Special To The Daily News An Arabian stallion, its tail flying in the wind, gallops down the hill past 50 acres of mature oak trees leading to Hilliard Bruce Vineyards in Lompoc, Calif. The new winery is just a few weeks short of completion, fronted by a 2 1/2-story wall of glass and steel, set back into the hillside to create underground cellars.
Cabernet Shiraz India This is the summer home, and workplace, of John Hilliard and Christine Bruce. The husband-and-wife vineyard owners, winter residents of Miami Beach and tonight’s dinner hosts are launching two new wines to add to their existing portfolio of sustainably produced varietal wines.
Rosé India The first wine served is the Hilliard Bruce Chardonnay 2011. This is made under the direction of Bruce, who explains that the chardonnay vines, which cover about 5 acres, are sited in the coldest part of the vineyard. This location, together with the fog that comes up the east-west-facing valley from the Pacific Ocean, ensures a higher level of acidity that combines well with the mineral flavors and light tannins from 16 months spent in French-oak barrels.
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Though not on the same level as California’s Napa Valley or regions of New York and Washington state, Kansas nonetheless is developing a reputation as one of the nation’s leading areas for vineyards and wineries.
Late Harvest Chenin Blanc (dessert Wine) More than 150 attendees turned out for the 28th annual Kansas Grape Growers and Winemakers Association conference, which concluded its two-day run Saturday at the Ramada West, 605 S.W. Fairlawn.
Cabernet Shiraz India Bob DesRuisseaux, owner of Prairie Fire Winery in Paxico and one of the conference organizers, said business is booming for wineries in the Sunflower State.
Pinot noir, specifically the red wines made from the variety in Burgundy, does funny things to otherwise sane people. There's something about the flavours –sometimes floral, sometimes earthy, sometimes just barely perceptibly animal – and the texture – like the sheerest silk –that triggers compulsion, or amour fou, in those who have had their heads turned by the best bottles. It can be a financially ruinous affair. Because it requires exceptional skill on the part of the winemaker, and because it is particularly finicky about where it grows, pinot noir tends to be expensive: it's no surprise that the recently convicted American wine fraudster Rudy Kurniawan focused on top burgundy for his lucrative fakery. As the Burgundians descend on London to show off their latest, small but apparently high-quality vintage (2012) to their British customers ahead of its release, François Raquillet's entry-level 2010 pinot is what passes for a bargain red in the region, offering that inimitable fleet-footed, gliding sensation and fragrant red fruit.
Chenin Blanc ) compares very favourably price-wise to all-chardonnay blanc-de-blancs champagne. A better fit for my budget, however, is the less-heralded southern end of the region, the Mâcon, and wines such as the blistering Domaines Leflaive Mâcon-Verzé 2010 (£19.95, www.corneyandbarrow.com ), the mineral Nicolas Maillet Mâcon-Verzé 2011 (£14.95, h2vin.co.uk ) or the ever-reliable, crystal-clear M&S own-label from Raphaël Sallet.
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Nicolas Potel ’s veins, it would probably bleed red burgundy. His father, Gérard, died young, in 1997 – and the family’s Domaine de la Pousse d’Or in Volnay is now in the hands of a Swiss owner, leaving Nicolas to make his way with what was initially an eponymous négociant business and is now a mixture of his own vineyards and bought-in wines under the respective names Domaine de Bellene and Maison Roche de Bellene. The latter business depends on calling in wines and favours from vine growers the length of the Côte d’Or, people with whom he grew up, so he is particularly well plugged in to the nuances of the fortunes of the blessed “golden slope” that is responsible for all of the world’s great burgundy.
Sauvignon Blanc I taste with him every year and, last December, over dozens of his 2012s, he described a completely novel situation: “My father said it would happen but it’s still a bit destabilising – all this money to buy land coming from outside Burgundy. There have been really big movements in the price of land, which is now completely stupid. It’s become simply too expensive to buy it to make wine or to buy land from the rest of the family.” This is perhaps a little rich, since his backers are Asian as well as French, but it reflects the common structure of most domaines, or small wine farms, in Burgundy, whereby they are run by one or two family members but have to pay an annual dividend to many other family shareholders.
Chenin Blanc As land prices soar – one ouvrée, 428 sq m, sold for €2.4m recently – largely thanks to investment from Bordeaux, the US and Asia, many non-winemaking sisters and brothers of vignerons have been keen to sell their shares in their family domaines. But young vignerons are loath or unable to borrow the finance for such an acquisition themselves. Burgundian farmers may be castigated by their customers for treating themselves to smart German cars for Sunday best but most of them spend their days in the vineyard. These are essentially farmers, with a long tradition of caution. Extremely high prices would be needed just to pay the interest.
Late Harvest Chenin Blanc (dessert Wine)
If you're a $15-a-bottle wine buyer, 2014 should be a fruitful year, with more choice and better quality wine. But if you like buying limited-production high-end wines, beware: prices might leap this year, as wineries seize on signs of a stable economy.
Rosé These are two of the key prognostications from this year's annual State of the Wine Industry Report from Silicon Valley Bank, released Thursday.
Sauvignon Blanc Firstly, consumers at the lower-end of the price range, can expect to get more bang for their buck. The 2012 and 2013 harvests produced bountiful crops of high quality grapes in California , which accounts for approximately 90 percent of U.S. wine production. "The really good news for the consumer is there's going to be some nice one-off deals, some juice that gets put into $15 bottles that might have been intended for $30 bottles," said Silicon Valley Bank vice president Rob McMillan in a web conference to mark the launch of the report.
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