Wine On The Road does the World Wine Meetings in Chicago

WWM Chicago rocks!

WWM Chicago rocks!

Last week I attended the World Wine Meetings in Chicago (@WorldWineMeetIN #WWMChicago15) at the invitation of the organizers (who also run ViniSud in Montpelier, France, each February) including the Adhesion Group (www.adhes.com), a wine-focused public relations company.  I’ve chosen to catalog the meetings as a travel itinerary and whenever a specific wine or winery is mentioned this means that I had an individual sit-down meeting with the principals of that business.  I also will try to post a follow-up column in which I talk to some of the sellers and buyers and see what success they’ve had in getting some of these wines to the U.S. market. Continue reading

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Crazy-Ass White and Red Wines

Let's try some wine!There are many great wines that don’t have gold-plated pedigrees.  Some may be made from unfamiliar varieties in well-known regions.  Others are produced from familiar grapes in unfamiliar locales.  One commonality is that, because of uncertainty among the wine buying public, the consumer can often pay less per bottle than when purchasing more standard offerings yet receive extremely high quality in return. Continue reading

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Wine On The Road does Duckhorn, Empson, Cochon 555, Giuliana, and Ruffino

Here piggy piggy!

Here piggy piggy!

There is no doubt that I am blessed with the ability to do a lot of fun, wine- and food-related activities.  Five of them happened in close succession over a recent week and I decided to write about them as a group.  All were unique events, but each embodies a lot of what is good about the hospitality business.

 

R2Llogowithtagcolor_smPRE-CHAMPAGNE AND BURGUNDY TOUR 2015 GET-TOGETHER: APRIL 9, 2015 AT PHILADELPHIA’S R2L RESTAURANT WITH CHEF/OWNER DANIEL STERN AND PHILLY WINE WRITER BRIAN FREEDMAN.  WINE TOUR: OCTOBER 4 – 11, 2015.

ChefDanielStern_smWe’re doing it again!  Wine On The Road is participating in a Champagne and Burgundy pre-tour get-together for potential clients with his old friends Daniel Stern (of legendary R2L Restaurant) and Brian Freedman (@wineupdate).  We start at 6:30 P.M. on Thursday, April 9, Click Here for reservations or call (215) 564-5337.

If you’re interested in coming along with Dan, Brian, and Ben on a behind-the-scenes, wine-focused tour of Champagne and Burgundy (October 4-11, 2015), or if you just want more information about this tour, Click Here.

1WineDudelogo_smPRE-MADRID AND RIOJA, SPAIN TOUR DINNER AT PHILADELPHIA’S BAR FERDINAND WITH 1WINEDUDE’S JOE ROBERTS – WEDNESDAY, APRIL 15, 2015, STARTING AT 6:30 P.M.  SPAIN TOUR – NOVEMBER 1 – 8, 2015

_RIOJA logo_4cAnother fun consumer tour we’re planning involves legendary wine blogger, writer, and lecturer Joe Roberts (the 1WineDude) and Ben leading a group to Madrid and Rioja, Spain (November 1-8, 2015).  If you’d like more information about this tour please Click Here.

Ben will be with Joe in Philadelphia on April 28th for a Rioja wine dinner at Bar Ferdinand to talk more about the tour.  Click Here for dinner reservations or call (215) 923-1313.

Also check out Wines of Rioja’s bi-monthly newsletter at http://us.riojawine.com/files/newsletters/2015/2015-02-consumer.html (we’ve been working with WoR on our itinerary and they are an enthusiastic supporter of our tour).

 

Doing Denver’s Wine and Food Scene

Great pinot noir

Great pinot noir

First up was a March 5 tasting of Duckhorn’s wines at Elway’s Restaurant in Cherry Creek.  The Duckhorn Winemaker Tour brought many of this portfolio’s winemakers together in one place, and I took the opportunity to meet them all, including those from Duckhorn Vineyards, Goldeneye, Paraduxx, Migration, and Decoy.  I was also among the first to taste the inaugural Canvasback Red Mountain Washington State Cabernet Sauvignon.  I found myself gravitating toward the Duckhorn and Decoy wines, perhaps because I consider them true expressions of NorCal terroir.

I do love me some Franciacorta!

I do love me some Franciacorta!

An Empson Imports Italian portfolio tasting was scheduled at the same time as the Duckhorn tasting at the nearby Barolo Grill, so on the way home I hopped over there to try a few wines.  One of the things this tasting confirmed for me was that, although many commentators have praised Italy’s 2010 vintage to the moon, I find it to be an excellent but not one-of-a-kind year, along the lines of 2004, 2006, and 2008.  But beware of the 2011s!  They generally pale in comparison to the wines of 2010.

