Wednesday, July 29, 2015

I’m a Balanced Babe and I’m a Master Sommelier…

…I’m a Wine Scholar, Keynote Speaker, Writer & Consultant: Master Sommelier Catherine Fallis

This week’s Balanced Babe,Catherine Fallis, is a dedicated and knowledgeable wine expert who holds the most coveted award in the wine industry and the ultimate credential for a wine professional:  Master Sommelier (and may we add the 5th woman in the world to obtain this title)!  She also made history by becoming the first Wine School Coordinator/Sommelier at the famous Manhattan restaurant, Windows on the World.  Catherine is known as the “Grape Goddess”  and you can find this consummate wine professional online at, a go-to source for everything you need to know about wine.

Today Catherine shares her story, what she learned from her mentors, and of course, the benefits of wine!

BB:  Tell us about your journey to becoming one of the world’s top wine experts and having such a coveted award: Master Sommelier [ səməlˈyā ]

It all started when I was galavanting around Europe with a Eurail pass, backpack, and a $5 a day budget for food and accommodations. I was amazed that I could drink wine daily!  Read this excerpt from my upcoming book:

“So, at barely twenty, we backpacked around Europe, from the beaches of Cinque Terre to the Black Forest, from Sevilla to Crete. Equipped with street smarts, wanderlust, and a keen thirst, we tried everything we could afford on our paltry but sufficient Eurail budget. From the sweet, succulent bite of my first peach in Paris, for which I gladly paid the equivalent of about $5 (so much for being a savvy, hard-bargaining New Yorker) to the bitter, intoxicating café correcto in Madrid, a much better deal at .35 cents, I discovered a whole new world of sensual pleasures. And a new sense of pride – not in myself – my self-esteem barely existed as it was – any time it came out of hiding I’d find a way to send it back to its cave – but in these French people.”  “[..] Oh, and at lunch everyone was drinking wine. Non-descript wine, in carafes, served without any fanfare in this casual bistro. Beaujolais perhaps, or Chinon – simple light inexpensive unimpressive red wine. This is what the Parisians drank? But where was the fuss, the fanfare, the typical Frenchman sneering down his nose and chortling derisively “heh heh, but this is no good.”? Why were the French typecast as snobs? Specifically as food and wine snobs? Was Julia Child the only one who could demystify the temple of French cuisine?”
BB:  Were there any special mentors that really made the difference in you pursuing the top of your field?  What advice did they give you?

Madeline Triffon MS – taught me to stand up straight at the table, be proud to be a Sommelier, and to go in and finish my exams at the 7th hour. She told me to put the blinders on, like a thoroughbred, and finish the race.

 Kevin Zraly of Windows on the World taught me everything I know about being humble and down to earth. He still wears a Timex watch and is the author of America’s best selling wine book.
BB:  We are dying to know.  What are the benefits of wine?!

Ha – well, I am not a medical professional but as a single mom running a small business I cannot imagine life without wine. It makes motherhood possible and in fact really does aid digestion.

Personally I think it works well in moderation along with a healthy plant based diet like they enjoy in the Mediterranean. Red wine in particular can be beneficial, just as the most highly colored fruits and vegetables bring the most benefits.
BB:  Can you give us a few healthy appetizer ideas that you might pair with a Cabernet or Chardonnay?

Crudité with Hummus
Grilled Corn on the Cob
Pan seared Salmon finished with a splash of the wine
Dungeness Crab

Cabernet Sauvignon
Brazil nuts, pecans or walnuts
Black Olives
Grilled pork or beef kebabs
Flank steak
Grilled eggplant with Sumac and olives
BB:  What is your daily routine like when it comes to running your company?

Some days are in the office writing, researching, advising. Others are in the field – speaking, consulting, tasting and meeting with winemakers and their importers and PR teams. Home office days are nice because I can stay in jeans all day. In public requires more effort getting out the door, but I love my work so much. It makes me so happy.
BB:  How do you maintain the Balanced Babe lifestyle?  

Lots of exercise. Biking, Kenpo Karate, walking on the beach, weight training – it all helps. Healthy diet low in meats and very high in leafy greens. Wine nightly with dinner. No work after 6pm unless absolutely necessary though I do work many weekends. Quality time with family and friends.  On occasion, if I can spare a half day, I go to Nob Hill Spa and alternate between the cold pool and hot steam room after an intense workout there.

