Sangiovese and Schubert Make Beautiful Music Together

It’s hard to believe, but we’ve been writing this blog for more than 10 years now. That makes it one of the longest-running blogs in the world of wine.redwine&piano

Every so often, we like to go back and see what we were writing about in 2007 — when George W. Bush was President, and Barry Bonds broke Hank Aaron’s home run record.

One topic was the synergy between music and growing wine grapes. According to a story in Wired magazine, music helps grow healthier plants. Wired was reporting on the preliminary result of research by Italian scientists who had been examining vineyards exposed to classical music to see if sound made the plants grow larger and more quickly.

While sound had long been thought to influence plant growth, this was the first time anyone had investigated the effects of music outdoors on Sangiovese vines, which are best known for producing grapes that go into Tuscany’s famous Chianti wines.

The effect of sound on plants apparently depends on frequency, intensity and exposure time. Chinese researchers found that low-frequency sound does not damage cell structure but instead activates enzymes, increases cell-membrane fluidity and promotes DNA replication and cell cycling.

The testing ground for the Italian experiment was a postcard-worthy, 24-acre Tuscan winery called Paradiso di Frassina.

The researchers set up speakers in front of young plants in wooden tubs and older plants in a small vineyard on an isolated area of the estate. Shoots and tendrils exposed to this sonic fertilizer were tested once a week from May until December, when the plants go dormant.

They examined, among other variables, chlorophyll and nitrate content with a handheld Konica Minolta Spad-502 meter; photosynthetic and transpiration rates were checked with a Ciras-I infrared gas analyzer.

“Sound exposure has some positive effects on vine growth in the vineyard, especially shoot growth,” said lead researcher Stefano Mancuso, a professor of agriculture at the University of Florence. “The results aren’t conclusive yet, but total leaf area per vine was always higher in sound-treated vines, both in the vineyard and in the pots. The silent control pot-grown vines also showed delayed development.”

Hey, we’ve always contended that wine and music go together — back then… and to this day.

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Posted in Wine Buzz

A Great Way to Celebrate California Wine Month

Napa ValleySeptember is California Wine Month, and I have the perfect way for you to celebrate the occasion: Join the California Treasures Wine Club!

Why did Vinesse develop a wine club focused specifically on the wines of the Golden State? Simple: Because some of the finest wines in the world are being made in California.

As the Wine Institute points out, abundant sunshine ensures a consistent and long grape growing season, while the diversity of the terroir supports a multitude of wine grape varieties and surprising flavor variation within them.

California’s 800 miles of rugged coastline expose nearby vineyards to natural “air conditioning” in the form of fog and breezes, making for exceptional Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and other cool-climate varieties. Warmer interior valleys receive a similar cooling effect thanks to rivers, lakes and deltas.

Meanwhile, vines planted along hillsides get a fine mixture of cooling air and bright, unfiltered sun conditions that Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot were born to love.

Up and down the state, individual vintners and groups of wineries (which organize into “wine trails”) have organized numerous special events this month. You can find a sampling here.

With so much to enjoy, the California Treasures Wine Club makes experiencing everything there is to love about California wine easy.

P.S.: The holidays will be here before you know it, and a California Treasures Wine Club membership makes a great gift for any wine drinker.

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Posted in Wine Buzz

Creating the Perfect Wine Meal

How do you like to enjoy wine? If you’re like me, the answer can be summed up in two words: with food.

The culinary experience can be as simple as a cheese platter or a dessert tray… or as “gourmand-ish” as a full meal that calls for rich, hearty red wines.

Regardless of which experience sounds most enticing… you have come to the right place!

Human palates have been delighted by the combination of wine and cheese for centuries, and the Rich, Regal, Cheese-Pairing Reds Collection from Vinesse honors that tradition with three exceptional wines that make fabulous companions to an array of cheeses.

Since the wine-and-cheese pairing tradition began in Europe, it’s only appropriate that the collection includes two wines from Europe’s top two wine-producing countries — France and Italy.

Pick up some of your favorite types of cheese, then mix and match them with the wines in the collection. I bet you’ll find a new combination that just may become your favorite.

If you believe that life is short so dessert should be eaten first, check out the Sweet Summer Sensations Collection. Yes, fall begins in less than a month, but these are wines that can be enjoyed throughout the year when you pair them delectable desserts.

For instance, the 2014 Moscato Bella Black Muscat would be an inspired choice to serve with a light chocolate mousse.

A fresh fruit salad would pair perfectly with the Califortune “Grand Cuvee” sparkling wine.

