Search

Features

UnCruise Adventures

Experience Oregon & Washington Wine Country Aboard a Replica Coastal Steamer

Join Me for a 7-Night Wine-Themed Cruise on the Columbia, Snake & Willamette Rivers Evidence of the ice age floods is easy to spot — 15,000 years later, the results are as profound as they are delicious. Lifting a glass of glinting ruby-hued wine, it’s impossible not to appreciate the lasting effects ancient geology had on this remarkable region. Complex soils, ample sun,  just-so winds, and the unwavering dedication of Oregon and Washington winemakers—this combination of factors have yielded spectacular results. I’m pleased to announce that once again, I’ll be partnering with UnCruise Adventures as the wine expert on two ‘Rivers of Wine’ cruises. Together we’ll explore five AVA’s traversing dramatic topography as we make our way east along the Columbia—from alpine forest to semi-arid desert—we’ll visit multiple wineries followed by nightly onboard tastings and presentations. I’ll co-host the wine presentations along with the ship’s talented resident sommelier. [caption id="attachment_11536" align="aligncenter" width="900"] Rivers of Wine Map[/caption] Itinerary Day 1 Portland, Oregon–Embarkation A crew member shows you to your cabin. After a short time getting situated, gain your bearings with a spin around the ship before heading to the lounge where sparkling wine and hors d’oeuvres await as you set sail from the City of Roses along the mighty Columbia River. DAY 2—Hood...

Chateau Ste. Michelle Cabernet Sauvignon 50th Anniversary Special Bottling 2015

Washington State’s Founding Winery Turns 50

On the cusp of Chateau Ste. Michelle’s 50th anniversary, there is a palpable hum of excitement in the air. One can feel it coursing throughout the winery’s newly expanded visitor center. On the afternoon we visit, it is packed with garrulous patrons, looking relaxed and newly-tanned as they milled around sections still cordoned off by construction. From humble beginnings, Ste. Michelle has grown over the years. It’s now Washington State’s largest producer—a powerhouse dressed in elegant packaging, artfully shepherded by a team with a penchant for quality. Certainly, that’s one part of the equation. Innovation is another. At the helm of Ste. Michelle Wine Estates is President and CEO Ted Baseler. Respected as a visionary and champion of Washington State’s wine industry, Baseler comes across as soft-spoken and pragmatic. He’s been with the winery for over three decades—long before either the state or the chateau was on the map. “It’s quite an astonishing achievement,” Baseler admits. He pauses for a moment to collect his thoughts. “Last year was Mondavi’s 50th, and now it’s ours. In 1967, there were just 27 wineries in California as compared to 12 in Washington. And you think, wow. We joke with our friends at Antinori about...

2013 Brancaia Maremma Toscana Ilatraia

Brancaia: The Best of Both Worlds

Like so many New World winemakers, Barbara Widmer's childhood landscape wasn't shaped by a life amongst the vines. Her parent's journey into winemaking began, more or less, as a hobby that stemmed from the purchase of an abandoned hillside Castellina named Brancaia. "I grew up in Zurich; I had no ambition or dream to move to Tuscany," Widmer confessed in a recent interview. "My parents encouraged me to become Brancaia's winemaker, but I was totally against it." Instead, she studied architecture and soon found that the discipline demanded compromise, "I loved the design process, but I also started to realize that you have to understand the taste of other people. You have to accommodate other peoples' style, and I’m bad at doing things that are not to my taste." Charting a new course, she spent a year working for a winery in Switzerland before enrolling at the Swiss Institute for Life Sciences in Wädenswil. Studying enology and viticulture in a cool climate has graced her with a lighter touch and an appreciation for balanced acidity. "Working in a marginal climate is much more difficult," she admits. "It teaches you to be careful, to be aware that there is no guarantee that you’ll...

