Tasting the Wines of Beni di Batasiolo

Posted by | Posted in Wine Reviews | Posted on 04-30-2012

With wine, my favorite and most memorable moments happen when I’m surprised. This happened just a couple weeks back when I had the chance to taste through the portfolio of Beni di Batasiolo with the winery’s president and managing director, Fiorenzo Dogliani.

Admittedly, my experience with the wines of Piedmont is limited. While I arrived to the tasting most interested in trying Piedmont’s flagships, Barolo and Barbaresco, it was two whites that caught me off guard and reminded me why this hobby is so enjoyable.

The first wine to catch my attention was the leadoff hitter in the lineup — a 2010 Gavi di Gavi. This was my first taste of the Cortese grape, but I’ll seek out more. From vines found in red soil and sand and named for the village in which it’s grown, it had a wonderful nose of spring flowers and an interesting palate of lemon, green apple, and some spice. I initially likened it to a Sauvignon Blanc, but it had a bit more heft and refreshing acidity, so it would stand up to all sorts of foods.

The other wine that grabbed me was a 2010 Moscato d’Asti. In the United States, the reputation of these wines is tarnished by the many mass-produced, overly sweet offerings commonly found on supermarket shelves. But listening to Fiorenzo speak passionately about his Moscato while we enjoyed it sparked my interest in such wines.

Beni di Batasiolo’s Moscato d’Asti had a massive nose of pear, melon and pineapple that initially worried me — I feared the wine would send my blood sugar soaring. What I found, however, was an airy, uplifting wine with a subtle spritz and touch of sweetness that was much lighter than anticipated. At only 5.5% ABV, this would make a perfect picnic companion or lakeside sipper.

In listening to Fiorenzo and his friends talk about Moscato, I learned that the secret to his wine lies in the soil and his attention to detail. The calcareous soil often found in Piedmont is effective at producing full-bodied grapes that don’t require a heavy dose of sugar to hide their imperfections. While Moscato does not receive much respect in the United States, it was clear while talking to Fiorenzo that Moscato d’Asti is serious business in Peidmont.

So, as summer approaches, forgo the cheap supermarket Moscato and take the extra time to seek out a true Moscato d’Asti from Piedmont. You might be surprised at how enjoyable it can be!

Daily Wine News: Wine & Toilet Paper

Posted by | Posted in Wine News | Posted on 04-30-2012

Last week, CNBC ran a special on Costco, which included a segment on Annette Alvarez-Peters, Costco’s lead wine buyer. Talia Baiocchi describes the feature as “a six-minute segment on wine ignorance.” What do you think?

In the Los Angeles Times, Patrick Comiskey writes about the Willamette Valley, where many families are passing their wineries along to their children.

“Proper storage is essential for any wine that will be kept for more than a few months. First and foremost is a correct and constant temperature.” In the Wall Street Journal, Lettie Teague details her efforts to properly store her wine.

In Napa Valley, winemakers “feel good about 2012.”

In the International Herald Tribune, Eric Pfanner profiles Francesco Grigoli, grandson of Giuseppe Quintarelli.

“While ‘Virginia is For Lovers’ has been the widely recognized ad slogan for 43 years, Virginia is also now fast becoming the destination for wine lovers.” In the Huffington Post, CarstravelFood explains why Virginia is a perfect destination for wine lovers.

In the Financial Times, Jancis Robinson explains why provenance is becoming increasingly important in the fine wine trade.

The Bangor Daily News profiles a number of wineries along Maine’s midcoast.

Stone Cottage: Wine at 6,300 Feet

Posted by | Posted in Grape Adventures | Posted on 04-27-2012

When a rocket scientist decides to quit his day job in Boulder, Colorado and make wine at the northern hemisphere’s second-highest vineyard, one can safely assume that the wine is going to be interesting.

But the wine at Stone Cottage Cellars is more than just interesting. The winery’s Chardonnay and Gewurztraminer are both exceptional – and I definitely plan on stocking my own cellar with a few bottles.

Stone Cottage Cellars can trace its roots to the early 1990s, when Brent and Karen Helleckson decided it was time to find some farmland near their home in Boulder.

Brent grew up on a farm in Minnesota, and Karen grew up on a farm in South Dakota. As their children grew older, both wanted escape the city and return to agriculture.

Unfortunately, the land around Boulder was tremendously expensive. So they started traveling the state looking for property, eventually winding up in Paonia, a town in Delta County with a population of just 1,500. There, they found a 13-acre parcel for sale – and it was stunning. Sitting at about 6,300 feet, the property had sweeping views of the Rocky Mountains and some Gewürztraminer was already planted. So in 1994, they purchased the land.

In 1997, Karen and Brent moved to the property and started working on the vineyard and making plans to join the wine industry. Although the Gewürztraminer vines were more 20-years old, they were in terrible condition and needed to be nursed back to health. The husband-and-wife team also decided to plant Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, and Merlot and start building a cellar and winery.

In 2001, the Hellecksons released their first commercial wine — a Merlot — and in 2003, Brent quit his day job to dedicate more time to the fledgling vineyard in Colorado’s West Elks AVA.

