Malbec Wine Pioneer Releases Argentinan Cabernet Franc Fine Wine

As the sun was rising in the distance, the peaks of the mountains looked like gigantic, mythical waves frozen in time. The multifaceted colors of these behemoths had a primary palette of terra cotta in the sunlight with patches of navy blue and touches of dark purple with an enchanting dusting of white snow. As the California winemaker gazed upon the scene, half asleep, he felt that he must have been dreaming, laying in his bed in Sonoma County in a deep sleep, having the best dream of his life. But no, he quickly remembered that he had left it all behind, a chance of a lifetime no less, to pursue uncharted territory in South America, as the wines during that time were still struggling to build an export market. He was in his mid-30s and he knew if there was a time to take a risky leap, leaving the comfort of a great job in a stable economy for the unknown, it was either at that moment or never.

But he could have never imagined that instead of his original plan to travel to Chile, the only known South American wine country in the U.S. during the 1980s, that he’d go to Argentina instead, where most of the wines were drunk domestically during that time. Whenever he would talk to people in the wine world back home in the U.S. about Argentina, they would say, “That’s in Chile, right?” not knowing that it was its own country.

Paul Hobbs in the vineyards
Photo Credit: Viña Cobos

Yet this young man, Paul Hobbs, went to Argentina in 1988 and found his place working for a multi-generational wine-producing family, and eventually, he would become a key figure in producing the fantastic Argentinian Malbec wines that would become popular globally. Today, he has taken the next step in making a single vineyard Malbec that expresses a unique sense of place and he is also finding that Cabernet Franc is thriving in particular vineyards as well.

Argentina Malbec 

One of his contacts from U.C. Davis in California, Paul Hobbs’ alma mater, connected him with a gentleman from Argentina named Jorge, and so, when it came time for Paul to make that fateful trip to Chile, he thought it would be a good idea to invite Jorge as Paul didn’t speak Spanish at the time. Unfortunately, he didn’t know he was committing a major faux pas with the man hosting him in Chile, as he was ignorant of the complicated relationship that Chile and Argentina had with each other in 1988. So, his Chilean host told Paul to get rid of Jorge, which he tried to do, but little did Paul know at the time that Jorge had no intentions of leaving his side because he wanted to convince him to work in Argentina. The Chilean host kicked them both out, leaving Jorge the opportunity to drive Paul through the Andes Mountains into Argentina.

At that time within the wine world, Argentina had a lousy reputation for inferior wine which was due to political instability, making it impossible for them to participate in international trade over many decades. Their winery equipment was outdated, leaving much of their wine to oxidize. Since the wine was made mainly for local consumption, they didn’t bother bottling it and it was sold very cheaply in bulk. But the second Paul saw his first vineyard in Argentina, he was astonished by what he saw as there were rocky soils that would give enough drainage to create healthy roots and enough stress for quality vines. Also, he was utterly shocked that much of the vineyards were high-density plantings, which creates competition for minerals, creating a bit of stress that places enough energy into the development of the fruit and not too much into the canopy of the leaves. Argentina may have been backward regarding the wineries and cellars but they had a multitude of great vineyards that were ideally planted for quality wine.

Marchiori Vineyard
Photo Credit: Viña Cobos

His companion, Jorge, not only came from an Argentinian multi-generational wine-producing family but he came from the Catena family. They had been wine pioneers for around a century, and today, they are considered the royal wine family of Argentina. The day after Paul arrived in Argentina and surveyed the vineyards, Jorge flew him to Buenos Aires to meet his older brother Nicolás Catena, who today is a living legend in the wine world, and there they began their partnership. 

Malbec grape bunches
Photo Credit: Viña Cobos

Paul started to develop a program at Catena that significantly improved winemaking but also the overall management of the vineyards. “I was essentially that year in a learning situation,” admitted Paul, as he knew very little about Malbec and the vineyards of Argentina, and since there had been no significant viticulture research, he was starting from scratch. So, he used what he knew from his training and his time in California. They began to improve vineyard management by using less irrigation, opening the canopy for better aeration and sunlight exposure – as the fruit was placed in a sort of cocoon because of the hail storms in many areas of Argentina, and finally, pushing to get better pay for the growers as they needed to be paid for expending more effort to make quality grapes. 

Even though Paul already saw a tremendous amount of potential in the vineyards he visited in Argentina, he was further excited to notice that they had higher elevation land on the foothills of the Andes to plant vineyards that would get cooler weather yet with all the benefits of a dry, warmer region that includes low disease pressure and plenty of sunshine. But it was no easy task, as Argentine agronomical engineers, what they were called back then, thought the idea of planting in the foothills of the Andes was crazy. Yet he persisted, eventually getting Catena to plant the “first high altitude, high-density planting ever in Argentina” which they called Domingo after Nicolás Catena’s father. Paul notes that starting in the mid-1990s, many people, even the Europeans, started looking into planting vines in the wine region of Uco Valley in Mendoza, where the Domingo vineyard was located. “We had a massive expansion that created the Valle de Uco [Uco Valley] as we know it today,” said Paul.

But one of the reasons that Paul wanted to come to South America, especially as the son of a farmer, was that he wanted to have his own vineyards and make his own wine. So he left Catena to start his venture, Viña Cobos.  

Viña Cobos

Viña Cobos Winery
Photo Credit: Viña Cobos

Paul founded Viña Cobos in 1998 with Andrea Marchiori and Luis Barraud and his partnership with this married couple was extremely fortunate as the company might have folded without them. Paul wanted to learn more about how old vine Malbec would express different terroirs, sense of place, because affinity for terroir expression is one of the markers of a high-quality grape variety. This project would source old vines in Mendoza, Argentina, from a few key areas to show the differences between these terroirs.

Unfortunately, since Paul and his partners were a small company with very limited resources, only $70,000 to start a capital-intensive business, their grapes were often sold out from under them to bigger wine companies with a lot more money. They would have an agreement with growers to buy their grapes as long as they employed practices for growing quality fruit, which was unnerving for the growers as they were sacrificing quantity for quality; since Viña Cobos had very little capital, the growers were already nervous. So even though agreements were in place, once Paul and his partners showed up at the vineyards to collect their grapes, they found out that their grapes were sold to one of the big companies, as the growers didn’t even bother to let them know that they had already sold the grapes. But Paul completely understands the growers’ desperate situation, yet it placed his tiny company, barely hanging on, in a tenuous position until his partner Andrea Marchiori’s father said they could use his vineyard, Marchiori estate. The vineyard is located in the well-known wine sub-region of Luján de Cuyo, and they would be allowed to implement extreme practices to achieve the most excellent fruit quality possible.

And so, the initial plan for Viña Cobos had to change; hence, instead of making a single vineyard comparison between a few different plots of old vine Malbec, they made premium entry-level to mid-level priced wines that were incredible expressions of Mendoza as a wine region. And those wines have sustained Viña Cobos till this day and contributed to the love for Argentina Malbec. 

Working in Viña Cobos vineyard
Photo Credit: Viña Cobos

But finally, Paul has been able to return to his original dream of making the case for Malbec as a noble grape. First, he has released a bottling called ‘Vinculum’ that showcases the best grower fruit from that vintage. Another way that Paul has helped increase the quality of Malbec wine was to set up a new way of paying growers, which is unheard of. He sets the price upfront with them via a contract instead of waiting for the wine critics’ appraisal of the vintage to set the price; he even gives prepayments to the growers. That way, they have some money upfront to do the costly practices to grow the highest quality fruit and be guaranteed a very good price no matter how the critics sum up the overall vintage. Since Paul was raised on a farm, he knows that not getting enough money for any harvest can make or break a grower. 

And so, across the board, they can bring in the best quality. Yet, Paul has added some fun into the mix by introducing a contest for their ‘Vinculum’ bottling, where the best two or three growers that year are used in that bottling. The selected growers are announced at a party that Viña Cobos puts on to bring all the growers together, celebrating the glorious vineyards of the famous sub-regions of Mendoza: Luján de Cuyo and Valle de Uco.

The other project involves vineyard designate bottlings of not only the Malbec grape but also the Cabernet Franc grape. 

Single Vineyard Cabernet Franc 

Zingaretti Vineyard
Photo Credit: Viña Cobos

Paul now makes single-vineyard bottlings from the following vineyards: Hobbs Estate (Luján de Cuyo), Zingaretti Estate (Valle de Uco), Marchiori Vineyard (Luján de Cuyo) and Chañares Estate (Valle de Uco), and interestingly Chañares Estate is located near where Paul oversaw the planting of Catena’s Domingo vineyards all those years ago. 

Chañares Estate
Photo Credit: Viña Cobos

Chañares Estate was purchased by Paul 10 years ago. Still, he didn’t do the initial planting of the vineyard as it was originally done by three professors from the University of Mendoza. Surprisingly, these professors placed pyramids with stones inside to pull energy from the cosmos, something that one would never expect professors to do. Yet Paul says that they were ingenious in a way, as they left “natural zones,” leaving plants and trees and clearing paths around various sections of the vineyard that allow water to drain away. Since the vineyard is almost 4,000 feet on the foothills near the Andes Mountains, it can receive heavy rains, so the pathways allow the shower to wash away. Another benefit is the lack of hail storms since the storms “don’t really form this deep into the Andes,” as Paul notes. They are further down the slope, allowing him to avoid using hail nets, which he feels can sometimes get in the way of growing high-quality grapes. 

Bird’s-eye view of Chañares Estate
Photo Credit: Viña Cobos

Also, this vineyard has lots of rocky, stony soil encrusted with limestone. Even though the vines are only around 12 to 14 years old, their extremely thin root hairs go down over three feet, and because the root hairs are so thin, they can “glean very fine micro-nutrients,” which gives a distinctive sense of place to this vineyard. They have own-rooted Malbec, Cabernet Sauvignon and Cabernet Franc vines planted in the vineyard, and funny enough, Paul says that despite Cabernet Sauvignon being known as a hardy variety that can grow almost anywhere, it doesn’t perform well in the Chañares Estate. Yet, Cabernet Franc shines in this vineyard. Even though Cabernet Sauvignon is more widely recognized, the stunning quality of the Cabernet Franc is undeniably excellent so he will replant the Cabernet Sauvignon with either Cabernet Franc or Malbec. He is hoping that Cabernet Franc’s popularity will grow among wine drinkers down the line, and notes that once these vines reach 20 to 25 years old, they will hit their peak and stride in quality.

The American Dream 

A brilliant young winemaker who was raised on a small family farm in upstate New York not only became the winemaker of a well-respected winery in Sonoma County but then, once the LVMH conglomerate purchased it, he was part of the most influential company specializing in luxury goods. He earned more than he could have ever dreamt and traveled the world, spending time in some of the most impressive headquarters worldwide. But it felt wrong over time; he was spending more and more time in boardroom meetings and participating in executive activities than in the vineyards. Was he crazy to even fathom the very thought of leaving? Did he not appreciate an opportunity that many would have died for?

Or maybe it is lucky to know oneself early enough to do something about it and knowing that sitting in the most luxurious offices in the world and owning expensive things will never fulfill someone who craves to be out in the vineyards, hands in the soil, working side by side with those who feel the same pull towards the land. 

As he gazes out of a gorgeous window with a jaw-dropping view during another board meeting, all he can see are those vineyards in his mind, and he wonders about vineyards in undervalued places in other exciting areas of the world. So he takes that leap to trade one American dream for a completely different one; creating a dream that didn’t even exist in reality, to make great wine in South America.  

