Speaking Of Wine

  • The Dream Behind Loveblock Wine

    April 8, 2014

    Ten Foot Tall And Bullet Proof: The Dream Behind Loveblock Wine

    Cathy Huyghe | Forbes 

    There’s no reason, at all, why Erica and Kim Crawford had to do Loveblock.

    The eponymous Kim Crawford label – with its range of New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc, Pinot Noir, Pinot Gris, and Chardonnay – is doing just fine. The production model hums along on well-oiled rails, from sourcing grapes and making the wine, all the way to branding and route to market. Building on the strength of Kim’s winemaking experience and Erica’s operations and marketing skills, the Crawfords are well-established as an iconic family of the New Zealand wine industry.

    Then along came Loveblock.

    It would be a new wine and a fresh reboot.

    It would be the chance to expand their portfolio of grapes. In addition to Sauvignon Blanc, Pinot Noir, and Pinot Gris, they’d also make Moscato, Gewürztraminer, and Riesling.

    It would be a new opportunity, which is appealing to anyone with a successful past and even a small itch of entrepreneurialism for the future.

    What Loveblock would not be is Kim Crawford Two. The differentiation has to do partly with the philosophy behind the brand, and partly with the odds of geography stacked high against it.

    Those odds, even with the enthusiasm of a new venture, are daunting.

    Daunting, as in vineyards at elevations in New Zealand that are so high that no one has grown grapes there before.

    As in, arctic winds blowing in from the South Pole.

    As in, a plague of bronze beetles that descend on the vineyards, fly toward the sun, and eat literally everything in its path.

    It’s a forbidding climate that the Crawfords have nonetheless coaxed into yielding enough wine and enough hope to keep going.

    “All the elements were against us,” Erica Crawford said. “But it was the dream. You need one of those things. You need to think you’re ten foot tall and bullet proof. You need to think nothing can go wrong.”

    It’s a great turn of phrase – this “ten foot tall and bullet proof” – but it doesn’t necessarily translate into a sustainable or profitable business.

    I ask Crawford whether Loveblock is making money. “No,” she says.

    I ask her whether Loveblock will make money. “Yes,” she says, “but the break even is further away,” the way that planting vineyards at the top of a hill is further away: distance, yield and profitability are all longer in coming.

    That gives them time to consider the value of the endeavor. “We know a lot more exactly where we want to go,” Crawford said. “When you live through the practicalities of the thing, and you bleed money, we think through what we really want for this.”

    Passion can be a common pitfall for every winemaker: it’s the driver for so much of the wine industry, but there has to be commercial sensibility to a project also.

    Crawford believes that the flavors coming from the Loveblock vineyards are phenomenal, partly because the toolbox they’re working with is so small. For some winemakers and viticulturalists the harsh environment would be limiting; others see the benefit of a focus that concentrates both efforts and senses.

    “It’s like giving one chef four ingredients and another chef a full kitchen, and saying make the same dish,” she said. “We’re striving for a constrained palate, with elegance and mouthfeel.”

    That focus also influences possibilities for other aspects of the Crawford’s business. It’s a simple equation in principle – to do more with less – that is also the time when innovation emerges.

    For example, Crawford envisions an integrated farm surrounding the vineyards, where beef and eggs are produced under the Loveblock label. A pop-up “cellar door” (what New Zealanders call a wine tasting room) is another idea, giving consumers easy access and riding the coattails of the pop-up restaurant trend at the same time.

    Ideas like these serve to differentiate the brand, especially given that the route to market is the most difficult obstacle for Loveblock to overcome: the proliferation of wineries and industry-wide consolidation of the supply chain allow new, smaller labels little room to maneuver.

    Crawford describes these ideas as “very difficult things I’ve never done before,” and making them happen will test her powers of strategy and resilience.

    That’s when being ten foot tall and bullet proof comes in handy.

    * Erica Crawford will be coming to Canada in May to share her Loveblock wines at the Vancouver, Ottawa and Toronto 'New Zealand in a Glass' Festivals!

  • Ann Trimbach featured in Decanter Magazine

    March 31, 2014

    Fresh-thinking young winemakers could be the shot in the arm that Alsace needs, as they focus more than ever on the terroir-driven, dry styles that today’s wine lovers want.
    Fresh-thinking young winemakers could be the shot in the arm that Alsace needs, as they focus more than ever on the terroir-driven, dry styles that today’s wine lovers want.

    It’s a region close to the heart of many wine lovers and yet Alsace continues to suffer image problems.