Thursday, July 23, 2015



Kumeu River's Paul Brajkovich

Kumeu River’s Paul Brajkovic

New Zealand’s first Master of Wine, Michael Brajkovich, is also the country’s first producer of world class Chardonnay. His father, Maté (mah tee eh) moved to Kumeu, New Zealand from Zivogosce, a small village in Croatia, in 1937 and married his mother, Melba Sitich in 1958. He and his siblings Marijana, Milan, and Paul,
whom I met with at the Barrel Room in San Francisco last month, run the winery today.

While New Zealand is enjoying tremendous success as a producer of bright, fruity, appealing and consistent Sauvignon Blanc, Kumeu River Chardonnays are world classics, offering both the chalky minerality,  sexy leesy tang, and often feral quality of White Burgundy, France’s Chardonnay, with the bright, clean, opulent and expressive ripe fruit coming from the family’s well-sited North Island vineyards. While Matés , River Hunting Hill and my personal favorite, Coddington, are all released as single vineyard wines in the $40-$54 range, the $16 Kumeu Village Chardonnay is delicious and priced for everyday enjoyment.

Here is a link to our Kumeu River reviews:

Friday, July 17, 2015

New GOfermentor Technology Makes Waterless Winery A Reality

What if…
…you could eliminate oxygen and water completely from the winemaking process while, at the same time, reduce your labor costs and create better quality wines?
NEW JERSEY, JULY 18th 2015 – A new technology called GOfermentor, set to revolutionize the winemaking process in the areas of oxygen control and water waste, has been released onto the international winemaking market.
GOfermentor brings groundbreaking technology to the age-old art of winemaking, providing greater control of fermentation parameters, minimal exposure to air, minimal use of water, and an internal-automated cap management system, resulting in notably better quality wine, every time.
The technology creates a more controlled environment (which minimizes potential contamination) than fermentation in a macrobin. Moreover, the absence of oxygen allows the winemaker added direct-control over the final product.
GOFermentor Has Made The Waterless Winery A Reality
Water-usage costs are vastly reduced (90% on average), making the winery a more environmentally sound facility. No washing, no detergents, no scrubbing are needed. The system employs an internal and automatic punch-down method which ensures the cap remains moist without exposing the fermenting must to air.
Since GOFermentor requires no wash and rinse, its usage results in meaningful labor cost reductions so staff can be reassigned within the winery.
“GOfermentor is revolutionizing the fermentation process, and it affords considerably less capital than the traditional-style fermentors. The technology has garnered a broad appeal,” say Frederick Brown, Head of Business Development at GOfermentor. “Wineries in the U.S. and Europe have already embraced the GOfermentor technology, as we prepare to roll it out globally in the coming months.”
About GOfermentor
The GOfermentor was developed by Dr. Vijay Singh, a world-recognized biotech scientist with hundreds of published papers. Among his 20 or so patents, is his highly acclaimed Wave Bioreactor, a device developed in the late 1990s, which revolutionized the production of biopharmaceuticals by using a disposable cultivation bag supported on a rocking platform. Vaccines, antibodies, cytokines, proteins, are all commercially manufactured in the Wave Bioreactor, now owned and marketed by General Electric Healthcare.
The GOfermentor is the result of four years of development by Dr. Singh to develop better winemaking technology that uses no wash water, excludes damaging air from the process, has integral cap management and pressing capabilities, and yet is cost-effective. Extensive trials and product development were performed at his own Sky Acres Winery in New Jersey.
Media Contact: Swords PR
Name: Natasha Swords
Phone: 310.422.9173
Email address:

Friday, July 10, 2015


OV 03b Iconic and well-known Dry Creek Vineyard of Dry Creek Valley, Sonoma, has released their 2013 Old Vine Zinfandel with a new packaging twist – a label harking back to steamship travel in honor of the age of the vines (95-110 years old), and a cork from the future.

