Friday, September 30, 2011

An Evening with Lindsay Morriss: The Wines of Weingut Georg Albrecht Schneider and her Ideas on How to Raise the Profile of German Wines in the USA

Pictures: Christian G.E. Schiller with Lindsay Morriss

The German Wine Society (DC Chapter) of September 2011 event was lead by Lindsay Morriss. The German Wine Society paid her a trip to fly down from Rhode Island, where she resides, to Washington DC in order to do 2 things:

First, Lindsay Morriss just graduated with an MBA focused on the wine industry from INSEEC in Bordeaux. Her thesis was “Raising the Profile of German Wines in the US”. The German Wine Society wanted to hear from the horse’s mouth what this implies.

In her thesis, Lindsay argues that Germany should place more emphasis on promoting other grape varieties outside of Riesling when marketing its wines in the U.S. Lindsay says: “I especially believe there is great opportunity for red German wines such as Spätburgunder, Lemberger, Dornfelder, and others. Germany is the third largest producer of Pinot Noirs in the world and where do you find German Pinot Noir in the US?”

And she feels that “Germany really needs to start promoting its white Pinots (Pinot Blanc and Pinot Gris). I’ve tasted plenty of both now, which are very common in Rheinhessen. A good Pinot Blanc or Weissburgunder is refreshing with lots of Mediterranean fruit―no, not tropical―I mean Mediterranean, e.g. mandarin, persimmon, mirabelle (yellow plum), etc. As for Pinot Gris or Grauburgunder, these wines tend to be a bit more earthy—I have found the best expressions to be those harvested at Spätlese level and fermented dry.”

Pictures: Lindsay Morriss Lecturing and Leading the Tasting in Washington DC

Lindsay also feels that, on the question of oak, “since red wine for the most part is only a fairly recent phenomenon in Germany, most winemakers are just beginning to experiment with barrel-aging. Overall, I found most of the red wines to be too delicate to withstand barrique-aging and generally found the extra oak contact to overpower the wine.”

If you want to study Lindsay’s research in more depth, please contact her via her website Lindsay du Vin.

Second, as part of her studies, Lindsay interned at Weingut Georg Albrecht Schneider in Nierstein in Rheinhessen. Weingut Georg Albrecht Schneider is well known in the German wine scene in the US, as it exports about half of its production. Lindsay lead us through a tasting of Georg Albrecht Schneider wines.

Before the tasting in Washington DC, on my last trip to Germany, I had visited Weingut Georg Albrecht Schneider to take some pictures for the event in Washington DC. This was not my first visit of Weingut Georg Albrecht Schneider. I had visited Weingut Georg Albrecht Schneider before, and had met owner Ulrike Schneider in Washington DC earlier. Since the US is such an important market for them, the Schneiders come regularly to the US.


Rheinhessen is an area that used to be known for winemakers often focusing on quantity and not quality. Rheinhessen is the largest viticultural region in Germany. Every fourth bottle of German wine comes from Rheinhessen. The high-yielder Mueller-Thurgau accounts for about 1/5 of the vineyards. Unlike in other German wine regions, where monoculture of the vine is the norm, here the many rolling hills are host to a wide variety of crops grown alongside the grape. Rheinhessen also has the rather dubious honor of being considered the birthplace of Liebfraumilch. At the same time, Rheinhessen is among Germany’s most interesting wine regions. A lot is happening there. This is not because of the terroir, but because of the people. There is an increasing group of mostly young and ambitious winemakers who want to produce and indeed do produce outstanding wine and not wines in large quantities. Lindsay fully agrees: “I used to live there for a number of months and I was never, ever bored with the wide diversity of wines that come from this region. Every time I turned around, I was confronted with yet another grape crossing or a new take on an old favorite -- most of which sadly will never reach the U.S.”

Rheinterrasse, Nierstein and the Red Slope (Roter Hang)

One region of Rheinhessen, the Rheinterrasse, had always been in a somewhat different league, the stretch of vineyards which runs from Bodenheim, south of Mainz, in the north to Mettenheim in the south, often referred to as the Rheinterrasse. The vineyards of the Rheinterrasse have a favored mesoclimate in comparison with others in the region. The Rheinterrasse accounts for one-third of the region's Riesling wines. The wines from the Rheinterrasse were at some point even more expensive than Bordeaux wines.

