Weekly wine, food,
& travel features!
 


















French Burgundies

Steve Pignatiello imports exceptional Burgundies.

By Jan Walsh

Photography by Beau Gustafson

French wine importer and sommelier, Steve Pignatiello is one of my favorite Francophiles. I have been drinking and writing about his P. Comms, Int’l wines for almost 10 years. Yet his love affair with France is older than my own, and dates back to 1979, when he first traveled there. Afterwards his travels and passion became focused on the La Bourgogne (Burgundy) region. “Burgundy is a way of life. It’s a tiny region where the best wines are made by mom-and-pop operations, not large corporations,” Pignatiello explains. His first-hand knowledge of Burgundy wines have earned him the nickname, “The Burgundy Wine Man.” And for his work, he has been inducted into the prestigious Confrerie des Chevaliers du Tastevin at the historic Chateau du Clos de Vougeot and serve as the Vice Conseiller Gastronomique for the Chaine des Rotisseurs.

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Family Tradition

Thanksgiving calls for fine American wines. 

By Jan Walsh

 Photography by Beau Gustafson

Each Thanksgiving I pour American red wines—made by a family owned winery—in addition to Schramsberg sparkling wines. And this year these reds will be J. Davies, part of the Schramsberg portfolio of still wines. Three J. Davies reds, one Cabernet Sauvignon and two Pinot Noirs, will round out the table.

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Select Champagne

Delamotte makes simply beautiful Champagnes.

By Jan Walsh

Photography by Beau Gustafson

When asked my favorite Champagne, the answer is an easy one—Champagne Delamotte. On my first sip many years ago, I found my favorite, and no other Champagne has since impressed me more.

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Select Champagne

Delamotte makes simply beautiful Champagnes.

By Jan Walsh

Photography by Beau Gustafson

When asked my favorite Champagne, the answer is an easy one—Champagne Delamotte. On my first sip many years ago, I found my favorite, and no other Champagne has since impressed me more.

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Atlanta Food & Wine Festival 2014

The Atlanta Food & Wine Festival is a weekend experience for guests who want to sip, savor and learn about the rich food and beverage traditions of the South. All activities were carefully crafted by the Festival Advisory Council to take guests through a one-of-a-kind culinary journey through the South.

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Limited Wine

Toast Valentines with Fleming’s 46 Diamonds Schramsberg.

By Jan Walsh

Photography by Beau Gustafson

Make Valentines or any evening special with Fleming’s private label Schramsberg 46 Diamonds 2009. This extra dry sparkling wine is available exclusively at Fleming’s while it lasts as only 350 cases were crafted exclusively for Fleming’s. Forty-Six Diamonds is a collaboration between Fleming’s Director of Wine Maeve Pesquera, Schramsberg winemaker Keith Hock and proprietors Monique and Hugh Davies, and renowned artist and wine enthusiast Thomas Arvid. The wine debuted in Fall 2013 with a series of wine dinners at Fleming’s restaurants across the country.

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Liquid Cashmere

Enjoy the supple elegance of Viader 2010.

By Jan Walsh

Photography by Beau Gustafson

Established in 1986 by Delia Viader, VIADER’s estate vineyard is located on the Howell Mountain’s eastern slopes. Here they produce limited production red wines and red Bordeaux-style blends: Viader, V, Viader Syrah, and Viader Black Label.

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10 Vintages

 

The J. Davies 2010 marks a decade of this fine wine.

By Jan Walsh

Photography by Beau Gustafson

It seems like yesterday when the Davies family, proprietors of Schramsberg Vineyards in Napa Valley, began making their first non sparkling wine—J. Davies Cabernet Sauvignon. Time flies when drinking great wines because that was a decade ago.

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Dinner Party Wines 


Vineyard Brands wines make a night to remember.

By Jan Walsh

Photography by Beau Gustafson

Having a dinner party? Plan around the wines. Vineyard Brands imports more than 25 growers of estate-bottled wines in Burgundy, Chablis, the Rhône, Loire Valley, Alsace and Southern France, along with many other wonderful wines from other countries. Recently executive vice president Eileen Hallmark shared 12 of these wines at a local dinner and charitable auction, the 28th Annual Evening of Wines. And the event’s steering committee—Lee Weathers, Scott Atkinson, Eric Franz, T. Charles Fry, Jr., John Griffin, Bradley Lard, Kevin Logsdon, April Mason, Tom Miller, Wimberly Miree, Jr., Richard Vest, Jan Walsh, and Charlie Yeates—chose the wines.

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The Blend

Blends of small lots make great wines at Franciscan Estate.

