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Articles are from the Star Ledger unless otherwise indicated.

Chablis Champs Royaux pleasures increase with temperature

By John Foy/For The Star-Ledger on April 03, 2014

In the off-chance that spring weather is here to stay, the 2012 William Fevre Chablis Champs Royaux would please the Roman spring goddess Flora.

The Fevre family owns about 125 acres spread throughout Chablis, Chablis Premier Cru and Grand Cru vineyards. In 1998, they leased the vineyards and sold the winery and rights to the company name to the Henriot family, owners of the outstanding Henriot Champagne house and the rejuvenated Bouchard Pere et Fils wine company.

Upon acquiring the rights to William Fevre, Joseph Henriot transferred winemaker Didier Seguier from Bouchard, where he worked since 1992, to Chablis. Seguier ferments every wine in stainless-steel tanks, then depending on the vineyard, the wine is aged in old oak barrels to spare it from the aggressive aromas and flavors of new oak. The result is William Fevre Chablis, at every level a testament to the pristine fruit flavors and balancing acidity of its vineyards.

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Bulls-eyes for Archery Summit's pinot gris, pinot noir

By John Foy/For The Star-Ledger on March 27, 2014

Christopher Mazepink’s wanderlust brought him to Oregon and Archery Summit winery.

Mazepink grew up in Delaware and studied anthropology at Hardwick College in Oneonta, N.Y. Via its study abroad programs, he spent semesters at the University of the West Indies in Kingston Jamaica and University of Cape Town in South Africa, and did research in Guatemala. After earning his degree, he visited the enology schools of the University of California at Davis and Oregon State University in Corvallis. At the latter, he noted the adjacent river offered salmon fly fishing, and nearby snow- covered mountains had skiing. Guess which enology program he enrolled in?

Upon graduating from Oregon State University in 2002, Mazepink worked as the assistant winemaker at Oregon’s Lemelson Vineyards. Other Oregon winemaking posts followed, and in 2013 Mazepink was appointed the winemaker and general manager of the highly-regarded Archery Summit winery about 30 miles southwest of Portland.

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A California cab that betrays winemaker's French sojourn

By John Foy/For The Star-Ledger on March 20, 2014

“I can’t believe how much I like this wine,” I said to my partner Rose, “considering it is from California.”

Then I did a double-take when I discovered the 2011 Silver Palm North Coast Cabernet Sauvignon was from the wine conglomerate Kendall-Jackson. And herein is an example of my rule that one should drink the wine, not the label.

Matt Smith is one of the winemakers at Kendall-Jackson; he is charged with making wines using cabernet sauvignon, merlot and other Bordeaux varietals. Smith spent a year at the Sorbonne in Paris as part of his degree in French and political science from the University of Michigan in 1990. After living in France and Spain for two years, he returned to America and eventually enrolled in the enology program at the University of California at Davis.

Following his graduation in 2003, he worked at Maison Joseph Drouhin, one of Burgundy’s top wine companies, and in Australia for Mitchelton Wines. Smith joined Kendall-Jackson’s winemaking team in 2004 and he became the winemaker for Silver Palm in 2010.

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Jersey winemaker's affair with California pinot noir

By John Foy/For The Star-Ledger on March 13, 2014

Atlantic Highlands resident David Rossi entered the wine world the way others unintentionally step into quicksand: slowly, then completely.

Rossi was born into an Arizona restaurant family; in 1991, he moved to Pittsburgh to work in the corporate food business. Six years later, he took a local winemaking course and soon found himself buying grapes from California, Washington and other sites. His house became a wine laboratory and the bathtub a depository for oak barrels. Fortunately, he says, he has an understanding wife.

In 2003, Rossi accepted a position with a New Jersey specialty food company and moved to Atlantic Highlands. Not long after his arrival, he was driving along the Navesink River when he saw a newly planted vineyard with the sign Two Rivers Winegrowers, a company that designs, plants and provides vineyard consulting services in Monmouth County. Rossi took another step and called the company to volunteer working for them with the goal of learning about vineyards. By 2005, nearly submerged in winemaking, vineyard planting and viticulture, Rossi made the final plunge and launched Fulcrum Wines.

