THE ENTH DEGREE February 2005

News and Notes from the World of Wine



Published:

A CALL TO AUCTION


25th Annual Napa Valley Auction redefines itself for 2005

Now in its 25th year, the Napa Valley Wine Auction is making an effort to breathe new life into its traditional format. In 2000, a vertiginous $9.5 million was raised. But post-9/11 receipts have decreased yearly. In 2004, proceeds were at $4.6 million, down by more than 50 percent.

Still, $4.6 million is an impressive figure. To date, Napa's auction has donated $52 million to local social services and health care organizations such as Community Health Clinic Ole and Napa Valley Community Housing. Numerous family-service organizations as well as local schools and other regional groups are also beneficiaries. This includes many of the social services provided to low-income members of the Napa Valley community.

To revamp the auction, now called "Auction Napa Valley," the previous 24 chairs—including original co-chairs Robert and Margrit Mondavi—have returned to act in a kind of group co-chair capacity.

"We asked bidders and vintners what they wanted most and what they were tired of," says Paula Kornell, general manager of Oakville Ranch and the auction's chairperson in 1992. "In addition to wanting more time with vintners, [bidders] had had enough of the marathon live auction on Saturday, which showcased 140 lots and lasted from noon until 7 p.m." This year, the live auction will begin around 6 p.m. at Meadowood Resort. It will be followed by a dinner and dance that unfolds among 10 different thematic tents, each hosted by 10 to 12 wineries.

The new scenario will reduce the live auction lots to approximately 50, which can be auctioned in around three hours of bidding. To allow for more winery interaction and hospitality events, there will be no Friday night gala. Instead, smaller, more intimate winery events will be held on both Thursday and Friday nights, as well as Saturday lunch. Friday day will feature the traditional barrel auction, and Pride of Napa Valley restaurant tasting (formerly held on Thursday and Saturday mornings).

Last year, admission for two cost $2,500. "It didn't even cover the cost of putting on the auction," Kornell noted. The new price per couple may climb to $7,500, a number that has been discussed but not yet approved by the auction board. However, for the first time ever, the auction will also offer 500 "Napa Neighbors" reduced-price tickets to locals who can't afford the big-ticket price.

Some media have portrayed the event as an elitist activity that alienates local "regular folks." After speaking with a broad cross-section of area residents, this reporter has found that the local populace clearly recognizes the value and contributions of the event.

For more information and regular updates on Auction Napa Valley 2005, go to www.napavintners.com or call the Napa Valley Vintners at 707.963.3388. — Jeff Morgan
 
 

DOG DAYS IN BEAUNE

 
Prices were down 30 percent compared to last year at the Hospices de Beaune, held in November. Seen above are celebrity auctioneers, actress Charlotte Rampling and Jonathan Nossiter, director of the documentary, Mondovino. The auction raised 3 million euros from the sale of 699 barrels of Burgundy wine to négociants. The proceeds will benefit the Beaune hospital. The lower prices were attributed to a reasonable correction from unusually high prices fetched at the 2003 auction (high prices due to a very small 2003 harvest), and also to a new and forceful anti-alcohol advertising campaign produced by the French government. In reaction to the ads, various wine trade organizations from Burgundy and Bordeaux are contemplating suing the government for misleading advertising.

 

UNSTOMPABLE

If you're heading to a resort this winter, you'll want to declare your vino-philia by wearing these wine-lover's flip-flops, abundantly decorated with grapes and leaves. The Silly Sandals are available in "Premier Cru" (green grapes) or "Private Label" (purple). $26, through the Wine Enthusiast online catalog, www.wineenthusiast.com

 

WINE 101

The editors of Wine Enthusiast answer your wine-related questions.

Q: Is there truly any "sulfite free" wine? My concern is that some wines are listed as sulfite free, but I have heard that they may have naturally occurring sulfites.
Ruth Hogenson-Rutford
Plymouth, MN

A: No wine is completely sulfite-free, because yeasts produce small quantities of sulfur dioxide during fermentation. The most a wine can claim is to have "no added sulfites." The Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau (TTB), the governing body for wineries, allows wineries to label a wine sulfite-free when the levels of sulfites are under 10 parts per million (ppm). Most commercial wines are bottled with totals between 50-100 ppm.

Wineries use sulfur dioxide for two reasons: It protects against damage to the wine caused by oxygen, and helps inhibit the growth of any stray microorganisms. This gives the wine a longer life, allowing it to age and develop complexity.

The government warning label on wine bottles that warns against sulfites is only targeted to the small group of consumers (approximately 0.01%) allergic to it. The headaches often attributed by consumers to sulfites are usually caused by sensitivity to histamines or the simple act of overimbibing.

