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|Restaurant Talk: At College Restaurants, Students Run the Show (Wine Spectator)|
Class is in session—until midnight. That might sound like drudgery, but it's all part of the lesson plan for hospitality students eager to gain experience in real restaurant settings—the elite somms and ace chefs of the next generation.
At many universities, the future tastemakers enrolled in hospitality and culinary programs don't even need to leave campus to get this experience. Situated among lecture rooms, dorms and dining halls are a handful of Wine Spectator Restaurant Award winners, where the impressive wine service is largely student-run. These restaurants serve as an additional classroom for students, and the coursework ranges from hosting, wine service, inventory management and bartending to overseeing a floor or kitchen team of their peers; students receive internship or course credit.
Three of the best such restaurants are Michigan State University's the State Room, in East Lansing, Mich., the Dining Room at the Nittany Lion Inn at Pennsylvania State in State College, Pa., and Bistro Perrier at Walnut Hill College (formerly known as the Restaurant School) in Philadelphia. Editorial assistant Brianne Garrett spoke to the State Room operations manager Marianne Bacon, Walnut Hill wine director and instructor Philippe McCartney and Dining Room at the Nittany Lion Inn operations manager and wine director Sean Caviston about treating students like regular employees, how to get over the nerves of opening your first $300 bottle of wine tableside, and the satisfaction of watching young alums go on to make it big in the restaurant world.
Wine Spectator: How do you go about "hiring" students and determining which roles they will carry out?
Philippe McCartney (Walnut Hill): In the restaurant itself, students take different positions—servers, occasionally sommeliers; we have students act as bartenders and hosts and hostesses, so they fill all of the positions. It's the student leaders who are designated by the faculty as being superior, having a good grade point average and things like that, [who are] allowed to work more in the supervisor role.
Sean Caviston (Penn State): I have [students] for an entire semester and try to get them up to speed on the whole world of wine. It's pretty fast and they're usually with us anywhere between 20 to 22 hours a week, three shifts a week. In regards to the supervisor positions, I'm taking someone that I'm developing to be a future leader directly in the restaurant industry.
Marianne Bacon (MSU): Student team members apply online for entry-level positions in the State Room through MSU’s standard application and interview process—same as any regular employee. We feel applying and interviewing for jobs is valuable experience that will benefit the student as they begin to apply for real-world jobs.
[After basic training,] they shadow a full-time manager for a period of three to four weeks, learning open and closing duties, report processing, beverage inventory and team leading. Once fully trained, the student supervisor acts as the manager on duty to make sure we meet our standard of excellence with every guest.
WS: How do you train students on wine service, specifically?
SC (Penn State): [The wine-training process] begins really fundamentally. The very first thing is the etiquette of properly opening a bottle of wine, tableside. We spend the first couple of weeks doing that, because some people don't really know how to serve—I mean, they're young, they're 21, and probably haven't had a lot of exposure to wine drinking. From there, we always begin with where wine grows, what grapes are. I'm more about demystifying wine and making it approachable rather than making it about having all this tremendous knowledge. And then we work in the deductive tasting.
One of the simplest deductive tastings I can do with [students] is taking a Chablis, an American Chardonnay from Napa Valley and a New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc. One is intense and zesty and aromatic, the New Zealand; Chablis might be a little stony; and then the American Chardonnay is oaky and aromatic and round and voluptuous, right? That's the most fun day, when they have that "aha" moment. That's when they're like, "Wow, not all [wines] are the same."
MB (MSU): Servers are trained in proper wine presentation, and practice opening bottles and serving teammates at pre-shift meetings. Many find it daunting at first, but through practice our servers grow confidence. The State Room carries over 700 offerings, so we do not make our servers memorize our list. We place emphasis on participation by asking questions and offering verbal descriptions so that our students may feel confident when speaking with guests about wine. They can mispronounce "Châteauneuf-du-Pape" at pre-shift and not be embarrassed because they know we will coach them to get it right before meeting with guests.
PM (Walnut Hill): The sommelier [position] is really more accessible for the more advanced students. They're involved with selling and promoting wine and serving wine and things like that. They also help train the younger students, the newer students, on basic wine skills. Certainly wine opening is probably the most important thing that they need to learn, otherwise they’re not very comfortable in the restaurant.
We do have the students [help] create the wine list. We give them a wine, they do research and they write a blurb about it, so that they [can] explain it. And we put all this on our iPads. If a guest hits one of the iPad links, it goes to the student's description. If they hit another link, it goes to the winemaker's webpage.
WS: What is the guest reception to having students work in the restaurant?
SC (Penn State): The guests are so excited. So much of our clientele are either local and are university professors or work at the university, so they're excited to see the students applying directly an education that they're giving them already. The alumni love coming back, for football weekends and all that, and they love talking to the students, because they had a great experience here and they're like, "How's it going for you?"
MB (MSU): Our guests are impressed with the professional training of our students … Guests are always patient with new students as they learn to work through the nerves of selling and opening their first $300 bottle of wine.
PM (Walnut Hill): We are lucky—the guests are very understanding. Some of them, if they see that a student is struggling, they even offer to help. I try not to—I want the students to go through the whole process—but it's cute. They will point out mistakes and errors and things like that, but they're very gentle, because they want to encourage the students.
WS: What's the best part about having students on staff?
MB (MSU): I love working with students. They keep us energized and challenged. This is the best part of my job, because the students want to learn. They are full of fresh ideas and are constantly keeping us on our toes. They help us find new ways to tackle problems and keep us sharp.
PM (Walnut Hill): Many of our students graduate and become sommeliers within the city [of Philadelphia]. Bobby Domenick is the sommelier at Vetri Cucina, one of the better restaurants on the East Coast. It's nice to see these guys progress outside of our coursework.
SC (Penn State): The best part is seeing some of these students that were supervisors walk out the door and get a really high position at a really reputable restaurant. The best part is helping young people take that classroom education and directly walk across the street and say, "Ah, it reads different in the book, but now I get it."
