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Wine Watch.

GRAPE EXPECTATIONS

Chardonnay

Meursault, Puligny-Montrachet, Chassagne-Montrachet. To any wine afficionado, these are magical words indeed, for they represent some of the greatest and most famous white wines anywhere. All are from Burgundy, and all are made from the Chardonnay grape. From the steely austerity of Chablis to the buttery, tropical fruit flavors of Australian Chardonnay, this varietal has become in a relatively brief period the most recognizable wine in the world. It is the principle grape, along with Pinot Noir, in Champagne, and it is the grape that has helped Place California, Australia, New Zealand, and several other countries securely on the wine map. A survey in the early 90s showed that 50% of all wine sold in restaurants in America was Chardonnay. It is doubtless higher today, as the mantra of "I'll have a glass of Chardonnay" is chanted nightly in restaurants and bars across the land. This is all the more notable when you think that as a varietal Chardonnay was virtually unknown to consumers until the late 20th century, and was not widely planted in California, the place responsible for its universal recognition, until the early 1960s. To the vintner, Chardonnay is known for producing high yields in a wide range of climates, although it is at its best in more temperate areas. This is due to the fact that Chardonnay bud early, just a couple of weeks after Pinot Noir, which makes it susceptible to the ravages of late frosts. In Cablis and northern Burgundy, for instance, it is common for the vineyard workers to be tending fires among the vines in the early spring. Chardonnay is one of the few white wines that age remarkably well and can also benefit from being aged in wood. Many California winemakers feel that if a little wood is a good thing, then a lot of wood is even better, resulting in the highly oaked wines that can be difficult to match with food. Some of the outstanding California producers of Chardonnay are to be found in the Carneros district, just north of San Francisco Bay where the conditions are ideal with cool temperatures and fog, resulting in lush wines with tropical fruit flavors; generally throughout Sonoma county, especially in the cooler, foggier areas such as the Russian River and the Alexander Valley; the foggy canyons near Santa Barbara on the central coast; and the Edna Valley near San Luis Obispo, where the wines can take on a lovely butterscotch quality.

Antinori Inaugurates Fonte de' Medici

Looking for that perfect wine vacation? Marchesi Antinori, famed for over 600 years for the production of fine Tuscan wines, opened its first holiday destination, Fonte de' Medici, an agri-tourism vacation spot for people who love the wine, food, culture, and history of Tuscany and want to enjoy it in a bucolic setting. Located on their Santa Cristina estate in the soft, rolling hills of the Chianti Classico area, it's halfway between Florence and Siena. The two Poderi, or small Renaissance estates, are named for the vineyards in which they sit, and the rooms are named for grape and olive varieties, both of which Antinori is famous for. One suite Colorino, is situated inside the Podere's original chapel. For more information, see www.fontedemedici.com or send email to mail@fontedemedici.com, or call manager Gilberto Nori at 39-0348-397-9600.

New Wines From Finger Lakes Region

Miles Wine Cellars, a family-owned premium wine producer in the Finger Lakes wine region of New York State, has released its first wines, including 1997, 1998, and 1999 vintages. The farm, located in Himrod, N.Y., on the western shore of Seneca Lake, was purchased in 1978, and the first vineyard was planted in 1979. For twenty years, the family sold their grapes to other wineries, many of which won awards for the quality of their wines. Currently, 50 of the 112 acres are planted in several varieties of grapes, the majority being Chardonnay, Riesling, Pinot Noir, and Cabernet Franc. The family was awarded two medals this summer at the International Eastern Wine Competition, a bronze for the 1997 Cabernet Franc, and a silver for their 1997 Pinot Noir. For more information about Miles Wine Cellars, write to Dr. William Miles at 168 Randall Crossing Road, Himrod, NY 14842; call him at 607-243-7742; fax him at 607243-3827; or contact him via e-mail at milesvin@aol.com.

