I recently had the great privilege of spending an afternoon with legendary Napa Valley winemaker Mike Grgich. Over a long lunch and more than a few bottles of his finest wines, we discussed his career and its influence on Napa winemaking as well as his myriad accomplishments, winning both the 1976 Judgment of Paris and the Great Chicago Showdown to name but a few. I had never met Mike in person before and did not know what to expect. What I found was a man with deep pride in his accomplishments but one who is equally grateful to all those who helped and influenced him along the way. I also discovered a man who is the living embodiment of the American dream, having fled communism to find success in Paradise, California. It's safe to say that my long lunch with Mike was the most enjoyable and interesting day of the six years I have spent running IntoWine. I interviewed Mike via email in 2007 . The interview below is round two, where I get to ask my wish list of questions. Thankfully, Mike obliged.
Top Fifty (51) Sparkling Wines to Try Before You Quit Drinking (a non-dump bucket list if you will!)
To make this list I tried to include wines and styles from around the world. Quality was of the utmost importance, but pricing and availability were factors as well. As we lift our glasses this holiday season, there are lots of great sparkling wines to fill them. No need to turn to industrial flavored wines. Some of these wines can be found for under $15. Others are well over $100. There are some wines that are so rare that their stratospheric pricing is based on scarceness and not the quality of the wine in the bottle. Although those wines may in fact be delicious, they are not included on this list. This list includes wines that are for drinking.
Top 50 California Cabernet Sauvignons to Try Before You Quit Drinking (a non-dump bucket list if you will!)
In putting together a list of the top California Cabernets, there is sure to be some disagreement. I tried to include those wines that have a track record, the wineries still making great wines, those that seemed to have the commitment for the future and some personal favorites. I am sure I left some out. 1. Shafer Vineyards Cabernet Sauvignon Hillside Select – It’s always hard to name the number one wine. But this has a track record that’s very long. Even in less than stellar vintages, it is an outstanding wine. They just don’t seem to make a dud. My only complaint is the price at over $200 a bottle. But, in comparison to other Napa Cabs or elsewhere in the world, this is a fair price.
Unless you’re a super wine geek, German Riesling may not, at first, sound all that appealing. German wine has earned a bad rap in the past, most notably from the production of sweet and cheap Liebfraumilch—remember Blue Nun? The wine was produced on a huge scale (175 million bottles sold in 1984 alone), but its success destroyed Germany’s fine wine reputation. And Germany certainly was well known for fine wine: in the 19th century, German “Hock” sold for higher prices than first growth Bordeaux. But wine experts the world over agree that German Riesling is among the best wine in the world. In the Mosel, the Rheingau and other spots in Germany, Riesling reaches its greatest expression (think Pinot Noir in Burgundy). These wines are complex and packed with so many aromas and flavors you can’t even begin to name them all. They are handmade, with handpicked and hand-sorted grapes and minimalist winemaking intervention—pick the grapes, ferment them and put the wine in a bottle. This also means that German Rieslings express their terroir like few wines in the world are able to do. The same producer can make several Rieslings that are drastically different in style from one another, simply by using grapes from different vineyards. Riesling can also be made in a range of styles depending on the sugar levels of the grapes, from dry to very, very sweet.
I’m usually a good speller, but was concerned when I saw a couple of my contributors recording a favorite comfort food as “lasagn a ”. I’ve been spelling the dish as “lasagn e ” for years. Then I was relieved to find that lasagn e indicates more than one piece of the pasta ribbon. I promise to get a life. However the dish is spelled, this beloved casserole really does hail from Italy, unlike some of the other so-called “foreign” favorites that have become completely Americanized. The early Italian version was typically layered with cheese, sauce and other ingredients. But the term originated in ancient Greece as “lasagnum”, referring to a dish or bowl. When eventually the region was acquired by the Romans, they used the same kind of dish, then developed the layered pasta meal to be baked and served in that dish. The early Italians ultimately changed the name of the container from “lasagnum” to “lasagna”, and later, the word began to represent the entrée baked in that dish.
Launched in 2003, Twisted Oak Winery located in Calavaras County, part of the broader Sierra Foothills wine region, has become one of the more popular and better known wineries in the area. Taking its philosophical cues more from Monty Python than UC Davis, founder Jeff Stai originally planted just 11 acres of grapes in what was a quiet out of the way region. Now Calavaras and the Foothills wines are gaining national exposure as the public and the wine writers are discovering the potential of this region.
Wines have been made in the land that is present day Israel for thousands of years, yet, the Israeli wine industry is really just at its beginnings. Like so much about Israel, the dichotomies between young and old, history and present day, and the political realities of a young country manifest in its wines. There are many references to wine and winemaking found in the Old Testament. In ancient times, Israel was on the trade routes of Egypt and Mesopotamia and wine was almost certainly one of the commodities traded. Ruins of ancient wine presses over 2,000 years old can still be visited in Israel. Israeli wine was prized in ancient Rome often above the locally produced wines. Of course, Jesus turned water into wine at the Wedding in Cana in the Galilee (does that count?). With the Islamic conquest of the area in the seventh century, the wine industry ended. The existing grape vines were ripped out. Sadly, no one knows today what types of grapes were indigenous to the area or brought there by early traders and what types of wines were made.
Joe Roberts is known to many as 1 Wine Dude, the author of a wine blog that has reached stratospheric heights and was begun as a blog for the “intermediate” wine lover. He is now a wine consultant and a member of the U.S.-based Society of Wine Educators and other organizations. He has been a winner of the Wine Blog Awards for best wine blog, and Wine Enthusiast ranked him as one of the top three wine blogs in 2010. He is currently one of the finalists for the 2012 Wine Blog Awards, and was a finalist for the 2011 Wine Blog Awards, proof that social media has forever changed the landscape of wine. His casual yet focused approach to wine causes him to be a sought after speaker and educator.
Kosta Browne began as a dream shared by Dan Kosta and Michael Browne. In the summer of 1997, Dan and Michael decided to venture into winemaking. They saved their tip money obtained from working in local restaurants for two months and eventually had enough to buy a half ton of Pinot Noir, a used barrel and a hand-crank stemmer-crusher. Since that vintage, they have nurtured relationships with the best growers and honed their winemaking skills, making sure to focus on the vision and values with which they began. Their Pinot Noirs have received numerous awards including being awarded as’ Wine of the Year’ by Wine Spectator in 2011.
Nevarez Vineyard is a family-owned business located on 75 acres of land in Paso Robles. Juan Nevarez worked his way from farm laborer, to an organizer for Cesar Chavez, to becoming the founding vineyard manager for Justin Winery to eventually owning his own winery. The fruit of Nevarez Vineyard continues to be purchased by established wineries in the Central Coast and in Northern California areas, and Nevarez has won two "Grower of the Year" awards. Juan Nevarez has become the first Mexican vineyard/winery owner in San Luis Obispo County. What are the challenges in being a Hispanic-owned winery? I wouldn’t say the challenges we have are due to being a Hispanic-owned winery but rather that of being a smaller wine business competing in our current economy. I have heard about (prejudicial behavior) being an issue for others and people have shared their stories with me, however I have not personally experienced it. I really think this is a credit to the Hispanic-owned wineries that existed before me who have blazed a trail in Napa and other regions in California. Our wines are fairly new to the market therefore creating space amongst all the wonderful wines of the world is a work in progress. But in time the passion and hard work put in will translate into passionate patrons of the distinct Paso Robles viticulture.