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Warm your palate with brunello di Montalcino

By John Foy/For The Star-Ledger on March 06, 2014

The bad news is there seems to be no end to winter. The good news is that Col d’Orcia Brunello di Montalcino is warming.

Montalcino is a beautiful hilltop Tuscan town about 20 miles south of Siena. During the medieval period, it was caught in the continual wars between Siena and Florence. The Florentines, led by the Medici family, conquered Siena in 1555; Montalcino’s hilltop position protected it for four more years. The ensuing centuries were not prosperous for its inhabitants. That changed dramatically with the rise of its red wine brunello di Montalcino in the 20th century.

Col d’Orcia’s lineage is intertwined with Montalcino’s history. In the late 19th century, the Florentine Franceschi family owned the property (then known as Fattoria di Sant’Angelo), producing various agricultural products including wine. In 1958, the brothers Leopoldo and Stefano Franceschi divided the estate. Stefano named his farm Col d’Orcia, meaning the hill above the Orcia River. Fifteen years later, Col d’Orcia was sold to the Cinzano family, internationally known for its vermouth. Today Col d’Orcia is led by Francesco Cinzano.

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Oscars 2014: Choose a standout wine to toast Academy Award winners

By John Foy/For The Star-Ledger on February 27, 2014

I reviewed many wine performances throughout 2013, so if you’re looking for a good bottle with which to enjoy Sunday’s Academy Awards, here are some winners.

Best Grape in a Supporting Role: And the winner is cabernet franc in the 2005 Chateau Lassegue Grand Cru Saint-Emilion. Its 35 percent contributed depth, structure and black fruit richness to merlot’s leading role as a voluptuous and tantalizing blueberry character. Chateau Lassegue’s director (okay, winemaker) Pierre Seillan cast cabernet franc perfectly for its tannic support to the suppler merlot.

Best Grape in a Leading Role: And the winner is sangiovese in the 2010 Castello di Volpaia Chianti Classico. It’s 90 percent of the show, and dressed in flamboyant cherry and raspberry flavors with bright acidity. Cameo appearances by merlot and syrah combined for a flawless rendition of Chianti Classico. Don’t miss this stellar interpretation of one of the world’s most renowned grapes.

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Bouchard Père & Fils wine siblings: mirror images, equally delicious

By John Foy/For The Star-Ledger on Feb 20, 2014

Bouchard Pere & Fils created twins named Beaune du Chateau Premier Cru that are identical in everything but color.

The Bouchard Pere & Fils wine company was founded in 1731 in Volnay, a red wine village in the Burgundy region. Nearly a century later, Bernard Bouchard acquired the historic 15th-century royal fortress Chateau de Beaune in the city of Beaune. Over the course of nearly three centuries and eight generations, the family Bouchard built a reputation for first-rate wines from its portfolio of great vineyards.

But in the latter part of the 20th century, Bouchard lost its edge, and in 1995, Joseph Henriot, owner of the top-notch Henriot Champagne house, purchased Bouchard Pere & Fils. I was delighted with the news; Henriot’s standard of excellence was exactly the lift that Bouchard needed. Today Thomas Henriot and Christophe Bouchard have reinvigorated the company with a new winery, additional vineyards and an ongoing transition to organic viticulture.

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Look to Italy for wine worthy of Valentine's Day

By John Foy/For The Star-Ledger on Feb 13, 2014

Valentine’s Day is one of the moments made for special wines such as the Nova Domus Terlaner and Poggio alle Mura Brunello di Montalcino.

One of the most distinctive white wines in the world comes from the Cantina Terlano in Italy’s Alto Adige region. Founded in 1893 as a reaction against the large landowners, Terlano is a cooperative winery whose laser-like focus on every vine and aspect of winemaking results in wines of great complexity and legendary age-ability.

