Monthly Archives: December 2015

The Art That Is Japan

 

Among many, my most lasting memory of Japan are the gardens.  The breathtaking palaces and temples and the most humble country dwellings all share beautiful

Gardens in Kyoto

Gardens in Kyoto

manicured gardens, some larger, some smaller, but always perfect.  These winsome gems, like so much of the traditional Japanese culture stems from a conviction to “respect” and “honor.”  It is evident in the way they revere the land, their high regard for guests or hosts and in their meticulous approach to traditional Japanese arts as the basis of their heart and culture.  Our Japan experience was not about visiting Tokyo and other major tourists sites, it evolved from a rare opportunity to attend a two-week seminar in traditional Japanese arts at the Oomoto Foundation and School in the town of Kameoka, outside of Kyoto.

Banshoden Prayer Hall, Oomoto

Banshoden Prayer Hall, Oomoto

Friend and Sonoma County artist Mario Uribe has studied Japanese culture along with his wife, Liz, for the past twenty years.  Both were participants in past Oomoto seminars.  After years of excluding visitors from the program, Oomoto granted Mario permission to work with the school in developing an arts study seminar for 15 people themed “Sei” or “Purity.”  Weeks later, we found our impulsive selves flying over the Pacific with no real idea of what lie ahead.

Oomoto is a sect, originating from the Shinto religion, that was founded in 1892 when Deguchi Nao, an impoverished, illiterate woman had a “spirit dream” and began writing and reciting the words of the spirit Ushitora no Conjoin that formed their doctrine

Onisaburo Deguchi

Onisaburo Deguchi

. Nao’s son-in-law, Onisaburo Deguchi is recognized as the original seishi (spiritual teacher) of Oomoto and was responsible for the core belief that the practice of Japanese traditional arts together could create a deep spiritual wisdom for all.  Abandoning the traditional focus of mastering a single art, Onisaburo advocated practicing all the art forms, taking advantage of commonalities to create something holistically greater.  Today, under the 5th spiritual leader, Kurenai Deguchi, students and other followers attend the Oomoto School and Ayabe retreat center to enhance their spiritual development through traditional arts.

Afternoon arrival at the island Kansai International Airport and the ensuing bus ride to Kameoka left us with only time to check-in, have dinner, unpack and place futons on tatami floor mats, our bed for the next two weeks.   The first day was fairly relaxing at an on-site Kan’O Chakai Festival where we attended a noh drama performance and tea ceremony, foreshadowing the work ahead.

The next two weeks would be as exhausting as they were rewarding, exemplifying the phases, “Out of one’s comfort zone”

Serious students

Serious students

and “Information overload.”  Understanding is the key to studying a new culture and, only when I began to discover the values they reveal and their importance to the Japanese way of life did I begin to immerse myself into the various traditional arts, understanding my limitations.

Each day began at 5am with chanting, broadcast into our rooms, a reminder that we had an hour before our morning Shinto prayer service at Banshoden Hall.  The service, of course, is optional but we felt it enhanced the experience to attend each morning.

Entering the grounds to the prayer hall began with a bow from the waste, followed by a short walk to the temizuya, a decorative water fountain with bamboo ladles used to cleanse hands and mouth.  Shoes came off and another bow was required entering the prayer hall, women to the left, men to the right.  The prayer service is the same each day, participatory readings, chanting and rhythmic hand clapping designed to gain the attention of the gods.

After prayer came breakfast and later lunch, consisting of a small amount each of protein and vegetable with all the rice

temizuya

temizuya

and miso soup you can eat. The Japanese diet is seafood based with much smaller portions than we are used to.  At times, I was happy for more rice and miso soup.  In case you are wondering, we had many gourmet meals that, although different and new to the palate, were outstanding.

The morning session generally began with dressing in kimono which was a fairly complex procedure that often required assistance. It is disrespectful to even practice the sacred arts of noh drama, tea ceremony or waraku budo without men and women both wearing kimono. Mostly, practice times coincided but when they didn’t, it was a long day in the wardrobe room.  Once the practice session were over, the kimono and undergarments must be folded in a very specific, traditional method. Admittingly, as someone who is used to throwing on  jeans and a t-shirt, this process required some patience and skill.

