In Vino Veritas: A St. John’s Fundraiser

Posted by | Posted in Wine Events | Posted on 04-07-2014

St. John's College.

St. John’s College.

St. John’s College in Annapolis is best known for its commitment to the “great books” curriculum. But it should also be known for its impact on America’s wine industry.

Warren Winiarski, who played a pivotal role in the transformation of American wine, is an alumnus. Last summer, Jon Bonné credited Winiarski for birthing “an informal St. John’s mafia” in Napa, noting that the legendary vintner hired Abe Schoener and played a huge role in convincing Alex Kongsgaard to attend the school.

In 2011, The Friends of St. John’s College and Annapolis’ Bay Ridge Wine & Spirits launched a wine-centered fundraiser — In Vino Veritas — to raise scholarship money for the school. This year’s event takes place on Friday, April 25 and Saturday, April 26.

On Friday night, I’ll be moderating a discussion and tasting with an all-star lineup of SJ alumni. It features Abe Schoener of The Scholium Project; Christina Turley of Turley Wine Cellars; Zach Rasmuson of Goldeneye; August Deimel of Keuka Spring Vineyards; Paul Speck of Henry of Pelham; and Rory Williams of Calder Wine Company.

We’ll be exploring the concept of “honesty” in wine in seminar entitled “Transparency, Truth, and Terroir.” It should be a blast, so if you’re looking for a fun weekend in Annapolis, please join!

Expensive Competition at the 2014 Left Bank Bordeaux Cup

Posted by | Posted in Wine Events | Posted on 03-03-2014

Photo Credit: Coline Rohart – Consulate General of France in NYC

Contenders show their responses at the 2014 Left Bank Bordeaux Cup in NYC. Photo Credit: Coline Rohart, Consulate General of France.

With over 40 teams competing, the Left Bank Bordeaux Cup is one of the largest amateur wine competitions in the world. The event itself is a rather smart marketing ploy run by the Commanderie du Bontemps, “one of the oldest and largest wine brotherhoods in France.”

The competition pits teams of three students from top graduate schools against one another in major cities, then brings the regional winners together to vie in the Final Cup held at Château Lafite Rothschild in June. Contenders prepare for the Bordeaux battle by memorizing all things 1855 Classification, studying current events in Bordeaux, and tasting various classified and unclassified wines from the Left Bank . This year’s U.S. winners were the teams from Yale Law School and NYU Stern Business School.

While the concept itself is a pompous ordeal – I participated last year and was all too aware of the pretension – an event that encourages deliberate study of a wine region and inspires a new generation to explore it deserves support.

That said, I take a couple issues with the LBBC.

First, the Commanderie cloaks the logic behind its scoring system. Participants have no idea how questions are weighted or how the blind tasting portion is scored. This is a problem, especially for a region that’s already viewed as cryptic and aloof.

Second, graduate students rarely have the resources to purchase pricey, classified growth Bordeaux. Rumors are circulating about how teams in other countries are being heavily sponsored and showered with classified growth wines. Securing similar support has been a struggle for teams in the United States.

Photo Credit: Coline Rohart – Consulate General of France in NYC

The Yale Law School team at the 2014 Left Bank Bordeaux Cup. Photo Credit: Coline Rohart.

I recently had a chance to talk to the winning team at Yale Law School, which is comprised of Laura Femino, Joseph Pomianowski, Webb Lyons, and Albert Pak. The group hopes that they can bring more awareness (and sponsorship) to the competition moving forward. In listening to them, I was  surprised at how much support they’ve already received. Kudos to the group for hustling and making it happen.

They were able to get a sponsorship last year from Sotheby’s Wine and they’ve retained their coach from Sotheby’s, Nicholas Jackson. Nick competed in the event a few years ago and was keen to “live vicariously through them” and help them train. Lisa Granik, a Yale alum and MW, has also been a critical mentor for the group. And finally, Mory’s, the Yale Club in New Haven, generously provided space and wine glasses for the team tastings.

