Friday, November 22, 2013

Our Big Fat Greek Wine Faves

The charter of a private luxurious 110 foot yacht didn't hurt, but the recent Wine-Knows trip to the Greek Islands yielded some nice surprises for wine and food.  Below are the stars of the Hellenic show that are available in the USA and are inexpensively to moderately priced:

  • Island of Paros:   Produced by Moratis winery, this 2012 white was made from 2 grapes not known outside of Greece.  Great for your next summer Toga party!  Also, Moratis made a knock-out 2009 Paros Red...complex and worth seeking out.

  • Island of Santorini: 3 vintners on this stunning island made wines that would have pleased both Socrates & Plato:    
         1.  Boutari:  2007 Grand Reserve Naossa (from Boutari's 
              winery on the mainland) was chocked full of 
              plums & violet with hints of chocolate.  I really liked this 
              wine.  Another one that was very well crafted was their 
              2009 Kotsifali Syrah from the island of Crete, aged 1 year 
              in American Oak.

         2.  Sigalas:  The 2011 single vineyard Kavalieros had a great 
              finish.  The producer's Vin Santo (dessert wine) was an 
              excellent fig bomb.

        3.  Gaia:  If you like Riesling you would love their 2009 
             Thalassitis which evoked the mineral nuances often 
             associated with Riesling.

The next Greek yacht charter (2015) SOLD OUT the first day it was marketed to those who were on this year's waiting list. Stay tuned as we may be doing another one in 2017. 

Friday, November 15, 2013

Best of Wine-Knows Harvest Trip to Champagne, Burgundy & the Rhone

Here's a summary of la creme de la creme from our September trip.  Superb quality/price wines have been so noted.


~ Ployez Jacquemart 1998 d'Harbonville

~ Moet Grand Reserve 2003


~ Jadot 2010 Mersault (white)   *GREAT VALUE*

~ Jadot 2010 Pommard (red)   *GREAT VALUE*

~ Drouhin 2009 Marquis Laguiche Grand Cru (red)

~ Domaine d'Ardhy 2009 Reynards Corton Grand Cru (white)


~ Domaine Bosquets 2012 Rose (Cote de Rhone) *GREAT VALUE*

~ Domaine Grand Devers Visan (white Cote de Rhone)  *GREAT VALUE*

~ Chateau Valdieut 2011 Clos Belvedere (Chateauneuf de Pape white)

~ Domaine Bosquets 2011 Reserve (Gigondas)

~ Chateau Beaucastel 2010 (Chateauneuf de Pape red)

~ Chateau Le Nerthe 2011 (Chateauneuf de Pape white)

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Sicily’s Superstar Winery

                                A winery,  a gourmet restaurant, a boutique experience!

Never mind that the winery’s owner is a mega-Euro millionaire industrialist from Milan---he’s of Sicilian heritage, and he’s making some of the best wine on the Mediterranean’s largest island.  In the mid-1990’s, entrepreneur Vito Catania decided to return to his Sicilian roots and follow his passion to make wine.   This wild and crazy visionary purchased 200 acres of prime vineyards and began his innovative work to focus on the area’s little know, indigenous grape varietals…and the rest is history.  Gulfi wines are now some of the most-sought after wines in all of Italy.

Never mind that Gulfi winery has won about every European award, or that Robert Parker has scored them 95.  Last year Gulfi won the “Best Italian Wine Estate of the Year.”  Any connoisseur of Italian wine is now on notice that the new kid on the block, Gulfi, is a force to be reckoned with.  Indeed, Vito Catania is on the move with the same fervor that made him one of Milan’s top businessmen.

Never mind that Signor Catania just recently finished a multi-million-Euro winery.  He also built a drop-dead gorgeous visitor’s center, along with a boutique hotel and a gourmet restaurant.  Not at all uncommon in the Napa Valley, this is the first of its genre in Sicily.  Wine-Knows Travel has taken over the entire hotel for next fall’s tour, and we’ve scheduled a cooking class with the restaurant’s highly acclaimed chef. 

Never mind that Gulfi produces stunning wines.  Surrounded by hundreds of olive trees, the winery also makes beautiful olive oil.  There is also a magnificent garden on site from where most everything served in the dining room originates.  This is definitely a farm-to-table kind of experience.

Never mind that Gulfi is a gourmand and oenophile’s dream-come-true.  Check out the above view from the hotel’s private quarters.  Gulfi offers a little piece of paradiso for those who simply want to relax and take in the essence of Sicily.  

