2003 Wine EnthusiastAward finalists Announced
Wine Enthusiast editor and publisher Adam Strum is pleased to announce Wine Enthusiast Magazine's 4th annual Wine Awards nominees. As is the case every year, the magazine's editors and contributors submitted their top choices for such accolades as Winemaker of the Year, Winery of the Year and Distiller of the Year.
"This year's nominees are the best of the best," said Strum. "And because so many names in the retail and importing industries came up in our initial awards discussions, we've added two new categories this year to honor them: Retailer of the Year and Importer of the Year."
This year's winners will be announced in our December 15 issue, and will be lauded at an awards celebration in New York on January 26, 2004.
The Finalists are...
of the Year
of the Year
Michael Skurnik Wines
Palm Bay Imports
W.J. Deutsch & Sons
Winery of the Year, America
Chateau Ste. Michelle
Winery of the Year, Europe
Dr. Pauly Bergweiler
Winery of the Year, New World
Bodega Catena Zapata
Concha y Toro
of the Year
of the Year
of the Year
Distiller of the Year
St. Georges Spirits
2002 Award Recipients
Back row: Douglas Murray and Aurelio Montes of Montes S.A., New World Winery of the Year. Jane Cunliffe, Consul General of New Zealand in New York, accepting for New Zealand as Wine Region of the Year. Carl Horton, president and CEO of Absolut Spirits Company, Distiller of the Year. Adrian Bridge, managing director of the Fladgate Partnership, European Winery of the Year. Front row: Gina Gallo, winemaker at Gallo of Sonoma, American Winery of the Year. Chairman and CEO of the Terlato Wine Group, Anthony Terlato, Man of the Year. Adam Strum, editor and publisher of Wine Enthusiast Magazine. Robert Mondavi, Lifetime Achievement Award winner. Managing director and technical manager of Baron Philippe de Rothschild, Winemaker of the Year Patrick Léon.
Q&A Mario and Armandino Batali
With his signature Converse high tops, baggy shorts and ponytail, 43-year-old chef, cookbook author and Food Network matinee idol Mario Batali is an icon on the American food scene. Few people realize, however, that Mario has a protégé waiting in the wings: his father, Armandino Batali, who is more than happy to reminisce about his son's early gastronomic proclivities.
In 1996, after 31 years as an engineer with Boeing, Armandino retired at age 58 to realize a long-held dream: sharing his passion for the traditional foods of Italy. To prepare for his second career, "Batali the Elder" attended an intensive cooking course in New York, and spent a butchering season traveling from farm to farm as the apprentice to two Tuscan norcinos. A few years later, he opened his own artisanal restaurant and sausage-making shop, Salumi, in Mario's hometown of Seattle. Mario's great grandparents opened Seattle's first Italian import store, Merlino's, in 1903, just a block from the spot where Armandino's Salumi now stands.
Wine Enthusiast: What was the first thing Mario ever cooked?
Armandino Batali: I have a great photo of Mario at three years old standing on a chair at the stove cooking with his grandfather. My dad was frying eggs in about half an inch of olive oil and Mario was very attuned to the process. The kids all helped in the kitchen.
Mario Batali: The family rules were that each child had to be involved in the shopping for and creation of one dinner a week. I liked Banquet Fried Chicken, because all I had to do was to put the tray in the oven, and I thought it was so cool that I was cooking. Of course, while my parents were at work I had to figure out what it meant to "put the oven on 350."
WE: What was Mario's favorite food?
AB: Probably something like pasta; I remember he liked pancakes for breakfast.
WE: When was the first time Mario drank wine?
AB: I think he first smacked his lips at about age five. He liked it.
MB: There was always wine at the table, and it was never a problem that the kids were around. We thought it was funny that grandma put water in her wine and no one else did.
WE: Which of you is the better cook?
AB: There's no doubt Mario is the better cook.
MB: Oh, I don't think that's necessarily true. It's like comparing Johnny Unitas and Bart Starr; two quarterbacks with different game plans.
WE: What is the sexiest food you cook?
AB: I'd say it's stuffed boneless quail; something about the texture when you put it in your mouth.
MB: For me, it's not even cooking. In August, for example, it would be something seasonal like a salad Caprese; the sensuality of an unbelievably ripe tomato you barely have to correct for it to give up its full flavor.
WE: What about this rumor we hear about you buying a vineyard in Italy?
