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Baja California wine trip: Where to stay

Decanter News - di, 30/01/2018 - 15:00

Wine lovers, start planning your road trip adventure to sunny Baja California. See our experts' top picks of where to stay when you arrive...

hotel encuentro, baja californiaWhere to stay in style in Baja California. Baja California wine trip: Where to stay

Just a quick flight or short drive from Southern California, Baja California has become a hot weekend getaway. See our recommendations on where to stay, from wine and travel writers Amanda Barnes and Sorrel Moseley-Williams…

Updated 30 January 2018 with extra recommendations.

Hotel Coral & Marina Baja California

An Ensenada hotel by the sea… Credit: expedia.co.uk

A mid-sized resort in an ocean-side location with its own marina. Easy access to wine country plus a burst of city life. The Mexican buffet breakfast is the ideal lining for a day’s tasting. Book now

Recommended by Sorrel Moseley-Williams

Hacienda Guadalupe Baja California

Stay in a colonial-style hacienda in the hills… Credit: haciendaguadalupe.com

In the hills, 16 spacious colonial-style rooms are set among vineyards and bougainvillea overlooking the valley. Sample the Melchum Tempranillo or house brew Liebre IPA with roast lamb at the hacienda’s restaurant. The Vid y el Vino wine museum is opposite. Book now

Recommended by Sorrel Moseley-Williams

Adobe Guadalupe Adobe Guadalupe winery

Adobe Guadalupe winery, run by Dutch expat Tru Miller.

Fifteen minutes’ drive away from Michelin-starred US chef Drew Deckman’s restaurant, Deckman’s en el Mogor, you’ll find this a stunning colonial-style lodge. Dutch expat Tru Miller’s initial six- room project expanded to include a winery, food truck, equine breeding centre, restaurant and underground tasting room while retaining a home-away-from-home ambience. Its luxurious quarters overlook the courtyard; be sure to take in a post- breakfast tasting at Adobe’s winery. Book now

Recommended by Sorrel Moseley-Williams

El Encuentro Baja California, El Encuentro

Complete sunshine and serenity at Encuentro’s infinity pool…

Designed to immerse you in the landscape, these luxury eco-lofts offer panoramic valley vistas. Lounge beside the infinity pool by day or sip a glass of red next to your outdoor fire pit under the stars by night. Terroir-ists will get a kick out of the celebrated centrepiece in the Master Villa – a massive rock by the bedside. Book now

Recommended by Amanda Barnes

Cuatro Cuatros Baja California

Slow down your pace of life in a luxury cabana… Credit: cabanascuatrocuatros.com.mx

If glamping is your style, try these luxury canvas tents with redwood floors, indoor fireplaces and indoor-outdoor bathrooms. Nestled within a 144-acre estate, this could be a scene from Out of Africa until you spot wooden boats stranded amongst the vineyards. A drive to the hilltop bar reveals a stunning, cliff top view over the Pacific Ocean. Book now

Recommended by Amanda Barnes

Rancho el Parral Baja California, El Parral

Start your day of wine tasting with a traditional Mexican breakfast… Credit: Amanda Barnes

This colonial-style home offers a wallet-friendly option in the heart of Guadalupe with bright, airy rooms. Unwind in the sauna or organise a massage between the vines before visiting their boutique winery. The Mexican breakfast is a delight. Book now

Recommended by Amanda Barnes

 

airplane

 Nearest Airport Tijuana

Although driving from San Diego (2 hours) or LA (4 hours) is easy and often more direct. Another option is to take the Greyhound bus from San Diego or LA to Tijuana where you can rent a local car and save on border-crossing rental fees.

Amanda Barnes is a wine and travel writer, based in South America since 2009. Sorrel Moseley-Williams is a food, wine and travel journalist and sommelier based in Buenos Aires.

More wine travel ideas:

 

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Top-tier Prosecco: Wines pushing the boundaries

Decanter News - di, 30/01/2018 - 11:48

Producers have the option to label their top Prosecco with a village of origin, but are these ‘rive’ wines always a guarantee of quality? Richard Baudains finds out.

Richard Baudains’ top ‘rive’ Prosecco

Since 2009, producers of Prosecco di Conegliano-Valdobbiadene Superiore – the top-drawer DOCG Prosecco from the hills – have had the option of declaring the village of origin of their wines with the phrase ‘Rive di’. every village which conforms to the basic wine-growing standards of the DOCG zone (there are 43) can claim its sub-denomination.

