News and Notes from the World of Wine

Wine Enthusiast Magazine Unveils 2002 Awards Nominees

Zraly, Harlan Among Wine
Person of the Year Nods

Wine Enthusiast Magazine announced its 2002 awards nominees last week. Fifty contenders are vying for the magazine's coveted seven wine-and-spirits-industry honors, which include Winery of the Year and Winemaker of the Year. In addition, the magazine will laud its first-ever Lifetime Achievement Award recipient. This year's winners will be unveiled in Wine Enthusiast's Best of Year issue (on newsstands in early December), and will be toasted at a New York gala awards ceremony in January 2003.

"With such great wine being produced around the world by such talented, innovative individuals, it was difficult to narrow our choices to these few nominees," says Adam Strum, editor and publisher of Wine Enthusiast. "Selecting one award recipient in each category is going to be a very difficult task, because all of our nominees are winners in our eyes."

Wine Enthusiast's editorial staff selected these nominees based on their contributions to the world of wine, with emphasis on their contributions in the 2002 calendar year. Stay tuned for the winners!

Front, left to right: John Mariani, chairman/CEO, Banfi Vintners; Richard Reese, president and CEO, Jim Beam Brands Worldwide; Steve Burns, executive director of the Washington Wine Commission; Keith Lambert, managing director and CEO, Southcorp. Back row: Renzo Cotarella, winemaker for Antinori; Richard Sands, chairman, president and CEO of Constellation Brands; Adam Strum, Wine Enthusiast publisher and editor; Riccardo Cotarella, winemaker for Falesco and consultant to dozens of other wineries; Ed Sbragia, winemaster, Beringer Vineyards.

The nominees are...

Wine Person of the Year
John Deluca
Bill Harlan
Leonardo LoCascio
Robert Mondavi
Carole Meredith
Eric de Rothschild
Anthony Terlato
Kevin Zraly

Winery of the Year

Chateau Ste. Michelle
Columbia Crest
Gallo of Sonoma
Joseph Phelps
King Estate
Robert Mondavi

Winery of the Year

E. Guigal
Les Vins Skalli
Louis Jadot
Taylor Fonseca
F. E. Trimbach

Winery of the Year
New World

Kim Crawford
Villa Maria
Wolf Blass

Winemaker of the Year
Gina Gallo
Marcel Guigal
Patrick Leon
Ernst Loosen
Carlos Pastrana
David Ramey
Aubert de Villaine

Wine Region of the Year
New Zealand

Distiller of the Year
Domaine St. George
Irish Distilleries
Luctor International
The Macallan


Crisis Hits Beaujolais

It's November…why are the '01s
still in the clearance bins?

Yesterday's Beaujolais Nouveau has passed its sell-by date. Producers in the Beaujolais region of France are poised to release the 2002 Nouveau, but they first have to come to terms with the fact that their 2001 wine just didn't sell. The equivalent of 13 million bottles of appellation contrôlée wine are being turned into vinegar or distilled into industrial alcohol.

Beaujolais producers blame overproduction and competition for the crisis facing the region. In 2001, exports fell by 9.2 percent. "Half of the Beaujolais production is for export," said

Maurice Large of the Union Interprofessionel des Vins de Beaujolais. "The decision to destroy the wine is to avoid a more serious crisis."

The crisis comes at the same time as the man synonymous with Beaujolais, Georges Duboeuf, is opening a new vinification center that will vinify grapes from over 400 Beaujolais vignerons. "It is the first time that one of the big Beaujolais producers will have bought grapes rather than wine," Duboeuf said. "It means we can control the quality of our supplies much better."

Duboeuf blames many of the region's problems on poor-quality wine: "You have hundreds of vignerons with only a few acres and no money to invest in winemaking equipment. Although he says the quality of the 2001 Beaujolais Nouveau was a great success, "the wine that was left in tanks after Christmas deteriorated fast—I have never seen anything like it."

A three-year plan operating throughout Beaujolais is aimed at reducing vineyard yields, curbing new plantings and controlling quality more strictly. "At the end, there will be less Beaujolais, but it will be better quality," said Duboeuf. "That is essential in the international market."

—Roger Voss


Silver Oak Icon Justin Meyer Dies

Justin Meyer, co-founder of Silver Oak Cellars in both Napa Valley and Sonoma County, died August 6. He was 63. The former monk was among a handful of modern-day vintners who cemented Napa Valley's identity as California's premier region for Cabernet Sauvignon.

"I started with nothing," Meyer said in an interview several years ago. And it was true. As a Christian Brothers monk, he had renounced claim to all worldly possessions. He was teaching Spanish in a Sacramento high school for the Brothers when the monastic order asked him to become an assistant winemaker to Brother Timothy at the Christian Brothers winery in Napa Valley (now the Culinary Institute of America). At first, Meyer had no interest and turned them down. His superiors eventually prevailed, and the Bakersfield, California native moved to Napa Valley in 1964. He remained a Christian Brother until January 1972, when he left the winery and monastery to start Silver Oak with partner Ray Duncan, a Colorado gas and oil businessman.

