traditional sur lie manner. A bit cloudy with an almost prickly fizziness and crisp sour-bitter flavors. Rustic yet elegant.

PERLAGE Valdobbiadene Spumante Extra-Dry Rive di Ogliano Col di Manza 2010; Chatrand Imports; $18.

From one of the new rive designations; some residual sugar is balanced by mouth-puckering green apple and nice mineral finish. Biodynamic.

RUGGERI Valdobbiadene Spumante Brut Vecchie Viti 2010; Villa Italia; $39.

It’s 90 percent glera, with verdiso, bianchetta and perera grapes from 80- to 100-year-old vines.

SORELLE BRONCA Valdobbiadene Spumante Brut Particella 68; Polaner Selections and Oliver McCrum Wines; $20.

From a parcel in the Rive di Colbertaldo, using no added sugar and minimal sulfur.



Wines, Wineries, and Dining for the New Year

DeLoach, Moshin, Oakville Ranch, and Brassica


Introduction: It is time to start planning your California wine country trip if you intend to travel to California during the 2012 season. Many wineries that you will want to see will start filling their appointment slots a few months in advance of your arrival, so we recommend early reservations to confirm visits to the places you desire. We will try to help you along in your selection process with profiles of a number of wineries over the next month or two.


DeLoach Vineyards: We have been recommending DeLoach as a must visit for a number of years now, and somehow the superb wines continue to improve. There has to be a line beyond which they cannot get any better, but we don’t know where that is or when it might be reached.

At our last tasting, which was not blind, we highly graded each wine and began to wonder whether we were influenced by our previous love of the wines, respect and friendship with the owners and managers, and/or our enjoyment of the property. We well know that all these things affect perception. So even though we do not place much stock in number scores, we took a look at what the major magazines had said, figuring that a few wines would have received fair scores, a few good, and a few very good (thus, we would have actually learned nothing). Amazingly, 11 wines (most of the portfolio) had received scores of between 90 – 95 points from respected publications. So we are certainly not alone in giving high kudos to DeLoach.

We do have our favorites, however, and drink them whenever the opportunity arises. For Chardonnay we are partial to those from the 2009 Durell Vineyard ($50), and the 2009 O.F.S. ($32). For Pinot Noirs we gravitate to the 2008 Green Valley ($45), 2008 Swicegood ($45), and 2008 Maboroshi ($45). And for Zin we think the 2008 Forgotten Vines ($36) rivals California’s best, though with that said, the 2008 Nova ($32) is almost as good. 707-526-9111


Moshin Vineyards: Off the beaten path for sure, a visit to Sonoma County’s Moshin is a welcome throwback to the times of simpler tasting rooms and smaller family operated wineries.  The first person we saw was taking out the trash, and he turned out to be the owner, Rick Moshin, who, with his wife Amber, pretty much run the whole shooting match. 

We first sampled a superb 2010 Morris Ranch Sonoma Coast Pinot Gris ($21), which is mostly sold to the wine club only (a good reason to join). We then talked about varying styles of Sauvignon Blanc as we sipped the outstanding 2009 Dry Creek Valley Larrick Vineyard ($22) with its perfectly rounded finish. From there we moved on to Chardonnays, and will highly recommend the 2008 Russian River Valley ($28) and the 2008 Bacigalupi ($38). If you know what fabulous wines come from the latter vineyard, and what many other wineries charge for Bacigalupi Chard, you will easily recognize the good deal to be found at Moshin.

