AG Pick: HB Picpoul de Pinet 2010

As the summer nears its end (at least according to the calendar), the lingering hot temperatures call for white wine. Whether you’re looking for a refreshing white to enjoy outdoors or want something to drink with lobster or other shellfish, the HB (Hugues Beaulieu) Picpoul de Pinet 2010 from La Cave de Pomerols is the perfect pairing.

Picpoul de Pinet comes from the Languedoc region in southwest France. It is a region that, while not as famous as the neighboring Rhône, is producing delicious wines from several of the same varietals.

Picpoul de Pinet is made entirely from the Picpoul (or Piquepoul) grape. The wine bottle makes it easy to spot — slim and green, Picpoul de Pinet is marked with a Cathar cross and ring of waves on the neck.

If you are a fan of Sauvignon Blanc, you must try Picpoul de Pinet. The 2010 HB Picpoul is fresh and crisp with racy acidity. Pale straw yellow in color, the wine has citrus and white flower aromas. Lime, honeydew, white grapefruit and green pear flavors along with a hint of Meyer lemon and mineral notes make for a lively sip. Super refreshing, the HB Picpoul de Pinet is guaranteed to be a crowd pleaser.

Because the HB Picpoul de Pinet is lighter in alcohol it is great for hot weather — though you’ll surely want to enjoy any time of year.

Much like Albariño from Spain, Picpoul de Pinet demands to be paired with seafood. One sip of the 2010 HB Picpoul de Pinet and you will be craving raw oysters. This wine goes well with a variety of shellfish and white fleshed fish, as well as salads and light pasta dishes.

A bottle of the Cave de Pomerols HB Picpoul de Pinet 2010 costs $12.

alcohol 12.5% by volume

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barrels

How Oak Barrels are Made

A Tour Inside Vicard Cooperage

Oak barrels play an important role in the production of wine and eau de vie. Go inside Vicard Cooperage in Cognac, France for a look at how barrels are made.

The process of making a barrel starts with the oak tree. Seventy five percent of Vicard’s barrels are made with French oak; 20 percent are made with American oak and 5 percent are Hungarian or Romanian oak. Only thirty percent of the trunk is used for barrels.

The logs are sprayed with water to maintain the level of humidity and to keep bugs away.

To make the staves, the log is split into quarters. Following the natural lines of the wood, the oak is carefully cut into planks. The wood is laid in a pattern for aging and placed outdoors for two to three years. The exposure to sun, wind and rain seasons the wood and eliminates the undesirable tannins.

To assemble the barrel, the staves are placed inside a metal hoop. Using steam and force the wood is pulled into the recognizable shape of a barrel. More hoops are then placed on the wood to maintain the shape.

Toasting the barrel is very important as the amount of toast affects the flavor of the wine inside. Vicard uses computerized technology to monitor each barrel and to ensure the ideal toast profile.

As the finishing touches are put on the barrel, the metal hoops are adjusted or removed. The round ends are inserted and carefully fit into place. The wood is sanded and new metal hoops are placed on the barrel.

The final step is to add the logo. Using a computerized system and lasers the image is burned into the wood.

Vicard produces 55,000 barrels each year.

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AG Pick: Antica Napa Valley 2009 Estate Chardonnay

The finesse of Italian tradition and the high quality of Napa Valley come together in the elegant Antica Napa Valley 2009 Estate Chardonnay.

The name is a combination of Antinori and California, the former being one of the most well-known wine families and companies in Italy. The Antinori family has a history of winemaking that dates back 26 generations and more than 600 years.

The California estate of the Antinori family is located in the Atlas Peak District in the Napa Valley, an area of hilly terrain and rocky soils. The grapes used for the 2009 Chardonnay were grown at an average elevation of 1420 feet, on vines that were between 9 and 21 years old.

Following the harvest that spanned three weeks in September, fermentation took place in 30% new French oak barrels. The wine spent an additional six months aging on the lees in the barrels, during which time malolactic fermentation helped to soften the acidity. Each barrel was then tasted, with only the best chosen for the final wine.

