Emerging Wine Regions You Need to Visit

Emerging Wine Regions You Need to Visit

Emerging Wine Regions You Need to Visit

February 11, 2020

There’s something especially beautiful about exploring wineries in lesser-known regions. In recent years, extreme weather conditions such as fire and hail have challenged viticultural regions around the world, and turned unlikely locations into hotspots for winemaking. Here we examine four up-and-coming wine regions around the world that merit a visit, not just for the noteworthy wine they produce, but also for their picturesque settings, unique dining scenes, and the stories behind their once-unconventional wine cultures.

Waiheke Island, New Zealand

Car-carrying ferries depart often from Auckland, taking visitors to this breathtaking vineyard-dotted island where boutique wineries and farm-to-table restaurants abound. The island is worthy of an overnight trip, or you may want to stay longer to fully absorb the relaxed culture.

Te Motu Vineyard, focused on low-yielding vines and Bordeaux-style wines, is an emblem of the artisanal nature of winemaking on Waiheke. “There are so many things to love about this island. It’s a short boat ride from our biggest city, but it feels like another country,” said Te Motu’s manager Rory Dunleavy, whose father and uncle planted vines on Waiheke in the 1980s. They had stumbled into the Onetangi Valley’s very special terroir, where lower rainfalls and slightly warmer temperatures combine with rich clay soils, all ideal for producing ripe, healthy grapes.

Waiheke celebrates winemaking as a way of life. “There’s a great sense of community amongst the vineyards and winemakers,” Dunleavy said. “Finishing up a long hot day at the vineyard with a swim five minutes down the road at Onetangi beach makes for a pretty great work-life balance. Even when it’s busy through summer, it’s bloody hard not to relax here.”

Emerging Wine Regions You Need to Visit 2

There’s an award-winning restaurant at Te Motu—don’t miss the local Waiheke oysters. You’ll also want to visit Stonyridge Vineyard, which specializes in organic Cabernet blends made following French traditions, and is nestled in a valley within an olive grove. Stonyridge offers healthy and fresh dining with a view at the relaxed Veranda Café, and their tasting lounge is open for trying wines and nibbling on olives. And don’t miss the recently renovated Tantalus Estate, featuring an impressive cellar where Bordeaux-style, rosé, and sparkling wines are aged. Tantalus also makes beer and has a light-filled restaurant emphasizing seasonality; other wineries are located within walking distance if you’re eager to explore further.

Tokaj, Hungary

Come to this corner of Northeastern Hungary to try dry wines, or regional icons like the sweet wine Aszù, which was lauded by royalty as early as the 16th century, and rare, limited- production Essencia wines. Tokaj wines are made principally with the grape Furmint, almost exclusively grown in this region.

Tokaj is located a pleasant 2.5-hour drive or train ride from Budapest. En route, you’ll want to stop in the historic town of Eger, which was the farthest west that the Turks established rule—you can visit the 16th-century castle where the Hungarian army once defeated the encroaching Turks, and there are Turkish baths as well.

It’s a place so steeped in history—including a very complicated period during the Yugoslav era, when agriculture and winemaking were collectivized—that it was awarded UNESCO Heritage status in 2001, but today’s Tokaj winemakers are definitely staking their claim in the current global wine scene.

Tokaj’s cellars are often quite old, making them fascinating to tour and learn about the different, somewhat complicated, winemaking styles. It’s worth visiting the long-standing estate Dizsnókö, and the newer Royal Tokaji is a benchmark producer. You can try to get a tasting at the quirky boutique enterprise of Samuel Tinon, a Frenchman making award-winning wine in a cave without electricity. Also look to try wines by Zoltán Demeter, a former employee of Napa Valley’s Stags’ Leap who is making single-vineyard wines considered “first growth.”

Visit Tokaj in early September to check out the annual Furmint Festival. For dining in Tokaj town, look to LaBor Bistro, which serves shareable small plates, as well as platters of Hungarian cheeses and the famed local mangalitsa pork. Gusteau offers beautifully composed dishes that reinterpret Hungarian classics and a highly acclaimed wine list in an elegant setting; the restaurant can also organize a bike tour among the Tokaj vineyards. If you fall in love with the (very good) cheeses in Hungary, you can stop by Zempléni Sajt creamery in Tarcal for a tasting.

Rías Baixas, Spain

The lovely and underappreciated white grape Albariño is the focus of this gorgeous coastal region in Galicia, Northern Spain. While you may have tried Albariño in that spritzy summer wine Vinho Verde from neighboring Portugal, the boutique producers of Rías Baixas treat this indigenous variety with much greater seriousness. There are five sub- regions in the Rías Baixas D.O. (designated origin), and they all offer slightly different wine styles and terroirs. Throughout the sprawling region of Rías Baixas, you can find Albariño wine made sparkling, or light and fresh, or matured in oak, and even as a dessert wine made with botrytised grapes.

Emerging Wine Regions You Need to Visit 3

Trying a local white wine alongside freshly caught Atlantic seafood, it’s easy to understand why the region has focused heavily on growing Albariño since the late 1980s—the wine’s aromatic, bright, lemony character pairs delightfully well alongside grilled octopus or steamed clams and scallops. Seafood is truly a way of life here. In the neighborhood of San Tomé, low tides see women known as mariscadoras coming out to the shoals with buckets to dig for shellfish by hand.

Wineries in this region are often family-run and might not have official tasting rooms, so be sure to make an appointment. Some of the oldest wineries are housed in pazos, historic estates going back several centuries—two of note to visit are Pazo San Mauro and Pazo de Señorans. One acclaimed winery worth checking out is Adega Pedralonga, a family-run biodynamically farmed estate founded in 1997. Pedralonga shows how Albariño can be vinified from a terroir- focused approach, resulting in wines that display the mineral and saline depth of the region’s granite soils.

“As a huge fan of Albariño, I loved visiting Rías Baixas,” said Rick Fisher, the education director of the Washington D.C.-based Wine Scholar Guild and a self-professed Spanish wine scholar. “The region has breathtaking scenery, and it’s amazing to see how tradition and modernity work hand in hand to grow and harvest the grapes here.”

The region offers traditional options like tapas and seafood eateries, and avant-garde dining, most notably the Michelin Guide-noted Casa Solla. The famed cathedral of Santiago de Compostela is a short train ride or drive from the northernmost part of Rías Baixas. There’s also a small but interesting Ethnographic Museum of Wine to visit in the charming town of Cambados, which is also the site of the annual Festival of Albariño, held the first week of the steamy month of August.

Verde Valley, Arizona

Tasting rooms nestled into Red Rock countryside leave a remarkable impression in this unlikely spot for vineyards. One of Arizona’s three wine-growing regions, Verde Valley boasts an ideal climate for grapes thanks to a roaring river and high desert terrain, and offers visitors exciting and quirky boutique wineries with tasting rooms. Verde Valley is located about two hours from Phoenix and accessible via the Verde Canyon Railway. More adventurous travelers can kayak directly to some wineries.

Take the Verde Valley Wine Trail to discover more than 20 wineries over the course of one to four days; it begins in beautiful Sedona and heads north, culminating in Jerome, where former Tool vocalist Maynard James Keenan makes small-batch cult wines under the Caduceus label. You can also opt to follow the Painted Valley Wine Trail, which features dozens of unique barrels hand-painted by local artists showcased in wineries. A few wineries not to miss: Burning Tree Cellars, Alcantara Vineyards, Page Springs Cellars, Oak Creek Vineyards, and Javelina Leap Vineyard.

Caduceus founder Keenan is proud of his viticultural home base. “Arizona’s wine industry is poised to overtake several wine-producing states in economic impacts,” he said. “With $3.3 billion in measurable impacts in 2015, and nearly a half million in state tax generation, this can no longer be considered a ‘cottage’ or ‘boutique’ industry.”

