Wednesday, October 28, 2015


Master Sommelier Catherine Fallis with Italian Winemakers
Master Sommelier Catherine Fallis with Italian Winemakers
"For 30 years we came to you with wines similar to yours. Now we are bringing you wines that are easy to recognize as being from their particular region," said Niccolo Petrilli, Ambassador for Italian Wine & Style Promotions and Area Manager Americas & New Markets at La Collina dei Ciliegi, a winery in the Veneto known for its delicious, well-priced and widely available Valpolicella. The point of the luncheon was to showcase wines that while perhaps not top in their class, where true to their roots. This was the case with not only his Valpolicella Superiore from the highest elevation vineyard in the appellation, but also with a Barolo, an Amarone and a Moscato d'Asti.

Niccolo recounted how it took him nearly 15 minutes to drink a 2-ounce taste of Robert Mondavi Fume Blanc Napa Valley. For an Italian used to high acid, often bitter and tannic wines that refresh the palate and enhance the meal, it was "dense, heavy, too oaky and rich." Which is of course the great divide. Cocktail vs food friendly. Approachable vs. mysterious, unusual, or downright weird. This is nothing new, and with the latest releases of Brunello di Montalcino's coming in at a whopping 15% alcohol by volume, it is certainly not a country wide effort. But it was very refreshing to hear.

The winemakers present also touched on Italy's hidden treasure - thousands of native grape varieties. In fact, the first wine served, the 2011 Monti Lessini Durello DOC Metodo Classicoo Cuvee Brut, illustrated that point perfectly. It was a blend of 85% Durella (not to be confused with the DOC, Durello) and 15% Incrocio Manzoni, a Riesling/Pinot Bianco cross. This is stuff of SOMMGEEK dreams!

Marina Orlandi Contucci, owner of Colle Manora, a producer of Barolo in Piedmont, recounted this:  A French vigneron was visiting us recently and he said, "In Italy you make Silver wine with Gold grape varietie. In France we make Gold wine with Silver varieties." Well that sounds French to me, and all is as it should be. I for one am so glad to hear things are going back to the way they were before Robert Parker discovered Bordeaux in 1982. The weirder the better I say.

Tuesday, October 20, 2015


Glass of Bubbly featuring Columnist Catherine Fallis MS of Planet Grape
Glass of Bubbly featuring Columnist Catherine Fallis MS of Planet Grape

Summer goes so quickly. Why not extend the feeling with a little pink fizz to keep the mood sunny? It is highly appropriate for Fall too, as it is one of the richest styles of bubbly and pairs well with meat dishes such as Lamb or Pork.

Here are some top picks from our expert panel at Planet Grape Wine Review, the only woman-led wine rating panel in America, and this woman is a Master Sommelier (the author).

2012 Krone Twee Longe Gezellen Vintage Rose Cuvee Brut Methode Cap Classique Pinot Noir Chardonnay  Western Cape WO South Africa  92 points 12%, 750 ml, $26 Elegant, soft and yeasty with notes of strawberry, cherry, pink rose, pink grapefruit, tangerine, honey and ginger. Beautifully balanced.

nv Scharffenberger Cellars Brut Rose Excellence Pinot Noir Chardonnay  Mendocino California USA  90 points 12%, 750 ml, $23 Delicate, fresh and dry with notes of raspberry puff pastry, strawberry, creme fraiche and citrus.

nv Roederer Estate Multi Vintage Brut Rose Pinot Noir Chardonnay Estate Anderson Valley California USA  89 points 12%, 750 ml, $28.99 Delicate and fine with notes of lemon creme, pink grapefruit, rasperry, cherry, and brioche.

2008 Ferrari Perle Rose Brut Trento DOC Trentino Alto Adige Italy 94 points 12.5%, 750 ml, $59 Fine and creamy with notes of lemon drop, wild strawberry, pink rose, Bear Claw pastry, rising sourdough bread, and cashew.

nv Scacciadiavoli Vino Spumante Metodo Classico Brut Rose Montefalco Umbria Italy 92 points 13%, 750 ml, $30 Bone dry, dark earthy fruit, crisp, taut, and pithy with robust Sagrantino skin tannins.

nv Bollinger Brut Rose Champagne AOC France 94 points 12%, 750 ml, $110 Classic rich yeasty Bolly style but with raspberry, strawberry and cherry notes.

For more reviews and news in the world of wine, visit us at

Wednesday, October 14, 2015


Jim Smith of Bercut Vandervoort and Catherine Fallis MS of Planet Grape
Jim Smith of Bercut Vandervoort and Catherine Fallis MS of Planet Grape

Bordeaux and Port are the most significant benchmark wine regions of the world, both created by a thirsty U.K. market and waterways providing access to that market. While Port consumption remains steady, Bordeaux is enjoying another Golden Era, the first since Robert Parker “discovered” the stunning 1982 vintage. Over 685 million bottles of Bordeaux wines are sold annually, 58% of which is consumed in France. Of the remaining 42%, the first customer is China, followed by Germany, Belgium, U.K., U.S.A, and Japan.

Vins de Bordeaux/CIVB, in partnership with SOPEXA, is touring the U.S. market now with its Bordeaux Under One Roof presentation, including a Master Class with Tim Marson MW, and a walk around trade tasting. On October 28th I attended this event at the Golden Gate Club in San Francisco’s Presidio. Tim pointed out the while the 2014 vintage was very good if small in quantity, the 2015’s will be both very good and more widely available.

Of the wines presented in the Master Class, the highlight was a 2010 Chateau Lafleur-Gazin Pomerol $54 (review here: and from the walk around, the 2012 Chateau Cantermerle Haut Medoc $56 (review here:

Thursday, October 8, 2015


Deborah Parker Wong in her light-filled kitchen.
Deborah Parker Wong in her light-filled kitchen.

Bodegas Salentein honored winemaker Jose "Pepe" Galante at a private luncheon in the home of Deborah Parker Wong last week here in San Francisco. Galante was the long-time winemaker at Catena Zapata, one of the country's other big names in wine, and has only just recently joined Bodegas Salentein, completing the 40th harvest of his life earlier this year.

Deborah prepared a multi-course gourmet meal paired expertly with a flight of Bodegas Salentein wines (read our reviews of the wines here including a delicious Terrine of Summer Vegetables and Venison Chop with dried blueberry jus that was the best pairing I've ever had with Malbec outside of Mendoza.

"Pepe" is also known for his crisp style of Chardonnay coming from the San Pablo Estate, at 5500' elevation in the Valle de Uco.