Michigan Unties Winery Restrictions

Muddled wine is one thing. Muddled wine legislation is another. And, it seems to be the rule in the US of A.

While most states still are dealing with wading through a thicket of arcane rules on sales, shipment and the like, Michigan wineries (click here for a wine trail connection) now are allowed to ship their products directly to consumers in other states and consumers living in Michigan are allowed to receive items from out-of-state suppliers.

“It opens us up to becoming a national wine industry,” Donald Coe, president of the trade association WineMichigan, said after Gov. Jennifer Granholm signed legislation granting direct-shipping rights.

Coe, managing partner of Black Star Farms in Suttons Bay, MI, told the Associated Press, "I have 60,000 visitors a year, and fully 25 percent of them come from outside Michigan. Many of them have no access to our wines when they get back to their states because we’re such a small winery, we don’t have distribution in those states yet. They now have an opportunity to order the wines from us, and we can ship to them.”

Granholm signed the bills during an appearance in Traverse City, heart of northern Michigan wine country. Twenty of the state’s 42 wineries are in Grand Traverse and Leelanau counties. Michigan’s $75 million industry ranks ninth in the country in wine grape production, with a combined 1,300 acres.

The Supreme Court this year struck down Michigan’s policy of allowing only in-state wineries to ship directly to Michigan residents, saying it gave them an unfair competitive advantage. Under the new laws, any winery can send up to 1,500 cases a year to Michigan residents. But the laws continue to require out-of-state wineries to use a wholesaler to get their wines to Michigan restaurants and retailers, while in-state wineries can sell directly to those establishments.

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Bad Times In Bulgaria

A bad grape harvest in Bulgaria has forced one of the Eastern European nation's top wineries to cut its output.

The Domaine Boyar winery, a 14-year-old operation, produces Domaine Boyar and Blueridge wines. The company also distills hard liquor, a segment of its business unaffected by the poor harvest, according to CEO Margarit Todorov.

The company is a leading producer and exporter of Bulgarian wines with sales of more than 5 million liters per year. It began as an agent for various Bulgarian wineries in export markets, particularly in Western Europe. In the mid-1990s, the process of privatization in Bulgaria as the government shifted from dictatorship to democracy changed the national economy.

Todorov and his partners created a strategy to gain direct control of production and the company became a wine producer as well as a sales agent. It has wineries in three cities. The Shumen operation will be most affected by the cutbacks.

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Finally, Ice Wine From the North

Wisconsin doesn't routinely make people think about wine. But when they do, they're more inclined to make it ice wine.

Oddly enough, the northern state has been having trouble making ice wine for the past half-dozen years. The early winters have been too mild. Now, however, for only the second time in that span an early cold snap has allowed one Wisconsin vintner the chance to resume it.

Wollersheim Winery (shown here) in Prairie du Sac has been producing ice wine since 1999, but this is only the first time it was able to make the true style -- from grapes harvested after freezing in the vineyard and then, while the grapes still are in a frozen state, pressing them into ice crystals.

Julie Coquard, Wollersheim vice president, told the Associated Press, "I know it doesn't seem much like harvest time, but this is exactly when the grapes for ice wine must be picked and pressed.''

Coquard said Wollersheim intends to continue increasing the crop and making Wisconsin (click here for a wine trail connection) ice wine a major part of its product line.

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Wine Collection Cooked

It's a sure-fire recipe. For disaster.

Take one of the world's best wine collections, increase the heat from a constant 58 degrees to upwards of 120, then sit back and watch the fine wine turn to vinegar.

That's what happened to the wine cellar at Brennan's Restaurant in New Orleans, a victim of the Hurricane Katrina devastation. The cellar has held Wine Spectator magazine's Grand Award since 1983, and its 85,000-bottle collections has been rated among the 85 best in the world.

No more. The collection of such stars as an 1870 Lafite Rothschild, various Chateau Moutons and Chateau Margauxs, and dozens of other high-ticket wines is history.

"They may be drinkable, but they're probably better for salads," Ted Brennan, whose brother Jimmy spent 35 years building the collection, told The Washington Post.

The two-story collection -- doemstics on the first floor, imports on the second -- is housed in a former carriage house of the 18th Century French Quarter mansion that is home to Brennan's. When power was lost during the storm, the climate controls were rendered ineffective.

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NY Wine & Culinary Center Picks Boss

CANANDAIGUA, N.Y. -- A tourism industry veteran has been selected to be the first executive director of the $7.5 million New York Wine & Culinary Center, for which ground was broken here in August.

Alexa Gifford spent more than five years with the Finger Lakes Tourism Alliance, most recently as president.

"The excitement is building for the opening of the New York Wine and Culinary Center, and naming an executive director is an important step," said Rob Sands, COO and president of Constellation Brands, and chairman of the NYWCC board. "Three months after breaking ground on the site, it is wonderful to begin to assemble a dedicated team of professionals to lead the center."

The center (shown in an artist's rendering above) is scheduled to open next summer on a plot of land next to Canandaigua Lake. Constellation Brands Inc., the Wegmans supermarket chain, Rochester Institute of Technology and the New York Wine & Grape Foundation partnered to establish the not-for-profit organization, which will be housed in the new 19,475 square-foot facility.

The project marks a major step in increasing the visibility of New York's wine industry to tourism and agribusiness interests. How significant the industry is to the state is shown in a just-released report from MKF Research, a consulting firm based in California but analyzing New York's situation.

With 31,000 acres of vineyards, 212 wineries and 1,384 grape farms, New York is the nation's second largest wine producer after California and the third biggest grape grower behind California and Washington.

Wineries, grape producers and related businesses in New York, from liquor stores to makers of bottles, glasses and labels, account for almost 36,000 jobs and a $1.3 billion payroll, the state-funded study reported.

In addition, it said that wine sales alone generate $420 million in sales, but the state industry's multiplier impact on the economy came to $3.4 billion in 2004.

A new state law that went into effect in August allows direct shipment of wines into and out of New York (click here for a wine trail connection) and is expected to provide a major boost in those numbers compared to what they were when New York's highly restrictive shipping laws were in force.

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A Bi-Coastal Wine Effort

Noted Napa Valley winemaker Scott Harvey took with him more than just pleasant memories after recently helping judge the annual New York Wine & Food Classic in the Finger Lakes.

Harvey, right, purchased a batch of Riesling grapes to be shipped by refrigerated truck from the Anthony Road Wine Co. on Seneca Lake to use in creating his own Riesling wine back in St. Helena, CA.

Harvey has long been impressed with "the quality and consistency of Finger Lakes Rieslings."

A Riesling has won the top award -- the Governor's Cup -- in the New York competition in six of the last eight years. This year's winner, however, was a 2004 Vidal Ice Wine from Casa Larga Vineyards that also was voted “Best Dessert Wine” and “Best Ice Wine” en route to the ultimate award.

I lunched with Harvey at the winemaker's quarters in August of 2003 when he was the winemaker at the Folie a Deux vineyard near Napa. At that point he had branched out with a sideline of his own wines en route to his current independent status. Even then he was enamored of the Finger Lakes Rieslings and mentioned his desire to create his own version.

Harvey comes by his fondness for German-style wines honestly. As an Army "brat," he lived with his family in Germany during his formative years and returned there for an education in winemaking.

Ever since noted wine writer Dan Berger annointed him one of California's best winemakers in the 1990s, anything Harvey does attracts attention. His bi-coastal Riesling should be the next such item.

According to Jim Trezise, head of the New York Wine & Grape Foundation, Harvey and John Martini of Anthony Road will unveil the Napa and Finger Lakes versions of Riesling from the same vineyards during the Unified Symposium in Sacramento in late January.

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No End Seen To Aussie Wine Glut

Consumers who have been taking advantage of depressed Australian wine prices caused by oversupply can look forward to more of the same.

The latest forecast by the Australian Wine and Brandy Corp. (AWBC) says the excess can last another five years because of a succession of above-average grape yields.

AWBC spokesman Lawrie Stanford said that while the imbalance of supply and demand may not ease before 2010, the industry has already responded to the problem by reducing plantings.

"We're not actually adding to the production significantly but we do have this stock overhang and we need to move it into the markets which currently exist," he said. "Our estimates are that over time, those markets can absorb this, but in addition to this we need to be developing new markets also."

One example of another way to cut into the glut is being seen with McGuigan Simeon Wines. Its report to shareholders says the company will suspend some wine grape grower contracts as a result of the oversupply.

