Oct 102013
 

Log onto Local Wine Events on any given day and a long list of wine tastings, seminars and similar events will appear. But, if you really want to learn about a wine region, the best introduction is to truly immerse yourself in it.

Aside from scheduling the requisite vineyard visits in Bordeaux, visitors to the region also have the opportunity to take classes in the heart of the city at a number of different places, which cater to varying levels of knowledge.

L’Ecole du Vin
The most logical place to start is l’Ecole du Vin de Bordeaux (Bordeaux Wine School), which is run by the Conseil Interprofessionnel du Vin de Bordeaux (CIVB) and conveniently housed at Maison du vin de Bordeaux. The Bordeaux Wine School offers introductory seminars as well as in-depth workshops.

In the two-hour, Introduction to Bordeaux Wines class, students are presented with a general overview of Bordeaux, inclusive of climate, soils, grape varieties and wine production, followed by a guided tasting of a dry white wine, two red wines and a sweet white wine. These classes are scheduled from 10:00 AM – 12:00 PM on Mondays through Saturdays (€35/person) and are a perfect way to begin the day and establish a good baseline of regional knowledge.

l'Ecole du Vin

Photo Credit: Tracy Ellen Kamens

A more intensive option, geared for wine professionals, is a three-day long program that incorporates lectures at the Maison du Vin and structured vineyard visits. The School’s intermediate offerings generally encompass two days, inclusive of seminars, tastings and a meal. Participation in these more advanced programs start at €350/person and often requires prerequisite knowledge and experience.

Max Bordeaux Wine Gallery
At Max Bordeaux Wine Gallery, enomatic machines span nearly the entire store, which claims to be “the only place in the world where you can taste the top 50 Grand Crus Classes.” Open Monday through Saturday from 11:00 AM – 8:00 PM, visitors can simply choose to purchase a tasting card (minimum €25 +€3 deposit) and taste through a variety of samples.

Bordeaux Enomatic

Photo Credit: Tracy Ellen Kamens

However, tasting workshops are offered on Tuesdays from 7:30-8:30 PM for €35/person, with private tastings arranged for groups at a similar fee. This basic option includes a tasting of two to three Grand Cru wines, with the theme changing monthly. On our visit, we tasted a dry white from Pessac-Léognan and two reds – an older Left Bank wine and a young Right Bank wine. The store also presents a First Growths Workshop that features three First Growths and costs €85/person.

Millésima 
Another interesting and equally educational option is leading Bordeaux wine merchant, Millésima. Millésima’s premises date to 1840 and are home to over 2 million bottles of Bordeaux. The merchant offers 30-minute guided cellar visits to its vast warehouses and its “Imperial Library,” which houses over 10,000 large format bottles of top Bordeaux wines.

Bordeaux Warehouse

Photo Credit: Tracy Ellen Kamens

In addition to taking the tour, visitors can choose to participate in one of seven tutored tastings, presented in French, English, German or Spanish. Tasting sessions are by appointment only and start at €100/person, depending on the type of tasting selected and the time of day (evenings and weekends are more expensive than weekday visits). The introductory Initiation to the Wines of Bordeaux guides participants through a dry white (Château Latour Martillac 2007 Graves Pessac-Léognan blanc Cru classé), a Right Bank red (Château Grand Corbin Manuel 2005 Saint Emilion Grand cru) and a Left Bank red (Château Peyrabon 2005 Haut-Médoc Cru bourgeois).

Among the more complex (and pricier options) are a horizontal tasting of 1998 Right Bank wines and a horizontal tasting of wines from the vaunted 2000 vintage. And, if guests want to purchase any of the wines they’ve seen or tasted, Millésima’s on-site shop offers 400 wines and is open weekdays from 8:00 AM to 5:00 PM. 

