Monday, September 29, 2014

Fall for Fritz Willi Riesling

Chardonnay, Cabernet, Merlot and even Pinot Noir are feel good wines. Easy to say. Easy to remember. Gewurztraminer not so much. Similarly, BV, Yellow-Tail and "Two-Buck Chuck" are short, simple, and memorable. So how does one enter the profitable US market if one's brand name is "Friedrich-Wilhelm-Gymnasium"?

Simple! Rebrand to a fictional wine ambassador named "Fritz Willi".

The label is clean, the wine inside is high quality, steep-slope German Riesling, and the price is right.

The 2012 Fritz Willi Riesling Qualitatswein Germany $16.99 is off-dry, perfect for spicy, exotic and warming fall dishes such as Indian and Thai curries, Asian noodles, or Satay, and is widely available across the US. Visit to find a location near you.

© Copyright 2014 Master Sommelier Catherine Fallis, Planet Grape LLC. All Rights Reserved.

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Mondavi Launches Animo - A New Napa Valley Mountain Cabernet

Named after the Italian word for spirit, or heart, Animo is a new project from Michael Mondavi and his family. The 2010 Animo Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon Napa Valley $85, a sleek, fruit forward and softly tannic wine, has notes of blackberry, blueberry, mocha, coffee bean and smoke.

The vineyard is located on a 15-acre rocky Atlas Peak hillside at between 1,270 and 1,350 feet. In the past, the family sold this fruit to Opus One.

The wine is limited but available here for a short time:

© Copyright 2014 Master Sommelier Catherine Fallis, Planet Grape LLC. All Rights Reserved.

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Two for Tuesday - Greek White & Lodi Zin

White Wine

Tonight, try something new. Check out the 2012 Domaine Porto Carras Malgouzia, Regional Wine of Sithonia, $14.95,  a rich, dry, aromatic white wine from Greece. Domaine Porto Carras, one of Greece's most significant and globally-recognized wineries, saved this unique grape from extinction in the 1980's and '90's. It is round and silky with notes of tangerine, lemon, lime, apricot, bay leaf, dried oregano, white rose petal and oyster shell, and would be delicious with a dish of crispy fried fish. It is available here or at a store near you:

Red Wine
Owner Steve Borra's grandfather came to Lodi from Italy. Winemaker Marcus Niggli came to Lodi from Switzerland.
With this European influence and vision, Borra Vineyards makes some of the most unique wines in California. I love the 2011 Borra Vineyards HERITAGE Field Blend Red Lodi $25. A blend of Barbera, Carignane, Petite Sirah, and Zinfandel, it is elegant, understated, complex and just perfect in body for a late summer/early fall evening. Try this wine with grilled Tri-Tip with side of wild mushroom risotto.
Available from the winery:

© Copyright 2014 Master Sommelier Catherine Fallis, Planet Grape LLC. All Rights Reserved.

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

74th DOCG Granted – Italy Celebrates a Serious Barbera

After a frenzy of new DOCG’s, many of them granted for less than serious wines in less than serious styles (think sweet, red and sparkling), Italy’s 74th DOCG, or Denominazione di Origine Controllata e Garantita, has been announced. Piedmont’s Nizza DOCG is official. The Consorzio Tutela Vini d’Asti del Monferrato agreed to elevate the Nizza subzone of Barbera d’Asti DOCG. With the endorsement of government committees in Rome and Brussels, this DOCG is effective with the 2014 harvest.
Nizza is in the Monferrato hills. These and the neighboring Langhe hills, home to Barolo and Barbaresco DOCG’s, are nestled between the Riviera and the Alps. While Asti in the center of Monferrato is famous for Moscato d’Asti, and Alba in the Langhe is known both for the famous white truffle, Tartufo Bianco d’Alba and its famous Nebbiolo-based wines, Nizza is making wine from the Barbera grape. This workhorse grape covers 35% of Piemonte and its wines are typically deeply fruity and highly pigmented with fresh natural and often biting acidity. Yet since the 1980’s dozens of producers have experimented with barrique aging for more serious wines. Many of those resulting wines, however, lost their freshness, finesse, and food-friendliness. The Nizza DOCG aims to showcase serious, balanced, expressive Barbera from only the finest years.
Nizza DOCG is with the Barbera d’Asti Superiore DOCG, but will require stricter selection from 18 communes in Asti rather than 160 in Asti and Alessandria, longer oak aging, higher minimum alcohol, and, for its Riserva designation, 100% Barbera as opposed to 90%. The new ruling allows for screw-caps, giving these wines a broader reach into the Asian and North American markets.
In years where Nizza Barbera growers cannot achieve the higher alcohol level, they may still bottle the wine as Barbera d’Asti DOCG, Barbera del Monferrato Superiore DOCG, or Barbera del Monferrato DOC, Monferrato DOC or Piemonte DOC.
While the EU would like Italy to align its DOC’s and DOCG’s into its DOP category, Federdoc’s executive director has stated the Italian government is allowed and will continue granting them.
For more information on Nizza DOCG, check out Italian Wine Central’s latest commentary and learn more about the Italian Wine Professional program that San Francisco Wine School is launching with them -
Also check out the associazone produttori del nizza at -

© Copyright 2014 Master Sommelier Catherine Fallis, Planet Grape LLC. All Rights Reserved.