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For Love of Wine, 2013

In one form or another I have been writing about wine for more than 35 years, and it never grows old.  It’s not always the wine that enchants me – although I’ve sampled literally tens of thousands of bottles – but rather it’s the people who make wine and the places where it’s made.  This past year – 2013 – was an especially interesting one.  Here are some of the things that delighted me.  

 

Venissa: A Golden Wine in the Venice Lagoon.  The Bisol family of Prosecco fame have created a small, discreet estate at Mazzorbo in the Venice Lagoon built around a vineyard – the only one in Venice – growing a resurrected golden grape called Dorona.  The wine is also called Venissa, and it was a treat to taste both vintages of it with young Matteo Bisol.

 

Oakville: Cooking at the Cakebreads.  The winery’s American Harvest Workshop is a great-fun, but no-nonsense, event that combines locavore sourcing, wine-and-food matching and “wow” cooking.  I spent a fascinating two evenings in the kitchen sous-chefing for Greg Biggers (Sofitel Chicago), Marc McDowell (Makena Beach, Hawaii), Jim Severson (Sevy’s Grill, Dallas), Eric Haugen (Lambs Club, NYC) and Brad Turley (GoGa, Shanghai).

 

Alto Adige: Hiking Ancient Wine Trails.  The area north of Bolzano going toward Brenner Pass is full of mountainside vineyards, dairy farms, orchards and farmsteads that double as small inns.  For years, I had wanted to walk the hiking trails that connect them, and this fall I did, sampling regional food, roasted chestnuts, fine wines and rustic new wines of the vintage.

 

Marlborough: Deer Hunting with Chef Gault. As part of the annual Provenance celebration at Cloudy Bay, four teams are assigned to “forage” for local produce, freshwater fish, salt water shellfish and wild game.  I went on a helicopter ride to hunt with iconic Chef Simon Gault in the wilderness of the upper Waihopai Valley, where Gault bagged a deer that became the centerpiece for the next event’s banquet.

 

Mendoza: Asada the Old-Fashion Way.  Next to wine, asada – grilled meats – is the staff of life in Mendoza at the foot of the Andes.  Alamos winery wanted to show how real asada originated and had Chef Lucas Bustos school us at his rural La Tupina restaurant.  Chef Bustos was fascinating, explaining the Indian and Spanish origins of the foods and their cooking practices.  And the Alamos Malbec certainly came in handy.

 

Crete: Renaissance of Winemaking.  Like much of Greek winemaking, winegrowing on Crete is experiencing a renaissance in quality and quantity. A high point of my visit was visiting the ultra-modern, mountaintop Zacharioudakis winery in the shadow of ancient ruins.  Then we took bottles to dine outside at the Snails House taverna in the nearby village of Plouti.

 

Alsace: Picnic on Rangen.  I’ve had tons of picnics in vineyards, but few as elegant as that prepared by Chef Didier Seltz on the steep hillside of grand cru Rangen at Thann.  Additionally, we had tasted 24 wines made from Rangen grapes and chatted with Léonard Humbrecht about how this once-neglected vineyard was restored to its present glory.

 

Eastern Shore: Vineyards in Tobacco Country.  My wife and I had a leisurely photo tour of Maryland’s Eastern Shore, once the province of tobacco farmers but in recent years a breeding ground for small wineries such as the delightful Crow Farm in Kennedyville.

 

Banyuls by the Sea: Old Wines in Old Containers.  What could be better than a sunny fall day eating lunch in the courtyard of the St. Sébastien winery and restaurant on a busy street overlooking the Mediterranean at Banyuls-sur-Mer with winemaker Romuald Peronne pouring table wines made next door and his sweet Banyuls wine, some of which was aging in huge green glass jugs dotting the perimeter of the courtyard?

 

Spring Mountain: Cain Tutorial.  Napa Valley may seem crowded, but not atop Spring Mountain and not when taking a field trip through the vines and rocks with Chris Howell of Cain, who always has thought-provoking observations about life and winegrowing.

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You do a very good job of writing about wine - Pamela Plumber