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Chateau Bauduc - Bordeaux, France - Thu, 05/28/2015 - 11:28

Gordon Ramsay opened Maze Grill at 11 Park Walk in Chelsea last month, and we’re delighted that Chateau Bauduc Sauvignon and our Sauternes is served by the glass. Nothing extraordinary about that, you might think, but the address has special significance for us: it’s where Ange and I had our first date. (And later, more famously, the place where Gordon would make his name.)


Back in the autumn of 1989, 11 Park Walk was the name of a lively Italian restaurant which had a convivial atmosphere and a tasty spaghetti and lobster dish on the menu. It was the scene for our first dinner date (we’d met at a dinner party two weeks before) and, after we’d enjoyed the pasta and a bottle of Tignanello, Ange asked what I was doing at the weekend. I was planning on watching Chelsea play Millwall, and when she asked if she could come too, it was immediately obvious that this was a relationship that had potential. We went to the game, just around the corner from Park Walk, and Chelsea won 4-0. The result was that Ange and I got engaged a few months later and we were married in July on Bastille Day, just after the 1990 World Cup.

11 Park Walk closed in the early nineties (anyone remember mortgage rates at 14+%?) and a wonderful restaurant called Aubergine took its place in 1993. A twentysomething Gordon Ramsay had been hired as head chef and the food was so good, and the wine so reasonably priced, that Ange and I wanted to host her (important) birthday party there. When I put the suggestion to the man himself in the restaurant one morning, he wondered how many people we were thinking of entertaining. I said ’about, um, thirty?’. ’Thirty!’ he barked; ’I’m not a fucking caterer!’ Anyway, we cut the number down to two tables of ten, I think, and it was a brilliant evening.

IMG_0545Ramsay deservedly went on to win a Michelin star at Aubergine in 1995 and two stars in 1997, before he had a run-in with the owners. It wasn’t long before he set up on his own at Restaurant Gordon Ramsay in Royal Hospital Road, the year before we moved to Bordeaux in 1999. Bauduc became the house wine at Royal Hospital Road – that’s another story – shortly before he won his coveted third Michelin star in late 2001.

So, moving on a few years, when Ramsay returned to his old stamping ground at 11 Park Walk with Maze Grill, we were delighted that they chose to put Bauduc on the wine list. And with the restaurant being just around the corner from Stamford Bridge, more than reasonable that we should go and sample it. And the cooking.

And a very good list it is too. Better still, it’s remarkably keenly priced. Chateau Bauduc Sauvignon Blanc is only £22 a bottle, and our Sauternes just £7 for a small glass or £32 a 50cl bottle. I haven’t seen our wine priced that low in a proper restaurant for years – you’d expect to see our Sauvignon Blanc listed for at least £27.

IMG_0528There are plenty of excellent wines to choose from in the £27 to £50 a bottle range, and many house wines, Bauduc included, are available in sensible 50cls carafes. Perfect for four glasses of wine.

If you’re having steak, as we did, do choose from the impressive steak fridge behind the bar. Cuts from France, Britain, the USA… we’ll certainly be back.

Thanks to the team at Maze Grill for looking after us so well, and to my fellow season ticket holder Tony for picking up the tab.

Categories: Europe

May News

Chateau Bauduc - Bordeaux, France - Thu, 05/28/2015 - 10:40

IMG_0987 - Version 2

  • Back to where we started
  • 2015: an odd year that’s normal for once
  • The Seafood celebrates 40 years
  • In praise of big bottles and the rule of 5
  • The Bauduc tasting room

See full newsletter

Categories: Europe

S+S Guide to Melbourne Wine Bars

Shaw + Smith - Balhannah, South Australia - Thu, 05/28/2015 - 08:52

Following on from our last guide to Adelaide Wine Bars, Dan Coward was given the challenge to come up with a guide to Melbourne venues. Melbourne has so much to offer, and after much deliberation, sweat and tears, these are our recommendations, although this article carries a large disclaimer that it is simply not possible to provide a comprehensive Wine Bar guide to Melbourne in under 1000 words... 


There is literally no way to cover off Melbourne’s thriving wine bar scene in under 1000 words (or glasses?), but that doesn’t mean we’re not going to try. During the day drink in the bustling majesty of the City Wine Shop, with its enticing wall of wine, surfeit of global Riesling and the best schnitzel around, before heading upstairs in the wee hours to get lost in the wine bible and comfy chesterfields at the Supper Club. Elsewhere in town Cumulus Up (above Cumulus Inc) is a wine destination in its own right, while Movida Aqui has you covered if you’re in an Iberian sort of mood. For a dynamic one-two punch south of the CBD go to Bellota Wine Bar with its easy European style and the encyclopedic knowledge of the Price Wine Store team before resting up at the big bar table of Port Melbourne’s Harry & Frankie. Like several of its contemporaries Harry & Frankie applies a modest drink-in corkage fee to any of the bottles along its walls. It’s a great way to try something more expensive without breaking the bank. North of the city and your attention could be split between Carlton institution, Gerald’s Bar, and Fitzroy mainstay, the Gertrude Street Enoteca. Both are small, utterly authentic and obsessed with good wine. Finally, if you’re not exhausted or broke head west to Clever Polly’s for a walk on the vinous wild side and then even further west to the Seddon Wine Store to escape the madding crowds. And if you need even more suggestions than that…you’re made of stronger stuff than us…

Categories: Oceania

Pairings Wine & Food Experience now available on Thursday!

I am excited to announce that starting on June 4th, we will be expanding our Pairings Wine Dinners to include Thursday, as well as Friday and Saturday evenings at 7 pm. Please join a knowledgeable Winery Ambassador and me each week for a four-course dinner featuring fresh ingredients from local artisan purveyors at our beautiful winery setting. Come learn how wine can enhance your next meal with proven culinary tips. Our new menu is inspired by the flavors of spring and thoughtfully paired with our classic, Oregon wines.

