Great California Viognier Producers

Blue grape branchs closeup

Great California Viognier Producers

Over the years, California has grown to become the world’s largest producer of Viognier next to France. Viognier is a fragrant and powerful white grape used for producing wines with distinct floral aromas.

The California Sun which allows Viognier to achieve maximum ripeness is what makes the state one of the best places to grow Viognier. Although there are so many Viognier producers in California, three producers recently tasted  who are leading the way with this grape:

  • Joe and Kay Berghold: Joe and Kay Berghold’s are the producers of Berghold wines and owners of Berghold Vineyards and Winery which is a boutique family estate winery located in the heart of the Lodi Appellation. Berghold Vineyards and Winery are also surrounded by 88 acres of vineyard that features Viognier, Cabernet, Merlot, Zinfandel and Syrah grapes which are used to produce the finest estate wines. The winery combines both new and old world technique in their wine production to marry the best of both worlds. At present, Berghold Vineyards and Winery specialize in the production of Viognier, Syrah and Cabernet Sauvignon; all wines are estate vintages, terroir-driven and made using artisan techniques combined with state of the art technology. The Berghold family winery only produces 5,000 cases of barrel aged wines annually. Thir Viognier is certainly one of their star wines.
  • Jerry Lohr: Jerry Lohr is a legendary winegrower who is focused on achieving the best possible flavors for all wines. The winery is built on 3,700 acres of estate vineyard located along the California central coast. What makes Jerry Lohr standout as a producer of Viognier is the fact that he was among the top 17 Viognier producers in California to earn the Certified California Sustainable Winegrowing distinction from the California Sustainable Winegrowing Alliance. And this is not to be overlooked at the exceptional balance and price of their Viognier.
  • Steve Devitt: Steve Devitt is the owner of Darioush Estate Vineyard in Oak Knoll, Los Carneros and also the producer of Darioush Signature wines which was founded on the principle of individualism and dedication to the craft. All wines produced at Darioush Estate Vineyard are made of 100 percent Viognier and also crafted to be appreciated on the world stage. In addition, Jerry believes that a comprehensive and responsible approach to wine growing can be best described in three E’s which are Environmentally Sound, Socially Equitable, and Economically Feasible.

Viognier wines are growing in popularity at the moment in California and as more consumers are introduced to this great Rône varietal, the grape is growing in popularity thanks to its very approachable fragrant and distinct floral aromas. Although these producers have stood out, as this grape becomes more popular and is further developed in California, one should expect more and more producers showing great representations of this terrific grape.

California Zinfandel producers

Man tasting red wine with friends

Almost 90% of America’s wines are produced in California – so it is no wonder that some of the best wines and producers are in this area. Zinfandel, which is considered America’s heritage grape, thrives in this region and the winemakers here are doing some spectacular things with the varietal. Although there are too many quality Zinfandel producers to list, there are three worth mentioning that are currently nailing the varietal right on the head.

Chaim Gur-Arieh

The practices that the winemaker, Chaim uses are intuitive, unique and considerate toward the grape – which is what makes his Zinfandel’s so interesting.  Chaim believes in being extremely gentle and considerate throughout the harvest and production of the wine. His practices include allowing the wine to fully ripen, handling the grapes extremely gently, building the winery on two plateaus to allow gravity to intervene in the wine production and using oak scarcely to avoid overpowering the wine’s natural flavors. These fine, detailed practices already set his wine apart, but he took it a step further. Chaim invented a modern Cap Fermentation Tank that allows the caps to be submerged throughout the entire period of fermentation. The invention was groundbreaking. This addition has ensured that the resulting wine is soft, elegant, complex and has powerful layers of fruit flavors. The Zinfandels produced are known for their rare qualities and complete hand-crafted stamp.

Robert Henson

Zinfandel’s prime characteristic is that the varietal portrays its terroir more than most other grape varietals. Each region’s Zinfandel displays unique characteristics, true to that region. Robert Henson knows that  – and fully grasps that aspect of the varietal to produce some of California’s top Zinfandels. Robert Henson’s Zinfandels are known for their intense jammy characteristics, largely because of the estate’s location and the practices in place that preserve the terroir qualities in the wine.  With that as the basis of their production, Robert Henson also focuses intensely on ensuring immaculate balance in each bottle of wine – with no singular sugar, tannin, acidity or alcohol aspect overpowering any of the other elements. With the focus completely on terroir-driven, perfectly balanced Zinfandel, the quality of the wine has ensured that this winery was placed on the top 100 Wines of the world list by Spectator Magazine on several occasions.

Scott Harvey

Scott Harvey has managed to produce some outstanding Zinfandels in California. These wines’ success is attributable to the decades of experience that Scott Harvey has in the industry, as well as the age of the Zinfandel vines on his estate. His Zinfandel vines are the oldest documented Zinfandel vines in America and almost 150 years old. These old vines manage to deliver flavor, complexity, and quality like no other. With experience and good vines in his grasp, Scott Harvey kept to traditions and makes his wine in old-school Californian styles. He believes in adding acidity if needed or lowering the alcohol if necessary – whatever has to be done to ensure the wine is of the highest quality.  In fact, his wines have gained countless awards annually and have allowed him to be on the Top 10 Winemakers of America’s list by Dan Berger.

California has managed to hold a number of truly spectacular Zinfandel producers, with each producer portraying unique styles, methods and practices. Scott Harvey, Chaim Gur-Arieh and Robert Henson are only a handful of the many winemakers currently doing great things for Zinfandel in this region.

Decanting Wine

Fresh blackberries and liqueur on wooden table

What is decanting?