The Roter Hang (Red Slope) is at the center of the Rheinterrasse. This steep slope extends for some five kilometers (three miles) with a total of 180 ha (445 acres) around Nierstein on the left bank of the Rhine.

Pictures: Rheinterrasse, Nierstein and the Red Slope (Roter Hang)

The Roter Hang has a very special terroir, resulting from the drop of the Rheinhessen plateau before human life started. As a consequence of these movements the Roter Hang has a mineral-rich soil, a mixture of iron and clayish slate, which is at least 250 million years old (Permian Period). Further, the slope faces south to southeast, which helps in terms of the solar radiation. The red slate retains warmth, and additional warmth comes from the sunlight reflected from the surface of the Rhine.

Weingut Georg Albrecht Schneider is located in Nierstein in Rheinhessen. Nierstein sits on the banks of the river Rhine between Mainz and Worms, to the north-west of Oppenheim. Although it does not have an imposing church like Oppenheim, Nierstein has a certain simple charm that its neighbor lacks.

Weingut Georg Albrecht Schneider

I have visited Weingut Georg Albrecht Schneider several times, the first time, when Lindsay was interning in Nierstein. Weingut Georg Albrecht Schneider is owned by Albrecht and Ulrike Schneider. The vineyard area totals 15 hectares. More than two thirds of the area is planted with Riesling; other grape varieties include Müller-Thurgau and Silvaner. “We own many very good vineyards and have planted them with Riesling” Albrecht Schneider said. In addition, grape juice, perlé wine, bottle-fermented sparkling wines and grappa-style spirits are also produced.

Picture: Lindsay Morriss at Weingut Georg Albrecht Schneider in Nierstein

Pictures: Christian G.E. Schiller with Albrecht Schneider and his Daughter Susanne in Nierstein

Weingut Georg Albrecht Schneider has been exporting for over 30 years, currently about half of its output. Of the export, 70% goes to the US and the remainder to Japan. “Our big markets in the US are are Massachusetts, California and New York” said Albrecht Schneider.

The Wines we Tasted

Here are the wines from Weingut Georg Albrecht Schneider that we tasted.

2009 Riesling vom Kalk Kabinett
2008 Niersteiner Riesling QbA Dry-Style

2007 Paterberg Kabinett
2009 Paterberg Kabinett
2010 Paterberg Kabinett

2009 Dornfelder

2007 Hipping Spätlese
2008 Hipping Spätlese
2009 Hipping Spätlese

2006 Hipping Riesling Auslese

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1st International Riesling Symposium, Rheingau, Germany

Distinguished American Wine Blogger Lindsay Morriss from New England Interns at Weingut Georg Albrecht Schneider in Rheinhessen

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Phil Bernstein’s Third Annual German Riesling Tasting with the German Wine Society, Washington DC Chapter - Rieslings With a Touch of Sweetness

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Visit: Weingut Georg Albrecht Schneider in Nierstein, Rheinhessen, Germany - for Upcoming German Wine Society Tasting in Washington DC, USA

Thursday, September 29, 2011

A Dinner with Wine Importer Robert “Bobby” Kacher at Ruth’s Chris Steakhouse in Dupont Circle in Washington DC, USA

Picture: Christian G.E. Schiller with Bobby Kacher

I have always been a big fan of Robert Kacher Selections wines and now I had the chance to have dinner with Robert “Bobby” Kacher - who Robert Parker called "one of the 20 most influential wine personalities in the past 20 years." The dinner was organized by Calvert and Woodley and took place at Ruth's Chris in Dupont Circle in Washington DC. Robert Kacher lead us through a highly informative tasting of specially selected wines, each paired to Ruth's Chris delectable cuisine.

The dinner offered me the chance to spend an evening with 3 important wine personalities of the Washington DC wine scene: Maria E. Denton, CWE, from Ruth’s Steak House in Dupont Circle, Ed Sands from Calvert and Woodley and Robert Kacher from Kacher Wine Selection, all from Washington DC, USA.