One Culinary Traveler’s Favorite Restaurants Around the World

Vancouver Restaurant Scene

One Culinary Traveler’s Favorite Restaurants Around the World

January 8, 2020

Los Angeles-based actress Shiri Appleby knows her food: not only has her packed film and TV-shooting schedule kept her traveling to various international food capitals, but she’s engaged to be married to Jon Shook, the chef/owner of Animal, Son of a Gun, and Trois Mec, three of Los Angeles’ most adventuresome and lauded restaurants. Inspirato caught up with Appleby (who’s coming back to television this season on both Chicago Fire and Girls) to get the lowdown on where to eat in Vancouver, Chicago, New York, and London.

One Culinary Traveler’s Favorite Restaurants Around the World


The Foundation at 2301 Main Street

This place features light, vegetarian food, with nachos and amazing specials. There was this one dish I’d eat all the time with warm quinoa, tons of different vegetables, and this beautiful peanut sauce that I look for every time I go to a vegetarian restaurant now. It’s a cool, mellow place with graffiti on the walls and live music. For a vegetarian place, it has a real diner feel, with a young, hip crowd.


Publican Quality Meats at 825 W Fulton

When I started acting in Chicago Fire, I became a really big fan of this place, and all of Paul Kahan’s restaurants. Walk downstairs to the bathroom, and you can see the entire freezer with all their meats. The food is delicious: I’m a big fan of farm-to-table food, and I think they do it really well. I usually order a big salad with big chunks of turkey, but their specialty is a sausage-bratwurst creation that’s out of this world. Thanks to Kahan and others, the Chicago food scene is really going off.

New York

Le Parker Meridien at 119 W 56th Street

My favorite hamburger in New York is served at the Le Parker Meridien. You go into a private little room in the back behind a velvet rope and velvet curtain—there’s no sign—and inside is this great little hamburger joint. I like it because they have a thicker patty, super juicy. The whole thing really works together; the fries are cooked but not burnt.

One Culinary Traveler’s Favorite Restaurants Around the World 2


Barrafina at 54 Frith Street

We had a long layover on our way to Italy once, and we made a point of going into the city to eat here. Great tapas, nice wine selection and there are three tables outside that are super-hard to come by, but worth the effort to grab if it’s a nice day. The vibe in there is unpretentious—people will just stand up to eat at the bar rather than wait for a table. It’s that good. They also serve prosciutto, these beautiful shrimps, sliced in half—all made to share, which is how we like to eat.

The Best Drink in the Caribbean by Lachlan Morris

The Best Drink in the Caribbean by Lachlan Morris

The Best Drink in the Caribbean by Cocktail Maestro Lachlan Morris

January 7, 2020

Australian cocktail maestro Lachlan Morris pours the best drink in the Caribbean, and he can prove it. This past spring, the bartender’s drink recipes won a Caribbean-wide cocktail masters competition sponsored by Stolichnaya Vodka, beating out liquor artisans from six other islands, including the well-known tropical drink capitals, Jamaica and beautiful Barbados.

The Best Drink in the Caribbean by Lachlan Morris

Lachlan Morris plies his craft at The Royal Palms restaurant and beach bar, on the white sands of Grand Cayman’s epic Seven Mile Beach, a gig he attributes to luck. “People come and don’t leave [the island],” he explains, “so job turnover is very low.” 

But while working at a cocktail bar in Amsterdam in 2009 after stints in his native Sydney, Vancouver, Scotland, and the Greek isles, he struck up a conversation with a bar manager who was opening the Jet Nightclub on Cayman’s West Bay Road. Morris pounced, happily trading in the dampness of Europe for the tropical Caribbean climate and eventually landing at The Royal Palms.

“It’s a great place to work if you know what you are doing,” Morris says. According to the judges, he certainly does.

Morris’ Award-Winning Pineapple & Coriander Martini

Step One: Muddle in a Boston Glass 5 chunks pineapple, 5 leaves cilantro and 3 grinds of pepper.

Step Two: Add 4 dashes of Fee Brothers grapefruit bitters, 0.75 oz. fresh lime juice, 1 oz. homemade ginger and lime zest syrup, 0.5 oz. Stolichnaya jalapeño vodka, 1.5 oz. Stolichnaya honey vodka, and 0.3 oz. Drambuie.

The Best Drink in the Caribbean by Lachlan Morris

Step Three: Shake all ingredients hard and double strain into a chilled martini glass.

Step Four: Zest an orange skin over drink and around glass for aroma.

Step Five: Garnish with a cilantro leaf floating in drink and 2 grinds of pepper over top.

Now you can serve the award-winning taste of the Caribbean at your next dinner party or enjoy it on your next beach vacation with Lachlan Morris’ Pineapple and Coriander Martini. 

California’s Olive Oil Boom

California's Olive Oil Boom

August 2, 2019

With thousands upon thousands of acres of vineyards producing some of the world’s great wines, it’s no wonder people refer to the northern California destinations of Sonoma and Napa counties as Wine Country. But if current trends continue, by 2025 the region might have a second name: Olive Country. Statistics from the California Olive Oil Council (COOC), which certifies California Extra Virgin Olive Oil (EVOO), indicate that California produces 99 percent of the country’s olive oil with Sonoma and Napa booming with artisan producers. 

The appeal, according to COOC executive director Patricia Darragh, is that “olive trees are more cost-effective than many crops from a farming point of view. They like dry weather and need very little water.” For farmers, this means greater diversification and more crops. For visitors to the area, it means something entirely different: A growing number of olive-oriented luxury experiences to enjoy at more than a half-dozen artisan olive-oil purveyors in the region, providing travelers with ample opportunity to embrace the region’s next big crop.

california olive oil boom luxury travel

California’s Olive Roots Records indicate that Franciscan monks planted the Golden State’s first olive trees at the San Diego Mission in 1769. The same monks took cuttings with them as they moved north; every time they founded another mission (there are 21 in all), more olive trees were planted. Olive cultivation continued in pockets until the latter half of last century, when producers such as Long Meadow Ranch, The Olive Press and McEvoy Ranch in Marin County started bottling the very best oils. The COOC was born in 1992. Several years later, it started a certification program as a way to hold local oils to a higher standard and give consumers the confidence that California oils are what they say they are. (There had been issues with European olive oil producers mislabeling oils in the news.) In addition to testing the oils, producers sign two legally binding documents stipulating that the oil is produced locally. “I’m not aware of other countries that have standards like ours,” Darragh says, explaining that California maintains some of the highest quality standards in the world. 

The Tasting Experience 

There’s nothing particularly graceful about tasting olive oil. Sure, the place settings usually are set with Riedel stemware and Mediterranean-looking ceramic plates. And, yes, most local purveyors usually offer some sort of nibbles. When it’s go-time, however, and your host tells you to throw back that first sip of golden unctuousness, she will instruct you to let the oil run over your lips, feel it coat your tongue and—at the very moment it is about to slip into the back of your mouth—slurp it down. Loudly. There are scientific reasons for this approach; experts say that slurping aerates the oil and therefore gives you more surface area to taste. The same experts partially rate oils by the effect they have on your throat after that—the more you cough, they say, the better the elixir actually is. 

The whole cough scale has to do with chemical compounds called oleocanthols. These compounds are directly related to the pungency of an oil—the more of these compounds that an oil possesses, the more pungent that oil will be. The most pungent oils create the sensation of a spicy kick at the back of your throat—a sensation that can be so intense it prompts a cough (or two, or three). Then, of course, there’s the oil itself. Whereas that other Wine Country product is best when you let it age, olive oil is actually best if you eat it while it’s young, within two years of being pressed. The freshest oil tastes more like a shot of wheatgrass than the oil you’d pour into a frying pan for sautéing mushrooms. According to Vicki Zancanella, a biologist and the tasting-room lead guide at The Olive Press in Sonoma, olive oil oxidizes even more quickly than wine and should be consumed as soon as it’s opened. “We always say that the enemies of a bottle of fresh olive oil are light, heat and air,” she says. “The longer your bottle is open, the more those enemies become a problem.” 