The care that went into making this wine is evident when you take a sip. Refined and well balanced, the oak enhances the fresh fruit flavors of the Chardonnay grapes.

Tree fruit and citrus aromas introduce flavors of pear, apple, sweet starfruit and white peach, with a hint of lemongrass. Layers of creamy vanilla and hazelnut add depth. The finish is long and rich.

Pair the Antica 2009 Chardonnay with chicken, white fleshed fish, salmon, fruits de mer or pasta dishes with a cream or olive oil-based sauce. Or try the Burrata d’Estate or Pasta al Telephono recipes provided by Antica below.

A bottle of the Antica Napa Valley 2009 Estate Chardonnay costs $35.

alcohol 14.2% by volume

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Burrata d’Estate

Creamy Burrata, Nectarines & Tender Summer Greens
serves 10

Salad:
5 – 6 oz tender greens, cleaned and spun dry
2 – 3 nectarines, sliced in 1⁄4 inch moon shapes
10 oz Burrata—divided into 1 ounce portions
Antica olive oil
salt and pepper
8 tbsp vinaigrette (recipe below)
5 tbsp chopped salted Marcona almonds or roasted almonds

Vinaigrette:
pinch of salt
1 tbsp lemon juice
1 tbsp Champagne vinaigrette
5 – 6 tbsp Antica olive oil

Directions:
To make this simple vinaigrette place salt into a bowl large enough that you can use a whisk. Add lemon juice to the salt and then slowly whisk in the olive oil. This vinaigrette should be slightly acidic so that it complements the nectarines and the Burrata. Adjust salt for balance.

Salad Assembly:
1.  In a medium bowl, place greens and then slowly add the vinaigrette according to your personal taste. Toss gently and then add the nectarine slices. Salt and pepper to taste.
2.  Place salad in individual serving bowls. Add approximately one ounce of Burrata to the salad. Optional: place the fresh cheese to the side so that it is not lost in the salad. Drizzle the Burrata with Antica olive oil and a pinch of salt.
3.  Sprinkle with chopped almonds and serve.

Pasta al Telefono

Serves 4 as main, 8 as a first course

Ingredients:
1⁄2 cup olive oil, more to finish the dish
1 clove garlic
4 basil leaves, more for garnish
28 oz can of whole tomatoes
8 oz very small mozzarella balls
1/8 cup kosher salt
penne pasta
salt and pepper to taste

Directions:
1.  Put very large pot of water on to boil.
2.  While the water boils, place olive oil, whole garlic cloves and bay leaves in a pan large enough to hold the pasta once it is cooked. Heat oil to allow the garlic and basil leaves flavors to marry. The olive should not overheat, and the fire should be kept low.
3.  Strain the tomatoes from the can, saving some of the sauce in case it is needed. Cut the tomatoes with a using a knife and fork or two knives. (This motion is similar to cutting up food for a child) The pieces should be very small.
4.  Add the tomatoes to the oil mixture that has been heated. Allow the mixture to simmer for 10 minutes, adding more olive oil to keep a sauce consistency. Remove the basil and garlic.
5.  When pasta water boils, add salt and the pasta. Stir immediately so that the pasta does not stick to each other. The water should be salty. Cook the pasta according to the package directions, reducing the cooking time by 2 minutes.
6.  Taste the pasta midway to ensure there is enough salt.
7.  Add the mozzarella to the tomato sauce when the pasta is being drained, so that it starts to melt.
8.  Add cooked pasta to the tomato sauce to finish cooking for the remaining two minutes. Stir like crazy, taste for salt and pepper, and serve warm. Garnish with more olive oil and a sprig of basil. The cheese should be stringy, just like a telephone cord.

pineau des charentes

Pineau des Charentes: Aperitif of Cognac

Pineau des Charentes is a sweet fortified wine produced in the Charente and Charente-Maritime departments in France. It is a blend of Cognac and grape juice that is most often enjoyed as an aperitif.

