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~ March 2004 Archives ~



Had enough of the 100 point rating scale ?

I've chosen to use a 10 point rating scale here at Vinography because, frankly, what the heck is the difference between an 86 and an 88? In any case, if you're interested in another alternative to the standard 100 point rating system, I'm happy (and tickled) to introduce the new 1000.00 point rating system from the current issue of Wine X Magazine. Wine X's New 1,000.00 Point Scale In an effort to conform to wine industry expectations and garner support from an industry that's content on only reaching a sliver of the adult population, Wine X introduces its new 1,000.00... continue reading


2000 Swanson Merlot, Napa

Swanson is a great example of a winery built on the love and hard work of a single family that has matured into a solid producer of quality Napa wines. Alexis Swanson's father bought a small plot of land in Oakville nearly on a whim in 1985 and planted it with Merlot in spite of the outrage of most other local producers at the time, all of whom saw the land as Cabernet soil. Nearly 20 years later, that vineyard is snugly fit between Silver Oak and Opus Oneand is producing excellent Merlot among other things. The Swanson family are... continue reading


2002 Stephen Vincent Cabernet

I've been searching for a group of small production wines that I can serve at an upcoming big party for over 100 people. (It's a birthday party, but I've started to look at it as a testbed for picking wedding wine). I've settled on a Chardonnay and a Syrah, but I wanted to find something in the Cabernet or Merlot category that might appeal to red wine drinkers who were a little more mainstream in their tastes and who might not appreciate the fruit bomb of the Syrah. I also wanted it to not break the bank. I did some... continue reading


2001 Rudd Proprietary Red, Oakville Estate

I've already reviewed the Rudd Jericho Canyon Red Blend here, and therefore I was excited when last week I had the pleasure of sampling the just bottled 2001 Rudd Oakville Proprietary Red. Even with high expectations I was impressed. This wine is quintessential in its poise, depth of character, and flavor. It tastes more like a Cabernet than a meritage, but has some lovely depth and dimension that you only get with a blend. I think they make something like 1200 cases of this stuff and it is immediately snapped up by the market with good reason. If you can... continue reading


2002 Forman Chardonnay

I first had Forman Chardonnay at Dine restaurant in San Francisco with a whole pack of Japanese colleagues who were starry eyed about California wine. The Forman that we ordered them to go with their crab cakes only encouraged their obsession. Since then I have had Forman Chardonnay only on a couple of occasions, and each time I have enjoyed it. Those who are looking for a classic oaky and buttered California Chardonnay may want to steer clear, however, because Ric Forman makes his wines more in a European style. His Chardonnays in particular are much more mineral and citrus... continue reading


Upcoming Turley Wine Cellars Zinfandel Releases

Anyone who knows Zinfandel with passion, knows Turley. Famous for heavily extracted, high-octane wines, Turley has had a cult following for some time, and with good reason. Regardless of whether people fall into the camp which thinks these wines are grossly distorted caricatures of good wines, or the camp that thinks they are the best thing to happen to Zinfandel, everyone should be able to admit that they express a singular vision of winemaking that is forcefully expressed. I like a lot of different styles of wine, and try not to evaluate one style against another. There are very peppery,... continue reading


1999 Ravenswood Icon Red Blend, Sonoma

Like many folks, in my early (ignorant) days of wine drinking, I bought quite a bit of Ravenswood Zinfandel and other wines at Safeway. It was priced right, had a cool bottle, and to my unstudied palate, was better than a lot of the wines at its price range. Times have changed, and I prefer wines that are made with a little more care and attention to detail, often in smaller lots. However there is one Ravenswood wine that I continue to drink regularly, both because it is an outstanding value, and because it tastes damn good. The Icon is... continue reading


2002 Aubert Chardonnay, Ritchie Vineyard, Sonoma Coast

Mark Aubert has quite the resume: Rutherford Hills, MontiCello Cellars, Peter Michael Winery, Colgin Cellars, and since 2000, proprietor of his own label. In the decade and a half that he's been making wines, he's churned out his share of blockbusters to the accolades of Parker and Tanzer and the rest. This week I had the opportunity to taste his recent efforts in the Chardonnay category, and even though this review is about only one of his wines, honestly I can't decide which one I like better. These wines also define a point where Mr. Parker and I see eye... continue reading