Uncorkings

Laura DePasquale, the national director of the Palm Bay Imports fine wine team, has earned the title of Master Sommelier. DePasquale is one of just 106 individuals worldwide to be awarded the title since the examinations were first given in 1969.

R.H. Phillips Winery co-founder and hospitality director, plus Vincor USA public relations director, Lane Giguiere has resigned. Lane, John and Karl Giguiere founded R.H. Phillips Winery in 1983, followed by the winery's other brands, EXP in 1988, Toasted Head in 1997 and Kempton Clark in 1999. Vincor International acquired the winery in 2000.

Wine Enthusiast's West Coast Editor, Steve Heimoff, was awarded the Sonoma County Wineries Association media award.

Ranch at the Canyons, a 1,700-acre preservation ranch, has hired Kerry Damon to create central Oregon's first vineyard and winery program.
Brad Vassar has become executive vice president for Southern Wine & Spirits of America, Inc. Vassar, a 14-year employee of Southern, is scheduled to take over his new role as of January 1. Larry Goodrich, a 27-year veteran of the company, has been appointed executive vice president and general manager.

Diageo has appointed Ron Anderson to managing director, global duty free. Ron takes over for Vince Horne, who resigned January 14, after 19 years with the business.

Infinite Spirits has announced the addition of Nancy Ramamurthi as vice president of marketing. Ramamurthi will be responsible for directing all brand marketing efforts for Shakers vodka brand.

Victoria Wilder has joined the Napa Valley Vintners as director of communications.

Industry News
The Registry of Historic Napa Valley Vineyards program is officially open for business. Any Napa landowner can apply to be included in this database, which establishes and certifies the current ownership of historic (planted to vineyard between 1843 and 1919) Napa Valley vineyard parcels.

Viña Errazuriz has acquired total control of Viña Seña and Arboleda, two brands formerly owned in part by the Robert Mondavi Corporation. Constellation Brands bought the entire Mondavi Corporation in November, but under the terms of an original agreement between Mondavi and Errazuriz, either party was entitled to purchase Mondavi's share in the event of a sale.

IN memoriam
Luigi Veronelli, Italy's most influential wine and food critic, died November 29 at his home in Bergamo, Italy. He was 78. Author of celebrated guidebooks, newspaper columns and editor of an enogastronomy magazine that carries his name, Veronelli shaped the definition of Italian wine during a career that spanned half a century. He formulated approachable terminology used to describe wine, campaigned for industry reforms and staunchly supported terroir-driven techniques. A former philosophy student, it was said that Veronelli did not taste wine, but dialogued with it.

Brother Timothy, the monk who was the first winemaker at Christian Brothers winery, died November 30 at the facility, on Mont La Salle above Yountville, where he lived and worked for more than 70 years. Born Anthony George Diener in 1910, Brother Timothy was one of the pioneers of the modern Napa Valley. Brother Timothy had a favorite quotation from the New Testament book of Timothy: "Use a little wine for thy stomach's sake and thine often infirmities." Brother Timothy was 94.

Veteran Australian winemaker Jim Barry died October 14 at age 79. Barry first started acquiring his personal vineyards in 1959, and his family now owns properties totaling over 200 hectares. The first Jim Barry wines became available in 1974; production is now approximately 70,000 cases annually. Jim Barry is survived by his wife, Nancy, and six children.
— Samara Genee, Steve Heimoff and
Monica Larner



 

Destination DENVER

The Mile-High City retains its Old West charm while incorporating 21st-century slickness and savvy.

Given its position as gateway to Colorado ski country, Denver has long rated highly in the minds of winter sports enthusiasts—as a place to stop through for a quick bite en route to the slopes. But the Mile-High City has developed and matured a great deal over the past decade or two and merits much more than a mere passing glance and a quick nosh. Indeed, one could make the case that it be considered the culinary capital of the Rocky Mountains.

The Old Guard of Denver's gastronomic credentials are, as you might expect, heavily reliant on what could be called Cowboy Cuisine, namely meat, meat and more meat. The Fort, a restaurant so unapologetically western that it's housed in a full-scale replica of a fur-trading post, sells more buffalo steaks than any other outlet in the United States. Also proudly serving the carnivore crowd is The Buckhorn Exchange, where tableside-carved steaks weigh up to four pounds each and may be preceded by an appetizer of rattlesnake. (The Fort Restaurant, 19192 Highway 8, Morrison, tel: 303.697.4771; The Buckhorn Exchange, 1000 Osage Street, tel: 303.534.9505)