By Jan Walsh

Photography by Beau Gustafson

People often ask me what is my favorite wine. My answer is always the same, “blends.” I expect by the puzzled stares that they were expecting “Chardonnay,” “Pinot Noir” or some other varietal. So I explain further that one of my loves is a Bordeaux style wine. And Franciscan Napa Valley Magnificat 2009 is a good example.

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Summer Sippers


Chill with red, white and pink wines from Lodi.

By Jan Walsh

Photography by Beau Gustafson

Lodi, California is home to old vine Zinfandels, with some plantings dating back to 1888. Many of Lodi’s winegrowing families have also been here for more than 100 years. And while it remains a predominately a red wine-producing region, these days Lodi is also making some other very interesting wines from its 75+ varieties.

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By The Glass

Discover awesome new pours at The Wine Loft.  

By Jan Walsh

Photography by Beau Gustafson

Mike Dunnavant keeps the wine and his passion for it flowing at The Wine Loft. Every time I stop in, he has new and interesting wines on his glass list. And tonight is no exception. Seated on the leather sofa in the private tasting room, we have a nice view of the red wine cellar. This room can be reserved and is no extra charge.

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Final Act

Newman’s Own Wines are enjoyable and affordable.

By Jan Walsh

Photography by Beau Gustafson

It has been 59 years since Paul Newman appeared in his first Hollywood film, The Silver Chalice. The film was a failure. It has been more than 25 years since Paul Newman made his first salad dressing, which was an immediate success. And it has been almost five years since his death. Yet Newman’s legacy for helping others is alive and well at Newman’s Own Foundation. And his products are thriving.

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BIG Brews

Discover large format, craft beers at Piggly Wiggly.

By Jan Walsh

Photography by Beau Gustafson

The first time I encountered a large format bottle of beer was 20 years ago in Egypt. It was a memorable experience that evolved my perception and appreciation of beer. Today I find these “bombers” (22 ounce bottle, sold as a single) at my neighborhood Piggly Wiggly—River Run store, as well as other locations of Homewood, Crestline, and Clairmont.

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Italian Fizz

Cleto Chiarli’s wines add a little fizz to my life. 

By Jan Walsh

Photography by Beau Gustafson

Lambrusco is renowned for its natural fizziness that results in slightly sparkling wines. And with 150 years of know how and tradition, Cleto Chiarli makes several lovely wines, including Lambruscos. From the minerality of Sorbara to the fruitiness of the Grasparossa, their portfolio is a sparkling wine lover’s dream.

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Authentic Absinthe

Have you ever experienced the real absinthes?

By Jan Walsh

Photography by Beau Gustafson

Throughout history absinthe (ab-sinth) has been misunderstood. It has been both wildly popular and completely banned for driving people “crazy,” including Van Gogh cutting off his ear.

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GianMarco Wine

GianMarco’s wine bar and retail shop draws wine savvy patrons.

By Jan Walsh

Photography by Beau Gustafson


GianMarco’s Restaurant has long had one of the finest and most flexible wine programs in Alabama. Brothers Giani and Marco Respinto own and operate the restaurant, and offer more than 300 select restaurant quality wines on the wine list. Wines are offered in servings of three ounces, six ounces, quantino, and by the bottle. And the price point for each and every wine is very competitive.

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Successful Sommeliers

Birmingham area sommeliers pass Court of Master Sommeliers exams.

By Jan Walsh

Photography by Beau Gustafson

What is a sommelier? From a historic perspective, the word “sommelier” is derived from the French sommier, which is a word that evolved from cargo related nouns: the cargo, animals transporting the cargo, and the people in charge of these animals. Sommelier was a title for people in charge of specific classes of items, such as food. And the term eventually evolved to describe a servant in charge of wine.

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Vintage Ports

Ocean’s new wine cellar houses fine, old ports.

By Jan Walsh

Photography by Beau Gustafson

Port has a history of being the wine that men drank while smoking a cigar—after the women had left the room. That was then. Now women drink wine alongside the men at the bar. And I recently had the pleasure of tasting Warre Vintage Ports with George Reis, executive chef and owner of Ocean and 26. These ports are a recent addition to the wine list at Ocean and 26. And another recent addition to Ocean—its wine cellar—provides a space for the restaurant to lay down some older bottles, such as the Warre Vintage Ports.

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Good Times

Pack Robert Mondavi Private Selection for picnics and tailgating.  

By Jan Walsh

Photography by Beau Gustafson

I first met Robert Mondavi at Premiere Napa Valley 2006. Every time I open a bottle of his wines I am reminded of that day. Today was no exception, when I opened a box delivered to my door with a picnic basket filled with his Private Selection wines.

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Ravenswood County Series

Explore Zinfandel with three Ravenswood Zins: Sonoma, Napa and Lodi.