Terry Brandborg, Stephen Reustle, and Earl Jones

Umpqua Undercover

The Umpqua Valley has a streak of wildness to it. Sparsely populated, its towns lie scattered amidst a series of rugged, undulating hills thatched in spikey Ponderosa pine and black oak. The Umpqua River and it's winding tributaries churn and tumble through a network of valleys formed by the collision of three mountain ranges—the Klamath, the Coast Range, and the Cascades—before emptying into the Pacific Ocean. In the 1800s, prospectors dredged and panned sandbars of the South Umpqua and the Rogue rivers, in search of match head-sized nuggets of gold. It's this dramatic history and landscape that colors the region, whose wines I'd never tasted despite fifteen years in the wine industry, most of them spent in the Pacific Northwest. As I would quickly learn on a pre-harvest junket in 2015, the wines from the emerging Southern Oregon AVA are as complex and surprising as the terrain itself. On that cloudless mid-summer day, I found myself squinting into bright afternoon sunlight, listening to winemaker Earl Jones as he explained the significance of the Klamath-Coastal fault line that runs through his tidy south-facing vineyard blocks. Looking more like an archeologist than winegrower, clad in khakis and a weathered hat, Earl explained the...

Vertical Harvest

Cultivating Self-Sufficiency in Jackson Hole

An interview with architect Nona Yehia of Vertical Harvest Jackson Wyoming is best known for its upscale resorts and breathtaking Teton mountain backdrop. It’s a city that averages 38 feet of snowfall annually, with a short four-month growing season. A playground for skiers and outdoor enthusiasts it may be, for gardeners not so much. Thanks to the vision of architect Nona Yehia and her co-founder, Penny McBride, the two have transformed the way Jackson receives some of its vegetables. In a town that’s long been dependent on trucked-in produce, Vertical Harvest is a step in the direction of sustainability. Their innovative three-story greenhouse occupies a narrow 1/10th of an acre lot and turns out an astonishing 100,000 pounds of produce each year; that’s roughly the same yield as a conventionally farmed five-acre plot. And in doing so, Vertical Harvest provides jobs for the developmentally disabled, some of Jackson’s most vulnerable population. Christine Havens: What prompted you to start Vertical Harvest? Nona Yehia: “It’s funny, I never set out to be a vertical farmer. I’m an architect by trade, and I believe in the power of architecture to build community. I’ve always pushed the boundaries in design, I’ve always been engaged. It’s a labor of love,” she laughs and...

Millésima 2017 Wine Blog Award

Millésima 2017 Wine Blog Awards

I'm honored and overjoyed to announce that I've been selected as a finalist in <a href="http://blog.millesima-usa.com/2017/01/16/the-2017-blog-awards-finalists/">Millésima's Wine Blog Awards</a> once again. Last year I was a finalist in the wine and food pairing category, this year it's wine travel. I didn't win last year, so I'm embracing 2017 as a new opportunity and challenge. The final stage of the competition is a public vote, so I'm entirely reliant on my friends and subscribers to reach Margaux's gravelly vineyards. The winning finalists in each category will spend a glorious (from what I saw of the winner's Instagram feeds last year, it was glorious) week in Bordeaux. For me, that's been a long cherished dream, my desire to travel to the region is what sparked my journey into wine writing. That's a story worth telling, and one I'll save for another time. Voting is quick and easy. Just click the Vote Now button below. You'll be redirected to a Facebook page, from there choose the WINE TRAVEL category and my blog. And the crucial last step for your vote to be counted: be sure to scroll down to the bottom of the page, accept terms and conditions and hit SUBMIT. Voting ends January 27th....

Dr. Laura Catena

Research and Resilience at High Altitude

What one Argentine winery is doing to combat climate change. Climate change is everywhere, according to Dr. Laura Catena, and tackling these problems is a race, “We need to look at life at all levels, using science to preserve nature and culture, and we don’t have much time.” I recently had the opportunity to talk with Dr. Catena about what she and her team at the Catena Institute for Wine are doing to mitigate the effects of climate change. “A lot of what we’re doing now has to do with pruning and cover crops, but in the years ahead that won’t be enough.” Another strategy involves testing different clonal selections. In 1995, Catena and her team planted the French Malbec clone, Côt Noir in their La Pirámide Vineyard next to vines sourced from their historic 87-year-old Angélica vineyard. By 2003, they were able to confirm that the characteristics of the French clone differed greatly from Argentine Malbec selections. “Lamarck said that as the giraffe’s neck got longer, its offspring would also inherit a longer neck,” she explained. What Catena is referring to is the work of French naturalist Jean-Baptiste Lamarck, who proposed that organisms, both flora and fauna, pass on traits acquired during their lifetime to...

