IT BEGAN IN THE LATE 1800S with Ferruccio Biondi Santi, who built on the work begun by his grandfather, Clemente Santi, and produced the first Biondi-Santi Brunello di Montalcino. Today, seven generations later, the Biondi Santi family still produces the wine at its Tenuta Greppo estate in the Montalcino commune of Tuscany, with the wine still considered among the greatest of Tuscan wines.
ALICE LOUBATON IS AN AMERICAN who lived and worked in France for 10 years. Now settled in the United States, she combined her love and considerable knowledge of wine with marketing experiences in both countries to establish Loubaton Imports, a small company bringing the wines of France’s small, family-owned and -operated producers to the United States. None of these producers make large quantities of wine. Some of the wines have never before crossed the Atlantic. Fresh to the American palate, many are worthy discoveries in quality and price.
IN THE CURRENT SWIRL of Americans’ changing tastes, Irish whiskey’s popularity soared over the last decade, with sales growing substantially, particularly among higher-priced bottles. One of those U.S.-bound labels is Bushmills, the oldest of all Irish whiskeys, having been the country’s first whiskey distillery licensed, in 1608.
THE DUTCH MADE IT FIRST, probably in the early 17th century, and called it genever after the juniper berries that made its base. Over centuries, the name evolved into gin, and today many of the best-known brands of gin are made far from its land of origin. Now to gins produced in Great Britain, the United States, Spain, Germany and other countries, we can add Brazil’s McQueen and the Violet Fog.
THEY ARE THE THIRD GENERATION to lead Pasqua Vigneti e Cantine, the winery named for their family and started in Italy’s Veneto region in 1925. And they are determined to make their wines as well-known in the United States as they are in their home country. The winery produces about 1.5 million cases of wine each year, much of which it exports to 50 countries. Since taking over control of Pasqua in 2014, the members of the third generation have worked to put a fresh face on Pasqua wines in America.
TRIVENTO, IN SPANISH, MEANS “THREE WINDS,” a perfectly descriptive name for the Argentine winery where three beneficial winds blow across its vineyards in the Mendoza region. They are the polar wind of winter, the warming Zonda in the spring and the cooling Sudestada wind of summer. Each plays a vital part in producing the grapes that make the wines of Trivento. With them, winemaker Germán Di Cesare produces a variety of wines including Chardonnay, Torrontes, Pinot Grigio, Cabernet Sauvignon, Pinot Noir, Syrah and, especially, Malbec.
X MARKS THE SPOT — often the spot where a treasure can be found. And one such treasure is X wines, chosen by Xavier Flouret of the wine importing company Cognac-One. Its wines, with a large “X” on their labels, are boutique wines Flouret selects from his travels around the world, wines made by small producers he feels provide excellent representations of their region, their grapes, their type.
IT IS AN AUSTRIAN TAKE on a Mexican original. And yet it is a product of Mexico totally true to its Mexican origins. It is Padre azul, a tequila born out of an intercontinental love affair. Adrian Alvarez Maxemin, from Guadalajara, Mexico, was studying German in Heidelberg, Germany, when she met HP Eder, an Austrian working at a local bank. After they fell in love, they went to Mexico to meet her family, and Eder tasted his first true tequila. For him, it was “the most delicious spirit I had ever had.”
IN LAST MONTH’S COLUMN, I talked about the wines of Alentejo, the Portuguese region that opens like a fan southeast of Lisbon. On my recent trip there, I tasted so many interesting wines I could not mention all in one column. And so, this month, we continue our tour of Alentejo.
THE PIERRE HOTEL OPENED IN 1930, a handsome, light-shaded building on the corner of Manhattan’s Fifth Avenue and East 61st Street with sweeping views of Central Park. Eighty-eight years later, it remains one of the city’s most elegant and luxurious hotels. With its reputation for excellent care and distinguished service, it attracted such guests over the years as Audrey Hepburn, Coco Chanel, Karl Lagerfeld, Yves Saint Laurent and Paul Newman. And it has been the hotel of choice for scenes in several movies and television programs. Today, managed by Taj Hotels, this landmark hotel remains an oasis in the city, offering not only white glove service to guests but also dynamic food and beverage service, from cocktails to afternoon tea to French-American fare in its Perrine restaurant.
ALENTEJO FANS OUT EAST OF LISBON, an enormous arc of land covering nearly one-third of Portugal yet holding barely 7 percent of the country’s people. What it lacks in population, it more than makes up for in its wines and vineyards, its cheeses, hams, sausages, cork oak trees and the wheat that makes its memorable breads. And it is equally rich in archaeological finds, ancient towns and millennia-old wine methods. Two thousand years ago, the Romans, who had a long stay in what is now Portugal, made their wine in large clay amphorae. During a recent trip through Alentejo, I came across amphorae, both old and new, in a number of wineries and tasted wines being made in them today.
IT MAY BE ABLE TO TRACE ITS WINE HISTORY back some 6,000 years, perhaps longer than any country, but Greece looks forward, not backward, with the wine it produces today. While some wineries make Sauvignon Blanc, Merlot and other wines from Western grapes, most make their best and most interesting wines from Greece’s own original native varieties.
IT WAS IN 1691 IN THE DUTCH TOWN of Schiedam that Carolus Nolet made his first spirit with the goal of creating an exceptionally fine, smooth vodka. Today, 327 years and 11 generations later, the Nolet family still makes exceptionally fine, smooth vodka, producing the spirit in Schiedam and still using Carolus’ original copper pot still, along with other stills and modern distilling techniques.
WHENEVER WINE AFICIONADOS talk about Italy’s greatest wines, they are sure to bring up Brunello di Montalcino, often the first and, occasionally, the only one mentioned. A Tuscan wine, it is made solely from Sangiovese Grosso, the grape grown in vineyards surrounding the town of Montalcino, 20 miles south of Siena. This super clone of Sangiovese bears large, rich, thick-skinned berries that are brown-shaded — thus, the name Brunello. And it is capable of making bold, flavorful red wines, most of which need years of aging to reach their peak. In fact, Italian wine laws require Brunello di Montalcino be aged five years after harvest before it is released and its riserva six years before being put on the market.
OFTEN, AFTER I’VE PRESENTED a wine tasting to people relatively new to wine, they are eager to ask questions: “How do I know I’ll like a wine?” “What’s an interesting wine?” “What’s a wine that tastes good and won’t cost too much?” “What would you drink with spaghetti? With salad?” And always, “What’s a good wine?”
ONCE, ROSÉ WAS A WINE to sip in summer and to put away when the calendar flipped to fall. No longer. As wine retailers and sommeliers discovered, there are sizable requests for rosé all year ʼround, and for good reason. A well-made, dry rosé may be the ultimate pairing wine, one that comfortably accompanies the widest range of dishes — almost any dish, in fact, other than heavy, dark meat courses. Another reason for its popularity: It is simply delicious.
OF ALL THE MAJOR PRODUCERS in France’s Champagne region, only a few are family-owned. One of the few is Maison & Domaines Henriot, founded in 1808 and today, seven generations later, still making outstanding Champagne. As a privately owned Champagne house, Henriot chooses to keep its production low, to just over 1 million bottles a year, while most larger houses in the region turn out many millions annually.
