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The Wine Thieves are finally back with a new episode, perfect for the late summer, at least in  the northern hemisphere, in which we share some cool news and information on the white wines of Australia. Many picture Australia as a warm country with beautiful beaches and great surfing,  well suited to heat-loving red grapes like grenache, shiraz and mourvèdre (aka mataro) that  make up the classic GSM blend, and rightfully so.  But this episode looks at some lesser-know, future classic white wines.  John and Sara steer clear of chardonnay, despite the many excellent examples, and concentrate instead on the new wave of eclectic and lively whites emerging across the country. Our special guests are Con-Greg Grigoriou, winemaker and partner at the Delinquente Wine Co. based in Riverland, and the legendary Louisa Rose,  head winemaker for Hill-Smith Family Vineyards, which includes includes Pewsey Vale, and, most famously, Yalumba. Grigoriou has set Deliquente apart from much of the bulk production the Riverland region is better known for, by pushing boundaries and making non-conformist wines in every sense of the word from  unconventional varieties like arinto, malvasia bianco, fiano, bianco d’alessano, and vermentino. Pewsey Vale, on the other hand,  put Eden Valley  on the world map for riesling. At the same time,  Louisa has created an identity for viognier at Yalumba, the first southern hemisphere winery to produce wine from the variety in a style that Rose has been perfecting it for the last twenty years.Hot or not, wherever you may be listening in the world,  this episode will leave you craving a glass of refreshing Australian white wine.
In today’s episode:  how cataloguing old vines in South Africa has raised standards for fair employment, and sustainable farming and may just prove the key to solving the problem of the country’s most prevalent vine virus. We continue investigating the topic of old vines, this time from a different perspective, as we look to the Certified Heritage Vineyards of South Africa. We hope you’ve built up an appetite for the subject after last week’s head-turning conversation with the South Australian duo of Dr. Dylan Griggs, the man who wrote the Ph.D. thesis on old vines after an extensive study of the old vines of the Barossa Valley, and Prue Henschke, viticulturist for the renowned Henschke winery, that produces two of the oldest single vineyard wines in Australia today.We know that the term “old vines” helps to sell wine. Trade and well-informed consumers, tend to believe that old vines = better wine. But is that really true? Listen to last week’s episode to find out more about that topic but, spoiler alert, a more accurate expression would be “old vines make different wines”. The Thieves have come to think that those differences are worth preserving and protecting and thus will be discussing a movement in South Africa whose core mission is to do just that - preserve and protect old vines. Winery members of what is known as the “Old Vine Project” can now put a Certified Heritage Vineyards seal on bottles - the threshold for old is 35 years, which is not quite as arbitrary a number as you might think and the seal includes the date of the original planting of each of these old vineyards – a guarantee of authenticity. Our guests on the program include former lawyer-turned-viticulturist Rosa Kruger who is the founder of the small, privately funded group of crusaders known as “The Old Vines Project”. Kruger is the great-great-granddaughter of Paul Kruger, President of South Africa from 1883-1900, and the one for whom the famous Kruger national park is named.  During her travels and tastings around the wine world, Kruger arrived at the realization that old vines not only had advantages on a viticultural level, but also produced better, or at least distinctively, wine. Rosa’s colleague and counterpart at the OVP, Andre Morgenthal,  joins the round table. André has lectured at the Cape Wine Academy and has worked several vintages at Domaine Bertagna in Vougeot, Burgundy and made wine on a small Stellenbosch property, Clos du Ciel. In 2001, he joined Wines of South Africa (WOSA) as Communications Manager with a focus on media relations but in 2016 he resigned from WOSA to start his own business, among other ventures assisting Rosa Kruger with the Old Vine Project (OVP). Also joining the conversation is Andrew Harris of DGB, one of the largest South African producers and distributors of wine and spirits. DGB has developed and built some of the most successful wine brands in South Africa, including Boschendal, Franschhoek Cellars and Bellingham, as well as new projects through Artisanal Brands such as The Old Road Wine Co. and Fryer’s Cove, which DGB acquired last year. DGB is an important member of the Old Vine Project and manages more old vineyards than any other group in SA.Find yourself a glass of old vines chenin blanc and join the conversation!
