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Puglia's Wineries Kick into High Gear

Puglia's Wineries Kick into High Gear

The most successful wineries in this agricultural Italian state are working hard at home and abroad to make its reputation as a bulk wine producer ancient history.

Back in 2006, I was invited by the Italian Trade Commission to cover MiWine, a wine and spirits convention in Milan that included an "eno-tour" component to a specific wine production areas in Italy. I was originally signed up to tour the Lombardia region, and then was convinced to visit Calabria instead. However, as there were too many American journalists signed up to Calabria, I was switched out to Puglia.

It turned out that the real story was not the MiWine show (which only ran a few years), but the Puglia wine region itself, although it had not yet found itself at the time in terms of having a definitive "brand image" American beverage industry professionals and consumers could relate to.


Over the course of five very busy days, my group (which included 40 buyers and wine writers hailing from Denmark, Russia, Egypt, China, India and Japan) visited 20 wineries. Although several estates had product on the U.S. market, others were not as prepared for visiting wine business people as wineries I previously covered in Umbria and Piedmont. Even with the exhaustive itinerary, however, I tasted potential for success in the U.S. market, especially with selections that were very food-friendly and ideal for markets in warmer climates such as California, Arizona and Texas.

Fast-forward to 2013. An opportunity arose to rediscover Puglia's wine industry. The itinerary for the June trip that came with the invitation spoke volumes that much had changed in seven years. A focus on six of its more successful wineries and consortiums (Vigne e Vini, Mottura, Tomaresca, Tenuta Mater Domini, Leone de Castris and Cantine Rivera) represented the Puglian wine industry's more concentrated effort to transform its past reputation as a "bulk wine" industry into greater recognition and respect outside of Italy. Read More ==>

New Mixology Gold on the Santa Fe Trail

New Mixology Gold on the Santa Fe Trail

LONG A HAVEN FOR ARTISTS AND WRITERS, SANTA FE CONTINUES TO BE A FANTASTIC CANVAS FOR MIXOLOGISTS TO APPLY THEIR OWN STROKES OF GENIUS

The mélange of Native American, Spanish and European cultures, along with Northern New Mexco's equally vibrant geological attribute, solidify Santa Fe's status as an ideal home base for visual artists as well as writers (such as Kate Braverman, Cormac McCarthy, Douglas Adams and even D.H. Lawrence). By the same token, it can be argued that mixologists and beverage directors who use craft spirits and mixers as their media of choice have done their part to ensure Santa Fe continues to live up to its reputation on the culinary end.

One mixologist who has done her part to put Santa Fe on the map as a cocktail destination is author/mixologist Natalie Bovis (aka The Liquid Muse), who herself has been a fixture on the pages of THE TASTING PANEL and other beverage industry magazines. While her business savvy and culinary panache takes her around the world, and she's currently based in Los Angeles, she is still very much a booster for Santa Fe's emerging cocktail culture. Read More ==>

Cartizze, a Pleasure on the Tongue

Cartizze, a Pleasure on the Tongue

TODAY, WINES FROM THIS TINY SECTION OF PROSECCO ARE TRADITIONAL YET FRESH, WITH A WONDERFUL BALANCE OF LILTING AROMAS AND FRUIT FLAVORS

Actually, this is more of a rediscovery than a completely new thing. The Cartizze sparkling wines come alive in your mouth, zesty with a touch of fruitiness and the underlying honeyed aroma and flavor that characterize great, traditional Proseccos.

While the wines made from the Cartizze [car-TEE-tseh] hills have always been high quality, on my visit this spring I found these wines to have more consistency, finesse and balance than in the past. Though most Proseccos are not vintage-dated, they are generally produced and released within a year after harvest. The 2012 harvest (which you will be drinking now) was best in Prosecco's hilly areas, like Cartizze.
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Cow Town, Coffee Town

Cow Town, Coffee Town

In a collision of hipster cool and coffee love, coffee professionals and consumers from a 16-state region met this January in an old repurposed ballroom in Kansas City to celebrate the magical beverage that brings people together and—it turned out—watch Pete Licata finesse his way through the first level of competitions that would lead to his World Barista Championship win, in Melbourne.

The BCRBC (Big Central Regional Barista Championship) was an announcement to the world that Kansas City had arrived, in the culture of specialty coffee. Of course, this was no secret to the hard-working folks who've been roasting and serving coffee in Cow Town over the past few decades.

Kansas City's coffee culture is strong and growing fast: in garages over home roasters made from barbecue grills, in a re-built fire station over bags of coffee directly sourced from farmers around the world, in the heart of the city and in the suburbs. Throughout the city, people from all walks of life celebrate coffee and the people who make it.