Restaurant Review: Pizzetta, San Francisco

Recently, Ruth has been interested in finding some good Italian style thin-crust pizza in San Francisco, and so on a friend's recommendation we stopped by Pizzetta, a closet sized, super-cute little bistro out in the fog belt of the Richmond District. Actually we stopped by twice. The first time there were people lined up outside and there was a 60 minute wait! But what do you expect from a place that serves up mostly organic, incredibly savory, and utterly delicious pizzas and salads in a no-frills, friendly atmosphere? On a warm day, Pizzetta can seat (by my rough estimate) about... continue reading


2001 York Creek Vineyards Cabernet Franc

Wine or Beer? Most of my friends fall primarily into one of two camps. The beer drinkers who have an occasional glass of wine, and the wine drinkers who have an occasional glass of beer. Its rare to find someone who loves beer as much as they love wine, and even more rare to find someone who professes to be a connoisseur of both. Yet that is exactly what you will find in Fritz Maytag, owner and proprietor of both the Anchor Steam brewing company, and just across the street in the Portrero Hill neighborhood of San Francisco, York Creek... continue reading


2003 Groth Sauvignon Blanc, Napa Valley

Get it while its hot, folks. Or better yet, get it while it's ice cold on a sunny day. It looks like this summer is going to be a hot one, and what better to drink as the hills get golden in Northern California than some outstanding Sauvignon Blanc. One of my favorite aspects of this varietal is how many different aromas it is capable of. Good winemakers can coax all manner of floral and fruit characteristics out of this grape. Groth certainly falls into that category of "good winemakers" in my book. I've known them for a while based... continue reading


Rhone Style Wines of California: A Report from the Rhone Rangers Event

On Saturday March 20th, I attended the Rhone Rangers tasting event at Fort Mason in San Francisco. I tasted around 115 wines, both red and white. Overall, I have to say that I was a little disappointed by the event -- both in terms of the quality of the wines across the board, as well as with the energy. It was certainly better organized than the recent ZAP Tasting, and there were some more interesting artisanal food producers at this event, but other than that, it was a bit of a let down. It's clear to me that most of... continue reading


2002 Keller Estate "La Cruz Vineyard" Chardonnay, Sonoma Coast

I've written before about Keller Estate, so I won't repeat myself with praises. I've been enjoying this wine along with their Pinot (also reviewed here) since I first heard about them. For not having been around that long, and being quite small, Keller has made an immediate impression, garnering high scores from the Spectator for their Chardonnays several years in a row (Last year's got a 93, this year's a 92). This 2002 wine is a great example of a solid Sonoma Coast Chardonnay. Tasting Notes: I love the color of this wine -- gorgeous buttercup yellow, clear as a... continue reading


The Best Lesser Known Wines of Burgundy (recent releases)

A friend of mine had dinner with a serious European wine collector who passed on his list of the best lesser known wines of Burgundy. This friend, not a serious wine drinker, passed it along to me and so I present it here, unedited, and unverified. Use it as you see fit. In order of excellence: Red 1999 Ambroise Hospices de Beaune "Corton" 1999 Mugnier Musigny 1999 Bachelet Charmes-Chambertin 1999 Damoy Chambertin "Clos de Beze" 1999 Lamarche Grand Echezeaux 2001 Mugneret Ruchottes-Chambertin 2001 Herestztyn Clos Saint-Denis 1999 Bart Bonnes Mares 1999 Groffier Bonnes-Mares 1999 Chevillon Nuits-Saint-Georges "Les Vaucerain" 1999 Bocquenet... continue reading