FAME CAN BE FICKLE. And the more famous something becomes, the more likely its true nature is lost. Take Pinot Grigio, for example. Born in France centuries ago as the brownish pink-skinned Pinot Gris grape, it crossed the border into Italy. There renamed Pinot Grigio, by the turn of this century it had become the most popular white wine in that country and, soon, Italy’s most popular imported white wine in the United States.
IT WAS LOVE AT FIRST SIP. It happened in the south of France where drinks like Pernod are particularly popular. I poured a bit in a glass and marveled at its brilliant, transparent, green-tinged, golden-yellow shade; breathed in its sweet licorice aroma; and then, since I was told it would bring out even more pleasure, I added some water. Immediately, the clear liquid turned a creamy-looking, opaque shade. And the aroma, already rich, now offered a deeply exotic bouquet of anise and licorice, flowers and a garden of herbs and left a delightful, lingering aftertaste. It was pure pleasure, and I, who love licorice, had found my favorite aperitif.
MEUNIER IS CHAMPAGNE’S other grape, the one we rarely hear about. And yet it is an integral part of the region’s famed sparkling wines. Champagne can be made from three grapes — Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Meunier — either totally from one grape or a combination of two or three. But while wine fans are acquainted with the light-skinned Chardonnay and dark-skinned Pinot Noir, not many realize dark-skinned Meunier is every bit as important to Champagne. In fact, there is more Meunier planted in Champagne than Chardonnay.
MENTION THE WINES of Provence and most people think pink. Understandably so. Rosé comprises 35 percent of the wine made in this region in southern France, almost 6 percent of all rosé made in the world. But Provence also produces less known and highly attractive whites and reds.
IN A WINE REGION FAMOUS FOR its expensive red wines and large enough to warrant 60 area appellations, the challenge of finding good wines at reasonable prices may loom as overwhelming. But Bordeaux, one of the world’s most highly regarded wine regions — whose top-rated wines often sell for hundreds and, when they are also well-aged and from a highly rated vintage, may cost thousands — also produces a remarkable number of great and affordable finds.
CITY WINERY IS JUST WHAT its name says: a working winery in the heart of a city — New York City, in fact. Opened in 2009 by wine enthusiast Michael Dorf, it offers the rare urban setting where wine lovers can make their own wine from grapes chief winemaker David Lecomte selects in California, New York state, Oregon and Argentina. They can bottle their wine and add custom labels. They can attend wine and food courses, wine tastings, wine seminars and wine dinners. And they can celebrate the joy of it all with music programs in the evening in City Winery’s adjoining large social space.
ASK WINE FANS ABOUT Tokaji and they will gladly talk about Hungary’s famous sweet white wine. Ask them about Furmint and most will have a quizzical look. Tell them it is the white grape that makes sweet Tokaji and they will nod. Add that Furmint also produces a lovely dry wine and nearly all will be surprised.
FOR ALL THE DAZZLE of the modern digital age, centuries-old products continue to bring delight, comfort and joy. And Scotch, the fabled whisky of Scotland, is one of them. Scotch takes its basic character from barley, its raw material. As a result, where the barley is grown and how it is treated very much determines the whisky’s ultimate taste and character. That individualistic taste is especially strong in single malt Scotch, whisky made solely from the barley of a single distillery. No blends, no additions, simply a pure representation of its origins.
COMPARED TO MANY Champagne houses that are a century and more old, Bruno Paillard is a relative newcomer. While members of the Paillard family have been growers and brokers in the Champagne region since the early 1700s, none ever made Champagne. In 1981 Bruno Paillard, at the age of 27, broke that tradition when he sold his vintage Jaguar for 50,000 francs and used the money to establish Champagne Bruno Paillard. In 2007 he set another new Paillard tradition when his daughter, Alice, then in her twenties, joined him. After working in the vineyards and cellar and studying the business side of Champagne, she is now co-director.
BURGUNDY, A QUIET LAND of tiny, medieval stone villages and pocket-sized vineyards in eastern France, makes some of the world’s greatest wines, and it does so using only two varietals. Whites are made totally from Chardonnay, and reds are made totally from Pinot Noir. Other countries plant the same grapes, and many make exceptionally fine wines from them, but none quite achieves the mystique of Burgundy. Only in Burgundy do these grapes produce wines as sensuous as liquid silk.
SOUTH AFRICAN AIRWAYS boasts an 83-year history, founded in 1934. Today the international airline serves 38 airports in 26 countries. And for the 31st year, it continues its meticulous program of choosing the wines offered on board. Like many airlines of wine-producing countries, South African Airways is justly proud of its own nation’s wines and serves its passengers South Africa’s best. Choosing those wines is a painstaking exercise that brings out the finest of the offerings.
SICILY HAS BEEN MAKING wine for millennia and today claims more vineyards than any other wine region in Italy. Yet it has only recently garnered international recognition for producing high-quality table wines. Some come from international varieties, but more interesting are those from ancient grapes grown in Sicily since the time of the Greeks.
IN FRANCE, THE UNITED STATES and Australia, the grape is called Grenache. In Spain its name is Garnacha. And it is known by a variety of other names depending on where it is planted, ranging from Italy to Mexico to Morocco to Croatia and beyond. It is one of the world’s most widely planted grapes, yet it is not well-known as a wine. The main reason: Most often used as part of a blend, its name does not appear on the label.
Meliá Hotels International, based in Spain, operates 350 hotels in 40 countries, but it offered none in the United States until opening INNSIDE New York Nomad in March. There, in an open, light-drenched space enhanced with earth and neutral shades, the hotel offers 300 guestrooms on 20 floors, a wellness suite and Impero Caffé, where well-known chef Scott Conant features Italian bistro cuisine. It also features two meeting rooms with floor-to-ceiling windows.
It is a small, elegant affair to honor a new job, a meaningful promotion, an intimate wedding, a special Father’s Day. A celebration that involves family and closest friends calls for the best. And the best means Champagne’s Prestige Cuvées. They are exceptionally fine Champagnes and tend to be expensive. But then, it is not an event where we pour Champagne for hundreds; it is a gathering for the few, the most meaningful people in our lives. I’ve recently tasted some Prestige Cuvée Champagnes I would gladly choose to serve at my own special celebration. Dom Ruinart represents one of the oldest firms in Champagne, begun in 1729, and it produces an outstanding blanc de blancs. Tasting the 2004 ($130) vintage, I found it aromatic with hints of citric fruits; a clean, smooth body; and lovely aftertaste. Overall, a most elegant Champagne. Like all blanc de blancs Champagnes, Taittinger Comtes de Champagne is made entirely of Chardonnay. Its Blanc de Blancs 2006 ($125) offers exceptionally fine bubbles and a lemony freshness. Lean and clean, it is satisfying and delicious. Perrier-Jouet Belle Epoque 2002 ($325), a blanc de blancs, offers a bouquet that reminds one of pear and tropical fruits. Add a floral delicacy in the aroma, a vivaciousness in the body and a finish that is all grace for a most stylish Champagne. In 1876, Czar Alexander II of Russia asked the Champagne house of Louis Roederer to create a special wine for him. It created Cristal, and 140 years later it still produces this special Champagne. Cristal’s latest release, the vintage 2007 ($185), offers a rich bouquet of citric flavors, white fruits and crushed nuts and shows an overall harmonious balance. Moët & Chandon’s Dom Perignon 2006 ($155) pleases as a bright, vibrant sparkler with a floral intensity and beautiful balance of flavors . . . a silky and appealing Champagne. The non-vintage Krug Grande Cuvée ($130) presents a bright, creamy, complex Champagne brimming with aromas of berries and almonds and with a zesty acidity. An intriguing Champagne. As they all are.