    Understanding terroirs

    Alsace terroirs have always existed, but they were not as well appreciated or understood as they are today, said Jérôme Mader, 32, of Domaine Mader in Hunawihr. ‘Before 1983,’ he said, ‘my father labelled his wine simply “Riesling” or “Riesling-Théophile” after my grandfather, without indicating the Rosacker grand cru.’

    The 26ha of vines in Rosacker famously include a tiny 1.67ha vineyard that makes arguably the greatest Riesling in Alsace: Domaine Trimbach’s Clos-Ste-Hune. Rosacker was not recognised officially as a grand cru until 1983. For that reason, Trimbach and some other domaines with strong brands, such as Hugel, saw little point in adopting any grand cru monikers on their labels.

    But even Domaine Trimbach might soon show grand cru designations on its labels. Anne Trimbach, 29, daughter of winemaker Pierre (pictured above), said this may not apply to established brands, such as Cuvée Frédéric Emile Riesling, but to a more recent acquisition.

    ‘Our wines had a name for themselves long before the grand cru system,’ she said. But when the family negotiated with the Ribeauvillé Convent to harvest 2.6ha of its vines, ‘the nuns wanted us to write on the label “Grand Cru Geisberg from the Convent of Ribeauvillé’”; it is their wish and their vineyards,’ said Anne. The grapes were initially used in Cuvée Frédéric Emile, but starting in 2009, the Trimbachsbegan a separate bottling; there is no label yet. As with other Trimbach wines, the bottles are kept in the cellar for a few years before release. ‘The entireyounger generation is open to the idea of puttingthe grand cru on the label,’ she added. ‘The nuns are asking for it, so why not? Why would we refuse?’

    Read the full article here.

    Trimbach wines featured in Top 10 'new generation' dry wines:

    Trimbach, Clos-Ste-Hune Riesling 2007

    19/20pts (96/100pts)
    1.7 grams/litre of residual sugar (RS) and 7.2g/l acidity. Precise fruit and complex expression of limestone freshness. Old vines (45–50 years old) facing south and southeast bring concentration to this wine, which finishes on a subtle note of white pepper.
    Drink 2018–2035
    Alc 13%

    Trimbach, Cuvée Frédéric Emile Riesling 2007
    18/20pts (93/100pts)
    0.7g/l RS, 7.9g/l acidity. From grapes grown on Geisberg and Osterberg grands crus. Still young and shy but with some aeration you get lemon and green apple aromas, and stony hints. Very pure and mineral-driven palate with subtle concentration and excellent potential.
    Drink 2015–2025
    Alc 13%

  • Francis Ford Coppola Winery is now a certified member of the Sonoma Green Business Program!

    October 21, 2013

    Francis Ford Coppola Winery is now a certified member of the Sonoma Green Business Program! To achieve certification, we must be in compliance with all environmental regulations for conserving resources, preventing pollution, and minimizing waste. Running our entire business in an environmentally responsible way is very important to us and we are honored to be participants of this program.

  • Trialto's Run for the Cure

    October 21, 2013

    On October 6th, Team Trialto Wine Group BC joined thousands of other people from all over the lower mainland to walk or run, the ‘Run for the Cure’ in support of the Canadian Breast Cancer Foundation.


    ‘Run for the Cure’ is an annual event that Trialto has supported for 7 years.  This year we had a team of 16, our biggest team to date, and we raised a total of $5005.00. Trialto proudly matched dollar for dollar our Trialto employee personal donations as well as providing prizes for the raffle. The team also personally donated prizes to the raffle.


    Two of the Trialto Wine Group core values are ‘create a culture that is passionate, creative and fun’ and ‘Always strive for personal and team growth’. As a company we take pride in that fact that we can achieve great things together while having fun and growing as a team, especially when it comes to developing social awareness for such an important cause.


    We look forward to participating in the ‘Run for the Cure’ next year. We are always proud to support charitable events in our communities across Canada.



  • Message From Sperling Vineyards

    August 26, 2013

    Sperling Vineyards, along with some neighboring orchards and vineyards have sustained one of the worst hailstorms in recent memory. Our vines have been damaged and our crop severely reduced, to the point that we will have to manage through the effects of this storm for several years.


    As a family winery we use only our own grapes.  While farming our land for over 125 years we have learned that mother nature is not always predictable, so our long term business plan will enable us to roll with this punch. But, having said that, at this stressful time, we are comforted by the warm response we've had from local Kelowna wineries with their offers of support and help. 


    With this generous assistance from our friends, and our careful inventory management to date, we are encouraged to report that all but a few of our Sperling wines will remain available for purchase over the coming year. More than ever, we appreciate your ongoing patronage, and look forward to greeting everyone in our winery store.


