Grapevine News

That is Billion with a “B”

According to the Canadian Press, wine sales are up almost 6 percent in Canada… our neighbors to the north consumed 387.7 million litres of wine. A third of that consumption came from Quebec and red wine was preferred overall, unless you live in the Maritime Provinces of Prince Edward Island, Nova Scotia and New Brunswick. Maybe because of their access to fresh seafood? Oh, and don’t worry about your association with Canada and beer… They still drink 2.2 BILLION liters.

Cocktails Anyone?

The Canadians are not the only people drinking beer. According to the consulting firm, Technomic, Inc., when out on the town, most of us are more likely to drink beer or cocktails. Unless we are out for business, romance or dining that is…

Wines of Mencia

The LA Times reports that the wines of Bierzo, Spain made with Mencia grapes are fast becoming the new darlings of the wine world. The wines tend to be high quality and affordable. The vines themselves were abandoned years ago after being originally brought to Spain in the 10th century by French monks. Notable winemakers include: La Fararona Mencía, El Dorado, Descendientes de J. Palacios Corullón, Dominio de Tares, Paixar, Pago de Valdoneje, Cuatro Pasos and Luna Beberide.

How Do I Get That Kind of Job?

The McClatchy Newspapers report that the Wine Institute received $4.5 million from the Department of Agriculture’s Market Access Program to subsidize or outright pay for foreign journalists to travel to and enjoy California (mainly) wineries…

And She is Left-Handed Too!

For those of you that like skin… and not just the grape type, The National Post’s Shinan Govani, writes about his interview with Savanna Samson. Samson, a two time winner of Adult Video News Award for best actress is also a winemaker. Her wine, Songo Uno, received ratings of 90-91 from Robert Parker.

Well there is a pairing I wouldn’t have considered

I would have considered them a good match but they went admirably well together… perhaps because my chili isn’t over laden with meat and the vegetables included rich oven roasted tomatoes…

My need for hot sauce might have over-powered the wine a bit, but I wouldn’t have enjoyed the meal so much without it.

I guess, I will keep experimenting with flavors to see what goes the best. Too bad every time I cook even the most basic of dishes, I vary the recipe…

October’s Children

Sommeliers and wine buyers from top restaurants in Chicago are hard to assemble. The restaurant business, an unforgiving mother, likes to keep its children occupied. Yet certain trade events are a guaranteed draw to the dedicated wine professionals that toil because of an undying work ethic, limitless passion, and an unquenchable thirst for knowledge. To that extent, October has been a very good month.

It started for me on October 1st, when I had the good fortune to attend a dinner with Roman Bratasuik, owner/winemaker for Clarendon Hills at NoMi. The private dining room at NoMi, by the way, is the premier venue for intimate wine dinners/lunches and I have attended at least four spectacular events there.

October 8th was the highly anticipated walk-around tasting of the year as Chicago Wine Merchants presented Bordeaux, Burgundy, and Champagne.

On October 10th Master Sommelier Richard Betts was in Chicago and hosted a trade lunch at Le Lan to feature his Betts and Scholl wines.

And tomorrow, October 23rd, will be an event organized by esteemed Master of Wine Serena Sutcliffe that is called Young Lions of Winemaking-Legends of the Future. This event will feature 11 of the top young winemakers to discuss the direction of the industry and the challenges to come. I am already fortunate enough to have met two of these Young Lions, Marco Caprai of Arnaldo Caprai, a top Sagrantino producer, and Jean-Baptiste Lecaillon of Champagne Louis Roederer. Young Lions should be a great opportunity to participate in the discussion that revolves around wine with the core of the wine community, the producers.

I like October for a lot of reasons, from World Series baseball to Halloween candy and pumpkin pie. But this October has been special because of the great wine events that I have attended and shared with my colleagues, wine pros from top restaurants and hotels like Gabriel’s, NoMi/Park Hyatt, Avenues/Peninsula, and Charlie Trotter’s. I believe that the people who do what we do, serving the Chicago dining community, can justify all the hard work and long hours because it affords certain rewards. One of those great rewards is access to the winemakers, their wines and the stories behind the wines. There are always tastings and events going on in town for a wine buyer to attend, but rarely are so many great events held in succession as they have been this month. More detail to come regarding the wines and specific events that I mentioned above…

Screw these Corkscrews

I had the best corkscrew. I did. It was one of those screwpull jobs that was sleek and efficient.