I have included a sneak-peak of the four-course meal below. Reservations are now open.

We hope you enjoy these dinners with your family and friends, and take the opportunity to celebrate your milestones with us. 

Eric Nelson
Winery Chef

Pairings Food & Wine Dinners
Thursday, Friday & Saturday at 7 pm
(Thursdays starting June 4, 2015)
Cost: $50 per person, $40 for Wine Club Members, Shareholder and their guests
Includes: Four-course food and wine pairing meal led by our Winery Chef and Winery Ambassador
Reservations are required, please visit online or call 503-588-9463. A credit card will be required to hold your seats and will be billed the Wednesday before your seating.
Cancellation policy: There is a $25 cancellation fee per person for reservations not cancelled with 48-hour notice. 

- MENU -
2014 Rosé of Pinot Noir
Seared Oregon Albacore Tuna Loin
Glass Noodle, Sesame Mango Salsa,
Soy Reduction

2012 Estate Chardonnay
Caramelized Leek Fromage Fort
Estate Herb, Cracked Pepper Gremolata

2011 Tualatin Estate Pinot Noir
Yam Gnocchi with Spring Pea & Smoked Cheddar
Carlton Farms Jalapeno Garlic Bacon
Garden Fresh Sage Pesto with Oregon Hazelnut

2011 Quinta Reserva Pinot Noir Port-Style
Rogue Creamery Hazelnut Smoked Blue Cheese
Toasted Pecan Caramelized Cherry Compote
Cascade Baking Co. Rosemary Flatbread
Categories: North America

Our new Elton ​w​inery featured in Wine Spectator​ and Statesman Journal​!

The Wine Spectator and Statesman Journal broke the story of our plans to build a new Elton winery on the very spot I stood with vineyard founders, Dick and Betty O'Brien,back in 1978 discussing its ideal location. The O'Brien's life-long dream is being realized by acclaimed winemaker, Isabelle Meunier, who will make small lots of Pinot Noir and Chardonnay under the new Elton label. Beginning with Isabelle's first vintage in Oregon, 2007, Wine Spectator awarded 22 Oregon wines a score of 95 and above, citing them as "Classic." Isabelle produced 11 of those wines while at Evening Land Vineyards, including the highest rated Oregon Pinot Noir and Chardonnay ever. Her wines were selected for the Wine Spectator "Top 100 Wines of the Year" in 2009, 2010, 2011 and 2012 as well as appearing on the cover. I wanted to share this exciting announcement with you. 

Wine Spectator article

Statesman Journal article

We will be crafting the first vintage this year and look forward to sharing the wines with you in the new by-appointment only Elton tasting room in 2017. 

Thank you for your support of our Oregon wines! 

Warm Regards, 

Jim Bernau
Founder & Winegrower
Categories: North America

Something To Look Forward To

Ponte Winery - Temecula, CA - Wed, 05/27/2015 - 09:00

Last week, I bought a bottle of dry rose wine.  While I’m always happy about purchasing a new bottle of wine, I was particularly excited about this one.  It was a Friday.  It was a Friday of a very long week.  My husband and I have just recently started our own business and our days are long and strenuous.  He had been getting home all week no earlier than 9 pm and he was due to be home early and in time for dinner on this Friday.  To top it all off, it was a gorgeous day – 75 degrees, sunny and not a smidge of humidity in the air.  The perfect kind of day for catching up in the back yard as the sun goes down.  The wine sat in the refrigerator, chilling away and I counted down the minutes until my husband texted me that he was on his way home.

Ponte Pas Doux – dry rose perfection

I could picture it already: cool, crisp rose wine, not sweet, just right.  Maybe I’d serve it with black olive tapenade spread on toasted baguettes.  Yeah, that sounded good. We’d unwind, letting the long week roll off of our shoulders with every glorious sip.  We’d forget about the phone calls and the long nights for a while.  Since he was working on Saturday, we’d at least talk about what we would do as a family on Sunday, which so far, we were able to keep appointment-free.

Five o’clock came and went, so did six o’clock.  Six-thirty, seven…no husband.  Here’s what happened: the client job he was at on this Friday was supposed to last about 1 hour (based on our limited experience).  He was there for 4 hours.  By 7:15 I figured I should at least feed my poor little 3-year old and since I don’t like for anyone to eat alone, I joined him.  I thought about opening the wine, but I knew it just wouldn’t be the same without the yard, the sun, the husband.

I can’t be the only one who looks forward to a glass of wine like that at the end of a long day or week or holiday season, right? I think it’s because, unlike beer or cocktails that can and sometimes should be consumed quickly, lest they lose their chill, wine is meant to be savored.  Sip after sip you notice different flavors, different smells, different sensations.  As you drain your glass, that little “fizzy” sensation makes itself known and suddenly you’re smiling…smiling just because you feel good.  You simply must have another glass.  Conversation flows, moods lighten, la vita is suddenly bella.

Long day?  Long pour

Something to look forward to, indeed.

We did get to enjoy that bottle of wine on Sunday.  Thankfully the picture-perfect weather lasted through the weekend, so we got the whole package: the sun, the yard, the wine and, this time, even the husband.  The wine was well chilled and wonderful.  I had three glasses and probably should have stopped after two, but I had to make up for lost time, right?

What is the wine that you look forward to after a long week?


Categories: North America

Dry Farming in California's Drought, Part 3: How We Got Here (and Where We Go Next)

Tablas Creek Vineyard - Paso Robles CA - Tue, 05/26/2015 - 22:13

I was struck by a quote from Tegan Passalaqua, the winemaker at Turley, in a recent article on  In an interview with Alder Yarrow, Tegan said "In a Mediterranean climate like we have, vertical shoot positioning and 3 by 6 vineyard spacing is basically farming hydroponically".