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|Bordeaux Vintners Excited About 2018 Wines, Uncertain About Futures Campaign (Wine Spectator)|
Bordeaux could be excused for feeling smug in the wake of the annual barrel tastings introducing the 2018 vintage, the world's first chance to taste the wines before futures go on sale. Early reports compare the wines to recent excellent vintages.
Wine Spectator's lead taster for Bordeaux, James Molesworth, has spent two weeks in the region, meeting producers to discuss the vintage's character and quality, and conducting blind tastings of more than 280 barrel samples. The wines show great promise.
Wine Spectator website members can check out James Molesworth's preliminary scores and tasting notes for the top 2018 Bordeauxs; his reports on more than a dozen visits to top châteaus are free to all.
And despite global economic uncertainty, a gratifyingly large and diverse throng of professionals from around the world arrived for the barrel tastings, which stretch over three weeks. "We have broken the record for the number of people visiting us. We will have more than 2,000 people," Hervé Berland, general manager of Château Montrose, told Wine Spectator. "It's due to the fact that everybody has come: Americans are here, U.K. people are here, Chinese are here, Germans are here."
Other leading estates reported the same high attendance. At the Union des Grands Crus de Bordeaux (UGCB) tastings, another barometer of interest, close to 6,000 visitors attended, a "rather high figure, in comparison to the previous years," said Ronan Laborde, UGCB president and CEO of Château Clinet. That spike in attendance was led by international buyers. "The American wine merchants took a large part of that increase, so did the Europeans," said Laborde. "The Chinese visitors were as many as the previous year."
But there's a big difference between tasting and buying. Négociants were wary about drawing a correlation between attendance and an appetite for futures. "It's always difficult to translate the number of visitors—I'm cautious. A lot of people might be curious about the vintage but not buy the wines," said Yann Schÿler, CEO of Maison Schröder & Schÿler, a leading négociant firm.
The success or failure of a futures campaign relies partially on its economic context, and while the global economy continues to grow, anxiety does too. Current trade spats and the looming shadow of Brexit are sure to have an impact on this campaign.
At Château Mouton-Rothschild, CEO Philippe Dhalluin told Wine Spectator, "Of course for the Bordeaux wine merchants, there is a lot of interest in the vintage, they don't want to miss it. But they will probably only focus on the top, very secure brands, the 40 wines you need to have in your cellar. The international market is difficult to feel—there is a lot of interest from all countries, but there is a lot of economic incertitude."
The U.K. has long been Bordeaux's most loyal market. But Brexit has now been delayed until Oct. 31. No one is sure if the U.K. will leave the European Union on favorable terms, with relatively few trade barriers erected, or if there will be a hard Brexit or perhaps no Brexit. The uncertainty is impacting the buying power of the pound.
“The vintage is always priced on two factors linked to each other: the first is quality and the second is market conditions—demand will be affected by external factors we can’t control, like Brexit,” said Mathieu Chadronnier, managing director of négociant CVBG.
Check out Wine Spectator's "How (and Why) to Buy Wine Futures" for more on the benefits and pitfalls of en primeur purchases.
Of course, négociants are hoping a reasonably strong U.S. dollar combined with the quality of the 2018 vintage will pique American interest. "American consumers have always been here for the great vintages. They never miss one," said Schÿler, adding that Bordeaux relies on the American market. "The U.S. market has the greatest potential for the long term. It's always growing."
But U.S. merchants told Wine Spectator their customers show little interest in futures. With so many good vintages currently on the market, most Americans are happy to wait for the 2018s to arrive in stores before they buy.
China, on the other hand, is a capricious market, and there's been a recent, worrisome decline in shipments. According to customs figures, China imported $1 billion in French wine last year, a 9 percent drop from 2017.
And when it comes to en primeur, Chinese buyers haven't forgotten their losses in 2011, when overheated prices plunged. So absent speculation from Asia, this year's pricing will need to take into account what the négociants and markets will support.
Keep in mind that while China and America are priority markets, négociants travel the globe, drumming up business. “We have markets buying en primeur now that weren’t players 10 or 15 years ago. There is a perception that the campaign is small but that doesn’t reflect the global market,” said Chadronnier.
Prices, Schÿler anticipated, would be in line with the 2015 and 2016. "That would be logical. The vintage is very appealing. There is quality across the board—Right Bank, Left Bank—it's outstanding. We are speaking the same language as the 2015 and 2016, with slightly more concentration," said Schÿler.
This week, Château Angélus released its wine at the same price as the 2015 vintage. “I respect their decision to come out early and at that price,” said Chadronnier. CVBG had sold the wine in 15 countries by early afternoon the same day, including in the U.S. and China but also in smaller countries like Slovakia and Denmark. “It was the right price for Angélus, but we can’t say, across the board, that prices should be in line with the 2015 or 2016. If they release en primeur, it needs to be a success or it affects their reputation.”
Château owner Peter Kwok also released his wines early, but with a slight increase over the 2017, which Chadronnier said was in line with demand for Kwok’s Tour Saint Christophe and Bellefont-Belcier, wines he described as “rising stars in St-Emilion.” He also championed the petit château category. “For the category of wines that retail for €30 or less, always with reasonable pricing, offering terrific value, we need to trade fairly with them so they can invest in their estates for the future.”
Some think the lack of demand could be an opportunity for consumers. "The state of the economy and exchange rates also has an influence, which could mean that considering the very good vintage and the general economic uncertainty there could be some very good deals to be had," said Allan Sichel, head of the trade group CIVB.
Stay on top of important wine stories with Wine Spectator's free Breaking News Alerts.
Whether the wines sell now, or down the road, vintners are happy with the quality. At Lafite Rothschild, technical director Eric Kohler said, "I will say it's much more classic than we imagined. Here in the Médoc, not perhaps on the Right Bank, we thought it could be a little bit too much, a Californian vintage. I think it's more classic than 2009. It's closer to a 2016."