Cantina Terlano produces a range of wines, one of which is Nova Domus. Created in 1990, the most recent vintage in our market is the 2009 Nova Domus Terlaner Riserva. This wine is made from a blend of 60 percent pinot bianco, 30 percent chardonnay and 10 percent sauvignon blanc- the recipe varies slightly by vintage. It is fermented and age in large casks.

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A bouquet of rosé for Valentine's Day

By John Foy/For The Star-Ledger on Feb 6, 2014

A bottle of rosé Champagne is a must on Valentine’s Day. Here is a selection for a variety of moods (and a variety of couples):

For those with other responsibilities- such as school tuition or babysitting expenses- the pleasures of a delicious, reasonably-priced Champagne can be found in the nonvintage Moet & Chandon Imperial Rosé.

Its pretty salmon shade and delightful red fruit flavors arrive from its significant portion of pinot noir and pinot meunier grapes. Widely available under $50, the well-made nonvintage Moet & Chandon adds to the evening without subtracting from the budget.

Allied Beverage Group in Carlstadt, Fedway Associates in Basking Ridge, and R&R Marketing in Fairfield distribute the nonvintage Moet & Chandon Imperial Rosé.

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Olive groves (and groovy tunes) make B.R. Cohn's cab sing

By John Foy/For The Star-Ledger on January 30, 2014

If you love black olives like I do, you’ll be in taste bud heaven with a glass of the 2009 B.R. Cohn Cabernet Sauvignon Olive Hill Estate Vineyard.

If the name Bruce R. Cohn doesn’t ring-a-bell, it is not surprising. But if you are of a certain age (as is this writer), you’ll recall the songs of the Doobie Brothers- “Black Water,” “Takin’ It to the Streets” and “Take Me in Your Arms.” Bruce Cohn was the manager of the Doobie Brothers then, and, most amazing for the music world, still is.

In 1974, Cohn spent some of his money from his early music days to buy a 46-acre vineyard in Sonoma Valley; it was surrounded by century-old French picholine olive trees. During the next decade, Cohn sold his grapes to various wineries. In 1980, a bottle of the Gundlach-Bundschu Cabernet Sauvignon Olive Hill Estate was selected by the White House as a gift to China.

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Boroli Quattro Fratelli Barbera d'Alba: Everyday wine still exceptional

By John Foy/For The Star-Ledger on January 23, 2014

The 2011 Boroli Quattro Fratelli Barbera d’Alba is from a family that knows how to please the palate and the purse.

Since 1831, the Borolis have been in Piedmont’s textile and publishing businesses; in 1997, Silvano and Elena Boroli decided to enter the wine world, and in 2001, the hospitality industry.

It is not unusual for successful entrepreneurs to enter the wine world, but when they do, it is usually at the high-priced end of the business. No better example of this exists than Napa Valley. The Borolis’ decision to plow the fields of Piedmont could have yielded the same result had they focused only on Barolo or Barbaresco; fortunately, they also cultivate Piedmont’s everyday wine Barbera d’Alba.

The barbera vineyard clings to the steep Madonna di Como hill, a few miles from the center of Alba. The hill has been a vineyard from time immemorial; it gained its name from the Romans, who used the term Como to describe a procession of young dancers honoring the wine god Bacchus. On Madonna di Como’s peak, the Borolis built Locanda del Pilone, a small guest house with a Michelin-star restaurant; I dined there in 2006 and 2008.

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A decade after 'Sideways,' a worthy pinot noir under $10

By John Foy/For The Star-Ledger on January 16, 2014

Good value is not a term often linked to pinot noir, but the 2012 Domaine La Forge Estate Pinot Noir earns the label.

Pinot noir was the fiefdom of Burgundy, followed by a coterie of collectors and worshippers of its delicate, translucent red wine. Their response to the exquisite aromas and flavors of the region’s pinot noirs was to idolize its vineyards and canonize the winemakers. For the followers, securing the wine was the challenge, regardless of cost. But the insularity of that world was shattered by a seismic wave a decade ago.

