In Champagne, like in many of the world's most famous wine regions, vineyard land has become egregiously expensive. According to winemakers I spoke with on my recent visit, one hectare (about 2.5 acres) now sells for more than 1.5 million euros. Prices for grand cru vineyards go even higher. As I walked through the grand cru vineyards in the famed Cote des Blancs region near the picturesque village of Avize, in addition to simply enjoying my first stroll through a terroir I had tasted many times, I found myself experiencing another emotion I never would have expected to feel... continue reading04.26.2015
Compared to normal still wine production, Champagne winemaking gets pretty complicated. Once you've made a still wine, you put it into a bottle with a mix of yeast and sugar and let it ferment for a second time (which provides the bubbles we all love) and and age in contact with the yeast (current regulations require non-vintage wines to be aged for at least 15 months, and vintage dated wines to be aged for at least 36 months). At some point in that process you need to get all the bottles pointed down so that the leftover particles of yeast... continue reading04.25.2015
The World of the Leaf RUTHERFORD, CA: A group of ladybugs gather on a Cabernet Sauvignon grape leaf behind Napa's famed Robert Mondavi Winery near Rutherford, California in the Napa Valley. Spring has again come early to Northern California wine country this year. 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... continue reading04.23.2015
Hello everyone, especially you there in Napa and surrounding environs. I'm coming to town to do a book signing on May 9th at Raymond Vineyards. For those of you who don't know Raymond, it is one of jewels in the portfolio of Jean-Charles Boisset, and a remarkable property in many respects, not least of which include the many rich sensory experiences they offer visitors. Raymond, therefore, is quite the appropriate setting for me to do a book signing with The Essence of Wine. From Noon to 4:00 PM, I'll be hanging out in the Red Room, the lushly appointed velvet... continue reading04.22.2015
The points of intersection between my day job life in the world of Silicon Valley technology and design and my night job here in wine are few and far between. But every once in a while the two collide in a spectacularly useful fashion. As a User Experience designer by trade, nothing delights me more than when someone uses today's (or even better, tomorrow's) technology to solve a truly annoying problem in everyday life. The feeling of satisfaction we get from apps like Uber or Luxe are great examples of those "it's about time someone came up with a better... continue reading04.21.2015
When I first met the improbably youthful Cédric Bouchard six years ago on his first visit to the United States, he had already decided to break just about every rule he could in Champagne while still labeling his wines as such. "I hate bubbles," he said to me at that time. "If I could make my wines without bubbles, I would." Sitting in the back garden of his beautiful, circa-1728 villa in the tiny village of Landreville, I remind him of those comments, and he laughs. "Absolutely," he says. "I still feel the same way. I suggest everyone decant... continue reading04.18.2015
Every year, I look forward to the In Pursuit of Balance (IPOB) tasting in San Francisco. Started by Raj Parr and Jasmine Hirsch as a way to highlight a group of Pinot Noir producers in California that they felt were pioneering a more delicate, refined, and yes, balanced, style of wines, the tasting has grown into one of the highest quality tastings of Pinot Noir and Chardonnay (with an occasional Syrah slipped out from underneath the table) in California. Despite having been held for five years now (in cities across the country and most recently Japan, too) the event... continue reading04.17.2015
A Brief Oasis HEALDSBURG, CA - FEBRUARY 27: Spring arrives early in Northern California's Wine Country with warm temperatures in Healdsburg, California. This past winter was the driest in history, prompting the Governor of California to recently issue state-wide water use restrictions. 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... continue reading04.15.2015
On 1 April, while the rest of the country was engaged in harmless pranks, California's governor Jerry Brown was getting serious. Reports were coming in from government agencies that the Sierra Mountains snow pack, the source for most of the state's drinking water, was somewhere between 6 and 8% of normal, the first time in history it had ever fallen to a single digit. Later that day he issued an unprecedented executive order affecting the entire state of California. Effective immediately, every municipality in the state was going to be forced to reduce its water usage by 25%. 'A distinct... continue reading04.11.2015
i've been lucky enough to spend some of my time writing about wine for the past 11 years. In the course of this secondary career of sorts, I've traveled to almost every continent to visit wine regions all over the globe. Of course, there are still a bunch of major wine regions I have not been to. There's only so much time I can spend traveling around the world without abusing the goodwill of my day job, let alone my wife. Today, however, I get to tick off one of the glaring omissions in my travels. Thanks to the... continue reading04.11.2015