Decanting which can be used for a variety of drinks is the process of pouring the contents of the bottle that initially contained them into another vessel which is typically a decanter. For home use this is the poured into a glass for serving; however, in some restaurants, it will be further poured back into the original bottle for serving. We’re focusing on wine, but there are various ways to decant other drinks such as whisky.

Why decant wine?

Not every wine should (or is) decanted, association with decanting wine is typically more commonplace amongst vintage wines – such vintages more often have leftover sediment in the bottle that occurs with age. The process of decanting the wine separates the contents from the sediment which leaves a more pleasant looking – more transparent – product in the decanter to be served. This reasoning for decanting is most commonplace due to the visibility of the sediment which can be unpleasant especially if it finds its way to the drinking glass.

Wines such as Syrah blends, Cabernet blends and Cabernet Sauvignon, commonly high tannic and full-bodied wines benefit from decanting but for an altogether different reason. Also, the second most customary reason for decanting, the process aerates the wine, opening up flavor and aroma to the recipient. Scientific study has proven this to be the case and can have a substantially positive impact on the taste of a wine.

There are objections to decanting the wine for aeration, the argument being that exposure to the oxygen gives a similar effect to swirling in the glass and can, in fact, harm flavor and aroma with over oxidation. However, the impact of this would be negligible, and as long as you were to follow the standard time scales for decanting, then the positive effects on the pallet are far more likely to take effect. Have a look below to see what these timescales should be.

How long should you decant?

The vast majority of tannic red wines will take between 2 and 3 hours to decant and last around 14 hours afterward. For example Pinot Noir will take about 30 minutes as well as Zinfandel, Malbec and Grenache Blend approximately 60 minutes, Cabernet Sauvignon and Tempranillo 120 minutes, Shiraz and Nebbiolo around 180 minutes. These are estimates but an excellent guideline for the best decanting.

The argument for not decanting does hold some ground; you should, for example, decant wines 20+ years of age immediately before serving; do not wait any longer or you risk losing those precious flavors that have taken so many years to develop.

Should you decant white wines?

On the whole, the vast majority of white wines do not need decanting; it offers no real-world benefits to the pallet or appearance. Most people don’t even bother thinking about decanting a white wine, though some aged wines can taste strange directly out of the bottle and would benefit from opening up during the process. However, most off the shelf white wines you probably buy don’t need to be decanted.

Do you decant Champagne and sparkling wines?

Pouring wine from a decanter is unique, it adds that extra element of class and occasion to each glass of wine you pour. I imagine that pouring Champagne from a decanter is not usually part of the occasion you are all used to going through. What could the benefits of doing this be? Alternatively, would there even be any benefits? Champagne is a sparkling wine in essence with the addition of a lively youthful mousse for an extra unique experience; you would think to decant would eliminate this and all that a good Champagne is. The fact is that decanting would reduce bubbles but not eliminate them and assuming you didn’t wait too long the delightful mousse would still be around. Wine glass producer Riedel, synonymous with wine decanting, have a decanter specifically for Champagne. Though similar to white wine, decanting Champagne isn’t necessary as there is no sediment in almost all (unless aged) and done incorrectly could reduce the very experience Champagne is known to be.

What happens if you decant a wine for too long?

Decanting wine for too long will lead to the wine developing higher levels of acetic acid, which is found in vinegar. This eventually will lead to a repugnant vinegar-like taste and smell, indicating the wine has gone bad. For this reason, it is ideal that you stick to the set time mentioned above and eliminate the chances of this, it is far better to drink quickly after decanting than to leave it too long. Following the averages found by sommeliers and research will give you the best of aromas and flavors without the worry of acetic acid developing within the wine.

The average consumer decants wine (for example during a dinner party) to impress and show expertise, this can be achieved by decanting a couple of hours before the dinner party having the desired effect. Connoisseurs and establishments want to bring the best from their wines for themselves and customers and therefore should decant by the rulebook for the very best quality.

The average person

Jamie Goode – author of ‘I Taste Red: The Science of Tasting Wine,’ makes some interesting points relating to the reasoning behind decanting wines and is a good indicator of why the average consumer would do this. “There’s another very important aspect of decanting, and that’s the phycological one.” This plays on what I mentioned earlier in that most consumers want to make an impression on guests by serving a glass of wine from the decanter and explain the benefits of doing so. However, the way Goode explains his reasoning takes on another form, he argues the respect commanded from decanting wine sets expectations of the wine, therefore decanting has a chemical effect on the wine and the act of decanting has a phycological impact on the drinker bringing together a real difference in the experience.

Decanting is not for everyone, and most people won’t want to put the effort in, but for those that do there is an excellent argument of the benefits that can be experienced from drinking a decanted wine, whichever wine that may be.

Growing community against decanting

There is an argument against decanting wine, this opinion is growing into its own anti-decanting community which basically is creating some confusion but nevertheless it should be noted. Using scientific research looking into the benefits of separating the wine from sediment and oxidising the wine, scientifically speaking, decanting wine allows trace components known as thiols to oxidise to form other compounds which are less smelly and undetectable by the human nose. As Dr Waterhouse of UC Davis mentions “The goal of decanting is to eliminate those chemicals from the wine and let them react with oxygen.”  He goes on to mention the role that room temperature and light intensity play in this process mentioning the extreme conditions needed to have a tangible effect on the wine. More and more scientific evidence is being used to disprove the relevance of decanting wine and with each blow the community against decanting your wine grows larger.

