It’s no surprise to me to discover the best of class U.S. zinfandel hails from Lodi, California, also referred to as the “unofficial” zinfandel capital of the world. Close to 40 percent of the nation’s best zinfandel is grown in this northern portion of California’s Central Valley.
As a wine judge at the 2018 San Francisco Chronicle Wine Competition, I was bestowed the honor of selecting the best of 82 U.S. zinfandels priced between $28-$31 per bottle. Here is a list of my team of three’s picks:
Merry Edwards Winery Toasts 20th Anniversary with a Celebration of Wine, Outdoor Adventure and Gourmet Cuisine.
Remember Missoula, Montana, the setting for that ’80s cult hit, “Twin Peaks” that I’ve since heard is making an updated series? Well, I’ll be heading to Missoula in about a month, and so will you if you decide to fly to Montana’s premier luxury ranch resort, The Resort at Paws Up.
All 37,000 acres of The Resort at Paws Up is located in Blackfoot Valley in western Montana, and is internationally acclaimed for year-round adventures and stellar culinary events, and for a weekend in March is where you can enjoy the perfect blend of wine, gourmet food, thrilling adventures …and more wine.
The Resort’s first-annual Wine Weekend, this year’s Eat, Drink and Meet Merry event (March 16–18), will allow guests the opportunity to rub shoulders with some of the country’s leading vintners. This year’s headlining talent will be Merry Edwards herself.
Much like Paws Up’s successful established weekend events, such as Montana Master Grillers (May) and Montana Master Chefs (September), the weekend retreat will feature top-notch talent, outstanding gourmet menus by award-winning Executive Chef Ben Jones, specialized wine pairings, live entertainment and plenty of adrenaline-pumping adventure. After attending, guests will no doubt be able to impress even the most knowledgeable of their wine-loving friends with sommelier-like expertise.
As part of Paws Up’s inaugural Wine Weekend event, Resort guests are invited to wet their whistle during interactive seminars, educational tastings and wilderness excursions with Merry Edwards and her winemaking partner, Ken Coopersmith. The highlight of the weekend will be phenomenal dinners with expert pairings from Merry Edwards Winery, known for its exquisite Russian River Valley Pinot Noirs.
One of California’s first woman winemakers, Merry Edwards became a household name in the industry soon after she started making award-winning wines in the early 1970s. In 2013, Edwards was inducted into the Culinary Institute of America’s Vintners Hall of Fame, and she also won the coveted James Beard Award for Best Wine, Beer or Spirits Professional in the United States. Edwards was just the fourth woman to be so honored. The Eat, Drink and Meet Merry event corresponds with the 20th anniversary of the founding of Merry Edwards Winery in 1997.
Kick-starting Paws Up’s spring culinary events lineup, Eat, Drink and Meet Merry will be followed by WildFlavor (April 20–23, 2017), a four-day weekend event featuring exquisite menus and cream-of-the-crop culinary talents, including four Top Chef stars. Season 10 winner Chef Kristen Kish and Season 10 runner-up and current contestant Chef Brooke Williamson will be among the featured chefs.
For reservations or more information, call 877-588-6783. The Resort at Paws Up is also on Facebook and Twitter (@Paws_Up) and Instagram (@TheResortatPawsUp).
For more information on The Resort at Paws Up, visit www.pawsup.com or call 800-473-0601. For more information on Merry Edwards, visit www.merryedwards.com, or to schedule an in-depth tasting, contact 888-388-9050.
If history and wine cannot be separated, then Burgundy is a prime example. The monks are the common denominator, who from the 6th century until the French Revolution were largely responsible for the development of the Burgundy viticulture that we know today. As of 2015, the vineyards and wineries of Burgundy and Champagne, mainly the climate and terroir, are listed by UNESCO as World Heritage sites. What this means to the businesses in these regions of France is yet to be determined. Burgundy, in particular, is a conglomeration of small villages unable to accommodate hordes of tourists, but more exposure to the area’s history is no doubt going to highlight a tourist’s visit.
One of the best areas to explore Burgundy is in the heart of the world’s most expensive Romanée-Conti vineyard at the foot of the Combe de Lavaux: Gevrey-Chambertin. This wine village is a seven-minute train ride from Dijon, and among a few gites and hotels, the luxury inn, Les Deux Chévres, is but a short car ride to a five-star experience. For the couple who manage the 10-rooms within this inn, it is an all-encompassing life commitment.
