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Wine Regions

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...

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...

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...

King's Vineyard, Tokaj

The Wine of Kings Has a New Successor

Why Dry Furmint will be the Next Big Thing   [caption id="attachment_11462" align="alignleft" width="300"] István Szepsy Sr. Gazes at a map of the Tokaj region.[/caption] This problem is one that the region’s vintners are acutely aware of, and, perhaps for the first time in decades, Tokaj is ready to reinvent itself. István Szepsy Sr., the region’s most acclaimed winemaker, has seen tremendous upheaval during his lifetime. His son, István Szepsy Jr., elaborated on some of the sweeping changes the family faced: “Everything went well until the end of the 19th century. The first big problem was when phylloxera hit in the 1890s. Our clay is close to the surface; we have conditions phylloxera thrives in. It completely obliterated the wines.” On the heels of phylloxera came the Communist occupation. “After phylloxera, everything collapsed. Tokaji wines disappeared from the map for nearly 100 years; within five generations, our culture and knowledge were lost.”When we think of Tokaji wines, we imagine Aszú, a honeyed elixir, a glinting treasure chest of apricot preserves, marmalade, quince, forest honey and that most compelling note of smoky, terroir-driven expression that is both indelible and unique. It’s vivid, pure and crystalline, a balance of acidity and glycerol richness that borders...

Ponzi Vineyards

Oregon’s Enduring Spirit of Collaboration

Robed in luxurious, perpetual green, Oregon's largest AVA is home to more than 270 wineries and over 1,000 vineyards. It's a region that has enjoyed marked growth over the past few decades thanks, in part, to a handful of families that arrived in the late 1960s with little more than determination and vision. "My father always loved manual labor and farming; he had a deep connection to the land," Alison Sokol Blosser confided. She's now co-president of Sokol Blosser, a position she shares with her brother, Alex. She recently took time out of her busy schedule to give us a glimpse into what it was like to grow up in Oregon's then-emerging wine industry. "My parents were history majors; they met at Stanford. Neither of them came from a farming or winemaking background, but they did have this crazy notion of wanting to work the land, doing something with wine and food culture." Alison's parents arrived in Oregon in 1970 and settled on a 5-arce parcel that had been home to a senescent prune orchard. "It started as a hobby, and for the first few years, we sold the grapes. Later, with encouragement from my grandfather, we decided to build a family winery....

#WBC15

#WBC15 and Alsatian Riesling’s Delicious Diversity

There is something about attending one’s first Wine Blogger’s Conference, aside from the instant camaraderie—that irreplaceable sense that you are in a room full of people who get what it is that you are doing, or attempting to do on a very deep level—in addition, there are a multitude of sessions for attendees to choose from. Among them, my favorite was a presentation on Alsatian Riesling, a category I admit to having woefully limited experience in, but one that I enjoyed if only to compare them to the Finger Lakes Rieslings we sampled throughout the weekend. Alsatian vineyards lie within a narrow band, running north-south along an ancient geologic fault line. Sheltered by the Vosges Mountains on the west and are hemmed in by the Rhine River on the east, vines benefit from the rain shadow, and the region is known for long, dry autumns, with an average of around 1,800 hours of sunlight during the growing season. Aside from this, Alsace is one of the most geologically diverse wine growing regions worldwide. Its 51 Grand Crus make up an intricate patchwork quilt of varying soil types and micro-climates—volcanic soils, schist and decomposed granite found on steep mountain slopes merge and meld...

Hermann J. Wiemer Vineyard

Finger Lakes Riesling: A Portrait in Minerality

Mid-August marked my first trip to New York, I arrived a day ahead of the Wine Bloggers Conference, granting myself time to acclimate to balmy Upstate New York and perhaps more importantly, time to do a bit of exploring. My friend and fellow wine writer, Thomas Riley was in town ahead of schedule too, and the two of us set out to roam the Finger Lakes wine trail at a leisurely pace. Our second stop was at one of the region’s oldest and most respected wineries, Herman J. Wiemer, a tasting room experience that proved to be extraordinarily interesting. Our host, Oskar Bynke led us to a large map of Herman J. Wiemer’s estate vineyards. The map, suspended behind a simple tasting bar serves as a stunning and informative visual backdrop that conveys not only a sense of the variable topography surrounding glacier-carved Lake Seneca, it also provides a birds-eye view of each distinct parcel, it’s soil profiles and myriad clones. As we tasted, Oskar explained key differences between the wineries’ three estate vineyards. The HJW vineyard is the oldest site, established in 1976; it’s also the coolest, least sheltered of the trio. The vines are a mile from the river’s edge, at about 800...