Delicious Burgundy Food and White Pairing

Beef Stew

Delicious Burgundy Food and White Pairing

There is hardly a town in Burgundy that goes without recognition. Some of the world’s greatest wines are grown on the hillsides of Bourgogne. A wonderland littered with Grand Cru vineyards like Vosne-Romanée, Gevrey-Chambertin, Aloxe-Corton, Nuits-St-Georges, Vougeot and Chambolle-Musigny and so many others. Here you will find Chardonnay, Gamay, Pinot Noir and Aligoté made in a “hand-stitched” style with winemakers keen on letting the grapes reveal their unique characteristics not to mention that of the wonderful terroir.

Burgundian cuisine is in the same breath something of a wonder. Always like a breathtaking walk on the wild side. Something a hunter would have for dinner. As if drawn by some primal force, sense of danger perhaps, Burgundians like their food local, fresh and with a taste of uniqueness. Dishes made with either blood or wine, choice meats that will have your heart racing. Cow’s tongue, calf’s head, pigs’ feet, snails for appetizers and the ever-present frog legs to name a few.

Everything mother nature offers is gobbled right up in a creative mix of ingredients and flare. Overall, as in all French cuisine, is tradition. An unshakable dependence on age old techniques and style to bring forth beauty and elegance to the table.

Burgundy and the allure of Poulet de Bresse- the Dish

Poulet de Bresse. A poultry dish so coveted it has its own DOP designation like a wine appellation! The white feathered, blue footed birds from the scenic town of Breese are bred free range, foraging on grains, bugs and shrubs. Added to the feed is buttermilk-soaked grains so that when they are ready for the pot, their tendons are tougher and can add flavor to the braise. Made with little interference of spice or herbs, the chicken remains the star. Served simply with some vegetables on the side and topped with a white sauce. Of the almost twelve million birds raised per year only about 5% get exported.

Wine Pairing

As a general rule, one should aspire to pair food with the wine used to cook it with. Regional dishes thrive next to regional wines, and none is as abundant with good wine as in Burgundy.

Chardonnay from Montrachet is sure to fit the bill. The terroir is stony, bare hillsides with rich brown soils which provide the world with some of the best Chardonnay and Pinot Noir to enter a bottle.

The aromatic fruit in the wine with notes of vanilla and butter always fresh on the palate and persistent in finish. The spicy fruit and fleshy texture of Montrachet wines are a heavenly combination for a divine dish.

A treat for the sweet toothed in Bordeaux

An hour away from the land of foie gras and black truffles, Drogone, is the port city of Bordeaux. You might not know this, they certainly are very humble about it, but the Bordelais(e) know their wine. So studiously that a style is named after Bordeaux. To clarify, Bordeaux-style wine is not a regulated term. Enterprising winemakers worldwide use it to refer to a blend of either of the varietals grown in Bordeaux; Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Petit Verdot and Malbec for red. White wines are chiefly of Muscadelle, Sauvignon Blanc and Semillion.

All this wine knowledge translated into their food and being a port city comes with its perks. Fresh oysters, caviar and saffron. Let’s hold on to that while we turn back to the wine.

In the winemaking process, filtration or purification is a key step before the wine goes into the bottle. No one wants to sip on wine with chunks of sediment like fragments of grape skins. So, the Bordelaise (and frankly almost every winemaker on earth), use egg whites in a process called ‘finning.’ They could just the same use fish bladders or fine sieves.

The Dish

Traditionally, the egg whites are whisked into a bowl and poured into the barrel. Left there for the protein to bind with the dead yeast. What happens to all the egg yolks you ask? They make canelé. A local pastry with a caramelized crust, thick center custard and flavored with vanilla and rum.

The story goes that it was first made in the Annonciades Convent on rue Magendie in Bordeaux to feed the local poor. One could thank the cellar master’s wives too for being enterprising and not letting yolks go to waste.

Interestingly, makers of this pastry founded their own corporation as canauliers using though not using milk, or dough as that was already monopolized by the pastry corporation. This however does not restrict them from making Retortillons and blessed bread. Baked in a flute-shaped cylindrical mold coated traditionally in bees wax, it remains a local popular treat.

The pairing.

Now how about some rotted-grape wine. Okay, maybe not as dramatic. Remember the white wine grapes mentioned earlier; Semillion, Sauvignon Blanc and Muscadelle? Well, in the Sauternais region of Bordeaux, there is a nectar sweet wine called Sauterns made of these grapes after deliberate ‘infection’ with the Botrytis Cinerea mould.

It seeps up the water in the grapes causing them to become raisinated and sweeter. The resulting wine is often thick with a deep golden hue and phenomenal balance. Pairing sweet on sweet typically reduces the perception of sugar on the palate and enhances other flavours of both the food and wine.


Waitress serving burger and french fries to customer


The French paradox is the manifestation of low coronary heart disease (CHD) death rates in spite of high intake of dietary cholesterol and saturated fat. A French epidemiologist in the 1980’s formulated the French paradox concept in that period. France is really a country with low CHD incidence and mortality. The average energy supplied by fat was 36% in Toulouse and 38% in Belfast within 1985–86. In recent times, 1995–97, the percentage of energy from fat was 39% in Toulouse according to a representative population assessment.

The French paradox refers to the seeming contradiction revealed in regions of France where, in spite of high ingestion of dairy fat, the people acquired low occurrences of cardiovascular disease. From the onset, it was supposed that the alcohol in the wine was the factor that causes the reduction of the risk. Later, it was discovered that the paradox is only partially explained by the ability of alcohol to enhance HDL or “good” cholesterol.