Guests filter in and out for a night or two, seven days each week. For innkeepers/owners Paul and Jolanta Thomas, a schedule of rising at the crack of dawn and resting at midnight is common. As the precursor to running this inn, the couple endured a three-plus year renovation during some harsh winter months, roughing it with no windows or heat, and working with a crew that spoke a different language. The biggest challenge began within the start of renovations, when Paul had to exit the country to tend to his folding U.K. business. The stress took its toll on Jolanta, who continues to suffer from migraines and isn’t as relaxed as her husband or the guests to which he offers pours of wine with an open heart and obvious passion to be in Burgundy.
Les Deux Chévres is the story of two stubborn goats: Paul, a lawyer from the U.K., and Jolanta, a Polish woman determined to follow-through a challenging renovation. Its lure is its location in Burgundy, where some of the world’s best wine is available (a bottle of grand cru can cost 500 euros), and where Les Deux Chévres is a bike ride away from the grand cru vineyards and wineries.
Cobblestoned streets connect the grand carpet of vineyards viewed from the windows of this peaceful property. The only noises heard are the morning cock-a-doodle-doo’s and dinnertime clink of wine glasses as the village restaurants set outdoor patio tables. Although winters may be harsh, the area’s grapes thrive on the baking hot sun of summertime and its cool nights. In July, the grapes are pea-sized, but soon enough ready for harvest.
There are 10 guestrooms and a converted attic space a circular staircase away, where the aroma of fresh-cut wood is telltale of the new construction and the window view looks out to vineyards that roll up and down through Gevrey-Chambertin. Artist Joyce Delimata’s artwork of the vineyards are sold in the boutique shop in the reception area.
A day visit to Chateau Villars Fontaine Le Cos du Chateau, only 10 kilometers away, offers a flight of tastings, beginning with a 2010 Les Jiromees from Cote de Nuits, with a mushroom nose. Winemaker Bernard Hudelot is a legend in Burgundy, known for making wines that can last 30 years or more. The finest wine tasted is a 2012 Gevrey Chambertin Grand Vin De Bourgogne. This pinot noir is less fruit-forward than California pinot noir, as Burgundy is all about terroir. Tres bon. Another great sip is a 2013 Puligny-Montrachet Vielielles Vignes made from Chardonnay grapes in the area (did you know that 60-% of Burgundy’s overall production is white wine, most of which is Chardonnay?). A floral aroma dominates the subtlety of beeswax and offers a rich mouthfeel with mineral complexity and lingering finish. The 1994 tasting can only be described as awesome, and a 2006 offers layer of licorice and baking spices. Worth noting is that some Burgundy reds are aged 48 months in new French oak barrels, spending two years in one barrel before switching to a new one for another two years.
Dinner is best served down the road from Les Deux Chévres, at Chez Guy, beginning with a Cremant Bourgogne de Champagne and a plate of green olives and thumb-sized popovers. The chef’s amuse bouche is a beetroot mousse topped with pine nuts and eye of bread topped with celery cream and caviar. Oh, yes.
Back at the inn, there is information about an upcoming wine school for visitors who would like an introduction to Burgundy wine, and in particular the wines of Gevrey-Chambertin. With 600 hectares under vine, Gevrey is the largest and most important wine producing commune north of Beaune, boasting no fewer than nine Grand Cru wines to its name. Today, there are half-day courses available in the luxurious 19th-century salon of Les Deux Chévres. Wine instructors include Mark Fincham, the only English winemaker in Gevrey-Chambertin, and one of the few making wines biodynamically; Sandrine Lanaud, who has a degree in molecular biochemistry, yet devotes her life to the subject of winemaking in her native Burgundy; and other members of the team include Matthieu Aravantinos, chief taster for Les Deux Chévres, and consultant Tim Magnus, qualified WSET Level 4 – just below MW.
