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2021 Grand Tastings: The Persistence of Wine

A woman pouring from a bottle of Taylor Fladgate 40 Year Old Tawny Port into a glass
California vintners Mark and Teresa Aubert
Four guest enjoying the 2021 Grand Tasting
Bodega Garzón founder Alejandro Bulgheroni, managing director Christian Wylie pour the 2017 Balasto red blend from Uruguay for Italian vintner Francesco Zonin.
Laura Catena holding a glass of red wine
Hugh Davies holding a bottle of Schramsberg sparkling wine
The 40th Anniversary Wine Experience Grand Tasting book next to bottles of red wine
Laurent and Beatrice Drouhin holding a bottle of white Joseph Drouhin wine
Grace Evenstad holding a bottle of Domaine Serene Pinot Noir
Golfer-vintner Cristie Kerr and husband Erik Stevens holding a bottle of Kerr Cellars wine
Bottles of San Benedetto water on ice.
Sommelier Erik Segelbaum and Ryann Deering
Deborah and Bill Harlan at Wine Spectator’s New York Wine Experience Grand Tasting.
Rupert Symington and his son Hugh at the table for Dow's Port
Paul Hobbs holding a bottle of his Cabernet Sauvignon
Demeine Estates managing partner Carlton McCoy, Jr., and president Philana Bouvier
Alberto Medina Moro of Emilio Moro opening a bottle of red wine
Gina Gallo, glass of red wine in hand, checks out the map of the Grand Tastings
Domaine des Sénéchaux's Sara Hachemian holding a glass of red wine

Many of the world's greatest winemakers could be found Thursday night in New York's Times Square. They had not gathered to grab a show at the recently reopened theaters of Broadway. Rather, they came to lift glasses and toast being together again. After skipping 2020, the New York Wine Experience returned to the Marriott Marquis Times Square, celebrating the event's 40th anniversary. The three-day event kicked off with the first of two Grand Tastings, as 210 wineries poured some of the world's most coveted wines for consumers, all of them rated 90 points or higher by Wine Spectator’s editors.

The unspoken toast as glasses of Champagne were raised? We're back.

"It's so good to be here in person, to see everyone together," said Italian wine icon Piero Antinori, who presented his 1997 Solaia as a Wine Star during the weekend's seminars. Over the past 19 months, many vintners have struggled to travel and meet with longtime clients and potential new ones. They've learned to host virtual tastings. They've also learned that there is no substitute for giving someone a fist bump and telling wine lovers face-to-face what makes their wine unique.

One of the best things about the Wine Experience is that winemakers from different parts of the world get to meet: Italian vintner Piero Antinori (left) and Antinori winemaker Renzo Cotarella caught up with California vintner Naoko Dalla Valle and her daughter and winemaker Maya Dalla Valle (right). (Daphne Youree)

There was electricity in the air as attendees headed into two ballrooms. There were also new procedures to navigate, with a strict COVID vaccine mandate in place for large events.

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Danny Meyer and Chef Hillary Sterling’s Ci Siamo Has Arrived

Addison signage
Chef Rogelio Garcia plating a dish at Luce

Seasoned Italian chef Hillary Sterling’s Ci Siamo is now open in New York. Backed by Danny Meyer’s Union Square Hospitality Group, the restaurant debuted Oct. 12 at Manhattan West, a new development project adjacent to Hudson Yards. The Italian name translates to “here we are” or “we’ve arrived,” which the team notes is particularly fitting for New York’s post-pandemic revival.

Sterling, who previously worked at Vic's, the Beatrice Inn and A Voce, is focusing on classic dishes including homemade pastas as well as smaller bites like gnocco fritto and entrées from a wood-burning oven like whole trout with pine nuts and raisins.

“Her cooking is just incredible because it is so simply delicious,” said beverage director Robin Wright, who most recently served as a sommelier at Wine Spectator Grand Award winner Daniel. Wright worked closely with USHG's Jenni Guizio to build Ci Siamo’s wine list, now at 400-plus selections and growing.

About 75 percent of the list is Italian, covering 20 regions around the boot. The remainder of the list hails from other major international winegrowing regions, including a strong collection of grower Champagnes “marked up as little as possible.” Overall, the list highlights smaller family-owned wineries, female winemakers and winemakers practicing mostly organic, biodynamic and sustainable practices.

While there are a few exceptions from top-notch producers, the Italian side of the bottle list is heavily skewed toward native grape varieties. So is the by-the-glass program, with more than 20 selections. “It might look kind of niche, but really it's just honest. It’s the varieties of Italy that people don’t know because they were drinking Sauvignon Blanc from Northern Italy or Chardonnay from Piedmont,” Wright said. “So instead of having those wines, we want to focus on having Greco and Fiano and Prié Blanc from Valle d’Aosta, for example.”