Recently the research has concentrated on the capacity of the flavonoids in wine to play an active role in causing a reduction in the risk of coronary artery disease. The inclusion of the grape skins in the fermenting process is caused by enormously high level of polyphenols in red wine, which is about twenty to fifty times more than white wines. The polyphenols in grape skins are well known to avert the oxidation of LDL cholesterol, a serious event in the process of the development of coronary artery disease. There is research carried out on blueberry which proves that what is good for your heart is good for your brain. Researchers have also discovered a decreased risk of age-related macular degeneration with the consumption of restricted amounts of red wine.


The French diet concisely can be explained as eating small portions of high-quality foods less often. Foods that are a fastening of the French diet consist of full-fat cheese and yogurt, butter, bread, vegetable and fresh fruits, little portions of meat more frequently fish or chicken than red meat, dark chocolate, and wine.


France has an astonishingly low obesity rate in spite of regularly eating rich foods like cheeses pastries and cream sauces, and this has typically to do with their eating style. Not like North Americans who tend to often eat vast amounts of processed foods, the French tend to eat leisurely, almost like a grazing animal. Moreover, because conversation and wine play important roles in their social ritual, having a small amount of red wine really helps digestion by slowing things down.


In correspondence studies, measures that signify characteristics of an entire population: consumption of daily milk, animal fat and alcohol are exploited to explain disease (CHD mortality). Restrictions of correspondence studies are the failure to link exposure with disease in particular individuals, the inability to manage the effects of possible confounding factors, and the utilization of average exposure levels in lieu of actual individual values. France has the lowest rate of heart disease deaths in all of Europe despite consuming the most saturated fat.


Some authors have written numerous hypotheses in order to explain this, even if causality is not part of the French paradox. Debates have paid attention to alcohol consumption and, more purposely, on red wine. Study that consumption of red wine moderately on a regular basis maybe preventative against coronary disease is current. A scientist working at the Bordeaux University in France, stated that recommending red wine consumption in moderation explained the “French Paradox”, the low rate of heart attacks in France in spite of a significant dietary intake of saturated fats and alcohol.


  • Burgundy wine
  • Provence wine
  • Brittany wine
  • The pairing of wine and food.


Tannins act in response with proteins. When matching with dishes that are high in proteins and fats such as hard cheeses and red meat, the tannins will bind with the protein and the bitterness of tannins make the wine feel in harmony.


There is no other culture that has mastered the art of food and wine pairing as early and as well like the French but this is not to say that other cultures have since not evolved to be as good in food and wine pairing. France’s regional food and wine scene emphasize local produce and raw ingredients to produce terroir-driven dishes with a stern sense of place — including within the glass.


Burgundy wine (Bourgogne or Vin de Bourgogne) is wine grown  in the Burgundy region located in the eastern part of France, in the valleys and slopes west of the Saône, an arm of the Rhône. The most renowned wines produced here are their dry red wines prepared from Pinot Noir grapes and white wines prepared from Chardonnay grapes.

Red and white wines are also prepared from other grape varieties, such as Gamay and Aligoté, correspondingly. The region also produces little amounts of rosé and sparkling wines. Burgundy is recognized as having the highest number of appellations d’origine contrôlée (AOC’s) than any other French region and is regularly seen as the most terroir-conscious of the French wine regions. The varieties of Burgundy AOC’s are classified from cautiously delineated Grand Cru vineyards down to a more distracted region.


A great wine-producing region, known well for its rosé wines, of which  Côtes de Provence and Côteaux d’Aix are the most prominent ones. However, red wines are also produced in Provence, together with some very rich red wines from the Var, and “grey wine” from the Camargue area. The most illustrious of the area’s wines is Bandol, notable since the middle ages. Some of the southern  parts of the Côtes du Rhone AOP area also overlap into the Provence region.


Brittany, which is on the north-western side of France, is well-known as a cultural region. This region in the French language is referred to as Bretagne and in other terms, this is referred to as Little Britain. Bounded by the English Channel, the Celtic Sea, the Atlantic Ocean, and the Bay of Biscay on its four sides, this region has a prosperous history of vine cultivation and winemaking. Aside Muscadet, we can find numerous appellations having originated from a number of unique varietals like Merlot and Gros plants.

Generally, the main part of Brittany is used for cultivating wines from Muscadet and Gros plants as the base. The history of Muscadet in Brittany is dated back to the seventeenth century when Dutch merchants in the Loire first introduced it. The present-day Muscadet vineyard is seeing extending from the coast to the island. The greatest examples of Muscadet can be seen in the regions of Sèvre et Maine. The Muscadet wines provide a perfect combination with any seafood dish.


Wine flavors are made from definite components: sugar, fruit acid, tannin, and alcohol. Foods also contain flavor components, such as fat, salt, acid, sugar and bitter. The most flourishing food and wine pairings entails complementary components that enhance the richness and textures.


There are a small number of elements that make both red wine and white wine pairings work, and they are deduced from the distinctiveness of the food and how they blend with those of the wine.  The elements are fat, acid, salt, bitterness texture and sweetness.

Many favorite foods, both dairy and meat products, have a high grade of fat. Wine does not contain fat, so when matching fatty food with wine, consider that it has to balance that fat with acid, cut it along with tannin, or match its affluence with alcohol. Acid is another important element in both food and wine. In wine, it annexes nerve, freshness, and lifts. This is also with food. When searching for a wine to go with an acidic dish, you should ensure the perceived acidity of the wine is at least equivalent to that of the food. Salt, sweetness, texture, and bitterness are other factors that affect the matching of food with wine.