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"Celebrity" Sightings on the Solstice

"Celebrity" Sightings on the Solstice

What can discerning Celebrity Cruises passengers expect with the line's upgraded culinary and beverage program? Whatever floats their boat!

In May, Celebrity Cruises invited a select group of food journalists and travel agents to attend a splashy Seattle-originating inaugural cruise. However, it was not for a new ship or fleet, but for a transformed food and beverage program designed for travelers demanding sophisticated alternatives to the buffet. Aboard Celebrity's "Solstice" class liners, several on-board fine-dining venues and an upgraded main dining room anchored with an impressive wine tower punctuate the upscale cruise line's campaign to redefine the cruise experience as "Modern Luxury," which in turn implies every individual passenger can customize his or her on-board experience. (Other ships in the Celebrity Cruises fleet will eventually incorporate Solstice-class features.)

The dashing young chef behind Celebrity's food and beverage overhaul is John Suley, who honed his skills at some of the world's top hotels (Fontainebleau in Miami, Ritz Carlton, St. Regis, Mandarin Oriental) before taking his flair and work ethnic to the high seas. Read More ==>

Our "Conversation About Vodka" Event at Nic's Beverly Hills

Our "Conversation About Vodka" Event at Nic's Beverly Hills

Check out this quick look at our recent "Conversation about Vodka" event at Nic's Beverly Hills. Look for the complete story in our June issue!


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Italy's Shin

Italy's Shin

I was recently in Campania, Italy, for the first edition of the Campania Stories festival near the town of Sannio, and for Taurasi Vendemmia, a ten-year-old festival celebrating the noblest expression of Aglianico in the villages of Avellino and Taurasi.

Originally colonized by ancient Greeks, Campania is a place where lemon and blood orange groves punctuate grape vines and olive trees. It is rich in gastronomy, music, architecture and archaeology, including ancient sites such as Pompeii, Herculaneum, Paestum and Velia. Rich natural beauty also makes Campania an important tourist destination, especially along the Amalfi Coast, Mount Vesuvius, the island of Capri, and the capital of Naples, a frenetic, food-mecca metropolis. Read More ==>

Spirited Encounters in The Netherlands

Spirited Encounters in The Netherlands


If you are traveling to Amsterdam for business or inspiration, put two of the city's topmost beverage-centric tourist attractions on your to-do list.


Amsterdam abounds with craft beer bars and several five-star hotels with ambitious and edgy food and beverage programs. As beer and spirits have long been a powerful draw for travelers, it is not surprising that two Chicagoans, Andrew Moskos and Jon "Pep" Rosenfeld, who originally came as tourists, jumped into the act with Boom Chicago and the Chicago Social Club, which celebrate their 20th anniversary this year. While they are fans of many of the boutique brews produced in town, they give Heineken credit for using its clout as a brand to help the Boom Chicago brand endure.

The Heineken Experience, meanwhile, is a Branding 101 college course at its most extreme and dynamic. The impressive tour of Heineken's Amsterdam facility in many ways starts when you get a look at the line stretching around the block. The visitors represent many of the 178 countries where Heineken is available. However, the mega-brand also reflects its more intimate and personal side. Case in point is Heineken's involvement with clubs like Boom Chicago, reflecting the brand's continued efforts to connect with small businesses. Read More ==>

The Triangle Theory of Fredericksburg: Wildflowers, Wine and War

The Triangle Theory of Fredericksburg: Wildflowers, Wine and War

TEXAS WINE COUNTRY HOLDS MANY FASCINATIONS

A new study of one of the fastest growing winery regions of the U.S. reveals the top three reasons people visit this area: wildflowers, wine and war. Any guesses where this might be? It happens to be the region around the small city of Fredericksburg, one point of a triangle: a convenient hour's drive from either Austin or San Antonio. Yes, it's in Texas.


Under the guise of learning about Fredericksburg as a tourist destination, I recently managed a representative sampling of wines at some of the 17 tasting rooms that now dot scenic Route 290 in the 15-mile stretch east of Fredericksburg. (There are more wineries further east, in the next county.) The wines I tasted were as varied as the names and styles of the wineries: Pedernales Cellars, Grape Creek, Torre di Pietra and Becker.
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A Thrilling Vertical at Mastroberardino

A Thrilling Vertical at Mastroberardino

60+-YEAR-OLD AGLIANICO IN CAMPANIA

Campania is a thrilling place. The hectic metropolis of Naples, the mysteries of Pompeii, the bucolic surroundings and gutsy wines of Taurasi and, of course, magnificent foodstuffs as exemplified by Mozzarella di Bufala (the best in the world and a D.O.P. product), help create a destination that is unique in the world of wine, food and travel.

