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~ July 2004 Archives ~



2001 D.R. Stephens Chardonnay, Carneros

D.R. Stephens I presume? Actually a lot of people take a quick look at this label and start referring to it as 'Doctor Stephens' wine, but it's actually got one too many punctuation marks for that. The "D" most likely stands for Don, as in Don Stephens who along with his wife Trish, owns the small Howell Mountain estate that this wine calls home. What the "R" stands for I don't know, but as far as I'm concerned it might stand for REALLY good. This wine is a classic Carneros, made with cold climate fruit that actually comes from the... continue reading


1999 Bon Family Vineyards Syrah, Sonoma

It's rare that I drink a wine, try to blog about it and then can't find any information on who made it, the winery, or the winemaking. But that's unfortunately the case with this bottle that a friend brought over the other night. The only thing there is to talk about is where the grapes come from --three blocks of a vineyard site on the western slopes of the Mayacamas mountains in Sonoma -- Nelligan Road, the Old Ranch, and Rockpile. Rockpile is so named because it sits along Rockpile Road, which in turn is named for the Rockpile Ranch.... continue reading


2000 Burson "Rosso Ravenna", Consorzio Il Bagnacavallo, Italy

Halfway between Bologna and Ravenna, Italy sits the little town of Bagnacavallo. Those with a background in Spanish, Italian, or Latin will easily pick out the origins of the name which, depending on who you talk to, can be read as "Horse Bath" or "Water for Horses" or something like that. Indeed, historical legend has it that the town was so named when the Emperor Tiberius discovered a spring in the town that had amazing curative powers for horses who drank it, the first of which being the war horses commanded by the Emperor himself. In all likelihood the spring... continue reading


2000 Miura Vineyards Chardonnay, Carneros

In the course of telling stories about the wines that I taste and feature here on the site, I've come across a few themes that seem to echo in the stories of many of California's small producers who have entered the market in the last couple of decades. Most common are folks who have owned vineyards for years and finally decided to make their own wine. Less common are folks that have worked in the vineyards for years as managers, cellar rats, or even laborers who are now making their own wine. Perhaps least common of these themes are the... continue reading


Poor Bastards Have to Work Hard to Make That $100 Bottle of Wine

Ever thought to yourself, "How can someone justify a price of $100 for a bottle of wine?" Well it turns out that you have to work pretty hard at it. Thanks to H. Johnson for pointing me to one of the most brilliant satire pieces I've ever seen on California Winemaking. The article is written by Brendan Eliason, a Northern California assistant winemaker for David Coffaro Winery who did a little research one day into specifically what his costs were per bottle. It came to around ten bucks (his wine retails for $22), and he set to wondering, "Exactly how... continue reading


Heard of IMBB? Well look out for WWWBW!

Those who are even occasional readers of the quadrant of the blogosphere that touches on all things food will have heard of the virtual event called "Is My Blog Burning?" in which various blogging amateur chefs around the world take a theme like "soup" or BBQ and execute a dish, then blog about it on the same date. Cool huh? Well the same thing is about to happen for wine bloggers. Proposed by Lenn Thompson of Lenndeavors, September 1, 2004 will be the first World Wide Wine Blogging Wednesday. Participants will purchase, consume, and then review a New World Merlot... continue reading


2003 Chateau La Roque Pic Saint Loup Rose, Languedoc, France

Frequent readers will know that I have a bit of a thing for wines of the Languedoc, but mostly I concentrate my explorations to the dark earthy reds that are so unique to the area. I came across this wine recently, though, and because it was summer and I was looking for a few nice wines that might go well with some Latin or Asian foods, I had to give it a try. Pic Saint Loup, where this wine is made is one of the easternmost parts of the Languedoc in Southeast France, and is dominated by a mountain of... continue reading