The juice comes from grapes that are used to make wine. For white Pineau, grapes including Ugni Blanc, Colombard or Folle Blanche may be used; for red Pineau it may be Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon or Merlot. The high alcohol content of the Cognac prevents the grape juice from fermenting.

In its most basic form, Pineau is made by combining approximately 25% Cognac (eau de vie that has aged for at least one year in oak barrels), and 75% grape juice. The blend is then aged for at least 12 months. From the Comité National du Pineau des Charentes:

“Pineau des Charentes is exclusively aged in oak barrels. White Pineau ages for at least 18 months, including 12 in barrel. Red and rosé Pineau are aged for 12 months, including eight in oak. This ageing is a very important part of the winemaking process, and gives Pineau des Charentes its characteristic vanilla and nutty flavour.”

From there, Pineau can vary greatly among producers. Some may blend an older Cognac with the grape juice, and some may let the Pineau age in oak barrels for five or more years.

The taste of Pineau is sweeter than wine, with a pleasant and full mouthfeel. The acidity and alcohol prevent it from being too syrupy. Pineau that has spent more time aging in barrels tends to be more complex in flavor.

Pineau ranges in alcohol from 16 to 22 percent.

Pineau should be served chilled and in a tulip-shaped glass. It is commonly served as an aperitif, though it can complement a range of foods and desserts. Pineau may also be used in cocktails.

For more information on Pineau des Charentes including serving suggestions visit the website for the Comité National du Pineau des Charentes.

Chateau Beaulon water

A Visit to Chateau de Beaulon

About 30 miles southwest of Cognac in the commune of Saint-Dizant-du-Gua in Charente-Maritime is Château de Beaulon.

The château was built in 1480, with eau de vie production on the estate dating to 1720.  From 1543 to 1574 the home belonged to Francois de Beaulon, Lord of Saint-Dizant and advisor to the Bordeaux Parliament.  Today the estate is owned by Christian Thomas, who has been producing Cognac and Pineau des Charentes at Château de Beaulon for more than 40 years.

The grounds of Château de Beaulon are open to the public and well worth a visit.  Past the banana tree, past the row of lavender in the French garden, past the more wild English garden, you come to a sight that takes your breath away – “Les Fontaines Bleues,” natural springs that are a mesmerizing blue color.

The hue is due to a type of algae that grows in the water.  These springs have been the subject of local legends, including one about a monster (now pacified), that used to pull curious people down into the depths.

Winding back through the mammoth plane trees you come to the north face of the château.  Of note are the two different roof windows.  The window on the left was built in the style of medieval architecture, while the right window was built in the classical style.

Beaulon’s production and aging facilities are a short drive away in the neighboring commune of Lorignac.  Floor-to-ceiling windows at the distillery show off the gleaming copper stills.  Eau de vie is stored in a cellar across the street.

Nearby is Château de Beaulon’s recently completed state of the art aging and bottling facility.  Here, in rooms that look like science labs, the eau de vie is analyzed to determine its potential and direction.  A large concrete cellar offers a contrast to the one by the distillery, lacking the cobwebs and black fungus that thrives off the evaporating alcohol.

The new facility was designed to be eco-friendly as well.  The roof is covered in vegetation that helps to maintain a cool interior temperature.

Surrounding the distillery and two cellars are Château de Beaulon’s vineyards.  Unlike many Cognac houses, Beaulon does not use Ugni Blanc grapes for its Cognac.  Instead Folle Blanche, Colombard and Montils are used.

For a taste of Château de Beaulon’s Cognac, I was invited to join Mr. Thomas inside the manor.  We started with a Pineau des Charentes, a blend of Cognac and grape juice (click here to read more about Pineau des Charentes).  For its white Pineau, Château de Beaulon uses Semillon and Sauvignon Blanc grape juice.

The Pineau was the perfect complement to the sunny and warm afternoon.  It had flavors of dried apricots, vanilla, honey and white flowers, with a pleasant sweetness balanced by nice acidity.

