Are Modern Sommeliers Educators? Absolutely.

Posted by | Posted in White's Wines | Posted on 01-20-2015

taste vinAs regular readers know, I write a free, twice monthly wine column that’s distributed to newspapers across the country. These columns are hosted by Grape Collective.

If you don’t see my column in your local newspaper, please send an email to your paper’s editor and CC me (David – at – Terroirist.com).

In my latest column, I praise the educational approach favored by today’s top sommeliers.  

Are Modern Sommeliers Educators? Absolutely.

I was out past midnight one recent Wednesday, despite a meeting early the next morning. When I headed home, my route took me through Washington, D.C.’s popular 14th Streetcorridor, where a few bars and restaurants were still open.

As I passed Doi Moi, a trendy Southeast Asian restaurant, I noticed that virtually every table in the front half of the restaurant was full. Odd for so late on a weeknight, I thought. I then realized that the tables were packed with staffers. The team had assembled, with notebooks and glasses in hand, to learn from wine director Max Kuller. He holds seminars twice each month to teach his team about wine.

Kuller represents a new generation of sommeliers, one that has rejected the exclusivity and stuffiness of yesteryear in favor of an approach that values inclusivity and education. Kuller is more comfortable in jeans and a T-shirt than a three-piece suit. And while his list includes a handful of expensive trophies, it mostly offers offbeat, wallet-friendly wines that work well with Doi Moi’s cuisine. Thanks to regular gatherings, Kuller’s team is familiar with Doi Moi’s full list. And Kuller works hard to make sure his colleagues take the interaction of wine with food seriously.

Spotting the late-night wine seminar was refreshing. Earlier that evening, I dined at La Chaumiere, a French bistro in Georgetown that opened its doors in 1976 and has hardly changed since. 

Check out the rest of the piece on Grape Collective!

Three Wine Trends to Watch for in 2015

Posted by | Posted in White's Wines | Posted on 01-06-2015

One hallway (of many) in the cellar at Krug.

A hallway at Krug.

As regular readers know, I write a free, twice monthly wine column that’s distributed to newspapers across the country. These columns are hosted by Grape Collective.

If you don’t see my column in your local newspaper, please send an email to your paper’s editor and CC me (David – at – Terroirist.com).

In my latest column, I make three predictions about the year ahead.

Three Wine Trends to Watch for in 2015

2014 will likely go down as the year that powerful wine critics lost their grip on the marketplace.

Last year, many retailers stopped using points to sell wines. Instead of “shelf talkers” advertising reviews from publications like Wine Spectator, shops offered handwritten notes praising certain wines. Many restaurants, too, removed points from their menus in 2014. Instead, they decided to educate their servers about wine — and hire fun sommeliers to chat with guests. Thanks to popular mobile apps like Delectable, wine consumers moved away from critics like Robert Parker and toward fellow enthusiasts with similar palates.

This year, look out for three big trends.

Champagne will find a spot at the dinner table. Oenophiles have always talked about top Champagne with the same reverence they reserve for the finest wines of Bordeaux and Burgundy. But for most of the past 50 years, everyday Americans poo-pooed Champagne. The good stuff was too expensive and rarely seemed worth it. And the imitations served at weddings — think Cook’s and cheap Prosecco — was, well, gross.

Today, however, consumers are falling in love with Champagne. Shipments to the United States have been climbing steadily since 2009.

Check out the rest of the piece on Grape Collective!

War, Wine, and Giving Thanks at Christmas

Posted by | Posted in White's Wines | Posted on 12-23-2014

From Wikimedia.

From Wikimedia.

As regular readers know, I write a free, twice monthly wine column that’s distributed to newspapers across the country. These columns are hosted by Grape Collective.

If you don’t see my column in your local newspaper, please send an email to your paper’s editor and CC me (David – at – Terroirist.com).

In my latest column, I look at the history of wine and war at Christmastime — and offer an important holiday message.

