Sep 242015
 

iSommelier from iFavineA few weeks ago we were contacted by iFavine about a new wine decanter called the iSommelier that might revolutionize wine service in restaurants.  We were intrigued.  We were also pretty darn skeptical.  It seems that every few years somebody has a “great new technology” that is going to change the way we serve wine.  And yet…When we met the international team of people who are working on this project, we got more interested.  In the first meeting we met people from China, Holland, and France.  And they seemed remarkably sane and reasonable.  In fact, we really liked the Ifavine team. So we set up a tasting with a group of our local Master Sommeliers and Masters of Wine to see this thing in action. It’s slick—even glamorous—with delicate blue lights and lots of glossy surfaces.  It even comes with a remote control.  And when we started using it to taste some wines, the results were pretty darn clear.  In the words of one of the Master Sommeliers, the thing obviously does what it says it does: it adds oxygen into the wine. We tried it on four different wines, including an Austrian Riesling, a California Chardonnay, a Barolo, and top Napa Valley Cabernet.  In each case the wines structure was softened by the iSommelier.  In most cases the delicate aromatics of the wine seemed less obvious after “decanting” with the iSommelier, and the wine was a bit simpler but with more direct fruit and more approachable tannins and acidity.  Just what you’d expect from a wine that had been allowed to breathe for an hour before serving.  Except that it had happened in something under one minute with the iSommelier.  And we all agreed that for many wine drinkers in the USA, this was a very attractive option.

Don’t be surprised if you start seeing these in top steakhouses around the country.  If you do, check one out for yourself on a nice bottle of young cabernet.

Sep 162015
 
The Lake County Valley Fire has devastated homes and businesses.

(Photo by Stephen Lam/ Getty Images)

Tough news coming out of Lake County these days.  According to CalFire, the “Valley Fire” has consumed over 75,000 acres and 1,900 structures, many of those homes. Over the years, we’ve worked with a couple of different wineries up there, and the grape growers as well.  We have friends, clients, and neighbors all over the county. And for a few years, I lived in Middletown, right in town, near the High School. It’s hard to look at the photos to see what’s happened up there.  The house we used to own, a 100+ year old farmhouse that I remodeled extensively, is gone.  We’ve lost touch with who lived there now, but the house itself had character and charm—even if the kitchen floor had enough slope to it that you never had to look for an olive or a grape the fell on the floor.  They always rolled to the same corner.  It won’t be back.

We’ve agreed to do some pro-bono work for the Lake County Winegrape Commission to try to help out a bit.  We’re sending out press releases, directing media inquiries, and helping focus attention on the relief efforts.  It’s not enough.  It can’t be enough.  If you want to help, please join the Napa Valley Vintners, Andy Beckstoffer, and so many others who have stepped up to help.  You can donate by going to this link:  http://www.lakecountywinegrape.org/news-events/valley-fire-relief-fund/

Sep 032015
 

Our good friend Olivier Bernard, the president of the Union des Grands Crus de Bordeaux, is enthusiastic about this year’s harvest.  In his remarks that he sent out this week, he raved about the perfect conditions, the warm weather, and the performance of the vines.  And now we are seeing the first notes from winemakers who have started the fermentations.

They are even more enthusiastic.  Stephan Von Neipperg of Chateau Canon-la-Gaffeliere who also sits on the board of directors of the UCG, says that he is already sure this will be a great vintage.

Hang onto your hats…and be patient.  It will be a couple of years before you get to taste these wines!

Click the image below for the full update:

Bordeaux First Impressions

 

Feb 112015
 

Bottle Talk with Rick & Paul

TTB Contributor Paul Wagner recently launched a radio talk show about wine with long-time writer and broadcaster Rick Kushman.  “Bottle Talk with Rick and Paul,” is a cheeky, irreverent show that makes wine fun for everyone. The show seeks to level the tasting bar for would-be wine enthusiasts everywhere.

“Wine shouldn’t make you feel as if you’re being tested to join a secret Skull & Bones Society,” says Kushman. “People who make wine too snooty should be sentenced to drinking boxed prune juice.”

Each week, the duo is joined by some of the top names in the world of wine. The streaming radio show aims to break new ground in conversations about wine and includes questions from listeners, interviews, wine recommendations, and an all-out assault on wine snobs everywhere.