Maria E. Denton, CWE, from Ruth’s Steak House in Dupont Circle

Let’s start with Maria. She was only acting in the background of this evening that belonged to Bobby Kacher. But she is an important name in the Washington DC wine scene. Maria E. Denton is the General Manager and Sommelier of Ruth’s Chris Steakhouse in Dupopnt Circle. Her certifications include Certified Sommelier with the Court of Master Sommeliers, Certified Wine Educator and Certified Specialist of Wine with the Society of Wine Educators and Spanish Wine Educator with the Wine Academy of Spain. She currently sits on the Board of the Society of Wine Educators.

Picture: Maria E. Denton

Maria told me that she is planning a wine dinner with Panos Kakaviatos for early 2012. I am sure this will be a highly interesting evening.

Ed Sands from Calvert and Woodley

Then there was Ed Sands from Calvert and Woodley, with MacArthur Beverages the top wine retailer in Washington DC. Ed Sands opened and closed the evening.

Calvert Woodley opened its doors in 1982 after the merger of two competitors, Calvert Liquors and Woodley Wine & Liquor, and is still owned and operated by the original owners and their families. Dating back to 1945, Calvert Liquors was located on Wisconsin Avenue in the Glover Park neighborhood. Woodley Wine & Liquor, created in 1966, was in the Cleveland Park strip across from the Uptown Theater. When the opportunity arose for Aaron Bernstein of Calvert to join forces with Ed Sands of Woodley, the two jumped at the chance and moved to the current location in the Van Ness/UDC neighborhood at the corner of Connecticut Ave and Windom.

Pictures: Ed Sands and Robert Kacher

Each store brought its strengths to help Calvert Woodley thrive. From Calvert came, among other things, La Cheeserie & International Deli and from Woodley came the direct importing of Bordeaux that has helped make the Calvert Woodley wine department the power it is today. Woodley began selling Bordeaux Futures with the 1966 vintage! With about 50 employees, including sons of owners David Bernstein and Michael Sands, Calvert Woodley is poised to excel for years to come.

Robert Kacher from Robert Kacher Wine Selections

Then, last but not least, Robert “Bobby” Kacher. Over more than three decades in the wine business, Robert has poured his boundless energy, acuity, and extraordinary passion for wine wholeheartedly into every bottle he imports. The proof is in his portfolio. It is an unrivaled collection of distinctive wines from every nook and cranny of France (and increasingly, elsewhere), from Grand Cru wines down to the most humble vin de table. Regardless of official classification, country of origin, or price category, every bottle that Bobby imports is unmistakably a "Robert Kacher Selection" -- an impeccably made wine of vibrant fruit, exceptional character and authenticity to the appellation, and more often than not, a tremendous value.

Pictures: Christian G.E. Schiller, Maria E. Denton, Ed Sands and Robert Kacher

Born and raised in Florida before moving to Washington, DC in 1971, Robert Kacher received his wine education traveling the wine roads of France. Strapping on a backpack, he headed to Europe with a desire to learn about wines and winemaking by exploring France and its many varied wine-producing regions. While traveling, he fell in love with the wine, food, family and the vineyards and kitchens of France. This lifestyle captivated Bobby and it grew to become an all-consuming passion. After working as a consultant at a retail shop in Washington, DC following his return from France, Bobby soon switched to the import side of the business. Twenty-five years ago, he founded Robert Kacher Selections. His goal with the new company was to associate himself with the growers and producers who had both the pass ion and energy to become the top winemakers of their respective regions. Bobby spent almost half of each year in France, criss-crossing from region to region in an effort to select and help develop the finest portfolio of French estate wines offered in the US. Through this hands-on approach of working side by side with growers and producers, Bobby was able to ensure the quality and authenticity of every wine in his collection.

Bobby's philosophy is to work as a partner with the growers and winemakers in all aspects of viticulture and vinification, constantly pushing them to produce even higher quality wines. Some of the innovations he introduced to his growers and wine makers include lowering yields, using state-of-the-art trellising, green harvesting of fruit at 'veraison' (the point at which grapes start to change color), and hand harvesting and hand selecting of fruit.

The Menu


Tomato Bruschetta
Bacon-wrapped Scallops
Seared Ahi Tuna
Escargot with Garlic Butter

2010 Domaine de Pouy - Cotes de Gascogne: We started with the super-fresh, citrusy 2010 Domaine de Pouy ($6.99), made in Gascony from the Ugni Blanc grape. Although relatively inexpensive, it's a signature Bobby Kacher wine in every way.