Residence to escargot, mustard, and an array of savory meat dishes, Burgundy is commonly considered one of the critical regions in France for food and wine. The region’s loaded cuisine and insanely thorough wine culture (Burgundy is certified for essentially establishing the concept of terroir) make it the best place to begin when it comes to drinking and eating your way through France. For beginners, dive into Burgundy’s namesake dish, boeuf bourguignon, which is a loving meat and vegetable stew. As soon as it deemed a peasant’s meal, boeuf bourguignon can now be found in some of the country’s best menus, together with those at Michelin-starred restaurants. Serve along with a local glass of Pinot Noir, the region’s mark red wine grape of any quality level and this is as simple and extraordinary match as one can have.


Pot and Bowl of bouillabaisse enriched with parsley. Nothing says Provence in the south of France like its love of fresh fish, here paired along with lip-smacking rosé. Bouillabaisse is a traditional Provencal fish stew created from local Marseilles fish with celery, potatoes, tomatoes, and Provencal herbs, then served together with slices of grilled bread. The ultimate dish is both layered and intricate, enjoining a versatile, food-lovely wine with bright acidity. The trick is done by the beauty of the simplicity and accommodating local rosé wines.


This is a Crêpe pancake together with ham, soft white cheese avocado, and egg on a white plate. Even though the traditional pairing for crêpes is commonly cider or beer, serving up savory pancakes along with a glass of local white wine can be equally a thirst-quenching changeup. This coastal, Atlantic-influenced region produces wine from the melon de Bourgogne grape — however, otherwise Muscadet — producing high-acid, saline-tinged wine that will match gently with this dish.


We have just started to scratch the surface of food and wine pairing and especially French wine, a task that can take a lifetime to get an understanding. The critical issue here is to understand at its core the French Paradox, which essentially brings some understanding how such a righ and fat based diet together with red wine in moderation can accomplish arguably the lowest heart disease culture and country.

Entrecôte de Bordeaux and Bordeaux Wine Pairing

Wine tasting experience


Bordeaux is revered in the wine industry, and rightfully so. For centuries, the Bordelaise have blessed the world with the fruits of their exceptional palates and passion for flavor. Food and wine are synonymous in this region. Lunches and dinners are long and drawn out bonding experiences where conversation undoubtedly ebbs from the obligatory politics into food, the considerations made in making it, the wine and the pains taken in pairing.  What bliss.

Tradition and the observance of age-old techniques, be it in wine making or creating lovely masterpieces for the dinner table. More often than not, most dishes, though simple in their making, are well thought out and incorporate fresh, locally sourced ingredients. The Bordelaise ensure that flavors are natural and ring clear on the palate. Such can only be achieved by sourcing the very best and fresh ingredients.

The bordelaise are also remarkably carnivorous. Choice meats form veal, rabbit, duck, flavorful lamb, and the ever-present king of meats-Beef.


Entrecôte de Bordeaux is a premium cut of beef served topped with a reduced wine sauce at times accompanied with a choice of vegetables.

Entrecôte is a French denotation for premium cut beef usually from the Rib-eye area. On the other hand Contre-filet is a cut from the sirloin. The Bordelaise sauce is made with dry red wine, bone marrow, butter, shallots and sauce demi-glace.  The demi-glace is a rich brown veal sauce.

Legend has it this dish was the brainchild of a hungry cellar worker who grilled the steak over used wine barrel staves. Such luxuries are rare nowadays, what with the expense of wine barrels used or new. Chateaux would sooner sell them to Whiskey makers or other interested parties and turn a profit, than raise a spit to grill steak.

All is not lost.  Vine shoots, got by pruning or old vine stocks from re-planting provide adequate tannin source as would the barrels and can be used for cooking fuel.

Wine Pairing

Ahh, Bordeaux wine. You might not know this, but the Bordelaise know a thing or two about wine. They are certainly very humble about it.

Local wines have a way of transforming dishes and Bordeaux is not short of wine offerings.  It is important to note that one should use typically the same wine intended for serving into any dish that calls for wine. Therefore, this dish is no exception.

Merlot tends to dominate the Right-bank appellations like Saint-Émilion and Pomerol. Cabernet Sauvignon produces beautiful elegance on the Left-bank all the way from Medoc to Pessac-Leognan.

Personally, this dish tends to be better with a Cabernet Franc primary based wine for the intense aromatic nose, rich flavor, balanced tannin and spicy finish. This grape is bound to infuse its beautiful flavors into the steak. With that in mind, a good Pomerol with the heavier Merlot structure combined with the Cabernet Franc should hit the spot. Enjoy your next casual Bordeaux lunch!

Giuseppe Quintarelli and winemakers to follow in his footsteps

couple of winemakers tasting red wine

The immediate connection made with Guiseppe Quintarelli is the idea of raw, quality, old-school wine.

Quintarelli was known for decades in the industry – which consisted of creating wines, labels and even corks that are of the highest quality. Everything he touched was made in complete perfection.
Guiseppe’s legacy set the benchmark for winemakers to follow – and set the standard for what wine from the Veneto region should be like.

In modern times, it has become the norm to release young wines without allowing the wines to develop to their full potential.

What Quintarelli did, was exhibit the importance of ageing wines thoroughly – and has proven time after time that those wines are beyond comparison. The wines from his estate were and still are, after all, considered some of the highest quality in Italy.

What Quintarelli had managed to prove – is that with patience, precision and a true passion for the craft, exquisite wine can be produced.

Although his wines carry quite a high price-tag, most would agree that the price is well worth the quality that is exhibited.

Considering the environment he grew up in, it stands without reason that Guiseppe’s eldest daughter would easily sustain what he had built after his death. In complete control of the wine production now, Florenza is one of the people to make waves in this region for the types of wine to be produced.