A country whose wine history stretches back to 1659, South Africa enjoyed an oenological rebirth in the mid-1990s after the death of apartheid and the birth of democracy. Today it boasts nearly 600 wineries, with 247,000 acres planted in vines, and produces a range of wines that catch the attention of wine lovers throughout the world. Recently I tasted a group of new releases of South African wines in the United States — some from well-established wineries, some from wineries just entering the international market. Highberry Sauvignon Blanc 2014 ($21) represents both. It hails from a new winery owned by three men with long wine experience, one of whom is Jabulani Ntshangase, the preeminent black South African in that country’s wine world. Its first release is a delicate, subtly flavored, pale-shaded wine offering excellent balance and evoking flavorful citrus fruits. New on the international market, Virgin Earth Sauvignon Blanc 2015 ($19) calls to mind freshly mown grass, a basic aroma of its grape. It also offers a floral essence and a rich array of tropical fruits. With 18 percent of its vineyards planted to Chenin Blanc, South Africa is the world’s largest producer of the grape. And Terre Brulée Chenin Blanc 2014 ($16) proves an interesting example of the many paths the grape can take. The winery’s owner, from France’s Loire, produced a smoky, spicy wine with good acidity and hints of honey and citrus. Pinotage is a grape created in South Africa in the 1920s. Radford Dale Frankenstein Pinotage 2014 ($35) captures the essence of the grape with its dark color, an aroma that recalls plums and other red fruits, and a lingering finish. Thelema remains one of South Africa’s most dependable wineries, and its 100 percent Cabernet Sauvignon 2010 ($35) continues that reputation. A smooth, stylish, complex wine, it displays dark fruit flavors and a long finish. Ken Forrester Renegade 2011 ($20) offers a blend of Syrah and Grenache and melds the flavors of both — the spice and black olive of Syrah and the earthier flavors of Grenache. They add up to a distinctive, well-structured, full-bodied wine.
Marsha said, “I love red wine but I only drink white when I’m at a business function. I don’t want to talk to a client when my teeth are stained with wine.” Purple, she added, is her favorite color, just not on her teeth. But with a few precautions, Marsha need not worry. In fact, she might find red wine safer than white. And this is how we can best manage the problem.
Some credit a return of the cocktail culture (though many doubt it ever went away). Others credit an improving economy, new interest in American-made distilled spirits and the next logical step after our enchantment with wine and craft beer. Whatever the reason, Americans are drinking more distilled spirits, and with this abundance of bottles comes an abundance of books about them, their backgrounds and suggestions on how best to enjoy them.
The irony is its grapes grow in an area that for centuries was considered incapable of producing fine fruit. Yet today this wine ranks among the greatest Italy has ever produced. It is Ornellaia, made from Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet Franc and Petit Verdot, classic Bordeaux grapes grown in the westernmost part of Tuscany.
Begun in 1857 in Sonoma County, California’s oldest winery, Buena Vista, still makes remarkable wines. Sonoma is also home to more than 400 other wineries, scattered across the county’s 1 million square acres. Its 60,000 acres of vineyards are planted in up to 50 different types of soil in 17 American Viticultural Areas, distinctive U.S. wine grape growing regions called AVAs, or appellations. With such size and so many diverse soils and varying weather conditions, Sonoma can produce a wide variety of high-quality wines, among them some of California’s finest Pinot Noir and Chardonnay.
The ancient wine land of Campania lies along the shin of Italy’s “boot,” with the Mediterranean Sea as its western border and Naples as its capital. With a viticultural history dating back to the 12th century B.C., today Campania offers the pleasure of drinking wines made of grapes often found nowhere else in the world. Look elsewhere for international wines — the Cabernets, Merlots, Chardonnays and Rieslings produced in nearly every winemaking country. In Campania, expect wines made of Aglianico, a red grape introduced to the region millennia ago by the Greeks; Fiano, a white grape planted in the region for hundreds of years and first mentioned by name in the 13th century; the white Greco di Tufo, a light-shaded grape introduced by the Greeks to southern Italy 2,500 years ago; Coda di Volpe, also grown in the Campania region since ancient times; and other “new” grapes.
Separately, they did just fine. Together, they are doing even better. In 2012 LAN Airlines, based in Chile, and TAM Airlines, based in Brazil, became LATAM Airlines Group, the largest airline association in South America. In August of this year, the brand announced a new brand identity as LATAM. LATAM's new brand roll-out begins in 2016 and will continue for three years.
In a way, Tom Hedges backed into winemaking. It was the 1980s and he was marketing American wine in Taiwan. Next, he sold an American Cabernet Sauvignon/Merlot blend he’d purchased to the Swedish government. From there, it was not long until he and his French-born wife, Anne-Marie, thought about making their own wine. To start, they bought 50 acres on the southwest slope of Red Mountain in his native state of Washington; nothing had ever been planted on it. Today, the Hedges Family Estate is celebrating its 25th vintage of wines made from grapes grown on their now 125 acres of Red Mountain. Daughter Sarah is the winemaker. Son Christophe is general manager and director of sales. It is, as its name says, a family affair.
A recent movie titled Just 45 Minutes from Broadway actually took place miles from this world-famous setting. The Westin New York at Times Square, on the other hand, is barely 4.5 minutes from Broadway, just one block from the center of the city’s celebrated theater world, just steps from more than 40 theaters. In addition to offering its enviable location, the 13-year-old hotel, the first Westin in New York City, recently unveiled the $33 million renovation that provided its 873 guestrooms a fresh, new look — many with spectacular views of Manhattan — and accomplishing it all with energy-saving devices, recycled materials and other environmentally friendly practices. The renovation also included $1.6 million spent on the ninth floor’s 8,760 square feet of meeting and event space and the floor’s center, the stunning Atrium that soars seven stories high.
So many factors go into Asiana Airlines’ choice of wines served on its international first- and business-class flights. The carrier must consider both Korean and Western cuisines as well as the taste preferences of 17 million passengers from the 24 countries it serves.
Mark Twain once said, “Too much of anything is bad, but too much Champagne is just right.” More than a century later, Americans are doing their part to make rosé Champagne the drink that is just right. Last year, the United States pulled the cork on 3 million bottles of rosé Champagne, raising the pink bubbly to 16.2 percent of all Champagne shipped to this country.
