Meet the SWE Board: Gary Spadafore, CWE, CSS

Gary Spadafore, CWE, Educational Liasion

Gary Spadafore, CWE, CSS –  Educational Liasion

At our October meeting, I asked the members of SWE’s Board of Directors if they could each write up a brief “introduction” to themselves in order to allow us – friends and members of SWE – to get to know each of them.  I received quite a number of generous responses, so as the first in our new series of “Meet the Board” – I would like to introduce you to our new Educational Liasion – Gary Spadafore, CWE, CSS.  I’ve known Gary quite a while, and am therefore not at all surprised that his bio is all about “Wine and Motorcycles.” Enjoy the read!

Dreaming of Motorcycles and Wine – An Odd Combination

by Gary Spadafore CSS, CWE 

Besides my family, the two passions in my life are wine and motorcycles (not at the same time of course). My passion for motorcycles goes back even further than my passion for wine, despite the fact that one of my earliest childhood memories involved wine.

As a very young child I remember going to a farmers’ market in Detroit with my Italian grandfather to buy Zinfandel grapes. I could never understand why the finished product tasted so nasty when so much sugar was added during the winemaking process – (understanding the principles of fermentation came much later.   After that first impression, wine really wasn’t much on my radar at all – untill I “accidently” got into the hospitality industry after college when I moved from Michigan to Arizona in 1972 with the intention of becoming a high school teacher (and motorcycle rider).

DIGITAL CAMERAWhile literally starving substitute teaching, I took a job in the hospitality industry as a bouncer. One thing led to another and I ended up working for Alliance Beverage Distributing Company, the largest wholesaler of wine and spirits in Arizona (30+ years ago). Over the years I’ve had every position possible, most relating to fine wine. Just over a decade ago, I proposed creating a position called Director of Education and had the perfect candidate in mind…….myself. I combined my teaching experience, restaurant and hotel career, wine sales/management and my CWE credential to offer a strong list of attributes for the position.

I now have a dream job that looks like I’d been planning for it my entire career. If I had a dollar for everyone who has told me they wanted my job, I wouldn’t have to work at my dream job.

And what about motorcycles? While attending Northern Michigan University in the upper peninsula of Michigan, I met a bunch of guys that all had motorcycles. I managed to finagle one myself in my second year of college. We arranged our classes so we could ride in the woods surrounding the campus every day. In the harsh winter of northern Michigan we would drink beer (Spanada on occasion) and talk about places you could ride year round.

So of course after graduation I took my teaching certificate and moved to Arizona. I am now the proud owner of the best three motorcycles in the world! For the desert I ride a KTM 300XC, for the great twisty roads in the southwest, I have a BMW K1300S. And for my newest form of motorcycling called adventure riding I have a KTM 690 Enduro R. If those numbers and letters sound strange and weird, you know how most folks feel when wine geeks start waxing on about wine.

Gary Motorcyle PoppieMost folks reading this will understand the passion involved regarding wine, but maybe not motorcycles. Yet some of the same emotions are stirred with motorcycles. A rich history, innovative ideas turned into reality, taking raw materials from the earth and transforming into something unique and different. NOt to mention the very hard-to-describe emotion of the freedom experienced whether dodging cacti and rocks in the desert, or carving a perfect turn on a mountain switchback road.

Suffice it to say that I love life. A dream job, three dream motorcycles and a dream family. I look forward to my new role with SWE as Education Liaison and welcome comments, concerns and recommendations.

Click here for more details  and contact information for the SWE Board of Directors.

 

The Stout Report: Advice to a Young Wine Professional

SWE's new President, Guy Stout, MS

SWE’s new President, Guy Stout, MS, CSS, CWE

Our new President, Guy Stout, MS, CSS, CWE, has a few words of advice for young wine professionals!

The Stout Report: Advice to a Young Wine Professional

During a recent dinner with Master Sommelier Geoff Kruth, we were discussing how we, as established wine professionals, could advise the next generation of sommeliers and wine industry leaders. As you can imagine, it was quite a conversation!

