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Friday, August 18, 2017

Summer Reds

                           Pinots, Grenache and Frappoto make for great summer drinking

A light bodied red wine can be the spot-on choice for a hot summer’s day.  Perfect summertime grapes include Pinot Noir, Grenache, and Frappoto.  All of these grape varietals are thin-skinned, therefore, don’t offer a lot of tannin (not the best ingredient during the heat of the summer).

Pinot Noir, grown in cool climate areas (think Sonoma vs. Napa), is a terrific summer wine that can pair both with meats and fish.  Pinot flavor profile includes cherries and strawberries, but interesting spice or floral notes can make this varietal a compelling wine.   Pinot Noir is the hallmark grape of Burgundy, but red Burgundies are usually expensive.  For something more affordable look for great Pinots that are made in the Russian River of California… not far from the cooler Pacific Coast.  Oregon’s Willamette Valley also produces some stunners.  All Pinot Noirs below are highly recommended.

·        Russian River:  I particularly like Dehlinger.
·        Oregon:  Ponzi, Adelsheim, Domaine Droughin or Soter all produce excellent wines.
·        Burgundy:  Jadot produces both high-end, as well as some lost costly wines.

Grenache is the world’s most planted red grape.  It is becoming more popular, especially among California vintners.  A Rhone varietal (one of the grapes used in Chateauneuf du Pape), it is also grown in Spain where it is known as Garnacha.  California’s Central Coast is also having very good success with this varietal, but they are using it primarily in blends.  The Grenache grape is full of red fruit flavors (strawberries and raspberries).  While it has good structure, Grenache’s tannins are background notes.  The wine works especially well with grilled chicken, but also can swing to lamb or beef.   My faves include....
  • Spain:  look no further than Arryan’s La Suerte Mentrida. 
  • Central Coast:  Best includes Tablas Creek, Zaca Mesa and Justin.
  • Chateauneuf du Pape:  Beaucastel is the bomb. 

·      Frapatto is one of my favorites for summer time.  Hailing from Sicily, Frapotto is a fun summer wine that usually everyone likes.  Relatively unknown in the US until recently, Frapotto is starting to appear on our wine lists.  Often blended with Sicily’s famous Nero d’Avola grape, Frapotto is more and more being vinified as its own varietal.  Think strawberries.   It’s a real hero with fish.  Best producers are Planeta and Orcchipenti.

     Paint the remainder of the summer Red!



Friday, August 11, 2017

Easy Drinking Summer Whites


Viognier and Vermentino are synonymous with summer.  While both of these grapes are popular in Europe, they remain mostly unknown in the US.  (But, they are increasingly popping up on our wine lists).   The two varietals can make for simple poolside drinking, but they both can also be complex, serious wines.   Viognier and Vermentino are versatile in that they can be served as an aperitif, or with a summer meal.  I especially like them with grilled fish, and they’re terrific with shellfish.  A light summer pasta (veggies & pesto, or cherry tomatoes & arugula) also work well.


Viognier hails from the Rhone Valley in France.  It is often used in blending, but in the appellation of Condrieu, it is 100% varietal.  Condrieu is ground zero for lovers of Viognier.  I am a great fan of Viognier’s perfume-like aromas (think summer honeysuckle or fragrant roses), but I also am taken with its exotic fruit profile (mango, or even sweet tangerine).  I highly recommend any of Rhone winemaker Yves Cuilleron’s Viogniers.  One of the best Viognier I’ve had outside of France is Spain’s Vall Loch from the Priorat region. Greece is also knocking it out of the park--- producer Gerovassiliou makes a killer Viognier.  For the US, I’ve not tasted anything that can beat Santa Barbara’s rendition by boutique Jaffurs Winery.  If you can find any of these Viogniers, buy every bottle they have.

Vermentino (known as Rolle in the South of France) is another rock-star summer sipping wine from the Italian Mediterranean.  Like Viognier, it can be highly aromatic.  It is similar to Sauvignon Blanc in weight and shares many of the same citrus-like qualities.  Vermentino, however, often serves up some intriguing minerality as an added bonus.  The best Vermentinos come from the island of Sardenia (Argiolas is a great producer).   Tablas Creek in Paso Robles is one of the few US producers that grows Vermentino.


Enjoy the last weeks of summer, and drink plenty of “Vitamin V.” 