Tequila has come a long way in a short time. From a low-priced, shudder-producing, raw alcohol, many have moved up the quality scale to become everything they were not before. All tequila is made from the blue agave plant, grown in Mexico and produced in the state of Jalisco and a few surrounding areas. But whereas less expensive mixto contains a minimum of 51 percent blue agave, premium tequila is made 100 percent of the plant. And while cheaper tequila is aged solely in used bourbon casks, the elite is often aged in such containers as used Bordeaux and Napa Valley barrels.
“You, a winemaker? No one would hire a woman winemaker.” So said Cathy Corison’s professor when she was studying for her master’s degree in oenology to become just that — a winemaker. That was 1978. Today, about 10 percent of the winemakers in California’s 3,700 wineries are women. And Corison, after working in other wineries, has not only owned Corison Winery since 1987, she earned an enviable international reputation for making some of the finest, most elegant, well-balanced Cabernet Sauvignon in Napa Valley. In a region where many Cabernets reach hot-to-the-mouth 15-plus-degree alcohol, Cathy Corison never produces one more than 14.
Once they were one: Graves, a sub-region within the large Bordeaux region of France. It wasn’t until 1987 that the northern part, beginning just south of the city of Bordeaux, gained its own legal appellation, Pessac-Léognan. Separate or together, they both carry the distinction of their soil. Graves means “gravel,” and true to its name, these two sub-regions have deep levels of gravel and stone, excellent for producing particularly fine grapes and, thus, fine wines. Graves and Pessac-Léognan boast another distinction: They are the only sub-regions in Bordeaux that make both top-class red and top-class white wines. Graves produces 20 million bottles a year, of which two-thirds are red; Pessac-Léognan produces half that many bottles, of which 80 percent are red.
When Shakespeare wrote “Sweets to the sweet” in Hamlet, they were words delivered with flowers scattered in Ophelia’s grave. How the centuries have changed the meaning. Say “Sweets to the sweet” today, and we think of romance, love, sweets to eat and sweets to drink.
Since it first came to light in France about a thousand years ago, Chenin Blanc has been known as a major white grape of the Loire Valley. Ten centuries later, however, it is South Africa that is this versatile grape’s largest producer, accounting for about 20 percent of its vineyards, about twice as many as in the Loire. It’s not that the country suddenly adopted Chenin Blanc; it was introduced into South Africa in the late 1600s. But it spent most of its years there as the country’s workhorse, a grape that blended easily with other grapes in an array of styles. And until recently, it was known there as Steen. Today, South Africa has rediscovered it, the best examples now appearing unblended, bottled as a 100 percent Chenin Blanc, labeled under its proper name (occasionally with Steen added) and offering a vibrant, opulent wine.
In a country where wines tend to trace their origins back centuries, sparkling Franciacorta is an anomaly. Born in the Lombardy region just 53 years ago, it was the first sparkler in Italy to be made from the same grape varietals and by the same method as Champagne, and in its relatively short history, it has become Italy’s finest sparkler.
There were 150 Pilgrims and Native Americans at the first Thanksgiving, a feast that lasted three days. They ate wild turkeys, partridges and other birds; five deer the Native people brought; corn, cranberries and pumpkins. What they lacked that first year was beer, the “water” of their time. But making beer came easily to the settlers since it was the drink of their home country; and once settled in their new land, they enjoyed it during following feasts.
It was only 40 years ago that Long Island’s first winery was established, and land that once grew potatoes began to sprout grape vines. Today, this region, 85 miles east of New York City, boasts 56 wineries, most at the far end of the island where it splits in two. Forty-seven wineries lie on the North Fork, four on the South Fork, and there are 3,000 acres of vineyards. The lure? With a cool maritime climate, well-drained soils and the longest growing season of East Coast wine regions, Long Island has proven it can grow many of Europe’s finest vinifera grapes.
It began as a hunger for flavor, diversity, quality, authenticity and uniqueness. By the mid-1970s, it took on the fervor of a renaissance, beginning with a trickle of microbreweries and a few home brewers. It grew over the years to become today’s highly regarded and highly original American craft beer.
The Westin New York Grand Central Hotel takes care of its guests from top to bottom. At the top, on its roof, 384 feet above mid-Manhattan, it cultivates a 1,344-square-foot organic vegetable garden whose mesclun greens, arugula, heirloom tomatoes, basil, thyme and other herbs and vegetables become part of the hotel restaurant’s seasonal menus.
In a region where 89.5 percent of the wine production is rosé, whites have a very small voice. Provence, that glorious stretch in the south of France where sunflowers seem to smile and fields of lavender waft their perfume across the countryside, is the only French wine region where rosé dominates. But hidden behind this sea of rosés are lovely, virtually unknown whites. While they account for only 3.5 percent of Provence’s output (the remaining 7 percent is red), they are nature’s perfection for summer sipping.
At least 53 of the world’s countries make wine. But even that list, extensive though it is, does not mention Montenegro. A small country (population 600,000) with Europe’s largest continuous vineyard (5,700 acres), Montenegro, under the brand name Plantaže, exports to 35 countries, including the United States. And while its vineyards also grow Cabernet Sauvignon and other Western European varieties, it takes particular pride in wines made from its native red grape, Vranac. About 70 percent of its vineyards are planted in red grapes; of those, 70 percent are Vranac.
“Let me tell you a story,” Carolyn Wente said. And as the fourth generation and CEO of Wente Vineyards, California’s oldest continuously operated, family-owned winery, she had many stories to tell. So did her nephew, fifth-generation Karl Wente, winemaker and senior vice president of winemaking. Their story began in 1883 when Carl H. Wente planted a few acres of grapes in Livermore Valley. Today, Wente owns 3,000 acres of vineyards in Livermore Valley, San Francisco Bay and Arroyo Seco in Monterey and produces 600,000 cases of wine annually, about 25 percent of them sold overseas, in 50 countries.
It is small and hilly, and nearly every other shop along its steep, narrow streets sells wine. This is Saint-Émilion, the picturesque medieval town in the wine district of Saint-Émilion, 25 miles east of the city of Bordeaux and the oldest winemaking area in the Bordeaux region. While most people think of red Bordeaux as primarily made of Cabernet Sauvignon, Saint-Émilion is known for full, luscious reds based primarily on Merlot; Cabernet Sauvignon plays a minor role in its blends. It is soil that largely determines which grapes grow best, and in Saint-Émilion’s soils, that is Merlot.
Never mind the Strauss waltz about the beautiful blue Danube. Is it beautiful? Yes. Blue? No. The wines along the river, on the other hand, are striking shades of red and yellow. They are the products of the nine winemaking countries the Danube passes as it flows nearly 1,800 miles from Germany to the Black Sea.
About 12 miles northwest of Florence, within the Tuscan district of Carmignano, lies the village of Capezzana, where unearthed parchments show wine was produced as early as 804. Capezzana is still producing wine, notably at the winery Tenuta di Capezzana, named after its village and owned by the Contini Bonacossi family since the 1920s. Today it is run by the family’s third and fourth generations.
