REFLECTIONS Celebrating 15 years of Wine

Looking Back at the Last 15 Years

When we last addressed you in this fashion, it was March 1998 and Wine Enthusiast was celebrating its 10th anniversary. Now that we've turned 15, we thought it was time to take another look back.

In the first part of this section of reflection, we will re-examine our fledgling days, first as Wine Times, and then, beginning in 1990, as Wine Enthusiast. You will see how we spent much of our first decade interviewing wine-loving celebrities, athletes and other prominent figures. Among our favorite cover stories were profiles of Morley Safer, Walter Cronkite, Quincy Jones, Lee Iacocca, Joe Montana, Terry Bradshaw, Joe Torre and fashion designer Nicole Miller. Wine industry luminaries also got their due. We ran high-impact features on Baroness Philippine de Rothschild, Michael Mondavi, Ernest Gallo and many others. Throughout our first 10 years we strived to portray wine in a positive light; let's face it, wine needed the boost.

The second part of this section focuses on the magazine's last five years. By 1998, our 10th anniversary, change was in the air—and in our offices. It was precisely five years ago that stock and wine markets around the world boomed. During that period we forged new paths that significantly improved the magazine.

We began 1998 with a complete redesign that earned Wine Enthusiast an Ozzie award for best new look among mid-size consumer magazines. Then, in 1999, we committed ourselves to bringing all wine tastings and reviews in house. By October, all reviews were solely our own; since then, every review that we've printed has been written by members of our New York tasting panel, or by our editors in Europe and on the West Coast.
The following year we made a concerted effort to expand the breadth of our global coverage. In addition, our Pairings section, where we match the joys of food with the subtleties of wine, became more adventurous, as did our spirits department, called Proof Positive. We culminated 2000 with our first annual Wine Enthusiast Awards.

In 2001, in response to the growing impact of the Internet, our Buying Guide became searchable online. By logging onto, readers can gain access to our database of wine ratings and reviews. Today, that database contains thousands of ratings and reviews. Finally, last year we focused on wine lifestyle and education. From tips about winery weddings and restaurant wine etiquette to adventures in wine countries around the world, it was a year of wine thrills and, thankfully, very few spills.

Wine Enthusiast looks forward to the future with open eyes and eager palates.


1988 Aces in Italy

Tuscany had a banner year in 1988, which the Consorzio del Chianti Classico described as a harvest whose "level of quality is one of the highest in recent vintages." As good as the Chianti riservas were, the super Tuscans and Brunellos were also among the best vintages of the decade.

Piedmont, too, was lucky this year—'88 was the first of three consecutively excellent vintages; in this region, the wines merited a 94 out of 100 points on the Wine Enthusiast Vintage Chart. The 1989 and 1990 vintages did even better, scoring 97 and 98 points, respectively.

1989 Parker pronuncimentos, Opus opens

Magnum Opus In the summer of 1989, the Baroness Philippine de Rothschild and Robert Mondavi donned work boots and hard hats to break ground on a new home for Opus One, a joint venture conceived by Mondavi and the late Baron Philippe de Rothschild.

At the time construction was to begin, architect Scott Johnson said he wanted to create a winery.

The North Also Rises
In a September/October 1989 article on Pacific Northwestern wines, we reported that "The pioneering phase of the Northwest wine industry is over. There are still people who get into it with a vine and a prayer, but there are also an increasing number of well-capitalized ventures that see it more as business than romance." But the area continues to grow in acreage and popularity, to wit: Wine Enthusiast's 2001 Wine Region of the Year was Washington State.

1990 Bye to the Times…In December 1990, the first issue of Wine
Enthusiast Magazine debuted. The magazine was called Wine Times from 1988 until 1990.

…and Hello to Good Value
Responding to demand for more reviews on wines of good value, Wine Times published its first annual Value Issue in March 1990, as we looked beyond well-known winemaking regions to the then lesser-known nations.

The Value Issue has remained one of our most popular annual efforts. As we grew as a publication over the years, our editors took on the additional job of making the picks.

