May 16, 2013
The Second Coming of B.C. Wineries
John Schreiner | May 6, 2013
From BC Business Magazine
B.C.’s new generation of vintners are discovering that the wine business is not for the faint of heart. To be successful demands business smarts, a full-time commitment and a lot of cash—all before the first crush
Tony Holler, the majority owner of Poplar Grove Winery, has a perception problem with friends who know he became wealthy in the pharmaceutical business. “A lot of my friends say that this is a pretty expensive hobby,” Holler says. “It isn’t a hobby. Let’s not kid ourselves; we’re building a serious business.”
The B.C. wine industry is still dominated by a first generation of serious vintners who brought international credibility to Okanagan wines— wineries like Mission Hill, Jackson-Triggs, the Andrew Peller wineries, Quails’ Gate, Burrowing Owl, Tinhorn Creek and Gray Monk Estate Winery. But Holler is among a second generation that is building on the foundation laid by pioneers like Mission Hill’s Anthony Von Mandl, and who are expanding the province’s reputation worldwide.
Just a quarter-century ago, there were only 13 wineries in B.C., none with recognition outside the province. Today, there are close to 240 wineries, a number of which are winning international awards and exporting wines. “Our wines are in Tokyo and Beijing,” says John Skinner, proprietor of Painted Rock Estate Winery and a contemporary of Holler’s. “It means something there if you are from the Okanagan.”
Skinner is quick to acknowledge that all the upstart wineries wouldn’t be enjoying the success they are without the groundbreaking work of the pioneering generation that preceded them. “Painted Rock and the other little wineries that are out there banging the drum, we’re being accepted internationally on the backs of Quails’ Gate and Burrowing Owl and all those guys,” he notes. “They started to hit the quality marks early, giving the Okanagan some international profile.”
Today the B.C. wine industry’s annual sales, including wines made from B.C. grapes as well as the cellared-in-Canada wines from imported bulk wine, total about $400 million. Wine has become a major driver of jobs and investment, including the money being spent on new wineries.
Holler could offer himself as the poster child for the well-heeled newcomers who are shaking up the wine industry. They are passionate about wine and they can spend what it takes to produce world-class wines. But they also bring a hardened business sense to the enterprise, according to Geoff McIntyre, a Kelowna-based CA and business consultant with consulting firm MNP who specializes in the B.C. wine industry: “They like the idea of the lifestyle, but they don’t want to lose money.”
“You are getting a new group of people coming into the wine business,” says Holler, who acquired control of Poplar Grove in 2007. “They are people who have been successful in other businesses. They typically are wine collectors and love drinking wine.” (Holler has 5,000 bottles in three personal wine cellars.) “We need people who say we are going to be a serious winery making serious wines. Probably the best trend that you are seeing is that the people who are coming into the wine business have the capital to be in that business.”
In addition to Holler, the group making second careers in wine after being successful in business includes Laughing Stock’s David Enns, a former financial consultant; Noble Ridge’s Jim D’Andrea, still a high-powered Calgary lawyer; Tantalus Vineyards’ Eric Savics, still a senior stock broker in Vancouver; John Arthur Kenneth Meyer of Meyer Family Vineyards, a former broker (who goes by Jak); Painted Rock’s John Skinner, also a former stock broker; and Mick Luckhurst, a former building supply dealer and developer who owns Road 13 Vineyards.
A New Generation
It is perhaps no coincidence that the new generation of wine entrepreneurs is well represented by current and former members of Vancouver’s investment community who have built successful careers on recognizing market opportunities. “I was a wine collector and an enthusiast,” says Skinner. “But I am also a market-timing guy. I recognized an opportunity to invest in an industry in its infancy that was just starting to prove itself. I thought it was a golden opportunity if I could buy the best property to produce the best wines.” In 2002, Skinner—then 44—decided to retire from the investment business by 50 and start a winery. When he disclosed his plan to fellow broker Eric Savics, who had not yet acquired Tantalus Vineyards, Savics thought that “John was barking mad.” Now, both men have sunk millions into one of the world’s most seductive businesses.
“I am an accidental wine tourist,” Savics concedes. “I had a friend call and say, ‘You should look at this property in the Okanagan.’ It turned out the wine was good, and that drew me in.”
The flagship wine already was a widely acclaimed Old Vine Riesling (from vines planted in 1978). Savics hired professionals to reduce the vineyard’s eclectic assortment of varieties to plantings, mostly new, of Riesling, Pinot Noir and Chardonnay. The makeshift Pinot Reach building was replaced with a winery so modern and well equipped that there is even a charging station for electric cars.