And I Thought I Had Heard of Everything

In what has got to be the best follow up of all time to my somewhat tongue in cheek posting last month about the purported benefits of red wine for just about everything, comes this report from Argentina:Now, use red wine for tightening stomach and firming breasts! London | July 24, 2004 3:44:16 PM IST Red wine is the latest rage in the beauty salons of Buenos Aires, where it is believed that it can tighten the stomach and firm sagging breasts. According to Ananova, creams made with red wine or even a glass of pure wine, when applied directly... continue reading


Wanna Be a Winemaker? It Just Got a Lot Easier

OK. I'll admit it. I have fantasies about becoming a winemaker. Mostly what I have fantasies about is blending batches of juice together to create a silken, scrumptious Cabernet blend that kicks Silver Oak's ass for one third the price. Note that above the fantasy didn't involve hauling big bins of grapes over gravelly soil, de-stemming pound after pound by hand, punching down the cap daily with my arms soaked to the shoulders in juice, rolling 800 pound barrells around, and figuring out how the heck to get the BATF to let me sell the stuff without getting arrested. I... continue reading


1999 Iron Horse "T Bar T" Sangiovese, Alexander Valley, Sonoma

For some reason that is beyond me (perhaps if I was a winemaker I would know better) California winemakers have a really hard time with Sangiovese. Perhaps the clones they have access to aren't great, or perhaps the climate and soil are just too different from Tuscany to really let the grapes shine. There are some notable exceptions to this rule. I happen to like the Sangiovese that Chappellet produces a lot, and I can recall a couple of others from Napa that I've enjoyed in the past. Yet even these wines, which clearly rise to the level of very... continue reading


2002 Yangarra Estate "Old Vine" Grenache, McLaren Vale, Australia

Yangarra is Aboriginal for "from the earth" and was chosen as the name of the vineyard because of the magic that seems to be required to make these old Australian vines grow in the sandy soil with no irrigation. Explains winemaker Peter Fraser:"McLaren Vale is a bounteous basin washed by the pristine Gulf St. Vincent. Ten miles from its water lies a hillock of 60 million year old sands, jokingly called "The Beach." It's actually the weathered remnant of a long-gone mountain range, revered for the earthy wholesomeness it feeds our 60 year old vines. These vines are bushy and... continue reading


The French Liquid Lunch

HB Herr, of Red Is Life, points us to an article in today's NY times about how the French (God bless them) are in the process of trying to get wine legally reclassified as food, so they can market it better. The cynic in me says this is one more flailing attempt to correct the downward curve of French wine sales by an industry that still does not understand how out of touch it is with the global wine consumer. This is my favorite quote from the article:"Wine is not a food like any other," said Alain Suguenot, the head... continue reading


2002 Three Saints Chardonnay, Santa Maria Valley, Santa Barbara, California

Three Saints Vineyard is a small production vineyard that I really don't know much about. They make a Pinot, a Chardonnay, and a Cabernet (all of which I have seen on the market), but other than that I can't tell you much -- they're mostly under the radar for now. So let's talk a little about the Santa Maria Valley instead. Home to the famous Bien Nacido vineyard, this is a low slung valley lies south of San Luis Obispo towards Santa Barbara. Set back away from the ocean, up against the foothills of the San Rafael mountains, it is... continue reading


(Some) French Wine Just Got More Accessible (Maybe)

As of yesterday some French winemakers can start labelling some of their wines with the varietal or just with a brand name if they wish. While the big estates covered ounder the AOC system will remain their usual inscrutable selves, producers of "vins de table" or "vins de pays" will now be encouraged to market their wines however they wish.... continue reading


Are You Canadian? Do you Like Wine? Do You Want A Job?

