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  1. Salvo Foti, Revered Winemaker and Humanist, Tells Us about His Mount Etna

    Salvo Foti, Revered Winemaker and Humanist, Tells Us about His Mount Etna

    "Few folks know Mount Etna like Salvo Foti. Born, raised, and currently living on Etna, in the town of Milo, Salvo lives to protect Etna, her traditions and people. A true Etneo! Throughout the years, Salvo has played an essential role in the recognition of Mount Etna wine, acting as a consultant for many wineries (Benanti, Vini Biondi, etc) that are now famous on the volcano" Marco Salerno

  2. Holiday Gift Ideas, Including Wines That Taste Like Pith

    Holiday Gift Ideas, Including Wines That Taste Like Pith

    This will be a consumables holiday. During the two years we’ve been inside, where home and office have merged into a single space, we’d guess most people have found themselves with less elbow room. We don’t need more stuff. Fortunately, wine is a great consumable.

    We’ll get to a few more-traditional ideas in a bit, but let’s say this first: One very special wine gift is simply a bottle you’ve had this year that impressed you. Talk about a gift from the heart! With that in mind, we wondered what we’d give. Based on our tastings notes, social media postings and columns for the year, we came up with a list and then narrowed it to 12, which was not easy. Here’s a mixed case of wine we’d give and one reason why:

    --Theopolis Vineyards Estate Petite Sirah from Mendocino County’s Yorkville Highlands, because this sums up what Petite Sirah can be: powerful and ripe yet thoughtful and interesting at its core (about $40 – all prices are approximate. The owner-winemaker, Theodora Lee, is pictured here with Dottie.)

    --Massolino Barbera d’Alba, because it has Barbera charm, the earthiness of Piedmont in Italy and great class, all at a nice price ($26). 

    --Razi’el, a Rhône-style red blend of Syrah and Carignan from noted winemaker and founder of Domaine du Castel, Eli Ben-Zaken, in the Judean Hills, west of Jerusalem, because this elegant, beautiful wine has extraordinary structure and anyone who doesn’t know about the fine wines coming from Israel would be impressed – and, by the way, it’s kosher ($63).

    --Grieve Family Estate Sauvignon Blanc from the cool-climate Lovall Valley of Napa, which earned our highest rating (Delicious!), because in a world of simple, pleasant, lemon-lime Sauvignon Blanc, it’s easy to forget how dramatic and tightly focused this wine can be ($90).

    --Navarro Vineyards Dry Gewürztraminer from Anderson Valley in Mendocino, because this kind of truly dry, prickly, white-pepper Gewürz is a dying breed and it’s a great deal ($25).

    --Domaine Matrot Burgundy, because, well, it’s Burgundy – the real thing – which means it has a special soulfulness that few wines can match and the sixth-generation daughters who have now taken over in Meursault are doing a fine job ($35 to $94).

    --Brewer-Clifton Pinot Noir from the Sta. Rita Hills in Santa Barbara, because this is such a delicious example of how to translate that soulfulness in California ($39). 

    --Infiné 1939 Pinot Grigio from Trentino because, wait, that’s what Pinot Grigio can taste like ($32)?

    --Trefethen Chardonnay, because it’s a reminder of good, even fetching California Chardonnay and it’s a real deal ($30). 

    --Staglin Family Estate Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon from the Rutherford Bench in Napa, because it’s just plain stunning. (We had the 2014, which is excellent now and costs about $275. Other vintages are available and Staglin is consistent.)

    --Elena Walch Sciava because it’s delicious, inexpensive, widely available and helps support an excellent winery in the Alto Adige region of Italy that believed in a type of grape when few did, making the point that there are many indigenous grapes in the world waiting to be rediscovered by passionate vintners ($16). 

    --Tenuta Scerscé Valtellina because this Nebbiolo from the Alps is marvelous and this Italian region has recently been rediscovered, which means most people haven’t tried the wine yet ($28 to $60).

    What’s on your list? Last January was a long time ago and if you don’t keep notes or take pictures of all of your labels (and you should), think hard about your favorite wines of the year. That’s where you’ll find a great present.

    In addition to that, here are five other ideas to keep in mind:

    --Karen MacNeil “Flavor First” stemware by Oneida. The concept of these glasses from the author of “The Wine Bible” is to keep it simple: one kind for whites and bubblies, one for softer reds and one for bolder reds. We like simple. We first tried a set of six (two of each) in January and they have become our house glasses. One reason: They are not expensive, about $10 a glass, and we’ve been putting them in the dishwasher for a year now without a single loss. If your giftee doesn’t have MacNeil’s book, add that for a very special present.