Jul 312013
 

Each summer I teach a class called “the Greatest Wines of the World” for the viticulture and enology program at Napa Valley College.  It’s a chance for the students to taste the very best wines from some of the top regions of the world, and each summer the wines vary, based on the interests of the students.  Here’s what they tasted in 2013:

Greatest Wines - Burgundy

Burgundy

2011 Domaine Paul Pernot Meursault Blagny 1er Cru “La Piece Sous le Bois”
2011 Domaine Paul Pernot Puligny-Montrachet 1er Cru “Folatières”
2010 Domaine Blain-Gagnard Chassagne Montrachet 1er Cru “Boudriottes”
2010 Domaine de Montille Corton Charlemagne Grand Cru
2011 Domaine Paul Pernot Bienvenues Bâtard-Montrachet Grand Cru
2010 Billaud-Simon Chablis “Les Preuses” Grand Cru
1998 Nicolas Potel Clos Vougeot Grand Cru
2010 Domaine Champy Corton Grand Cru “Bressandes”
2010 Domaine Odoul-Coquard Chambolle Musigny 1er Cru “Les Baudes”
2010 Domaine Henri Gouges Nuits-Saint-Georges 1er Cru “Les Vaucrains”
2010 Louis Jadot Vosne-Romanée 1er Cru “Les Beaux Monts”
2010 Domaine Confuron-Cotetidot Gevrey Chambertin 1er Cru “Petite Chapelle”

Greatest Wines - Bordeaux

Bordeaux

2009 Chateau La louviere  Pessac Leognan blanc
2007 Chateau Cardonnieux Grand Cru Pessac Leognan rouge
2007 Chateau Poujeaux Moulis en Medoc Grand Vin
2006 Chatau La Lagune Haut-Medoc Grand Cru Classe
2007 Chateau Marquis de Terme Margaux Grand Cru Classe
2007 Chateau Talbot Saint Julien Grand Cru Classe
2007 Chateau Batailley Paulliac Grand Cru Classe
2006 Chateau les Ormes de Pez St. Estephe Cru Bourgeois Exceptionel
2000 Cheatu Phelan Segur St. Estephe Grand Cru Classe
2010 Chateau Figeac St. Emiliion Premier Grand Cru Classe
2010 Chateau Beauregard Pomerol
1998 Chateau Lafite Rothschild Paulliac Premier Grand Cru

Greatest Wines - Italy

Italy

2007 Massolino “Parussi” Barolo
2005 Aldo Conterno “Cicala” Barolo
2008 G.D. Vajra “Bricco Delle Viole” Barolo
2007 Francesco Rinaldi “Cannubio” Barolo
2008 Savignola Paulina Chianti Classico Riserva
2007 Borgo Scopeto Chianti Classico Riserva
2008 Massanera Chianti Classico Riserva
2007 Monte Maggio Chianti Classico
2009 Fattoria del Cerro Vino Nobile di Montepulciano
2007 Caprili Brunello di Montalcino
2006 Tassi “Franci” Brunello di Montalcino Selezione
2007 Castelgiocondo Brunello di Montalcino
2007 Pian dell’Orino Brunello di Montalcino
1997 Masi “Mazzano” Amarone della Valpolicella Classico
2008 Corte Rugolin Valpolicella Classico Superiore Ripasso
1980 Bertani Amarone della Valpolicella Classico Superiore
2010 Antinori “Tenuta Guado al Tasso Il Bruciato” Toscana
2008 Castello di Bossi “Corbaia” Toscana
2007 Querciabella “Camartina” Toscana
2010 Ornellaia “Ornellaia” Bolgheri Superiore