Hydroponic farming, with its overtones of bland supermarket tomatoes, seems an unlikely candidate to provide the intensity and ripeness that a winemaker would expect from California.  But in its essence, that the farmer is providing everything that a plant needs to bear fruit, I don't think he's far off.  It's worth taking a few moments to understand how grapevines came to be so widely irrigated in California.  In the first part of this 3 part series, I looked at how our understanding of California's climate dictated changes versus what had been done in the Mediterranean.  In the second part, I detailed how we have been farming our vineyard since the beginning to wean it off of irrigation, and what changes we've made in recent years to adjust to the likelihood of a drier future.  In this third part, I will explore how viticulture evolved in California to rely so heavily on irrigation.  If you missed the earlier parts, this article will make more sense after you've read them.

According to Jancis Robinson1, wine grapes were likely first domesticated from their wild progenitors somewhere near where modern-day Armenia, eastern Turkey, and north-western Iran meet, sometime before 4000 BC.  That area is a relatively arid climate, averaging around 400mm of rainfall per year (about 16 inches).  There, grapevines, along with similarly rugged crops like olive trees, were planted on dry, rocky hillsides where the more useful grain and vegetable crops couldn't survive.  This took advantage of grapevines' genetic predisposition to search out scarce water sources, delving dozens of feet deep if necessary.

By 2000 BC, wine grapes had been brought to areas around the eastern Mediterranean, including Egypt, Mesopotamia, southern Greece, Crete and the southern Balkans.  Expansion to areas north and west came over the next two millennia, brought by the exploring and colonizing Phoenicians, Greeks, and (later) Romans.  

High quality winemaking requires the concentration of flavors, achieved through stress on the grapevines and the maturity of fruit.  This happens naturally in the hot, dry climates where grapevines evolved.  But as viniculture moved north through Europe, into climates cooler and wetter than where wine grapes originated, the grapevines faced different challenges. Instead of not enough water, grapevines were challenged with too much water, threatening to dilute flavors.  And the cooler climes meant that lack of ripeness was a significant threat.  The solution to both these problems came in a new way of planting: spacing vines much more closely, so they competed against each other for the available water, and reducing the yield per vine so that the clusters ripened more rapidly.  For contrast, look at the differences in the old world.  An old vineyard in a warm Mediterranean climate (in the example below, Priorat, taken as a still from a promotional video on the Priorat DOQ Web site) might see grapevines three meters apart or more from their nearest neighbors (500 vines per acre, or less):


By contrast, a Burgundian vigneron in search of maximum concentration and character might plant grapevines as close together as one meter by one meter (over 4000 vines per acre), and reduce yields per vine from 20-30 clusters per vine to just 3 or 4.  The example below (from Wikimedia Commons) is of a vineyard near Gevrey-Chambertin, in Burgundy, where vines are so close together a tiny tractor can barely fit:


The net result is a can be a greater yield in tons per acre, with increased intensity and a better chance of getting the grapes ripe before the first frost.

It is perhaps useful to think of a grapevine as a small machine, whose roots act as pumps to wick water and nutrients out of the ground.  A vine's leaves absorb solar energy to power this machine. The water that is pulled from the ground is used during photosynthesis as the vine respires through the pores of the leaves, and is also trapped in the plant's tissues and fruit.  Planting more vines into a given plot of land requires more water for photosynthesis to be successful.  If there is enough (or too much) water, this extra density is beneficial and even important.  If there is not enough water, this extra density requires more irrigation to keep photosynthesis going.  And if irrigation becomes a major source of water for the vines, they change their root system to better capture that water source, growing more rootmass under the irrigation drips and less exploring deeper. 

So, is California's climate more like that of the Mediterranean, or more like that of Burgundy?  It depends on what you look at.  In terms of temperatures, you can find both, as evidenced by the success California's winemaking community has had with a a wide range of grapes, from the cool-loving Sauvignon Blanc and Pinot Noir (with origins in the north of France) to the late-ripening Grenache and Mourvedre (with origins in the hot, dry Spanish plateau).  But in terms of rainfall, it should be clear that except for perhaps in extreme north and coastal regions, our total precipitation more resembles the warmer, drier Mediterranean. In fact, many parts of California receive significantly less annual rainfall than the classic Mediterranean climate.  Relatively arid areas like Priorat receive more rainfall than most of the Central Coast, and the rainfall distribution in Paso Robles actually looks more like the Bekaa Valley in Lebanon than it does like Priorat, let alone anywhere in France.  The fact that we receive nearly all our precipitation in the six-month period between November and April only adds to the stress on the vines, and the need for planning if we're going to try to grow grapes without having them dependent upon regular irrigation.

You might wonder why plantings of grapevines in California look more like those in Northern Europe than they do like those of the Mediterranean.  That they do is a relatively recent phenomenon.  A paper on vine spacing presented to the American Society for Enology and Viticulture (ASEV) in 1999 by two winemakers from Robert Mondavi Winery makes for fascinating reading.  Before the late 1980's, most vineyards in California were planted at around 450 vines per acre.  The first large-scale (35 acre) high-density (2170 vines/acre) planting came in Oakville in 1985.  Since then, the paradigm has shifted rapidly, as winemakers found that they could translate the higher density into earlier-ripening, more reliably yielding crops of good intensity.

The downside? It hasn't seemed like there was much of one. More reliable yields, more reliable ripening, and increased intensity all seem like a good thing.  If I find that many of the wines that come from high-density irrigated plantings have a sameness, a fruit-driven thickness and relative lack of soil expression, this doesn't seem to be a complaint shared by many.  And separating out the preference for increasingly ripe flavors that developed over a similar timeframe is difficult (many connoisseurs of Bordeaux, where irrigation is prohibited, have described a similar development over the last two decades). But these higher-density crops can only survive in most parts of California through the regular application of irrigation.  When that irrigation water was cheaply and easily available, the fact that our natural rainfall distribution more resembles the Eastern Mediterranean than Burgundy or Bordeaux didn't seem to matter much. From an environmental standpoint, planting an irrigated vineyard was often a responsible choice for a farmer, as the high efficiency of drip irrigation and the relatively little water that grapevines need compared to a crop like alfalfa offered sustainability in both resource use and economics. But with all of California's agricultural communities engaging in a new level of soul-searching after four years of drought, it's clear to me that the calculus is changing.

