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Wine Spectator

  • Wine Talk: Country-Music Star Carly Pearce Doesn't Hide Her Love of Wine (Wine Spectator)

    With chart-topping songs and a network of devoted fans across the United States, Carly Pearce, 28, is one of the leading ladies of country music right now. After nearly a decade of trying to "make it" in Nashville, the singer-songwriter notched a breakout hit in 2017 with her emotional ballad "Every Little Thing," leading to a record deal, touring gigs with Blake Shelton and Luke Bryan, and an appearance in last year's Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade.

    She followed her debut success with "Hide the Wine," a tune that introduced fans to her real-life love of wine. (The music video, featuring goblets of wine and bottles of Elouan—donated by the winery—drives the sentiment home.) "It's really funny," Pearce says. "I feel like something that fans are really latching onto is the fact that I drink wine!"

    Between promoting her latest single, "Closer to You," gearing up to co-headline "The Way Back Tour" with vocalist Russell Dickerson (kicking off Jan. 24), and preparing for the release of her second album later this year, Pearce took some time to chat with assistant editor Lexi Williams about how she first got into wine, the bottles she keeps stocked on her tour bus, and that time she attempted blind-tasting with her band.

    Wine Spectator: When did you first get into wine?
    Carly Pearce: It's kind of funny. My mom was a huge wine drinker. When I came of age, I actually hated it and didn't understand why she loved it so much. I think it was a couple years into being of age, I found a strong liking [of] red wine, and it has been my drink of choice since I was probably 23 years old.

    WS: Do you have any go-tos?
    CP: I really like Cabernet; I tend to go for more California wines. I really like the more dry, full-bodied [wines], but I'll drink pretty much anything that's red.

    If I'm just kind of drinking everyday, Conundrum is my go-to. I pretty much have that on my bus at all times—I think because I love Caymus so much, I found Conundrum, and it's a lot cheaper, which is great. For special occasions, I'm a Caymus girl, I'm a Silver Oak girl. Also, I really like Stag's Leap, and I really like Trilogy.

    WS: Did your vinous interests inspire the song "Hide the Wine"?
    CP: This is one of the very few on my album that I didn't write, shockingly. It was actually originally recorded by Little Big Town. I heard this song before I even had a record deal, and I freaked out over it, but I knew that Little Big Town was going to [record] it. Fast-forward to literally the day that their album came out: I had a record deal at this point and was looking for songs, and they didn't put it on their album … so I got it! I do believe that it was made for me.

    WS: There's also a video of you and your band doing a blind tasting based on lyrics in the song. What was that like?
    CP: My band, they're just hilarious, and it's fun to have winos on the bus. We thought it would be really funny because of the "Two-Buck Chuck, high-dollar good stuff" [line in the song] to just kind of figure out if we could really tell the difference between the two. But my photographer, who went and got all of the wine, ended up just buying all Two-Buck Chuck, so we thought we were drinking expensive wine at one point, but we weren't, which is just really funny.

    WS: Do you have any other special wine memories?
    CP: I fell in love this [past] year, with another country music artist [fiancé Michael Ray], and [on] our first date—I've actually never told this story!—he brought a bottle of Silver Oak to my house when he came over. That was kind of the bottle of wine that sparked our love.

    WS: Did he know at the time that you were really into wine?
    CP: Oh yes. Everybody who knows me knows that's the way to my heart!

    WS: Why do you think your love of wine has become so well-known among your fans and others in the industry?
    CP: [When] I was on tour with Blake Shelton at the beginning of 2018, he told me, "Find those things about you that are authentic and that people really resonate with." I think it's become a part of my brand that will stay. As I'm even writing songs for this next record, wine is in the lyrics.

    WS: Do you think you'll get more involved in wine, beyond singing about it?
    CP: I hope one day to partner with a wine company and come out with my own wine, maybe have my own vineyard like Kix Brooks. I genuinely want to learn more about wine, because it's something that I'm really passionate about and something that I love.

    (Fri, 18 Jan 2019 14:00:00 -0500)

  • It's Harvesttime for Wine in … Tahiti?! (Wine Spectator)

    In the Northern Hemisphere right about now, winemakers are trimming, pruning and frost-proofing their vines, and hibernating their selves; south of the equator, veraison and the pesky birds and bugs that come with it are here, or will be soon.

    But in one most unusual vineyard, the Carignan and Muscat grapes have reached peak ripeness, the pickers have pulled on their gloves and grabbed their shears, and the cellar hands have fired up their skiffs to transport the grape bins down the shore to the winery. It's mid-January, and harvest is just finishing up for Vin de Tahiti on the Rangiroa atoll in Tahiti, 3,100 miles from the nearest continent. This was a special vendange for the vineyard—the 50th harvest since it first began bearing fruit in 1999.

    From the Mosel to Mendoza, virtually all winegrowing regions have winter dormancy, spring growth and fall harvest, but in the town of Avatoru, where the Cave de Tahiti is processing a successful harvest bounty, it's 83 F right now, and it will be 83 this time come July. Where there's endless summer, you can have two, sometimes even three, grape harvests per year (a phenomenon that can also occur in hotbeds of unusual viticulture like Brazil and India). "It’s so incredible to have a vineyard in such a place," longtime winemaker Sébastien Thépénier told Unfiltered via email.

    Photos courtesy of Vin de Tahiti

    Vin de TahitiVin de TahitiVin de TahitiVin de TahitiVin de TahitiVin de Tahiti

    But for Vin de Tahiti (also called Domaine Dominique Auroy), it's not always clear skies and sunny days. Auroy, a French businessman, began experimenting with European cuttings in sites around French Polynesia in 1992; his team eventually planted own-rooted vines on Rangiroa and learned how to navigate the unique coral soil—the defining characteristic of the terroir, according to Thépénier. Today, the vineyard encompasses about 15 acres yielding 3,000 cases annually.

