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GrandCrus1GrandCrus2The Class of 2017 has arrived. We especially like Chateau Bouscaut, Chateau Canon La Gaffeliere and Chateau Leoville Barton.

Wines-MexicoAlong with Andy Ruiz Jr., several wine producers from Mexico are positioned to obliterate their European competition, even with tariffs on the horizon. Among those we especially like are: Vin Sur, Madera 5, & Casa Magoni.

bordeauxgrandcrubordeauxgrandcru1Grands Crus de Bordeaux are out with their 2016 wines. At a recent NYC tasting, we especially liked the Chateau Canon-La-Gaffeliere (Saint Emilion) and Chateau Durfort-Vivens (Margaux), as well as Chateau De Chantegrive (Graves).

The Chateau De Chantegrive “Caroline” (Blanc, 2016) was especially good when paired later with Nepalese Momos — matching up well with Jhol sauce and their big spices.


PinotGrigioItalian Pinot Grigio producers now have their own DOC, and a renewed commitment to upgrade their quality.

Wine-OHauFrom Ohau, New Zealand, Woven Stone 2017 Sauvignon Blanc is superb.

Wine-Nusserhof2Nusserhof — old world wines from the South Tyrol (autonomous region of northern Italy) well suited to celebrate the new life of Easter.

Mayr family wines, made with local/ancient varietals, including: Lagrein, Schiava, Teroldego, and Blatterle are heavenly, but can be found locally at Astor Wines & Spirits in NYC.

BordeauxNYC18cBordeauxNYC18d.JPGThe Union Des Grand Crus De Bordeaux roadshow passed through NYC this week with an ocean of silky and velvety 2015s, ready to drink now.

Weather-wise 2015 was a good year for all varieties. But the whites seem to have been especially favored, including the blanc from Chateau Smith Haut Lafitte. Among the velvety reds, Chateau La Gaffeliere, St. Emilion, was tasting well. From St. Julien, Chateau Gruaud Larose and Chateau Lagrange, with their higher levels of cab, are sturdy and sublime (now and for the long haul).

For under $20, Chateau de Chantegrive (blanc et rouge) is a terrific value.

Wine-ChateauJeanFaure2014Wine-ObaloFrom Saint Emilion to Rioja and Napa Valley — and then to Veneto, three special wines and a Grappa that make one want to give thanks: Chateau Jean Faure, 2014; Obalo Crianza, 2013; Stony Hill, Chardonnay, 2010; Botegga Alexander Grappa Cabernet.


Wine-ChinaFrom a wine list at a Manhattan hotel restaurant (amounts in $). Au Yun should be Ao Yun.

NapaFiresStatus quo for the California wine industry has been shown in recent days to be unsustainable. But, hopefully Route #29 and the heart of Napa Valley can be saved from the enveloping flames — with their wines going on to be part of ennobled rather than debased living.

Wine-Grignolino1The welterweight from Piedmont with plenty of punch. Grignolino wine is what the locals drink, and delighted foreigners in the know — when they can find it. We recommend the Quercino Grignolino D’Asti, la Giribaldina, 2015.


AustrianWine1AustrianWines-Schandl.JPGTo make Summer dining really sing, Austrian wines are just the thing. Not all, but the good ones are really good, distinctive and great with food, especially pork.

We like the wines of Peter Schandl, located in Burgenland–formerly part of Hungary. Their Furmint and Blaufrankisch (Gamay) will add pleasure to the most challenging barbecue menus.

Also, Hutter, from Wachau, producer of terrific Gruner Veltliner and Riesling (but hard to find in the US). Historically, the best wines produced in Austria are consumed on the spot and not for export, but fortunately for us some are now getting through.

Wines-ItalianWhiteWe recommend these zesty white blends, from central and northeastern Italy, loaded with substance and a joy to drink, especially with hearty foods. Also like the single varietal Ronco Dei Tassi Malvasia, 2016.

Wines-AustraliaWines-RoccaSome recent discoveries, from Australia and Napa Valley — quite diverse but all well suited for friends and grilled foods. The Rocca Vespera 2014 (a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot & Syrah), from Yountville, CA, is especially good.