Next we tasted two Cognacs: the Tres Vieille Reserve du Château, vintage 1983, and the XO Vintage 1975.  Both were extraordinary.  They were elegant, complex and well balanced, with flavors that lingered for quite some time after each sip.

The vintage 1983 was rich and intense, with layered flavors of candied fruit, spice and fresh flowers.  The vintage 1975 had a beautiful amber color, with notes of orange peel, dried apricots, cedar, caramel and walnut.  Extremely smooth, both would turn any non Cognac drinker into a fan after one taste.

From the dazzling natural springs to the exceptional Cognac, a visit to Château de Beaulon is a feast for the senses.

For more information visit chateau-de-beaulon.com.

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AG Pick: Mandolin Syrah 2009

Easy to drink and easy on the wallet, the 2009 Mandolin Syrah is the kind of wine you can enjoy any day of the week.

This wine comes from the Monterey region in California’s Central Coast, an AVA that is influenced by its proximity to the ocean. Vineyards in this part of the Central Coast are exposed to cooler temperatures, high winds and fog, which combine for a longer growing season and slower ripening of the grapes.

The 2009 Syrah was made from 100% Syrah grapes. After fermentation in stainless steel the wine was aged for 14 months in 20% new French oak barrels.

Deep purple red in color, the Mandolin Syrah has aromas of black fruit and spice. It is medium plus in body, with flavors of blackberry, plum and blueberry that mingle with black pepper, nutmeg and vanilla. Good acidity and soft tannins combine for a supple mouthfeel.  The finish is clean and smooth.

This Syrah makes a nice pairing with grilled chicken, burgers, stews and hearty pasta dishes.

A bottle of the 2009 Mandolin Syrah costs $10.

alcohol 14.5% by volume

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ABK6

ABK6: Cognac for a New Generation

Flashy labels. A name derived from typing. A blend specially created for sipping on the rocks.

This isn’t your grandfather’s Cognac.

With a mix of tradition and modernity, ABK6 is bringing the French spirit to a new generation.

It starts with the name — ABK6 is one of those internet short-hands, like OMG or LOL. When pronounced in French it sounds like Abécassis, the last name of the family who bought the estates in 2003. Francis Abécassis oversees ABK6 with his daughter Elodie, who at 24 years of age brings a unique perspective to the brand.

The packaging of ABK6 Cognac immediately catches your eye. The bottles have square shoulders and the bright labels beckon you to take a closer look. These Cognacs demand to be displayed among the premium liquors at trendy bars and restaurants, not stashed away in a dusty liquor cabinet.

Still, tradition is very important in the production of ABK6 Cognac. Each part of the process, from distillation to aging and blending the eaux de vie, is monitored closely by cellar master Simon Palmer to ensure quality.

All Cognacs produced by ABK6 are single estate Cognacs made from Ugni Blanc grapes. The wine is distilled in small Charentais stills, and the “heart” of the second distillation is aged in French Limousin oak barrels. Once the eau de vie has reached maturity it is blended with other eaux de vie from the same estate.

Click here for a detailed description on how Cognac is made

ABK6’s Cognacs are aromatic with complex flavors that unfold with each sip. The VS Premium has notes of apricots and spice; the VSOP Super Premium has notes of baked apple, vanilla and brioche; the XO Grand Cru is extremely smooth with notes of dried fruits and toasted almonds.

ABK6’s newest venture is ICE Cognac. Coming soon to the United States, ICE Cognac is the first Cognac that is meant to be served on ice. With its shimmering white bottle ICE Cognac has a look that will appeal to younger Cognac drinkers, as well as those who enjoy drinking spirits like Scotch on the rocks.

The blend of eaux de vie in ICE Cognac was specifically selected because of how its flavors progress as it comes into contact with ice and water.  At first you taste almond and vanilla; as the ice melts you taste white peach and orange blossom, then lemon sorbet and mint.