For an English-speaking tour guide, U.S. historian Kelly Kamborian is the best, and works with Les Deux Chévres to offer some of the best tours of Burgundy, including a photo stop at Romanée-Conti. Check out her video on The Story of Wine and Burgundy: www.theburgundyshop.com/historicaltours
In 1694, the famous French writer and poet Jean de La Fontaine, wrote his final series of Fables, and one of them was about two goats. The story did not actually call for goats – it just needed two nimble and agile creatures with perfect balance and a head for heights. Can anyone think of a creature more apposite than a goat? Probably not, and nor can we. And this is where the problems start. Because de La Fontaine was writing about the unfortunate consequences of a refusal to compromise. Always topical! To illustrate the point, both of de La Fontaine’s protagonists were prepared to be crushed to death on the rocks below, or swept away in the raging torrent – rather than let the other animal cross the bridge first.
But this was only a Fable, you say – the goats were only used to convey the message that compromise is a better option. However de La Fontaine was the most famous poet and writer in France, and his works were published around the world. And so anyone reading the Fable, would come away thinking – what complete clots these goats must be. And so it has been ever since. In every country where the Fables have been published, there is a saying or expression associating our breed with stupidity or obduracy. We have been made into fools. For this reason, we have decided to respond.
We need to recognize Monsieur de La Fontaine’s tale for what it is – a poorly researched negationist fabrication! Strong words you say! – but we reply : how would you like to be held to ridicule for 300 years, and repeatedly put on a par with the mule in terms of cognitive functioning?
On behalf of myself Archimedes, my mate Tensy, our 674 million cousins (not to mention 1.4 billion of our Chinese friends in the Year of the Goat!) – we invite you to read the true story of The Two Goats at www.lesdeuxchevres.com
These New World bottlings take inspiration from Lady Cora Crawley, the thoroughly modern, American-born wife of British aristocrat Robert Crawley, Earl of Grantham. The collection’s red wine is a full-bodied Cabernet Sauvignon with scents of ripe red cherries that blend with spicy notes and soft vanilla on the palate. The white wine is a Chardonnay that offers the lovely aromas of tropical fruits and delicate oak giving way to citrus flavors on a soft, silky palate.
Combining the best old world winemaking practices with the newest winemaking techniques, the finished wines offer a distinct new taste option for Downton Abbey Wine fans seeking a uniquely modern twist.
Ask your local wine retailer for more information.
I’ve known the woman who runs these tours for a few years now, and Ionian Jewel Tours founder and president, Nancy Ursino Howard, is amazingly well-versed in all things Italy. So, I’m hoping to catch up with her and participate in the “Umbria, Le March & Rome Tour,” March 13-23, 2015.
The culinary delight in this day will be either a rustic Umbrian lunch or dinner at La Stalla (The Stable) will showcase the cooking method of La Brace (hot coals) to create a rich smoky flavor. Another day will lead to the Etruscan town of Perugia, home to Perugina Chocolate. Within this historic center, there will be much time to savor the sights, shop and dine before heading to Cantina Chiorri for a wine tasting. The grape of Grechetto has Greek origins and was planted throughout central Italy, particularly in the Umbrian region.
Next stop: the town of Monteprandone in the Le Marche region, where the tour group will check in at Hotel/Agriturismo Il Sapore della Luna before heading out to explore the organic vineyard. The days to follow will include wine tastings, a visit to Ascoli Piceno, and possibly a visit to the Adriatic coast before heading to Rome. The Hotel Tiber at Fiumicino awaits, and once checked in, there will be tours of Vatican City, St. Peter’s Basilica, the Sistine Chapel, home to the Pope and decorated by the talents of Michelangelo and Botticelli. A walking tour guide will meet the group to continue touring historic landmarks such as the Spanish Steps, Fountain of Trevi, Roman Forum, Colosseum and Pantheon. Time on your own is in order to do some shopping or enjoy an espresso at a nearby cafe — or better yet, a gelato.
So, if you’ve always dreamed of visiting Italy and want to do it in style and avoid trying to figure it all out on your own, you’ll want to join the March 13 Ionion Jewel Tours excursion so that you can relax and enjoy every moment, knowing you’re taken care of by an expert.
So, by now you’re wondering how much? The cost for this tour (space IS limited) is $3,499.00, and includes airfare from Boston, two meals a day, the minibus/private driver/transfers, all excursions/hotels/double-occupancy accommodations, and wine, of course . What it doesn’t include is anything you do outside of the itinerary, such as wining and dining, or enjoying that gelato during your own exploration time. You will also be responsible for museum tickets and driver gratuities.