By Jan Walsh

Photography by Beau Gustafson


I had dinner with Joel Peterson when he was in Birmingham a few… (gulp) years ago. Where does time go? Recently when his Ravenswood County Series arrived at my door—for tasting and consideration—I was reminded of the evening with the Godfather of Zin.

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Date Night

Southern girl and city boy meet and make great wine.

By Jan Walsh

I recently lunched at Bottega Café with Napa Valley’s Suzanne Phifer Pavitt, proprietor of Phifer Pavitt. I enjoyed both her story and her wines.

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Event Evolution

Birmingham’s “Evening of Wines” charitable wine auction gets better with age.

By Jan Walsh

Photography by Beau Gustafson

Each spring the Alabama-Mississippi Chapter of the National Multiple Sclerosis Society hosts an “Evening of Wines.”

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Big Reds

Halter Ranch Vineyard makes Bordeaux varietals for serious wine drinkers.

By Jan Walsh

Photography by Beau Gustafson

Last month I reviewed Halter Ranch’s Rhone varietals in this column. And I invited readers to join me for this month’s review, as I raise a glass to the Halter Ranch Bordeaux style wines.

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Southern Rhone Style

California winery, Halter Ranch Vineyard specializes in Rhone varietals.

By Jan Walsh

Photography by Beau Gustafson

Halter Ranch Vineyard is a new California winery producing 100 percent estate grown wines—with a focus on quality and sustainability. The winery is located in the west side of Paso Robles in California’s Central Coast. Halter Ranch specializes in Southern Rhone varietals, which is one of my favorites. And winemaker Kevin Sass produces both a red and a white.

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Sweet Dreams

Extend the evening with a dessert wine, nightcap at The Wine Loft.  

By Jan Walsh

Photography by Beau Gustafson

Forgo dessert for a dessert wine—or enjoy both at The Wine Loft.

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Red, Red, Red Wine

Select a red wine for your Valentine or your blue heart.

By Jan Walsh

Photography by Beau Gustafson

After three decades of purveying fine wines from around the world, Wilson Daniels crafts their own California, Central Coast wines. California’s Central Coast stretches form San Francisco to Santa Barbara and includes Santa Maria Valley and Paso Robles.

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Classic Bordeaux

Celebrate the season with Chateau Simard 1999.

By Jan Walsh

Photography by Beau Gustafson

How do you find a vintage of 1999 Bordeaux during the last month of 2011? Chateau Simard has practiced the art of aging wines from only outstanding vintages for at least 10 years before releasing them. And this 1999 Bordeaux is elegant, balanced and refined. Sumptuous, with smooth tannins this Bordeaux is a quintessential Saint-Émilion.

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Now That's Italian!

Dalla Terra hosts 15 Italian vintners and winemakers for lunch at Bottega.

By Jan Walsh

Photography by Beau Gustafson

Dalla Terra (of the earth in Italian) Winery Direct® is a direct importer of a limited selection of Italian wines. Their unique method of shipping, distributing and marketing wine bypasses the national importer in the traditional three-tier system. Thus distributors buy directly from the producer, saving wine consumers money. They recently hosted a private wine luncheon at Bottega Restaurant with vintners and winemakers from each of its portfolio estates—pairing their wines with Bottega’s Italian cuisine.

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Cellar Stars

Veranda on Highland’s wine cellar is filled with legendary wines.

By Jan Walsh

Photography by Beau Gustafson

My favorite table at the Veranda on Highland is the chef’s table in the wine cellar. Here vintage, first class—and first growth—wines are displayed under lock and key, in wine cabinets with antique bronze screens in this 1,500 bottle capacity cellar. And above these racks are personal wine lockers of VIP patrons. 

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Steak Wines

Louis M. Martini wines pair well with a juicy steak.

By Jan Walsh

Photography by Beau Gustafson

Winemaker Mike Martini recently visited Birmingham and shared his wines over a private steak dinner at Café Dupont. It was great to visit with Mike again, especially here in Birmingham—and always a pleasure to dine at Café Dupont.

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Lovely La Follette

Winemaker Greg La Follette makes magical Sonoma Coast wines.

By Jan Walsh

Photography by Beau Gustafson

Hands-on winemaker, Greg La Follette captures each vineyard’s terrior in the expression of his wines—as the wine labels illustrate. 

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Affordable and Altruistic

FlipFlop’s varietal wines help put shoes on bare feet.

By Jan Walsh

Photography by Beau Gustafson

Recently Vintner, David Georges visited Birmingham. And we paired lunch at Dyron’s Lowcounty with his FlipFlop wines.

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Noble Drinks

Paladin Family Estates bring their lovely Italian wines to Birmingham. 