When I asked specifically how the team financed tastings and how much they spent on wines. They said they “try to keep tastings to between $10-20 per person, so that no one is excluded for financial reasons.” They’ll attempt to split a bottle among 20 people with 1-ounce pours if necessary, which makes tasting the expensive wines a bit more feasible. However, getting 20 people together regularly is a challenge and often they’ll end up with just 10 people and only taste three wines at a time.

They work with their own limited budgets and the wine tastings that visiting Chateaux hold for students on campus. Of course, for the Yale team, the Sotheby’s sponsorship was also key to sourcing hard-to-find and finance wines, in addition to frequenting other New Haven wine shops.

When I asked  team members how they think their preparation stacks up to other competing schools, they were a bit envious of their British counterparts. “Our impression is that the teams from England have a real edge in their access to College wine cellars, and a more storied tradition to their teams, but we’re not complaining. We still like our chances.”

Jon Bonné Comes To NYC & DC!

Posted by | Posted in Wine Events | Posted on 01-15-2014

“Slowly, I encountered other winemakers with similar beliefs. I found people who remained committed to restrained, compelling wines that spoke clearly of their origins — and who shared my frustration with California’s modern style.

Jon Bonné“Some… had been toiling for decades; others were upstarts with the same energy and ambition as the pioneers from previous generations. Eventually, the brushstrokes began to turn into something recognizable: the seeds of a new movement, a new California wine in the making.”

These words appear in the introduction to The New California Wine, the just-released book from Jon Bonné of the San Francisco Chronicle.

To say I’m excited about Jon’s book would be an understatement. The wines that fill the pages are both compelling and delicious – and all the producers he highlights deserve the attention. This weekend, wine geeks on the east coast are in for quite a treat as Jon is visiting both New York and DC.

On Saturday, Jon will discuss his book with Abe Schoener at Red Hook Winery in Brooklyn. Buy tickets here. I’ll be at this event – so if you go, come say hello!

That evening, Jon will visit Terroir in Murray Hill to discuss his book with superstar Paul Grieco. While the event is sold out, the waitlist is open.

On Sunday, Jon will visit Washington, DC! Together with Cordial Wine at Union Market, Jon will discuss his book with Dave McIntyre of the Washington Post. Just a few tickets are left, so get on it!

That evening, Jon is hosting an intimate wine dinner at Plume, one of DC’s top restaurants. To snag a seat, call 202-448-2300.

Three Discoveries about Italian Wines

Posted by | Posted in Wine Education, Wine Events | Posted on 08-26-2013

Refosco Pairing from Aroma Kitchen & Wine Bar at the Italian Culinary Experience

Refosco Pairing from Aroma Kitchen & Wine Bar at the Italian Culinary Experience

Learning about Italian wine is really hard. I frequently find myself at Italian wine bars or restaurants with friends, who are all looking at me to pick out a wine. Meanwhile, I look at the menu and curse/pray/beg for help.

So, I take every chance I get to taste more Italian wines, especially when the tasting includes mysterious indigenous grapes. To that end, I recently attended the Italian Culinary Experience here in NYC.

The Italian Culinary Experience is a delectable series of events, each of which highlights a different region of Italy, its wines, and carefully paired dishes from a restaurant partner. The concept, launched by the Italian powerhouse Zonin, started in Miami and has now been repeated three times in New York. Restaurant participants in NYC have included Le Cirque, SD26, and Aroma Kitchen & Wine Bar. Other partners include Delverde Pasta, a company that makes insanely tasty pappardelle and bucatini.

Aside from leaving these events totally stuffed and maybe a little buzzed, I also left with a few discoveries, shared below:

1) Prosecco is made a few times a year. Unlike most wines that are made and released annually, the grapes harvested for Zonin Prosecco are kept as a must and then put into stainless steel tanks to undergo fermentation in the Charmat method 2-3 times per year. This progressive and ongoing release is done in an effort to maintain the freshness of the wine. Does anyone know if this is common with other Prosecco producers?

2) Refosco is great! So, I tried Refosco for the first time. Did everyone else already know about it? And just not tell me? Since tasting, I keep seeing Refosco pop up in wine coverage, especially about the one produced at Napa’s Matthiasson.