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Sotheby's Goes to France, Opening Offices and Beginning Auctions in Burgundy and Bordeaux

Sotheby's is going to France. The longtime auctioneer, one of the leading players in collectible wine and spirits sales, announced it will soon open new offices in Beaune and Bordeaux to meet European demand and increase efficiency. The French offices will be the fourth major wine hub for the auction house, which already hosts sales in London, New York and Hong Kong.

"We believe there is a significant opportunity to grow our business in continental Europe by hosting sales in France, with inventory stored in Beaune and Bordeaux," Jamie Ritchie, worldwide head of Sotheby’s wine, told Wine Spectator. "There is a large community of wine lovers and collectors in France, Benelux, Scandinavia, Germany, Austria, Italy and Spain that would like greater access to global markets when selling wines and equally will appreciate a wider selection of wines to buy."

The new location will open later this fall. For Ritchie, the move simply makes sense. He says that 85 percent of the wines Sotheby's sells come from France, and the company has a strong presence there, with about 130 employees to help support this new chapter. Amayès Aouli, a former executive at J.P. Morgan, will become the head of auction sales for the region.

From 1970 to 2014, Bordeaux wines claimed over 60 percent of Sotheby's auction sales, says Ritchie. Recently, Burgundy has seen a sharp increase, growing from 26 percent of Sotheby's sales in 2014 to 50 percent in 2019 (a record-shattering bottle of DRC might've helped). However, Bordeaux sales have declined from 60 percent to 26 percent in that same time period. Ritchie credits Burgundy's rising prices and the introduction and growth of spirits in their auctions (1 percent of sales in 2016 to 19 percent in 2020).

Having Burgundy and Bordeaux auction sites should also smooth some logistical headaches. "If wines are located within continental Europe and they will achieve the same price as New York, Hong Kong and London, it will be faster and more efficient with the least regulation and shipping to offer them in France," Ritchie said. "We also believe that clients around the world will want to store wines with us in Beaune and Bordeaux."

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All Drinking Increases Heart Disease Risk? New Study Says Not So Fast

In 2019, a paper published in The Lancet made headlines when researchers questioned wine's protective effects against heart disease and instead found that any level of alcohol consumption increased blood pressure and the possibility of heart attack or stroke.

But two London-based professors recently took a deeper dive into those claims, and found that the Lancet study is based on "unsound methodology."

The 2019 research, conducted by a team at Oxford, enrolled over 500,000 adults from 10 different areas of China and recorded alcohol consumption and cardiovascular disease incidence over the course of 10 years. Researchers used a type of genetic epidemiological analysis, known as Mendelian randomization, to examine the data. Genetic epidemiology looks not just at who gets sick, but at genetic factors, to try and understand what role genes play and what role environmental factors play (in this case alcohol consumption).

Multiple studies have found a J-shaped relationship between alcohol and stroke risk. Non-drinkers faced a slightly higher risk of heart attack and stroke, heavy drinkers faced a much higher risk that increased with each drink, and moderate drinkers fell at the bottom of the J—they faced the lowest risk.

But the authors of the 2019 study wrote that in their genetic epidemiological analysis using Mendelian randomization, they saw a linear association. The risk of cardiovascular disease rose with each sip of alcohol the subjects consumed. The study was touted by many as evidence that no level of drinking was safe. "Claims that wine and beer have magical protective effects were not borne out,” said lead author Richard Peto, in a statement released when the research was published.

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U.S. Supreme Court Declines to Hear Major Wine Shipping Case

Should wine lovers have the right to buy wine from retailers in other states? The U.S. Supreme Court announced today that it won’t decide—at least not in this session—declining to hear Sarasota Wine Market v. Schmitt. A Supreme Court decision on the case, which challenged Missouri’s law prohibiting out-of-state wine retailers from shipping orders to consumers in Missouri, could have potentially reshaped the U.S. wine sales landscape.

Sarasota is one of several recent challenges to laws prohibiting out-of-state retailer direct shipping. In this particular case, a Florida wine store, Sarasota Wine Market, and Missouri consumers sought to overturn Missouri’s law as unconstitutional, in violation of the Constitution’s Commerce Clause, which forbids states from discriminating against or interfering with interstate commerce.