Chadronnier said he feared that “we talk too much about pricing, when what is crucial and essential is the wines. The conversation of pricing overtakes the conversation of quality. The 2018 is a compelling vintage. For some estates, it will be a new benchmark.”
|Earth Day in a Big Way: Wastewater Worms, 21 Million Trees and Cabernet All Day (Wine Spectator)|
Wine country has a knack for turning every occasion into a party, but with the world of wine going all-in on green practices, Earth Day is shaping up to be especially epic. The annual celebration of the environment falls on a Monday this year—April 22—but wineries in California are making a weekend of it, if not a week, month, or just an everyday jam going forward in recognition that this whole environment thing is pretty worth taking good care of, if you're a grapegrower/human!
"We don’t just think about the health of the vine for the next few vintages," Cakebread Cellars owner Bruce Cakebread told Unfiltered via email. "We think in terms of future family generations to come. Earth Day inspires us to work harder in our efforts to protect our precious resources and to preserve the land."
From concerts to pizza, drinking wine to befriending bees, here's how to get in on the Earth action in the coming days.
In 2015, Napa Valley Vintners set a goal of having 100 percent of members participate in the Napa Green certification program for ecological best practices by 2020. The organization recently announced 70 percent of eligible wineries are involved and "committed to elevating their farming and winemaking practices to further enhance the Napa River Watershed and conserve valuable natural resources, all while continuing to craft incredible wines," NVV associate director of industry relations Michelle Novi told Unfiltered.
So we'll start in Napa …
And over in Sonoma…
So wherever you are, lift a glass this weekend to Earth—the best planet there is for making wine. That we know of.
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|After the Notre-Dame Fire, Wine Industry Rushes to Help (Wine Spectator)|
François-Henri Pinault said it felt like a blow to the gut; his teenage daughter had cried and his 82-year-old father mourned. The owner of Groupe Artémis and scion of one of France's wealthiest families was speaking to a Europe 1 reporter Tuesday following the shocking, extensive fire at Cathédrale Notre-Dame de Paris. "We felt that it was an absolute obligation to rebuild this cathedral," Pinault said, announcing that his family would pledge €100 million ($113 million) toward the repair and rebuilding effort. "It is important that we are united around this symbol."
The Pinaults, whose vinous holdings include Bordeaux first-growth Château Latour, Burgundy grand cru monopole Clos de Tart and Napa's Eisele Vineyard, were among the most high-profile wine players who mobilized to the aid of the ravaged centuries-old avatar of French culture and heritage—but certainly not the only ones.
Bernard Arnault and his family's LVMH Group—including Champagnes Moët & Chandon, Krug and Veuve Clicquot, and Bordeaux Châteaus d'Yquem and Cheval-Blanc—immediately pledged €200 million ($226 million) "to the fund for reconstruction of this architectural work, which is a core part of the French history," the group said in a statement.
Sotheby's, Bordeaux first-growth Château Mouton-Rothschild and the Palace of Versailles announced that proceeds from a previously planned London auction on Wednesday of Mouton cases would go toward Notre-Dame repairs. The boxed sets of five bottles bearing different contemporary artists' work were created to raise funds for renovations at Versailles, but all parties agreed that the April 17 auction should benefit Notre-Dame. The 25-case sale brought in $983,000, Sotheby's informed Wine Spectator. "With funds from today's sale going toward the rebuilding of Notre-Dame Cathedral, each case more than doubled the opening bid," said Jamie Ritchie, head of Sotheby's Wine.
Stay on top of important wine stories with Wine Spectator's free Breaking News Alerts.
"Following the recent tragic events, we are honored to contribute toward the reconstruction efforts of this national landmark," said Philippe Sereys de Rothschild, chairman and CEO of Mouton owners Baron Philippe de Rothschild SA.
Some of the worst damage was to the cathedral's attic, an intricate lattice of oak beams constructed in 1220 to hold up the roof and help support the vaulted ceilings. Known as "the forest," much of it went up in flames.
So France's coopers, whose crafts are often employed in the construction of French oak barrels for winemaking, sprang into action as well. Charlois Group, a cooperage based in Burgundy that owns numerous wine barrel-making facilities, offered whatever timber and expertise it could spare for the upcoming repairs, which are expected to take years.
Some 1,300 ancient oak trees were harvested to make the beams. Now all that wood will need to be replaced. "To build a stock sufficient and worthy of the cathedral, we will have to find beautiful pieces of oak, very large diameters," owner Sylvain Charlois told the Terre du Vins gazette.
|Wine Talk: Pink Jams to Cab Franc (Wine Spectator)|
In today's wine world, some winemakers are considered rock stars by their fans. But only a few winemakers really are rock stars.
Better known as P!nk, Alecia Moore is one of the music industry's most recognized faces. A three-time Grammy winner, she has sold over 90 million records since her solo debut in 2000. She is currently performing on her "Beautiful Trauma" world tour. Married to professional motocross racer Carey Hart, Moore, 39, is also a mother of two. And she's a vintner.
But rather than trade on a seemingly made-in-the-shade coupling of her stage name and the soaring popularity of rosé to produce a mass-market wine, Moore chose a more hands-on, artisanal approach for her passion project.
In 2013, Moore purchased a 250-acre estate north of Los Angeles in Santa Barbara County. It came with 18 acres of organically farmed vines, planted to Cabernet Sauvignon along with Grenache, Sauvignon Blanc, Cabernet Franc, Petit Verdot and others; Moore planted an additional 7 acres to bring Syrah and Sémillon into the mix. The first release of her Two Wolves label totaled just 85 cases of individual Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc and Petit Verdot bottlings from the 2015 vintage; the rest of the fruit is being sold off for now. Moore plans to grow the project slowly to a goal of 2,000 cases per year.