“The wine was good and got better,” Savics says. “That justified the additional capital.” Tantalus wines were soon listed by many top Vancouver restaurants. He does not disclose what he has invested, but it is a big number. “I don’t know that number because it has been done in stages. Of course, we have had some revenue to offset that, but it still needs to become a business that can take care of itself.” Tantalus currently produces 4,000 cases a year, with expansion planned as the estate’s grape production rises. “We have enough land and we have the facility that can handle 10,000 cases,” says Savics, who still maintains his investment business in Vancouver.
“If we got to the level where Tantalus was recognized outside of B.C., it would be marvellous,” he says. “I would like to be in New York at Daniel restaurant. I would like to be in Napa and have The French Laundry take it. I would like to be at The Fat Duck Restaurant in London. It would be a wonderful thing to get wines into restaurants like that.”
Road 13 Vineyards, south of Oliver, is another turnaround story. It opened in 1998 as Golden Mile Cellars, and was a struggling 1,000-case producer in a quaint replica castle when Mick and Pam Luckhurst bought it in 2003. Earlier that year, the Luckhursts had moved into an Osoyoos lakefront home after three years of developing real estate in Edmonton, where the winters got them down. “The vineyards are like waterfront,” Mick said after that summer. “They are serene. They are peaceful. They are just art for the eye. Then the romance of it takes you over.”
Behind the winery purchase, however, was the same market timing that motivated John Skinner. “My business instincts came to the forefront,” Mick says. “I thought there was a lot of growth in the industry and, thus, growth in your equity.” Since then, the Luckhursts have poured substantial sums into the business, adding a modern winery to the castle, buying additional vineyards and hiring a top winemaker to get production to 25,000 cases a year. “We are moving awfully fast, faster than we ever had originally in mind,” Mick says. “A lot of it is just my temperament; you push ahead.”
At Hester Creek, proprietor Curt Garland, 76, has invested $25 million, including the $5,250,000 he paid in 2004 to buy the bankrupt winery. He is a remarkable example of how wine seduces people into the business. The owner of a major transportation services company in northern B.C., he was looking for a small Okanagan vineyard where he could make a little wine for the cellar in his new Prince George house. He chanced on the bankruptcy trustee’s advertisement in a Penticton newspaper for Hester Creek, which had a 28-hectare vineyard and a dilapidated winery. After outbidding another winery to buy Hester Creek, Garland turned it around by hiring experienced professionals and building a well-equipped 23,000-square-foot winery before the 2010 crush. In the same year, Hester Creek joined the ranks of the Okanagan’s premium producers by releasing The Judge, a $45 red blend. “We are operating in the black now, which I am very comfortable with,” Garland said in an interview early in 2012. “It probably exceeds my expectations by a year.”
Tony Holler’s Poplar Grove originally opened as a garagiste boutique in 1997. When founders Ian and Gitta Sutherland divorced a decade later, Holler, who had collected Poplar Grove wines and who owned a small neighbouring vineyard since 2004, bought control of the winery and retained Ian as winemaker. The son of a Summerland apple grower, Holler is a former emergency room doctor and a co-founder and CEO of vaccine maker ID Biomedical Corp., which GlaxoSmithKline Inc. bought for $1.7 billion in 2005. Holler now has funnelled his energy and his resources into growing Poplar Grove and its associated Monster Vineyards label, into a producer of 20,000 to 25,000 cases of premium wines each year.
“I wasn’t that interested in having a tiny boutique winery,” Holler says. “I wanted to really develop a winery that was a sustainable business and could become a family business that might go through generations of our family. In order to do that, you have to have a certain size.” He decided that would be about 25,000 cases a year, made with grapes from winery-owned vineyards so that the fruit quality could be assured. He spent about $7.5 million on about 40 hectares of land and another $2.5 million planting it. The vineyards, for tax purposes, are run as a separate business by his wife, Barbara. In the last two years, at least $8 million more has been spent on two new wineries—one a functional but modern processing facility and the other a glittering glass-and-steel showpiece on a hillside with a dramatic view over the Okanagan Valley.
“My view of this business is that it is a long-term investment,” Holler says. “A lot of the things we have invested in last a long time. Listen, the land isn’t going to get cheaper in the Okanagan. It’s a beautiful place. The land will appreciate in value and, as we build our business, the business will appreciate in value.”