Traditional Japanese Arts

A 16th Century poet, Yoshida Kenko wrote that, “The moon is most beautiful when seen through clouds.”  Noh Drama, said to be “the world’s oldest continuously performed tradition of theater,” is an art form that uses illusion and subtle, yet precise movements and song to tell a story.  Common to other traditional Japanese art forms, its simplicity takes a lifetime to master.  We were privileged to study, over six sessions, with Tatsumi Manjiro Sensei, Lead Character Actor of the

Noh Drama performance

Noh Drama performance

Hosho School of Noh Drama, one of the traditional schools dating back to the 16th Century.  At over six-feet tall with the voice of James Earl Jones, Manjiro Sensei was quite intimidating as we watched him effortlessly glide, not walk, across the stage.  His humor and patience with us was humbly appreciated.

Group I, Michael, Miles, Daniel and me, after extensive practice,  performed the first act (3 minutes) of the story of a poor, street sake vendor who, through living a good life and caring for others, was divinely blessed with a continuously full barrel of saké. Learning to glide, not walk, in a kimono with precise, expressive movements and with a fan acting as a saké ladle requires more practice and muscle memory that time permitted, but we got through it.

Perceived simply as a traditional way to entertain guests, my discovery that Tea Ceremony is, in fact “moving meditation” woven into the Japanese culture, from the Zen temples of Kyoto to current day, was a major takeaway from the seminar.  As a 40-year “steep and sip” guy, it took some time to begin to understand the formality of it all.  I have a friend who has studied Tea Ceremony twice per month for 20 years. I recently met her instructor, asking the question, “How long does it take.”  “A lifetime” was her answer.

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“Michiko”

Tea Ceremony has always been associated with the Zen philosophy and is truly an art form that allows a host to create a

“microcosm of paradise” for their guests. Simple, but elegant tea rooms are designed to create a pure, quiet, harmonious space. We were invited to several very special tea rooms and each space, while unique, seemed always to relax us.

A teahouse is entered without shoes and on one’s knees.  After bowing, the guest spends time respecting and admiring a scroll, some of them valuable antiques, others quite simple, but always present.  After admiring the scroll, each guest gives a brief glance to the chabana, a small, minimalistic, somewhat insignificance flower arrangement that is essential to any tea room.

We studied otemae, the art of preparing the tea, learned the intricate process of hosting or receiving the tea as a guest including the precise folding of the silk fukusa cloth, used to purify the utensils and the practice of admiring (respecting) the tea bowl before it is returned.  Local women, adorned in beautiful kimono, assisted our training with unparalleled patience and purpose. Friends, upon our return, requested that we host a tea ceremony for fun.  We declined, incapable, at this time, of honoring it properly.

tea bowl

tea bowl

In its meticulous complexity, the sacrament of tea ceremony  is inclusive of tea bowls, the essential visual jewel to the entire art form.  Raku tea bowls are cherished, collector’s covet them, museums display them and their designs spanning the 16th Century to present day, are simple, yet stunning works of art.   Unisaburo Deguchi committed the last thirty years of his creative life to making tea bowls.  While attending a ceremony in the intimate tea room of a wealthy restauranteur, our host explained that Unisaburo created the bowl I was drinking from, leaving me honored and a bit stressed, holding it carefully.

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Sensei at Shoraku-gama studio

Our sessions at Shoraku-gama studio to throw and trim our own tea bowls were very therapeutic and relaxing, but pride was lifted when Michiko sensei asked permission to use my bowl to present tea to the gods to begin the final ceremony.  I proudly consented, directing a quick smile in the direction of my wife, a potter for 35 years. She whispered back, “They needed one to sacrifice.” Celebrating this new art form, upon our return to the States, we traveled to LACMA in Los Angeles to view the most extensive raku tea bowl exhibit ever assembled, an astonishing visual exhibit spanning five centuries.

Moriya Michiko, Tea Master, Calligraphy Master and Flower Master of the Usugumo Gosho-Ryu, co-host and lead instructor for all three arts, became known to all of us simply as “Michiko,” always smiling and helpful.  As a Master, with the tea name, “Sochi,” she had tremendous patience and virtue to observe and teach beginning students with limited understanding of the culture.

Tea ceremony is truly the “queen of the arts,” involving landscape and architectural design, ceramics, chabana, poetry and calligraphy, or “painting of the heart,” that, as most Japanese art forms, is meant to express the inner spirit of the creator.  Unlike our fountain pens, calligraphy is done with Asian brushes that come in many sizes, held vertically to give the writer more flexibility and richness of expression. Compared to our 26-letter alphabet, about 2,000-3,000 characters are regularly used in Japan, with total characters exceeding 13,000.

