Wednesday, March 21, 2018

Midnight Magdalena Vineyards: Yadkin Valley Winery Visit

Rosé at Midnight MagdalenaSwan Creek is a federally designated wine region in North Carolina’s wine country. There are seven vineyards all within a five-mile radius.

Almost Missing Midnight

We almost missed out on our visit to Midnight Magdalena Vineyards. We had decided on a quick jaunt from the Raleigh area to Yadkin Valley, North Carolina’s wine county.

Based on our hotel’s location, we decided to focus on the Swan Creek Wine Trail. Midnight Magdalena didn’t appear to be part of the trail, but their website touted their dry wines, so off we went.

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Later we discovered that Midnight Magdalena is part of the trail – but some of the various online sites weren’t updated. We’re glad we didn’t miss out on the latest member of the Swan Creek Wine Trail. All the Swan Creek Wine Trail member wineries are also in the larger Yadkin Valley AVA, but a portion of the Swan Creek AVA extends outside the Yadkin Valley AVA.

Beautiful tasting room at Midnight Magdalena.Raising Authentic Wines

Midnight Magdalena is owned by Jim and Tauny Zimmer. They bought the 40-acre farm in Yadkin County in 2010 and planted the first six acres of vines in 2013. The tasting room, or should I say tasting house, was opened in 2016. The winery became the seventh member of the Swan Creek Wine Trail.

Swan Creek bills itself as the premier dry wine region of North Carolina. That’s certainly the focus at Midnight Magdalena, where 1,300 cases are produced annually. It’s also a great match for our palates.

The tasting room is designed to make you feel you are visiting a peaceful house in the countryside. That’s the feeling Green Dragon and I had as we drove up the driveway. There is a concrete patio and a large deck which provides outstanding views looking toward the Blue Ridge Mountains. Inside the tasting room is beautiful, bright and airy.

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Jim was the host for our tasting and emphasized that the winery is focused on crafting dry wines that bring out the best varietal characteristics of their grapes. There are 2,700 more vines on order and due to be planted next month. There are some of our favorite grapes among the newcomers including Zweigelt and Tempranillo.

Midnight MagdalenaA Taste Of Swan Creek

There is only one blend in the Midnight Magdalena lineup. The rest are 100% of one grape variety. We started our liquid tour with a pair of whites as we sampled the 2016 vintage Dry Riesling and Traminette.

We found the Riesling to be refreshing and tasty. The acidity is moderate. It’s a nice pick for seafood. It retails for $19. Traminette is a cross between Gewürztraminer and a French American hybrid grape. Like Gewürztraminer, the Traminette has a floral aroma and a bit of spiciness.

We next tasted a couple of rosé wines with Italian grapes sourced nearby. Midnight Magdalena is neighbor to Raffaldini Vineyards, which specializes in Italian grape varieties. The first was the 2015 Half Moon Rosé, which is done in the Provence style and is made with Montepulciano. This is a dry rosé that had a nice tickle of bubbles when poured. A lovely salmon color, it has great notes of strawberry is a great food-pairing wine.

The  2016 Magdalena Rosé is made with Sangiovese and is light copper in color. There is a bit of acidity and aroma notes of rose petals. Both rosé sell for $18.

Thirsty For Reds

Midnight Magdalena Tapestry 1029The first harvest brought great results for the 2015 Merlot. The tannins are soft and round. This satisfying red has a medium body and a deep garnet color. It has a wonderful presence from the first sip to the lingering finish. The wine is aged in neutral French oak barrels.

It retails for $24 and we purchased a bottle. (It never made it home as we drank it that night in the hotel hot tub.) Merlot is done very well in Yadkin Valley, and so this bottle is recommended.

Our finale was Tapestry No. 1029. This is the only blend produced by Midnight Magdalena. You may be familiar with the more famous Tapestry blend from California – as a result, “1029” was added to the wine name. The winery was purchased on October 29.

Tapestry 1029 is a blend of 80% Merlot and 20% Cabernet Franc. We enjoyed it with double dark chocolate crisps with sea salt from Carronni’s Handcrafted Creations – a delicious exclamation point on our visit. Tapestry 1029 is Midnight Magdalena’s flagship wine and retails for $26.

Midnight Magdalena is a recommended stop on your next trip to North Carolina wine country. The wines are well crafted, the scenery beautiful and the hospitality welcoming. Just remember, the winery isn’t actually open at midnight!

