The land of Greece and its wine have a history well into antiquity when vines from the Caucasus were distributed throughout the Mediterranean by the Phoenicians finding their way to the islands and mainland of Greece. The Ottoman Turks interrupted progress of cultivation for several centuries with recovery beginning in the 20th century. In the past few decades, in particular when Greece entered the EU in 1981, a serious revolution has been underway throughout Greece from the Islands such as Santorin and Crete as in the Peloponnesian peninsula and beyond. It’s not that we are located in Tarpon Springs, which is a significant Greek community originally attracted by Gulf coast sponge harvesting, but that the quality of Greek wines is now at a world class level. We are proud to share these with you.
Tarpon Springs is the home of B-21, but it can be a long way from yours, especially for B-21 fans from Miami, Orlando and beyond. Why spoil an afternoon or evening of tasting fine wine with a long drive on not-so scenic U.S. 19. Here’s a solution: Stay with us!
Well, stay with our neighbors, the Innisbrook Resort, that is. The world comes to Innisbrook to relax, play a few rounds, polish their tennis or just unwind in 900 acres of Gulfcoast tranquility. Next time you’re coming our way (the holiday tasting is Nov. 20!) shack up at Innisbrook.
Insider tip – call 800-492-6899 and ask for the B-21 rate – you will be amazed at what you get! You can get up early for golf (four courses by my count), a jump in the pool, a nature walk or pampering at the newly renovated spa. Me, I’ll sleep in and dream of crabcake benedict for breakfast.
Gold medal winning wines from Florida, Arkansas, and California, too. More than 1,000 wines will be judged at the Florida State Fair Friday and Saturday. If you’ve never seen actual judging, stop by between your stomach’s roller-coaster ride on death-defying ice cream cheeseburgers and mashed taters on a stick.
In the Florida Living Pavilion Friday will be dozens of winemakers, judges, and merchants, each judge with nose in glass, sorting out Best of Show honors on Saturday morning and then announcing the final list of winners. Throughout the Fair, the bottles will be on display, bedecked with medals and ribbons. Sure, the Florida State Fair is not the heralded showdown of Orange County California, but it’s an education in the growth of wineries unaffiliated with the Pacific coast, in Florida and the rest of “you-can’t-grow-that-there” territory.
P.S. Big bonus at the end of the fair: all unopened wines - winners and losers – are sold at deep discount to first-comers on Sunday, February 20 - the fair’s last day.
Big wines, big hearts bagged big bucks for troubled children last weekend at the 11th Annual Naples Winter Wine Festival. In little more than five hours, three hundred wine collectors and their guests bid $12 million for seventy lots of wine garnished with truffle hunts, Bulgari jewels and ’round-the-world trips on private jets. That’s almost $200,000 per lot, though the watchful caught a few for under $100,000 - not your usual internet scramble. And it was almost fifty percent more than last year’s haul of $8.2 million. (In 2008, the auction raised more than $15 million making it the richest wine charity going.)
The wines themselves were spectacular. The highlight, a special cabinet containing one hundred bottles, each of which had achieved the rare honor of 100-point rating from either Robert Parker’s The Wine Advocate or Wine Spectator. It was bought for $400,000 in spirited bidding by a collector who insisted on anonymity. (Btw, when wine broker Bruce Nichol set out on the task of finding those rare 100-point wines, he found half in local cellars).
The affair draws a world of wine stars such as Christian Mouiex of Chateau Petrus and Dominus, California’s Dick Grace and Marilisa Allegrini of Italy, the chefs of Spago and Spiaggia, and connoisseurs from New York, Chicago, and Los Angeles. Yet the energy and most of the money donated and bid comes from Naples own wine-loving benefactors.
Other wine treasures up for grabs:
Forty vintages of Robert Mondavi ($60,000),
Twenty-five years of Shafer’s Hillside Select ($150,000)
A 9-liter bottle of Champagne Taittinger ($40,000),
Thirteen double magnums of top cru Burgundy donated by Baseball great Rusty Staub
A case of 1993 Domaine Romanee Conti ($80,000)
A private Silver Oak dinner for twenty-four with performance by Clint Black and custom guitar ($320,000).
An Imperial of 2004 Chateaux Palmer and one magnum of 1995 ($40, 000)
Twenty-nine bottles of Sine Qua Non ($160,000).
Double magnums of Dominus and Chateau Petrus, plus dinner with the Moueix family ($75,000).