In 2004, the Academy Award-winning movie “Sideways” brought the pleasure of pinot noir to the consciousness of the average wine consumer. American wineries began producing an ocean of pinot noir. Some of it was terrible; lots of it was acceptable. If all you wanted was a glass of a cherry-strawberry fruit-flavored wine while you waited at the bar; a small number offered quality. Gradually the pinot noir fever broke, and what survived was better quality at above average wine prices. But the idea that you could drink inexpensive, well-made, flavorful pinot noir was oxymoronic. Or so it was thought.

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Sancerre's quiet cousin Quincy offers its own pleasures

By John Foy/For The Star-Ledger on January 09, 2014

Small museums are often a place for quiet reflection; so too are wines such as the 2012 Laporte Quincy Les Niorles.

In the world of sauvignon blanc wines, Sancerre is like the Louvre: Everyone wants to say they know it even when they don’t. Sancerre, located in the Loire Valley, reigns as the king of sauvignon blanc, dominating the conversation and garnering a comparatively royal price. Sancerre also produces a small amount of red wine from pinot noir that few consumers know, along with a rosé, known least of all.

But a few miles southwest of Sancerre lies the village of Quincy (KAN-see),where only sauvignon blanc is produced.

Quincy’s vineyards are along the banks and hillsides of the Cher River. The soil’s composition of gravel and sand are conducive to producing wines that display the citrus and herbal qualities of sauvignon blanc, along with a more delicate texture than those coming from Sancerre. They are wines that please without showboating.

The Laporte family produced Loire Valley wines from 1850 until 1986, when Rene Laporte sold the estate to Jean-Marie Bourgeois. The purchase preserved the renowned name of the Laporte estate and merged two dedicated winemaking families.

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In Gigondas, fruitful vines take root for Domaine du Pesquier

By John Foy/For The Star-Ledger on January 02, 2014

We start the new year with Gigondas, a new wine region for this column, and an old friend, Domaine du Pesquier.

Gigondas is in the southern section of France’s Rhone Valley. Its history dates to the Romans, who used the area for its soldiers to have what we call “R&R.” They named it Jocunditas, meaning pleasure and enjoyment in Latin.

Over centuries, farmers in Gigondas developed olive groves and vineyards alongside everyday produce. Its wines were overshadowed by nearby Chateauneuf-du-Pape and were transported to Burgundy for blending when that famous region suffered a poor vintage. In 1956, severe winter weather destroyed the olive trees; the farmers replaced them with vines. That interplay of nature and the human response to it had historical importance.

Grenache has always been the dominant grape in Gigondas. Other grapes were planted randomly, creating a mix of wine styles. Starting in the 1960s, syrah became the preferred grape for new vineyards or for replacing old vines. In 1971, the French wine authorities removed Gigondas from the list of the Cotes du Rhone villages and granted its petition to become an appellation of its own. With its new status came the requirement that Gigondas-labeled wines be a blend of a maximum of 80 percent grenache, a minimum of 15 percent syrah or mourvedre, and not more than 10 percent other Rhone varietals.

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Celebrate New Year's Eve with these fine wines

By John Foy/For The Star-Ledger on December 26, 2013

Wine collectors celebrate New Year’s Eve with their very best wines; you can join the fun with these superb selections.

In September, I visited Eric and Isabelle Coulon, the dedicated eighth-generation owners of Roger Coulon Champagne in Vrigny, a village near Reims.

Eric, the winemaker, produces a delicious, bright orange-tinted nonvintage rosé from Champagne’s two red grapes, pinot noir and pinot meunier, grown in premier cru vineyards. Its wonderful red fruit flavors carry a hint of licorice and the soft bubbles release a long, dry finish.

“Imagine how many people are drinking our Champagne tonight,” Eric wonders every New Year’s Eve, Isabelle recounts with a smile. You’ll be smiling, too, with a glass of the excellent nonvintage Roger Coulon Rosé. The cost is about $60; it’s distributed by Neal Rosenthal in Queens (518)207-9100.