Bordeaux is the largest wine appellation in France, with close to 7,000 producers. But how many do we hear about other than the 61 Grand Cru châteaux plus a handful from Pomerol and Saint-Émilion? Most of their wines are often excellent, all of them always expensive, with the extraordinary 2010 vintage being offered by some châteaux for $1,000 or more a bottle.
A fine Champagne does not shout. It draws the taster to its singular character with nuance and subtlety. Nuance and subtlety might be odd words to describe the Champagne of a giant house, one producing millions of bottles — in some cases, well over 100 million each year. But the words are apt descriptions of A.R. Lenoble Champagne, a house that keeps its quality up and its production down to about 400,000 bottles annually, small by most Champagne standards.
Every great grape has a home base, a country or region considered its natural and prime habitat. The finest Pinot Noir, for example, is found in Burgundy. Nebbiolo thrives in Piedmont. And Riesling shows its best in Germany.
Just when we understand the meaning of “sustainable,” “organic” and other grape-growing terms, the world of wine is adding another. It is “biodynamics,” a method of grape growing based on principles the Austrian philosopher Rudolph Steiner set in the 1920s. It is, in a way, looking back for its future.
The Charles Krug Winery is a tale of two immigrants. The first, Charles Krug, came to California from Prussia in the 1820s and in 1861 opened the first commercial winery in Napa Valley. The second was Italian-born Cesare Mondavi, who arrived in California in 1922 and bought the winery in 1943. After Cesare, his son Peter headed Charles Krug. Today, 152 years old, the winery is still owned by the Mondavis and now run by Peter’s sons, Peter, Jr. and Marc, with members of the fourth generation beginning to enter the picture — and with Peter, 98 years old, still coming to the winery daily.
SAY WHAT YOU WILL about wine, it is never dull. In its cascade of tastes and types, it overflows with variety. And since the first issue of Global Traveler, nearly 10 years ago, I’ve had the pleasure of writing a monthly column about this subject of infinite possibility. There was wine before there was the written word, and millennia later, it has only gained in appeal. It lured countries once content to produce ordinary jug wine into becoming contenders for international awards. It tempted regions that never before grew a grape to plant acres of vines. It enticed nearly every state in the United States to turn to winemaking. While I’ve written columns about the best of California, Oregon and New York State, Americans are making wine everywhere. Texas has more grapevines than cowboys. Desert-like New Mexico is home to 50 wineries. Idaho still grows potatoes, but it is far more enthusiastic about its wine grapes. Virginia’s vineyards have expanded. So have those of Washington, Pennsylvania, Colorado, Ohio, New Jersey . . . wherever it is possible to grow a grape.
In the seventh century, in a part of France’s Ardèche called Cousignac, a small chapel was built and named Notre Dame. In the 18th century, the Pommier family bought the property and over the years turned the fields into vineyards. The chapel is still there, now in the middle of the Pommiers’ vineyards, and the winery’s name is, appropriately, Notre Dame de Cousignac.
A winemaker who uses unfamiliar grapes to make unfamiliar wines in an unfamiliar region, Sandra Alves is producing tastes considered not only new but intriguing and sensual as well. Still, the young white-wine winemaker at the huge and complex Herdade do Esporão winery in Portugal’s Alentejo region says, “I try to keep things as simple as possible.”
Along the superhighway of Italian wine, Le Marche is a side road. Set at the eastern end of central Italy bordering the Adriatic Sea, Le Marche is a quiet place where few travelers venture beyond Urbino, its Renaissance-rich town, and its beaches. But while its region is relatively unheralded, even the casual wine drinker is aware of its major white wine, Verdicchio; and the more dedicated wine lover knows the surprising pleasures of its reds.
Jess Jackson and his wife, Barbara Banke, knew exactly what they wanted: the ideal setting in Australia to grow Rhône grapes. They found it in 2001, in Yangarra Estate in the McLaren Vale region. They also wanted a winemaker who could turn those grapes into outstanding Rhône-style wines. They found him in Peter Fraser, who believes in preserving the essential taste of the grape in his wines.
“It was the hardest thing I’ve ever had to do,” Susan Sokol Blosser said. And that was after a lifetime of hard decisions, beginning in the early 1970s, when Susan Sokol and her first husband, Bill Blosser, established Sokol Blosser Winery in Oregon, before Oregon had a viable wine industry. Hard decisions continued as she worked the vineyards and heavy equipment and, in 1991, became president of the winery. Then, in 2008, she tackled the hardest one of all. After a slow transition and without being pressured to do so, she resigned from the presidency and appointed her daughter, Alison, and son, Alex, co-presidents of the winery.
If it weren’t for the Templeton Gap and other dips in the Santa Lucia Range allowing cool marine air from the Pacific Ocean to flow in, California’s Paso Robles region would not be home to 168 wineries. Its climate would be too hot to grow fine grapes. And if it did not have such a wide swing between day and night temperatures, its wines would not be so well-balanced.
Upper New York State’s Finger Lakes, a pastoral world of 11 lakes shaped like fingers, has 120 wineries that produce this country’s finest Riesling. Yet, other than a few wineries along the larger lakes, it is barely known outside the state. Even less known is the area whose lakes are the size of little fingers and whose wineries are equally small.
A country that traces its beer-making history back to the time of the Crusades, Belgium today is considered the most diverse beer producer in the world. Among the many stylistically individual beers it produces are abbey and Trappist beers.
Piedmont, the wine region in northwest Italy, rarely calls attention to itself. It lets its wines speak for it. Here, the Nebbiolo grape is king, reaching its finest expression in such wines as Barolo and Barbaresco, among others. The best Nebbiolo comes from a delimited area of communes within Piedmont, one of which is La Morra. And this is where, in 1978, the Dogliani family bought a winery with seven beni (vineyards with farm houses) and named it Beni di Batasiolo. Today, the third-generation Doglianis own nine beni for a total of almost 300 acres, of which nearly 60 percent is planted in Nebbiolo and another 10 percent in other red varieties of the region.
There they were, three friends in a bar in London’s Notting Hill, sipping gin and tonic and hating the gin, when one of them, Martin Miller, pushed his drink aside. “Enough,” he said. “Gin shouldn’t taste like this. Gin is romance. Gin is adventure. Gin is the most seductive of drinks. It should invite you to love it.”
They’re not the most famous wines. Their grapes are unfamiliar. And their name is slightly misleading. But if they are not yet familiar to you, August is the perfect time to discover Vinho Verde. A product of northern Portugal, they are the quintessential summer wines — delicate, light, refreshing, low in alcohol and lightly pétillant when you pour them, a wine to enjoy in its youth. As for its name, Vinho Verde translates to “green wine,” but here green means young, not aged, and the wine’s color tends toward the palest yellow, not green.
SD26 is San Domenico reborn. A bright, modern, festive restaurant with soaring ceilings and edgy artwork, SD26 is the sparkling, 3-year-old descendent on Manhattan’s East 26th Street of the sedate, 20-year-old San Domenico on Central Park South. But while the name, location and décor changed, owner Tony May and his daughter, Marisa, made certain its cuisine did not. Italian-born Mr. May has always taken pride in his restaurant’s authentic Italian cuisine; and the pastas, game, meats, seafood and cheeses of San Domenico made the move to SD26.
