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~ May 2004 Archives ~



2000 Domaine Alfred Pinot Noir, Chamisal Vineyard, Edna Valley

Edna Valley has been quietly establishing itself over the last decade as a place that can turn out fantastic wines, especially Pinot Noirs. It is now home to wineries whose names turn heads: Laetitia, Nichols, Stephen Ross, Alban, among others. Before all of these arrived, though, there was a vineyard called Chamisal. Planted in 1972 with Chardonnay, but now owned and operated by Domaine Alfred, this vineyard is still growing grapes cloned from the original vines planted nearly 30 years ago. In addition, owner and sometimes winemaker Terry Speizer started turning out wines in 1998 from this vineyard to the... continue reading


2001 Londer Pinot Noir, Anderson Valley

Londer Vineyards is another new label that is blossoming under the steady winemaking hand of Greg LaFolette of Flowers fame, and who simultaneously is starting up the winemaking operations atTandem. Of course, consulting winemaking is the type of job where you can be involved with multiple labels, and a good thing too, because it allows us to benefit from expertise like Greg's across a wide spectrum of wines. Greg's winemaking is only a part of the equation for Londer, of course. The other part comes courtesy of vineyard owners Shirlee and Larry Londer who own and manage the winery that... continue reading


He Said, She Said. Sniping At the Top of the Wine World.

"Her comments," He said, "are very much in keeping with her nasty swipes at all the Pavies made by Gerard Perse and mirror the comments of . . . reactionaries in Bordeaux." "Am I not allowed to have my own opinion?" she responded. "Only so long as it agrees with his, it would seem." "And," she adds, "I would find it much worse if I thought for a minute my taste buds were lying." Its not every day you get to drop in on the vitriol of the worlds most influential wine critics, who in this case are arguing over... continue reading


2002 Tandem Chardonnay, Ritchie Vineyard, Sonoma Coast

They say that great winemakers can make good wines from mediocre grapes, but let's face it, the raw materials make a huge difference. That's why some grape growers can demand unbelievable sums for their fruit, and why certain vineyards are sought out again and again. Earlier this year I had the luck and the pleasure to try the Aubert Ritchie Vineyard Chardonnay (which was basically one of the best Chardonnays I've ever tasted in my life), and so it was with anticipation that I opened this bottle. Wouldn't you know it, but this is an amzing wine too. Far be... continue reading


New York Times: Bordeaux 2000 Vintage, but under $25

The New York Times recently published a set of reviews for Bordeaux wines from the stellar 2000 vintage all under $25. Here's what they selected: Blason d'Issan Margaux - 3 stars - $25 Earthy, with classic mineral and cedar aromas and a touch of elegance. BEST VALUE Clos Puy Arnaud Côtes de Castillon - 3 stars - $19 Supple and lush with lots of California-style fruit; a solid wine with depth. Château Lalande-Borie Saint-Julien - 2.5 stars - $21 A very modern style, with plenty of rich fruit and juiciness that you taste right away. Château La Tour-Carnet Haut-Médoc -... continue reading


2001 Borie de Maurel "Esprit d' Automne" red blend, Minervois, France

I first encountered this wine in the "values" section of Robert Parker's Wine Advocate. It happened to be stocked by one of my local stores, so I picked up a bottle, and I was really impressed, to the point of thinking that this was probably the best $12 bottle of wine I've ever tasted. That opinion hasn't changed over the years, and I try to have a few of these bottles always lying around because it's a lot of fun to drink with food. This wine comes to us through the efforts of Robert Kacher, who has a singleminded focus... continue reading


2001 Tandem Pisoni Vineyard Pinot Noir, Santa Lucia Highlands, California

Tandem is a relatively new label started by Greg Bjornstad and Greg La Follette, formerly of Flowers. They are committed to making small production artisanal wines in a close collaboration with each other, as well as the individual fruit they source from some of the best vineyard sites available today. In addition to being nice guys, they also happen to be totally committed to the enjoyment of their wines -- so much so that they brazenly offer a 100% money back guarantee on their wines. Don't like it? They'll take it back and give you your money back. For this... continue reading


1995 Ovello Barbaresco Riserva, Piemonte, Italy

This is the secret forgotten wine. The frozen man of wine, stuck in a glacier and thawed out in someones backyard. Or filed away in an importers warehouse, like the Ark of the Covenant in Indiana Jones and Raiders of the Lost Ark. But then what happens when the importer goes out of business ? People who know people get to scoop up amazing values and interesting wines that should have been off the marketplace years ago. Of course, I'm making it sound like an exclusive thing, which its not (you can get it various places on the Internet) but... continue reading