Brady Lowe

Brady Lowe

A few days of rest led to Cochon 555 in Denver, one of more than 20 such festivals put on around the country created and produced by Brady Lowe.  The weekend began on Friday, March 6th, with the Chef’s Course Dinner hosted by Chris Thompson of The Nickel and featuring a “A Nickel Bag of Porc” paired with Washington state wines and introductions to each course from guest chefs Paul Reilly, Justin Brunson, Theo Adley, and Matt Selby.

Crazy seminar on cow and pig

Crazy dinner with cow and pig

On Saturday I attended a Large Format Feast hosted by Executive Chef Nelson Perkins of Colt & Gray in an epic “Big Beef vs. Heritage Pig” four-course dinner paired with wines from Antica Napa Valley.  This national dinner series features chefs who are reinventing the traditional steakhouse experience by spotlighting the growing popularity of heritage pork on their menus.

Antica vs. Antinori - a good problem to have

Antica vs. Antinori – a good problem to have

An Antica Napa Valley Wines Seminar at the Ritz-Carlton Denver led off Sunday’s events and allowed a fascinating comparison between that winery’s flagship Chardonnay and Cabernet Sauvignon (from the Townsend Vineyard, only made in great years such as 2012) and Antinori’s prized Vermentino and Tignanello (the first Super Tuscan!).  Immediately after the seminar came the main event, Cochon 555, featuring seven different heritage breed pigs cooked or butchered by local culinary champions. This event started with five amazing chefs in a friendly culinary competition, encompassed by a 90 minute voting period, where attendees cast their votes for the best bite of the day.  This year’s competitors included Kelly Whitaker of Basta, John Little of Harman’s Eat & Drink, Christopher Thompson of The Nickel, Rich Byers of the Corner Office, and Matt Vawter of Mercantile Dining & Provision.

How many people know a bacon vendor?

How many people know a bacon vendor?

During all of this porky mayhem a butcher demo was going on, and when the butchering ended and voting concluded, the organizers rolled out pig number six that was raised by a family farm and prepared in a late-night BBQ Tradition format with all five competing chef teams coming to the center of the floor for a family meal. Immediately following that was Cochon 555’s signature dessert course called Swine & Sweets, a mélange of bacon-infused chocolate, bacon popcorn, ice cream, and other special treats prepared by local confectioners. Lastly, all the chefs were called to the stage for the awards ceremony followed by an after-party at Euclid Hall.

My favorite bite - banh mi tartare on a chicharrone from Harman's

My favorite bite – banh mi tartare on a chicharrone from Harman’s

For the record, Chef Matt Vawter of Mercantile Dining & Provision was crowned the Prince of Porc and advances to Snowmass/Aspen for a double-hit weekend in June Including Grand Cochon and Heritage Fire.  Chef Matt won the event with the most popular breed of pig called the Berkshire raised by Cone Ranch, which originated in Britain and is a favorite among chefs because of its intramuscular marbling. This breed yields brighter pork than most and features a thick, delicious fat cap. Chef Matt’s dishes included BBQ Pork Belly Corn Dog topped with Mustard Marmalade, Porchetta di Testa with Tongue & Neck Cheese, Scrapple Croutons and Back Fat Aioli, Foie Gras and Duck Banh Mi, Pork Shank Potato Gnocchi, Apricot Blood Sausage infused with Curried Chickpeas and Golden Raisin Chutney, and to close, a Valrhona Blood Pot de Cremè.

Even Mt. Vesuvius loves Giuliana!

Even Mt. Vesuvius loves Giuliana!

Three days later came Giuliana Imports Italian portfolio tasting, a bacchanal held at the company’s warehouse near downtown Denver.  Giuliana’s owner, Steve Lewis, always throws a good party and this was no exception, with tremendous wines from all over that wonderful country and terrific snacks including wood-fired pizza.  A selection of Giuliana’s olive oils were also on display, and I encourage anyone who enjoys great oil to order from the easy-to-use website at www.goliveoil.com.

Bravo Ruffino

Bravo Ruffino

The final event I attended prior to my upcoming trip to Italy (I leave tomorrow (Friday), be sure to follow me on Twitter @WineOnTheRoad to keep up with my journey) came in the form of a box of wine from Ruffino in Tuscany, which was co-hosting a Twitter-based “virtual tasting” with Snooth.  Gabriele Tacconi, only the 4th winemaker in the 100+ year history of Ruffino, hosted this live Twitter-based tasting on March 10, ensuring that I was among the first to sample the Riserva Ducale Oro “Gran Selezione” 2010, this winery’s first-ever wine produced under the newly-created top tier Gran Selezione designation.  This elevated classification was established in 2014 by the Consorzio Vino Chianti Classico and is meant to highlight the best of the best.

