Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Seven Wine Industry Greats Who Passed in 2015

The wine industry lost several influential people this year. Today we remember seven world wine luminaries.

John Pedroncelli, Jr.
John Pedroncelli, Jr.
He was a second-generation California winemaker and played an active part in growing Sonoma County, California’s wine industry.

John Pedroncelli, Jr. followed his father, John, Sr. into the Pedroncelli Winery family business in 1948. John Jr. and his brother Jim purchased the winery from their father in 1963 and began increasing the line of wines and expanding the vineyards. (The Pedroncelli Winery is now operated by third and fourth generations of the family.)

John Pedroncelli prided himself on crafting affordable wines in the Dry Creek Valley. He wanted people to enjoy his wines now, not lay them down to age. Zinfandel was his favorite and he was the first winemaker in the state to make a Zinfandel Rosé. Besides Zinfandel, he also crafted Pinot Noir, Riesling, and various red blends, producing over 60 vintages for the winery.

John Pedroncelli died on January 4, 2015 after a brief battle with cancer. He was 89 years old. He is survived by his wife, Christine, three children and five grandchildren.

Evelyn Trentadue
Evelyn Trentadue
Evelyn Trentadue was the matriarch of a well-known Alexander Valley winemaking family.

Leo and Evelyn
She married Leo Trentadue in 1950. The couple left San Francisco in 1959 after purchasing a ranch in Geyserville. There they began a life-long love affair with wine grapes. While Leo tended 150 acres of plums and 60 acres of vineyards, Evelyn drove tons of grapes to market. By 1969, the couple had built one of the first wineries in the region; the Trentadue Winery.

The winery is known for its Zinfandel, Petite Sirah, Cabernet, Merlot and Sangiovese, plus a red blend called Old Patch Red. Trentadue was the first California winery to release a 100% varietal Sangiovese – a nod to the family's Italian heritage.

Evelyn Trentadue died on March 21, 2015. She was 84 years old. She is survived by three children and six grandchildren, and was preceded in death by her husband, Leo.

Bob McLean
Bob McLean
One of Australia’s most respected winemakers passed away in April. Bob McLean was known as a “big guy with a big heart” in the wine world down under.

McLean made Barossa Valley his home and shared his love of the region by being a key tourism promoter for the region and deputy chairman for South Australian Tourism Association.

McLean worked his way up in the wine industry starting at “the bottom of the pile.” He spent 30 years in the industry doing what he called “communicating.” He refused to be labeled as a marketer, but his branding work with Petaluma, Orlando and Saint Hallett was famous. McLean worked on building winery images and promoting wine brands while helping to establish Australian wines in the international market, especially in Europe.

After years of success, McLean and his wife Wilma launched their own brand, McLean’s Farm Wines & Barr-Eden Vineyard, at Tanunda in the Barossa Valley.

Bob McLean died on April 9, 2015 of liver cancer. He was 67 years old. In true McLean-style, he left a “farewell statement” to be published after his passing in which he confirmed “that these rumours of my death are true.” He is survived by his wife Wilma, two children and his grandchildren.

Joseph Henriot
Joseph Henriot
He was a legend in the world of Champagne and Burgundy wines, and a well-respected star of the French wine industry.

Joseph Henriot decided to take a different tack from the family business and was studying agronomy when his father died in 1957. Henriot then returned to the Champagne region in France to work in the family's Champagne Henriot Company. He became president of the company in 1962.

For the next several years he acquired several Champagne houses including Charles Heidsieck in 1975 and Veuve Cliquot. In 1985, Henriot sold the family business to Remy Martin. Louis Vuitton Moet Hennessy acquired the family house in 1987. Henriot was president of Veuve Clicquot Ponsardin during this time.

In 1994 he agreed to buy the family business back from LVMH. He also bought Maison Bouchard Pere et Fils, a well known Burgundy house, which included grand and premier cru vineyards.

Henriot went on to buy William Fèvre in Chablis, in 1998, and Villa Ponciago located in Beaujolais, in 2008.

Joseph Henriot died on April 27, 2015 at the age of 79. He is survived by his wife and three children. One son, Thomas Henriot will now run the House of Henriot.

