After Shock: A Community Rallies in Napa Valley

Posted by | Posted in White's Wines | Posted on 09-02-2014

Credit: Vintner's Collective .

Credit: Vintner’s Collective .

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 share post-earthquake stories from Napa Valley. While people associate the community with expensive wines and Michelin-starred restaurants, Napa is a working-class community at heart. And across the Valley, people rallied to help those in need.

After Shock: A Community Rallies in Napa Valley

John Trinidad, a wine industry attorney who lives on Main Street in Napa, was cleaning up from a party when his home started shaking.

“At first, I thought it was a little roller,” he explained. “But then, it got pretty violent, with full-on shaking. I had already braced myself, so just kind of rode it out — but heard a lot of things crashing around me. After the shaking stopped, I looked around and yep, a lot had come out of the cupboard — broken glass, broken plates, lots of things on the ground.”

The 6.0 magnitude earthquake that struck southern Napa County on August 24 was the strongest California had experienced in 25 years.

The media quickly turned its attention to wine — and the economic impact of the quake. Although Napa Valley accounts for less than 4 percent of America’s total wine production, it’s the country’s best-known wine region. And it’s a big moneymaker. The region’s wine industry has an economic impact of $50 billion annually.

At its heart, though, Napa Valley is a working-class, farming community. And in the wake of the earthquake, brand Napa Valley — $300 “cult” Cabernets, Michelin-starred restaurants, and the like — was overshadowed by kinship and kindness.

Check out the rest of the piece on Grape Collective!

Anselme Selosse’s Terroirist Manifesto

Posted by | Posted in White's Wines | Posted on 08-19-2014

selosseAs 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 Anselme Selosse, the Champagne producer with a cult-like following.

The Terroirist Manifesto of Anselme Selosse

“Nature is larger and bigger than all of us. It’s crazy to think that man can dominate nature.”

Anselme Selosse issued this profound statement while explaining his winemaking philosophy one recent morning at his small property in Avize, a village in Champagne’s Côte des Blancs.

“Wines must show the characteristics of the place,” he continued. “Illuminating the vineyard is my obsession.”

For Selosse, wine has a higher purpose. A wine must translate place, clearly expressing the characteristics of the soils and climate in which it’s grown.

This concept — the notion of terroir — is hardly unique. Winemakers across the world wax poetically about how “wine is made in the vineyard.” When Selosse took over his father’s winery in 1974, however, such talking points weren’t yet clichéd. In Champagne, especially, few producers cared about such things.

There were exceptions, of course. But most of the large producers that dominated the region sought simply to deliver a consistent product each year. They purchased grapes from thousands of growers across Champagne and paid by the ton. So growers sought to “dominate nature,” maximizing yields by utilizing fertilizers, herbicides, insecticides, and fungicides.

The results were predictably atrocious, but it didn’t matter. For most producers and virtually every consumer, Champagne wasn’t about wine; it was about luxury.

So Selosse’s philosophy wasn’t just unusual, it was downright revolutionary.

Check out the rest of the piece on Grape Collective!

Maintaining Tradition in Champagne

Posted by | Posted in White's Wines | Posted on 08-05-2014

Didier Gimonnet.

Didier Gimonnet.

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 Didier Gimonnet — and detail his beef with Champagne’s “new wave” of growers.

Didier Gimonnet: Maintaining Tradition in Champagne

“Gimmonet is not trendy,” explained Didier Gimonnet, a third-generation vigneron in Champagne. “It’s unfashionable.”

During a recent visit to Gimonnet’s estate, the two of us were chatting about the growing popularity of Champagne’s “new wave” producers. While those who are “moving in the direction of single expressions”—single-vineyard wines from a single vintage—are garnering lots of praise from writers and sommeliers, Gimonnet believes such wines are “always less complex, less interesting, and less capable of aging.”

Fighting words. But if any winemaker has the credentials to make such an argument, it’s Didier Gimonnet.

Check out the rest of the piece on Grape Collective!

Beaujolais: The Greatest Secret in Wine

Posted by | Posted in White's Wines | Posted on 07-22-2014

Bernard DiochonAs 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 Beaujolais is the greatest secret in wine.

Beaujolais: The Greatest Secret in Wine

One hundred years ago, the Wine Society, a wine club in London, offered its members a Beaujolais from the appellation of Moulin à Vent for $29 per case. It offered cases of Burgundy from the appellations of Beaune and Pommard for around $36 each.