Christmas

Slightly Last Minute Gifts for Wine Lovers

The holidays are upon us, and if you’re anything like me, you haven’t yet begun shopping. Most people in my immediate circle love wine and are connected to the industry one way or another—a bottle of Bruno Paillard Brut Champagne is always welcome, but I like to give gifts that last. The pursuit of wine makes us a bookish, endlessly curious crowd. Here are a few favorites from 2016—a short list of movies I’m sure to watch again and again and books I’ll thumb through to find a favorite passage. Alder Yarrow’s The Essence of Wine is a visual feast. This collection of photos and wine descriptors assembles the familiar; cherries, peaches, grapefruit, and plum to more enigmatic aromas of green wood, the sea, and wet stones. Alder’s background in design shows in the tailored organization of content, where sumptuous images live alongside poetic descriptions. Thoughtful and informative, this book deserves a spot on the wine lover’s coffee table. You can purchase The Essence of Wine directly from his website, Vinography. For Burgundy fans, filmmaker Rudi Goldman offers us an intimate glimpse into the region. Burgundy: People with a Passion for Wine opens not with a native Burgundian, but with Alex Gambal, an American transplant turned winemaker. “Burgundy is one of...

Mád Village

Tokaj’s New Golden Age

How a quiet revolution in Mád will change the way think about Tokaji. [caption id="attachment_11444" align="alignleft" width="450"] István Szepsy Jr demonstrates roots burrowing through soil layers.[/caption] To visit Tokaj is to pull back the curtain on an extraordinary place, an ancient place that, at first glance, appears frozen in time even as the region embraces change. Storybook houses cluster together, defining this village from that; only the town church spire rises above a jumbled roofline, glinting pale gold in the early morning light. The warm hue of the terracotta roof tiles echoes the Venetian red volcanic soils that are common in many of Tokaj’s Grand Crus. These, I explore with my guide, István Szepsy Jr. István is an 18th-generation winemaker. He speaks carefully and thoughtfully, like his father. He’s armed with technology, while steeped in old knowledge—the mutual evolution of generations of winegrowers and autochthonous grapes over centuries. For me, this place is a reference point, a means of understanding the purest expression of terroir. István takes us through the back roads, which in the village of Mád begin abruptly—there are scarcely more than 2500 inhabitants according to the most recent census. Our first stop is a local quarry; it’s en route to a...

Tony Hartl & Giuseppe Franceschini

White before Red: An Interview with Winemaker Giuseppe Franceschini

Born in Padua, winemaker Giuseppe Franceschini likes to think of himself as a gypsy. He studied enology at the University of Udine, following graduation, his wanderlust and curiosity led him to Veneto, Friuli, Sicily, Mendoza and most recently, Slovenia. From these experiences, Giuseppe absorbed a lifetime of regional winemaking styles, each with unique challenges and rewards that combine to make him one of the most creative, passionate winemakers on the planet. Over the years he’s racked up an impressive trove of gold medals, some of which include the Concours Mundial de Bruxelles for his work at wineries in Mendoza and Italy. His 2007 Bacan Malbec was recognized as one of the top 60 wines of Argentina from Austral Spectator Wine Guide, and his 2013 La Giostra del Vino Saltimbanco Pinot Noir scored 93 points from the Wine Advocate, and his Cabernet Sauvignon from Bodega Caelum scored 94 points from Guia Penin. So it’s no surprise that he’s just been awarded a gold medal for the 2014 Seed Malbec from The Drinks Business’ prestigious 2016 Global Malbec Masters competition. Giuseppe’s focus on white wines early in his winemaking career has enabled him to bring a sense of elegance and nuance to his reds—something he refers...