Saturday, June 14, 2008


This is the Temple of Bacchus located in the Lebanese city of Baalbeck, dating back 5000 years.


The Booze Bibbing Order of Bácchus


Youthful exuberance lifts U.S. wine industry

The great news for the U.S. wine industry is that young Americans are drinking copious amounts of wine. The no-so-great news is that they are a fickle lot.

Vintners -- even those in the most established wine regions like California's Napa Valley -- say they have to work hard to get their attention and bring about brand loyalty. Making great wine does not suffice.

"They choose their wines based on newer projects, the hip "in" names, the things that are different, a unique story," said Wesley Steffens, 31, who manages his family's new Vineyard 7 & 8 winery on the hills over Napa Valley.

Wine consumption in the United States has risen each year for the past 14 years and the fastest growing segment of drinkers today is the "Millennial Generation" -- those who started reaching adulthood around the year 2000.

Vintner Kathleen Heitz Myers, president of long-time Napa Valley winery Heitz Cellars, said this tech-savvy generation "doesn't want to be told what to drink."

"They like to do the research themselves on the Internet," she said as she chaired Napa's famous wine auction weekend earlier this month.


The United States is expected to overtake France as the No. 1 world wine consumer in the short term. And although France has much higher per capita consumption, young people there are drinking less wine and more spirits.

"The Millennials started with these extreme value wines, like 'Two Buck Chuck' ($2 Charles Shaw wine), that were supposed to kill the business, but hasn't killed it at all," said Garen Staglin, who owns the high-end winery Staglin Family Vineyard.

"Instead of starting out drinking beer in college, people are starting out drinking wine in college."

Even with his winery's established clout, Staglin tries to appeal to the new generation of drinkers by offering them "the experience" -- like tours at his hillside estate where the movie "The Parent Trap," starring Linsday Lohan, was filmed.

Judd Finkelstein's family has been making Napa wine for a few decades and gave him the label "Judd's Hill" to run. He jokes that his parents put his name on the wine just to keep him engaged in the family business.

"The marketplace and industry have changed so much," said Finkelstein, 36. "We don't quite have the brand loyalty among consumers. I find myself being out and about a lot more."

Finkelstein organizes events at the winery with live music and has a national barbecue champ on his staff cook up meals.

"There is a new energy," he said. "Usually I am in Hawaiian shirts and I've got my ukulele and we try to have a lot of fun around the winery."

But there is also a serious side to the youthful wine imbibing.

"There are a lot of young wine drinkers nowadays who are starting to be the next generation of collectors," said Vineyard 7 & 8's Steffens.

Mary Milliken

Chilean Wine Associations Vinnova S.A. & Tecnovid S.A. Sign Wine Accord with the University of California, Davis to Study Sustainability, Wine Flavors

Today the premier wine research organizations of Chile, Vinnova S.A. and Tecnovid S.A., and the Department of Viticulture and Enology of the University of California, Davis, signed an accord to conduct joint studies on sustainability, energy efficiency, green winemaking, wine flavors and phenolics, as well as the economics of the wine industry. The President of Chile, Michele Bachelet, Governor of California, Arnold Schwarzenegger, and the Chancellor of the University of California, Davis, Larry Vanderhoef attended the ceremony.

Chile is one of the leading wine producers in the world and is currently the fifth largest exporter to the United States. The agreement brings together Vinnova S.A. and Tecnovid S.A., (established by the Universidad de Chile, the Pontificia Universidad Catolica de Chile, the Universidad de Talca, the Universidad Tecnico Federico Santa Maria, and the Universidad de Concepcion) with the Department of Viticulture and Enology of the University of California, Davis - one of the premier wine research centers in the world. The central valley of Chile and northwestern coast of the United States, ranging from northern California to Washington State, share similar climactic conditions and principal grapes varieties grown, and can benefit from sharing best practices and joint research.

Rafael Guilisasti, President of Vinnova, S.A., Patricio Middleton, President of Tecnovid S.A., and Neal Van Alfen, Dean of the College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences, University of California, Davis, signed the accord. The Chilean delegation also included the Chilean Ambassador to the United States, Mariano Fernandez, and Rene Merino, President of Wines of Chile. Ambassador Fernandez is one of the foremost Chilean wine experts and is a member of the Academie International du Vin, Cofradia del Merito Vitivinicola de Chile, as well as the Honorary President of the Chilean Association of Sommeliers. Mr. Merino leads the association of Chilean wineries, Wines of Chile, and is also President of Casa Tamaya, a winery located in Chile's Limari Valley.

