Category Archive: Wines Around The World

Running with the wines: Arinzano

Posted on August 14, 2017

I was invited by the folks at the Stoli Group to go to Navarra Spain for a visit of the Arinzano Estate.  Senorio de Arinzano was purchased by Yuri Shefler, owner of Stoli vodka from the Chivite family in 2015.  Yuri happened to vacation at Arinzano just outside the city of Pamplona and fell in love. He decided to do what any sane billionaire would do, he bought it.  What! Vodka and wine? How could that ever work?  What does a Russian vodka producer know about wine? Absolutely nothing! Guess what? It works.

Arinzano Rose

Can’t have enough rose, especially in a place like this.

The smartest business people in the world know how to invest, the most successful surround themselves with experts and let them do the hands on work.  This is exactly what Yuri did. Yuri hired Manuel Louzada, the man behind Numanthia as chief winemaker and CEO. Most importantly, he gave him carte blanch to “make Arinzano great again”.  Manuel is probably the most well known and respected winemakers in Spain. While Yuri was shopping around for side projects, he came across an equally as prestigious winery on the other side of the world, Achaval Ferer in Argentina. Manuel took control of this project as well. The vodka tycoon left Manuel in charge of two of the most important wine estates in the world.  What do you suppose Manuel did?

Manuela Louzada

The enthusiastic Manuel Louzada with Cabernet wine maker, Miguel  tasting us through old vintages of Arinzano.

Manuel has been around. He spent many years with Moet Chandon and brought greatness to the Toro region with Numanthia Termanthia.  He did not do it alone, he always had a solid team around him. I am not sure if it was his outgoing spirit, his pursuit for perfection or his generosity; but he was able to drag his sales and winemaking team to Arinzano with him.  Bring a strong team together to a property where it is impossible to grow bad grapes, throw in a fat check book and you are bound to get some of the best wines in the world.

Team Arinzano

Team Arinzano!

Arinzano is the first Vino de Pago in Northern Spain. A Vino de Pago is a classification given to unique estates which produce high quality wines outside the DO because of its soil, climate or terroir is so unique and cannot be matched elsewhere. Arinzano’s vineyards are devoted to mostly Tempranillo, Cabernet Sauvignon and Chardonnay.  It is nestled within hillsides facing North where a cooling wind blows continuously across the vineyards.  The soils are of decomposed granite with limestone. A small mountain range to the North protect the Pago from moisture and humidity.

Arinzano vineyards

Northern mountains blocking sea moisture

 

rocky soils

rocky soils

Manuel inherited an estate known for making incredible wines. He took the estate and perfected it. He changed canopy management on the Cabernet which removed the green pyrazine and increased the fruit flavors.  He changed the barrel program and now uses a mixture of coopers. Each barrel brings a unique attribute to the final blend. He invested in moving winery walls and machinery so that wine making is clean and efficient. I am talking about millions of dollars invested with the sole purpose of producing world class wines.

arinzano barrel room

Arinzano barrel

What I learned from this trip is that wind, soil, vines and sun are not the only things important in making quality wine. What is equally as important is culture. The folks at Arinzano embrace this and made sure that we understood.  Instead of staying at the winery and discussing viticulture and oenology, they also showed us how important the Navarra culture is to the wines at Arinzano. We spent the day in Pamplona. We watched the running of the bulls, sat through a bullfight and enjoyed an amazing local meal in a Michelin star restaurant. We danced with the people of Pamplona at 10 in the morning, we danced with them in the afternoon and continued dancing in the midnight hour.  The culture is festive with a love for live.  We also visited San Sebastian where we got to see where the locals vacation.  More importantly we got to stand and look out at the vast ocean, feel the wind blow on our faces. The same wind which 150 km away is blowing on the vines at Arinzano.  Great wines are made by great people, great cultures and great places. Arinzano is one of those wines.

running with the bulls

running with the bulls

dancing in pamplona

Dancing at 10 am in Pamplona

San Sebastian

San Sebastian where the Arinzano winds originate.