Eager to express myself, the more mundane initial task was grinding the ink stick, sumi on the ink stone, suzuri to create ink the ancient way, and a meditative state before writing.  We began by writing the eight strokes of Eternity (Ei), a character than has all the basic brush strokes and soon expanded our repertoire to a dozen or more characters including my attempt at the kanji symbol for “love” as a gift for my granddaughter.   

Boats on the Hozugawa River near Kyoto

Boats on the Hozugawa River near Kyoto

We also attended workshops in regional sushi-making, taiko drums, washi(paper-making) making tea sweets, another essential component of tea ceremony, with Master Aoyama Yoko and Waraku Bodu with founder Hiramasa Maeda Sensei.  Waraku Budo, a martial art aligned with the Shinto religion, uses a wooden staff and involves spiral body movements, breathing  and chanting intended to bring energy and harmony to the body. It required full kimono and as much focus as we could generate.

The Oomoto seminar ended with a full noh drama performance before a live audience and a student hosted tea ceremony for invited local residents.  We were ready to decompress during a brief stay in Kurishiki, but the memories of “Sei” still linger, like a good film, months after being home and I am beginning to understand it more each day.

Kurishiki in the Okayama Prefecture is a city of nearly half million people that is best known for the quaint Bikan District, with its canals, shops and restaurants.  Aside from a memorable evening with friends in a very congenial sake bar, the

Koy pond in Kurishiki

Koy pond in Kurishiki

Ohara Museum of Art, with works by Modigliani, El Greco, Gauguin and various modern artists was the highlight of our two-day visit.  Our final stop was Naoshima, the “art island,” described as a nontraditional Japanese experience,

Bikan District, Kurishiki

Bikan District, Kurishiki

presenting contemporary art in a fashion, unique to the world.

Contemporary Arts 

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Chichu Museum on Naoshima Island

Naoshima Island lies in the Inland Sea, an old fishing village, now home to a hotel with extensive modern art works, two museums and the Art House Project all funded by billionaire Soichiro Futuake, president of the publishing company, Bennesse.  The Naoshima Art House Project invites leading artists from around the world to create installations in small, wooden houses within the old port village area.  One needs to purchase a “treasure” map to find the “art houses” because they blend with the adjacent humble dwellings and there is no signage. We found a James Turrell installation that uses darkness and light, Kadoya, where the floors are filled with water and floating, illuminated numbers and, my favorite, a house filled with sensual mist and waterfall paintings by Senju Hiroshi.  The project is dynamic and will expand as Fututake’s curators procure

"Waterfall" - Senju Hiroshi

“Waterfall” – Senju Hiroshi

additional artists and houses.

Built into an island mountain, the subterranean Chichu Museum features four artists in four unique, inspiring spaces that weep serenity and our relationship with nature.  Each of the underground galleries are illuminated by natural light

including five “Water Lily” paintings by Claude Monet, three James Turrell pieces and an amazing installation by artist Walter De Maria that places the viewer in the center of a surreal art piece.  Anyone who appreciates modern, contemporary art must put Naoshima and the Chichu Museum, on their bucket list including the

Miho Museum

Miho Museum

special evening James Turrell exhibit that requires advanced reservations.

Another extraordinary place, located in the remote Shiga Mountains, southeast of Kyoto, the Miho Museum and grounds are an art piece in themselves.  The vision of Mihoko Koyama, heiress to the Toyobo textile empire, the steel and glass structures were designed by architect I.M. Pei, who carved the location out of a mountain top that was totally restored and re-forested. The Miho houses an

Miho Museum

Miho Museum

extensive collection of Asian art and antiques including ceremonial tea art.  While the collection is impressive, the Miho, itself, is breathtaking.

The Gardens 

Serene, manicured gardens were everywhere, at small homes or large palaces, injecting beauty and aesthetic into daily lives of the people.  Kyoto, recently

Kyoto

Kyoto

named one of the world’s great cities by Travel and Leisure magazine, has the seemingly endless Imperial Palace gardens, but my favorites were in the city’s Arashiyama district.