Those less interested in wine (they do exist) popped even more. The top bid of the day was $1 million for a ten foot modern bronze scupture by Spaniard Manolo Valdez. Next highest was a 2011 Ferrari 458 Italia Sports Coupe ($950,000).
Wish you could have been there Friday when Mike Keenan brought his Cab Franc and killer Merlots down from the mountain top for a dinner here in Tarpon Springs. The wines showed beautifully and Mike told me they never paired so well with food - even salad – as they did that night. The ‘07 Cab Franc was spectacular and his ‘07 Mailbox Merlot Reserve was just stunning.
For me, all of Keenan’s wines - the Cabernet and his oddly-named “Mernet” – have a traditional, well structured purity that I can only find in old-school Bordeaux. His wines are rich, but not because they are over ripe or went through clever oak manipulation; their flavor comes because Keenan’s plain got the fruit, real fruit that speaks of rocky, limey, high mountain terroir with earthy forest flavors.
Mike signed lots of bottles that night for the lucky diners but he doesn’t act like a rock star winemaker. Yet Spring Mountain rocks star in his wines. Again, I’m sorry you couldn’t be there…The most classic terroir-driven Merlot and Cab Franc this side of Bordeaux.
Look at the wine map of most countries and you’ll see patches of purple for the lucky regions and plain-colored stretches that grow no wine. Not Italy, where wines and vines are all over the map in every region, the whole boot, from Alps to Sicily, drenched in purple.
To sort out this delicious confusion, come to B21’s grand Italian tasting June 13 with 100 some wines from grapes and regions throughout Italy. You’re bound to find a new treasure.
One of mine is Arneis, a white wine of the Piedmont. I used to think only red Barolos and Barberas when I looked that way. Maybe because the Piemontese used Arneis largely to soften those big reds, like the Aussies mixing Viognier in Shiraz.
Now Arneis gets attention on its own as a lively white with flavors from the stone fruit and nut spectrum.
Its home is in Roero, northwest of the Barolos, heading toward the French border. One of the top producers is Vietti, which will be featured in seminars on their great Barberas and Nebbiolo.
Make reservations now to start your trip to Italy this Sunday, and expect to spend some time in the northwest with the reds .
And whites like Vietti’s arneis.
This bright young 2009 ($17.99) has won 90s and up from every taster in our shop.
Why? “Fresh floral, citrus and melon aromas with hints of almonds. An unoaked, dry, medium bodied white wine with crisp acidity, well-balanced, elegant wine.”
You may find the perfect little white something for summer. Say you got it in Italy.
The Tampa Bay Wine and Food Festival last weekend brought in another big crowd of outdoor tasters and partiers. It’s the rare wine festival that lets you get sand in your shoes, sun on your face and a workout for your personal dehydration system.
It also brought a big group of chefs to the St. Pete Beach’s pink wedding cake hotel, the Don Cesar Loews Resort. Southern Wine & Spirits, Brighthouse and Loews are the big sponsors, with top chef Eric Neri coordinating the food and a cadre of top chefs from Loews’ properties around the country. Also on deck was Nathan Lippy, a home grown punkstar chef determined to be the next Guy Fieri; besides rocking out on the guitar he cooks New Wave Southern shtick like candied bacon and bananas.
NOT (all of them) but B-21 still had a barrel of fun!
The ash cloud over Iceland cast its long shadow even over the Tampa Bay area last weekend. Flight cancellation to the U.S. grounded some special guests coming to the annual Bordeaux tasting, both celebrated winemakers and consultants, and their infant prodigies, barrel samplings of the beloved new 2009 vintage.
Several stalwarts were in the U.S. before flights stopped including Coralie de Bouard of Chateau Angelus, negociant Jeffrey Davies and Emilie Riebel-Dombey representing Chateau Le Gay.
And the 2009’s arrived in spirit and starred in the table talk at the Bordeaux dinner at Seasons 52. “Good as they say?”, “That’s not what I read.” “I’m absolutely going to buy,” but when and at what price? Will the prices be highest for the first futures or later tranches? Will the dollar buy more now or later?
Actually if the samples had arrived, they might have distracted our conversation.
Besides we had 2005s in our glasses and they were not abstractions. They set a high standard for the ’09s to match and sparked their own debate.