Like Rioja, Ribera del Duero’s major grape is Tempranillo, called Tinto Fino in Ribera. And like Rioja, its wine is made to age long and well. But while the two wines share similarities, Ribera, whose vineyards stretch along the Duero River, has its own individuality. Although many vintners make their Ribera with 100 percent Tempranillo, the law allows them to use a minimum 75 percent, blending the rest with Garnacha, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Malbec.
Across the world, it is almost always true that the locally made beverage is a natural match with the local cuisine. Burgundy, for example, is the perfect companion to Burgundy’s foods, and this is so for the wines and foods of nearly every wine-producing region. It is also true for sake and Japanese cuisine: a meeting and melding of flavors and tastes.
“We’ve had Malbec in Argentina for a century, so there’s been plenty of time to make careful selections and develop only the best vines,” said Jean-Jacques Bonnie of DiamAndes. That is one reason Malbec, once a bit player in Bordeaux, is now the starring red grape in Argentina. Argentina’s dry, temperate, sunny climate and vineyards 3,000 feet high on the slopes of the Andes Mountains — conditions that help the grape ripen fully — produce the finest expression of Malbec, probably in the world.
When bourbon is put in oak barrels to age, about 2 percent of the spirit evaporates through the wood. This is called the angels’ share. But it’s the 98 percent the angels do not take that matters. And this is why a new super-premium bourbon has been named Angel’s Envy. Satin-smooth, rich and mellow with a sensuous aroma that recalls vanilla, pear, caramel and dried fruits, it is enough to make an angel flap its wings in envy for what is left behind.
An outstanding Montepulciano d’Abruzzo, a memorable New Zealand Syrah. Each is a particularly fine example of its kind. This month, rather than concentrate on a specific region or type of wine, I’d like to give single examples of several red wines, each different from the others, each outstanding in and of itself.
In 1681, the little town of Rust (pronounced “roost”) in what is now Austria’s Burgenland province became a “free city,” buying its freedom from Emperor Leopold I with 60,000 gold guilders and 500 buckets of Ruster Ausbruch, its finest sweet wine.
It began in 1982 when Pablo Morandé planted the region’s first vineyards — four acres of Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay and Riesling. It made news in 1989 when Ignacio Recabarren captured the winegrowing potential of Chile’s Casablanca Valley with his Sauvignon Blanc, the region’s first commercial wine. Until then, no one thought of Casablanca Valley — north of Santiago and cooled by the Pacific Ocean, barely 20 miles away — as an ideal place to produce cooler-climate wines.
In the 1700s, when the Austrian composer Joseph Haydn served as the musical director for the Esterházy family, one of the wealthiest and most influential in the Austrian Empire, he received part of his salary in wine. At that time, Esterházy was already known for the quality of the wine made at its ancestral home in Burgenland in eastern Austria near the Hungarian border. Now, some 250 years later, Esterházy wines have come to the United States, and Americans can discover for themselves why Haydn so willingly accepted wine rather than cash.
Pillitteri Estates Winery When it comes to climate, we bend to it; it does not bend to us — a fact wise vintners acknowledge. Warm climate? Don't plant cool-climate grapes. They will ripen, they will make wine, but with too much sun and heat, many of their characteristic flavors will likely be muted.
In an attempt to describe Torrontés, Argentina’s signature white wine, some have compared it to Pinot Grigio, Viognier, even Riesling. But none come close. Made from the grape of the same name, Torrontés is like no other. It begins with an aroma that conjures up a bouquet of flowers (the honeyed, perfumed Muscat of Alexandria is one of its ancestors), hinting that a sweet wine will follow. But no, Torrontés goes toward dry and fruity with a tangy and spicy edge. It is the perfect aperitif and equally right with shellfish, Niçoise salad, chicken, other white-meat dishes, lightly flavored cheese and many Asian foods.
Barely a decade ago, I would not have considered writing about Israeli wines. The effort was there; the quality was not. Despite the region’s wine history that dates back to biblical times, it was only in the 1980s and 1990s that Israel’s wine truly reinvented itself. With a surge in technological advancement and more young Israeli winemakers training abroad, many of the country’s nearly 300 wineries have now leaped across millennia and into the 21st century. And while their names may not be familiar, most of the grapes that make their wines are. Take Dalton Winery’s Estate Shiraz 2009 ($18). Blended with small amounts of Petite Sirah, Merlot and Mourvèdre, it is a deep-shaded and intense wine with peppery tones in the aroma followed by a round body. The winery’s Fumé Blanc 2009 ($15) echoes Sauvignon Blanc’s characteristic grassy aroma and lively taste.
If you have ever questioned the adjectives used to describe a wine, if you ever wondered whether you, too, can find spice, currants, pepper, blackberries, chocolate, leather and licorice in a whiff of wine, pour a glass of Hermitage Rouge, swirl and sniff.
Was it George Jessel? Fernand Petiot? Ernest Hemingway? In one version of the story, Petiot, while a bartender at Harry’s New York Bar in Paris, invented the Bloody Mary in the 1920s; Hemingway often drank at Harry’s, which is probably why he’s sometimes credited with the drink’s creation. In Jessel’s version, he invented the drink in the 1930s at the King Cole Bar in New York’s St. Regis Hotel, where Petiot was again the bartender. Most likely, as Petiot told The New Yorker in a 1964 interview, Jessel thought of the vodka and tomato juice mix but it was he, Petiot, who added the spices that turned the drink into the Bloody Mary.
About 60 years ago, an old red wine reinvented itself in the Veronese region of northeast Italy. The old wine, first mentioned in Roman times, is the sweet Valpolicella della Recioto. The new wine is the dry Amarone della Valpolicella — called, simply, Amarone — full-bodied, velvety, sensual and imposing. Using grapes indigenous to the region, Corvino with smaller amounts of Rondinella and Molinara, Amarone is produced employing a modern version of an ancient method. It is what gives Amarone its singular character.
While 80 percent of South Africa’s population is black, less than 1 percent of the country’s 560 wineries are black-owned.
Tastes change and fashion is fickle. But despite the constant barrage of tempting new wines on the market, Chianti remains one of the world’s favorites. Italy’s most famous red wine, whose history goes back centuries, Chianti comes from a region that covers much of central Tuscany; it is divided into seven zones.
Steven MacRostie doesn’t shout. He lets his wines talk for him. And for over 20 years, they have done just that, demonstrating how the meticulous matching of climate and soil to grape varietal creates beautifully balanced, individual wines. He established MacRostie Winery and Vineyards in 1987, and with his first vintage proved his theory — that when Chardonnay, a cool-climate grape, is grown in the right climate, such as Carneros, the relatively cool California region that skirts the southern parts of Napa Valley and Sonoma, the wine expresses its origin and individuality.
Champagne houses come in all sizes, from those with well-known brands whose bubbly splashes out of millions of bottles each year to small producers whose quality far outpaces their quantity. A special group of these small producers is known as Independents, and this is why: Unlike large houses that buy all or most of their grapes, Independents must own or lease at least 90 percent of their vineyards; they make wines that reflect the individual character of those vineyards; they count their production in thousands, not millions, of bottles; and they often do much of their winery work by hand.