Today's episode takes a critical look at the fashionable and fascinating subject of old vines, some extremely old, how they got so old, how they perform and the wines they produce. Do they make better wine than young vines?The Wine Thieves  ask two world experts from South Australia to weigh in:  Prue Henschke, viticulturist for the renowned Henschke winery, including two of Australia’s most iconic ancient vineyards, Hill of Grace and Mount Edelstone, and Dr. Dylan Grigg, author of the doctoral thesis “An investigation into the effect of grapevine age on vine performance, and grape and wine composition”. Grigg studied five shiraz vineyards in the Barossa with genetically related ‘young’ and ‘old’ plantings in close proximity.  The average age difference between these adjacent young and old blocks was an astonishing 97 years, the greatest spread of extreme of vine ages to be subjected to scientific scrutiny. And it's a study that couldn't be reproduced elsewhere; South Australia is home to some of the world’s oldest vineyards, including some of the oldest producing vines on the planet.   And the Barossa Valley in particular is rather unique in the world with large areas of surviving pre-phylloxera vines, some with continual production that dates back 180 years. In 2009 the Barossa Valley instituted the  ‘old vine charter’ to register vineyards by age, so that older vines could be both preserved and promoted.  The charter classifies vineyards into 4 age categories that include  Barossa Old Vines , equal to or greater than 35 years of age,  Barossa Survivor Vines, at least 70 years of age,  Barossa Centenarian Vines 100 years old or more, and Barossa Ancestor Vines 125 years old or more.With a glass of fine shiraz in hand, Join the Wine Thieves for this perspective-changing discussion about what it means to be old. You'll have to suspend your beliefs about old vines and the wines they produce.  The conversation might very well reset your beliefs!
Who doesn't love Beaujolais? This in-depth episode is all about this picturesque, hilly region and its geological and stylistic diversity. Recent cataloguing of the Beaujolais soils helped bring to light over 300 soil profiles that have been analyzed and described by geologists in tandem with growers, underscoring that diversity (be sure to check out the soil map,  published on  beaujolais.com.)The Thieves welcome Mee Goddard to the round table, one of the newer voices in Beaujolais, who launched her Domaine in 2013 with three special bottlings of Morgon: Corcelette, Grand Cras, and Côte du Py.  She focuses on “vins de garde”, wines meant to age, blending carbonic and non-carbonic techniques. Cyril Chirouze is also on the program,  Director of Winemaking and manager of Château des Jacques,  owned by the venerable Maison Louis Jabot. Cyril made wine in the Côte d'Or before making the move to Beaujolais, yielding to the "siren call" of gamay, and the vast, untapped potential of the region. Today Cyril makes wines in the crus of  Morgon and in Moulin-a-Vent.Mathieu Lapierre is our third star guest at the table. Matthieu's father Marcel Lapierre was a pivotal player in the revival of Beaujolais, one of the "gang of four" who moved towards making wines with a bare minimum of intervention, what are currently often called “natural” wines. Mathieu sets the record straight on what is "traditional" winemaking in the region (spoiler: it's probably not what you think), and explains why gamay languished in northern Burgundy but flourished in the south. John and Sara also attempt to sort out the status of the lieux-dits in Beaujolais and investigate the difference between a lieu-dit, a climat and a cru at the conclusion of the interview.  Join us as we dig beneath the multicoloured soils of Beaujolais to reveal the secrets of France's most affable wine. Santé!This episode was produced in collaboration with the interprofessional association of Beaujolais.
