Colorado’s 2016 harvest shows size and promise

November 4, 2016 Leave a comment

The bright red leaves of St. Vincent, a cold-hardy hybrid new to western Colorado yet showing great promise. These vines are at Whitewater Hill Winery near Grand Junction. Photo Nancy Janes

The short-but-intense harvest season is about over in western Colorado and now every winemakers’ attention turns to the wineries. The 2016 Colorado wine-grape harvest is about “99.9-percent” finished, said state viticulturist Horst Caspari last week and growers are reporting another big crop.

“In 17 years this is the first time we’ve had back-to-back good crops,” Caspari said. “It’s never happened before but this is what our crop should be year in and year out.”

The large 2015 harvest last year allowed many winemakers to fill tanks and build their inventories depleted by severe shortages in 2013 and 2014. Now, this year’s follow-up fruit-rich harvest finds some winemakers running out of space.

A couple of wineries have purchased new tanks and oak barrels seeking to expand their capacity but Caspari said there still are going to be grapes left hanging this year because there’s no market or space for them.

Why the bounty? Two consecutive mild winters, no bud-damaging late-spring frosts or early fall frosts that nip the mature fruit, and recent plantings finally are old enough to bear fruit.

Nancy Janes at Whitewater Hill Winery on 32 Road several years ago planted about an acre of St. Vincent, a cold-hardy variety, and this year the fourth-leaf vines produced more than 800 gallons of wine. She says the wine already is bright and fruit-forward and only will improve with a few months in oak barrels.


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Iconic or edgy? Developing a wine list with the new gen in mind

November 1, 2016 Leave a comment

As the world of wine grows and expands, those who develop wine lists face unforeseen challenges in meeting the desires of their clients. Courtesy photo.

Among the social media sites I visit on a regular basis is a recent post from the much-respected wine writer Alfonso Cevola, who takes to task new-gen wine directors who Cevola accuses of ignoring “iconic and traditional” wines and “developing (a) blind spot for classic wines like Chianti Classico and Pauillac” in favor of building “labyrinthine” wine lists based on “edginess” and “coolness.”

“I want a wine list that doesn’t take so much effort to choose from, so that I can get on to the real reason for the evening. The getting together and the sharing of a meal,” writes Cevola on his blog, “On the Wine Trail in Italy.”

“It’s as if those wines, that have been venerated by generations of wine lovers and sommeliers, are being eradicated from the lexicon of wines once considered revered and, even more important, essential,” Cevola writes.

Among his fears is that by ignoring or dropping the classic Bordeaux, Tuscans and others, wine lists begin to look alike and, worse, customers aren’t exposed to those wines.

In response, Thomas Moësse, wine director at Houston’s Divino Italian restaurant, says, “If buyers are foregoing the classics on their lists, maybe it is because they are advocates for their guest first and foremost — both are being left behind by exponential pricing increases and the corresponding unattainability of those vins de garde.”

Gone, said Moësse, is the time when clients asked “what kind of Italian restaurant doesn’t have Tignanello?”

Today, somms and wine directors regularly field queries such as “what will go best with our food?” Moësse writes in a guest appearance on Jeremy Parzens blog, Do Bianchi. “Today’s consumer is not scanning a wine list for producers they recognize so much as they want some help with a discovery. Our job as wine service professionals is part curation and consultation.”

Which sounds as if Moësse is saying today’s younger wine drinkers aren’t tied to the “classic” and “traditional” way of selecting a wine. Lengthy wine lists put more importance on the individual roles of diner – knowing when to ask for help in finding a wine, as well as the role of the waiter/somm – being able to provide the right answer.

What’s your preference? Smaller lists with traditional producers or something offering “the bounty of wines” coming from around the world?

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LUGANA DOC: The White Wine of Lake Garda

October 25, 2016 Leave a comment

Lugana DOC is just south of Lake Garda, as you’ll soon learn, and one of Italy’s more-distinctive DOCs (and one I’ve written about previously, as well). Here, Charles Scicolone takes us on a quick but comprehensive Lugana DOC tasting trip thanks to Consorzio Tutela Lugana DOC. Please enjoy…

Charles Scicolone on Wine

One of my favorite places to visit in Italy is Lake Garda. I like sitting outside in a restaurant along the lake, eating the lake fish and drinking the local wine, in most cases Lugana DOC. While it wasn’t quite the same as Lake Garda, a dinner at La Pizza Fresca in NYC hosted by the Consorizo Tutela Lugana DOC was a good opportunity to try the new vintages.

img_1633 Luca Formentini from the Selva Capuzza Winery

The Lugana denomination is on the border between the provinces of Brescia (Lombardy) and Verona (Veneto) to the south of Lake Garda. The soil is mostly white clay and limestone, which is difficult to work.

img_1634 Angelica Altomare from the Cà Maiol Winery

The temperate breezes from Lake Garda influence the microclimate positively; it is mild and fairly constant with little difference between day and nighttime temperatures.