And with the 2014 Mariposa Orange Muscat, a nectarine and mascarpone tart with a gingersnap crust would make a sumptuous end to a meal.

But if the meal before the dessert is your focus, then check out the Fabulous Food-Friendly Dinner Wines Collection . It’s a meticulously curated selection of wines that provide the right balance of complementary aromas, flavors and textures, guaranteed to elevate everything from simple casseroles to your own signature dishes for a truly magical culinary treat.

Cheese? Check. Desserts? Check. Dinner? Check.

No matter what you’re planning to eat, Vinesse has a wine collection to elevate the experience.

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Posted in Food and Wine Pairings/Recipes

Who Was “the King of Cork?”

In an age when people seem to change jobs at the drop of a hat, and when the idea of a career with a single company can’t even be fathomed, Americo Ferreira de Amorim was an anomaly. From the age of 18, he spent all but a few years of his life involved in the production of cork closures for wine bottles.

Anomalies happen when you have exceptional people possessing exceptional ideas, and that is why we take time today to honor the memory of the man whose name was synonymous with corks.

Amorim passed away last month at age 82. To demonstrate just how influential his company was, at the time of his death, Amorim was Portugal’s richest man. Forbes pegged his net worth at $4.8 billion.

It takes a lot of corks to pile up that kind of wealth, but Amorim and his company came by their success honestly. I was told by one wine distributor who had met him during the 1990s that Amorim wasn’t just focused on quality when it came to cork production; he was obsessed with it.

Amorim once observed, “We are what we do consistently. Thus, excellence isn’t an act; it’s a habit.”

That meant never resting on the company’s laurels. As an example, as the wine industry turned toward sustainable farming, Amorim’s cork company embraced sustainable practices in its cork oak forests, known in Portugal as “montados.” Corticeira Amorim also became a pioneer in the promotion of cork recycling.

Many wineries have embraced screw caps as their closures of choice, but corks always will be an important part of wine lore — and continue to seal a significant percentage= of wine bottles today. In large measure, that is thanks to one man.

The next time you hear that distinctive “pop” sound when pulling a cork out of a wine bottle, say a silent word of thanks to Americo Ferreira de Amorim.

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Posted in Wine Buzz

2 Secrets to an Unforgettable White Wine Sauce

I had one of the greatest meals of my life last week while visiting relatives at a fishing lodge on the Kenai Peninsula in Alaska.

Before dinner, Chef Pat put out a delicious halibut ceviche, accompanied by tortilla strips.

As a first course, he served a to-die-for halibut chowder. Think of the best creamy clam chowder you’ve ever had, but substitute halibut pieces for the clam pieces, and you’ll get the idea.

Then for the main course, Chef Pat served a perfectly cooked halibut filet — carved from a fish caught that morning — drizzled with a wine-infused sauce.

We can’t share any of the recipes because a cookbook is in the works, but I can provide two “secrets” for preparing a flavorful white wine sauce of your own:

  1. Use wine that you plan to drink with the meal.
  2. Choose a wine that is not “oaky” — one that lets the fruit flavors shine.

For the recipe that follows, I’d go with the 2016 Wollombi Pass Sauvignon Blanc from the Riverina growing region of Australia. It’s a delightfully refreshing wine that would pair perfectly with halibut or another white fish that’s topped with the sauce for which we’re providing the recipe below.

This recipe yields about four servings (each serving being about a tablespoon-and-a-half)…

CREAMY WHITE WINE SAUCE

Ingredients

* Cooking spray

* 1/3 cup onions, finely chopped

* 1/2 cup chicken broth

* 1/4 cup 2016 Wollombi Pass Sauvignon Blanc

* 2 tablespoons white wine vinegar

* 2 tablespoons butter

* 2 teaspoons fresh chives, finely chopped

Preparation

  1. Heat a skillet over medium-high heat. Coat pan with cooking spray.
  2. Add onions to pan and sauté 2 minutes, stirring frequently.
  3. Stir in chicken broth, Sauvignon Blanc and white wine vinegar, and bring to a boil.
  4. Cook until reduced to 1/4 cup (about 5 minutes).
  5. Remove from heat, and then stir in butter and chives.
  6. Allow sauce to cool slightly before drizzling over halibut or your favorite white fish.
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The Perfect Place for Pinot Grigio

Pinot Grigio is one of those wine varieties that’s easy to love, although there can be a wide quality divide between those sold at the supermarket and those found in the Crisp, Refreshing Pinot Gris and Pinot Grigio Collection from Vinesse.