It is estimated that 200 glasses of Australia’s most prominent wine, Hardys, are consumed each day around the world. Hardys is also the most recognized Australian wine in the world, yet, in the U.S., this brand of wine has been all but non-existent — until now.
Expect to be smitten by Australian chardonnays and pinot noirs in particular.
A family account
The history of Hardys began 160 years ago, when Thomas Hardy arrived down under from an English farming family in the countryside near Devon. Upon his arrival in Australia, he became involved with cattle and the “butchery business,” feeding hungry miners in the gold fields of Victoria. Just over a year later, his profits were utilized to purchase land South of Adelaide on the banks of the River Torrens, an area later known as “Bankside” and the origins of Hardys winery and wines.
Thomas’ sons were involved in the business, prompting the name change to Thomas Hardy & Son in 1887. Only one son, Robert, became a winemaker. Hardy’s cousin, Thomas Hardy Nottage became involved in 1884, helping to build the success of Hardys wines, managing McLaren Vale Vineyards of which the Nottage Hill tier of wines is named in his honor.
Today, the family’s involvement continues with William (Bill) Hardy, who has worked as winemaker and ambassador for the Hardy family’s famous brand for the past 40 years and counting.
Ready for the U.S.
With the cultivation of vineyards throughout the west, north and south, in Queensland, New South Wales and Tasmania, the maturing of 2012 vines and the complexity gained in blending grapes from these various areas gives Australian wines the cutting edge, ready for resurfacing in the U.S.
“My position as chief winemaker, as is the Hardys’ tradition, has always been taking fruit from whole regions and making blends and/or single regional wines or blends from regions to get the consistency of star quality,” says Paul Lapsley, who has 27 winemakers working under him.
Lapsley has recently toured throughout the U.S. to represent Accolade Wine Group, which bought the Hardys brand from Constellation in 2011. This group includes Hardys Nottage Hill and Tintara McLaren Vale brands as well as Hardys.
“When Constellation bought us,” says Lapsley, “the industry was at its peak.”
Before a tsunami of events occurred in 2007, such as a weak world economy, a rising Australian dollar and oversupply of a particular mainstream Australian wine, as a whole, the Australian wine industry suffered. Wine and spirits maker, Constellation Brands stepped in and paid a price of 1.2 billion dollars for Hardys, selling 80 percent of the company for 290 million dollars, losing one billion and writing off 700 million in assets.
After dipping out of the American market for a while, he says, “We struggle every day with building the reputation of Australian wines.”
Hardys was bought by a private equity company who knew how to run a business, beginning with reducing the 750 labels down to a much more manageable 200. The company was renamed Accolade Wines, with Hardys as the main wine brand.
What makes Hardys successful is its ability to garner grapes from its seven wineries all over Australia, Tasmania being the “lovely jewel, the mini crown, so to speak,” says Lapsley.
Given its unique position in Australia’s winemaking history, its considerable vineyard/winery holdings across Australia’s most prized winegrowing regions, and the worldwide recognition for Hardys as one of Australia’s most storied wine brands makes Hardys well poised for the current resurgence of Aussie wines in the U.S.
By recognition and volume alone, Lapsley says, “We’re about to get back on track with America.”
With this comment, he shares a rare release 2008 Hardys Shiraz – named the 160 year anniversary bottle, selling for $200 a bottle. This shiraz is all about hand harvested grapes that hail from McLaren Vale, Clare Valley and Frankland River ancient vines aging 50 to 100-plus years, and the wine can be cellared for 15 to 20 years. It’s a dense red, opulent wine, full-bodied with flavors of dark chocolate, licorice, blackberry and dark plum. Its French oak barrel aging gives it an overlay of mocha and vanilla.
“We’re not saying our shiraz is a Rhone style,” says Lapsley, “but we say it has finesse.”
It’s a really exciting time for Australian wines.
Part of the Commonwealth of Australia, Tasmania, located south of the continent, is one of the reasons Australian wines are making resurgence in the U.S. According to Lapsley, chardonnay and pinot noir are the hottest wines on the market today, thanks to a move to Tasmania vineyards 20 years earlier.
“That made the difference in quality,” says Lapsley. “And in sparkling wine as well.”