Pago Arinzano

The Arinzano Estate

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What You Might Not Know About Aussie Wine

Posted on August 1, 2017

I thought I knew Aussie wine. I knew that it wasn’t only that wine with a yellow Aboriginal drawing of a kangaroo and boomerang. Isn’t it high quality Shiraz/Cab blends from Barossa Valley?  The wines are big fruit bombs, right?  Or maybe austere Clare Valley Rieslings. They are light, fresh, petrol and lime driven, right?  My perception of Australian wine was turned upside down after the James Busby Travel trip I took in October. I felt like Doctor Strange entering Kamar-Taj for the first time. What I thought I knew slapped me on the palate and turned my olfactory bulb inside out. Here is what Australian wine is all about!

Cool Climate Terroir

Bill Downing makes some of the best wines in Australia.  His wines are all about terroir, wines made in the vineyard.  Most of his fruit is sourced from specific bio-dynamic growers.  His approach to making wine is not making it, but letting it become what it intended to be.  It is a hands-off approach resulting in unique mind-blowing wines.  Bill believes terroir is much more than just growing grapes in a particular soil type, but it is about the people, the climate, the animals and plants in that place which influence the wines.Winemakers in the Mornington Pennisula struggle with cool wet weather. Pinot Noir does extremely well.  With a minimal approach, whole berry and cluster ferments, they make wines that are aromatic and elegant. Story and Garagiste Vineyards source grapes throughout the Mornington and the Grampians.  Best part of cool climates is the ability to make sparkling wine. And I am not talking about Sparkling Shiraz, but proper method Champenoise with Pinot and Chardonnay.

 

Bill Downing

Save our Souls

Pinot NoirOcean Eight Sparkling

The Yarra Valley

The Yarra is located in Victoria and divided into the lower Yarra and the upper Yarra.  The region was once planted with grapes to make sparkling wines, today we find some of the best Chardonnay and Pinot Noir can be found here.  Yarra Chardonnay is unique and coming into its own. Tim Wildman gave 12 reasons why Yarra Chardonnay stands out: cooler sites, early picking, better clones, hand harvesting, whole bunch press, smaller ferments, old oak to mature, larger oak formats, no batonage, do not force malo, use of screw caps, sulfites are set in vineyard and natural winemakers are looking for textural Chardonnay.  The Yarra is home to some of the best wines in Australia, DeBotoli, Luc Lambert, Gembrook, Mac Forbes, Giant Steps, Yarra Yering and many more.

 

Sarah Crowe

Sarah Crowe, winemaker for Yarra Yering

DeBotoli Vineyards

Mac Forbes

Winemaker Mac Forbes standing in Denton Vineyard

Gembrook

A little friend in the Gembrook vineyards.

High Quality Dessert Wines

The first wines made in Australia were ports. The tradition goes back almost 200 years. As modern wine-making techniques began to develop, more and more wineries began creating dry still wines. Today there are a handful of wineries still focusing on their family traditions. Many of these are in the Rutherglen and Barossa Valley.  Muscat is the grape most commonly used. Wineries such as All Saints, Campbell’s and Seppeltsfield pride themselves on fortified dessert wines of high quality.  Today, some young winemakers are looking back and experimenting with fortified wines with a natural twist.

 

All Saints

Solera System and large format barrels at All Saints.

Campbell's Solera Muscat

Campbell’s Solera Muscat

Seppeltsfield

Drinking my birth year port at Seppeltsfield

Adelina

Natural winemaker Cole of Adelina in Clare Valley sharing Amphora Sherry.

Old Vines

Old vines is a loose term. In some places it can be a 10 to 20 year old vine. California may have 50 year old vines. France might have some 70 so years old. Both of these regions were devastated with phylloxera. Australia has been phylloxera free due to it’s isolation from the rest of the world and sandy soils. Some areas like the Yarra Valley are under threat, phylloxera has started showing up. However, in places such as the Barossa. McLaren Vale and Grampians there wines being produces from vines which were planted on the 1840′-60’s.  This old plant material produces very little juice, but the little it does produce is heavenly. If California calls wines from vines planted in the 80’s old vines, then Australia should call them ancient vines. Stand out wineries producing old vine wines are Tahbilk, Darenberg, Best’s, Langmeil, Cirillo, Penfold’s and Yangarra.

 

Best's

Mixed planting of old vines at Best’s in the Great Western.

Best's Pinot Meunier

Old Vine Pinot Meunier planted in 1868

Cirillo 1850

Marco Cirillo showing off his Grenache basket pruned vines planted in 1850.