Here are a few of our thoughts as to what skills and experiences could help young wine professionals be better at what they do, and help pave the way for a successful future. Here’s hoping someone out there is listening!

Travel: It’s the best thing you can do, both for your career and yourself.  My first ever visit to a vineyard was TV Munson’s experimental plot in Denison, Texas. The vineyard, which dates to the 1890’s, is next to a small airport landing strip, and it wasn’t at all what I expected.  When traveling, you never know what you may find.

Passion:  No one starts in the wine industry for the money (although that may come later). However, everyone starts in the wine industry because of a passion.  It’s a good thing, too, as I can teach wine, but I can’t teach passion

Grenache TopCognitive Thinking: Don’t just memorize grapes and places – it takes more than book smarts to grow in the wine trade. Read a book on bull riding, and then go ride a bull (just kidding about the bull.) You will, however, find out quickly that you didn’t really know a thing about bull riding until you felt that bull move.  For further insight, see “travel,” above.

Don‘t be a snob: Trust me, the world already has too many wine snobs.  You don’t want to be the person who always has a better bottle or vintage story (they get gossiped about behind their backs, they just don’t know it, and you didn’t hear that from me).  One for thing:  don’t be afraid to drink out of plastic cups – it won’t kill you!

Don’t worry if you get a wine wrong in a blind tasting: If you follow your tasting grid – either in your head or with a pencil and paper – you will get it “wrong for the right reasons” – and get it right the next time.

Share what you have: Wine is meant to be shared. The most memorable wines I have ever had were those I shared with friends.

Learn your limits: Don’t be the one who gets carried out of a big tasting by your friends. (Even more important: don’t be the one who gets kicked out.) This is very bad form and assures that you will be remembered – for all the wrong reasons.

wine and salmonLearn to cook: Knowing food and wine starts with knowing how to cook (and your friends will love you even more.) As we say in Texas, “Eat more chikin!” Burgers and Bordeaux makes for a great party, by the way!

Don’t get a visible tattoo: Ok, I am old school but truth be told, I don’t like to see tattoos on servers or somms.

The customer is always right: Even when they are wrong, and even when it hurts to admit it. But be advised – I have friends who have lost good jobs over this.

Taste with a group: Share the cost of wines, share your opinions, and make some friends (in a few years you can call them your “network”).

Ask Yourself: Why did you choose wine? Where do you hope it will lead you?

One final note:  Be kind to your mother – I have spent more than 30 years working in the wine & spirits industry and my mother still wants me to get a real job.

Cheers… Guy

 

 

Is Virginia “The Bordeaux of North America?”

Guest Author Jay Youmans, MW, CWE, dares to ask the question!

Is Virginia the “Bordeaux of North America?”

MonticelloI know that this is a bold, if not outright outrageous, question to ask about an East Coast wine region that is relatively unknown to most of the country. But before you start pelting me with your Napa Cabs and Your Washington State Merlots, hear me out!

I truly believe that some of the red blends being produced in Virginia are closer stylistically to Bordeaux than the vast majority of wines being made in California, Washington, or Oregon.

I was recently honored to be the Judging Director for the Virginia Governor’s Cup Wine Competition. This was a large and prestigious wine competition, with 377 Virginia wines entered and 43 accomplished wine judges from all over the world.  If you have attended SWE Conferences before, you might know two of our superstar judges – Shields T. Hood and David Denton, both CWE’s.

At the upcoming SWE Conference in Orlando, I will be showcasing the top 12 wines from this year’s Governor’s Cup Competition, and I find it very interesting that 11 of these wines are blends of grapes you would find in Bordeaux and Southwest France.  Here is a list of the wines we will taste:

  • Cooper Vineyards – 2010 Petite Verdot Reserve
  • King Family Vineyards – 2010 Meritage
  • Lovingston Winery – 2009 Josie’s Knoll Estate Reserve (Meritage)
  • Philip Carter Winery – 2010 Cleve (Petite Verdot/Tannat)
  • Pollak Vineyards – 2009 Cabernet Franc Reserve
  • Potomac Point Vineyard and Winery – 2010 Richland Reserve Heritage (Merlot/Cabernet Franc/Cabernet Sauvignon/Tannat/Petite Verdot)
  • Rappahannock Cellars – 2010 Meritage
  • RdV Vineyards – 2010 Rendevous (Meritage)
  • RdV Vineyards – 2010 Lost Mountain (Meritage)
  • Sunset Hills Vineyard – 2010 Mosaic (Merlot/Cabernet Sauvignon/
    Cabernet Franc/Petite Verdot)
  • Barboursville Vineyards’ 2009 Octagon 12th Edition (Meritage)
  • Trump Winery – 2008 Sparkling Rose (Chardonnay, Pinot Noir)

Shanandoah Valley MerlotAccording to the Virginia Wine Marketing Board’s “Virginia 2012 Commercial Grape Report,” the most widely planted red grapes in the Commonwealth are Bordeaux varieties:  Cabernet Franc, Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, and Petit Verdot, in that order.  The number 5 red wine grape is Tannat, a variety found throughout southwest France.  The only other red wine grape with much presence in Virginia is Pinot Noir…and it trails pretty far behind.  As a matter of fact, Virginia grows 20 times more Cabernet Franc and 10 times more Cabernet Sauvignon than Pinot Noir.  (Virginia is definitely NOT the Burgundy of North America.)

Fast Facts About the Virginia Wine Industry:

  • The Jamestown settlers had high hopes that Virginia would become a major source of wine for the British Empire…so much so that in 1619 they passed a law requiring each male settler to plant and tend at least ten grapevines.
  • In 1774, Thomas Jefferson, along with Florentine Viticulturist Filippo Mazzei, established vineyards using vitis vinifera grapes on a plot of land adjoining Jefferson’s house at Monticello.  Unfortunately, they had very little success, and soon gave up their efforts altogether due to the revolutionary war.  In 1981, a new venture known as Jefferson vineyards began growing grapes and making wine on the historic site.
  • George Washington, at Mount Vernon, also attempted to grow European grape varieties.  However, every attempt to grow vinifera vines by the colonists met with failure.  Now, almost 240 years later, we know that the main culprit was Phylloxera, as well as other unknown pests and diseases in this new environment.
  • Beginning in the 1800’s, Virginia wines made from Native American grapes were very successful. So much so that, in 1873, a Virginia wine made from Norton, a native American (Vitis Aestivalis) grape variety, was named the “Best Red Wine of All Nations” at the Vienna World’s Fair.
  • At 230 wineries and counting today, Virginia is the fifth largest wine-producing state in the union after California, New York, Washington State and Oregon.
  • Virginia currently has 6 AVAs.  Click here for a list of The AVAs of Virginia .
  • The modern wine industry in Virginia has its share of interesting characters:  Dave Matthews (of the Dave Matthews Band) is the proud owner of Blenheim Vineyards in Charlottesville, and Donald Trump (yes, that Donald Trump) bought the former Kluge Estate Winery in 2011.  Now producing wine under the name Trump Winery, one of their specialties is a Cabernet Sauvignon/Cabernet Franc/Merlot/Petite Verdot blend called “New World Red.”  It seems The Donald might think Virginia is “the Bordeaux of America” as well!

Jay Youmans, MW

If you have an opinion about whether or not Virginia is “The Bordeaux of North America,” would like to, or would like to try these wines and judge for yourself, be sure and join me at this year’s SWE Conference!

Jay Youmans, MW, CWE, owns the Capital Wine School in Washington, DC, www.capitalwineschool.com; and Rock Creek Wine Merchants, a sales & marketing consultancy. In addition, he is a partner in Manse Field, a Pinot Noir vineyard in Martinborough, New Zealand.

Jay will be presenting his session, “Is Virginia the Bordeaux of North America?” at the 37th Annual Conference of the Society of Wine Educators in Orlando on Wednesday, July 31st at 4:45 pm.

Click here for more information on the SWE Conference.