Managing Director Brian McGuigan (above) told shareholders at the annual general meeting in Sydney that the company would prefer to no longer be a purchaser, but a partner with grape growers in wine production to share the risks and benefits over the long-term.

Meanwhile, a Wine Industry Outlook conference in Adelaide was told that slowing exports and a grape glut could see supply outstripping demand until 2010.

Lawrie Stanford, the Australian Wine and Brandy Corp.'s information and analysis manager, said while the red wine grape surplus was likely to ease, white wine grape oversupply would last at least two year: "It's anticipated that the rate of export growth will slow as Australia works off a larger base and competition from overseas wine producers intensifies."

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Massachusetts Wine Bill Vetoed

Backers of moves to lessen restrictions on interstate wine shipments may have been disappointed yesterday when Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney vetoed a bill that would have placed new regulations on wine shipments via mail.

Despite its passage by both houses of the state legislature, Romney said the legislation protected existing liquor distributors in Massachusetts rather than helping consumers.

Massachusetts (click here for a wine trail connection) consumers would have been able to buy wine from out-of-state vineyards, although their choices would have been restricted. It also would prohibit shipments by wineries producing in ex cess of 30,000 gallons a year if they had been represented by a liquor wholesaler in the state.

"This bill does not give wine lovers the opportunity to purchase the bottlings they want," Romney said in a statement. "It creates artificial barriers to protect Massachusetts wholesalers at the expense of a free market."

The Supreme Court ruled several months ago that a number of states, Massachusetts among them, had to treat in-state and out-of-state wine purchases by mail equally. Under current state law, only local wineries could ship by mail.

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Globally Speaking, the Best Wines Are Chosen

Photo by William M. Dowd

The results are in from the 2005 International Wine & Spirit Competition and the gleam in the eyes of numerous winemakers is a reflection of the gold medals.

The best-in-class golds, as opposed to the standard gold medals, for wines went to, in alphabetical category order (any classes not listed received no best-in-class golds):

AC Rouge Anjou-Loire:Château La Variere Anjou Villages Brissac AOC Prestige 2003.

Amarone della Valpolicella DOC-Veneto 2000: Amarone Della Valpolicella DOC Classico 2000 "Campo Del Titari" (Italy).

Barolo-DOCG, Piedmonte, 1999: Ca'Radice Argante Barolo DOCG 1999 (Italy).

Blended Red Wine/Australia: Haan Wilhelmus Barossa Valley 2002.

Blended Red Wine, Cabernet Dominated/Coastal Region: Boschendal Grand Reserve 2001 (South Africa).

Blended Red Wine, Cabernet Dominated/Stellenbosch 2001: Vergelegen Red 20091.

Blended Red Wine, Shiraz Dominated/South Africa: Guardian Peak SMG 2003.

Botrytis Riesling, King Valley/Australia: Brown Brothers Family Reserve Noble Riesling 1999.

Bottle Fermented Sparkling Wine, Chardonnay/Pinot Noir, England, Vintage: Ridgeview Merret Bloomsbury 2002.

Bottle Fermented Sparkling Wine, Rose/New Zealand, NV: Lindauer Rosé NV.

Bottle Fermented Sparkling Wines, NV, Pinot Noir-Chardonnay/New Zealand: Deutz Marlborough Cuvée.

Bottle Fermented Sparkling Wines/New Zealand, Chardonnay, NV: No. 1 Family Estate Cuvee No 1 NV.

Cabernet Sauvignon, Blend/Chile: Vina Sena 2001.

Cabernet Sauvignon, Clare Valley, Australia, 2001: 2001 St Andrews Cabernet Sauvignon by Wakefield Wines (Taylors Wines of Australia).

Cabernet Sauvignon, Coastal, Australia: Longridge Cabernet Sauvignon 2002.

Cabernet Sauvignon, Coonawarra, Australia, 2000: Katnook Estate Odyssey 2000 Cabernet Sauvignon.

Cabernet Sauvignon, Coonawarra, Australia, 2001: Parker Terra Rossa First Growth 2001.

Cabernet Sauvignon, Hunter Valley, Australia: McGuigan Personal Reserve Cabernet 2000.

Cabernet Sauvignon, Maipo Valley, Australia, 2002: De Martino Gran Familia Cabernet Sauvignon 2002.

Cabernet Sauvignon, Maipo Valley, Australia, 2004: Vina Maipo Reserva Cabernet Sauvignon 2004.

Cabernet Sauvignon, Margaret River, Australia, 2003: Moss Wood 2003 Amy's Blend Cabernet Sauvignon.

Cabernet Sauvignon, Stellenbosch, 1999: Asara 1999 Bell Tower Estate Wine Cabernet Sauvignon.

Cabernet Sauvignon/Merlot, Stellenbosch: Jordan Cobblers Hill 2002 Cabernet Merlot.

Champagne, Non Vintage, Blanc de Blancs: Piper-Heidsieck Brut Divin NV Blanc de Blancs.

Champagne, Prestige Cuvée, 1983, Blanc de Blancs: Charles Heidsieck Blancs Des Millenaires 1983.

Champagne, Prestige Cuvée, 1985: Champagne Charlie 1985 and Charles Heidsieck Champagne Charlie 1985.

Champagne, Prestige Cuvee, 1988: Krug Vintage.

Champagne, Prestige Cuvée, 1995, Blanc de Blancs: Charles Heidsieck Blanc Des Millenaires 1995.

Champagne, Prestige Cuvee, 1996: Moet & Chandon Dom Perignon.

Champagne, Prestige Cuvee, 1996, Blanc de Blancs: Lanson Noble Cuvée Blanc De Blancs.

Champagne, Prestige Cuveé, Non Vintage, Pinot Noir Dominated: Krug Grande Cuvée Brut NV.

Champagne, Prestige Cuvee, Vintage, 1993, Blanc de Blancs: Champagne de Venoge Grand Vin des Princes 1993.

Champagne, Vintage, Blanc de Blancs, 1995: De Saint Gall Cuvee Orpale 1995.

Champagne, Vintage, Blanc de Blancs, 1998: Champagne Jacquart Brut Mosaique Blanc de Blanc Vintage 1998.

Champagne, Vintage, Blends, 1989: Charles Heidsieck Millesime 1989.

Champagne, Vintage, Blends, 1996: Champagne Duval-Leroy Vintage 1996.

Champagne, Vintage, Blends, 1998: Piper-Heidsieck Millesime 1998.

Champagne, Vintage, Pinot Noir/Pinot Meunier/Chardonnay, 1995: Champagne de Venoge Vintage 1995.

Chardonnay, Adelaide Hills, Australia: K1 by Geoff Hardy Chardonnay 2003.

Chardonnay, Russian River, Valifornia: Sonoma Cutrer "The Cutrer" Chardonnay 2002.

Chardonnay, Stellenbosch: Rustenberg Chardonnay Stellenbosch 2003.

Chardonnay, Western Cape, 2004: Rozier Bay Chardonnay.

Chateauneuf du Pape, Rhone: La Solitude Secrete 2001.

Chianti Classico, 2000: Nozzole "La Forra" Chianti Classico Riserva DOCG 2000.

Chianti Classico DOCG, 2001: Dievole Dieulele 2001 Chianti Classico Riserva DOCG.

Chianti Classico DOCG, 2003: Castello Vicchiomaggio Riserva La Prima Chianti Classico DOCG 2003.

Cotes de Beaune, Burgundy: Corton Clos Du Rois Domaine Pousse D'Or 2001.

Douro, DOC, 2001: Douro Doc Roriz Reserva 2001.

Ice Wine, Riesling, Okanagan Valley: Inniskillin Riesling Icewine Dark Horse Vineyard 2003.

Ice Wine, Vidal, Niagara Peninsula: Jackson-Triggs Vintners Proprietors Reserve Vidal Icewine 2003.

Malbec/Merlot Blend, Mendoza: Bodegas Trapiche Islay 2002.

Montepulciano d'Abruzzo DOC, Abruzzo: Tre Saggi Montepulciano d'Abruzzo 2002.

Noble Late Harvest, Riesling, Stellenbosch, 2004: Neethlingshof Lord Neethling Weisser Riesling Noble Late Harvest 2004.

Pinotage, Stellenbosch, 2003: Simonsig Pinotage Rootil 2003.

Pinotage, Stellenbosch, 99/98: Kanonkop Pinotage 1998.

Quarts de Chaume, Chenin Blanc, Botrytis: Château La Variere AOC Quarts De Chaume "Les Guerches" 2003.

Riesling, Auslese, Rheingau: Johannisberger Klaus Riesling Auslese 2003.