Wine Spectator senior editor James Molesworth caught up with the megastar recently to talk about what brought her to wine, her old-school vigneron inspirations and the mad-scientist experiments she's working on now.
Wine Spectator: This project has been a few years in the making. Tell me about how you found the vineyard.
WS: But a vineyard is whole new kind of headache. You need to really be into wine for that. How did you get the bug?
Then one day, I remember, I was in a Hilton in Australia and had a Châteauneuf-du-Pape and said, "Wow, this is fucking delicious." Suddenly it became more interesting, and I just went down the rabbit hole. I have three obsessions: my children, music and now wine.
WS: And what have you learned since going down the wine rabbit hole?
WS: So as you got into drinking wine, you thought about winemaking?
WS: And from there, any practical experience?
WS: And then you came home and essentially decided to become a winemaker at your own property. How was that?
WS: With some help though, right? Now you're on a 14-month-long tour, which seems pretty long. How do you get time to manage things?
WS: You have a reputation for being very hands-on—you write your own songs, for example. So how do you handle something as detailed as a vineyard and winemaking when you're not home all the time?
WS: Any other influences in terms of wine, other than Foucault and those you worked with?
WS: The name, Two Wolves ...?
WS: So many wineries are a family business. How do you see Two Wolves in the future?
|Mediterranean Diet Linked to Lower Bladder Cancer Risk (Wine Spectator)|
The Mediterranean diet is associated with many health benefits, including protection against heart disease, Alzheimer's disease and even depression. Many wine drinkers are also fans because the diet includes moderate wine consumption. Now, a new report published in the European Journal of Nutrition suggests that the diet might also help reduce the risk of bladder cancer.
Bladder cancer is one of the most common forms of cancer, affecting approximately 70,000 adults in the United States each year. Conducted by a multinational team of researchers, the report analyzed data of 646,222 study participants—hailing from the U.S., Denmark, Australia, Spain, France, Greece, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, Sweden, Norway and the United Kingdom—pulled from 13 cohort studies included in the Bladder Cancer Epidemiology and Nutritional Determinants (BLEND) study, to determine the association between Mediterranean diet and bladder cancer risk.
"Previous studies assessed the risk of developing bladder cancer for several single food items ([such as the] association between intake of vegetables and risk of bladder cancer) and showed promising results. However, we believed that dietary patterns may provide stronger evidence than individual dietary items," WillemWitlox, one of the study's researchers, told Wine Spectator. "The Mediterranean diet had been reported to effectively reduce risk of mortality, cardiovascular disease and several cancers. Altogether, this was our rationale to assess the association between this diet and the risk of developing bladder cancer."
Modeled after the eating patterns of people native to areas that border the Mediterranean Sea (such as Italy, Greece, southern France and Spain), the Mediterranean diet emphasizes many components, including fruits, vegetables, nuts, grains, legumes, seafood and moderate alcohol consumption (mostly wine), while limiting meat and dairy products.
Because the study didn't look at just one dietary component, the researchers used a points system to determine how much or how little individuals adhered to the Mediterranean diet, based on a prescribed, sex-specific median measurement of consumption levels for each of the nine categories it assessed.
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Participants scored either 0 points or 1 point for each component: For vegetables, legumes, fruits and nuts, cereals, and fish (the presumed beneficial components), participants earned 1 point for consuming as much as the median cutoff or more; they earned 0 points for consuming less than the median cutoff. For meat and dairy products (considered detrimental components), 1 point was assigned to those consuming less than the median cutoff, and 0 points were assigned to those consuming as much as the median cutoff or more.
For alcohol, 1 point was given to men consuming between 70 and 350 grams per week and to women consuming between 35 and 175 grams per week. (U.S. health authorities state that a typical glass of wine contains roughly 14 grams of alcohol, so the top figures represent approximately 25 and 12 glasses per week, depending on the wine). Anyone consuming alcohol at levels below or above those limits were given 0 points in that category.
After assigning the scores and adding them up, the researchers categorized participants into three groups: low diet adherence (0-3 points), medium adherence (4-5 points) and high adherence (6 points or more). Upon running a statistical analysis, the researchers found that participants in the "medium" and "high" groups were less likely to develop bladder cancer than those in the "low" group, thus revealing an inverse relationship between adherence to the diet and the risk of getting bladder cancer.
In the study's text, the researchers hypothesize possible explanations for why the Mediterranean diet, as a whole, might have a protective effect against bladder cancer. In addition to the consumption of fruits and vegetables, which has been previously shown to have an inverse association with bladder cancer risk, the researchers also highlight the consumption of both wine and olive oil as key components to the diet's potential benefits, due to their high polyphenol content.
"These dietary factors are well-known for their anti-oxidative and anti-inflammatory properties," the study's text reads. "In addition, polyphenols have been shown to have a beneficial effect on cellular function. Since processes such as deregulated cell proliferation and suppressed cell death often provide a basis for tumor progression, polyphenols … may help to protect the cells of the bladder membrane against further metastasis."
However, because the study looked at the diet as a whole, rather than breaking down its individual components, there's still no telling what, exactly, confers this potential protective benefit.
"We could not isolate any particular subgroup of foods from the [Mediterranean diet] that provided a greater benefit over others," the study's text read. "This may be because it describes the overall effect of the combined factors of the dietary pattern to be most protective."
|Charles Bieler Revs Up Pink '66 Cadillac for Great American Rosé Road Trip (Wine Spectator)|
If you're cruising down the freeway and you spot a long-haired dude in a bubblegum-colored 1966 Cadillac DeVille convertible, you might be crossing paths with Charles Bieler, the rosé winemaker who just set off on a 60-day tour around the country to promote pink wine.
On Monday, Bieler gassed up his Caddy in Seattle, heading—with his wines—first down the West Coast, then across the South, up the Eastern Seaboard, and back through the Midwest, finally finishing in Aspen, Colo., in June.