In the highly democratic division of the area devised by the producers’ consorzio, all rive appear equal, but some might be more equal than others. Are the rive always a guarantee of top quality? And do they really reflect a special sense of place?

The answer to the first question is ‘yes and no’. Producers who use the rive denomination tend to reserve it for their top label, which means that you should be getting a Prosecco made with special care and attention from their best grapes. Some of these rive wines can be spectacularly, eye-openingly good.

The overall quality, however, is not particularly homogeneous: alongside wines with very distinctive personality there are others which are perfectly well made, but little more. As for terroir character, the diversity of growing conditions within the DOCG zone is evident, but it is difficult to pin down corresponding differences between wines at village level.

Article continues below wine reviews. See the top Prosecco tasting notes and ratings

 

Andreola, Prosecco di Conegliano-Valdobbiadene Superiore, La Vigna di Sarah, Prosecco di Conegliano-Valdobbiadene Angelo Rebuli, Prosecco di Conegliano-Valdobbiadene Astoria, Prosecco di Conegliano-Valdobbiadene Superiore, Roccat, Prosecco di Conegliano-Valdobbiadene Superiore, Rive La Farra, Prosecco di Conegliano-Valdobbiadene Superiore, Bortolomiol, Prosecco di Conegliano-Valdobbiadene Superiore, Spagnol, Prosecco di Conegliano-Valdobbiadene Superiore, Col La Tordera, Prosecco di Conegliano-Valdobbiadene Superiore, Le Colture, Prosecco di Conegliano-Valdobbiadene Superiore, Val d'Oca, Prosecco di Conegliano-Valdobbiadene Superiore, Adami, Prosecco di Conegliano-Valdobbiadene Superiore, Col Sommariva, Prosecco di Conegliano-Valdobbiadene Superiore, Bortolin Angelo, Prosecco di Conegliano-Valdobbiadene La Masottina, Prosecco di Conegliano-Valdobbiadene Tanorè, Prosecco di Conegliano-Valdobbiadene Superiore, Rive Cantine Maschio, Prosecco di Conegliano-Valdobbiadene Merotto, Prosecco di Conegliano-Valdobbiadene Superiore, Cuv In search of style

A tentative shot at characterising the most widely exploited and most interesting rive could pick out San Pietro di Barbozza for freshness and refined elegance; Ogliano for its ripe, yellow fruit; Guia for a certain tangy, mineral quality; and Santo Stefano for its firm, fresh zip.

The problem is that there is not a lot of evidence to go on. In a tasting of 58 rive wines I did in October 2017 there were 28 different sub-denominations, most of which were represented by only one or two examples. In some respects the rive are at the cutting edge. The newly recognised extra brut (less than 6g/l of sugar) and brut nature (less than 3g/l) categories are being enthusiastically taken up by producers, and rive wines in particular showcase the trend. In my recent tasting, two-thirds of the wines were in varying shades of brut, while only a small minority were in the traditional extra-dry style.

The drinking window of quality Prosecco is widening and rive wines, which are obliged to declare their vintage, again highlight the trend. I tasted excellent rive from 2015 and even 2014. Rive selections represent a drop in the ocean of the 83 million bottles of Prosecco Superiore produced in 2016 – but it is a still a significant one, with 1.9m bottles. In terms of quality, they are not the only guide to the crème de la crème.

Many top producers, from small independent growers such as Silvano Follador or Cà dei Zago, to leading houses such as Bisol and Ruggeri, do not use village names for their prestige selections. But the good news is that quality producers who do are currently making some of Prosecco’s most interesting wines.

Richard Baudains is the DWWA Regional Chair for Veneto and has written about Italian wine for Decanter since 1989.

 

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Top Baja California bars and restaurants

Decanter News - di, 30/01/2018 - 11:10

Drive from Southern California to Baja for a Mexican adventure, with recommendations on where to drink or dine from Amanda Barnes and Sorrell Moseley-Williams…

MalvaYou'll find colourful cooking and a vibrant wine culture in Baja...  Top Baja California bars and restaurants

Baja California’s gastronomy is sublime. A plethora of fresh seafood and produce from the peninsula have inspired a dynamic farm-to-table culture and unique Mexican-Mediterranean fusion,’Food is so inextricably interwoven into Mexican culture that you’ll be hard pushed to find a bar that doesn’t serve tacos on the side,’ said wine and travel writer Amanda Barnes.