According to winery President Kim Stare Wallace, ” The winery laser printed detailed information about the cork directly onto the closure. Data such as the age of the cork forest, the harvest date of the trees and detailed information about the sustainable habitat these incredible forests provide to the Iberian Lynx and Spanish Imperial Hawk are some of the details that appear on the cork.”
OV corks2
Commenting on the project, James Herwatt, CEO, Cork Supply USA, Inc. said, “We are honored to partner with Dry Creek Vineyard and their Old Vine Zinfandel cork program. We support the winery’s efforts to increase consumer awareness of the important role the world’s cork forests play in the ongoing challenge to protect the environment. We salute Kim Stare Wallace and her family and look forward to working with the winery on this important campaign.” Dry Creek Vineyard has a pending patent and copyright application on this innovative new cork concept.

Read our expert review of this wine here: PG 93 pts

Wednesday, July 1, 2015



By Master Sommelier Catherine Fallis, aka grape goddess®*

CHANTICLEER wines are subtle, understated, compatible with food & capable of aging.

You’ve discovered a great wine, visited the winery, scored a spot on the mailing list, and the wines are now in your hands, ready to deliver pleasure to you and your guests. Yet it is at this very point that joy gives way to anxiety. How long should it be aged? What is the proper way to store it? When will it be ready to drink? As these questions go unanswered, it is often easier just to leave the little buried treasures behind and move on with life. The convenience of having your favorite wines at hand is forgotten.

A very basic cellar is as simple as a laying down a few boxes in an existing dark cool place in your home such as in the back of a closet or under a staircase. Wine bottles should rest on their sides, keeping wine in contact with the cork to prevent it from drying out. If the cork dries out, oxygen may get in. This would prematurely age or even spoil your wine. Ideal spots are also free from vibration and extreme temperature fluctuations. A nice homey option is to convert an existing piece of furniture. If you are thinking bigger, your options are either to convert or build a room, or to purchase a freestanding wine cabinet. 52-56° is ideal for serving whites and storing reds. Noted wine expert and gardener Hugh Johnson says “When humans need air conditioning, so does wine.”

Install a thermometer/hygrometer (about $20 at Radio Shack) in the area you are considering and check for temperature and humidity spikes at times of extreme weather in your area. Stable patterns slightly higher or lower than the target 55-65°F/65-75% humidity range are better than wild fluctuations, which are more damaging to the wines. The refrigerator is not a good place to store wine for more than a few months. Wine doesn’t like being agitated by the constant vibration, which mutes character, and may lead to premature aging.

When is the right time to open your wine? There are a few things to consider, the most obvious being grape type and color of the wine. Another is the raw quality of the fruit. A great wine comes from healthy, ripe fruit grown in an ideal environment, or “terroir”. It is easy to make great wine with great fruit, and plenty of bad wine is made with great fruit, but great wine cannot be made from inferior fruit.
Great wines will generally age longer than inferior wines. Then there are the wine’s structural elements, things like acids, tannins, alcohol, and sugar. Wines need acidity for longevity, especially whites. Tannins (components from grape skins or oak barrels that give the wine an astringent, drying quality) and pigments are preservatives as well. The best reds for long-term aging have had extended skin and/or barrel contact so that their tannin levels are initially high. Wines with high levels of residual sugar, or very sweet wines, have a very long life span.

Balance is critically important when evaluating when to open your bottle. As any fruit ripens, its acidity drops. Think about tomatoes. At peak ripeness they are so heavy with sugar they end up on the ground. They truly taste like fruit, and have little tartness left. Grapes that are allowed to ripen to such extreme have so much sugar that the yeasts, whose job is to convert that sugar into alcohol, can’t do the job alone. They need a starter, runner, and closing colony to complete this conversion. The resulting wines have low acidity and therefore are not necessarily getting better with age, but more likely are deteriorating. In this category we find many cult wines, or “big time” wines that get very high ratings from the more well-known American wine critics.

Chanticleer’s winemaker Chris Dearden has always bucked the trend of making “Big Time” wines, instead making wines that are subtle, understated, compatible with food and capable of aging. I have known and followed Chris since he was winemaker at Benessere. While I have professionally evaluated nearly every wine he has made at Chanticleer, I recently tasted the complete line-up of Chanticleer Cabernet Sauvignon, from 2000 to 2010, all at once, to see how the wines had progressed, changed, matured, and transformed over the years. I did this at my leisure, over several days. I sampled and resampled the wines over this three day period.