The Sazerac: World’s First Cocktail

Guest Author Jade Helm, CSW, DWS takes us on a trip to New Orleans to try the World’s first cocktail…

Sazerac Cocktails.jpg[1]

World’s first cocktail…it’s quite a claim to fame! But that’s what they say about the Sazerac…

The creation of the Sazerac dates back to 1838 and is credited to Antoine Amedie Peychaud who owned an apothecary in New Orleans.  Peychaud liked to treat his friends to a mixture of Cognac and his special blend of bitters.  He served it in a little egg cup called a “coquetier” (pronounced “ko-k-tay”), and some say this lead to the word “cocktail.” This would indeed make the Sazerac the world’s first cocktail, and the cocktail a truly American invention.

The Sazerac has evolved over time, due in part to necessity.  When the phylloxera epidemic decimated the vineyards of Europe, Cognac was in short supply, so in 1873 American Rye Whiskey became the base spirit of the Sazerac. In the same year, absinthe was added to the recipe. This addition soon revealed its own set of limitations, as we all know how Absinthe’s reputation for causing hallucinations and mental illness caused it to be banned for a time.  However, that was not about to stop the party in New Orleans, and a rinse of Herbsaint replaced the Absinthe in the Sazerac.

Sazerac Bar.jpg[1]With all this folklore at stake, I decided to make a trek to New Orleans to try the Sazerac for myself – in the interest of history, of course! The Sazerac Bar seemed like the right place to start.  The Sazerac Bar is housed inside The Roosevelt Hotel New Orleans, just off Canal Street. Richly appointed with sparkling chandeliers and decadent golden hues this is the type of hotel that makes you at least want to visit the restroom just to have an excuse to look around.  Luckily the Sazerac Bar is just as inviting.  Honey colored walnut and dim lighting remind us of a time when men were men and…well, back to the drink.

While the modern “official” recipe uses Sazerac Rye Whiskey, The Sazerac Bar offers both a whiskey and Cognac version.  I tried them both side by side and am happy to report that I loved both renditions.  The Cognac version was smoother, fruitier, and seemed sweeter. The Peychaud’s Bitters gave the drink added flavors of orange, cardamom seed, and star anise. The rinse of Herbsaint added a hint of anise that seems to linger on the finish.  The version made with Rye Whiskey had a smoky rye flavor and more “bite.” Somehow the whiskey, bitters, and Herbsaint combined to give the drink the aroma of candied citrus peel and floral, honey-like flavors.   What’s not to love?

If you would like to try to make a Sazerac at home, click here for a copy of The official Sazerac Recipe, courtesy of The Sazerac Bar at the Roosevelt Hotel.  Cheers!

Jade Profile PicGuest Author Jade Helm, CSW, DWS is a wine writer, educator, and consultant, as well as the primary author of the Tasting Pour Blog.  She enjoys helping people explore wines whether they are simply tasty and affordable for everyday enjoyment, or worthy of cellaring.  For those who want to understand wine in greater depth, Jade offers information about tasting terms, regions, wine making methods, and just about anything wine! You can find Jade on Facebook, Linkedin, or the Tasting Pour Blog.

 

The Grands Crus de Bordeaux of 2010

Guest Author Paul Wagner takes us along as the Grand Crus de Bordeaux of 2010 travels to San Francisco, New York, Chicago, Washington DC, L.A. and beyond…

san franciscoThe Garden Court at the Palace Hotel in San Francisco began life 140 years ago as an open-air courtyard for horse-drawn carriages. Modeled on the Paris Opera House, the Palace enclosed the courtyard in 1904 and covered it with a glorious expanse of Belle Epoque stained glass. The Garden Court normally serves breakfast and lunch to hotel guests, but on January 18, 2013 the Garden Court is closed for a private event.

Twenty-four hours earlier, more than 110 owners and winemakers of the top chateaux in Bordeaux left their homes to promote the wines of the great 2010 vintage. The tour is a combination of military logistics combined with the grand opera of great wine.