Riesling, Eiswein, Pfalz: Winfried Freyu Soehne Riesling Eiswein 2003.

Riesling, Great Southern Australia: Tesco Finest Great Southern Riesling 2003.

Riesling, Western Australia: Goundrey Wines Reserve Riesling 2004.

Sake, 15.5-16%: Junmai Daiginjo "Kuro no Mu" Sake.

Sake, 17-18%: Junmai-Daiginjo "Hakkoda-Oroshi" 2004.

Sauvignon Blanc, Casablanca Valley, 2002/2003: Yali Gran Reserve Sauvignon Blanc 2003.

Sauvignon Blanc, Casablanca Valley, 2004: Casa del Bosque Sauvignon Blanc 2004.

Sauvignon Blanc, Constantia: Steenberg Sauvignon Blanc Reserve 2003.

Sauvignon Blanc, Marlborough, 2004: Saint Clair Wairau Reserve Sauvignon Blanc 2004.

Semillon, Hunter Valley: McWilliams Mount Pleasant Elizabeth Sémillon 2000.

Shiraz, Adelaide Hills: Wolf Blass Platinum Label Shiraz 2001.

Shiraz, Barossa Valley, 2002: Wolf Blass Platinum Label Shiraz 2002.

Shiraz, Clare Valley, 2002: Jim Barry, The Armagh Clare Valley Shiraz 2002.

Shiraz, Coonawarra, 2002: 2002 Penley Estate Special Select Shiraz.

Shiraz, Heathcote: Heathcote Estate Shiraz 2003.

Shiraz, McLaren Vale, 2002: Wirra Wirra RSW Shiraz 2002.

Shiraz, McLaren Vale 2003: Pertaringa Undercover Shiraz 2003.

Shiraz, South Australia: Henschke Mount Edelstone 2002 Shiraz.

Shiraz, South Australia, 2002: Kilikanoon "Oracle" Shiraz 2002 and Wolf Blass Grey Label Shiraz 2002.

Shiraz, South Eastern Australia, 2002: Penfolds Bin 28 Kalimna Shiraz 2002.

Shiraz, Stellenbosch, 2003: Mount Rozier Shiraz 2003.

Shiraz, Victoria, 2002: Brown Brothers Patricia Shiraz 2002.

Shiraz, Yarra Valley, 2003: Yering Station Reserve Shiraz/Viognier 2003 and Yering Station Reserve Shiraz/Viognier 2003.

Silvaner, Eiswein, Franken: Franconia Silvaner Eiswein Nordheimer Vögelein 2002.

Tank Fermented Sparkling Wine, Brachetto d'Aqui: F.lli Dezzani Brachetto D'Aqui DOCG 2004.

Tokaji 6 Puttonyos: Tokaji Aszu 6 Puttonyos.

Touriga Nacional, Alentejo: Hans Kristian Jorgensen Touriga Nacional Cortes de Cima 2003.

Trockenbeernauslese, Austria: Lenz Moser Prestige Trockenbeeren Auslese 2002.

Vin Santo, Italy: Tenute Silvio Nardi Vin Santo Val D'Arbia 1995.

Viognier, Victoria: Zilzie Estate Viognier 2004.

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Scotland Gets First Food & Wine Center

DUNDEE, Scotland -- Scotland's first food and wine center will open in early December, perhaps as a pilot project for a nationwide push for more such centers.

The Tasting Rooms, as the center will be called, was created by Scott's Wine World, a Dundee wine importer.

The center will be international in scope, offering virtual wine tours, a deli, café, wine trading floor, corporate conference facilities and an art gallery. Director Graeme Scott said inspiration for the project came from visits to the wine warehouses of Australia and Hong Kong.

"There's a lot of investment here at the moment and the timing is just right," Scott said, explaining why Dundee was selected as the initial Scottish site.

Events planned for The Tasting Rooms include specialized dinners pitched at the corporate market and featuring wine producers and celebrity chefs.

BBC Scotland Travel Guide
Bus & Coach Travel
Scotland's Golf Courses
Scottish Tourist Board
The Clans of Scotland
Scottish History & Culture
Distillery tours, tastings, information

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Pennsylvania Loosens Ties On Wine Sale

After sticking with its Prohibition-era restrictions on wine sales for generations, Pennsylvania will end its ban on Internet and mail-oder shipments.

The change comes about because a judge overturned the ban. Out-of-state wineries now will be allowed to ship directly to Pennsylvania residents rather than having to sell only through state-owned stores. That change leaves Utah as the only state with total control over wine and liquor sales.

Pennsylvania (click here for a wine trail connection) is No. 5 nationally in the number of wineries, behind California, Washington, New York and Oregon. Its wineries now rely on direct sales from tasting rooms, mailing lists and over the Web to compete with larger rivals in other states.

There are 24 states that prohibit direct-to-consumer shipping of wine. Thirteen, including California, allow the direct shipping of wine to another state that allows the same privilege.

A bill now before the state legislature in Massachusetts, where wine shipment restrictions recently were overturned by a court, would allow consumers to purchase wine online or over the telephone and have it shipped directly to them. The bill seeks to allow wineries which produce 30,000 gallons or less of their product per year to take orders and ship wine directly to their consumers. But some lawmakers oppose the legislation because of the requirement that only smaller wineries can do direct shipments, and that it discriminates between larger and smaller wineries.

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Gold Strike In New Zealand

Judges in this year's prestigious Air New Zealand Wine Awards competition were anything but reluctant to go gold.

A record 97 gold medals were awarded from among 1,550 sampled.

Chairman of judges Brent Marris said the Sauvignon Blanc class in particular was strong this year."

"Ripe crops and better fruit handling in the 2005 vintage contributed to the high number of gold medals; these are the absolute world benchmark for the style," he said.


Esvin Champion Sauvignon Blanc Trophy

  • Astrolabe Wines Ltd Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc 2005

  • Blind River Wines Ltd Sauvignon Blanc 2005

  • Cardmember Matua Innovator Ponder Vineyard Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc 2005

  • Cardmember Ponder Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc 2005

  • Coopers Creek Vineyard Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc 2005

  • Gunn Estate Skippers Pool Sauvignon Blanc 2005

  • Jules Taylor Wines Sauvignon Blanc 2005

  • Kim Crawford SP Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc, Spitfire 2005

  • Matua Valley Paretai Sauvignon Blanc 2005

  • Mt Olympus Tuatara Bay Sauvignon Blanc 2005

  • Mudhouse Winery White Swan Sauvignon Blanc 2005

  • Saint Clair Estate Wines Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc 2005

  • Saint Clair Estate Wines Pioneer Block 1 Sauvignon Blanc 2005

  • Saint Clair Estate Wines Pioneer Block 2 Sauvignon Blanc 2005

  • Tohu Wines Ltd Mugwi Sauvignon Blanc 2005

  • Waipara Hills Wine Estates Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc 2005

