Fit for a wine groundhog 2017

Top Bordeaux back to 1970, with Marla Maples

By Panos Kakaviatos for 

3 February 2017

Bravo to Kevin Shin for making this happen. The DCWino is in top form. And I got to meet some new wine-loving friends in the area as well as seeing old friends. Once again, we found ourselves at Ripple. The service is great, corkage minimal, and the food superb, by chef Ryan Ratino, who made some of the best courses I have ever had at the restaurant for this Groundhog Day dinner. Here a link to a justifiably glowing review from the Washington Post:

A most happy Groundhog Day for #winelovers. With master chef Ryan Ratino standing in the back.

We were nine participants: Greg Ossi, Paul Marquardt, Robb Johnson, Alan Strauss, Randy McFarlane, Reginald Brown, David Zimmerman, Kevin Shin and myself. Read More

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Underrated Bordeaux 2014

Worth seeking out from bottle: both white and red

29 January 2017

By Panos Kakaviatos for

When I tasted 2014 and 2015 Château Montrose side-by-side in October last year at the estate, I learned that less than 40% of the harvest was used to make the first wine in 2015, while over 50% was used to make the 2014.

Rains came at the wrong time in parts of the northern Médoc in the more heralded vintage, putting vintners to the test. Montrose certainly lived up to that test, with an excellent 2015. But the 2014 seems to be just as good, if not better. At the estate tasting, the 2014 came across as more seamless and elegant, as well as substantial. I had a similar experience with Château Pichon Comtesse de Lalande, which I had also compared side-by-side.

They were not empty for long: loads of glasses for the UGCB tasting in New York City in January 2017

In much the same way, I noticed how 2014 northern Medoc cru bourgeois wines did very well as compared to 2015, which seems to have favored the southern Médoc (no rains causing any problems in Margaux, for example).

Savvy consumers should take note that you are getting good deals from the northern Médoc in 2014, as prices – for the most part – went up in 2015. Read More


Diamonds in the rough: Cru Bourgeois 2014

Heterogeneous in quality, the sprawling cru bourgeois category from Bordeaux also can mean diamonds in the rough

(This is part 2 of a two-part article on affordable Bordeaux. For part 1, click here.)

22 January 2017

By Panos Kakaviatos for

I recently visited Washington D.C.-based fine wine importer/retailer Calvert Woodley. Owner Ed Sands said that shelf space for fine Bordeaux has shrunk significantly over the past 10 years as prices have skyrocketed upwards.

And even if many consumers have searched for alternative wines from outside Bordeaux, shelf space for value Bordeaux of quality has expanded, Sands said.

That could be because advances in better winemaking and viticulture have not only benefitted the great names like Latour, Montrose, Haut Brion, Palmer and more. Indeed, the overall quality of wine and winemaking has led to better quality as well for economically priced Bordeaux, such as the wines under the category known as cru bourgeois.

The cru bourgeois category in Bordeaux as it stands today counts some 250 estates. And many people have never heard of most of them. Furthermore, more famous brands – such as Poujeaux, Les Ormes de Pez, Haut Marbuzet, Chasse Spleen and others – disengaged from an earlier official “cru bourgeois” appellation definition, when a 2003 classification that had rated such great brands as “exceptional” was (rather stupidly) annulled at least in part because of typical Bordeaux infighting. Read More

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Port in the Winter

A snowstorm? Or just cold? Port is perfect!

By Panos Kakaviatos for 

20 January 2017

So far, Washington D.C. has not seen excessively cold weather. But I have seen photos and videos from colleagues and friends in Strasbourg, France, with plenty of snowfall. And more than likely, Washington D.C. should see some snow.

Port is great any time of year, but particularly pleasing in the winter. Whether an opulent and intense vintage port or a 10-year-old Tawny, Port can warm your spirits in the winter.

For more details on the various types of Port, I highly recommend this page.

With that in mind, here some notes from a great tasting late last year in Lisbon, on Saturday morning 26 November 2016, at the Instituto da Vinha e do Vinho.

Thanks to Adegga Wine Market‘s André Cid Proença and André Ribeirinho for the invitation to taste. I have had great pleasure to meet both before in various wine venues as members of the #winelover community.

The evening before at Lisbon’s Time Out Market eatery, I had met with Ribeirinho – who will be writing about Porto wines in the next edition of Hugh Johnson’s wine guide (bravo André, see video below from the tasting) – and Norwegian wine expert and #winelover pal Roger Kolbu.

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Haut Brion and Yquem verticals and so much more

Starting 2017 on the right foot

By Panos Kakaviatos for

6 January 2017

2017 already started with a wine bang, thanks to this dinner organized by Randy McFarlane. So consider this text a part 2 of sorts – and what a great tasting dinner this was, too.

Holiday dinner organizer par excellence, Ken Brown

Each January, Ken Brown organizes our annual holiday dinner, where participants bring two or three top wines. And at Ripple Restaurant, we had loads of great wines. It was all French, and “I like it like that,” Brown remarked. Given much fascination in recent years with wine regions outside of France, may we say that the Empire Strikes Back? With Krug, Taittinger Comtes de Champagne and Dom Perignon – by way of Hermitage, Haut Brion, grand cru Burgundy and Yquem – I think that we may.

In any case, for my return to Washington for the winter break, it was great to see fellow wine drinking buddies again here to kick off 2017. Thanks to Ken for organizing the dinner. In addition to Ken and myself, participants included Ken Barr, Chris Bublitz, Karl Kellar, Howard Cooper, David Ehrlich, Scot Hasselman, Paul Marquardt, Randy McFarlane and David Zimmerman. Read More

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