***Link to original Forbes article:

2019 Viña Cobos Wines ‘Vinculum’ Malbec, Chañares Estate Malbec & Cabernet Franc
Photo Credit: Cathrine Todd

Paul doesn’t like fining his wines as he believes it “clips their wings,” and he wants his wines to be free to “fly.”

2019 Viña Cobos, ‘Vinculum’ Malbec, Mendoza, Argentina: 100% Malbec from the best Viña Cobos growers selected for the 2019 harvest, 82% comes from Valle de Uco and 18% comes from Luján de Cuyo. Elegant nose with blackcurrant, touch of fresh herbs and violets with an underlying note of crushed rocks with silky tannins and subtle fruit and spices on the palate that has an overall quality of pure finesse.

2019 Viña Cobos, Vineyard Designate Chañares Estate, Malbec, Uco Valley, Mendoza, Argentina: 100% Malbec from the Chañares vineyard, located 3,888 feet above sea level. Deep color with ruby core and purple edge that telegraphs the rich blueberry and plum pie flavors that are delectable with a mouth-filling lush texture balanced by vibrant acidity and savory notes such as wild thyme with a long, flavorful finish. 

2019 Viña Cobos, Vineyard Designate Chañares Estate, Cabernet Franc, Uco Valley, Mendoza, Argentina: 100% Cabernet Franc from the Chañares vineyard, located 3,888 feet above sea level. Complex layers on the nose that are extremely intriguing with tree bark, dried wildflowers and an intense chalky minerality with ripe black cherry fruit on the palate that is shaped by finely etched tannins that give drive to this wine, finishing with a saline quality that is spectacular.

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Woman From Famous Fine Wine Family Takes Winery In Organic Direction

The tall, thick stalk reached an unbelievable height through the base of long, light green leaves that fanned around its base as if they were presenting a rare jewel. Adoring the top of the stalk was an explosion of thin yellowish-green leaves that shot out with spikes, all together forming a big, closed-tulip shape with turquoise flowers nestled throughout, making it an otherworldly plant with no equal.  

The South American country of Chile is known for its extraordinary exotic beauty; its native plant, Chagual, is one of the many exotically entrancing natural aspects that grows on the central coast. It is an integral part of the biodiversity of certain areas, as a specific type of butterfly, the Mariposa del Chagual – the largest butterfly in Chile – feeds on the top of the Chagual when it is a caterpillar and then, when it turns into a butterfly, it pollinates the flower, helping the Chagual plant continue to propagate. This butterfly species is already endangered and if there were no more Chagual, these butterflies would become extinct; without these butterflies, these remarkable Chagual plants would cease to exist as well.

And so, a prestigious Chilean winery, Los Vascos, has decided to place an impressionistic drawing of the Chagual on their first two organic wines, which are aptly named after this incredible plant.

Los Vascos 

Los Vascos winery
Photo Credit: Viña Los Vascos

Los Vascos is owned by the Rothschilds, the most famous fine wine family worldwide. One of the family members, Baron Éric de Rothschild, who has been in charge of the First Growth Bordeaux, Château Lafite Rothschild, since 1974, became fascinated with the vineyards of Chile in the 1980s. So, he asked the legendary head winemaker of Lafite, Gilbert Rokvam, to go to Chile to see what he thought of the vineyards out there. Gilbert found great potential in the estate vineyards of Los Vascos in Colchagua Valley, considered today the superstar wine region in Chile. However, it was unknown in the international wine world when Gilbert first surveyed the vineyards. It didn’t take long, once Éric de Rothschild bought Los Vascos in 1988, to attract major investment and make it the Chilean region with the top wine producers.

But Éric de Rothschild has a way of bringing great success wherever his energies are placed; when he was put in charge of Lafite Rothschild in the mid-1970s, the wines were having a lot of ups and downs in regards to quality and they were not living up to their place in history. Still, the same could be said for much of Bordeaux during that time. Not being one to rest on his laurels, as the wines still had no problems selling, he decided to make significant investments in the vineyards and winery, and since the 1982 and 1996 vintages, they have been making some of their best wines. Some argue that, today, they are some of the best wines on the planet.

The interesting thing about Château Lafite Rothschild is that it is located in the Bordeaux appellation of Pauillac, which has the largest number of First Growths from the 1855 classification with a total of three, and has several other esteemed châteaux that are classified. The great wines of Pauillac are known as big, well-structured wines that will last for many decades. Even though Lafite is certainly known as a wine with a long life, it stands out in Pauillac as the wine with the most finesse and, simply, the epitome of elegance that many other wineries have tried to emulate worldwide.

Saskia de Rothschild

Eric de Rothschild and his daughter Saskia de Rothschil
Photo Credit: Viña Los Vascos

Over four years ago, Saskia de Rothschild, the daughter of Éric de Rothschild, took over running Los Vascos, bringing a much stronger focus on sustainable practices. Saskia is 36 years old and has a fresh, new energy reinvigorating this Chilean estate but she is experienced beyond her years. Not only has she worked at stellar estates in Bordeaux such as Château L’Evangile in Pomerol and Château Lafite Rothschild, but she has had her own career as an investigative journalist, interviewing inmates at La Maca prison in Abidjan, Ivory Coast, filming the first female U.S. Marines sent to the frontlines of Afghanistan and investigated the mining industry in Greenland, just to name a few. She has traveled extensively, going deep into the culture and ways of the people, like any good investigative journalist. So, it is important to her to express the unique qualities of the Colchagua Valley in Chile.

According to the estate director of Los Vascos, Philippe Rolet, they have been organically managing around 200 to 250 acres of vineyards over the past 10 years. Still, since Saskia has taken over, they have significantly increased it to 800 acres and in the future, they would like to manage all of their 1,500 acres of vineyards organically. As mentioned, she has spearheaded the production of their first organic wines, fittingly called ‘Chagual.’

Elegance In The Most Unlikely Places 

Worker on a horse on the Los Vascos estate Photo Credit: Viña Los Vascos

It always seemed an unbelievable feat how Château Lafite Rothschild, under the guidance of Eric de Rothschild, would be able to produce some of the most elegant wines in the world in the prestigious appellation of Pauillac, known for its power. And Saskia is already tapping into the elegance that is within the power of the wines made in Chile’s Colchagua Valley, just like her father, with a great estate director by her side, Philippe Rolet, to find even deeper nuances of a graceful quality, within an area known for generous fruit ripeness, that is exemplified in their ‘Le Dix’ wine. And, especially, their top red wines are undeniably powerful, just like Château Lafite Rothschild.

But power doesn’t always have to push its way into a room aggressively or fiercely demand attention, sometimes real power is quiet and reserved, unafraid to take its time, so, once it does slowly reveal its secrets to the drinker, it is a moment that is profoundly gratifying.

***Link to original Forbes article:

Le Dix Wine
Photo Credit: Viña Los Vascos
2022 Los Vascos ‘Chagual’ Sauvignon Blanc Photo Credit: Cathrine Todd

2022 Los Vascos ‘Chagual’ Sauvignon Blanc, San Antonio, Chile: 100% organic Sauvignon Blanc grapes. They sourced these grapes in the much cooler coastal area of San Antonio from organic vineyards as they wanted a fresh, bright Sauvignon Blanc. Very refreshing nose of thyme and lemon peel with a zingy palate with flavors of lemon curd and mouthwatering acidity.  

2022 Los Vascos ‘Cromas’ Gran Reserva Chardonnay and Cabernet Franc Photo Credit Cathrine Todd
2022 Los Vascos ‘Cromas’ Gran Reserva Chardonnay and Cabernet Franc
Photo Credit: Cathrine Todd

2022 Los Vascos ‘Cromas’ Gran Reserva Chardonnay, Colchagua Valley, Chile: 100% Chardonnay. Stony minerality and white peach aromas with ripe apricots and hints of spice on a moderately rich body balanced by high acidity.

2020 Los Vascos ‘Cromas’ Gran Reserva Cabernet Franc, Colchagua Valley, Chile: 100% Cabernet Franc. Crushed rocks with wild brambly fruit, a hint of fresh herbs and tree bark with a fine texture and a long, aromatic finish.

2020 Los Vascos ‘Cromas’ Gran Reserva Carménère Photo Credit Cathrine Todd
Los Vascos ‘Cromas’ Gran Reserva Carménère Photo Credit: Cathrine Todd

2020 Los Vascos ‘Cromas’ Gran Reserva Carménère, Colchagua Valley, Chile: 100% Carménère. Earthy nose with dusty earth and tobacco leaf with richer fruit flavors on the palate of blackcurrant preserves and sage leaves with firm tannins that give shape to the generous fruit.

2019 Los Vascos ‘Le Dix’ Colchagua Valley, Chile: 92% Cabernet Sauvignon from old vines and 8% Syrah. This is Los Vascos’ top wine that represents the best of the best of the Colchagua Valley, where the outstanding achievement of the Rothschilds in Chile can be best experienced. It is called ‘Le Dix’ as that is the French word for 10 and it was first released in 1998 to celebrate Éric de Rothschild’s tenth anniversary with Los Vascos. This wine is mainly comprised of Cabernet Sauvignon from 80-year-old vines that come from a vineyard called El Fraile, which means the Monk, and it is the oldest vineyard at Los Vascos. Floral aromas delight the nose with blackcurrant leaf and a touch of cocoa nib, and black cherries mingling with cinnamon stick and grated nutmeg flavors along the silky tannins with a broad body that finishes with great precision.

Los Vascos ‘Le Dix’
Photo Credit: Cathrine Todd

2010 Los Vascos ‘Le Dix’ Cosechas Antiguas, Colchagua Valley, Chile: 85% Cabernet Sauvignon from old vines, 10% Carménère and 5% Syrah. The “Cosechas Antiguas” noted on the label indicates that it has been cellared at Los Vascos under a wax closure, and so, the 2010 and below 2003 are both “Cosechas Antiguas” bottlings. Layers of complexity with cigar box, black truffles and wild mushrooms with juicy black fruit on the palate encased in breathtakingly silky, fine texture.

2003 Los Vascos ‘Le Dix’ Cosechas Antiguas, Colchagua Valley, Chile: 100% Cabernet Sauvignon from old vines. Intriguing smoldering earth and tantalizing cured meats, such as saucisson, with uplifting notes of anise seeds and fresh blackberry fruit with a lot of energy on the finish with a linear drive.

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100-Point Score Given To Nephew Of ‘Dean Of American Winemaking’ For Washington Cabernet Sauvignon

Life returned to the charming streets of Paris as men and women danced in the streets with laughter and opening wine bottles, becoming the music to which they moved, and strangers hugged each other fiercely as they kissed each cheek with tears streaming from their eyes. Finally, the Nazi rule was over, as the Allies won World War II, and Paris, which was a ghost of its former self during Nazi rule, showed that the exuberant enjoyment of life, joie de vivre, was not wholly dead; if anything, it had become stronger than it was before the war.

Quilcda Creek Mach One vineyard
Photo Credit: Quilceda Creek Winery

Alex Golitzin’s family, who had escaped from the Russian Revolution to move to the wine region of Loire Valley in France, as that is what many free-thinking and talented people did during that time, as they knew that they could only be safe in the countryside of France, that is until WWII broke out. Alex was born in the Loire Valley but moved to Paris with his parents during the war. As enchanting as Paris was once the war ended, they knew it wasn’t safe for them, as Russia started to gain power relatively quickly and the idea that no one stood in their way of aggressively taking over other Eastern European countries with a repressive iron fist, was outright unnerving to many Russian immigrants in Europe.