  • Erwan Faiveley Q&A

    August 23, 2013

    21st August, 2013 by Gabriel Savage

    Erwan Faiveley, the seventh generation of his family to head Burgundy’s Domaine Faiveley, on the importance of clay for making great Chardonnay and why we should keep an eye on Germany.

    What factors in your view make a Chardonnay great?
    Terroir, weather conditions and of course winemaking skills. Chardonnay – just like Merlot and Cabernet – seems to be produced in so many regions, only a few places really outperform. You need clay and moderate temperature for really excellent interpretations.  We are very lucky at Domaine Faiveley to have some wonderful sites that really give the wine so much personality such as Clos Rochette, our distinctive monopole in Mercurey, and of course we are very lucky to have an amazing piece of Corton-Charlemagne, very well situated with old vines.  I think that the people we have here at the winery, especially my cellar master, are very gifted. Corton-Charlemagne is one of the greatest white wines in Burgundy, maybe in the world.

    Which regions of the world, other than your own, have the potential to produce high quality and distinctive Chardonnay?
    The most interesting regions are those with a cool climate such as Russian River in California and New Zealand. Considering the impressive work that Germany has done with Pinot Noir, which needs more or less the same conditions as Chardonnay, I guess we can expect some good surprises to come from that country too.

    What is it about Chardonnay that means it has such lasting global appeal?
    I guess Chardonnay has distinctive aromas that appeal to everyone: it’s a fresh blend of a fruity core – peach, apricot, pear, citrus – with hints of spices – vanilla, liquorice – that evolves over time to more nutty characteristics. When it’s not overpowered nor excessive, it can be the most delicious glass of white wine!

    Is there a winemaker or wine whose expression of Chardonnay inspires you?
    From the Côte de Beaune area, I am very fond of Pierre-Yves Collin’s wines: he is making wines from great (and often underrated) terroirs that are expressive with a hint of reduction. Moving a little more north, I also really appreciate Raveneau’s expression of Chablis, a blend of precision, purity and volume.
    In a more modern and New World style, I really enjoy Chardonnay by David Ramey: juicy, big but still elegant with some finesse.

  • Mendel 2013 harvest report from Mendoza, Argentina

    July 29, 2013

    By Roberto de la Mota, Mendel Winemaker

    The 2013 harvest was characterized by a good general production, especially in the fresh zones of the center and the Uco Valley and other high altitude areas, showing a higher average yield than last year. This year’s harvest was delayed, above all in the red grapes, despite having presented advanced maturity at the beginning of the white harvest. The white wines have good aromatic intensity, medium body and good acidity; while the reds are of good color, intense aroma, fresh and even floral, with medium concentration of tannins and of medium body, with a good acidity, which confers freshness. If we had to compare to previous harvests, I would say it’s more like 2010 than 2011 or 2012.

    In general the buddings of the vineyards were very good, with a calm climate, fresh mornings and sunny days, without rains, strong winds or frost. The spring continued with excellent conditions, despite some “zonda” winds (hot and dry), bringing generally good flowering and fruit setting and resulting in a good quantity of bunches per plant. These, in turn, had a good quantity of grapes.

    December and January were warm, as was the first part of February, but March and April were characterized by template days and very chilly nights. Excellent conditions to assure a good quality of grapes and typical of Mendoza fall.

    The warmth of the start of summer made “veraison” arrive early, and everything pointed to an early harvest. This was only true in the first white grapes, but not in those destined for tranquil wines and chilly areas (higher altitude). The first weeks of February were also warm, but not the final ones, which were chilly, as was March. In this month there were some important storms, including hail, which affected specific zones of Mendoza, Valle de Uco and also Luján de Cuyo. Although some of them caused grave damage in certain properties, the effects were not generalized enough to diminish the volumes of the harvest.

    Maturity measuring devices, such as Dyostem, showed a somewhat delayed “Stop of Charge” (moment in which the plant stops accumulating sugars from photosynthesis in the berry all later increase of sugar is due to loss of water in the berry, with a higher level of potential alcohol than in 2012. This means that the qualitative potential of the grapes was generally very good. (That is to say, grapes with a good richness of components, including color and tannins.)

    The white grape harvest started at the end of January, beginning of February for the warm zones and in March for chillier areas with excellent sanitation. The quality was also very good, and though it is difficult to generalize, we could say that the level of concentration and of aromatic intensity was similar or somewhat superior to 2012. Beside a very good freshness, the levels of acidity are higher and the alcohol is somewhat inferior to the last harvest. For Mendel Semillon de Altamira the 2013 was excellent, very fresh, floral with acacia notes together with dried fruits and good volume and structure in mouth, similar alcohol and more acidity than in 2012.