"This partnership between Vinnova, S.A., Tecnovid, S.A. and the University of California, Davis will produce globally important knowledge and practical applications to address some of the most critical issues facing the wine industry today," said Mr. Merino. "The evolution of winemaking calls for greater attention to sustainable winemaking practices as energy usage, carbon footprints and climate change take on greater importance."

This accord signals the next phase in Chile's long history of working with the top oenologists and winemakers in the world, beginning in the mid 19th century when rootstocks were brought to the South American country from Bordeaux. Economic liberalization in the late 1980s gave way to a rebirth of international wine research, investment and wine partnerships in Chile with top wineries from Napa, Bordeaux, Spain, Italy, and Australia. In the 1990s Chile imported more winemaking technology than any other wine producing country. With a greater understanding of Chilean terroir in new winemaking regions, and the rediscovery of Carmenere, the diversity and quality of Chilean wines has improved dramatically. Today Chile produces critically acclaimed Cabernet Sauvignon, Carmenere, red blends and Sauvignon Blanc, among other varietals.

Following the ceremony, a toast was lead by President Bachelet and Chancellor Vanderhoef with Chilean and California wines. The Chancellor hosted a luncheon at his residence for the Chilean and California delegations. The menu featured Chilean Sea Bass and Sauvignon Blanc from the Casablanca and Leyda Valleys in Chile.

Wines of Chile


The International Organization for Vine and Wine (OIV) forecasts that the Southern Hemisphere will grow 5% to 51.4 million hectoliters in 2008. They expect a rise in the Southern Hemisphere's share of world wine exports to almost 25%. Key markets include the U.S., Britain and Germany.

Production growth is helped by "aggressive marketing," according to the report. Some Chilean producers are even molding their wines to appeal to the U.S. palate, as consumption in the U.S. steadily rises.

Wine & Spirits Daily

German inspectors find glycerine in Italian and Spanish wine

Koblenz, Germany - German inspectors have seized nearly 3 million litres of wine from Italy and Spain in the past year because it contained added glycerine, a food-safety agency said Friday.

The wine, including sparkling wine, has been brought to the German state of Rhineland Palatinate for blending with other wines.

Added industrial glycerine is harmless to drinkers, but is not allowed under wine-purity rules. It makes wine taste better.

Staff of the state food inspections service in Koblenz said the wine had been discovered during routine checks of the consignments.

At a single winery near the western city of Trier, 1.7 million litres of sparking wine intended for use as a base had been seized.

Deutsche Press

The Chronicle Wine Selections: California Red Bordeaux-Style Blends

France's traditional Bordeaux region red grapes - Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Malbec and Petit Verdot - have made it big in other parts of the world, including California. When referring to wines made from Bordeaux grapes, the term "claret" is often used in the United Kingdom, but is seen less frequently on U.S. bottlings. To confuse things further in the United States, the term "Meritage" - which rhymes with heritage - was created in 1988 by the Meritage Association, a group of vintners who wanted to differentiate their special Bordeaux blends from more generic-sounding "red table wine."

A red Meritage is a blend of two or more of the five major red Bordeaux grapes mentioned above, along with Carmenere, Gros Verdot and St. Macaire. No single variety can make up more than 90 percent.

When two or more of these grape varieties are blended, the resulting wine can be varietally labeled in the United States as long as it contains at least 75 percent of the predominant grape. For example, a wine made with 88 percent Cabernet Sauvignon, 7 Cabernet Franc and 5 Merlot can be labeled Cabernet Sauvignon, but occasionally wineries choose to give a proprietary name to their blends, especially if all grape varieties are less than 75 percent.

We tasted 75 proprietarily named California Bordeaux-style blends after excluding many that were varietally labeled or included non-Bordeaux grapes like Syrah or Zinfandel. Most were 2005s and 2004s with a few from the 2006 and 2003 vintages, though all had to be the current and most recent release.

We liked a greater number of the 2004s, which began as a moderately warm vintage that had late summer heat spikes that pushed an early, high-quality harvest with less-than-normal yield. The 2004 fruit was very ripe due to the heat, but maintained acidity. Our favorite 2004s, while showing plenty of dark fruit, have the tannic structure and balance to carry it.

Conversely, the cooler 2005 vintage had greater yields - about 10 to 15 percent more than normal - and less ripeness than 2004. Slower ripening also often contributes complexity and more fruit tannin. Though we recommend fewer 2005s, three of our top wines are from this vintage.

Very good California red Bordeaux-style blends are readily available. While quality depends much on the vintage, equal measure rests on the work of the wine's vintner and winemaker.