    Every year, the start and length of harvest, which takes place every five to five-and-a-half months, is dependent on the unpredictable precipitation conditions that hit the island. Through vigorous pruning, Thépénier tricks the vines into brief dormancy and new growth after harvest, but the picking dates are always in flux, and there's no off-season. Still, the "biggest challenge" today is one familiar to vintners this side of paradise as well: conversion to organic, and now biodynamic, practices.

    Looking toward round No. 51, Thépénier has introduced a fancy pneumatic press—and, he told Unfiltered, a new drink: the first cane-sugar rum made in Tahiti, which will be available only to in-person visitors. And upon learning that, Unfiltered checked our local weather ("freezing rain"), sighed, and searched "NYC to Tahiti flights tomorrow."

    Australian Animal Antics: Tasmanian Winery Gets 'Seal' of Approval

    Down Under, vintners know that surprise visits from wild animals—such as thirsty koalas and movie-spoofing Chris Hemsworths—are part of the outback's charm. But when one such visitor is a 550-pound sea dweller, it's understandable to be a little shocked, as workers at La Villa Wines in Spreyton, Tasmania, were when they were greeted by the sight of a seal lounging outside the winery on the morning of Jan. 2.

    Courtesy of La Villa Wines
    Flipper day

    "When staff were arriving at 7:00 for work that morning, they encountered Mr. Seal on the driveway," said Gail Burns, who owns the winery with her husband, Marcus. The wayward critter is thought to have made its way from the ocean, swimming about 3 miles up the Mersey River and ambling another half-mile on land to its destination.

    Courtesy of La Villa Wines

    "It's pretty tough going to get where he was," Burns told Unfiltered. "We called Parks and Wildlife, and they came to assess the situation. They recommended to let him be, and that after a rest amongst the Pinot Grigio block he would find his way back to the river."

    A nap in a vineyard followed by a nice swim? Sounds like Unfiltered's ideal Sunday afternoon.

    Why Are Tesla Owners Pouring Red Wine All Over Their Car Seats?

    Tech entrepreneur Elon Musk is credited for a lot of questionable ideas, but his most recent claim is something even Unfiltered could not have predicted. The Tesla CEO recently tweeted that the car seats in the Tesla Model 3—even those outfitted with the hot "Ultra White" interior upgrade—are extremely stain resistant, so much so that "you can spill red wine on the seats and just wipe it off." Now Tesla fanboys are putting that assertion to the test on their own brand-new cars, and recording it for all the Internet to see.

    The first video came just one day after Musk's tweet. A Twitter user with the handle @TeslaAmit519 posted a video of himself drizzling a splash of Blackstone Merlot on his Tesla's pure-white passenger seat, hastily wiping away the wine with a paper towel, and revealing no stain in the aftermath; Tesla superfan Vincent Yu upped the ante by pouring not one, but two splashes of Trader Joe's Two-Buck Chuck Cabernet all over the seat of his luxury vehicle. But after a quick toweling, again, there was no sign of the spillage.

    Having fun on Twitter.

    Of course, these videos are being met with the requisite, "Why would you have an open bottle of wine in your car in the first place?!" But as Yu tweet-splained to the haters, "It's a test of the stain-resistant level. It's a test [based] on Elon's statement," and Tesla stans made the videos to demonstrate its accuracy … and to demonstrate their unwavering trust in Elon Musk, of course.

    Prosecco Protest Goes Viral, Prosecco Conquest Remains Unimpeded

    Prosecco is everywhere, from bottomless boozy brunches to fine-dining pairing menus to Shake Shack milkshakes. But one Friulian eatery, which stands firmly in the latter camp of "love it or hate it," is mounting a lonely protest to speak truth to Prosecco power.

    Osteria di Ramandolo, run by husband-and-wife owners Ilenia Vidoni and Pietro Greco, stopped serving Prosecco about a year ago, and now, the restaurant is agitating to get other businesses to dump the fizz as well. Over the holidays, the restaurant spread its message, along with a meme-friendly say-no-to-Prosecco logo, on social media, bringing publicity to its movement, dubbed "Locale Deprosecchizzato."

    "As you know, about a year ago … we completely excluded Prosecco from our cellar to focus on promoting quality sparkling wines produced in our region," slams a translated post on the business' Facebook page, which continues, "those who do our job should not only sell what is fashionable, but also have the task of communicating their territory and its excellence."

    Among the likes, comments and shares the Facebook post has racked up, reactions are misto. While some applauded the eatery for shedding light on other quality Italian bubblies, others were offended by the stance. So far, at least one other restaurant has hopped on board, but elsewhere the globale Prosecchitzzato proceeds apace.

    Enjoy Unfiltered? The best of Unfiltered's round-up of drinks in pop culture can now be delivered straight to your inbox every other week! Sign up now to receive the Unfiltered e-mail newsletter, featuring the latest scoop on how wine intersects with film, TV, music, sports, politics and more.

    (Thu, 17 Jan 2019 17:00:00 -0500)

  • Ace Australian Wine Restaurants (Wine Spectator)

    These Australian spots span the culinary spectrum, from classic Italian plates to creative preparations of kangaroo, but they share a common thread. Each holds a Wine Spectator Restaurant Award for a carefully curated wine list, and together they represent some of the country’s best collections. Discover 12 eateries Down Under with well-rounded wine lists that champion Australia’s renowned regions. All prices are listed here in U.S. dollars.

    To check out more wine-and-food destinations around the world, see Wine Spectator’s more than 3,500 Restaurant Award–winning picks, including the 91 Grand Award recipients worldwide that hold our highest honor.