Saturday, March 17, 2018

Establecimiento Juanicó 2010 Don Pascual Roble Tannat, Juanicó, Uruguay

Don Pascual Tannat

Juanicó is the heart of the burgeoning wine industry in Uruguay. There are more Tannat vines planted there than any other place in the world.

Sipping Uruguay’s Signature Grape

A number of years ago I received several bottles of Tannat from Uruguay. We tasted through them a half decade ago, but one bottle lingered on: the Don Pascual 2010 Tannat.

Tannat is a thick-skinned grape that produces a rich and tannic red wine. It can age longer than wines than wines with less structure. Even so, this wine was nearing the end of it drinking window. Time to uncork!

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This is not an expensive bottle of wine, retailing for less than $10. That combined with its age made me wonder what I’d find when the bottle was opened.

Don Pascual Tannat Label

Aging Gracefully

One of the things that always piqued my interest about this bottle was the label. The vintage date of 2010 clearly had been pasted over something else. Now was the time to find out.

The “2010” easily came off and underneath was “2009.” Either there was a bottling mistake, or new labels weren’t ready yet. Now that the wine was unmasked, it was time to uncork.

The initial aroma was off-putting, smelling a bit like swamp water. Once the wine was poured into the glass, thankfully, it was a different story. The wine is deep ruby in color and almost opaque. Swirling the wine reveals long legs on the side of the glass.

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Sometimes Tannat can be too tannic, closed and lacking in nuance. With the Don Pascual, on the other hand, the tannins had mellowed and integrated nicely.

On the palate, the Don Pascual has notes of cocoa and tobacco with a medium-plus body. This is a satisfying bottle and a prime example of great values coming from South America wineries. Don Pascual is a smart choice for your introduction to Uruguay’s signature grape.

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Wednesday, March 14, 2018

Dry Creek Vineyard 2013 Meritage And 2015 Cabernet Sauvignon, Dry Creek Valley

Bold California reds don’t have to burn a hole in your pocket. Here are two picks that prove our point.

Dry Creek Vineyard Meritage & CabA Pair Of Reds From A Safe Haven

In the fall we had the opportunity to visit Dry Creek Vineyard. This is one of our favorite wineries and, Dry Creek Valley is one of our fav appellations.

Dry Creek Valley was untouched by the North Bay wildfires that tore through Napa and Sonoma in October. Although the damage to life and property was devastating, most of the grapes were already harvested at Dry Creek Vineyard and most other wineries in the area.

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That means no ill effects from smoke are anticipated with the 2017 Napa and Sonoma harvests. That’s good news based on two recently released Dry Creek Vineyard reds: the 2015 Cabernet Sauvignon, Dry Creek Valley, and the 2013 Meritage, Dry Creek Valley. We don’t want the string of outstanding releases to be interrupted!

Dry Creek Valley Cabernet Sauvignon

Sonoma has always been a shining light for Cabernet Sauvignon. The 2015 Dry Creek Vineyard Cabernet is a great example why. Over the mountains in Napa, you’d expect to pay two to three times the price for this delicious Cab that retails for $28. In Dry Creek Valley, the long days of vibrant sunshine, paired with cool foggy evenings, are perfect for growing Cabernet Sauvignon.

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The 2015 growing season was drier and warmer than typical. The drought-like conditions stressed the grapes, resulting in lower yields, but intensely flavored grapes.

I recently presented a “Wine 101” program to a community service organization. I brought this bottle with me to let the audience taste an example of an outstanding California Cabernet.

The wine is fruit forward, with moderate tannins. The flavors are rich with raspberry and cherry with a hint of pepper on the end. At least one attendee hurried to her wine shop to buy more bottles.

Dry Creek Valley Meritage

We often get asked the question, “What is your favorite wine?” To me, that is like being asked, “Which is your favorite child?” We love them all –but if pressed, I’d probably say that Meritage is my favorite red wine.

Meritage is the name given to American Bordeaux-style blends. In 1985, Dry Creek Vineyard founder David Stare was the first winemaker in California to produce a wine with Meritage on the label. The DCV experience with Meritage shows with every bottle.

The 2013 vintage is a blend of 40% Merlot, 33% Cabernet Sauvignon, 15% Cabernet Franc, 10% Malbec and 2% Petit Verdot. The grapes come from a combination of benchland and hillside vineyards and the vines are more than 15 years old. The wine is aged 21 months in French and Hungarian oak, with 30% being new.

