Cava…is Cool

Sparkling wine is viewed all too often as a luxury, a “wedding wine,” or something to be saved for a special occasion.  What’s wrong with Friday night?  Or after work on Tuesday?  After all, sparkling wine, including Champagne, is just "still" wine, (literally) that has just been fermented twice. And while my friends in the wine business tell me that New Yorkers have really jumped into sparkling wines and Champagnes and drink them all the time these days, even if that's true I don't think it's the case for the rest of the country.  There's a mystique about these wines that's both good and bad for the people who work hard to produce them from around the world—Champagne and Crémant…

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A Little Bit About Burgundy: Great Pinot Noir and Chardonnay

France, and specifically Bourgogne, what we in the great USA call Burgundy, is where the world's best Pinot Noirs and Chardonnays are grown. And I say "grown" because Burgundy is all about the vineyard rather than the chateau or winery. Not to say that there aren't some excellent Pinots and Chardonnays from other places - old world and new, oaked and unoaked, cool climate and hot climate, austere and crisp.  Of course, there are also sweet, caramel-y, and in my view pretty much undrinkable wines from those places, too. Think Yellowtail, or, actually, don't. I've tasted Pinots from New Zealand and Oregon that rival the best from Burgundy, and recently I had a Chardonnay from Italy that I might have…

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Great Grapes You’ve Never Heard Of

So how's that glass of Seyval Blanc I just poured you? What d'ya think of that Baco Noir? Care to purchase another bottle of Norton? It's on special today only." You've probably never heard these words, unless, perhaps, you live in New York's Hudson River Valley and you get out a bit. And if you want to expand your tastes and wine experience a bit, here's a primer to get you started. Seyval Blanc is a French-American hybrid that's a little reminiscent of Sauvignon Blanc, and can produce outstanding, crisp dry white wines as well as slightly sweet ones. When mixed with Chardonnay, as they do very well at Baldwin Vineyards with their Mist de Greco, or Clinton Vineyards where…

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Hollywood & Wine: Wine Movies!

Movies about wine are relatively few, and good ones are as rare as a 1961 Hermitage La Chapelle. Here's an overview of a couple worth seeing, and some educational ones, too. Bottle Shock Bottle Shock, which was independently released in the United States in August of '08, is available on video. The movie is supposed to tell at least part of the story of "The Judgment of Paris," that game-changing event in 1976 when a Chardonnay from Napa's Chateau Montelena and a Cabernet Sauvignon from Stag's Leap Wine Cellars beat some of the top French wines. In a blind taste test. In Paris. With some of France's top wine experts as judges. Mon Dieu! Problem is, lots of stuff shown…

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Great Wine Books for Summer Reading!!

One of the ways I've learned about wine, oddly enough, is to read wine books. And here are some great book for Summer Reading. Of course you can read lots of technical books - on home winemaking, wine courses such as Jancis Robinson's, or tasting books such as Hugh Johnson's.  And for those who  get into wine geekery like me, there are books such as Clive Coates' The Wines of Burgundy, or Vino Italiano - The Regional Wines of Italy, that can take weeks to read and are more appropriate for people studying for their MW rather than casual wine drinkers and even dedicated tasters.For my money and yours, though, I recommend that you have some fun while you learn,…

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Carlos Moro: Wine Ambassador of the Duero

Things are pretty tough right now in Spain.  Twenty-five percent unemployment. “Indignados” pitching tents in public parks like the “Occupy” movement did in the US a year ago, and recent massive public demonstrations in Madrid, Barcelona and other large cities.  Looming bank bailouts and public sector spending cuts. Happily, things are a whole lot better on the Spanish winemaking front. Spain, in fact, in just the last 20 years or so has really upped its wine game, and if I’m not mistaken—and I don’t think I am—Spain has more land under vine than any other country on the planet.  And much of it is at relatively high altitudes, so the cool night air gives the grapes a respite from the…

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Joel Peterson of Ravenswood: No Wimpy Winemaker

Last Monday I got the opportunity to sit down with famed Zinfandel winemaker Joel Peterson of Ravenswood at The Frog and the Peach in New Brunswick, New Jersey.  Obviously I jumped at the chance.  At 65, he’s still running and gunning, and while he’s certainly an obvious and effective ambassador for the brand he co-founded and built, he’s still—amazingly—the winemaker-in-chief and also the scout and overseer of dozens of vineyards where Ravenswood sources its grapes. Peterson founded Ravenswood in 1976 with a guy named Reed Foster, whom he met at an East Bay (San Francisco) wine tasting group. They had 4,000 bucks; there was no physical winery, and there were no dedicated vineyards; really there was just an idea of…

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Wild, Wonderful Wines of Santorini

When you think of Greece these days, you sadly might think of financial crises, bailouts, maybe even riots in the streets.  Don’t think of those things.  Don’t even think of Greece at all. Instead think of the Greek island of Santorini, a beautiful if slightly forbidding sun- and wind-swept island about halfway between Crete and the Greek mainland. The site of a massive explosion about 1600 BC, the middle of the island sank into the ocean, leaving Santorini a crescent-shaped, rugged, steeply-terraced landscape based on deep layers of volcanic ash and schist, metamorphic rocks that are high in minerals and whose name, coincidentally, derives from a Greek work that means “to split,” referring to the way the rocks fracture along…

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Stoutridge Vineyard: A New York Phenom!

Visiting wineries is one of my favorite pastimes, and I suspect, since you're visiting this site, that it may be one of yours, too. Usually I go somewhat far from New Jersey to do that - Sonoma or Spain, Sicily or Sancerre. Yet right in my own backyard, or perhaps more correctly my front yard, there's a winery that is remarkably technologically advanced, but also fun, charming and beautiful. Especially if you live in New York, New Jersey or Connecticut, a visit to Stoutridge Vineyard is well worth the trip. The current property of Stoutridge goes back to at least the mid 1800s, although it wasn't always a vineyard and winery - at times it's been a pig farm, autmobile…

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