Wine critics, known for their fast paced, assembly-line approach, and even wine judges including myself, often create sometimes life-changing reviews based on only a snapshot of the wine, when it is in the glass in front of us. We swirl, sniff, sip, and spit, pen or tablet in hand, entering notes furiously so we can get to the next wine. I have always preferred doing only the initial tasting this way, ideally in the morning, in my lab, where the natural sunlight is ideal and the environment is free of strong odors, then tasting the wine with food later in the day. Then I simply place the cork back in the bottle and taste it the next day, and the next day again. Call this the grape goddess 3-day rule if you like.
For starters, I can see where the wine is on its aging curve, and when it most likely will show its best. Secondly, a wine that stays fresh after being opened for a few days is ideal for many people who want to enjoy only a glass or two with a meal. Thirdly, the most beautiful surprise in the world is that shy butterfly who, after a couple of days getting familiar with their surroundings, speaks up so magnificently. So it is with the Chanticleer wines.

As expected, the older wines held their own, those in the mid-range of age opened nicely, and the youngsters in the crowd showed well at first but then dramatically improved after breathing naturally for 48 hours. In fact, most young New World Cabernet Sauvignons actually get better after being opened for a few days, and doing nothing to them other than drinking the odd glass or two. The slow aeration, or oxidation – the wine is drinking it in – or technically breathing it in– actually helps to soften tannins and lift up the wine’s true character. For example, in Piedmont, Italy, the guest of honor gets the dregs of the Barolo from the night before. This is the same idea.

Despite their moderate prices, the Chanticleer wines, especially the reds, are age-worthy and may be laid down for some time with good results.

Pinot Grigio (Decanting unnecessary)
This medium-bodied dry white wine is ready to enjoy upon release, but will mellow further for another year or two.

Sangiovese (Decanting for a short time is beneficial)
So much joy is in the bottle, it is hard to resist. Go on, give in to temptation. But if you wish, the wines may be aged for up to 4-6 years.

Riserva (Decanting for up to an hour is recommended)
This nearly equal blend of Sangiovese and Cabernet Sauvignon tows the line between the lithe, tart Italian varietal and Napa’s showpiece, manly Cabernet Sauvignon. If it is on the menu tonight, decanting for aeration will help soften the edges. A simple carafe or pitcher will do. Otherwise, it may age well for 6-8 years.

Cabernet Sauvignon (Decanting for an hour or more is recommended)
There is no other place in the world so ideal for ripening Cabernet Sauvignon to its fullest than Napa Valley, but a sense of restraint is necessary to achieve that elusive balance, something Chris Dearden seems to do in his sleep. Chanticleer Vineyards Cabernet Sauvignon will absolutely benefit from decanting when young, and will mellow, soften, and come together beautifully, expressing their full range of characteristics at up to 8-10 years. If decanting older vintages, watch for sediment.

Thirteen Years of Chanticleer Cabernet Sauvignon Excellence

2012 - PG 96  May age well for 7 or more years
2011 - PG 95  May age well for 6 or more years
2010 - PG 98  May age well for 9 or more years
2009 - PG 100 May age well for 8 or more years
2008 - PG 98  May age well for 6 or more years
2007 - PG 98  May age well for 8 or more years
2006 - PG 96  May age well for 4 more years
2005 - PG 98  May age well for 2 – 3 more years
2004 - PG 98  May age well for 3 or more years
2003 - PG 92  This wine is at its peak
2002 - PG 96  Drink now or over the next 2 – 4 yrs
2001 - PG 92  Drink now
2000 - PG 98  Drink now or over next 2 years

Read recent Chanticleer wine reviews here:

*Master Sommelier Catherine Fallis is a nationally known wine judge, lecturer, author and advisor. She is Master Sommelier at Planet Grape® LLC -, a wine consulting firm providing education, entertainment, content, and sommelier services. Catherine created her alter-ego, grape goddess®, to help bring wine down to earth for consumers as well as those entering the wine industry. She is the only person in the world to hold both the Master Sommelier and Advanced Certified Wine Professional credentials, and is the world’s only Master Sabreuse, opening Champagne with a sword.