wines of 2019

Vanessa Da Silva’s Top 10 Wines of 2019 (So Far!)

With 2019 more than half over, we asked Vanessa Da Silva, this year’s Outstanding Alumni Award winner for Outstanding Sommelier, to share her top 10 wines of the year (so far!) As the Sommelier at Ninety Acres Farm in New Jersey, she serves her guests wines that she truly loves from experiences and knowledge gained throughout her career.

After a recent trip to New Zealand as one of only 18 Sommeliers in the world to be invited to the New Zealand Wine Sommit, she was inspired to learn more about the amazing wines produced in the country. Below, you’ll find 4 delicious bottles from the up-and-coming wine country, plus wines like the “not always easy to like” Viognier and the “herbal and complex” Syrah!

Check out what she said were her favorite wines of the year, and be sure to pick up a bottle that’ll easily impress!

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2015 Millton Clos Samuel Viognier Gisborne, New Zealand

Viognier isn’t always the easiest variety to like. It’s often overly aromatic and can lack acidity making it feel heavy on the palate. This Viognier blew me away! It is intense and complex with layers of appealing aromatics and flavors, the bright acidity perfectly balances the residual sugar in this late-harvest wine.  Millton Vineyards is a unique & magical place—James Millton is an adamant believer in Biodynamics and the vineyards are as alive with life as the wine is. This wine was an absolute gem and I have no doubt that it will age for decades to come.

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2016 Lingua Franca The Plough Pinot Noir Willamette Valley, Oregon

Winemaker Thomas Savre at Lingua Franca makes wine of precision, care, and soul. They are compelling, complex and balanced— delicious now and yet still have so much potential to age. This Cuvee, the Plough, is made in homage to the vineyard workers, to the people who keep this winery moving.  If you haven’t tried these wines yet, you should!

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2017 Smockshop Spring Ephemeral Grenache Columbia Gorge, Oregon

Hiyu Wine Farm is an experience which will seep into you and engulf your senses and it is a must-visit for any Biodynamic wine lover. Hiyu goes beyond solely Biodynamics, and also incorporates practices of permaculture and animals living among the vines into their charming farm. This wine smells like where it is from more than any I’ve tasted this year. You can practically smell the spring herbs growing in the vineyard, the just ripe red fruit aromas smell as though growing wild in surrounding forest. The structure on the palate is refreshing and up lifting like the breeze across the vineyard as you look towards Mt. Hood. This is a wine that encompasses your senses and brings you to the farm it came from. I can’t help but smile every time I have the opportunity to serve it.

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2013 Quartz Reef Methode Traditionnelle Central Otago, New Zealand

Rudi Bauer, winemaker at Quartz Reef, let this sparkling wine sit on the lees for over 4.5 years! This makes him both a bit of a madman and an absolute genius! Rudi is humble despite being one of the foremost winemakers in Central Otago— he is originally from Austria, having come to New Zealand over 30-years ago for what was supposed to be a 6-month stage. Rudi believes wholeheartedly in Biodynamics and the wines are full of passion, authenticity to where they’re coming from, and vibrantly delicious. This sparkling wine is 91% Chardonnay, 9% Pinot Noir from a vineyard in the Bendigo sub-region of Central Otago. This wine is mouthwatering with layers of citrus fruit, fresh brioche, and poached orchard fruits—not to be missed!

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2013 Element Syrah Finger Lakes, New York

Element winery makes a compelling case for cool climate varieties from the Finger Lakes. One of my favorite is this Syrah! It is savory, herbal, complex, and still showing incredible youth despite being nearly 6-years old. Element winery takes great care in making wines that are genuine to the Finger Lakes, take a minimalist (nothing added, nothing taken away) approach to winemaking, and allow their wine the time they need before being released. This 2013 is the current release of Element Syrah, it is stunning and still has a lot of life in it!

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2012 Te Mata Elston Chardonnay Hawke's Bay, New Zealand

Te Mata estate was first planted in 1892! They are located at the heart of Hawke’s Bay GI, the Havelock Hills. Te Mata is part of Sustainable Winegrowing New Zealand and looks not only at their environmental impact, but also takes into account social and economic sustainability.  The Elston Chardonnay is all about balance and elegance, spending 10-months on its lees in barrel, Elston shows lovely richness while maintaining a strong backbone of freshness. I had the opportunity to taste several vintages while in New Zealand, and can say with confidence that it is delicious in its youth, and stunning as it ages.

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2009 Dry River Craighall Riesling Martinborough, New Zealand

Martinborough GI is a small winegrowing area renowned for its Pinot Noir in the Wairarapa GI on the North Island of New Zealand. Martinborough comes across as an agricultural valley, where there is a wonderful sense of camaraderie among winegrowers. Dry River has deep roots in the area and they farm in a way which is sustainable to their site, and seek to preserve rather than ‘enhance’ wine. This riesling comes from their Craighill vineyard and is layered with citrus blossom tones, citrus zest, juicy pit fruits, and undertones of savory earth tones. The Dry River rieslings are mouthwatering and refreshing in their youth, but really compelling with age.