    The reds arrived late, despite initial predictions. Depending on the vineyard, between 10 and 15 days late. Although we initially believed that good production might mean a year of less concentration in red wines, we have observed grapes of very good color, aromatic intensity and tannin quantity. Having had the opportunity to taste wines in different parts of Luján and the Uco Valley, I am sure of an excellent wine quality. Fruity and floral Malbecs, quite fresh, with well-present and sufficiently mature tannins, wines of medium to high body and perhaps less meaty than in 2012. Other varieties such as Petit Verdot, Merlot, and Cabernet Sauvignon also show great potential. It is possible that because of the year’s characteristics, some very productive vineyards will show some grade of dilution, but those are certainly isolated cases. Comparing this year’s harvest with previous years’, we can say that it is more similar to 2007 or 2008 than 2009 or 2011.

    For Mendel it was a great year of higher than average volume, with special quality of fruit in the Malbec and Petit Verdot, similar to the year before for the Cabernet Sauvignon. It is worth mentioning that this year we produced some Merlot and Cabernet Franc for the first time and the results are promising.


  • Francis Ford Coppola on his Passion for Wine

    June 27, 2013

    From Forbes Magazine, Larry Olmstead - Author

    Filmmaker Francis Ford Coppola is still best known for his movies, especially his early successes Patton, Apocalypse Now, and the mega-hits, The Godfather and the Godfather Part II, which have become two of the most lauded and popular films in history. All of these critically acclaimed bombshells were made in the 1970s, and while Coppola has continued to make films ever since, he has significantly turned his attention to a host of other commercial ventures, most notably winemaking. He has also opened a few boutique hotels in which he has been heavily involved, from Central America to Italy, and I wrote about his latest Italian property, Palazzo Margherita, here at

    I recently had the pleasure of interviewing Coppola about wine and his passion for it, and today we get to hear from him in his own words.

    There are countless celebrity winemakers, mostly athletes, who have been entranced by the wine business, but it is safe to say none remotely approaches the scope or success Coppola has had. One reason is that he is no newcomer to the wine game – he purchased his first vineyard in Napa in 1975 using proceeds from The Godfather films, just a year after their release. After more than 35 years of winemaking, he has expanded his operations considerably, most recently with the 2010 grand re-opening of one of the most impressive public wine facilities in the world, a sort of oenophile fantasy land, Francis Ford Coppola Winery in Sonoma’s Alexander Valley.

    I have always been a fan of Coppola’s wines, and actually visited his original Napa winery back in the late eighties. He subsequently purchased the famed Inglenook Chateau in 1995 and renamed his winery the Rubicon Estate. Later he purchased the rights to the Inglenook label and in 2011 renamed the estate again, to Inglenook.

    But it is his Coppola branded wines that have always had my attention, because they have consistently delivered great value, especially in the mid-range price points, a step up from entry-level, with many quality wines in the high teens and twenties, which have delivered great bang for the buck year in and year out. He also makes scarcer wines selling for as much as $50. In particular I have been a consumer of his Diamond Label series, which sell for around $20 per bottle and are consistently delicious. I’ve bought the cabernet sauvignon, merlot and especially the claret, a traditional Bordeaux-style blend that goes great with food.

    Until recently I had only tried his wines as one-offs when I bought them, but the winery recently sent me a sampling of the excellent labels being produced in Sonoma. Coppola makes a wide range, dozens of bottles, and I haven’t had a chance to taste them all, but I did sample some of the varietals in his flagship Director’s and Director’s Cut series, and they were standouts for both taste and value, offering a top tier small production craft experience at under $30. The Director’s Cut features limited production wines (Cabernet, Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, Zinfandel, Pinot Noir and a red blend called Cinema) from grapes grown in designated sub-appellations of Sonoma. The Director’s series features four popular varietals (Chardonnay, Cabernet, Merlot, Pinot Noir) using grapes grown all across Sonoma County. By blending from different micro-climates, the winery strives to create wines with lush fruit and soft tannins, and based on the ones I have tried, they have greatly succeeded.

    After opening some critically acclaimed boutique hotels, Coppola applied his showmanship background to the wine business, and his Sonoma facility, Francis Ford Coppola Winery, features elaborate wine tasting bars and tours, two restaurants, a swimming pool, movie gallery (with Academy Awards, costumes and props on display), performing arts pavilion and park with game tables and bocce courts. Coppola decided to pattern it on Copenhagen’s famed Tivoli Gardens and brought on Academy Award-winning production designer Dean Tavoularis – who worked on The Godfather – to design the place. In a release about the facility, Coppola called it “a wine wonderland, a park of pleasure where people of all ages can enjoy all the best things in life – food, wine, music, dancing, games, swimming and performances of all types. A place to celebrate the love of life.”