Rather than the 15 minutes subway ride, we opted to travel from Kameoka to Arashiyama via a 10 passenger boat, maneuvered by three young men through

Karen ai Kogenji Temple, Kyoto

Karen ai Kogenji Temple, Kyoto

moderate rapids on the Hozugawa River. Dozens of natural cherry trees, numerous cranes, two monkeys and one hour later, we arrived, a bit wet, to a magnificent setting of classic Japanese landscape.  The first stop was the Kogenji Temple whose gardens were visually overwhelming and the adjacent Bamboo Forest, with trees rising 30-40 feet into the afternoon light, was a photographer’s dream.

Bamboo Forest, Kyoto

Bamboo Forest, Kyoto

Described as a “forest,” but looking more like miniature Cristo installation, Arashiyama’s Kimono Forest consists of hundreds of illuminated glass tubes, each lined with real kimono fabric. Entering at dusk, its impact was enhanced as darkness fell.

The lasting memory of serene landscapes came from an early morning walk through the grounds of Oomoto’s retreat center in Ayabe, where it all started.  It was crisp and I was alone with my thoughts amid indescribable beauty, feeling the tranquillity they were

Gardens in Ayabe

Gardens in Ayabe

meant to bestow.

I leave Japan with lasting memories and a copy of the 1st English transition of Hidemaru Deguchi’s book “In Search of Meaning.”  Deguchi(1897-1992) became part of Oomoto teachings in 1919 and the book is a compilation of his writings.  I have not

Kimono Forest

Kimono Forest

yet found true meaning, but know that when I do, it will be serene, respectful, steeped in traditional, inspiring new thoughts and perceptions like the fabric of the Japanese culture that we experienced.

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Wine Spectator’s 100 Top Wines of 2015: An Overview

 

On the surface, Wine Spectator magazine’s annual list of exciting wines seems to be another coronation of the fabulous Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon and the luscious 2010 releases from the Brunello Di Montalcino region of Tuscany.  However, just below the surface is a story of tremendous diversity, both with varietals and regions in

fog descends on vineyard at Peter Michael Winery

fog descends on vineyard at Peter Michael Winery

California and throughout the world.

The 18 California wines on the list represents 10 different varietals and 10 regions.  Europe’s great appellations in Italy, France and Spain are all still dominant, but world demand is creating opportunities to successfully explore new terroir.  The French wine region  listed most often is “other,” more than Bordeaux, Burgundy, Rhone or Champagne.  This year’s list is an eclectic blend of tradition and the swell of wines from the New World, but let us begin with the time-honored California Cabernet Sauvignon.

2015 WS Wine of the Year

2015 WS Wine of the Year

All of the five California “Cab” on the 2015 list are well-known, pedigree wines, two of which have made it before and for the fifth time in its history, a Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon, the Peter Michael Cabernet Sauvignon Oakville Au Paradis 2012 (96pt/$195) is the magazine’s “Wine Of The Year.”

Over the years, Peter Michael has developed a

Sir Peter Michael

Sir Peter Michael

reputation for producing marvelous chardonnay and a top-notch red Bordeaux blend, “Les Pavots” from the Knights Valley region, due north of the Napa Valley.  The “Au Paradis” originates from an Oakville district vineyard in the Napa Valley that Michael purchased a few years ago, perfectly positioned to absorb the valley heat and the cooling breezes from San Pablo Bay, the quintessential terroir for a “classically structured Napa Cabernet.”

The Napa Valley was also aptly represented by the #57 Altamura Cabernet Sauvignon Napa Valley 2012 (95pt/$90) and the #65 Chappellet Cabernet Sauvignon Napa Valley Signature 2012 (93pt/%56), one of the best values on the list whose 2006 vintage made the top ten in 2009.  Although their estate vineyards are in different parts of the valley, both are diverse in ripe characteristics, paired with perfect stock.

The northerly Alexander Valley appellation bestowed the #59 Rodney Strong Cabernet Sauvignon Alexander Valley Rockaway Single Vineyard 2012 (94pt/$75) and #(78 Chateau St. Jean Cabernet Sauvignon Alexander Valley 2012 91pt/$30), each from long-standing Sonoma County producers who are also celebrating the 2012 vintage of California cabernet sauvignon.