Rating: TWO STARS 2005 Chappellet Napa Valley Mountain Cuvee ($26) Winemaker Phillip Corallo-Titus blends Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and a little Petit Verdot. Slight floral and cinnamon hints boost juicy plum, cherry and pencil lead aromas. More layering on palate with bright acidity and grippy tannins nicely wrapped up in vanilla mocha.

Rating: THREE STARS 2005 Chimney Rock Elevage Stags Leap District Red Wine ($78) A blend of Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Petit Verdot, this well-fruited wine is dense and balanced. Ripe blackberry, boysenberry, mocha and caramel notes are backed with requisite acidity; lovely structure for aging, with velvety smooth tannins. Very approachable for immediate enjoyment.

Rating: TWO AND A HALF STARS 2004 Clos du Bois Marlstone Alexander Valley ($50) First made in 1978, this wine is crafted by winemaker Erik Olsen and aged in 97 percent new French oak barriques. Luscious black plum, fresh red cherry, spice and a subtle gravelly note on the nose; piquant blackberry, subtle toast and a warm sappiness on the palate with tea notes. Ends with fine gentle grip and long, bright finish. Very food-friendly. (69 percent Cabernet Sauvignon, 22 Merlot, 2 Cabernet Franc, 4 Malbec, 3 Petit Verdot)

Rating: TWO AND A HALF STARS 2005 Dominus Estate Napanook Napa Valley Red Wine ($39) Christian Moueix intends for this wine - the just-released 10th vintage made from Napanook Vineyard grapes - to be enjoyed in the near term. High-toned chamomile, black raspberry, cedar, toasted sesame seed, slight brioche and mint chocolate aromas. Medium-bodied palate with bright huckleberry and dark plum skin on the lengthy finish; slightly firm tannins. (76 percent Cabernet Sauvignon, 14 Cabernet Franc, 10 Petit Verdot)

Rating: TWO STARS 2004 Dry Creek Vineyard the Mariner Dry Creek Valley Red Wine Meritage ($40) The wine's label features a quote from Henry Wadsworth Longfellow's "The Secret of the Sea." Rather "tarted up" in the words of one taster, with flashy oak and vanilla, a slight smokiness and lingering berry notes on the nose. Deep fruit flavors, sweet blackberry, toast, lingering cinnamon and a broad mouthful of tannins on the finish. (46 percent Cabernet Sauvignon, 40 Merlot, 6 Malbec, 5 Cabernet Franc, 3 Petit Verdot)

Rating: TWO STARS 2005 Franciscan Magnifcat Napa Valley ($50) Named after Johann Sebastian Bach's "Magnificat in D," this was one of the earliest blends - first created in 1985 by Agustin Huneeus - that would later be recognized under the category of Meritage or Bordeaux-style wines. Aromas and flavors of black cherry, vanilla, spice, pencil lead, cracked pepper, plum and cassis; good acidity, slightly astringent orange zest finish, lingering tannins. Releases in August. (73 percent Cabernet Sauvignon, 23 Merlot, 2 Malbec, 1 Petit Verdot, 1 Cabernet Franc)

Rating: TWO AND A HALF STARS 2006 Hahn Estates Meritage Central Coast Red Table Wine ($20) Winemaker Adam LaZarre chose Merlot from cool-climate Santa Lucia Highlands Deer Valley Vineyard for this blend. Earthy nose with a touch of barnyard, plus overlying dusty blackberry, cherry, bright spice and dried herb. A sweet kick of ripe cherry-berry flavors with gentle toasty oak spice and attractive, moderately grippy finish. Good value. (33 percent Merlot, 30 Cabernet Sauvignon, 19 Petit Verdot, 11 Cabernet Franc, 7 Malbec)

Rating: TWO STARS 2004 Ironstone Vineyards Calaveras County Reserve Meritage Red Wine ($45) This waine, with fruit harvested from the Kautz family estate vineyards, was aged in underground caverns. Gravel hints, black licorice, tobacco and oak surround the core of roasted black fruit with raspberry highlights. Tart blackberry, nuanced tannins and minerally texture on the finish. (80 percent Cabernet Sauvignon, 8 Merlot, 7 Cabernet Franc, 5 Petit Verdot)

Rating: TWO AND A HALF STARS 2004 Merryvale Profile Napa Valley ($125) This is Merryvale's flagship Bordeaux blend that is aged 18 months in oak and bottled unfiltered. Ripe black fruit with candied vanilla bonbon, iron-rich soil and hints of mint on nose. Flavors of dense blackberry and a touch of oregano, with a lifted, mineral-driven finish that dries a bit but has an earthy expression.