This past February, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 8th Circuit ruled against Sarasota’s plaintiffs, determining that Missouri’s out-of-state direct-shipping ban was protected under the 21st Amendment. (The Supreme Court has held that states’ rights granted by the 21st Amendment can preempt the Commerce Clause, for laws enacted to discourage excessive drinking or create an orderly alcohol market.)

Attorneys Alex Tanford and Robert Epstein, who previously worked on Sarasota in the 6th and 8th circuits (and were also lawyers on the landmark Granholm v. Heald decision in 2005), appealed the 8th Circuit decision, filing a petition for writ of certiorari (cert) in June with the Supreme Court.

“[Missouri's law] is not saved by the 21st Amendment because the ban advances no state interest that could not be served by nondiscriminatory alternatives,” the petition states, referencing several past Supreme Court rulings to demonstrate that the 21st Amendment can, in fact, be limited by the Commerce Clause. This includes Granholm and 2019’s Tennessee Wine and Spirits Retailers Association v. Russell F. Thomas.

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The Still Point of the Turning World: Overcoming Imposter Syndrome

Averie Swanson
Crystal Luxmore
Amanda Trimm
October 12, 2021

If you want to know who Averie Swanson is, read her beer labels.

“I Am Because We Are.” “The Grace of Maybe.” “At the Still Point of the Turning World.” They point toward a philosophy that has guided her through nearly a decade in mixed-culture fermentation. Her newest venture, Keeping Together, isn’t just her brewery’s name, “it’s a mantra for individuals and our collective,” she says, each composed of unique parts that must be recognized and nurtured. And it “implies an ongoing effort,” she adds, to “create the compassionate, ecstatic reality that each person deserves to experience.”

Averie Swanson

From the pandemic’s disproportionate impact upon women, people of color, and gender-expansive folk to the stories of sexual abuse shared by Brienne Allan, the industry’s underrepresented repeat this invocation. For Swanson, “keeping together” means keeping a strong sense of self, as well. Quoting the T.S. Eliot poem for which she named a beer, “When you become really in touch with yourself, there is a still point in the ‘turning world’ where everything else is happening. If you practice it regularly, you can retreat back to this place of stillness and find sanctuary.”

Swanson opened her brewery with the goal of “increasing the collective empathy of the industry,” because changing a culture marked by experiences of sexism and racism starts from within. “In order to find empathy, one must be vulnerable,” she says, “and there is an element of introspection that requires.”

Yet the burden of change often falls upon the people most impacted, and the load gets heavy. Swanson is a Master Cicerone, one of just 19 people (three of whom are women) in the world who hold the highest standardized certification in beer. Earning it was a grueling, five-year process of relentless study and two failed attempts. At the same time, she was head brewer and part owner of Austin, Texas’ lauded Jester King Brewery, traveling the world representing the brand and educating people on mixed fermentation. But it left room for little else, and by 2018, her candle was burnt at both ends.

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José Andrés Discusses a Way Back for Restaurants at Impact Seminar

The restaurant industry in the U.S. and around the world has suffered a shock over the past year and a half, with the pandemic presenting unprecedented challenges to operators across the business. Within that context, few people are better positioned to weigh in on the future of restaurants than chef José Andrés, whose ThinkFoodGroup has 30 restaurants worldwide, and who is known as a thoughtful, influential and, above all, generous leader in the business.

Andrés addressed this past week's 45th Annual Impact Marketing Seminar via a video discussion with Wine Spectator's Thomas Matthews titled "Post Pandemic: The Future of the Restaurant Industry." He began by recounting his sense of wonder when he first visited the U.S. as a member of the Spanish Navy in 1990, and his subsequent time as a cook in New York.

"New York was like a university for me," said Andrés. "I felt like I had an entire encyclopedia of cooking right in my palm." That experience in New York's melting pot was important, he continued, because culinary culture "connects us with other worlds," broadens our horizons and, ultimately, brings people closer together. It also set Andrés on his path to building the formidable restaurant business that ThinkFoodGroup has become today.

That business—along with others around the world—was thrown into doubt by the pandemic. But Andrés hailed how restaurateurs and chefs answered the challenge, with many operators generously donating their time to feed those on the front lines and those in need even as their own restaurants remained closed. "We can feel very proud of how our industry responded," he said, recognizing not only those efforts but also the creativity of restaurateurs in keeping their businesses alive by pivoting to takeout and recreating the restaurant experience for the home.

Turning to the future, Andrés is hopeful that the worst is behind us, and the restaurant industry is headed in the right direction again. He's optimistic enough that he's even continued to open new restaurants, introducing an all-day casual spot, Café by the River, in Chicago's West Loop neighborhood in June, followed by a new branch of Jaleo, in the city's River North neighborhood a month later. ThinkFoodGroup plans to open three additional venues by year's end.