Germany

2011 Schloss Lieser Brauneberger Juffer Riesling Kabinett
2011 Von Hovel Oberemmeler Hutte Riesling Kabinett
2011 Donnhoff Oberhauser Leistenberg Riesling Kabinett
2011 Selbach Oster Zeltinger Sonnenuhr Riesling Kabinett
2011 Fritz Haag Brauneberger Juffer-Sonnenuhr Riesling Spatlese
2011 Dr. Pauly Bergweiler Bernkasteler alte Badstube am Doctorberg Riesling Spatlese
2011 Karthauserhof Eitelsbacher Karthauserhofberg Riesling Spatlese
2011 Dr F Weins-Prum Graacher Himmelreich Riesling Spatlese Feinherb
2011 Willi Schaefer Graacher Domprobst Riesling Spatlese #10
2011 Kruger-Rumpf Munsterer Rheinberg Riesling Auslese
2011 Joh. Jos. Prum Wehlener Sonnenuhr Riesling Auslese
2003 Joh. Jos. Christoffel Urziger Wurzgarten Auslese ***

Greatest WInes - Champagne

Champagne

Charles Heidsieck “Brut Reserve” Champagne
Bollinger “Special Cuvee” Brut Champagne
Charles de Cazanove “Tete de Cuvee” Brut Champagne
Ruinart Brut Rose Champagne
2006 Marguet Pere et Fils Grand Cru Brut Champagne
2004 Moet & Chandon “Grand Vintage” Brut Champagne
2000 Pol Roger Brut Blanc de Blanc Champagne
Laurent-Perrier “Grand Siecle” Champagne
Krug “Grande Cuvee” Brut Champagne
1998 Billecart-Salmon “Cuvee Nicolas-Francois Billecart” Brut Champagne
1998 Veuve Clicquot “La Grande Dame Brut Champagne
2003 Moet & Chandon “Dom Perignon” Brut Champagne
2005 Louis Roederer “Cristal” Brut Champagne

Greatest Wines - Dessert

Dessert Wines

Carpano Antica Sweet Vermouth (1L)
2004 Villa Pillo Vin Santo (375ml)
2010 Samos Vin Doux Muscat (375ml)
2010 Donnafugata “Ben Ryè” Passito di Pantelleria (375ml)
1996 Domaine des Baumard Quarts de Chaume (375ml)
Rare Wine Company Historic Series Boston Bual Madeira
Williams & Humbert “Don Guido” Pedro Ximenez VOS Jerez
Ferreira “Duque de Braganca” 20-year-old Tawny Port
1970 Taylor Vintage Port
2008 Inniskillin “Silver” Riesling Icewine (375ml)
2003 Királyudvar “Lapis” Tokaji Aszu 6 Puttonyos (500ml)
2003 Chateau d’Yquem Sauternes

Napa Valley College Viticulture & Winery Technology courses prepare students for entry-level positions and help current industry employees to advance in their careers. Based on a core of viticulture and wine-making classes, the program offers a variety of options for careers in the industry. Students learn to apply viticulture and winemaking theory for decision-making in actual production situations. College facilities include classroom and laboratory buildings, vineyards, and a teaching winery. All program instructors are experienced wine industry professionals.

Mar 262013
 
UGC Tasting San Francisco

Photo Credit: Richard Jennings – Huffington Post

The Garden Court at the Palace Hotel in downtown San Francisco began life nearly 140 years ago as an open-air courtyard where well-to-do guests could alight from their horse-drawn carriages. Modeled on the architecture of the Paris Opera House, the Palace enclosed the courtyard in 1904 and covered it with a glorious expanse of Belle Epoque stained glass. Today the Garden Court is a restaurant that serves breakfast and lunch to hotel guests. But on January 18, 2013 the Garden Court is closed for a private event.

Twenty-four hours earlier, more than one hundred and ten owners and winemakers of the top chateaux in Bordeaux left their homes to drive to the airport, where they would catch a plane for London Heathrow. In all, between flights, connection times, and airport shuttles, they would be eighteen hours in transit before reaching the Palace Hotel in San Francisco, just in time for dinner on January 17th.

By eight o’clock the next morning the Garden Court is a flurry of activity. Fifty-five tables are draped with white linen and arranged throughout the room, each to be shared by two of the chateaux. The sequence must be matched exactly to the catalog, with each sub-region of Bordeaux in alphabetical order. The regions themselves follow a pattern: from Graves and Pessac-Leognan to St. Emilion and Pomerol, through the Médoc, and finally Sauternes. It’s a grand tour of France’s greatest wine region.