Tasting Sampler

If anybody knows olive oil, it’s Zancanella, the woman behind the tour program at The Olive Press, an award-winning producer that sources its fruit from orchards within a 150- mile radius. Her $5 tour starts at the mill’s Pieralisi equipment that was imported from Italy and walks visitors through the process, from the de-leafer to the hammer mill and on to the centrifuge. For all that, olive oil is a low-yield product; 1,000 pounds of olives result in only 152 pounds of oil. Round Pond Estate’s $45-tour of the orchard located in the Napa Valley town of Rutherford concludes at the renovated tractor shed that serves as the estate’s millhouse. But from there it moves into a stark and modern tasting room, where guests can compare Round Pond’s Italian Varietal EVOO to their Spanish Varietal EVOO, as well as flavored olive oils and a number of other house specialties, including red-wine vinegars and citrus syrups. As part of this tasting, guests are brought heaping portions of food—cheese, vegetables, fruits and even roasted chicken. “We encourage visitors to make salads and try our oils and vinegars on just about everything,” explains Round Pond’s wine and olive oil educator Ann Catterlin. “The crazier the concoctions, the better.

Sampling olive oil at Jordan Winery in Healdsburg in Sonoma is memorable in different ways. All visitors to the winery’s tour and tasting are invited to sample estate oil, blended fresh each year by executive chef Todd Knoll. Those who participate in the $120 estate tour, which includes a ride around the nearly 1,200-acre property, enjoy a food-and-wine pairing featuring their Chardonnay with their estate oil and a sushi-like stone fruit nigiri with tasty vegetable escabeche.

Oil Futures

Other local olive-oil hotspots—including Long Meadow Ranch in St. Helena, DaVero Farms & Winery in Healdsburg and the mom-and-pop-operated Napa Olive Oil Manufacturing Company in St. Helena—enable visitors to get up close and personal with oils as well. Even the Culinary Institute of America at Greystone has an olive oil tasting at its Flavor Bar. Cristopher Hall, executive vice president of Long Meadow Ranch, home to trees planted in the 1800s, said that as people become more interested in the origin of the food they eat, the appetite for artisan products will continue to grow. “My gut tells me that as a product, as an industry, artisan olive oil is about to get huge,” he says. “People want food with a story, a heritage, and olive oil is the perfect answer.”

Sonoma State of Mind

Willow Stream Spa Natural mineral hot springs and a Watsu® pool highlight this award-winning spa, part of the Fairmont Sonoma Mission Inn. Most packages include use of the on-site fitness facilities, as well as access to an exfoliating shower, a therapeutic bath, an herbal steam room and more. CornerStone Gardens Inspired by the International Garden Festival at Chaumontsur-Loire in France, this Sonoma spot celebrates art, architecture and nature with more than 20 gardens by famous artists and designers. Stop by for the shopping, bocce ball, lunch at Park 121 or wine tastings at any of the intimate tasting rooms. Oxbow Market Situated along the Napa River and Napa River Trail, the Oxbow is the epicenter of the valley’s organic and sustainably-produced local produce and artisan foods. Partake by K-J Yes, this Healdsburg hotspot from Kendall-Jackson does tastings, but it’s the menu that keeps locals coming back.

One highlight: red wine french fries, sliced potatoes that are slow poached in Cabernet Sauvignon and then crisped to crunchy perfection. Lagunitas Brewing Company Micro-brewing is an art form at this Petaluma institution, and at the TapRoom and Beer Sanctuary, which is open Wednesday–Sunday, visitors can find some of the most original brews anywhere in America such as a sweet brown sugar ale and a cappuccino stout. Sonoma Golf Club Playing just over 7,100 yards from the championship tees, this course’s classic layout, designed in 1928 by Olympic Club Lake Course architect Sam Whiting, offers strategic choices and challenges that excite golfers today, just as it did when players were carrying wooden clubs more than 75 years ago. Wine Country Polo Held every weekend during the summer on the field in Oakmont, right off Hwy 12. 

Make Yourself at Home

Sonoma Inspirato members can escape to the hills and settle into their own house such as the five-bedroom, 5,000-square-foot Palladian Estate high above the valley or enjoy the sleek and intimate one- to three-bedroom options at the striking Wheelman House in charming, pedestrian-friendly, downtown Healdsburg. Sonoma is home to a mix of eight Inspirato Signature Residences of various sizes and settings that can suit any type of vacation members seek.

List from a Local Travel Advisor

Where to EatIn Sonoma, don’t miss breakfast or lunch at Fremont Diner, the hippest in roadside eateries.
The Day Trip to TakeHead to Dillon Beach and Nick’s Cove, specifically, for their Hog Island oysters. Napa Valley’s Castillo di Amorosa, an authentic recreation of a 13th-century castle set among its namesake vineyard.

America’s Favorite Native Spirit Comes from Kentucky


America's Favorite Native Spirit Comes from Kentucky

July 30, 2019

“This is our country’s native spirit. Everyone in the states can lay claim to that,” says Chea Beckley, when asked about bourbon’s recent surge in popularity, not just in Louisville on Derby weekend, but nationwide. Beckley’s the restaurant manager at Louisville’s Proof on Main, the restaurant tucked into the chic boutique 21c Museum Hotel, where a room Derby weekend is almost as hard to score as a spot in the Churchill Downs starting gate. Craft cocktails, farm-to-table cuisine and contemporary art installations like deer heads in leather masks attract both travelers and hip locals to Proof. Also, it doesn’t hurt to have up to 80 bourbons behind the bar. The number depends on the time of year: Bourbons typically get released in the fall with a smaller release in the spring, and small batches often sell out in between. “Bourbons have also gotten a lot better over the years,” Beckley says.

The craze for a $130 bottle of top-rated Pappy Van Winkle’s Family Reserve 20 Year, distilled by the third and fourth generation of Van Winkles at Buffalo Trace in Frankfort, has encouraged mass distillers to develop small batch, higher-quality bourbons. Typically, local guests at Proof know the bourbon they want, Beckley says. Maker’s Mark with its sweet notes, the smooth balanced Woodford Reserve and the sweet and spicy Johnny Drum are Proof’s best sellers, with Basil Hayden’s (spicy, but not overpowering) also a popular request. If you’re new to the spirit, Beckley suggests sampling a few types by ordering a flight of 10-year-olds. Another way to discover your bourbon of choice, of course, is to hit the Kentucky Bourbon Trail. While there are formally eight distilleries on the official Trail that highlight Kentucky’s liquor heritage, let’s be honest, it’s the craft distillers that create some of the best. With that in mind, we cherry picked the ones to see on the Trail.

Heading South

Heading south from Louisville on I-65, you’ll experience all the charm of an interstate for most of your drive to the Jim Beam American Stillhouse. But almost as soon as you’ve begun to take in the Kentucky countryside after turning off onto KY-245 South, a big white barn with the Jim Beam logo blazoned across is your signal to turn left into the compound. Yes, it’s a massive facility, producing the world’s most popular bourbon, but you’re here to check out Beam’s small-batch Knob Creek, where if you’re lucky, they’ll enlist your help to dump out a barrel or sterilize a bottle in a bourbon wash (cleaning it with water would alter its taste), place it back on the bottling line and then buy that same bottle later after they etch your name on it in appreciation for your help.  