2000 Husch Special Reserve Chardonnay, Anderson Valley

If you cruise through the Anderson Valley either going or coming from the Sonoma coast, you'll wind your way past golden fields dotted with live oaks, and eventually you'll round a bend to find a small sign on the right pointing you up the hill to Husch Vineyards. Other than the grape arbors alongside the driveway, you might think that you're arriving at someones (lovely) little farmhouse. The winery is a small set of buildings perched on the edge of the hill and their tasting room is basically a old grain storage building covered in flowering vines and ivy. The... continue reading


2000 Stuhlmuller Cabernet, Alexander Valley

There is a growing trend in California wine country that is resulting in lots of new small producers entering the market. Partially enabled by the advent and popularity of "custom crush" facilites, many wine growers that have heretofore just sold their grapes to larger Wineries are now starting to produce their own wines. Stuhlmuller is a perfect example. For years the Stuhlmuller family sold their grapes to the likes of Chateau Souverain, Clos du Val and even Fetzer. After years of swearing that grapes weren't his thing, the young son, Fritz Stuhlmuller, changed his mind and decided to start producing... continue reading


2003 Marquis-Philips "Holly's Blend," Verdelho, McLaren Vale, Australia

Whenever the tasting group I'm a member of does a blind tasting, the person who hosts always throws in a ringer -- some wine that's doing it own thing. Often it's an incredibly cheap wine of the varietal that we're tasting, or sometimes it's another varietal entirely (we tend to focus on a single varietal per tasting). This wine showed up as the ringer in a recent Sauvignon Blanc tasting and while several of us suspected that it was not a Sauvignon Blanc, its incredible floral aromas made it both an interesting comparison to the Sav Blancs we were tasting,... continue reading


2000 Rochioli Sauvignon Blanc, Russian River

Spring seems definitely to have sprung here in San Francisco, and cold, foggy Summer is right around the corner. So this is our brief reprieve from the fog, and one of the two times per year that the weather is just divine. On a sunny day if you're drinking wine, there's nothing better than Sauvignon Blanc for my money. With that in mind, the group of winemakers that I sometimes taste with got together a group of 11 Sav Blancs to taste blind (as usual). Our opinions were a little more divergent than usual, but this wine was my favorite,... continue reading


The latest on Thomas Keller

An interesting article in the online version of this week's NYMetro about Thomas Keller, the fire and delayed opening of his restaurant Per Se in New York, and where he's going with his career."So people keep telling me, 'Thomas, you look so great today.' I just think, I wish you could see inside me. It's just this churning. I look out the window, at where they're digging up the ground on Columbus Circle . . . " He looks out his massive windows at a maze of furrows at the corner of Central Park, where workmen are installing new water... continue reading


Restaurant Review: Rubicon, San Francisco

I'll just get it right out of the way and say that Rubicon is, and has been for years, quite possibly my favorite restaurant in San Francisco " I ate there when it first opened in 1994 and have been back many times since. However, for all the dining out that Ruth and I do, we've never been since we have been together. So when we decided to take a close friend of hers from out of town to a nice dinner, I called up last week and got us a table. Rubicon offers a polished and consistent dining experience... continue reading


2000 Ladera Cabernet, Howell Mountain, Napa

Inaugural vintages are so exciting. At least for me. Even if the people and the grapes involved have been making wine for years, it's fun to see a new incarnation or a new direction spring up under a new name. Such is the case with this 2000 vintage from the new label Ladera. Pat and Anne Stotesbery purchased the Chateau Woltner property a few years ago, ripped out all the Chardonnay vines, and settled down to make distinctive Bordeaux-style reds using two steep hillside vineyards at either end of the Napa Valley (Howell Mountain and Mt. Veeder). Now with their... continue reading


Restaurant Review: Circolo, San Francisco

I tend to forget how difficult it is for a good restaurant to create a harmony of food, service, and atmosphere that fuse into a semblance of an identity or experience that is particularly its own. My recent experience at Circolo proved, however, that even with great chefs, and experienced staff, and a time tested location, it is possible to achieve only goodness instead of greatness. Opened at the end of March in the space occupied for years by Gordon's House of Fine Eats, and staffed with a kitchen crew and a front house crew from Limon and Aqua, Circolo... continue reading


2000 Harrison Cabernet, Napa

I find it so refreshing to actually be able to put a face and a name to a wine. Forget the multi-million dollar marketing budgets and gorgeous labels. Give me a friendly smile at a wine event and a name tag that says "owner/winemaker." That's exactly what you'll find if you attend a tasting event where Lyndsey Harrison is pouring her wines. Like more than a few of the small production winemakers whose juice I enjoy, Lyndsey and her late husband Michael were first landowners and then vintners. They purchased their Harrison Vineyard estate on Pritchard Hill overlooking Lake Hennesey... continue reading