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Fine Champagnes for all tastes

By John Foy/For The Star-Ledger on December 19, 2013

More Champagne is enjoyed during the weeks leading up to New Year’s Eve than at any other time of the year. So for the holiday sippers and imbibers, here is a selection of nonvintage and prestige cuvee Champagnes.

Champagne is a sparkling wine, but not all sparkling wines are Champagne. Only the sparkling wines originating in the French Champagne region, located about 90 miles northeast of Paris, are entitled to the Champagne nomenclature.

Nonvintage or multi-vintage Champagne is the basic wine of every producer. As its name implies, this Champagne is made from wines of various years. It is usually a blend of Champagne’s three major grapes: chardonnay, pinot noir and pinot meunier. Along with being the lowest priced Champagne, many retailers offer substantial discounts during December. It pays to shop around.

Taittinger is one of my favorite Champagne houses, from its prestige cuvee Comtes de Champagne to its nonvintage brut, La Francaise. The latter is aged for four years, more than double the legal requirement for nonvintage Champagne, resulting in a white fruit flavor that is as soft on the palate as the French language is on the ear. The nonvintage Taittinger La Francaise Brut is priced $39 to $44 and distributed by Allied Beverage Group in Carlstadt and R&R Marketing in Fairfield.

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Five under $20: Delightful wines for holiday parties

By John Foy/For The Star-Ledger on December 12, 2013

Holiday parties are most enjoyable when everything is plentiful, from the smiles to the food and good-value wines.

A welcoming glass of Napa Valley’s nonvintage Domaine Chandon Rosé sparkling wine sets a buoyant mood. Its eye-catching effervescence, sunrise reddish color and pleasing red fruit flavors are perfect instigators for a carefree, stylish tone. Easy-to-reach platters of grilled shrimp, tuna rolls and spicy dips will delight your guests and flatter this well-made sparkling wine. And your smile with be broader knowing that at about $17 the nonvintage Domaine Chandon Rosé is less than half the price of rose’ Champagne.
Allied Beverage Group in Carlstadt, Fedway Associates in Basking Ridge, and R&R Marketing in Fairfield distribute the nonvintage Domaine Chandon Rosé sparkling wine.

Searching for a flavorful white wine that’s not another chardonnay or pinot grigio? Put some bottles of the 2011 Tasca d’Almerita Regaleali Bianco in your basket. Sicilian by birth, its blend of inzolia, cataratto and grecanico grapes deliver a vibrant pear and jasmine scent, and a medium-light body filled with tasty white fruit flavor and citrus-like acidity. Ideal with spicy Asian foods, or Sicilian fried rice balls, fried calamari, or seafood salad. And at about $13, you can put the bottles back on the shelf and request a case.

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Oak is integral contributor to Lassegue wines

By John Foy/For The Star-Ledger on December 5, 2013

Winemaker Pierre Seillan’s Chateau Lassegue wines are rooted in his quest for the perfect oak tree.

Bordeaux wines are made from blending grapes and aging them in French oak barrels. In 1990, Jess Jackson, founder of the wine conglomerate Kendall-Jackson Wine Estates, partnered with John Boswell, whose company was supplying oak barrels to Jackson Estates. They purchased a French saw mill and converted it to a stave mill, Merrain International, which gave them better quality control of the oak.

Nearly all French oak barrels come from trees in the forests owned by the French government; considered national treasures, the forests cover more than 20 percent of France. Seillan said that until he joined Jackson’s enterprise, he spent a lifetime at the mercy of various coopers for information about which forests the oak trees came from, and the length of time and the methods used for treating the staves that formed his barrels. But now, “I have the luxury to choose the forest and select the trees that I want for my staves.”

In October, I accompanied Seillan to the Darney forest in the northeastern corner of France. I wanted a better understanding of such a vital part of the winemaking process and Chateau Lasseque; we were joined by Jean-Marc Pernigotto, the director-general of Merrain International.

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