A change in the weather - Wine & Spirits Magazine

A change in the weather

Diamond Creek Vineyards Diamond Creek Vineyards
Fifteen years ago, Napa Valley growers were in the midst of replanting. With the vine roots embattled by Phylloxera, growers rook the opportunity to rethink their selections of vines. And they reconsidered the trellising of the vines as well, choosing to allow more sunlight onto the fruit. Bur few considered climate change. Now late-season heat spikes are one of their biggest challenges. In an even season, the new trellises may ripen the fruit more effectively. Bur in a season like 2003, many Napa Valley wines are marked by the flavor of extreme September heat, of unrelenting sun on exposed cabernet grapes. At Wine & Spirits, as we tasted through several hundred cabernets from the vintage, we wondered about climate change and how winemakers might protect their grapes in the future.

Heather Irwin, a young reporter based in Sonoma, spent much of this fall talking with growers and winemakers when they weren’t slammed with crush. Her assignment was to search our the new plantings, the ones Napa Valley cabernet makers believe hold the most promise for the future. That would have been hillsides in the 1990s, and you’ll find that most of the highest-scoring wines among our cabernet recommendations are from mountain-grown fruit. But hillside development is now rigorously regulated. What Irwin found instead is a story on the southeastern reaches of the Napa Valley, a region we’ve heard little about, where cabernet growers have applied for a new AVA. Initially, several important growers dismissed Coombsville (even those working in the region), and told her the future of Napa Valley cabernet was right in plain sight, in the long-established benchlands of the valley proper. Bur the more research Irwin did, the more evidence she found that this cooler pocket of the valley is already producing top wine.

Senior Editor Peter Liem spent part of September in the Nahe, Germany’s least known great riesling zone. It turns our to be another region that is changing its strategy with climate change. According to Armand Diel, who heads up the VDP in Nahe, “With global warming and the vineyard work we’ve done in the last ten years, I believe the evolution in quality has been tremendous.” Now working in a climate less marginal than before, the growers have created a new category of wine—only from vineyards designated as the best sites, only late harvest and only dry. They’ve called it Grosses Gewachs, which may not sound as romantic as grand cru does in Burgundy, but the concept is the same. And the rieslings are extraordinary.

We’ve noticed a different sort of changing climate in food, as the center of gravitas has shifted from France into Spain. Recently, New York’s French Culinary Institute renovated its landmark building in Soho and changed its name. It opened its doors this past October as the International Culinary Institute, with a chefs invitational from Spain-Ferran Adria, Juan Mari Arzac, Martín Berasategui and seven others came to demonstrate their 21st-century cuisine in front of a small gathering of New York’s kitchen talent. At the back of the room, Wylie Dufresne from WD50 scribbled in a tiny spiral binder while Daniel Boulud whispered comments in his ear, taking his own mental notes on the provocative food.

Spain’s culinary change has exploded along the Catalan coast and in Basque country, but now it’s migrating toward Rioja, about to make a direct hit at Frank Gehry’s new City of Wine at Marqués de Riscal in Elciego. Francis Paniego, who trained with Adrià and Arzac, is opening a restaurant there, so we asked Victor de Ia Serna to check in on Paniego and the current food scene in Rioja. You might add an edge to your holiday meals with ideas from de Ia Serna’s srory, or Patricio Tapia’s report on contemporary food and wine in Buenos Aires. Tara Q. Thomas offers a different angle on holiday wine and food, with a look at how
sparkling reds have suddenly become chic.

The biggest news in the issue, however, may be the tasting section. There’s a great selection of cabernet sauvignon, Champagne, German riesling, Barolo and Rioja, whether for this holiday season or for holidays to come.

This story was featured in W&S December 2006.

Joshua Greene is the editor and publisher of Wine & Spirits magazine.

This story appears in the print issue of December 2006.
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