Noël Verset
Noel Verset
He spent over 75-years cultivating wine grapes, and working to establish the Cornas appellation as an outstanding region for Syrah grapes.

Noël Verset loved the Cornas region and he worked hard to cultivate the wine grapes as his ancestors had done for centuries. Verset left school at the age of 12 to tend the family’s vineyard, but the pay was scant, so he also worked for the local railroad in Valence for years.

In the 1980s and 1990s, Verset began to bottle more of his "local wine." He became known as the “Grand Old Man” of Cornas and had visitors from around the world visit his vineyards and try his wine. The vino was said to be expressive, complex and faithful to the region – a dark, brooding wine with a wonderful texture that could enrapture the soul.

Verset continued to craft wine for sale until 2000. His last vintage for family use was in 2006.

Noël Verset died on September 11, 2015 in Guilherand-Granges, France. He was 95-years-old. He is survived by two daughters; his wife preceded him in death. Verset will be remembered for gaining the acceptance of the Cornas region as a great wine province.

Brian Wheaton
Brian Wheaton
He was a man with a list of acronyms behind his name; MW for Masters of Wine, AWE for Association of Wine Educators, and AGG for All-around Good Guy.

Brian Wheaton qualified for an MW – Masters of Wine - the highest distinction in the UK Wine Trade, in 1967. He was the only person awarded the distinction that year. (Today, only about 350 people hold an MW.)

Wheaton worked as a wine buyer for years, traveling around the globe before “retiring” to the lecture circuit aboard cruise ships where he made wine more approachable to the public.

Brian Wheaton died on November 29, 2015 after a long illness. He is survived by his wife, Anne, and three daughters.

Don Ditter
Don Ditter
As the former chief winemaker for Penfolds, he introduced changes that were relevant and far-reaching, both for the company, and for Australian wines.

Don Ditter was raised in the Barossa Valley and began his career at Penfolds Magill Estate in 1942 working as a lab assistant. Thirty years later he was the head of winemaking, holding that position from 1973 to 1986. During his time there, Ditter changed vineyard management and wine crafting techniques, producing award-winning results for the Penfolds label.

Ditter brought back the popular “special bin releases,” a marketing technique that had been allowed to lapse in the 1970s. The Bin 707 Cabernet Sauvignon, which originated in 1964, was a special release that became extremely popular.

Ditter also concentrated on expanding the Koonunga Hill and Magill Estate line of wines during a time when the government was paying vineyards not to plant grapes due to a failing wine industry. He focused on developing the style of Penfolds Grange to make it more fruit-forward, garnering rave reviews.

Don Ditter died on December 16, 2015.  He was 89-years-old. Ditter might have been considered “old school,” but he was someone who knew what needed to be done and had the fortitude to see it through.

As 2015 comes to a close, here's wishing you a happy, healthy and prosperous New Year!

~ Joy

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Celebrating National Champagne Day and New Year's Eve

Let us raise a glass of Champagne this New Year’s Eve, not just to ring in the New Year, but to also celebrate National Champagne Day! It's the perfect time to pop that cork and enjoy a cascade of bubbles.

Drinking Champagne at celebrations began in the royal courts of Europe during the late 18th Century. In fact, Champagne has always been viewed as a drink of the rich; a type of vino status symbol.

Although Dom Perignon is usually credited with the invention of Champagne (and “drinking the stars”), it wasn’t until the 19th Century that the traditional method of riddling Champagne was discovered and used reliably.

This is also when the sweetness levels of wine began to be selected. Champagne went from doux (sweet), to demi-sec (half dry), to sec (dry). Extra sec (extra dry) describes a wine with even less sugar, and brute (extra brute) is made without sugar. Extra sec is the style that the majority of Champagne is crafted in.

Vines Destroyed by Phylloxera
During the 1860’s, the Great French Wine Blight occurred. Caused by an aphid from North America, the phylloxera epidemic ravaged vineyards throughout France; over 40% of the grape vines were destroyed within a 15-year period, from the late 1850’s to the mid 1870’s. Only after grafting aphid-resistant American grape vines onto the French vines was the devastation stopped.

