Sunday, February 28, 2010

Wine Jeopardy 4 live feed on!

I'm hosting the 4th Annual Wine Jeopardy Trivia Challenge (for the wine trade) this evening, and will be broadcasting live at 5pm with Here's the link:

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Taking it to the Next Level

This past month has been a big one for USWI, because we've brought on new staff and are looking--and operating--more like a proper company!

Taking it from the top (geographically speaking), Tim Tebeau is the new face of USWI in the Traverse City/Petosky area down to Grand Rapids. Coming to us most recently from his family's shop in Charlevoix, Esperance, Tim brings a diverse wine background, from restaurants, to retail, to wholesale distribution.

Covering mid-Michigan, Joel Lichty, of East Lansing, is another dynamic "wine guy," having owned his own wine specialty shop called Veritas in E. Lansing, and having wholesale experience as well. He'll be handling his hometown as well as Jackson and Kalamazoo.

When it comes to racking up the miles on the road, Mary Beth Bullock is going to hard to beat, as she's the backbone of our delivery service, making sure our wines reach the right folks, from Saginaw to Grand Rapids, Detroit to Traverse City. And, as the warehouse manager, she keeps us up-to-date on inventory levels, handles receiving of new wines, and keeps the warehouse looking good!

I'm proud to say that we've got a pretty strong team in place, and for Fall '09 and we look forward to better serving our existing clients and introducing our portfolio in some new locations as well.

I'll be posting on new wine arrivals soon.

Be well!


Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Summer Tour highlights

It has already been a couple of weeks since we returned from our first "company vacation," a trip that revolved around the wedding of Gaia Bucciarelli, the owner/winemaker of Santa Giustina wines.

We spent the first day and night in Milano, and had dinner with our Franciacorta producer, Tiziano, of Brutell. Essentially a garage-sized outfit located in the commune of Adro, Tiziano nonetheless shows king-sized graciousness, and treated us to an amazing dinner along with his exceptional sparkling wines. A magnum of '99 vintage Brut left no doubt of the nobility of Franciacorta.

The next day, it was off to the Piacenza area for the main event, Gaia's wedding. We
arrived in time for a typically leisurely and immensely filling lunch at the fantastic Ost'arcello osteria in Arcello. The fresh nettle ravioli were unspeakably delicious, and perfect with Santa Giustina Bonarda Vivace, a local specialty, sparkling red. Santa Giustina winery takes it's name from the 10th century chapel on the estate, and it was in this historic building that Gaia and Oleg were married, with about 400 of their closest friends!

Tiny as the chapel is, most of us watched the service via monitors outside the building, and then we retired to the renovated, former stable building for a multicourse dinner that would have been more expected of a Michelin starred restaurant than a banquet. Fantastic.

After plenty of dancing and lots of great wine, we found our way back to the B&B Podere Terra Vera at 4am! Departure was set for 8am, just four hours can imagine the pain.

Our next destination was a visit with Lunadoro winery in the Tuscan, Montepulciano zone. Owners Dario and Gigliola put us up in their lovely agriturismo, where we lounged by the pool, and ate exceedingly well from Gigliola's kitchen.

Hearty Tuscan classics, rooted in her families long Montepulciano heritage included roasted ribs, homemade picci pasta, and Dario's unbelievably delicious homemade salamis. Between the vineyards and the extensive farm fields (grain, clover, etc.), I'm not sure how these two manage to muster such amazing hospitality, but I'm thankful for it...despite the additional 6lbs I put on in those two days!

An afternoon in Roma allowed us to do some walking, a little shopping, and take in a comparatively lighter meal: pizza and salad. We missed Benedict's papal address because we were back in the van and on the road to Abruzzo.