1991 Merlot Madness
These were the days when Merlot was all the rage. In the March 1991 issue, Mary Ewing Mulligan, MW, wrote about the "international cult of Merlot vintners"; among her favorite bottlings at the time were Merlots from Columbia Winery, Clos Du Bois, Benziger, Franciscan and Rutherford Hill. The latter two, she wrote, are "in the $13 range." Another favorite, Shafer's Merlot, Mulligan lamented is "a dollar or two more."

Oldies and Still Goodies
Some of Ann Walker's favorite things from "A Sonoma Top 10," published in the October 1991 issue, are still going strong. She considered Dehlinger "Probably the Best Pinot Noir in California (at least most of the time)"; Marimar Torres's 1989 vintage was the "Most Outstanding New Chardonnay." The Sonoma Mission Inn ranks among her favorite places to stay, with rooms…rang[ing] from $175 to $290." This year, the rates are roughly $199 midweek and $409 on

1992 Morley Safer and the french paradox

Long-time CBS News correspondent and co-editor of 60 Minutes, Morley Safer, became an overnight hero to the American wine community in 1991 with his report on The French Paradox.

Safer's landmark story examined a remarkable medical conundrum: While the French consume a diet high in fat and smoke and drink alcohol at much higher rates than Americans, the French have a significantly lower incidence of heart disease than Americans do. Safer explained that a growing body of research concluded that regular but moderate consumption of red wine significantly reduces the risk of heart attacks and cardiovascular disease. Safer's 60 Minutes report sent red wine sales soaring.

The Toronto native and nine-time Emmy Award-winning reporter met with Edward Giuliano in Safer's office high above Manhattan's West 57th Street. Here are excerpts from that interview, which appeared in our May/June 1992 issue.

"I think the country is growing up to the extent that having a drink before dinner, and a bottle of wine with dinner, is perfectly acceptable behavior to most Americans. What makes it a good story is precisely that people are conditioned to believe, for many good reasons, that alcohol is bad for you. We know the devastating effects of it on families, on the roads and all of those things. As someone who drinks alcohol, whiskey and wine, I'm glad there's consciousness about designated drivers and that kind of thing. I think it's wonderful and something I'm conscious of, and I won't go out in the car [after drinking]. To discover that something that is such a wonderful part of our society is also not just harmful but has positive effects is terrific."

So what does Safer like to drink?
"I'm pretty much a red Bordeaux drinker. I used to drink white wine, but I've found for the last 10 years or more I just can't. It disagrees with me, except I can drink the Provençal rosés, which I call the Tab of wines, a breakfast wine. They're really wonderful—extremely light—kind of summer wines."

In our December issue, California winemaker Randall Grahm of Bonny Doon made predictions for us. Let's see how Grahm fared on the hot seat.

Chile will star with superpremiums.
Verdict: Good call. At the time, Don Melchor from Concha y Toro and Santa Rita's Casa Real stood alone. Since then, Sena, Almaviva and Montes Alpha "M" have come along.

Prediction: American Pinot Noir will be world class.
Verdict: Today Oregon is frequently compared to Burgundy; Sonoma Pinots from Williams Selyem, Kistler and Flowers, and many from Santa Barbara, are noteworthy.

Prediction: Sémillon will be a star.
Verdict: Sorry, Randall, you blew that one. While tasty and occasionally interesting (i.e. L'Ecole No. 41's barrel-fermented version from Washington), Sémillon has not yet reached star status.

1994 Tough guys, elegant ladies, immortal Zins

As a star on Fox Network's NFL coverage team, the former Steeler is tough on quarterbacks and coaches. But in our October issue, we wondered if he would be a discriminating critic when it came to wine. Well, yes and no.

· "If I have a great bottle of wine, it's an accident," he says. "I have no book about wine; I don't know vines, or grapes, or about the dirt. I come in from the hayfields with my cowboy boots and a T-shirt and smoke a Griffin cigar and have my Montrachet."