The Wine Thieves venture out beyond wine (but not too far) to speak with Michelin starred chef-sommelier José González-Solla (Pepe to his friends) of the renowned Casa Solla, near Pontevedra in Galicia.  Once-known for its excellent, traditional, home cooking, when Solla took over from his parents he transformed the business through his inventive style of cooking that's  still firmly focused on the  authentic flavours of Galicia.Pepe believes that “Galicia is the best place in the world to be a chef!” thanks to the excellent quality of regional ingredients, and he lets us in on a few of his cooking secrets to get the most out of what's available. There is of course the bounty of the rías to draw from, where sweet and saltwater meet on the Spanish coast, which includes the world's best  razor clams, mussels, crab and pulpo (octopus), to name but a few.  But inland, Galicia also has a unique breed of pork , distinctive  from the Iberian pigs prevalent in the rest of Spain, as well as local cattle and native poultry breeds, abundant produce and a wealth of local cheeses made into unique shapes such as the mushroom-shaped cheese known as Cebreiro, the creamy Arzùa-Ulloa, the golden pear-shaped of San Simón da Costa and the cheese known as Tetilla . . . .  Solla was among the founders of an association called the Grupo Nove, a 100%-Galician gastronomic movement. Members include a couple dozen Galician chefs, champions of their regional cuisine and innovators in the realm, whose aim is to put Galicia firmly in the world spotlight of cuisine. Salivating? Join us as we ask chef Pepe Solla  for tips on cooking at home and how best to enjoy the energetic wines of Rias Baixas. 
In Episode 4 in a five-part series on Rias Baixas,  the Wine Thieves speak with winemaker Emilio Rodriguez of the Terras Gauda winery in O Rosal, the largest privately owned winery in Rias Baixas. Emilio has been at Terras Gauda for longer than he can remember, and he is a big fan of some of the other native grapes of the region beyond Albariño, especially caiño blanco.  He speaks about the sweeping changes that occurred in the region, bringing Rias Baixas out of the middle ages of homespun winemaking and into the modern, quality-focused industry it is today. O Rosal is in the spotlight, the third most important sub-zone of Rias Baixas in size after the Salnés Valley and Condado do Tea. A coastal region in the southwestern corner of Galicia, bordered by the Minho River and Portugal to the south, Condado do Tea to the east, and the Atlantic Ocean to the west. O Rosal accounts for about 11% of total plantings in Rias Baixas,  and sits in temperature between that of Condado do Tea, the warmest, and Val do Salnés, the coolest.Albariño is the main variety here, but complementary white varieties loureiro, treixadura, caiño and even godello have a role to play.  Terraced, south-facing vineyards along the north bank of the Minho enjoy excellent sun exposure, maximizing the nearly 2200 sunshine hours per year. Ripeness is nudged to a slightly higher degree than in the Salnés Valley, enabling even late varieties like caiño to deliver. Another distinguishing feature of Rosal is the band of schist bedrock that runs through the region, a variation on the otherwise granite-derived soils in most of the rest of the Rías Baixas D.O. You can expect the white wines of O Rosal to tilt more towards stone fruit flavours and relatively generous and rounded palate.Grab a glass of your prefered Atlantic white and join John & Sara on their continued journey across the misty terroir of Rias Baixas. Salud!
Rias Baixas episode 3 of a five-part series: redefining Albariño, emerging styles, ageworthy wines, and the Condado do Tea subregion with special guest Isabel Salgado, winemaker at Fillaboa. In this episode we shift our focus over to the Condado do Tea sub-region. Condado de Tea is the second largest sub-region of the five, behind the Salnès Valley. It starts inland from O Rosal about 40 kilometres from the coast along the course of the Minho River into rugged, mountainous territory. The region gets its name from a tributary of the Miño, called the Tea River, which runs through Condado do Tea (the “County of Tea”). As the most inland of the sub-regions, it’s the least Atlantic, although there is no question that all of Rias Baixas can be considered a maritime terroir. But, it's less directly affected by cooling marine breezes making it warmer overall. The soils are quite shallow here, with granite and slate sub-layers quite near the surface, with plenty of alluvial material along with pebbles and sand on top, deposited by both the Tea and the Miño rivers. Albariño is, again, the major grape, but Treixadura is the second variety of choice, which has a firm, steely structure, high acids and apple-y flavours. Today the Wine Thieves talk with Isabel Salgado, winemaker at the Fillaboa Estate, one of the oldest estates in Galicia and one of the largest in the land registry of Pontevedra. It features an exquisite garden of camellias, olive trees, and magnolias along with 50 hectares of vineyard divided into 12 parcels, mostly south-facing on the north (or right bank) of the Miño River. Isabel shares her thoughts on emerging styles of Albariño, including a wine she makes that spends 6 years ageing on lees before bottling, and experiment to extend the ageability of this variety so often consumed young.Join Isabella, John and Sara as they explore more unique facets of albariño when grown in this inland region on the pebbly soils left by the Tea and Miño Rivers. Salud!Episode sponsored by D.O. Rias Baixas, content exclusively by The Wine Thieves®