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Blue Hill Returns After Chefs-in-Residence Program

Mediterranean sea bass from Estiatorio Ornos in San Francisco

After more than a year and a half, Blue Hill at Stone Barns, the Wine Spectator Grand Award winner in Pocantico Hills, N.Y., will resume service Oct. 7. The news comes at the end of the six-month chefs-in-residence program showcasing everything from upscale Chilean cuisine to more casual menus with barbecue and wood-fired pizza.

The team describes this opening as Blue Hill 2.0, meaning the restaurant won’t be the exact same concept as it was pre-pandemic. “Cooking and farming became more interesting, and more complicated," chef-owner Dan Barber said in a statement shared on Instagram. “It changed the way our team thinks about food and focused our thinking about Blue Hill restaurant and the culture we want to create.”

The operation will take a larger focus on education, dedicating an estimated 25 percent of its efforts to workshops, teaching, learning and researching. The wine side of the restaurant is expected to follow the same route.

Wine director Hannah Williams is looking forward to the return of a physical wine list, rather than the QR code that was given to guests during the pandemic to minimize contact. This inspired her to lean even further into the tangible aspect and publish a book featuring the wine selections, titled This Is Not a Wine List.

“Blue Hill, the experience, it's so narrative based. Everything is a story about a seed breeder, or a farmer or a fisherman or woman,” Williams told Wine Spectator. “Why should wine be any different in this context?”

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Angelina Jolie Sells Her Stake in Château Miraval

Brad Pitt and the Perrin family have new partners. Angelina Jolie has sold her 50 percent stake in Château Miraval to Tenute del Mondo, a subsidiary of the Stoli Group, for an undisclosed sum. That makes the drinks group partners with Jolie's ex-husband on the Provençal rosé winery.

Miraval has been a blockbuster since the Hollywood power couple bought the estate in 2012 and partnered with the Perrin family of Château de Beaucastel to release their first wines in 2013. Sales rose 17.4 percent to just under 150,000 cases in the U.S. market last year, according to Impact Databank, a sister publication of Wine Spectator. The then-couple paid an estimated $60 million for the estate. Analysts estimate it to be worth $162 million today.

Jolie filed for divorce in 2016. Business has continued as usual at the winery and the company introduced a Champagne in 2020. There have been numerous reports that Jolie wished to sell, however.

Tenute del Mondo now adds the 50 percent interest in Miraval to its existing holdings. The company owns Argentina's Achával-Ferrer and Spain's Arínzano, and is also co-owner (with the Frescobaldi family) of Italian icons Masseto, Ornellaia, Luce and Castelgiocondo. Stoli Group CEO Damian McKinney said the company has long admired the Miraval brand, adding, "We are thrilled to have a position alongside Brad Pitt as curators of their extraordinary vintages."

Stay on top of important wine stories with Wine Spectator's free Breaking News Alerts.

Original author: Frank,
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Winemakers Ask, Is China’s Market Worth It?

Students of wine]

The worst-case scenario was a 50 percent tariff on bottled wine. That’s what most insiders in the Australian wine industry were thinking in fall 2020 after tensions spiked between the Chinese and Australian governments over the origins of COVID-19 and Australia’s ban on Huawei’s 5G network. Once again, it looked like the wine community was about to become collateral damage in a political dispute.

But when Chinese authorities announced a tariff of 218 percent? It was mind-boggling. “The tariffs were much higher than anyone anticipated,” admitted Rachel Triggs, general manager of corporate affairs and regulation for Wine Australia.

The trade fight was the latest blow to international winemakers working to build a market in China. Since Chinese Premier Li Peng praised the health benefits of wine during the National People’s Congress in 1996, the country’s growing economy and consumer population have attracted wineries from around the globe trying to gain a foothold. With 52 million wine drinkers and a total population of 1.44 billion, the growth potential is enormous.

But so is the risk: Beijing’s government is not afraid to actively intervene in the economy, cracking down on wine-loving, free-spending government officials and business leaders. Celebrities are its latest target, including an actor who owns five Bordeaux châteaus. Wines from Australia, the United States and France have all been caught up in international disputes that have nothing to do with grapes. A decade ago, China was projected to be the world’s second-biggest wine market by 2020. Instead it’s sixth, according to the International Organisation of Vine and Wine, an intergovernmental agency based in France.

With all these challenges, is China still worth it?