    Do you have a favorite you’d like to see on this list? Send your recommendations to restaurantawards@mshanken.com. We want to hear from you!

    Wickens at Royal Mail Hotel
    Wickens at Royal Mail Hotel gives guests a peek at their 30,000-bottle cellar through a glass enclosure.

    A wine destination worth the detour
    98 Parker St., Dunkeld, Victoria, Australia
    (61) 3-5577-2241
    Open for lunch and dinner, Wednesday to Sunday

    Grand Award
    Wine list selections 3,000
    Inventory 30,000
    Wine strengths Wine lovers flock here for the comprehensive program that excels in Australia, Burgundy, Bordeaux, Spain, the Rhône, Italy and Germany. Guests can make their selection from the list or choose from several wine pairings. The starting prices for the five-course menu are a standard pairing for $90, the Australian pairing for $97 or the French pairing for $180.
    Recent rebranding Formerly sharing a name with the hotel, the restaurant is now named after executive chef Robin Wickens and boasts a new space with views of the surrounding mountains of Grampians National Park.
    Cuisine Wickens presents regional dishes through various tasting menus that change daily, ranging from five courses for $123 and eight courses for $140 to a chef’s-table experience for $162. The 2017 renovations also brought a stronger connection between the cuisine and its source, with at least 80 percent of the restaurant’s produce now coming from the hotel garden.
    Distinct experiences The restaurant offers sommelier-guided tours of the cellar with comparative tastings and bottles from the collection available for purchase. The wine list provides special tasting opportunities as well: Premium labels available by the glass include Penfolds Shiraz South Australia Grange and Dominique Laurent.

    Bacchus’ dining room is as chic as the outdoor pool area.

    Enjoy a global wine list poolside
    9 Glenelg St., South Bank, Brisbane, Queensland, Australia
    (61) 7-3364-0870
    Open for lunch and dinner, Tuesday to Saturday

    Best of Award of Excellence
    Wine list selections 610
    Inventory 3,000
    Wine strengths Head sommelier Andrew Giblin views his list as a tour of the world’s great wine regions. The program covers Old and New World labels from international producers but focuses on Australian picks, showcasing names like Grosset, Torbreck and Kaesler. Italy and France (especially Burgundy and Champagne) also stand out.
    Unexpected selections Rounding out the classic wine regions are lesser-known names like Japan’s Grace Winery and Uruguay’s Viñedo de los Vientos.
    Cuisine Chef Massimo Speroni serves creative takes on seasonal Australian cuisine, like a starter of 24 hour–cooked tongue with char-grilled avocado and white balsalmic gel. There’s also a variety of pastas and entrées with regional ingredients, including kangaroo.
    Indoor-outdoor experience Bacchus is set on the Brisbane River but features a waterfront view of its own in the glamorous poolside area. The space is in addition to an indoor dining room with a warm, modern look by Los Angeles designer Tracy Beckmann.

    Black Bar & Grill
    Black Bar & Grill's chef brings international influence to the steak-house menu.

    A stylish Sydney steak house
    The Star, 80 Pyrmont St., Sydney, Australia
    (61) 2-9777-9109
    Open for lunch and dinner, Tuesday to Saturday

    Best of Award of Excellence
    Wine list selections 1,200
    Inventory 5,000
    Wine strengths Australia and Burgundy make up the bulk of the wine program, which also excels in Champagne and New Zealand. Nearly 50 wines are available by the glass, including 12 premium pours by Coravin.
    Cuisine Chef Dany Karam was born in Lebanon, where he trained for five years before working in France and eventually settling in Australia. Karam brings this global perspective to Black Bar & Grill, spicing up the steak-house menu with starters like kingfish sashimi with horseradish cream and sides like fattoush salad with pomegranate molasses.
    Guiding guests Head sommelier Addy Lam provides valuable descriptions and context throughout the list, like background on benchmark producers, grape variety origins and full-page wine region maps.
    Australian champion Designated sections spotlight domestic producers such as Brokenwood and Cambrien, listing several vintages of each, accompanied by background information on the region and labels.

    The Crafers Hotel
    A love of French wine drives the wine list at the Crafers Hotel.

    A regional restaurant in a historic hotel
    8 Main St., Crafers, Australia
    (61) 8-8339-2050
    Open for lunch and dinner, daily

    Best of Award of Excellence
    Wine list selections 1,885
    Inventory 14,000
    Wine strengths Overseen by wine director Jonathan Brook, the program emphasizes Australian wines and boasts an extensive French collection. The most impressive sections include Bordeaux, Burgundy, the Loire and Champagne.
    Propelled by passion Owners Ed Peter, Julie Peter and Brett Matthews have a particular affinity for French wines and supplement the restaurant’s list with picks from their personal collections. The wine team also selects a “Winery of the Month” to showcase South Australian producers they’re excited about.
    Easy to enjoy The Crafers Hotel’s “Big Book of Wine” includes maps, tasting notes and contextual tidbits on the selections. In addition to the full wine list, there’s an abbreviated “Little Book of Wine,” with by-the-glass selections and approchable, value-driven bottles.
    Cuisine Chef Stephane Brizard works with locally sourced ingredients on the regional menu, creating dishes that are distinct yet familiar. For example, the fresh market fish is served with olive dust and saffron pommes fondantes, and the chicken Parmigiana is made with ham and verjuice vinaigrette.

    Golden Century Seafood Restaurant
    The wine program at Golden Century Seafood Restaurant complements dishes like sliced live abalone.