Kushman is the author of the New York Times bestseller The Barefoot Spirit, the story of the founding and unique marketing of Barefoot Cellars.  He is an award-wining journalist and the wine commentator for Capital Public Radio, Sacramento’s NPR affiliate, as well as a regular guest host for the station’s highest profile show, “Insight.”

Wagner, an industry veteran, teaches wine courses at Napa Valley College and the Culinary Institute of America at Greystone.  With Liz Thach and Janeen Olsen, he authored the book, Wine Marketing & Sales, Strategies for a Saturated Market, which won the Gourmand International Award for the best wine book of the year for professionals.

Among their guests are Warren Winiarski, whose 1973 Cabernet Sauvignon won the great Paris tasting of 1976 against top French Chateaux; Traci Dutton, Sommelier at the Culinary Institute of America; Master Sommeliers James Tidwell and Drew Hendricks of TEXSOM and the TEXSOM International Wine Awards, and Ricardo Riccicurbastro, the President of the Federation of DOCs in Italy.

“Bottle Talk with Rick & Paul” airs a new show every Tuesday at 11 a.m. Pacific time on 1440 KVON Radio in Napa Valley and at http://www.rickandpaulwine.com/.  Prior shows are available on the site, as is information about sponsorship.

Jan 162015
 
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Photo (c) Tracy Ellen Kamens

Although wine has been produced within Umbria for centuries, its reputation for high quality wine didn’t develop until more recently. Specifically, the region owes much of its current popularity to Wine Enthusiast magazine’s 2012 European Winery of the Year: Arnaldo Caprai. In 1971, Arnaldo Caprai, founder of one of Italy’s leading textile companies, purchased an estate in the region and planted Sagrantino, a minor grape variety at the time, but indigenous to the area. The grape was most commonly associated with its use by the Franciscan monks who crafted a sweet wine for use in religious observance.

With an ambitious aim, Arnaldo set out to make a historic wine with the production of a dry Sagrantino, but his first trials weren’t very good. When Arnaldo’s son, Marco, joined the winery as manager in 1988, he began to work with the University of Milan – a partnership that still continues to this day. This project focused on the need to truly understand the Sagrantino grape, particularly its structure and tannins. After 15 years of intensive study of the grape’s genetics, they were able to identify the three best clones, which they then patented and planted. Ultimately, producing high quality Sagrantino dry wines and fulfilling Arnaldo’s dream.

Currently, Arnaldo Caprai has 136 planted hectares planted to vines of which 40 hectares are dedicated to Sagrantino, planted on the best sites, especially hill tops. Sangiovese, Cannaiolo and other grapes fill out the remaining acreage. A specially designated vineyard is planted to 20 different varieties from which the best grapes are selected each vintage and then made into the winery’s Cuvée Secrete, first produced in 2012.

Among the winery’s viticultural endeavors has been its emphasis on sustainability. In 2008, Arnaldo Caprai launched its Sustainability Project, Montefalco 2015: The New Green Revolution. Eschewing the limited nature of organic viticulture, instead, the adopted protocols are evaluated for their collective social, political and environmental impact before they are implemented. In this regard, an agricultural machine was adapted to capture the chemicals used to protect the vines from mildew, and recycle them, thereby ensuring that the spray is used solely on the leaves and not dripping down into the soil. Further, while machine harvesting might be a reasonable option, the winery has chosen to continue to hand harvest its grapes to preserve employment opportunities for local workers.

Given the family’s textile connection, their textile and viticultural endeavors have been woven together. In 1992, Arnaldo Caprai Gruppo Tessile was joined by the creation of Cruciani by Luca Caprai. This new company focuses on cashmere and lace, most recently launching a subsidiary line Cruciani C in 2011. Specializing in crocheted bracelets, made of macramé lace, the concept of Cruciani C is to bring lace to a modern (and younger) audience. These multi-colored bracelets have become quite popular and the company has capitalized on this trend to raise money for various causes. A bracelet sporting a heart and grapes was designed to support Montefalco’s museum and the return of a letter, which documents Benozzo Gozzoli (fresco painter)’s love for Montefalco. Also, a bracelet with green circles acknowkedges Caprai’s commitment to the environment and its Sustainability Project, Montefalco 2015: The New Green Revolution.