John Skinner, Jim D’Andrea, Jak Meyer and David Enns all had the resources from previous careers to start wineries from scratch. In 2004, Skinner found a derelict apricot orchard on the east side of Skaha Lake where he contoured ideal growing slopes on about 20 hectares and planted 50,000 vines imported from French nurseries. Painted Rock’s first harvest in 2007 produced two wines that won Lieutenant Governor’s Awards for Excellence in B.C. Wines. The winery won two more from succeeding vintages, along with red wine of the year with a Syrah entered in a national competition. “Painted Rock was successful with quality wine right out of the gate and developed a following pretty quickly,” says Geoff McIntyre, a consultant at accounting firm MNP.
Skinner pursued what he calls “a very aggressive mandate for quality. The vision is one where we are aspiring to quality of an international standard. I don’t look at the domestic market as our immediate competition.” He employs a top-notch Bordeaux consultant, Alain Sutre, who also advises Burrowing Owl, Poplar Grove and Osoyoos Larose. Since 2004, Skinner has invested more than $10 million in Painted Rock. In spite of that, the production is deliberately capped at 5,000 cases a year. “We don’t want to get bigger; we want to get better,” he says. “It’s about attention to detail. As I looked at all the ultra-premium players around the world, that 5,000-case number resonated.”
Similarly, Noble Ridge Vineyard and Winery at Okanagan Falls is capping annual production at around 6,000 cases. “Our goal was to make premium-quality wine,” says Jim D’Andrea, the principal owner of the winery with his wife, Leslie. “We are not interested in making volume wine.” A lawyer with Bennett Jones LLP, a major national law firm, D’Andrea traces his winery decision to a family backpacking trip in Europe in 1998. “In France, we met a guy who owned Domaine de Villeneuve in Châteauneuf-du-Pape,” says D’Andrea. “He was an accountant who had sold his business and bought this little domaine. He just loved it. I got really quite excited.”
Already a collector of French and California wines, he was “convinced that Canada also could make very good wines. When we were making our plan, the goal was to make the best wine in the country.” The winery is on a hilltop (hence, the Noble Ridge name) that Jim and Leslie bought in 2001 and planted with four hectares of vines. Five years later, they bought an adjoining three-hectare vineyard with a sturdy barn that housed a basic winery. With several millions already invested, they sold minority interests in the business to friends.
“We had a 10-year plan in 2003 when we started making our wine and we are right on course,” Jim says. By 2012 the business was generating a profit. “Does it go as fast as you want it to go?” he asks. “No, of course not.” He continues to practice law, although in the growing season his clients are likely to find him on a cell phone while working the vineyard. “Once we can make a living here, then I will start to get out of the law business,” Jim says.
Meyer Family Vineyards principals Jak Meyer and his wife Janice Stevens developed a taste for fine wines while Jak was working as an investment adviser, and that led to his career switch. In 2006, Meyer bought a 1.5-hectare vineyard in Naramata with 10-year-old Chardonnay vines. He retained winemaker Michael Bartier, who then worked at Road 13 Vineyards, to make the first several vintages there. “We looked at the small boutique winery model—just keep that vineyard and do 600 cases a year,” Meyer says. “And it would just be a hobby.” After releasing a $30 Chardonnay and a $65 Chardonnay early in 2008, Meyer quickly understood that the wine business is not a hobby. “We realized that we will never make money at 600 cases,” he says.
By that summer, Meyer had hired a full-time winemaker and commissioned the design for a showpiece Naramata winery. Then he was able to snap up a 6.5-hectare Okanagan Falls vineyard with a bankrupt rudimentary winery for about $2 million. (The winery had not opened because the owner’s Arizona real estate business collapsed.) This accelerated Meyer’s business plan by a year and gave him the vineyard base to support a viable annual production of 4,000 to 5,000 cases. He shelved the planned Naramata winery, investing instead in the Okanagan Falls property. He estimates he has now invested $5.5 million—enough that he would consider adding a strategic partner to what is still a family business.
Meyer stopped working as an investment consultant in 2007 and has no regrets, even if the winery still consumes capital. “Five to seven years is probably a reasonable time in which to expect a return,” he says. “Anyone who thinks it will happen sooner will be pretty surprised. It is not about the money for us. We have some personal assets to live off until this starts making money.” He has also fielded inquiries from investors about buying his business. “If somebody wrote us a cheque today, I’d start again tomorrow,” he says.
At Laughing Stock Vineyards, David Enns earns a good enough living that for several years he kept a pricey European motorcycle in South America for his winter vacations. He credits bottom-line discipline to his wife, Cynthia, who has an MBA. “I am married to a spreadsheet queen,” he says with a laugh. “We are in a manufacturing business. We have a lot of passion around it, but you can’t forget it is still a business.”