Champagne, as we know it, came close to disappearing during the 20th Century. Two world wars almost destroyed the Champagne vineyards, and the Russian Revolution, Prohibition, and the Great Depression closed off two of the most lucrative markets for Champagne sales in the world. But the world rebounded in 1950, and sales of Champagne has risen steadily ever since.  

Today, over 250 million bottles of Champagne are produced in France each year. The British alone enjoy over 30 million bottles of Champagne – more than anyone else in the world.

And keep in mind, Champagne is only produced in the Champagne region of France, all other bubbly wines must go by the name “Sparkling Wine.

We pour Champagne to commemorate everything, from the launch of a ship, to the joining of two lives in marriage. We use it to celebrate life events, religious occasions, and joyous celebrations. Champagne not only imparts a feeling of joyousness and wonder to an occasion, it’s also a symbol of our approval and admiration for what we are celebrating.

So this New Year’s Eve when you raise that glass of dancing bubbles to toast the New Year, remember the words of the Wine Avenger, Willie Gluckstern;

“In a perfect world, everyone would have a glass of Champagne every evening.”

Here's to a perfect New Year!

~ Joy

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Three Stunning Wines For the Holidays

The holidays are upon us! If you’re still searching for a great gift idea, or something stunning to serve with the meal, consider the following wines. Any of them would add an elegant statement to your holiday gathering.

Chateau Carbonnieux Blanc, Pessac-Leognan 
Grand Cru Classé de Graves 2013

Chateau Carbonnieux is one of the largest vineyards in the Graves region with the first chateau built around 1380. The grapes are cultivated near Bordeaux on clay-limestone slopes in deep gravely soil, which gives this wine a nice minerally base. Chateau Carbonnieux Blanc is crafted from 70% Sauvignon Blanc and 30% Semillon grapes. The nose is an intricate bouquet of floral and apricot nectar. The rich, juicy flavors of peach and apricot cling to the palette followed by a tart orange-peel finish that delightfully lingers on.

Chateau d'Esclans 
Rock Angel Rosé 2014

This is not your mama’s blush! Rock Angel is, in a word, elegant. The rebranded estate-bottled rosé comes from Chateau d’Esclans, located in France’s Provence region. The Grenache (and Rolle) grapes rock this wine! The nose is composed of floral and herbs: pleasant, hinting at something special to come. The bright flavors of peach and cherry, with just a hint of pear, makes Rock Angel seem more refined than most rosés, and wonderfully balanced. The smooth, slightly honeyed finish is captivating. At $35 a bottle, it is definitely time to rethink your pink for the holidays.

Baron de Chirel 
Rioja 2010 Reserve

Crafted from Spain’s most famous native grapes, the Tempranillo, the Baron de Chirel Rioja is made from grapes that are 80 to 110 years old. This “new era” Rioja is aged between 18 to 24 months in Allier oak barrels to produce a distinctive “old world” wine. An appealing aroma of spicy blueberries and leather develops into the wonderful flavors of elderberry, cherry and tobacco. Well balanced on the palate with soft tannins and a long, pleasant finish, this wine suggests opulent living and graceful dining.

Any of these wines would make exceptional holiday gifts for friends, family, or simply as a treat for yourself.  Have a Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukkah, Warm Kwanza Wishes, and A Blessed Yule. Cheers!

~ Joy

Wednesday, December 9, 2015

Eau de Wine

In this blog we’ve talked about pairing wine with food, wine with chocolates, and wine with cheese. Now it’s time to consider pairing wine with perfume!

Fragrances of Wine offers a line of custom scents created by Amy Mumma, a wine consultant, and Richard Asfour, a perfume expert. The fragrances are based on the essence of four types of wine: red, Rose, white and sparkling. The perfumes sell from $85 to $125 per bottle.

Noir – This perfume brings to mind ripe berries, cherries, figs, spice and everything nice.

Rose de Provence – Just as the name implies, the essence of wild roses floats through the air with a subtle hit of lavender, violet and jasmine to create a lingering aroma.

Blanc - The floral notes of orange blossom, orchid and honeysuckle mingle with amber undertones for a nice, light scent.

Sparkle - This treasure-trove of sparkling wine notes reminds you of an effervescent vino, and life's celebrations.