First Course

"Crabtini" - Chilled Colossal Crab Meat over Remoulade-dressed Lettuces

2009 Domaine Thomas et Fils - Sancerre "La Crele": The racy complexity of Sauvignon Blanc grown in Sancerre's chalky soil played out brilliantly against the backdrop of the ripe-style 2009 vintage in the impeccable 2009 Thomas "La Crele" Sancerre ($19.99).

2010 Alain Assadet - Menetou-Salon Blanc: Although there are subtle differences between the terroir of Menetou-Salon, an up-and-coming region in central Loire, and that of Sancerre and Pouilly-Fumé to its east, the biggest difference here maybe the vintage. In sharp contrast to the almost tropical 2009 vintage, 2010 is a classic, cool season Loire year. The well-made 2010 Assadet Menetou-Salon Sauvignon Blanc ($16.99) rings with the freshness and vibrant acidity of the vintage.

Second Course

Broiled Halibut with Banana-spiced Butter Sauce

2009 Cordier Pere et Fils - Pouilly Fuisse
2009 Domaine Marc Morey - Rully Blanc 1er Cru "Rabource"
From the Loire, we moved to the great vineyards of Burgundy. The captivating 2009 Cordier Pouilly-Fuissé ($25.99), from one very finest producers of the appellation, displayed a creamy mélange of peachy, white flower Chardonnay fruit, nuanced by gentle lees stirring and a touch of oak. Its alter ego must surely be the 2009 Marc Morey 1er Cru "Rabource" Rully ($29.99), a thoroughly modern take on white Burgundy. Its powerful 1er Cru terroir has no problem handling the wine's generous dollop of new oak, made in a style reminiscent of a Meursault.

Third Course

Beef Wellington with Mashed Potatoes and Creamed Spinach

2009 Xavier Monnot - Maranges 1er Cru "Clos de la Fussière": Xavier Monnot is a 17-hectare estate, all family-owned, located in Meursault. About 50% of the vineyards are planted in white, 50% in red. The production though is 65% white. Domaine Xavier Monnot’s vineyards are very spread out, covering most of the Côte de Beaune starting in Beaune 1er Cru “Cent Vignes” and stretching all the way to Maranges 1er Cru.

2009 Joblot - Givry 1er Cru "Clos de la Servoisine": The outstanding estate of Joblot is run by Jean-Marc and Vincent Joblot is the town of Givry, located in the Côte Chalonnaise. This is the region located directly south of the Côte d’Or. Few would argue Domaine Joblot is producing the finest wines in the appellation. The nucleus of the commune consists of an elongated amphitheater-like band about three miles in length and superbly sheltered from the westerly wind. This section is blessed with a very rocky, limestone rich soil. Situated just above the village, is where the premier cru vineyard of Clos de la Servoisine can be found.

The wine made here is richly textured with profound color, fruit and length. It is surely as good and long lived as many wines at double the price from more pedigreed locations in the Côte d’Or. Our Givry 1er Cru is fermented and aged in barrel for up to 16 months.


Duo of Mini Cheesecakes with Pecan Truffles

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Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Kobrand’s Impressive Tour d’Italia 2011 in Washington DC, USA

Pictures: Christian G.E. Schiller, Kobrand's Gary Gondelman and Tenuta San Guido's Piero Incisa in Washington DC

Kobrand’s Tour d’Italia 2011 came to Washington DC and I took part in it. Kobrand is a privately owned marketer of wines and spirits in the USA that serves as the exclusive agent for many fine European wines. In addition, the firm owns many of the brands in its portfolio, notably Maison Louis Jadot. Kobrand's wine offerings include wines from California, France, Hungary, Italy, New Zealand, Portugal, and Spain. In particular, I find the Italian portfolio very strong. I was delighted when Gary Gondelman from Kobrand invited me for the Kobrand Tour d’Italia 2011 at the Occidental in Washington DC.

Picture: The Occidental in Washington DC


Kobrand is owned by the 3 daughters of the firm's founder, Rudolph C. Kopf. Kopf was born in the Queens in New York City and graduated from the University of Columbia's Business School in 1927. All his youth, he lived under prohibition. Prohibition was repealed by President Franklin Roosevelt, when he took office in 1933. It was in that year that Kopf started a wine and spirits department at New York's famed Macy's department store. Under his guidance, it became known as one of the best shops in the country and Kopf established himself as an industry force.