  • Wairau River Wines Sauvignon Blanc 2005

  • Whitehaven Whites Bay Sauvignon Blanc 2005

  • O-I New Zealand Champion Chardonnay Trophy

  • CJ Pask Winery Reserve Chardonnay 2004

  • Cape Campbell Reserve Limited Edition Chardonnay 2004

  • Esk Valley Estate Reserve Chardonnay 2004

  • Gunn Estate Skeetfield Chardonnay 2004

  • Highfield Estate (1991) Limited Marlborough Chardonnay 2002

  • Koblefield The Distinction Chardonnay 2004

  • Kim Crawford Tietjen Gisborne Chardonnay 2005

  • Landmark Estate Wines Ltd Chardonnay (Earls) 2004

  • Montana Terrior Stuart Block Gisborne Chardonnay (Patutahi) 2004

  • Montana Terroir Waihirere Gisborne Chardonnay (Ormond) 2004

  • Morton Estate White Label Hawkes Bay Chardonnay 2002

  • Mudhouse Winery White Swan Chardonnay 2004

  • Northrow Chardonnay 2004

  • Saint Clair Estate Wines Omaka Reserve Chardonnay 2003

  • Summerhouse Chardonnay 2004

  • Vidal Wines Reserve Hawkes Bay Chardonnay 2004

  • Villa Maria Estate Reserve Barrique Fermented Chardonnay 2004

  • Villa Maria Estate Reserve Marlborough Chardonnay 2004

  • Villa Maria Estate Single Vineyard Waldron Chardonnay 2004

  • Villa Maria Estate Reserve Marlborough Chardonnay 2003

  • W5 Chardonnay 2004

  • Wither Hills Chardonnay 2003

  • Nissan New Zealand Limited Champion Sparkling Wine Trophy

  • Hunters Wines Miru Miru 2002

  • Palliser Estate Methode Traditionelle 2001

  • Air Sea Global Champion Pinot Noir Trophy

  • Capricorn Wines Struggler's Flat Pinot Noir 2004

  • Fairhall Downs Estate Wines Pinot Noir 2004

  • Fairmont Estate Block One Pinot Noir 2004

  • Mount Riley Winemakers Selection Pinot Noir 2004

  • Northrow Pinot Noir 2003

  • Palliser Estate Pinot Noir 2004

  • Terrace Heights Estate THE Pinot Noir 2004

  • Vidal Wines Estate Marlborough Pinot Noir 2004

  • Villa Maria Estate Cellar Selection Pinot Noir 2004

  • Villa Maria Estate Reserve Pinot Noir 2004

  • Villa Maria Estate Single Vineyard Taylors Pass Pinot Noir 2004

  • Waipara Springs Pinot Noir Reserve 2003

  • Label and Litho Champion Gewurztraminer Trophy

  • Allan Scott Wines & Estates Ltd Gewurztraminer 2005

  • Corbans Private Bin Hawke's Bay Gewurztraminer 2004

  • Hunters Wines Gewurztraminer 2005

  • Lawson's Dry Hills Gewurztraminer 2004

  • Villa Maria Estate Cellar Selection Gewurztraminer 2005

  • Dish magazine Champion Pinot Gris Trophy

  • Astrolabe Wines Ltd Pinot Gris 2005

  • Kathy Lynskey Wines Ltd Single Vineyard Pinot Gris 2005

  • Lawson's Dry Hills Pinot Gris 2005

  • Triplebank Awatere Valley Pinot Gris 2005

  • Villa Maria Estate Single Vineyard Seddon Pinot Gris 2005

  • AMPM Marketing Limited Champion Riesling Trophy

  • Cardmember Delta Marlborough Riesling 2005

  • Cardmember Hunter's Stoneburn Marlborough Riesling 2004

  • Cardmember Kahurangi Estate Heaphy Series Moutere Riesling 2004

  • Coopers Creek Vineyard Marlborough Riesling 2005

  • Forrest Estate Dry Riesling 2002

  • Grove Mill Marlborough Riesling 2004

  • Hunters Wines Riesling 2004

  • Soljans Wines Riesling 2005

  • Villa Maria Estate Cellar Selection Riesling 2004

  • Villa Maria Estate Cellar Selection Seddon Riesling 2002

  • BDO Spicers Champion Other White Varieties Trophy

  • Cardmember Cooper's Creek Limited Release Gisborne Viognier 2005

  • Coopers Creek Vineyard Gisborne Viognier 2005

  • Marlborough Bottling Company Champion Medium Sweet or Sweet Wine Trophy

  • Canterbury House Noble Riesling 2004

  • Villa Maria Estate Reserve Noble Riesling 2004

  • Hort Research Champion Rose or Blush Trophy

  • Esk Valley Estate Black Label Merlot/Malbec/Rose 2005

  • Huka Lodge Champion Merlot Trophy

  • Capricorn Wines One Tree Merlot 2004

  • Mills Reef Elspeth Merlot 2004

  • Villa Maria Estate Private Bin Merlot 2004

  • Villa Maria Estate Reserve Merlot 2002

  • Fruitfed Supplies Champion Merlot Predominant Blend Trophy

  • Capricorn Wines Red Rock Gravel Pit Red 2004

  • Esk Valley Estate Black Label Merlot/Cabernet Sauvignon/Malbec 2004

  • Karikari Estate Merlot Malbec Cabernet 2004

  • Mills Reef Reserve Merlot Malbec 2004

  • Matua Valley Ararimu Merlot/Syrah/Cabernet Sauvignon 2002

  • Mills Reef Reserve Merlot Cabernet Syrah 2001

  • Vidal Wines Reserve Hawkes Bay Merlot/Cabernet Sauvignon 2002

  • Vidal Wines Reserve Hawkes Bay Merlot/Cabernet Sauvignon 2000

  • Carter & Associates Champion Cabernet Sauvignon or Predominant Blend Trophy

  • Kingsley Estate Gimblett Road Reserve 2004

  • Mission Estate Winery Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon 2004

  • Newton Forrest Cornerstone Cabernet/Merlot/Malbec 2002

  • Business World Travel Champion Syrah Trophy

  • Bridge Pa Vineyard Hawke's Bay Syrah 2004

  • Capricorn Wines Red Rock The Underarm Syrah 2003

  • Unison Vineyard Ltd Syrah 2004

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    Beat It

    It was only a matter of time.

    All the giggling inspired by trial testimony about Michael Jackson's use of something he called "Jesus Juice" -- essentially, wine he put in a soft drink can and allegedly gave to underage boys -- may pay off for a pair of Los Angeles entrepreneurs.

    Dawn Westlake, an actress/producer/writer of things you've probably never heard of ("A Day Without a Mexican," "Fake Stacy," "Dottie: The Little Girl With the Big Voice"), and Bruce Rheins, who oversaw the Jackson trial coverage for CBS, are seeking a trademark for a wine they want to produce, called "Jesus Juice."

    The label, shown here, portrays a Jackson-like image in a crucifixion pose. Although the couple came up with the idea last year, it wasn't until now that they submitted the label to the U.S. Trademark & Patent Office for consideration.

    Right now, Westlake and Rheins seem to be concentrating more on the name and the label than on what they will put in the bottles. Two of their Web sites are advertising for a merlot maker (preferably "a vintner with a sense of humor, but a seriously good line of wines") or someone to purchase the "Jesus Juice" trademark rights.

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    Red wine helps combat Alzheimer's

    Photo by William M. Dowd

    The health-enhancing properties of wine are common knowledge these days -- lowering blood pressure and cholesterol levels, promoting cardiac health, de-stressing the imbiber, and so on.

    Now, a study just published in the Journal of Biological Chemistry shows that resveratrol, a compound found in grapes and red wine, lowers the levels of the amyloid-beta peptides that cause the senile plaques of Alzheimer's disease.

    "Resveratrol is a natural polyphenol occurring in abundance in several plants, including grapes, berries and peanuts," explains study author Philippe Marambaud. "The polyphenol is found in high concentrations in red wines. The highest concentration of resveratrol has been reported in wines prepared from Pinot Noir grapes. Generally, white wines contain 1% to 5% of the resveratrol content present in most red wines."

    Philippe Marambaud and colleagues at the Litwin-Zucker Research Center for the Study of Alzheimer's Disease and Memory Disorders in Manhasset, Long island, NY, administered resveratrol to cells that produce human amyloid-beta and tested the compound's effectiveness by monitoring amyloid-beta levels inside and outside the cells. They found that levels of amyloid-beta in the treated cells were much lower than those in untreated cells.

    Conclusion: The researchers believe the compound stimulates the degradation of amyloid-beta peptides by the proteasome, a barrel-shaped multi-protein complex that can specifically digest proteins into short polypeptides and amino acids.

    That doesn't mean, however, that eating grapes will cure Alzheimer's disease.

    "It is difficult to know whether the anti-amyloidogenic effect of resveratrol observed in cell culture systems can support the beneficial effect of specific diets such as eating grapes," Marambaud said. "Resveratrol in grapes may never reach the concentrations required to obtain the effect observed in our studies. Grapes and wine however contain more than 600 different components, including well-characterized antioxidant molecules. Therefore, we cannot exclude the possibility that several compounds work in synergy with small amounts of resveratrol to slow down the progression of the neurodegenerative process in humans."

    Additional good news is that resveratrol may also be effective in fighting other human amyloid-related diseases such as Huntington's, Parkinson's and prion diseases. Studies by a group at the Institut National de la Santé et de la Recherche Médicale in Paris, France headed by Christian Néri have recently shown that resveratrol may protect neurons against amyloid-like polyglutamines, a hallmark of Huntington's disease.

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    Web site review: StarChefs.com

    This food-and-beverage site has a lot going for it, in particular its good archival service for consumers with wine questions. Its sommelier search utility allows visitors to access a variety of Q&A sessions with top-notch wine experts.

    The total Web site has, in my view, come a long way from a minimal, sometimes-stale site that it was in its formative years. In addition to an easy-to-navigate design it offers such things as "Ask the StarChefs Editorial Team Your Culinary Questions," professionals' tips for effective wine, spirits and food shopping, and a week-long menu from a chef of the week.