Then came a number of the winery’s outstanding Pinot Noirs (who could have fathomed they made so many different bottles at this lovely, but small, facility?). Using the fruit from some of the state’s most noted vineyards, the winery’s specialty in producing this varietal shines. We appreciated the opportunity to recognize distinct differences between 6 or 7 different Pinots (most of them vineyard designates). We also appreciated the price points, which ran anywhere from $26 to $65 per bottle – something for everyone for certain. Our favorites were the 2007 Moshin Estate ($65), the 2008 Morris Ranch ($44), and the 2008 Halo’s Hill ($45). Besides the varietals we mentioned above, Moshin offers Merlot, Petite Syrah, a Late Harvest, and Zinfandel. Tastings are daily from 11:00 a.m. - 4:30 p.m., and tours are available by appointment. 707-433-5499


Oakville Ranch: You never know what is at the top of any mountain range in wine country, and so if you can arrange a tour (or two or three) at the right place(s), you are in for some gorgeous scenery and an opportunity to learn some viticulture as well. Oakville Ranch is one of those “right” places, not only for the views, but for the wine. Sitting on a sloping plateau that rises to 1400 feet on the east side of Napa, the rocky volcanic soils slowly release nutrients to the vines that already have to struggle to force their roots to water. These factors lead to wines that are highly concentrated in flavor.

We recently toured the estate with affable and interesting vineyard manager Phil Coturri, and then dined with GM Paula Kornell and winemaker Anne Vawter, both women of brains and beauty. We tasted through the entire portfolio, and choosing which wine to recommend is easy – all of them. Each in its own way is a serious example of how good wine can be (and at a reasonable prices, too).

The 2007 Napa Valley Chardonnay ($45) makes you remember how good a balanced big Chardonnay can be, even (perhaps we should say especially) when most of it ages in new oak. Unfortunately the 2008 Napa Cabernet Sauvignon is sold out, but year in and year out this wine features concentrated black fruits co-existing with spices from layer to layer. So keep an eye out for 2009. Our favorite varietal might be Cabernet Franc, and so we are in love with the 2007 Robert’s Blend ($92), which has 90% Cab Franc and boasts flavors of black cherries and blueberries supported by bold tannins. And while we are not always lucky enough to prefer the least expensive product of whatever kind, here the 2009 Field Blend ($32), a combination of Zinfandel and Petite Sirah, hits our palates in precisely the right manner. 707-944-9665


Brassica Mediterranean Kitchen and Winebar: There is nothing that famed chef Cindy Pawlcyn cannot do when it comes to culinary ventures. Her newest restaurant, Brassica (which is Latin for a family of plants known as mustards that grow in both Napa and the Mediterranean), is already a hit among locals and will no doubt be one of the “go to places” once the season begins in May.

The cuisine at Brassica, inspired by the flavors of Southern Europe, Northern Africa, and the Middle East, is like nothing else in wine country. Traditional dishes (though each with an additional unknown oomph that great chefs all seem able to add) such as humus, baba ghanoush, fried stuffed olives, and stuffed grape leaves, are joined on the menu by what will soon be signature dishes such as coriander & thyme braised rabbit; Tunisian halibut; crispy whole sardines; and leek & pancetta risotto with fried egg. All delicious. But a true destination dish is the succulent Moroccan lamb shank, which easily qualifies as the best we have ever had.

What about wine? Well, Brassica offers the most extensive by-the-glass wine list in the Valley with a focus on small producers as well as an eclectic assortment of local wines on tap that have been produced just for Cindy. Look for the “Brassica 12” on the wine list or menu, as this section showcases a dozen small production Napa winemakers that do not have their own tasting rooms. The opportunity to order small tasting pours allows for wonderful experimentation. Brassica has it all. 707-963-0700

The Columbia Restaurant, Florida’s Oldest Restaurant, was founded in 1905 in Ybor City.   In 1902, Casimiro Hernandez, Sr., the “Don” of the Hernandez-Gonzmart generations had  left his home in Havana for a new life in Ybor City, Fla., the cigar capital of the world, with his wife, Adela, and four sons, where he started the Saloon Columbia. Grateful to be in the land of opportunity, he adopted the name of his new café from the popular song “Columbia, Gem of the Ocean”.