Rating: THREE STARS 2005 Quintessa Rutherford Red Wine ($135) Winemaker Charles Thomas - with assistance from consultants Aaron Pott and Michel Rolland - produced this wine from the estate's biodynamic and organically farmed vineyards. A lovely, complex nose with spicy plum, dusty berry, earth and dried fennel hints. Lively palate has concentrated dark fruit, cassis and vanilla supported by terrific structure. Balanced and refined. (Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet Franc and Petit Verdot)

Rating: TWO AND A HALF STARS 2004 Right Bank Napa Valley Red Wine ($80) This wine from Lang and Reed Wine Co. - made of 53 percent Cabernet Franc and 30 Merlot with 9 Petit Verdot and 8 Cabernet Sauvignon - was inspired by a trip to St. Emillion, which owner-winemaker John Skupny and co-owner Tracey Skupny took almost 30 years ago. Understated nose with floral perfume and loam that has a nuanced lift. Flavors of brambly berry, ripe cherry, cassis, blueberry and sweet toast. Expressive.

Rating: TWO AND A HALF STARS 2005 Robert Sinskey Vineyards POV Napa Valley Red Wine ($38) Winemaker Jeff Virnig crafts POV from Robert Sinskey Vineyards' point of view - with organic, biodynamically farmed grapes receiving minimal manipulation - which is how the wine received its name. Aromas and flavors of dark fruit: plum, blackberry and cassis, plus overlying tilled-soil earthiness and herb notes. Full-bodied on the palate, with fig-raspberry compote and a lovely tart-ish berry acidity; fine tannins on the lengthy finish.

Rating: TWO STARS 2004 Rosenthal The Malibu Estate Malibu-Newton Canyon Meritage Red Wine ($75) George Rosenthal planted his 250-acre estate vineyard in 1987 in a valley 4 miles from the coast. This third vintage is made from 50 percent Cabernet Franc, 30 Cabernet Sauvignon, 18 Merlot and 2 Petit Verdot. Nicely fruited nose with smoky dry wood, cedar, mineral notes and hints of oregano; fresh sweet tart plum on the tart palate, which shows some alcoholic heat on the finish.

Rating: THREE STARS 2005 Signorello Vineyards Padrone Napa Valley Proprietary Red Wine ($110) Padrone - a tribute to Raymond Signorello Sr. - is made of fruit from low-yielding vineyards located on a very rocky portion of the estate. The nose is layered and complex, with sweet dark plum, ripe blackberry, tobacco, smoked meat and floral and baking spice undertones. It has a palate of dense, concentrated dark fruit wrapped in lively oak spice; young tannins need some time to resolve. A serious wine that will age well. (88 percent Cabernet Sauvignon, 7 Cabernet Franc, 5 Merlot)

Rating: TWO STARS 2004 Source Napa Heritage Sites Napa Valley Red Wine ($38) With 62 percent Merlot, this estate blend was aged in both French and Hungarian oak, 40 percent of which was new. A nose of shiitake mushroom, dusty black raspberry, and cooling mint notes also offers pepper and dry leaf. Nice spice with roasted cherry and pomegranate on palate; compact and a touch lean, with lingering, savory grip on the finish.

Rating: TWO STARS 2004 Source Napa Paramount Napa Valley Red Wine ($75) Vintners Bill Davies and Tom Gamble produce this Merlot-based wine with native yeasts and without filtration. Savory grainy notes underlie spicy peppercorn, plum, cassis and cherry cola aromas. Tobacco, roasted lamb and ripe cherry/dark plum flavors help mitigate the moderate tannins and alcohol. Savory notes echo on finish. (51 percent Merlot, 39 Cabernet Sauvignon, 6 Petit Verdot, 4 Cabernet Franc)

Rating: TWO AND A HALF STARS 2004 Vérité La Muse Sonoma County ($200) Vérité is French for the word "truth." La Muse - French vigneron Pierre Seillan's seventh vintage - is Merlot-based, with small amounts of Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon and Malbec; aged 16 months in 100 percent new oak. Aromas of violet, sweet berry, red fruit, pencil lead and iron hints; huge dry tannic grip is offset almost enough with lifted blackberry bramble and cherry. Vérité is the flagship red of Jess Jackson's Jackson Family Farms, which uses only prime hillside vineyard fruit - experimenting with terroir, distinctive rootstock and clones - to create blends modeled after the Bordelais.

Rating: THREE STARS 2004 Vérité Le Désir Sonoma County ($200) Merlot plus an almost-equal portion of Cabernet Franc with a little Cabernet Sauvignon and Malbec in this blend shows generous, concentrated dark fruit, spice, coffee/caramel/mocha undertones with hints of damp earth and tar. It has a warm dusty plum, cassis and spice palate, and very fine-grained but big, defined tannins that will be even more approachable with time.

Lynne Char Bennett