So many foodie memories

So many foodie memories

It’s hard to write at length about all of the wine- and food-related events I attend.  I could also have mentioned my recent time with Erica Crawford at Panzano’s Restaurant sampling Loveblock wines from New Zealand, or lunches with Veronique Dausse of Phelan Segur and Megan Stockton and the wines of Allegrini.  But I think this gives you some idea of what I consider to be a pretty good week from a hedonist’s point of view.

As for the actual wines, I include my tasting notes at the end of the column in shorthand that goes like this: appearance (if relevant)/aroma/taste/acidity & finish.  If I can find a domestic retail price then I list it (if there is more than one I err on the higher side), with “N/A” meaning that the wine is not generally available in the U.S.

 

Ben WeinbergBEN WILL BE IN ITALY CHECKING OUT FLORENCE, ROME, ASSISI, MILAN, AND TURIN – MARCH 21 – APRIL 2, 2015

Ben has been invited to tour luxury villas in Florence, Rome, and Perugia, Italy at the end of March.  Follow along with him on Twitter (@WineOnTheRoad), Facebook (Wine On The Road), LinkedIn (Benjamin Weinberg) and Foursquare (Ben Weinberg).

 

Sunset in Piemonte - amazing!

Sunset in Piemonte – amazing!

BEN’S WINE COUNTRY PICTURES ARE FOR SALE

Have you ever read one of Ben’s columns and wondered how it would look to have one of his incredibly vivid, high resolution pictures of wine country framed on your wall?  We’re now offering various size prints of his quirky photography at Pixels.com, where you can also add his images to smartphone cases, greeting cards, and many other items.  Pictures can be ordered loose or matted and framed in various sizes.  Click Here to take a peek.

 

Wine On The Road

Wine On The Road

WINE ON THE ROAD’S LUXURIOUS, BEHIND-THE-SCENES WINE TOURS

With Wine On The Road (www.wineontheroad.com), my wine-focused touring company, you can enjoy the ultimate wine country excursion with special access to top winemakers and their incomparable wines.  Wine On The Road offers intimate wine country tours that combine award-winning wines and exquisite dining and lodging with uniquely local flair and flavor.  We lodge at excellent and luxurious wine country estates (in the past we’ve occupied ancient yet completely restored castles as well as five-star resorts, all with modern amenities).  We eat at amazing local restaurants and visit wineries that embody the best, most authentic expressions of local wine grapes.

You can learn more about these trips, book private groups in wine country world-wide and request more information on any of these extraordinary travel experiences by visiting www.wineontheroad.com, emailing me at benweinberg@wineontheroad.com, or calling me at 303-522-6738.

 

Recommendations

Sparkling

2010 Ferghettina Franciacorta Rose (Franciacorta, Italy) $57

Rose/pinkch, orange/ash, prickly pear/hilong

 

White

2013 Duckhorn Sauvignon Blanc (Napa Valley, California) $22

Ltyel/peach, orange/grgrape ginger/hilong

 

2013 Antinori Guado al Tasso Vermentino Estate DOC (Tuscany, Italy) $16

Bright yel/cuke ginger/star fruit, yel pear/hilong

 

2014 Antica Chardonnay Estate (Napa Valley, California) $40

Gold yel/peach, yel apple/br sug, ginger/himod

 

Red

2012 Goldeneye Pinot Noir Estate Anderson Valley Gowan Creek (Mendocino County, California) $80

Dkred/graphite, redcurr/blkrasp, brsug/hilong

 

2012 Canvasback Cabernet Sauvignon Red Mountain (Yakima Valley, Washington) $40

Blkred/blkcurr, mint/cola redrasp/hilong

 

2011 Paradux Red Blend (Napa Valley, California) $35

Plum/blkpep, pomegr/blkb, blueb, dkchoc/hilong

 

2007 Costanti Brunello di Montalcino Riserva (Tuscany, Italy) $110

Rust/redch, ginger/blkb, ash/himod

 

2009 Badia a Passignano Chianti Classico Riserva (Tuscany, Italy) $36

Rustred/leather, redch/blk tea, blkberry/hilong

 

2012 Antica Cabernet Sauvignon (Napa Valley, California) $58

Dkred/blkch, cola/toast, gravel, smoke/hilong

 

2012 Isole e Olena Chianti Classico (Tuscany, Italy) $27

Bright red/darkch, cinn, allspice/cedar, red curr/hilong

 

2010 Mauro Molino Barbera d’Alba Gattera (Piedmont, Italy) $30

Ltruby/mint, sous bois, black licorice/red cherry, black plum/himod

 

2010 Ruffino Chianti Classico Riserva Ducale d’Oro (Tuscany, Italy) $40

Blkred/tar, leather, redch/grtea, dust, smoke/hilong

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Wine On The Road in Champagne and Burgundy, France

The Wine Campers

The Wine Campers

Last September I led a Wine On The Road tour to Champagne and Burgundy, France (I will relate my experiences on my prior travels through Croatia in another column), with a group of intrepid oenophiles joining me on a vinous exploration of the origins and expressions of the noble chardonnay, pinot noir, and pinot meunier grapes.  What follows is my travel log of that tour.  Along the way we had a lot of fun and learned tons about the meaning and importance of terroir, especially in terms of what ends up in the bottle. Continue reading

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Varietally Correct – New World Chardonnay

So much chardonnay in the New World!