And then when we moved back to Chez Verve, it took a powder…

I don’t know why, but it is gone.

Our emergency backup was from the stone age. The least efficient piece of chrome plated iron I think was never made… Corks broke left and right. My personal wine steward, my 10 year old daughter was in tears. (oh, like I am the only one out there who lets their kids open the bottles for them)

Why not just buy a new screw pull? Well, because part of me thinks that I will find the old one in the midst of the wreckage of the move…. So, in the meantime, I am experimenting with inexpensive versions… A three-in-one from screwpull, a waiters pull and a crappy hide-the-pull in a tube form from a hotel room all in one.

I haven’t tracked down in the two-pronged model that was my favorite prior to the screwpull… I loved it and could pull corks like crazy… Kevin hated it though… so I doubt he will work hard to find one for me.

In the meantime, cross your fingers that my favorite turns up!

What is your favorite way to open a bottle of wine?

Grapevine News

Will it go With Kung Pao Chicken?

According the Australian Wine and Brandy Corporation (AWBC), wine exports rose nine percent in the last year, but that China has more than doubled its consumption of red wine. AWBC expects to increase their exports to China within five years to 37 million liters. It is believed that the increase comes as a result of the Chinese associations of red wine with health and good luck.

Even More Wineries to Explore!

According to India’s Economic Times, the Indian government has announced plans to promote wine production and consumption by instituting a comprehensive policy. To date, they have established the Indian Wine Board to create standards for production and to promote the domestic wine industry. It is believed that wine production should receive preferential treatment because it leads to diversification in agriculture and employment generation.

The Drink of the Gods

An ancient wine is in danger of extinction on the small island of Pantelleria. The island, located between Sicilly and Tunisia has been producing the sweet, golden wine, Passito di Pantelleria for 2,300 years. The ancient Greeks believed that Tanit, a Carthaginian goddess stole the heart of Apollo by offering him Passito instead of ambrosia. However, the production of the moscat grapes is difficult work on the volcanic island where the winds and steep slopes require that most of the work be performed by hand. If the decline continues, it is expected that the wine will die out by 2017.

Drink Wine and Protect Your Cleavage

In honor of breast cancer awareness month, a new line of wines, Cleavage Creek were launched. The wine was the inspiration of owner, Budge Brown, who lost his wife of 48 years, Arlene to cancer. The wines produced include:

The wines feature the image of a breast cancer survivor. Ten percent of the proceeds will go to breast cancer causes and the winery is taking applications to be a wine bottle model.

Funky Llama

I knew at some point picking wines by their names or labels would catch up with me…. But I look at it as picking the football poll… it is as good as any other method…

But Funky Llama was unusual… it is a light crisp wine… with an aftertaste of asparagus… or maybe brussell sprouts….. no, really I think it was asparagus.

This being said, I love asparagus. just not in my wine…

Oh well… try, try again…

I did enjoy Pinot Evil…

Where is a girl supposed to shop!

I am not making this up!

Where do you shop if you want non-Californian, non-Washington-Statian, non-Oregonian wine. Yes, I want wine from the other 47 states.

As I have mentioned previously, every state in the nation has a bonded winery. Where do we get these wines. I have checked at my favorite wineshops and find them wanting. Typically, I can find six or so bottles from two or three vineyards at each (not counting traditionally American Kosher wines that seem to be ubiquitous… and are generally from New York wineries, although not labelled as such).

My favorite wine shops (which I love and will never stop shopping at), Binny’s Beverage Depot, Sam’s Wine and Liquors, and the Wine Discount Center sell wines from Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, New Mexico, New York and Ohio. It should be be noted that they don’t all sell these wines, or all the time, but that they are occassionally available.

Even at online stores, there was not much more availability… I checked with,… they carried wines from New York and New Jersey.

