I was recently asked by my friend Lana Bortolot for a quick interview, to help contribute to a piece she was writing about the value (or lack thereof) of certifications in the wine biz. Lana’s work has subsequently been published in a well-researched and well-considered article, SevenFifty Daily’s Guide to Wine Education.
My dime-store-level philosophizing can be found in the article’s section on the Society of Wine Educators (SWE). I was shocked, in a decidedly pleasant way, at how many of the other sources quoted in Lana’s article that I happen to know personally, have worked with, and/or consider to be friends, which I suppose underscores my comments that Lana quoted in the piece.
It’s kind of difficult to imagine, but there was a time a few years ago when certifications were a bit of a fire-starter topic in the wine blogging community; the value propositions of the programs in general were challenged in general. Over the years, I’ve tended to put up camp squarely in the wine-certs-are-a-good-thing territory, though I’ve often cautioned that not all of them are created equally (Lana hits on what I would consider the most important and widely recognized of the bunch in her article). The TLDR version of my past coverage: certifications are a means to differentiation, which is rarely a bad thing; but do your research, have an “end-game” in mind, and choose your certification path wisely to meet it.
If you’re considering getting your feet wet in the wine certification pool, give the SevenFifity Daily overview a read.
- 14 Sedger David Syrah (Rogue Valley): The view through this glass is smoky, dark, & dense; but what you can see is darn attractive. $42 B+ >>find this wine<<
- 14 The Hess Collection Estate Grown Cabernet Sauvignon (Mount Veeder): Supple and gorgeous; or, it will be in about 7 or so years. $62 A- >>find this wine<<
- 13 Stewart Merlot (Napa Valley): All of the notes in the Merlot chorus are being hit in tune here, you just need to listen for them. $50 A- >>find this wine<<
- 14 Micheal Shaps Honah Lee Vineyard Petit Manseng (Monticello): The Manseng equivalent of sultry characters in a political intrigue. $30 B+ >>find this wine<<
- NV Piera Martellozzo 1899 075 Carati Millesimato Extra Dry (Prosecco): From straw to creamy peach & nary a tasty beat missed. $NA B >>find this wine<<
- 15 Monte Tondo Casette Foscarin (Soave Classico): Lemon zest and nuts can be sexy. Seriously, I'm not kidding; and neither is this. $27 B+ >>find this wine<<
- 13 Basilisco Teodosio (Aglianico del Vulture): Plum, dark chocolate truffles, and vanilla, wrapped up in exquisitely smooth leather. $20 B+ >>find this wine<<
- 15 Weingut Oekonomierat J. Geil Scheurebe Kabinett (Rheinhessen): Flowers, spice, and more than just a kiss of candied pear. $16 B >>find this wine<<
- 15 Saint-Hilaire Blanquette de Limoux Brut (Languedoc-Roussillon): Apples, flowers, & a friendly disposition when it comes to food. $13 B >>find this wine<<
- 14 Gerard Bertrand Cuvee Thomas Jefferson Cremant de Limoux Brut (Languedoc-Roussillon): C'mon, now you're just kind of showing off. $20 B+ >>find this wine<<
By now, most of you reading this will have at least some knowledge of the devastation that is impacting Northern California wine country in the wake of over one dozen fires that, at the time of this writing, have left over twenty people dead, burned more than three thousand or more structures to the ground, and has consumed roughly 170,000 acres (for some perspective, that is and area larger than the city of Chicago).
Because the situation is changing rapidly due to weather conditions, it will be some time before we know the true impact to the wine businesses in Napa, Sonoma, and Mendocino, and to the lives of the people who are at the heart of those businesses. For those of you who are looking for details on the impact, WineBusiness.com blog is keeping a list of winerires destroyed or damaged in the blazes.
Personal reports sent to me by those in the area all have one thing in common: the situation is just as bad – if not worse – than depicted in news reports.Fortunately, a good number of the people that I know in those areas have checked in as safe, but how the fires have affected harvests, aging wines in storage, inventory, vineyards… we’re not going to know the extent of that anytime too soon. The feeling of near-helplessness from the Left Coast as friends tell me they are evacuating their homes (some multiple times) has been, in a word, heartbreaking.
What those of us who are remote and care deeply about those gorgeous areas, their beautiful wines, and their wonderful people can do, however, is donate to those funds that are in a position to do something to help. Following are donation links provided by McCue Marketing Communications:
Please consider donating.
When I visited venerable Alsatian wine icon Hugel on a media jaunt earlier this year (2017), they were nary a year removed from the family tragedy of Etienne Hugel’s untimely death, and their CEO had left the company the week prior to my visit. When I mentioned to 13th-generation family member Marc-André Hugel that many of the faces in their most recent welcome video could no longer be found with the company, he quipped “You remember [the tv show] Dallas? It’s just like that here.”
If anything defines Hugel, it’s probably that combination of reverential, hard working focus and tongue-in-cheek, cavalier acceptance that Marc-André displayed with affable gusto during my visit. Which isn’t surprising, considering that if you took too seriously the things with which Hugel has to deal on a regular basis, you’d probably blow a gasket. As Marc-André put it, “having a company in the middle of a 2,000-year-old city is… not easy…”
Hugel makes about one million bottles of wine annually, exporting them to over 100 countries, and is fond of testing out new tech in the cellar (to wit: they claim to be the first company in the world to employ a robo-palette). But that cellar dates from 1543, and happens to be near the center of the improbably precious town of Riquewihr. The oldest barrel therein dates back to the early 1700s (full disclosure: I might have crawled inside of it… also, they generate some downright impressive tartrate deposits). The combination of relatively large production, modern touches, and ancient surroundings requires the careful use of their restricted (and highly regulated) space.
Life in the vineyards is equally “not easy.” Their most famous is probably Schoenenbourg (which Marc-André described as “my whole fortune!”); not only does it sits within spitting distance of Riquewihr, but it has, at its steepest extent, slopes that are around thirty-five degrees. Add to that farming difficulty the pressure of maintaining a site that has been revered for hundreds of years (Voltaire is said to have once owned holdings there, for example, which might explain where the Hugel clan gets some of their humor)…
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