Then you’re back on KY-245 South for another 16 miles of Kentucky countryside before coming into Bardstown. Taking the right onto North Third Street will bring you smack into the brick-laden downtown of Kentucky’s second-oldest town, and a mainstay on many “best small towns in America” lists. Every September, Bardstown hosts the six day Kentucky Bourbon Festival; regardless of what time of year you’re visiting, its restaurants and shops are worth a detour. The casual New American Circa is in the city’s oldest stone house, while Hadorn’s Bakery is the place to go for a quick morning pastry (try their doughnuts).

A 2-mile drive from downtown Bardstown, the Heaven Hill Distilleries Bourbon Heritage Center showcases the country’s largest independent family-owned bourbon producer. The distiller of Evan Williams and Elijah Craig offers a three-hour appointment-only Behind the Scenes Tour that includes barrel filling, dumping, warehousing and bottling operations and bourbon tastings for a full-sensory experience. Head due south on the windy KY-49, passing cows, horses and tobacco barns on the way to the scenic home of Maker’s Mark Distillery. Get out of your car and you’ll notice the smell resembles a bakery. That’s for good reason: Maker’s Mark uses a red winter wheat, which gives it a sweet flavor. “The world’s oldest operating bourbon whiskey distillery” (according to the Guinness Book of Records) is home to America’s only handmade bourbon whiskey, so says Maker’s. And while the fermentation room contains some of the only wooden vats still in use at a bourbon distillery, it’s the gift shop that’s the major attraction: You can dip the top of your own bottle of Maker’s into its iconic red wax sealer. 

Going East

The drive on I-64 from Louisville to the eastern distilleries takes you into the heart of Kentucky’s Bluegrass region. Turn south onto KY-151 for the winding drive to Four Roses, which has one of the more interesting histories of the bourbons. Among America’s top sellers in the 1930s through 1950s, it disappeared from the U.S. market in the 1960s, until a new owner fired up the distillery in 2002. Housed in a historic Spanish Mission-style spread, the bourbon has gone on to become a four-time winner of Whisky Magazine’s Whisky Distiller of the Year—America award.  

Of all the distilleries on this tour, Woodford Reserve best represents Kentucky’s twin passions. It’s the official bourbon of the Kentucky Derby and the facility itself, the self-proclaimed oldest and smallest working distillery, used to stable racehorses. Woodford is also the bourbon used in the $1,000-a-glass mint julep prepared and only sold at the Derby (the ingredients change each year but have included gold-filtered mineral water, Turkish mint grown near the Euphrates and ice from the Arctic Circle). The distillery’s tour features the longest barrel run in the United States, where the barrels travel from the distillery to the warehouse, and the only copper pot stills used in a bourbon distillery, the traditional means for distilling small-batch bourbon. Beyond bourbon, Woodford serves up delicious farm-to-table dishes from April through October when chef-in-residence Ouita Michel, a four-time James Beard Foundation Best Chef: Southeast nominee, prepares her legendary Picnics on the Porch.

Kentucky’s Favorite

When asked where in town to find a bottle of Pappy Van Winkle 20 Year, a near-mythical bourbon that’s aged at least 20 years before bottling and can fetch more than $1,000 a bottle at auction, Louisville’s Chea Beckley answers with, “Chicago.” A fair amount of Louisville restaurants carry it though. Call first; just because it’s on a drink menu doesn’t mean they’ll have a bottle of it on hand, and even if it is in stock, it doesn’t mean the restaurant will sell it to you: The New York Times reported that a Louisville steakhouse refused to dip into its Pappy stash even for the CEO of Buffalo Trace, the distillery where Pappy’s is made.

Its history doesn’t go back quite as far as bourbon, but for 140 years, Louisville has been home to the Kentucky Derby. Other than the horses, locals associate the first Saturday in May with mint juleps, the cocktail made from bourbon, crushed mint leaves, sugar and water. Churchill Downs estimates it sells 120,000 of the cool drinks over Derby weekend.

Louisville Sluggers

If your Derby itinerary is short on time, Louisville offers plenty of bourbontasting distractions that don’t involve travel. The Evan Williams Bourbon Experience located on Whiskey Row honors the man who opened the first commercial distillery in the state. Or spend an evening sampling one of the 50 to 150 bourbons available on the Urban Bourbon Trail. Another option: set up at Proof on Main, located inside 21c Museum Hotel, which doubles as a contemporary art gallery, Proof on Main’s 80-bottle collection of rare and premium hooch from around the country offers drinkers the chance to compare notes and finishes with our selection of Kentucky’s finest bourbon whiskeys (see below).

The Best Pours from the Bluegrass State

Pappy Van Winkle Old Rip Van Winkle Distillery (in collaboration with Buffalo Trace): One sip and you’ll understand the craze for this balanced, wheat bourbon with hints of caramel, vanilla and fruit— and why someone stole 195 bottles of it last fall from the warehouse.

Blanton’s; Buffalo Trace Distillery: The bourbon from Blanton’s Original Single Barrel carries a deep nose of nutmeg, vanilla, honey and caramel. Even better, track down a bottle of Blanton’s Gold Edition for its sharp taste and long finish with hints of toffee and apple, but only sold internationally or in U.S. dutyfree shops. 

Angel’s Envy Cask Strength; Louisville Distilling Co.: Created by Lincoln Henderson, who previously developed Woodford Reserve, among others, Angel’s Envy’s limited Cask Strength release was ranked “best spirit in the world” by Spirit Journal.

Jefferson’s Chef’s Collaboration; Jefferson’s Reserve: While not technically bourbon, this balanced blend of two bourbons with a 14-year-old rye came from a collaboration between Jefferson’s master blender, Trey Zoeller, and Louisville’s 610 Magnolia chef/owner Edward Lee.

Jim Beam Devil’s Cut Straight Bourbon; Jim Beam Distillery: A proprietary process pulls out the rich whiskey trapped inside the barrels’ wood aer they’re emptied, ages it and then blends it with a 6-year-old bourbon to make this new elixir. The result has a full-bodied oak flavor unlike anything else.

Eagle Rare 17 Year old; Buffalo Trace Distillery: Wine Enthusiast rated Eagle Rare 17’s delicate, dry taste and “very long” finish a 96 out of 100. ‘Nuff said.

Why the Rum Brand Created by Van Halen’s Frontman Is Taking Off​

Why the Rum Brand Created by Van Halen's Frontman Is Taking Off

July 26, 2019

The sensory overload you experience in the sugarcane fields of upcountry Maui is about as quintessentially Hawaiian as you can get. From the red dirt road, the seemingly infinite expanse of green leaves undulates across the southwest flank of Mount Haleakala like a green ocean with each tropical breeze. Step out of your idling vehicle, and the woosh of the wind rushing past thousands of stringy fronds envelops your ears, a din that is pleasant in its monotony. Get closer, nip off a piece of stalk, and pop it in your mouth; after a few seconds, the meat—the heart—is so sweet it’s almost tangy, rivaling the juiciest peach you’ve ever had in your life. Believe it or not, this sugarcane field is the studio for Sammy Hagar’s next big hit.

Yes, that Sammy Hagar. The red-haired rocker who became famous for shrieking about his inability to drive 55. The guy who stepped in as lead singer to front Van Halen back in 1985. The same party animal who launched his own tequila label—Cabo Wabo—and within 15 years sold it for almost $100 million. These days, Hagar is all about rum. Not just any rum, mind you—white rum. 

For sipping. Like fine wine. The product, Sammy’s Beach Bar Rum, was launched in November 2011 and has been flying off shelves since early the following year. At $22 per bottle, Sammy’s rum compares favorably with other premium white rums, a position that Steve Kauffman, president of the operation, mostly attributes to the quality of the ingredients and the challenges of running a distillery in Hawaii. But according to Hagar, his rum gives the word spirits a new meaning. “We’ve put together an all-natural product that transports you to Maui every time you taste it,” he says. “Above all else, that’s what makes this rum unique.” 