Rosenblum Cellars Open House - Saturday 5/15 and Sunday 5/16

Ryan of VineSugar just dropped me a note to remind me that this weekend is Rosenblum's annual Spring Open House Event. For $20 you get to try all of their wines, and best of all you don't have to trek up to Napa to do it, as they are located in Alameda, just across the bay. I've reviewed more than a few of Rosenblum wines here, and they always figure highly in my reviews of events like ZAP and Rhone Rangers. A special feature of this weekend's tasting is the opportunity to try their first Pinot Noir release, and extremely... continue reading


1999 Cosentino Cabernet Franc, Napa

I know Cosentino wines mostly because of their blockbuster Zinfandels, Cigar Zin, and The Zin. They make a lot more wines (approximately 30) including this Cabernet Franc. Mitch Cosentino is both the owner and winemaker, and talks a lot about two things: blending and punched cap fermentation, both of which he believes allow him to make distinguished wines of extremely high quality. He's certainly had enough time to practice, having started his winemaking career over 20 years ago in a rented space in Modesto, California. After moving to Napa and spending a few years selling his young grapes to larger... continue reading


2000 Altamura Cabernet, Napa

The first thing you'll notice about this wine, and perhaps something you'll notice again and again as you curse while trying to fit it into your cellar racks, is that it looks more like Balsamic vinegar than wine. It uses a very odd format bottle, one that is very narrow and a good 20% taller than most of the standard Cabernet format bottles on the market. Why they have chosen to use this format is beyond me.I can only assume that Frank and Karen Altamura wanted their wines to make a statement as soon as you see them. This runs... continue reading


Restaurant Review: Tartine Bakery, San Francisco

There's something sinfully delicious about sitting at a sunny sidewalk table in the middle of a weekday eating a pastry. In addition to affording those who don't work normal hours (and people like me who just have the week off) the ability to eat in the sun, Tartine also happens to have simple, delectable lunch fare. Tucked in the border between the mission and the Castro, this little French bakery is tiny and homey, but it is hardly the undiscovered neighborhood gem. They open at 10:00 AM on Sunday, but if you want a seat, you better get there at... continue reading


Losing the wine flush: a cure for the red face

Ruth, like many Asian Americans, has at times been reluctant to drink wine because of her tendency to turn a deep shade of red after even just half a glass of red or white. The cause of this "wine flush" has to do with how many Asians metabolize alchohol. Alchohol is absorbed through the stomach and small intestine. About 10 percent is eliminated by the kidneys, lungs, and sweat glands, but the rest is dealt with in the liver by two enzymes: alcohol dehydrogenase (ADH) and aldehyde dehydrogenase (ALDH). I don't know enough about the body's chemistry to know how... continue reading


2002 J.M. Boillot Rully Premier Cru, "La Pucelle," France

I have a friend and former colleague who is pretty fanatical about wines. He enjoys them all, but on a number of occasions has told me that pretty much all he drinks at home are Pinot Noirs and White Blends. For Pinot, he seems to favor new world wines, specifically Oregon and Washington, but for his crisp whites, he really only drinks French, and more to the point, white Burgundy. I had a chance to sample his tastes the other day when he brought me this bottle from one of Burgundy's mainstream producers, Jean-Marc Boillot. Boillot is the grandson of... continue reading


2002 Three Thieves California Cabernet, Napa

The wine industry in California is undergoing a slow revolution. First it was synthetic corks, then screwcaps, now tetra-paks; varietals like Syrah and Viognier were brought to prominence. Perhaps most controversially, people have actually started to make decent wine for under twenty bucks. For some though, this revolution isn't nearly fast nor radical enough. Enter, The Three Thieves. These self proclaimed "jug boys" and "liberators of world class wine" have strode through the swinging doors of the saloon with guns-a-blaring. Here's the plot: buy a ton of aftermarket wine (already pressed and fermented) blend it 'til you think its good,... continue reading


2002 Adrian Fog "Savoy Vineyard" Pinot Noir, Sonoma

So you think you know a varietal. You've had it hundreds of times in its various and varied incarnations. Old World. New World. East Coast. West Coast. Avant Garde New World. Die Hard Puritan Old World. Super Snobby European Creme De La Creme. You name it, I've had it when it comes to Pinot Noir. Not that I'm an expert by any means, but I've definitely tasted my fair share of Pinots, from Burgundy to Beaverville, Oregon. I pretty much thought I knew what they taste like. But then along comes a wine that completely redefines the boundaries and standards... continue reading