We paired the Meritage with a delicious pork roast. This is an elegant wine with riffles of spice and dark fruit. The texture is silky and lush.

While single vineyard wines have been skyrocketing in popularity and production, it is worth remembering that some of the world’s greatest wines are carefully crafted blends. On their own, we love Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon and Cabernet Franc – but assembled together by an artist-winemaker, they soar even higher.

Dry Creek Vineyard Meritage is a great value at $30 and a welcome choice for entertaining, a special meal, or just plain enjoying.

Full Disclosure: This wine was received as a marketing sample.

Tuesday, March 13, 2018

German Scheurebe and Grauer Burgunder Offer Tasty Options For Food And Wine Pairings

Snowstorm or sunshine, German wines are fantastic choices for any time of year. Here we test-drive two unique bottles.

German Scheurebe and Grauer Burgunder

Amateur Chef On The Loose

Most of the delicious food featured in this blog is prepared by my wife, aka Green Dragon. When she is in town, my daughter, a vegan baker and chef, will also cook up a storm.

Every so often, though, I will rattle a few pots and pans. I’ve been a cook in three different restaurants, so I’m not entirely without skills. My wife might disagree.

When she was out of town for a couple of days, I decided to surprise her with a gourmet treat prepared by yours truly. It was designed to go with a delicious German wine.

A Pair Of Exotic Grapes

We were able to sample two cool German white wines. The first, destined to be paired with my culinary masterpiece, was the 2012 Weingut Weegmϋller Haardter Herrenletten Grauer Burgunder Spätlese Trocken Alte Reben, Pfalz. Phew, that’s a long name. The short story is that this is German Pinot Gris. Throughout most of Germany it is called Grauburgunder, but in Pfalz it is known by the slightly different name Grauer Burgunder.

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The other wine was what I originally thought was a Riesling. It was in a Riesling style bottle, it said Kabinett on the label. Not looking too closely at the label, I thought I was pouring one or our favorite grapes – Riesling. I was delightfully surprised that it was Scheurebe (shoy-ray-beh). The wine was a 2015 Geil Bechtheimer Scheurebe Kabinett, Rheinhessen. More on that in a bit – I’m sure you want to read about my cooking first!

German Scheurebe  Grauer Burgunder

My Culinary Masterpiece – Pork Loin Perfection

To go with the Grauer Burgunder, I prepared Slow-Roasted Honey and Parmesan Pork Loin, Bacon and Cheddar Potatoes and a Corn, Black Bean and Pepper Medley. The entree was the difficult part, but once the prep was done, most of the rest of the work was done by the crock pot. Over a six hour period, the giant slab of meat cooked down to a tasty, browned roast of delectableness with a fantastic glaze. From the juice I whipped up a tasty sauce to go atop the meat.

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After slaving over a hot stove (something my wife reminded me she did most days of the week!) we were ready for the feast and a glass or three of Grauer Burgunder! The Weegmϋller had a great depth of flavors as well as a touch of fruitiness for which Pinot Gris is known. The glaze on the roast was slightly sweet and so there was a nice interaction with the pork and wine.

The Grauer Burgunder had herbal notes – something I hadn’t experienced before in a Pinot Gris – and delicious minerality. This is a wine that would pair well with almost any seafood, too.

Scheurebe: A New One On Us

I’m an unofficial member of the Wine Century Club – I say unofficial, because no one from that organization has responded to my dozens of emailed applications. At any rate, to become a member, you have to taste at least 100 different grapes.

I’ve done that and then some. Never have I encountered Scheurebe – but I’m sure glad I did.

Scheurebe is grown in all wine regions, but has some importance in Rheinhessen, where the Geil bottle is from. It was thought to be a cross between Riesling and Silvaner. Later the Silvaner connection was disproved, so Scheurebe is a cross between Riesling and an unknown variety.

For this pairing, I hung up my apron and let my daughter Rachel (of Earth N Oven) work her magic. Rachel, a vegan baker and chef, prepared homemade pot pies – vegan for her, and chicken for Green Dragon and me.

The Scheurebe worked wonderfully with the meal, with enough acidity to cut through the creamy innards of the pot pie and a satisfying touch of sweetness. The flavor notes include honeysuckle and citrus. A cream-based soup or a spicy dish would pair nicely with Scheurebe, a grape that we’ll be on the look-out for in the future.

German whites, like the Grauer Burgunder and Scheurebe featured here, are versatile food wines. No matter if you are being hit with a March Nor’easter or luxuriating in Spring sunshine, there is a Germanic wine to pair perfectly with your cuisine. 