This is part two of a five-part series on the Wine of Rias Baixas. In the first episode, we took you through the region, including a brief history and the technical details of climate and soils, sub-regions and the denominación of origin rules and regulations. If you missed it, you may want to go back and have a listen to our interview Katia Alvarez, winemaker at the Martin Codax winery of the Val do Salnés sub-region. In this episode, we remain in the Salnés valley sub-zone and speak with Diego Rios, the Chilean winemaker in charge of regional reference, Granbazán. We get to the bottom of the mysterious origins of albariño with Diego, the most widely planted grape in Rias Baixas today. Germanic tribes? Cistercian monks travelling the Way of St. James? or Roman foragers? Find out in this episode.Saltiness in wine is a strangely recurring theme on Wine Thieves, and we also look more deeply in this episode into its causes. Is it real? Or perceived? A trick of the other senses joining together to create the impression, or a bona fide dose of sodium?  Does the terroir of Rias Baixas itself contribute to the perception of salinity? We discuss such riveting angles as sodium deposits on grapes, absorption through soils into vines, and even how the important Galician canned seafood industry might play a role…  As always with scientific papers, our conclusions are that, "further study in this field is recommended”. So grab a glass of salty coastal Albariño from Green Spain, maybe some razor clams or pulpo a la gallega, and join Sara and John on this adventure into the past and future.Salud!Episode sponsored by D.O. Rias Baixas, content exclusively by The Wine Thieves®
Welcome back and thank you for joining us for another season of Wine Thieves! We're off to a fresh start with our latest series in which we  explore albariño, seaside vineyards and fresh Atlantic wines as we travel through the diverse wine-growing region of Rias Baixas. This small corner of northwestern “Green Spain” in the region of Galicia has emerged over the last couple of decades as a premier source of fresh, crunchy, salty wines that are mainly, but not exclusively, white. This first episode in the series will give you all the relevant background to the Denomination of Origin Rias Baixas and its wines, and includes an interview with winemaker Katia Alvarez, chief winemaker at Martìn Codax, one of the region’s largest and most recognized producers around the globe. The winery is based in the sub-region of the Val do Salnès, the largest of the 5 subregions of Rias Baixas.  The coastal landscape of Rías Baixas features a series of spectacular jagged inlets and shallow fjords known as “rias”, hence the name Rías Baixas, which means literally the “lower rias", or lower estuaries”.  The D.O. Rias Baixas encompasses over 4000 hectares of vineyards,  split into 5 sub-zones according to their topography and proximity to rivers and the sea. Although over 99% of all wine produced in Rías Baixas is white, differences in microclimates, terroir and grape varieties in the five sub-zones, as well as different winemaking techniques, make for impressive diversity. Styles range from crisp, aromatic citrusy and saline  in Val do Salnés, to the peachier, softer style in O Rosal, and a less fruity, some say earthier style in Condado do Tea.Grab your map and your glass as we explore the remarkable hillside and terraced vineyards of Rias Baixas, discuss the traditional pergola system called "parra", learn why yields are so low, what wine style to expect from each subregion, how salty sea air affects coastal vineyards, and  how hydric stress can occur in a rainy climate. Salud!Episode sponsored by the D.O. Rias Baixas
A Toast to Yerevan!

A Toast to Yerevan!

2021-12-2446:35

This is the last in our 5-part series featuring Armenia’s modern wine renaissance and our final episode of 2021. This time we focus on what’s most important, that is . . . eating and drinking in Yerevan, the capital of Armenia! Following the evolution of wine culture in the country that moved from a brandy-producing and brandy drinking culture to embracing their millennia-old wine history and reviving wine production and wine drinking. The Thieves speak to Mariam Sagetelyan, the co-owner of the most important wine bar in Yerevan, called InVino, which is still the only wine-only restaurant bar in Yerevan. Wine is all they sell and serve. Artem Parseryan also joins the program, the winemaker at Trinity Canyon Vineyards, a project started by Mariam’s father and two other friends, hence “Trinity” so that they could supply their wine bar and restaurant at the time. Their venture began only about a decade or so ago, but it was a time when reliable commercial wine was very hard to come by. They literally had to fill the supply for the demand they had created.Respect for indigenous varieties, a look at self-rooted international grapes as a way to better understand the phylloxera-free sites of the Vayots Dzor and "to karas or not to karas" are some of the many topics John and Sara discuss as they uncover the many specialties that are to be savoured in Yerevan. Join us as we ring in the New Year with a glass of areni in hand!