· "I'm American; I like California's Napa Valley wines. Cakebread, Sterling, Robert Mondavi. I like French and Italian wines, too; some are awesome, but I don't know the names. I buy 'em, write the names in a book. If I don't like 'em I put an "X" on the bottle."

· "What I like is a full-bodied taste, an oaky taste. I don't like a wine that bites. Some of the wines I like are $35 to $80 a bottle, but sometimes we just stumble across stuff that's very good, and it's cheap before it's famous. Someone told me enjoy it before it's famous because the price will go up."

Host of Jeopardy since 1987, two-time Emmy Award winner Alex Trebek is a wine enthusiast who has visited most of the major wine regions of the world. Trebek knows fine wine and knows what he likes:

"If you have enough money to buy a bottle of wine that has been aged properly, you will see an enormous difference between, say, a Château Lafite '66 or '59 and a regional Pauillac. It's the difference between driving a Toyota and a Rolls Royce. Not that there's anything wrong with driving a Toyota, but if you can drive a Rolls Royce every now and then, you'll enjoy an exceptional ride."

Coppola Buys Inglenook
Francis Ford Coppola, famed filmmaker and a regular in our pages over the years, made a splash in the wine world when he bought the remainder of the hallowed Inglenook Winery and estate for an estimated $9 million. As Steve Heimoff wrote in our March issue, the purchase of the giant Rutherford property closed a circle for Coppola, who had already carved out the Niebaum-Coppola winery from a portion of the Inglenook vineyards he had bought in 1975. With the Inglenook purchase (from Heublein), Coppola reunited all components of the original estate, which was founded in 1879 by Gustave Niebaum, a Finnish sea captain.

Today, the Coppola estate is one of Napa's prime tourist attractions, not to mention the source of the fine Rubicon wine. The estate houses a museum of film artifacts as well as a superb tasting room.

1996 Since we featured New York Yankees manager and (then) budding wine enthusiast Joe Torre in October 1996, the likely future Hall of Famer has won four World Series rings and has guided his team to the playoffs in all seven years that he's been at the helm. During that time, he's also had a baby daughter and beaten prostate cancer. Life has been good to Torre since he arrived in New York, and part of the good life has revolved around wine. Here are some highlights from Terry Robards's interview with the Brooklyn boy who came home to find great success as a
big-league skipper.

Favorite wines: Screaming Eagle and Dunn Cabernets, Duckhorn Merlots, Turley Zinfandels and Etude Pinot Noirs

Key wine influence: Rusty Staub, former ballplayer, restaurateur and present-day wine aficionado

Best wine tasting opportunities: Fourth of July parties at home

Greatest wine buying experience: Finding $10 bottles of Château Pétrus in St. Petersburg, Florida, way back when

Favorite New York restaurants: Sparks Steakhouse and F. Illi Ponte

Our February 1996 cover story profiled former CBS newsman and enophile Walter Cronkite. The following excerpt from Edward Guiliano's Q&A with Cronkite gives insight into the broadcaster's wine drinking background and his subtle, grandfatherly sense of humor.

The first time I was introduced to a reasonably good wine was after the liberation of Paris, and I found myself at a sidewalk café on the Champs Elysée. I sat there and had a glass of wine as everyone else seemed to be having one. It was wonderful. A nice cool, white wine. I knocked that off and knocked off another and I went back to work feeling delightful. In the course of several days of doing that I found that I was stricken by some sort of terrible lethargy in the middle of the afternoon when I was trying to work.

I was so concerned with the illness that I went to see a doctor. He asked about my habits and so forth and said, "Do you drink alcohol?" And I said, "Sure, doesn't everybody?" So he asked, "Do you have alcohol in the evening, at lunch, when?" Lunch, I answered. "What do you have?" White wine, I said. "How much?" Oh, maybe a bottle. The doctor looked at me, sort of gasped and told me, "And you wonder why you're going to asleep in the afternoon?" From then on I became a more intelligent wine drinker.

1997 Not a Straw Man
In the April issue, Wine Enthusiast delved into the mysteries of one of Italy's most underappreciated wines. Amarone, from the Veneto in northeastern Italy, is made from Corvina grapes that traditionally are dried on straw mats before pressing. The result is a wine of enormous concentration, power and flavor.