    Who is the site designed for? Its subtitle is "The magazine for culinary insiders," thus the links to cooking schools, industry jobs and other such information. However, there are so many buying tips, recipes, beverage details and the like that the site is of value to anyone interested in food and drink.

    By the numbers (5 the highest, 0 obviously the lowest):

    Eye Appeal (5): An attractive, professional look throughout the site.
    Content (5): Deep and broad in a variety of food and beverage categories.

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    Ottawa Wine Competition Truly Global

    OTTAWA -- Canadian winemakers took a surprising 41 medals at the annual Ottawa Wine and Food Show this week.

    Twenty-nine judges sampled more than 400 wines and awarded a total of 111 medals -- roughly evenly divided among gold, silver and bronze -- to winemakers from 11 different countries.

    The wine producers of California won 13 medals, including golds for Robert Mondavi Private Selection Pinot Noir 2003 ($19.95), Best California Red Wine; E&J Gallo Sonoma Cabernet Sauvignon 2000 ($16.95), Kendall-Jackson Vintner's Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon 2002 ($22.95) and Fetzer Zinfandel 2002 ($14.95), Best Value Red Wine.

    Silver medals went to RH Phillips Toasted Head Chardonnay 2003 ($19.95), Best California White, and a pair of California reds -- Niebaum-Coppola Claret 2002 ($29.95) and E&J Gallo Frei Ranch Zinfandel 2000 ($25.95).

    Host Canada's top medalists were Konzelmann Vidal Icewine 2004 ($44.45 for the 375ml bottle), Best of Show Sweet White Wine, and Colio Estate CEV Merlot Reserve 2002 ($24.95), Best of Show Red Wine.

    Australia won 21 medals, with the popular Yellow Tail label taking two golds, each for under-$12 reds -- Merlot 2004 and Shiraz 2004. In the mid-priced Syrah/Rhone blends category, Australia collected a gold for De Bertolli Deen Vat 8 Shiraz 2003 ($14.95).

    New Zealand garnered Best of Show Dry White Wine with Nobilo Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc 2004 ($15.40) and France on the Best Value White Wine and a gold for Yvon Mau Combard/Chardonnay 2004 ($8.50).

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    Kanonkop South Africa's Best

    LONDON -- Kanonkop Wine Estate was named South African Wine Producer of the Year at the annual International Wine and Spirits Competition held here earlier this week.

    The IWSC is the largest and most authoritative international competition for wines and spirits. More than 5,000 products from 50 countries were entered at this year's competition where various panels of wine and spirits specialists judged the wines, whiskies, brandies and other spirits on grounds of quality and technical soundness.

    Kanonkop winemaker Abrie Beeslaar (pictured) said the healthy state of the South African wine industry made Kanonkop's winning the Dave Hughes Trophy for Best South African Producer a tremendous honor.

    "South African wines and wine producers are not only increasing in quantity, but the quality of our country's wines are going from strength-to-strength," said Beeslaar.

    Apart from winning the Dave Hughes Trophy, Kanonkop's wines had a great run at this year's IWSC. The Kanonkop Pinotage 1998 won the trophy for Best Pinotage. In the South African wine class, the Estate's Paul Sauer 1998 was deemed Best in Class for Red Blends (cabernet sauvignon dominated). Kanonkop's Cabernet Sauvignon for the 1995 and 1998 vintages were also named the best wines in their respective classes.

    Kanonkop co-owner Johann Krige said, "We rely on unirrigated bush vines from the unique terroir on the slopes of Simonsberg. In the winemaking process the team sticks to the basics: open tank fermentation, maximum skin contact and use of French oak. ... The traditional techniques allows us to produce a more classical and elegant Old World style of wine."

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    The Hottest Clubs In Town

    If you're like most people who enjoy visiting new cities but don't always know where the best nightspots are located, Nightclub & Bar magazine can be of assistance.

    Here, in alphabetical order, are the magazine's Top 100 Clubs where you can find the top wine and spirits selections:

    32 Degrees, Philadelphia
    Ampersand, New Orleans
    Avalon & Spider Club, Los Angeles
    B&G Oysters Ltd., Boston
    B.B. King's Blues Club, Memphis
    Baja Sharkeez/Newman Hospitality, Manhattan Beach, CA
    Banana Joe’s, Marion, OH
    Bar Anticipation, South Belmar, NJ
    Bar Twenty 3, Nashville
    Barmuda Corp.: Becks, Coconuts, Jokers, Voodoo, Cedar Falls, IA
    Barracuda/Concept Entertain Group, Portland, OR
    Billy Bob's Texas, Fort Worth, TX
    Blue Note, New York
    Bobby McGee's, Phoenix
    Boogie Nights, Fort Lauderdale
    Café Iguana, Fort Lauderdale
    Cafe Sevilla, San Diego
    Caramel Bar and Lounge at Bellagio, Las Vegas
    Casbah/Trump Taj Mahal Casino, Atlantic City, NJ
    Catalina Bar & Grill, Hollywood, CA
    Churchill's Pub, Miami
    Club Chameleon / Chameleon Studios, Las Vegas
    Club Clau, Cincinnati
    Club Deep, Miami Beach
    Club La Vela, Panama City Beach, FL
    Copacabana, New York
    Crobar, Miami
    Crocodile Cafe, Seattle
    Dakota Jazz Club, Minneapolis
    Dave & Buster's, Dallas
    Denim, Philadelphia
    Dimitriou's Jazz Alley, Seattle
    Dream, Washington, DC
    Elements, The Lounge, Sea Bright, NJ
    Excalibur/Ala Carte Entertainment, Chicago
    GameWorks, Glendale, CA
    ghostbar (Palms Casino), Las Vegas
    Green Parrot Bar, Key West, FL
    House of Blues, Hollywood, CA
    Howl at the Moon, Covington, KY
    ICE, Las Vegas
    Infinity Room, Minneapolis
    Jazz At Pearl's, San Francisco
    Jazz Bakery, Culver City, CA
    Jillian's, Louisville, KY
    Jocks & Jills and Frankie's Sports Grill, Atlanta
    Kahunaville, Wilmington, DE
    Kells Irish Restaurant & Pub, Portland, OR
    Key Club, West Hollywood, CA
    Le Passage, Chicago
    Long Street, Columbus, OH
    Manitoba's, New York
    Marquee, New York
    Matrix, Orlando, Fl
    Maxwell's, Hoboken, NJ
    McDuffy's Sportsbar, Tempe, AZ
    Mercy Wine Bar, Addison, TX
    Metropolis, Orlando, FL
    Mickey's Hangover, Scottsdale, AZ
    Mike's Treehouse, Dallas
    NASCAR Cafe, Greensboro, NC
    Pin-Up Bowl, St. Louis
    Polly Esthers (The Danceplex), New York
    Rain In the Desert (Palms Casino)m, Las Vegas
    Raleigh Hotel/Oasis Lounge, Miami Beach
    Red Star, Houston
    Roostertail, Inc., Detroit
    Rudy's Bar and Grill, New York
    Scott Gertner's Skybar, Houston
    Senses, Memphis
    Shooters, Saginaw, MI
    Sloppy Joe's, Key West, FL
    Snug Harbor Jazz Bistro, New Orleans
    Studio 54/MGM Grand, Las Vegas
    T.J. Mulligan's, Memphis
    Tabu Ultra Lounge/MGM Grand, Las Vegas
    The Beach, Las Vegas
    The Bluebird Cafe, Nashville
    The Bosco, Ferndale, MI
    The Cafe Wha?, New York
    The Derby, Los Angeles
    The Fillmore, San Francisco
    The Funky Butt At Congo Square, New Orleans
    The Highlands, Hollywood. CA
    The Library Bar & Grill, Tempe, AZ
    The Longbranch Entertainment Complex, Raleigh, NC
    The New Crown & Anchor, Provincetown, MA
    The Polo Lounge/Beverly Hills Hotel, Beverly Hills, CA
    The Potion Lounge, New York
    The Swamp, Ft. Walton Beach, FL
    The Viper Room, Los Angeles
    The Water Tank , Austin, TX
    Tipitina's, New Orleans
    Tonic Night Club, Pontiac, MI
    Tootsies Orchid Lounge, Nashville
    Velvet, St. Louis
    Village Vanguard, New York
    Whisky A Go-Go. West Hollywood, CA
    Zeldaz Nightclub & Beachclub, Palm Springs, CA

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    I Am Woman, Hear Me Pour

    So many women are becoming the primary wine purchasers that marketers want to do a little something more to entice them. Thus, we now are seeing White Lie, a wine targeting them as a demographic sales niche.