Langmeil Old Vines

Langmeil Shiraz vines planted in the Barossa in 1843

Bio-dynamics & Natural Wine Movement

If there is one thing that stood out for me in Australia was to see how far ahead the Aussies are in regards of organic viticulture and natural wine-making.  You may have experienced natural wines from different regions in the world, but what many forget is that in order for a natural wine to succeed in the glass, its process needs to begin in the vineyard. Most of the young winemakers in Australia have embraced this concept. Their wines are not faulty, but fresh and bursting with acidity. Winemakers from all over Australia are fed up with flabby fruit juice called wines and are in search of structure. The Adelaide Hills are filled with garage winemakers producing some of the best Pinot Noirs on the planet. Their hands off approach to wine-making is best seen in their big reds, where the alcohol and fruit does not over power the pristine acidity and ripe fruit.

Gemtree

Alpacas in the bio-dynamic vineyards of Gemtree in McLaren Vale

biodynamic farming

The bull horn filled with fertilizer, essential in biodynamic farming

Ochota Barrels

One of the best wines I tasted in Australia, Ochota Barrels.

Basket Range

A line up of natural wines in the Basket Range in the Adelaide Hills.

Sacredness

Lastly, there are few regions in the world which make wine from sacred sites. We can say that the vineyards of La Tache or DRC in Burgundy are sacred since they were once owned by the church. We might throw Elqui in the high desert in Chile as being sacred, however I haven’t had wines from there that taste sacred. I came across one of the most interesting vineyards in the world, the Bindi vineyard in the Macedon ranges on the slopes of Mt. Gisborne in Victoria. Upon our arrival to the winery there were herds of kangaroos chilling and watching us approach as if they were guarding their sacred land. The soils are composed of quartz and rocky earth. There was a sense of serenity in the vineyard. At dinner our group bonded when we discussed what brought us into the world of wine. This sharing was magical. But to top it off the wines were outstanding. We tasted Chardonnay and Pinot Noir from 1991 to 2015, and each wine was divine.  This has got to be one of the most memorable tastings of my life.

Bindi Vineyard

Walking through the quartz vineyard with winemaker, Michael Dhillon

Bindi

The magical vineyards of Bindi

 

To learn more about my journey in Australia visit THE BUSBY TRAVEL JOURNAL. 

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Australian Wine Journey

Posted on October 15, 2016

Australia Wine

The time is here and I am about to embark on a journey to the land down under.  It has been 15 years since the last time I visited.  Back then I was in a van driving from one coast to the other.  Although I did get to see some vineyards, the purpose of that trip had very little to do with indulging in the wine culture, rather experiencing the nightlife culture.  Today I am older and more mature and look forward to revisit Australia with brand new eyes. This time, a bit less glassy-eyed.

Maurice in Australia 2001

traveling for 6 months in a van back in 2001

Tim Wildeman MW takes 12 people from around the world each year on travel throughout South Australia.  I am honored to be selected among such an esteemed group of wine professionals from around the world. I am looking forward to this adventure.

Australian wines have received a bad reputation over the past ten years as these labels with animal graphics invaded our bottom shelves of our supermarkets.  It is similar to what happened to Merlot in the 90’s.  Merlot was the “it” grape and everyone wanted to be seen with her.  So much so that wineries sacrificed their integrity and populated the bottom shelves with cheap Merlot.  This gave Merlot a bad name, and when Miles came out and said, “I don’t drink no F…’n Merlot”, it was the end.  Merlot is a fantastic wine, but it will take years before she rises to the top again.  Well, the same could be said for Australian wine.

merlot

Those animal printed bottles gave a bad name to Australian wine.  It is unfortunate to see a nation with a long history of producing high quality wines come to decline because of a Kangaroo with a boomerang.  A few weeks ago, Matt Stamp MS, gave a seminar in San Diego. He blind tasted us on an Australian Semillion.  The wine was outstanding! It had racing acidity, expressive fruit and confused everyone for French Chenin Blanc. I was blown away.  I am looking forward to discovering more wines like that.  I can’t wait to taste Grenache from 80-year-old vineyards, Riesling with mouth-watering acidity and take a peek at the craft beers.