In this episode, the Thieves visit one of the world’s great wine capitals: Vienna.  Up until the late Middle Ages, grapevines were still growing within city walls in what is now the first district in the heart of Vienna. Vineyards were slowly pushed to the outskirts, but Vienna remains the only European capital to have acreage of commercial consequence; just under 600ha are planted today to a wide variety of both red and white grapes. In the districts surrounding the city, especially in the north such as the 21st and its historic neighbourhoods of Strebersdorf, Stammersdorf and Jedlersdorf, and the 19th district’s Heiligenstadt, Nussdorf, and Grinzing, rural meets urban in a setting that features charmingly rustic wine taverns surrounded by the vineyards that supply them. Called buschenshank, or more commonly heuriger (plu: heurigen; HOOI-REE-GEn), these original, seasonal pop-up, farm-to-table-restaurants operated by vintners have been a Viennese, and Austrian, tradition for nearly two and a half centuries. They’ve become such a cultural institution that, like the Viennese waltz, they were included in the UNESCO list of intangible cultural heritage in Austria. You know they’re open for business when you see a fir branch hanging above the door.Of the many styles of wine produced in Vienna, the most traditional and emblematic wine is the white wine called Wiener Gemischter Satz, (VEEner-geh-MISH-ter-sats) which means literally the “mixed set of Vienna”. In practical terms, gemischter satz is a wine made from a mix of different white grapes co-planted in the same vineyard, and harvested and vinified together. Vienna is one of the few places left in the world where the ancient practice of planting multi-variety field blends, once the norm throughout the old world (and in the oldest vineyards of the new world), is still followed. Today, almost one-fifth of vineyards in Vienna are field blends.Joining Sara and John on the show to discuss Viennese drinking habits are two important winemakers in the renaissance of Vienna’s wines, including its flagship Gemischter Satz: Fritz Wieninger of Weingut Wieninger and Hajszann-Neumann, and Alex Zahel of the Zahel Family winery. Grab a glass of "gemischt” and come heuriger-hopping with us through Vienna.
You probably already know about Austrian grüner veltliner. It’s the country’s most planted variety, and the wine you’re most likely to find on store shelves and restaurant wine lists. You may even know that Austria makes exceptional riesling and fine reds from local specialties like blaufränkisch and sankt laurent. But what may be news is that this middle European country is also the source of some of the world’s best sauvignon blanc, from a small region in the country’s deep south called Steiermark, or Styria.Styria is one of Austria’s wettest and most humid regions. Pressure systems from the nearby Adriatic Sea regularly drive moist, unstable pockets of air up into Austria where they eventually run up against the Alps. As air masses rise, storm clouds form, and then slip back down into Styria and drop up to 1200 millimetres of rain annually, at the upper limit for quality grape growing. Warm, moist air is also a catalyst for vine diseases of all kinds, a challenge especially for the small but growing number of organic grape growers in the region. So what makes quality wine possible and worthwhile in this seemingly inhospitable place? The answer, in a word, is hills. Steep hills. In fact, outside of the Alps proper, Styria has the country’s steepest slopes, the most extreme of which tip over 115% grade. That’s steeper than even the most radical sites in the Wachau.To better understand Styria's calling card, sauvignon blanc, John and Sara speak to two producers widely considered at the pinnacle of quality : Alex Sattler of Sattlerhof, and Stefan Tement of Weingut Tement. These two are representative of the growing number of young winemakers taking over family estates and pushing the limits on quality production, making Styria a particularly dynamic and quality-focused . Put down your grüner and get ready for a vertigo-inducing episode of Wine Thieves!