Others from Greece, Spain and Portugal: Kechris Xinomauro, 2013; Semelle Ribera del Duero (Tinto Fino & Merlot), 2014; Duas Quintas Reserva Red 2012

RoseDrinking Rose’ wines can be a counterintuitive experience. Given the color, it’s easy to think, watery and sweet, but the good ones are dry, complex, structured and glorious, especially with food. Corsica is a go-to place for Rose’, but Germany and Greece are right there as well, with local varietals and styles that make for memorable Rose’ experiences. Three that we like: Meyer-Nakel Rose’ 2016 Spatburgunder Ahr, Wagner Stemple Rose’ 2016 Gutswein, and Kechris Rose’ 2016 Restina-Xinomauro

ProvenceWinesKnown for le rose’, producers from Provence are also making some fine red blends. Two that we like are Chateau Real d’Or, 2013, a blend of Cabernet, Syrah and Grenache, and Monaco Le Rocher, 2014, from the same producer.

Wines-MaitreDeChaiFrom a recent tasting, two that got our attention: Maitre-de-Chai, Sonoma 2015 Carignon Poor Richard Vineyard and Bellwether, Finger Lakes 2014 Pinot Noir Sawmill Creek. Both are medium-bodied, single-varietal wines, with distinctive terroir.

Wine-Patel1Wine-PatelRaj Patel presented his 2013 Napa Valley wines at DAG Modern in NYC, 4/6.

After just 10 years of making wine, Mr. Patel has joined the elite ranks of California wine producers — with his winemaker Luc Morlet from Champagne, and grape contracts from some of California’s best vineyards (including Rutherford).

The Patel 2013 Malbec succeeds on all cylinders; the Red Blend and Cabernet Sauvignon are distinctive and satisfying new interpretations of familiar grapes, terroir, and style.

Wines-SpainClosLentiscusWines-SpainMinatoIncreasing numbers of wine producers from Spain are innovating in the right direction, which means cleaner wines (with fewer or no additives). The results are joyful for mind, body, and soul. From a recent tasting Manel Avinyo’s Clos Lentiscus (Methode Champenoise) sparkling wines were superb, with no sulfites. Also of note were two Mencia blends: Nanclares Minato de Rana 2014, Ribeira Sacra and Cobero Tinto 2013, VdT Valle de Liebane. In the Minato, Mencia is blended with Garnacha. In the Cobero Tinto, Mencia is blended with Palomino.

There’s more to good wine than ‘just good taste,’ and these wines from Spain embody that.

vinitaly2017vinitaly2017cvinitaly2017dvino17At this year’s NYC stop on the annual Italian Wines Americas Tour, one of the talks was on rare varietals, including the recently rediscovered Recontina grape in Veneto. Recontina wine, made by Montelo Colliasolani, was sampled with other rare varietals — and was especially noteworthy.

We learned that the rare Italian varietal, Grignolino (a personal favorite), will become more rare as producers in Piedmont dig up Grignolino vines and replace them with Nebbiolo. Sorry to hear that.

Some of the best wines presented at Vino 2017 are not available in NYC (although producers are seeking representation), including from Apulia: Caiaffa Vini and Agrinardella.

Photographs: Stephen Wise

slowwines2017dslowwines2017eslowwines2017fThe slow wine movement has been underway in Italy for seven years now, with its adherents practicing what they term “virtuous agriculture.”  Today, that means no use of chemical weedkillers in the vineyard. Many slow wine producers are certified organic and are using natural fertilizers and organic plant protection. The results, when the stars line up, are vital great tasting wines.

At a recent tasting in NYC, wines from 98 slow wine producers were presented. None that we tried was undrinkable. Most were superb. Among our favorites: Barale Fratelli, Piedmont; Ciabot Berton, Piedmont; Brandini, Piedmont; Mossio Fratelli, Piedmont; San Gimignano Sono Montenidoli, Tuscany; Frecciarossa, Lombardy and Vallone, Puglia.

bordeaux17lbordeaux17mbordeaux17eTo help chase away the melancholy, Bordeaux Grand Cru producers, with their precise wines from the “classic” 2014 vintage, are barnstorming America.

With the world awash in bold and exciting wines, Bordeaux producers are making adjustments to  stay in the game, and attract younger wine enthusiasts, including (on the left bank) blends that are heavier in Merlot than Cabernet Sauvignon — and drinkable when they are released.