When I think about high-quality Pinot Grigio or Pinot Gris — a different variety but one that displays similar characteristics to Pinot Grigio — I like to think not only about drinking it, but where to drink it.

Pinot Grigio is among the more food-friendly of white wines — I love it with pretty much any fish-based entrée. My favorite: a halibut steak, broiled so it retains its juiciness, then topped with a squeeze of lemon. Part of what makes the pairing work so sublimely is that Pinot Grigio — especially those from its homeland of Italy — has lemon as part of its flavor spectrum.

So, for me, the perfect place to drink Pinot Grigio is in my backyard, with the fish fresh out of the oven and the wine fresh out of the ice bucket.

When the weather is hot, Pinot Grigio serves another function: as a tasty thirst-quencher. That’s why Italy is its natural homeland, with its fertile soil and idyllic climate. The Belli Mondi Pinot Grigio that’s included in the sampler proudly shows off that aforementioned lemony quality, joined by additional engaging notes of lime and white melon.

I like to call it “gulpable,” and that makes it perfect for a summertime picnic.

The two other wines in the sampler are Pinot Gris, one from Germany and the other from New Zealand. These wines pair nicely with everything from lightly spiced Thai green curry chicken to goat cheese tarts — which, for me, means sharing them with friends over a casual dinner.

Frankly, anytime is a good time for Pinot Grigio or Pinot Gris, and this is the perfect time of the year to enjoy these refreshing wines — in the backyard, at a park with a picnic basket, or out on a boat.

Wherever you like to relax, the wines in the Crisp, Refreshing Pinot Gris and Pinot Grigio Collection are awaiting your good company.

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Posted in Wine in the Glass

Will Robots Soon Be the Best Winemakers?

Automation can be both a blessing and a curse.

On the curse side, robotics claimed countless jobs in America’s automotive industry and caused as mass exodus from one of our largest cities.

On the blessing side, robotics has been introduced at a growing number of hospitals, enabling doctors to increase success rates in the most difficult operations.

The trend has not been lost on the wine world. According to the website Growing Produce, there’s now an automated robotic grapevine pruner under development. Researchers from Purdue University and Penn State are working on the project, in concert with Vision Robotics Corporation of San Diego, Calif.

There already are mechanical harvesters for grapes, but pruning is a bit more challenging. Early results are positive, however, as the first robotic pruner developed “does bilateral spur pruning for winegrapes and the settings can be customized based on the number of spurs a grower wishes to leave,” Growing Produce reports. “The pruner makes one cut every 2.5 seconds.”

Interest in the robotic pruner has increased this year, and not because growers and wineries are trying to save on labor costs. Rather, given the current policies on immigration, they’re concerned that the workforce may not be large enough come harvest time. Since wine quality is directly related to grape ripeness, every method of bringing the fruit in “on time” needs to be considered.

If the robotic pruner catches on, could a robotic winemaker be next? After all, a great deal of science and chemistry is involved in the winemaking process.

While that’s true, winemaking also remains a craft — one in which the vintner can allow his or her individual style preferences to influence or even define the finished product.

For now, at least, those very human qualities remain out of the realm of robotics.

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France’s 4 Best Wine Regions

Listing or naming the “best” anything can be a daunting exercise in subjectivity, and that’s particularly true when it comes to types of wine, wine-producing countries and wine regions.

That said, lists are fun, so I’ve decided to go out on a long subjectivity limb and share what I believe are the four best wine regions in France — where the regions are known as appellations.

I’m guessing my first three picks won’t cause much controversy, although it would be easy to argue with the order. My fourth pick may be surprising, but I think I can make a compelling case for it.

Ready for the list? Here we go…

  1. Bordeaux

This is arguably the most famous of France’s appellations, the place where the country’s most “collectible” wines are crafted. It’s a region where some white wines are made, but red wines rule.

Most of the reds, like the 2015 Les Charmes du Roy, are blends, with either Cabernet Sauvignon or Merlot most often accounting for the majority of the cuvee. In this case, the wine is 80% Merlot and 20% Cabernet Sauvignon, and it’s absolutely delicious.

The 2015 Les Charmes du Roy is part of a Vinesse collection of wines called Flawless French Reds, which also includes a Cabernet and a Pinot Noir.

  1. Burgundy

Wine from this appellation also can be collectible, particularly Pinot Noir (often referred to simply as “red Burgundy”) from long-established estates. Burgundy also is the source of some of France’s finest Chardonnay (a.k.a. “white Burgundy”).