The couple previously owned a successful investment consulting company in White Rock and ran it from the Okanagan for four years after they moved there in 2003 to start the winery on an orchard they had bought. “That was the perfect storm of way too much work and pressure,” says David Enns, who was taking winemaking courses in California at the same time. The couple sold the consulting business in 2007 once Laughing Stock was established. “We now joke that we have the lifestyle that everybody thought we had 10 years ago,” he says.
The winery, with production capped between 5,000 and 6,000 cases, is profitable because they got in in 2004-05 when land and constructions costs were much lower than today, and were able to self-finance the more than $5 million that has been invested in Laughing Stock. In June 2012, the winery was 159 on Profit magazine’s list of the 200 fastest-growing companies in Canada, with five-year revenue growth of 279 per cent. The winery has succeeded with premium wines, 40 per cent of which are sold to its wine club and 30 per cent to restaurants. The remainder is allocated to wine stores and a corporate gifting program built around business contacts the owners made in their previous career. The biggest surprise, David Enns says, is that the winery now has a cult status. “We had no idea there was any kind of fanfare in it,” he says.
April 2, 2013
Napa Valley Icon Miljenko "Mike" Grgich Turns 90 Today
Vintner Hall of Fame inductee celebrates 55 years of winemaking success
RUTHERFORD, Calif., April 1, 2013 /PRNewswire/ -- From a peasant upbringing in communist Yugoslavia, Miljenko "Mike" Grgich is the American Dream personified. Grgich arrived in the Napa Valley in 1958 armed with one suitcase, a stack of wine textbooks, and $32.00 hidden in his shoes. Along with pioneering vintners such as Robert Mondavi , Brother Timothy from Christian Brothers , Lee Stewart from Souverain Winery and Andre Tchelistcheff from Beaulieu Vineyards, he played a significant role in transforming the Napa Valley into one of the greatest wine-producing regions of the world. At Chateau Montelena, he crafted the 1973 Chardonnay that outscored the best of France in the now-famous Judgment of Paris that revolutionized the world of wine. That bottle is now displayed at the Smithsonian National Museum of American History along with his famous beret, suitcase, and his textbooks.
Born April 1, 1923, Grgich grew up in the village of Desne on Croatia's Dalmatian Coast, where generations of Grgich's family grew grapes and made wine. His dream of moving to the US was inspired by success stories of self-made Americans like Henry Ford , Andrew Carnegie and John D. Rockefeller .
Grgich and business partner Austin Hills broke ground in Rutherford to build Grgich Hills Cellar in July 1977 (later changed to Grgich Hills Estate in 2006 after becoming entirely estate grown). The winery continues to receive international awards for its balanced, elegant wines and is recognized as a leader in sustainable vineyard practices. Grgich Hills' entire acreage is certified organic and the winery has converted to solar power.
Grgich is grooming the next generation to lead Grgich Hills Estates. Daughter Violet Grgich is vice president of operations, and nephew Ivo Jeramaz is vice president of production and vineyards. Well-known in Croatia for his many accomplishments, the family often hosts members of the Croatian government. His contributions to Roots for Peace, an organization dedicated to the conversion of former minefields into successful grape-growing areas, have helped demine areas in his former homeland. A Croatian TV documentary about Grgich's life, "Like the Old Vine," premiered at the Napa Valley Film Festival in November 2012.
Violet Grgich adds, "He's been an inspiration to me and to countless others for as long as I can remember. We'd love for everyone to wish him a happy birthday by going to http://bit.ly/Mikes90th." His business and sales acumen sharp as ever, the elder Grgich adds with a smile, "You can see a bottle of the 1973 Chardonnay in our Tasting Room which is open every day."
For more information about Grgich Hills Estates visit www.grgich.com.
March 27, 2013
A Playbook for the California Wine Fairs coming to Canada in April
WineAlign Team, WineAlign
California Wine Fairs will roll through six cities across Canada in April, with over 150 participating wineries at the largest events. WineAlign has decided to profile eighteen wineries that fair-goers should visit this year – an arbitrary number on the one hand, but a somewhat realistic number for any fair-goer to tackle in one evening. And undoubtedly others will grab your attention along the way, as they should.
WineAlign critics Anthony Gismondi, John Szabo and David Lawrason have each chosen six. They had a chance to taste California in-depth during the recent five-day Vancouver International Wine Festival where California was the theme region (so there is no Vancouver fair in April). That exercise – which included several seminars and regional tastings – yielded new discoveries and rekindled some old relationships.
The reasons for their selection are varied – from appreciation of the wine style, to the philosophy and outlook of the wineries, to those who are simply doing things very well. Each has also highlighted a wine or three that can be located through WineAlign. And most will also be poured at the California wine fairs. For a full list of wineries in each city, as well as ticket information use this link to the California Wine Fair 2013 website.