    Local go-to for live seafood and fine wine
    393-399 Sussex St., Sydney, New South Wales, Australia
    (61) 2-9212-3901
    Open for lunch and dinner, daily

    Best of Award of Excellence
    Wine list selections 590
    Inventory 5,000
    Wine strengths Golden Century Seafood Restaurant is open until 4 a.m., so there’s plenty of time to enjoy owner and wine director Eric Wong’s outstanding list. His selections are strongest in Australia, Bordeaux and Burgundy.
    Cuisine Chef Ho Li’s extensive Asian menu focuses on Chinese cuisine. Li is also the chef at another Best of Award of Excellence winner owned by Wong, the Century.
    As fresh as it gets One of the restaurant’s biggest draws is its selection of live seafood that goes far beyond basics like crab and lobster. Dine on daily catches like prawn, perch, scallop and more, and choose the preparation style from options like steamed, braised and pan-fried with gravy.
    Accentuating an icon Peruse the lengthy collection of labels from Australia's Penfolds, including more than 40 vintages of Grange and 15 vintages of Cabernet Sauvignon South Australia Bin 707.

    Jonah’s Restaurant
    Jonah’s Restaurant serves up seasonal cuisine by the ocean.

    Outstanding wines at an intimate retreat
    Jonah’s Boutique Hotel, 69 Bynya Road, Whale Beach, Sydney, New South Wales, Australia
    (61) 2-9974-5599
    Open for lunch and dinner, daily

    Best of Award of Excellence
    Wine list selections 1,710
    Inventory 12,500
    Wine strengths Open since 1929, Jonah’s Restaurant relies on longstanding relationships with beverage suppliers for its extensive wine list. Wine director Niels Sluiman’s program excels in Australia, France (especially Burgundy, Bordeaux and Champagne), Italy and Germany.
    Cuisine Straightforward dishes keep the spotlight on local ingredients and chef Matteo Zamboni’s technique. The seasonal Australian menu offers items like seared pork belly, mushroom risotto and wild-caught fish with herbs, lemon and brown butter.
    Associated spot Owner Peter Montgomery also owns Award of Excellence winner the Flooded Gums Restaurant in Bonville, Australia, several hundred miles up the coast. Sluiman is in charge of the wine program there too, which has 250 selections and an Australian focus.
    Breathtaking beach views With floor-to-ceiling windows and a white-washed aesthetic, the restaurant has a beachy yet modern feel. The dining room overlooks the clear waters and rocky coast of Whale Beach. For guests seeking an even better view, there’s an outdoor terrace with a menu of light bites and shareable small plates.

    Masani Italian Dining & Terrace
    Daughter-father team Kara and Richard Maisano work together at Masani Italian Dining & Terrace.

    Traditional Italian eats on the outskirts of Melbourne
    313 Drummond St., Carlton, Victoria, Australia
    (61) 3-9347-5610
    Open for lunch and dinner, daily

    Best of Award of Excellence
    Wine list selections 630
    Inventory 7,100
    Cuisine Chef-owner Richard Maisano trained in Switzerland and Italy before opening Masani in 1983. He’s known for his from-scratch Italian fare honoring both his roots and the region, particularly handmade pastas and wild game specialties.
    Well-established setting The restaurant's Victorian-style building dates to the 1880s, and the dining room conveys a sense of classic European comfort, with exposed brick walls and a fireplace.
    Wine strengths Maisano’s daughter, Kara, is the restaurant’s wine director. Her program covers a broad range of Italian regions and shows similar strength in Australian and French labels.
    Accessible tasting The “Gusti da Masani” menu consists of five special courses for just $58 per person, or $105 with wine pairings. This value is reflected on the moderately priced wine list, which has 19 wines by the glass and 60 half-bottles.

    Rockpool Bar & Grill Perth
    Perth is one of three locations of Rockpool Bar & Grill.

    Beyond your basic steak house
    Crown Perth, Great Eastern Highway, Victoria Park, Perth, Australia
    (61) 8-6252-1900
    Open for lunch, Sunday to Friday and dinner, daily

    Best of Award of Excellence
    Wine list selections 2,445
    Inventory 12,000
    Wine strengths Head sommelier Andrew Symes emphasizes Australia on the wide-ranging list, with a heavy focus on Western Australia’s Margaret River region. The program also shines in classic regions around the world such as Burgundy, Italy, the Rhône, Bordeaux and Champagne.
    Domestic depth The wine list is peppered with strong verticals, particularly from Australia. Highlights include eight vintages of Grosset Riesling Clare Valley Polish Hill, 10 vintages of Moss Wood Cabernet Sauvignon Margaret River, and eight vintages of Mount Mary Quintet Yarra Valley.
    Cuisine Chef Dan Masters’ lengthy menu extends beyond traditional steak-house offerings with pastas, regional entrées and more. In the dining room, the open kitchen provides a peek at the dry-aged cuts from Australian farms cooking on the wood-fired grill.
    Part of the family Rockpool Bar & Grill has another Best of Award of Excellence–winning location in Sydney. Both restaurants are owned by Rockpool Dining Group, which also includes Best of Award of Excellence winners the Cut Bar & Grill, Jade Temple and Rosetta, and Award of Excellence winners Saké Restaurant & Bar and Spice Temple.

    The Source at MONA
    The Source serves artfully plated food that rivals the pieces in the encompassing museum.