I look forward to sharing my experiences with you.  Hopefully I will have a new fondness for the land down under. Cheers!

———————————————————————————–

36 hours later

Finally arrived in Australia! All my flights had a delay but I made it to the meeting point in the nick of time. I met up with my group in Melbourne and immediately jumped on a bus headed for Gibbsland to meet Bill and Rachel Downing of Downing vineyards.  What a surprise! We arrived in this farmhouse wine making facility in the countryside. I immediately knew this was going to be a good trip.  Each of the large barrels had a name, one of them was Maurice.  Coincidence?

Maurice

Bill Downing focuses on small production Pinot Noir from Gibbsland, Yarra Valley and the Mornington Peninsula.  He is a natural wine maker. He is focused on the vineyard.  The vines are small and kept low to the ground.  There are native grasses and plants throughout the vineyard creating biodiversity. It is dry farmed bio-dynamic vineyard. Bill believes in biodiversity and says he makes his wine in the vineyard and not the winery.  Wine making is easy, he just presses the juice and puts it in barrels, the rest is up to the grapes. This hands off approach was a relief to see, especially since when I think of Australia I think big opulent wines.  Downing wines are austere, yet elegant and true to variety.  I think he would correct me and say they are not true to variety, but true to place.

Downing Vineyards

If this is an indication of what is to come, then I am in for a magical two weeks.

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A Better Understanding of Baja Wines

Posted on June 23, 2016

Baja Wines Uncorked

The first Baja Uncorked went down last week.  Baja what?  Baja Uncorked is the first buyers trip to the Guadalupe Valley put on by La Mision Associates and La Competencia, two distributors of wine from the Guadalupe Valley.  Wineries of Baja invited wine writers, retail shop owners and sommeliers on a three-day journey exploring the wines of the valley.  They were treated to three packed days of seminars, winemaker greet and meets, tastings, winery tours and extraordinary meals.  The wineries presented their valley to a small group of wine professionals in hopes that people will have a better understanding of Baja wines. Today I’d like to fill you with intrigue and shed some of the mystic of Baja  wines.

HISTORY

To really understand Baja, we have to go back and see how it all began.  The first vines in the Americas came by way of Spanish conquistadors in the early 1500’s.  Once their supply of wine ran out, they turned to planting grapes in the Parras Valley in the state of Coahuila in central Mexico.  The first winery was established in 1597 by Lorenzo Garcia called Casa Madero.  The main grape planted in those days was a red grape known today as the Mission grape.  It is said to be the same grape as Listan Negro in Spain, also known as Criolla and Pais in other areas of South America.  This grape made light bodied wines intended for brandy production. Just as Mexico began to produce its own wines, the Spanish crown put an end to it.  The Spanish saw their wine trade suffering, and outlawed Mexico from producing wine.

Casa Madero

Valle de Parras

For many years, the production of wine in Mexico was limited to the missionaries wine for sacramental use.  Two Jesuit “padres”, Juan Uguarte and Junipero Serra made their way into Baja and established the first mission in 1767, in Los Cabos.  These were the first grapes planted in California.  Junipero Serra was tasked to move north and build missions in Alta California while Juan Uguarte built missions in Baja California.

It was not until the 1880’s that Baja built its first commercial winery, Santo Tomas in the Santo Tomas Valley, 30 minutes south of Ensenada. The first European grapes to come into Baja were Grenache and Carignan.  They came to Mexico by way of the Spanish.  During the turn of the century they were the work horses for Baja and Alta California.  It was not until the 1930-40’s when we saw Italian varieties make their way into the valley.  The man responsible was Camilo Magoni, who worked at L.A. Cetto for 50 years.  He was an Italian immigrant from Northern Italy.  Over many years he planted many Italian varieties such as Nebbiolo, Barbera, Dolcetto, Sangiovese and Aglianico.  The challenge he faced was Mexico’s warmer climate and lack of water. It was a very different climate from the mountainous cool region of Piedmont.  Today some of the best single varieties come from these Italian varieties brought by Magoni.