Today, a case of wine from Domaine Diochon, a top producer in Moulin à Vent, costs around $250. And it’s one of the most expensive wines in the region. In Burgundy, however, most Pommard and Beaune on offer from the Wine Society go for well over $1,000 per case.

So whereas consumers seeking compelling reds from Burgundy instead of Beaujolais once paid a premium of about 25 percent, today’s consumers can expect to pay a premium of 400 percent — or more.

Burgundy is quite different from Beaujolais, of course. But serious wines from both regions effortlessly combine vibrant acidity with depth and complexity. And wines from both regions can age for decades.

That’s why today’s price differential doesn’t make any sense. Had those 1914 prices tracked inflation, that case of Moulin à Vent would retail for $690. Without any question, the top wines of Beaujolais represent the greatest value in the wine world.

Consider the wines of Domaine Diochon.

Check out the rest of the piece on Grape Collective!

 

Tony Terlato Is Betting on Millennials

Posted by | Posted in White's Wines | Posted on 06-24-2014

Tony Terlato.

Tony Terlato.

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 wine industry leader Tony Terlato, who just turned 80, is betting his company’s future on millennials.

Tony Terlato Is Betting on Millennials

“When I was in college, we drank beer. When my sons were in college, they drank draft beer. But when my granddaughter was in college, she’d get together with five girls, go out to a restaurant, and they’d each put $10 toward a $60 bottle of wine.”

Tony Terlato, the chairman of Terlato Wine Group, shared this story while explaining why his entire company is focused on millennials.

Marketers everywhere are obsessed with this demographic, which is comprised of those born between 1980 and 2000. But hearing Tony Terlato talk about this generation was different.

Terlato isn’t some young, tech-obsessed marketing executive. He just celebrated his 80th birthday and has worked in the wine industry for nearly six decades.

Master sommelier Tim Gaiser recently praised Terlato for bringing “wine into mainstream American consciousness” and gave him credit for helping change “domestic wine tastes from mass-produced, sweet, fortified jug wines that dominated drinking habits after WWII to the likes of classified-growth Bordeaux, top Italian estates, and the best wineries in California that are enjoyed by many today.”

Indeed, one in every eight bottles of wine over $14 sold in America passes through Terlato’s sales and marketing firm, Terlato Wines International.

So Terlato has seen it all. And he’s more optimistic than ever before about the future of America’s wine market, because he’s certain that millennials are embracing wine.

Check out the rest of the piece on Grape Collective!

Embracing the Rhone Rangers

Posted by | Posted in White's Wines | Posted on 06-10-2014

rhone_rangers_bannerAs 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 Americans are growing increasingly comfortable with Rhone varieties like Syrah, Grenache, and Mourvedre.

Embracing the Rhone Rangers

“Raise your hand if customers regularly come in and ask for a good Cabernet.”

I recently issued this directive to a group of 40 sommeliers, retailers, and other wine industry insiders from across Washington, D.C. Unsurprisingly, just about every hand shot up.

I quickly spoke again. “Raise your hand again if customers frequently come in and ask for a good Chardonnay.” Again, just about every hand went up.

“Now,” I continued, “raise your hand if a single customer has asked for Grenache or Mourvedre in the past month.” Not a single hand went up.

“What about Carignan? Piquepoul?” While several attendees chuckled, no hands were raised.

The 40 industry insiders had gathered to explore the market’s support for the 22 grape varieties that hail from France’s Rhone Valley. Several dozen wine producers from across the United States who embrace these varieties were in town, so I moderated a panel discussion among eight of them.

I opened with this thought experiment to illustrate how gutsy it is to focus on unusual varieties. Sure, oenophiles recognize that one can only drink so much Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, and Sauvignon Blanc. But the average consumer is unfamiliar with — and intimidated by — Rhone varieties like Syrah, Grenache, and Mourvedre.

I left with the distinct feeling that things are changing, fast.

Check out the rest of the piece on Grape Collective!

Virginia Rising

Posted by | Posted in White's Wines | Posted on 05-27-2014

RdV Vineyards

RdV Vineyards.

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 growing respect for Virginia wine.

Virginia Rising

“I don’t understand why the D.C. public doesn’t realize its Sonoma and Napa is just a day’s drive. It’s an easy, straight shot out of the city, and there are incredible wines,” exclaimed Sebastian Zutant, the co-owner of The Red Hen, a popular restaurant in the nation’s capital known for its serious yet quirky wine list.

Zutant has been managing beverage programs at some of Washington, D.C.’s top restaurants for more than a decade. And in recent years, he has become a big proponent of Virginia wines.