    Fine dining with an artsy edge
    MONA, 655 Berriedale Road, Berriedale, Tasmania, Australia
    (61) 3-6277-9904
    Open for lunch and dinner, Wednesday to Monday

    Best of Award of Excellence
    Wine list selections 1,970
    Inventory 20,000
    Untraditional setting The Source is inside MONA, Tasmania’s Museum of Old and New Art. Exhibits tend to be avant-garde, and that modern approach is reflected in the dining room. The glass-enclosed space features sleek table settings and wraparound views of the Derwent River.
    On-site wine producer MONA is located at Moorilla winery, which was founded in 1947 and now has a partnership with the museum. The Source showcases the label on the opening page of the wine list, offering more than two dozen bottlings of sparkling, white and red wines.
    Wine strengths A wide range of regions shine in wine director Pip Anderson’s program. Burgundy and Australia are the biggest standouts, followed by Germany, Champagne, Bordeaux and Spain.
    Cuisine Chef Vince Trim combines regional ingredients, French technique and a hint of whimsy on the à-la-carte menu. Offerings change seasonally, but expect memorable dishes like wallaby with beetroot and hazelnuts and lamb collar with harissa and spelt.

    Harvard Wang
    Vue de Monde serves an extensive wine list in a modern setting.

    A sky-high, time-tested concept
    Rialto Tower, 525 Collins St., Melbourne, Victoria, Australia
    (61) 3-9691-3888
    Open for lunch and dinner, daily

    Best of Award of Excellence
    Wine list selections 1,800
    Inventory 12,000
    Evolving concept Shannon Bennett opened Vue de Monde in 2000, when he was just 24 years old. The restaurant has relocated several times since then, most recently to the 55th floor of the Rialto building.
    Contemporary space Diners can now peer out at panoramic views of Melbourne and beyond. The dramatic room is adorned with modern details like fur-lined chairs and illuminated art.
    Cuisine Chef Justin James' cuisine has also evolved. Vue de Monde opened as a classic French restaurant and has shifted to a more locally-focused menu that aims to celebrate the bounty of nearby growers. The prix-fixe menus vary but typically offer about 15 courses, priced at either $166 for the seasonal tasting or $198 for the chef’s tasting
    Wine strengths The wine program reflects the menu’s local focus with an outstanding Australian collection. Head sommelier Carlos Simoes Santos also provides an extensive selection of French wines, with highlights in Burgundy, Champagne and Bordeaux.

    Doot Doot Doot
    Doot Doot Doot creates a memorable experience with its fun name and dramatic dining room.

    A tasting-menu spot with vineyard views
    Jackalope Hotel, 166 Balnarring Road, Melbourne, Australia
    (61) 3-5931-2500
    Open for lunch and dinner, daily

    Award of Excellence
    Wine list selections 250
    Inventory 1,000
    Local focus Doot Doot Doot overlooks Willow Creek Vineyard in Victoria’s Mornington Peninsula wine region. The restaurant aims to highlight the bounty in its backyard through carefully sourced ingredients and a wine list emphasizing small producers as well as the on-site vineyard.
    Wine strengths The restaurant has a playful name but a serious, Australian-focused wine program, run by head sommelier Susei Ko. The list mostly offers wines from vineyards that are the same size or smaller than Willow Creek Vineyard, which is 27 acres.
    Cuisine The five-course tasting costs $80, with wine pairings for an additional $144. Chef Elliott Pinn helms the kitchen, serving a constantly-evolving menu of dishes like prawn with summer peas and cod with sweet potato, radish pods and spiced tomato.
    Luxury among the vines The encompassing Jackalope Hotel is a destination itself, with contemporary art installations and sculptural pieces throughout the property. Most of the 45 rooms and suites overlook the surrounding vines.

    Guests can choose their own adventure at Ezard, with several kinds of menus available.

    Melbourne hot spot with a flexible format
    187 Flinders Lane, Melbourne, Australia
    (61) 3-9639-6811
    Open for lunch and dinner, Monday to Saturday

    Award of Excellence
    Wine list selections 330
    Inventory 1,550
    Cuisine Chef-owner Teage Ezard helped establish Flinders Lane as the dining hub it is today. At his eponymous restaurant, he treats Australia-grown ingredients with Asian techniques on the refined yet moderately priced menu.
    Wine strengths Sommelier Brendan Bennett manages the wine program, which is strongest in Australia. The list also impresses in France, particularly Burgundy, where you’ll find prized bottlings from Domaine de la Romanée-Conti, Domaine Leflaive and more.
    Customizable meal In addition to the standard à-la-carte menu, Ezard offers five- and eight-course tasting menus with optional beverage pairings. Monday through Friday, during lunch, guests can take advantage of “Ezard 45,” a 45-minute meal of two courses and a glass of wine for AUS$45 (about $33).

    Keep up with the latest restaurant news from our award winners: Subscribe to our free Private Guide to Dining newsletter, and follow us on Twitter at @WSRestoAwards and Instagram at @WSRestaurantAwards.

    (Thu, 17 Jan 2019 10:30:00 -0500)

  • Restaurant Spotlight: 1919 Restaurant (Wine Spectator)

    1919 Restaurant brings a classic fine-dining feel to a waterfront space on the coast of San Juan, Puerto Rico. Set in the luxurious Condado Vanderbilt Hotel, the dining room offers stunning sights of the ocean, but guests can also take in the view of a floor-to-ceiling glass cellar. Inside is some of the restaurant’s 1,495-bottle inventory that supplies the 330-selection wine list, overseen by director of food and beverage Danisael Walker. The well-balanced, Wine Spectator Award of Excellence–winning program is strongest in California, France and Spain, but offers plenty of interesting picks from regions around the world such as Hungary, Portugal and Argentina. Chef Juan José Cuevas serves eclectic American plates, from small dishes like organic local beet salad and a trio of crudos to grilled meats with delectable add-ons like potato churros. A four-course prix-fixe option is available for $75 per person, with “classic” wine pairings for an additional $72 and “prestige” wine pairings for an additional $120.