The Golitzin family could have never guessed that their son Alex would become a key player in establishing the production of great Washington State Cabernet Sauvignon and even more unbelievable that he would be helped by an uncle who would become arguably the most famous U.S. winemaker of all time.

Napa & Washington Wine Excellence

Luckily, Alex had a maternal uncle in the United States who could help him and his family emigrate but it wasn’t just any Russian uncle – it was the legendary André Tchelistcheff, known as the ‘Dean Of American Winemaking’, who was a crucial part of helping Napa Valley achieve their greatness that is now known worldwide. André survived being left for dead in the Russian Civil War to become a well-known, talented chemistry and agronomy student in Paris. A Frenchman named Georges de Latour convinced André to work for him at his winery, Beaulieu Vineyard, in Napa Valley in the late 1930s, and the rest is history.

André went on to help his nephew, Alex Golitzin, and his wife, Jeannette, to start a winery in Washington State that would become one of the critical pillars of establishing Columbia Valley, Washington State fine wine. André’s main advice was to “make one wine and make it really well.” And so, they made one outstanding Cabernet Sauvignon and named their winery after a nearby creek, Quilceda Creek Winery, releasing their first vintage in 1979.

Alex and Jeannette’s son, Paul Golitzin, was bitten by the winemaking bug at an early age, and it is no wonder, considering his great-uncle was André Tchelistcheff. Paul learned a great deal from André and his son Dimitri, which keeps Paul, to this day, always trying to find improvement in reaching a higher level of excellence. 

It’s In The Blood

Paul Golitzin and vineyard manager Dan Nickolaus  Photo Credit: Quilceda Creek winery
Paul Golitzin & vineyard manager Dan Nickolaus Photo Credit: Quilceda Creek winery

A great winemaking prowess is undoubtedly present in the very talented Paul Golitzin as he refines the balance between power and elegance in his Cabernet wines as the director of winemaking. But interestingly, as he approaches the 50th anniversary of his family winery, his current focus is to express the nuanced differences of terroir and sense of place in his wines. Over the years, the Golitzin family has acquired some premium vineyards, such as owning 79% of one of the oldest vineyards in Washington, Champoux vineyard, and the cooler climate Mach One vineyard.  

Some might think it is a departure for Paul to get so obsessive about the vineyards. Still, even though his great-uncle André Tchelistcheff was known for establishing modern American winemaking practices, he was a man who had an incredible ability to spot an excellent vineyard as well as express its true sense of place.

The famous Napa vineyard owner Andy Beckstoffer, who owns some of the most prestigious vineyards in California, let alone the world, said that André Tchelistcheff was his first viticulturist. And it was André who recognized the uniquely outstanding terroir of the plot in Bolgheri, Tuscany, that would go on to create one of the most excellent Italian cult wines, Masseto. And so, even though his legend was built on his winemaking achievements, he had a knack for finding and expressing greatness from the land.

Cabernet Sauvignon clone 8 in the Galitzine vineyard
Cabernet Sauvignon clone 8 Galitzine vineyard Photo Credit: Quilceda Creek winery

So Paul has been working towards not only single vineyard bottlings of his Cabernet Sauvignon but also adding another facet to the expression of place, a single clone Cabernet Sauvignon grape variety that matches the aspect and soil of a particular plot. Those who know red Burgundy, or even great new world Pinot Noir, will be aware that the clone of the Pinot Noir grape variety used is an essential part of the characteristics of that wine, as qualities will significantly differ among various clones of the Pinot Noir grape. Quilceda Creek, which was the winery to make the world take Washington State Cabernet Sauvignon seriously, is now taking another leap forward by bringing attention to the unique “thumbprint” of each clone, especially when it is partnered, through trial and error, to the ideal piece of land. 

One recent bottling of 2020 Quilceda Creek Cabernet Sauvignon ‘Palengat’ was awarded 100 points from the Wine Advocate, which is sourced from a plot of their Mach One vineyard using the Cabernet Sauvignon clone 685.

When it comes to assessing a historically significant person’s legacy, it is always difficult to say whether they achieved more while they were alive or if they achieved more after their death. With some, it is easy to see which side they will land but with André Tchelistcheff, it is not so easy. There wouldn’t be the Napa Valley that one knows today if it wasn’t for what he accomplished while he was alive but numerous wine producers after him have reached extraordinary heights because of the legacy he left. 

It is a debate that has merit on both sides. Still, there is one definite thing: Paul Golitzin benefited from the knowledge passed on from André like so many others. Yet, the blood that pumps through his veins gives him that fiercely pioneering spirit that will not allow him to settle for having one of the great Cabernet Sauvignon wines; no, he’s going to show the world that there is so much more to Cabernet then previously known. 

Quilceda Creek winery Photo Credit: Quilceda Creek winery
Quilceda Creek winery
Photo Credit: Quilceda Creek winery

***Link to original article on Forbes:

The below Quilceda Creek, Columbia Valley Cabernet Sauvignon is the only wine they sell to the market, select retail stores and restaurants. The remaining Cabernet Sauvignon wines are sold 100% to their wine club membership. Currently, it is a year to a year and a half for the waitlist to join the wine club. The below wines are back vintages tasted with the current vintage of 2020 to show how well these wines age. 

2012 Quilceda Creek, Columbia Valley Cabernet Sauvignon, Washington State: 100% Cabernet Sauvignon. A dark and decadent wine with black raspberry compote and blackcurrant preserves with an uplifting hint of sage that has a broad, lush palate with flavors of cocoa nibs and candied violets with round, silky tannins.  

2018 Quilceda Creek, Columbia Valley Cabernet Sauvignon, Washington State: 100% Cabernet Sauvignon. Fresh thyme with dried wildflowers on the nose and layers of red and black fruit flavors intertwined with ribbons of silk that caress the palate and has a long, flavorful, and gorgeously textured finish that goes on and on.

2020 Quilceda Creek, Columbia Valley Cabernet Sauvignon, Washington State: 100% Cabernet Sauvignon from six vineyards, including Champoux and Mach One. The aromas slowly unravel teasingly as hints of freshly picked flowers, wet stones and warm red cherries each delight with blueberry and blackberry fruit flavors and a touch of spice that displays an impressive depth and concentration in harmony with an overall delicate beauty. The suggested retail price is $250, with 5,450 cases produced.

Quilceda Creek ‘Palengat’ Cabernet Sauvignon Clone 685 Photo Credit: Quilceda Creek Winery
Quilceda Creek ‘Palengat’ Cabernet S. Clone 685 Photo Credit:
Quilceda Creek Winery

The wines below are only offered to wine club members with these single vineyard, single clone wines, each priced at $250. Also, the wines below were double-decanted the night before, and the suggestion for the future 2021s is to double-decant them a couple of days before and drink them on the third day. 

2020 Quilceda Creek ‘Palengat’ Cabernet Sauvignon Clone 685, Horse Heaven Hills, Columbia Valley, Washington State: 100% Cabernet Sauvignon clone 685 from a plot in the Mach One vineyard. Even though these wines are said to hit their ideal peak in 10-15 years, this exquisite beauty is just breathtaking right now with a lovely structure, as the tannins feel like delicate lace, with exotically pretty aromas of jasmine, cumin seeds and star anise with deliciously black berried juicy fruit yet it is wrapped up in an overall finesse and eloquent delivery that has an extraordinarily long and outstandingly enchanting finish. Palengat is Paul’s mother’s maiden name, as all the single vineyard and single clone bottlings are named after the family. Only 930 cases were made.

2020 Quilceda Creek ‘Tchelistcheff’ Cabernet Sauvignon Clone 412, Horse Heaven Hills, Columbia Valley, Washington State: 100% Cabernet Sauvignon clone 412 from a plot in the Mach One vineyard. Multilayered aromas on the nose, such as tobacco leaf, dried herbs and pressed rosebud, with a firm, distinguished structure that hints at classic Bordeaux qualities, which seems very fitting since their wine is a homage to André Tchelistcheff, yet there is a succulence to this wine that traditional Bordeaux had issues achieving in the past and so this wine is the best of both worlds. A minuscule 250 cases were made.

2020 Quilceda Creek, Galitzine Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon Clone 8, Red Mountain, Yakima Valley, Columbia Valley, Washington State: 100% Cabernet Sauvignon clone 8 from their namesake vineyard called Galitzine in the Red Mountain AVA, one of the warmest appellations in Washington State. Big, brawny tannins with broad shouldered structure yet the quality of the tannins is excellent with no rough edges that has brooding flavors that are irresistible as they beacon to the drinker with a mysterious air that is balanced by a vibrancy in the wine that is electric and brings a great focus to the finish. Only 1,275 cases were made.

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Revisiting Top Wine Vintages From Bordeaux Back To Outstanding 1982

The young French boy was wholly enthralled in his parents’ conversation during dinner, which was very unusual as, most of the time, he was trying to figure out a way to sneak out as soon as possible to get more play time in before bedtime. But this night was different as they lived in a small community in Bordeaux, France, where most of the time, talk at the table was about neighbors, family, or bills, as the little boy’s world was very tiny and the rest of the world seemed so far away. But there was a Japanese man who was the son of the founder of one of the oldest alcoholic beverage distribution companies in the world, Keizo Saji, and he had just bought a Third Growth classified château in the Saint-Julien appellation of the Haut-Médoc in Bordeaux, called Château Lagrange.

The French boy’s parents were not in the wine business so it was odd for them to talk about it but the idea of an Asian company buying the estate scared his parents yet fascinated the little boy.

Château Lagrange cover photo
Photo Credit: Château Lagrange

The end of the 1970s and early 1980s were a financially difficult time for the Bordeaux wine region as despite them being the most famous fine wines in the world, the cost of running the châteaux, vineyards and investment needed for new wineries had escalated to the point that many of the producers were hemorrhaging money. So, some of the classified growths were forced to sell their grand estates. The idea that the successful Japanese company, Suntory, would purchase one of the classified growths for ten million US dollars seemed extraordinary as despite it being nothing compared to what châteaux cost today, it was an unfathomable amount of money to the local people at the time. Amazingly, they invested 30 million dollars into renovating the whole property and buying all the tools they needed to achieve excellence.

Two Sides Of The Same Coin

Rainbow on Château Lagrange estate Photo Credit: Château Lagrange

Today, French and Japanese cultures go hand in hand as they are both known for their fierce dedication to reaching as close to perfection as possible; back in the 1800s, the French chef Escoffier codified the five mother sauces and simplified French techniques that would become the basis for Western fine dining cuisine for decades. But it was the Japanese top chefs who eventually dazzled their French counterparts as despite the aesthetics and ingredients being different, its outstanding quality was undeniable. The Japanese discipline to achieve excellence, for example, forces one who wants to become a sushi chef to study making rice for three years with a total of ten years of study, which was immensely admirable to the French and would inspire admiration worldwide.

Keizo Saji kept everything French at Château Lagrange as he greatly respected the culture; he would use his resources and deep respect for Château Lagrange to bring it to its full potential. Keizo Saji was not only an important businessman but also a renowned Haiku poet and a second-generation master blender of Japanese whisky, his father was Japan’s first master blender. And so, at a recent Château Lagrange tasting of some of the best vintages over the past 40 years in New York City, it was an excellent opportunity to see if there was a significant quality improvement over the years.