The three California chardonnay varietals on the 2015 list, each from separate regions,

Mount Eden Vineyards Chardonnay Santa Cruz Mountains 2012

Mount Eden Vineyards Chardonnay Santa Cruz Mountains 2012

clearly exemplify its diversity and long-standing presence statewide.  The routinely present #5 Mount Eden Vineyards Chardonnay Santa Cruz Mountains 2012 (95pt/$60) is arguably our best, vintage to vintage, and indicative of what a California chardonnay can be. This vintage is barrel fermented sur lie in French oak for 10 months with 100% malolactic fermentation, bringing back fond memories of past vintages.

The consistently good, very accessible #35 Rombauer Chardonnay Carneros 2013 (92pt/#36) comes primarily from the Sangiacomo Vineyard that supplies grapes for many creators of fine chardonnay.  Their traditional creamy, fruity style, again, comes from French oak, malolactic fermentation and periodic stirring of the lees. The diverse value-priced #48 Calera Chardonnay Central Coast 2013 (90pt/$20) blends vineyards from Monterey to Santa Barbara counties.

Other noted California varietals in include the #12 Limerick Lane Zinfandel Russian River Valley 2012 (94pt/$32), dry-farmed from century-old vines and winemaker Randy Mason’s #40 Pomelo Sauvignon Blanc California 2014 (90pt/$12), a white wine composed of grapes sourced exclusively from Lake County vineyards, an area recently ravaged by fire.

The petite sirah grape was also highlighted among 2015 releases beginning with the soft #17 Turley Petite Sirah Howell Mountain Rattlesnake Ridge 2013 (95pt/$44) from Napa Valley and Amador’s #42 Keplinger SUMO Amador County 2013 (95pt/$70) described as “a Cote Rotie twist on Petite Sirah,” blending petite sirah (76%), syrah (20%) and viognier (4%) to create a “massive, plush wine.”

Orin Swift "Machete" California Red Wine 2013

Orin Swift “Machete” California Red Wine 2013

Having enjoyed past wines from Napa Valley’s Orin Swift Winery, I was pleased to see the #97 Orin Swift “Machete” California Red Wine 2013 (93pt/$48) on the list, another earthy blend of petite sirah, syrah and grenache boasting floral notes with concentrated berry flavors and manageable tannins.

Italy contributed 20% of the wines on the list, mostly from Tuscany, more specifically, 2010 vintages from the Brunello di Montalcino region, landing three spots within the top 20 wines.

Having had an opportunity to taste the #4 Il Poggione Brunello di Montalcino 2010 (95pt/$85) at a sponsored tasting event in early 2015, I am aware that this

Il Poggione Brunello di Montalcino 2010

Il Poggione Brunello di Montalcino 2010

superb wine represents five generations of family ownership and over 300 acres of estate vineyards.  Following a time-honored process involving lengthy maceration on the skins and extensive aging, their history shows consistent brilliance. The #13 La Serena Brunello di Montalcino 2010 (96pt/$60) and the legendary #18 Altesino Brunello di Montalcino 2010 (98pt/$125) continue to highlight an excellent 2010 vintage for the region.

At the same 2015 event, I also tasted the outstandingly balanced #8 Amarone della Valpolicella Classico Serego Alighieri Vaio Amaron 2008 (95pt/$85), from another family producer in the Veneto region of northern Italy that uses a traditional “appassimento” process of drying the grapes for 90 days before pressing, then committing to five years in the barrel, usually resulting in a memorable wine.

Throughout its tremendous growth, Washington State has proven to have the diverse

Quilceda Creek Cabernet Sauvignon Columbia Valley 2012

Quilceda Creek Cabernet Sauvignon Columbia Valley 2012

terroir to support many varietals.  That being said, the 2015 star is the #2 Quilceda Creek Cabernet Sauvignon Columbia Valley 2012 (96pt/$140), celebrating their third top ten designation since 2006 with the annual reviews of a collector’s classic.

Placing in the top ten in 2011, the Bordeaux-style blend, #28 BAER Ursa Columbia Valley 2012 (94pt/$39) combines 40% each of merlot and cabernet franc with small amounts of cabernet sauvignon and malbec.  Experts speak of herbal aromas, layered chocolate and cherry flavors in a wine that will soon be in short supply.  The moderately priced #34 Tenet Syrah Columbia Valley “The Pundit” 2013 (92pt/$25) is yet another in a growing line of good syrah from the region.

Washington’s Walla Walla area has grown exponentially over the past decade and is the source of two wines on the 20125 list, the #22 Gramercy Syrah Walla Walla

K "The Creator" Walla Walla Valley 2102

K “The Creator” Walla Walla Valley 2102

Valley “The Deuce” 2012 (95pt/$52) and #31 K “The Creator” Walla Walla Valley 2012 (94pt/$55), a blend of cabernet sauvignon and syrah, co-fermented in stainless steel tanks.