    (Thu, 17 Jan 2019 10:00:00 -0500)

  • Turning Tables: Chef Thomas Keller Opens Mexican Restaurant; Quince Owners Debut Casual Wine Bar (Wine Spectator)

    Thomas Keller Opens Casual Mexican Concept in Yountville

    Fine-dining authority chef Thomas Keller ventures outside his wheelhouse with the opening of La Calenda, a casual Mexican restaurant. The concept debuted Jan. 3 in Yountville, Calif., just down the road from Keller's Wine Spectator Grand Award winning the French Laundry and Best of Award of Excellence winning Bouchon. The chef's group also owns Grand Award winner Per Se in New York.

    La Calenda's menu offers approachable, classic Mexican staples such as tacos, tamales and enchiladas. Oaxaca-born executive chef Kaelin Ulrich Trilling sources ingredients from Mexican producers, local farmers and the French Laundry's own culinary garden.

    The wine program also has a Mexican focus. The French Laundry's head sommelier, Erik Johnson, worked with La Calenda's team to create the 50-selection list, which highlights regions like Valle de Guadalupe and Santo Tomas. Nearby Napa Valley is also well-represented, including many small-production labels.

    "Unquestionably the most exciting part is that this is the first time we have been afforded the opportunity to build a wine list around this style of cuisine," general manager Eric Jefferson told Wine Spectator. "We honor the history of Mexican Americans in Napa Valley through the lens of the wines highlighted on our list."

    A New Wine Bar from the Quince Team

    Courtesy of Verjus
    Verjus is part–bar and restaurant and part-retail.

    The owners of Quince in San Francisco's Jackson Square, Michael and Lindsay Tusk, are opening a new wine bar in the neighborhood later this week. Verjus will be more casual than their nearby Best of Award of Excellence–winning destination.

    Inspired by the low-key yet high-quality eateries of Europe—like caves à manger in Paris and tapas bars in Barcelona—Verjus is a multispace, no-reservations concept where everything is ordered at the bar. Beverage director Matt Cirne describes it as a place to show up, drink great wine and eat in a casual setting. "Your experience might last 10 minutes—a quick glass of wine and an anchovy [dish]—or it might be three hours," he said.

    Verjus also features a retail shop, which includes a bar that serves cheese, canned fish snacks and other bar bites. The space opens into a secondary dining area with more seating and a larger bar. The menu of European eats by chef Michael Tusk changes daily, from snacks like black pepper and asiago cheese puffs to larger plates like duck confit with quince jam. There's also a charcuterie program of house-made pâté, sausages and more.

    The wine list has about 400 selections, with 10 wines by the glass and plenty of good-value bottles. The program is about 60 percent French, balanced by picks from all over the world, especially Italy and California. Cirne focuses on low-intervention wines from small producers with bright, bold flavors to match the cuisine.

    San Francisco Mediterranean Spot Tawla Has Closed

    Courtesy of Azhar Hashem
    Tawla had earned a Restaurant Award since 2017.

    Award of Excellence winner Tawla in San Francisco's Mission District has closed. Owner Azhar Hashem cited the increasing struggles of operating a restaurant in the city as among the reasons for the closure.

    Overseen by wine director and general manager Christina Sanger, the 135-selection wine list was strong in classic wines from France and California, but also highlighted under-the-radar regions like Lebanon. Chef Joseph Magidow served a Mediterranean menu of shareable small plates, such as a trio of house-made labanehs.

    Keep up with the latest restaurant news from our award winners: Subscribe to our free Private Guide to Dining newsletter, and follow us on Twitter at WSRestoAwards and on Instagram at wsrestaurantawards.

    (Thu, 17 Jan 2019 09:30:00 -0500)

  • U.S. Supreme Court Hears Challenge to Wine Law (Wine Spectator)

    WASHINGTON, D.C.—Shay Dvoretzky, a lawyer for the Tennessee Wine & Spirits Retailers Association (TWSRA), was mere seconds into an argument when Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor interjected. She had a fundamental question about the case before the court: Does the TWSRA believe that the 21st Amendment to the Constitution allows discrimination against out-of-state interests? And if so, does that mean the court was wrong when it decided Granholm v. Heald, the case that opened the door to winery direct shipping in more than three dozen states today, as well as other cases before it?

    "I know you want to limit [Granholm's impact] to producers," she said. "But that's not the way that Granholm talked about this issue."

    Wine was on the docket at the highest court in the land today, as eight Supreme Court justices heard oral arguments in Tennessee Wine & Spirits Retailers Association v. Zackary Blair, the most important wine case to go before the high court in 14 years. (Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg was absent, recovering from cancer surgery at home, but she will read argument transcripts and plans to participate in the decision.) At the heart of the case is a Tennessee law that mandates liquor retailers reside in the state for several years. But some hope the court will rule broadly, striking down restrictions on how consumers buy wine in multiple states.

    For a comprehensive analysis of the case's origin and the arguments involved, read our companion article.

    The crux of the case is the Tennessee law under challenge. It mandates a two-year residency to obtain an initial liquor retail license, and a 10-year residency for a renewal (even though the license expires after one year). Additionally, 100 percent of owners, directors and officers have to satisfy these criteria. Two lower courts ruled that this violates the Commerce Clause of the Constitution by discriminating against out-of-state businesses—and they cited Granholm, the 2005 case that struck down bans on direct shipping by out-of-state wineries in states that allowed shipping by in-state wineries, as a precedent.

    But several justices raised the larger question: How powerful is the 21st Amendment? It gives states the power to pass laws to regulate alcohol sales, but how far can they go before running afoul of the Commerce Clause, which forbids states from erecting barriers to out-of-state economic interests?