1999 Wirilda Creek Vine Pruners Blend, McLaren Vale Australia

Ooh ooh. A new discovery. I love finding out about small production wines from little known wineries, especially when they're great. I get so excited. I go online and try and find out about them, and I tend to get even more excited when they're hard to track down, and the wineries don't have a website. They're an undiscovered gem! And then somewhere on some obscure web page, I find out that Wine Spectator gave them an 88. Sigh. Well, I guess I'll just have to keep trying to find you real undiscovereds, but it may take some time, especially... continue reading


1999 Fattoria del Cerro, Vino Nobile de Montepulciano, Riserva, Italy

Fattoria del Cerro's small store is reached by climbing up the winding cobblestone main street of Montepulciano, the town which sits above the sloping benches of del Cerro's vineyards in the heart of Tuscany. Like many, I suppose, I fell in love with this small town, and the beautiful wines that come from this region. Bury me there if you can. There was a time when I thought Chianti was some sort of grape, and I had never heard of a Brunello. Today I count myself a devoted fan of Sangiovese, and am awestruck at the myriad incarnations of it... continue reading


2000 Havens Syrah, Napa Valley

Havens is famous for their Merlot, which was my introduction to their wine. When I came across their Syrah the other day, I decided to give it a try. This syrah, like the Merlot I first drank has a subdued and earthy complexity, which is due, I think, partially to the Carneros fruit that winemaker Michael Havens selects for his wines, but also I am beginning to suspect, to his vision for his wines. I look forward to trying the 2001 vintages of both his Merlot and this Syrah, as I suspect they will reflect the superiority of that harvest... continue reading


2001 Newton "Special Cuvee" Chardonnay

Occasionally (more than occasionally) I find a Napa wine that I know nothing about. Never heard of it, never seen the label, never even seen it on a menu anywhere. Yet on occasion these come highly recommended by a friend, a sommelier at a restaurant, or they even just jump out at me from a store shelf or a menu somewhere. Such was the case with this Newton. Saw it on a menu and thought, "what the heck." It turns out that I'm not the only one who hasn't heard of this vineyard. A quick poll of some of my... continue reading


2000 Rudd Estate Jericho Canyon Meritage

I'm in love with a vineyard. Yes, I know it's irrational, but it's true. There seem to be only two wines made from this vineyard (based on a quick trolling through the top 150 search results on Google) and both of them have been great, one of them unbelievable. My first exposure to this lovely little nook was off the end of the unbelievable scale. If only I had follwed my instincts and re-mortgaged my house to buy up every last bottle of the 2001 Ramey Jericho Canyon Cabernet when I tasted it at the Family Winemakers event in November.... continue reading


Restaurant Review: Kyo-Ya: The Best Sushi in San Francisco

Let's settle the great sushi debate once and for all. Every sushi aficionado I know has a favorite restaurant that they will swear up and down is the best sushi in San Francisco. Well, I have now made a study of those favorites (plus some others) over the last year or two in San Francisco and the Bay Area (see list below) and I have made a single choice to save you the trouble of asking the question, or visiting one lousy place after another. No question, hands-down, THE best sushi I have had since I returned from eating $300-$400... continue reading


Finding Half Bottles of Wine Online

Ode to wine in the half bottle: A good thing in small package, preventer of DUIs, savior of single bachelors, facilitator of multi-wine dinners for two, perfect picnic companion, easily backpackable, saver of cellar space, goodness. Isn't it a pain that when you go to any wine establishment, you really only get a small selection of half bottles to choose from? OK, so maybe you're not a big half bottle shopper, but as a former bachelor who only on the best of nights could actally bring myself to finish an entire bottle alone, I bought a lot of half bottles,... continue reading


2002 Thomas Fogarty Gewurztraminer

Thomas Fogarty is one of the few good california wineries between San Francisco and Montery Bay. Nestled at the top of the coast range with an incredible view of the Penninsula, Fogarty churns out consistently good to excellent wines at decent prices, at the direction of winemaker Michael Martella, creator of the Martella "Hammer" Syrah, which I've written about here before. One of the wines they are known for is their Gewurztraminer, which I have tasted in previous vintages as well. They make it (thankfully) in a European style, which means that at the most it has .5% residual sugar,... continue reading


