Anna Maria Abbona and her family in Dogliani If there is any producer in Dogliani who perfectly embodies the idea of stewardship of her heritage, it is Anna Maria Abbona. She was working as a successful graphic designer in 1989 when her father told her that he was ready to retire and sell his vineyards, some of them planted in the 1930s by her great grandfather. Anna Maria couldn’t bear to see her roots and traditions abandoned, so as a determined young woman with school-age children, she returned to the farm with her architect husband, Franco Schellino. Her vineyards are the highest in Dogliani, and are perfectly suited to the classic style of Dolcetto that has reemerged in the last decade: violet colored, moderately tannic, deeply satisfying wine to drink with food. Today, Anna Maria Abbona leads the elite of Dogliani.
Steffi with Hans-Günther Schwarz Founded in 1685, Weingut Weegmüller is the oldest winegrowing estate in the Pfalz, older even than the big “three Bs” (von Bassermann-Jordan, von Buhl, and Bürklin-Wolf). Gaby and Stefanie Weegmüller represent the eleventh generation of winegrowing Weegmüllers in Neustadt. There are sixteen hectares of vines, with parcels in all of the best vineyards in the villages of Haardt, Gimmelding, Neustadt, and Mußbach.Founded in 1685, Weingut Weegmüller is the oldest winegrowing estate in the Pfalz, older even than the big “three Bs” (von Bassermann-Jordan, von Buhl, and Bürklin-Wolf). Gaby and Stefanie Weegmüller represent the eleventh generation of winegrowing Weegmüllers in Neustadt. There are sixteen hectares of vines, with parcels in all of the best vineyards in the villages of Haardt, Gimmelding, Neustadt, and Mußbach. When Steffi took over winemaking responsibility from her father in 1984, she had an enviable advantage: a close, familial friends
Michel Ampeau in Meursault (photo: Greg Moore) The story we heard was that Robert Ampeau once turned away a swaggering Michelin three-star chef who arrived unannounced to taste wine. But we'd also heard stories of the five incredible cellars under the rue du Cromin, and that Robert’s son Michel was funny and smart. Meeting the Ampeaus was an epiphany, and the the stories about Robert and Michel Ampeau “holding back the wines until they was ready to drink” weren’t true at all. They simply didn’t care whether or not anyone bought them, as much as they cared about the weather, and the vines, and their annual struggle with nature to produce them.
Jochen Ratzenberger in the cellar (photo: Greg Moore) Weingut Ratzenberger is in the beautiful town of Bacharach-Steeg on the left bank of the Rhine, about a half-hour from the Frankfurt airport. It’s our favorite first stop in Germany. The guest apartment is one of the most comfortable places we stay, with the view through the bedroom window dominated by a wall of Pinot Noir (Spätburgunder) vines marching up the towering Steeger St. Jost. Nowhere does Riesling more eloquently describe its home: the hill that the Romans called "Bacchi Ara," the altar of Bacchus (Bacharach). The “Altar of Bacchus” — the view of Bacharach from across the Rhine (photo: Greg Moore)
Paolo DeMarchi is one of the most important wine producers in Italy. He is one of a handful of thoughtful growers who were key "inventors" of modern Chianti. Imagine the challenge of redefining a very old (and at the time, sleepy) wine region. Most wine sold here had to be sold in wicker-basket-bottles because novelty trumped quality. To this day, there are those who think of Chianti as thin, skeletal wine, with a handy empty bottle, useful for holding a candle. But in the seventies, when Paolo came of age, he and a few others recognized that the entire area had to be reorganized with a view towards quality over quantity. Just as important, there had to be a respect for tradition, or else the raison d'être would disappear–there would be nothing distinctive about the wines, and the wine-producing economy risked collapse. We often speak about “Old World” wines as being an encapsulation, if you will, of a small region's cultural, and agricultural evolution; less “product”
Sounds rather pedantic, no?But imagine this: Say one of the bottles is “Ragú® Tomato Sauce,” and the other is a jar of fresh marinara from a little old lady in Italy, made from her own tomatoes. Same difference.The bottle on the left was produced by a person farming his own fruit. And over the growing season he was constantly in the vineyard thinning leaves and making sure each grape met optimal ripeness. The fruit was harvested by hand, and taken to the winery with great care, where it was hand-sorted to make sure only the ripest fruit went to the crusher.This bottle of wine also states who grew, produced, and bottled the wine, as well as where this all took place. The bottle on the right tells us nothing about where the fruit was grown (other than a vague “Napa Valley” AVA). The technical details are spelled out on the bottle. “Optimum Brix” (a measure of sugar in the grapes) is listed (proudly) at 25 degrees. More on this in a moment.Soil type is listed as “alluvial,” which doesn't
Greg explains all about “Grand Cru” in Germany. Just as there are “Grand Cru” Burgundies such as Montrachet and Corton-Charlemagne, there are Grand Cru German wines as well. Here's Greg Moore to tell you all about them. From our “visiting winegrower” event with Jochen Ratzenberger.
Lucie Donze in her cellar Lucie & Stéphane Donze are the owners of this small estate in the Côte de Bourg. Both were successful in their respective businesses; Lucie was a landscape architect, and Stéphane was in maritime transport. In 1994 they bought the old vineyards and run-down farmhouse of Chateau Martinat with borrowed money. Three years of planning went into the career change. There are only about 24 acres (American) under vine. These hold the Merlot and Cabernet vines which were planted in the late nineteen fifties. The Malbec plantings are much older. The farming is “Lutte Raisonée,” with grass between the rows, and the harvests are by hand.
The peacock at Château Revelette (photo: Greg Moore) Here's an interesting snippet from Provence. Here Peter Fischer, proprietor of Château Revelette talks about his organic farming, the importance of genetic diversity in his vineyards, and treating vine disease without chemicals.