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Sipping with Susana Balbo, Argentina’s First Woman Winemaker

Susana Balbo, Founder of Susana Balbo Wines, has a career history of firsts: The first Argentinian female winemaker, first Argentinean woman to become a global wine consultant and first Latin American woman to chair the W20 Summit. She has served as a member of Argentina’s parliament representing the Mendoza region, and she served three terms as President of Wines of Argentina during which time Argentinian wines gained global recognition and achieved record export growth.

Argentina’s Susana Balbo is woman of many firsts.

Balbo believes to lead is to set an example for future generations. Interestingly, her original dream to study abroad and become a nuclear physicist in the 1970s was discouraged by her parents. She told us at the time, things were different politically in Argentina, and her parents wanted her to stay closer to home in Mendoza. Instead, Balbo studied viticulture and became the first woman in Argentina to earn an oenology degree. Initially, she worked in her family’s viticultural business and then spread her wings and expanded her credentials by working with Michael Torino Winery, Martins and Catena Zapa and then consulting for numerous global wine brands in South America, Australia and Europe.

Susana Balbo Wines in Mendoza

After 20 years producing and consulting for other wineries, she founded Susana Balbo Wines in Luján de Cuyo, Mendoza. Balbo said her vision was always to make high-quality wines  with beautiful fruit and elegant balanced finish, approachable when young but with promising ageabilty. Today, Balbo runs her eponymous winery with her daughter Ana, a graduate of University San Andrés in Buenos Aires, and son José, a graduate of Unversity California at Davis.  www.susanabalbowines.com

Luján de Cuyo is a cool, mountainous sub-region in Mendoza known for its Malbec

Balbo spends much of her time on the road. We were lucky enough to catch a few minutes with her to share her vision on leadership and mentorship for women on The Connected Table SIPS. Balbo discussed why she chose to embrace both the role of entrepreneur and public servant, holding a position in Argentina’s parliament and leading the W20 Summit, whose mission is to create a more sustainable business and civil environment for women in South America and beyond.

A portion of this sponsored podcast was donated to Les Dames d’Escoffier’s Carol Brock Scholarship, in recognition of the Founder of this prestigious organization of leading women in food, fine beverage and hospitality. www.ldny.org  www.ldei.org

Click this image to listen on iHeart. Also available on iTunes, Spreaker, Stitcher and “The Connected Table Page” at Sante Magazine.


The U.S. importer for Susana Balbo Wines is Folio Fine Wine Partners. Here area few selections we tried:

Brioso 2016. A blend of 53% Cabernet Sauvignon, 24% Cabernet Franc, 16% Malbec, 7% Petit Verdot. Aged 15 months in 100% new French oak barrels. It shows sweet red and black fruits, subtle oak and a great backbone of tannins and elegant grip over florality from the Cabernet Sauvignon. Great aging potential.

 

Brioso Signature White Blend 2017 45% Semillón, 30% Torrontés, 25% Sauvignon Blanc. 4 months in 60% first use French oak barrels and 40% second use. An aromatic wine with floral and citrus notes combined with touches of fresh grass, white fruits and orange.  Its finish is mineral and persistent. Great potential for aging.

 

Nosotros 2013 – 100% Malbec aged 16 months, 80% in new French oak and 20% in second use French oak. This is Balbo’s iconic wine, vibrant. intense and elegant, a balance of dark fruits and spice. Great aging potential.

 

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Sipping with Eileen Crane, CEO, Domaine Carneros

For anyone who’s ever visited California wine country, one of the of the most popular places to stop and taste is Domaine Carneros Winery, which is recognized for its méthode traditionelle sparkling wines, estate vineyards and breathtakingly beautiful château. Domaine Carneros was founded in 1987 by Claude Taittinger of the Champagne Taittinger family. Located entirely within the Carneros AVA, between Napa and Sonoma, Domaine Carneros comprises six vineyards on 400 acres. The château is inspired by the 18th century Château de la Marquetterie, the Taittinger family residence in the Champagne region.

Domaine Carneros sits majestically on a hill overlooking the vineyards/

To oversee management and production of its first méthode champenoise wines in the U.S.A. Taittinger tapped sparkling wine specialist Eileen Crane to be CEO and Founding Winemaker. Crane, who holds a degree in enology and viticulture from University of California Davis, as well as a master’s degree in Nutrition from University of Connecticut, had been working as winemaker and vice president at Gloria Ferrer since 1983, and prior to that at Domaine Chandon.

Eileen Crane has been called “The Doyenne of American Sparkling Wines.”

We visited with Crane on The Connected Table SIPS to discuss her approach to making sparkling wines in cool-climate Carneros, as well as what the visitors can expect when they visit the winery. Crane underscored that Domaine Carneros is all about delivering an exceptional tasting experience and offers a selection of wine and food pairings and settings to enjoy them.