By Jan Walsh 

Photography by Beau Gustafson 

Vincenzo Protti, winemaker for Paladin Family Estates, recently visited my home—and invited me to Italy. 
Paladin Family Estates boasts a 50-year old history in the Venetian viticulture. They produce wines under the Paladin, Vescine and Bosco del Merlo labels. 

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Celebrate Spring

Toast the end of a frosty winter with Champagne Delamotte Brut!

By Jan Walsh

Photography by Beau Gustafson

It has been an icy winter. Spring 2011 is ready to bloom. And the only icy frost I want to see is on a bottle of Champagne Delamotte Brut.

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The White Knight

 To my knight in shining armor!

By Jan Walsh

Photography by Beau Gustafson

Leave it to The Other Guys, who make wines of character, to create The White Knight. I immediately related to the name, as I often refer to my husband as “my knight in shining armor.” Thus the first taste of The White Knight 2008 ($12) had a lot to live up to. 

 

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America's Finest

Celebrate the New Year with the latest vintage of J. Schram.

By Jan Walsh

On a recent trip to Napa Valley, I lunched and tasted through the latest vintages of Schramsberg and J. Davies with Schramsberg Vineyard’s vintner Hugh Davies. The 2010 Harvest was just beginning. And Davies’ boyish excitement over a new vintage never wanes.

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Upholding Tradition



Peter Mondavi, Jr. restores Charles Krug and continues the family legacy.

By Jan Walsh

Photography by Beau Gustafson

True to the Peter Mondavi’s humble style, the Peter Mondavi Family’s winery is not named after Mondavi. Instead is named, “Charles Krug” for its founder.

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Thanksgiving Tradition

Jordan’s elegant wines will complement my Thanksgiving feast.

By Jan Walsh

Photography by Beau Gustafson

I have a tradition about Thanksgiving wines. The selection includes only wines of vineyards that I have personally walked with the vintners and winemakers—memories for which I am grateful.

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Thanksgiving Tradition

Jordan’s elegant wines will complement my Thanksgiving feast.

By Jan Walsh

Photography by Beau Gustafson

I have a tradition about Thanksgiving wines. The selection includes only wines of vineyards that I have personally walked with the vintners and winemakers—memories for which I am grateful.

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Vineyard Evolution

DeLoach Vineyards develop a French Accent.

By Jan Walsh

Photography by Beau Gustafson

Not often do I actually write this “Sip” column in wine country—Sonoma County. But today I am. The vineyard scene could be mistaken for Burgundy, France. But instead I am in DeLoach Vineyards, surrounded by grapevines hanging heavy with—soon to be harvested—2010 fruit. It is a vintage that is eagerly awaited, as it represents an evolution of DeLoach wines.

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Squeal!

Piggly Wiggly launches its own private label of delightful California wines.

By Jan Walsh

Photography by Beau Gustafson

Piggly Wiggly has a heritage that is local. The stores are locally owned and operated. And many of the products are grown or produced locally and regionally. They are also known for their wine departments. What to pair with the standing rib roast in your cart? No problem. Their friendly wine stewards have just the bottle. Need a discount on case wines? Get 10 percent off 12 bottles or any six magnums—and a five percent discount on half case purchases. Want a wine for a special occasion? They can typically get it in 48 hours.

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My Summer Favorite



Pair a glass of chilled, white Bordeaux with a hot, humid Birmingham summer.

By Jan Walsh

Photography by Beau Gustafson

Excluding Champagne, white Bordeaux has been my favorite white wine for many years. I look forward to a well-chilled glass of Chateau Graville-Lacoste at the end of a long, hot day.

The French wine region of Bordeaux is most famous for their classic growths of dry red wines— blended of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Cabernet Franc grapes—and sweet dessert wines including Château d' Yquem. Yet they also produce world-class white wines, white Bordeaux.

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Pennywise Pleasers

At $12 a bottle every penny saved will buy more wine.

By Jan Walsh

Photography by Beau Gustafson

Tough times call for value wines. And The Other Guys recently released a line of great wines that pinch pennies without pinching quality. Priced at $12 each, their new line of Pennywise 2008 vintage wines will not put a dent in your wallet.

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Conservancy Wines

 Concannon Vineyard releases the most important wine series of its history.

By Jan Walsh

Photography by Beau Gustafson

Concannon Conservancy Chardonnay 2008 and Conservancy Petite Sirah 2007 reflect the true varietal character and unique terroir of the Livermore Valley. And they are a celebration of the preservation of Livermore Valley.

 

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The Chain Gang

Big House makes an affordable and enjoyable line up of wines.

By Jan Walsh

Photo by Jason Wallis

The Big House winery in Soledad, Monterey County, is a mere “ankle iron’s toss” from the Soledad State Correctional Facility, thus the name.