WarWine, and Giving Thanks at Christmas

One hundred years ago this week, France launched its first major offensive against Germany in WorldWar I. The fight took place in the winegrowing region of Champagne, which the German army had invaded just weeks after hostilities broke out. Nearly 200,000 lives were lost in the three-month battle.

Champagne witnessed some of the war‘s heaviest fighting. The region’s two largest cities — Reims and Epernay — were bombarded for three years. Locals took shelter in the caves under houses like Veuve Clicquot, Krug, and Taittinger. The vineyards became battlefields.

Yet production continued. Where bombs could be avoided, women and children harvested grapes. Famously, Jeanne Krug sought winemaking advice via post from her husband, Joseph II, who was a prisoner of war. Praising Krug as a “brave lady,” the British sales representative for the Champagne house would later remember selling “the entire cuvee of 1915 in record time.”

A full century has passed since the Battle of Champagne. But wine remains inextricably tied to conflict. And the bottles that survive continue to offer a window to other times and places.

Check out the rest of the piece on Grape Collective!

Delectable: A Wine App That Could Revolutionize Drinking

Posted by | Posted in White's Wines | Posted on 12-09-2014

delectableAs regular readers know, I write a free, twice monthly wine column that’s distributed to newspapers across the country. These columns are hosted by Grape Collective.

If you don’t see my column in your local newspaper, please send an email to your paper’s editor and CC me (David – at – Terroirist.com).

In my latest column,I explain how Delectable could revolutionize how Americans purchase wine.

Delectable: A Wine App That Could Revolutionize Drinking

Alexander Niehenke began to appreciate wine ten years ago. But for the first four years, it was simply a beverage he enjoyed with dinner from time to time, especially when cooking at home.

But then he put his nose in a glass of Cabernet Sauvignon from Justin, a winery based in Paso Robles, California. He was at a bachelor party, where few attendees were paying any attention to the wine inside their glasses. But for Niehenke, the aromas were intoxicating. Something clicked. So he promptly dove into the world of wine.

For the next five years, Niehenke’s passion for wine grew steadily and predictably. As a resident of San Francisco, weekend trips to Napa Valley and Sonoma were easy — so he started driving north regularly. He began attending tastings, reading wine publications, and even collecting.

Then he discovered Delectable, a mobile wine app. Since downloading the program last fall, Niehenke has been moving towards oenophilia at lightning speed.

Check out the rest of the piece on Grape Collective!

Rethinking the Tasting Note

Posted by | Posted in White's Wines | Posted on 11-25-2014

wine-tastingAs regular readers know, I write a free, twice monthly wine column that’s distributed to newspapers across the country.

These columns are hosted by Grape Collective. If you don’t see my column in your local newspaper, please send an email to your paper’s editor and CC me (David – at – Terroirist.com).

In my latest column,I explain why the baffling rhetoric of tasting notes intimidates consumers and stands in the way of wine appreciation. And I urge wine enthusiasts to change the way we talk about wine.

Rethinking the Tasting Note

“This first wine is a fighter; he’s loud. The second wine is pensive; she has a dark side.” This past Saturday, as I led a seminar in Chevy Chase, Maryland, one of the participants offered these tasting notes while comparing two wines.

We were exploring Pinot Noir from California and France. I offered more typical descriptions to highlight the differences — dark, ripe cherries on the Sonoma example versus earthy, tart cherries on the one from Burgundy — and several students pushed back.

At least half the room admitted that they find tasting notes bewildering. Others acknowledged that they scoff at wine descriptors. Many confessed that such notes intimidate them.

At first, I defended the standard wine review. I collect wine, so I pay close attention to people whose palates are similar to mine, like Eric Asimov of the New York Times. And I read reviews from critics like Stephen Tanzer and Antonio Galloni of Vinous to glean information about a wine’s general flavor profile. With Chardonnay, for example, I’m interested in wines that are high in acid and offer aromas of tart citrus fruits. I’m rarely excited by a heavy Chardonnay with notes of ripe tropical fruits, butter, and oak. Basic descriptors like these help describe a wine and its style.