During a pre-excursion to the DrinkLocalWine Conference, I visited Stone Cottage Cellars and tasted through four bottled wines and two barrel samples.  The Gewürztraminer and Chardonnay – which I revisited later than night with dinner – were absolutely delicious.

Tasting notes below. Read the rest of this entry »

Heart’s Delight Hot Lot: Big Bottles!

Posted by | Posted in Wine Events | Posted on 04-27-2012

As we mentioned last week, we are posting some of our favorite auction lots that are available for bidding, live or by absentee bid, from the Heart’s Delight Wine Tasting & Auction taking place May 2-5 in Washington, DC. More information on attending and bidding can be found in the original post.

Jeroboam. Rehoboam. Nebuchadnezzar. Salmanazar. Balthazar.

Old Testament Kings? Well, yes. But also some of the commonly-used (but non-standard) names for large format wine bottles, although no one seems to know who gave them such regal titles.

Big bottles captivate the attention of wine lovers for a variety of reasons. They are rare, as most producers do not go through the additional trouble required to bottle wine in such huge vessels; therefore, the scarcity increases the value of a large format bottle well above the sum of the values of the equivalent number of bottles it holds. Also, wine ages better in a big bottle, because the ratio of air to liquid is lower. Finally, they just look so damn cool. No one can deny that it is impressive to wheel out a huge bottle at a special celebration, not to mention the presentation of the bottle, full or empty, in one’s cellar.

This year, Heart’s Delight is auctioning off a number of large format bottles, but two in particular stand out. Read the rest of this entry »

Daily Wine News: Channeling Rooney

Posted by | Posted in Wine News | Posted on 04-27-2012

“If two times is a coincidence, then perhaps three times is a trend, and in the Finger Lakes, a trend seems to be emerging: A third wine producer has decided to focus on Riesling, Pinot Noir, and nothing else.” In New York Cork Report, Evan Dawson reports on the move by several Finger Lakes producers to eschew “quaffable reds such as Cabernet Franc or Blaufrankisch” and instead focus on one of the wine world’s most challenging grapes.

In the Wall Street Journal Europe, Will Lyons writes a primer on the impact of different maturation vessels on wine.

“Wouldn’t it really be for the best if wine didn’t have any alcohol at all? Then we could get rid of that stupid warning label on every bottle of wine, and pregnant women could start operating heavy machinery again. I’d like that.” The HoseMaster channels Andy Rooney, who comments on alcohol levels in wine, Merlot, and wine gizmos.

This shit is epic.” W. Blake Gray profiles Trey Fletcher, the new winemaker for Bien Nacido Vineyards,  and his effort to determine whether cow, sheep, horse or goat manure creates the fertilizer for his vines.

In the Wall Street Journal, Lettie Teague visits Brooklyn eater St. Anslem, where the wine list is the “secret weapon.”

Copia, the museum and education center in Napa dedicated to celebrating wine, food and the arts in American culture, failed in 2008. Earlier this week, an auction of the museum’s assets failed to make as much money as organizers hoped.

The Institut du Management du Vin in Burgundy has published a fascinating study that compares wine blogging in China and America. (H/T: Steve Heimoff.)

“Each of the past 52 weeks, my wife and I have opened a bottle of sparkling wine in honor of our son Ben’s first year.” In Colorado Wine Press, Kyle Schlachter recaps his (successful) effort to open different bottle of sparkling wine every week over the past year.

On Wednesday, the Senate passed a measure to overhaul the Postal Service. Among the new revenue generators? Allowing the Postal Service to deliver beer and wine.

Sommelier Interview: Kelli White and Scott Brenner from PRESS Restaurant

Posted by | Posted in Interviews | Posted on 04-26-2012

An article I recently read proclaimed, “30 is the new 300” when describing the shrinking wine lists of many Bay area restaurants. I presume this trend has its benefits – it’s costly to select, store, and sell a massive number of wine selections. Additionally, perhaps a limited number of wines differentiates a restaurant or certainly makes it easier for consumers to choose.

Bucking this trend is PRESS Restaurant in St. Helena. Last month the restaurant announced the debut of its new wine cellar, which holds up to 10,000 bottles. The cellar currently stores the largest restaurant collection of all-Napa wines anywhere. Super cool. Kelli White and Scott Brenner have been the sommelier duo behind PRESS since they moved to the west coast from New York City in 2010. The couple quit their jobs the day after they received the offer. :) Read more about Kelli, Scott, and their age-worthy, sometimes funky, all Napa wine program below: Read the rest of this entry »

Daily Wine News: Greetings from #DLW!

Posted by | Posted in Wine News | Posted on 04-26-2012

Greetings from Colorado, where I’m attending the DrinkLocalWine conference! On today’s agenda? A trip to Delta County to visit with several local winemakers.

In case you missed it, Wine Innovation Magazine published an interview with me yesterday. Check it out!

The team at Hourglass listens to “everything from Radiohead… to Dave Brubeck to… Mexican folk” while making wine. The New York Times highlights the musical choices of Hourglass, Bergström Wines, Wente Family Estates, and Andrew Murray.

