Sunday, December 30, 2012

New Year’s Resolutions

Keeping it simple, here's what I'm committing to in 2013: 

·        Taste more wines blind

·        Try more wines I don’t know 

·        Don’t wait too long to drink a special bottle (save the
          bottle but drink the wine!)

·        Remember that more is not necessarily more…gems      
          can be found in all price categories

·        Decide what I think of the wine before I know the price

      Happy New Year!

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Best of 2012

As the year comes to a close, it’s only natural to reflect on the superlative wines that have passed through these lips in 2012…a daunting task considering all of the bottles from our cellar that have been opened, the many special wines that we’ve been gifted (or were served in friends’ homes), a Society of Wine Educators annual conference and several meetings of the American Wine Society, as well as our more than three months of travel to wine regions outside of the U.S.  Here is a best-of-the-best, my Top 10 List, listed in no particular order (but like wines have been clumped together).  Prices vary from $20 to >$1000…all prices are per bottle cost.

·   Best Australian:  Peter Lehman 2009  VSV 1885 Shiraz.  This one was so compelling (and not available in the U.S.) that four of us on the Wine-Knows trip had several cases sent back home.  $60 plus shipping.

·   Best New Zealand:  Te Whau Vineyard The Point.  During our reconnaissance trip in April for the March 2014 tour, the earth moved so much when we drank this Bordeaux blend that my husband and I ordered a case (it’s not available in the US).  $80…including shipping

·   Best Champagne:   Piper Heidsieck Millesime 1999:   I’ve had some off-the- charts vintage champagnes but this one is très spécial.   Thank you Maureen & Howard for this exquisite gift.  $300-350

·   Best American Bubbly :  DMZ 2005. Made by Mumm’s in Napa, this super-star is aged for at least 6 years. DMZ is one of the finest American sparklers I’ve had and worth every penny.  Thank you Lynne & John for serving this superb aperitif of which I knew nothing about.  $55

  • Best Red Bordeaux:   This is somewhat like choosing your favorite child.  The tasting was a comparative one with Chateau Haut Brion paired with Mission Haut Brion.  The location was Chateau Mission Haut Brion. The Wine-Knows group split right down the middle on preference, but I personally preferred Haut Brion. $1000+

  • Best 2nd label Bordeaux:   Hands down this goes to a Chateau Latour’s 'Les Forts de Latour' 2001.   Thank you, Conni, for buying this on the Wine-Knows trip to Chateau Latour in 2008…and saving it for your recent birthday dinner!  $230

  • Best White Bordeaux:  Those of you who don’t know white Bordeaux, should rush out and buy a case of Chateau Lagrange’s Le Fiefs de Lagrange 2010.  I typically prefer reds, but this one will knock your socks off., especially considering its price.  $20

  • Best Barolo:   Paulo Scavino Barolo Rocche Dell’ Annunziata Riserva 2007.  I’ve been a huge fan of this producer for years, however, in the recent Wine-Knows truffle tour to Piedmont this one was ethereal.  $95

·   Best Bargain Barbaresco  Produttori del Barbaresco 2002.  This was not a great vintage in Piedmont, however, this producer managed to pull off a real coup.  Known for making a consistently well-crafted Barbaresco, the winery’s 2002 was of shocking quality considering its price.  $40

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

International Wine Awards Worth Noting

In the US, most oenophiles subscribe to the Wine Spectator, and every wine geek around the globe has certainly heard of Robert Parker.  Many Americans, however, do not know about Decanter, England’s equivalent of our Wine Spectator.  In several ways, I prefer Decanter.  Maybe it’s because of its fresh point of view, or perhaps it’s because of the format.  Nonetheless, listed below are Decanter’s 2012 International Trophy winners that were unveiled in its October issue. (Only those countries that Wine-Knows will be visiting in 2013 have been included, as well as only wines that are imported into the US).


·        Amalaya 2011:  Torrontes (85%), Riesling (15%).  US 

          price <$10

·        Bodegas Salentein Portillo Malbec 2011.  US price <



·        Casas del Bosque Late Harvest Riesling 2010.  US price


·        Undurraga T.H. Pinot Noir 2010.   US price $25

·        Viña San Pedro 1865 Single Vineyard Sauvignon Blanc

          2011.  US price $19


·        Château Brown 2010 (white Bordeaux blend).  US price


·        Château Routas Wild Boar 2011 (rosé from Provence). 

           US price $13


Although there were no International Trophies, there were two important regional trophies awarded:

  • Gaia Assyrtiko Wild Ferment 2011 (white from Santorini Island).  US price $35

  • Gaia Estate Nemea 2007 (red from Peloponnese Peninsula).  US price $45

For more information, get the full list of Decanter’s 2012 awards at

Friday, December 7, 2012

Holiday Bubbles

While we never need a special event to pop the cork on a bubbly, many people regrettably think of sparkling wine only for special occasions.  With the holidaze quickly approaching, below are my suggestions for bubbles in categories ranging from less than $20 to $300.  All pair beautifully with most foods. 