Picture: The Wine Regions of Italy

In 1944, at the age of 38, he struck out on his own and formed his own wine and spirits marketing company, which he called the Kobrand Corporation. Although light on money, Kopf was well connected, having established relationships in the wine and spirits business around the world.

Kopf's big break came in 1945 when he lined up his first major wine brand to represent, Maison Louis Jadot, which was established in France in 1859. With the Jadot business in hand, Kopf's next notable achievement was landing a spirits brand: Beefeater Gin. A third key brand acquisition in another important category, champagne, took place shortly after the Beefeater deal, when Kopf secured the marketing rights to Taittinger Champagne.

In wines, the firm focused on French brands until 1978, when it began to market the Italian wines of Michele Chiarlo in the United States, which I could also taste at Kobrand’s Tour d’Italia 2011 in Washington DC.

Picture: The Frugal Socialite, aka, Lucinda Hughes (on the left)

In 1985, Kobrand bought Maison Louis Jadot. Only a few months after the Jadot deal was completed, Kopf died at age 80 and his three daughters shared in the ownership of Kobrand. Also in 1985 Kobrand acquired its first stake in a California company, Napa Valley's Sequoia Grove Vineyards. A year later, Kobrand turned its attention to Northern California, forming a joint venture with Taittinger called Domaine Carneros. Kobrand added further to its California interests in 1987 when it reached a marketing agreement with Cakebread Cellars.

Picture: Gary Gondelman and Dennis Cakebread at a Cakebread Winemaker Dinner at Evo Bistro in McLean, Virginia

The year 1987 also marked the end of the relationship with Beefeater Gin. In the late 1980s and early 1990s Kobrand added a host of brands, making the firm a major marketer of Italian wines. These labels included Sassicala, Ornellaia, Terriccio, Spalletti, and Chiehe Chiarlo.

Kobrand continues to be a family company, owned by the founders three daughters.

Impressive Group of Attending Winemakers

It was quite an impressive group of winemakers that poured their wines at the Kobrand Tour d’Italy 2011. The group toured the US from September 12 to September 23, with 10 stops, including in Boston, New York, Houston, Chicago, Miami Beach and San Francisco. I understand, they also hosted winemaker dinners. From talking to them at the tasting in Washington DC, I gather that these winemaker dinners must have been great fun.

Who participated in the Kobrand Tour d’Italy 2011?

Alberto Chiarlo from Michele Chiarlo

The wine producing firm of Michele Chiarlo was founded in 1956 by the present owners, Michele and Giuseppina Chiarlo. Michele Chiarlo is today one of the most respected producers of the fine wines of Piedmont.

Picture: Christian G.E. Schiller with Alberto Chiarlo from Michele Chiarlo

Perhaps the crown jewel among the vineyards of Michele Chiarlo is the vineyard of Fornace di Tassarolo in the Rovereto area of Gavi, a small parcel planted in 1910 which yields a brilliant and intense Gavi of exquisite refinement. Michele Chiarlo also has long-term agreements with the owners of two spectacular vineyards in the Castiglione Falleto and Serralunga crus of Barolo, from which he produces Barolo Riserva Rocche di Castiglione and Barolo Riserva Vigna Rionda di Serralunga. In addition to these contracts, Michele Chiarlo also purchased the Antico Podere Averame in the Cerequio cru of Barolo, considered one of the zone's finest Nebbiolo vineyards; and an estate, also in Barolo in the cru of Cannubi, which due to its extremely sharp gradient had never been cultivated. In 1995, Michele Chiarlo acquired the estate of Azienda Agricola Aluffi in Castelnuovo Calcea, considered to the most beautiful and prestigious property in the heart of the classic Barbera d'Asti zone.

Since the early 1990s, Michele Chiarlo's sons, Alberto and Stefano, have entered the firm in positions which will lead to their eventually assuming full responsibility. Alberto, the elder, who I met, directs marketing and sales; Stefano, an enologist by profession, manages vineyard operations and collaborates in production in the cellars.