OK. This is nearly the last straw. I may have to move to Canada. I mean where else do hard earned tax dollars go to something as fantastic as this: Title: Canadian Wine Coordinator Location: Ottawa, ON Salary: $61,312 to $66,287 (AS-05) Experience Required: Promoting and conveying Canadian wine knowledge to senior management in the Federal Public Service or dignitaries. Experience in designing and delivering wine education training modules and conducting tutored tastings. Experience in working with the Canadian wine industry and major industry associations to support the industry in the promotion of Canadian wines abroad. Experience in building awareness... continue reading


1999 Martella Vineyards "Fiddletown" Zinfandel, Amador County, California

I have already sung Michael Martella's praises in conjunction with his Hammer Syrah but in case you didn't notice, let me say it again for the record: this man knows how to make fantastic wine. Interestingly enough I really only like his efforts that are done in small lots outside of his day job (as winemaker for Thomas Fogarty). While Michael has a few winners there (their Chards and Pinots) most of Fogarty's wines don't seem reach beyond the level of "very good." Yet when he steps outside to make wines under his own label or like this in a... continue reading


Civilized Terrorism: Blow Up Their Wine Cellars

Further proof of the cultural sophistication of the French compared to the USA, as evidenced by Corsican terrorists who instead of killing people, just blow up their wine cellars. The nerve of these people. When they can't strike deep fear into the hearts of the French by threatening their wine, they just blow up the empty buildings on the island. Read the entire story here.... continue reading


2001 Villa Toscano "Fox Creek Vineyard" Zinfandel, Shenandoah Valley, California

A week or so ago, I had a friend come visit me from the Sierra Foothills in Amador county. Knowing that I'm a wine nut, and in exchange for lodging for the weekend, he brought me a little something from up in his neck of the woods: this great example of a foothill Zinfandel from Villa Toscano. The grapes for this wine come from 100 year old vines in Jim and Sue Fox's vineyard which is nestled in the beautiful Shenandoah Valley. This small valley is located between the towns of Jackson and Placerville in the foothills of the Sierras... continue reading


What is The Opposite of Two Buck Chuck?

We all know there are revolutions happening at the bottom end of the pricing spectrum for wine. Charles Shaw has brought wine into the homes of Trader Joe's shoppers all over the country (but how many of them are there really) and frightened the hell out of the critical wine establishment with its success. It turns out there are things happening on the other end of the spectrum, too. Perhaps not as revolutionary, but definitely some changes, changes you might say that are the opposite of Two Buck Chuck. No, no, no, the prices for Screaming Eagle have not dropped... continue reading


2001 Laetitia Estate Pinot Noir, Arroyo Grand Valley, Central Coast California

The Arroyo Grand Valley, home to Laetitia, is located just outside of San Luis Obispo, California. It is one of the coolest grape growing regions in California, and is already famous for its cool climate Pinot Noirs that are often compared to Burgundy forbearers. Laetitia itself has a European heritage, having first been established as Maison Deutz, a French owned wineyard focused on making sparkling with with Methode Champenoise. In 1997 vineyard owner Jean-Claude Tardivat bought out the winery, renamed it after his daughter, and started using the grapes to make vineyard designate Pinot Noir, Chardonnay, and Pinot Blanc along... continue reading


2002 Turkey Flat Grenache, Barossa Valley, Australia

Turkey Flat Vineyards was established in 1847, giving it some of the oldest vines in Australia, which contribute to the glory of their Shiraz, which I've already reviewed here. On the strength of that wine, I picked up a bottle of their Grenache recently and little did I know what a treat I was in for. Let me say right off the bat that I am not a fan of this varietal. I've tried it dozens of times on its own at the Rhone Rangers tastings and elsewhere, and I've never really found a wine that holds my interest --... continue reading


Restaurant Review: Alma, San Francisco

When the moors invaded Spain, they brought rice with them, and spices, and when they departed they left behind palaces, and a legacy of cooking that developed over the next few thousand years, until it was imported, along with misfortune to the Americas. There it stewed, on the central and southern continents with new ingredients lent to it by native diets, Portuguese traders, and Africans in the Caribbean, slowly evolving into the many facets gathered together under the approximate banner of Latino cooking. Back in Spain, cuisine continued to evolve as well, pushed in new directions by the French and... continue reading


What Happens When You Get Rid of The Wine List?