·        Roederer Esatate Anderson Valley Brut:  Made by the same company that produces’s France’s legendary Cristal Champagne ($200), this American sparkler is consistently on my best buy list.  <$20

·        Le Colture Prosecco:  This is one of the best crafted sparklers from the Prosecco region (the hills above Venice).  Viva Italia.  <$20

·        Argyle Brut:  While not known for its sparkling wine, Oregon soars with this one.  Make sure you have plenty of it in your cellar throughout the year.  $20-25

·        Ca Del Bosco Franciacorta Brut:  Made by one of my fave producers in Italy, this luscious bottle is a magnifico way to ring in any New Year.  $50-55

·        DMZ:  Made by Mumm’s Napa, this super-star is aged for at least 6 years. DMZ is one of the finest American sparklers I’ve had and worth every penny.  $55

·        Piper Heidsieck Millesime 1999:  For a very special event, this one is très spécial.  I’m a lover of vintage Champagne and this one completely seduced me.  $300-350

Saturday, December 1, 2012

Great Books on Wine and Food

Winter is approaching…for many of us in the northern hemisphere, this means more time to read that stack of books we’ve been “meaning to get to.”  The holidays are also approaching and books often make terrific gifts.  Here are my Top 10  in which wine and/ or food are the central plot.

1.  Judgment in Paris ( George Taber)

This one is the classic of all classics for anyone who loves wine. Written by the Time Magazine correspondent who actually covered the world’s most famous wine tasting…where California red and white wines outscored those of France.  The tasting was blind, the panel was French, and the wines represented the top chateaux in France.  Nothing has been the same in the wine world since.
2. Salt—a World History (Mark Kurlansky) 

This is a must for any history buff who is also a serious foodie.  I couldn’t put the book down.  Written by a James Beard award-winning food author, this multilayered masterpiece traces the economic, scientific, political, religious and culinary aspects of salt through the centuries.  Don’t miss it.

3. The Widow Clicquot (Tilar Mazzeo)

Those of you coming with us on the 2013 trip to Champagne should put this toward the top of your must read list.  You’ll be mesmerized by the story of the early 19th century widow who single-handedly and against all odds, launched one of the most famous brands in Champagne, Veuve Cliquot (BTW…veuve in French means widow).  Highly recommended.

4.      A Year In Provence (Peter Mayle) 

If you haven’t read this hallmark book, order it today online.  There’s no finer introduction to Provence (or France for that matter) that seen through the eyes of this bon vivant writer.  You’ll laugh hysterically, you’ll be charmed, and all of your dreams about ever buying a crumbling home in France and restoring it will evaporate as you read his trials and tribulations of doing so.  Enchanting.

5.   Fast Food Nation  (Eric Schlosser)
Shocking, compelling and frightening all wrapped into one book.  This is imperative for any food lover who values healthy eating.  As the NYT so aptly put it, “It will make you think about the fallout that the fast food industry has had on America’s social and cultural landscape.”   

6.  Extra Virginity (Tom Mueller)
The subtitle on this recently published book says it all: “The Sublime and Scandalous World of Olive Oil.  This work is to Olive Oil, what Fast Food Nation is to the meat industry.  But, there’s even more to the book.  Mueller provides a delectable work of historical research and of expert reporting resulting in an intriguing food-lovers call to action.

7.   Blood, Bones & Butter ( Gabrielle Hamilton)

There’s simply no way to describe this soul-searching memoir better than the way Mario Batali did….

“Gabirielle Hamilton has changed the potential and raised the bar for all books about eating and cooking.  Her nearly rabid love for all real food experience and her completely vulnerable, unprotected yet pure point of view unveils in both truth and inspiration.  I will read this book to my children and then burn all the books I have written for pretending to be anything even close to this.”

8.  The Man Who Ate Everything (Jeffrey Steingarten)

A kind of around-the-world-tour-in-eating written by the award-winning food editor of Vogue Magazine, fearless gourmand, and the irascible judge on the popular show "The Next Iron Chef."  While his humorous personality doesn't come across on TV, you'll be rolling on the floor at Steingarten's hilarious tales in print.  Tantalizing recipes are sprinkled throughout as a bonus.

9.   Olive Season (Carol Drinkwater)

Drinkwater has actually written a trilogy (Olive Farm, and the Olive Harvest) about life on her olive farm in the South of France.  All of these books are sensual, personal, well-crafted accounts of her life and love affair with a parcel of land.  A former British actress who played Helen Herriot in the BBC’s adaptation of All Creatures Great and Small, Drinkwater writes books that are slanted more toward women readers who can empathize with many of the issues that she so beautifully illuminates.

10.  Portraits of France (Robert Daley)

Another great read for Francophiles, this one is divided into vignettes…many of which center around France’s wine and food centric culture.  From tracing the fascinating life of a bottle of 1806 Lafite Rothchild to an evocative story on the birthplace of General Lafayette, this bestselling writer delivers something for everyone who enjoys history and gastronomy.