‘Baja’s abundant larder is also drawing in innovative chefs who’ve turned the region into Mexico’s most exciting foodie hub,’ said Sorrell Moseley-Williams.

‘Rich Pacific pickings include bluefin tuna and oysters from Bahía Falsa, and farm-to-table concepts are normal practice.’

Updated 30 January 2018 with extra recommendations.

Bar Andaluz Baja California restaurants

Make a cocktail pilgrimage to the birthplace of margaritas… Credit: Bar Andaluz Facebook

Head to Ensenada, the margarita’s birthplace, and sample this classic cocktail at Bar Andaluz — the legendary Mexican watering-hole where tequila, triple sec, salt and lemons first met.

Recommended by Sorrel Moseley-Williams

Malva Malva

Escolar fish from Malva…

Dine al fresco at Malva; experimental Mina Penélope, whose vineyards cocoon the restaurant, is the wine list’s star act. It was created by creation of chef Roberto Alcocer, who also owns the farm nearby where he rears chickens, goats and sheep exclusively for his restaurant.

Recommended by Sorrel Moseley-Williams

La Cocedora de Langosta Baja California restaurants

Oyster and lobster feasts on offer at La Cocedora de Langosta…

This classic harbourside joint offers the freshest catches. Start with zesty shrimp ceviche, then enjoy the fried lobster paired with a glass of Monte Xanic’s Sauvignon Blanc.

Recommended by Sorrel Moseley-Williams

Manzanilla Baja California restaurants

Manzanilla was started by husband-and-wife chef team, Solange Muris and Benito Molina.

Ranking in Latin America’s 50 Best Restaurants list for its sustainable perspective. Artfully plated oysters and quail feature on the tasting and daily-changing menus. It was opened in 2000 by husband-and-wife chef team, Benito Molina and Solange Muris. They pledge to source and use ‘the freshest ingredients, the best fish and seafood in Mexico, the best wine in the country, the best olive oil’.

Recommended by Sorrel Moseley-Williams

Conchas de Piedra 

 

Baja restaurants, Conchas de Piedra

For those in search of seafood and bubbles, head to Conchas de Piedra…

One of Baja California’s best-kept secrets is its fantastic oysters. Enjoy them chilled or grilled and served with Hugo d’Acosta’s excellent sparkling wines at this outdoor vineyard bar. Other bright and fresh dishes on offer include clam ceviche and scallop tiradito (pictured). Chef Drew Deckman also owns a sophisticated grill in Mogor winery, Deckmans.

Recommended by Amanda Barnes

Corazon de Tierra

 

Baja restaurants, Corazon de Tierra

Enjoy the natural surroundings and eclectic interior of Corazon de Tierra, or ‘heart of the earth’.

Local chef Diego Hernández has trained with some of Mexico’s greats and this is his own highly-acclaimed culinary creation. The eccentric interior reflects the colourful cuisine with dishes that change daily depending on what’s in season and ripe from the garden. The tasting menu offers an array of imaginative dishes such as cactus sorbet and parsnip tamales.

Recommended by Amanda Barnes

Finca Altozano Baja restaurants, Finca Altozano

Take a seat by the bonfire and tuck into the the farm-to-fork dishes at Finca Altozano.

This outdoor grill and open-air kitchen embodies the laid-back charm of Guadalupe. Take a seat at the bar, restaurant or bonfire and indulge in some of the smokey BBQ classics like charred octopus and roast lamb. Chef Javier Plascencia has his own farm on-site and is one of the drivers behind Baja’s impressive farm-to-fork dining scene.

Recommended by Amanda Barnes

Doña Esthela la Cocina Doña Esthela

Esthela started out feeding local hungry workers, now she draws visitors too…

There’s nothing glamorous about Doña Esthela’s, but that doesn’t stop locals from queuing around the block to get in. Dishes are generous in size and flavour, serving traditional Mexican plates including her Machaca con Huevo (tender, slow-roasted beef with eggs), voted Best Breakfast in the World in 2015. This is home cooking at its finest.

Recommended by Amanda Barnes

La Guerrerense Baja restaurants

Sabina Bandera has been the heart and soul of La Guerrerense since it was founded 50 years ago…

Food trucks are spreading like wildfire in So Cal, and it’s catching on in Baja Cal too. Tasty trucks in Guadalupe include Adobe, Troika and Lupe but most locals’ favourite is this tostada cart in Ensenada. Crispy tortillas topped with crab, scallops and sea urchin – each more mouthwatering than the last. Don’t skimp on the homemade hot sauces.