Even without her father, the range of wines produced here are still considered to be wines of the highest of excellence in the world of wine.

Her father and grandfather have managed to set the physical vines, as well as standards and traditions so well that she would just be able to continue the legacy effortlessly.

Other than Florenza, there are a number of other winemakers in Veneto who follow similar winemaking values in Veneto.

Among them is Stefano Inama, who grew up making wine with his father all his life.
Stefano’s family estate was blessed with unique volcanic soil, but their practices are what put their wine above the rest.

Stefano’s belief in organic and traditional wine practices, along with his belief in minimal intervention has made his wines one the most sought after. His views on wine consist of the importance of natural and traditional methods in a world where modern technology feels as though it has taken control. This is where the overlapping in both Guiseppe and Stefano’s practices shine through.

As Guiseppe Quintarelli was, Stefano is extremely humble concerning his wine – and focuses more on creating good wine than he is about declaring it. His wine, for instance, is organic – but he believes it is vital for creating wine and should not be a marketing tool. One might state that the highlight of the Inama wines’ philosophy is the emphasis on quality and naturalism above anything else – and thus the wines here are regarded so highly.

Considering these are the types of values that winemakers in Veneto are taken to heart it is no wonder that Veneto is such a popular wine region. Not only is the terroir from this region of spectacular in its ability for the wines to produce such quality, but so are the winemakers and their practices.

Merlot in Washington State and some Exceptional Producers

Merlot Tasting Board

At present, there are so many wineries in Washington State that offers different types of wines and make claims on paper to customers that at time it is hard to decipher this region. However, one needs to respect the fact that Washington State produces some of the absolute best Merlots varietals in the world and when matched to a great producer the results can be stunning.

Although an impossible task in choosing as there are some spectacular winemakers, here are some producers recently tasted that stood out beautifully.

  • Gard Vintners Winery: Founded in 2006 by Josh and Lisa Lawrence, Gard Vintners is a family owned winery with a farmed estate vineyard on the Royal Slope of Washington’s Columbia Valley AVA. Gards Vintners produces humbly craft value-driven, award-winning wines from its sustainable estate vineyards that create lasting memories for their clients. The winery mission is to capture and bottle the unique characteristics of the land. At present, Gard Vintners produces 6,000 cases a year for its wine club, three tasting rooms, and select distribution in the northwest and across the country. Gard Vintners has three wine tasting rooms in Washington State; the first is located at Woodinville, another at Walla Walla, and the third situated at Ellensburg.
  • COR Cellars: Founded in 2004, COR is an excellent winery in Washington that produces ten different wines with personality and character from the Columbia Rivers most distinguished vineyards. The winery also produces Alsatian and Friulian varietals from the Columbia Gorge and Bordeaux varietals from the Columbia Valley and Horse Heaven Hills. COR believes that wine is a perfect expression of human conditions and the fruit of the landscape that produces not just foods but an elixir that is expressive, delicious and healthful. One beautiful thing about COR Cellars is its modern tasting room which is situated at Old Highway 8, just above the quiet hamlet of Lyle, WA.  All COR Cellars wines are sold at affordable prices that equates the quality of the juice and their Merlots have an exceptional price to quality ratio regardless of the label purchased.
  • Domaine Pouillon: Established in 2005 by Alexis & Juliet Pouillon, Domaine Pouillon is a family friendly winery that produces wines that are driven by cuisine, passion, climate and those rooted in the French winemaking traditions of the Rhône Valley. The Winery is located in the hills near Lyle – just 15 stunning miles from Hood River which is a French hideaway in the Columbia Gorge.  Each year, the Domaine produces approximately 2,500 cases of delicious and sophisticated wine with the highest standard. The grapes are hand-picked in small lots at their ideal ripeness.  The firm also practices traditional artisan winemaking techniques: gently guiding the wine, allowing it to mature in the cellar before bottling and labeling each by hand.

Finally, as always, although these three wineries produce exceptional Merlots, it would be a disservice not to make the obvious statement that as a general rule, most serious wine producers in Washington State make exceptional varietal Merlots that are approachable in their youth and yet carry high complexity.

Grüner Veltliner, Austria’s Landmark Varietal

Sunrise over famous Hallstatt fisherman village, Austria

Grüner Veltliner has a rich history in Austria that dates back to the mid-1800’s. However, most American wine enthusiasts only began discovering the delightful array of wines that comes from this varietal in the early 2000’s. Back then, they were one of the best-kept secrets of the wine world.

Thanks to the large demand for Grüner Veltliner by Austrians who would seek to shake things off at their wine-grower-owned wine-taverns, the wine growers began putting more focus on this varietal. It has an exceptional ability to create depth and character, which is why today, half of the white vine acreage in Austria is devoted to it.

Grüner Veltliner is well-suited to the soils that line the Danube. Rich in minerals, it helps the grapes thrive and its cold resistance is ideal. Depending on how each wine maker interprets it, you may find yourself with a light and cheery flavor or it could be rich, dense, and heady. There’s no one that is better than another, though wine enthusiasts surely have their favorites. Much of what you’ll love depends on your palate though the possibilities for exploring the depth and variety of this varietal are seemingly endless.

Light Grüner Veltliner is much like what you’d find in the wine taverns. They often have screw caps or pop-tops. Berger, Setzer, and Hofer of the Kremstal and Weinviertal regions are some that might tickle your palate in the most authentically Austrian and lively ways.

If you’d like to try something a bit richer, there are offering from Nikolaihof, Ott, and Hiedler in the Wachau, Kamptal, and Wagram regions, respectively. For more crisp and mineral flavors, you should try Schloss Gobelsburg and Weingut Bründlmayer. As you can see, the depth of flavor from this one varietal is indeed astounding.

