Friday, September 23, 2016

LABOR OF LOVE - Wine Family Women of Piemonte

Photo credits: Elisabetta Vacchetto, Pierangelo Vacchetto Designer: Cindi Yaklich, Epicenter Creative
Photo credits: Elisabetta Vacchetto, Pierangelo Vacchetto
Designer: Cindi Yaklich, Epicenter Creative


Suzanne Hoffman first visited the northern Italian region of Piemonte with her second-generation Sicilian mother, Frances Castrogiovanni Manale, in 1999 while her husband was away in China. Upon arrival, they found it cold, wet, foggy and not very inviting. At table, however, the real pleasures of this region unfolded, with the discovery of local specialties  vitello tonnato (poached veal with tuna sauce), carne cruda (raw chopped Fassone veal) and tajarin (thin, egg-rich ribbons of pasta) with brown butter and sage, all paired with Barbera and Nebbiolo-based wines.

On a visit in 2000 with her husband Dani she had the good fortune of being advised to visit Jeffrey Chilcott, the English speaking winemaker at Marchesi di Gresy. Not only did he educate the couple on the local wines, he set in motion the 14-year exploration and discovery of 22 local families who are featured in this book.

The emphasis is on the local women, much admired by Alberto di Gresy, who says, “I believe greatly in women; they know how to be tough and gentle, and when they want to, they have more insight and are more quick-thinking than we men.”

Aside from the gritty and heartwarming stories, the lavish artwork and photography makes this a must have coffee table book as well.

Labor of Love, Wine Family Women of Piemonte by Suzanne Hoffman, with forward by Maurizio Rosso, Under Discovered Press, Vail, Colorado, Hardcover, 298 pages, $55

Read our reviews of Piemontese wines here:

and our grape profiles of Barbera and Nebbiolo here:


Wednesday, September 14, 2016


Kick starting the week was a delicious and informative tasting with Chateau la Nerthe Export Manager Christophe Bristiel and Pasternak Wine Imports West Division Manager Ben Cuaresma at the San Francisco home of Planet Grape Wine Review co-panelist Deborah Parker Wong.

Christophe explained that Chateau la Nerthe owns Prieure de Montezargues and Domaine de la Renjarde as well, and that all three wineries produce Certified Organic wines now. Wines tasted included a Tavel Rose, a Cotes-du-Rhone Villages, and several Chateauneuf-du-Pape wines, both red and white, including a stunning 2006 Chateau la Nerthe Chateauneuf-du-Pape which was so beautifully open, expressive and seamless with its ten years of bottle age.

I asked if I could enjoy the leftovers with the 49ers vs Dodgers football game that night but unfortunately was turned down. What is one to drink after tasting something so lovely first thing in the morning? I suppose its like the restaurant guest who after ordering Rombauer Chardonnay and being told there wasn't any decided to have Jack Daniels instead.
Bristiel explained the different grapes used so often in Rhone wines, Grenache being the easiest to grow and transform into delicious wine, adding, "Where olive trees stop, Grenache stops." Tavel AOP only produces Rose, with 8 grapes allowed, while Chateauneuf-du-Pape AOP allows 13 grapes and can be red or white. Chateau la Nerthe works with Grenache vines that are up to 120 years old, giving incredibly expressive wines at below-market pricing. Other grapes used include Syrah, Mourvedre, Cinsault, and Carignan, and for whites, Grenache Blanc, Roussanne, Clairette and Bourbolenc.

Read our reviews of these wines here:

Wednesday, September 7, 2016


By Master Sommelier Catherine Fallis

Last week the Planet Grape Wine Review team attended a tasting of New Zealand wines at 1760 in San Francisco hosted by Chuck Hayward with Marcel Giesen and Giesen's Chief Winemaker Nikolai St. George. The title was "Searching for the Crus of Marlborough" and through four flights of wines it was clear that the focus on sub-region and vineyard (cru) was the way forward, not only for the iconic Sauvignon Blancs, but for the elegant, expressive, fruity and balanced Pinot Noirs.
img_1324Like other wine regions moving towards protecting their regional names, New Zealand is in the process of launching their own Geographical Indication system, so that other countries may not use them. They look at this as more of a trademark protection than appellation system.
The wine industry there, as well as the government, business communities and society practice the concept of kaitiakitanga - guardianship, started by New Zealand's original settlers, the Maori, to protect the resources of their small island. Today there is nearly universal adoption of the Sustainable Winegrowing New Zealand program.
Check out our faves from New Zealand here:

Kia ora, be well!

Thursday, August 25, 2016


Rich Higgins Consultant a la Biere

Meet Planet Grape Guest Panelist/Contributor Rich Higgins, Master Cicerone and Brewmaster.

