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01.24.2015

Vinography Unboxed: Week of January 18, 2015

Hello, and welcome to my periodic dig through the samples pile. I'm pleased to bring you the latest installment of Vinography Unboxed, where I highlight some of the better bottles that have crossed my doorstep recently. This week's samples included a most unusual trio of rosés. Now I'm generally not a fan of most California rosés, which tend to be made by simply bleeding off juice from a red wine early in the fermentation process and then fermenting that to something slightly less than dryness. They tend to be a little sweet, a bit bitter, and a lot clumsy. These... continue reading

01.24.2015

In Conversation with the Intrepid Wino

In the era of social media, we often get to know people long before we meet them in person. Anyone highly active on Twitter, for instance, likely has dozens or even hundreds of people that they have gradually gotten to know in little 140 character chunks, sometimes over years. That's the way I encountered James Scarcebrook for the first time. But then on a rainy, cold day in Austria's Wachau valley, lost while looking for Domaine Wachau, I ran into a stranger wearing a backpack who was also lost, and searching for the same winery. "Hey, are you Alder Yarrow?"... continue reading

01.23.2015

Vinography Images: The Stuff of Life

The Stuff of Life Water drips from a healthy grape leaf after a wet night in Sonoma County. While early season rains gave farmers some hope for a wet winter, rainfall remains disastrously low throughout drought-stricken California. INSTRUCTIONS: Download this image by right-clicking on the image and selecting "save link as" or "save target as" and then select the desired location on your computer to save the image. Mac users can also just click the image to open the full size view and drag that to their desktops. To set the image as your desktop wallpaper, Mac users should... continue reading

01.17.2015

Vinography Unboxed: Week of January 11, 2015

Hello, and welcome to my periodic dig through the samples pile. I'm pleased to bring you the latest installment of Vinography Unboxed, where I highlight some of the better bottles that have crossed my doorstep recently. This week's samples included a whole lotta Napa Cabernet, and some pretty damn good ones at that, headed up by what might be the best bottle of Spring Mountain's Elivette blend I think I may have ever had. The 2011 vintage has added a mineral and herbal edge to this wine that I find irresistible. Perhaps on the opposite end of the spectrum, the... continue reading

01.17.2015

2015 Slow Wine Tasting: January 29, San Francisco

Many people, especially anyone who considers themselves a foodie, have heard of Slow Food, the Italian organization dedicated to preserving and celebrating artisan food and food culture. But fewer have heard of Slow Wine, that same organization's push in recent years to celebrate wine. Just as for food, Slow Wine produces a guide to Italian wine that highlights producers who not only make excellent wine, but those who go further in adopting and promoting ecological approaches in their vineyards and cellars. What criteria the guide uses, I'm not sure. Nor do I know exactly which wines are recommended. But there's... continue reading

01.16.2015

Vinography Images: On the Mountaintop

On the Mountaintop A vineyard basks in the sun far above the fog in the Mayacamas Mountains in Sonoma County. INSTRUCTIONS: Download this image by right-clicking on the image and selecting "save link as" or "save target as" and then select the desired location on your computer to save the image. Mac users can also just click the image to open the full size view and drag that to their desktops. To set the image as your desktop wallpaper, Mac users should follow these instructions, while PC users should follow these. PRINTS: If you are interested in owning an... continue reading

01.15.2015

Redeeming Lodi, California

Analogies can be dangerous, but for anyone who doesn't know the more detailed geography of California, it may be easiest to describe the Lodi wine region as California's Languedoc. This massive American Viticultural Area (AVA) at the north end of California's Central Valley covers 551,000 acres (223,000 ha), and contains more than 103,000 planted acres across its six sub-AVAs. The region produces a staggering 25% of California's wine, which means that if you've ever had a $10 bottle of wine from California, you've almost certainly tasted what the region has to offer. But most people have never really tasted... continue reading

01.11.2015

The Superb Grace of Old Vines: Drinking Janasse

In a region where castles crumble to ruins on the hills, and the vines outlive their farmers, one of the youngest wineries has been setting the quality bar for decades. Despite only 40 years of history, Domaine de La Janasse easily ranks among the greatest estates of Châteauneuf-du-Pape. But you wouldn't know that from the small personal wine cellar with low ceilings and rough hewn shelving that served as my tasting room on a cold January day. Amidst an eclectic collection of bottles tucked in around a gravel strewn floor, Christophe Sabon took me through his latest releases, a... continue reading