Bieler's been down this road before: In 1999, he graduated college early to help bring attention to Chateau Routas, the Provence winery owned at the time by his father, Philippe Bieler, and to educate the country about a little-known style of wine—dry rosé.
"I mean, 20 years ago, it was out of total desperation," Bieler told Unfiltered just before hitting the road. "[My dad] quickly realized it was going to take more than making delicious wine; we had to get out there and people had to connect with it. He was getting his butt kicked."
At the time, pink wine in the U.S. pretty much meant semi-sweet white Zinfandel. "People didn't want to touch it!" Bieler said. "They wouldn't be caught dead with pink wine in their glass, because they would assume that somebody would look at them as a kind of unsophisticated drinker." If he wanted to change people's minds, he realized, he'd need to do something big to get their attention: "I was like, 'OK, let's go P.T. Barnum!'"
So in 1999, 23-year-old Bieler bought a 1965 Cadillac DeVille off eBay Motors, painted it pink and thrifted some matching pink tuxedos to complete the look. Armed with trusty Yellow Pages books, he traversed the country to meet with distributors and retailers to introduce them to dry Provençal rosé.
"It certainly wasn't like, 'This is awesome, people are getting it,' but it did stop people in their tracks," he said. "[It] gave me an opportunity, probably mostly just out of people pitying me." (Bieler showed up to more than one meeting in a AAA tow truck, thanks to numerous breakdowns in his Caddy. The '66 DeVille he's driving now is a new acquisition.)
It's safe to say that it's a different world for rosé today. Pink wine is everywhere, and the success of rosé has rewarded Bieler in his own wine ventures. After the sale of Chateau Routas in 2005, Bieler and his father started Bieler Père et Fils, and he subsequently went on to expand globally, most notably collaborating in Washington with Charles Smith on the Charles & Charles label.
But now it's time to hit the road again, this time with a different mission. "I want to talk about how it's made, what goes into it, why it deserves to be on the shelf, and move away from the sort of frenzy of 'It looks pretty ... I like the slogan,'" he said. "I don't mean to say that there's good rosé and there's bad rosé. But I would love more thinking about what you're drinking." On the 2019 #RoséRoadTrip, Bieler and his now-robust portfolio of pinks will be stopping to meet with merchants, media and fans, logging his adventures on Instagram and his website.
This time around, Bieler is bringing an RV and a trailer to tow his ride during some of the long stretches of highway driving. And he won't be going it alone! Bryan Minto, Bieler's friend and a member of Providence, R.I.,-based band The Low Anthem is coming along with his dog, Sam.
"It's kind of like a classic American thing to do," Bieler said. "When you have something to say, you hit the road."
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|OperaWine Sings Loud with the Diversity of Italian Wine (Wine Spectator)|
"In diversity is our strength." So affirmed Francesco Ripaccioli of Canalicchio di Sopra, the third-generation family estate in Tuscany, in a video interview presented at "OperaWine: Finest Italian Wines: 100 Great Producers." The gala tasting kicked off the 53rd edition of Vinitaly, the annual wine trade fair, which took place April 7-10 in Verona.
Italy's wine diversity was on full display at OperaWine. Held in Verona's historic Palazzo della Gran Guardia and limited to 1,600 invited guests, the tasting showcased 103 of Italy's top wine producers, selected by Wine Spectator. All 20 Italian wine regions were represented, from the Alps to Sicily.
"Quality and diversity are two of our overarching goals when we compile the list," said Alison Napjus, Wine Spectator senior editor, "but other factors come into play, such as regional leadership and historical significance."
Diversity also characterized the small, prestigious Tuscan region of Montalcino. Ripaccioli's Brunello di Montalcino Riserva 2006 was one of six Brunellos to make its OperaWine debut in 2019.
"This year we changed the entire roster of producers from Montalcino," said Bruce Sanderson, Wine Spectator senior editor and the publication's lead taster for the wines of Piedmont and Tuscany. "We felt there were so many great wines from the area that we could show a totally new lineup that would be just as strong as last year's."[videoPlayerTag videoId="Ey3GAuKg"]
Another newcomer to the event, Francesco Buffi, pouring his Baricci Brunello di Montalcino 2010, said he was proud to be selected to represent his region. "We were founded in 1955," he said. "We share the passion to make fine, true wines in this historic region."
"Every year OperaWine seems to be increasingly more prestigious, not only among participating producers but also among attendees," noted Stevie Kim, managing director of Vinitaly International.
If OperaWine is a distillation of Italy's diversity, Vinitaly is its encyclopedia. The four-day fair drew 125,000 visitors from 145 countries, who mingled with 4,600 exhibiting companies, mostly Italian wine producers but also makers of spirits, beer, specialty foods and equipment and technology for the wine industry.
Larger companies built compounds with tasting bars to serve the public, private areas for meetings and second-story hideaways with private chefs. Small wineries banded together in dense warrens of colorful booths. Crowds thronged the halls and fairgrounds, a mix of young and old, wearing scruffy, casual clothes or finely tailored outfits, and, campaigning for the upcoming European Union elections, dark-suited politicians and their retinues. The atmosphere was generally upbeat, both among producers and their customers from around the world.
In the evenings, lavish events lit up Verona's palazzos and nearby wine estates. The Grandi Cru d'Italia, an association of top producers, held a concert and reception at the Teatro Nuovo, which dates to 1846. Allegrini Family hosted parties at their 16th century Villa Della Torre in the nearby Valpolicella region. The town's restaurants were packed—at Bottega del Vino, which holds a Wine Spectator Grand Award for its wine list, bouncers refused admittance to anyone without a reservation, so a lively party blossomed in the street.