2007 Michele Chiarlo, Gavi Le Marne DOCG
2009 Michele Chiarlo, Barbera d’Asti Le Orme DOCG
2007 Michele Chiarlo, Barbera d’Asti Superiore Nizza La Court DOCG
2007 Michele Chiarlo, Reyna Barbaresco DOCG
2007 Michele Chiarlo, Barolo Tortoniano DOCG
2007 Michele Chiarlo, Barolo Cerequio DOCG
2007 Michele Chiarlo, Barolo Cannubi DOCG

Giovanni Folonari from Ambrogio e Giovanni Folonari Tenute

The Folonaris are among Italy’s oldest and most prestigious Tuscan wine families with a winemaking history dating back to the late 1700s.

Today, Ambrogio e Giovanni Folonari Tenute, conceived by this father-son team as a collection of small, beautifully located vineyards producing primarily Tuscan “grand crus,” is recognized for its distinctive, small-production wines from the family’s numerous estates. Both Ambrogio and Giovanni, a University of California at Davis enology graduate, are directly involved in winemaking.

Picture: Christian G.E. Schiller with Giovanni Folonari from Ambrogio e Giovanni Folonari Tenute

Prior to launching A. & G. Folonari Tenute, Ambrogio was the president of Ruffino, originally purchased in 1912 by Ambrogio’s grandfather. In the 1980s, Ambrogio created Cabreo, a unique combination of tradition and innovation including Cabreo Il Borgo (red), a blend of traditional Sangiovese and Cabernet Sauvignon, while La Pietra is Chardonnay from Tuscany, fermented and aged in oak. These wines were among the first in a new group of top wines now widely known as “Super Tuscans.”

In 2000, Ambrogio and Giovanni left Ruffino to focus on small-lot, estate-grown wines. Their portfolio includes:

• Nozzole Estate (Chianti Classico, Super Tuscan, Chardonnay)
• Cabreo Estate (Super Tuscans)
• TorCalvano di Gracciano Svetoni Estate (Nobile di Montepulciano, Rosso di Montepulciano)
• La Fuga, Montalcino Estate (Brunello di Montalcino, Rosso di Montalcino)
• Conti Spalletti Estate (Chianti Rufina, Chianti, Rosso Toscano)
• Campo al Mare Estate (Bolgheri DOC, Vermentino IGT)
• Vigne a Porrona Estate (Montecucco, Morellino, Maremma)
• Ronco dei Folo Estate (Colli Orientali del Friuli, Pinot Grigio, Tocai, Sauvignon).

Giovanni and his wife Eleonora live with their three children at the Cabreo Estate in Greve, 30 minutes from Florence.

2010 Tenuta Campo al Mare, Bolgheri Vermentino DOC
2009 Tenuta del Cabreo, La Pietra Chardonnay, Toscana IGT
2007 Villa Nozzole, Chianti Classico DOCG
2007 Tenuta di Nozzole, Chianti Classico Riserva DOCG
2009 Tenuta Campo al Mare, Bolgheri DOC
2007 Tenuta di Nozzole, La Forra, Chianti Classico Riserva DOCG
2006 Tenuta La Fuga, Brunello di Montalcino DOCG
2008 Tenuta di Nozzole Il Pareto, Toscana IGT

Emilia Nardi from Tenute Silvio Nardi

Tenute Silvio Nardi consists of 80 hectares of vineyards in an unspoiled part of central Tuscany: Montalcino, whose symbol is its great red wine, Brunello. Silvio Nardi founded the estate here at Casale del Bosco; since 1985 it has been run by his youngest daughter, Emilia, who I met.

Picture: Christian G.E. Schiller with Emilia Nardi from Tenute Silvio Nardi

Emilia Nardi knows she can depend on Casale's special and distinctive territory to produce a contemporary and elegant Brunello. She has invested single-mindedly in the vineyards in this harmonious natural setting - as any tasting of her fine wines will attest. Each of her signature wines expresses the differing character of Sangiovese when it is grown at Montalcino.

The estate's vineyards are situated between 140 and 420 meters above sea level: some extend north-west of Montalcino on the hills around Casale del Bosco, while others are located to the north of it at Tenuta di Bibbiano and to the south-east at Manachiara, where the precious cru of the same name originates.