Top Amarones from our tasting:
95 Giuseppe Quintarelli 1986 Amarone Classico
94 Fabiano 1990 Amarone Classico
94 Luigi Righetti 1990 Capitel de Roari Amarone
93 Bertani 1967 Amarone Classico Superiore
93 Masi 1988 Amarone Classico
93 Sartori 1990 Amarone Classico
93 Zenato 1986 Amarone Classico


When wine companies such as Beringer, Mondavi, Canandaigua and Chalone went public during the '90s bull market, you could have made a fast fortune buying early and selling soon thereafter. In our cover story profiling the increasing number of potentially intoxicating investment opportunities that were popping up, we noted that between January 1997 and March 1998, the composite performance of several publicly traded wineries exceeded the performance of the S&P 500. A lot has changed since then, and neither Mondavi nor Beringer has been able to keep the early pace. Today Mondavi stock (MOND; Nasdaq) sells for about $25 a share, down from a 1997 high of $56.75. Beringer has since been bought by Foster's of Australia (2000), and Beringer Blass Wine Estates operates as a privately held entity. But had you bought Beringer early, when it was selling for about $42 a share, and held onto your stock, you would have made more than $13 a share when it sold to the Aussies for more than $55 a share.

It's nice to be noticed and even nicer to be honored for your achievements. In November 1998, nine months after launching a completely redesigned and refocused Wine Enthusiast, we received Folio's top prize for magazine redesign. Earning an Ozzie Award for Excellence in Magazine Design was no small achievement. We were one of only 49 winners among more than 1,000 magazine contestants.

In 1998, Emeril Lagasse was taking the nation by storm—and spices. With his New Orleans and Las Vegas restaurants hopping, and his Food Network career taking off like chorizo sizzling in a pan, he sat down with writer John Rezek to discuss cooking, Champagne fancies, growing up in New England and culinary seduction. We even learned that the king of "Bam!" is not averse to cracking open a bottle of Château Latour to go with fried chicken. Now that's a party to which we'd like an invitation. (December)

Editors seize control of wine reviews, sniff around cork taint and prove that skiing and wine are not poles apart

In "Planting for Perfection," our May cover story, we examined where grapes grow best in California and the Pacific Northwest. And what did we learn? Most important, that phylloxera, a vine louse that struck California hard in the late 1980s, provided the impetus for growers to finally comprehend and take into consideration the concept of terroir. Forced to replant, but more cognizant than their predecessors about where to plant which varieties, vineyard owners largely got it right. And as a result, today we as consumers benefit from Cabernet being grown in the right places (i.e., Napa) and not the wrong ones (i.e., Monterey).

Notice something different about our May 1999 Buying Guide? This was the first issue in which Wine Enthusiast's editors began rating and reviewing wines. We started with Italy and by the October issue, all wine reviews were the work of our editors. And that's how it's been ever since.
90 Felsina 1996 Berardenga Chianti Classico; $18. Deep color, a full nose, and a great mouthful of classic Chianti flavors, especially dark cherry and licorice. Lots of texture and an excellent finish. Drinkable now with hearty food yet lots of room to improve over the next four years. Good through 2008.

From Aspen to Zermatt, everything you ever wanted to know about combining the thrills of winter skiing with the luxuries of fine wine and food was covered in our December issue. We found that from Cortina to Squaw Valley, there is nothing preventing avid ski and wine enthusiasts from mixing these pleasures. These days, whether you're in the Rockies, Vermont, the Sierras or the European Alps, restaurants and lodges with serious wine lists abound.


Michel Rolland, winemaking consultant to the world, boasts nearly 100 clients on six continents. The wines he makes are world renowned. His signature style is that of richness, fruit expressive and hedonism. In our June 2000 issue, European Editor Roger Voss profiled Rolland (above), he of Pomerol in Bordeaux, but also of California, Italy, Spain, Chile, Argentina and as far off as India and China. When asked what it's like to be the world's most sought-after flying winemaker, the 55-year-old responded by saying he's not that, "except in the sense that I'm always on planes."