    (Not that such a targeted drink is a totally novel idea. Four years ago an Australian company called Barramundi developed a wine brand under that name that was blatently aimed exclusively at women in the United Kingdom market. The line included chardonnay, verdelho and a cabernet/merlot.)

    Beringer Blass Wine Estates (BBWE) of California launched White Lie Early Season Chardonnay to U.S. and Canadian markets this past summer, priced under $10 a bottle.

    BBWE also produces wines under the Beringer Vineyards, Wolf Blass, Meridian Vineyards, Greg Norman Estates and Chateau St. Jean labels.

    Tracey Mason headed the all-female project team. She's BBWE's Director of Innovation, a fascinating title in itself. Says she:

    "More than 60 percent of wine drinkers are female and women buy 80 percent of the wine sold in the U.S, yet the wine industry has largely ignored them. project. "So our team started with the question: 'What do women want?' Through research, the team discovered that an astounding 80 percent of women are dissatisfied with their appearance and that 45 percent are on a diet on any given day. And because of the increased demands of career and home, women have less time than ever for themselves or their friends.

    "That was our big ’Aha!' We wanted women to feel better about themselves and their choices, realizing that often our desire to have it all means we have to give up something in return: that yummy dessert, the book we’ve been meaning to read, or just sharing a laugh with friends over a few glasses of wine. So, a wine that truly responded to today’s savvy woman has to have more than just a pretty label, it also has to be great tasting and come from a reputable winery."

    BBWE winemaker Jane Robichaud developed a technique for making the wine that involved harvesting the grapes relatively early in the picking season when they have lower brix (sugar content). The technique resulted in a wine that is low in alcohol, sugar, and calories.

    White Lie now is pushing its appeal to women by working with author Jennifer Weiner -- "a New York Times best-selling chick-lit author," as PR agent Sarah Youngbauer puts it -- to hold a short story writing contest.

    Weiner, whose work includes the novels 'Good In Bed' and "In Her Shoes,' soon to be released in theaters starring Cameron Diaz, will judge the “My White Lie” writing contest.

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    Wines That Travel Well

    Wine lovers usually have scouted out the best spots in their own backyard, but what about when they're on the road?

    There are plenty of guides around, but we find the annual awards given by Wine Spectator magazine are as reliable as any. Each year, the editors of the magazine make awards in three categories -- Grand Award, Best of Award of Excellence, and Award of Excellence. The complete list of 3,606 restaurants is available in the Aug. 31 issue, but we've extracted a list of the best state by state and around the world.

    Here are the winners of the 2005 Grand Awards. Note there are just 86 of them, and any state or country not listed has no Grand Award winners this time around.

    Arizona - Anthony's in the Catalinas, in Tucson; Mary Elaine's at The Phoenician Resort, in Scottsdale.

    California - Cafe Tiramisu, Restaurant Michael Mina, The Carnelian Room, Rubicon, Restaurant Gary Danko, in San Francisco; The Chef's Table, in Fresno; Club XIX, in Pebble Beach; Grasing's, Casanova, El Paseo, on Mill Valley; Marinus, in Carmel Valley; Restaurant 301 at The Hotel Carter, in Eureka; The Sardine Factory, in Monterey; Sierra Mar on Big Sur, in Carmel; Horseshoe Bar Grill, in Roseville; The Restaurant at Domaine Chandon, in Yountville; Zibbibo, in Palo Alto; Patino, in Los Angeles; Il Grano, in West Los Angeles; Osetra the Fishhouse, in San Diego; Cuistot, in Palm Desert; Valentino, in Santa Monica; The Winesellar & Brasserie, in San Diego; The Cellar, in Fullerton; Wine Cask, in Santa Barbara.

    Colorado - The Keystone Ranch Restaurant, in Keystone; Ruth's Chris Steak House, in Denver; Zach's Cabin, in Avon; Flagstaff House, in Boulder.

    District of Columbia - Galileo da Roberto Donna.

    Florida - Bern's Steak House, in Tampa; L'Escalier at the Florentine Room, in Palm Beach.

    Illinois - Charlie Trotter's, in Chicago; Carlos' Restaurant, in Highland Park.

    Louisiana - Brennan's, Emeril's, in New Orleans.

    Massachusetts - The Federalist, in Boston; Silks at Stonehedge Inn, in Tyngsboro; Topper's at The Wauwinet, in Nantucket.

    Missouri - JJ's, in Kansas City.

    Nevada - Aureole, Delmonico Steakhouse, Piero Selvaggio Valentino, Picasso, in Las Vegas.

    New Mexico - Billy Crew's Dining Room, in Santa Teresa.

    New York - Alain Ducasse at The Essex House, Cru, Daniel, Feledia Ristorante, Montrachet, Tribeca Grill, '21' Club, Veritas, in New York City; The American Hotel, in Sag Harbor; Crabtree's Kittle House Inn, in Chappaqua; Friends Lake Inn, in Chestertown; .

    North Carolina - The Angus Barn, in Raleigh.

    Vermont - The Inn at Sawmill Farm, in West Dover.

    Virginia - The Inn at Little Washington, Washington.

    Washington - Canlis, Seattle.


    Canada - Sooke Harbour House, in Sooke; Opus Restaurant on Prince Arthur, in Toronto; Via Allegro Ristorante, in Etobicoke; Bistro a Champlain, in Marguertie du Lac Masson.

    Anguilla - Malliouhana Restaurant, in Meads Bay.

    Bahamas - Graycliff, in Nassau.

    France - Alain Ducasse au Plaza Athenee, La Tour d'Argent, Le Cinq, Michel Rostant, Taillevent, in Paris; Troisgros, in Roanne; Au Crocodile, in Strasbourg.

    Germany - Restaurant Jorg Muller, in Sylt-Westerland.

    Italy - Bottega del Vino, in Verona; Enoteca Pinchiorri, in Florence; Guido Ristorante, in Bra; Il Poeta a Contadino, in Alberobello; La Pergola, inn Rome.

    Japan - Enoteca Pinchiorri, in Tokyo.

    Macao - Robuchon a Galera.

    Monaco - Le Louis XV - Alain Ducasse.

    Singapore - Les Amis.

    Spain - Atrio, in Caceras.

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    Wining and Dining in Adirondack Luxury

    Photo by William M. Dowd

    LAKE GEORGE, NY -- The topography around Lake George masks as much as it reveals.

    Once past the fetching garishness of Lake George Village heading toward Bolton Landing on Route 9N -- the winding, tree-lined road locally known as Lake Shore Drive, you'll find a hodgepodge of log cabin guest colonies, Adirondack-style lodges and private homes existing cheek-by-jowl.

    They are the obvious. But down the hills that slope to the exquisite lake are several former mansions converted over the years to guest lodging, the remnants of a level of luxury once commonly referred to here as Millionaire's Row.

    Take the Queen Anne-style stone structure built in 1898 for Brooklyn lawyer Edward Morse Shepard as a lakeside vacation retreat. Once patrons navigate down a steep, winding drive, the formerly hidden three-story edifice looms into view.

    This is the Inn at Erlowest.

    It has gone by various names bestowed by various owners -- Erlowest, Leffingwell Palace, Sunset Castle and back to Erlowest when it came under the ownership of David and Cheryl Kenny last summer.

    There are many gems here, from rolling lawns to a lakeview veranda to a library-style bar and four dining rooms.

    Those rooms are studies in elegance -- coffered ceilings, rich draperies, small avian sculptures on the casement window sills and sparkling Spiegelau glassware on the tables.

    But it is what goes on in the kitchen under chef Matthew Secich that makes Erlowest a wonder.

    Secich is an eclectic Ohioan whose background includes time as a college lacrosse player and a U.S. Army cavalry scout as well as a student and a chef at various stops in the United States, France and England. Don't try to pigeonhole his style. He works on whim and the availability of local food supplies.

    "In the kitchen," he says, "we use no recipes. I draw a picture and we create a new dish."

    There are several ways of seeing those creations: two separate seven-course tasting menus ($79 per person) and an a la carte list, all of which change daily, or a special session in The Chef's Table Room adjacent to the kitchen where Secich gives vent to his creative flow through 8 to 12 courses ($129 per person).

    Constant Companion and I had selected the vegetable tasting menu (the a la carte menu and the grand tasting include meat and fish items), with a $55 wine pairing option.

    Erlowest's 264-label wine list contains a wide selection that runs the gamut in price and vintage from a 1961 Chateau Margaux ($2,770) to a 2002 Houchart Cotes de Provence ($20). Between those extremes are nearly 100 labels priced below $100.

