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Saturday, January 31, 2015

Why did I enjoy the Blizzard of 2015? the answer is five words: Shannon Ridge and High Valley Wines by Philip S. Kampe



                                        Look for the sheep at Shannon Ridge ....



               
           The 'Blizzard of 2015' wines from Lake County, California



Why did I enjoy the Blizzard of 2015?  The Answer: I had ample time to sample the wines from California’s Shannon Ridge and High Valley Vineyards by Philip S. Kampe

It’s been snowing since I woke up at 6am this morning. They call it the ‘Blizzard of 2015’. I live in the Berkshire mountains, in the great, but somewhat, deflated state of Massachusetts. There is enough snow to bury a magnum. More is on the way, maybe enough to bury a jeroboam.

Anyway, today is the perfect day to sample wine. Driving is restricted because of the states highway ban. Everyone is housebound unless winter sports are your thing.

So, what am I to do for breakfast? Should I start with a bowl of cereal, make an egg and have orange juice? I don’t think so.

What I chose to do was quite simple.

I created my day’s meal by filling a large oval platter with a variety of cheeses, one goat, one sheep and one cow. I added Italian and Spanish olives, marcona almonds, water crackers, dried figs and a dozen slices of prosciutto and salami to the mix.

I am now ready for today’s challenge.

The challenge is to sample wines from Lake County, Napa’s northern neighbor. I just returned from a family vacation in California with a suitcase full of wines from Lake County, California, including two sustainable Shannon Ridge wines, 2011 Home Ranch Cabernet Sauvignon, 2011 Home Ranch/Two Bud Block Zinfandel and three wines from High Valley (owned by Shannon Ridge), 2011 Sauvignon Blanc, 2012 Barbara and 2012 Cabernet Sauvignon.

Owner Clay Shannon and his wife, Maragarita, are committed to preserving their land for not only wine, but nature and wildlife. Of the 2,165 acres owned by the Shannon family, 65% of the land has been used as a wildlife preserve. The remaining 35% of the Home Ranch has been converted to vineyards. The Shannon’s practice sustainable farming by using a herd of over 1000 sheep to maintain the cycle of the land. Our border collie, Maggie McGee, would have loved to have lived on the Shannons’ property.

The history of Shannon Ridge dates back to the 80’s when the couple grew grapes for others. As time passed, they wanted to see if their grapes could stand on their own. They stopped sourcing the grapes and began making wine in the mid-90’s.

Today, the couples wine empire has grown with the purchase of several parcels, including High Valley Vineyards in April, 2012. The Shannon’s wines highlight the Lake County characteristics.

Now, to the wine….
Since High Valley was a recent purchase and I had three bottles of their first two years of vintage, I was eager to sample the wines.

The 2013 Sauvignon Blanc ($15) was outstanding if you like acidity and minerality.  The wine was well-balanced, with highlights of citrus, specifically, limes, lemons and grapefruit. The flavors suggest its use not only as a food wine, but, as an aperitif.
                                              

          


                                                                    

The other spectrum of Lake County is that the area can produce both outstanding white wines as well as red wines. Two wonderful examples are the High Valley 2012 Barbara and Cabernet Sauvignon ($15). Both wines, in different applications highlight dark and red fruit, vanilla and a sense that chocolate and mocha are in your palate.

The old standby wines that have been part of my life for years are the Shannon Ridge, Home Ranch, Zinfandel and Cabernet Sauvignon.

2011 Home Ranch Shannon Ridge Zinfandel ($30) is a very complex, well-balanced, silky wine that focuses the palate on blackberry jam, leather, tobacco and chocolate. The lingering finish has a toasty vanilla quality that dominates your palate. This wine is a great value.

2011 Home Ranch Shannon Ridge Cabernet Sauvignon ($30) is made in the classic style using oak barrels. It’s obvious blackberry, vanilla, dark cherry and tobacco profile make this wine a favorite of mine. It pairs favorably with heavy, rich foods. At 14.9% alcohol and rather young, decanting the wine an hour or more before serving will only help its flavors to amplify.