Full disclosure: These wines were received as a marketing sample.

Thursday, March 8, 2018

Jordan Vineyard & Winery: An Exquisite Wine, Food and Caviar Experience

Jordan Evening of Wine & Caviar

There were a number of “mountaintop” experiences at the Wine Bloggers Conference in Sonoma – but there’s no doubt the pinnacle took place at Jordan. Here’s why…

French Inspiration Takes Root In Sonoma’s Alexander Valley

Jordan Vineyard & Winery is an American success story that sprang forth from a unique vision. Founders Tom and Sally Jordan were inspired by the great wine estates of France and sought to create a Bordeaux-style California Cabernet Sauvignon that is approachable in its youth, but ages gracefully.

Jordan, established in 1972, has succeeded in spades. While other wineries offer dozens of different wines and styles, Jordan has remained focused on producing a singular Alexander Valley Cabernet and singular Russian River Valley Chardonnay.

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Jordan also has a long history with sparkling wine, in the past producing “J by Jordan” sparkling wine. The sparkling wine effort grew and moved to its own facility. In 2015, J Vineyards and Winery was sold. Now, through a partnership with Champagne AR Lenoble, a French Champagne house, the winery also offers the sparkling Jordan Cuvée. 

Woven through Jordan’s history is the connection between food, wine and hospitality. During the most recent Wine Bloggers Conference, we experienced it firsthand at a special winery dinner.

A Caviar And Wine Surprise

When our bus arrived at the Jordan estate, we were greeted with a glass of Jordan Cuvée – immediately creating a festive mood as we walked into the wine production area where tables had been set.

Evening at JordanFive glasses were arrayed on a white placemat with an artistically presented plate of different roe and caviar. We were being treated to a wine and caviar tasting that no one outside the winery had yet experienced!

Jordan has teamed with Tsar Nicoulai Caviar for this unique tasting. The California company makes roe and caviar from farm-raised white sturgeon.

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The 2014 Jordan Russian River Valley Chardonnay with its creamy round notes was a spot-on pairing with the golden-orange, slightly spicy Ginger Roe by Tsar Nicoulai. The 2009 vintage is one of our favorites for California Cabernet, so we relished the 2009 Jordan Alexander Cabernet and its pairing with the Tsar Nicoulai Beet and Saffron Roe. Red wine and caviar doesn’t seem like a natural pairing, but the aged and elegant Cabernet blended nicely with the earthy notes of the ruby red roe.

A younger 2012 Jordan Cab provided racy notes and melded nicely with the lush flavor of Italian white truffle of the Tsar Nicoulai Truffle Roe. The grand finale of the caviar tasting was the Brut Jordan Cuvée by Champagne AR Lenoble paired with Jordan Chef’s Reserve Caviar by Tsar Nicoulai.

The caviar is made in collaboration with Jordan and is only available through the winery. Jordan’s chef Todd Knoll created a special salt to cure the eggs using salt water and kombu seaweed from the Sonoma Coast. The crisp, golden Cuvée and the Jordan Chef’s Reserve Caviar were incredibly delicious. We would have stayed there all night, but as the caviar and wine disappeared, we moved to the barrel room.

Jordan’s Embracing Hospitality

Winery owner John Jordan then hosted a magnificent three-course meal in the barrel room. Joining Green Dragon and me were tasting team members Cabernetor and Glorious T, who consider themselves the number one fans of Jordan. Needless to say, we were feeling a touch of euphoria throughout our visit.

20171110_211721The 2015 RRV Chardonnay, aged for six months in 100% new French oak, was served with Abalone and Jordan Extra Virgin Olive Oil Poached  Alaskan Halibut. Chef Todd’s Grilled Mary’s Duck Breast with Olive Oil Confit, Chanterelles and Pomegranate Duck Jus was paired with the 2013 Cabernet Sauvignon. The wine is 75.5% Cabernet Sauvignon with Merlot, Petit Verdot and smaller quantities of Malbec and Cabernet Franc.

A cheese course featuring local creameries was served with the stellar 2003 Cabernet from magnums. The wine epitomizes Jordan’s philosophy – fruit-forward wines ready to consume in the near term, but becoming glorious as they age. The ‘03 is 81% Cabernet Sauvignon with Merlot and Petit Verdot to contribute added complexity. Ten years after its release date, the tannins have fully integrated allowing appreciation of the soft blueberry and earth flavor notes without distraction.