To honor the first and second generation family members of the 106-year-old Columbia, Richard Gonzmart, a fourth generation family member of The Columbia,  created a private label spirits line:

don casimiro rum bottleDon Casimiro Classic Silver Rum $18                                                                                                                                                              chacho bourbon bottle

Chacho Bourbon Whiskey $36: a smooth tasting, small-batch that is aged in oak 121-proof bourbon. Evelio “Chacho” Hernandez, the youngest son of Casimiro Hernandez Sr., roasted coffee for the family business for over 55 years. Chacho, short for “muchacho” or “the kid,” was known for his youthful warm-heartedness and zest for life. But his love of bourbon sometimes surpassed his love of roasting the best coffee in Ybor City.

Don Casimiro Classic Silver Rum and Chacho Bourbon Whiskey are made by Terressentia in Charleston, South Carolina.used in the bars and kitchens and  served in all seven Columbia locations in Florida, and sold in gift shops adjacent to the Columbia in Tampa’s Ybor City, and in Sarasota on St. Armands Circle.

All Columbia Restaurants are owned and operated by 4th and 5th generation members of the founding family. For additional information:




dsc09610For many wine consumers, the name Sonoma-Cutrer is synonymous with Chardonnay which the Sonoma-Cutrer Vineyards has been making since 1973, in the heart of the Russian River Valley of northern California.

With vineyards in the hillsides and rocky foothills in what became recognized as the Sonoma Coast Appellation, the Burgundian-style Chardonnays:  flinty, crisp with aromas of apple and pears mingling with hints of tropical fruit in the palate; have always been different than the traditional oaky, buttery California benchmark chardonnays;  a decision that Michael “Mick” Schroeter continues to respect  in his new role as Winemaking Director — the third since the winery came into existence.

After a very exciting career at Penfold’s, in Australia —  Mick  Schroeter  worked on Penfold’s legendary Grange Hermitage—, serendipity drove him to  California, where he ended up settling with his family.  Before his new position at Sonoma-Cutrer, he made his mark during 17 years at Geyser Peak Winery in California as Vice President of Winemaking for which he was twice  named “Winemaker of the Year” at the London International Wine & Spirit Competition.   Sonoma Cutrer  is under the Brown Foreman umbrella.

Originally, Sonoma Cutrer set out to produce only one wine— terroir-driven Chardonnay,  but has added a limited production of  world-class Pinot Noirs.  “It is a unique assimilation of traditional Burgundian winemaking methods and our own technological innovation,” says Mick of the winemaking process. “ It's a perfect balance of tradition and discovery, bringing forth noble wines that express a sense of place, vintage after vintage.”

At a luncheon at Joe’s Stone Crab in Miami Beach with  winemaker Mick Shoreter and Robinson Brown IV of Brown Foreman,  the food friendly wines were perfect with stone crabs, luscious seafood and many sides that would be perfect for a Thanksgiving dinner.

dsc09619Sonoma-Cutrer Chardonnay Sonoma Valley Les Pierres 2006 $ 37.95

Yellow-gold with perfect clarity, the wine displays distinct aromas of spice and lemon-lime over a pronounced flinty mineral backbone typical of the vineyard. “Full of deep, complex flavors that speak to the leanness of the soil, Les Pierres is a wine worthy of our Grand Cru approach,” says Winemaker Mick.    “Flavors of green apple and lemon evolve to dried lemon peel and lime zest, while floral notes recall the acacia flowers of the Burgundy countryside in spring.  Careful oak aging and fermentation impart a hint of fresh-baked bread crust. The wine’s structure is firm, focused and elegant, and the remarkably long finish is classic Les Pierres: tight, lemon-mineral, extending with great acidity."  

dsc09614Sonoma-Cutrer Sonoma Coast Chardonnay $20.00

a mineral, flinty nose, flavors of lemon, apple, pear, pineapple and cantaloupe-the full array of Sonoma's cornucopia of fruit, joins a nutty, spicy, coconutty lightly oak profile that stakes out a unique territory . A great wine with oysters and seafood




dsc09618Sonoma-Cutrer Pinot Noir Russian River 2008  $35.00

Firm, intense and vibrant yet with a mineral edge, full-bodied wine, with classic aromas of red and black berries enriched with tobacco leaf and spices, with medium tannins balanced by a good acidity, and a nice lengthy finish. Pairs well with batter-fried lobster or any other fish, chicken or meat dish.


seven deadly zins


Halloween is just around the corner and so are the tricks, treats, ghosts and ghouls.  Michael David Winery,  in California’s Lodi Wine Country, has come up with four treats for Halloween night.