The Wine Thieves make their way to the south of France to the country’s most productive IGP, the Pays d’Oc. This long coastal strip spanning 240 kilometres across the Mediterranean Sea from just east of Nîmes to the Spanish border is a multi-faceted region with endless sunshine, benevolent winds and variations in elevation that make it possible to successfully grow no fewer than 58 permitted grape varieties. The IGP Pays d’Oc (Indication Géographique Protégée, or, Protected Geographic Indication) is an area that serious collectors routinely overlook given its reputation for ready-to-drink wines of a nebulous geographic region. Yet the designation has been steadily transforming, helped by a modern approach, foreign interest and investment and varietal labelling. More than just pleasure-for-price, the area is also a non-conformist playground, thanks to the freedom afforded by the Pays d’Oc IGP designation.John and Sara interview three producers who forged unique identities within the Pays d'Oc. First up is Tim Ford, Owner and Managing Director at Domaine Gayda, a family-owned winery whose organic vineyards are in the heart of the Languedoc in the foothills of the Pyrenees about 25 km southwest of Carcassonne.  Tim and co-owner Anthony Record joined forces with winemaker Vincent Chansault in 2004 to focus on sustainably-produced wines with modern appeal.Our next guests are dynamic couple Laurent and Catherine Delaunay, who founded Les Jamelles and co-founded Abbots & Delaunay (in Marseillette, near Carcassonne) making a range of wildly successful wines with a particular focus on varietally bottlings. Originally from Burgundy, where they still have a foothold and produce pinot noir and chardonnay, the couple fell in love with the Languedoc and its myriad creative possibilities. They are producers, négociants and some of the busiest people the Thieves have met in the world of wine.Our third guest is Magali Dardé, third generation in charge of Domaine Les Yeuses, and her agent Olivier. The winery in Mèze on the Etang de Thau – a brackish inland body of water - was built in the 13th century by the Knights Templars atop an ancient Roman villa. The estate has been in the Dardé family for over 30 years with the family sharing in the day to day responsibilities. Single variety wines are a focus, sourced from the estate’s 80 hectares of vines with a view of the sea.Join us for this vibrant episode with some of the stars of Southern France.This episode was produced in partnership with Pays d'Oc IGP. 
This week we're back in Armenia focusing more deeply on the origins and proliferation of Armenia’s autochthonous grape varieties. Indigenous and autochthonous seem to be used interchangeably, but as we've learned, in the scientific community, autochthonous is the preferred term for grape varieties that were born, so to speak, in a certain place.  So, get ready for a very heady interview as we delve deep into vinifera DNA, domestication centers, and algorithmic predictions of grapevine distribution …The Wine Thieves welcome guest Kristina Margaryan, head of the research group of plant genomics at the institute of molecular biology and the national academy of science specializing in grapevine genetics and genomics. In 2018 she helped to establish the first Armenian grapevine database. Also joining the discussion is Varuzhan Mouradian, founder of Van Ardi, one of the first boutique wineries established as part of the modern Armenian wine renaissance. To prep you for the discussion, John and Sara learn the definitions of morphology, phenotypes, somatic mutations, chimera, germplasm and clarify the distinction between a grape synonym and homonym. You'll discover what just may be the world's oldest grape variety and the possibility of long-lost relatives across Europe as our guests explore archeo-botanical evidence and newfound genetic research. Looking to the past to innovate in the future, they consider the possiblity that ancient, wild grape varieties may hold the key to disease resistant and climate-hardy farming. Don't miss out on this thought-provoking  conversation!
Napa's Women in Wine

Napa's Women in Wine

2021-11-1648:28

(Previously aired 07/21) In this important episode, we connect with two of the many women who make up the fabric of Napa Valley's wine trade.  We speak with Megan Baccitich, a Healdsburg native and winemaker at the forward-thinking Geodesy Winery, and Ana Diogo-Draper, born raised and educated in Portugal but in Napa for the last 15 years, and now  Director of winemaking at Artesa. We explore why discussions about women in wine are still relevant and necessary,  examine the importance of mentorship programs for women such as the innovative WG EDGE (Women Gaining an Edge), a project led by Judy Jordan of Jordan Family of wines and founder of Geodesy. Both Ana and Megan tell their stories of how they rose to leadership roles in a historically male-dominated industry and give advice to women interested in pursuing careers in wine. We'll look at how Napa's wine community is supporting women in wine and the continuing need to increase the number of leadership roles held by women. Join us with a glass for a thought-provoking conversation.This episode was created in partnership with Napa Valley Vintners. 