The winners were Smith Haut Lafitte ($89.99) and La Gaffeliere. ($99.99) I put the left-banker first because it was so big and smoky and friendly like a coat by the fire. Smart and passionate tasters went for the La Gaffeliere from St. Emilion, with more berries and chocolate, in five years I may switch sides. A strong minority report supported the neighboring Canon La Gaffeliere ($109.99), which was the sleekest and most approachable. If you ask one to dance tonight, the Canon is your partner.
Seasons 52, Tampa’s “it” restaurant of the moment and the newest location of the Orlando concept was luminous that night and the menu had all its vaunted style and spunk. “I‘ve been to many wine tastings in my career but I’ve never had chiles relleno,” confessed importer Greg Miller, “and I think the Bordeaux stood up well.”
He’s right. Nothing timid about husky smoky ancho chiles with goat cheese and punchy pico de gallo, smoke fire and a pinch of sour. Yet first quality right bank 2006’s were bold enough. My choice was the 2006 La Croix St. Georges, ($59.99) from Pomerol, a spiced creamy fudge that made a mole with the chiles.
But as a Tuesday night go-to Bordeaux for Mexican spice and big flavors like Seasons 52’s crackling flatbreads , the 2008 Croix Mouton ($10.99) has value and excitement. Jean-Philippe Janoueix makes this in the Bordeaux Superieur appellation on the left bank; a merlot for all seasons with more guts and finish than you expect.
One of the tricks to sorting out unfamiliar bottles is to turn them around to see if the name of the importer in small print is a name you trust.
Like Jeffrey Davies.
If you don’t know the vineyard or the appellation, Davies does and you’re set. I first sipped with him a few years ago and realized he knew everything I needed to know. A sunny Californian AND a 20-year resident of Bordeaux, he has a nose for the underappreciated cru or the one that needs a only a small touch to elevate it.
From the right bank he has revived and promoted names like Ch. Valandraud and La Gomerie and he’s found even more treasures in the lands beyond Lalande: the Cotes de Bordeaux, Blaye , Bergerac, Fitou and Minervois. All the places I wish I knew better, Davies has already explored and found the best.
There are still a few tickets left for the April 17th dinner and barrel sampling at Currents in Tarpon with Davies and two of our other star guests from France, Jean Christophe Meyrou and Francois Villars. It kicks off at 4 p.m. with twelve count ‘em, 12 barrel samples from the much-buzzed 2009 vintage, followed by a grand dinner at 5 p.m. The price for the evening is $65.
If you can’t make the dinner, come to Sunday’s tastings and seminars. If you miss them both, buy a bottle of 2007 Ch. Rigaud, a Davies prize from Faugeres, made from syrah, grenache and the help of Claude Gros. Not the usual ingredients, but unusual quality: earthy black fruit and smoke and satiny on the palate. Maybe the best of the southwest — and a taste of Davies’ imagination. ($11.99).
Now, you can taste and learn from the best every Saturday, from 1 to 5 p.m. every week. Tastng are free, focused and led by people who know wine at its best. Just bring your nose and your tongue . The schedule so far this spring:
March 20: The wines that made Ridge famous.
March 27: Kermit does France, Part Deux
April 3: Spanish values from importer Eric Solomon.
April 7: Great Burgundies with importer Jean Marie de Champs.
I am so stoked about our Wines of Spain Grand Tasting and Sale! It truly will be the best Superbowl Tailgating Party in Tampa Bay. With seminars starting as early as 12:00 noon, the afternoon will be filled with a ton of great Spanish wine from Priorat to Ribera del Duero to Rioja and on and on. Wines from Vega Sicilia, Muga, Emilo Moro, Mas Doix, Alto Moncayo, El Nido and Numanthia to name a few.
Did I forget to mention that Juan Muga, Proprietor of Bodegas Muga will be in the house? So will David Espinar, the Winery Director of Emilio Moro. They will be here in person signing bottles.
Top top it all off, we will be tasting more portugal wines and ports than we’ve ever had available to taste before. Yes, even ports from the amazing 2007 vintage which Wine Spectator has said is “A Classic Year” and been praised by Robert Parker’s Wine Advocate, Jancis Robinson, and more.
The grand tasting begins at 2:00pm with seminars starting as early as 12:00pm. And for those of you who are worried about getting back before the Big Game, no worries the events end at 5pm with plenty of time to get back for the big game.