Viva Sicilia!

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

New Zealand Restaurant Voted in World’s Top 20

                                                              Craggy Range Winery
Those of you who are coming on the March 2014 trip with Wine-Knows to New Zealand will have the good fortune to dine in one of the globe’s most extraordinary restaurants.  Named “Terroir,” this gourmand’s paradise caught our eye when we visited it on our earlier trip.  It was love at first bite. Little did we know, however, that this jaw-dropping restaurant would soon be voted in the Top 20 by a respected panel comprised of food and wine journalists, wine experts, and sommeliers…in consultation with France’s revered Michelin Guide.

What makes this Top 20 list even more interesting is that the professionals who chose these winners focused on restaurants that were owned by wineries.  Terroir restaurant is located in the Craggy Range winery.  One of the la crème de la crème wine producers in all of New Zealand, Craggy Range is located in the famous Hawke's Bay wine region on the country's northern island.  We thought that nothing could possibly top the tasting of their stunning viticultural lineup, but we were awestruck when we walked into the restaurant which boasted unobstructed floor-to-ceiling-views of the lake with the Craggy Range mountains in the distance.  And, that was before a morsel of food had even been served.

Standouts on the menu were the fish soup…reminiscent of a boullisbase.  In a rich broth flavored with saffron and filled with shellfish, it could have easily been served at a Michelin star restaurant on the French Riviera.  But, every element of the soup was sourced locally, as was the lamb and duck entrees that followed…both of which were exquisitely prepared.

For more details on these Top 20 winery restaurants, check it out:

Friday, November 1, 2013

Clos de Mouches---a Knock-Out Burgundy

Drouhin's medieval cellars in Burgundy
If you’re looking for a mind-blowing wine for a special holiday dinner, look no further.  If you’re a white wine lover, get ready to be transported to Mecca.  I’ll be writing in a separate article in this blog about the best wines of our recent Wine-Knows tour to France, but I couldn’t wait to share this one from our stop in Burgundy. 

If you’re a history buff, the appeal of Clos de Mouches makes it an even more compelling choice.  First let me share that I tasted this in the medieval underground cellar of Drouhin….but his isn’t just any cellar by a long shot.  There are 2.5 acres of illustrious caves tunneled underneath Burgundy’s capital city, Beaune, during the 13th-18th centuries.  These are the very cellars in which the Drouhin family (as well as many other Burgundian winemakers) successfully hid their premier wines from the Nazi’s in WW II.  Drinking even bottled water here is a magical experience, let alone a Clos de Mouches blanc.

The story of how the blanc (white) Clos de Mouches came to be is also a little treasure of history.   The birth of the wine occurred in the 1920’s as France was struggling to recover from the first World War.  At this time, both Chardonnay and Pinot Noir were planted in the Clos de Mouches vineyard and often mixed together in the blend, but 90% of the Clos de Mouches parcel was Pinot.  One year, the Chardonnay did not ripen, so the Pinot was picked and vinified alone.  Then, a very unusual hot spell descended on Burgundy and the white grapes ripened…but it was too late to add them to the Pinot.  As it was a very small volume, Drouhin decided to try something unique and made a small batch just of the Chardonnay---it was too small of an amount to sell on the marketplace, so Drouhin intended to keep it for his family’s personal consumption.  If it hadn’t been for the winemaker taking a bottle to a friend, I wouldn’t be writing this article, as this white wine would never have been made again.

His friend lived in Paris…and just happened to own the wildly popular Maxim’s Restaurant (3 Michelin stars).  The proprietor of Maxim’s took one taste of the Clos de Mouche blanc and told Drouhin he would buy every bottle available.  It was here in Maxim’s that the famous actor Maurice Chevalier fell in love with the wine and proclaimed it his favorite.

For all of you ABC’s out there (anything-but-chardonnay) hold on!  If anything will change your mind, this Premier Cru Clos de Mouche white is the one.  The 2010 vintage that I tasted in the magnificent cellars was complex and elegant, with notes of citrus intermingling with floral, almond, nutmeg and mineral.  This one had me at “hello.”   Thankfully, it’s widely available in the US and its price tag of $70-90 (depending on the vintage) makes it the perfect wine for a special occasion holiday event.

FYI…there is also a Clos de Mouches red by Drouhin made from Pinot.  While we’ve tasted it during the visit to Drouhin as well, it was the white version that made the earth of the cellars move for me…and I’m a red wine gal.