In the OperaWine video, when asked "which opera best represents your wine," Ripaccioli selected Beethoven's 9th Symphony. "It's not an opera," he conceded, "but like Brunello wines, it is classic and modern at the same time." He might have been characterizing his country's entire wine industry, an orchestra of diverse tones and tastes performing together across the crowded fair.
|Scott Conant's Lamb on the Grill for Easter (Wine Spectator)|
Scott Conant is sitting in a crowded, loud airport with poor reception. "I apologize if you get a lot of talk behind you," he says.
Airports are a familiar setting for the busy chef and cookbook author. Between running three restaurants in three states, launching the Sprezza line of cooking and pantry essentials, and appearing on Food Network's Chopped and Best Baker in America, "I don't know how I balance it; I'm always on the go," says Conant.
Among these many commitments, a top priority is spending time in his own kitchen, in Scottsdale, Ariz., with his 9- and 6-year-old daughters. "I try to cook with them all the time," says Conant. "There's something about the process of cooking that kids seem to really enjoy."
At 15, Conant was just a kid himself when he took his first restaurant gig, in Waterbury, Conn., where he was born and raised. "I automatically fell in love with it," he said. "It wasn't necessarily about the food at first. At first, it was about the camaraderie in the kitchen; it was about the sense of team."
Conant later rose to fame in New York City, at L'Impero, Alto and Scarpetta, before moving on to other destinations. At his current restaurants—Mora Italian in Phoenix, Masso Osteria at Red Rock Casino in Las Vegas and Cellaio Steak at Resorts World Catskills in Monticello, N.Y.—he draws inspiration from that first restaurant job and the many others that followed, combined with his upbringing in a large Italian clan of parents, grandparents, aunts and other relatives. It all "shaped my vision for the best style of restaurants," Conant says.
"You want people to feel warm and welcomed and just [have] an overall feeling of gratitude and graciousness at the table," he adds. "I think that's what people are looking for when [they're] talking about Italian food, and that's what shaped me."
When it comes Easter, or any spring gathering, his grill is what shapes the experience; Conant loves to take advantage of the early spring weather by entertaining and cooking outdoors at his Scottsdale home.
This year, the dish on his home menu is a lamb (or baby goat) that's marinated in garlic, olive oil, crushed red pepper and rosemary for a day or two, butterflied, then thrown directly on the grill with lemons and rosemary sprigs to cook on a low flame. "The lemons burn and the rosemary smokes, and it just really permeates the meat," says Conant. "And I'll just finish it with sea salt—it's really good. I think the simplicity of it really resonates with people as well."
For those spending Easter indoors, he suggests an alternative cooking method that entails searing the meat in a cast-iron pan to start. Once browned, it can finish cooking in the oven. "What I'll do sometimes is put a pan of lemons and rosemary and garlic on the bottom of the oven, so it has that same effect of things that are cooking and smoking," says Conant.
To pair with the meat, Conant goes with the 2016 Collemattoni Adone Rosso Toscana IGT, a Sangiovese blended with a small amount of Merlot. "The bright acidity of the wine cuts through and embraces the gaminess of the [lamb or] goat," he says. "The bright ripe fruit is also the perfect match for the beautiful char from the grill."
Below, Wine Spectator shares recently rated selections of Italian reds.
Family gatherings like Easter bring Conant back to how he first fell in love with food: "Sitting around a big table with a bunch of people that you love, and you're drinking wine and you're clinking glasses, and all the food has this balance of rusticity and full flavor.
"Unfortunately, I just can't eat the way I used to," he adds with a laugh as he suggests serving this dish with roasted potatoes and a small salad. "There's a lot more greens at the table than there used to be."
Grilled Lamb or Baby Goat
1. Place the meat in a large non-reactive dish or pan with the rosemary sprigs and halved lemons. Mix the smashed garlic cloves with the olive oil and chopped chile. Pour mixture over the meat, rubbing to coat evenly. Cover and let marinate overnight in the refrigerator.
2. The next day, heat a gas grill, covered, on a low flame until it reaches 400˚ F.
3. Retaining the marinade on the meat, place lamb (or goat) on the grill along with the rosemary sprigs and lemons. Turn off every other flame on the grill, so as to not spark additional fire, and cover.
4. Grill for 10 to 12 minutes. Turn the meat once and continue to grill for about 25 minutes or until the internal temperature of the flesh reaches 120˚ F, as measured by a meat thermometer inserted into the thickest part.
5. Remove from grill and let rest for 20 minutes before slicing into thin pieces. Finish with a sprinkling of sea salt. Serves 4 to 6.
8 Recommended Italian Reds
Note: The following lists are selections of outstanding and very good wines from recently rated releases. More options can be found in our Wine Ratings Search.
ROCCA DI FRASSINELLO Maremma Toscana Le Sughere di Frassinello 2016
CASTELLO DI MONSANTO Toscana Monrosso 2016
TOLAINI Toscana Al Passo 2015
RUFFINO Toscana Modus 2015
TOMMASI Toscana Poggio al Tufo Rompicollo 2016
MAZZEI Toscana Poggio Badiola 2016
RENZO MASI Toscana Contrappasso 2017
QUERCIABELLA Toscana Mongrana 2015
|How to Create a Dream Wine Cellar (Wine Spectator)|
It starts small. A couple of bottles stowed in a kitchen rack; a case for your birthday; maybe a splurge on an auction trophy. You taste with friends, broaden your palate, find yourself drawn to specific regions and producers. Before you know it, a closet is overflowing, but your collection is just getting started.
Dina Given, a writer and health-care executive living in Lebanon, N.J.—"farm-and-horse country," she says—began acquiring well-rated yet affordable wines in the mid-2000s, including a particularly memorable Schild Shiraz 2004 from Australia. But the size of the collection fast outstripped her ability to store it. "Originally, we kept the wines in boxes in our basement," she says. "Soon, the boxes were becoming really overwhelming, so I bought some cheap racks online, and all of a sudden we have walls full of racks."