The 2009 7 Deadly Zins ($16) is Michael David’s flagship wine.  It is a blend of fruit from seven different Zin vineyards, and the wine has aromas of sweet plums and pepper, while flavors of blueberry, raspberry, cinnamon, and black pepper pack the palate from start to finish. The silky-smooth tannins hold the wine together and deliver a soft, fruit driven experience.

The 2009 6th Sense Syrah ($16) is a blend of Syrah and small amounts of Petite Sirah for complexity.  This wine has full, rich flavors of dark berries and plum with a long finish.  It’s a great wine for BBQ and stewed meats.

The 2009 Incognito Red ($16), is an interesting red Rhône blend of 40% Syrah, 25% Cinsault, 11% Carignan, 11% Mourvedre, 9% Petite Sirah, 2% Grenache and 2% Tannat. It spent 16 months in French oak and is a crowd pleasing red blend.

The 2010 Incognito White ($18), is a complex white blend of 63% Viognier, 21% Chardonnay, 7% Muscat, 5% Sauvignon Blanc, and 4% Roussanne.



Marlborough—reputed as the most desirable region in New Zealand for Sauvignon Blanc, also produces great Pinot Noirs. Here are two winemakers who will tell us why:

Simon Fell, Winemaker at Villa Maria, Marlborough, Auckland, New Zealand - click to listen

Founded in 1961,Villa Maria  is New Zealand's second-largest winery, producing 700,000 cases to 800,000 cases a year of Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay, Gewürztraminer, Riesling, Merlot/Cabernet Sauvignon and Pinot Noir. Villa Maria was the first wine company in New Zealand to declare the winery a “cork-free zone,” sealing  all wines from the 2004 vintage onwards with a screwcap to ensure quality in every bottle.
Proudly family owned, Villa Maria sources grapes from the best of New Zealand's wine growing regions to produce wines of exceptional quality. Exceptional indeed! Listen as Simon Fell, Villa Maria’s winemaker,  tells us why.

Villa Maria Estate 2010 Cellar Selection Sauvignon Blanc Marlborough, 100% Sauvignon Blanc.   A beautifully pure and lively wine, overflowing with aromas of ripe gooseberry, and passionfruit with hints of grapefruit, lime and nettle. The wine is concentrated and juicy with vibrant fruit and fantastic    mid-palate weight, finishing with a crisp fresh acidity. Enjoy now and until 2013.

Villa Maria 2008 Cellar Selection Merlot Cabernet Sauvignon Hawkes Bay. 56% Merlot, 42% Cabernet Sauvignon, 2% Malbec. The fruit for this dark and deeply fragrant wine is sourced from Hawkes Bay, a region renowned for producing exceptionally elegant Merlot and  Cabernet Sauvignon. Layers of berry and plum flavours combine with  complex cedar and savory characters in this classic blend.


Dave Edmonds, Winemaker at Nobilo, Marlborough, New Zealand  - click to listen

nobiloSay Sauvignon Blanc and you’ll most likely get one from New Zealand. It’s become a trademark of the winemaking in New Zealand thanks to early settlers - like Nikola Nobilo who came to NZ from Croatia in 1943, planted grapes and made wine with the intention of sharing it with family and friends. But he, like the other European immigrants found a place of amazing grape-growing potential and they soon developed it into a commercial business.

The same year that the first commercial vines were planted in Marlborough, Dave Edmonds was born, just across the Cook Strait in New Zealand’s capital city, Wellington. After gaining a degree in horticulture science at Christchurch’s Lincoln University, Dave headed to Hawke’s Bay in the North Island for his first vintage.