Joseph Phelps Vineyards (Freestone), Napa Valley, Sonoma Coast (Anthony Gismondi pick)
Joseph Phelps Vineyards, founded in 1973 has been around most of my wine drinking life. Founded by Joe Phelps at St. Helena in the Napa Valley, the winery now works with or owns some 375 acres of vines on eight estates in Napa Valley and in 1999 expanded that number with some ultra-cool chardonnay and pinot noir producing vines grown near the town of Freestone on the Sonoma Coast. There is no doubt the fame of Phelps is closely linked to its signature Napa Valley blend, Insignia, but there is little to suggest its Freestone estate on the western Sonoma Coast won’t become equally valued in the decades to come. The family is so pleased with the early wines it has already reworked the original Freestone winery labels adding the Joseph Phelps brand name and highlighting Freestone Vineyards as an estate designation. Joe Phelps was always a fan of the cooler weather that moderates the Sonoma Coast and he was sure that top –flight pinot noir and chardonnay could be made there. He was right. I just love the Freestone wines the electricity in the Joseph Phelps Chardonnay Freestone Vineyards 2010 is crazy good and a benchmark for the future. Similarly the red brother Joseph Phelps Pinot Noir Freestone Vineyards 2010 entices with its sleeker cooler leaner style.
(Represented by Trialto Wine Group in Western & Atlantic Canada)
Grgich Hills Estate, Napa Valley (John Szabo pick)
Miljenko “Mike” Grgich has some history in the business. He was the winemaker of the 1973 Château Montelena chardonnay that shocked the wine world by placing first in the famous “Judgment of Paris” tasting in 1976. Grgich Hills was established shortly after in 1977, and Mike was inducted in the Vintner’s Hall of Fame in 2008. For the last decade, all of Grgich Hills’ wines are made from 100% estate fruit, farmed organically and biodynamically. The complexity derived from wild yeast fermentations and the purity encouraged by gentle oak ageing are the hallmarks of these balanced and elegant Napa wines. Stop by and pass on your best wishes to Mike, who turns 90 on April 1st. (Grgich Hills Chardonnay 2009 and Grgich Hills Estate Cabernet Sauvignon 2008). (Represented by Trialto Wine Group in Western & Atlantic Canada as well as Quebec)
Bonny Doon Vineyard, Santa Cruz (John Szabo pick)
Randall Grahm may have started out on his wine journey as an “insufferable wine fanatic” (his words) searching for the “Great American Pinot Noir”, but his path led him instead into a thicket of Rhône and Italian grapes. He purchased land in the quaintly named Bonny Doon area of the Santa Cruz Mountains in 1981, and has since gone on to create nothing short of an amazing array of wines that stretch both the palate and the mind. He is almost single-handedly responsible for the “Rhône Rangers” movement, proving that Mediterranean grapes are shockingly well suited to California, and he was recently awarded a lifetime achievement award by the Rhone Rangers organization. His philosophical musings are legendary in the wine community, and 350,000+ followers surely makes him the Ashton Kutcher of the wine twitterverse (sorry, Randall). Don’t forget to read the labels when you stop by the table to taste. The following will be at the California Wine Fair: 2010 Le Cigare Blanc Roussanne/Grenache Blanc Beeswax Vinyard; 2010 Contra Carignane/Syrah; 2009 Le Pousseur Syrah; and the 2008 Le Cigare Volant Grenache/Mourvedre/Syrah/Cinsault. (Bonny Doon Vineyard Le Cigare Volant 2006)
(Represented by Trialto Wine Group in Quebec)
March 26, 2013
Please help us welcome our newest member of the Trialto team, Annie-Claude Gaudreau. Annie-Claude joins our Quebec sales team as Sales Representative as of Monday March 25th, 2013.
Annie-Claude comes to us from “Societe Roucet Vins Fins” where she worked as a sales representative for 5 years. Prior to that Annie-Claude was a ‘Vodka Camitz’ Brand Ambassador for “Agence Divin Paradis”, and worked many years for Restaurant Novello and Resto-Bar Christie’s where she started her career. Along the way Annie-Claude completed certificates in Administration, Marketing, and is in the process of completing International Management. She’s also completed wine training while travelling to Piedmont, Tuscany, Rhone Valley, California, and Spain.
In her spare time Annie-Claude loves to travel, enjoy great wine, and run marathons. Her professionalism and work ethic will make her a great addition to our Quebec team.