By eight o’clock the next morning the Garden Court is a flurry of activity. Fifty-five tables are draped with sparkling white linen and crystal arranged throughout the room, each to be shared by two of the chateaux. In the center of the Garden Court, a small army of highly trained staff is given a briefing to prepare for their roles in the show.

red wine tasting line up of glassesAt 12:50 the chateau owners begin to arrive at the Garden Court, and the staff takes up its stations. Outside, a crowd of more than 200 importers, distributors, restaurateurs, retailers and media have already registered and are anxiously waiting to get in. The last few chateau owners push their way through the crowd and take their positions at their tables. It’s show time.

The critics are raving about the 2010 vintage.  The Domaine de Chevalier white is described by Gilbert and Gaillard as “Fleshy, polished, very fresh attack with clean, clear-cut aromas. Full, long and ethereal.”

The Wine Spectator describes the Smith-Haut Lafitte red as “Gorgeous, with alluring black tea and warm ganache notes that unfurl slowly, while the core of intense steeped plum, anise, blackberry compote and black currant confiture sits patiently in reserve.”

The buzz in the room is audible. Every chateau seems to have its share of fans and old friends. The chateau owners are now opening more bottles.  Robert Parker says of the Canon La Gaffaliere, “On the palate, the wine is dense and full-bodied, with stunning concentration, purity, texture and length.”  Decanter says that the Pomerol of Petite Village is “Impressive wine this year. The best ever? Dense, complex nose. Explosive fruit on the palate. Velvety texture.”

SauternesNear the end of the tasting, the crowd slows its pace and packs the space in front of the Sauternes tables. A top distributor puts his arm around the shoulders of a famous restaurateur and leans in to share a story. A winemaker from Napa buries his nose in a glass of Suduiraut and then slowly shakes his head in wonderment. His companion chuckles. Exhausted, smiling, with teeth stained black from scores of red wines, the tasters slowly walk out of the Garden Court into the night.

Early the next morning the chateau owners leave for Los Angeles, where they pour at a consumer tasting for more than 2,000 people that afternoon.

The Wine Enthusiast raves about the Cantemerle: “A great success for this southern Médoc chateau, this is fine, elegant and perfumed. It bursts with a black fruit flavor, balanced by smooth tannins and acidity.”

James Suckling says of the Chateau La Lagune, “What a lovely texture to the wine, with super soft and supple tannins and blackberry and currant character.”

new york mapSunday is a travel day to New York, followed by a tasting in the ballroom at the Marriott Marquis in Times Square on Monday, with more than 900 in attendance. It’s time to focus on the Médoc itself, from Margaux to St. Estephe. “Shows serious, well-embedded grip, and the core of fruit is spot on. This has the range, length and cut for the cellar,” the Wine Spectator notes of the Chateau Giscours.

Stephen Tanzer loves the Branaire-Ducru: “Bright ruby-red. Floral aromas of fresh red cherry, redcurrant, violet, gunflint and minerals. Suave on entry, then pliant and sweet, with a plush texture and a smoky quality to the redcurrant, blackberry and floral flavors.”

Jancis Robinson says that the Beychevelle is “Inviting, savoury dark fruit. Wonderfully juicy in the middle of all that tannin structure. Chewy and dense and then a chocolate sweetness at the very end.”

chicago mapIn Chicago, the legendary Drake Hotel sets up the Gold Room the night before in preparation, but a malfunction in the fire sprinkler system soaks one end of the room in the middle of the night. The staff works through the night, and by 11:00 a.m., when a few Bordelais arrive to inspect, the dark red carpet and marble floors are flawless. The grapevine motif in bas relief  glitters on the gold pillars that line the room.

Berry Bros. & Rudd sing an ode to the Pichon Comtesse de Lalande: “Silky, creamy and lush, it has a killer body and a spectacular finish.”

Farr Vintners is enchanted with the Phélan Ségur: “Layered, opulent, ripe and fleshy, this beauty should drink nicely for 10-15 years.”