Friday, August 4, 2017

Best Bargain Rosé

                                              Over 50% of Provence's wines are Rosé 

I owe this delightful discovery to a client of ours who telephoned recently about a Rosé tasting he had conducted in the Bay Area with friends. He was calling to tell us that the hands-down favorite was a French one from Trader Joes.  The price?  A whopping $6.99. My husband jumped in the car and dashed out to grab a few bottles. Our client was right.  This one, a wine from Provence, is a real winner that delivers a terrific value.  

If a Rosé could choose its birthplace it might very well choose Porvence.  First, the area is stunning.  Second, it's been making wine for >2,000 years so they've had plenty of time to get it right. Located in southern France not far from the Riviera, Provence specializes in Rosé.   I was in Provence last month at a Wine-Knows sponsored Julia Child cooking event.   Our group tasted a plethora of Rosé most of which were very good.  But, none offered the quality price ratio of the one from TJ's.

Drum roll please!  The terrific seven buck Rosé is produced by J.L. Quinson and its called Cotes de Provence, AOC (which means its from the appellation encompassing the hills of Provence).  The 2016 blend is a equal blend of Carignan and Grenache...both common grapes for the Rhone Valley of which Provence is a part. (Note:  Quinson also makes another Rosé which TJ carries called Coteaux d'Aix en Provence, so pay attention).

We're heading back to TJ's to pick up several cases for summer drinking and reminiscing about our glorious time at the Week in Provence with Julia Child.  Thank you, Marco, for this great tip!

Have a Rosé-all-day kind of weekend!




Sunday, July 30, 2017

Sensational Summer Cocktails

San Diego is having an exceptionally hot and humid summer season.  (Yes, we are spoiled….anything in the 80’s or above is a deal breaker for locals who find it difficult to comprehend humidity or anything other than idyllic mid-70’s).  Here are some absolute stunners to wet-your-whistle...

Rosé Lillet with Bubbles:



Lillet is a delightful aperitif from Bordeaux.  Made from Bordeaux grapes and herbs (the recipe is a carefully guarded secret), Lillet comes in 3 types:  red, white & rosé.  I was recently in Provence at a Julia Child cooking week and one of the chefs prepared a killer drink from the rosé version.  It’s simple:  equal parts of  rosé Lillet and bubbles (the French version I had used Champagne, however, prosecco or any California dry bubbly would work).  Serve it topped with a strawberry and voila!   

Aperol Spritz:



This is one of my fave cocktails….summer or winter.  Made from Italy’s Aperol (a neon orange colored aperitif made from bitter oranges, rhubarb and a some herbs), the spritz is currently one of the most beloved cocktails in all of Italy.  The cocktails is easy to assemble:  equal parts of Aperol and Prosecco, with a splash of soda water (or to keep it authentically Italian, San Pellegrino).  Add ice and top with a slice of orange.   Ciao, a dolce vita!

White Port and Tonic:



White Port is not easy to find in local liquor stores but totally worth the search!  (Hint:  you can buy it easily on the Internet.)   White Port (make sure it’s the bone dry version) makes a perfect thirst-quenching aperitif.  If you want to score some major points with foodies-in-the-know, serve it.   Everyone will love it, and no one will have ever had it.  The recipe is easy:  equal parts of white dry port and tonic…add plenty of ice and a slice of lemon (sprig of mint optional).   Cheers!

Limoncello with Club Soda:



I’ll never forget my first sip of the cocktail, and that’s something as it’s been about 15 years ago.  I was handed this colorful libation by the hostess at a 4th of July party in San Francisco, and I’ve been a fan ever since.   It’s easy-peasy:  fill a glass with ice, add 2/3 club soda, 1/3 limoncello.  Top with a slice of lemon, or even a strawberry is a nice color contrast.   Sante!

Stay cool wherever you are summering.


Friday, July 21, 2017

The Tasting of a Lifetime

                                               20 wines with an average age of 60 years each!

I’ve been a member of several serious, professional-level wine groups for >35 years.  Over the decades, I’ve attended some “Holy Grail” tastings, including a fabulous one at the American Embassy in Paris, another rock-star event in London with the International Society of Wine Educators, and finally a “Cult Cabernet” tasting in San Francisco (the average price per bottle was $700, the highest $1,600….and that was >10 years).  But, recently I had the privilege to organize a tasting in the Madeira Islands that just may top all of the others.