Many critics share Zutant’s newfound respect for the state. After a recent visit to the Old Dominion, celebrated British wine authority Jancis Robinson suggested that Rutger de Vink of RdV Vineyards has “a good chance of putting the state on the world wine map.”

De Vink’s name is almost always mentioned alongside Jim Law of Linden Vineyards and Luca Paschina of Barboursville Vineyards, two key figures in Virginia’s wine industry. Bottles from these producers would convert just about anyone who doubts the state’s potential.

But many consumers continue to give short shrift to Virginia, even if they’re in driving distance of its best wineries. Indeed, when Zutant shows off wines from producers like RdV, Linden, and Barboursville, he’ll often hide the labels.

“At my restaurant, I try to change perspectives,” he explained. “It’s never about bringing over a bottle of wine from Virginia; it’s always about hearing what my customers like. Then I’ll open a bottle from Virginia, have them taste it, and explain where it’s from. That’s the only way I can do it.”

In mid-May, I visited Linden with Zutant to chat with de Vink, Law, and Paschina about the future of Virginia wine. While the industry has experienced remarkable growth — over the past decade, the number of wineries has increased from 78 to over 250 — the three winemakers admitted there’s still great skepticism in the marketplace. But they’re optimistic.

Check out the rest of the piece on Grape Collective!

At Wine-Focused Restaurants, Embracing the Unknown

Posted by | Posted in White's Wines | Posted on 05-13-2014

rippleAs 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 growing number of courageous sommeliers who are gently guiding wine consumers outside their comfort zones.

At Wine-Focused Restaurants, Embracing the Unknown

“Representing real people who make real wine has always been very important to me,” explained Danny Fisher, the general manager and beverage director of Ripple, a wine-focused restaurant in Washington, D.C. “When you’re drinking wine — or any kind of beverage, really — you want to know that someone has put time and effort into it. It shouldn’t be mass produced, toyed with, or manipulated.”

Fisher and I were chatting about the wisdom — or foolishness — of loading up a restaurant wine list with small-production, unfamiliar offerings.

Sure, Americans have fallen for wine. We surpassed France as the world’s largest wine-consuming nation in 2010 and have been drinking more each year. But consumers still feel most comfortable with major grapes like Cabernet Sauvignon, Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, and Sauvignon Blanc. And most stick with easily recognized brands, like Duckhorn, Kendall-Jackson, and Chateau Ste. Michelle.

In restaurants and wine bars across the country, however, a growing number of courageous sommeliers are eschewing these obvious choices and gently guiding patrons outside their comfort zones. These efforts are having an impact. Thanks in no small part to people like Fisher, Americans are beginning to embrace the unknown.

Check out the rest of the piece on Grape Collective!

Drinking Wine in Bourbon Country

Posted by | Posted in White's Wines | Posted on 04-29-2014

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 explain why sometimes, trips to wine country are so inspirational that lives are forever changed.

Drinking Wine in Bourbon Country

For two minutes each May, the world turns its attention to Churchill Downs for the Kentucky Derby.

Wine enthusiasts visiting Louisville for the race might expect a city that’s fueled by bourbon, bourbon, and more bourbon — along with some fresh mint and sugar for the occasional julep, of course. But like a growing number of small American cities, a vibrant wine culture has emerged.

“The Louisville wine scene has evolved dramatically over the last 10 years,” said David DuBou of Vintner Select, one of the region’s top distributors. “Louisville has come a long way from mostly being about big-name California brands. The embrace of the independent producer who makes unique, terroir-driven wines has slowly taken center stage.”

On a recent visit to Louisville, I was floored by the city’s wine offerings. Louisville’s retailers, sommeliers, and consumers seemed eager to drink with an open mind and an open palate.

Check out the rest of the piece on Grape Collective!

Comic Books and Thoroughbreds

Posted by | Posted in White's Wines | Posted on 04-15-2014

post paradeAs 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 sometimes, trips to wine country are so inspirational that lives are forever changed.

Comic Books and Thoroughbreds, Inspired by Wine

Outside the Bay Area, few wine enthusiasts realize that California’s wine scene is incredibly welcoming.

This is understandable; we see our favorite winemakers on the covers of magazines and struggle to contain our excitement when new wines hit the market. So expecting to meet any big name in the flesh seems as fantastical as expecting to meet Brad Pitt or Angelina Jolie on a trip to Hollywood.

But it’s not. And sometimes, these encounters are so inspirational that lives are forever changed.

Check out the rest of the piece on Grape Collective!