    Even though tastings allow for only small amounts of wine, in this case the add-on is worth the experience. Chef Secich and his staff have done an exemplary job in marrying their produce with excellent vintages.

    After an amuse bouche of julienned Gorgonzola and apple and diced shallot, we were on to the seven tiny tastings, each exquisitely arranged on different shaped platters and serving pieces, each with a taste of its own wine.

    A velvety chilled pea soup was dotted with a small scoop of chocolate mint ice cream -- not the ice cream store flavoring, but the chocolate mint herb -- and paired with a cleansing, nonvintage Gaston-Chiquet brut champagne.

    Vegetables a la Provencal avoided the cliche tomato-garlic-oregano combination, thanks to the inclusion of licorice-like fennel and a taste of a sweet 2003 Domaine Pastou Sancerre from France's Loire Valley.

    Our third course was an elegant arrangement of miniscule wild strawberries and reed-slender wild asparagus shoots with a balsamic drizzle, abetted by a crisp 2003 Olivier Leflaive St. Aubin 1er Cru white Burgundy.

    The second portion of the meal was heartier, with rich, full-bodied wines that would go just as well with meat dishes.

    A quartet of fingerling potatoes was roasted in salt, split and stuffed with Reblochon -- a French cheese made from whole, unpasteurized milk -- then dabbed with wilted spinach. It was paired with a 2000 La Braccesca Montepulciano, carrying red fruit and licorice notes.

    Then came a trio of savory mushroom mixes that obviated any need for meat, the tender chanterelles, trumpet royals and mousserons paired with an inky-red Mas de Gourgonnier Reserve Les Baux de Provence, powerful with black cherry notes.

    A cleansing finish came from two elements: a salad of spring baby lettuces with Blue Ledge chevre and a vaguely, but pleasingly, astringent 2001 Domaine Jean-Luc Dubois Clos Margot white Burgundy; then, a strawberry soup dotted with a touch of fiddlehead fern ice cream and joined by a 2003 La Spinetta Moscato d'Asti, a low-alcohol little bubbly that completed the beverage circle.

    Secich is a clever kitchen artist with a young staff who may not know it, but they are getting the training of a lifetime.

    Since this report was written, Secich resigned from Erlowest to venture elsewhere. He has been succeeded by his very capable No. 2, Ray Bohmer, who continues the Secich-style menu.

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    Experiencing Abundance in Napa

    NAPA, CA -- To the outsider, the Napa Valley image is wall-to-wall grapes. To anyone traversing the valley on Route 29 or the parallel Silverado Trail, that is merely part of the inventory.

    The moderate climate, affected by low mountains on either side and by the narrow Napa River that meanders through the cleft, nurtures brilliant clumps of lilies, oleander and roses, as well as stands of camphor, valley oak, cedar, magnolia and olive trees.

    Despite its relatively diminutive size -- 30 miles long and one to five miles wide -- the Napa Valley's undulating topography creates a series of microclimates. Temperatures can differ by 10 or more degrees from one end to the other.

    Swaths of browned-out vegetation form the floor of the woods and fields, in marked contrast to the deep blue-greens and brilliant emeralds of the numerous copses of trees dotting the landscape from this little city at the valley's southern edge to the village of Calistoga and its mineral and mud baths up north.

    In February and March, the valley gets its share of precipitation. In summer and early autumn, rain is so rare the natives can tell you on what day in what year they last recall seeing a downpour.

    "It was five years ago, on Aug. 16 ... No, it was on the 15th," the noted wine writer Dan Berger told a couple of visitors over breakfast one day. "Just enough to really be a pain."

    Clever viniculture methods and irrigation systems have nevertheless made this spot an hour's drive northeast of San Francisco arguably America's premier wine producing area.

    Such popular names as Robert Mondavi, Beringer, Stags Leap, Louis Martini, Chimney Rock, Franciscan, Coppola, Domaine Chandon and Sterling are among the 200 wineries in operation today, marked by their distinctive main-building architecture that ranges from Victorian farmhouse to French chateau to Tuscan villa to the "Star Wars" look of Mondavi's Opus One operation across the road from its main fields.

    The valley's growing tourist popularity has fueled the rebirth of Napa, the anchor city of 53,000, and made the region home to such hospitality industry facilities as the Culinary Institute of America's West Coast branch, opened in 1995 in the former Greystone Cellars complex near the village of St. Helena.

    Perhaps the most unusual facility in the valley, however, is something called COPIA, named for the Roman goddess of abundance who carried a cornucopia, the horn of plenty. The capitalization of its name serves to underscore that.

    COPIA's subtitle is "The American Center for Wine, Food & The Arts." It's a not-for-profit cultural center and museum that has been open to the public less than two years. But, it got its start in 1988 when the legendary vintner Robert Mondavi and other Napa community leaders began kicking around the idea of a place to honor and explore the culinary and wine- making arts.

    In 1996, Mondavi donated a 12-acre parcel of land in the city of Napa plus $20 million of the $55 million startup funding. The next year, Peggy Loar, who had been president of the United States International Council of Museums, was hired as director and began putting together her staff.

    COPIA includes sprawling herb, flower and tree gardens, as well as several restaurants in the 80,000-square-foot building on the banks of an oxbow bend in the Napa River.

    Daphne L. Derven, a native of Schenectady, NY, and a graduate of Skidmore College in Saratoga Springs, NY, is the curator of food and assistant director for programs.

    "We're a non-collecting museum," she said, "and that keeps us on our toes to continually come up with new ways to educate and entertain our visitors.

    "We've had showings of extensive collections of wine glasses over the years, for example, and right now we have 'Eating and Drinking in Splendor,' a collection of Georgian silver tableware and artifacts on display through the end of September."

    Derven spent several decades as an archeologist in the field, with a particular interest in the impact of food on culture and vice-versa. Her experience is put to use in helping create the displays and programs at COPIA.

    "It's a wonderful way of blending my years in the field with my institutional interests to help the public enjoy a visit," she said.

    In addition to exhibition and event space, the center, open year-round, has many clever ways of appealing to visitors of all ages. The programs, guests and styles of entertainment are geared toward virtually any demographic group.

    Formal or self-guided walking tours in the extensive herb and vegetable gardens -- home to an amazing 100 kinds of tomatoes and 40 kinds of lavender, for example -- show how the institution helps keep heirloom plant species alive.

    Celebrity appearnces for book signings and demonstrations are commonplace, most recently from the likes of famed chef Jacques Pepin, TV's "Naked Chef" Jamie Oliver, and the iconic Julia Child, for whom one of the public restaurants here is named.

    A fair-weather outdoor concert series offers music from salsa to West African to zydeco to New Age. Films in the "Friday Night Flicks" series range from French comedies to war zone documentaries to Tunisian belly dancing.

    Wine tastings, beer tastings, food sampling and open displays that offer foodstuffs to sniff, feel and look at help explain why people's reactions to the same substances vary wildly.

    COPIA may be in the heart of California wine country, but its venue is the world. Many visitors take full advantage of being plopped down in the middle of this temple dedicated to the senses.

    A long, winding staircase leads from the first-floor atrium space to a floor divided among a formal exhibition of pre-Christianity wine vessels from Iran, an open- space display of turn-of-the-20th Century advertising artwork extolling the virtues of California products, and -- the most popular of all -- a large walled-off area called "Forks In the Road: Food, Wine and the American Table."

    That's where kids and adults alike tend to flock when they're not involved in some formal program, lecture or film. It's a hands-on area replete with exhibits of cooking vessels, short films, electronic quiz stations sure to please youngsters reared on Xboxes, even a film loop splicing together famous movie mealtime scenes.

    Want to hear oral histories of ethnic food in America, cooking for the military, making wine at home? Interested in the rise of convenience foods? It's all here. Visitors also can hear classic food songs, test their sense of smell, try to identify strange kitchen gadgets. They also can contribute their own thoughts on current topics in food, or share food-related stories which will be recorded.

    Curious which states have wineries? They all do, now, and an interactive display lets you select which ones you want to know about.

    The one trait all humans share is the need for food and drink. At COPIA, its history and its present are celebrated and experienced, going well beyond the struggle for survival to the exultation of the senses.


    Official COPIA site

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    In Vino Veritas, And Advice

    If you find it intimidating to talk to the wine experts at certain wine shops and restaurants, you may eventually be able to ignore them and go right to the horse's mouth. Well, the bottle's mouth is more like it.