I recently had the pleasure of having dinner with the “Warden” of Big House Wines, winemaker Georgetta Dane at Café Dupont, while tasting through their line up of wines. This fashionable diva looks more like a celebrity than a winemaker. Yet Dane is a serious winemaker who views winemaking as a two-part process: natural transformation of fermentation and blending aromas and flavors to produce wines that are unique.

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Creative Juices

Steele Wines prolific Writer’s Block offers nine different wines—and more coming soon.

By Jan Walsh

Photography by Beau Gustafson


Jed Steele has been making wine in California for 42 years. In a joint venture Steele and his son Quincy Steele added the Writer's Block line of nine wines to the Steele Wines portfolio in 2002. The wines play off the character in Shakespeare’s Sonnet 28, where the speaker suffers from writer's block and laments that day and night conspire against his ability to fulfill his writing duties.

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La Bourgogne

Classic red and white Burgundies are telling of their heritage.

By Jan Walsh

Photo by Jason Wallis

Every wine “speaks” its truth on the first sip. The quality of thefruit, the weather of its vintage and the knowledge, skill andexpertise of its winemaker synthesize into a “story.” Each winewhispers its story from deep inside the glass to each person who tastesthe wine. The more of a particular wine you drink over time, the better you get to know this wine.

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Spanish Discovery

Basico’s Blanco expresses its Spanish origin at exceptional value.

By Jan Walsh

Photography by Beau Gustafson


From Spain to Birmingham, Basico wines are new to the Southeastern market. Among the wines debuting is their white wine, Basico’s Blanco 2008 ($8.99). At this price point Blanco makes a terrific “everyday” wine that won’t break the budget. Buy a case at most retailers and get a 10 percent discount too.

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Bubbles and Sweethearts

J. Schram is America’s sweetheart of a sparkling wine.

By Jan Walsh


In 1965, Jack and Jamie Davies had a “sparkling” dream. The couple’s goal was to develop America’s most prestigious sparkling wine.  And when they discovered an abandoned winery—Schramsberg—on a mountainside in Napa Valley, they knew this was the place to make their wine.

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New Year, New Wine

Uncork the 2007 vintage of Frank Family Vineyards Napa Valley Zinfandel.

By Jan Walsh


Photography by Beau Gustafson

I enjoy big reds on cold winter evenings. And Zinfandel is among my favorites to curl up with in front of a roaring fire. The Zinfandel grape is genetically equivalent to Crljenak Kaštelanski, the Croatian grape and the Primitivo variety from Italy. By the mid 19th Century, the grape—known by variations of the word, “Zinfandel”—had made its way to the United States. Frank Family Vineyards Napa Valley Zinfandel 2007 ($36.75) makes a perfect cold weather sipper.

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Have Hope?



Hope Family Wines offer a wine for every budget—and an iPhone app.

By Jan Walsh

Photography by Jan Walsh

Third generation California farmer, and first generation winemaker, Austin Hope oversees the entire Hope Family Wines portfolio: Treana, Liberty School, Candor and Austin Hope wines. The Hope family first planted vineyards in Paso Robles in 1978. And Austin Hope began working in his family’s Paso Robles vineyards as a boy. His new generation style combines experimentation with old and new world winemaking philosophies. Modern techniques enhance fruit and structure. Yet Hope carefully maintains the quality and varietal correctness of each bottle. And he takes wine technology beyond the bottle with the invention of an iPhone app for the Liberty School wines.

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Wine of the Year 2009

Hand Crafted Reynolds Family Winery's Persistence 2005

Persistence Red Wine 2005 (54.99) is a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Syrah and Petite Verdot. This lovely and complex wine offers notes of blueberry, plum and raspberry.

Vintner Steve Reynolds’ interest in wine started when he was a young teenager, living in Germany. “Wine was always part of our daily life and my father often took the whole family on wine tasting trips through Europe,” he recalls. “My father and I dreamed of building a winery together.” This vision became reality when his wife, Suzie, and Reynolds traded his dental practice for the life of wine growers in 1994.

 

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Classic Chateauneuf-du-Pape

Sip or cellar Rhone Valley’s most renowned wines.

By Jan Walsh

Photography by Jason Wallis

Most wine lovers start their discovery of wine by sipping simple, sweet white—or pink—wines. Eventually they grow tired of these and learn to appreciate drier white wines. Next they want to find a red wine to drink, but learning to appreciate red wines can be a difficult leap. Where to start?

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The Prettiest One

Pair your holiday meal with a lovely Chamisal Vineyards Pinot Noir.

By Jan Walsh


Photo by Beau Gustafson


Your holiday table deserves a special wine—Domaine Alfred Chamisal Vineyards Calif Selection Pinot Noir 2007.

In 2009 Domaine Alfred returned to the vineyard’s roots by renaming the winery after its icon vineyard and original namesake—Chamisal Vineyards.