I recently spent the afternoon of Saturday, March 9, 2013, engrossed in a vertical tasting of Taurasi at Mastroberardino that spanned more than six decades. I have long considered Mastroberardino, the first winery in the region to export outside of the province, to be the best such operation in Campania. I had also previously met Piero Mastroberardino in Denver in 2012 and had instantly bonded with this humble, artistic, articulate, tenth-generation winery owner.

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High Brau Adventures

High Brau Adventures

"Oktober" and its many fests may arrive sooner than you think, but any month of year is a great time to explore Germany's beer cultures beyond Bavaria when contemplating your beer menu.

In major cities throughout the U.S., the proliferation of gastropubs and microbreweries has influenced everything from fast casual restaurants to fine dining. Some industry insiders point to London as the birthplace of the modern gastropub movement (coined in 1991 when restaurateurs David Eyre and Mike Belben took over The Eagle Pub, merging seemingly dissimilar concepts of informal neighborhood pub and high-end gastronomy destination).

Others, however, can argue that trends rooted in Germany beer and food culture have also made an impact. Walk through any neighborhood in Los Angeles or Chicago, and you will be as likely to stumble on "currywurst" restaurants spots and brauhaus-style pubs. U.S. entrepreneurs intent on taking Germany's historic beer legacy beyond Oktoberfest fairs should ideally show their guests  that there are many ways to explore Germany's brewing traditions beyond Southern Germany, the region that most has shaped America's definition of German beer culture.
 
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An Argentina Adventure

An Argentina Adventure

An invitation to attend an "Experience Argentina" press trip, focused on the foods of that country and the wines of Escorihuela Gascón, Alamos Winery and Catena Zapata, became a unique opportunity for me to delve into two very distinct expressions of the country's culture: food and wine. It was a tremendous week of viticultural and gastronomic excess, and I learned a ton about Mendoza wine and Buenos Aires city culture.

Mendoza nestles against the eastern flanks of the rugged Andes Mountains. Breathtaking and sparsely settled, it is a broad, flat, high-elevation plain at the edge of an inland desert, not unlike eastern Washington or even the wine country of my home state of Colorado. But the feel is actually quite Mediterranean, probably due to the large expat Italian community that has now spread to every corner of the country.

Buenos Aires is not only much more cosmopolitan than Mendoza but also very southern European in flavor and flair. There are great restaurants in all 48 neighborhoods of this metropolis, and if you have happy feet you're never too far from a tango.

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"Small Batch, Good People"

"Small Batch, Good People"

When you think about it, the new tendency to combine jam with spirits in a cocktail shaker has all the elements of a perfect mixed drink: pure alcohol spirit, a bit of sweet fruit and zesty acidity. Of course for this you need a natural, artisanal jam without chemicals. Ideally, local preserves-local to the distilled spirits it accompanies. That's the concept of the new partnership between Boston's Bully Boy spirits and Bonnie's Jams of Cambridge, right across the Charles River from Boston.


The last time I spoke with them, Dave and Will Willis were excited about getting the first few orders for their tiny, artisanal distillery in Boston. One year later their spirits in three states (CT, MA, RI) thanks to a new craft beverage division of their distributor, the Origin division of Horizon Beverage Company. One of the Horizon owners started this division a couple years ago to focus on artisanal beverages, and they are now up to 50 products, with more than 350 skus in their portfolio-but that's a whole 'nother story . . . .


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THE TASTING PANEL at Arizona Cocktail Week

THE TASTING PANEL at Arizona Cocktail Week

THE TASTING PANEL's visit to Arizona Cocktail Week was featured in our April issue. Here's an on-location video to whet your palates!


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Success Built on a Bun

Success Built on a Bun


Burger-flipping season is right around the corner, and in the heart of California's Napa Valley, one iconic winery is already firing up the grill. Finalists from the 2012 Sutter Home's Build a Better Burger recipe contest were announced in late January, and preparations are being made for the final cook-off on May 18, where they will prepare their burgers for the palates of a panel of judges at the historic Sutter Home Winery in St. Helena.

Sutter Home created its signature Build a Better Burger recipe contest in 1990 as a way to demystify the wine experience by pairing one of America's favorite everyday meals-the burger-with one of the country's favorite wine brands, Sutter Home. The stakes are high. The contest is currently the second largest cash-prize recipe contest in the nation, with a beefy $100,000 grand prize for the winning all-beef burger and an additional $15,000 prize for the winning alternative burger. Only non-professional "home cooks" are allowed to enter.
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