01.10.2015

The Zinfandel Experience: January 31, San Francisco

I'm not exactly sure how long a particular event has to have been going on for it to be credibly labeled an institution, but whatever that length of time, the ZAP Zinfandel Festival in San Francisco would certainly qualify. For nearly 25 years lovers of Zinfandel have been descending upon San Francisco in late January to celebrate their favorite grape. While there are now many Pinot Noir festivals, several Cabernet happenings, and more than one event focused on Rhone grape varieties, there has only ever been one ZAP. And while Zinfandel might be poured at other regional tastings, no... continue reading

01.10.2015

Vinography Unboxed: Week of January 4, 2015

Hello, and welcome to my periodic dig through the samples pile. I'm pleased to bring you the latest installment of Vinography Unboxed, where I highlight some of the better bottles that have crossed my doorstep recently. This week's samples included a trio of wines from one of California's hottest rising star winemakers, Jesse Katz. The first was his 2011 Cabernet Sauvignon from Lancaster Estate which is a beautiful study in balance, power, and elegance. The second and third wines are two new labels he has just begun, Devil Proof Vineyards and Aperture, both of which feature the photography of his... continue reading

01.09.2015

Vinography Images: The Colors of a New Season

The Colors of a New Season A new, unfurling grape vine leaf is remarkably colorful when you look at it up close. INSTRUCTIONS: Download this image by right-clicking on the image and selecting "save link as" or "save target as" and then select the desired location on your computer to save the image. Mac users can also just click the image to open the full size view and drag that to their desktops. To set the image as your desktop wallpaper, Mac users should follow these instructions, while PC users should follow these. PRINTS: If you are interested in... continue reading

01.03.2015

Vinography Unboxed: Week of December 27th, 2014

Hello, and welcome to my periodic dig through the samples pile. I'm pleased to bring you the latest installment of Vinography Unboxed, where I highlight some of the better bottles that have crossed my doorstep recently. And, oh yes, Happy New Year! This week included some of the latest releases from Nickel & Nickel winery that continue that winery's trend towards making less oak influenced wines, which to my palate, means they are making some of the best wines they have ever produced. This duo of Cabernets and a Merlot are wonderfully bright and juicy, and have successfully avoided a... continue reading

01.02.2015

Vinography Images: Rich Skies

Rich Skies Rainclouds catch the last rays of a sunset over the rolling hills of Sonoma County in winter. INSTRUCTIONS: Download this image by right-clicking on the image and selecting "save link as" or "save target as" and then select the desired location on your computer to save the image. Mac users can also just click the image to open the full size view and drag that to their desktops. To set the image as your desktop wallpaper, Mac users should follow these instructions, while PC users should follow these. PRINTS: If you are interested in owning an archive... continue reading

01.01.2015

Losing a Legend in Serge Hochar

On the last day of December, 2014, the wine world lost a legend, twenty years too soon. Serge Hochar, the second generation owner and winemaker of Lebanon's Chateau Musar Winery died at the age of 75 while on holiday in Mexico, according to news reports that are beginning to emerge. No official statements have been released, but according to Jancis Robinson, who received a phone call from his friend and commercial representative Michael Broadbent, Hochar died in a swimming accident. He was on holiday to celebrate his 75th birthday and 50th wedding anniversary. Hochar was quite simply one of... continue reading

12.30.2014

Flirting with the Ecstatic: The Wines of Nikolaihof, Austria

There are certain places in this world that feel as if they exist outside of time. Or perhaps they exist inside of time but move much slower than the world around them. Stepping through the doorway into the inner courtyard of Weingut Nikolaihof, a stone's throw from the Danube, with the morning light filtering down through the century-old linden tree, the world narrows down to this quiet bounded space. Gravel crunches underfoot, and there exists a stillness in the shadow of the bell tower that speaks of the building's storied past as a monastery. That moment of stillness may... continue reading

12.24.2014

Vinography Unboxed: Week of December 20, 2014

Hello, and welcome to my periodic dig through the samples pile. I'm pleased to bring you the latest installment of Vinography Unboxed, where I highlight some of the better bottles that have crossed my doorstep recently. This week included a lovely Roussanne from Truchard Vineyards in Napa's Carneros district. Roussanne is not typically what you'd expect to be grown in this cooler region of Napa, but Truchard has long produced one, and this particular vintage is excellent. Speaking of Carneros, the Cuvaison Estate Pinot Noir was a wonderfully pleasant surprise -- a wine that anyone looking for a moderately priced... continue reading