So sad…

What am I supposed to do if I want wine from Missouri, or Arkansas or Viriginia?

Well, I have to hope that the wineries are able to ship to me. But of course, with our crazy interstate commerce rules, this is not a guarantee….


I need to start travelling more.

I even checked at online wineries. in their category of

A Love Affair (or is it a fetish?) Continued…

I recently wrote about my first French wine with a Stelvin Closure – a white Colombard from Gascony. Well, the love affair continues. I tried to put my finger on what I like about these wines and, truth be told, it was what I was putting my tongue on. Crisp, fresh fruit, with a minerality I just adored. Long known for Armagnac, the the distilled grape brandy, I am in the process of discovering great whites Gascony has to offer. Oh, foie gras is produced here as well.

Gascony was historically inhabited by Basque related people. It is home to the Gascon language. It is also the land of d’Artagnan, who inspired Alexandre Dumas’s character in the Three Musketeers.

Per, the Southwest winegrowing region was created because many small wine producers scattered across the area decided to regroup in order to improve quality and gain recognition. Since they had long operated in the shadow of the neighboring region of Bordeaux, they joined forces, using hard work, awareness of nature and ambition to improve their production as much as possible. Wines of the Southwest come from a wide range of different lands, from the mild, rainy climate of the Basque Country to the dry, limestone terroirs of Cahors, and represent a diverse collection of wines, including fine sweet wines, fruity whites and massive reds.

I intend to explore this region some more. Maybe I’ll go red next time!

The Stephen T. Colbert Memorial Better Know an AVA

Augusta AVA — Back to the Future

Yes, I am stepping backwards and looking at the first American Viticulture Area.

“Where is it in California?” you may ask.

I would have to tell you that you are looking at the wrong part of the world.

The Augusta AVA is in Missouri.

That’s right. The Show Me State.

And right now I am going to show you something about the history of wine in Missouri.

Wine has been produced in Missouri since the 1750s and in the Augusta region since 1830 largely by German settlers to the area. The Mount Pleasant Winery was opened in 1859 and only closed by Prohibition and became the second post-Prohibition winery re-opened.

The area is located in the growing areas near the Augusta Bend of the Missouri River which consists of alluvial plains and river bottoms containing the Hayne Silt-Loam (heavier clay topped with river silts). The grapes grown in the area consist largely of Norton (a local varietal and the official grape of the State of Missouri), hybrids such as Chambourcin, Chardonel, Couderc Noir, Rayon d’Or, Seyval Blanc, St. Vincent and Vidal Blanc as well as vinifera such as Cabernet Sauvignon, Chardonnay and Merlot.

Wineries in and near the AVA include:

At the turn of the 20th century, Missouri ranked 2nd in wine production in the United States only to Ohio. Nearly a 100 years the State is working to reclaim its position in the wine world. Augusta’s award winning wines are working toward that goal.

Grapevine News

Do they offer free samples?

The Interactive Moselle Wine Museum has opened in Bernkastel-Kues. The museum has 20 interactive stations discussing such issues as terroir, history of the region, cartography, geology and viticulture as well as stations dealing with the flavors and aromas associated with Moselle wines. A wine shop and theater complete the experience.

The Debate Continues:

The British government’s National Institute of Clinical Excellence is drafting new guidelines suggesting that after the first trimester, pregnant women may safely consume a glass of wine each day. The formal guidelines won’t be released until March.

Talk about Ice Wine!

The Buffalo Sabres now have an official wine. Bully Hill Vineyards of Hammondsport, NY has joined with the Sabres organization to produce Sabres Red and Sabres White. The white will be a light German style wine and the red a mellow blend of American grapes. The wines will be available at local stores as well as the HSBC Arena during matches.

But Can You Burp the Alphabet When You Are Done?

Just as we are getting used to screw tops for our wine, Iron Wine from Argentina is bottling (?) their wines in cans… like beer or soda. The wines are only available in Latin American, Spain and Monte Carlo (where they like the classy stuff). I am waiting to see it at a tailgate at Soldier Field. Do you think they will still crush the cans on their head?