2000 Les Coteaux De Pouzols, Minervois-Aude, France

Dark loamy earth. The smell of your backyard just after it rains. Combine a little fruit with that, a touch of tannins, and you've got the wines of the Minervois. I've raved about them before, so I'll avoid extolling the virtues again, other than to say that they are a trove of surprises for those palates who have some familiarity with the benchmark French appellations. I first discovered the Minervois appellation through wines from Robert Katcher Selections. Specifically, the first one that ever made me sit up and take notice was the Borie de Maurel Esprit d'Autumn. $11 of smoky... continue reading


2002 Castle Rock Pinot Noir, Russian River Valley

I really enjoy blind tastings -- it's amazing how much a known name can really prejudice anyone's reading of a wine, even despite our best attempts at objectivity. Last night I sat down with 5 winemakers for a blind tasting of 8 California Pinot Noirs over $20. The host, a good friend of mine, threw in one "ringer" -- he wouldn't tell us what kind of ringer it was, but we were on the lookout for a different varietal or two-buck-chuck. The results after a couple hours of careful tasting? Most of us (but to be fair, not all) had... continue reading


2000 Domaine Drouhin Pinot Noir, Willamette Valley, Oregon

Oregon and southern Washington are the same latitude as Bordeax and parts of Burgundy. Many think that this allows these regions to be the best expression of those styles of wine in the U.S. I don't know about that, but I have noticed that most of the Pinot Noir coming from wineries like Domain Drouhin and other in Oregon, tend to be much more in the earth and spice style of Burgundy. This wine is at the other end of the spectrum from the 2002 Paul Hobbs. Tasting Notes: Cinnabar colored in the glass, this wine has a pungent bouquet... continue reading


2002 Paul Hobbs Pinot Noir, Russian River Valley

I was first introduced to Paul Hobbs through his Cabernet, and have been a fan ever since. His wines are spirited and exemplify the conjunction of skilled winemaking and a clear vision of what experience a particular bottling should convey. All of his wines are single vineyard wines, and he is intent on expressing the particular and individual qualities of his grapes. For this reason, I was excited to try his 2002 Pinot Noir. Like his Cabernets, the Pinot was an explosion from the moment it was opened. Tasting Notes: Holy cow. What a nose! This wine leapt out of... continue reading


Restaurant Review: La Table D'Aude, Paris

Like wine, food has a terrior. We tend to forget this in America, kings and queens of cultural melange that we are. Everything is mixed up here, whether it's pan-pacific fusion, or just the American influence on the taco shop down the street. It's often only when we travel to foreign countries, especially to small towns, we remember that food and all of its flavors are originally rooted in a place -- a place where certain types of produce, meats, spices, and flavors were born and still remain, inseparable from a town, or even a specific person. My experience with... continue reading


Mark your Calendar for The Rhone Rangers

Yes, it's March in California, and that means one main thing for wine: the annual Rhone Rangers Tasting Event at Fort Mason on Saturday, March 20th. This is one of the three best tasting events that happen annually in San Francisco (the other two being ZAP -- see my review -- and the Family Winemakers event). On March 20th, over 150 wineries from all over California and the West will gather to present their Rhone style wines for trade and public tasting. There's also supposed to be tasty food there from various artisianal producers. What type of Rhone style wines... continue reading

But Wait, There's More!

This page only has the last sixty entries in this category. If you're interested in digging farther into my archives, you'll want to use the complete list of archives to access my articles by month.

Calendar of Postings

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Most Recent Entries

Had enough of the 100 point rating scale ? 2000 Swanson Merlot, Napa 2002 Stephen Vincent Cabernet 2001 Rudd Proprietary Red, Oakville Estate 2002 Forman Chardonnay Upcoming Turley Wine Cellars Zinfandel Releases 1999 Ravenswood Icon Red Blend, Sonoma 2002 Aubert Chardonnay, Ritchie Vineyard, Sonoma Coast Restaurant Review: Pizzetta, San Francisco 2001 York Creek Vineyards Cabernet Franc

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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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