MB: I bought a vineyard in Maremma. The place is called Fattoria la Mozza, and we're making a Morellino di Scansano as well as a super Tuscan with Mourvèdre and Tempranillo with the Sangiovese. We planted this year, so next year we'll have wine. In three years we'll have really good wine.
Big Money at The Big
Record sums for local charities at the 2003 Sonoma Valley Harvest
The theme was "N'Awlins"—New Orleans—and there were jambalaya, Cajun music, glittery masks and Mardi Gras beads everywhere at the 11th annual Sonoma Valley Harvest Wine Auction, held over Labor Day weekend at a variety of locations throughout the appellation.
Last year's auction wilted under sizzling temperatures, but this year the weather cooperated. Cool, foggy mornings cleared to the high-but-dry 90s. Event organizers had been concerned that the economy would stifle bidding as it has at other California wine auctions this year, but those fears, fortunately, were not realized. Under blue skies, the series of four live and silent auctions raised a record $650,350 for local charities.
The Main Event accounted for $600,100 of that, compared to 2002's take of $586,000. The highest overall lot was "Fund A Need," which enlisted bidders to donate money for the Sonoma Valley Mentoring Alliance; the Alliance provides academic and social support to 300 at-risk kids. Although they got nothing for their donations except satisfaction, 93 individual bidders contributed $102,000.
The Vadasz family (he's a founder of Intel and a grapegrower who sells to Blackstone) contributed an additional $50,000.
The second highest lot was "Be the King/Queen of the World!", a package for ten people to attend next year's auction. The highest wine-related lot was the $22,000 bid for a "Best of the Valley" collection of 123 wines that received high scores from wine publications, including Wine Enthusiast.
Eleven years ago, the Sonoma Valley auction split from the Sonoma County auction, and valley folk like to stress that their event has stayed true to the spirit of Sonoma Valley. "What's cool about this auction is that it's a collection of small growers, and the wineries are still families," says Mike Benziger of Benziger Family Winery. Celebrity charity wine auctioneer David Reynolds, somehow looking both silly and dignified in a harlequin's cap, has a different take: "This is closer to a frat party than a wine event!" —Steve Heimoff
Europe boils, but the vintage sizzles
Summer 2003, just over, was the hottest on record in much of Europe's vineyards. Temperatures not seen since 1950 wilted Bordeaux, while harvesting was undertaken earlier than it has been since 1822.
The summer was hot, and it was dry. Apart from some heavy summer storms, no rain fell in much of France and Italy from July through the end of August; Spain experienced its usual dry summer months, but with higher temperatures.
For those who buy European wines, the harvest is likely to bring plenty of New World-style wine at lower price points. It will also be a vintage with tasting notes of extreme contrasts, and records for the history books.
"The 2003 wines will be tannic, for sure, but for practical purposes 2003 is like nothing we've ever heard of," says Bernard Repolt, joint managing director of the premium Burgundy négociant firm, Louis Jadot.
"I am fascinated, it is like living history." Across Europe, thermometers flirted with 100 degrees day after day in much of July and August. Between June 1 and August 11, Bordeaux, for example, recorded 15 days above 95 degrees. The French meteorological agency, Méteo-France, reported that average rainfall in 2003 until the end of August was 15-20 inches, half the norm for that time of year. The Italian meteorological agency says 2003 is among the five worst droughts in 150 years.
In Alsace, usually the driest of France's major wine regions, rainfall was off by 50 percent. Only Champagne has a little cheer. "Everything has been thrown at us—frost, hail, storms, dryness," says Marie-Clare Collet, spokeswoman for the Champagne Wine Bureau.
Among the major European regions, only the Douro Valley in Portugal and the Wachau in Austria ran pretty much on schedule. Speaking at the end of August, Adrian Bridge of The Fladgate Partnership predicted that "if the weather continues this way, the probability of declaring 2003 a Port vinVine Cuttings (European Harvest),
tage year would be relatively high."
His family company makes Fonseca, Taylor-Fladgate, Croft and Delaforce Ports. Port vintages are declared two years after the harvest.
The reason drought is such a problem in European vineyards is that it usually rains in the summer, making it unnecessary—and illegal—to irrigate mature vineyards in France. Irrigation was approved in some regions in Italy only a few years ago.
"In comparison to any of the previous 'hot' vintages, most growers and consultants have a much better understanding of what constitutes ripeness," said Jeffrey Davies, a négociant based in Bordeaux and a San Francisco native. "And most wineries are much better equipped to deal with heat."