In many ways, Hagar has worked with spirits for most of his professional life. From the early days as front man for Montrose through the VOA record (the one with “55”) and the Van Halen years, the Red Rocker has made party music—the kind of tracks that go best with a litany of mixed drinks. Even in recent years, when listening to tunes from his current band, Chickenfoot, you want to belly up to a bar and order another round. “He’s selling a lifestyle,” says Kauffman, who worked with Hagar on Cabo Wabo and now serves as president of Sammy’s Beach Bar Rum. “It’s something a lot of people relate to.” For this reason, Hagar’s move in the early 1990s to purchase a cantina in Cabo San Lucas, Mexico, seemed perfectly logical. Later that decade when he launched his own tequila, that made sense as well. Hagar embraced his role as tequila entrepreneur, investing in top-quality materials from the Jalisco region of Mexico and marketing the product whenever he could. Some might even argue that the marketing went a little overboard: He toured with stages built to resemble cantinas and tattooed the Cabo Wabo logo on his arm. 

In 2007, Hagar sold 80 percent of the tequila to Italian spirits company Gruppo Campari for $80 million (a later deal for the remaining 20 percent eventually pushed the total to almost $100 million). But after completing the deal in 2010, he realized that he missed the spirits business and started looking to dive back in. He was vacationing on Maui at the time—crashing with his wife and kids at their home on the island, when a friend suggested that he try Pau Maui Vodka, which was made in an old pineapple processing facility outside the cowboy town of Makawao on the island. The friend introduced Hagar to the distiller, a Colorado Springs, Colo. native named Mark Nigbur. In addition to looking like long lost twins—both have long, scraggly hair—the two men hit it off instantly. “I tasted the vodka, I loved it, and then I asked him, ‘You’re sitting here, surrounded by sugarcane, so why aren’t you making rum?’” Hagar remembers. Nigbur answered: “You want me to make you some rum?” A partnership was born. 

The duo got to work immediately, collaborating together for months and producing about 50 different flavor profiles. By the summer of 2011 they found the one they liked, and by the end of the year, Hagar unveiled Sammy’s Beach Bar Rum at his Beach Bar & Grill restaurant in Maui. Legend has it that making rum on the islands dates back roughly 200 years to the time of King Kamehameha I, who formally established the Hawaiian Kingdom in 1810. Sugarcane had grown across the South Pacific for centuries; the stalks thrive in the volcanic soils and relentless tropical sun. In the early 1800s, after a sea captain reportedly introduced Kamehameha to the process through which Hawaiians could distill this crop into rum, the monarch was hooked. 

According to news reports, a historical survey commissioned by two spirits entrepreneurs within the last decade showed that the high chief had stills erected around the islands and supplying a steady production of rum until Kamehameha died in 1819. Since then, at least on Maui, efforts to mass-produce the spirit have been a tough slog. (Seagram’s, for instance, built a distillery at Puunene, between Kahului and Wailea, in the 1960s, but it did not succeed.) Until now, rum production had focused on craft distilleries, and in the last 10 years, a number of small batch producers have come and gone. But Sammy’s Beach Bar Rum offers something completely different. It has bold flavors, an earthy tone, and maybe even a hint of terroir, a word more commonly associated with wine or Scotch to describe its region of origin. A number of factors create these distinctions. No. 1 on the list: ingredients. Nigbur, who is technically a master distiller, says almost everything that goes into Hagar’s new product comes from Hawaii. The water is filtered rainwater from local freshwater streams. The cane is some of the oldest and most complex sugar anywhere on Earth. “Sugarcane grows on Maui for two years,” Nigbur says. “I’m not sure any other place leaves their cane in the ground that long.” 

Then comes Nigbur’s unique distillation process. Unlike most stills, which are copper and heated at the bottom, Nigbur’s proprietary vessels are made of stainless steel, and have their heating elements built into the sides of the tanks. Because of this unusual design, heat comes into direct contact with the rum, causing a hint of carmelization, or “crème brulée-ification,” as Nigbur calls it, over the course of the distillation process. At this point, Nigbur runs it through a special carbon filter he designed to remove impurities but leave the flavor.

Though Nigbur oversees the day-to-day distillation process in Makawao, Hagar remains intimately involved. When he’s visiting his home in Maui, he heads to the distillery, sampling the rum at various stages, and offering Nigbur tasting notes and other operational suggestions. Nothing escapes Hagar’s touch, including labels and store displays. Kauffman, the company president, says this hands-on approach is how Hagar lives his life. “One thing I’ve learned about Sammy is this: The guy throws himself completely into everything he does,” he says. “It’s true for his music. It was true for the tequila. And it’s true now with the rum.” That Hagar cares about every detail hasn’t escaped the spirits industry’s notice. According to Paul Clarke, a spirits expert and contributing editor at Imbibe, Hagar’s involvement with Cabo Wabo solidified him as a top brand ambassador—a guy whose name alone usually clinches a sale. “Most of the time, when celebrities put their name on product, it has no bearing whatsoever on quality and, in fact, usually implies a shoddy grab-the-cash-and-run sort of deal,” says Clarke, who is based in Seattle. “But [Hagar], with his tequila, totally nailed it the first time, and I think that’s made people trust him and his brands.” Not that the product has needed much of a marketing boost. 

In less than one year since the bottles hit shelves, Sammy’s Beach Bar Rum has collected a number of top industry accolades, including a gold medal at the 2013 Los Angeles International Spirits Competition in May. Earlier this year, the rum also received a score of 94 (out of 100) from The Tasting Panel; the highest score the publication has ever awarded to white rum. The rum also plays a part in Hagar’s efforts to give back to the Maui community. Through the Hagar Family Foundation he’s given more than $1 million to local charities.


With production on Maui humming along (at last check it was at 1,000 cases per month) and distribution of the flagship product in all 50 states, Hagar and his team already have set their sights on expanding the brand and making the operation more accessible to the general public. First up is a new rum that captures a different essence of Hawaii: macadamia nuts. Nigbur takes the base rum, infuses it with Hawaiian macadamias, and then adds a organic red dye. The result is a rum that works best as a floater on the top of a Mai Tai. That—and the fact that Hagar fans call themselves “Redheads”—is how the product got its name: Sammy’s Beach Bar Rum Red Head Topper. “There are so many flavors on Maui that you really can’t find anywhere else,” says Nigbur. “When you consider how easy it is to infuse rum with some of these flavors, there are literally dozens of things we can do down the road.” Hagar admits there are other products in the pipeline, including barrel-aged rums akin to reposado and añejo iterations of tequila. When pressed for specifics, he demurs. Instead, he prefers to croon about plans for a new tasting room at the facility near Makawao.

Currently, when visitors want a closer look at the inner workings of Sammy’s Beach Bar Rum, due to state liquor laws all they can get is a scheduled tour. By the end of this year, however, the company will roll out a public-facing education center that offers a history of the area, a step-by-step look at how the rum is made, and an up-close-and personal experience with the cane fields just outside the front door. After receiving approval from local authorities, the new facility also will include a tasting bar where visitors can sample some of the rum first-hand. “It’s hard not to get excited about this stuff on Maui,” says Hagar. “Everywhere you look, the cane is around you. It’s part of the experience. We’re using the best sugarcane in the world. You can taste it every time you make a drink.”

Sammy’s Maui Hideaways

Mama’s Fish House: “The ambiance and the view at this restaurant [in Paia] are just unbeatable. The place is right on the beach, so after dinner you can walk out and look at the waves. The food isn’t the greatest, but it’s not terrible, either. There’s lots of fresh fish. I’m a big fan of wahoo, so when they have it, I get that. I just get it grilled; I don’t want anything on it. I also like the Beef Polynesian—it’s basically steak served in a papaya. On the islands, you can’t do any better than that.” 