Check out these Seminars:
12pm-12:45: The Schistes Show with Anthony Pannone of European Cellars (Priorat wines) 1pm-1:45pm: La Rioja with Juan Muga of Bodegas Muga - SOLD OUT!!! 2pm-2:45pm: Ribera del Duero with David Espinar of Emilio Moro 3pm-3:45pm: Amazing old ports from Gould Campbell (1980, 1983, 1985, & 1994 vintages)
We are excited to be hosting a wine dinner at Currents Restaurant in Tarpon Springs on February 8th with Proprietor Juan Muga of Bodegas Muga and David Espinar, the Winery Director for Bodegas Emilio Moro. Currents is a restaurant that recently opened here in Tarpon Springs and has become a hometown favorite. Laura Riley, food critic for the St. Pete Times has been by to visit and wrote a glowing review. (Click here to read Currents review in the Times.)
Unfortunately, the wine dinner was sold out within 2 weeks of announcing it! But, no worries, you can catch up with the winemakers the day before on Sunday, February 7th from 2pm – 5pm at our Annual Wines of Spain & Portugal Grand Tasting & Sale! Both Juan Muga and David Espinar will be here to share their wines and sign bottles, plus you’ll have the chance to taste from 75-100 wines from Spain and Portugal (yes even some of those amazing 2007 Ports!) This is an event you don’t want to miss! (And men no worries, its over in plenty of time to get home and watch the big game!)
The tasting also includes entrance to 1 seminar (if you want to taste in a smaller seated setting). But signup soon! Seats are filling up fast and it is first come first server on reservations.
Spain is the home of great modern reds and the most delicious new debate: Grand old Rioja and the brave new (to us) Ribera del Duero. It’s better than Burgundy v. Bordeaux, and we’ll have great exponents of each in the flesh and in the bottle in Tarpon next month.
From the Ribera, Emilio Moro’s David Espinar will be here to talk about a place where innovation never quits and the latest super-Riberos, Cepa 21 and the lush Mallelous (why call them Crianzas or gran reservas). In the Rioja corner, none other than Juan Muga of Bodegas Muga, who embodies the greatest Rioja traditions as well as modern techniques in Rioja winemaking. They include the bright new Torre Muga and the just released 2005 Aro showpiece, a must for any Spanish cellar.
They’ll pour these fineries in a three-flight dinner at Currents restaurant in Tarpon Springs, unfortunately now sold out… but thats ok! Because both Muga and Moro will be in attendance on Sunday, February 7th at B-21′s Wines of Spain & Portugal Grand Tasting and Sale from 2pm-5pm for another of B-21’s famous afternoons of seminars, tasting and learning. I call it the “immersion method.”
This grand tasting will cover the whole Iberian peninsula from the Douro (the Portuguese end of the Duero) to the slatey hillsides of Priorat, thanks to special guests from top importers.
Port – Get in on the wines of Gould Campbell, a small distinctive port house, presented by Bob Bulifant from Stacole.
Priorat– Enjoy that Schistes Show from the high schist/slate vineyard of Catalaonia’s remote Priorat, as explored by Eric Solomon. Anthony Pannone will teach Geology 101.
To attend the tasting (and 1 seminar) the price is $25 per person. The seminars begin at 12pm and the Grand Tasting is 2pm to 5pm. To attend a seminar you must sign up for a seminar ahead of time.
The glory that is Spain will not be at the same table anywhere near you again.
The parade of wine superstars never stops. This week Matthieu Perrin of the new generation of Perrins took B-21 fanciers at Currents restaurant in Tarpon Springs on a grand three-course, three flight tour of the southern Rhone. It’s the home country of Perrin & Fils and the grand Beaucastel.
For starters, the group wheeled their way through the simple Cotes of 2007, CdR ($9.99) then Cotes du Rhone Villages ($10.49), and the Perrin’s Nature ($10.49) a GSM which is certified organic as well as the family’s own biodynamic principles. Best food match of the appetizers was just as earthy – bruschetta with mushrooms, thyme and goat cheese.
More exciting was the roast pork-fueled middle stage through the Perrin’s favorite villages, Vacqueyras and Gigondas (mine too) and the far northerly commune of Vinsobres. Heckuva name for a place that is #89 on the Top 100. It is a luscious blend of Syrah and Grenache, but I think the licorice and pepper of that latter show best. Maybe the name scares people off, it’s still a bargain at $19.99.
The climax was Chateau Beaucastel CDP itself from the last two fabulous vintages (2006 and 2007). Beaucastel follows the old 13-grape step because it works, making a well-structured wine that is richly complex in flavors. More so in 2006, a voluptuously thick, dense wine, and at Currents a taste of the even more sumptuous 2007; best southern Rhone year in a decade.