Phenomenal finds at California wine tour

THE CALIFORNIA Wine Institute Vintner’s Tour for 2023 went around Asia last month, rolling from Shanghai, Taipei, and Hongkong, before making a final stop in Manila on Oct. 23. About 30 winemakers were gathered at the Shangri-La The Fort, and we’re listing three that piqued our interest.

CHANEL WINE BY ST. SUPÉRYIn 2015, Chanel joined the American wine game with the purchase of the St. Supéry Vineyards and Winery in the Napa Valley. We had a taste of their Sauvignon Blanc, the only varietal from the winery to survive the California wildfires of 2020 (their Merlots and their Cabernets Sauvignons were either burned, or covered in soot and ash). This particular Sauvignon Blanc had a scent of peaches and pears, and was very crisp and fruit-forward. St. Supéry is distributed in the Philippines by PYC Foods Corp., and is available at One World Deli.

A WINE THAT CHANGED THE WORLDIn 1976, a wine competition was held in Paris that sought to settle a question between the quality of Old World and New World wines, where 11 judges blind-tasted wines from California and France. The competition was called the Judgment of Paris — as in the Greek myth, when the Prince Paris of Troy had to choose who the fairest was between the goddesses Hera, Athena and Aphrodite, and its result sparking the Trojan War. The US won both categories, with their Chardonnays facing against France’s own, and their Cabernet Sauvignons staring down France’s Bordeaux. This modern-day Judgment of Paris, at least, brought only nice memories, and solidified the Napa Valley’s reputation as a contender on the world stage.  The winner for the Chardonnay category was a 1973 Chateau Montelena Chardonnay, and its winemaker was Miljenko “Mike” Grgich. Mr. Grgich, who turned 100 this year, opened his own winery the year after his creation won the Judgment of Paris.

Grgich Hills Estate offered us a taste of its history-changing Chardonnay, from the similarly historical year of 2020: it had a delicate powdery and fruity scent, a nuanced juicy and sharp flavor, and a slow, lingering smoky ending note, like the smoke from a match that had just been put out. In the Philippines, Grgich wines are distributed in the Philippines by The Wine Club.

FROM ENTHUSIAST TO MASTERMany fans of anything have long dreamed of being the master of the things they love. Our last winemaker on this list, Keith Nichols of Nichols Winery & Cellars, proves to be a great example of someone who made that transition.

The winery was founded in 1991. Before that, Mr. Nichols had been in the navy as an Aviation Electronic Technician. After leaving the navy, Mr. Nichols pursued higher education and earned a Business Management degree from Pepperdine University, an MBA from California Lutheran University, and an MS degree in Telecommunication from Golden Gate University. He first fell in love with wine after joining a small gourmet club, and his friends and he explored food and wine together, traveling across the globe for meals. He had the idea to make his own wine, and learned about it using books about viticulture and oenology from UC Davis, and taking viticulture courses from another institution. He went on to talk to winemakers from France, South Africa, and the Napa Valley, with the whole process of studying taking five years. “After five years, I thought I knew what it took to make a great wine,” he told BusinessWorld. He let us taste a 1997 Reserve Merlot, the color of a pigeon’s blood ruby, with a sharply spicy and aromatic scent (like a whole barrel of spices), and had an elegantly piquant flavor. He said that his wines have appeared in some movies, like in 1996’s The Birdcage. Discussing how he was able to make the transition from enthusiast to master and the role California played in it, the 76-year-old told BusinessWorld, “I’m not sure I could have done it anywhere else. I was living there, but understanding the California weather and the sunshine that we get constantly — it’s the weather that makes great wine, not the winemaker.” — Joseph L. Garcia

Neil Banzuelo

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