In the Washington Post, Dave McIntyre publishes the second part of his two-part series on Sonoma Pinot Noir. In his latest installment, he looks at the pursuit of balance.

Meanwhile, in the San Jose Mercury News, Laurie Daniel highlights some “dramatic Pinot Noirs from the Santa Lucia Highlands.”

On Tuesday, the Sonoma County Board of Supervisors approved “new rules making it tougher to rip up forested hillsides to plant vineyards.”

W. Blake Gray chimes in on the recent James Suckling controversy, comparing it to CampoGate.

A new study commissioned by the Washington State Wine Commission has concluded that the state’s wine industry “contributes $8.6 billion annually to the state economy and nearly 30,000 jobs.”

“Tareq Salahi, a Virginia vintner who achieved notoriety for crashing a White House party and later saw his wife run off with a guitarist for the rock band Journey, now says he will run as a Republican for governor of Virginia.” A fantastic lede from the Associated Press.

Decanter.com has the scoop on more En Primeur pricing.

Heart’s Delight Hot Lot: Eat with the Emperor of Wine

Posted by | Posted in Wine Events | Posted on 04-25-2012

As we mentioned last week, we are posting some of our favorite auction lots that are available for bidding, live or by absentee bid, from the Heart’s Delight Wine Tasting & Auction taking place May 2-5 in Washington, DC. More information on attending and bidding can be found in the original post.

He’s been called the Emperor of Wine. The Million-Dollar NoseThe Great and Powerful ShnozThe Man with the Paragon Palate. His influence on the world of wine is unmatched. He is, quite simply, the “world’s foremost wine guru.”

His name is Robert M. Parker, Jr. And he wants to have dinner with you.

Lot #15 during the live auction portion of the Vintner’s Dinner on Friday, May 4, is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to dine with Robert Parker, nine of your friends, sixteen(!) of Mr. Parker’s own wines, and a tasting menu from a James Beard award finalist.

The venue will be Charleston Restaurant in Baltimore, MD. Helmed by Chef Cindy Wolf, Charleston is the best restaurant in town, and it happens to be Mr. Parker’s favorite. He eats there all the time!  Here are just some of the things he’s said about it:

And the wines. Oh, the wines! No one knows exactly just what he will be popping from his legendary cellar, but at past charity dinners he has hosted, the wines have included First Growth Bordeaux, Grand Cru Burgundy, Cult California wines, Super Tuscans and more. Needless to say, you won’t be disappointed. Read the rest of this entry »

Daily Wine News: Chatting with Grieco

Posted by | Posted in Wine News | Posted on 04-25-2012

Paul Grieco

In Eater, Talia Baiocchi chats with legendary sommelier Paul Grieco of Hearth and Terroir in New York City.

“I thought the best were extraordinary blends of luscious sweetness and sizzling acidity, while others seemed disjointed and occasionally harsh. Paul felt differently.” In the New York Times, Eric Asimov tastes through 20 auslese Rieslings from the 2010 vintage.

“I was not paid for any tastings or promotions… I was paid for videos. I am a film-maker as well as a wine journalist.” In Decanter.com, James Suckling replies to accusations that he received money from Quebec’s SAQ, which has a monopoly on wine retail, to review wine.

Meanwhile, in Palate Press, Evan Dawson pens an excellent column where he takes James Suckling and Robert Parker to task for “acting like… bullies.”

Michel Rolland has published an autobiography – The Wine Guru – and it sounds as if he’s settling some scores. (H/T: Eric Asimov.)

Robert Parker will turn 65 in July. In Sommelier Journal, Elin McCoy reflects on Parker’s legacy.

Woo hoo! Wine Spectator reports on “a new study [which] finds that a chemical in red wine may prevent some of the fatty foods we eat from being converted into fatty tissue.”

Randall Grahm is in the cider business. W. Blake Gray has the details.

Daily Wine News: Important People

Posted by | Posted in Wine News | Posted on 04-24-2012

According to Jeff Siegel, Annette Alvarez-Peters, who oversees Costco’s wine buying, is “the most important person in the wine business.”

In his latest Decanter.com column, Andrew Jefford shares his thoughts on the biggest stories of this year’s En Primeur.

On a recent trip to Sonoma, Dave McIntyre visited Greg La Follette. The two “trundled around the lower Sonoma Coast region in [La Follette's] pickup truck,” touring four vineyards. McIntyre brought his video camera.

Jordan? Armenia? Romania? The Netherlands? Syria?!? In the Financial Times, Jancis Robinson profiles the countries that might one day emerge “as genuine wine producers.”

Over on his blog, Fredric Koeppel writes about the wines of Jura producer Stéphane Tissot.

In the Santa Rosa Press Democrat, Peg Melnik profiles Ben Flajnik of Envolve Winery, “best known to the masses as ‘The Bachelor.’”

“In other words, the ‘truth’ of a review is never absolute, but only relative. And that’s better than no truth at all.” A meandering post from Steve Heimoff on Allen Meadows, Burgundy, and the subjectivity of wine criticism.

On a recent trip to Sonoma, Isaac James Baker was very impressed by the wines of Merry Edwards.

In Asia, the auction market appears to be slowing down.