Our favorites from a recent tasting of 2014 Grand Crus: Chateau Lynch-Bages, Chateau Kirwan, Chateau Siran, Chateau Smith Haut Lafitte, Chateau Phelan Segur, Chateau Beau Sejour Becot, and Chateau Canon.

wineglass“Like the best wine…that goeth
down sweetly, causing the lips of those
that are asleep to speak.” Song of Solomon VII, 9

Some wines that we especially liked this year:

Y Rousseau Cabernet Sauvignon, Mount Veeder, California 2013
Big Basin Vineyard Pinot Noir, Santa Cruz, California 2013
Detert Family Winery Cabernet Franc, Oakville, California 2014
Raptor Ridge Pinot Noir, Shea Vineyard, Willamette Valley, Oregon 2013
Quinta de Chocapalha Castelao, Lisboa, Portugal 2014
Chateau Ka Source de Rouge, Bekaa Valley, Lebanon 2013
Dr. F, Weins-Prum Riesling Spatlese Wehlener Sonnenuhr, Mosel, Germany 2013

Wine, with its biblical references to the kingdom of God and man’s renewal, is a reminder that ultimate reality is found in living sacramentally — as an offering.

wine-naturalwine-natural4Years ago, innovations in wine making included the addition of chemicals and inorganic substances to the process, in an effort to increase grape yield, alter taste profiles and stabilize the wine—with unhealthful consequences for humans. Today’s innovations are going the other way as wine consumers and producers pursue honest and clean wines, with some even attempting to avoid any added sulfites. The results range from swill to sublime wines—rising to the level of art. Producers we recommend: Donkey & Goat, California; Montebruno, Oregon; Vinca Minor, California; Franz Strohmeier, Austria and Quantico, Italy.

wine-menciaribeirasacraRecently became acquainted with wines from northwestern Spain, made with the Mencia grape. The combination of grape and place in this case leads to righteous wines that make a person feel like they’ve experienced goodness. Haven’t had a bad one yet. Enjoyed “Vel’uveyra” with Thai chicken and pumpkin — made with ginger and coconut milk. The Mencia was in full-voice.


Ribeira Sacra (DO)
Adega Ronsel do Sil “Vel’uveyra” 2014

Bierzo (DO)
Bodegas Paixar “Paixar” 2011
Vinedos y Bodegas Pittacum 2010

wines-israel4“…no one pours new wine into old wine skins…but new wine must be put into fresh skins, and both are saved,” Luke 5: 37-38

On the eve of former Israeli president Shimon Peres’s funeral, Temple Emanu-el in NYC held a wine symposium showcasing the leading wines from the Modern State of Israel. The presentation included a talk by Israeli wine ambassador Adam Montefiore and a tasting of some 100 wines. Mr. Peres, an advocate of a the so-called New Middle East, was a strong backer of the Israeli wine industry, and a long time opponent of a two-state solution. (“It was precisely in order to sabotage the option of a territorial compromise with the Palestinians that Mr. Peres lent his support to the settlers movement.” Shlomo Ben-Ami, 2006)

In his remarks, Mr. Montefiore connected wine to the rituals and history of the Jewish people’s biblical past, describing Israeli wine today as coming from a “new world country in an ancient world.”

By clinging to a tradition and Messianism (apart from the true Messiah) Jews of the Modern State of Israel have perpetrated a fraud, undermining themselves and countless others — in effect as old wine skins trying to be new. To be truly ambassadors of the “New” starts with recognizing the Savior who fulfilled and renewed the everlasting Covenant (with wine representing His blood), erecting the Church as the true Israel — People of God. “A new commandment I give you, that you love one another: that as I have loved you, you also love one another.” John 13:34

With 5000 years of winemaking history, numerous microclimates and distinctive terroir, ancient varietals, consultants and monks, the table is being set for serious winemaking going forward from the region. Would that all the neighbors were invited.

We recommend: Margalit Enigma 2011 Shomron (Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Petit Verdot), Tura Merlot 2013 Samaria, Clos de Gat Ayalon Valley 2010 Judean Hills.


wine-meyernakelHaving once been derided by Robert Parker as “grotesque and ghastly,” German Pinot Noir has in recent years been working out its aesthetic and achieving respectability. Two producers that we recommend are Furst and Weingut Meyer-Nakel, both from Rudi Wiest Selections.

ericdemuthHappy to recommend Eric Demuth’s Sonoma Cabernet Sauvignon Chalk Hill 2012.