In the 1950-60’s winemakers started to look for fruitier, softer wines that could be enjoyed with pizza and tacos.  They turned to California nurseries and began to plant cuttings of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Cabernet Franc. These Bordeaux blends made more sense in the market place. People had just heard about  the growth in California in the 1970’s.  Their Cabernets and Chardonnays were winning competitions in France, the Mexican winemakers decide to follow in their northern neighbor’s footsteps.  Back then there were just a handful of wineries such as Santo Tomas, L.A.Cetto and Cavas Valmar.  Cavas Valmar was started in 1983 by Fernando Martain.  He worked at Santo Tomas from 1978-84 and worked with the famous André Tchelistcheff.  Fernando has since been a great inspiration and significant part of the Baja wine movement.

Camilo, Zamora, Martian

Laura Zamora (Santo Tomas), Camilo Magoni & Fernando Martain

His friend Hugo Acosta came on the scene in 1988, he too worked at Santo Tomas.  Hugo Acosta studied at the School of Agronomy in Montpelier France and the Agricultural University of Turin.  He returned to the valley and began teaching people how to make wine.  There was plenty of fruit in the valley, but no one outside the major wineries knew what to do with it.  Hugo started “La Escuelita”, a wine making school for the people in the valley.  He has inspired many of the wineries in the valley and has been a crucial part of the valley’s success. Today he is regarded as the godfather of the Guadalupe Valley.  His brother, Alejandro has been an instrumental part as well.  Alejandro is an architect and has built many of the hotels and wineries that dot the valley.  His creative designs give the valley a special character you can find nowhere else.

glasses baja uncorked

THE LAY OF THE LAND

The Guadalupe is about 1 1/2 hours south of Tijuana and 20 km east of Ensenada.  It was first settled by Russian colonies. In 1834 missions were built, however; the natives of the valley destroyed the missions and kicked out the missionaries. Today the valley is divided into 3 sections.  The first area is called San Antonio de las Minas and you come across it as soon as you enter the valley driving in from Ensenada.  If you continue on the Highway 3 eastward, you will reach Francisco Zarcos.  To the north is an area called Porvenir.  The wines of Baja California are not all grown in the Guadalupe Valley. There are many more vineyards outside the valley.  40 km to the east on the other side of the mountains is Valle de Ojos Negros.  Ojos Negros is a newer region where we are seeing much experimentation such as plantings of Pinot Noir.  20 km to the south of Ensenada is a small valley, the Uruapan Valley. 40 km south of Ensendada is the Santo Tomas Valley, the first area to plant grapes for wine production.  60 km further south is Valle de San Vicente where many of the grapes are harvested.

The Guadalupe valley is unique in that the soils are granite base with loamy sandy top soil.  Soils are great for drainage and repelling pests. The Valle is surrounded by mountains, blocking off the marine weather and allowing cool breezes to cool the valley at night.  The change in elevations is excellent for planting varieties on valley floors and at higher elevations providing winemakers with different choices.  Today there are about 120 wineries in Baja, and that number is growing everyday.

Guadalupe Valley Map

ALPHA & OMEGA

So why don’t we see more of these wines in the USA?  The first thing we have to understand, is that although grapes have grown in Mexico longer than anywhere else in the America’s, production of wine is fairly recent.  Baja California is still a very young region.  It was not until the 1980’s when we saw an increase in production.  While California was winning awards in Europe, Baja was still trying to figure out what to grow and how.  The Alpha part of the equation is water. There is very little water in the valley.  Low amounts of water limits the amount of wines which can be produced.  Yields are low due to the inability to irrigate.  Lack of water hinders the building and expansion of wine making facilities.

The Omega part of the equation is marketing.  How do they market their wines in the USA if production is so low.  Lower yields means less production and higher prices.  Wineries have to be sustainable, therefore increase prices to cover overhead and production.  The Baja winemakers choose to make wines that are more intense, from lower yields, therefore require a higher price.  This is very difficult for the general consumer to understand.  No one wants to buy expensive wines from an unknown region.  Why should they, there are so many quality wines at lower prices from Argentina, Chile and California.  The Chileans used another model, they bombarded the market with high yields and inexpensive wines.  Today they struggle to get recognized as a premium wine region.  Baja winemakers have decided to approach it differently, and aim for quality versus high yields.