From the Wine Spectator: The Park Avenue Cafe in New York has taken the bold step of getting rid of their paper wine list and simply putting all the bottles on display in the restaurant for people to choose from. While I love the idea because I'm a visual person, the logistics of having a table with 130 wines on it that's easily accessible to all diners is a tough one. Apparently they have little tags around the neck of each bottle telling you the price, etc. Perhaps worried about how overwhelming 130 wines are, they have taken the top... continue reading


2001 Howell Mountain Vineyards "Beatty Ranch" Zinfandel, Napa

Two vineyards are better than one, certainly, but combining two properties to create a new winery doesn't always make for better wine. That is, of course, unless you are combining two world class vineyards that define an appellation. Such is the case with the Black Sears Vineyard and Beatty Ranch Vineyard which were combined by owners Jerre Sears, Joyce Black Sears, and Mike Beatty to create Howell Mountain Vineyards in 1988. These vineyards have long supplied (and still do) grapes to some of the highest end wines that claim the Howell Mountain appellation, including Ridge, Dunn Vineyards, Cornerstone, Turley, Duckhorn... continue reading


Taste Your Way Through Italy (Without Leaving San Francisco)

It's coming up on August, and that means that one of the better wine stores in San Francisco, The Jug Shop, is doing their marathon of tastings across Italy. Every Thursday, Friday, and Saturday in August they will be holding tastings and events which will cover the whole of Italy. In my opinion, the best way to learn about wine is to taste as many as possible, especially in settings like this where you can compare many different wines of the same varietal or region. So if you're interested in learning more about Italian wines, the $10 you spend on... continue reading


2001 Handley Pinot Noir, Mendocino County

Quaint is perhaps the best adjective to describe Handley Cellars, a small family run operation south of Mendocino in the heart of the Anderson Valley. Located just up the road a piece from downtown Philo, Handley resides at the old Holmes Ranch, established in the valley in the late 1800s, and maintains many of the original buildings. Milla Handley has been making wine since 1982 with the help of her family, and now produces a substantial 14,000 cases a year with fruit from their estate as well as other sources throughout the valley. Their portfolio is about 20 wines deep... continue reading


2001 Skewis Pinot Noir, Floodgate Vineyard, Anderson Valley

There's something to be said for focus -- doing one thing and doing it well. But why is it that in particular, Pinot Noir seems to bring out this quality in California winemakers? Even Silver Oak branched out into Merlot in the last couple of years, and while Opus one still only makes one wine we'll chalk that up to megalomaniacal marketing. There aren't really a lot of people around who JUST make Cabs or JUST make Zinfandels. Yet you can't throw a rock in California wine country these days without hitting a boutique Pinot producer who has given up... continue reading


WWGE: Where Would Guliani Eat?

From Right This Way, the Fodor's Blog: If you were the Republican national committee and needed to get the list of the best restaurants in NYC who would you ask? Rudolph Guliani, of course. Here's Guliani's top 10 list for the city, and boy what a lot of variation we have here, let's see, a steak place, a steak place, and a steak place, and a steak place, and an Italian joint, and... hey look, a pizza place. The guy has only one French restaurant on there! Don't use it as your list of must do's in New York, but... continue reading


The Cutting Edge of the Vine

Winemakers and winegrowers aren't the first group you would choose as the most likely to be employing cutting edge technology as part of their work, especially because so much of what goes into wine is about working with the land to produce something that appeals to the senses -- two realms where technology is not a natural player. However, just as regular farming has gotten more sophisticated, so too has winegrowing and winemaking. Many winemakers are leading the way with uses of extremely high-tech, and sometimes controversial technologies. Here's an overview of three stories that describe the cutting edge of... continue reading


Definitive Data on Screwcaps for Wine

There's been a lot of news over the last few years about various types of new closures for wine, including synthetic corks, screwcaps, and even boxes and other new types of packaging. This is in attempt to eliminate anywhere from three to eighteen percent of wine that industry experts estimate is ruined before it is even opened. Hogue Cellars has recently released a set of results from a 30 month study of various closures on their wines which points to screwcaps as the best way to preserve wines and eliminate cork taint from that nasty TCA. Based on these results... continue reading