In this episode, the Thieves explore one of the most important and timely topics in the wine world today: Regenerative Agriculture. “Regen Ag”, or simply RA as it’s often called, has become THE buzzword of the year not just in the wine industry, but in the agri-food sector at large. What is regen ag? It’s a simple question but the answer is anything but.  In very basic terms, it’s a system of agriculture that puts in more than it takes out. It’s not about just sustaining what’s already in the soil, but actually replenishing nutrients, increasing organic matter, capturing carbon, protecting water sources,  making the crop more resilient to erratic weather events, and especially increasing biodiversity above and below ground, including  micro-fauna, all the billions of bacteria and fungi, protozoa and nematodes that live in healthy soil and that are necessary for healthy plants, or in this case, vines. But it’s also the wellbeing of workers and the overall profitability of an operation. What could be more important than this in the 21st century?But exactly how a farmer goes about implementing regen ag is the more complex question.  Unlike organic or biodynamic viticulture, which controls the inputs on a farm – what and how much of anything you can spray on vines, for example, regen ag is all about outcomes.  It's  not prescriptive; the success of RA is measured not by what you put in, but by what you end up with.But how do you measure, or even certify, that success? How do you measure wellbeing? How much carbon do you have to capture? How many plants and animals and bacteria do you need to have on your farm to be bio-diverse? The actual yardsticks are hard to pin down. We discuss these questions, and many more, with our two expert guests from New Zealand, a country at the forefront of regenerative agriculture. Joining us is Michelle Barry of the Bragato Research Institute (BRI), the research arm of New Zealand Winegrowers that is leading the charge on researching and implementing and communicating RA, and kiwi master of wine Steve Smith, who's spent his whole life since high school working in the NZ wine industry, co-founded Craggy Range, and  is now co-owner of  biodynamic Pyramid Valley Vineyards in North Canterbury and Lowburn Ferry in Central Otago, as well as the Smith and Sheth Wine Company. Contemplate the future of winegrowing with us with a glass of responsibly made NZ wine in hand.This episode was produced with the assistance of New Zealand Winegrowers. 
(Previously aired July 2021) This is not an episode about Napa's “icon wines” or “icon wineries” whose labels, rarity, and high cost cause a frenzy among consumers resulting in exclusive waitlists for the privilege of purchasing a bottle. No, today we’re talking about the “star” vineyards that, in some cases, have become brands in their own right. In Part One, we spoke with Andy Beckstoffer, the winegrower who turned Napa Valley’s grower-winery relationship upside down.  Today our illustrious guests include Paul Hobbs, Chris Tynan of Cliff Lede Vineyards, and Tom Hinde of Taub Family Selections to discuss what makes their vineyards so unique.  Paul Hobbs is an esteemed international winemaking consultant with projects across the globe from Argentina to Armenia but his home base is at Napa Valley’s Paul Hobbs winery whose fruit is sourced from the sub AVA’s of St. Helena and Oakville. He works with Beckstoffer’s fruit from the notable To Kalon, Las Piedras, and Dr. Crane vineyards. He'll open up about his long-time relationship with Beckstoffer Vineyards plus the Nathan Coombs Estate on the foot of the Vaca Mountain range known for its volcanic soils and cool climate.  Taub Family Selections represents top sites in St. Helena, Rutherford, Oakville, Yountville, Mount Veeder, and Howell Mountain. Through a relationship with Andy Beckstoffer, the Taub family has access to the vineyards of Beckstoffer Vineyard Georges III (Rutherford) and Beckstoffer Missouri Hopper (Oakville) producing Cabernet Sauvignons since 2012. Winemaker Tom Hinde was previously known for his work at Kendall-Jackson Wine Estates, Hartford Family Winery, La Crema Winery, Lakoya, Cardinale, Stonestreet, and Verite. We’ll tap into his experience at creating brands and a strong market perspective to give us insight into why these vineyards command such respect.We’ll also be speaking with Christopher Tynan, winemaker of Cliff Lede Vineyards whose experience includes working with Helen Turley at Blankiet Estate in Yountville, as the assistant winemaker at Colgin Cellars where he worked closely with Vineyard Manager David Abreu. We discuss the famed Poetry Vineyard that is carved into a steep west-facing hillside, which reaches from the highest elevations of the Stags Leap District sub-appellation to the valley floor drawing its uniqueness from shallow, volcanic soils atop fractured shale planted by David Abreu with high vine density and proprietary clonal selection. Top up your glass with one of Napa's finest and join us as we hunt down some of Napa's most unique terroirs.