Ultimately, a basement renovation provided the impetus to install a dedicated wine area. "We wanted a space to show off our bottles but also protect them," she says. "This collection is something we've been putting together for 10 years."
Mark DiPippa, an ad agency founder and creator of financial-literacy television program The Centsables, tells a similar story: "In the early 2000s, spending $50 on a bottle of wine was amazing to me. On my 50th birthday, I spent $10,000 on a '61 Petrus and a '61 Mouton-Rothschild and shared them with my father," he says. "My friends ask if I'm crazy, but I tell them these are experiences I'll have for the rest of my life."
This pivot from interest to passion marks the point of inflection from make-it-up-as-you-go-along wine storage in basements, boxes, nooks and crannies to a dedicated cellar that functions not only as housing for prized wines but as a domestic centerpiece for entertainment, relaxation and continuing education.
But for all the pleasures a home cellar can provide, it is not devoid of pitfalls. A temperature- and humidity-controlled space, often stocked with rare and expensive bottles in need of consistent care, the private cellar is an exercise in precision and discernment. Costs can be high, and losses—due to ill-considered construction or reckless purchasing—severe.
Foreknowledge is key. As with any significant investment, the risks of building a wine cellar can be mitigated by seeking the advice of experts and individuals who have gone down the path before you. For this guide, we spoke to cellar owners and designers about their experiences and the lessons they've learned. Consider their advice your own private consultation on the wine room of your dreams.
Think of a wine cellar as a room-size refrigerator: a sealed environment capable of being held at a constant temperature and humidity. If you happen to live over a network of readily accessible subterranean caves, all the better. Otherwise, creating your cellar will likely involve at least the installation of a dedicated cooling system and insulation of all surfaces (including the floor and walls). Then there's lighting, load-bearing shelving and more.Due to the complexity of the undertaking, setting up a cellar is beyond the scope of most do-it-yourselfers. Fortunately, there are many reputable firms across the country offering everything from in-depth consultations to full-service jobs comprising fabrication, delivery and installation.
Jim Cash, founder of Revel Custom Wine Cellars in East Lansing, Mich., got his start in the sector by designing his own home cellar. A veteran of the construction industry, he leverages his building and business credentials to bridge the gap between the personal tastes of collectors and the design puzzle presented by the demand for secure wine storage.
Cash says Revel rarely bids on jobs. Clients come primarily via referrals, with an existing sense of the firm's aesthetic; some even approach him prior to the construction of the home that will house the cellar. Things get personal fast.
"We have a discussion about what they collect, and then customize the cellar to the specific situation," Cash explains. "The goal is to match the cellar to the personal aesthetic of the customer." Even a client's height is taken into account: "I ask them how tall they are so I know how high I can do cabinetry without them needing a step stool or a ladder."
One of Cash's major customizations was for a collector based in Melbourne, Australia, who was drawn to the firm's trademark rotating Revel-ution wine panels. In the midst of a home renovation with an Italian interior design firm, the client requested that a supersized version of the storage system be constructed, with the standard steel racking dowels replaced by burnished copper versions to match his new countertops and light fixtures. Revel complied, custom-plating thousands of the dowels with antiqued copper and shipping the whole piece Down Under for installation.
Typically, however, a collaboration is hatched closer to home. Collector Harold Jablon was three revisions deep into a cellar blueprint with an Atlanta-based designer when he met contractor Ruben Calleiro at a charity event at Jablon's beach home in Charleston, S.C. The two began to discuss wine, and Jablon showed Calleiro the room he saw housing his yet-unrealized cellar.
"Ruben stood there for about 20 minutes while I described what I wanted," Jablon says. "He said, ‘I can do it—and I can make it 30 percent bigger and save you $10,000.' I said, ‘When can you start?'"
Calleiro worked out of the house's garage, fabricating the 800-bottle cellar over the course of three months. He created shelving from locally sourced cypress, hand-sanded the pieces and left the materials unfinished to preserve the natural beauty of the wood. The floor is ceramic tile that resembles wood but provides better insulation—a must for cellar not located below grade. "Ruben's a true craftsman," says Jablon. "He put his heart and soul into it."
Dina Given, on the other hand, spoke to several general contractors before settling on Joseph & Curtis Custom Wine Cellars in Mountainside, N.J., to create her cellar. "We weren't getting a lot of confidence from basement contractors that they would be able to build the wine cellar we wanted," she says. "A lot of them said they could do it but were proposing things that felt pretty basic."
After some research, Given called in Joseph & Curtis for a consultation. "They got what I wanted immediately," she says. "Their first design was perfect. I said, ‘That's it, you got it.'"
Given wanted a space she could spend time in without freezing. "A lot of wine rooms I've been in, the whole place is refrigerated," she says. "We didn't want to wear coats when we came in to have a glass of wine."
Designed as a wine wall, the cellar displays bottles behind glass, keeping the controlled storage space separate from the sitting area. The collection holds more than 700 bottles. Locally sourced elements are integrated into the structure; the cellar is framed out of reclaimed wood from an old tobacco barn in the area. "It's modern but has some rustic elements to it," she says.
DiPippa's cellar in Huntington, N.Y., was born from a business plan he developed in 2001 to create an Old World–style wine shop, bistro and fine-dining restaurant combo to be called Claret House. When New York building regulations forbidding such hybrid enterprises quashed his plans, he transferred his vision to his private cellar."The space for the cellar was originally a 2,000-square-foot finished basement with a playroom and a gym with a golf net," DiPippa explains. But there was one issue with this otherwise ideal location: "I had to make a deal with my daughter, who was 9 or 10 at the time, to convert her play area into my wine cellar," DiPippa says with a laugh. "She got my old 10-by-10 wine room, and I got my cellar."
The space delivers the Old World ambience DiPippa desired, with travertine floors, an arched entryway with a custom-made iron gate, and walls composed of fieldstone. The racks were sourced from redwood, stained a dark walnut and lacquered. Building took six months. "I went through 1,000 pictures of wall-sconce lighting alone just to get the cellar to look exactly like what was in my mind," DiPippa says.