The group leaves early the next morning to fly to Washington, DC, for their fifth tasting in six days.   While 2010 was a stunning vintage throughout Bordeaux, perhaps the greatest wines are the Sauternes. And like the wines, the reviews are effusive.

dc mapThe Wine Spectator says that the Coutet “Offers a bright inner core of honeysuckle, pineapple, star fruit and white peach flavors, coated for now with heather honey, marzipan and mango notes. Fresh and racy through the finish, this is an elegant beauty, showing terrific cut and precision”

Chateau Suduiraut got the attention of the Wine Enthusiast: “Richly textured, with an opulent feel, concentrated, the fruit buried in the dense flavors. It makes for a big, powerful wine, looking to a long future.”

James Suckling notes the Chateau Guiraud has “Ripe lemon peel and orange. Some honey and vanilla with loads of new wood. Dense and very sweet on the palate with nice pure fruit and firm tannins from the oak that still needs time to soften.”

As they fly home, the Bordelais leave lasting memories of both their wines and themselves. Clyde Beffa of K&L wines notes, “We are told that the 2010s will be long lasting wines. One journalist said that the wines would age for a century… it was another monumental vintage from a magnificent Bordeaux decade.”

Indeed it is. And sixteen days later, one hundred and five chateau owners fly to China. There are other worlds to conquer.

1 paulwagner1 12 11 (3)Paul Wagner is president of Balzac Communications & Marketing and is also an instructor for Napa Valley College’s Viticulture and Enology department and the Culinary Institute of America at Greystone. He is a regular columnist for Vineyards & Winery Management Magazine, and contributes to Allexperts.com in the field of wine and food.

Paul is a founding member of the Academy of Wine Communications, a member of the nominations committee of the Culinary Institute of America’s Vintner’s Hall of Fame, and was inducted into the Spadarini della Castellania di Soave in 2005.

In 2009 he was honored with a “Life Dedicated to Wine” award at the Feria Nacional del Vino (FENAVIN) in Spain. He is also a member of the board of directors of the SWE.

Avvinare…To “Prepare the Glass for Wine”

Guest Author Susannah Gold of Vigneto Communications tells us about the lovely Italian tradition known as Avvinare…

avvinaireMany people are put off by wine jargon and by certain actions that people take when pouring a wine, whether it be decanting a wine or preparing wine glasses. While it is true that some people just like to put on a show, in many cases all of the pomp and circumstance actually has a practical purpose! Most of us would agree, for instance, that decanting a wine allows the wine to breath and can bring out the bouquet of a “closed” wine.

The Italian have a lovely tradition called “Avvinare” which is a method of preparing the glasses to receive the wine.  While it may appear to be just another wine tasting ritual, the purpose is to make sure the glass is clean and odorless.  Often wine glasses are washed in chlorinated water or have some dust or other substances on their surface. The process of Avvinare will neutralize any unwanted aromas, clean off any dust particles, and leave you with a perfectly primed glass!

Start the process of Avvinare by pouring a very small amount of wine into your glass and swirl it around a bit. This is done to “season” the glass. In fact, it is almost always done with the wine you are about to drink in that particular glass.  After you are finished, pour the wine into the glass of the person next to you and continue around the table until everyone’s glass is primed and ready to “receive the wine.”

Of course, there is some showmanship that goes into this process, as one would expect with anything that originates in Italy – dramatic flair, creativity, and a thoroughly practical element.  So the next time you take your wine glasses out, see if you too enjoy avvinando (past participle) your glass. It is a practice well worth doing and one that will become second nature to you.

susannahSusannah Gold, CSW, CSS, has been in communications for 18 years. Formerly a journalist for Dow Jones Newswires, Susannah has worked in PR agencies, in-house and on her own. In 2007, Susannah decided to marry her communications and wine interests and the result was Vigneto Communications, a boutique public relations, marketing and educational consulting firm specialized in the food & wine industry. Susannah has worked with numerous wine importers, producers, and institutions such as Vinitaly, Slow Wine, and numerous retail wine stores.

In addition to holding her CSS, CSW, and a Diploma of Wine & Spirits (DWS) from the Wine & Spirits Education Trust, Susannah is one of only a handful of non-Italians in the Associazione Italiana Sommeliers (AIS) and has completed her certification as a Spanish Wine Educator at the Wine Academy of Spain. You can learn more about Susannah and her work at her popular blog, titled quite appropriately, Avvinare.