Rich was the third person in the world to earn the Master Cicerone distinction, the highest of four levels of certification. He is also a Certified Sommelier with the Court of Master Sommeliers.
His consulting practice includes Restaurant Beer Program Implementation, Beer Dinners and Guest Sommelier Events, Brewery Consultation, Retail Beer Store Consultation, Distributor And Sales Staff Trainings, Teaching, Judging, and Corporate Events including Team-building seminars.

Read Rich’s latest beer reviews for Planet Grape here:
2016 The Bruery Poterie Placentia California

Rodenbach Grand Cru Flanders Red Ale Roeselare

Firestone Walker Opal Farmhouse Ale Paso Robles

Duvel Moortgat Duvel Breendonk Antwerp Province

AleSmith San Diego Pale Ale .394 San Diego

Pelican Kiwanda Cream Ale Pacific City

Anchor Porter San Francisco

Anchor Go West! IPA San Francisco

nv Pilsner Urquell Plzen Czech Republic

2013 North Coast Brewing Company Old Stock Ale Fort Bragg California

nv Devils Backbone Vienna Lager Lexington Virginia

@planetgrape  @maltyrich

Wednesday, August 17, 2016



Zinfandel Advocates and Producers, Ron Lewis Photographer
Zinfandel Advocates and Producers, Ron Lewis Photographer

By Liz Thach, MW, Planet Grape

An energized group of Zinfandel fans gathered at Trentadue Winery in Sonoma County this past Sunday for ZAP’s Simply Summer Celebration. ZAP, which stands for “Zinfandel Advocates & Producers” is one of the most active grape varietal organizations in the US, hosting many exciting events for members and guests to enjoy delicious red and white Zinfandel wines.

Sunday’s event featured more than 60 wineries that produce Zinfandel, ranging from such world famous brands as Ridge and Turley to newcomer’s like Angry Bunch and Zialena. Music, beach balls, food trucks and winemaker roundtables kept things hopping as attendees enjoyed the warm Sonoma sun and the spicy taste of Zin.
Joel Peterson, ZinMaster

Check out our reviews of tasty Zins here:

Want to learn more about the Zinfandel grape? Check this out:

Wednesday, August 10, 2016



By Catherine Fallis Master Sommelier, Planet Grape

Please indulge me and let me start out with a little story from my days as Wine Director/Sommelier at a famous Bay area restaurant. One day a new owner appeared, a French Chef who had his own Somm coming in a few months. I felt obligated to stay on, though it became more challenging by the day. 
One evening a group of his chef buddies came in and he was showing off by mixing up the ten course tasting menu. Instead of finishing with the biggest richest meat dish, which was paired with a big bold red, he ended with Bouillabaisse, the traditional Proven├žal fish stew. The classic pairing for this is the crisp white Cassis Blanc, but to end with a light white was something I just couldn’t stomach, so I compromised and brought out Rose de Provence. When Chef saw me pouring it he came right up to my side and said very loudly, “What are you doing? We don’t serve bitch wine here! Take it away.”

At that moment the entire dining room came to a standstill, and I walked quickly away to find something else to offer them. That’s when it hit me. He wasn’t saying “bitch wine.” He was saying “beach wine” but his accent was so thick it came out like “bitch.” Speaking of the beach, and Provence, here are a couple of exotic burger recipes to pair with some sophisticated Rose wines from Provence. The wines are light, crisp, minerally, and fresh and are made of red grapes so they show of the quality of the meat and can handle the tricky toppings. Enjoy!

Asian Inspired Ramen Burger
Farm Egg, Sriracha Hot Sauce, Pickled Radish, Shitake Mushrooms, Serve on a Bun made of Ramen Noodles
Pair with the 2015 Maison Belle Clair Rose Cotes de Provence, $18, which is light, dry, tart and savory with notes of citrus, raspberry, strawberry, peach, pink & yellow rose, violet, cumin and chalk.
2015 Maison Belle Claire Rose Cotes de Provence

Provencal Inspired Burger
Caramelized Onion, Arugula, Fig Spread, Goat Cheese or Brie, Serve on a Brioche Bun
étiquette Mas de Cadenet Rosé 2015
Pair with the 2015 Mas de Cadenet Rose Cotes de Provence Sainte-Victoire, $22, brisk, bone dry and age worthy with notes of Aperol, orange peel, pink rose, black pepper, and sea spray.
2015 Mas de Cadenet Rose Cotes de Provence Sainte-Victoire

Southwestern Inspired Burger
Grilled Jalapeno Peppers, BBQ Sauce, Fried Shallots, Pepper Jack Cheese, Avocado, Serve on a Pretzel Bun
Pair with the 2015 Chateau Pigoudet Coteaux d’Aix en Provence, $15, light, tart, fresh and dry with notes of lemon, lime, just ripe guava, sage, brush and crushed rock.
2015 Chateau Pigoudet Classic Rose Coteaux d’Aix en Provence

Images, recipes and wines provided by Vins de Provence France and Calhoun & Company Communications. Bon Appetit!