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American Harvest

Pahlmeyer wines have deep roots in California soil.

By Jan Walsh

Photo by Cary Norton

In the early 1970s Jayson Pahlmeyer and John Caldwell shared a love of Bordeaux style grape growing and winemaking. This shared passion led them to Bordeaux, France where they acquired cuttings from the five classic Bordeaux varietals and “smuggled” them back to California—via Canada.

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Kunde Winemaker Dinner

Kunde Family Estate’s wines pair well with dinner at Veranda On Highland.

By Jan Walsh

Each year I make my way to California wine country for a couple of weeks. I especially enjoy traveling there in August to escape our heat. But also it is a beautiful time because the majority of the grapes are hanging on the vines—almost ready for harvesting.

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Wines of Character

Greg Norman Estates produces legendary wines at affordable prices.

By Jan Walsh


I recently had the pleasure of tasting through the Greg Norman Estate wines with his daughter Morgan-leigh Norman. Like father, like daughter both are passionate about food and wine.  Morgan-leigh is the brand ambassador of the wines and an accomplished chef.

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365 Acres of Romance

Clos Pegase’s Jan Shrem gave his wife one acre for every day of the year he loves her.
 
By Jan Walsh


Some men are romantic by nature. They put great thought into the gifts they give their partner. Founder of Clos Pegase, Jan Shrem is such a man. In 1989 he gave his wife, Mitsuko Shrem a vineyard as a Valentine's Day present. Mitsuko's Vineyard is comprised of 365 acres—one acre for every day of the year that he loves her.

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Blind Tasting

Think all Sauvignon Blancs taste the same?

By Jan Walsh
Photography by Beau Gustafson

Sauvignon Blancs are among my favorite whites. A well-chilled bottle is the perfect porch drink for Birmingham's warm, spring temperatures. Today three distinctly different Sauvignon Blancs are tasted-blind.

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Hand Crafted

Reynolds Family Winery specializes in low production, high quality wines.

By Jan Walsh


Vintner Steve Reynolds’ interest in wine started when he was a young teenager, living in Germany. “Wine was always part of our daily life and my father often took the whole family on wine tasting trips through Europe,” he recalls. “My father and I dreamed of building a winery together.” This vision became reality when his wife, Suzie, and Reynolds traded his dental practice for the life of wine growers in 1994.

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Sunshine In A Bottle

Australian sun and exceptional fruit make Two Hands wines shine.

By Jan Walsh

Two Hands vintners, Richard Mintz and Michael Twelftree share a passion and a vision for their Australian wines. They formed the company in 1999 with the objective of making the best possible Shiraz based wines from prized Shiraz producing regions within Australia. They make four tiers of wines: Flagship, Single Vineyard, Garden Series and Picture Series. The wines consistently rank in Wine Spectator’s Top 100 and 90+ reviews from Robert Parker.

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Seventy-five

The year 1975 brought a new kid to California wine country. 

By Jan Walsh

The year of 1975 was a memorable one. Elvis turned 40. Tiger Woods first appeared. Jimmy Hoffa disappeared. Mohammed Ali wins the “Thrilla in Manila.” The Eagles “Best of My Love” reaches the top of the charts. Bill Gates founded Microsoft. And the future founder of The Seventy-Five Wine Company, Tuck Beckstoffer piled into a wood paneled Ford Country Squire station wagon with the rest of his family and headed to Napa Valley.

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Wine Gems

Make your holidays sparkle with wines by J.

By Jan Walsh


Want holiday wines that will please all? Toast the season with wine from Sonoma Valley’s J. Vineyards & Winery. J owns and farms just over 275 acres in California's Russian River Valley where Pinot Noir and Chardonnay varietals thrive. The diversity of the soil paired with the cool coastal fog allows fruit to mature slowly—developing complex aromas and flavors.

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Sesquicentennial

Sonoma County's Gundlach Bundschu celebrates 150 years of family winemaking.

By Jan Walsh

In 1858 Jacob Gundlach purchased Sonoma property, which he named Rhinefarm. Six generations of family have tended vineyards and made wine here since that time.

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Legacy Wines

Family owned and operated for 125 years Wente Vineyard's makes affordable wines of distinction.

By Jan Walsh

Wente Vineyards is California's oldest family owned and continuously operated winery. Founded in 1883 by C. H. Wente, the winery is now managed by the fourth and fifth generations of the Wente family, including winemaker Karl Wente. I had the pleasure of touring the vineyards and tasting these wines with Wente at the winery.

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New Release: Solaire

Robert Mondavi is gone, but his legendary wines remain.