The results Sauvignon Blancs with a wonderful bouquet of Pineapple, honey, melon, pear and a hint of flint, flavorful, well balanced and just as exciting as the nose... Listen to winemaker Dave Edmonds

Look for The Icon label which represents the pinnacle of Nobilo winemaking.   Nobilo Icon Pinot Noir are rich, complex and full bodied, with excellent weight, structure and balance. Sauvignon Blanc 2010, just released is fabulous.

And look for Nobilo regional collection Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc ($11.99)—  aromas of ripe tropical and citrus fruits which flow through to the palate and a crisp dry finish.  Gisborne Chardonnay ‘flavours of ripe grapefruit, melon and peach, with nutty, biscuity complexity and a touch of oak’.  Hawke’s Bay Pinot Gris - Deliciously smooth, with a perfumed bouquet of orange blossom and pear. A gentle acidity complements its creamy texture while ripe stonefruit, melon and pear linger on the palate. Hawke’s Bay Merlot - Dark and rich, with aromas of plums, blackberries and spice. Elegant and full of flavour with a long, delicious finish.  


With thousands of wines from Italy being sold annually in the US, from well known regions like Piemonte or Toscana and regions like Sicily or Sardinia which have recently put their wines on the map,  it is rare to find quality wines from Puglia, yet another relatively unknown region for their wines.

The Antinori family, who know a thing or two about wines,  built Tormaresca in 1998 with the goal of creating wines that would be the finest expression of Apulian viticulture. Tormaresca  —means “Tower by the Sea,” — is composed of two estates in Puglia – one in the south in the Salento DOC region and one in the north, in the Castel del Monte DOC.  The Puglia region’s history, culture and gastronomy are integrally linked to the sea, but the oils and wines produced there are also a testament to the soil and sun, twin traditions that began thousands of years ago.

The Antinoris along with their Head Enologist Renzo Cotarella, hope to reacquaint the world with the native grapes of Puglia —Fiano, Negroamaro, Primitivo —, by producing amazing wine all made from 100% estate-grown grapes

2010 Tormaresca Chardonnay Puglia I.G.T. ($11.99)

Pale lemon in color, this 90% Chardonnay, 10% Fiano   is fresh and flavorful with aromas of peach, white flowers and citrus, and with flavors of exotic fruit and sea-salt tinged minerality. This chardonnay has lively acidity and lingers indefinitely on the palate.   

2010 Tormaresca Roycello Fiano Salento I.G.T. ($17.99)
Only 3,000 cases of this 100% Fiano wine have been produced at Tormaresca’s Masseria Maìme estate. Named “Apianum” (from apia or bee) by the Romans because of its fragrant nature, the Fiano Puigliese comes as a revelation to modern consumers. The 2010 vintage is the inaugural release of this wine in the United States. Fresh and flavorful with great acidity, this wine shows the signature floral notes of Fiano mingled with hints of stone fruit.

2009 Tormaresca Neprica Puglia I.G.T. ($11.99)
40% Negroamaro (a variety which grows mainly in Salento is used for its richness, concentration and spiciness), 30% Primitivo (fruity and concentrated, it is important for its high alcohol content) , 30% Cabernet Sauvignon (for freshness and acidity to balance the wine and make it food friendly), this medium-bodied wine is intense ruby red in color with violet hues. Aromas of red fruits and black cherry dominate the nose, complemented by light floral notes. Soft and flavorful on the palate with balanced acidity and subtle tannins. 86 points in Wine Spectator and 90 in Best Buys.

2009 Tormaresca Torcicoda Salento I.G.T. ($22.99)
Full-bodied, ruby red in color with characteristic varietal aromas of red fruits, with notes of chocolate and anise, this wine from 100% Primitivo has spent 9 months in barrique and 10 in the bottle. Primitivo is of the same rootstock as Zinfandel, both originating in Croatia.  The palate is soft and silky,with good body and acidity. Rich, mouth-coating tannins are accentuated by a long, lasting finish.   Amazing!