Jordan wines are superb, and we encourage you to buy them in bountiful numbers. To take it to the next level, start planning you visit to the Jordan estate in Sonoma for an exceptionally rewarding experience with food, wine and hospitality.

Monday, March 5, 2018

Pedroncelli Winery Marks 90 Years of Quality and Innovation

During the last 90 years Pedroncelli Winery has forged a reputation for “firsts” that have quenched our thirsts.

PedroncelliA Family Tradition

In 1927 Giovanni and Julia Pedroncelli purchased a shuttered winery, a vineyard and a home. Working together they initiated a family business which has spanned four generations.

They have quite a few “firsts” to their credit, including the first rosé from Zinfandel, putting Sonoma County on the label and the first in the region to plant Cabernet Sauvignon.

We were eager to “uncork” the Pedroncelli Winery during our recent Wine Studio educational session.

Making “Friends” With Sonoma County

Pedroncelli Friends and EntreeOur first Pedroncelli wine was the approachable 2017 friends.white Sonoma County white blend. The winery offers both a red and white blend designed to be casual and easy drinking fare.

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The Green Dragon prepared a tasting menu to enjoy this white wine. We had grilled chicken breast with a teriyaki ginger glaze and fresh pineapple and Fresno pepper sauce accompanied by purple potatoes with an herbed Feta topping.

I unscrewed the top and poured a couple of glasses. Two things struck me. First, the cap has a smiling “old school” emoji of a winking smile (which is also on the label). Second, After I set down the bottle, there was a playful gaggle of large bubbles in the bottle that caused me to smile.

friends.white is a blend of Sauvignon Blanc and Gewürztraminer. The two grapes are balanced nicely. To start, Friends is focused on the Sauvignon Blanc, with nice rounded tropical fruit notes. It was only later that the Gewürztraminer hallmark floral aroma and flavors began to surface.

friends.white is an enjoyable casual wine that paired nicely with our unique chicken dish. This is a great $14 buy!

Pedroncelli Zin and FlowersA Visit From “Mother”

Our exploration of Pedroncelli vino continued with the 2015 “Mother Clone” Zinfandel, Dry Creek Valley. This is a wine we are familiar with, tasting it first when we bought a bottle while volunteering at the Fabulous Food Show in Cleveland.

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The Pedroncelli historic Zinfandel vineyards were first planted to the grape in 1904. A second generation was cloned from these old vines and replanted block by block starting in the 1980s. Fruit from the new vineyard along with a small amount of fruit from the remaining over 100-year-old vines make up Mother Clone Zin.

This wine, priced at $19, is one of the best Zinfandel bargains out there. There are many “gimmick” Zinfandels, with labels that play off “Zin” and “sin,” glutting the market. Mother Clone, though, is the real deal. It delivers Dry Creek Valley goodness at an amazing price.

Pedroncelli Zin and EntreeSpeaking of amazing, Green Dragon prepared a tasty meal to accompany our Zin. We enjoyed sliced filet of beef with a Zinfandel and mushroom reduction sauce served with a spinach, avocado, bacon and egg salad.

Mother Clone Zin is an enjoyable mélange of red and black berries accented with spice notes. It has 14.9% alcohol, but the tannins and acidity balance so well that there is no “heat” to this sipper. 

Broiled meat and Mother Clone is a great pairing. It’s a great wine solo, as well. In fact, this is not only high on the QPR (quality price ratio) list, but is a wine that is sure to be enjoyed by a wide spectrum of your friends. No special wine knowledge is needed to appreciate this Zin.

Pedroncelli also has a line of small lot and vineyard designated wines as well as reserve and limited production wines. We haven’t yet tasted these, but give them a hearty recommendation based on the two we sampled from their entry level.

Ninety years and going strong, the Pedroncelli roots run deep. We encourage you to pick up a bottle or two and get to know the family.

Friday, March 2, 2018

Les Vignerons des Coteaux Romanais 2016 Le Grand St. Vincent Sauvignon, Touraine

Le Grand St. Vincent Touraine 2For refreshing wines at a reasonable cost, France’s Loire Valley is a top pick. Here we uncork one from Touraine.

Loving The Loire

The Loire Valley is a key wine region that follows the Loire River as it flows from the heart of France to the Atlantic coast. It produces some of the country’s best wines – but also millions of bottles of everyday wine.