    The petitioner, the TWSRA, had 20 minutes to argue its position; 10 minutes were accorded to the state of Illinois, which filed an amicus brief in support of the petitioner, along with other states. The respondents, Total Wine & More and Affluere Investments, Doug and Mary Ketchum's company, were given 30 minutes. Both are retailers who had sought Tennessee licenses.

    Dvoretzky argued for the TWSRA that Granholm was decided through a historical lens: What were the states' powers before Prohibition? States were free to structure their liquor distribution systems free from Commerce Clause scrutiny, as long as in-state and out-of-state alcohol were treated the same. Those protections, he said, were enshrined in the 21st Amendment upon the repeal of Prohibition. Justice Brett Kavanaugh, on that point, argued that because the amendment dealt with the "transportation and importation" of liquor, it could be read as simply allowing states to remain dry, as opposed to allowing them to discriminate.

    But how does a durational residency requirement fit into this? Justice Sotomayor expressed that she wasn't sure why a person's previous residence needs to come into question. Isn't simple residency enough? Many states have regulated, three-tier systems that don't have a law like Tennessee's, and they function well, she said. Dvoretzky argued that this was up to the states to decide, not the courts. Requiring an applicant to be a resident for longer gives the state more time to do a thorough background check before granting a license.

    Institute for Justice
    Doug and Mary Ketchum and their daughter Stacie on the Supreme Court steps. When they moved to Memphis and bought a wine store, they didn’t know it would create a constitutional clash.

    The durational aspect of Tennessee's requirement was largely debated: How long is too long? Justice Elena Kagan stated that Tennessee is on one end of the spectrum; surely there is a threshold where a law is so extreme it stops being about public health and safety and crosses over into economic protectionism. If there isn't, then "the sky is the limit," she said.

    David Franklin, the Solicitor General of Illinois, argued that respondents Total Wine and Affluere were claiming that no discrimination of any kind was allowed under the 21st Amendment. But that would leave "no meaningful role" for the amendment, he said, as well as invalidate the three-tier system, which in its essence disadvantages out-of-state business interests. "In the end, respondents are asking this court to treat alcohol like any other article of commerce. But it's not," said Franklin.

    "We are not challenging the three-tier system. All we are seeking is the opportunity to compete in this market," said attorney Carter Phillips, arguing on behalf of the respondents. The fact that the product in question is alcohol explains all the other liquor regulations Tennessee passed at the same time in order to protect public safety, but it does not explain the durational residency requirement, he said.

    Justice Neil Gorsuch was interested in the wider implications of a decision. The next lawsuit, he wondered, could be that the three-tier system is discriminatory because it requires some sort of physical presence in a state. "Why isn't this just the camel's nose under the tent?" he asked, adding that an "Amazon of liquor" business model could emerge as a result of such a challenge. Phillips cautioned that this was not what he was arguing. His client, Total Wine, has a brick-and-mortar business model and is not looking to undo the three-tier system.

    But this argument piqued the interest of Justice Kagan. "I'm trying to figure out what kind of opinion we could write, Mr. Phillips, that says you win, but then, when the next case comes along and the next case is somebody that says we don't like this brick-and-mortar stuff, we don't want to have any physical presence at all, and the state is preventing that, and in doing so, the state is discriminating against out-of-state companies," she said.

    Those issues, if they come up, can be argued another day, said Phillips. But both Kagan and Gorsuch seemed not to want to dissociate potential future challenges to the one before them at this time. Dvoretzky, in his reply at the end of oral arguments, latched onto this sentiment, saying there "would be challenges to dozens of state laws" if the court struck down Tennessee's law.

    That debate now moves behind closed doors. The Supreme Court is expected to release its decision in the spring.

    Stay on top of important wine stories with Wine Spectator's free Breaking News Alerts.

    (Wed, 16 Jan 2019 17:45:00 -0500)

  • Exclusive: Former Apple Execs Buy Napa's Brand Winery (Wine Spectator)

    When Ed Fitts bought 110 acres on Pritchard Hill in 2005, it was a dream come true. The packaging executive fell in love with the view of Napa Valley and decided to retire on the hillside. Now Fitts and his wife, Deb, are passing the dream off to another couple that loves the view and the valley. Wine Spectator has learned that former Apple executives Jim Bean and Christine O'Sullivan have purchased the Fitts' winery, Brand, as well as 15 acres of vines, the cellars and inventory. The purchase price was not disclosed.

    "We were very aware of the spectacular wines being made on Pritchard Hill, wines like Colgin, Ovid," O'Sullivan told Wine Spectator. The couple had been looking for some time for the right opportunity. "We have enjoyed these wines for a long time. Brand was very much in line with our philosophy."

    Jim and Christine met while both working at Apple. Bean is the former vice president of retail at the computer titan, where he oversaw the operations of more than 450 stores in 17 countries. Christine worked in software engineering, managing the release of the Mac OS X operating system before leaving to raise their two children. Today both work as investors in technology startups.

    Wine has been a lifelong passion for both, and Napa Valley has been their deepest love. They were married at the Culinary Institute of America in St. Helena, later bought a house there and purchased a vineyard in 2013.

    "We've been part of the Napa Valley for a while," said Bean. "We got married there, had a home there, became growers there. And for us, this is part of a natural progression of our dreams."

    Brand produces about 1,000 cases a year. The 110-acre estate, at an elevation of 1,200 feet, includes approximately 15 acres planted to Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc and Petit Verdot. The wines have consistently earned outstanding scores.

    Ed Fitts, 79, spent 40 years in the business world, more than half of that as a partner at Dopaco Inc., which manufactures environmentally friendly packaging for fast-food restaurants. He knew little of the wine industry when he retired and purchased the property in 2005.