  1. Champagne

This is another hotbed of Pinot Noir and Chardonnay, but because it’s a cool-climate area, the grapes grown there are ideal for making sparkling wine. We like to enjoy bubbly year-round, but there’s no denying that Champagne is the go-to beverage for celebrations.

  1. Cotes du Rhone

While the Rhone region of France may be off the vinous radar of many people, it produces some of my favorite wines, including engaging blends of Grenache, Syrah and Mourvedre.

It also makes some of my favorite whites, including the 2015 Tete du Rhone Blanc, a sublime blend of White Grenache, Viognier, Roussanne, Clairette and Bourboulenc. It’s floral, fruitful and refreshing — everything I look for in a white Cotes du Rhone.

The 2015 Tete du Rhone Blanc is part of the Spellbinding French Whites collection, which also includes a light and lovely rosé and floral, full-bodied and spicy Viognier.

As a long-time fan of Rhone wines, I was heartened many years ago when a group of American winemakers formed a group called the “Rhone Rangers.” They focus on making wines from Rhone varieties, and that’s proof enough for me that the Cotes du Rhone is deserving of the No. 4 spot on my list.

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Posted in Wine Region Profiles

Wine City: An Amusement Park for Adults

It may seem incongruous to place the word “Chateau” before the words “Changyu Baron Balboa Xinjiang,” but this European-inspired winery in China’s resort city of Yantai is poised to become much more than just a wine estate.

It’s being transformed by Changyu — the country’s mega-wine company, with estates in operation from Xinjiang to Xi’An — into an attraction called Wine City.

There’s already one chateau in operation on the property, other buildings are under construction, and still more are planned. Ultimately, Wine City is intended to provide a “total immersion” experience for wine lovers and those seeking to learn more about wine.

That will be accomplished through an array of educational opportunities to be housed inside the various buildings. There will be a tour of the production facilities, numerous interactive wine displays, an opportunity to test one’s “sniffing skills” — identifying the grape variety by the smell of the wine — and, of course, wine tasting.

It’s a massive undertaking with a price tag of $870 million that Changyu is confident will be worthwhile because of two statistics that may surprise the rest of the wine world:

  1. In 2016, China became the largest wine-grape producer in the world, in terms of acreage devoted to vineyards. The country that gave us “Chateau” — France — dropped to the No. 2 spot.
  2. In 2013, China became the world’s largest consumer of red wine — not necessarily a surprise, considering its population of 1.37 billion.

Wine City is being referred to as an “amusement park for adults,” and while it may be lacking the thrill rides of a Universal Studios park, it promises to offer several hours of fun, primarily for adults.

We say “primarily” because, interestingly, China is one of 19 countries with no minimum legal drinking age. That said, getting there may be a challenge for younger adults, since the legal driving age in China is 18.

Wine City or bust!

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Posted in Our Wine Travel Log

Italy’s Most Beloved White Wines

Okay, let’s play “fill in the blank.” Ready? Here goes…

Real Italians ________________________________________.

I know quite a few “real Italians,” so I have a bevy of potential “blank fillers.” But this is a wine blog, so I’m thinking specifically of wine.

My answer: “Real Italians don’t worry about drinking wine from fancy stemmed glasses. A simple tumbler will suffice.”

That’s especially true of white wines, like those found in the Vinesse collection known as Italy’s Greatest Whites.

In Italy… or among “real Italians” anywhere in the world… drinking wine is not about making an impression. It’s not even about letting the wine “breathe” via swirling in a traditional stemmed glass.

It’s primarily about conviviality — sharing conversation and catching up with the latest news with family and friends. Often, it’s also one “ingredient” in a hearty meal that was prepared using family recipes that have been passed down for generations.

For these occasions, “Italy’s Greatest Whites” make excellent choices.

I like to call Pinot Grigio “the Chardonnay of Italy,” based on its popularity. This collection includes an excellent rendition from Viaggiatore that pairs beautifully with fresh shellfish or oysters mignonette.

There’s also a crisp and bright bottle of a variety that dates back centuries: Falanghina. Scoperta’s rendition has an alluring floral aroma and an array of citrus and tropical fruit flavors.

And you don’t necessarily need a food-pairing partner for the third wine in this collection, a fresh and frothy Prosecco — Italy’s version of Champagne — from Il Cortile Sereno. Personally, I like to drink it with prosciutto and melon slices, but it also makes a delicious aperitif.

I know, I know: Italy is more commonly associated with red wines. So if you’d prefer to “drink red,” Vinesse also has a wonderful collection called Essential Italian Reds.

Yes, it’s okay to drink those wines from tumblers, too.

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Posted in Wine Buzz, Wine in the Glass
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