We are enamored of these “pop and pour” wines. They are made to be consumed young and have fresh, fruit-forward flavors.

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At the heart of the region lies Touraine. The white wines there are almost always based on Sauvignon Blanc.

Sauvignon Blanc, French Style

We popped the cork on the Coteaux Romanais 2016 Le Grand St. Vincent hoping to brighten a gray evening. The grapes come from the clay and limestone vineyards along the Loire about 80 miles west of Sancerre. The wine is finished in stainless steel vats with inert gas and temperature controls to keep the flavors fresh.

In the glass this is pale yellow with green highlights. One sniff evokes visions of grassy fields and blue sky.

The St. Vincent offers good minerality with a roiling acidity. The acidity adds nice vibrancy, but doesn’t reach the levels of some of the zingy New Zealand Sauvignon Blancs. Instead, it blends nicely with the grapefruit and mellow tropical notes.

We paid $12 for this bottle and it averages about $14 across the country. This is an easy sipping wine, but is a magnitude of quality better than a comparably priced mass-marketed California Sauvignon Blanc. (Sorry, Cali!)

The Loire also produces outstanding Cabernet Franc and sparkling wines – but today we raise our glass in a toast to Sauvignon Blanc. Add some French style to your day without putting a hurt on your wallet.

Thursday, March 1, 2018

Study Reveals The Top World Cities For Millennials

2018 study reveals the top 110 cities for millennials to live, work and travel, based on 17 factors.

Beijing - Peder SterllAttracting A New Generation

A study revealing the top 110 cities for millennials, based on factors such as startup ecosystem, housing affordability, immigration tolerance and quality of nightlife, has been released by Nestpick, a furnished apartment search engine. The company has witnessed first-hand that young professionals display clear migrational patterns. Nestpick conducted this study, for the second year in a row, in order to pinpoint which cities are successfully attracting this generation, and therefore a core future workforce.

Building on last year’s study, Nestpick researched a wider scope of criteria and sources for the 2018 ranking, including an analysis of top universities and personal freedoms. In addition, the main categories were weighted to reflect the concerns and mindsets of the generation. For example, while housing affordability is a major concern for most, it is even more so for young professionals at the start of their careers. With these interests in mind, 110 cities were analyzed taking into consideration four main areas of concern; the business ecosystem, the essentials (housing, food etc.), openness, and recreation.

“Millennials grew up in a shrinking world, where the internet opened doors their parents never could have dreamed of, and budget airlines made those avenues real possibilities. It’s now possible to live and work anywhere in the world, and these opportunities are shaping how our planet will look to future generations.” says Ömer Kücükdere, Managing Director of Nestpick. “We must learn to adapt to the needs of younger people in order to have a thriving economy, and we believe that this ranking offers valuable insights to those cities looking for regeneration from a younger demographic.”

And The Best City for Millennials Is…

According to the study, Berlin, German, is the best city for millennials, with a thriving startup scene, open attitude towards the LGBT community and a world-renowned nightlife scene.

Looking for the best country for millennials? Canada takes that honor, with three cities in the top 10; Montréal, Toronto and Vancouver. New York City was included in the final list, ranking #8.

The top 20 best millennial cities are revealed below. Full results, including results for each category, can be seen here:

The Top 20 Cities for Millennials

1 – Berlin, Germany

2 – Montréal, Canada

3 – London, United Kingdom

4 – Amsterdam, Netherlands

5 – Toronto, Canada

6 – Vancouver, Canada

7 – Barcelona, Spain

8 – New York City, USA

9 – Cologne, Germany

10 – Manchester, United Kingdom

11 – Hamburg, Germany

12 – Bristol, United Kingdom

13 – San Francisco, USA

14 – Austin, USA

15 – Paris, France

16 – Miami, USA

17 – Munich, Germany

18 – Lisbon, Portugal

19 – Glasgow, United Kingdom

20 – Madrid, Spain

These final results reveal the best overall cities for millennials, based on all four main factors, but by looking at the top 10 cities for each individual category, the results indicate which location would be best for a young person based on their strongest concerns.

Critical factors such as affordable housing, high speed internet and accessible food are driving growth in some of the top cities.  “Seoul, Brno, Beijing, Monterrey—these are some of the most up-and-coming cities in the world and millennials are already flocking to these urban playgrounds in their droves,” says Kücükdere. “However, while these places are attracting this demographic for the short-term, these cities should consider improving elements such as employability and openness if they wish to keep the economic and social benefits of their millennial influx.”