Anyway, when the wine was first poured in our glasses, my friend, Seema, and I were trying to place it. She guessed Sangiovese. I got more plummy, rich fruits and guessed a Sangiovese + Merlot. Humbled and way wrong. The wine was the Refosco dal Peduncolo Rosso 2011 by Tenuta Ca’Bolani from the Friuli region. It was a rich violet ruby color with overwhelming notes of wild berries, sweet spices, and black stone fruit. I’ll continue seeking this varietal out.

photo 2-23) Inzolia exists. There are so many white grapes from Italy. Profound thought of the day.

Inzolia is from Sicily, but I didn’t get the fresh minerality I often get from other Sicilian wines. Perhaps it was masked by the 3-4 months this wine had spent on the lees? The most prominent and interesting characteristics were tropical and citrusy, a blend of round & rich with tartness. Medium-low acidity. I thought this wine was OK, but with the breadth of Italian whites (yes, my profound thought of the day again), I’ll definitely keep exploring.

Heart’s Delight 2013 in Washington, DC

Posted by | Posted in Terroirist, Wine Events | Posted on 05-15-2013

Not many causes are as unequivocally good as the American Heart Association. Combine this great organization with the generosity of wine producers, wine lovers, and numerous other partners in the DC community, and you have Heart’s Delight, a five-day, wine-centric fundraiser in the nation’s capital.

This event, which started in 1999, raised a net $985,000 this year and aims to hit $1 million by the end of June. All funds go directly to the American Heart Association.

A few Terroirists, including David, Scott, Winn, and me, had the opportunity to attend several of the functions this year and they were really special with exquisite wine, delicious food, and enthusiastic participants. If you haven’t had a chance to get involved in Heart’s Delight before, I highly encourage you to do so. More information can be found on the Heart’s Delight website and Facebook page.

See below the fold for a few highlights from the event: Read the rest of this entry »

Heart’s Delight Wine Tasting & Auction: Discount Tickets!

Posted by | Posted in Wine Events | Posted on 04-26-2013

Photo courtesy of Heart's Delight on Facebook

Here at Terroirist, we are big supporters of the Heart’s Delight Wine Tasting & Auction, Washington, DC’s premiere wine and food event that we wrote about last year.

To refresh you, Heart’s Delight is a four-day celebration bringing together winemakers, celebrity chefs, gourmands, and wine enthusiasts to raise money for the American Heart Association.

The week culminates with a Grand Tasting Reception and Auction on Saturday, May 4th. Guests will enjoy wine from outstanding producers such as Château Pontet-Canet and Château Léoville Poyferré from Bordeaux, Chile’s Concha y Toro, and Argentina’s Bodegas Catena Zapata. From closer to home, local brewery DC Brau Brewing Company will be pouring its well-regarded craft beers.

For fortification, attendees will be able to munch on delicious bites from exceptional chefs such as Chicago’s Graham Elliot, New York’s Gabrielle Hamilton of PRUNE, and local favorites like Sebastien Archambault of Blue Duck Tavern.

During the reception, guests can peruse the many wonderful silent auction items available for bidding, including bottles of Krug Champagne, a case of Château Cos d’Estournel, several great trips and many restaurant packages. Later in the evening, a live auction will feature even more impressive trip packages, experiences and of course, wine! Some of the best lots include a VIP dinner at New York’s Gramercy Tavern including 18 vintages of La Mission Haut Brion going back to 1948, two cases of high-scoring 2010 Bordeaux, and an insider’s trip to Italy, including VIP tastings in Tuscany.

This year, Terroirist is very excited to be able to offer our readers tickets to the Saturday event for 50% OFF the regular price! Just go to the web site for Saturday tickets, enter the discount code TERROIRIST, and at checkout your price for the Tasting Reception & Auctions will be $125 instead of $250.*

So, if you live in the Metro Washington area — or want to make a weekend trip! — please consider buying a ticket and joining us for what promises to be another fantastic year of Heart’s Delight. We hope to see you there!

*Discount only applies to the Tasting Reception & Auctions ticket, not the other portion’s of Saturday’s event lineup. If you purchase a ticket at $125, it will not be tax deductible. You can purchase a full price ticket for $250 and $125 of the cost may be tax deductible. Consult a tax professional for guidance.