What exactly does a sommelier do? This was just one of the age-old questions posed and answered by author Paul Franson in our October cover story, "Secrets of the Sommeliers." For starters, a sommelier puts together the wine list and thus must buy the wines for his or her restaurant. Choosing by-the-glass offerings, making recommendations, opening and decanting bottles, and general interaction with the customers are all part of the gig. How do you become one? Earning the title of Master Sommelier requires conquering the basics of serving, passing several written tests, and identifying wines by variety, region and vintage. Maybe that explains why only about a dozen Master Sommeliers are currently working in American restaurants.


The definitive guide to careers in the wine industry, Gary Heck in high gear and the lingering sadness of 9/11

Have you ever considered becoming a vineyard manager, winemaker, retailer, sommelier or importer? How about a cooper, distributor, or even a wine writer? In our May issue, Peter Kupfer discussed just about every potential career in wine and offered the good, the bad and the ugly in terms of perks, pitfalls and salaries. For anyone who ever gave thought to getting into wine as a profession, it was can't-miss reading.

The second annual Wine Enthusiast Awards were announced in our Best of the Year issue. Richard Sands, CEO of Constellation Brands, which represents more than 60 wine brands, was our Man of the Year for 2001. Sands took over what was then Canandaigua, the mammoth upstate New York company founded by Sands's father and grandfather. Under his guidance, Constellation expanded to acquire Franciscan Estates, Simi and a number of Washington wineries grouped under the Corus Brands umbrella. He also spearheaded a joint venture with Australian powerhouse BRL Hardy to market and distribute Hardy wines across the United States.

Other winners included: Beringer Vineyards, American Winery of the Year; Castello Banfi, European Winery of the Year; Rosemount Estate, New World Winery of the Year; Riccardo and Renzo Cotarella, Winemakers of the Year; Washington State, Wine Region of the Year; and Jim Beam Brands Worldwide, Distiller of the Year.

In recent memory, the single event with the greatest impact on our lives occurred on Tuesday, September 11, 2001. More than 3,000 people from over 50 countries lost their lives that day. In his November column, Wine Enthusiast Publisher and Editor Adam Strum paid tribute to One World Trade Center, the former home to Windows on the World, as well as to the victims of this watershed occurrence. Strum, who himself proposed to his wife, Sybil, at Windows, noted that this restaurant, with its panoramic views of New York, was an unparalleled venue for celebration. Thus, with a donation of $10,000 to the Windows of Hope foundation, Wine Enthusiast Companies did what it could to alleviate grief and sorrow. For the many of us who dined and celebrated at Windows, or attended one of the many wine tastings held there, the destruction of the towers and its great restaurant remains a scar on our hearts.


The why, where and how of staging the perfect winery wedding were answered by Associate Editor Daryna McKeand in her February cover story, "Vows in the Vineyards." Potential venues, probable costs, catering options and flowers, you name it, we had it. And best wishes to Daryna herself, who is getting married this month at Hanna Winery in Sonoma County. You think she might have taken something from this assignment?

A controversial Thanksgiving: For years our November issue has included a Pairings article that spotlights a regional Thanksgiving feast. In 2002, Jeff Morgan introduced us to a trio of California winemakers and vineyard managers who hunt their own game and whose favorite Thanksgiving recipes feature wild duck, turkey and boar. After reading about the hunting traditions of Terry Mathison, Dennis Cakebread (right) and Steve Pessagno, it seemed as though many of our subscribers would have preferred that we serve up the hunters themselves. Of the hundreds of articles that have run in Wine Enthusiast over the past 15 years, few have elicited such passionate letters to the editor.

New York's Whitney Museum of American Art was the venue for Wine Enthusiast's first-ever Toast of the Town, held May 13. At this sold-out consumer gathering there were 125 wineries pouring for 1,200 guests. In the Whitney's galleries, attendees were treated to a viewing of the Biennial exhibition, which highlighted contemporary American art.

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