Recommended by Amanda Barnes

Amanda Barnes is a wine and travel writer, based in South America since 2009. Sorrel Moseley-Williams is a food, wine and travel journalist and sommelier based in Buenos Aires.

More wine travel ideas:

 

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US wineries to sell $3 billion of wine direct in 2018 – study

Decanter News - ma, 29/01/2018 - 17:03

Wineries in the US have continued to see growth in direct sales to wine lovers in the past year, and the total market will top $3 billion in 2018, says a new industry report.

california wine harvest photosPickers working in Ridge Vineyards' Lytton Springs Zinfandel vines, Sonoma County.

Wines shipped directly from the winery to consumer made up 10% of retail sales for domestically produced wines in the US in 2017 – that’s excluding bars, restaurants and hotels – show figures released by Sovos ShipCompliant and trade publication Wines & Vines.

Their latest annual report into the direct-to-consumer wine market underlines strong momentum for the sector.

Total DTC shipments in 2017 rose by 15.3% in volume and 15.5% in value versus 2016, to the equivalent of 5.78 million 12-bottle cases and $2.69 billion.

And the report’s analysts believe the $3 billion mark is very much in reach in 2018.

California makes up around 30% of the so-called DTC market, but figures show that demand across the rest of the US is broad.

Texas was the second most important destination for DTC sales in 2017, accounting for 8% of the market, with New York next on 6% and Florida fourth on 5%.

Pennsylvania, which opened up to DTC wine shipments in 2016, jumped into the top 10 states by destination, in volume terms, in 2017 – suggesting significant pent-up demand among wine lovers.

Oklahoma is set to become one of the few remaining US states to open its doors this year, expected to do so in October – potentially just in time for Thanksgiving.

In terms of the wineries shipping the wine, the report authors highlighted 25% volume growth for Sonoma County wines in 2017, plus a 58% jump in rosé wine shipments.

Wineries of all sizes appeared to be finding a corner of the DTC market to operate in, but smaller wineries – often commanding higher prices per bottle – remained the mainstay of the sector.

‘As in past years, the small winery (5,000 to 49,999 cases) and very small winery (1,000 to 4,999 cases) categories drove the DTC shipping channel, accounting for 70% of the value of winery shipping,’ said the report authors.

Read last year’s report on DTC sales

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Under the radar: 12 unsung heroes of Italy

Decanter News - ma, 29/01/2018 - 13:49

Some of Italy’s best wines remain firmly under the radar for wine lovers. Richard Baudains explores why, and shines a light on names that deserve more recognition...

italian winesFind a new Italian wine to try.

What exactly makes a wine ‘iconic’ is tricky to pin down, because the epithet does not denote any intrinsic quality but rather a status that may be acquired for a variety of reasons. Greatness clearly has something to do with it, but it is not exactly the same thing.

For example, there are many great Barolos but few truly iconic ones, which suggests that being unique, special and different in some way plays a part in being iconic.

At the same time, in the literal meaning of the word, iconic wines are a representation; the quintessential expression of something, which may be a terroir, or a grape variety, a person, a tradition or even a winemaking philosophy.

Sassicaia is an icon of style and elegance, the charismatic Angelo Gaja an iconic producer, Quintarelli’s Amarone an icon of a unique tradition.

Scroll down for Richard’s 12 unsung heroes of Italian wine

 

Richard Baudains is a DWWA Regional co-Chair for Italy, and has written on the country’s wines for Decanter since 1989 Related content: Vietti vineyards The cru-isation of Barolo

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Simon Reilly highlights the names you need to know

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Jefford on Monday: Tracking terroir

Decanter News - ma, 29/01/2018 - 10:39

Could microbes be the key?  Andrew Jefford talks to McLaren Vale winemaker Drew Noon MW.

terroir soil, noon, mclaren valeDrew Noon shows how gravel soil in the vineyard is marked by metal sculptures to let picking crews know the boundaries of a block.