The Seven Percent Solution

Posted by | Posted in Wine Events | Posted on 04-25-2013

Last month, I gathered with several friends for a tasting of California’s “hipster” wines.

The goal was to explore the wines being produced by revolutionary vintners — those in Napa Valley willing to eschew Cabernet Sauvignon in favor of Ribolla Gialla; those making distinctly American wines by identifying California’s oldest vineyards; those who embrace California’s vast and varied climate by bottling esoteric grapes.

All the wines, which were pulled from our personal cellars, came from Arnot RobertsBedrock Wine Co.Broc CellarsDirty & RowdyForlorn HopeJolie-LaideMassicanMatthiassonThe Scholium Project, and Two Shepherds. While I didn’t take formal notes, all the wines were fantastic. And it was fun to open some eyes up to the fact that California produces more than just the usual suspects.

It turns out my friends and I could have easily dubbed our event “The Seven Percent Solution.”

The reason? As the organizers of an event coming up on May 11 in Healdsburg explain, “roughly 93 percent of Northern California vineyard acreage is planted to eight major grape varietals. The remaining 7 percent acreage is home to numerous lesser known varietals. These ‘seven percent’ varietals are finding anchor with a small but growing number of winemakers.”

On May 11, seventeen producers will gather in Healdsburg to showcase their wines. The producers include all the wineries above, along with Idlewild Wines, Leo Steen RPMRyme CellarsStark Wine, Unti Vineyards, and Wind Gap. Tickets are just $40.

Without question, this is one of the most exciting wine events in the country. So in two weeks, regardless of where you live, you should consider packing your bags and heading to Healdsburg!


Buy your tickets here.

Visiting the Wines of Chile Master Class

Posted by | Posted in Wine Events | Posted on 04-15-2013

Last week, I  attended a Wines of Chile Master Class at Charlie Palmer Steak in DC, led by Master Sommelier Fred Dexheimer. The wines, which ranged from $9 to $85 per bottle (wholesale), didn’t disappoint. They were tasted in three flights — Chardonnay, Workhorse Reds, and Icons.

The Chardonnays were from opposite ends of Chile, literally. Two were from the Limarí Valley, in the north, and one from Malleco, at Chile’s southern end.

Limarí, a subzone of the Coquimbo DO, has historically been known for bulk wine, table grapes, and Pisco distillation. But the region is home to veins of calcareous soil, much like the clay/lime soils of Burgundy. So it’s no surprise that the region is capable of producing Chardonnays with crisp minerality.

Such minerality really showed in the 2012 Merino “Limestone Hill,” which was the most precise Chardonnay of the day and bursting with green apples, tart citrus and a leesy tang which developed while the wine matured in (likely neutral) French oak for one year. Slide this wine one on to your list of “Patio Pounders” this summer.

Also from Limarí, yet on the other side of the Chardonnay spectrum, was the 2012 Concha y Toro “Marques de Casa Concha.” While this might be more popular among grandmas than sommeliers — it’s quite ripe and sees 12 months in French oak, at least some of which is new — it still features enough minerality and acid to be quite enjoyable. Considering this wine lands on some retail shelves under $15, why not?

About 1,000 miles south is the Malleco region. The smallest wine region in Chile, Malleco is home to just 42 acres of Pinot Noir and Chardonnay. The 2010 Clos des Foufs “Latuffa” Pinot Noir was wild. Showing a deep color, akin to Santa Rita Hills Pinot Noir (perhaps a similar black rock soil?), the nose was overt with notes of garrigue, sage, smoke, and meat. The fruit profile on the palate showed bursting berries and bramble, with the innate acidity of Pinot Noir and a soft grip to it.

Of course, if you want to drink Chile, it’s big red territory. So I was pleased to see the 2009 Emiliana “Coyam” on the table when I walked in. It’s a wine with which I have had a lot of success selling at Bourbon Steak DC and one I would certainly consider ordering myself. This vintage is a biodynamic blend of Syrah, Carmenere, Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Mourvèdre & Petit Verdot. A very complex nose brings about dried spices, animale, and ripe dark fruits. Pit it against your favorite chewy Napa or Washington red.

