Recently I had the privilege of interviewing Paul Draper, winemaker for Ridge Vineyards since 1969, over lunch. Without a doubt he is my favorite winemaker in America—not just for the wines he produces, but also for his views, his techniques, his beliefs and his inexhaustible curiosity and interest in wine. At age 71, he is as spry of mind and youthful of spirit as I could ever imagine anyone being.
Gaia Gaja with Mauro Cirilli
Next winemakers to come into town was Gaia Gaja (the first and last name are actually pronounced the same way), the daughter of perhaps Italy's most famous winemaker, Angelo Gaja. Here is Gaia, sitting next to Mauro Cirilli, Perbacco's terrific sommelier.
The Gajas, father and daughter, produce many different wines, but are best known for the Nebbiolo-based wines from the Piedmont region of Italy, as well as for Brunello di Montalcino, Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc and a Cabernet Sauvignon.
Not long ago, I attended a couple of tastings featuring Italy's finest wines—the ones you don't get to taste every day, but are worth writing about when you do.
The region just north of Burgundy on France's east side is famous for its chalky white soils, which gives that minerally texture and Chardonnays of lovely power and grace. There are many great producers, my faves being Dauvissat, William Fevre, Louis Michel and of course Domaine Raveneau, who makes highly individually styled wines and is also greatly popular in San Francisco.
At a nice dinner the other night, several friends and I decided to compare three top single-vineyard Côte Rôties from the vintage of 2001. If you don't know, Côte Rôtie is one of the top Syrah appellations in France's Rhone Valley. Actually, it’s one of the top Syrah appellations in France—okay, the world. All right, to my mind, it's the greatest place for Syrah in the world. Some might argue that Hermitage is better, but I'll take Côte Rôtie's lighter body, floral high notes and silky tannins any day.