But I could sympathize with my students. Communicating effectively about wine shouldn’t demand an encyclopedic knowledge of rare fruits and bizarre aromas; after all, wine is just fermented grape juice. Thanks to mass-market wine magazines, however, we’ve come to expect gobbledygook.

Check out the rest of the piece on Grape Collective!

With Priest Ranch, Craig Becker Is Betting On Honesty

Posted by | Posted in White's Wines | Posted on 11-11-2014

Courtesy of Somerston Wine Co.

Courtesy of Somerston Wine Co.

As regular readers know, I write a free, twice monthly wine column that’s distributed to newspapers across the country.

These columns are hosted by Grape Collective. If you don’t see my column in your local newspaper, please send an email to your paper’s editor and CC me (David – at – Terroirist.com).

In my latest column, I profile one of Napa Valley’s most successful winegrowers, Craig Becker. His business plan for a new project is particularly noteworthy, as it relies on nothing more than good grapes and honesty!

With Priest Ranch, Craig Becker Is Betting On Honesty

“No one needs a new wine brand,” explained Craig Becker, a veteran Napa Valley winegrower, over breakfast one recent morning. We were discussing the market for expensive Cabernet Sauvignon.

Even though Napa Valley produces less wine than most people realize — it accounts for just four percent of California’s yield — the region produces plenty of high-end offerings. Napa Valley is home to more than 500 wineries, and the average price for a bottle of “Napa Cab” shipped directly to consumers exceeds $80. Yet Becker is betting that one of his latest projects, Priest Ranch, will thrive.

His blueprint is simple: it relies on good grapes and honesty. Considering Becker’s track record, his plan will almost certainly succeed.

Check out the rest of the piece on Grape Collective!

A Napa Valley Tech Entrepreneur Is Revolutionizing Customer Service

Posted by | Posted in White's Wines | Posted on 10-28-2014

logo_vintankAs regular readers know, I write a free, twice monthly wine column that’s distributed to newspapers across the country.

These columns are hosted by Grape Collective. If you don’t see my column in your local newspaper, please send an email to your paper’s editor and CC me (David – at – Terroirist.com).

In my latest column, I profile Paul Mabray, who is revolutionizing customer service for wineries across the world.

A Napa Valley Tech Entrepreneur Is Revolutionizing Customer Service

Earlier this year, the number of wineries in the United States passed 8,000. When the news hit, Napa Valley tech entrepreneur Paul Mabray took to Facebook to remind his followers that “in a world of infinite wine choices, the only differentiator is service.”

This quote has long been Mabray’s mantra. And it’s the guiding philosophy behind VinTank, the company he launched in 2009.

“If your phone rings, you answer. If someone sends you an email, you reply. But with social media, there’s so much noise that some people simply ignore it,” Mabray explained one recent afternoon in Yountville, California.

For Mabray, this is crazy. Every communication deserves a response. So together with programming wizard James Jory, he designed a platform to “hear” every conversation about wine on social media, and for wineries to “listen” to conversations about their brands.

Check out the rest of the piece on Grape Collective!

New Zealand: More Than Hobbits and Sauvignon Blanc

Posted by | Posted in White's Wines | Posted on 10-14-2014

Credit: Carrick Wines.

Credit: Carrick Wines.

As regular readers know, I write a free, twice monthly wine column that’s distributed to newspapers across the country.

These columns are hosted by Grape Collective. If you don’t see my column in your local newspaper, please send an email to your paper’s editor and CC me (David – at – Terroirist.com).

In my latest column, I contend that New Zealand offers much more than just Sauvignon Blanc.

New Zealand: More Than Hobbits and Sauvignon Blanc

Americans are fascinated by New Zealand. Thanks to “The Lord of the Rings” — and the tourism board’s “100% Pure New Zealand” marketing campaign — we envision stunning landscapes when we think of the island nation. We picture a playground for adventure, with endless options for hiking, bungee jumping, whale watching, and the like.

When it comes to wine, though, Americans know very little about New Zealand.