By Jan Walsh
Photography by Beau Gustafson


Robert Mondavi died May 16, 2008. It was my privilege to meet Mondavi in 2006 at the annual Premier Auction Napa Valley. He and his brother, Peter sat side-by-side and greeted old friends and made new acquaintances. Yet that is not why I choose to write about the Robert Mondavi portfolio of newly released Solaire wines to review for this issue. I had already chosen these two wines for July.

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Champagne Shooters

Toast the bride and groom with a twist at B&A Warehouse.

By Jan Walsh


No two brides are alike, nor should their wedding receptions be. “Today’s bride wants something that is a little out of the ordinary, yet fun and interactive, at her wedding reception,” owner of B&A Warehouse, Susan Mason describes. B&A meets this desire with the Champagne Shooter Station, which puts a spin on the traditional custom of offering Champagne at the reception. They mix colorful flavors with the champagne and serve the drink as a shot. “Not only is the station aesthetically pleasing, but it is also a hit with the guests!”

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Peak Experience

Terlato Wine Group creates a trinity of “Peak” wines from Napa Valley fruit.

By Jan Walsh

Photography by Beau Gustafson

Legendary wines of Pomerol, St. Émilion and Margaux inspire Terlato Family Vineyards’ Napa Valley red wine blends: Angels’ Peak, Devils’ Peak and Cardinals’ Peak. Among Terlato Wine Group Chairman Anthony J. Terlato’s personal favorites are the wines from these three Bordeaux appellations. And his passion for these wines led to a challenge for his head winemaker, Doug Fletcher to create the “Peak” wines using fruit from Napa Valley and traditional Bordeaux methods to produce wines with drinkability, complexity and age-worthiness.

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High Point

Veranda on Highland debuts its new, upstairs, wine cellar.

By Jan Walsh
Photography by Beau Gustafson


Dating to the 1920s, Veranda on Highland is one of the most beautiful restaurants in Alabama. It boasts nine separate dining rooms, fireplaces, stained glass windows, a private patio, and, of course—a veranda. Yet the recent addition of a handsome, climate-controlled wine cellar brings the restaurant to a new level. The recently completed cellar has multiple purposes. It houses the new, expanded wine list, includes private wine lockers for Veranda’s best customers, and can be reserved for private dining and special events.

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Inaugural Vintage

Give your valentine a first vintage of Terra Valentine wine.

By Jan Walsh


Terra Valentine recently released the 2004 inaugural vintage of Yverdon Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon ($70). The historic Yverdon Estate Vineyard had not been planted since the 1980s. In 2001 it was replanted in Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot. In 2004 the site bore fruit for the first time in 20 years. And the vineyard was expanded to 25 acres in 2006. High atop the Mayacamas Range, the vineyard showcases the terroir of the Spring Mountain District’s highest elevations. Aromas of black currant, cedar and caramel lead to luscious fruit flavors, with notes of cocoa and cedar. Cellar this wine for a future Valentine’s Day over the next five to seven years.

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Birmingham Wine Restaurant Awards 2013-14

 

Congrats to all of the 2013-2014 Restaurant Winners!

Awards include Glass Award, American Award, Global Award, Depth Award, Sparkling Award, and Wine Dinner Award.

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A Storied Destiny

Savor Charles Krug, Napa Valley’s oldest wines.

By Jan Walsh

Photography by Beau Gustafson

Charles Krug was the first winery in Napa Valley. Krug planted the first vineyard and established his winery in 1861. In 1894, two years after his death, John Moffitt assumed ownership of the property. And after Prohibition, in 1943, an immigrant from Italy, Cesare Mondavi purchased the 147-acre property for $75,000. The winery was to be run by his two sons, Robert and Peter.

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Big Idea

Entrepreneur Brandon Smith launches national franchise, Small Cellars.

By Jan Walsh

Small Cellars is a new, national concept and franchise business based in Birmingham, Alabama. The company specializes in building small, affordable and attractive wine cellars for today’s homes. President and founder of Small Cellars, Brandon Smith built the business on his firm belief that every wine lover should have a wine cellar. And Smith’s desire is to change the preconception that wine cellars are for the wealthy—who live large—one small cellar at a time.

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Focus On Fun

Private wine consultant, Foster Smith shares his wine wisdom through his wit.

By Jan Walsh

Photography by Beau Gustafson

Learning about wine just got easier. After 20 years in wine sales, Certified Wine Specialist, Foster Smith retired from his position at International Wines and started his own wine consulting business. Smith now shares wine savvy—without the snobbery—with both individuals and businesses. “With my wine consulting business I focus on fun while using my passion for teaching,” Smith says. Previously he also taught wine courses for UAB Special Studies over a period of 14 years.

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Taste of Italy

Fausto Maculan makes a wine for every palate.