Hana: “This town is so special, there’s just nothing like it on Earth anymore. It’s rustic. It’s untouched. Everybody talks about the Hana Highway, but the drive around the backside of the island to get there is amazing, too. Do the loop and you’ll see 1,000 of the greatest views Hawaii has to offer.” 

Makena Landing Beach Park: “Locals love the beaches near Wailea, but most of them go to Big Beach and Little Beach in Makena. We prefer this one, just beyond the Fairmont Kea Lani. There’s a nice shelter for picnics, and it’s family-friendly—hardly ever crowded.”

Makawao Rodeo: “If you’re a horse person, don’t miss the Makawao Rodeo, which they hold [in Makawao, an upcountry village,] July 4 every year. It has cowboys and horses and all that, but they also have a parade with traditional costumes and all sorts of booths with food like deep-fried Twinkies.”

Why Tequila Is Your New Favorite Spirit

Why Tequila Is Your New Favorite Spirit

July 24, 2019

A vintage jukebox stands against the wall in La Capilla, the oldest bar in the magical city of Tequila, Jalisco, Mexico, the birthplace of tequila and a city named a World Heritage Site by UNESCO in 2006. An American tourist drops his coins and makes his selection—a classic by famed mariachi singer Javier Solis. Above the strains of Solis’s recording of “Sombras Nada Mas,” Don Javier Delgado Corona, the white-haired proprietor of La Capilla, smiles broadly as he prepares a fresh batch of his signature cocktail, the Batanga, which he first concocted in the early 1960s.

The corner bar is modest, decorated mostly with black-and-white photos of famous celebrities, paintings of beautiful women, mismatched bar stools and a careful selection of tequilas from the region, most from tequileros (tequila producers) and their families whom Don Javier has known personally for decades. Meanwhile, on a drizzly February afternoon in the heart of downtown Santa Monica, Calif., Marco Antonio Ramos Monterrubio, the dapper and energetic manager of Mercado tequila bar, and head mixologist Gilbert Marquez discuss their next tequila acquisitions for a new cocktail menu.

Arranged fresh-cut flowers and flatware are already placed on long, wooden, communal tables, where strangers—sitting elbow-to-elbow on bustling evenings—become quick friends over a few rounds. Mercado, recently voted Best New Restaurant of 2013 by Los Angeles Magazine, has rapidly become a go-to destination to try the latest in tequila trends and cocktails. While on the surface its atmosphere is far removed from that of cantinas like La Capilla, its tequila philosophy is strikingly similar at its core in terms of tradition and quality.


Know Your Tequila Styles 

Unaged tequila usually bottled straight from the still. Flavors and scents range from floral and spices to fruits and herbs. Baked and raw agave flavors, along with a hint of smoke, are a plus. 

Reposadao: Typically aged between two and 11 months. Flavors and scents include whiskey, oak, toasted almonds, nuts, vanilla and honey. 
Anejo: Must be aged in wooden barrels between one and three years. Flavors and scents are never-ending: nuts, whiskey, oak, Cognac, bourbon, vanilla, cinnamon, chocolate, coffee and slight agave.  
Extra Anejo: These gems are aged for three or more years and/or blended. Flavors and scents are dessert-like: rich vanilla, dark chocolate, raisins, dried cherries, sherry, coffee, plus smoke, leather and tobacco.

Demand on the Rise

There are 1,300 brands of tequila in production worldwide, of which more than 1,000 are exported to the United States. In 2011 alone, 12 million cases of tequila were sold in the States. Americans, it seems, can’t get enough of Mexico’s native spirit. One of the keys to tequila’s recent popularity has been the distillers’ ability to offer a tequila for every budget and occasion. According to the latest statistics from the Distilled Spirits Council of the United States (DISCUS), the largest growth has been in the High End Premium and Super Premium segments of the market, both of which are composed of 100 percent blue agave tequilas, as opposed to mixto tequilas made from a combination of at least 51 percent blue weber agave and 49 percent “other sugars.” While the mixto market still pays the bills for most of the mass-produced brands, it’s the 100 percent agave tequilas that discerning drinkers love.

Evolving Tastes

“Jose Cuervo was founded in 1795, and Mexico’s independence was in 1810. That’s how far back tequila goes,” explains Monterrubio. “Jose Cuervo, the man, was a good man. It’s not his fault that you met him during your college years with a really bad product.” Thankfully, choking down tequila shots with lime and salt is a thing of the past. Pure agave tequilas have enjoyed an astonishing renaissance in the past decade as American consumers have become much more interested in and savvy about the product. They’re seeking education through tequila tastings at restaurants such as Mercado— which pairs tequilas with its specialty menu items—and by attending popular tequila events around the country. It also helps that the art and science of mixology has evolved beyond a few standard tequila cocktails thanks to creative bartenders who are reshaping the spirits industry in the U.S. “When people start to learn about tequila, they have to go through cocktails first,” explains Marquez. “They first order a margarita and then start easing their way into tequila.”

Tequila Trends

Quenching America’s substantial thirst is an ongoing challenge for the tequila industry, since the spirit is arguably the most highly regulated in the world. Global demand from countries such as Brazil, Russia, India and China is also on the rise. Major producers like Casa Herradura, Sauza and Jose Cuervo have adopted more modern techniques and equipment within industry guidelines to make the tequila making process more efficient and to help keep up with the demand. 

A diffuser, for instance, is a machine used to chop raw agave much more thoroughly than a traditional shredder would after the plants have been harvested and shaved of their spiky leaves, called pencas. Many large producers also bake the agave in giant autoclaves rather than in traditional stone ovens, and they over-distill the post-fermented juice more than the lawfully required two times in order to achieve a smoother-tasting product. These steps may lead to more efficient and profitable production methods, but the resulting tequila is often stripped of much of its character. And while it may be tempting for smaller brands to employ such time-saving methods to keep pace with growing demand, the quality of the product is paramount, says Ken Austin, founder and chairman of Avión Spirits. The company launched its Avión Tequilas three years ago and has enjoyed rapid growth ever since. “The key is, as you get bigger, you have to stay true to the principles that made you successful in the first place,” Austin says. “We will never shortcut our brand or our customers.”


The New Old School

The influx of more 100 percent agave tequila brands has bolstered the small- to medium-sized producers. These newer brands tend to be small-batched, micro-distilled, handcrafted and are more representative of old-school tequila in terms of style and production methods. And, as Don Javier at La Capilla knows, the age-old art of relationship building between tequila producers and their clientele still helps the best products rise to the top. Mercado’s Monterrubio, for example, is certified as a catador, or tequila taster, from the Mexican Tequila Academy, one of only two such schools in existence. He knows his tequilas and maintains a personal connection with the brand owners he decides to carry at Mercado. 

For Monterrubio, there are three main considerations when he’s evaluating a tequila: It has to taste good first and foremost, and it should also be handmade and of very high quality. He also appreciates if the brand has some history behind it—say if the same family has been making this same tequila for hundreds of years—or, in the case of new makers, if they’re innovating within tradition. Whether you visit a historic tequila bar like La Capilla or frequent a modern gem like Mercado, your experience is guaranteed to be memorable thanks to tequila’s proven versatility and the creativity and quality of the burgeoning handcrafted category.

Straight from the Source

Tequila has an appellation of origin like Champagne or Cognac. One hundred percent agave tequila must be grown, distilled and bottled in the Mexican states of Narayit, Michoacán, Tamaulipas, Guanajuato and Jalisco. Blue weber agave, tequila’s primary material, is a plant related to the lily family and may take up to six to eight years to mature. Jalisco, where the majority of tequila is produced, has both highlands and lowlands just like Scotland, where whiskey (Scotch) is produced. There are several different microclimates in between, but as a general rule highlands blue agave produces sweeter and smoother-tasting tequilas, with definite floral and citrus notes, while lowlands blue agave produces robust and spicy tequilas with more earthy tones. 