Roseto degli Abruzzi was a delight, were we dined with the aristocratic Savini family, swam in the Adriatic, and lounged on the beach.
Winery and vineyard tours the next day
introduced us to Savini's new Pinot Grigio, a real rarity in those parts, and an extra dry Prosecco made by winemaker Ottavio in the Veneto. These were must-buys, and will arrive here with amazing value. It was all going just, well, swimmingly, until our final night, when Team U.S. Wine Imports was due to take to the soccer pitch against Team Savini.

I would have said that both Jon and I are pretty youthful for being (more or less) 40, but believe me, when you're chasing a 16 year old around a soccer field, one's age has new significance! Yes, Savini pulled a fast one, and fielded a decades younger squad, one immune to fatigue and pain. Maybe it was payback for the great wine prices.

We said thank you and goodbye to the Savini family over an extravagant seafood dinner after cocktails at their gorgeous, historic, family summer house just off the beach in Roseto. The freshness of the seafood, with their marvelous Pecorino wine, was a stunning cap to the visit.

As we sat on the plane heading back to Detroit, pants a little too snug around the waist from a week of indulgence, I thought about how easily and impressively hospitality comes to the Italians, in a way that we, as Americans, can
never muster, no matter the expenditure. A lot of it has to do with how Italian's allocate time to food and socializing, and much to the gravity history gives to their surroundings. Their fierce pride in local wines, foods an
d customs means that every occasion is an expression of who they are and what they cherish, a kind of dialogue that we just don't have the opportunity to have here in America.

Monday, April 27, 2009

Back in Stock: great new vintages on Pasolini CCR "Sicelle" and Rubini Friulano

Just arrived at the end of last week, the new '08 vintage of Villa Rubini Friulano and the '04 vintage Pasolini dall' Onda Chianti Classico Riserva "Sicelle".

Both were very good vintages in their respective regions generally, but let me give a brief tasting impression here.

The '08 Rubini Friulano is just a baby, and it shows.  It's focused and urgent on the palate, with not as much detailing--at this point--as it's predecessor ('07), but will surely get there, and quickly, if the gorgeous, open aromatics are any indication.  The fruit is ripe and crisp, with the characteristic mineral core that gives this wine such range and appeal.  This is ready to roll out for the summer weather, and will reward some aging... if it doesn't all get drunk!

Pasolini dall' Onda gave us a bit of a surprise with their last-minute pullout from Vinitaly this year due to some family turmoil, but the '04 Chianti Classico Riserva from the Sicelle vineyard arrived to us safe and sound as scheduled.  Apparently winery staff are still on their game, although I suspect we're on the verge of one of the typical, European familial succession schisms.

The good news is that Sicelle is better than ever!  Whereas '03 was touch soft, this vintage brings the same sweet, ripe berry but with a firmer, more savory core and a little more raciness.  It's a great combination, giving freshness and richness together, ergo it remains (in my not-so-humble-opinion) probably the best value CCR available in the state today.

In other news, we're expecting the next container loaded with new goodies, to be arriving the first week of June, and we'll be in touch shortly to announce an arrival tasting.

It's going to be a great summer for wine.  Drink well!

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Vinitaly '09 recap

Well, Jon and I are just back from a tiring week of work at the world's largest wine show, Vinitaly, held in Verona.  In addition to reaffirming our existing relationships with wineries and tasting their new vintages, we also did some hunting for new producers, and came away with a few great buys.

First, we revisited with a producer that I'd met and vi
sited with several months ago at a show in Bologna, Folesano.  Carla Cavara and her husband make great sangiovese and merlot based wines on a tiny, 1000 year old estate in the Colli Bolognese zone, in miniscule quantities.  Their dedication to quality will surely propel this new winery to fame in the years to come, so bookmark this page to remind yourself that you saw 'em here first!

The aromatics of the '07 Folesano sangiovese are gorgeous, and the supple
 texture and great fruit will make this irresistible in the $13 range.  It's a Chianti killer!