Representing the more modern side of Denver dining are members of the city's next generation of innovative and urbane restaurants, epitomized by such recent arrivals as Mirepoix, housed in the swanky new JW Marriott, and Table 6, a homey boîte located in the Capitol Hill District. Headed by Chef Bryan Moscatello, Mirepoix explodes the stereotype of lackluster hotel eateries with an ever-changing menu broadly based in French traditions, backed by one of the city's best and most extensive wine lists. The more informal Table 6 offers greater modesty in both menu and wine selection, but compromises not an iota in either category. One taste of the house-made scallop sausage accompanied by calamari "noodles," complemented by a glass of Graham Beck Brut from South Africa, and you'll appreciate why Chef Aaron Whitcomb is rapidly running out of space for all the accolades he's received. (Mirepoix, 150 Clayton Lane, tel: 303. 253.3000; Table 6, 609 Corona Street, tel: 303.831.8800)

After dinner, crowds flock to the area known as LoDo, or Lower Downtown. Once a clutch of decaying warehouses, the LoDo renaissance was kicked off by the arrival of Denver's first brewpub, the Wynkoop Brewing Company, founded in 1988 by John Hickenlooper, the man who is now the city's mayor. To this day, for craft-brewed ale or casual, pubby fare like bison burgers and vegetarian lasagne, there are few places better than "The Koop." Unless, that is, variety is your spice of life, in which case you might wish to stroll the few blocks to one of the country's great multi-tap beer bars, Falling Rock, where local favorites like Great Divide Arapahoe Amber and Avery Hog Heaven Barleywine are poured alongside draft and bottled exotica from Belgium, England and beyond. (Wynkoop Brewing Company, 1634 18th Street, tel: 303.297.2700; Falling Rock Taphouse, 1919 Blake Street, tel: 303.293.8338)

For accommodations, Denver also offers a slew of fashionable entries both old and new. Among the more venerable of city institutions is The Oxford Hotel, a century-old LoDo lodging where sophisticated antiques combine with modern luxuries, and such frills as high-speed Internet and morning coffee come as part of the package. A little further uptown is the Hotel Teatro, a boutique hotel that boasts spacious rooms, beautiful mountain views and another of Denver's impressive "new look" dining destinations, Restaurant Kevin Taylor. Near the expansive eye-candy of Civic Center Park, the home-spun charms of the Capitol Hill Mansion Bed and Breakfast seduce travelers who value gas fireplaces, balconies and a neighborhood feel above business centers and room service. (Oxford Hotel, 1600 17th Street, tel: 303.628.5400, 800.228.5838; Hotel Teatro, 1100 14th Street, tel: 303.228.1100; Capitol Hill Bed and Breakfast, 1207 Pennsylvania Street, tel: 303.839.5221)
— Stephen Beaumont



 



For more of this month's Enth Degree, check out the February issue of Wine Enthusiast Magazine

Super Sips

If you nosh while watching the Super Bowl (and who doesn't?), chances are your snacks are salty and the best kind of fatty—think chips, nachos dripping with cheese, pretzels. To match, you'll want a beer robust with hops. For ale aficionados, that means something like Sierra Nevada Pale Ale or the bigger, paler Anchor Liberty Ale. lager lovers will relish the Czech brews Pilsner Urquell and Czechvar
— Stephen Beaumont

Doctors Against Breathing


Taylor Fladgate releases rare old-vine Port

Wine is on patients' prescription charts at a British hospital—and the no-breathing rule applies to what's in the glass

The cardiac unit at Great Western Hospital in Swindon, England, is a busy place. Outpatients fill the waiting area. Nurses hustle from room to room. And a doctor strides down the hall, glass of wine in hand.

For years, cardiologist William McCrea has served wine to heart attack survivors under his care. "When people come into the hospital, they are very frightened," he says. "They think they are going to die. I thought this would help them relax."

But it wasn't until he worked out the statistics that his patient/wine pairing got serious. "The results were amazing," he says. "Out of 50 heart attack patients, only one died of a secondary attack. That's compared to a national UK average of 9 percent."

Now wine is part of the hospital's official coronary recovery program. Bottles of red are kept in the medicine cabinet, alongside pills and syringes. In-patients are prescribed two 4-ounce doses daily. Nurses bring the wine at lunch and in the evening.

Angina sufferer Albert Ford said he rarely had a tipple until meeting Dr. McCrea. "Now I look forward to my wine," he says. "I feel good when I drink it."

For more than a decade, scientists have studied the benefits of red wine. It's believed by most that the antioxidants found in grape seeds and skins seep into some types of red wine during fermentation. These powerful compounds can raise levels of good (HDL) cholesterol while lowering the bad (LDL) cholesterol. Antioxidants can also prevent blood-vessel constriction and arterial hardening.

Dr. McCrea prescribes wines with the highest concentration of antioxidants: Pinot Noir, Shiraz and Cabernet Sauvignon. He's not specific about appellations or vineyards, but does claim that inexpensive, young wines, grown at high altitudes and sealed with a screwcap, are best for the heart. And he counsels against allowing wine to breathe. "The antioxidants can dissipate. You should drink it as quickly as possible."