Not every vineyard is a little corner of paradise (chemicals render some infernal; topography makes others purgatorial) – yet I know one that is.  It’s Drew and Rae Noon’s 5.6 ha of vines tucked away on Rifle Range Road in South Australia’s McLaren Vale.  The vineyard is a large garden, with the vines tended “like grandmother’s plum tree” – and there’s a beautiful kitchen garden, too, with a chicken run, and tables under trees, and dappled sunlight.  The cellar is quiet, open, peaceful, clean, simple and unhurried; the house full of books and maps.  This is winemaking, you feel, as Horatian retirement: cultured, creative, secluded, thoughtful.  (Drew Noon was one of Australia’s earliest MWs, and ‘retired’ back to Rifle Range Road after running vineyards in the Hunter, and consulting in Victoria.)

The Reserve Cabernet and Reserve Shiraz are both crafted from fruit which Drew Noon buys from the Borrett family in Langhorne Creek, but the family’s celebrated Grenache-based Eclipse as well as the fortified VP and the High Noon Rosé all come (since 2011) from the McLaren Vale vines alone.  Drew and I have corresponded since 2010, on and off, about terroir; he and Rae follow the academic and general literature; and they allow that there are sound reasons for reserve about some of the wilder claims and looser language of unthinking terroiriste winemakers, geologically intoxicated wine writers and dithyrambic sommeliers.

The point is this, though: they have studied their own vines, individually, and their own soils for over 20 years now.  They’ve tested terroir.  They’ve observed differences in plant behaviour on different soils, then smelled and tasted differences in the resulting wines.  Indeed even back in his Hunter Valley days, “I became convinced terroir was real because I could taste it.  With Semillon at Tyrrell’s in the Hunter Valley, the wines from the sandy soils were quite different to those from the clay soils.”

Drew Noon currently accepts “that all aspects of climate play a big, probably a predominant, role in determining the character of a wine.  By this I mean the weight, acid balance and mouth feel of a wine.  But the nuances of flavour (what you could call the personality of the wine) that give rise to the differences between sites, I suspect, are the results of the complex interactions between the vine and the microbes in the soil and on the above-ground parts of the vine.  The smaller the vineyard area under consideration, the more important is the role of the soil.”  This is a key distinction; I’m sure he’s right.

noon vineyards

Comparison of Noon West Block, sections A & B at veraison stage in 2018. Image credit: Noon.

Soil microbes and their interactions with vine roots are rightly the focus of much study at present; Noon is convinced that vines, as it were, ‘school’ their own microbial populations over the years, and that this is one reason why old, less vigorous vines counter-intuitively produce higher quality wine than young, more vigorous vines are able to.  (Elaine Ingham of Australia’s Soil Foodweb Institute, Rae Noon told me, has shown how plants not only release food to nourish their own microbial populations, but can actually change the food mix in order to favour certain microbial populations.)

Drew Noon’s emphasis on above-ground microbes is less widely shared, but is not illogical.  We know how much yeast populations on grape skins can differ from place to place.  The aerial medium of a vine, he points out, is no less dependent on site factors than the soil medium, and every surface of a plant hosts microbes.  Concern for this medium is one reason why he uses biodynamic preparations on his vines (though Noon is not a biodynamically certified vineyard).

In particular, the Noons have been able to study their Winery Block Grenache vineyard (planted in 1934) very closely.  “The soil changes a little way down the rows from a gravel fan to the heavy clay which most of the vines are growing in. The soil change is quite sudden so vines only a few metres apart are growing in two different soils.”  The fruit growing on the gravel never makes it into Eclipse, but is used for the rosé and the second label (Twelve Bells); whereas the fruit grown on the clays accounts for 30 to 50 per cent of the Eclipse.  The two sectors naturally carry different weed populations in summer – and Drew and Rae have marked the point of difference with a line of metal sculptures.

“The vines on the gravel,” Drew explains, “look different; they appear older and more frail than the vines on the clay, many are falling slowly apart. The fruit looks different, with more tightly packed bunches and larger berries. This is the result of the soil physical properties which allows the roots on the gravel to explore a larger volume of soil (the roots are deeper and spread wider) because of the lighter texture, accessing more water. But the wine tastes different in flavour, apart from being softer and less dense. I think this is largely due to the different microbe population.  Microbes,” he concludes, “are not the primary driver of wine flavour in the larger context, but I do think they could be vital to understanding the important, subtle and exciting differences that exist between sites.”

A Taste of Noon McLaren Vale wines

 

Noon, McLaren Vale, Eclipse, South Australia, 2016 Noon, McLaren Vale, Eclipse, South Australia, 2015 Noon, McLaren Vale, High Noon, South Australia, 2017

 

Read more Andrew Jefford columns on Decanter.com

 

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