2009 Tenute Silvio Nardi, Rosso di Montalcino DOC
2006 Tenute Silvio Nardi, Brunello di Montalcino DOCG
2006 Tenute Silvio Nardi, Manachiara, Brunello di Montalcino DOCG

Roberto Pighin from Fernando Pighin and Figli

The undisputed rising star among Italy's fine wine producing regions since the early 1970s has been the northeast, notably the province of Friuli-Venezia-Giulia. Among its viticultural houses, none has captured greater achievement nor well-earned respect than Azienda Fratelli Pighin, one of the region's most esteemed producers of pure varietal, D.O.C. Grave del Friuli wines.

Picture: Christian G.E. Schiller with Roberto Pighin from Fernando Pighin and Figli

Azienda Fratelli Pighin was founded in 1963 when brothers Ercole, Luigi and Fernando Pighin acquired a 500-acre estate in the D.O.C. Grave-del-Friuli zone then belonging to an aristocratic Friulian family. In 1968, a further 75 acres of vineyards were acquired at Spessa di Capriva, in the province of Gorizia, in the tiny, prestigious D.O.C. Collio zone, expanding the company's portfolio to encompass a full range of fine, classic wines from the two finest viticultural growing areas in Friuli. These areas are by general consent recognized to be among the finest viticultural areas for white wines in Italy.

Beyond the domestic market, the wines of Azienda Fratelli Pighin are represented in ten export markets, of which the most important are Germany and the United States, through a commercialization strategy focusing on restaurants, small wine shops and gourmet boutiques. In fact, when Roberto realized that I spoke German, he switched to German.

2010 Fernando Pighin & Figlio, Pinot Grigio, Friuli Grave DOC
2010 Fernando Pighin & Figli, Pinot Grigio, Collio DOC

Piero Incisa from Tenuta San Guido

Piero Incisa is a third-generation winemaker, the grandson of Mario Incisa Della Rochetta, the creator and proprietor of Sassicaia, one of the most renowned Italian wineries, and nephew of Niccolo’Incisa Della Rocchetta, who currently manages the family’s wine-making enterprises. Piero spent his childhood on the family estate in Tuscany, privy to the exclusive centuries-old wine-making and vineyard management traditions to which he now claims his own expertise. Now a resident of the United States, Piero divides his time between New York City, Italy and Patagonia, where he has begun a very limited production of his own Pinot Noir.

Pictures: Gary Gondelman with Piero Incisa from Tenuta San Guido

Sassicaia - the now historic wine single-handedly responsible for launching the Super Tuscan movement - remains one of the most sought-after wines in the world. Marchese Niccolò Incisa della Rocchetta continues the 36 year old tradition at the Tenuta San Guido estate, which is considered by many to be the birthplace of Tuscan Cabernet.

2009 Tenuta di Salviano, Salviano di Salviano, Umbria IGT
2009 Barda, Pinot Noir, Patagonia, Argentina
2009 Tenuta di Salviano, Turlo’, Lago di Corbara IGT
2008 Tenuta di Salviano, Solideo, Lago di Corbara IGT
2008 Tenuta San Guido, Guidalberto, Toscana IGT
2008 Tenuta San Guido, Sassicaia DOC
2009 Agricola Punica, Montessu, Isola dei Nuraghi
2007 Agricola Punica, Barrua, Isola dei Nuraghi

Giovanna Moretti from Tenuta Sette Ponti

The estate of Sette Ponti lies in the heart of the Chianti zone, fifteen miles northwest of the city of Arezzo just past the village of San Giustino Valdarno. The Via del Monte, known locally as the Via dei Sette Ponti, leads into a beautiful hidden valley and to the estate. The name Sette Ponti, or "seven bridges," refers to the seven bridges crossing the Arno River on the road from Arezzo to Florence. The first, the Ponte Buriano, is nearby. Erected in the mid 13th century, it took nearly forty years to build, and is perceptible in the right far background of Leonardo DaVinci's Mona Lisa. Previously the property of the Princesses Margherita and Cristina Savoia d'Aosta, the core of the Sette Ponti estate was purchased in 1957 as a hunting retreat by architect Alberto Moretti, and is now the family property of Antonio Moretti, his son. After graduating from Siena University with a degree in economics and banking, Antonio Moretti opened his first apparel store, a business which has since expanded to a chain of shops throughout Italy, and the acquisitions of Arfango, known for its fine leather goods, and Bonora and Carshoe, two brands of handmade shoes.