Vertical Of Château Lagrange

Matthieu Bordes leading a vertical tasting
Photo Credit: Château Lagrange

Matthieu Bordes, the current general manager of Château Lagrange, talked about what drew Mr. Keizo Saji to purchase the property in the early 1980s before he led the vertical tasting. “Mr. Saji knew that land was the key point; to make a great wine, you must have a great terroir,” noted Matthieu. He further explained an interesting aspect of the vineyard situation of the classified growths in the Haut-Médoc of Bordeaux: the châteaux were classified in 1855 according to the value of their wines at the time and the vineyards were not classified. What this means, in reality, is that a château that was awarded the highest classification of a First Growth was given such a placement based on the wine they made from the vineyards in 1855. Still, since the château name holds the classification, it is allowed to expand the vineyards which go into its top selection wine as long as it is within its appellation. So hypothetically, a Second Growth châteaux in Saint-Julien can source its grapes from anywhere in the Saint-Julien delimitated area, over 2,000 acres of vineyards, and place it into its Second Growth classified wine.

Château Lagrange vineyard
Photo Credit: Château Lagrange

Matthieu explained, “Mr. Saji noticed that the vineyards for Lagrange hadn’t changed in almost 400 years as the whole vineyard is one block around the château, located on the highest point of the land.” Today, Château Lagrange has only bought additional vineyards to make white wine. However, they haven’t purchased any vineyards to go into their Third Growth classified red wine, as it is still the same estate vineyard established in 1631.

First, the vertical started with the enchanting 2016 vintage, dancing along the palate with its aromatic beauty and fine texture. The 2010 and 2009 – the dueling superstar vintages back to back, the more structured, broad-shouldered giant next to the plusher, more accessible seducer, respectively, then the highly structured 2000 and more accessible 1990, showing that both are aging gracefully with even the 1990 still having a lot of life. And last, the 1982 is a legendary vintage for many reasons.

1982 Château Lagrange Photo Credit:
Cathrine Todd

The 1982 vintage began a new age for Bordeaux wines, heralding the modern style of wines we know today. Since the vintage had consistently warm, dry weather, the grapes achieved a balanced ripeness. As before, it was a common practice, not only in Bordeaux but also in many wine regions in France, to add sugar to unfermented grape must that would then all be fermented to produce a higher alcohol wine – a process called chaptalization because in the past, Bordeaux had a problem with underripe grapes that produced wines that were so low in alcohol that they were unbalanced. Many top Bordeaux experts have said there hadn’t been such a consistent level of high-quality wines across Bordeaux since the extraordinary 1961 vintage. Since the 1982 vintage, Bordeaux has had a multitude of vintages that, despite differing in specific traits, have excellent quality wines across the region.

1982 was also a vintage that increased interest in a much broader audience around the world as Bordeaux was no longer just for a select group of people who had come from a family drinking Bordeaux for years and had the resources to cellar it for several decades; these wines now showed their deliciously intriguing qualities earlier, so one could understand its worth without having had the privilege of growing up with these wines. And it was no longer vital to cellar wines that were undrinkable in their youth, although they still age for decades as the structure is still there because it is a finer structure with less green notes that no longer dominate but instead add a nice nuance in the background.

Even with 1982 being an outstanding vintage, there was a gigantic leap in quality from that point to the 2016 vintage of Lagrange, as more money was placed into properly taking care of the vineyard as well as technology that would help to preserve the quality of the grapes coming into the winery.

On The Threshold

The nine-year-old boy was playing with his friends, running through the vineyards during harvest time as it was always the most exciting time of year in the normally sleepy little town tucked away in Bordeaux. All of a sudden, the sound of a plane was heard overhead; he started running under it, pretending he could leap up in the air and desperately grab on, traveling to an exciting destination as it seemed he would be like everyone else in his family – never stepping foot outside of Europe.

This harvest seemed like every other harvest to this little boy as he had no idea that the 1982 vintage would change his world forever. The following year, his parents would be talking about a prestigious Japanese company buying one of the classified growths and over two decades later, he would be traveling the globe as the general manager of that prestigious estate. Such a partnership between Suntory and Château Lagrange would become a beautiful symbiotic relationship as the great Keizo Saji knew it was a precious jewel that had become tarnished over time, needing someone to bring back its sparkle and preserve it at all costs. His legend lives on with this legendary property. 

Lineup of Château Lagrange wines
Photo Credit: Château Lagrange

***Link to original article published on Forbes:

2016 Château Lagrange, Saint-Julien, Bordeaux: 70% Cabernet Sauvignon, 24% Merlot and 6% Petit Verdot. An enchanting wine that dances and prances on the palate with remarkable agility and grace with an incredible bouquet of violet, sandalwood incense and forest floor notes that has a stunning purity of fruit on the palate with redcurrants and blackberries, and the silky tannins caress the palate; such a beauty.

2010 Château Lagrange, Saint-Julien, Bordeaux: 75% Cabernet Sauvignon and 25% Merlot. Enthralling aromas of intense minerality, fresh morel mushrooms, and an Asian spice box with broad-shouldered tannins that give lots of lift and structure to this wine and marked acidity that all give this wine an incredible depth of flavor, complexity and overall brightness along the sustained finish.  

2009 Château Lagrange, Saint-Julien, Bordeaux: 73% Cabernet Sauvignon and 27% Merlot. Decadent nose with cocoa nib and raspberry liqueur that has hints of dried flowers with blueberry tart flavors on the palate and silky tannins with a long, flavorful finish.  

2000 Château Lagrange, Saint-Julien, Bordeaux: 76% Cabernet Sauvignon and 24% Merlot. Firm, big tannins yet with a lovely overall quality and complex layers of cigar box, graphite and fresh sage finishing with a perfumed red fruit note.

1990 Château Lagrange, Saint-Julien, Bordeaux: 44% Cabernet Sauvignon, 44% Merlot and 12% Petit Verdot. Lots of concentration with rich cassis fruit and layers of aromas such as jasmine, smoky minerality and gravelly soil.

1982 Château Lagrange, Saint-Julien, Bordeaux: The exact blend is not known; smoldering cigar with sweet black cherry fruit and a touch of lushness on the mid-palate balanced by black tea notes that is still juicy with lots of fruit and lots of energy.

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Young Woman Leads Great Italian Wine Family Into Exciting New White Wine Project

The Barolo & Barbaresco World Opening Grand Tasting in NYC
Photo Credit: Cathrine Todd

It was the first of its kind outside of Italy as all of the prestigious Barolo and Barbaresco wine producers from the wine region of Piedmont gathered together in New York to present their top offerings. Some of the most outstanding red Italian wines made by some of the most iconic wine producers were all in the same room; a room that was worthy of such guests with its soaring ceiling and its expansive, open space as many wine professionals, as well as passionate wine lovers, enthusiastically went from table to table, experiencing the greatest hits of the Italian wine world.

Of course, the esteemed Pio Cesare multi-generational wine producer was there with their great Barolo and Barbaresco red wines. Pio Boffa, one of the family owners leading the winery, was in attendance. But he wasn’t the kind of man who just wanted to quickly talk to as many people as possible. Instead, he was more about the deeper one-on-one connections to allow others to truly understand his family’s legacy and the core values he fought for daily.

Pio Boffa
Photo Credit: Pio Cesare

When he talked to someone, he fully registered that person wanting to know who they were, where they came from and what was most valuable to them. That day, he would make the few deep connections he always searched for, even when many warned him and others not to go to New York City. This extravaganza, aptly called “Barolo & Barbaresco World Opening,” was happening in the heart of Manhattan at the beginning of February 2020. Despite NYC seemingly having no known issues with a COVID-19 outbreak because they didn’t have tests yet, unbeknownst to many, it was spreading like wildfire as people from all over the world came in and out of the densely populated city on a daily basis.

Within a couple of weeks, NYC was in an extreme lockdown that many could only envision existing in a post-apocalyptic movie.

Pio wouldn’t have issues getting back home safely during that time, but sadly, after only a little more than a year later, he passed away after battling Covid at the too-young age of 66. It was a devastating moment for the Italian wine world as he had been a vital part of running his family’s winery for over 40 years.

Federica Boffa

Pio Boffa was prepared by his father to take over the winery since he was a child, making him grow up quickly as every free moment was devoted to the business. And so it wasn’t only in his DNA; it was also part of the air he breathed every day and it determined the rhyme of his life that was in sync with his beating heart. His daughter, Federica Boffafollowed the same path. Even though she was only in her early 20s during the Barolo & Barbaresco World Opening in 2020, Pio talked about how he could already see that she would be a greater leader than he had been. So, he was assured at that time that she would take their legacy to the next level.

Cesare Benvenuto and Federrica Boffa Photo Credit: Pio Cesare

Superficially, Federica Boffa doesn’t look like her father, still, she has the same strength of character in her eyes and desire to deeply connect with those who are interested in her family’s wines. Today, she oversees Pio Cesare with her cousin, Cesare Benvenuto, who worked alongside Pio Boffa for many years.

Recently, Federica talked about all the major projects they are taking on such as building two new facilities within the “historic center of Alba,” as it was once known as the production capital for Barolo and Barbaresco. Pio Cesare is one of the last foundational families of Barolo still there with their original winery, and now, they are placing more investment into this historic place that “has many problems,” according to Federica, and if they don’t preserve and restore the birthplace of Barolo winemaking then who will? She insists that they have no intention of increasing production but want to give themselves more room for cellaring bottles, allowing for more wine to age, hence increasing quality, and another facility will be dedicated to the sole purpose of making wine.

White Wines

The Pio Cesare wine family has made a few different white wines in tiny quantities over the years as Pio Boffa loved them. They make a Cortese di Gavi, a common traditional white wine of the area. Still, many years ago, as a young man in the early 1970s, he tried to convince his father to plant Chardonnay but his father was extremely traditional and wouldn’t allow it. Finally, in 1981, Pio Boffa got to plant his Chardonnay in one of their cooler Barbaresco vineyards and the neighbors were sure that he had lost his mind. Pulling out the sacred Nebbiolo red grape variety that produces their legendary wines was one thing, but so that he could plant a foreign French white variety no less! But through time, the beautiful expression of place in their small production of Chardonnay wine has won over a strong following and its style is similar to Burgundy with its finesse and freshness, yet it is an expression of a specific vineyard in Barbaresco.

Federica Boffa
Photo Credit: Pio Cesare

Actually, the idea that their Chardonnay is Burgundian in style is quite fitting as many red Burgundy lovers also appreciate red Barolo and Barbaresco, despite their profile on the palate being sometimes quite the opposite, depending on the vineyard and vintage. Yet, they both have two significant things in common: affinity for expression of place and a complex, aromatic nose.

But now they are investing in a white wine called Timorasso that is not only on the same high level as their Chardonnay but is indigenous to the area.

Timorasso is a native white variety that has existed since the Middle Ages. Some Latin documents trace it back to the town of Tortona, located in the Piedmont region. A few years ago, the Pio Cesare wine family bought land in the Colli Tortonesi Timorasso area, where they have planted Timorasso. In the future, they will release aged Timorasso onto the market, which will be around 800 cases in production. Some have described Timorasso as similar to the Riesling white grape variety because it has honey aromas with lots of minerality and high acidity, making great old bones as a flinty minerality starts to become more noticeable with cellaring. Hence, Federica and her cousin will release it onto the market when it shows that wonderfully complex note.