Cognac purists need not fear – ABK6 produces a number of single estate Cognacs for those who may not embrace such a modern design.  Cognac Leyrat is produced with grapes from an estate in the Fins Bois region.  It’s here, among the rolling hills that are blanketed with grapevines, that ABK6 has its tasting room.  ABK6’s other Cognac is Le Reviseur, which is made with grapes from an estate in the heart of the Petite Champagne region.

Modernity and tradition – ABK6 successfully blends both with a range of Cognacs for either taste.

For more information on the Cognacs of ABK6 visit www.abk6-cognac.com.

bottle images from ABK6’s website

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Dining Atlanta: Week of August 8, 2011

By Eric Harvison

Dining Atlanta spotlights what is opening and closing around the city. Check in at the beginning of each week to find out what is changing in your neighborhood.

Click here to read earlier columns

Buckhead

The Tower Place location of COPELAND’S will close on August 14th.  Reportedly, their lease is up and the business is no longer viable under the new rental amount being sought by the landlord.

Eater Atlanta” Jennifer Zyman (Blissful Glutton’s new gig), writes that H&F BREAD COMPANY will be leaving Buckhead and relocating to somewhere on the Westside, nearby to The Restaurant Depot.  Plans also reportedly include reopening a retail operation at the new site.  This will be the second artisan bakery on the Westside with the recent announcement of SWIT BAKERY & CAFÉ (Dining Atlanta, July 11th) also opening nearby.

Collier Hills

STOOGES bar has a new owner.  John Scarminech is in the final stages of taking over the decades old sports bar after some rather spirited, but ultimately successful “discussions” with the local Neighborhood Planning Unit.

Lorenzo Wyche has closed THE SOCIAL HOUSE on Howell Mill Road through August 22nd to complete some much needed renovations to the café.

Decatur

Last day of service at the original CAKES AND ALE location was last Saturday.  They will reopen in their new digs along Sycamore Street on Tuesday, August 16th.  In addition to the previously announced bakery being opened as part of their move, they are adding a wood burning oven, expanding “the middle section” (large apps, small entrees) of the menu, offering patio seating, an enlarged bar, an oyster bar, and about half of the restaurant space will be set aside for walk-in customers.   The bakery operation will be under the control of Brooke Lenderman, Alan O’Hargain, Becky Vocaire, and pastry sous chef Melanie Durant.  On the restaurant side, Johnson & Wales alum and former Shaun Doty disciple Andrew Sheridan has joined as C&A’s new sous chef.

Former FARMSTEAD 303, more recently (and briefly) RAIL KITCHEN & BAR has closed.  Owner Teri Shea decided that her efforts needed to be directed to ensuring the success of FEAST, her neighboring venture.

Downtown

Owner Alex Brounstein told the Atlanta Business Chronicle that he is putting the original GRINDHOUSE KILLER BURGERS location in the Sweet Auburn Curb Market up for sale.  According to Brounstein, he doesn’t have the time to continue to manage the downtown location any longer.  No price was disclosed.

LUNACY BLACK MARKET has suspended their lunch service, but promises to replace it with “some version of daytime dining” in September.  They’re also closing for vacation from August 15th – 30th.

Kirkwood

JAK’S ALL INN bar on Josea Williams Drive has closed.

Lindbergh

BOBBY G’S at Lindbergh City Center closed last Saturday.

Midtown

Opening date for 5 NAPKIN BURGER is planned for next Monday.  Am told that the “Private Grand Opening” is this Wednesday.

THE BARRELHOUSE pub is now open in Technology Square on 5th Street at West Peachtree in the previous ST CHARLES DELI space.  One hundred beers and a menu that includes bacon fat fried, boiled peanuts (not sure if that’s boiled and then fried, or fried, then boiled).  Owner Magnum Restaurant and Bar Group also operates THE GRAVEYARD TAVERN in East Atlanta Village.