Mescal, tequila’s cousin, is produced from several types of maguey (agave), most notably espadín, tobalá and arroquense. These, too, may take up to eight years to mature. Like tequila, mescal is also protected by an appellation of origin and must be grown, distilled and bottled in the Mexican states of Durango, Guanajuato, Guerrero, Oaxaca, San Luis Potosí, Tamaulipas and Zacatecas. Due to its production process, in which the harvested core of the maguey is roasted underground in fire pits for several hours, mescal acquires a very distinct smoky flavor and aroma. 

Four Brands at the Forefront of Small-Batch

Tequila Fortaleza:brand owned by fifthgeneration tequilero Guillermo Erickson Sauza, still produces its tequila at the last remaining distillery owned by the celebrated Sauza family. A working museum, it uses a tahona, or stone-mill wheel, to crush the agave before it’s fermented and distilled, imparting a distinctive flavor that is unmistakable. 
Tapatio: has been a favored brand in Mexico for years and launched in the U.S. in 2012. Manufactured at La Alteña distillery, considered one of the most important tequila factories in the industry, the brand is known for its fearless approach. So daring, in fact, that a 110-proof version will be available soon. 
Tequila Ocho: Owned by the UK’s official tequila ambassador, American Tom (Tomás) Estes, is one of only a handful of brands that insist on using single-estate agave. It’s fermented, distilled and bottled as a vintage with the name of the estate from which the agave was harvested on the label. 
Alquimia: is a member of an elite group of certified organic tequilas. Owner Dr. Adolfo Murillo harvests blue agave from his family farm using sustainable organic growing protocols. 

Explore Napa Valley’s Wine Excellence


Explore Napa Valley's Wine Excellence

July 24, 2019

Few images of wine country are as iconic as the white water tower and solitary silver oak rising from the vineyard floor. The image has graced the label of every Cabernet Sauvignon bottle from Napa Valley’s fabled Silver Oak Cellars winery since its inaugural vintage, and is representative of the winery’s singular focus. “Do one thing, and do it well,” says CEO and President David Duncan of Silver Oak’s guiding philosophy. Silver Oak produces only two wines: Cabernet Sauvignon from Napa Valley and Cabernet Sauvignon from the Alexander Valley. Both are aged for about two years exclusively in American oak, and both enjoy cult status among connoisseurs and collectors, which is no small feat in a region that produces some of the world’s most elegant and sought-after Cabernet Sauvignons.

While Silver Oak has built its considerable reputation on producing Cabernet Sauvignon exclusively, its younger sister winery, Twomey, is more experimental and specializes in modern interpretations of Old World wine across a variety of styles, starting with Pomerol style Merlot with a New World sensibility. “It’s a perfect complement for the ethos of Silver Oak,” says David, whose father, Ray Duncan, founded Silver Oak in the early 1970s. Silver Oak releases its wines four and a half years after harvest, and although these wines are ready to drink, they’re also capable of aging another 15 years.

This steadfast schedule doesn’t allow time to adjust to current winemaking trends, and its unwavering approach has created the legend that is Silver Oak. “‘Trust’ is a favorite word we hear from customers,” David says. “Instead of trying to change according to critics’ palates, we keep putting out wine that is drinkable.”  

Twomey shares that dedication to releasing drinkable wines that also pair well with food, but produces a variety of styles that allow Twomey to utilize and fine-tune winemaking techniques that are best suited to each specific varietal. In addition to Merlot, Twomey also produces appellation and estate Pinot Noirs and an estate Sauvignon Blanc. “My brother, Tim, is a Burgundy lover, so he is a big influence with our Pinot Noir, and the women in the family all like white wine, so we added Sauvignon Blanc to the lineup,” David says. It’s fair to say that, as different as they are, both wineries are still very much in the same family. 

Raymond Twomey Duncan, an entrepreneur from Denver, co-founded Silver Oak winery with Christian Brothers enologist Justin Meyer in 1972. Their singular goal was to produce a world-class Cabernet; it’s what David refers to as his father’s “Cab is king” mentality. Producing just one wine was seen as renegade and risky, which is something of a Duncan family hallmark. Additionally, Meyer insisted on holding the wines to age until they were ready to drink—at the time an unorthodox practice in California—believing that the tannins needed time to mellow and driven by the desire to make an approachable wine that’s drinkable on release.  

By the mid-’80s, the highly allocated wine was in such fierce demand that hundreds of customers would line up outside the winery and spend the night before the annual release date. Duncan jokes, “They’re still lining up, but we don’t let people spend the night anymore.” “Silver Oak is a phenomenal success story,” says Ian Blackburn, founder of Learn About Wine in Los Angeles. “It’s a paramount brand that has been unwavering in its approach to the market. They did it their way— making Cabernet in what has now become a Cabernet state. Many Napa wineries started lining up their release dates around Silver Oak’s. It’s as if Silver Oak had the crystal ball.” Indeed it’s a legacy that seems almost charmed.

“I got a call from my dad,” says David Duncan, who was then heading up Duncan Oil in Denver. Within hours, David and his wife, Kary, who was serving as assistant chief of medicine at the University of Colorado, made the decision to pack up their life in Denver and make the move to Napa Valley. But David’s move to Napa wasn’t the only change for the Duncan family, which was finally expanding its sights beyond Cabernet Sauvignon. The previous year, in 1999, Ray Duncan had bought the Soda Canyon Ranch, mainly for the Cabernet, but “our winemaker, Daniel [Baron], got very excited about the French clones of Merlot in the vineyard,” says David Duncan. “So we decided to make a single-vineyard Merlot. Because Silver Oak was to remain strictly focused on Cabernet, the Duncans named the new Merlot winery Twomey, Ray’s mother’s maiden name.

 The partnership between Duncan and Meyer still existed at Silver Oak; however, Twomey was founded as a Duncan family venture. “With Twomey, the Duncans decided to plant a stick in the ground with Merlot,” says Blackburn. “That’s a powerful move from a label that is synonymous with Cabernet.” Like his father, David is a renegade—perhaps something he picked up during all those summers working on a cattle ranch in Colorado as a teenager. When he wants something, he goes after it. His commitment to making world-class Merlot at Twomey continues with the recent appointment of winemaker Jean-Claude Berrouet of Château Pétrus fame as a consultant to Twomey’s winemaking team. If you want to make the best Merlot in the New World, you hire the guy making the best Merlot in the world.  

“Much of my style of winemaking is based on [Berrouet’s] aesthetic,” says Baron. “In fact, I often credit my time with him [at Pétrus and Dominus] as one of the inspirations that led to Twomey Cellars. JeanClaude knows how to combine subtlety, intensity and balance in a wine, and his joy of living comes through in every glass.” Today, Silver Oak’s landmark wooden water tower and headquarters in Oakville—constructed from hand-quarried limestone reclaimed from a 19th-century cooperage—stand in stark contrast to Twomey’s sleek tasting room in nearby Healdsburg; the different styles make an apt metaphor for the two wineries’ distinct identities. As different as the two wineries may appear, however, they’re united by the family’s singular vision and unwavering pursuit of excellence. “Our model is focus,” David says. And whether it’s Silver Oak’s dedication to perfecting a single varietal based on 40 years of experience or Twomey’s more varied and experimental approach, their shared vision remains clear. 

3 Must-Try Iconic Dishes from Around the World

3 Must-Try Iconic Dishes from Around the World

July 23, 2019

One of the most exciting parts of traveling is trying the local cuisines. The availability of herbs, spices, proteins and grains varies greatly from country to country, so local dishes are an ode to tradition in every way. If you find yourself in the following parts of the world, be sure to try these three iconic dishes.