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Amar'e Stoudemire Chats Live on Building His Wine Legacy

As the NBA season kicks off next week, Brooklyn Nets assistant coach and kosher vintner Amar'e Stoudemire is setting high expectations for the games ahead. The former All-Star with the Phoenix Suns and New York Knicks says he now analyzes the game differently and had to learn a lot about how to manage players. It's the same learning experience that took him from enjoying wine on his rooftop in New York to managing his own kosher wine brands from Israel and California. In the latest episode of Straight Talk with Wine Spectator, Stoudemire took a break from training camp and spoke with Wine Spectator news editor Mitch Frank about his wine-related travels, building the Stoudemire Wines legacy and why the NBA is a wine powerhouse.

Stoudemire had always enjoyed tasting wine throughout his early years in the NBA, but it wasn't until he signed with the Knicks in the summer of 2010 that a passion took hold. He spent time traveling tasting wines in Italy, Greece and France, and spent two weeks at Bordeaux's Chanel Château luxury lodging at Château Canon in St.-Emillion, owned by the family behind Chanel and Château Rauzan-Ségla. Back home in New York, Stoudemire would host rooftop parties with his favorite wines. Eventually, a friend inspired him to create his own wine label.

"It was just a thought then it became something more," Stoudemire said. "Then I moved to Israel and met with Tulip Winery and that's when it became something serious."

After Stoudemire moved to Jerusalem in 2015, he explored the wine region of Upper Galilee, where Tulip is based, and made his winemaking debut in 2018 with three Israeli Cabernets and red blends.

"I went through different blends with Tulip and wanted to create a perfect blend that fit my palate," Stoudemire said. "I want to build a brand that's everlasting and could stand the test of time so my children can inherit it." He also felt that the kosher wine space did not have the best selection and he wanted to change that paradigm.

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Sonoma County Wine Auction Returns to In-Person Format and Raises $1.7 million

After going virtual in 2020, the Sonoma County Wine Auction took in $1.7 million in a downsized, in-person event over the Sept. 16–18 weekend. One of the top charity auctions in California wine country, the auction has raised $39 million since its inception. "It's great to see everyone in person instead of a computer screen," Michael Haney, Sonoma County Vintners Foundation executive director, told the crowd of 200 people under the tent at La Crema Estate at Saralee's Vineyard.

The virtual 2020 auction raised $1.17 million. This year’s event brought in more, but was still well below the auction’s high of $6.1 million in 2019.

The live auction's top lot sold for $140,000 and was purchased by George and Pamela Hamel Jr. of Sonoma Valley's Hamel Wines. A second attendee later matched the bid for a total of $280,000. The lot included a five-night stay at Jackson Family's Tuscan estate, Tenuta di Arceno, dinner in a private apartment overlooking Siena's Piazza del Campo, with a front-row view of the historic horse race Il Palio di Siena, as well as 5 magnums of Vérité.

"It's an iconic event, and [my wife] loves horses," Hamel said, adding that more important are the charities benefiting from the auction. "The gap between haves and have-nots has gotten wide. It's important to level the playing field."

Other top lots included Bubbles Galore, which sold for $48,000 and included a two-night stay at Domaine Les Crayeres, a luxury hotel in Reims, France, tastings and luncheons at Krug, Dom Pérignon and Ruinart, dinner at Michelin 3-star l'Assiette Champenoise, as well as 6 jeroboams (3-liter bottles) of Champagne and Hamel Family Wines. A Montana Western Adventure lot sold for $37,000 and included a three-night stay for four people at Ranch at Rock Creek, wine dinners, Western-style activities and a case of Foley Family Wines, including Chalk Hill, Ferrari-Carano and Lancaster.

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Napa's Harvest Stomp Auction Raises $2.7 Million

Auction of Washington Wines]

Earlier this year, charity wine auctions were optimistic about weathering the pandemic this fall. While the Delta variant has made their efforts more challenging, many are finding ways to raise funds for worthy causes. In Napa Valley, the Harvest Stomp wine auction hit its highest total ever, raising $2.7 million for the Napa Valley Grapegrowers (NVG) and Napa Valley Farmworker Foundation, surpassing 2019's $2.32 million.

Harvest Stomp hosted 400 guests at Round Pond Estate's Pole Barn for its 14th annual live auction on Aug. 28, with proof of vaccination or negative COVID-19 test result required. The event had mobile rapid-test vans and observed Centers for Disease Control safety protocols.