2003 Palama Salento Rosato Metiusco, Puglia, Italy

The winery at Azienda Vinicola Palama has been around since 1936, and is still in the Palama family. While proprietor Arcangelo Palama initially sold most of their wine in bulk, it eventually made its way into restaurants, and elsewhere. Now at the hands of third generation Palamas (sons Cosimo and Donato) and in collaboration with the consultant Leonardo Sergio, the winery is producing some of the highest quality wines in the Salento region. Salento is a small DOC in the Apulia (Puglia) region of Italy which covers the lower portion of "the boot." Salento is in the heel of the... continue reading


More on Biodynamic Wine: The Complete List of Certified Biodynamic Producers

The Chronicle this week had a very poorly written and unhelpful article about the first large official tasting of wines from certified Biodynamic producers. In doing a little research before my posting last week about Biodynamic wines I found article after countless article which berated the press and poor un-informed writers like myself who roll their eyes at some Biodynamic practices and unfairly point out some of the more extreme or wacky practices without giving fair play to the much more mundane and sane sounding practices. The only problem with all of these articles, the Chronicle's included, is that they... continue reading


Scary Airline Meals

From Right This Way, the Fodors blog:If you're in need of a good fright, take a gander at the photos on AirlineMeals.net, which bills itself as "the world's first and leading site about nothing but airline food." Click on any airline link after you arrive on the page -- the pics are even more frightening cumulatively than they are individually. To see how truly timeless (at least in the air) dishes like meatloaf, mashed potatoes, and peas and carrots are, check out the section on meals from the 1970s to the 1990s. Freaky.... continue reading


2002 Salvatore Murana Zibibbo Bianco, Pantelleria, Italy

Imagine yourself shipwrecked and storm tossed in the middle of the ancient Mediterranean. By some stroke of luck you find your way ashore to a rocky but habitable island, with a few families of sailors that have lived there for generations. If you were to settle and eke out a small living as a farmer, you might one day plant grapes from seeds carried by the occasional trader (even remote islands need their wine) and hundreds of years later, you might have a descendant named Salvatore Murana, who has this to say about his wine:"On the volcanic terraces of the... continue reading


2000 Morgan "Gary's Vineyard" Pinot Noir, Santa Lucia Highlands, California

It's not a huge leap from veterinary medicine to winemaking, and that leap is made even shorter when you're enrolled at UC Davis which happens to be the top school in the nation for both. Dan Lee initially thought he wanted to work with animals, but a few courses as electives during his vet school tenure were enough to convince him to immediately enroll in the Enology program as soon as he finished his undergraduate degree. While he still loves animals, Dan hasn't looked back, graduating and continuing on to become a winemaker for Jekel and Durney (now Heller Estate),... continue reading


2001 Joseph Swan "Cuvee de Trois" Pinot Noir, Russian River Valley, Sonoma

Vineyards are often the stuff of dreams, the long sought after goals of some, or simply an inevitable plan for retirement. Joseph Swan started making wine casually even as a kid, perhaps as a rebellion against his tee totaling parents. Off and on throughout the years it was a passing hobby as Joe struggled through a passionate but somewhat unsuccessful career as an artist. Deciding his future lay elsewhere, he learned how to fly and began a teaching and eventually flying commercially. Occasionally throughout this time, Joe would touch down someplace long enough to make a small batch of wine... 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.

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Most Recent Entries

2001 D.R. Stephens Chardonnay, Carneros 1999 Bon Family Vineyards Syrah, Sonoma 2000 Burson "Rosso Ravenna", Consorzio Il Bagnacavallo, Italy 2000 Miura Vineyards Chardonnay, Carneros Poor Bastards Have to Work Hard to Make That $100 Bottle of Wine Heard of IMBB? Well look out for WWWBW! 2003 Chateau La Roque Pic Saint Loup Rose, Languedoc, France And I Thought I Had Heard of Everything Wanna Be a Winemaker? It Just Got a Lot Easier 1999 Iron Horse "T Bar T" Sangiovese, Alexander Valley, Sonoma

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