Bouillabaisse in Marseille, France 

How to make the authentic bouillabaisse is always a subject of lively discussion among French experts,” wrote Julia Child in The French Chef Cookbook. “Each always insists that his own is the only correct version.” In fact, the ingredients and methods used for preparing, plating, serving and eating this iconic seafood stew are so passionately debated that in 1980, 11 restaurants in Marseille signed an official Charter of Bouillabaisse dictating what kind of fish could be used to make a truly authentic rendition. 

What began as a humble fisherman’s stew has been elevated to one of the great dishes of the world. Traditional bouillabaisse includes a variety of Mediterranean fish such as breams, gurnards, mullets, sea eels, weavers, wrasses and rockfish, some of which are to eat and others to disintegrate into the broth. Typically, fish are served on a platter and the broth—a rich mixture of tomato, garlic, saffron, olive oil and potato—in a tureen lined with toasted bread. Broth is then spooned from the tureen into large soup plates or bowls and topped with the fish. Diners use large spoons and forks until just the remnants are left, which can be scooped up with crusty baguettes slathered with rouille—a thick chili-spiked sauce made with breadcrumbs, garlic and olive oil. But not all bouillabaisse is created equal, and there are plenty of restaurants peddling subpar versions to tourists. 

This is a dish on which it pays to spend more, which considering how much fresh seafood is involved, should cost upwards of €40. While bouillabaisse remains one of the most beloved dishes of the Mediterranean, several Marseille chefs are putting a fresh spin on the classic. Apparently the statute of limitations on the charter has run out. At Le Pétit Nice, Gérald Passédat serves a deconstructed version called “Bouille Abaisse” that dramatically arrives as a tower of dishes, while at Une Table au Sud the dish is reimagined as a frothy milk shake with delicate layers of mousse, fish and potatoes.

Where to Find It

-Calypso Restaurant: Bouillabaisse is prepared and served according to the traditional methods established in the official Charter of Bouillabaisse. The separate components—fish, broth and toasted bread—are plated tableside.
-L’epuisette: The Michelin-starred chef Guillaume Sorrieu serves a modern interpretation of “Fisherman’s Bouillabaisse” that is as memorable as the view. 
-Chez FonFon: Grab a window seat at this old-school favorite, perched along the picturesque port of Vallon des Auffes, overlooking the fishing boats that supply the daily catch. 
-Le Petit Nice: This opulent presentation of the region’s most beloved dish from Provence’s only three-star Michelin chef is enjoyed as part of a bouillabaisse tasting menu.  
-Le Miramar: It’s a good idea to order your bouillabaisse in advance when booking your table at this renowned restaurant in the heart of the Old Port. 
-Une Table Au Sud: At this modern one-star Michelin restaurant, chef Lionel Lévy serves a clever and nuanced take on bouillabaisse.

Fried Chicken in America’s Deep South

There might be nothing more American than apple pie, except perhaps fried chicken. Brought to the U.S. by Scottish immigrants and cooked in kitchens by African slaves in the Deep South, fried chicken started as a Southern staple but quickly became a national treasure. At its golden crispy best, fried chicken can trigger an emotional response. “Fried chicken is one of those things that people have certain reference points from their childhood,” says Jeff Cerciello, chef-owner of Farmshop in Brentwood, Calif. “Mine was the KFC that my parents got once a week for dinner. I grew up in the time of fast food restaurants. But tasting fried chicken in the Deep South, you really appreciate what fried chicken is. You learn an appreciation for these humble, simple foods.”

Fried Chicken

National institutions like The Loveless Cafe in Nashville, Mama Dip’s in Chapel Hill, and Roscoe’s House of Chicken & Waffles in Los Angeles have been setting the standard for decades with their crispy, salty, authentic fried chicken. There are few foods more pure in their perfection, so it’s little surprise that the dish has been exalted at some of the top tables around the country. At Thomas Keller’s Ad Hoc in Napa Valley, where Cerciello first experimented with fried chicken, Keller soaks the chicken in a lemony brine before coating it in a buttermilk batter and deep-frying it. At Pies ‘n’ Thighs in Brooklyn, N.Y., cayenne and black pepper find their way into the batter, while jalapeño adds kick to the marinade at Max’s Wine Dive in Austin, Texas. 

“Starting with organic chicken is paramount,” says Cerciello. “We brine ours for 12 hours and then air dry it for a day to help dry out the skin, and then there’s the breading procedure, where the creativity comes in. We play with flour mixtures of whatever it is we are serving the chicken with. This time of year it’s citrus, maybe fennel seed in the batter; sometimes we’ll do dishes with eastern Mediterranean spices, sumac and thyme; sometimes we’ll do a lot of rosemary, a lot of herbs. But we try not to overthink it.” 

Where to Find It

-Birch & Barley: Chef Kyle Bailey goes haute serving Belgian waffles with his fried chicken in this classic brunch favorite.
-FarmshopChef Jeff Cerciello’s Sunday night fried chicken dinners are among the hottest gets in a town where every calorie counts.  
-Max’s Wine Dive: Fried chicken gets the Tex Mex treatment by soaking the pieces in a jalapeño buttermilk marinade before deep-frying to crispy perfection and serving with a glass of bubbly.  
-Pies ‘N’ Thighs: This Williamsburg spot is a favorite for its fried chicken seasoned with black pepper, cayenne and paprika.
-Restaurant Eugene: Esquire magazine voted Eugene’s fried chicken the best in the country. Chef Linton Hopkins serves it on Sunday nights with seasonal side dishes.

copenhagen denmark

Ebelskivers in Copenhagen, Denmark

Ebelskivers may be one of the few Danish foods that Americans can name thanks to the intriguing dimpled pans that beckon from the pages of the WilliamsSonoma catalog. In Denmark, they are traditionally served around Christmas with gløgg, Scandinavian mulled wine. The name ebelskiver, which translates to apple slice, refers to this simple, traditional Danish pancake ball that is often baked with apple inside. Sweet or savory, other popular fillings include jam, cheese, ham and even smoked fish. While purists would perish the thought of indulging in these ubiquitous holiday treats anytime outside of December, ebelskivers are having a moment, popping up year-round in surprisingly sophisticated incarnations including on the menu of the world’s best restaurant (as named by Restaurant magazine) Noma in Copenhagen.

“I always knew [ebelskivers] as those weird doughnuts you got in Solvang; the pans as the oddest item in the Williams-Sonoma catalog,” says Jonathan Gold, the Pulitzer Prize–winning restaurant critic for the Los Angeles Times. “But the ebelskivers at Noma were pretty swell: round, savory cakes, fresh from the pan, served with half a smoked fish sticking out from either side—it looked as if the herring extended all the way through.” Noma Executive Chef René Redzepi has also been known to serve a sea salt bone marrow version. Also giving ebelskivers the New Nordic treatment is Chef Thomas Herman, who, as the chef at Hotel Nimb until February, served eel-filled ebelskivers in a bisque of Jerusalem artichoke.

Where to Find It

-Acme: Acme is a modern bistro helmed by Chef Mads Refslund, who blends New Nordic cuisine with New American seasonal fare.
-Domku Bar & Café: Kera Carpenter has been serving ebelskivers year-round at her popular neighborhood cafe since she opened in 2005.
-Henry Public: At this Brooklyn saloon, ebelskivers are called Wilkinsons— after consulting chef (and former “Top Chef” culinary producer) Shannon Wilkinson—and are served with a rumcaramel dipping sauce.
-Malerklemmen: Restaurant Serving ebelskivers year-round, this charming, thatched-roof restaurant is about 20 miles from Copenhagen.
-Noma: At what is considered the best restaurant in the world, René Redzepi serves a haute rendition speared with a smoked fish.