In the last 20 years, what’s changed about Grüner Veltliner is that winemakers are truly seeing its full potential and exploring it, thanks to the feedback Austria has been getting and its contributions to the wine world. Today’s offerings of these wines are even more complex than their counterparts with more exotic flavors reflective of the mineral-rich soil. But what makes it truly stand apart in production of Grüner Veltliner today is how well it ages, much like the better-known Riesling. It’s much more versatile when paired with food though, even more adept than Riesling and it marries tremendously well with the massive amounts of asparagus dishes that Austrians love so much and that this grape is so well suited for.

For those that have never tried Grüner Veltliner, we recommend trying different ones to see the span of flavors and aromas they each lend. Some great ones recently tasted are:

Berger Grüner Veltliner, a flinty wine that goes beautifully with white fish dishes.

Setzer Grüner Veltliner, another match made in heaven for fish dinners.

Hofer Grüner Veltliner, a bit lemony with a crisp apple finish.

Hirsch Kammern Grüner Veltliner, crisply acidic and utterly complex.

Schloss Gobelsburg Renner Grüner Veltliner, ripely fresh and intense.

Exploring Vine diseases; How Hungary is fighting the good fight

grape vine branch with grapes and leaves in the vineyard

Unbeknownst to many, Hungary has a rich history of wine growing. Traditions that date far beyond the Roman empire and for a time stunted by communism and publicization of vineyards. This, to the detriment of wine quality in Hungary saw previously popular good quality brands that had the same if not more notoriety as French wines deteriorate into oblivion (Tokaji being a prime example). Fortunately since the fall of Communism in 1990 quality has come back.

However, high loses caused by plaguing pathogens continuously threaten the yields, mortality and quality of stocks. It was only a little over fifty years ago that Dr. János Lehoczky and his colleagues at the Research Institute for Viticulture, in Kecskemét, that a certification scheme for producing virus free nursery materials was introduced.

Grapevine certification programs ensure nursery growers have tested and pathogen free vine-lings. This in turn saves growers millions of dollars and ensures that they have the right protection against them and thus guaranteeing vine longevity and wine quality.

Unique Hungarian Diseases

Their report, albeit mostly untranslated since it is in Hungarian, points to Grapevine Fleck Virus (GFkV) and Grapevine leafroll-associated virus (GLRaV) as playing a leading role in the degradation of local grapevines. Since then, there have been numerous studies and diagnostical methods employed into the research of producing virus-free propagating material. Technology continues to play an important role in identifying new diseases.

One can simply look at the devastation caused by the Phylloxera virus to see just how important this is. Cautioned by a dark history that saw the entire wine world at its knees.

One should note that while many of the diseases that affect vines can be spotted easily on the vine, such as red leaf, they can go unnoticed during vine dormancy when growers cut the wood for propagation. Other viruses or disease-causing agents may be so low that they are either virtually unrecognizable or that the variety itself is tolerant.  New diseases are discovered each year as mutations happen, others can simply be acquired through importing infected stock.

Primary Testing Methods

While testing methods are many, the following three can be highlighted;

  1. Direct Culture (inoculating indicator Plants);

This, the oldest form of Lab testing is not only commonly used, but useful in identifying bacterial and fungal diseases. An infected tissue sample is placed into a selective culture media and observed for what grows out of it. In grapes bacteria like Pierce’s disease and Crown Gal as well as fungal ones like; Oak root Fungus (armillaria), Eutypa, Crown Rot (Phytophthora), Botrytis and Phomopsis can be detected.

  • Serolical Tests;

Something akin to vaccination. Serological tests involve injecting an animal with a purified version of the virus to create an antiserum. Antibodies that react to it are then purified and the resulting antiserum tested for effectiveness. The Enzyme-Linked Immunosorbent Assay (ELISA) test is most common but can only be successful if the samples are in good condition, from the appropriate tissue and produced at the right time of the year.

  • Woody indexing. This involves grafting ‘clean’ buds onto stems that display symptoms. with Biological Indicators

Grape Vine Viruses

Grapevine vein mosaic

Discovered in 1966. Grapevine Vein Mosaic produces a vein banding appearing as a pale green mosaic on the main veins of the leaf. The disease can be spread by vegetative propagation and grafting. Gloire de Montpellier is used as indicator variety.

Grapevine vein necrosis

Reported in 1986, its symptoms are dead cell tissues of the vein-lets underside of the leaf blade. This develops from the base of the shoot and as it grows, on the young leaves. It can develop into tendrils and result in green shoots dying. Its cause is unknown and so is its host plant. Care is to be taken while grafting as this causes it to spread.

Grapevine fanleaf virus (GFLV)

First recorded by Sárospataki in 1964 (Hungary). Its many strains cause varying symptoms and severity. It infects all cultivars and can cause a slow decline or a swift destruction of an entire crop. Symptoms range from abnormal bunching. Leaf deformations, fan-shaped primary veins and infected vines. Sight of yellow mosaic, vein banding and enlarged petiolar sinus are also indicators of the virus.

While these are a few of the types of disease-causing organisms to watch out for, new methods are employed daily to ensure the integrity of the vines. One More recently developed is Molecular indexing; the target the plant pathogen’s genetic genome. Methods such as PRC selectively amplify small parts of the pathogen’s genome and prove to be effective since each has its own unique genetic identifier.