FourSeasons2FourSeasons4FourSeasons8As the historic Four Seasons Restaurant began auctioning off its modernist stuff, ahead of its July 29 closing, the bar remained open allowing auction-goers a last call.


Wines-SouthAmericaSouth American wine producers are making serious wines — and with something for everyone. Three that we liked at a recent tasting, from Argentina: Finca Sophenia Roberto L Malbec, C. Sauvignon, Merlot, C. Franc, P. Verdot 2012; Cheval des Andes Malbec, C. Sauvignon, P. Verdot 2011; and from Uruguay: Estancia La Cruz Jano Tannat 2013.

The tannat from Estancia La Cruz is especially good with quinoa salad and a cheese burger, followed by chocolate.

Wines-OrdonezJorge Ordonez, wine producer from Malaga, Spain, held a special NYC tasting recently for his superb desert wines, made from Muscat of Alexander grapes grown in the mountains near the Mediterranean sea, not far from the city of Malaga.

Describing the hand-harvesting process, using donkeys on mountainsides that can reach a 70 degree inclination, Mr. Ordonez said everything related to making his wines was “difficult.” Good sign. With five harvests beginning in August and running through October, the grapes come from 100 year-old vines and organic methods, offering a range of tasting and price options. On the higher end, Old Vines #3, 2011 (photo) has an intense fruit taste combined with notes of honey (515 g R.S.) and jasmine that can hang with the best sweet wines from Germany, France, Hungary and Italy.

Wines-WIK2The wine collection of William Koch, featuring 43,000+ bottles, many of the best wines of the last century — described by Serena Sutcliffe: “in oenological terms, it is a Bible” — was reduced by 20,000 bottles this past weekend, after a three day sell-off at Sotheby’s in New York.

The 2730 lots, including several DRC La Tache 1971, saw bidders willing to part with upwards of $34,000/bottle ($343,000 paid for 10 bottles Chateau Mouton-Rothchild, 1945), from a collection that had been riddled with bogus wines. Starting in 2005, Mr. Koch employed an army of experts (including FBI & CIA), spending $millions, to ferret out the fakes and bring those responsible to justice.

Only a scant 21 lots in the sale were wines from Spain. Perhaps Spanish wines were the ones he chose to keep. Good choice.

Wine-CorsicaOrengaDeGafforyWine-Lucasof1Happy to recommend a couple of fine wines from Corsica and Germany, that won’t break the bank and are ready to drink now: Domaine Oregna De Gaffory, OG Rouge 2013, and Lucashof 2015 Riesling QBA.

Wine-TurkeyVinkaraFrom the Kalecik district of Ankara Province, Turkey, comes a wine made from the local red grape varietal, of the same name, Kalecik Karasi. Bordering Georgia and Armenia, Turkey is among the first places where wines were made on earth. One producer we recommend is Vinkara, with an assortment of reds and an especially good sparkling wine: Vinkara, Kalecik Karasi Yasasin Brut (2013).

Winery owner Ardic Gursel seen here at a recent tasting in NYC.

Kalecik Karasi works especially well with roasted meat and spicy Asian food.

Wine-CheninBlanc2Spanning over 600 miles in Central France, from the Atlantic ocean to just west of Lyon, the Loire Valley is known for Voltaire, Sully, Joan of Arc and Chenin Blanc.

Chenin Blanc wines are made bone-dry, semi-dry, and sweet — sublimely so in some cases.

From a recent tasting, we liked, from AOC Vouvray, Domaine de la Gaverie 2014 and Domaine Huet 2014. And on the sweet side, from Anjou, the Quarts de Chaume Domaine des Baumard 2010. The Domaine de la Gaverie can be had for under $20 retail, and is great for picnics with ham and seafood.

On the red side, Pinot Noir from the Loire Valley can be really good when the stars line up. One that got our attention was Christian Venier Cheverny Rouge, “La Pierre aux Chiens” 2014 — light-bodied and fruity, yet raw with loads of character. They also have a Pinot Noir/Gamay blend that is said to be superb.

Wine-DomaineIsleSaintPierreKnown for abundant sun and grape varietals, France’s southern Rhone River is the go-to place for good wines at a low price.

Domaine Isle Saint Pierre Bouches-du-Rhone Rouge — a blend of Cabernet Franc, Merlot, Arinarnoa and Petit Verdot — is a round, balanced, organic, and terrific wine, available for under $10 in some places.