Perhaps the solution for a drier future begins with a look at the past.  The old vineyards planted by immigrants in the 19th and early 20th centuries, many of which survived decades of neglect during prohibition and continue to produce a century later, were planted with the densities common to the warm Mediterranean climates (from where, of course, most of the settlers came).  Given our success in recent years replicating these older planting styles, I would hope that one benefit to come out of our current drought will be a renewed interest in low density plantings on deep-rooting rootstocks, requiring at most a fraction of the water of "modern" vineyards. That the wines have turned out to be so good is icing on the cake. 

It doesn't get more sustainable than that.

1 Jancis Robinson's "Wine Grapes" (Penguin Books, 2012) is an incredible resource for anyone interested in the history or characteristics of different grape varieties.

Categories: North America

Winner of the 2009 Shaw + Smith Aged Release Shiraz

Shaw + Smith - Balhannah, South Australia - Tue, 05/26/2015 - 20:49

Congratulations to Brianna Chappell - you won a case (6) of award-winning 2009 Aged Release Shiraz.
Thank you to everyone who has entered our recent competition.

Categories: Oceania

2014 Vintage Update: I think we can, I think we can...

Best's Wines - Victoria - Tue, 05/26/2015 - 14:48

Greeting wine boffins, 

The end is in sight after a bit of a stop start vintage due to the ideal ripening conditions of cool nights and mild days giving us plenty of time to wait to pick the grapes at their ideal physiological ripeness. It has been a very good vintage for us in terms of quality, but no so much for quantity. Which means the winemakers are happy, but less so the accountants.

We have harvested nearly all of our grapes. Only a small amount of Shiraz (from a cool valley) and 13 Acre Cabernet remain to be picked; next week hopefully. There will be a sigh of relief when the last vineyard is picked as it has been two and half months since the first grapes came in. 

Basket and bag presses have been going non-stop getting all the goodness out of the skins with oak barrels and vats being filled left, right and centre. The Rieslings are in their final throws of fermentation with us hovering close by, waiting for the moment of perfect balance between sweetness and acidity so we can stop them. No major dramas have befallen us this week, just a few amusing moments of picking bins going into the tank along with the grapes, too much fruit going into a vat to then be dug out prematurely into another, and gassy dark red wine giving people shiraz showers during filling barrels.

Now comes the time when we start to look at the 2013 wines in barrel and think about creating blends for the next release of red wines later this year. It makes an abrupt but pleasant change from tasting raucous unfinished wines to those that have been softening and maturing in barrels and vats for 12 months!

Back to the final push, let’s just hope the weather holds until the grapes are all in. 

Until next time, 


Categories: Oceania

Cruel to be kind - Monty's Pet Nat Episode 8

Monty's Pet Nat story continues! To maintain Albury Vineyard's high quality grapes, owner Nick and his manager Alex have a tough job to do. 

You can view this video, and others in the series on the Monty's Pet Nat facebook page. Remember to 'like and share' this page - when it reaches 200 likes we will give away a bottle of Monty's Pet Nat! You can also tweet about the wine @alburyvineyard @MontyWaldin using #MontysPetNat #naturalwine.

Monty's Pet Nat is the UK's first natural wine, and has been produced by Monty Waldin and Albury Organic Vineyard. It's now available to buy from Les Caves de Pyrene. To find out more about what it's all about, visit Thanks to Seablue Media for producing these brilliant videos!
Categories: Europe

2015 James Halliday Wine Companion

Best's Wines - Victoria - Sun, 05/24/2015 - 14:43

James Halliday's 2015 Wine Companion was released last week featuring wineries from across the country and an array of fabulous wines produced by some very talented winemakers. 

Our 2012 Old Vine Pinot Meunier (97 points), 2012 Thomson Family Shiraz (97 points), 2012 Bin 0 Shiraz (96 points), 2012 Bin 1 Shiraz (95 points), 2012 Cabernet Sauvignon (95 points), 2013 Riesling (94 points) and 2013 Young Vine Pinot Meunier (93 points) were all acknowledged, receiving some wonderful reviews.

Our winemaking philosophy at Best’s is that great wines are made in the vineyard.  Even while practicing a minimalist approach, attention to detail is key. We avoid the overpowering use of oak or additional treatments and instead prefer to let the fantastic fruit from Great Western tell the story, which is evident in all seven of these featured wines. 

We have has been consistently producing exceptional, food-friendly, elegant and approachable wines with great longevity since 1866.
Our patriarch, Viv Thomson and his son Ben, current Managing Director and Vineyard Manager, have worked with Best’s winemakers for the last 40 years to ensure continuity of house style while encouraging the winemakers to constantly look for ways to innovate and improve. 

All of these wines were produced by our very talented winemaker, Justin Purser. Justin, also a firm believer that great wines start in the vineyard, produces wines that reflect where they came from. When you enjoy a glass of Best's you enjoy a glass of Great Western. The characteristics reflected in the wine are a product of our region - our unique climate, soil types, and vineyard practices all contribute to the style of our wines. 

Categories: Oceania

2015: an odd year that’s normal for once

Chateau Bauduc - Bordeaux, France - Sun, 05/24/2015 - 11:29

The vines are coming into flower. I’ve taken a picture of the vineyard in front of the chateau on the 23rd May each year – it started that way – and the photos show just how different the uneven years have been. 2009 just after the hail, 2011 way ahead of other years, 2013 limp and lagging well behind, and now with 2015 looking strangely normal for the time of year.

