VINE CUTTINGS

News and Notes from the World of Wine



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Starry, Starry Night
Wine enthusiast's annual awards attract the
luminaries of the wine world.


Family, continuity and the importance of education were the themes most often accented by speakers during Wine Enthusiast's Wine Awards gala, which was held on January 14 in the Skylight Room of Maloney & Porcelli in New York City. It was an intimate gathering of the elite of the wine world, observed Adam Strum, editor and publisher of the magazine. Attendees enjoyed live music and an assortment of hors d'oeuvres during the cocktail hour, then were seated to enjoy a sumptuous dinner.

Although the Wine Enthusiast wine award itself is crafted in the form of a star, the real star of the evening was, of course, wine: Bottles from the award-winning wineries were available in abundance. Attendees were free to roam from table to table to pour, sample, toast old friends, make new acquaintances and forge business relationships.

The Wine Region of the Year award went to Washington State. It was accepted by Steve Burns, the executive director of the Washington State Wine Commission. Burns confirmed what Adam Strum observed in conferring the award: that Washington winemakers regard each other as neighbors, not competitors. Winemaker(s) of the Year were Renzo and Riccardo Cotarella—as Strum pointed out, great examples of "sibling revelry." Riccardo, who runs the family winery in Umbria and consults with over 50 wineries, stated that he was "honored, delighted, proud and moved" by the award, and said he was even more excited because he could share it with his brother, Renzo. Renzo, general manager of Antinori, then stepped to the podium to say that he and his brother share most things 50-50, but that Riccardo had taken 60 percent of their time to speak.

Distiller of the Year was awarded to Jim Beam Brands Worldwide. Among the company's achievements lauded by Strum was the creation of a new category: the superpremium Bourbon. Accepting for Beam was Richard Reese, president and CEO. He thanked the wine industry for doing such a great job educating consumers. By reaching beyond the familiar, said Reese, "we have exceeded our expectations."

Winery of the Year, New World outside the U.S. went to Rosemount, which projects sales of 2 million cases of wine in 2002. Keith Lambert, in accepting the accolade, expressed excitement about the new chapter in the company's story, as part of the Southcorp portfolio. Winery of the Year in Europe went to Castello Banfi. Accepting was John Mariani, who with his brother, Harry, founded the company. He urged his colleagues to learn "to educate rather than legislate." Winery of the Year, United States, went to Beringer, which last year celebrated 125 years of continuous operation. In accepting the award, Ed Sbragia, who's been with the company for 25 years, joked, "As winemaker, I take credit for everything." He then went on to credit Walter Klenz, managing director of Beringer Blass, winemaker Laurie Hook and other members of Beringer's team.

The final award of the evening was given to Richard Sands, chairman, president and CEO of Constellation Brands, which represents more than 200 labels in the beverage alcohol category—including 60 wine brands, from table wines up to superpremium labels such as Franciscan and Ravenswood. He is Wine Enthusiast's 2001 Man of the Year. "This award really belongs to the entire Constellation team," said Sands. He thanked his brother, Robert, group president, and division CEOs John Moramarco and Agustin Huneeus. Sands honored the memory of his father, Marvin, and recalled Marvin Sands's favorite quote, which was, in part: "What you do with enthusiasm will be successful."

—Tim Moriarty

 

BRITISH WINE LEGEND HARRY WAUGH DEAD AT THE AGE OF 97

Harry Waugh, the British wine merchant, writer, auctioneer, board member of Château Latour, and the man who practically introduced British connoisseurs to California wine in the 1960s, died last November 28, at the age of 97.

"To the end [Waugh] was slim, sprightly, alert, eyesight and hearing apparently impeccable," according to his obituary in The Times of London.

Waugh was well known in California, which he first visited in the 1960s, and where he made friends with an emerging group of Northern California winemakers. His early contacts were with pioneers such as the McCreas of Stony Hill, Robert Mondavi, Joe Heitz and the Carpys of Freemark Abbey. By the late 1960s, Waugh had become a champion of California wine, arranging tastings in England whenever he could, sometimes to the bemusement of his friends, who considered California's wines no match for their European counterparts. But Waugh's eminence in England lent California wines a credibility they badly needed. "Before anyone else I know of, he supported [California] and was able to let the world know, here is something that was coming," recalls Robert Mondavi.

Stag's Leap Wine Cellars owner Warren Winiarski first met Waugh in 1964. "He came to the Napa Valley, and I remember as though it were yesterday his immediate reaction to the 1960 Souverain Cabernet Sauvignon [where Winiarski was working]. He said, 'What marvelous fruit!'"

Always gentlemanly, Waugh was loved and admired throughout the world of wine. "He was a man of a friendly, helpful and outgoing nature," Winiarski says. Narsai David, a Bay Area restaurateur and radio show personality, unwittingly prompted Waugh's most famous and oft-repeated quote. "One evening at dinner, around '67 or '68, I said, 'Tell me, Harry, have you ever confused Bordeaux for Burgundy?', and Harry replied, 'Not since lunch.' He was just the sweetest human being you ever met."