Guadalahara - Lucy NietoMillennials Are Not Snowflakes

“The hackneyed idea that millennials are all entitled snowflakes is tired, and needs to be put to rest. How this generation differs from their predecessors is that they have more choice, and with these increased options has come a sense that they won’t settle for second-best,” says Kücükdere. “This offers an exciting opportunity for cities to rise to the challenge and become a magnet for millennials, because while this young demographic is demanding more, they are also giving back more in terms of entrepreneurship, economy and equality than ever before.”

Further findings:

  • Beijing, China ranks highest for Employment, followed by American cities San Francisco and Austin.

  • Hong Kong, China ranks highest for Tourism, followed by Bangkok, Thailand and London, UK.

  • Guadalajara, Mexico has the highest score for Housing, followed by fellow Mexican city Monterrey and Medellín, Colombia.

  • Bangkok, Thailand ranks highest for Food, followed by Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia and Lima, Peru.

  • Oslo, Norway has the highest score for Transport, followed by Washington D.C., USA and Paris, France.

  • Japanese cities Tokyo and Osaka rank joint highest for Health, followed by Singapore, Singapore.

  • Seoul, South Korea has the highest score for Internet Speed, followed by Bergen, Norway and Denver, USA.

  • Amsterdam, Netherlands has the highest score for Personal Freedom and Choice, followed by Oslo, Norway and Helsinki, Finland.

  • Madrid, Spain ranks highest for LGBT Friendliness, followed by Amsterdam, Netherlands and Toronto, Canada.

  • Berlin, Germany has the highest score for Nightlife, followed by Paris, France and Melbourne, Australia.

  • Beijing, China ranks highest for Beer prices, followed by Colombian cities Medellín and Bogotá.

  • Miami, USA has the highest score for Festivals, followed by fellow American city Washington D.C. and Paris, France.

Photo of Beijing - Peder Sterll Flickr via Compfight cc Photo of Guadalajara - Lucy Nieto Flickr via Compfight cc

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Wednesday, February 28, 2018

Do Wine Competition Medals Impact The Price Of Your Wine?

When you visit wineries, no doubt you’ve seen shiny medals on ribbons draped around bottles of wine. A new study by French economists examines whether wine competition awards have an impact on wine price and are indicators of quality.

Susan Sharpless Smith

By Dave Nershi, CSW, Vino-Sphere publisher

Judging A Book By Its Cover

Producers of “experience goods” such as books, movies or wine, all encounter the same problem. How do you demonstrate quality before the book is opened, the movie viewed or the cork popped?

Some information may be gleaned through word of mouth, social media or advertising. A wine consumer also has the information required on a wine label. Even so, hidden characteristics remain.

One way wine producers can inform potential buyers of the quality of their goods is by participating in (and winning medals at) wine competitions. French economists Emmanuel Paroissien of the University of Bordeaux and Michael Visser of University of Paris-Saclay examined the relationship between wine competition medals and the quality and price of your wine. In January, their research was released as an American Association of Wine Economists working paper: The Causal Impact of Medals on Wine Producers’ Prices and the Gains From Participating in Contests. (AAWE Working Papers are circulated for discussion and comment purposes. They have not been subject to a peer review process.)

The Link Between Competition Medals And Increased Wine Prices

Wine judgeParoissien and Visser used microeconometrics to study individual transactions from a large Bordeaux-based wine broker matched with the records of 11 important wine competitions including winners by medal color. In France, the government greatly limits the amount of marketing and publicity for alcohol. As a result, wine competitions take on added importance. There were 11 wine contests studied, with nine in France and two others in Europe.

The research provides good news for wineries participating in competition. Winning a medal has a strong effect on wine prices. Wine producers who win a gold medal can increase their prices by 13%. Garnering a silver or bronze medal allows a smaller increases, 4.4% and 4.2% respectively. According to Paroissien and Visser, the prestige of the competition makes a big difference, with awards at the most prestigious competitions allowing wineries to augment their prices with the largest markups.

Wine Judging, Medals And Wine Quality

The study by Paroissien and Visser is focused on Bordeaux wine prices. Do the findings translate to the New World? The economists respond, “It’s difficult to say since France is not really comparable to other countries. In the U.S. for example there are much fewer wine contests. How this affects the impact of medals is unclear. But it would be interesting to replicate our methods with other countries and wines.”