GQ re hail May 2009 - 057

23 May 2009, Chateau Bauduc, after hail 10 days before.


23 May 2011, Chateau Bauduc. An early vintage that got off to a flyer.

23 May 2011, Chateau Bauduc. An early vintage that got off to a flyer.

23 May 2013, Chateau Bauduc. Way behind - and in August, we'd be hit by hail.

23 May 2013, Chateau Bauduc. Way behind – and in August, we’d be hit by hail.

23 May 2015, Chateau Bauduc.

23 May 2015, Chateau Bauduc. Verging on normal.

Categories: Europe

Words Fail Me - Monty's Pet Nat Outtakes!

It'll be all right on the night! Go behind the scenes to watch accomplished communicator Monty Waldin. Very rarely does he struggle to find the right words. This short video is evidence of that one time during a visit to Butcher's Hall Farm Shop.

You can view this video, and others in the series incluidng Episode 7 'A nose for good soil' on the Monty's Pet Nat facebook page. Remember to 'like and share' this page - when it reaches 200 likes we will give away a bottle of Monty's Pet Nat! You can also tweet about the wine @alburyvineyard @MontyWaldin using #MontysPetNat #naturalwine.

Monty's Pet Nat is the UK's first natural wine, and has been produced by Monty Waldin and Albury Organic Vineyard. It's now available to buy from Les Caves de Pyrene. To find out more about what it's all about, visit Thanks to Seablue Media for producing these brilliant videos!

Categories: Europe

Building the Perfect Antipasto Platter

I adore antipasto platters because they allow you to be infinitely creative without spending all day in the kitchen. Plus, with a big crowd, you can set up a few platters at the table and at the bar, maybe one on the coffee table, even, to create more intimate settings for conversation.

Hi there! Kelsey here from again. Of all the recipes I’ve shared with you here, it’s the spread you’ll find below that makes the most frequent appearance at my table when we’re entertaining friends and family. I adore antipasto platters because they allow you to be infinitely creative without spending all day in the kitchen. Plus, with a big crowd, you can set up a few platters at the table and at the bar, maybe one on the coffee table, even, to create more intimate settings for conversation. While it’s hard to go wrong with any wine paring when it come to cheese and charcuterie, we recommend serving a crisp, fruit-forward Chardonnay like the K-J AVANT Chardonnay to perfectly compliment the following:  I adore antipasto platters because they allow you to be infinitely creative without spending all day in the kitchen. Plus, with a big crowd, you can set up a few platters at the table and at the bar, maybe one on the coffee table, even, to create more intimate settings for conversation.I adore antipasto platters because they allow you to be infinitely creative without spending all day in the kitchen. Plus, with a big crowd, you can set up a few platters at the table and at the bar, maybe one on the coffee table, even, to create more intimate settings for conversation.I adore antipasto platters because they allow you to be infinitely creative without spending all day in the kitchen. Plus, with a big crowd, you can set up a few platters at the table and at the bar, maybe one on the coffee table, even, to create more intimate settings for conversation.I adore antipasto platters because they allow you to be infinitely creative without spending all day in the kitchen. Plus, with a big crowd, you can set up a few platters at the table and at the bar, maybe one on the coffee table, even, to create more intimate settings for conversation.I adore antipasto platters because they allow you to be infinitely creative without spending all day in the kitchen. Plus, with a big crowd, you can set up a few platters at the table and at the bar, maybe one on the coffee table, even, to create more intimate settings for conversation.I adore antipasto platters because they allow you to be infinitely creative without spending all day in the kitchen. Plus, with a big crowd, you can set up a few platters at the table and at the bar, maybe one on the coffee table, even, to create more intimate settings for conversation.
Print Building the Perfect Antipasto Platter Serves: 6-12   Ingredients

  • The perfect antipasto platter involves a balance of sweet, salty, piquant, and mild flavors. By serving fruits, veggies, and Marcona almonds provide a bit of respite from the bold flavors of cheese and charcuterie. I like serving grapes, both red and green, apple slices, nuts, sliced raw Belgian endive, and fig jam across several platters.
  • Choose a minimum of two meats to serve (if you have a vegetarian crowd, as a courtesy its generous to make at least one meatless platter). Here I've chosen some prosciutto and sopresatta, although fennel salami, terrines, galantines, ballotines, pâtés, and confit also make great options. Olives are a must! Serve in a small bowl to prevent the brine from tainting the flavors of everything else on the plate. Your favorite crackers, a loaf of fresh bread sliced into thin toasts are a must. Cantaloupe makes a great neighbor to the prosciutto.
  • It's nearly impossible to go wrong with your cheese selection. Try and include a variety of textures and flavors. Think: something aged (cheddar, comte, goat gouda), soft (camambert, goat cheese, brie), firm (manchego, parmigiano-reggiano) or blue (gorgonzola dolce, stilton). Definitely serve something familiar! I like to serve a bit of aged swiss and honey goat cheese to placate the less adventurous of your guests.
  1. Depending on how many you'll be serving, plan on serving, consider the following ratio of product to head count: 3 pounds for 8 people, 6 pounds for 16, or 9 pounds for 24. Cheese should account for 4-5 ounces per person.
  2. Let cheese come to room temperature for about an hour before serving and arranging on the platters. There is no rhyme or reason to assembly, just that you create enough diversity on each platter as to not create a traffic jam around specific trays and areas of the house.
I adore antipasto platters because they allow you to be infinitely creative without spending all day in the kitchen. Plus, with a big crowd, you can set up a few platters at the table and at the bar, maybe one on the coffee table, even, to create more intimate settings for conversation.I adore antipasto platters because they allow you to be infinitely creative without spending all day in the kitchen. Plus, with a big crowd, you can set up a few platters at the table and at the bar, maybe one on the coffee table, even, to create more intimate settings for conversation.I adore antipasto platters because they allow you to be infinitely creative without spending all day in the kitchen. Plus, with a big crowd, you can set up a few platters at the table and at the bar, maybe one on the coffee table, even, to create more intimate settings for conversation.I adore antipasto platters because they allow you to be infinitely creative without spending all day in the kitchen. Plus, with a big crowd, you can set up a few platters at the table and at the bar, maybe one on the coffee table, even, to create more intimate settings for conversation.