Their prestige bottling is a pure merlot called Guidesco, and the '06 vintage were bringing in will present a distinctive interpretation of a classic European style of merlot.  It's dense and luxuriously oaked in French barriques, and has the stuffing to cellar for years of development, yet, there's a lot to enjoy in it now.  Again, because we are their first reach into the USA market, they helped us present great pricing to consumers, so tons of value here for about $25.

From Campania, a gregarious guy who simply goes by the name Romeo, works with his brother and sister to produce wines from an estate called Terra
 di Briganti, or "rebel land," in homage to an area that, at the time of Italy's unification, was famous fo
r its fierce landowners who were suspicious of ceding control to strangers.

Working with the indigenous varieties of falanghina and aglianico, we're bringing in two examples of each, all of which are tremendously expressive and respectful of the terroir and tradition.

The white Falanghina '08 is electric and savory, with all of the white blossom and citrus lashes that make this intense white one of my personal favorites.  We're also bringing in a passito, or dried, version of this grape that is absolutely stunning!  It's loaded with sweet fruit like pineapple, honey, and nut.  I'm going to go ahead and say that you're not going to get a better dessert wine for the money (about $15/375ml)!

Aglianico is one of Italy's most noble reds, famously structured, complex and ageworthy.  Two '07 vintage aglianicos are coming from Briganti, their base Sannio Aglianico which is bright, racy, and finely tannic, and an exotically spicy, barriqued version called Martummé, after one of the most famous historic briganti.  Again, 
this will prove to be benchmarks at their respective pricepoints.

Finally, from Puglia, L'Astore.  This is the winery that I wrote about earlier, and whose fantastic wines we're sure will stand at the top of their category.  Jon sussed them out at a show in Lecce just a couple of months ago, and after visiting the estate, shipped back a slew of samples that we tasted through.  Vinitaly, then, was the third round with L'Astore, and reaffirmed the strength of these wines.
Krita is a rich, chardonnay and malvasia blend; Massaro a mineral negroamaro rosato; Filimei their detailed and balanced red from negroamaro; Argentieri a modern expression of negroamaro blended with cabernet sauvigon; L'Astore, an utterly unique and powerful red from aglianico and petite verdot.  

Taken together, these make L'Astore one of Puglia's finest wineries; top three, for sure. Factoring in the quality-price ratio-- i.e. value-- it is the finest.  You'll be pleased!

Other new wines will be coming in as well, expanding offerings from existing wineries in the portfolio, so look for lots of new stuff in two and six weeks time!

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

New Wines from Gerard Bertrand

Lots of folks have asked us about Gerard Bertrand's Minervois and Corbières, I think because they were the two wines with a presence in the Michigan marketplace before we picked the winery up.  We didn't bring them in initially because they were unavailable, but I'm glad to report that they landed here in Ann Arbor late last week! 

We're giving them a few days to settle down, but I couldn't resist popping one of the '05 Minervois, and I can say that the wine is delicious.  A blend of Syrah and Carignane, it's got the deep, dark berry and meatiness you'd expect, good muscularity, warm earthiness, and good intensity.  With a suggested retail in the $17 range, this "overdelivers," as they say.

Other new arrivals from GB include their red and white wines from the Chateau L'Hospitalet in La Clape, which are more modern, vanilla-scented versions of Syrah/Grenache/Mourvedre and Chardonnay/Grenache Gris blends.  Also arrived, their top wines, Minervois "La Viala", Corbières "La Forge," and L'Hospitalitas, the last three of which are made in miniscule (approx. 400) case lots and carry 91, 90, and 93 point ratings from Wine Spectator in the current vintages.

Finally, we've reloaded on the '04 Cremant de Limoux, the rich sparkler from Mauzac, Chenin, and Chardonnay, which has new pricing on it that drops it to an irresistibly hot  $18 retail (for sophisticated, mature, vintage dated bubbly?! C'mon!).  

Sunday, March 8, 2009

puglia wine

Some of the tasty stuff from Puglia.