The glorious Ice Wine of Niagara

Homemade red wine sangria with orange, apple, strawberry and ice in glass and pitcher

Canadian Ice Wine

Although Ice Wine originated in Germany, Canada’s climate has allowed them the successful and high-quality production of the wine – placing them with other leading producers of this wine in the world.

Although producing Ice Wine is risky business, some of the producers in Canada have managed to do it successfully time after time. The region of Niagara in Canada is one of the largest production regions for of Ice Wine in the world – and with unique techniques, climate and experience, it’s no wonder why.

In the Beginning

Ice Wine in Canada dates back to 1972 after unforeseen frost set in across some vines in British Columbia. The winemakers never intended on releasing the wine produced from these frozen grapes, but changed their minds a few years later. This sparked the interest of Ice Wine in Canada.

It was in 1979 however, with the establishment of Newark Winery in Ontario, where the production of Ice Wine truly began to flourish.

In the years to follow, the production of Ice Wine remained pretty constant. However, the last fifteen years saw a great change for this product.

Current Developments

The curiosity regarding the boundaries of Ice Wine has been pushed in the last decade – testing out new methods, varietals and techniques. Ice Wines have traditionally only been made with specific varietals, mainly Riesling, Cabernet Franc and Vidal.  In 1999, however, the first successful Merlot Ice Wine was produced, followed by a Shiraz, Sangiovese and Cabernet Ice Wine in the years that followed. The last decade saw a shift in perception regarding the limitations of this wine as well as moving away from Vidal and non Vinifera grapes.

Considering the amount of Ice Wine produced in Canada, there have been strict laws regarding the specifications of producing the wine – which has ensured a consistent standard throughout.
Currently, The Vintners Quality Alliance regulates this quality. There are a number of regulations Ice Wine has to meet in order for it to be considered a legal Ice Wine. These regulations control everything from the alcohol requirements, sugar content, harvest temperatures and even harvest months. Ontario, and Niagara particularly, has managed to meet these requirements and produce some of the world’s best Ice Wines.

A huge part of why Niagara is able to create such successful wines, is the terroir of the region. The soil of the region is rich in nutrients, and although it is considered a cool-climate area, there is a warm influence from Lake Ontario nearby that allows the grapes to ripen fully and consistently.

Considering the grapes are left on the vines for months after they have ripened, the wine producers have to protect the grapes from birds and animals – and do this by covering the vines with nets.

During harvest times, the grapes are picked in the early morning to ensure the acidity and sugars in the grapes are captured and retained for pressing. When Ice Wine is fermented, the process is slowed down tremendously due to the high sugar content and can take months to complete the process.

All these considerations and very specific techniques are what has allowed Canada, and Niagara, in particular, to stand out and make a name for themselves with the big European boys in the Ice Wine world.

Jura and Poulsard Grape Wines

Rose Wine, Grapes and Cheese

Jura and Poulsard Grape Wines

You might not have heard of it yet, but Poulsard can be seen as the king of red grape and red wine production in Jura. This tiny region East of France has managed to remain a mystery for many a wine lover; save for the popularity of Comté cheese, Vin Jaune (the Sherry like rarity) and Macvin du Jura (a blend of 2 parts unfermented (or barely fermented) grape juice and 1 part Marc). However, neither the region, nor the grape is anything short of formidable.

Terroir and back story  

Jura bestows its name to the Jurassic age. A nod to the ancient and rich terroir. Its rich soil remains predominantly Limestone with hints and overlays of clay peppered around the region to offer an interesting growing medium for its many indigenous grape varieties. Of which, they are speculated to have been over forty! The resulting wines are often complex and demanding patience from its growers.

The region itself sits between Burgundy and Switzerland. Albeit wetter than the former (Hello Cheese!), Jura’s vineyards are perched on a high-altitude, limestone-rich plateau angled eastward. Just right to capture the sun.

Enter Poulsard.  

That’s ‘Ploussard’ to the natives. Of the 20,000 ha of vineyards, Poulsard is the most planted red variety and makes up 80% of the wines produced from the region.

A specialty of Arbois (Northern Jura), it is a thoroughly black grape with thin skin and low tannin.

Growers employ particular patience to ultimately produce the complex wines this region is renowned for. Its thin skin often becomes a vintner’s nightmare as it makes it more susceptible to mold and disease while exposed to the elements. The vine itself provides an unpredictable yield. It is this versatility in the winery that makes it worth the while.

Although lending itself to long fermentation on skin, no amount of maceration will make the resulting wine any denser! That is the beauty of this grape. Poulsard wines are Gamay-like light red in their color.

Poulsard remains an incredibly versatile grape producing pale, delicately perfumed wines renowned for their peculiar charm. Frequently mistaken for Rose, it lends its heady aromas to Blanc de Blancs and Crémants (Crémant du Jura) of the region.

Vin de paille  

Another specialty of Jura is this “straw” wine. A blend of Poulsard, Savagnin and Chardonnay, this rarity is bottled in special half-size bottles. Poulsard is to thank for the wines red berry, yet un-overwhelming character.

Grape bunches are laid out on straw mats basking in the sun or hung indoors to dry and concentrate their sugars before pressing. The resulting wine is a minute quantity of very sweet wine that goes into barrels for ageing. Several years later, one can delight in opening a deeply hued wine with complex layered flavors of raisins and walnut.  These wines have the capacity to age for decades when produced.


Spring in a bottle. Nothing is as vivacious and inviting as a bottle of Poulsard. Although there are so many great producers in the area, these are just two refreshing bottles worth checking out that we have recently had.

  • 2015 Domaine de La Pinte’s Arbois Poulsard
  • 2014 Domaine de La Borde’s Ploussard Cote de Feule Biodynamic