Judges at the Indy International wine competition.Illustrating one difference, French regulations prohibit contests from awarding more than 33% of the participating wines. Some stick closely to this limit, while others are even more restrictive.

There is considerable cost to a wine producer to participate in a contest: entry fee, samples, etc. Is this something a winery, perhaps one with limited finances, should undertake? The research suggests that it is profitable to participate in certain competitions, especially the most prestigious ones, even if the probability of actually winning a medal is small.

While the research shows a strong connection between winning a wine competition and increased wine prices, the linkage between wine medals and wine quality is a different story. The authors comment, “Only a minority of contests attribute medals that are significantly correlated with quality. These are primarily the ones founded a long time ago, and whose judges are required to evaluate relatively few wines per day.”

Photo credits: Wine medals - Susan Sharpless Smith Flickr via Compfight cc, Wine judging – Dave Nershi, Vino-Sphere

Monday, February 26, 2018

Sisters Shine With Breathless Sparkling Wines

IMG_20180206_135908-01Of the more than 4,000 wineries in California, only 10% have a woman as their lead winemaker. Of those wineries, an even smaller number are owned by women. Here’s one winery that flips the script.

Breathless In California

In the male-dominated world of California wine, Breathless Sparkling Wines shows the industry just what it is missing. Breathless is a family affair, built through the passion and hard work of three sisters, Cynthia Faust, Rebecca Faust and Sharon Cohn. Their winery was inspired by their mother, Martha, who encouraged them to aim high and “never take a breath for granted.” We explored Breathless wines during a recent Wine Studio education program focused on women-owned wineries of Sonoma.

The sisters are aided by “honorary sister” Penny Gadd Coster, who is an expert winemaker with sparkling wine experience at Jordan Vineyards and J Vineyards and Winery. Penny’s talents have earned more than 100 medals and 90+ ratings for wines she created.

The winery opened in 2011 and was nominated as Best New Winery by San Francisco magazine. Visitors also rave about the Healdsburg tasting room, that has a vintage 1920s feel – and is built from recycled shipping containers. It blends Art Deco and Industrial Chic styles.

Méthode Champenoise Sparkling Vino

There are many great sparkling wines around the world and different techniques are used to good result. For us, however, the favorite is the traditional method, the Méthode Champenoise by which Champagne is made in France.

It’s labor intensive and demands constant attention through the time-consuming work. In the process, the wine undergoes a second fermentation in the bottle – which creates 90 to 100 pounds per square inch of pressure inside each bottle. That’s enough to speed a cork across the room at up to 50 miles per hour. It’s also how Breathless makes their wines.

Breathless Sparkling Wines

Breaking Out The Bubbles

For our tasting, we sampled two bottles of Breathless bubbly, the Breathless North Coast Brut and the Breathless Blanc de Noirs. To accompany our wines, we enjoyed some nice Swiss fondue.

We had sampled the Brut a few months earlier during the Wine Bloggers Conference in Santa Rosa. It was outstanding then, but the setting was less than optimal. You have 200+ wine bloggers in a room with winemakers traipsing from table to table with five minutes to serve and talk about their wine. This time the setting was more relaxed and we were able to savor these beautiful wines.

I noticed on the Breathless website that when you visit the tasting room, you have the opportunity to saber a bottle – knocking off the top of the bottle with a sword. I’ve done this a number of times and I’ll plan on doing that next time I open Breathless – but this evening I opened in a more traditional way – gently pulling the cork while rotating the bottle.

Both bottles had plentiful foamy mousse when poured. The mousse gave way to a swirl of bubbles.

The Brut is made with traditional Champagne grapes: Pinot Noir, Chardonnay and a dash of Pinot Meunier. It is aged for 27 months. It retails for $25 and is also available in a magnum for $79. After sipping the light refreshing sparkler, which has notes of citrus and apples, we’d recommend the magnum. Go big or go home!

Our favorite of the evening was the Blanc de Noir, which has grapes from the North Coast (notably Carneros) and Sonoma. A Blanc de Noirs is a white sparkling wine made with red grapes. In this case, the blend is 70% Pinot Noir and 30% Chardonnay.

Many sparkling wines are austere, with yeasty or minerally flavor notes. This one has delicious berry notes mingling with citrus and that delightful effervescence. It’s a complex and enjoyable bottle for $30.

These wines left us, well, breathless. The quality is earning top recognition and, we hope, excellent sales. Enjoy a bottle or two, not only for the premium experience, but also to demonstrate your support for women in the wine industry.