If you’re into wine, even a little, then you’ve probably heard of Kevin Zraly — made famous as the wine director for Windows on the World restaurant (atop World Trade Center 1 from 1976 – 2001, then relocated to the Marriott Marquie Hotel in Times Square, NY). Here he, with the encouragement of owner Joe Baum, created the biggest wine list in the US and and sold more wine than any other restaurant in the world. Today, he’s most noted for his Windows on the World wine school, which, as of Fall 2016, ended its 40-year run. Unhappy with most other wine textbooks, Zraly created his own handbooks for his courses, had a colleague record his classes along with students’ questions and participation, all of which became the basis for the first Windows on the World wine course book in 1985. Each year, Zraly updates the information, and each year, he continues to make record sales. And I can see why…
This last year I’ve found myself investing in more and more wine literature (of all sorts) because, as Zraly says, the truth about wine is “The more you know about its origins, its character, its value, and its ability to add magic to an already magical dinner, the greater and more lasting your pleasure.”
As you can probably tell from my library of books, not all wine books have to be non-fiction or reference material. I believe it was Horace who said, “The aim of the poet is to inform or delight, or to combine together, in what he says, both pleasure and applicability to life.” So it is, that good fictional literature will still teach us something about ourselves or life in general. And good wine literature will teach us something about, well, wine (and probably, still, ourselves and life in general…).
The Winemakers, by Jan Moran does all of the above. Sure, at its core, it’s a romance novel, but it bridges the gap between that traditional “chick-lit” genre and historical fiction while teaching us a bit about wine in the process.
I bought this book because, as a writer, I want to make sure I never run out of words — and also, I want to make sure I have a keen understanding of all the wine words that are out there. There are loads of wine reference books in the world, but I figured that something called The Wine Bible was bound to be one of the most complete. And it is — in more ways than one. Karen MacNeil’s The Wine Bible is a book for wine study and for wine fun.
I feel like Monterey is one of the most under-rated AVAs in California. In fact I just got into a heated discussion with someone about whether or not the minutiae of the appellations (in regards to soil, climate, etc) vary as greatly as the famed Napa Valley. Not really a fair question — two different regions with two completely different things going on geographically. Take the Santa Lucia Highlands — most notably affected by its proximity to the Monterey Bay and Pacific Ocean. And while they’re no Mayacamas Mountains, the vineyards of the Highlands, planted along terraces of the Santa Lucia mountain range, can reach to as high as 3,000 feet in elevation. Thus it seems obvious to say that vineyards planted way up high facing the water are going to have their own unique microclimate compared to those even just a few hundred feet below them facing the opposite direction. So are their as many variances in Monterey’s SLH as the craggy mountain rages of Napa? Probably not. It’s a smaller appellation, but the variances here are no less important.
Fun Fact: The Santa Lucia Highlands is home to one of the vineyards named a California “Grand Cru” by Wine Enthusiast Magazine, recognizing that this location can produce some of the highest-quality wine grapes.
I learned about Matthes Vineyard through winemaker-friend Cynthia Cosco of Passaggio, who sourced her Grenache Blanc and Marsanne grapes from Henry Matthes for her 2016 vintage of Grenache Blanc. In fact, she didn’t just source those grapes, she struck a deal with Henry — in exchange for his exclusive fruits to use for her own Grenache Blanc, she would help him make his 2016 vintage. The difference between the Passaggio and Matthes styles is that Henry prefers to age his Grenache Blanc in oak, whereas Cindy prefers all stainless. So it takes more time for the Matthes Vineyards estate wines to be ready for release. So, today I present to you a sneak peek at Matthes Vineyards 2016 Grenache Blanc.