Honoring Her Father  

The Pio Cesare Chardonnay, established by Pio Boffa, is named ‘Piodilei,’ which means ‘Pio for the ladies’ as it is a dedication to the women in the family, who in the past had to be behind the scenes due to the convention of the time. Pio Boffa was very passionate about the Chardonnay when he was a young man and it took that extreme passion to overcome tradition so he could plant a few rows. When he tasted an excellent Chardonnay, it reminded him of some of the strongest people he knew – the women in his family – because it was powerful with plenty of structure while also being elegant with an overall finesse.

When Pio passed away in 2021, Federica decided to place the original label on their 2020 Chardonnay wine, the vintage that was next in line to be bottled at the time, as a dedication to the hero in her life who empowered her to become the woman she is today.

Back in the early 1980s, Pio Boffa could have never imagined that when he was honoring the women in his family with his ‘Piodilei’ Chardonnay wine, the woman who would be the most incredible representative of those qualities wouldn’t even have been born yet. But today, she leads the family business in ways that Pio himself could only dream of and she not only honors her father by placing the original label on the 2020 vintage but she honors him every day by being the extraordinary woman whom he saw very early on in his little girl’s eyes.

Link to original Forbes article:

Lineup of Pio Cesare Wines
Photo Credit: Cathrine Todd

2019 Pio Cesare’ Piodilei’ Chardonnay, Langhe DOC, Piedmont, Italy: 100% Chardonnay from their family-owned vineyard Il Bricco. Pretty nose with citrus blossom and stony minerality with juicy white peach flavors, crisp acidity and elegant textural contrast with broad body and fine structure that gives lift along the expressive finish.

2019 Pio Cesare, Barbaresco DOCG, Piedmont, Italy: 100% Nebbiolo from family-owned vineyards Treiso and San Rocco Seno d’Elvio. An enticing floral nose of lilacs with delicious note of warm raspberries with subtle red cherry flavor on the palate and very fine tannins.

2019 Pio Cesare, Barolo DOCG, Piedmont, Italy: 100% Nebbiolo from family-owned vineyards in Serralunga d’Alba, Grinzane Cavour, La Morra, Novello and Monforte. The earthier intensity of broken rocks and, on the palate, ripe red cherries balanced by zingy cranberries with hints of spices and fresh bay leaves with lace-like tannins.

2019 Pio Cesare, Il Bricco Vineyard, Barbaresco DOCG, Piedmont, Italy: 100% Nebbiolo that comes from the highest part of the family-owned vineyard of Il Bricco. Intriguing nose of sandalwood and cinnamon stick with darker fruit and bigger structure with marked acidity, and this wine will stand up to long-term cellaring.

2019 Pio Cesare, Ornato Vineyard, Barolo DOCG, Piedmont, Italy: 100% Nebbiolo from the family-owned prestigious vineyard Ornato in Serralunga d’Alba. A bright, inviting wine with lots of verve and life that presents delightful, pristine fruit such as red cherries, boysenberries and red currants that is balanced by savory herbs such as thyme with an elegant body and aromatic finish with aniseed notes.

2019 Pio Cesare, Mosconi Vineyard, Barolo DOCG, Piedmont, Italy: 100% Nebbiolo from the family-owned stellar vineyard Mosconi in Monforte d’Alba. This wine seduces from the first sip with lush fruit and silky tannins that caress the palate and the delectably rich, multi-layered fruit is balanced by fresh acidity and complex notes of tar and an intense minerality at its core. Despite its lush palate, it is still finely delineated with perfect precision on the very long finish. A fantastic wine that is already a superstar now but these wines age really well so try to muster up every ounce of willpower to put a few of these glorious beauties in the cellar.

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Wine Books Released By Influential Chef Who Led Best Restaurant In The World

“Take out four fondues! The last dish in the history of El Bulli… as a restaurant! Take them out! Come on!”

An enormous roar from the clapping crowd started as intense emotions swept over the group – was it heartbreak? Sadness? Hopelessness? One might think it was at least one of those emotions but no, it was joy; joy from the sheer gratitude that they would be given one of the greatest gifts in the world – time. For there is nothing more precious in the world than to be given more time to create, think, achieve and accomplish the Herculean mission to stimulate people’s creativity worldwide and find balance within the body and mind.

Former El Bulli restaurant which is now the ‘elBulli1846’ Museum Photo Credit: Pepo Segura

El Bulli, the restaurant that ceased to exist after July 30th, 2011, allowed El Bulli, the culinary center, to be born the next day. It is fair to say that El Bulli was the best restaurant in the world and its leader, Ferran Adrià, is the most influential chef of modern times. The list of awards and accolades seems never-ending, with the proclamation of “best” and “most influential” stated numerous times during its time under the reign of the master, Ferran Adrià. Even those who achieved such awards as the “best” after he closed the restaurant were mainly chefs who either studied under him or have been greatly influenced by his accomplishments.

Ferran pushed the boundaries of avant-garde cuisines to impossible levels and didn’t simply have a key selection of celebrated dishes he would bring out year after year. Instead, he would close the restaurant each winter to create new recipes that would makeup the around 35-course meal for the following year. In the 1990s, Ferran did the unthinkable – he established gatherings where he would share his recipes with other chefs, which was unheard of at the time. But since he was always creating new ways to first give people happiness and then, second, to make them think, there was no need to jealously guard his recipes as his mission was not just to create a name for himself but instead empower all cooks to spread happiness by enlightening the minds of their patrons.

It is no wonder that when he announced the permanent closure of El Bulli the restaurant, the news was placed on the front pages of many of the most esteemed international newspapers worldwide.

Linking Knowledge

Ferran Adrià
Photo Credit: elBullifoundation

The master, Juvé & Camps, who had spent so much time bringing happiness to others, finally realized the happiest day of his own life – after he closed the restaurant. El Bulli was undoubtedly known as the best restaurant in the world. But despite two million people requesting tables per season for a restaurant that only had 52 seats per seating, with demand never being their issue, it was still barely getting by, financially. Ferran wanted to make it accessible by only charging around $325 per person as it would allow everyone to have a fair opportunity to experience such a meal. It’s shocking, considering it was considered by many the greatest of the greats, and many top restaurants in New York City easily charge $1,000 per person. So El Bulli couldn’t wholly pay all of their staff, which included 40 chefs in the expansive, ultra-modern kitchen, and Ferran said that they just got used to having no money and many talented young chefs jumped at the chance to learn from the master. But Ferran was never about having an elitist restaurant; he wanted to make people “happy” by getting them to “think” in different ways on a conscious and unconscious level and so, at a certain point, he felt the best way to devote himself to such a mission was to close the restaurant and take the time to work towards the best situation to link various types of knowledge with different disciplines, such as engineering, neuroscience, philosophy, art and cuisine, to name a few.  

Eventually, he started the El Bulli Foundation in February of 2013 with the mission to safeguard the legacy of the El Bulli restaurant, to share experiences in management and innovation that could be applied to any entrepreneurial project and to generate high-quality content for the fine dining world.

Bullipedia Wine Sapiens Volume 1
Wines Contextualization and Viticulture
Photo Credit: Cathrine Todd

Part of their mission of producing high-quality content was to devise a methodology called ‘Sapiens,’ which in Latin refers to a discerning, wise person. This methodology is both “holistic” as well as “systemic.” So, it is a system that draws on a multitude of perspectives and experiences that are all interconnected, even if their connections are not apparent at first. Yes, they have released a series of books on cuisine but, recently, they have released a series of books on wine using the Sapiens method. 

“What are a scientist, a sommelier, a philosopher, and the ‘best chef in the world’ doing at the same table?” 

That is how the Wine Sapiens books started, according to Ferran Centelles, the wine director of the El Bulli Foundation, as well as a longtime sommelier at the restaurant, and after ten years of investigative research, which is still ongoing, eight volumes with more than 4,500 pages including wine observations from a scientific, artistic and gastronomic perspective have been produced by Ferran Adrià and Ferran Centelles gathering a team of experts that spent countless hours on “discoveries, arguments, surprises, and a few (momentary) frustrations.”

Bullipedia Wine Sapiens Volume 2
Vinification and classifications
Photo Credit: Cathrine Todd

The family-owned Spanish winery, Juvé & Camps, known for their high-quality Gran Reserva Cava sparkling wines, not only helped with the research of these books by allowing them to use their expertise and research but they also took on the cost to translate volumes I and II of the Bullipedia Wine Sapiens collection so they could be available in English.

Freeing The Mind

The woman was surprised when she sat in the dining room as it was comfortable, warm and inviting, as if she had been transported to a hacienda home of a local family tucked away in a remote cove on the Costa Brava in the Spanish region of Catalonia. In a few moments, over 30 dishes would be presented to her throughout the meal and she tried to take deep breaths to subdue her nerves, which intensified with each passing second. It was exhilarating and terrifying simultaneously, as if standing at the edge of a cliff where she was ready to take that leap of faith and give herself over entirely to the journey about to start.

The first presented creation triggered the fear she had recently felt from previous sleepless nights, as it didn’t look like anything she had eaten before. Even though many called this the best gastronomic experience of their lives, others had said that they felt quickly sick by an overwhelming panic and had to stop the journey of a parade of creations, destroying the dream that they, too, would have the experience of a lifetime. But those fears that kept her in her comfort zone for most of her adult life, that were part of a slow downward spiral that started to dull her excitement and joy for living as there seemed to be nothing else to discover, were not going to stop her this time. She cleared her mind and picked up the creation that expressed itself not only by its unique color and shape but also by how it was placed on a tiny plate with waves sculpted into it, making her pick up the creation as intended. Then, after she put it in her mouth, the smell in her head, the taste, the texture and the still prevalent imprint of the visual impression all came together to give her one of the most precious things that had been taken away too early in life. She had become a child again, eating something for the first time that instantly formed many connections in her brain, giving her a tidal wave of joy and happiness that brought her back to a place in development that she could no longer remember.

That is what eating at the El Bulli restaurant did for some, while others decided not to jump off the cliff. This is what the Wine Sapiens collection also intends to accomplish: to free one’s mind so she can tap into that pure happiness of discovery that was lost long ago. 

***Link to original Forbes article:

2016 Juvé & Camps, Gran Reserva Cava
Photo Credit: Cathrine Todd

2016 Juvé & Camps, Gran Reserva Cava, Catalonia, Spain: Blend of Xarel·lo, Macabeo, Chardonnay and Parellada. Such a beautiful minerality from this Cava from the first sip with juicy white peach flavors enhanced by lemon peel brightness with a touch of complex aromas of spiced toast and almond cookies with an impressive overall balance of richness, acidity and delicate texture created by the finesse of the tiny bubbles caressing the palate.

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This White Wine Producer Helped Raise International Reputation For An Entire Wine Region

The aromas of white flowers and intense minerality immediately enchanted him on his first sip. Then, the fierce, electrifying acidity sent a shiver down his spine like a lightning bolt that made him feel more alive than he had ever felt. It was why he kept coming back to a foreign land that made it virtually impossible to gain citizenship and it is why he passed on other opportunities that would better guarantee a more successful career. But logic goes out the window when every sense in a human is experiencing ecstasy that brings him to another dimension. For some, it is falling in love, others it is an escape to a fantasy world, yet for Diego Ríos, it was German Riesling wine.