If anything, we simply think of Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc. Because of brands like Oyster Bay and Kim Crawford, most wine enthusiasts are familiar with the nation’s signature style, marked by explosive aromas of fresh-cut grass and bracing acidity. Indeed, that single variety accounts for 84.5 percent of the nation’s wine exports. And each year, New Zealand ships nearly 50 million bottles of Sauvignon Blanc to the United States.

Eric Platt, the U.S. representative for Pacific Prime Wines, an import company backed by four, family-owned New Zealand wine producers, is on a mission to show that New Zealand’s offerings are actually quite diverse.

Check out the rest of the piece on Grape Collective!

America’s Thirst for Wine Insatiable, Despite Rise of Cocktails, Craft Beer

Posted by | Posted in White's Wines | Posted on 09-30-2014

From wikipedia.

From wikipedia.

As regular readers know, I write a free, twice monthly wine column that’s distributed to newspapers across the country.

These columns are hosted by Grape Collective. If you don’t see my column in your local newspaper, please send an email to your paper’s editor and CC me (David – at – Terroirist.com).

In my latest column, I explain why the wine industry has nothing to fear from cocktails and craft beer.

America’s Thirst for Wine Insatiable, Despite Rise of Cocktails, Craft Beer

Wine industry executives are worried about the growing interest in craft beer and spirits from America’s 20- and 30-somethings. That’s one takeaway from a fascinating new survey of the wine industry’s top executives by Robert Smiley, dean and professor emeritus at the University of California Davis Graduate School of Management.

Smiley’s survey is conducted each year and always generates headlines, since Smiley is able to connect with some of wine’s heaviest hitters. This year, for instance, senior executives at E&J Gallo, The Wine Group, and Constellation Brands participated. The nation’s three largest wine companies, these firms account for nearly half the wine sold in the United States.

Worrying about America’s 75 million millennials makes sense. But fearing millennials’ interest in craft beer and spirits is misguided. America’s thirst for wine appears insatiable.

Check out the rest of the piece on Grape Collective!

Life Is Richer With Wine: The Magical Connections We Make

Posted by | Posted in White's Wines | Posted on 09-16-2014

Smiles all around from current and former Terroirist contributors. (Left to right: Isaac James Baker, David White, Scott Claffee, Sarah Hexter.)

Smiles all around from current and former Terroirist contributors. (Left to right: Isaac James Baker, David White, Scott Claffee, Sarah Hexter.)

As regular readers know, I write a free, twice monthly wine column that’s distributed to newspapers across the country.

These columns are hosted by Grape Collective. If you don’t see my column in your local newspaper, please send an email to your paper’s editor and CC me (David – at – Terroirist.com).

In my latest column, by sharing stories from a number of wine enthusiasts, I explain why life is richer with wine.

Life Is Richer With Wine: The Magical Connections We Make

Wine demands to be shared. Enjoying a glass alone is fine, of course. But there’s an emotional component to wine appreciation. That’s a big reason why enjoying a bottle with friends is always more meaningful than drinking alone.

Chicago wine enthusiast Mark Boldizsar recognizes that few experiences are quite as enchanting as sharing a special wine. So last week, he took to the world’s most active wine discussion board, Wine Berserkers, to detail his journey of wine discovery — and ask fellow oenophiles about the doors that have opened thanks to wine.

“As much as I enjoy drinking nice wine, I have to admit it’s only a small part of a larger picture,” Boldizsar wrote. “From my personal experiences, my fondest wine-related memories are of sharing my wines in the good company of other wine lovers.

“In regards to my personal story, I was able to reconnect with a good childhood friend on the basis of wine. Over the past 4 years, we have been fortunate enough to meet up several hundred times (at least once a week). The wine is all well and good, but it’s the side stories, wine talk, and laughter that makes it so enjoyable.”

Shortly after his post went up, other enthusiasts shared their stories.

Many credited wine for their strongest friendships. For instance, California resident Leon Markham thanked wine for introducing him to “some of the smartest, kindest people I know.” Others praised wine for enhancing food and travel.

Check out the rest of the piece on Grape Collective!