Wine-Knows took a group to Madeira last month.  I knew it was going to be a serious tasting when a 7 page portfolio solely for tasting notes was placed at each table setting.   Quickly leafing through the papers I simply couldn’t believe my eyes.  Surely there had been a mistake.  How was it possible that such a tasting could even be assembled?

I must applaud Oliveiras Wine Company for putting together this totally mind-boggling array of 20 wines, the oldest of which was the 1900 vintage (yes, 117 years old!).  The wines were divided into 4 segments:  dry, medium-dry, medium-sweet, and sweet.  

For those who don’t know Madeira, let me say a few words.  Madeira is in no way comparable to a table wine.   Madeira’s oxidative process and long aging can result in a rainbow of colors that range from brilliant terracotta to deep mahogany.  Madeira also offers a symphony of flavors including carmelized fruits, honey, a variety of nuts, coffee-toffee profiles, candied citrus, and even cigar box and leather nuances.  These are serious wines for a serious wine lover.

In short, we tasted 20 wines---five of which were over 100 years old and ten of the wines were over 50 years in age.  Most everyone was surprised at how well they liked the sweeter Madeiras----which didn’t appear sweet due their great balance with the wine’s acidity.  From my point of view, the stars of the show were the following (listed in order of age):
  • 1932 Verdelho             
  • 1908 Boal
  • 1907 Malvazia
  • 1900 Moscatel
Kudos to Oliveiras Wine Company and to Mr Oliveiras who personally received our group of Wine-Knows for this tasting of a lifetime.  Bravo!


Friday, July 14, 2017

England Wins World's Best Wine!

                           The Brits are knocking it out of the park with some killer wines.

England and wine?  That's an oxymoron for many wine lovers. However, for serious oenophiles, English wines have been appearing in the last few years on the world’s radar screen with increasing frequency.  In 2016, for example, an English bubbly beat out several French Champagnes in a blind tasting that shocked the wine world.  Now, a white wine from England just won “Best in Show” among > 17,000 wines in a tasting judged by a panel of international experts.

This riveting wine-tasting was sponsored by Decanter Magazine (Europe’s version of Wine Spectator).  Winners were recently announced at the 2017 World Wide Wine Awards.   Winbirri Vineyards 2015 Bacchus was the victor with judges describing it as the "perfect aperitif wine."  Comments included "complex, oily nose with spice, elderflower and citrus."   It was also deemed to be "very elegant and delicate with a slight spritz and a long, clean finish." 

Never hear of the Bacchus varietal?  Not many have as the grape is not grown in many spots other than the colder vineyards of Europe.  Bacchus is a hybrid, coming from a cross of Riseling, Sylvaner and Muller Thurgau grapes.  Named after the Roman God of wine, Bacchus is being increasingly planted in English vineyards.  The cooler climate in England allows this grape to retain high acid levels.  When allowed to fully ripen, Bacchus can offer powerful flavors.

Wine-Knows still has limited space on its June 2019 trip to England (the 2018 English tour sold out).  The 2019 tour will be showcased on our website later this summer. Currently, there are only 6 spaces remaining.  The trip will focus on the stunning Cotswold countryside, however, visits will also be made to Kent, Surrey and Hampshire district (all of which are located along England's southern coast).

Long live the Queen !

Friday, July 7, 2017

Michelin Buys Robert Parker



The giant Michelin Tire empire (who also owns the prestigious Michelin restaurant guides), just announced its purchase of 40% of Robert Parker’s renown Wine Advocate and its website RobertParker.com.   Parker, who founded the publication in 1978, sold it in 2012 to a group of Singapore investors. 

Robert Parker’s reviews and ratings help make or break wineries all over the world, as well as set global wine prices.  An East Coast attorney by trade, Parker left the legal world in 1984 to concentrate full-time on rating wine.  France awarded him the Legion of Honor in 1999 to recognize his unprecedented impact on French wine.  Although he is no longer the Editor of the powerful publication he birthed, Parker is still considered the most powerful wine critic on the globe. 


The marriage of the Wine Advocate and Michelin will surely effect the international culinary scene.  Just how is yet to be known, however, the two have been partnering for the last year to produce gastronomic events in Singapore.