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 tasting included some really excellent Cava sparkling wines from one of the most prestigious producers in Spain, Raventos i Blanc. This winery, which has a good claim on being one of the longest running wine properties on the planet (dating back to 1497), makes Cava that rivals Champagne in sophistication and depth. In addition, it was fun to have the chance to... continue reading04.10.2015
The Color of Spring NAPA VALLEY, CA: Wild mustard and a Carneros Pinot Noir vineyard frame a lake of blue sky in the Spring. Water has become the topic of the year for many wine growers in California in the midst of one of the most severe droughts in history. 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... continue reading04.04.2015
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 tasting included what I think is now one of the best wine values in California, the latest vintage of Randall Grahm's Clos de Gilroy Grenache, a juicy bright wine that absolutely kills it for $15. Then there are the bright, juicy Pinots from Foursight Vineyards in Anderson Valley, which continue to impress me with their lithe elegance. The Apex 39 white blend... continue reading04.03.2015
Waves of Vines NAPA VALLEY, CA: Rolling pinot noir vineyards in the Carneros AVA near Napa, California. vineyards all over the state are bursting with life, many weeks earlier than normal. 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... continue reading04.02.2015
Given the similarities between the climates in Northern California and some parts of Spain and Portugal, one has to wonder why there aren't more Spanish and Portuguese grape varieties planted in California. The same might be said about Italian grape varieties, but they dwarf the plantings of Spanish grapes in California. There are almost three times as many acres of Sangiovese planted in California than there are Tempranillo. And let's not even talk about Pinot Grigio, shall we? Instead I'd rather talk about Touriga Nacional or Mencia or Graciano or Verdelho. Despite minuscule plantings throughout the state, these grape varieties... continue reading04.01.2015
"I am not a modern winemaker," says Rudi Pichler, as we walk through his compact, and yes, very modern winery in the little village of Wosendorf within view of the Wachau river in Austria. What little hair he has left on his head is closely cropped, emphasizing the broad, deeply lined expanse of his forehead that frames a genial, even cherubic face animated with enthusiasm. "If I were a modern winemaker," he continues, "I would be whole cluster pressing, and doing all sorts of stuff to make nosy wines. That is not my job. It is much more important... continue reading03.30.2015
I'm quite pleased to announce that Vinography is a finalist in the 2015 Saveur Magazine Blog Awards in the category of Wine Coverage. My competition for this year's award could just as easily be the guest list for my next dinner party. I'm joined as a finalist this year by Jameson Fink, Lily Elaine Hawk Wakawaka, Alice Feiring, Aaron Ayscough, and Marissa A. Ross. As a matter of fact, the last time I sat down to drink more than six bottles of wine in one sitting, at least two of the people on this list were there to help (and... continue reading03.28.2015
To properly frame the sort of revelation that follows, you need to understand a few things. The first is that I am deeply fortunate to be able to attend a number of fancy wine events each year. These events are one to three-day epics of tasting and eating that consumers pay hundreds if not thousands of dollars to go attend. By virtue of my status as a so-called member of the press, I get a free pass to bacchanals such as the Aspen Food and Wine Classic, The International Pinot Noir Celebration, the World of Pinot Noir, Flavor! Napa... continue reading03.27.2015
Patchwork SANTA ROSA, CA: A patchwork of Kunde Estate vineyards covers the hillside above Sonoma Valley, as viewed above Highway 12 near Santa Rosa, California. Known primarily for red grapes, this warm microclimate is gaining notoriety for hillside and mountain Cabernet Sauvignon and Syrah. 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... continue reading03.24.2015
Holy moly. WTF, Wine Country? Something is seriously wrong. Anyone have a biodynamic calendar handy to see if we've just all had a long string of root days? Or maybe the arsenic is causing mental imbalance.... First we heard of the horrific events of last Monday, in which Robert Dahl shot his investor Emad Tawfilis execution-style and then took his own life as police were closing in. Police recently released the transcripts of Tawfilis' calls to 911 as he was running, bleeding through the vineyards with his killer in pursuit. Nearly the same day, two decomposing bodies were found... continue reading
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Imagining a Better Future for the Soils of Champagne A Brief Video Lesson in Champagne Disgorgement Vinography Images: The World of the Leaf Book Signing on May 9th, at Raymond Vineyards in Napa Doorman: Changing My Wine Delivery Life A Singular Expression: The Champagnes of Cédric Bouchard Acid Freaks Unite: Highlights From the 2015 IPOB Tasting Vinography Images: A Brief Oasis Going Dry In California Off to Taste Champagne!
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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