The roster for this year’s Midtown Restaurant Week now stands at 30 restaurants.  As in the past, $25 or $35 for 3 course meals, August 27th – September 4th.

Toco Hills

No opening date, but signs are in place indicating that the TOKYO GRILL in the Toco Hills Shopping Center is getting closer to realization.

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Eric Harvison’s Dining Notes began a few years ago as a sporadic e-mail exchange with a friend, sharing restaurant openings and trying to satisfy that vague urge to dine “somewhere new.” That friend started forwarding Eric’s messages to some of her friends, several of them food industry professionals. They in turn began passing along bits of restaurant news and gossip that they would come across. These exchanges became more frequent and took on a viral life of their own that has evolved into what you read today.

Aside from the occasional editorial comment, Eric won’t attempt to review these restaurants. There’s plenty of others better qualified, with much more refined palates — probably you. Rather, this is an attempt to help you keep up with the constantly changing Atlanta dining scene, for better or worse.

AG Pick: Biltmore Estate Chateau Reserve Blanc de Blancs 2008

Small and energetic bubbles. Citrus and tropical fruit flavors.

This description could apply to a number of Champagnes and sparkling wines. But I’m not talking about French bubbly — I’m talking about North Carolina.

The sparkling wine: the 2008 Biltmore Estate Château Reserve Blanc de Blancs.

This brut is made from Chardonnay grapes grown in North Carolina and produced using the same traditional method as Champagne.

You may not have heard of the wine, but you most likely know its name. The Biltmore Estate is the home of George Vanderbilt and is a popular attraction in Asheville, North Carolina.

While the estate and gardens date back to the late 1800s, the winery is more recent. The first French-American hybrid grapes were planted in 1971, with vitis vinifera (traditional wine grapes) planted a few years later. Today the estate grows Chardonnay, Riesling, Viognier, Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot. The winery also produces wines made with grapes from California.

Though it may not have the recognition of a California winery, the Biltmore Estate is the most visited winery in the United States, welcoming more than one million visitors each year.

Biltmore Estate’s wines have won awards at national and international competitions.  One sip of the 2008 Château Reserve Blanc de Blancs and you’ll understand why.

Without seeing the label, you would never guess this sparkling wine comes from the southeast United States. It is dry and elegant, with flavors of tart lemon, white grapefruit and pineapple.  A hint of toast rounds out the palate, and the finish is clean and crisp.

This brut is versatile and can be enjoyed on its own, with shellfish and seafood, light pasta dishes and spicy Asian cuisine.

Biltmore Estate wines are sold at wine shops throughout the eastern part of country and online. A bottle of the 2008 Biltmore Estate Château Reserve Blanc de Blancs costs approximately $29.

12.5% alcohol by volume

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It’s Time for Wine: Napa Valley Mexican-American Vintners Association

A Historic Day with the Napa Valley Mexican-American Vintners Association

By Monty and Sara Preiser

About three years ago we wrote a column about our attendance at the (then) new African American Vintners Association. Afterward, we penned an introduction that is as relevant today as it was then:

There is a cultural phenomenon that only occurs in the United States. It is the rise of different ethnic groups from hard times to the top of their professions. Witness the chronological rise as a people of the Irish, the Jews, the African Americans, and the Hispanics/Latinos. Perhaps this postulate is best illustrated in politics, entertainment (especially comedy), and in certain sports that have been around for a hundred years or better.

Take, for example, the champions of the welterweight division of professional boxing. From Irish Mickey Walker in the 1920’s, to Jewish Jackie Fields in the 30’s, to African American Sugar Ray Robinson in the 40’s and 50’s, to Hispanic Ricardo Mayorga in this decade, these men are representative of their brethren striving upwards, and succeeding, in our society.

In California, one sees to some degree the same evolution in the wine industry. Started by (and still major players) the Italians and the Germans, in the middle of the 20th century the Anglo majority set down roots. It was not long afterwards that the Jewish community began to expand its mercantile expertise to wine and has, for a number of years, been an important part of the industry. More recently, African Americans and Hispanics are flexing their advancements in education, business, and finance, and transferring those successes to the production and sale of quality wines.