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Brancott's Parent Creates Largest New Zealand Wine Producer

Brancott Vineyards' parent company, Montana Wines, has announced the purchase of Corbans Wine Limited. The newly merged company will produce an estimated 55% of New Zealand wines. The purchase allows Montana Wines/Brancott Vineyards to extend their grape resources, achieve greater production economies, and become an even more significant presence in the international market. The enhanced vineyard holdings of 6,000 acres will allow Brancott Vineyards to increase their U.S. market supply over the next several years. For more information about their wines, contact their U.S. importer, Seagram Chateau & Estate Wines Co., at 707-942-3400.

Ceretto Launches Innovative New Blend in U.S.

The Italian winery Ceretto, producer of some of Piedmont's finest single-vineyard Barolos and Barbarescos, has introduced its newest wine -- Monsordo, a unique blend of international grape varietals Cabernet Sauvignon, Pinot Noir, Merlot, and the native Nebbiolo. The inaugural 1997 vintage has already received high marks from the international wine press. Wine writer James Suckling said Monsordo is "full-bodied, with silky tannins and a long, long finish. A serious, cool blend." The bottle itself, designed by Giacomo Bersanetti, is receiving its share of kudos as well. The "fusion" look combines the top of a Bordeaux-style bottle with the bottom of a Burgundian one. The name is-etched into the bottle to create a sleek look using no paper at all. The wines of Ceretto are imported exclusively by Clicquot, Inc. More information is available at www.ceretto.com.

Australian Wines From Mornington Peninsula Debut

The rolling hills of Sonoma County made the appropriate backdrop for the American debut of four wines from Willow Creek Vineyard located on the Mornington Peninsula in Victoria, Australia. Winemaker Simon Black was on hand to help introduce his 1999 Unoaked Chardonnay as well as 1998 vintages of his Tulum Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, and Cabernet Sauvignon. Winemaking occurred intermittently in Mornington Peninsula since the 19th century, but the modern era of viticulture began in earnest in the early 1970s. The climate of the peninsula, located southeast of Melbourne, is very cool, somewhat like the Bordeaux region in France. Willow Creek Vineyard is situated in a warm pocket on the Western-Port side of the Peninsula. The climate there makes for late-ripening grapes, high acidity (great with food), and fine tannins (good aging potential). Black believes great wines are made in the vineyard and is a fierce proponent of "terroir." Carl Jaeger, owner of Scott Street Portfolio, exclusive importer of Willow Creek wines, works with only one winery from each growing region of Australia and selects the finest boutique wines for his portfolio. For more information about these and other Australian wines, call 415-255-0704, or send email to Customerservice@scottst.com.

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Think Red.

Inter Rhone, the organization that represents the wines of the Cote du Rhone and the Rhone Valley, has launched a new print ad campaign that features a blue stop sign and a tagline reading, "Life's just not the same without red," and their already-familiar slogan, "Think Red. Think Cotes du Rhone." The wines of the Rhone Valley, principally blended from Syrah and Grenache, are known for their consistent high-quality, exceptional value, and for being very food friendly. They tend to be very fruit-forward wines with good acidity and can be consumed quite young. While sales of these wines are already up considerably in the U.S., this new campaign should help expose them to even more American wine drinkers. For more information about the delicious wines of the Rh6ne Valley, call 212477-9800 or visit the Web site at www.rhone-wines.com.

Think Red. Think Cotes du Rhone.

www.rhone-wines.com

Award for Daniel Mirassou

Fifth-generation vintner Daniel Mirassou was recently honored with a lifetime achievement award at the Ritz-Carlton's "Fine Art of Cuisine" event at their prestigious Tyson's Corner property in Virginia. The Vintner's Award was given to Mirassou in recognition of his innovative, leading role in helping shape the modern California wine industry. Thomas Keller of Napa Valley's famed French Laundry Restaurant was awarded the Chef's Trophy. For information about Mirassou's wines, call Dave Muret at 408-274-4000 or send him e-mail at dmuret@mirassou.com.
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Author:MELLGREN, JAMES
Publication:Gourmet Retailer
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Jan 1, 2001
Words:1427
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