A team of sommeliers and wine students works its way around the room, carefully setting each place with a table sign for the chateau, a burgundy napkin, two wine glasses, a bottle of water, the name tag for the chateau owner, and a list of the trade and media who are planning to attend. Another team is breaking down three pallets of Bordeaux from the now-famous 2010 vintage, delivering the cases to the appropriate tables, and placing three bottles of red wine next to each winery sign. For those chateaux with white wine, only one bottle of it is put on the table; the rest are placed in ice in the bus tubs behind. Corks are pulled on two of the red bottles at each chateau, to allow the wine to breathe. Each table setting is exactly the same.

The tasting will begin at 1:00 p.m., and by 12:30 the room is perfect. A few chateau owners stop in briefly on their way to get a quick bite of lunch before the crowds arrive. A frantic text message arrives from Bordeaux:  one chateau owner’s flight was delayed, and she won’t arrive until after the tasting has started. She promises a couple of bottles of her Margaux to the sommelier who volunteers to pour for her until she arrives. There is no shortage of volunteers.

At 12:50 the chateau owners begin to arrive at the Garden Court. Outside, a crowd of more than 200 importers, distributors, restaurateurs, retailers and media have already registered and are anxiously waiting to get in. The last few chateau owners push their way through the crowd and take their positions at their tables.

At one o’clock, the members of the crowd walk briskly into the Garden Court, glasses in hand, and work their way around the tables. It’s a constant stream of traffic that won’t slow down for the four hours of the tasting. In all, more than 600 wine trade members attend the tasting, and there is rarely more than a minute or two when a chateau owner is not pouring a wine or talking to someone. Larger crowds gather at some of the more famous wines, but every chateau has its fans. During the last hour of the tasting, the crowd slowly lays siege to the Sauternes producers. At five o’clock, when the tasting ends, they are standing five or six deep at each of the five tables there.

By five-fifteen, the room is empty of both chateau owners and tasters. The hotel staff hurries in, clearing the tables of empty bottles, and replacing any stained linens. The chateau owners race to the bar, where they hope to get a quick bite to eat. A new set of wines arrives and is delivered to the tables.

At six o’clock, the consumer portion of the tasting begins, with another 300 people—top customers of a local retailer. Each chateau owner is back at his or her station for another two hours. Many follow that with a winemaker dinner at a local restaurant, and don’t fall into bed until midnight.

The next day they leave early for Los Angeles, where they pour at a consumer tasting for more than 2,000 people that afternoon. January 20th is a travel day to New York, followed by a trade tasting in the ballroom at the Marriott Marquis in Times Square on Monday, with more than 900 top trade in attendance. One hour later, the consumer tasting brings another 300 wine lovers into the hotel. Winemaker dinners fill more than twenty restaurants in Manhattan that night.

In Chicago, the legendary Drake Hotel has their staff set up the Gold Room the night before to make sure that everything goes smoothly. A malfunction in the fire sprinkler system soaks one end of the room in the middle of the night. The staff works through the night, and by 11:00 a.m., when a few Bordelais arrive to inspect, the room is flawless. The trade tasting packs the room to its limits for four hours, and an hour later the largest retailer in Chicago has 350 more customers march through the doors. There are winemaker dinners in Chicago as well.

The group leaves early the next morning to fly to Washington, DC, for a consumer and trade tasting in the nation’s capital, followed by Toronto and Montreal in the next two days. The following day they fly home, via Heathrow, into the winter weather of France.

The trip lasts ten days and visits seven cities, with two of the days dedicated to transatlantic flights. More than 2,500 people attend the trade tastings, as well as another 3,000 at the consumer events, not including the more than fifty winemaker dinners.

Sixteen days later, one hundred and five chateau owners fly to China.