November 2011

People in Wine

Christina Boutari with a bottle of Elios white and Moschofilero. Photo taken at Petros restaurant in Manhattan Beach, CA

Good for the Greek Economy: Boutari

Born in Thessaloniki in northern Greece, not far from the Naoussa winery founded by her great-grandfather, fifth-generation family member Christina Boutari plays an important role in the company. Although she studied organizational psychology (as well as dance!) at the London School of Economics before joining the family business, she is now Exports Manager for the Americas and Australia.

We recently met up with her in Los Angeles where we tasted through some of the latest releases. She was in top form, just coming back from Houston’s Greek Festival, where her Boutari wines sold over a thousand cases.

But it’s not just the Greek consumer that Boutari—and importer Terlato Wines International—is going after. “The U.S. is one of our largest markets,” she reports, “but what the buyers need to know is that our wines are comparative on a level with the finest wines from Italy, France and Australia.”
Maybe some of us have trouble pronouncing Moschofilero, the grape indigenous to Greece (say mosco -FIL-er-o), but taste this wine under the Boutari label and be witness to a dry blanc de gris at only 11% alcohol that is fresh, crisply textured and possesses fragrances of orange blossoms and citrus spice. In fact, the 2010 vintage is superb.

The Boutari Winery, founded in 1879, represents something very special to the Greek wine industry. The original winery is just outside of Naoussa. The Naoussa and its Grande Reserve counterpart are made from 100% Xinomavro, one of the noblest red grape varieties of Greece.

Introducing us to Elios white, a blend of Moschofilero and Chardonnay, denotes a fuller-bodied wine with floral aromatics and a honeyed minerality. Juicy melon and pineapple add freshness to this un-oaked easy-drinker grown in the high-elevation mountains of the Peloponnese region in mid-south Greece.

From the Southern island of Santorini, pockmarked with black volcanic rocks, Boutari 2009 Assyrtiko casts a citrus blast from the glass. The volcanic, sandy soil on which this grape is grown lends a metallic mineral profile, reminiscent of a Roussanne. The vines are grown in baskets, protecting the fruit from winds and high heat.

From the Xinomavro grape, grown in northern Greece, considered one of the country’s leading red grapes (the other being Agiorgitiko) comes Boutari 2007 Naoussa. “This was the first wine we made and the first red bottled in Greece,” Boutari points out. Earthy, elegant and complex with rhubarb and spiced tomato and spearmint, with back tones of violets. Gorgeous. “Naoussa [one of Greece’s leading AOC regions]is where the family business started 130 years ago,” she adds.

These wines, like the contemporary dance style that Christina Boutari performs, demonstrate grace and power—and by some standards, a wealth of emotion.
—Meridith May


Hacker’s Hit Pick

Troublemaker (SRP $20) is a Rhône-inspired “Super-Paso” blend of 73% Syrah, 12% Grenache, 8% Petite Syrah and 7% Mourvèdre, a variety that Austin first planted in the late 1990s. Aged in French oak, flavors of leather, smoked cherries and licorice make this a wine that personifies Austin’s statement: “Elegance and power are two words that don’t go together, but when you taste our wines, they do.”

Where There’s Great Wine, There’s Hope

When I first met Austin Hope of Hope Family Wines more than a decade ago, the Paso Robles winery that had evolved from his family’s premium grape-growing business was primarily producing its flagship premium Treana Red and Treana White, plus the economically priced Liberty School, great wine values, with prices that have hardly changed.

“I’m very influenced by European wines,” says Austin Hope, “and have always kept that style in my wines. I think we’ve got everything pegged down with the varietals we can grow here in Paso Robles. Now it becomes a question of what else you can do—what styles of wines you can make with what grows best in our microclimates.” 
Today, in addition to their these labels, the sustainable-certified Hope Family Wines include Austin Hope 2009 Syrah, Austin Hope 2009 Grenache, the trend-setting 2008-2009-2010 multi-vintage Troublemaker (so-named because of the challenges this Southern Rhône–style blend gave winemaker Jason “JC” Diefenderfer—see Hacker’s Hit Pick) and the multi-vintage Candor Merlot and Candor Zinfandel, both identified by lot and blend numbers on the labels. Plus, Austin is currently developing a three-liter high-end boxed wine.

I remember once asking Austin how long his Treana Red would age. He replied that he didn’t know, because no one kept them long enough; they were rich, full bodied, and ready to drink upon release. So I took a bottle of their then-current 1998 Treana Red—a blend that can be composed of Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah, Merlot, Mourvèdre, Sangiovese, and Petite Syrah, but which Austin and “JC” tantalizingly change from vintage to vintage (the year is hidden on the back label)—and cellared it until 2008. Upon opening, it was lush and plump with lingering blackberries and a delicate thread of tannin.

Their current 2009 Treana Red, a blend of 70% Cabernet Sauvignon and 30% Syrah, promises to age just as well. Likewise, I recently decanted a 2002 Roussanne, Austin’s first bottling of this varietal. After nine years, the color had deepened to golden bronze and it yielded vibrant stone fruit flavors with a hint of pineapple and white pepper.

All of which proves that, as far as winemaking is concerned, one really can Hope for the best.  —Richard Carleton Hacker

For the Holidays: Italian Sparklers

You’ve seen it in movies: Italians know how to celebrate. They do it with style and passion, leaving us to say, “I wish someone could bottle that!”

Well, someone does, in the form of Italian sparkling wines. Not just one kind either—Italy celebrates with at least three champagne alternatives.

As fall recently announced itself, I embraced the coming holiday season by tasting these Italian sparklers. To showcase three premium Italian spumante in our wine bar’s “Fizz Flight,” starting with an already popular Trento DOC, I auditioned Prosecco and Franciacorta. The Notari-Antinori partnership Col de’ Salici Prosecco Superiore and Antinori Estate Montenisa Brut Rosé were stars.
Col de’ Salici’s long-neck shape and bright gold label indicate an elegant surprise inside. This 2010 Valdobbiadene DOCG Superiore is uncommon as a millesimato, a vintage-produced Prosecco. The vintage-dating connotes freshness, and as-needed bottling at least twice per year ensures consistency towards vintage end. Aromas of apple and grapefruit spring forth and the extra-dry’s slight sweetness evolves into a pleasant citrus-zest finish leaving you wanting another sip. I especially enjoyed the full flavors when pairing with prosciutto di Parma.

The Montenisa Brut Rosé is celebration with finesse. This estate-grown, 100% Pinot Noir sparkler delivers: In the glass the platinum pink color and persistent perlage evoke “ooohs,” and its raspberry aromas invite you to taste this complex and full-bodied bubbly. The clean minerality and vibrant acidity ensure a lively celebration. Festeggiamo!

—Brandy Falconer, Wine Program Director, Vino Napoli, Carmel, CA.

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