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2015 The Boneline Iridium Canterbury, New Zealand

The Boneline is a small estate in Canterbury, New Zealand. The Boneline takes its name from the nearby K-T Boundary line and each label features a fossil found within the nearby Waipara river. The Boneline is a unique place where the Southern Alps provide a rain shadow and there is bountiful sunshine, warm dry westerly winds and cool southerly winds that provide for long glorious vintages. Biodiversity reigns here and vines grow among pigs and sheep, native scrub provides shelter for geckos and native birds. And the wine is just as stunning! The Boneline has just been made available in the US as of July 2019, and I cannot urge you enough to find & try some. This Iridium is a red blend of primarily Cabernet Franc with Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot. It is a melody of deep dark fruit, savory spice, and herbal earth tones— it is alluring, delicious, and will linger on your mind!

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2015 Marc Delienne Abbaye Road Fleurie, Beaujolais

Marc Delienne works organically, and practices biodynamics on a small 12 acre estate in Fleurie, Beaujolais. He believes in minimal intervention and allows the wine to speak for itself. He uses goblet training, ambient yeast, whole cluster fermentation, no racking, no fining nor filtering, aging in foudre or concrete, and very little sulfur.  His wines are soulful, with deep complex flavors that linger in the palate, and a soft mouth-feel. They are everything that Gamay should be!

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2016 Syncline Mourvèdre Horse Heaven Hills, Washington

James and Poppie Mantone run Syncline Winery with their family along the Columbia river within the Columbia Gorge AVA. They believe in biodynamics to help their vineyard thrive and take care to observe the health of their soils, wines, and employees. They have sworn-off the manipulation of wines, a sentiment which I love! They focus on Rhône varietals, and the wine they produce is both soulful and satisfying. This Mourvèdre has high tones of juicy red berries, black pepper, cured meat, and petrichor. You don’t often see varietal Mourvèdre, but Syncline is making a very compelling case for it.

Library Notes // Wine 101

By Sara Quiroz
ICC Librarian

Visitors to the ICC Library sometimes mistakenly think it’s nothing but cookbooks. On the contrary, we have a very wide range of books and DVDs available on almost every subject in the culinary world. This of course, includes everything our Sommelier students may need throughout their course. If you’re not quite ready to commit to the full course but would like to dip your toe in the world of wine, here are a few highlights from our collection to get you started.

Wine Folly: The Essential Guide to Wine by Madeline Puckette and Justin Hammack provides a thorough overview of everything you need to know about wine, from fundamentals to styles to regions. Best of all, the content is incredibly visual. Wine Folly is full of great charts in bright colors; it’s a fun reader friendly guide without sacrificing the content. Pick this up if you are brand new and need an engaging starting point.

If you, like me, are more of a literary type, Adventures on the Wine Route by Kermit Lynch is the pick for you! Lynch is a wine buyer who vividly recalls his travels through France painting colorful portraits of the producers and other assorted characters he met along the way. I participated in a wine book club and all of the Somm alumnus agreed it would have been incredibly helpful to read during the French portion of the class. How rare, to find a engaging and laugh out loud funny memoir that is also informative and educational. This is for the avid reader who wants to learn more about French wines.

Wine Grape: A Complete Guide to 1,368 Vine Varieties may very well be the most beautiful book in our collection. This hefty reference guide from Ecco includes gorgeous, lushly illustrated botanical drawings. Each variety is covered in detail, from color to origins to varieties commonly mistaken for the grape in question. I would recommend this for the amateur sommelier ready to take their education to the next level. Of course the Sommelier program here is not just about wine. The experienced Somm must also be well versed in beer, sake and spirits. Here are a couple selections of the many books we have available on the other beverages.

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While we hear a lot about food and wine pairings, it is rare to hear about how to pair beer with food. In Tasting Beer, author and beer enthusiast Randy Mosher covers the subject with the same care and detail so often afforded to wine. This book has a little bit of everything, history, tasting notes and pairing ideas all with colorful illustrations. If you are clueless about beer, but would like to know more, this book is for you.

There are many students who come by the library toward the end of the program who blind test wine with the best of them, yet are clueless when it comes to cocktails. We have an excellent selection of books on spirits, from histories to bartending guides. The Cocktail Lab by Tony Conigliaro stands out because it is more than just a collection of recipes; it details the science, art and history of a wide range of cocktails. Conigliaro covers the classics of course, but he also details his various cocktail “experiments” from perfumed drinks to sous vide cocktails.

There you have it, for the Sommalier in the stacks. Stop by the ICC Library to check out these and many more beverage books. To keep up with whats new in the library, follow us on Twitter and Instagram via @IntlCulLibrary or follow ICC directly at @ICCedu.