With all the industry “buzz” regarding the vintage 2012 Oregon pinot noir, it is no surprise that the Willamette Valley provided five wines including the most talked about of all, the #3 Evening Land Pinot Noir Enola-Amity Hills Seven Springs Vineyard La Source 2012 (98pt/$70), Oregon’s highest

Evening Land Pinot Noir Enola-Amity Hills Seven Springs Vineyard La Source 2012

Evening Land Pinot Noir Enola-Amity Hills Seven Springs Vineyard La Source 2012

rated.  Having tasted past first-rate vintages of Evening Land pinot’s, obtaining a bottle of this wine, from a unique geological site within the mid-Valley Seven Springs Vineyard, remains clearly in my sites.

From the Yamhill-Carlton appellation, the #38 Solena Pinot Noir Willamette Valley Grand Cuvee’ 2012 (92pt/$25) and  the #11 Big Table Farm Pinot Noir Willamette Valley 2012 (95pt/$40) are highly rated wines at very reasonable prices, the latter noted for complex, concentrated fruit and spice flavors.

From the Valley’s Ribbon Ridge appellation and possibly my favorite Oregon point noir producer, the #14 Bergstrom Pinot Noir Ribbon Ridge Le Pre’ Du Col

Willamette Valley vineyard

Willamette Valley vineyard

Vineyard 2013 (95pt/$60) is one of many single-vineyard pinot’s, all with exceptional structure and balance.  The Bergstrom tasting room experience, which includes chardonnay as well, is something not to be missed if you are in the area.  From the neighboring Chehalem Mountains appellation, the #45 Colene Clemens Pinot Noir Chehalem Mountains Margo 2012 (93pt/$36), is a fairly new player that deserves attention.

Aside from France’s acclaimed #9 Clos Fourtet St. Emilion 2012 (94pt/$72) from Bordeaux, I was intrigued with two wines from the Bandol region, having spent a week

Domaine Gros Nore Bandol 2012

Domaine Gros Nore Bandol 2012

in Cassis a few years ago.  One of the top scoring wines from the region, the #94 Domaine Gros Nore Bandol 2012 (93pt/$39) is an engaging blend of mourvedre, cinsault and grenache that sells for a reasonable price.

Provence has secured itself as, arguably, the best new producers of rose’ wines and in 2015, the Domaine Tempier Bandol Rose 2014 (92pt./$40), a mourvedre, grenache, cinsault and carignane blend, aged in concrete vats, could be the best of the best.

 

The ten Spanish wines on the list originated from a variety of regions including Ribera Del Duero that contributed the #6 Bodegas Aalto Ribera Del Duero 2012

Bodegas Aalto Ribera Del Duero 2012

Bodegas Aalto Ribera Del Duero 2012

(94pt/$54) made from 100% “tinto fino” or tempranillo grape.  Following the CUNE Rioja Imperial Grand Reserva 2004 (95pt/$63) as 2013s Wine of the Year, the tempranillo-dominant blend #56 CUNE Rioja Imperial Reserva 2010 (93pt/$44), produced near the town of Haro, lends proof of their reputation for consistent, fine wines.

The growing quality and popularity of New Zealand wines is revealed on the 2015 list through a sauvignon blanc from Marlborough, a chardonnay from Auckland and two

Escarpment Pinot Noir Martinborough Kupe Single Vineyard 2013

Escarpment Pinot Noir Martinborough Kupe Single Vineyard 2013

pinot noir from different regions including the 70% whole-clustered #7 Escarpment Pinot Noir Martinborough Kupe Single Vineyard 2013 (95pt/$69, originating from the southern tip of the northern island.  Another fine white, the complex  #21 Cloudy Day Sauvignon Blanc Marlborough 2014 (93pt/$28) is generally available in most wine outlets.

Each year, the list clearly illustrates the expanding global reach of the wine industry.  Today, our favorite wines have an equal chance of originating from Australia, South America or South Africa than California, France or Italy.  I applaud Wine Spectator’s effort in reviewing thousands of wines and continuing to open doors to discovering new, dynamic appellations, varietals and blends that encourage more exploration of the 2016 releases and beyond.