March 11, 2013New arrival at Shaw + Smith
"Yesterday, while co-founder Michael Hill Smith AM MW was battling snow and ice in London, Shaw + Smith in the Adelaide Hills for the first time welcomed a senior winemaker from outside the family. Michael's cousin Martin Shaw, founding winemaker, showed the ropes to Adam Wadewitz, 35. As Hill Smith explains the arrival of Wadewitz, 'the old rock band gets a new guitarist'.
Wadewitz, 35, proved himself in particular in another relatively cool Australian wine region, Great Western in Victoria. He worked first at Seppelt and then Best's, where his 2011 Shiraz won the prestigious Jimmy Watson Trophy last year. He is an Adelaide oenology graduate who has worked in several other Australian wine regions as well as in France, Chile and the US. Clearly a bright spark, he was Joint Dux of the Len Evans Tutorial 2009 and the year after that a finalist in the Gourmet Traveller WINE Winemaker of the Year.Wadewitz's duties will include not only maintaining the reputation of Shaw + Smith's established Adelaide Hills classics, Sauvignon Blanc and M3 Chardonnay, but continuing to refine their Shiraz and Pinot Noir, and developing the reputation of the Tolpuddle Vineyard in Tasmania's Coal Valley recently acquired by Shaw + Smith. The debut 2012 Tolpuddle Chardonnay and Pinot Noir will be released later this year. It is not yet known how recent fires on the island will affect the 2013 vintage, but South Australia, the country's principal wine state, was largely spared the worst of the recent exceptionally hot weather in Australia.
Shaw and Wadewitz have been planning their strategy for the 2013 vintage by phone and email, Wadewitz arguing the case for a new order of open fermenters in order to increase the whole-bunch proportion in this year's reds."
Trialto Wine Group Welcomes David LeMire, MW & Global Sales and Marketing for Shaw + Smith to Vancouver on March 20th & 21st, 2013
March 11, 2013
Trialto Wine Group hosted four California wineries at the 2013 Vancouver International Wine Festival at the end of February. If you missed the live Best of Food and Wine Show interviews with Tony & Kasey from the tasting room on Thursday February 28th, click on the link on the winery name just below and see what's happening with some exciting California wineries.McManis Family Vineyards - River Junction, California
Ron & Jamie McManis, Owners
Hope Family Wines - Paso Robles, California
Jason (JC) Diefenderfer, Winemaker
Francis Ford Coppola Winery - Geyersville, California
Lise Asimont, Director of Grower Relations
Joseph Phelps Winery - Napa Valley, California
Mike McEvoy, Vice President, Director of Sales
March 5, 2013L'Argentine a la réputation de produire des «gros rouges qui tachent». Mais au-delà de ce préjugé, ce pays produit aussi des vins digestes et fruités. Les amateurs auront la chance de le constater eux-mêmes, la semaine prochaine, puisque des vignerons de ce pays d'Amérique du Sud prendront part au festival Montréal en lumière.
L'autre visage des vins argentins
Par Karine Duplessis Piché, La Presse
March 4, 2013Brittany Germain joins the Praire team and will take on the new position of "Sales Coordinator – Prairie Provinces" as of March 4th, 2013. Brittany has a Master of Science in Viticulture and Enology completed in Germany and France, a Bachelor of Science in Nutrition and Food Science from the University of Alberta, and has completed a Food and Beverage Management program in Switzerland. Most recently Brittany was a Sales Representative with a local wine agency. Prior to that she spent time working as a research assistant for Pacific Agri-Food Research Centre, conducting in vineyard experiments. Brittany’s enthusiasm, dedication to excellence, and leadership skills will make her a most welcomed addition to the prairie team.
February 28, 2013
By Bill Zacharkiw, GAZETTE Wine Critic
A few weeks back, I was speaking at a fundraiser, and toward the end of my speech, I asked people to do two things when shopping for wines: give special attention to wines made with grapes grown organically, and buy wines that come from “somewhere.”
Pushing organics is easy. The wine industry uses far more pesticides, fungicides and herbicides than it has to. So while I maintain that there is a qualitative difference between grapes grown “well” organically and those raised on a diet of chemicals, from a purely environmental and vineyard worker’s health standpoint, organics make sense. I am aware that not every winery that grows organically puts that info on its label, but if more consumers demand it, maybe more will certify.
My second point confused some people, and one person came up to me afterward and asked what I meant.
“All wines come from somewhere, don’t they?” she asked.
Of course they do. But some wines don’t reflect where they come from, or are simply blends of grapes taken from anywhere and made into a wine designed to please a certain palate rather than reflect where they come from. When you are talking to more than 100 people, many of whom are just getting into wine, I figured it best not to get too complicated. So making the beginner simply aware of appellation, or of “place,” is a good way to start.