    He was drawn to the area by its natural beauty and stunning views. “Once we understood where we were, we had to take advantage of what was here,” Fitts told Wine Spectator in 2014. He hired high-profile winemaker Philippe Melka, who was familiar with the region. Their first vintage was in 2009. Over the past decade, the Fittses and Melka built a winery and gradually planted more vines.

    Bean and O'Sullivan say that Melka and his team will remain at the winery. They plan to spend at least two years getting to know the estate and its wines before they decide if they want to plant additional vines. "We want to get to know the property and get to know our customers better," said Bean. "We're just starting to build a relationship with Philippe Melka, who has been incredibly welcoming. The Fittses were very selective. It was a two-way interview. We're humbled that they felt we had the skills."

    Stay on top of important wine stories with Wine Spectator's free Breaking News Alerts.

    (Tue, 15 Jan 2019 12:00:00 -0500)

  • Private Cellars: An Educated Palate (Wine Spectator)

    Note: This article originally appeared in the May 31, 2018, issue of Wine Spectator.

    It was the Torrontés that did it. In preparation for the notoriously difficult WSET Level III exam, Christine Bae had memorized the regions, varieties and winemaking styles of Italy, Germany, Greece, Spain and Portugal. Then came the fateful question: What is the Torrontés wine from Argentina? "And I said, ‘Oh, my goodness,' " Bae recalls. " ‘Why?' "

    Bae, a Fort Lee, N.J.-based lawyer, had never failed a test in her life. "I passed my bar exam on my first try, the thousands of tests I needed to pass in order to take the bar exam, my driver's license test," she says. "And I failed my wine exam."

    Bae had sailed through the first two levels of the WSET on the strengths of her decade-long deep dive into wine. Her path from enthusiast to expert is a familiar one. Beginning with a 500-bottle-capacity cellar she believed she would never fill, she was soon facing an overflow problem. When she moved to her current house, she decided she needed a bigger storage space. Now, with her 1,500-bottle wine room nearing its limit, she wonders if she shouldn't have splurged on accommodations for 2,000.

    A penchant for superlatives runs through Bae's connoisseurship. From her rigorous wine education to the pedigree of the bottles she purchases, she craves the best. She describes her trajectory as an enological monomyth, a set of stages comparable to those of Joseph Cambell's The Hero's Journey: "We all begin with California Cabernet. That's what we first get exposed to, and it's such a big wine, and you say, ‘Wow, this is what wine is!' It's fruits and all the tannins and all the volume. And then you get tired of that and you discover Bordeaux or Malbec or Carmenère. And then you move on to Burgundy. That's where I am."

    Among her most prized wines is a group of 2008 Domaine de la Romanée-Conti bottlings—the La Tâche, Romanée St.-Vivant, Grands Echézeaux and Echézeaux, as well as a magnum of the Grands Echézeaux—bought to commemorate the birth of her son. Verticals of Dujac Clos de la Roche and Gevrey-Chambertin Aux Combottes (both 2002-2012), and Ponsot Clos de la Roche (1998-2010), show impressive depth in the category. On the Italian front, she holds Emidio Pepe Montepulciano d'Abruzzo dating to 1974 and a set of 40- to 50-year-old Barolos she says are drinking spectacularly. "In my wine club, we tasted 1961, 1962, 1966 La Tâche," she notes by way of comparison. "We liked it; we loved it. You can still get the rose, the hint of strawberries. But it was nothing compared to the Barolos I'm tasting now. They're so full of flavor and life. You feel astonished."

    Bae revels in the shared experience of wine. Her wine club meets monthly, in the homes of members or at BYOB restaurants. They frequently taste blind, discussing nuances and trying to guess the grape, region, year and producer. The atmosphere of these events is convivial but also illuminating. Bae has made numerous discoveries in the setting, including a new love of hers: white Burgundy. "I never drank white wine until recently," she says. "It wasn't my cup of tea. But one night a guest brought two bottles of white Burgundy from 1982, Chevalier-Montrachet. And out of respect to our guest, I took a sip. What I experienced was the most incredible minerality and complexity. It was done so right: the acidity, the balance, the finish. I was in heaven."

    As her horizons expand, she makes an effort to pay her knowledge forward. Over dinner one night, the editor in chief of Korea Daily, among the most widely read Korean-language newspapers in the world, asked her to pen a column to help demystify wine for novice drinkers. "Everybody in Korea, they're all interested in wine," she says. "But they don't have a forum. I think it's very intimidating."

    To solidify her credentials as a columnist, she registered for classes at the WSET. "I thought I would learn about different wines and what I should be drinking," she says. "Instead, I learned about the different soils and the climates of the winemaking regions." After blazing through the Level I and II exams, Bae floundered at Level III, failing twice.

    But a few weeks after our initial conversation, she relayed some exciting news: She'd passed on her third try, with flying colors.


    Number of wines: 1,500
    Focus of Collection: Burgundy, Italy
    Prized bottles: Domaine de la Romanée-Conti La Tâche, Romanée St.-Vivant, Grands Echézeaux and Echézeaux  2008
    Verticals: Dujac Clos de la Roche and Gevrey-Chambertin Aux Combottes (both 2002-2012), Ponsot Clos de la Roche (1998-2010), Emidio Pepe Montepulciano d'Abruzzo (1974-2013)
    Large-format: Jeroboam of Fourrier Gevrey-Chambertin VV 2012; magnums of Ponsot Clos de la Roche 2002, Emidio Pepe 1985, Château Haut-Brion 2008, Bruno Paillard Champagne 1996, J.L. Chave Hermitage 2007, Mascarello e Figlio Monprivato 2008

    Photo Gallery

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    (Tue, 15 Jan 2019 10:00:00 -0500)

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