2008 Trentangeli Rosso Castel del Monte D.O.C. ($25.99)
This wine (trentangeli means “30 angels”)  is a blend of 65% Aglianico, 25% Cabernet Sauvignon and 10% Syrah and is produced at the Bocca di Lupo winery.  The 2008 vintage is the inaugural release in the U.S.  Made in a modern style, this Aglianico-based wine has a soft palate entrance with intense red fruit and spice flavors. The wine is well-balanced with smooth tannins.

2006 Tormaresca Bocca di Lupo Castel del Monte D.O.C. ($38.00)
Bright ruby red in color with fruity aromas of red and black berries and spicy notes that are typical of Aglianico. A strong yet elegant mouthfeel that is round, slightly tannic with a hint of salinity.  100% Aglianico

raza cellar2Raza 2011 Dolce Torrontés ($8 at Sam's Club)  from La Riojana in Famatina Valley, Argentina: A Gem among the Double Gold Winners of the 2011 San Francisco International Wine Competition

Tasting Panel Miami 2011 showcased the double gold winners of the 31st San Francisco International Wine Competition - one of the most important and comprehensive wine competitions in the world. A record number of judges – nationwide – had been invited to judge over 4,184 wines from over 1,200 wineries (including 392 new winery participants). They came up with 153 Double Gold awards (a wine is elevated to Double Gold status when all judges on a particular panel agree that a wine deserves a Gold medal1).  We got to taste most of them at Meat Market, on Lincoln Road, along with chef Sean Brasel’s tasty little plates.








The most original and outstanding — a gem  in my opinion and that of many of my colleagues—  turned out to be the deliciously sparkling Raza 2011 Dolce Torrontés ($8 at Sam's Club)  from La Riojana in Famatina Valley, Argentina. Best in show Sparkling (over Perrier Jouet Champagne NV Rosé from France and Cook’s champagne Cellars NV Spumante from California).

This 100% Torrontés from La Rioja has all the characteristics of the varietal: crisp and refreshing, with green apple with delicate citrus and floral aromas on the palate, quite dry and creamy, delicately bubbly with a long, pleasant finish. 12.5 % vol

Torrontés from Salta, Argentina, has become of the icons of Argentine exports.  So this is the first time I had a Torrontés from La Rioja and the first time I had sparkling Torrontés. A welcome addition to the world of sparkling wines.

The winemaker, Dr. Rodolfo Griguol, is one of Argentina’s most respected winemakers, and has deservedly won the reputation of being the “King of Torrontés”. Rodolfo has worked for La Riojana for over 25 years and currently manages a team of seven winemakers. Amongst Rodolfo’s professional achievements:  the ecotopic yeast for production of Torrontés Riojano wine.

Listen to an interview with Roman Pfaffl

Food & Wine Talk Radio

Achile Sassoli, Director of Gelato World Tour
and Gelato Artisans:
James Coleridge, Vancouver, B.C., Canada
Abdelrahman Al Teneji, Sharjah, United Arab Emirates
Matthew Lee, Austin, Texas
Ahmed Abdullatif, Kingdom of Bahrain
Stefano Versace, Miami, Florida
  twitter facebook


The House of Mandela Wines from South Africa


Chef Scott Conant: Scarpetta


Mark Schatzker, author of The Dorito Effect, The Surprising New Truth About Food and Flavor


Elizabeth Minchilli, author of  Eating Rome: Living the Good Life in the Eternal City.  


James Beard Award-winning wine journalist Lyn Farmer on: Garnacha from Carinena; the next great wine


Cindy Hutson,chef/owner, Ortanique and Zest, author of From the Tip of My Tongue


Lidia Batianich, celebrity chef, TV host, author and restaurateur 






ad michelle.jpeg
Miami's Community Newspapers




Home   Advertise   Subscribe   Privacy Policy   About Us   Contact Us   Copyrights

©The South Florida Gourmet
5410 Alhambra Circle, Coral Gables, FL 33146
Tel: 305-975-1425 

Web Site By:


RocketTheme Joomla Templates