The last flight featured the “icons.” A list of outside Chile’s outside investors reads like who’s who list — Los Vascos and Château Lafite-Rothschild; Concha y Toro and Château Mouton-Rothschild; Miguel Torres; Michel Rolland; etc.  Iconic indeed.

A look into how these wines can age was provided by the 2007 Errázuriz “Don Maximiano.” The structure on this wine featured a regal, even tannin set, refreshing acidity and well-integrated fruit and earth. I’d be excited to try this wine in ten years — or more.

Finally, you can’t talk about Chile without mentioning Carmenere, the forgotten Bordelais variety. Almost extinct elsewhere, when done right, it can produce a fragrant, floral and grippy wine. Tasted on this day was the 2007 Santa Rita “Pehuén” from the Apalta Valley. This wine, like the other reds, balanced a savory green pepper crunch with ripe fruits, here going into the plum, boysenberry and slight raisin categories. Big tannins, no doubt, but again with a long and even finish. This forgotten grape was recently planted by famous St. Émilion   garagiste and wine infidel Jean-Luc Thunevin at Château Valandraud. His reason? “Maybe!”

In case you’re wondering, all the reds, had a pyrazine, or green pepper, character – even the expensive ones. As they should! The Cabernet family of grapes has this characteristic, and if the flavor is integrated, it helps give wine depth, structure, and adaptability to food as a savory component. Many times I’ve seen a quality wine dismissed for this aspect, but honestly, if your Cabernet is not showing some green aspects, that’s the wine that should be put into question.

Now that I’m off my soapbox, drink some Chilean wine!

Free Tix! North Willamette Wine Trail

Posted by | Posted in Wine Events | Posted on 04-03-2013

It’s no secret that everyone at Terroirist is a big fan of Oregon wines. 

The photo that serves as the header to the site (and our Facebook page) was taken at the Wine Country Farm in Dayton. In a wine column last year, I wrote about the “charm” of Oregon’s wines. And we’ve featured a number of Oregon winemakers in our interview series — including Derek Einberger of Patton Valley VineyardJon Jennison of Thistle Wines, and Dave Paige of Adelsheim. 

So I’m not very happy about missing the North Willamette Vintners’ 5th annual Wine Trail Weekend, which takes place next Saturday and Sunday (4/13 and 4/14) from 11:00AM-4:00PM.

Over the weekend, attendees will be able to stop at nearly 20 different wineries, where they’ll be able to taste new releases, barrel samples and even some library wines and reserve bottlings. Tickets are $45 per person for the full weekend, or $30 for Sunday only. They’re also offering designated driver tickets for just $10. For tickets, a full list of participating wineries, and more information, please visit

The best news? We’re giving away a free pair of tickets for the entire weekend!

To have a chance to win a FREE pair of tickets ($90 value) to the 2013 North Willamette Wine Trail Weekend, just leave a comment naming your FAVORITE Oregon wine. Please note that you have to “like” our Facebook page to be eligible. 

The contest ends on Monday, April 8, at 12:00pm PDT. Good luck!

Free Tix to Le Cercle Rive Droite in NYC!

Posted by | Posted in Wine Events | Posted on 03-28-2013

Having just returned from a fabulous trip to Bordeaux, my only regret is that I had time for only one bank. I spent several days on the Cabernet-dominated Left Bank, but missed out on the elegant and structured wines of the Right Bank.

Fortunately, I’ll have a chance to remedy this omission at the upcoming Le Cercle Rive Droite event in New York, where 32 Right Bank producers will  showcase their recently released 2009s and 2010s.

Terroirist is happy to offer a reader giveaway for two tickets to the Le Cercle Rive Droite Event in New York City on Thursday, April 18th. The event takes place from 6-8pm at Millesime at The Carlton Hotel (92 Madison Avenue at 29th Street). Tickets regularly sell for $150, with 10% of ticket sales going to Citymeals-on-Wheels.

To enter for a chance to win, leave a comment on this post naming your favorite Right Bank chateau! We’ll randomly select a winner on Monday, April 8th. Additionally, all Terroirist readers will receive a 30% off discount code for tickets to the event! More to come on that when we announce the winner.

Leave a comment to enter today!