The post Building the Perfect Antipasto Platter appeared first on Kendall-Jackson Blog.

Categories: North America

Sediment removal, the final stage of wine clarification

Château Palmer - France - Fri, 05/22/2015 - 12:45
Bougie_soutirage.JPGFor the past seven weeks, Château Palmer's wine cellars have been a hive of activity where cellar workers have been completing an essential stage in the creation of the wine: Sediment removal.

Throughout its ageing, the wine must be clarified regularly (every three to four months) to remove the sediment which settles in the barrel in order to obtain the most transparent wine possible. It is what we call racking. 
At the beginning of its ageing, the wine contains a significant quantity of solids. Over time, these solids settle naturally at the bottom of the barrel creating the sediment. Before starting the clarification process the wine needs to be separated from the sediment. This is achieved by transferring the wine to a new barrel by the traditional method of "soutirage à la canne", which means racking using a walking stick shaped tool. Another stage is required to improve the purity of the wine before bottling: Fining. 
Developed in the 18th century this method consists of adding egg whites to the wine. Mixing the egg whites and the wine enables natural sediment to form and settle; giving the wine extra clarity and brilliance. The last wine clarification is carried out approximately eight weeks after fining; the wine is racked through the small bunghole at the end of the barrel using gravity. Traditional and more precise, it allows a better separation of the sediment after fining. Once the wine has been transferred from one barrel to another, we separate the wine from the sediment which is under the level of the bunghole, checking the transparency of the wine by candlelight. The clarification is complete when the cellar workers note the flowing wine become hazy.

Our cellar workers precious know-how is essential to ensure that the wine ageing is perfect, allowing the wine to express fully the richness of our terroir.
Categories: Europe

The Seafood celebrates 40 years

Chateau Bauduc - Bordeaux, France - Fri, 05/22/2015 - 10:29


Congratulations to The Seafood Restaurant in Padstow for notching up 40 years. And many thanks to Rick and Jill Stein – and to Jill’s sister Roni, who has looked after the wine since 1988 – for including me as one of their ’Food Heroes’ in the book to mark the anniversary. The Food Heroes (admittedly, wine is stretching the category of ’food’) were each asked if they could share any tips and favourite dishes. Here are mine.

Hero’s Tip

We’ve been going to the Seafood for donkey’s years, long before Rick first selected our wine in 2001. In all that time, Roni, Jill’s sister, has looked after our wine choices and she’s never let us down, ably supported by Jason over the last decade. So my advice is to trust the advice of a good sommelier, or whoever has had a hand in the wine selection. ‘Do you look after the wine list?’ is a polite way of asking for the right person.

DSC_0294Every Spring, we taste our wines with Roni, Jason, Rick and the wine team, so several of the guys are involved. It should be like that at any top restaurant.

And don’t be embarrassed by how little you know. A sommelier or wine waiter would much rather advise a novice than an old wine bore like me. Anyway, those of us involved in wine understand that the more we learn, the more we realise how little we know.

Finally, drink white wines young (95% of the time) and rosés even younger. Freshness is key.

Favourite dish at The Seafood Restaurant

The joy of wine is its diversity and it’s good advice to step out of your comfort zone. One should try that too with the food at The Seafood, as my wife Angela often does, but I’m always drawn to the Warm Shellfish starter and the Roast Turbot with Hollandaise. Those two classics have been on the menu since the days when a New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc was listed as a bit of a novelty.

If you’re feeling greedy, have a lobster course in the middle. The Lobster Thermidor is such a treat.

I prefer this entry though, from Brian Bate, Fisherman:

Hero’s Tip

Look at the eyes of the fish, and make sure they’re nice and clear.

Favourite dish at The Seafood Restaurant

I’ve never eaten in the restaurant but Rick introduced me to sea bass. As a young man I’d cooked it but it wasn’t very nice. Then Rick cooked sea bass for me one night and I’ve enjoyed it ever since.

Categories: Europe

Chardonnay - The Golden Queen of California

Castello di Amorosa - Napa Valley - Thu, 05/21/2015 - 20:40

It has often been said that if Cabernet Sauvignon is king here in Napa Valley, then Chardonnay is queen. Chardonnay has reigned supreme among white wine grapes in California since the Judgment of Paris in 1976, when Chateau Montelena’s 1973 Chardonnay trumped the French competition in a blind tasting and helped to put Napa Valley on the map of world-renowned winegrowing regions. Today, there are over 100,000 acres of Chardonnay vineyards planted throughout California, and the varietal remains one of the top white wines consumed by Americans each year.

One of the reasons for Chardonnay’s popularity is the wide variety of styles it can be crafted in, based on where the grapes came from and how the wine was aged. While the majority of Chardonnays are aged in oak barrels, unoaked Chardonnays are rapidly increasing in popularity due to their brighter, fruitier notes, and both aging styles offer a wide range of complexity in the finished wines.

Chardonnay at the Castello

Here at the Castello, we produce two Chardonnays every year from two select cool climate vineyards in California. Our Napa Valley Chardonnay fruit comes from own estate vineyard in the Los Carneros AVA (American Viticultural Area) in the southern end of the Napa Valley, which is meticulously tended to by our Vineyard Manager, David Bejar, who has worked with Dario Sattui and our winemaking team for the past 17 years. Our Bien Nacido Vineyard Chardonnay comes from the iconic family owned vineyard in the Santa Maria Valley in Santa Barbara County, along the Central California Coast. In using these two cool climate vineyards to produce our Chardonnays, we hope to showcase the unique terroir of each region while utilizing both traditional and innovative winemaking techniques.