    The elaborate pool includes a poolside café and 28 day cabins for rent. The main restaurant, Rustic, focuses on Italian specialties and Neapolitan pizza, while the adjacent Parilla offers Argentinean-style grilled meats over wood flames. The family-centric winery has a wide variety of children’s games and experiences and the actual winery tours include unusual options such as a guided hike, while wine tasting options are equally varied, with about 40 different bottles to choose from. Concerts and special events are held throughout the year. Just as there is no filmmaker quite like Coppola, there is no winery experience quite like his Sonoma winery.

    Where does all this passion for wine and the wine lifestyle come from? I asked him and here is what he had to say:

    Q: What led you to begin making wine? Was it something you always wanted to do or a passion you discovered later in life?

    A: As a child I never saw a dinner table without wine. I heard about Prohibition, when families were allowed to make two barrels of wine, from my many uncles – who told me how much fun it was to steal the grapes. So living in San Francisco I thought it would be a good idea to have a summer house with an acre or two of grapes. That eventually led to my purchasing the ‘Niebaum Estate,’ which had been part of the legendary Inglenook.

    Q:  You are best known as a great filmmaker.  Does that experience factor into your wine? Are there similarities between your approaches to film and winemaking?

    A: Yes, each is an art form, and in this case they divide into three segments:  gathering of the source material (Grapes or Shots), fashioning the work (Winemaking or Editing) and finishing it (Post Production, Music, etc. or Fining and Putting into the final package). I am not a winemaker, our winemaker for Francis Coppola Wines is Corey Beck.

    Q: How would you like people to think of Coppola wines?

    A: I feel people understand that if I have my name on something, it’s a personal decision and one I don’t take likely. They can trust that our wines will be of the best quality and authenticity for that price point.

    Q: You have also become a hotelier. Is there a connection between that and wine? What drives your forays into these businesses?

    A: Usually when I was younger whenever I embarked on an idea to make money, the opposite happened. These later businesses evolved out of things that I loved or was interested in – and that made all the difference.

  • Decanter Power List 2013 - "Ones to Watch"

    June 18, 2013


    Alejandro Vigil was selected as "Ones to Watch" alongside Antonio Galloni, Daniel Johnnes, Edouard Moueix and Patricio Tapia.

    "Alejandro Vigil: Pioneering chief winemaker at Medoza's Bodega Catena Zapata, restlessly exploring Argentina's most extreme winemaking regions.  He is one of the handful of South America's internationally renowned winemakers."
      Decanter, July 2013

  • Grant Burge Wines 2010 Filsell "World's Greatest Shiraz"

    June 3, 2013

    Media Release - June 3, 2013

    A super-premium Barossa Shiraz sourced from 90 year old vines was named the best Shiraz in the World over the weekend.

    The Grant Burge Wines 2010 Filsell Shiraz, took the honours at Winestate Magazine’s World’s Greatest Shiraz Challenge VIII, beating over 700 international Shirazes from France, South Africa, New Zealand and every major region in Australia.

    “I couldn’t be prouder of our Filsell Shiraz,” Grant Burge said today as he celebrated in the Barossa. “From vintage to vintage it just keeps on winning.

    “We’ve now won 5 major trophies, 22 gold medals and 47 silver medals since Filsell’s release in 1992.”

    Grant attributed its success to the unique Barossa vineyard which gives the wine its name.

    “The Filsell Vineyard has a unique place in the history of the Barossa Valley and Grant Burge Wines,” he said. The vines are over 90 years old and make up one of the largest patches of historical varietal fruit in the Barossa.

    “This is a very special piece of Barossa history: an old vineyard, planted in the traditional style, and still bearing exceptional quality fruit. It is one of the few significant survivors of the vine pull scheme of the early 1980s and it crams character into each berry.”

    He described the 2010 Filsell Shiraz as having incredible depth of colour and a “rare purity of fruit” in the bouquet.

    “The 2010 vintage was a great year and it has all of those ripe blackberry and blackcurrant aromas infused with rich vanilla and milk chocolate notes,” Grant said. “The palate is beautifully weighted, with optimal balance between concentrated fruit flavours, sweet spices, tannins and acidity.”

    All wines entered in the Winestate Magazine World’s Greatest Shiraz Challenge VIII, were blind tasted by an experienced panel of MW’s and winemakers. The official results will be published in the September edition of Winestate Magazine.