And we concluded:

The rise of the Mexican-Americans from indispensable vineyard workers to noted vintners and winemakers mirrors the advancement of the African-Americans and Jews. We anxiously await word of (and in invitation to) wine events sponsored by the Hispanic community, whether it be through the vintners in Napa Valley, Vino con Vida (a wine education company that celebrates Latino flavors and people in the culinary and winemaking world), or some other organization.

Yesterday our anticipation ended as we attended an event hosted by the newly constituted Napa Valley Mexican-American Vintners Association, an organization created to serve as a collective marketing vehicle, as well as to be a source of motivation and support for future generations of aspiring Mexican-American winemakers and winery professionals. The classy kick-off event was named Bautizo (Christening Party), and it mirrored the gentility and talent of the Latino vintners and winemakers themselves. For over three highly enjoyable hours we tasted some beautifully crafted wines, snacked on Mexican inspired food prepared by some of the leading Hispanic chefs in the Valley, spoke with those who shepherded the Association into existence, and educated ourselves about the group’s purpose.

As our long time friend Rolando Herrera, President of NVMAVA and owner of Mi Sueno Winery, explained:

“From its inception we felt that we owe it to our community, our heritage, and most importantly, to our ancestors whose strong work ethic and sacrifices laid the foundation for our own success. Through our collective and united efforts we will strive to nurture and support future generations of Latino growers, vintners and executives.”

Rolando’s thoughts were echoed by one of the most recognized Mexican American vintners in the world, Amelia Ceja, and she then added, “We, the Latino vintners, are all friends, and just as Robert Mondavi urged of his colleagues 50 years ago, when we share with each other we spread the enjoyment of wine to all.”

It is most unusual to attend a tasting of 20 – 30 wines and not find at least a few that are, as we like to say, not ready for prime time. But that was not the case at this function. Without exception, each wine poured was reflective of its terroir, well balanced, and characteristically correct. However, where the wines really shined was in their exhibition of fruit. When we say this we are not implying at all that they were “fruity” wines, but that we found the grapes to be so well nurtured in the vineyard that they allowed for various uses of oak, differing aging times, immediate drinkability, and, ironically, long term aging.

Winery members of the new group that were pouring such excellent wines included Alex Sotelo Cellars, Ceja Vineyards, Delgadillo Cellars, Encanto Vineyards, Maldonado Vineyards, Mi Sueno Winery, Solovino, and Robledo Family Winery.

It is an old axiom in Napa (and probably throughout the wine growing world) that good wines start in the vineyard. In other words, without grapes (universally referred to as “fruit” in the industry) of high quality, one cannot make a concomitantly high quality wine no matter how much of a super star the winemaker might be. Sort of like the Chicago Bulls in their glory years. Phil Jackson might have been the maker of a team, but without a nucleus of players such as Michael Jordan and Scotty Pippin to work around, Jackson would have produced only something average. The same holds true in the wine industry.

Where we are heading is to the inescapable conclusion that the Latino farm and vineyard workers have been, and still are, the backbone of the wine industry. Because their experience in the fields is second to none as a group, it should come as no surprise that the vineyards owned or farmed by the vintners comprising the NVMAVA are some of the best.

For more information visit nvmava.org.

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It’s Time for Wine is a column published by wine writers and educators Monty and Sara Preiser that is featured on the Amateur Gastronomer.

Monty and Sara Preiser reside full time in Palm Beach County, Florida, and spend their summers visiting wineries and studying wines on the west coast where they have a home in Napa. For many years they were the wine columnists for The Boca Raton News, have served as contributors to the South Florida Business Journal, and are now the principal wine writers for Sallys-Place.com.  Monty and Sara also publish The Preiser Key to Napa Valley, the most comprehensive guide to wineries and restaurants in the Napa Valley, published every March, July, and November.  Click here to read more columns by the Preisers.