According to NVG program director Emily Hegarty, they centered most of the live auction lots around experiences rather than bottles, since people have been unable to get out during the pandemic. The auction raised $1.2 million in live bids, with "The Judgment of Napa" as the top-selling lot of the night at $350,000. The experience includes a side-by-side tasting of all five 1982 Bordeaux first-growths and five 2002 Napa icons hosted by NVG president and Opus One winemaker Michael Silacci and NVG board member and Massican winemaker Dan Petroski. The Bordeaux wines were Lafite Rothschild, Latour, Margaux, Haut-Brion, Mouton-Rothschild, while the Napa reds were Araujo Estate, Colgin, Harlan Estate, Joseph Phelps and Opus One. The winning bidders will also enjoy a VIP dinner at Best of Award of Excellence winner Press Restaurant in St. Helena, paired with 2012 Cabernets from Dalla Valle, Larkmead, Rudd and Spottswoode.

Another lot that grabbed attention was a week-long trip through Australian wine country with Silacci. The lot, which sold for $320,000, takes four guests to Hunter Valley, Mornington Peninsula, Margaret River, Adelaide and Coonawarra to taste and discuss the local Sémillon, Pinot Noir and Cabernet wines.

The auction also included surprise lots. One included 45 magnums from Staglin Family Vineyards, Paul Hobbs, Lewis Cellars and more. It sold for $42,000.

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Meet the New Leader of Canlis’ Grand Award–Winning Wine Program

An overhead view of a spread of dishes at Alla Vita

Wine Spectator Grand Award winner Canlis in Seattle welcomed a new team member this month: Linda Milagros Violago, the first woman to run the wine program since the restaurant opened in 1950. Violago succeeds Nelson Daquip, who departed in June 2021 to move to Los Angeles, where he has taken a sommelier position at Best of Award of Excellence winner Osteria Mozza.

“The culture and how things are run here and how we interact with each other at all levels is really unique,” Violago said. “I’m excited about that.” Before joining Canlis, Violago worked in well-known restaurants like Catbird Seat in Nashville, Tenn., Grand Award winner Geranium in Copenhagen and the now-closed Charlie Trotter’s in Chicago.

The hire follows an extensive international search that started in January and also included the April hire of Canlis’ first female executive chef, Aisha Ibrahim. True to Canlis’ signature creative style, Violago says the application process wasn’t a traditional one. She was given two tasks by co-owner brothers Mark and Brian Canlis: Write a headline and first paragraph of a news story announcing her own appointment, and submit a video of, as Mark put it, “60 seconds of you doing something wholeheartedly that is very clear you are not very good at.” Excited and endeared by the request, Violago sent a video of herself baking bread. “I thought, ‘This is going to be a fun ride. Even if I don’t get the gig, this is gonna be great,’” she recalls. Once pandemic-related travel restrictions allowed, she visited Canlis and was selected soon after.

“I really like her as a person. I really trust and respect who she is, who she’s hoping to become,” Mark said. “I find that when we surround ourselves professionally with people that we admire personally, you end up with something special … It’s a bonus to me that she happens to be a remarkably talented expert in wine.”

Mark is excited to see how Violago will impact Canlis’ wine program as part of a wider effort to move the restaurant forward post-pandemic. “It’s just Canlis’ way to keep rethinking what we do,” he said, noting that the 2,400-label count may decrease in the process. “I want our wine list to be more representative of who we are as people, of the kinds of wines that we like to drink, of the kinds of food that we’re eating, of the way that we’re eating and drinking.”

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Sonoma State University Wine Business Institute Celebrates 25 Years

For the past 25 years, Sonoma State University’s Wine Business Institute has provided an educational foundation to its students while helping bolster the industry with its new trailblazers. The institute kicked off its 25th academic year with a virtual conversation with Wine Spectator Napa bureau chief and senior editor Kim Marcus, moderated by Wine Business Institute executive director Ray Johnson, discussing the past, present and future of wine, along with some advice for its bourgeoning industry leaders.

“California is still at the dawn of what it can achieve,” said Marcus, discussing challenges and opportunities for the wine industry. “The story of the last 30 or 40 years is about quality, which has been spurred by better winemaking and viticulture and adaptation.”

Winemaking and viticulture aside, Marcus says that California wine’s biggest successes are in the business and hospitality side of the industry. “The rest of the world is consolidating, while wine continues to expand. So people want to learn more,” said Marcus.

This is where Sonoma State’s Wine Business Institute plays a role. Since its founding in 1996, the institute has awarded 270 wine MBAs, among other professional degrees and certifications. It has also provided significant and pioneering research that has informed the industry. In 2018, The Wine Spectator Scholarship Foundation anchored the financing of the Wine Spectator Learning Center, making a $3 million gift to help create a 15,000-square-foot building designed as an education and industry nucleus, including advanced-technology classrooms, student commons, meeting rooms and more.