    Reuters news service tells us of a new Italian company that plans to unveil later this year a microchip-embedded bottle that will tell would-be consumer everything they need to know about what's inside -- lineage, pricing, food pairing, etc.

    Company owner Daniele Barontini said the chip is activated by a device about the size of a cigarette pack and "it could tell you ... everything you'd hear from a sommelier."

    On the Book Shelf -- Carb-conscious drinkers may want to check out a new book called "The Low-Carb Bartender: Carb Counts for Beer, Wine, Mixed Drinks and More" (Adams Media, $9.95). We'll save you the money if you only want to know the bottom line: Virtually all distilled beverages have zero carbs, or close to it.

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    Jim Beam Wines & Other Notes

    Consumers certainly aren't used to thinking "Jim Beam" when they think about wine. That, however is going to change.

    Jim Beam Brands Worldwide (JBB) has named Bill Newlands head of its U.S. wine business which will be greatly expanded following the completion of the acquisition of Allied Domecq’s U.S. wine operations from Pernod Ricard. Ricard is taking over all aspects of Allied Domecq, which will go out of existence.

    The move is a natural, since Newlands currently runs Allied Domecq USA Wines, which will bring such brands as Clos du Bois, Buena Vista, William Hill and Gary Farrell to the JBB fold. JBB already has a wine division, Peak Wines International, which has the Geyser Peak, Canyon Road and Wild Horse brands.

    Horse Heaven Appellation -- The State of Washington has created its seventh vinicultural area, commonly known as an appellation. It's on the north slope of the Columbia River, locally known as Horse Heaven Hills. Washington is the nation's second-largest producer of wine, after California. It has more than 300 wineries, 300 wine grape growers and 30,000 vineyard acres. The Horse Heaven Hills is located above the only sea-level passage through the Cascade Mountains.

    Too Much of a Good Thing -- A bumper crop usually is cause for celebration in the agricultural world. Not in France. Its wine industry has had trouble marketing all of last year's wine. Now, grape growers are predicting a bumper crop that will put more pressure on winemakers to sell their products.

    On the Bookshelf -- Wine Adventure, billed as the first wine magazine targeting women, now is on store shelves. It features articles on wine destinations, food and wine pairings, lifestyle, wine and cooking schools, and wine paraphrnelia. Michele Ostrove is the editor of the bi-monthly publication.

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    U.S. wine market comes of age

    Photo by William M. Dowd

    The American wine-buying public has, in large measure, matured beyond the "If it's French, it must be good" and "To be good, it must be expensive" mind-set.

    It was merely a matter of time. The veritable flood of wine pouring forth today from an ever-increasing number of foreign producers makes comparisons inevitable. Now, buying choices often are made on nuances, not old strictures like red-with-meat, white-with-fish.

    And as the old guard became outnumbered, wines from South America, South Africa and southeast Australia no longer are automatically rejected by the wine cognoscenti. Every variety from everywhere now gets a trial.

    "Wine is slowly becoming part of American day-to-day life, rather than a special-occasion affair. And while we aren't yet at the point of stepping up to a hose, grass-roots acceptance is growing for 'boxed wines' or 'quality cask wines' as they are variously called," said Richard Kinssies, an instructor at the Seattle Culinary Academy and director of the Seattle Wine School in Washington state.

    Most industry sales figures for 2004 still are being compiled, but all indications are that they will surpass those of 2003, when U.S. wine consumption hit an all-time high. That year, according to the Adams Wine Handbook, consumption rose 5.2 percent to nearly three gallons per adult.

    Americans drank a record 258.3 million 9-liter cases of wine in 2003. That extended a decade-long increase in all categories of wine, with the exception of wine coolers, which dropped off around 1990 and never regained their prior popularity.

    The reverse may seem to be true in New York, in which all categories of alcoholic beverage sales by volume showed a drop in the seven-month period ending October 2004 compared with the same period a year earlier, according to Beverage Media magazine: still wines down 2.14 percent, sparkling wines down 0.96 percent, beer down 5.2 percent, liquor down 2.16 percent. However, more money is being spent than ever, so the drop-off in volume seems to indicate people are spending more for what they do purchase.

    Nationwide, overall sales of imported wines -- up 11.3 percent in 2003 versus 2004, according to some early industry estimates -- have been outpacing domestics, up 3.4 percent. The domestic rise may not necessarily be a result of harder marketing pushes or better products. Availability is a big factor. Even though there now are wineries in every state, many foreign wine conglomerates have much greater production capacity. That and continual education of the consuming public -- through more wine coverage in newspapers, magazines and on TV lifestyle and food shows -- helps demystify wine and its complex jargon.

    Prices for Australian and New Zealand wines, a glut on the lower-priced market with such ubiquitous brands as Yellow Tail, are down to the $10-or-less range on many bottles, so they're becoming the "house wine" in many homes. Chilean and Argentine wines are making more and more inroads as well, and the French, Italian, German and Spanish labels are struggling at certain price points here.

    However, there are many exceptions to these general trends. At the Saratoga Wine Exchange in Saratoga Springs, NY, for example, California and New York wines were 1-2 in gross dollar sales last year, ranking ahead of French, Italian and Australian, in that order.

    "We have a tendency to concentrate on higher-end wines, so even when the number of bottles sold goes down, revenue can go up," said owner Josh Hiebel. "You have to sell a lot of Yellow Tail to make up for a $500 bottle of rare collectible French wine."

    Wine merchants rarely have to persuade customers these days to try something beyond the one-time French and German standards. Instead, they have to struggle to keep pace with the stunning array of possibilities to stay competitive.

    So how does a wine seller wade through the available stock to find what might appeal to his or her customers?

    "You educate your palate on a regular basis," said Craig Allen, owner of All Star Wine & Spirits in Latham, NY. "We just had a tasting of 600 wines up at Longfellows," a Saratoga Springs restaurant. "The number is staggering, but you're best off if you don't look at prices when you first taste. You have to get to know what a good cabernet or pinot or whatever might be. Once you can tell that in a blind tasting, then you can start figuring out what price range a particular wine will be worth to your customers."

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    NY Breaks Ground for Wine Center

    Photo by William M. Dowd

    CANANDAIGUA, NY -- Call it Copia Lite if you like, but if the movers and shakers behind the New York Wine & Culinary Center project for which ground was broken on Aug. 10 are correct, you'll be comparing it to the Napa Valley, CA, food and wine institution before long.

    The plan is to construct and open the center by early summer of 2006, an ambitious target for the $7 million project being financed by $2 million in state funding and the rest from various private funds. The center will be located on the shore of Canandaigua Lake and will serve as a gateway to the state's wine, food and agricultural areas.

    Gov. George E. Pataki (at the center of the photo during the ceremonial groundbreaking), who recently announced he will not seek another term, was on hand for the event.

    "From North Country apples to Long Island wine, the New York Wine and Culinary Center will be a celebration of New York's agriculture and its many offerings," he Pataki said. "We are proud to be a partner in this tremendous effort that will showcase New York's rich abundance of outstanding food and wine products and our agricultural heritage in this new state-of-the-art facility located right here in the heart of the Finger Lakes."

    The major private backers are Constellation Brands, the locally0headquarterd company that is the world's largest manufacturer and distributor of alcoholic beverages; Wegman's Food Markets, a Western New York chain, and Rochester Institute of Technology's Hospitality and Service Management School.

    The mission of the Center will be to foster knowledge in the wine, agriculture and culinary arts industries across New York State. To do so, the Center will offer hands-on courses in culinary science; interactive exhibits on New York State agriculture, foods and wines; demonstration space; and a live garden outside of the building.

    The 15,000 square-foot facility will include a tasting room with a rotating selection of wines from New York's major regions (Niagara/Lake Erie, Finger Lakes, Hudson Valley and Long Island), a wine and tapas bar for light meals and wine-and-food pairings, a theater-style demonstration kitchen, a training kitchen for hands-on cooking classes, and industrial kitchens for credited culinary classes and corporate training. It also will house the offices of the New York Wine and Grape Foundation.

    Said state Agriculture Commissioner Nathan L. Rudgers, "New York is an agricultural powerhouse. So much of our present culture, achievements and local community development are derived from agriculture that it is important to educate and promote the importance of this industry. The Center will highlight our wine and agricultural products, agri-tourism and focus on developing value-added products."

    Agriculture is one of New York's most vital industries, encompassing 25 percent of the state's landscape and generating more than $3.6 billion last year. It has 7.6 million acres of farmland with 36,000 farms and is the nation's third-largest wine-producing state after California and Oregon.

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