Picture: Gary Gondelman with Giovanna Moretti from Tenuta Sette Ponti

The vineyards occupy a total of 150 acres and lie at an altitude of 200 to 300 metres (600 to 900 feet). The oldest vines on the estate were planted in 1935 by HRH the Count of Turin, Vittorio Emmanuele di Savoia. This five-acre plot, called the Vigna dell' Impero (the "Vineyard of the Empire"), is a hand-terraced vineyard planted primarily to Sangiovese vines interspersed with traditional Canaiolo, Colorino, Trebbiano and Malvasia. An adjacent 87-acre section of this vineyard, also of principally Sangiovese vines, was planted in the early1960s by Alberto Moretti.

2009 Tenuta Sette Ponti, Crognolo, Toscana IGT
2009 Tenuta Sette Ponti, Oreno, Toscana, IGT
2009 Tenuta Sette Ponti, Poggio al Lupo, Maremma IGT
2007 Feudo Maccari, Saia, Nero d’Avola, Sicily
2006 Feudo Maccari, Maharis, Sicily

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Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Meeting American Wine Writer Paul Gregutt in Oregon, USA

Picture: Christian G.E. Schiller and Paul Gregutt at the 1. Oregon Pinot Gris Symposium

I knew Paul Gregutt from the Internet. I follow his Blog and in particular enjoy reading his column titled "Wine Adviser" in The Seattle Times. At the 1. Oregon Pinot Gris Symposium, I met Paul in person. Unfortunately, I did not have much time to talk with him. He is just too popular in this part of the world and the winemakers present were so eager to talk with him. But I was able to have a short conversation with him.

Paul’s book, Washington Wines & Wineries: the Essential Guide, is now in its fourth printing and is the authoritative guide to Washington State wine. About half a century ago, there was basically no wine industry in Washington State. And if wine was made, it was not with the noble European vinifera grapes. But the American wine boom that had its origin in California moved to the north, first to Oregon and then it also reached Washington State. In 1980, four years after Californian wines had out shined the French wines at the famous tasting in Paris, there were about 20 wineries in Washington State that were producing high-quality wines with European vinifera grapes. Today, there are more that 500 wineries.

Pictures: Paul Gregutt at the 1. Oregon Pinot Gris Symposium

In the beginning, white wines dominated. As recently as 10 years ago, 70 percent of the grapes planted were white grapes, with Chardonnay the No. 1 grape. But encouraged by the success of Oregon with its Pinot Noirs, the balance between white and red wine has shifted towards red; red wines now account for almost half of the wine production.

In general, if California’s wines are rich and powerful, Washington State’s wines are more crisp and delicate, reflecting its location much more up in the North. They remind me a lot of the wines I know from Germany. Although a relatively young wine industry, Washington State is now the nation's second largest wine producer and is ranked among the world's top wine regions.

After attending the 1. Oregon Pinot Gris Symposium, I spent a couple of days in Washington State. I had a memorable luncheon with Oyster Guru Jon Rowley in Seattle and visited Hightower Cellars, Pacific Rim Winemakers and Long Shadows Vintners, all close or in Walla Walla.

Paul also contributes to publications such as Vineyard & Winery Management, Yakima Herald-Republic, the Walla Walla Union-Bulletin and the Spokane Spokesman-Review. Paul is the Northwest Editor for Wine Enthusiast Magazine, and has written the Pacific Northwest material of Tom Stevenson's annual Wine Report, as well as contributions to Decanter and Wine Spectator.

Finally, Paul is also a musician. In the evening after the 1. Oregon Pinot Gris Symposium, I had arranged to listen to Jay Somers, the owner and winemaker of J. Christopher Wines, who played that night with his group at the White Eagle in Portland. But unfortunately, Paul could not make it. Paul’s genre is acoustic/alternative/country.

Picture: Jay Somers, Owner and Winemaker, J. Christopher Wines, Playing with his group at the White Eagle in Portland

Paul lives outside of Walla Walla in the South East of Washington State.

Picture: Columbia River near Umatilla, on the Way from Walla Walla to Portland

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