Breakfast with Gaia Gaja

It was early morning inside Aria’s sunlit cafe, and before the server even could ask, Gaia Gaja said with Italian charm and conviction, “I know what I want  – coffee.” The charismatic daughter of Angelo Gaja –  the legendary, dynamic and inventive wine producer who propelled the Piemonte region of Italy into modernity – doesn’t come to Las Vegas very much. So when she visited in October 2017, we sat over Greek yogurt and seasonal berries to talk about her…

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SIP TRIP: Discovering Ruchè inside Castagnole Monferrato’s original castle wall

It was raining off and on as I walked along the ramparts behind the original castle of Castagnole Monferrato until I arrived at 62, the address of La Miraja and Eugenio Gatti, a Ruchè producer. When I first had Ruchè a few years ago I was immediately captivated by its alluring characteristics. It happened to be Eugenio’s bottling and since then I’ve tasted Ruchè from other passionate producers, which have only fortified my love for this wine.  Ruchè’s origins are…

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Things of Beauty: Barolo Chinato and Valentina Abbona

Her appearance is as familiar as the girl next door. Yet, Valentina Abbona is bright, worldly, passionate and the face of the sixth generation of the Marchesi di Barolo estate. She and her family inherited a long-standing winemaking tradition of creating world-renowned wines. Overlooking the quaint village of Barolo located in Piedmont, Italy, it’s hard to miss the canary-yellow building finished with forest-green shutters marked in distinguished, large letters “Marchesi di Barolo.” The name is certainly rooted in history dating back…

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Sauternes: France’s Sensuality in a Glass

In all of Bordeaux, wines can be compared amongst each other and even preferred to one another, but Sauternes is different. As one of the world’s longest-living wines, this sweet, sensual, richly textured flower-scented, luminous liquid gold is often underappreciated yet incomparable. The success of Sauternes depends on the microclimate in the southern part of Graves and a fungus that would seemingly be harmful to the grapes. Yet chateaux owners sit on pins and needles each season in hopes their…

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Passopisciaro: Volcanic wines from Mount Etna

During a dramatic eruption in Sicily, fountains of fiery red lava from Europe’s most active and fearsome volcano, Mount Etna, spewed into the night sky last May, not far from the vineyards growing on its northern slopes. It is seemingly an unlikely place for producing quality wines, but Etna’s wine producers don’t dwell on the vicissitude of her unpredictable nature; they embrace it. Vines grown in the shadow of an active volcano are an inherently risky proposition, but they are…

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Raisin Wines of Italy

Wines made from dried grapes are a centuries old tradition dating back to the Roman times.  Called passum, “raisin wine” was made from half-dried grapes which were often left on the vine.  In many ways this practice remains today.  The style of wine is produced in both in sweet and dry versions and central to this unique style is appassimento, the process which involves drying grapes in ventilated drying rooms through the cooler months. Intoxicatingly delicious, these wines are charming…

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Rhous Winery Exemplifies Passion Behind Crete’s Indigenous Grapes

The gradual roadway to Rhous Winery above the quaint village of Houdetsi on Greece’s largest island, Crete, is perilously narrow, hugging the hill on one side, a sheer drop on the other. But once at the top, the pocket of paradise owned by winemaking couple Maria Tamiolakis and Dimitris Mansolas is a setting for relaxation and exploration into some of Greece’s most stunning indigenous varietals. Crete is home to one of the largest wine-growing regions in Greece and is among…

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SIP TRIP: Beyond Santorini’s Blue and Whites

Striking and charming whitewashed buildings topped with azure-blue domes are perched on sheer caldera cliffs that soar out of the Aegean Sea. This is the Santorini that many people are enchanted by. But, to go beyond the postcard is to discover the true beauty and colors of this volcanic island. As the only inhabited volcano cauldron in the world, Santorini is already special. Sitting  half way between Athens and Crete, its crescent shaped island offers an astonishing array of contrasts.…

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Sunken Treasures

Every now and then, a story will rise to the surface about how a team of divers discovered a shipwreck containing jewels off the coast of some remote archipelago.  A most recent discovery was 168 bottles of bubbly from several Champagne houses, including Veuve Clicquot, recovered from the remains of a trade schooner that sank over 170 years ago in the Baltic Sea. A chemical and sensory analysis of the deep sea libation revealed insight into 19th-century winemaking and the…

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