Marcus recalled his early days as a journalist for the St. Helena Star in Napa Valley, at a time when grapes were growing in popularity, but other crops were still part of the local agricultural mix. “Anywhere you went, it was egalitarian and an inexpensive way to get to know wine,” he said. Fast-forwarding to today, he believes one of the potential threats is a need to appeal to younger demographics and to educate them. “We should be careful. If you want to get younger people introduced to wine, we need to give them opportunities to enjoy wines without the elevated price levels.”

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'Sommelier: Don't Try This at Home' Wins Wine Spectator's 2021 Video Contest

What happens when you try to act like a sommelier? For Wine Spectator's 15th annual Video Contest, Italian winery Caviro, along with Volio Imports, brought together Italian wine professionals and a comedian to show what happens when we attempt to seem like an expert instead of just being ourselves. Following last year's "Wine at Home" theme, this year's contest encouraged entrants to explore their love of wine and how they are enjoying it in creative and heartfelt ways. Out of the many films submitted from all over the world, Caviro's "Sommelier: Don't Try This at Home" proved to be a favorite among WineSpectator.com voters, taking first place.

The video shows the main character, played by Italian comedian Maccio Capatonda, as he tries to judge a glass of wine at a friendly gathering. Instead of just saying what he feels, he chases his version of a sommelier's description, descending into madness.

Caviro, which produces the Tavernello wine label imported by Volio Imports, partnered with Ciaopeople Media Group to target younger drinkers with a short film, shot in two days in summer 2020 and completed that fall. When Caviro brand manager Anna Casodi found out about the video contest while browsing WineSpectator.com, she decided to submit a version for an American audience and spread the message of the story.

"The aim of this video is to talk about wine in an easy way, without prejudice and too many complications," Casodi told Wine Spectator. Joining Capatonda, Italian wine experts Luca Gardini, Andrea Gori and Alessandro Pipero also make brief appearances to help demolish clichés related to wine consumption in a provocative and entertaining way. "You don't need to be a wine critic or expert to enjoy a glass of wine, but you can simply enjoy the moment and promote wine consumption, without being swayed by appearances such as price, trends and labels, or by other people's opinions."

Casodi's Grand Prize includes two full weekend passes to Wine Spectator’s New York Wine Experience next month or in 2022.

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Exclusive: Haut-Brion Owners Expand Plans on Bordeaux’s Right Bank, Buy Château Grand-Pontet

Domaine Clarence Dillon (DCD), the family firm that owns Château Haut-Brion and La Mission Haut-Brion, has acquired St.-Emilion Grand Cru Classé Château Grand-Pontet from the Pourquet-Bécot family for an undisclosed sum. Prince Robert de Luxembourg, DCD chairman, tells Wine Spectator that the property will be combined with Château Quintus, giving DCD one of St.-Emilion's largest estates on prime terroir.

"We have long been looking for opportunities to add good vineyards to Quintus, de Luxembourg said. "We've been close on a few other properties and lost out at the last minute." Adding the nearly 37 acres of Grand-Pontet to Quintus "would produce one of the largest of the great growths of St.-Emilion."

Grand-Pontet's vineyards are near Quintus, and de Luxembourg is convinced of their similarity to the Quintus terroir. He anticipates a harmonious integration. "It's less than a kilometer from Quintus. Grand-Pontet is surrounded by parcels of other classified growths. It's pretty much one big parcel, mainly north-facing, and historically hasn't really changed."

The family began their Right Bank project in 2011 when they purchased Château Tertre Daugay, renaming it Quintus. In 2013, they acquired their neighbor Château L'Arrosée and integrated the two properties. The DCD team plans to use the various Grand-Pontet plots to contribute to the four different wines already produced at Quintus. For the upcoming harvest, Quintus will also have a new technical director, Mariette Veyssiere, who has worked for DCD for five years.

Château Grand-Pontet was created in the early 20th century and classified in the 1955 ranking. In 1980, it came under the ownership of the Pourquet and Bécot families, managed by the same team as Château Beau-Séjour Bécot. Sylvie Pourquet-Bécot has run the estate since 2000.

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Chefs Rally to Help Louisiana After Hurricane Ida

New Orleans restaurateurs felt a mix of relief and despair after Hurricane Ida passed through the city, devastating southern Louisiana and causing widespread damage from the Gulf of Mexico to New England. The city’s protective levee system held during what was the biggest storm to come so close since Hurricane Katrina made landfall 16 years earlier to the day.