By Jan Walsh

Photography by Beau Gustafson

Fausto Maculan was born to be a winemaker. He was delivered in the space where his present office is today. He worked in his family’s winery until age 14. Later he graduated from Conegliano’s school of enology with honors before assuming his destiny—managing the viticultural, productive and commercial aspects of the family business.

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Wine Masters' Selection

Wine Master Ed Sbragia brings fine Beringer wines to town.

By Jan Walsh

Photography by Beau Gustafson

Beringer Wine Master Ed Sbragia was the Honorary Chairman for Birmingham’s oldest, charitable wine auction. The 22nd Annual Evening of Wines benefiting Multiple Sclerosis was held April 21, 2007. Here he shared not only his wines but also a bit of his family history.

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Champagne Wishes

Celebrate the most important day of your life with Champagne Gardet.

By Jan Walsh

If life is too short to drink bad wine, your wedding deserves Champagne Gardet. Charles Gardet founded the Gardet Champagne house in 1895. And the family presently owns about 18 acres in the Premier Cru areas of the Champagne region. Each year the Gardet’s select the best of their cuvees to join their reserve wines, which are aged in 100-year old oak vats. This juice is later married to younger wines to produce a harmonious sparkling wine that is cellared and allowed to undergo the second fermentation. After several years, these wines acquire the classic fragrance, maturity, flavors, and finesse—and only then do they bear the name of “Champagne Gardet.”

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Welcoming Wines

It's all in the Frank Family: Chardonnay, Cabernet Sauvignon and Zinfandel.

By Jan Walsh
Photography by Beau Gustafson

Frank Family's tasting room is known as one of the friendliest in Napa Valley and one of the few that continues to offer free tastes. But you don't have to go to Napa to get a free taste of Frank Family wines. The Cabernet Sauvignon, Chardonnay and Zinfandel are April's Featured Wines of the Month at Piggly Wiggly's posh River Run location-where tastings are always free of charge.

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An Irish Toast

Celebrate spring and St. Patrick's Day with a legendary "Irish" wine.

By Jan Walsh

Photography by Beau Gustafson


As they say, "If you are lucky enough to be Irish… you are lucky enough." Yet whether you are Irish or not, St. Patrick's Day has become a time of celebration for all. Winter evolves to spring, and all becomes green. But if a dyed Irish larger is not your style, celebrate with a glass of Concannon.

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French Kiss

Fall in love with an unforgettable Champagne.

Photography by Gustafson

By Jan Walsh

One never forgets her first love-mine was French. One sip, and I was seduced. It was a white Bordeaux, chilled to perfection on a warm, summer's day at a flower-lined, sidewalk café in Nice. The memory and the love affair continued with various vintages of fabulous, French wines across the Rivera, into Paris and-of course, Champagne. Afterwards I returned home, quite the Francophile, drinking nothing but French wines whenever possible. Eventually my heart was touched, and my palate intrigued, by many fine still and sparkling wines of various wine regions all over the world. Yet does one ever get really get beyond her first love? Men, of course, but wine… not so much.

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Celebrate with Schramsberg

Pop the cork on America's finest sparkling wines and an award winning Cabernet Sauvignon.

By Jan Walsh

Photography by Beau Gustafson

Celebrate the holidays with America's first and finest sparkling wines. All seven styles of Schramsberg's sparklers are produced using Méthode Champenoise at this California Historical Landmark on Napa Valley's Diamond Mountain. Founded by Jacob Schram in 1862, Schramsberg operated for 50 years leading up to prohibition. Throughout prohibition, the Depression, WWII and afterwards Schramsberg declined until it was rescued and renovated in 1965 by Jack and Jamie Davies.

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Stand Out Wines

Sebastiani Brothers choose Birmingham to premiere wines of character.

By Jan Walsh

Photography by Beau Gustafson

Unzork a wine that most of the country can't. The Sebastianis selected Birmingham-as one of two cities-to launch The Other Guys (TOG) wines. "The Other Guys represents a direction that my brother Donny and I have decided to take with our generation of Sebastiani family winemaking-concentrating on appellation driven wines grown in some of our favorite viticultural areas," August Sebastiani explains.

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Merlots Miles Missed

Star struck by Sideways and Pinot Noir? Taste California Merlot again.

By Jan Walsh

Photography by Beau Gustafson

As a sequel to last month's column, "Pinot Passion," Merlots play a starring role in September. So blow off the Pinot party. And sip some marvelous Merlots from both Napa Valley and Sonoma County.

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Pinot Passion

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Wine American Style

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Toasting the Bride and Groom

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Let's Twist Again

 

Toss the corkscrew, and twist open a nice bottle of wine.

by Jan Walsh

Screw caps once indicated a cheap bottle of wine, and rightly so. But today's twist-offs are the latest "new" alternative closures to corked wine and come in many price ranges.

 

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