“So how do I know if a wine reflects a place?” was her next question.
Okay, not so easy to answer this one. All I could come up with was that until she had tasted enough wines from a particular place, she had to trust those who have. Those of us who taste a lot of wine and travel to many of the world’s wine regions begin to have certain expectations about the wines of a particular place.
For example, when I taste a Chablis, I look for steely freshness, minerality and just enough “fat” from the chardonnay grape to coat the mineral core. There must be a balance between the natural richness of the chardonnay grape and the acidity that one should find in a grape grown so far north.
This quality in a wine, whether you call it “terroir driven” or “somewhereness,” a term coined by Wine Spectator’s Matt Kramer, happens when a wine shows a certain uniqueness, a certain accent that, even if you can’t place it, strikes you as being a texture, aroma or taste that you have never experienced before.
But then I got hit with the inevitable questions, and the ones that are the most difficult to answer for anyone who recommends a wine.
“So how do you decide which wines to recommend? Is it because some wines reflect a place more than others?”
Uggh. My immediate response was that some wines seem more authentic or genuine than others. I could see by her expression that this wasn’t cutting it, and I was going to be asked what I meant by that. So I promised I would think about it and get back to her.
So here is your answer, Miss: The wines I recommend and enjoy drinking are those that I deem to have “soul.” Now let me explain.
Four years ago, I held a tasting of cru Beaujolais, where my panel blind-tasted wines from four appellations: Morgon, Fleurie, Moulin à Vent and Brouilly. Our goal was to define, if possible, the “somewhereness” in each of these Beaujolais appellations.
We tasted wines over a number of different vintages, from the same producers, to see if we could find commonalities between wines of the same appellation. Some of these winemakers used conventional farming and wine-making techniques, while others were from the school of what are referred to as “natural” winemakers, those who use little sulphites and indigenous yeasts. In short, as few additives and manipulations as possible.
The most striking result was that the winemaker became far more apparent than the appellation. And as I marked down my preferred wines from each flight, they tended to be from the same people, those who worked more naturally.
They were not always the “most perfect” wines. Some showed a number of small degrees of “faults,” which was a turnoff for a few of the panel members. But those wines I happily gulped back, though challenging at times, showed that uniqueness and energy I look for in a wine.
So do these more naturally made wines better reflect the land that they were grown in because they were less manipulated? Logic tells me yes, but maybe what I look for in a wine has more to do with winemaking practices and grape-growing. Maybe by doing less, and allowing for the grapes of a place to make a wine that reflects all that is both good and bad about the vintage and the land, wine comes across as more genuine and authentic.
I’ve said many times that “la beauté, c’est dans le défaut” — that true beauty is found in imperfection, and not how close it comes to being perfect. That is as much a statement about people as it is about wine. If what separates wine from other beverages is that it is a reflection of a culture, of a place, of a time, it should as well reflect all the imperfections that can be found in each.
I remember tasting wines with Maurice Barthelmé, of Domaine Albert Mann in Alsace, and asking him how that winery always seems able to make an interesting wine, even in tough vintages. His response was “if you are honest and listen, the land will always tell you what the wine will be.” Not all terroirs are created equal. Not all places, every year, can produce wines of pure fruit and perfectly ripe tannins. Sometimes the wines have notes of green or rough tannins that require age to iron out. Sometimes, when you allow grape juice to become a wine, the results are not exactly what you want or expect.
It is not easy quantifying “like,” which is why this is such a difficult question to answer. In a recent article, Matt Kramer wrote that great wine is a product of winemakers who are willing to pursue ambiguity, to seek to make two plus two equal five. That striving for perfection through manipulation and control can only get you so far. And while he doesn’t answer where that “extra one” comes from, I would say that maybe what separates the great from the good might be allowing the innate imperfections of a time and place, which is maybe the “soul,” to have its rightful place in the final wine.
February 27, 2013
Catena Alta is an assemblage of historic rows within the Catena family Estate vineyards. The blend of these historic rows, like the marriage of sounds that create a symphony, yields a highly aromatic and elegant wine that speaks for the earth and the vines that have been tended by the Catenas for four generations. The Catena Alta wines can usually be drunk starting at three years after harvest and into the following one to two decades.
“These wines from Nicolas Catena and his daughter represent the finest in winemaking art from South America.”
Robert Parker Jr.