No one does Pinot Noir the way Burgundy does. True, there are wines now being made in New Zealand, California and a few other wine regions that are fine examples of the grape. But none outdoes Burgundy. It remains the mother of all Pinot Noirs, one of the world’s greatest red wines and the most intriguing.
When we think of Austrian wines, whites come to mind, and for good reason. At least 70 percent of the country’s wine production is white. But beyond its Grüner Veltliner, Riesling, remarkable sweet wines and other whites is a wealth of lesser-known reds. They are wines made from grapes only occasionally grown in other countries, such as Zweigelt, the most widely planted red; Blaufränkisch, one of Austria’s finest grapes; St. Laurent; Blauburgunder; and international grapes, including Pinot Noir, Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot.
The sign in the shop says “Organic Wines” — but are they? Not likely. “Organic” laws differ from country to country, even state to state, but the basics are generally the same. To be a certified organic vineyard, grapes must be grown without pesticides, herbicides, synthetic fertilizers or bioengineering. To be a certified organic wine, it too must be made without outside additions. Thus, a wine may begin with organically grown grapes, but if the winemaker adds sulfite, as virtually all do to prevent bacterial spoilage, the wine is no longer considered organic. The bottle’s label can read “made from organically grown grapes,” but not “organic wine.” Biodynamic vineyards carry the concept of natural growing even further, using only natural products, homeopathic concepts and the moon calendar.
In this month of romance and roses, let’s talk about Rosés. While many wine regions make this pink-hued wine, it is rare to find one produced solely from the noble grapes of Bordeaux. The exception is the Rosé of Long Island, 75 miles east of New York City. A region where red wines are overwhelmingly based on Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon and Cabernet Franc — the major grapes of Bordeaux’s finest wines — it follows that it would create its Rosés from the same varieties. The results are intriguing.
Homer mentioned them in The Illiad and The Odyssey. Dionysus, the god of celebration, embodied them. Ancient philosophers held their symposia around them. For nearly 4,000 years, in fact, wine has been an integral part of Greek life. Yet it is only in the past decade, after the country made tremendous strides in modernizing its winemaking, that the rest of the world has discovered Greek wine. Made mostly from native grapes virtually unknown in other winemaking countries, Greek wines can now be found in wine shops across the country at prices usually ranging from about $10 to $23.
Montenapo, the elegant new Italian restaurant in Renzo Piano’s New York Times Building, is a lofty space with towering glass walls that look onto a birch tree atrium. Sleek, modern and inviting, it combines cool steel and warm woods with accents of blue and cream. And it emphasizes Old World fine service, beginning with a warm welcome at the entrance, usually from owner/manager Jozef Juck.
Americans have made eggnog as long as there has been an America. One year longer, in fact, since the earliest record of eggnog here is a 1775 recipe. Since then, holiday season celebrations have centered on a punch bowl brimming with that chilled, rich, delicious quaff. While its history is hazy, it’s generally believed eggnog evolved from a medieval drink that became popular in England before early settlers introduced it to the Colonies. The colonists in turn added rum and called it egg and grog, the colonial term for rum. Over time, the name slurred into egg’n’grog and eventually to eggnog.
Change, as much as variety, adds spice to life. And in summer, change means reaching for wines that echo the fresh, easy spirit of the season. Gone are winter’s sturdy, full-bodied wines, and in their place come crisp whites, fruity rosés and light reds, all youthful, wellpriced and perfect for a picnic.
Say “Bordeaux” and wine lovers automatically picture big-ticket bottles: Château Latour 2001 ($925), Château Margaux 2004 ($450) or what might be considered relatively inexpensive, Château Gruaud Larose ($90) — wines from Bordeaux’s Médoc district where Cabernet Sauvignon is king. But Bordeaux is France’s largest fine wine region and among the grand and glorious are also affordable, satisfying wines. In the St. Emilion district, for instance — which has its own top quality wines such as Château Ausone 2004 ($595) and Château Cheval Blanc 2004 ($400) — I’ve tasted lovely wines that retail for $30 and less.
They are the dream gift of the season — lovely to look at, delightful to hold, heaven to use. In their nearly 300-year history, Champagne glasses have seen the design of choice run from frosted and tinted to colored and decorated — all of which hide Champagne’s bubbles. At various times, the shape of favor was the coupe — the wide V-shaped saucer style said to have been modeled on Marie Antoinette’s breast. Yet, while it may have been a beguiling shape for the lady, it is a terrible shape for Champagne. Its large open surface allows bubbles that took years to develop to disappear in minutes.
“We’re like a big orphanage,” Dr. Kent Rosenblum said. “We love all our kids.” Rosenblum’s “kids,” as it turns out, are zinfandels, 26 different bottlings of the grape most closely associated with California. When this veterinarian founded Rosenblum Cellars in 1978, he began with two zinfandels — one from Napa, one from Sonoma. Soon there were four, then 12, and they kept multiplying. As the number grew, so did his technique. No longer simply blending zinfandels from a county and labeling them with that county’s name, Rosenblum began to purchase grapes from some of California’s best zinfandel vineyards and to put the name of the vineyard in which the grapes were grown on the label.
When David Graves and Dick Ward founded Saintsbury winery in 1981, they were considered impractical risk takers. At a time when it seemed every California winery was adding cabernet sauvignon to its list of red wines, Graves and Ward were making only one red — pinot noir — from the glorious, temperamental, cool-climate red grape of Burgundy. Their goal? To prove an ethereal, Burgundian-like pinot noir could be produced in Napa Valley.
In chapter seven of the 1953 novel Casino Royale, author Ian Fleming’s first venture into the 007 series, suave secret agent James Bond orders “a dry martini. One. In a deep champagne goblet. Three measures of Gordon’s (gin), one of vodka, half a measure of Kina Lillet. Shake it very well until it’s ice-cold, then add a large, thin slice of lemon peel. Got it?”
Fine winemaking on the east end of New York’s Long Island began only 30 years ago, barely a blip compared with European vineyards. Yet, it already has discovered the grape of its future. Although many varieties grow well here, none surpasses merlot. Today, 33 of the region’s 34 wineries produce merlot.
In the intricate patchwork of Burgundy’s vineyards, few Premier Cru properties are held in higher esteem than Beaune Clos des Mouches. Its 62 acres are divided among more than 20 owners, many of whom preside over less than an acre. The largest single owner, with nearly 32 acres, is Maison Joseph Drouhin, the highly respected Burgundian négociant that bought its Clos des Mouches property in 1918. At its prime south/southeastern exposure in clay and limestone soil, Drouhin produces pinot noir grapes for its red Clos des Mouches and chardonnay grapes for its white Clos des Mouches.
“Craft beer is made by traditional methods and all-natural ingredients — 100 percent malted barley; no corn, no rice, no preservatives, no chemicals,” Steve Hindy said. “The result is richer colored, richer flavored beers; the kind microbreweries produce.”