Another wine perfumery is Kelly & Jones When Jones noticed how her vanilla perfume intermingled with the notes of a Chardonnay she was drinking, she decided to create fragrances that would play off different types of vinos. The Kelly & Jones Wine Notes Collection highlights five perfumes influenced by wine.

Cabernet – A whiff of vintage leather, peppercorns, black cherry and tobacco intermingle to create an intoxicating perfume.

Merlot – The crafting of rhubarb, red currents and mission fig mixed with candied violets gives a subtle yet rich aroma.

Chardonnay – Delve into the aromas of crème brûlée, toasted oak, vanilla blossom and honeydew for a sensuous scent.

Riesling – A combination of peach and pear mixed with raspberry leaf and bergamot teases the nose.

Sauvignon Blanc – This scent offers the freshness of green apple, grapefruit and star fruit blended with the camellia flower. Seductive!

According to Jones, “Fragrance and scent are intertwined, so a wine fragrance is just a natural progression of this link.” The Wine Notes Collection sells for $84 for a 1.7 fl oz/ 50 ml spray bottle.

If you’d rather concoct your own vino scents, check out sites such as these for wine fragrance oils that can be added to make bath oils, soaps, lotions, perfumes and candles.

Nature’s Garden provides wine fragrance oils available in Cabernet Sauvignon, Champagne, Merlot and Shiraz aromas. For the more alcohol-adventurous, there’s also Absinthe, beer, and Amaretto oils available.

Brambleberry offers vino fragrance oils like Berrywine and Champagne that can be used in soaps.

Crafters Choice has numerous wine fragrance oils including Cabernet Sauvignon, Chardonnay, and Galactic Grape.

Now you can have your wine, drink it, and continue the olfactory adventure with a scent that reminds you of your favorite vino. Scent-lute!

~ Joy

Wednesday, December 2, 2015

Five Fabulous Wine Gift Ideas

'Tis the season where we struggle to find that perfect gift. If you have wine-lovers on your list here are a few holiday ideas they'd raise a glass to.

Just Chillin’
For those who love a cold wine (but hate slipping in an ice cube), now you can chill in style with the Corkcicle.One! This frigid beauty inserts into any wine bottle and features a state-of-the-art aerator. It can quickly cool down those room-temperature reds, and keep those whites chilled to the perfect temp for drinking.

Put On Your Game Face
Test your wine knowledge with Zinzig, a board game that combines wine tasting and wine facts. You’ll taste three different wines that will challenge your palate, and test your knowledge of vino as you play around the board. Good times!

Foodie Snack Tray
Wine Bottle Snack Tray
For those eco-conscious wine lovers, this recycled wine bottle is perfect as an eclectic dish or serving tray. Use it to hold candy, nuts, olives, cheese, even chocolates. Pop it in the fridge to chill before serving so your snacks stay cool, and it’s dishwasher safe for easy cleanup. Check out Etsy for some great options.

Do-It-Yourself Gift
Soap Dispenser
The wine bottle soap dispenser/dish liquid dispenser is a great DIY gift. Take an empty wine bottle, soak to remove the label, and rinse it out. Then paint on the design of your choice and fill it with hand soap or dish liquid before attaching a stopper. (Stoppers can be purchased at a local retailer like Target, Meijer, or Wal-Mart.) Look for a thick, pleasantly scented hand soap, or a rich, moisturizing dish liquid because coming from a wine bottle, this soap should feel luxurious.

For the Oeno-Bibliophile
Wine Dogs USA
A winery with a dog is usually one of the most laid-back businesses around. There’s something about a four-footed pal padding through the place that puts everyone at easy.  Wine Dogs USA is filled with stories and over 450 photos of man’s best friend from more than 300 wineries across America. “Find out which dog ate a couch, who chewed Bill Clinton’s leg and discover the identity of the dog who stole Robert Mondavi’s heart.

And it goes without saying a bottle of wine is always welcomed by vino lovers. If you’re not sure what they like, make it a middle-of-the-road offering like a Riesling, Beaujolais, or a sensuous Port.

It’s that time of the year so spread the cheer and celebrate with verve and vino!
~ Joy