Drinking the wines of Clay and Margarita Shannon, while watching the snow fall in Massachusetts, makes winter one of my favorite seasons. Why not join me with a glass of Shannon Ridge or High Valley wines?



                                       


                                                                                  




Philip S. Kampe














Sunday, January 18, 2015

California Wine at Bargain Prices by Philip S. Kampe

Just another day of wine searching for wine bargains in southern California. My last findings were wines that were sold at at a 30% discount at the infamous 'Ralph's' supermarket.

The California wine photos that I posted posted created a lot of attention, as the article had an extremely  high readership.

The photos below were taken on 18 January. The wines are for sale at the upscale Sherman Oaks Pavillion market, a branch of Vons supermarkets.The shelf talkers tell the complete story...





Philip S. Kampe
philip.kampe@thewinehub.com

Friday, January 16, 2015

Star Chef's International Chefs Congress (ICC), my Favorite Event in the past six months by Philip S. Kampe & Maria Reveley



STAR CHEF’S  International Chefs Congress (ICC), my FAVORITE Event during the past six months by Philip S.Kampe and Maria Reveley


           

                                         Somm Slam Finalists


                                           Zany MC Fred Dexheimer (2nd left)
The vision of today’s Tastemakers is to look for and demand true authenticity of food products coupled with the desire to create good, honest cooking, If this is the mantra that the Tastemakers follow, then the Star Chefs International Congress that took place at the new Brooklyn Expo Center was a smashing success.

Culinary heavyweights, both international and domestic, joined together to teach, cook and converse with the attendees at this all-industry, three day food-related extravaganza. Workshops, seminars, demonstrations, tastings and discussions dominated the ICC star-studded event.

The main stage featured the culinary scene, from food prep to culinary demonstrations  to interviews with trade heavyweights. Other venues featured mixologists, sommeliers, pastry chefs and cooks, all focusing in on the theme of the ICC for this event, ‘Cooking Honest: The Power of Authenticity in the Kitchen’.

As a focused wine journalist, I was honored to have been one of the judges for the SOMM SLAM, an event featuring ten of the countries top sommeliers competing amongst each other. Fred Dexheimer was both jubilant and zany as the MC (it was no stretch), while confident sommelier, Sara Moll, took charge of every aspect surrounding this prestigious competition.

If wine tasting and cocktail experimentation isn’t enough for you, why not choose a presentation to attend. Choices ranged from ‘The New Chef and the Call to the Community’, to ‘How to Lead a Loyal Kitchen Tribe’.

The reoccurring theme of authenticity and honest cooking was in full swing at ICC.

As an attendee, I was fortunate enough to sample food from the Southern Food Cart Showcase, the Sandwich Food Cart Showcase and the NYC Food Cart Showcase. Presentations from famous culinary chefs included Joan Roca, Masaharu Morimoto, George Mendes, Yoshihero Narisawa and Marcus Samulsson,

Trends were discussed and the buzz on new trends focused on local cuisine, vinegar, pickling, fermentation, Nordic influences, foraging and Peruvian ingredients.
                      Chef Joan Roca of Cellar de Can Roca (Girona, Spain)

If you are in the industry and want to expand your knowledge base and broaden your horizon, then the Star Chefs International Chef’s Congress (ICC) 2015 is for you. I am counting the days until the 10th ICC Congress takes place in 2015.

For more information, visit: www.starchefs.com

Philip S. Kampe

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Sunday, January 11, 2015

California Wine at California Prices by Philip S. Kampe

My two week journey through southern California's vast array of wine shops has been a true education for me, the east coast wine consumer. Like everyone else, purchasing wine from a respectable wine merchant has always been my objective.


Both New Jersey (Wine Library) and western Massachusetts (Spirited Wines and Nejaime's) have met my needs with quality service, weekly tastings and educated wine consultants.

It seems like California is much the same, a little bit more laid back, as the wine merchants expect that the consumer knows about wine--since they live in California.

Taking that in account, I chose to visit numerous wine outlets that had little to no staff to sell the goods. The money saved by not paying the staff to hand sell was reflected in the price of wine.