So much chardonnay in the New World!

Chardonnays from the New World are great examples of varietal bottlings (wines made primarily from a single grape variety that usually displays the name of that variety on the label).  The grape, which originated in Burgundy, France, is green-skinned and neutrally flavored, which allows specific terroir and winemaking techniques to make their marks on color, aroma, and taste.  Vinified in many different styles, it is now grown wherever wine is produced and is an important component of many sparklers including Champagne. Continue reading

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Wine On The Road at Vino 2015

A vendor at Vino 2015The Italian Trade Commission’s Vino franchise (@Vino2015, #VirtualVino) has long been one of the greatest yearly Italian wine happenings in the United States and the one event where the most sophisticated merchants and buyers meet Italy’s premier vintners and U.S. wine importers.  I have had the pleasure to attend the previous three Vino conferences and 2015’s version, held Sunday, February 1 through Thursday, February 5, 2015, at the Waldorf-Astoria Hotel in mid-town Manhattan, was another great set of lessons on Italian wine, food, and culture.  With today being Valentine’s Day, it made sense to let you know about my recent experiences at this vast conference dedicated to vino amore. Continue reading

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Varietally Correct – New World Cabernet Sauvignon

The best part of wine - drinking it!

The best part of wine – drinking it!

Wine consumers are often confused by wines made primarily from a single grape variety.  The bottles typically display the name of that variety on the label but there are a lot of them and more are created all the time as wine producers realize that such specificity can lead to higher margins and, perhaps, higher quality as well.  Here I focus on New World cabernet sauvignon, an excellent addition to any holiday table. Continue reading

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Thanksgiving Choices – Various Fizz and New World Pinot Noir

Ben WeinbergThanksgiving week begins the holiday season, which to me is all about spending time with family and friends.  So this week’s column is about two types of wine that go exceedingly well with special gatherings.  Today I’ve focused on various bubbly bottles, as well as a bunch of pinot noir recommendations, usually gathered from recent samples or at an industry gathering.  I include my tasting notes at the end of the column in shorthand that goes like this: appearance (if relevant)/aroma/taste/acidity & finish.  If I can find a domestic retail price then I list it (if there is more than one I err on the higher side), with “N/A” meaning that the wine is not generally available in the U.S.

I’d also like to apologize for the long delay between columns.  I’ve been somewhat overwhelmed by our recent move but those obligations seem to be sorting themselves out and I hope to finally be able to devote more time to my writing endeavors.  Onward! Continue reading

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Crazy-Ass Pinks and Ports with Wine On The Road

Ben, a glass of rose wine, and thou...

Ben, a glass of rose wine, and thou…

There are many great wines that don’t have gold-plated pedigrees.  Some may be made from unfamiliar varieties in well-known regions.  Others are produced from familiar grapes in unfamiliar locales.  One commonality they often have is that, because of uncertainty among the wine buying public, the consumer can pay less per bottle as compared to more standard offerings yet receive higher quality in return.

I’ve spent a lot of time lately writing about wine country trips and feel bad that I’ve neglected the basic premise of loving wine and drinking the good stuff.  So this week’s column is about various fun rosé and dessert wines that I’ve had the pleasure to recently taste, usually from samples or at an industry gathering.  I include my tasting notes at the end of the column in shorthand that goes like this: appearance (if relevant)/aroma/taste/acidity & finish.  If I can find a retail U.S. price then I list it, with “N/A” meaning that the wine is not generally available in the U.S.

Continue reading

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Varietally Correct – Bordeaux and BDX-Style Blends

The best part of wine - drinking it!

The best part of wine – drinking it!

Wine consumers are often confused by bottlings that blend varieties.  There are many such wines and more are created all the time as wine producers realize that blending can lead to higher quality and, perhaps, better margins as well.  Here I focus on wines primarily made from at least two of the five most common Bordeaux varieties (cabernet sauvignon, merlot, cabernet franc, petit verdot, and malbec), which all originated in France but are now grown around the world.

Familiarity and ease of pronunciation have helped to sell Bordeaux varietal wines to consumers, even when the bottles come from unfamiliar wine regions.  There is much to celebrate in the blending of these iconic grapes and they deserve a spot in your cellar. Continue reading

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