Diego Ríos
Photo Credit: Bodegas Granbazán

German Riesling is not a wine that is broadly appreciated on a fine wine level. Yet, those who discover this intriguing white wine and delve into the best producers are typically entirely smitten by the wines and, on rare occasions, become obsessed to the exclusion of others. Diego Ríos is one of those who became obsessed.

Originally from Chile, Diego decided to take an unorthodox path after studying enology at university by doing an internship at a German winery instead of joining other classmates in California or Australia. But he was fascinated by high-quality German Riesling, a wine that makes one’s mouth water with its high acidity, delights one’s nose with complex aromas and easily ages gracefully for 50 years and beyond. He ended up leaving after his first year in Germany to gain more experience in the US by working at a top winery in Oregon and then returning to Chile to work for a top winery there. However, the siren song of German Riesling had him return to work for a well-known producer in the Mosel wine region in Germany for several years. Despite work visas at the time being extremely difficult to guarantee, he couldn’t imagine giving his sweat, blood and tears to make any other wine… that is, until he met his future destiny at a wine trade convention.

His Passion Yet With A Spanish Soul

In 2015, at the German wine trade convention called Prowein, Diego represented his German winery as he had a good handle on the German language. One of the customers who came to his table to try his wines had an interpreter to translate the customer’s native language into German so he could ask questions. Diego noticed that his native language was Spanish, so halfway through speaking in German, Diego said, “My native language is Spanish too,” hence, they continued in Spanish. The man was Pedro Martínez, and he and his family wanted to buy a couple of top wineries in Europe, the first being in the legendary Spanish wine region Rioja. But the family also loved great white wines and was already in love with German Riesling, which is why he went to this wine trade convention. But unfortunately, the Martinez family couldn’t buy a top estate in Germany. 

But Pedro Martinez kept in contact with Diego, as they were still hoping to find a grand white wine estate. The Martinez family was also passionate about the white wines in the Spanish wine region Rías Baixas, near the Atlantic Ocean, nestled in the northwestern area of Galicia. At first, they didn’t even investigate the possibility of buying a well-respected wine estate as the Rías Baixas wines had become quite popular and the newer generation had no desire to sell. By chance, the admired Bodegas Granbazán property was placed for sale due to the owner’s failing health. Pedro jumped at the opportunity to buy an esteemed name that came with a significant amount of vineyards, which was unheard of as many of the Rías Baixas wine producers have no vineyards as most of the land is owned by several families that each have a stake in a tiny plot of vines.

When Diego heard that Pedro could buy Bodegas Granbazán, he was beside himself as the vineyards were in a prime location in the Salnés Valley known for its high acidity, mineral-based, saline-driven white wines. Diego could not become the winemaker of Bodegas Granbazán until 2019 due to the long process of getting a work permit. Still, the minute he found out that he had finally found a wine home where he could start doing in-depth research to reach the nirvana of white wine, all he thought about was the property of Granbazán and how he could elevate it to its full potential.

Bodegas Granbazán

Bodegas Granbazán
Photo Credit: Bodegas Granbazán

Bodegas Granbazán was founded in 1981 by a local family that had made their money in the canned fish industry. They were part of the quality revolution of Rías Baixas wines as, during that time, stricter regulations were put in place to make higher quality wines and today, even though it is a small wine region, it has taken the US by storm as another alternative to Sauvignon Blanc and Riesling for those looking for refreshing, aromatic white wines. The native white grape variety is called Albariño and despite being once considered a relative of Riesling brought by French monks, when the DNA of the grape was analyzed, it was determined to be a native variety unrelated to Riesling. But its qualities are similar to Riesling, so it is no wonder why those looking for excellent aromatic, high-acidity wines have gravitated to it. 

Not only was Bodegas Granbazán known for focusing on quality in the vineyards but they made a lineup of Albariño white wines that showcased different aspects of the vineyard as well as other qualities in the wine that were enhanced by various winemaking methods, such as being one of the first to age Albariño in French oak – actually the name of the wine is ‘Limousin’ which is the name of the French forest where the oak is sourced. 

Within four years, Diego has already made some improvements with the winery focusing on terroir, aka sense of place, which started with his first Granbazán harvest in 2019; that was an enormous feat to accomplish. Not only do they have around 50 acres of their own vineyards but for their “classic” wine called ‘Etiqueta Verde,’ they need to source from 80 other family growers with their tiny plots of vines, as it is the largest quantity wine they make. Diego changed things up in 2019 by ensuring all the grapes for each plot were harvested on the same day. This way, Diego could ferment each plot in its own tank so he could properly blend different plots with each other, instead of having various plots fermenting in the same tank, so he could make the ideal “classic” blend that represents their sub-region Salnés. The Salnés Valley is known for its mouthwatering acidity and saline minerality, as Diego says the wines have “insane salinity” and if someone wants to know what salinity tastes like in a wine, these are the wines to try. However, it was not easy to convince the growers as it is the families themselves who harvest the grapes and, initially, they didn’t understand why they had to work so much harder harvesting all the grapes in one day when they had been doing fine spreading it over a few days. Yet when they saw the result and understood that their particular plot is given the respect it deserves by devoting a tank just to it, they realized that it is the next level in finding the best expression of their Salnés Valley.

Traditional trellised parra system on the Bodegas Granbazán estate
Photo Credit: Bodegas Granbazán

When Diego first arrived in Rías Baixas, he initially felt he had a “thousand eyes on him” as the locals aggressively protected their traditions. They didn’t want this young winemaker with his international background to start making trendy wines instead of respecting what they had already established as the standard for a Rías Baixas wine. But Diego loves the traditional wines of Rías Baixas as that drew him to the place and he only wanted to improve on what was already established. And so, yes, he started to find the nuances in expressing the sense of place as well as steer away from using new French oak in the wines that use it, and instead, use larger barrels of used oak that allow for more of the complexity of Albariño to develop instead of adding flavor. 

Tasting The Greatest 

Heavenly, transcendent bouquet with tantalizing flavors on the palate with an exquisitely defined body and never-ending mineral-laced finish – simply “mind-blowing;” the last great wine Diego has had and, for a moment, it was easy to think it was one of those old German Riesling wines from an iconic producer that is auctioned for several thousands of dollars. But no, it was a 1989 Bodegas Granbazán ‘Limousin’ Albariño. He is unsure if it is the greatest wine he has ever had but it is near the top of his list. And one day, he is determined to make a Bodegas Granbazán wine, which, after a few decades in the cellar, will be the greatest of the greats he has tasted.  

***Link to original Forbes article:

Lineup of Bodegas Granbazán wines
Photo Credit: Cathrine Todd

Bodegas Granbazán was certified as a Fair’N Green winery last year; it was founded by some of the most respected German wineries, and Bodegas Granbazán is the first winery in Rías Baixas, as well as the first in Spain with its sister winery in Rioja, Bodegas Baigorri, to be certified.

2022 Bodegas Granbazán ‘Etiqueta Verde’ Val do Salnés, Rías Baixas, Spain: 100% Albariño. The 2022 vintage was the hottest year on record for Europe as a whole, even more than the legendary 2003, but Diego said that although it was problematic, they were still able to harvest grapes with lots of acidity and minerality that were only touched with richer fruit flavors. Granbazán’s “classic” expression of the Salnés Valley uses some of their estate fruit and other plots throughout the sub-region among 80 families, which is dominated by granite soil. Notes of salted lemon with sea shell and lemon meringue on the palate with lots of energy and bright acidity.

2022 Bodegas Granbazán ‘Etiqueta Ambar’ Photo Credit: Cathrine Todd

2022 Bodegas Granbazán ‘Etiqueta Ambar’ Val do Salnés, Rías Baixas, Spain: 100% Albariño. The ‘Ambar’ is the next level up and is the most known in the US. It is considered the “classic Grande Salnés” as it is bigger and has more generous fruit that the previous wine. Half of the fruit is sourced from the Granbazán estate and the other half is the best lots of the 80 families, where only four or five are chosen. Broken rocks with fresh acidity with zingy lemon peel notes and a broader body with juicy peach flavors and spicy notes.

2020 Bodegas Granbazán ‘D. Álvaro de Bazán’ Val do Salnés, Rías Baixas, Spain: 100% Albariño. 2020 was a cool vintage with very high acidity, so these wines will have a long life. All of the grapes are sourced from the Granbazán estate vineyards named Finca Tremoedo. The grapes come from plots with fine sandy granite soil that is highly porous, so the soil in that area is very poor and the vines struggle; tiny grapes with concentrated fruit are produced from these plots. Intriguing notes of orange blossom and pressed flowers with lemon sorbet flavors on the palate with marked acidity and a broad, flavorful finish with saline minerality.

2020 Bodegas Granbazán ‘Limousin’ Val do Salnés, Rías Baixas, Spain: 100% Albariño. ‘Limousin’ is sourced either from the sides of the hill or the top of the hill from the Granbazán estate vineyards. Since the wine is aged in oak from the French forest of Limousin, Diego prefers to pick the grapes with the highest amount of acidity as it does better in oak aging and 2020 was perfect as the acidity was extremely high. Diego is also transitioning the aging of this wine from new, smaller barrels to bigger, seasoned oak. Delectable aromas of quince paste and honeysuckle with a hint of cumin seeds with mouthwatering acidity with a mixture of tropical and citrus fruits on the palate with a very long, expressive finish.

2018 Bodegas Granbazán, D. Álvaro de Bazán, Val do Salnés, Rías Baixas, Spain: 100% Albariño. This is an older vintage with a couple more years on it to showcase the added complexity that occurs with only a couple more years in bottle. Multifaceted nose with dried chamomile, ripe golden apples and honeycomb aromas that has an intense minerality with layers of wet stone and sea spray that has a broad body with nectarine crumb tart on the palate and refreshing acidity on the long, flavorful finish.

2019 Bodegas Granbazán, Veigalobos Vineyard Photo Credit: Cathrine Todd

2019 Bodegas Granbazán, Veigalobos Vineyard, Val do Salnés, Rías Baixas, Spain: 100% Albariño; waxed top with a modern label as opposed to the traditional labels for Bodegas Granbazán as this is a new project started in 2018. From a walled single vineyard called Veigalobos with granite rock layers of calcareous alluvial elements in its soil, it produces a powerful expression of Albariño. It has some skin contact during fermentation, where 20% of the berries still have their skins intact but they are placed in a sort of tea bag material so they can be removed at any stage of the fermentation to avoid having the skin contact going too far. 2019 was a cooler vintage, which is better for skin contact as grapes that are not too ripe are less likely to produce a wine that is too over the top. Honeycomb with crushed rocks and dried wildflowers with lots of salinity and sour lemon drops with a structured palate that makes this a very gastronomic wine.

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California Vineyard Sought Out By The ‘Royal’ Family Of U.S. Wine World

Flying through the air like an eagle, soaring high above the all-inspiring landscape. Below are beautiful waves of vineyard rows appointed with majestic oak and sycamore trees and the sound of horses adding to the sensory delight of such a unique experience. There, hanging from a zipline, “big Karl” flew through the air while wearing his favorite cowboy hat while letting out a sound of pure joy. Big Karl is one of three owners of what might be one of the wineries with the most ziplines, six in total, each giving a thrilling flying experience across his 14,000-acre ranch. Also, Karl and his partners own the only vineyard in the wine sub-region of Santa Margarita Ranch AVA in Paso Robles, California.

