The Art of Winemaking

Winemaking as an art is something people, myself included, often talk about, but it’s a concept that’s just as hard to wrap your mind around as terroir, until you’ve experienced it yourself. Just what makes every bottle of wine unique is a whole slew of consecutive moments, some things that just happen (heat, rain, the vintage as a whole), others where more active decisions take place (how you prune and train the vines, destemming, oak regime). I’ve seen and participated in many of these moments, but never that important process where a wine is actually made — that is, where the blend is determined, where grapes from one vineyard site are singled out as a stellar parcel, the rolling around of vat samples across your tongue to sense quality / taste / structure / longevity as components of a potential whole, to perceive how those parts might come together. That changed for me today when I tasted through the entirety of barrel samples of Tenuta di Trinoro’s 2015 vintage with Andrea Franchetti and his assistant winemaker Teresa Gaspar.2015 Trinoro Vat Samples

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2002 Dom Ruinart Rose Champagne

At a dinner that is part of my dear friend Marika Vida-Arnold’s Phenomenal Femmes series at the Ritz-Carlton Central Park, I tasted a slew of great wines from one of my favorite Champagne houses Ruinart, presented by their lovely chef de caves Amélie Chattin. An absolute favorite was the 2002 Dom Ruinart Rosé, for its rich, exotic profile. So I thought I’d write about it in this week’s column for

amelie chattin

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Singular Terroir in Saint-Emilion

I had the great pleasure of sitting down to taste through select vintages of Château Magdelaine and Château Bélair-Monage with Christian Moueix last fall. The two adjoining estates were merged after Bélair-Monange was acquired by J.P. Moueix, so we explored past vintages, the future of the newly renamed and reclassified property, and the insight of a man as renowned for his vast expertise (he was the winemaker at Pétrus for a time) as he is for his innovations in the world of winemaking. SOMMJ DEC15-JAN16

Read more about the decision to bring these two properties in Saint-Emilion together in my most recent piece for The SOMM Journal.

Drink Grower Champagnes


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I always love any occasion to drink Champagne, but I get extra excited when I have the opportunity to drink wines by individual winemakers instead of the big name labels. This category of grower Champagne has been one of the most exciting trends to watch in wine over the past decade: These smaller producers are crafting wines that provide unique, highly varied, nuanced expressions that center on the individual parcels of land upon which their grapes are grown. Continue reading

Great Older Vintage Wines To Buy And Drink Now

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I vividly remember the first time I sat down to taste through a vertical of older vintage wines, sipping a selection of SIMI cabernet sauvignons from 1935, 1941, 1956, 1964, 1974, and 1984 amidst the fruit flies and barrels of its Sonoma County cellar. They were vibrant and distinct, each showing the long life of well-made wine: from the figgy, fruity, still full-bodied 1934 and the wild strawberry and balsamic delicacy of the ’41; to the more modern styles of the ’74, with its big, spicy tannins and bright black fruit still present, and the concentrated, rich, and powerfully structured ’84. I was hooked on the nuanced flavors of maturing wines; on their savory notes of earth, stewed fruits, honey, spice; on the more esoteric quality they represent as well, nodding to times gone by.Larmandier Bernier Cellar Continue reading

What To Drink Now: Kopke’s Marvelous Aged White Ports

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As the days become shorter and we begin edging towards the marathon dinner party and feasting season that is November and December, my mind turns to after-dinner wines—bottles that are both excellent complements to the season’s many desserts and special enough to give as gifts. A personal favorite is tawny port. I love the intensity of flavors that develop after long aging in barrel and its soft, silky character resulting from exposure to oxygen over time. This style is traditionally made from red grapes, since firm tannins are necessary for the long aging process. Yet Kopke, the oldest port house in Vila Nova da Gaia, produces wines that drink like tawnies using only the traditional white grapes of the region in 10–40 year old blends. (Some of those wines are even older since these are blends of different colheitas, or years.) The wines have a profound depth and range of flavors that are perfect for fall, from nuts and spices to dark chocolate and orange rind.

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Fulfilling a Dream

val dorcia

One year ago today, I got on a plane to Italy without a job and no clue what the future had in store. My life since that moment has changed in a hundred ways, both large and small. The past year has been exhilarating, challenging, painful, rewarding, immensely draining, utterly uplifting. In short, it’s been the best year of my life. I am ever grateful for the support of my wonderful friends and family for encouraging me to take a leap of faith, for putting up with me (and for putting me up), for being my anchors when I felt adrift, and for helping me along the journey to realize a dream.