Caviar tasting at Domaine Carneros

We’ve had the pleasure of tasting wines at Domaine Carneros when we visited in 2017 and most recently with Crane for our SIPS podcast. Here’s what we tasted:

Domaine Carneros 2015 Brut Cuvée – Made from Chardonnay 51%, Pinot Noir 47% and Pinot Gris 2%, an elegant wine with notes of key lime, honeycomb and lemon curd on the nose and baked pear, lime blossom and lemon meringue on the palate for a creamy, long finish.

Domaine Carneros Brut Rosé Cuvée de la Pompadour – This sparkling rosé is named for Madame la Pompadour, paramour to French King Louis XV, who reportedly said, “Champagne is the only wine a woman can drink and remain beautiful.” Made from 100% Pinot Noir using the rose de saignée method, allowing the grape must and skins to macerate for a several days, after which a small amount of Pinot Noir wine is added to enhance the color, which is a deep salmon. Pair with roasted salmon or duck or even fresh berries for dessert.

Domaine Carneros 2012 Le Rêve Blanc de Blancs – Made from 100% Chardonnay, this tête de cuvée represents Claude Taittinger’s dream (rêve in French) to make one of America’s finest sparking wines, which it has been frequently named. La Rêve has notes of white flowers, Meyer lemon, poached pear and a touch of grilled grapefruit and a fresh, long palate that opens to honeysuckle and crème brûlée. Pair with delicate seafood dishes such as poached scallops, cracked crab or Dover sole, or with double or triple crème cheeses.

All photos courtesy of Domaine Carneros Info: www.domainecarneros.com

Hear more from Eileen Crane. Listen to this edition of The Connected Table SIPS on iHeart.com. Click image below:

This podcast is part of our special series recognizing women in wine and spirits. A donation has been made to Les Dames d’Escoffier, an organization to supporting women in the fine food and beverage industry through education and advocacy www.ldei.org . For information on featuring a dynamic women for this series, contact melanie@theconnectedtable.com.

 

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Sipping with Amy Hoopes, Wente Family Estates

Joining a tight multi-generational family business can be tough as an outsider, especially when the family is globally recognized for producing a hallmark brand, in this case California wines. But Amy Hoopes, a 20-year wine industry veteran has done it seamlessly as President of Wente Family Estates (Livermore, CA), the oldest continuously operated, family-owned winery in the country.  Hoopes joined Wente Family Estates in 2007 and was named president in 2015. Wente Family Estates celebrates five generations working in the business and 136 years in 2019.

Amy Hoopes, President, Wente Family Estates

She has led many pioneering initiatives for the company and the industry, including #MakeTime, which encourages work-life balance and community volunteerism among Wente’s employees. She discusses how empowering employees to  create a balance between family, self, work and community not only helps build an individual’s personal self-esteem and sense of well-being, but also fosters employee loyalty and productivity.

Mother to two daughters, Hoopes is committed to programs to support women and their career advancement. Wente Family Estates sponsors several programs, including the Les Dames d’Escoffier International Legacy Awards, which provides mentoring opportunities to women pursuing careers in beverage and food.

 

 

The Wente Clone- the “mother grape”

In 1883 Karl Wente purchased 47 acres of vineyards in Livermore. In 1912, Karl’s son, Ernest persuaded his father to import select Chardonnay cuttings from the best vines in a nursery at the University of Montpellier in France. These cuttings gave birth to what is now referred to in the California wine industry as “the Wente clone.”  (a clone being a viticultural term referring to vines descended from cuttings or buds from an original “mother” vine.)   According to Wente’s website, “over 80% of all California Chardonnay stems from the Wente clone.”

What we sipped:

Chardonnay, naturally! Wente Family Estates harvests its Wente clone in four different vineyards in Northern California, each with a different style. We tasted Wente’s Riva Ranch Vineyard Chardonnay 2017, produced from grapes cultivated in its vineyard in Arroyo Seco. The wine has deep tropical notes,  like a light guava jam spread on toast. Great with grilled chicken!

We also tried Niki’s Rosé 2018 made from 100% estate-grown Pinot Noir grapes, also from Arroyo Seco. It’s an aromatic wine with rich raspberry and strawberry notes and touch of mandarin orange. We tend to eat light vegetarian dinners, and this wine, nicely chilled, fit the bill.

The Charles Wetmore Cabernet Sauvignon 2016 is named after one of the Livermore Valley’s most prominent agricultural pioneers, who brought select cuttings from some of Bordeaux’s top chateaux to plant in California. This wine is 79%  Cabernet Sauvignon with smaller percentages of Petite Sirah (9%), Petit Verdot (8%) and Malbec (4%). It’s a velvety wine with dark berry notes and touches of cocoa and black pepper.

Learn more about the Wente story and wine here www.wentevineyards.com

 

Click below to listen to The Connected Table SIPS with Amy Hoopes, President, Wente Family Estates, here.