Baja Vineyards

Now let’s say that the Baja wines make a splash in the market place. Let’s say that everyone falls in love with their intensity and flavor.  People start to seek them out and now Baja wineries cannot keep up with the demand. This can have two outcomes.  One, distributors become upset when they cannot fulfill orders to wholesalers and retailers, so they stop importing Mexican wines.  Or two, the wine collector, infatuated with hard to find wines,  will pay premium prices which increase the cost of wines for the public.  The wines become cult like in status.  Unfortunately, the more likely scenario is number one.  Baja wineries first need the importer and distributor to get the wines across the border, so the cult status would be a long ways down the road.

THE FUTURE

So what is the next step for Baja wines?  Remember, Baja is still very new.  They are sandwiched between veteran producers and consumers of California and South America.  At this time all they can do is grow and learn.  The new generation of winemakers are going outside of “la Escuelita” and learning from other great winemakers in other countries.  While studying abroad and working in other regions they bring back creative ideas on how to deal with their issues in Baja.  Baja already has many grape varieties planted.  Baja is diverse in elevation and soils.  This diversity along with their proximity to the ocean, allows them to plant and experiment with many grapes.  Today, Baja wines are known for their unique blends. In Baja, single varieties have a different expression and are atypical. Hence, allowing winemakers to create blends no one else can make. Sure, Australians can blend Cabernet Sauvignon with Shiraz, but they can’t do what the Mexicans do.  They cannot get away with blending Cabernet, Syrah, Tempranillo and Nebbiolo, crazy new blends only seen in Mexico.

guadalupe Valley

The future of Baja is based on wineries finding their niche and improving their wines.  What they have going for them is that they are not arrogant nor set in their ways.  Baja is one of the few regions which is open-minded and ready to try anything.  Baja is a great haven for bored winemakers of France, Italy and California.  They would have a field day exploring Baja’s wild west of wine.

Distribution is the next issue to tackle.  Baja winemakers need to enter the market with affordable wines.  This is becoming more and more possible.  More plantings are occurring each year.  Winemakers are learning to use what they have and will hopefully begin to produce by the glass offerings.  They need to enter the market with $10-15 wines.  I would suggest they put more focus on whites and roses.  These are far cheaper to produce, they use less water and can generate a profit quicker than reds which need to age. If you are a consumer and you enjoy an affordable Baja Chardonnay, wouldn’t you be inclined to buy a more expensive red from that producer?

People like Michelle Martain, daughter of Fernando Martain is an important part of this growth.  Her import company, La Mision Associates imports Baja wine into the US and is going on 5 years.  She goes door to door, winery to winery trying to make this work.  She was raised in her father’s winery and is determined to share her country’s wines with the world. After much sacrifice, she has opened many doors for her wineries.  She is also very smart.  She knows she cannot do it herself and reached out to Tom Bracamontes of La Competencia Imports, a new Baja wine import company.

Baja uncorked


Michelle Martain (La Mision Associates), Myself, Michael Langdon (Whole Foods), Tom Bracamontes (La Competencia) & Danny Fancher (Estancia Hotel)

Tom’s background was in the music industry, hip hop.  Tom, a “Gringo-Mexican” who does not speak Spanish made a name for himself at Tommy Boy Records.  Tom does not pretend to know it all. However, he understands people and how to approach situations with transparency and a no bull attitude.  This has earned him trust among wineries in Napa Valley and wine buyers in many states.  He represented Mi Sueno winery for many years and took a handful of Mexican-American owned Napa wineries under his wing helping to bring their wines into a competitive market.  He is a marketing all-star who today has opened 5 new markets for Michelle and the Baja Winemakers; California, Arizona, New Mexico, Texas and Chicago.  Together, Michelle and Tom will open the doors for these Baja wineries and our palates to new intriguing wines.

I suspect that one day when our children are drinking a glass of Baja Pinot Noir in Paris, they will be telling this history of Baja wines. They will mention Father Juan Uguarte planting grapes, Santo Tomas producing wines, Camilo Magoni expanding the horizons, Fernando Martain’s influence, Hugo Acosta’s inspiration and the risk and hard work of Michelle Martain and Tom Bracamontes.