Our Bien Nacido Vineyard Reserve Chardonnay

All of our Chardonnay is harvested at night in order for the fruit to arrive at the Castello cold, which preserves the its delicate aromatics and natural acidity. Once the fruit gets to the winery, the whole grape clusters are placed into our two pneumatic, or “bladder” presses, which gently presses the juice from the skins and seeds. The juice is then pumped into Burgundian French oak barrels, where it ages for 8-10 months.  We use 50% new and 50% second use French oak barrels on our oak-aged Chardonnays, which provides a balance between showcasing the terroir of the vineyard, acidity and fruit characteristics of the varietal, and the subtle notes of toast and spices that come from each individual barrel.


Two of our clear-headed oak barrels, which show the wine aging on the lees

After the wine has undergone primary fermentation, which converts the sugars in the juice into alcohol, our winemaking team then selects a specific number of barrels to undergo malolactic, or secondary fermentation. Here, the malic acid in the juice is converted into lactic acid, which gives Chardonnay its signature creamy mouthfeel (think “lactose” like milk). Roughly 40-60% of our Chardonnay barrels undergo malolactic fermentation, depending on the characteristics of the vintage and the acidity levels of each blend.  

La Rocca Chardonnay – A new twist on a classic wine


If you have visited the Castello on a guided tour, you may have noticed our concrete fermentation eggs in the Grand Barrel Room, our 12,000 sq ft cross vaulted room three levels underground. We have been using these concrete eggs for the past several years to craft select single vineyard white wines like our Ferrington Vineyard Dry Gewurztraminer and Tyla’s Point Pinot Bianco, and beginning with the 2013 vintage we are also fermenting and aging a select amount of our Bien Nacido Vineyard Chardonnay in one of these eggs. We have named this unique, limited-release wine “La Rocca,” which means “The Fortress” in Italian. The egg shape allows for a natural suspension of the lees (sediment) compared to aging in traditional stainless steel tanks, without imparting any flavors or aromas found in oak barrel aging, and the higher acidity and tropical fruit characteristics of the Bien Nacido Vineyard Chardonnay made this fruit a perfect choice for aging in these unique vessels. 

Cellar Master JoseMaria Delgado sampling our Napa Valley and La Rocca Chardonnays at The Grand Barrel Party

We are excited to make two Chardonnays from this historic vineyard in both French oak and concrete, as these two differing styles help to show the versatility of the varietal as well as the vineyard. Our 2013 La Rocca Chardonnay from Bien Nacido Vineyard will be released later this year, and we are looking forward to showing off the versatility of this beautiful Burgundian grape with our trio of California Chardonnays!

Categories: North America

A Vertical Tasting of En Gobelet, 2007-2013

Tablas Creek Vineyard - Paso Robles CA - Thu, 05/21/2015 - 19:25

When we first made En Gobelet in 2007, it was driven by our feeling that the dry-farmed lots we tasted in our annual blind tastings shared a distinctive character, different from our trellised lots.  In my blog post from 2009 announcing the first vintage, I talked about these dry-farmed lots:

"they seem to share an elegance and a complexity which is different from what we see in the rest of the vineyard. Perhaps it's the areas where they are planted (generally lower-lying, deeper-soil areas). Perhaps it's the age of the vines and a comparative lack of brute power. But, whatever the reason, we believe that these lots show our terroir in a unique and powerful way."

The wine has always been a blend primarily of Grenache and Mourvedre, with a touch of Tannat to cut the perception of sweetness that both the primary grapes can have.  When, starting with the 2010 vintage, we got some head-trained Syrah and Counoise in production, we added those too.  Our largest head-trained block, from which most of our recent vintages have come, is called Scruffy Hill, and we've been interested in exploring how this might fare as a block-designate, so between 2010 and 2013 the core of the En Gobelet was a co-fermented lot from Scruffy Hill, with selective additions from elsewhere on the property.

While it started as a wine we made because we thought we tasted something interesting in the lots, with our increasing focus on dry farming and our plans to plant all 55 acres on our new property dry-farmed, we've also come to see our En Gobelet as an indication of our future.  In celebration, we decided to look back today at the six vintages of En Gobelet we've bottled so far, and I thought it would be fun to share my notes.  The lineup:

En Gobelets

  • 2007 En Gobelet (48% Mourvedre, 47% Grenache, 5% Tannat): The nose is rich, meaty, and still primary, with lots of ripe red fruit and an appealing touch of mint. A touch of alcohol showed at the (nearly room) temperature at which we tasted it.  A slightly caramelized tone to the sweetness of the fruit is the only sign of age. On the palate, it is rich, lush and chocolaty, brought back to earth with firm tannins like coffee grounds at the end of a Turkish coffee. There's a great texture to the finish, with a powdered sugar character to the tannins and lingering flavors of dark plum.
  • [Note that we didn't make an En Gobelet in 2008 because we didn't taste enough distinction between the dry-farmed, head-trained lots and the rest of the cellar.]
  • 2009 En Gobelet (56% Mourvedre, 23% Tannat, 21% Grenache): A remarkably chalky nose, with some menthol and kirsch. On the palate, an initial impression of balsamic-marinated cherries is quickly overtaken by some massive tannins.  The finish is actually gentler than it was in the back-palate, with a creamy minerality and flavors of milk chocolate.  Still very, very young,
  • 2010 En Gobelet (37% Grenache, 28% Mourvedre, 13% Syrah, 12% Counoise, 10% Tannat): Chelsea's comment, which I agreed with completely, was that this wine "smelled more like Tablas Creek" than the previous two vintages.  There was more fruit in evidence in the nose -- blueberries, we thought -- and a minty, cool, pine forest savoriness characteristic of the 2010 vintage.  The mouth is vibrant with flavors of plum skin, juniper, a creamy, chalky texture and a little saltiness coming out on the finish.  This is really good, and going to get better.  Patience.
  • 2011 En Gobelet (29% Mourvedre, 27% Grenache, 26% Tannat, 18% Syrah): The most appealing nose yet, dark with soy marinade, wild strawberry, and roasted meat.  The least rustic of the noses, surprising since we'd attributed that character to the Tannat, and at 26% it is the most Tannat we've ever had in the wine.  The mouth is defined by its texture more than its flavors: creamy, chalky, savory and salty.  The flavors of loam and new leather linger on the finish.  My favorite wine of the tasting, for right now, and it's clearly got a long, interesting life ahead.
  • 2012 En Gobelet (63% Grenache, 12% Mourvedre, 11% Syrah, 8% Counoise, 6% Tannat): Notably lighter in color, unsurprising given the predominance of Grenache in 2012.  It smells like Grenache, too, with red cherry, watermelon rind, orange peel and baking spices. There's something deeper lurking on the nose, too, with time: like a clove-studded orange and baker's chocolate. The mouth is full of high-toned fruit, lots of fresh strawberry, then firming up and turning darker on the finish, with a salty marinade character and something leafy. Not quite minty.  Maybe shiso? Complex and cohesive, if still young.
  • 2013 En Gobelet (34% Grenache, 31% Mourvedre, 19% Syrah, 11% Counoise, 5% Tannat): Just bottled a few weeks ago, and the nose still shows some shyness from that, but the aromas of mint, cherry, strawberry and soy come out with time. The mouth is richer than the 2012, but similarly cohesive and complex, with red fruit held in check by something herby.  Maybe thyme? Lots of pepper, too, which Chelsea nailed as pink peppercorn.  Nice acids and some youthful tannins.  Obviously young, but going to a good place.  Will go out this fall to wine club members.

A few concluding thoughts:

We preferred the more recent vintages to the first couple of years.  There are several reasons why this might be the case.  The vines were older, with deeper roots.  Starting in 2010 we were sourcing the majority of the wine from the hillside vineyards of Scruffy hill rather than the low-lying areas that had formerly been rootstock fields.  The more recent vintages include Syrah and (in most cases) Counoise, which add a coolness and a vibrancy to the wines.  But in tasting the wines now, I think it might be ripeness as much as any of the other factors.  The first two vintages come across as a little over the top. At 15% and 14.5% alcohol respectively, the 2007 and 2009 were higher in alcohol than the 2011 (13.9%), 2012 (14.2%) and 2013 (14.0%).  The relative restraint of the recent vintages seems to play well with the dark savoriness of the wine.  Of course, the 2010, which was also 14.5%, tastes more like the later vintages than the earlier ones.

Despite the evolution in style and the often-varied compositions, there were recognizable currents that ran through all the wines.  The wines were all more savory than fruity, perhaps because of the Tannat component.  They all had a chalky texture and a salty finish, perhaps because of the necessarily deep root systems of all dry-farmed vines.  And they all felt like they could go out another decade easily, still fresh and vibrant even at the first vintages.

If this is what our future looks like, I'll take it.

Categories: North America

Why Vintner’s Reserve is America’s Favorite Chardonnay

Why Kendall-Jackson Vintner’s Reserve is America’s Favorite Chardonnay

I recently went on a weeklong sales trip for Jackson Family Wines, and while I always come home from my travels learning new things, this time I was struck by how many people I met who said that Kendall-Jackson is their favorite wine.

This was especially true for Vintner’s Reserve Chardonnay, but there also were people who told me that red is their favorite wine. I had an invariable reply for them: “You’re in good company.” There’s a reason why Kendall-Jackson Vintner’s Reserve Chardonnay is now going onto its 24th consecutive year as America’s favorite Chardonnay in its price category.

Because it’s good.

I remember, when I was a wine critic, tasting Vintner’s Reserve Chardonnay blind alongside other Chardonnays that cost far more. It always more than held its ground. It’s true that I gave Grand Reserve Chardonnay, on average, slightly higher scores. But Vintner’s Reserve always was in the game, not only the Chardonnay but the Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Syrah and Zinfandel, all of which scored in the low 90s or high 80s, very good scores indeed — and those good scores have continued to pile in at Wine Enthusiast, with my successors liking the wines a great deal.

How Kendall-Jackson and Winemaster Randy Ullom pull off this feat is no mystery. A common saying in our industry is that “The wine is made in the vineyard,” and while that may not be entirely true (I suspect the talented winemaker has something to do with it!), it’s certainly a fact that Randy and his team are fortunate to have our extensive vineyard holdings from which to choose their grapes. As we all know, our vineyards are only in prime coastal growing areas; I can’t emphasize that enough. The vineyards that provide grapes for Vintner’s Reserve are so high in quality that many wineries would kill to have access to them.

This is an example of Jess Jackson’s decision to always provide consumers, whom he loved and felt responsible towards, with wines that have a great price-quality ratio. Jess was serious about that, and Kendall-Jackson remains committed to fulfilling his vision.

Steve Heimoff is one of America’s most respected and well-known wine writers. The former West Coast Editor for Wine Enthusiast Magazine and a contributor to Wine Spectator, he has also authored two books on the subject of California wine, including “New Classic Winemakers of California: Conversations with Steve Heimoff,” published in the fall of 2007.

The post Why Vintner’s Reserve is America’s Favorite Chardonnay appeared first on Kendall-Jackson Blog.

Categories: North America

2015 Estate Tales magazine debuts

Jordan Winery - Healdsburg, California - Wed, 05/20/2015 - 18:58
Jordan Winery Magazine Estate Tales Cover

The 2015 edition of Estate Tales is now available. This year, our complimentary magazine celebrates the bounty of the Jordan garden through several stories and also features an in-depth look at the Jordan Estate Rewards program changes. Story highlights include:

Pick up a free copy at the winery or read the digital version online. View our entire library of editions in the beyond the bottle section of our website.

Categories: North America


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