2001 Chappellet "Mountain Cuvee" Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa

I've enjoyed Chappellet wines for a long time now, after being first introduced to them by a colleague at work who knew one of their sales reps. After a good recommendation and a taste at an afternoon barbecue at his house, I picked up a case of their Sangiovese, which is still one of my favorite incarnations of that varietal in California. Chappellet is a family estate established on Pritchard Hill (Napa Valley AVA) shortly after prohibition ended in the 20's (apparently the second winery in the valley after prohibition). Their estate is planted with Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet Franc,... continue reading


The Best Restaurants in the World

Restaurant Magazine, the premiere journal of gastronomy in the UK, has released their annual list of the 50 best restaurants in the world, with Yountville's The French Laundry topping the list for the second year in a row. Sadly, I've only been to a couple of them (Nobu, Spago, Balthazar, and Felix). Everyone needs a good set of long term goals, though, and this looks like a great list to work from (UK restaurants in CAPS):French Laundry, Yountville, CA THE FAT DUCK, Bray, UK El Bulli, Spain L'Atelier de Joel Robuchon, Paris Pierre Gagnaire, Paris Guy Savoy, Paris NOBU, London... continue reading


Food and Wine Festivals

Growing up in Aspen and working for a catering business I had more than one opportunity to partake of the Aspen Food and Wine Classic, which to a high schooler was one big party with great free food, and occasionally, people who didn't bother to check ID to get a drink. I'm sure they've gotten a little more tight on security these days, and the only way I could go now would be to pay, but if you don't mind a bit of a mob scene, food and wine festivals can be a lot of fun and a great way... continue reading


Leeuwin Estate Winemaker Event, Friday May 7th, 2004, San Francisco

I've reviewed a Leeuwin Chardonnay here, and wish I was going to be in town to go to this event. Their wines are fantastic, and the Mark Hopkins is a great venue. Here's the summary of the event, courtesy of The Jug Shop. Leeuwin Estate Winemaker Event Date/Time: Friday, 07May, 5:30-7:00pm Venue: InterContinental Mark Hopkins, Florentine Room Address: One Nob Hill (California at Mason atop Nob Hill), S.F. Here's a rare opportunity to meet the proprietor of one of Australia's most beautiful wineries and sample some of his finest wines. Denis Horgan of Leeuwin Estate in Margaret River, WA, will... continue reading


2000 Scott Harvey Cabernet, Napa

I guess you could say I'm a big fan of Scott Harvey. I've gushed over his Syrah many times here. So the other day when I was wandering through the Ferry Plaza Wine Merchant, I picked up a bottle of Scott's 2000 Cabernet. Other than Scotts imprimatur, I don't know much about this wine -- where he gets his fruit, the winemaking, and the production volume are all a bit of a mystery, as Scott doesn't have much publicity going for his own label. At the end of the day, though, what matters is how it tastes, so on with... continue reading


Thomas Fogarty Current Releases

Ruth and I have selected Thomas Fogarty winery as our wedding location next year, and today I went up to drop off some paperwork and start thinking about the wines I'd like to serve at the reception. Here's a rundown of what they were pouring at their tasting room this week. All the wines are made by winemaker Michael Martella, and most are estate fruit from their lovely winery site above Woodside, CA on Skyline Boulevard. 1997 Blanc de Blancs Santa Cruz Moutains Sparkling Wine Light pale gold in the glass this bubbly has a nose of sultanas and sweet... continue reading


Report from the World Wine Market Tasting: Disappointed

And I thought Rhone Rangers was a little rough this year.... I was sorely disappointed by my first visit to the World Wine Market Tasting today at Fort Mason, and would be even more upset had I actually paid the $45 going rate for a ticket. While having a press pass prevented me from feeling ripped off, I certainly couldn't avoid feeling like I had stumbled into a convention for desperate third rate international wineries looking for distributors in the US. Now that's a little harsh, I know, but there was a lot of awful wine being poured today, and... 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

2000 Domaine Alfred Pinot Noir, Chamisal Vineyard, Edna Valley 2001 Londer Pinot Noir, Anderson Valley He Said, She Said. Sniping At the Top of the Wine World. 2002 Tandem Chardonnay, Ritchie Vineyard, Sonoma Coast New York Times: Bordeaux 2000 Vintage, but under $25 2001 Borie de Maurel "Esprit d' Automne" red blend, Minervois, France 2001 Tandem Pisoni Vineyard Pinot Noir, Santa Lucia Highlands, California 1995 Ovello Barbaresco Riserva, Piemonte, Italy 2000 Husch Special Reserve Chardonnay, Anderson Valley 2000 Stuhlmuller Cabernet, Alexander Valley

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

Archives by Month


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