The two men eventually built wineries in both Napa and Alexander Valleys, but focused solely on Cabernet Sauvignon. Silver Oak Cabernets, with their distinctly rich flavors and supple texture, became among the most coveted of California's red wines and set the stage for what has now become the cult wine phenomenon.

In addition to his winemaking activities, Meyer was also an avid fisherman and an accomplished pilot. But in the mid 1990s, the hard-driving Meyer showed signs of slowing down and expressed an interest in distancing himself from Silver Oak. "When I'm 60," he said in 1996, "I want to be free."

Almost on schedule, he sold his share in Silver Oak to his longtime partner, Duncan, for a reported $120 million in 2001. He nonetheless remained in the wine business, working on a winery project in Mendocino County with his son, Matthew. He is also survived by his wife, Bonny, and two other children.

Meyer was the author of a self-published book called Plain Talk About Fine Wine, in which he attempted to demystify the subject and make wine less intimidating. It was a perfect vehicle for the winemaker, whose honest, down-to-earth manner was appreciated by all who knew him.

Meyer had been suffering from ill health for several years. Shortly after his death, some 600 people attended a memorial service in Napa Valley for the popular vintner, whose robust and generous personality will be sorely missed.

—Jeff Morgan

Roberto Conterno and Luca Currado
Piedmontese winemakers

Q&A For a long time, Barolo and Barbaresco demanded almost 20 years in bottle before they were at their peaks. In the late 1960s, however, Piedmontese winemakers introduced new vinification techniques to satisfy consumers who wanted to drink these wines within a few years of purchase. While most producers today have speeded up maceration and aging times, replacing huge oak vats with small barriques, a few vintners still adhere to the tried-and-true methods used by their ancestors. Traditionalist winemaker Roberto Conterno, of Giacomo Conterno, and new-school Luca Currado of Vietti explained to Wine Enthusiast why their methods are best for their respective wineries.

Wine Enthusiast: Are you against change?
Roberto Conterno: No, but we must have good reason for what we do.

The large barrels—we call them botti—were the traditional method. But for a while we also tried concrete vats lined with fiberglass, and then stainless steel. About 50 years ago, we switched back to wooden vats. The old vats were closed and used only for fermentation, but today they are open for fermentation and then closed for aging.
WE: What have you got against small oak barrels?
RC: I am not against barriques, but I detest the abuse of them. The barriques, as generally employed, tend to level the characteristics of wine, giving you the same flavor each vintage. At Giacomo Conterno we want to maintain the differences of the vintages and the personality of wine.
WE: Wouldn't it be advantageous for you to make wines that do not require years of aging before you can sell them?
RC: That would be nice, perhaps, but it would not be true to the way we see our duty to the wines.
WE: Are there any wines made in the modern style that you appreciate?
RC: We tasted a '97 Gaja Barbaresco blind recently and a colleague, who favors traditional wines and has a great palate, could not distinguish it as a wine aged in barrique. I like the wines of modern-style winemakers such as Paitin and Cigliutti because they let the wine express itself, and do not overpower it with wood. Most modern-style winemakers, however, produce an international wine that does not adequately reflect the grape and its terroir.

Wine Enthusiast: Did your family resist your imported ideas?
Luca Currado:
My family was open to change.

With us, tradition is not something that started a hundred years ago, but is constantly evolving. We've learned that in order to show the wine at its best, we must work like a small tailor and dress the grape the way a tailor dresses a person.
WE: How does that apply in the winery?
LC: You can't use the same vinification for Barolo from different vineyards. We learned that our Lazzarito requires rapid fermentation and aging in small barrels. Our Rocche, on the other hand, needs 28 days of maceration and fermentation, then aging with the submerged-cap system used only by a few old-line wineries.
WE: Producers have told me that Italian grapes do not do well outside of Italy. What do you say?
LC: Some winemakers in California have struggled with Sangiovese, but I think Mondavi's La Familia line produces a good Barbera and Ponzi in Oregon makes a fine Arneis. I've also enjoyed a late-harvest Moscato from Kiona in Washington. Nebbiolo, however, seems most at home here in the Piedmont. But I'm glad to see winemakers popularizing our grapes wherever they may be.
WE: What do you think of the movement to drop vineyard designation and make Barolo and Barbaresco under proprietary names?
LC: Personally, I would not make any such wine for commercial reasons. I do not want to be the one who destroys the name of Barolo by using some fantasy name. Would Romanée-Conti stop using its famous appellation?

—Mort Hochstein

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