Big Karl
Photo Credit: Ancient Peaks

Karl Wittstrom, Rob Rossi and Doug Filipponi are all part of multi-generational ranching and winegrowing families. Over twenty years ago, Robert Mondavi, the legend who helped to make Napa Valley wines some of the most respected in the world, was interested in other potentially great vineyard areas of California. He was instantly taken when he came upon Santa Margarita Ranch with its drastic temperature swings and complex soil composition. He made an offer to Karl, Rob and Doug to buy 2,000 acres of their property. They were not willing to sell but they came to an arrangement that Mondavi could have a lease on the property for 36 years.

So Mondavi spent “tens of millions of dollars” planting the vineyard, which would become known as the Margarita Vineyard, that included lots of research into each plot and ensured everything was done to produce high-quality grapes. Robert’s son, Tim Mondavi, and Ken “Byron” Brown, one of Santa Barbara County’s pioneering winemakers, were in charge of establishing and overseeing the process of the various vineyard plots on the Santa Margarita Ranch. The beginning of this exciting partnership was in 1999. At the end of 2004, Robert Mondavi sold the Robert Mondavi Corp., including wineries and vineyards, to the enormous corporation, Constellation Brands. Since they were only interested in established wine brands without interest in developing a new vineyard, they made Karl, Rob and Doug buy the lease back. 

A New Dream Materialize 

Ancient Peaks estate at sunset
Photo Credit: Ancient Peaks

It was undoubtedly a blow to the dream of having the man himself discover a great potential in one’s land, invest in it and, perhaps, turn it into one of those legendary vineyards in the excellent winemaking state of California but that dream seemed to die overnight. Yet another dream materialized – they had a vineyard already planted by one of the greats, they just needed someone to make the wines for the 2005 vintage. Doug called winemaker Mike Sinor, someone he has had a long relationship with and was already making a name for himself in California’s Central Coast. 

How many people can say that they have a vineyard chosen by wine royalty and planted by the best of the best in California? Maybe those who have a billion-dollar fortune but certainly not multi-generational ranchers and grape growers. So Mike Sinor was a critical factor as he was already a well-respected winemaker on the Central Coast. At first, when co-owner Doug called him, Mike was already working with a premium boutique Central Coast winery as well as starting up side wine projects. So when Doug approached him about making their wines from their Margarita Vineyard as another one of his side gigs, he also put it out there that they would be interested in Mike becoming the founding winemaker of their new winery if he ever wanted to leave his current situation.

Karl Wittstrom, Mike Sinor and Doug Filipponi Photo Credit: Ancient Peaks

Tragically, in 2006, Mike lost his parents in a plane crash causing him to reassess his entire life. He decided to go down to Margarita Vineyard and tell Doug and the other co-owners that he would become the founding winemaker of their new winery, Ancient Peaks, but he had to be a true partner when it came to making decisions about the winery and vineyards as he not only wanted a state-of-the-art winery but there also needed to be more meticulous hands-on care of each section of the vineyard with it being broken up into several plots that were each micro-managed.

Following The Biggest Dreamer Of All

Harvested grapes underneath the open sky on the Ancient Peaks estate Photo Credit: Ancient Peaks

A pivotal moment early on in Mike’s winemaking career was when he was able to observe one of the last major projects of Robert Mondavi; Mike worked at Bryon Winery until 2000, and Robert Mondavi owned it during that time, so when Mondavi started his Margarita Vineyard project, Mike asked if he could go down there and help out in any way they needed just so he could learn; learn how one of the greats chooses a vineyard, plants it and gets the best fruit possible. Not only did Robert Mondavi end up selling his company at the end of 2004 but the great giant of the wine world passed away just four years later.

That experience left a deep impression on Mike that carried with him throughout his successful career. Even though he was doing great where he was before, he took that leap to come down to work with Margarita Vineyard, just like how Robert Mondavi took a leap to showcase Napa Valley wines worldwide, even at first when many just laughed at the notion of Napa wines.

When Mike goes out to the vineyards and picks up the ancient sea bed soil, just one of the five soil types, grabbing one of the heavy rocks with oyster fossils etched into it, he thinks of that time when he was just a young man thirsty for knowledge, who got to be a tiny part of a project headed by the ‘royal’ wine family of the US, and how he could never guess that he would be continuing one of the last dreams of the biggest dreamer of all.

Lineup of Ancient Peaks wines
Photo Credit: Ancient Peaks

***Link to original Forbes article:

Starting with the newly released 2020 vintage, Ancient Peaks Oyster Ridge and Pearl Cabernet Sauvignon will be packaged in bottles weighing 42% less than those used in previous years. The lighter glass requires less energy to produce and less fuel consumption during transportation — lowering the overall carbon footprint of the wine. This is inline with their core values of protecting the environment that is evident by their sustainable practices that include natural pest and vegetation management, wildlife corridors, water conservation and solar energy. 

2021 Ancient Peak, Chardonnay, Santa Margarita Ranch, Paso Robles, California: 100% Chardonnay. Refreshing lemon zest on the nose with pretty notes of citrus blossom with juicy stone fruit on the palate and a hint of minerality.

2021 Ancient Peak, Cabernet Sauvignon, Santa Margarita Ranch, Paso Robles, California: Majority Cabernet Sauvignon with a small amount of Petit Verdot, Malbec, Petite Sirah and Syrah. An inviting pretty nose with violets and blueberry scone notes with touches of gravel and plush tannins along the generous palate balanced by refreshing acidity.

2019 Ancient Peak ‘Oyster Ridge’ Cabernet Sauvignon, Santa Margarita Ranch, Paso Robles, California: 72% Cabernet Sauvignon, 11% Cabernet Franc, 9% Petit Verdot, 6% Merlot and 2% Malbec. ‘Oyster Ridge’ represents best practices in the vineyard and winery as it is the top selection of the best barrels and is predominantly made up of Cabernet Sauvignon from ancient sea bed soils. Complex nose of black cherry, tobacco and hints of sea shell with layers of black fruit intermixed with cocoa nibs on the palate wrapped in silky tannins and a long expressive finish with lingering aromas of salted capers.

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Some Of The Oldest Cabernet Sauvignon Vines In The Wine World Are Being Released In A Single Vineyard Bottling

Lapostolle vineyard
Photo Credit: Lapostolle Wines

For the first time in a long time, the locals felt excited as they were on the edge of a precipice that was at once terrifying yet thrilling. The isolation that was like an iron-clad cage around their desolate town would be destroyed, and they would be free to connect to a wider world while also losing the safety of only being among the close-knit community of multi-generational neighbors. These hardworking and newly hopeful people lived in a sub-region called Apalta Valley within the region of Colchagua in central Chile. Apalta is shaped like a horseshoe with mountains and rivers surrounding it, moderating temperatures. In the local dialect, apalta means “bad soil,” – referring to the low fertility of the land, so, very little in the way of crops could grow, except wine grape vines. It wasn’t ideal as their yields would be low, but at least they could sell grapes to make wine that would be exported to Argentina, and a whole new opportunity would open up for the next generation, as they would have enough money to send their kids to school.

It was the turn of the 20th century in the country of Chile, where the Pactos de Mayo agreement, combined with the opening of the Transandine Railway, would deter a war between Chile and Argentina as well as normalizing business relations that would include a free trade agreement between the two countries. But that would never come to pass, as the winegrowers in Argentina, many immigrants from Europe, fiercely fought the agreement, and in the end, it never came to fruition. Most of the 20th century in Chile involved instability within their government with excessive taxes and a tremendous amount of regulation that created insurmountable barriers, ultimately preventing the wine industry in Chile from taking off. And so, those low-yielding Cabernet Sauvignon vines planted in poor soil – encouraging low yields of concentrated grapes within an area with a wonderful balance between enough sunlight and moderated temperatures, sat safely in obscurity until a well-known French family discovered them.

Casa Lapostolle’s Clos Apalta winery with Cabernet Sauvignon vines and cover crop

In 1994, Alexandra Marnier Lapostolle, part of the famous spirits and wine Marnier Lapostolle family, and her husband Cyril de Bournet, wanted to push the envelope by looking for vineyards with a great sense of place, aka terroir; when they found themselves in the Apalta Valley looking at Cabernet Sauvignon grapes planted in 1909 that has survived a semi-dry Mediterranean climate without any irrigation, they realized that they discovered their great terroir.

It was such an incredible shock to see such old Cabernet Sauvignon vines, as in the wine region of Bordeaux in France, they are typically replanted once a vine is around 35 years old, and over 50 is considered old vines. It is ironic to think that a well-known French spirits and wine family would find some of the oldest Cabernet Sauvignon vines in Chile, especially considering back in the 1990s when it was not considered a premium winemaking country. 

Old Vines Cabernet Sauvignon 

But Chile’s wine image would drastically improve with the help of Alexandra Marnier Lapostolle and Cyril de Bournet, one of the producers making Apalta an unofficial grand cru area with their iconic Clos Apalta wine and the premium lineup of their Lapostolle Wines.

Clos Apalta Winery
Photo Credit: Lapostolle Wines

Alexandra came from a family unafraid to push the boundaries as they created Grand Marnier, a blend of fine cognac and a bitter orange-flavored liqueur, that was initially controversial among other fine cognac producers, yet, it became a success and took the world by storm. And so, when she knew that there was an extraordinary sense of place, aka terroir, that existed in parts of Chile, she was not afraid of the blowback from those in the French fine wine world, as her family never allowed popular opinion to dissuade a passion project.

Andrea León
Photo Credit: Lapostolle Wines

The next piece of the puzzle was finding the ideal person to oversee their treasured vineyards as well as make excellent wines. That is where head winemaker and viticulturist Andrea León completes the puzzle with her extensive winemaking experiences in France, Italy, the US and New Zealand. However, her homeland, Chile, ultimately called her back. Andrea has always had a deep love for the land, and that, combined with being raised in an artistic family, naturally led her to create something very artistically beautiful from nature – wine.

And she is undoubtedly thankful to work with such excellent vineyards, especially such rare old Cabernet Sauvignon. Still, she would never call their old vines the oldest of that grape variety, as there are possibly other plots around the world that might be older. One such, is located in Barossa Valley, Australia: Penfolds Cabernet Sauvignon Kalimna Block 42, which comes from vines believed to be around 130 years old. Another reason is that they employ the practice called marcottage in France, yet known as layering in other parts of the world. Marcottage is a very time-consuming practice where a cane coming from a grapevine is buried into the ground, where it will sprout roots and grow another plant. This way, it helps to keep these extremely old plants going, as they lose about 3% of these old vines every year. And so, each plant is an extension of one that was planted in 1909, and so, to some, that may count as a vineyard over a century old, and to others, it may not officially qualify. But no matter the technical requirements, whether it is expressed in the wine is all that matters.  

la Parcelle 8

This unique section of old Cabernet Sauvignon vines typically go into the icon Clos Apalta bottling, but for vintages considered outstanding for this precious plot, a separate bottling within the Lapostolle line, under the name ‘la Parcelle 8,’ is released. Currently, only the second bottling to be released into the US, the 2018 vintage, has finally hit the market. Andrea noted that 2018 is one of the “greatest cold vintages” of this century as the ideal conditions allowed grapes to stay on the vine longer, allowing for fully mature fruit and complex flavors to develop while retaining acidity.