12.23.2014

A Grape By Any Other Name

That fabric of our lives, the culture in which we find ourselves immersed, remains a rich symbol of the lives, both significant and insignificant, that came before. We live in a palimpsest of existence. Wine, as a part of that culture, binds many threads of the past together, some of which surface curiously in the names of the grapes that go into the bottle, especially in Portugal. Portugal ranks comfortably among the more storied wine growing regions of the Old World. Like several others, it boasts a rich tradition of winemaking that spans several centuries, and hosts a panoply of... continue reading

12.22.2014

Setting a New Bar for Oregon Pinot: Brittan Vineyards

Expressed briefly, making a great wine is rather simple. You find the right piece of ground; you put the right grapes in; you tend them well and harvest them at the right time; and then you smash them together and nudge the product gently away from its tendency towards vinegar. For some people, the most important step is finding the right piece of ground, and for anyone looking to start a winery, it is certainly the first step. It's really important. If you get it wrong, the rest of the stuff doesn't matter. At least, that's the way that... continue reading

12.19.2014

Vinography Images: The Chaos of Crush

The Chaos of Crush A load of grapes enters a crusher destemmer in the midst of harvest in Sonoma County. INSTRUCTIONS: Download this image by right-clicking on the image and selecting "save link as" or "save target as" and then select the desired location on your computer to save the image. Mac users can also just click the image to open the full size view and drag that to their desktops. To set the image as your desktop wallpaper, Mac users should follow these instructions, while PC users should follow these. PRINTS: If you are interested in owning an... continue reading

12.18.2014

Vinography Unboxed: Week of December 13, 2014

Hello, and welcome to my periodic dig through the samples pile. I'm pleased to bring you the latest installment of Vinography Unboxed, where I highlight some of the better bottles that have crossed my doorstep recently. This week included a lovely Syrah from the peripatetic Randall Grahm, another in a series of excellent wines he continues to make from Bien Nacido X Block; a pretty damn good Pinot Noir for under $25, which is a rarity these days; a couple of nice Napa Merlots; and a Super Tuscan. The couple of bottles from Whitcraft Winery in Santa Barbara particularly impressed... continue reading

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Most Recent Entries

Vinography Unboxed: Week of January 18, 2015 In Conversation with the Intrepid Wino Vinography Images: The Stuff of Life Vinography Unboxed: Week of January 11, 2015 2015 Slow Wine Tasting: January 29, San Francisco Vinography Images: On the Mountaintop Redeeming Lodi, California The Superb Grace of Old Vines: Drinking Janasse The Zinfandel Experience: January 31, San Francisco Vinography Unboxed: Week of January 4, 2015

Favorite Posts From the Archives

Wine Will Never Smell the Same Again: Luca Turin and the Science of Scent Forlorn Hope: The Remarkable Wines of Matthew Rorick Debating Robert Parker At His Invitation Passopisciaro Winery, Etna, Sicily: Current Releases Should We Care What Winemakers Say? The Sweet Taste of Freedom: Austria's Ruster Ausbruch Wines 2009 Burgundy Vintage According to Domaine de la Romanée-Conti Charles Banks: The New Man Behind Mayacamas Wine from the Caldera: The Incredible Viticulture of Santorini Why Community Tasting Notes Sites Will Fail Chateau Rayas and the 2012 Vintage of Chateauneuf-du-Pape A Life Indomitable: The Wines of Casal Santa Maria, Portugal Bay Area Bordeaux: Tasting Santa Cruz Mountain Cabernets Forgotten Jewels: Reviving Chile's Old Vine Carignane The First-Timer's Guide to Les Trois Glorieuses of Hospices de Beaune

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Wine Blogs I've Newly Discovered

Bottledocket Rockin Red Blog Uncorked in Italy Tuscan Vines Must Avvinare Desert Wine Guy

Want more? Check out blogs and podcasts from around the world on the complete list of wine blogs.

Required Reading for Wine Lovers

The Oxford Companion to Wine by Jancis Robinson Wine Grapes The World Atlas of Wine by Hugh Johnson to cork or not to cork by George Taber reading between the vines by Terry Theise adventures on the wine route by Kermit Lynch Love By the Glass by Dorothy Gaiter & John Brecher Noble Rot by William Echikson The Science of Wine by Jamie Goode The Judgement of Paris by George Taber The Wine Bible by Karen MacNeil The Botanist and the Vintner by Christy Campbell The Emperor of Wine by Elin McCoy The Taste of Wine by Emile Peynaud