Catena Alta Malbec 2009 – Robert Parker Jr. - 94 points
Catena Alta Malbec 2009 – Stephen Tanzer - 92 points
Catena Alta Malbec 2008 – Robert Parker Jr. - 92 points
Catena Alta Malbec 2007 – Robert Parker Jr. - 92 points
Catena Alta Malbec 2007 – Stephen Tanzer - 92 points
Catena Alta Malbec 2007 – Wine Spectator - 93 points
Catena Alta Malbec 2006 – Wine Spectator - 92 points
Catena Alta Malbec 2006 – Robert Parker Jr. - 93 points
Catena Alta Malbec 2005 – Wine Spectator - 93 points
Catena Alta Malbec 2005 – Robert Parker Jr. - 93 points
Catena Alta Malbec 2004 – Wine Spectator - 93 points
Catena Alta Malbec 2004 – Robert Parker Jr. - 94 points
Catena Alta Malbec 2003 – Wine Spectator - 94 points
Catena Alta Malbec 2002 – Wine Spectator - 93 points
Catena Alta Malbec 2001 – Wine Spectator - 92 points
Catena Alta Malbec 2000 – Wine Spectator - 92 points
Catena Alta Cabernet Sauvignon 2009 – Robert Parker Jr. - 92 points
Catena Alta Cabernet Sauvignon 2009 – Stephen Tanzer - 92 points
Catena Alta Cabernet Sauvignon 2005 – Wine Spectator - 93 points
Catena Alta Cabernet Sauvignon 2005 – Robert Parker Jr. - 92 points
Catena Alta Cabernet Sauvignon 2005 – Stephen Tanzer - 92 points
Catena Alta Cabernet Sauvignon 2004 – Wine Spectator - 93 points
Catena Alta Cabernet Sauvignon 2004 – Robert Parker Jr. - 93 points
Catena Alta Cabernet Sauvignon 2002 – Wine Spectator - 92 points
Catena Alta Cabernet Sauvignon 1999 – Wine Spectator - 92 points
Catena Alta Cabernet Sauvignon 1997 – Robert Parker Jr. - 92 points
Catena Alta Cabernet Sauvignon 1996 – Robert Parker Jr. - 94 points
Catena Alta Cabernet Sauvignon 1994 – Robert Parker Jr. - 93 points
Catena Alta Chardonnay 2010 – Robert Parker Jr. - 93 points
Catena Alta Chardonnay 2009 – Robert Parker Jr. - 92 points
Catena Alta Chardonnay 2009 – Stephen Tanzer - 92 points
Catena Alta Chardonnay 2008 – Robert Parker Jr. - 92 points
Catena Alta Chardonnay 2008 – Stephen Tanzer - 93 points
Catena Alta Chardonnay 2007 – Robert Parker Jr. - 93 points
Catena Alta Chardonnay 2007 – Stephen Tanzer - 92 points
Catena Alta Chardonnay 2006 – Robert Parker Jr. - 93 points
Catena Alta Chardonnay 2005 – Wine Spectator - 92 points
Catena Alta Chardonnay 2005 – Robert Parker Jr. - 92 points
Catena Alta Chardonnay 2002 – Wine Spectator - 92 points
Catena Alta Chardonnay 2001 – Wine Spectator - 92 points
Catena Alta Chardonnay 2000 – Robert Parker Jr. - 93 points
Catena Alta Chardonnay 1999 – Robert Parker Jr. - 93 points
Nicola Catena planted his first Malbec vineyard in Mendoza in 1902. His grandson, Nicolás Catena, is known as the man who revolutionized Argentine wine and introduced high altitude Malbec to the world. The Historic Catena Zapata vineyards are planted with the Catena family’s proprietary selection of malbec plants: the Catena Cuttings. Catena Alta Malbec is sourced from Lot 18 of the Angélica vineyard, Lot 4 of the La Pirámide vineyard, Lot 1 of the Nicasia vineyard and Lots 3 & 9 of the Adrianna vineyard.
Before the world recognized Catena’s Argentina as “malbec country”, the winery was known for its old-world style Cabernet Sauvignon born in the clay-soils of Agrelo. The family cherishes its historic Cabernet Sauvignon vineyards in Agrelo and Tupungato, particularly for their ageability and classic flavors. Catena Alta Cabernet Sauvignon is sourced from Lot 3 of the La Pirámide vineyard, Lot 2 of the Domingo vineyard and Lot 2 of the Nicasia Vineyard. Elevage: 18 months in French oak barrels.
At almost 5,000 feet elevation in the Andean foothills, the Adrianna vineyard's calcareous soils and cool climate are the promised land of Chardonnay. The fruit from the Adrianna vineyard has a purity of flavors and a minerality that is particular to this vineyard and can not be found anywhere else in Mendoza. The nearby, gravel-covered Domingo Vineyard makes up 20% of the blend. Elevage: 14 months in French oak barrels.