The infamous 'Ralphs' supermarket was the best answer to 'Who sells middle to top quality wines at discount prices'?


                       



              


Philip S. Kampe
philip.kampe@thewinehub.com



Saturday, January 10, 2015

The Future of Puglia, as Seen Through the Eyes of Luigi Rubino and Romina Leopardi by Philip S Kampe



       The Future of Puglia, as Seen Through the Eyes of Luigi Rubino and Romina Leopardi.



                                                         Luigi Rubino





                                              Luigi Rubino and Romina Leopardi


We call him the Donald Trump of Italy. Others call his vision too new world and not in tune with the foundation that was laid down centuries ago by Luigi’s forefathers. I call him the future of Puglia wine and tourism growth.

Whatever you call him, the future lies in the hands of visionary Luigi Rubino, owner of Puglia’s Tenute Rubino winery, and Romina Leopardi, his partner..

As a couple and a team their goal is to put Puglia on the map, both as a wine haven and as a tourist destination that combines the culture, history and beauty of the province that focuses on gastronomy and world-class wines.

In Rome, Luigi and Romina would be known as the power couple.

In Puglia, they are known as the couple that sees that the future of Puglia’s growth lies with the growth of tourism, gastronomy and wine.

Luigi Rubino says, ‘Why not join the three directives together into one and call it wine tourism with flavor?’.

 As head of Tenute Rubino winery, Luigi is committed to quality wine production, as well as changing the course in history of the wines from Puglia. Nearly 60% of Puglia’s wines are classified as DOC or IGT, a symbol of quality.

Fifty years ago, Angelo Gaja spearheaded a similar campaign that drew worldwide attention. What would make Luigi Rubino and Romina Leopardi any different?

Romina says, ‘Many people are not aware of where Puglia is exactly located. Puglia is the eastern most region in Italy, commonly referred to as the ‘boot or heel of Italy’. It is a long, narrow peninsula, bordered by two seas, the Ionian and the Adriatic. Puglia is the least mountainous province in Italy. The few mountains that exist are from the Gargano hills, known for high, steep cliffs. Half of the territory is flat and the flat plains are known as Tavoliere delle Puglie. There are smaller plains, the Pianura Salentina and the Terra di Bari. Puglia is a land where the ancient settlers left innumerable monuments throughout the territory. It is a land rich in culinary traditions, olive trees, wine and the treasures of the sea. In fact, Puglia has over 60 million olive trees, the most for any region in Italy, basically one olive tree for each person living in Italy. The province of Puglia is divided into six reginons:: Brindisi, Bari, Foggia, Lecce, Taranto and Baletta-Andria-Trani, the newest province established in 2004. The two seas that border Puglia are a gift to the vineyards. With over 325 miles of coastline, the sea is a major influence on the vines of Puglia. The sea influence paired with the hot summers help make the wines acidic, thus creating great wines for food’.

Luigi added to the conversation, ‘The three main indigenous red grapes that make wines from Puglia unique are: Negroamaro, Nero di Troia and Primitivo di Manduria. Negroamaro is from southern Puglia and is very dear to Tenute Ribino, Brindisi and Lecce. The word, Negroamaro, comes from the Latin and Greek words meaning ‘black’. Historically speaking, Negroamaro is the oldest cultivated grape variety in Puglia. The grape has been a key grape in Puglia for over three thousand years. The grape is small and compact, creating simple clusters. Thick skin grapes that are compact, like Negroamaro, create wonderful wines that age well. Hints of thyme and licorice define this acidic, food wine, grape.

Of course, Puglia is home to white grapes, adds Luigi. The most famous white grapes are Bombino Bianco, Malvasia Bianca, Moscato Reale, Bianco D’Alessano, Fiano and Verdeca’.

                                            The logo of Tenute Rubino Winery

Romina and Rubino add that with the unique grapes of Puglia, combined with the history of the island, help create a perfect environment for tourists to thrive in the region.

Our job is to get the word out.....

Isn't it time that we consider Puglia as our next wine and food destination in Italy? Or, maybe, even in the world?

Philip S.Kampe
philip.kampe@thewinehub.com