Monday, October 28, 2013

A Drinker's Notebook #12: Cortaccia's Stations of the Glass

The mountains of Alto Adige around Bolzano produce some of the prettiest scenery and best wines in the world. Cortaccia winery, a top-quality co-op, invited me to participate in one of its programs that makes the best of both. One day each month, they invite customers from near and far to take a somewhat scary ride to the top of a prominent escarpment and drink their way down, guided through vineyards and on trails to drink four different wines beside the vineyards where the grapes for each wine were grown. They are accompanied by someone from the winery who carries the bottles in his backpack, in my case wine expert Michael Anrather. "Where we are starting, at about 850 meters in the village of Graun, we had snow last week," Anrather tells me as we drive up mountain tracks. As with most wine trails in Alto Adige - also called the Sud Tirol, there are stations of the cross leading the faithful through the mountains to ancient churches in the highland villages. In our case, I think, we are enjoying stations of the glass - the first one a Muller-Thurgau grown at Graun. Anrather pauses for a view from above the filtering clouds. By the time we get to the second station of the glass, we have descended through a cleft in the cliffs and are at the small village of Hofstatt, where Anrather tests the wine - a 2012 Hofstatt Weissburgunder or Pinot Bianco - while we read the sign that tells its origin. It is delicious, with lots of chalk and acidity to balance the floral and creamy notes and the crisp-apple fruitiness. It is by far the best wine I have ever tasted while taking a arduous, if downhill, hike. Anrather recorks the bottle, and we are ready to move on - still high above the valley floor and two more stations to go.

Apple Gin to Rhubarb Amaro: Article on Wild Spirits

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Sunday, October 20, 2013

Caviar Affair: Pink Champagnes

Caviar Affair is one of the most-elegant magazines that I write for, but it is not sold on newsstands. For more information, go to

Monday, October 14, 2013

The Daily Meal: Now Introducing The Real Winegrowers of Alsace

On a recent trip to Alsace, I was struck by the diversity of the winegrowers I met - how they made wine, how they thought about making wine, even how they became winegrowers. Here is an introduction to 10 of these producers, many whose names you have seen on the bottle labels. Go to

Sunday, October 6, 2013

A Drinker's Notebook #11: Personalized Pairing in Alsace

A special joy of wine trips is the opportunity to meet with winegrowing families who have for generations, often centuries, made wines and paired them with foods from their own kitchens. But a stop last week in the small town of Mittelbergheim in Alsace, known for its grand cru Zotzenberg vineyard, was extra special among the specials. While brother Thomas processed early grapes coming into their Boeckel winery in the middle of the village (where the family residences are also located, as is the regional custom), Jean-Daniel Boeckel, the fifth generation, took us on a tour of the family's vineyards as rain clouds threatened overhead. After an hour of walking among the vines, we returned to town for a tasting of Boeckel Cremants, Rieslings, Gewurztraminers, a Pinot Gris, Pinot Blancs and Sylvaners. Sylvaner is special in Mittelbergheim, as here alone it is given grand cru status when grown in the Zotzenberg. As we sipped, spit and swallowed in the Boeckel tasting room, Jean-Daniel's young daughters played games in the private rooms above us. Following the tasting, we moved next door to the family dining room, where mother Christiane had prepared a mouth-watering lunch whose centerpiece was a steaming coq au Reisling. Not to be outdone, father Emile, "officially" retired, pulled a rare bottle of 1957 Boeckel Riesling Reserve, made by his father, from the cellar to get things started. "In those years, we hadn't yet officially named the grand crus," he reminded us, "so we just called the best wines our 'Reserves.'" The 56-year-old wine had its cork changed about 25 years ago, Emile informed us as he gently extracted it. The wine was more than just a curiosity. It was lovely - delicate and golden, yet with a firm backbone. I drank my portion of the wine with the creamy coq, and it was a divine pairing. There were other foods and other wines as the meal progressed, but these two were the stars of the show - along with Christiane and Emile. As we said our goodbyes, I reflected on the great vineyards, wines, foods and conversation, but especially the lovely Boeckel family who took us into their home and provided us with lasting memories.