Red wine does have counter-indications. Dr. McCrea will not give it to patients with heart muscle disease, arrhythmia, alcoholism, liver disease, depression, psychiatric illness, or to those who are awaiting a transplant. And he strictly limits the dosage. More than two glasses a day can be detrimental, even for healthy people.

Back on the ward, Albert Ford finishes his medicine with a smile. "When I leave the hospital," he says, "I'll be very pleased to continue drinking this at home."
— Tara Gadomski

 

From the WE
Bookshelf

New Tapas
·Tapas bars have proliferated across America in the past five years. The Spanish concept of serving multiple small courses appeals to diners who want to fine-tune the amount of food they ingest.
With her book, New Tapas (Laurel Glen Publishing, 2004), Fiona Dunlap offers help for those who want to prepare tapas at home. With an assortment of recipes from six of the most well-known and diverse regions of Spain, as well as information on the chefs who conceived the recipes, this book has delectable ways of preparing pork, anchovies, potatoes, shrimp, cod, and, of course, Serrano ham. The colorful photographs will make your mouth water.

Spinning the Bottle
·As you would expect from a book on marketing, the title tells it all: Spinning the Bottle: Case Histories, Tactics and Stories of Wine Public Relations (HPPR Press, $40) is a collection of case studies and guidelines by over 40 public relations experts in the wine industry. Edited by Paul Franson and Harvey Posert, the book is aimed at public relations and marketing executives and students, and provides illuminating essays about some of the most influential and successful marketing campaigns in the history of the wine industry.

Waiter, There's a Horse in my Wine
·Jennifer Rosen (aka Chotzi) writes a weekly wine column for the Rocky Mountain News and the Denver Post. Several of her essays, combining wine education with humor, have appeared in Wine Enthusiast's Case Closed column. Now Rosen's essays have been collected (along with illustrations by Gary Hovland) in Waiter, There's a Horse in my Wine (Dauphin Press, $15). With such essays as "Trial by Terroir," "Appellation Spring," "Ode to Ethyl" and "Great Expectorations," Rosen deftly juggles silliness and solid information for readers at all levels of wine knowledge.



 

Art Imitates Wine

Thomas Arvid gets (photo) real with Tim Moriarty

Thomas Arvid's photo-realistic, wine-themed paintings are gaining a large and fervent following among wine enthusiasts as well as art patrons. His large canvases—most are from three feet to six feet in width—are on display at Silver Oak Cellars, Shafer Vineyards and Flora Springs winery, among many others. A retrospective of his work, a book entitled Arvid: Redefining the Modern Still Life, was published in November by International Graphics of Scottsdale, Arizona.

Born in Detroit, Arvid visited Atlanta in 1983 and has lived there ever since. He had been interested in painting since he was 14, but it was in 1992 that his individual style began to emerge: He entertained patrons at Atlanta's Café Tu Tu Tango by creating paintings of red objects including Coke cans, red shoes and red wagons, but it was his red wine paintings that caught the attention of the public and, not long after, collectors. Says Arvid, "Life without art is like dinner without wine. Why bother?" He recently visited Wine Enthusiast's offices and shared his thoughts on wine and the fine arts.

On why he paints in public: "I went on a backpacking trip to Europe, and I was very impressed by the way Europeans treat artists, and the way artists approach their work. They set up their easels and work out in public. People come around and buy the paintings. It's a beautiful thing. In the U.S., when people learn that you have ambitions to be an artist, they tend to encourage you to take a safe path—to teach art or do industrial design. I want people in the U.S. to accept artists. And I don't want to be a moody artist locked in my studio. I want to be out in the world."

On the parallel between wine and fine art appreciation: "When people see a painting, they often think to themselves, do I like it? Am I supposed to like it? They have the same anxiety and reluctance when it comes to tasting wine. People are afraid to say what they like. They are intimidated. This is not true with music or movies, where people are honest about what they like or don't like."

On photorealism: "I was a bit surprised the first few times that people thought my work was a photograph. I myself had become surprised at how detailed my paintings were getting. I want people to be drawn by the photo-real aspects of my work. I want for them to gravitate to it, and then, once they're close, to see the brushstrokes, and appreciate the craft."

On what he is trying to achieve: "Even before I painted wine images, I was painting images that were red, yes, but mostly it was about comfort. Those familiar objects. Radio Flyer wagons, crushed Coke cans. They evoked a response. And my works today aren't so much about the bottles and the labels; I'm creating an informal landscape that falls between two people. It's about the comfortable moment. The bottle, the knife, the corkscrew, the cork, the foil crinkled up, at random. That moment of 'I'm so glad you stopped by.' Sitting at the counter, sipping and talking about kids, career, stuff. You don't open a bottle of wine to mow the lawn. Beer is for that. When you open a bottle of wine, you slow down and open up."

 

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