One of Lapostolle’s Old Vines
Photo Credit: Lapostolle Wines

As one thinks back to the Apalta area over a century ago, when those Cabernet Sauvignon vines were first planted because no other crop would grow on such poor soil – not knowing that it was ideal for high-quality wine, the idea of what seems like a curse ended up becoming a blessing comes to mind. Not only was the poor soil, when food was needed more than anything else, a huge detriment, but once Chile became isolated from the rest of the world, there was no hope for a booming industry to improve the lives of the farmers, and so, even though it is a jaw-droppingly gorgeous place, it was hard for the locals to appreciate when they were barely surviving. But since Chile didn’t have a booming wine industry for so long, those vines were never uprooted for younger, higher yielding vines, and hence, when a member of a legendary French family was seeking out the potential of Chile vineyards and came upon the great treasure of the ‘la Parcelle 8’ block, they did not hesitate to make a tremendous investment in Chilean wine. 

And today, that golden-hued, saffron-colored horizon created by the sunset that seems to kiss the mountains in Apalta, is almost the same as that which desperate farmers gazed upon over one hundred years ago. But in those days, it represented the end of another hopeless day filled with backbreaking labor that amounted to very little. Yet, today, it is a breathtaking display of the area’s magnificence that fine wine connoisseurs worldwide appreciate.

***Link to original Forbes article:

Lapostolle ‘Cuvée Alexandre’ Cabernet Sauvignon and ‘la Parcelle’ 8
Photo Credit: Cathrine Todd

‘la Parcelle’ 8 & ultra-premium ‘Cuvée Alexandre’ wines:

2018 Lapostolle ‘la Parcelle 8’
Photo Credit: Cathrine Todd

2018 Lapostolle ‘la Parcelle 8’ Apalta, Colchagua Valley, Chile: 100% Cabernet Sauvignon. A wine that balances power and finesse beautifully with the deeply concentrated black fruit that is highlighted by a mixture of savory, tapenade, with enchanting notes, violets, that is at once decadently delicious with flavors of cocoa powder, and aristocratically pleasing with aromas of cigar box, all laced with an intense minerality and finely etched tannins. 

2022 Lapostolle ‘Cuvée Alexandre’ Cabernet Franc, Apalta, Colchagua Valley, Chile: This Cabernet Franc ‘Cuvée Alexandre’ bottling is a new release for Lapostolle and it should hit the market in December of this year. Andrea León said that they have been very happy with how well their Cabernet Franc has been showing throughout the years, and that it finally deserved its own bottling; such an elegant wine with pretty aromas of jasmine with hints of blackcurrant leaf that has a fine structure with juicy blueberry fruit on the palate.

‘Cuvée Alexandre’ Cabernet Sauvignon
Photo Credit: Cathrine Todd

2021 Lapostolle ‘Cuvée Alexandre’ Cabernet Sauvignon, Apalta, Colchagua Valley, Chile: 85% Cabernet Sauvignon, 7% Cabernet Franc, 4% Merlot and 4% Petit Verdot. Multilayered dark fruit with cardamom and anise seed spices giving an aromatic lift to the fruit that has fresh sage herbs intermixed along the silky tannins that give enough structure for an overall elegant quality.

2021 Lapostolle ‘Cuvée Alexandre’ Carménère, Apalta, Colchagua Valley, Chile: 85% Carmenère, 6% Cabernet Franc, 5% Syrah and 4% Grenache. Ripe, juicy plum fruit from the first sip with complex notes of green peppercorn and crush granite with nicely manicured tannins that caress the palate.

Iconic ‘Clos Apalta’ and its second wine ‘Le Petit Clos’:

Le Petit Clos and Clos Apalta
Photo Credit: Cathrine Todd

2019 Clos Apalta, Apalta, Colchagua Valley, Chile: 70% Carmenere, 18% Merlot, 8% Cabernet Sauvignon and 4% Petit Verdot. An exquisitely expressive nose with rich blackberry fruit interlaced with delectable notes of blueberry scone that has a creamy texture balance by bright acidity with notes of smoldering earth and sweet tobacco that has a long and flavorful finish.

2019 Clos Apalta, Le Petit Clos, Apalta, Colchagua Valley, Chile: 49% Carmenere, 30% Merlot, 18% Cabernet Sauvignon and 3% Petit Verdot. The second wine for Clos Apalta. A much more savory nose with singed herbs and sautéed cumin seeds with a round, inviting texture on the palate that has velvety tannins and a long, aromatic finish that is very spicy.

Moderately-priced Lapostolle wines:

2022 Lapostolle ‘Grand Selection’ Sauvignon Blanc, Rapel Valley, Central Valley, Chile: 100% Sauvignon Blanc. The citrus blossom and white nectarine aromas make this wine tasty from the first whiff that just gets tastier on the palate with juicy peach flavors. 

2022 Lapostolle, le Rosé
Photo Credit: Cathrine Todd

2022 Lapostolle, le Rosé, Apalta, Colchagua Valley, Chile: 44% Cinsault, 38% Grenache, 12% Syrah and 6% Mourvèdre. Delicately pale color with hints of wildflowers and red strawberries with a dry, fresh finish that leaves notes of crushed rose petals and wet stones in one’s head.

2021 Lapostolle, Apalta Red, Colchagua Valley, Chile: 54% Cabernet Sauvignon, 23% Merlot, 10% Carmenère, 7% Cabernet Franc and 6% Syrah. Pristine red and black fruit with baking spices and a touch of dried herbs that is round and juicy on the palate.

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The Italian Paradise With A Special Wine Connected To The Goddess Of Fertility

The pristine, pale blue water was highlighted by a wave gently rolling towards the beach’s soft, white sand. The rhythmic sounds of the crashing waves brought an incredible sense of tranquility to those fortunate enough to spend time in this Mediterranean paradise. This little piece of heaven was tucked away in an area called Buggerru along the western coast of the Italian island of Sardinia. The cliffs surrounding the beach, dotted with Mediterranean herbs, have been carved by fierce winds either coming up from the Sahara Desert, bringing higher temperatures, or from the North, carrying a cooling breeze from southern France.

Antonio Argiolas getting ready to surf
Photo Credit: Argiolas

This is one of the places where Antonio Argiolas loves to surf, listening to the meditative waves, lulled into a trance by the stunning purity of the water where another world exists underneath, taking in the power of Mother Nature. It is a passion he has only recently explored, but still, it has undoubtedly become an essential part of his life as, when it is possible, he works his schedule around the best times to surf. The various fierce winds can sometimes make it too dangerous to attempt to ride waves in the Mediterranean Sea.

Surfing is Antonio’s second passion—his first has been handed down to him from his grandfather, and that passion is making wine.


Cantine Argiolas stone sign
Photo Credit: Argiolas

Sardinia is a unique island located between mainland Italy and North Africa. It has kept the rustic charms of its serene villages, nestled within the beautiful mountains that are only rivaled in beauty by its stunning coastline. Not only is it a wonderful place to visit, but the wines produced on this island are like no other. The white wines made from Vermentino have a purity like the pristine Mediterranean Sea that gently laps onto the soft, white sand of the Sardinian beaches; the red wines, made mainly from the Cannonau grape variety, typically have a velvety texture that caresses the palate with generous red fruit flavors intermixed with floral and spicy notes.

One wine producer stands out for quality production on the island of Sardinia: the wine-producing family Argiolas.

Antonio Argiolas
Photo Credit: Argiolas

In the distant past, Sardinian winemaking consisted of growing international grape varieties to make into bulk wine that would be sold to mainland European countries, as wine was seen as a way to consume enough calories throughout the day. And so, affordable wine was the most in demand. Starting in 1938, ahead of his time, Antonio’s grandfather, his namesake Antonio Argiolas, planted vineyards with more modern viticulture practices, favoring quality over quantity and beginning the family’s journey to becoming the first quality wine producer on the island. He proudly named his family wine company Argiolas. Antonio Argiolas had two sons who replanted the vineyards in the 1980s, further reducing the yields to increase the concentration and complexity in the grapes, hence elevating the wines to a much higher degree of quality—as well as exclusively focusing on the local grape varieties of Sardinia. The children of those sons run the family winery today with the grandson of the founder, Antonio, overseeing the vineyards and winemaking while his cousins handle the overall business side of the company.

The surf-loving Antonio is certainly proud of the men in his family, but he takes every opportunity to point out the women. The most well-known wine of Argiolas, on which they have built their reputation, is Turriga, a vineyard connected to the Goddess of Fertility (Mother Goddess). A statue believed to be over 5,000 years old was found in the area of Turriga, and Antonio’s mother and aunt did extensive research into the land, the history and the name of all their vineyards, eventually learning about the significance of Turriga to the indigenous Sardinian people before the Romans conquered the island in the third century. Argiolas Turriga is an iconic wine that not only shows the beautiful power of the local Cannonau red grape variety and the distinctive sense of place of one of the top vineyards in Sardinia, but is also a love letter to the indigenous culture that is unique to this island. The bottles display the Turriga statue on the label; today the statue is kept in the Cagliari Archaeological Museum.


Art of making clay containers out of Turriga soil
Photo Credit: Argiolas

The special vineyard of Turriga, represented by the Goddess of Fertility, symbolically represents birth, and in this instance, it is the birth of a great vineyard and the power of life that can be felt in the wines. But giving life not only means the first birth of something or someone, it can be a rebirth, which can often be just as important as one’s initial entry into this world, if not more so. 

As Antonio found his love for surfing later in life, never in his youth did he consider taking up such a hobby that, through time, has transcended to become a way of life for him. That way of life comprises finding harmony with his surroundings, surrendering to forces that are more powerful than himself and finding an inner peace that he couldn’t previously imagine. Yes, the fierce electricity of youth has softened, but it has allowed more profound and more fulfilling experiences that only come with lots of the ups and downs of life. The same can be said for the Turriga vineyard; even if it impressed those adventurous Italian wine drinkers years ago, the vines are really coming into their own with a multifaceted complexity, balanced by grace that shows the true potential of this vineyard. 

Something beautiful is lost when one gets beyond the youthful stages of one’s life. It can seem like a tragedy if the focus is set on mourning the past, but with that loss is a chance for a rebirth, a rebirth that taps one into a once unimaginable potential, yet somehow, it materializes to those who are not afraid to surrender to it.  

Link to original Forbes article:

2019 Argiolas Carda Nera
Photo Credit: Cathrine Todd
2019 Argiolas Turriga Photo Credit:
Cathrine Todd

2019 Argiolas, Cardanera, Sardinia, Italy: 100% Carignano. A newer wine for Argiolas showing the lovely qualities of a 100% bottling of Carignano from a vineyard very close to the Mediterranean Sea. Pretty aromas of wildflowers, Mediterranean scrub and bright red cherry with a saline minerality and notes of seashell and wild thyme with finely etched tannins.  

2019 Argiolas, Turriga, Sardinia, Italy: Single vineyard, field blend of 85% Cannonau, 5% Carignano, 5% Bovale Sardo and 5% Malvasia Nera. Turriga is a benchmark wine for Sardinia. Multilayered blue and black fruits such as blueberry and black cherry with fresh sage and floral notes intertwined with the juicy fruit flavors and laced with an intense minerality of broken rocks with silky tannins and warming spices, such as nutmeg, on the finish.

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