Capturing a sense of place was equally important to Kevin Theroux, an orthodontist from Greenwood Village, Colo., whose passion for wine stemmed from a love of international travel. Trips with his wife, Christine, to France, Italy, Spain, Australia and South Africa generated a collection of bottles meant to evoke memories of their time abroad.
Theroux shuns retail, preferring to buy wine while in-country. "Even many years later, drinking a bottle of wine brings back memories of the winery itself," he says. "Walking the vineyards, meeting the winemakers, cellar tastings, the particular weather or scenery. One of my favorite things that collecting and drinking wine offers is that feeling of connection."
Preserving this link to his wines' origins factored into the cellar Theroux commissioned from Denver-based designer Darryl Hogeback, whose firm, Savanté Wine Cellars, specializes in expert woodwork. "As an orthodontist, I measure success and failure in tenths of millimeters, and I wanted a craftsman who had the same micro-attention to detail," Theroux says.
Drawing on his love of Bordeaux, Theroux purchased several wooden barrels from a cooperage he'd visited in the region and asked Hogeback to incorporate them into the cellar as storage bins. The decanting area holds a photo of the Abbey of Sant'Antimo in Tuscany, a beloved biking spot of Theroux's.
Even the door to the cellar is endowed with terroir: "Christine and I found really amazing 19th-century pewter door hardware at a market in Provence," he says. "It actually came off an old barn." Unable to fit the hardware to a standard doorframe, Hogeback fabricated a custom walnut-and-glass door to accommodate it. Sometimes it takes an expert touch to bring a treasured memory home.
The road from vision to execution is not always so smooth. Many designers craft cellar parts at their workshops and ship them complete to the collector's address for installation. Maneuvering these ungainly pieces down stairwells and around corners can create challenges in the last mile.
When Cash was working on his own cellar—"Revel cellar No. 1," he says—the lazy Susan wine wheel he'd crafted wouldn't fit through the door to his wine room. Now he provides clients with a list of each large piece and its dimensions, requiring that they sign off on the order and ensure an accessible pathway from moving truck to cellar.
Savanté's Hogeback often encounters rooms set aside as cellar spots that are ill-suited to the task. "The builder or a remodeler would [then] have to come in and prep the space," he says. "This becomes a major cost."Other potential snags are less obvious. Hogeback cautions against using certain stains and finishes on racking components, since volatile organic compounds released by these substances can infiltrate corks and ruin wine. Cellar lighting should emit no UV rays, which could damage fragile liquid and labels. Moisture barriers should be placed behind all insulation, and moisture-resistant drywall, such as purple board, must be used in place of standard paper-coated surfaces, which can promote mold and mildew growth.
But the make-or-break consideration for many is price. Wine collecting is an expensive hobby, and reliable and attractive in-home bottle storage is no different. "Even if the client is fabulously wealthy," says Cash, "they usually inquire about cost up front."
One rule of thumb, cited by Cash, is to estimate the cost of the wood at around $45 per bottle. Curtis Dahl of Joseph & Curtis backs up this figure but cautions that the bespoke work his company is known for makes every project unique. "We are a very custom firm," Dahl says in an email. "We not only build but also do 100 percent of the design and fabrication, [so] each job is different."
Not surprisingly, the more customization a client wants, the more expensive a cellar will be. "So much depends on the efficiency of design," says Cash. "How efficiently our cabinetry arrays within the space, the wood species used. For example, there's a lot demand for walnut right now, which has a 15 percent premium versus mahogany." Racking can amount to roughly 70 percent of the cost of the cellar, so selection of materials is vital in estimating the bill for a project.
Before diving in, consider the ongoing costs of cellar ownership, such as insurance, electricity use and cooling-system maintenance and periodic replacement. It all adds up. But if you think of a cellar as a means of protecting your wine investment, not to mention a rewarding extension of your passion for wine over the course of decades, the hefty outlay begins to make sense.
What's in Their Cellars?
Location: Huntington, N.Y.
Occupation: Advertising executive and television-show creator
Number of bottles: 750
Favorite producers: Caymus, Quintarelli
Notable wines: Pol Roger Reserve Champagne (salmanazar); Ornellaia 1999 (double magnum); Castello Banfi Centine 2006 (methuselah); Château Haut-Brion 1995 (magnum); Château Lafite Rothschild 1995; Château Latour 1999; Château Margaux 1999
Harlod and Irene Jablon
Location: Charleston, S.C.
Number of bottles: 800 in cellar; 400 off-site
Wine Spectator Wines of the Year: Casa Lapostolle Clos Apalta 2005; Clos des Papes Châteauneuf-du-Pape 2005; E. Guigal Châteauneuf-du-Pape 1999; Shafer Relentless 2008; Taylor Fladgate Vintage Port 1994; Fonseca Vintage Port 1994
Other notable wines: Château Haut-Brion 1975, Château Latour 1980, Château Margaux 1983, Château Mouton-Rothschild 1983 and 2001, Taylor Fladgate Vintage Port 1985 and 2007, Opus One 1999
Location: Lebanon, N.J.
Occupation: Pharmaceutical executive and fiction writer
Number of bottles: 800
Birth-year wines: Château Pontet-Canet 2005 and Joseph Phelps Insignia 2007, for children when they turn 21
Notable wines: Penfolds Grange 2001 and 2008, Casanova di Neri 2001, Harlan Estate 2012, Schild Shiraz 2004
Location: Lone Tree, Colo.
Number of bottles: 700
Prized bottles: Château Lafite Rothschild 2003, Opus One 2001
Large-format bottles: Château Kirwan 1996 (methuselah), Pelissero Nubiola 2011 (jeroboam), Col d'Orcia Poggio al Vento Riserva 2006 (magnum)
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