When I spent a few days with him in Washington State, I asked Waugh the secret of his success as a writer. "Simplicity and truth," was the reply. Waugh's style of writing was like the man himself: humble, kind, modest and intelligent.

—Steve Heimoff

First Wine Enthusiast
"Toast of the Town"
Scheduled for May 13

Wine Enthusiast Magazine will launch its first annual Wine Enthusiast Toast of the Town at the Whitney Museum of American Art in New York City, on Monday, May 13, 2002 from 7-10 pm. A portion of the proceeds from the event will benefit the Whitney Museum of American Art.

Guests will taste wines from some of the leading winemakers around the world, sample dishes from among New York City's top restaurants and view select galleries of the Whitney's Biennial exhibit. It promises to be an evening of superb wine, glittering people-watching and gourmet cuisine, in a chic, rich setting.

The Whitney Museum of American Art is the leading institution of 20th century and 21st century American art and culture, and is a vital, influential and highly visible part of New York's cultural mix. The Biennial, now regarded as the signature exhibition of the museum, has evolved into the premier showcase for the most important recent works by American artists—from the established to the unknown.

A special VIP reception will be held from 6-7 pm. Tickets are $85 in advance, $95 at the door and $125 with the VIP reception, and may be purchased by calling 800/847-5949 or visiting www.wineenthusiast.net/ tot. Whitney Museum members and wine industry professionals receive a $10 discount. The Whitney Museum of American Art is located at 945 Madison Avenue, New York City.

 

 

Chile's Wild New Wine
Montes Releases South America's First Ultrapremium Syrah

Pliny the Elder, a Roman nobleman and philosopher who died in the eruption of Mount Vesuvius, said, "The best plan is…to profit by the folly of others." Wine lovers should take these words of wisdom literally. The folks at Viña Montes, one of Chile's most progressive and respected wineries, have already done the hard work with respect to Montes Folly 2000 Syrah. Now it's time for consumers to enjoy the fruits of their efforts.

Montes Folly, a new "super Chilean" Syrah priced at $70 a bottle, was released earlier this year, and the word here is that this is one terrific wine. Rich, deeply colored, lush and full of layered fruits and spices, this blockbuster Syrah is on par with many great Syrah-based wines that hail from France's Northern Rhône Valley or Australia. That it exists at all is a testament to the value of dreams and persistence.

Montes Folly, a new "super Chilean" Syrah priced at $70 a bottle, was released earlier this year, and the word here is that this is one terrific wine. Rich, deeply colored, lush and full of layered fruits and spices, this blockbuster Syrah is on par with many great Syrah-based wines that hail from France's Northern Rhône Valley or Australia. That it exists at all is a testament to the value of dreams and persistence.

Just the name of the wine tells much of its story. Never a sure thing, Folly is the brainchild of Montes winemaker and namesake Aurelio Montes (and to a lesser degree that of his partner, Douglas Murray). Together, the pair set out in the 1990s to plant Syrah, then an untested grape in Chile, at the highest points of the Apalta Vineyard in the Colchagua Valley (see March 2002's feature on Chile, "The Next Napa?"). Their ultimate goal was to produce a world-class Syrah. At the time, observers thought the duo was crazy to undertake such a venture. The expense and difficulty in preparing the rocky soil, building terraces, planting vines and eventually harvesting grapes on 45-degree slopes was unprecedented. But with Montes and Murray, nothing is ever out of reach.

By April 2000, the first Montes Folly was ready to be made. Picked by hand, "by acrobats," according to Murray, yields were a mere two tons per acre. Vinification was in small lots, followed by 18 months aging in new French oak. Only 1,100 six-pack cases of this 14.6 percent alcohol bruiser were released in January. "Folly captures the spirit of our mountains, with an uncommon mixture of muscle and elegance," says Aurelio Montes.

In keeping with the folly theme, Murray turned to a personal friend, the irreverent British sketch artist Ralph Steadman, to design an appropriate label for the wine. Steadman, Murray believed, was the perfect artist to convey the essence of Folly. After all, Steadman was a wine collector, had done labels for Bonny Doon and was the author of the 1992 book, The Grapes of Ralph. Most important, though, was the fact that the two had traveled together in 1992 to Chile's Atacama Desert, the world's driest, and Steadman was forever moved by that experience. "There's no sanctuary there, nor pity," Steadman said of Atacama.

What emerged from Steadman's studio was a wild but serious painting of the Valley of the Moon in Atacama. Overseeing the landscape scene, but from the side panel, is a somewhat drunken-looking angel holding a bunch of grapes, presumably Apalta-grown Syrah. A most befitting label for such a wild but serious wine.

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