But the category 4 storm struck another economic blow on restaurants after more than a year of pandemic-inflicted pain. Business was halted, and chefs were forced to throw away huge amounts of spoiled food after the storm knocked out electricity to the entire city and staffs were scattered by evacuations.

And the damage to other parts of Louisiana, many outside the protective levee system, was unfathomable, with entire communities wiped off the map and people struggling to find food, clean water and shelter. Many chefs decided to put aside their own economic pain and work toward providing relief for their neighbors.

Most restaurants in the city suffered only minor damage—wind-impacted roofs and falling trees caused most of the destruction. The more immediate challenge was the loss of electricity, which took more than a week to restore for most neighborhoods. Ti Martin, co-owner of Wine Spectator Grand Award winner Commander’s Palace, said the old Victorian mansion the restaurant calls home did just fine. Her cousin Lally Brennan and chef Meg Bickford weathered the storm and spent the following week supervising gas runs to Mississippi so they could fuel up restaurant generators and keep the wine cellar from getting too warm.

It was a similar story at Brennan’s, the city’s newest Grand Award winner. Co-owner Ralph Brennan had installed generators after buying the restaurant a few years ago. (As Ida approached, he also shifted his payroll a few days early, so staff would get paid before the storm arrived.) Once the power was out, a skeleton crew tending the French Quarter landmark asked wine director Braithe Tidwell if they could sleep in the cellar, since it was the only comfortable room. “Just keep any empty bottles, so I know what you drank,” she told them.

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Frescobaldi Buys Montepulciano’s Corte alla Flora

Marchesi di Frescobaldi has added another estate to its Tuscany portfolio, buying Corte alla Flora in Montepulciano. The purchase price was not disclosed.

The owner, Sergio Cragnotti, a businessman from Rome and former owner of the Società Sportiva Lazio, the most famous soccer team in Lazio, decided to retire and contacted Marchesi de’ Frescobaldi president Lamberto Frescobaldi.

“It happened that this gentleman wanted to sell, so we decided to buy it,” Frescobaldi told Wine Spectator. “This came to us and we grabbed it.” The deal was completed in less than two weeks; after the 30-day regulation to satisfy any neighbors’ first right of refusal, Frescobaldi took control Sept. 10.

Located in the Cervognano zone of Montepulciano, one of its best areas, the property, which makes about 23,000 cases a year, consists of 148 acres, of which 75 acres are planted to Sangiovese, Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Pugnitello and Petit Verdot. There is also Syrah, however, those vines will be pulled up according to Frescobaldi. “We want to focus on what does best in that place and make a wine that is not just good, but engaging,” said Frescobaldi.

The purchase includes a relatively new winery and the 2020 and 2019 vintages in cask that Frescobaldi is happy with. “The wines in the cellar are very good. We’ll make some selections, but we’re very happy.” They have also started picking the grapes for the 2021 harvest. “We are picking right now and the fruit is excellent.”

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NBA Star CJ McCollum Buys 318-Acre Oregon Property for Vineyard

When it comes to his wine brand, NBA star and vintner CJ McCollum and his wife, Elise, came to play. The couple have purchased a 318-acre property, located in Oregon's Yamhill-Carlton appellation, for the Portland Trail Blazer's McCollum Heritage 91 wine label. The purchase price and identity of the seller were not disclosed.

The deal is part of the McCollums' long-term commitment to making world-class wines in Oregon, a process they started when they partnered with Adelsheim Vineyard to produce McCollum Heritage 91, which debuted last year with a 2018 Chehalem Mountains Pinot Noir.

"After careful consideration and learning throughout my time at Adelsheim, it felt like it was the right decision and the next step in our progression to grow and leave our lasting legacy here," McCollum told Wine Spectator. "We'll be meeting with architects and going over vineyard management plans in terms of what we want to plant first and what our future looks like, but the goal is to turn it into a vineyard property."

McCollum consulted his trusted wine circle before making the purchase, including Stoller president Gary Mortensen, Corner 103 founder Lloyd Davis, Adelsheim winemaker Gina Hennen and Adelsheim CEO Rob Alstrin. He aims to start planting in 2022.

"When you hear that innovative, giving, talented and creative people like CJ and Elise make a commitment to the Willamette Valley, it just further affirms the region's reputation for quality," said Morgen McLaughlin, executive director of the Willamette Valley Wineries Association. "CJ has been a wonderful ambassador for Oregon, through basketball, his local philanthropic efforts and now his interest in making top-quality wines from the Willamette Valley."

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