In a land renowned for red wine, a white beauty is beginning to take center stage. Albariño, the name of the wine and the grape, has a centuries-old history. But it is only in the past 20 years that it has evolved into the finest white wine of Spain, and the world is taking notice.
It’s time once again to reveal the results of Global Traveler’s Wines on the Wing competition — the ever-popular annual event that brings high-flying wines down to earth. This year’s judging of airlines’ international business-class wines, held at Sofitel New York in Manhattan, brought together 31 airlines pitting 150 wines against one another. Thirty-five professional judges tasted the offerings in coded glasses to find the wines whose qualities shone above the others. And the winner of Wines on the Wing 2006 — the airline whose wines garnered the highest overall score — was Air Canada.
Many winemaking countries produce a sherry. But only Spain makes Sherry — with a capital S. It was in Andalusia, in the southern corner of Spain, that Sherry was born, evolving over centuries to become, by the early 1800s, the fortified wine we know today. And although its type is copied throughout the world, its inimitable character is found only in the original.
Pinotage is South Africa’s own, a red grape created here 80 years ago and still grown almost exclusively in this country. It came into being in the 1920s, when scientists crossed the noble and delicate pinot noir with the brawnier cinsault, a grape from France’s Rhóne Valley, called hermitage in South Africa. Combining the names of its parents, the new grape was christened pinotage.
It is amazing anyone can find Sakagura, hidden in the basement of a midtown Manhattan office building with barely a sign to point the way. But for 10 years, a steady crowd has flocked to this restaurant, lured not only by its Japanese inn setting and its food, but also by its impressive selection of 200 sakes.
It sparkles like champagne, but Prosecco is not champagne — nor does it pretend to be. Other than bubbles, this gentle, appealing, easy-drinking sparkling wine from northeastern Italy has little in common with its sophisticated cousin. Prosecco is a little lower in alcohol (11 to 12 degrees), a lot lower in price (the most expensive costs $15 to $20), rarely bone-dry, usually nonvintage, brimming with inviting fruit flavors and ready to drink when you buy it. And Italians are often ready to drink it, downing a glass the way Americans down a Coke or Pepsi.
The Portuguese island of Madeira juts out of the Atlantic Ocean, a mass of volcanic precipices marked by tiny patchwork vineyards carved into its steep slopes. From these vineyards comes Madeira, the fortified wine that is like no other wine in the world.
It’s the thought that counts. Well, yes, but even the mind reader who can channel that thought prefers a gift. Any gift says, “I’m really thinking about you.” But a special gift — like an exceptional bottle of wine — says, “Here’s a toast to your good taste.”
It’s a common question: Does wine complement Chinese foods? If so, which wines are best? A group of us gathered recently in New York City’s Chinatown to find the answers. Eileen Yin-Fei Lo, author of nine Chinese cookbooks, created the menu. The rest of us brought the bottles. And for four hours, we tasted our way through nine courses and 13 wines.
Every spirit is singular in its own way, none more so than vodka — for while we like our drinks to have tastes and smells, basic vodka has neither. In fact, U.S. federal regulations define vodka as a spirit “without distinctive character, aroma, taste or color.” Or, as defined by one Russian vodka enthusiast: “Vodka is not tasteless; it merely lacks flavor.”
Some of California’s oldest and smallest wineries are among the 200 located in Sonoma, the Rhode Island–sized wine region nestled between Napa and the Pacific Ocean. Age translates to history. Size can mean an emphasis on quality over quantity.
Long before European settlers arrived in America, Switzerland was making wine. And for nearly as long, it kept it all for itself. Then, about 15 years ago, Switzerland began exporting, offering us some of its best and opening a window onto the quality and variety of Swiss wines, most of which are white.
Four decades ago, Oregon was not even a speck on the fine wine horizon. Yet, a few calendar flips later, it has become a high-profile player on the American wine scene. How? By attracting the kind of pioneer who would not take no for an answer.
Let’s have some sweet talk about sweet wines. Fine dessert wines get their sweetness from the natural sugar in the grape. Some grapes are attacked by a noble rot that shrivels them to raisins, concentrating their sugar. Others are left on the vine to shrivel until they freeze, hence the name ice wine. Because dessert wines are among the most difficult to make, they can be costly. Many come in half bottles (375 milliliters).
The king lives; it’s the rumors that have died. For much of the 20th century, Rioja was the royalty of Spain’s red wines. But about two decades ago, its hold on the throne was shaken, partly by complacency, mostly by newborn and reborn Spanish regions producing excellent and exciting wines. So what did Rioja do? It sized up the competition, took a good look at itself, fine-tuned its wines and straightened its crown.
Austria loves its own wine. And it loves none more than the white Grüner Veltliner. Never heard of it? Little wonder. It is virtually an Austrian original, made from a grape almost no other wine-producing country grows. In Austria, however, it is the signature wine and the most widely planted grape, covering more than a third of the country’s vineyards. I would not be surprised if other wine regions begin to pay attention. It is, after all, one of the most versatile and flavorful of grapes, producing wines that range from fresh and simple to rich and complex. Grüner Veltliner is worth discovering.
Cool sake is hot. Once thought of as a traditional, ceremonial Japanese beverage served warm in small ceramic cups, today’s sake is more often chilled to a temperature almost as cold as white wine, poured into a wine glass and sipped with fervor. Microbrews? Been there. Single malt scotch? Done that. Looking for the latest chic among connoisseurs of drink? Make it sake.
Montalcino, Italy, is a little medieval town with a big, dramatic wine. Here, in southern Tuscany, both the Sangiovese grape and the wine made from it are called Brunello. Although it is less well-known than Chianti, its neighbor to the north, Brunello di Montalcino is the leader in quality. It is, in fact, one of Italy’s finest red wines.
Chile, a slender sliver of a country, captured international attention about 20 years ago when it sent out to the world friendly, agreeable wines that sold for under $10. So good were they for their modest price that Chilean imports into the United States leaped from 11 million liters in 1986 to 184 million by 1996.
WorldHotels is slated to introduce a new property in Peru this January: Casa Andina Premium San Isidro is set to open early next year. The Lima-bound property is the brand’s first in Peru. The 16-floor hotel houses 157 guestrooms, a gym, spa, swimming pool and rooftop terrace. The on-site restaurant, La Plaza Bar and Grill, uses local ingredients and rich traditions to serve delicious options.
TAP Air Portugal is adding 15 new weekly flights from the United States and Canada by summer 2020, a new record for the carrier of 71 weekly flights between North America and Portugal.
United Airlines announces a number of new routes.
Wheel the World, backed by booking.com, is a new accessible travel startup and one-stop shop for travelers with disabilities, regardless of age. The site curates accommodations, transportation and tour activities suitable for those living with disabilities.
One of Washington, D.C.’s most luxurious urban retreats, Rosewood Washington D.C., recently reopened with new and revamped experiences.
United Airlines’ environmentally friendly efforts lessen the impact on local U.S. communities.
In response to climate change, Germany’s Christian Democrats proposed doubling taxes on domestic flights to reduce CO2 emissions. The plan would exempt connecting flights (part of long-haul trips) so the impact would only be on the current tax of $8.10 per ticket for domestic flights.