In this third episode focused on the re-nascent wine industry in Armenia, the Wine Thieves get into a deep and detailed conversation about ancient and recent techniques applied to the wealth of autochthonous grapes in the country. Joined by guests Artak Gabrielyan, chief winemaker at the Armenian National Agrarian University and lecturer at the EVN Wine Academy, and Jean-Paul Berger, German-born but Armenian tradition-obsessed  winemaker at the historic Voskevaz winery in Aragatsotn region, Sara and John delve into the fascinating history and practical applications of karas, Armenia's millennia-old clay amphora.  Caucasian oak and its use for barrel making also enters the discussion, including the similarities with, and differences between it and American white oak and European species, as well as  the local grape varieties that are best suited to fermenting and ageing in karas and/or indigenous oak. We speculate on the "Kahkani method", the equivalent to appassimento in Italy, originally used to preserve grapes for eating during  cold Armenian winters. At what point did someone think of turning partially dried grapes into wine? Did the Greeks, and later the Italians, learn this technique from the Armenians?And lastly in a far-too-rare segment, the Thieves taste and discuss a thoroughly delicious bottle of Voskehat, the Queen of Armenian white varieties from the Vayots Dzor region in the volcanic Armenian Highlands, and compare and contrast two examples of the country's most important red variety, Areni. Grab a glass of either, or both, (if you live in Canada, the best source of Armenian wines is kinedoun.com) and come with us on another enjoyable journey to the ancient world of wine.
(Previously aired 07/15) Join the Wine Thieves in Napa Valley this week for the first of a special two-part series on the "grand crus" of Napa Valley, that is, the very best vineyards, the historic and more recently famous sites that produce Napa's finest wines. Today we're going straight to the source to talk to the Napa Valley’s, and probably all of California’s, most famous grape grower, a man who has created as powerful a luxury brand as anyone in Napa without ever having bottled a single commercial wine of his own,  Andy Beckstoffer, a name intimately associated with, and prominently displayed on, bottles of Napa’s most expensive and sought-after wines.Andy Beckstoffer is one of the early and most important leaders in the evolution of the Napa Valley to a world-class grape-growing region. Beckstoffer To Kalon, Beckstoffer Georges the III, Beckstoffer Dr, Crane, and other important vineyard names on a bottle of wine sends a shiver down the spine of Napa Valley wine lovers, no matter what producer’s name they’re associated with, and the price is guaranteed to be premium. The story of how and why this came to be is worth a listen in itself. Today, Beckstoffer Vineyards owns and farms over 3,600 acres of top-quality grape-growing properties in three Northern California wine-growing regions – the Napa Valley, Mendocino County, and the Red Hills of Lake County. Join us for a frank conversation with  Andy himself who will take us through his history in Napa Valley and how he came to develop an idiosyncratic business model that empowers the grower, self-regulates quality and may have contributed to the preservation of agricultural land in Napa Valley. Photo credit: Beckstoffer Vineyards, To KalonThis episode was created in partnership with Napa Valley Vintners. 
In this episode we take a deeper look at VQA Ontario wines, and more specifically the Niagara Peninsula and its 10 sub-appellations. We begin to unravel the mystery of the cru, those single parcels of vineyard that have, or yet may rise, to the top of the heap of Ontario VQA wines. What features do they share? What makes them unique?With grapegrowing experience stretching back to the 1970s, it is becoming more clear which sites are best suited to which grape varieties. John and Sara speak to guests Ilya Senchuck of Leaning Post Wines in Niagara and  Shauna White of Adamo Estates in Hockley Valley about their quests to find worthy single vineyards. This episode was created in partnership with VQA Wine Country Ontario.
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