Humbled by Australian wines of the past, Hardys chardonnay is the stepping stone to a more complex chardonnay grape grown on vineyards in Western Australia. It offers more of a melon flavor, heading toward citrus and tropical. At the end of the day, it’s a $13 bottle of wine simply taken out of the fridge and enjoyed.
As for the medium bodied 2012 Nottage Hill Pinot Noir ($SRP $13) with soft tannins and a flinty background, Lapsley explains the process: “We don’t try to overdo it. We treat these grapes in the Burgundian manner, naturally fermenting with techniques on lees. It’s not a wine that needs a lot of oak.”
Fortunately, wine is no longer about high alcohol. You won’t see a bottle of Hardys wine with 15 percent alcohol or more.
“We as winemakers never liked that style,” says Lapsley. “If you look at our wine style over the years, it’s about elegance and finesse.”
Ten million cases a year are exported to the U.K., where Hardys has been exporting for nearly 130 years. The U.S. is next on the radar, especially due to the fact that the states are now the biggest wine market in the world. The Hardys brand is one to watch as it makes its way to the U.S. You can rest assured this Australian wine is on the savory edge, representing the newest styles of winemaking with grapes grown in a cooler climate, ultimately attributing to great structure and a rise in the U.S. from down under.
Not to be taken too seriously, Lapsley quips, “At the end of the day, it’s just fermented grape juice.”
Hardys wines currently sold in the U.S. include:
– Nottage Hill wines ($13 SRP)
– William Hardy range ($17 SRP)
– Tintara McLaren Vale wines ($19 SRP)
– The Hardys Winemaker’s Rare Release Shiraz 2008 ($200 SRP) is also available in very limited quantities
AAA Southern New England has announced that 50 hotels and 16 restaurants in Massachusetts have received AAA Five or Four Diamond awards for 2014, AAA’s highest designations for hotels and restaurants.
AAA inspectors visit more than 59,000 establishments annually across the United States and throughout North America. Five Diamond recipients are just 0.3 percent of the 59,000, and Four Diamond recipients are just 3.9 percent of the total inspected.
This year’s recipients are as follows:
Five Diamond Hotel
• Four Seasons Hotel Boston, Boston (first awarded in 1988)
• The Charles Hotel, Harvard Square, Cambridge (2000)
• Captain’s House Inn, Chatham (1986)
• Chatham Bars Inn Resort & Spa, Chatham (2004)
• Wequassett Resort and Golf Club, East Harwich (2002)
• The Charlotte Inn, Edgartown (2012)
• Renaissance Boston Hotel and Spa at Patriot Place, Foxboro (2010)
• Wheatleigh, Lenox (2003)
• The Wauwinet, Nantucket (2006)
• White Elephant, Nantucket (2009)
• White Elephant Village Inn-Residences, Nantucket (2010)
• Crowne Pointe Historic Inn & Spa, Provicetown (2000)
• Historic Jacob Hill Inn “A Providence Luxury Hotel”, Seekonk (2001)
• Stonehedge Inn & Spa, Tyngsboro (1989)
• The Westin Waltham-Boston, Waltham (2002)
• The Orchards Hotel, Williamstown (1986)
• Beechwood Hotel, Worcester (2010)
Four Diamond Restaurant
• Asana, Boston (2012)
• Aura, Boston (2001)
• Clio, Boston (1999)
• Deuxave, Boston (2013)
• Mamma Maria, Boston (2005)
• Meritage, Boston (1994)
• Miel, Boston (2007)
• Mooo…., Boston (2007)
• No. 9 Park, Boston (2002)
• The Café, Boston (2005)
• Rialto, Cambridge (2004)
• Stars at Chatham Bars Inn, Chatham (2013)
• twenty-eight Atlantic, East Harwich (2002)
• Topper’s, Nantucket (2006)
• The Old Inn on the Green, New Marlborough (2000)
• Left Bank, Tyngsboro (2007)
“AAA Four and Five Diamond hotels and restaurants provide guests with a personalized experience and attentive service in comfortable, high quality surroundings,” said Lloyd P. Albert, AAA Southern New England Senior Vice President of Public and Government Affairs. “These establishments consistently exceed the expectations of the most discriminating traveler – the AAA inspector. We are proud to have these dedicated businesses in our region.”
AAA will present the awards at luncheons in Boston and Lenox in February and March.