Team Baja Uncorked

SOME WINE

While spending those few days in the valley, I decided to make a wine for my restaurants.  My intention was to make a red blend which could be enjoyed by itself, but better with carne asada tacos.  I worked closely with Laura Zamora, winemaker of Santo Tomas, the oldest winery in Mexico. Tempranillo was my backbone.  The Tempranillo was aged for 6 months in American oak and provides the tannin and structure.  I then tasted several samples of Grenache, Carignan, Syrah, Barbera and other grape varieties.  I landed on adding an un-oaked Syrah.  I am looking for fruity, juicy freshness and the Syrah gave it just that plus body.  Something was lacking, so I turned to one of the grapes that I think grows best in the valley, Barbera.  The Barbera brought the wine together with acidity and red fruit.

Costa Tierra Blend

Blending Costa Tierra Wine

The name of the wine is Costa Tierra, meaning seacoast and land.  The reason for this is to unite California and Baja California.  For centuries we have shared the same sea-coast, the same land and the same people. When it comes to food and wine the border is a fictitious border.  I want to tear down the wall and unite the two regions.  We may speak different languages and celebrate different holidays, but we both share in the rewards of a thriving epicurean future.

Costa Tierra Wine

The wine will be available at Coasterra and other Cohn Restaurants.

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Vote for Washington: The Wines of Washington

Posted on March 4, 2016

wines of washington

The common belief is that Washington State is known for apples, hops and onions.  The wines of Washington State don’t even make a blip on the radar.  People hear Columbia Valley and they immediately think we’re talking about Oregon.  Wines from the northwest are not just Oregon wines.  Washington wines are just as important.  Over the next 3 months you will see a big push for Washington wines in San Diego.  The Washington Wine Commission, a state government-run agency intended to promote awareness of Washington’s viticulture and enology is campaigning in San Diego.  They are promoting Washington Wines via all media outlets. So if you are tired of presidential campaigns, grab a glass and vote for Washington State wines.  I have partnered with the commission to help promote the wines of Washington.  Think of me as a grassroots campaign manager.

Why Washington wines you ask?  Washington wines are some of the most interesting wines.  The region is very large with varied micro climates and soil types.  Most people’s image of Washington State is rain and more rain. This is not the case in the wine growing areas.  Washington State is a desert protected from rain by the Cascade mountains.  The mountains create a rain shadow effect which leaves sun and more sun to shine over the valley.  However, the mountains and the many rivers provide cooling which is ideal for grape growing.  The winds blowing in from Idaho bounce off the Cascades and come swooshing across the valley helping the vines fight pests and disease.

I have spoken about Washington wines in the past, but this time I really want to talk about is what makes them so different. It is all about their soils.  Millions of years ago ice glaciers melted and came rushing down from the Great Lakes through Washington State, an event known as the Missoula Floods.  With them they brought rocks and sediments spreading them throughout the valley.  These deposits left in the soils are the key to great grape growing in Washington.  The winds also brought sand and silt which is constantly blowing in the valley.  This soil structure allows for plantings of unique vineyards to show terroir and identity.  The wines from a small vineyard in Walla Walla “the Rocks” is so unique that in a blind tasting the Syrahs can easily be picked out.

Talking about blind tastings, several years ago the moment of truth hit me.  I was in Washington with 30 + other sommeliers and wine professionals blind tasting some of the highest rated wines in the world. We had Pahlmeyer, Caymus Special Select, Mouton, Clos Apalta and  a few Washington wines such as Abeja and Cote Bonneville.  We tasted Syrahs, Merlots and Bordeaux blends from around the world. Most of us picked the wines of Washington State as the superior wines.  This event won my heart over and since then I have become a promoter of the wines of Washington.  I am so happy to be on this campaign.

March is Taste Washington Wine Month.  I am going to do everything in my power to spread the word and turn the good folks of San Diego to the overlooked region of Washington. All month-long, the Cohn Restaurant Group will feature wines from Washington at specially selected restaurants.  We start the month on March 12th at Sea 180 Coastal Tavern where I will host a symposium and wine tasting with winemakers, winery owners, salespeople and the Washington Wine Commission.  We will host wine dinners and lunches at Island Prime, 333 Pacific and Vintana.  Bluepoint will run specials all month and host the winners from a local radio show’s contest for dinner.  So much is happening, I hope you are part of the campaign.  And don’t forget to vote WASHINGTON.

FOR TICKETS TO THE WINE SYMPOSIUM CLICK HERE:     Buy Tickets

Wines of Washington

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