    --The book “On California: From Napa to Nebbiolo…Wine Tales from The Golden State.” Académie du Vin Library has put together the work of more than three dozen great wine writers and wine thinkers, past and present, to try to understand the history and future of the center of American viticulture. This book is so passionate about the meaning of wine that it deserves a place on every wine-lover’s shelf (and it’s not a giant coffee table book, so it will fit). It’s about $35.

    --A wine club from a local store. We’re skeptical of those giant win...

  3. A Guide to Beer and Cheese Pairing

    A Guide to Beer and Cheese Pairing

    In the 1970s, both the artisan cheese movement and local craft breweries had a revival and began their momentum to become what we know today. Now, at their pinnacle, they can be enjoyed and even enhance each other. They compete with their long-standing European mates. These rules apply to all cheeses and beers regardless of where they hail. When it comes to bringing them both together, there are a few main key points to remember.

  4. Pietro Buttitta of Prima Materia Brings Italian Soulfulness to Lake County

    Pietro Buttitta of Prima Materia Brings Italian Soulfulness to Lake County

    The Lake County appellation is situated next door to the Napa Valley yet has a very different climate. It is much warmer and lacks the coastal influence that its more famous neighbor basks in. Lake County has mostly been known in the past for its bulk wine production, yet a new generation of winegrowers are beginning to figure out what the area’s different microclimates are capable of. These quality-minded producers are making smaller volumes of elegant wines, like those of Prima Materia.

  5. Classic Napa Cabernets for the Season: History in Four Bottles

    Classic Napa Cabernets for the Season: History in Four Bottles

    We like to drink American wines with the feasts that celebrate our version, Thanksgiving. We think a Cabernet Sauvignon with some age on it is perfect because it complements the meal and doesn’t seem like yet another dish.

  6. Brad Greatrix and Cherie Spriggs of Nyetimber are Leading The Way For English Sparkling Wine

    Brad Greatrix and Cherie Spriggs of Nyetimber are Leading The Way For English Sparkling Wine

    Nyetimber winery, situated in the rural heart of southern England, is considered one of the country’s top producers of traditional method sparkling wine; often lauded by wine critics like Jancis Robinson who said, in a 2016 article on her website that Nyetimber can now “take on Krug.” Thirty five years ago it wouldn't have been possible to make wine of this caliber in England—the weather was simply too cold. But today, due to the effects of climate change and rising temperatures, England has become a part of the world's wine conversation, particularly when it comes to sparkling wine.

  7. Pop the Bubbly! But Which? Ten Words That Will Make Your Choice Easier

    Pop the Bubbly! But Which? Ten Words That Will Make Your Choice Easier

    After almost two years of isolation, we’d guess this will be a banner season for bubbly, even if we’re lowering our masks to drink it. You’re about to be overwhelmed with recommendations for sparkling wines. ...

  8. Made By Women In Bardolino: Interview With Claudia Benazzoli

    Made By Women In Bardolino: Interview With Claudia Benazzoli

    The Benazzoli Winery in the Bardolino DOC is run by two sisters Claudia and Giulia the fourth generation of family winemakers.

  9. Trefethen’s $30 Guest-Worthy Chardonnay and a Mystery Solved

    Trefethen’s $30 Guest-Worthy Chardonnay and a Mystery Solved

    While many people might not admit it, Chardonnay, and especially California Chardonnay, continues to be America’s favorite variety, according to the Wine Institute. We certainly understand why, since it was our first love when we started drinking wine.

  10. Chile's Matetic Vineyards: Making Coastal Wines That Are Turning Heads

    Chile's Matetic Vineyards: Making Coastal Wines That Are Turning Heads

    Matetic Vineyards is located in Chile's El Rosario Valley, a sub-valley of the larger San Antonio Valley, just a stone's throw from the Pacific Ocean. The Matetic family, originally from Croatia, arrived in Chile 100 years ago and found success as sheep and dairy farmers. It wasn’t until the early 1990s that they expanded into the wine business with the purchase of the estate. The family saw the potential of making great wines in an area of predominantly granitic soils despite the frequently challenging maritime weather conditions.

    “Chile’s cool Pacific coast is really extreme,” says Michael Schachner, Wine Enthusiast Magazine’s Contributing Editor for South America. “It’s windy, dry, foggy, rugged and yet somehow represents a modern western frontier for Chilean winemakers and wineries who want to push limits and produce something particular and different than traditional Cabernets and such.”

    Matetic Vineyards, certified organic since 2004 and Demeter-certified biodynamic since 2012, is considered a pioneer of Chile's cool-climate Syrah but also produces solid examples of other varieties including Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Riesling. We spoke with Julio Bastias...

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