The Turbiana grape, aka Trebbiano di Lugana

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Hugh Johnson: ‘I do not score wines’

October 16, 2016 Leave a comment

In the rare down time available during the grape harvest, I find my attention called toward the more-learned voices in the wine business. I’m not a wine maker, but still I try to pick up a clue here and there to improve my ability to communicate about the world of wine.


Hugh Johnson

Some (much) of my time is reading but the Internet allows listening to the voices of people pondering their life choices in this world which in the few busy months of pick, press and ferment seems more vocation and less avocation.

I listen often to Levi Dalton’s “I’ll Drink to That” podcast, which I first found through Alder Yarrow’s “Vinography” blog. Most recently, it’s been fascinating to hear British author Hugh Johnson discuss his wine-writing career and the genesis of  the extraordinary “World Atlas of Wine.”

In his conversation with Dalton, Johnson takes a shot at wine scoring, which he calls “a shortcut” and of use mostly for wine investors. Here is a brief excerpt (some of which ended up in my Twitter feed) and you can hear the rest here.

“I do not score wines, I don’t see the point of scoring wines. OK, it’s instant opinion and its a shortcut but its particularly useful to wine investors. and I’m not a fan of wine investors. … I deplore it. Because I don’t buy wine to sell, I buy it to drink, if I can afford it.”

He quotes a friend who once told him,”Hugh, fine wine used to be for the worthy and now it’s for the wealthy.”




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Avoiding ‘confusion’, Piemonte DOC drops Nebbiolo

September 13, 2016 Leave a comment


Jeremy Parzens @ DoBianchi continues to keep us informed on what has been called “The Nebbiolo Wars.”

Nebbiolo war: “inclusion of Nebbiolo in the Piemonte DOC has been definitively shelved” says Barolo-Barbaresco-Alba consortium president

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Questing after tradition, one vintage at a time

September 3, 2016 Leave a comment
Maria Teresa Mascarello

Maria Teresa Mascarello, daughter of the late Bartolo Mascarello of Barolo and today the exacting and traditional winemaker at Cantina Bartolo Mascarello.

“I am trying to make an honest wine, one that reflects all of the qualities of our territory, both its strengths as well as its flaws. – Maria Teresa Mascarello. Photo by Tim Atkins on Flick’r.


There is something missing in the world of modern-day winemaking. Or maybe several somethings.

That’s the feeling I had, and still have, after listening to winemaker Maria Teresa Mascarello of Barolo on a recent podcast of Levi Dalton’s excellent “I’ll Drink to That.”

This daughter of legendary winemaker Bartolo Mascarello is not one to mince words or opinions, whether it’s about her refusal to visit New York City or her thoughtful belief that to know a wine, you first must know its vineyard.

Everything she does is in the traditional method, down to the unheated and uncooled cellar where her wines age for years before being released.

And while critics, writers and the rest of the world casually tosses about the word “terroir” without perhaps understanding what it is they are talking about, Moscarello sees a vineyard’s terroir as just the starting point for enjoying her wines.

And, as Dalton points out, she believes that one of the measures of a wine’s success is that people will stick around and work the vineyards that produce it.

But perhaps her most telling statement, at least for me, was her saying that she enjoys the different vintages, and even more when they prove difficult.

“Every year is different,” Mascarello said. “I don’t find the same elegance (in 2013, her latest to be bottled) as I find in the 2010 and the 2012 but I like the difference.”

She said that when she tastes a wine, first she tastes and recognizes the grape variety.

“And second, I recognize the weather,” she said.

“Every year is different, that’s important to me because I like different,” she goes on. “I have more affection for the difficult (vintages).”




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Mini-reviews of some tasty summer wines

August 28, 2016 Leave a comment

Among the samples we receive here at WO International occasionally are wines that are worth mentioning but don’t warrant an entire blog entry. This summer has been particularly good for new whites and rosés and I better catch up while I have time. All prices may vary.

13 Celsius 2015 Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc (sample) – The name refers to the recommended serving temperature (56 F) and the high-tech label changes to blue when that temperature is reached. Glitzy label aside, this is New Zealand sauvignon blanc at its best: good acidity and structure and flavors of citrus, nectarine and slight vegetal. $12-15 SRP.

Seghesio 2012 Sonoma County Arneis (purchased) –This ia traditional northern Italian white but instead of the 2015 vintage I was looking for, I found this 2012. I was happy I did. A bit of age added some flavors of dried apricots and little nuttiness. $15 SRP.

Puligny Montrachet “Les Enseigneres” 2012 (purchased) – I normally wouldn’t purchase a wine normally priced at $55 but there is lot of this on sale. A knockout white Burgundy with power, balance and the white flowers, pear, apples and minerality (there’s that word) for which the area is known. $45.

Guigal Cote du Rhone 2015 Rosé (sample) $14 SRP. – Is rosé season over already? Not hardly if you are a lover of rosé and looking at the markdowns in the stores, it may be time to stock the pantry. This is a fine food wine to serve year-round, a blend of mostly Grenache with Cinsault and Syrah, with cherry and floral notes. $14 SRP.




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