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~ August 2004 Archives ~



2001 Schweiger Chardonnay, Spring Mountain District, Napa

Perched on the crest of Napa's famous Spring Mountain, Schweiger's vineyards are some of the highest in Napa. Owner Fred Schweiger's parents purchased the estate in 1960, and the first commercial harvest was in 1984. Like many winegrowing families in Napa, the Schweigers started out selling their grapes to others (Cafaro, ZD, Newton and Stags Leap to name a few) but in 1994 the family decided to start making their own wine from the classic Cabernet, Merlot and Chardonnay vines that flourished in this hilltop winery. This wine was puzzling to me to drink because I found it highly oak-driven... continue reading


2002 Manciat-Poncet Chardonnay, Macon-Charnay (Burgundy), France

Claude Manciat and his wife Simone Poncet are regular features of the landscape in the section of Burgundy known as the Maconnais. This region has been producing Europe's classic Chardonnays for decades, and so have Claude and his wife. Growers since the 1950's they began bottling their own wines in 1979, and have changed little since then. They maintain strict quality standards which include all hand harvesting and whole cluster pressing, among other things. Both of which are increasingly rare in the Maconnais. Domaine Manciat-Poncet (which also has a presence in Pouilly-Fuissé)is located near the small village of Charnay. Wines... continue reading


2001 Wild Horse Merlot, Paso Robles, California

Wild Horse was one of the first major commercial vineyards in the Paso Robles area of the Central Coast here in California. Started by Ken Volk in 1982 and purportedly named after the herds of wild horses that roam the hills behind the estate, the winery has grown to be one of the largest and well known producers in the area, at a volume of 140,000 cases. In 2003 it was acquired by Peak Wines International, and became part of a family of wineries that include Geyser Peak. Up until recently I had only had their Pinot Noir, which they... continue reading


Home Chef vs. Restaurant Chef: Dispelling The Illusions

Like many of you who read this blog, I love to putter around in the kitchen. While I have no illusions about my prowess (or lack thereof) as a chef, when things are going really well, who among us hasn't imagined ourselves as the chef de cuisine in a fast paced three-star restaurant, dazzling the public with our cooking? After all, we have the Viking range and a bunch of All Clad, right? Here's a great story about what happens when one of us actually gets the chance to do our thing in a professional kitchen -- the real trial... continue reading


Wine Spectator's Global Values: A Few Observations

So I finally got around to perusing the latest issue of Wine Spectator that recently landed on my doorstep. This particular issue is focused on value wines, including a list of the top 150 best values from around the world. Wine Spectator defines a value wine as scoring higher than 85 on their 100 point scale and costing less than $15 a bottle. Reading through this list, which is broken into Reds and Whites, several things struck me: 1. Fully 50% of the top 75 red values (38 in total) are from Australia. Australia is definitely a region that is... continue reading


2000 Dashe "Todd Brothers Ranch" Zinfandel, Alexander Valley

Dashe Cellars has the unusual distinction of being one of only a few local Bay Area wineries. They are located next to one of the others (Rosenblum) in a nice facility in Alameda -- hardly the place you'd expect to find a winery. Don't let the relatively urban industrial location fool you, though. Like their neighbors, Dashe Cellars are serious about what they are doing. Dashe is the brain child (love child?) of Michael and Anne Dashe, both accomplished winemakers and enologists with an impressive portfolio of past accomplishments spanning properties like Ridge, Chateau Lafite Rothschild, Cloudy Bay, Far Niente,... continue reading


Crush. It's That Time of Year

Those involved in the winemaking part of the wine world will be disappearing from social circles these days. Friends will think they have gone missing, loved ones will have only rumpled sheets to prove that they were home at all. Its crush time in California, a jam packed several weeks of harvesting, squeezing, and soaking that surround the harvest of thousands of tons of grapes. For those whose enjoyment and interest in wine extends to how it tastes with dinner, this burst of activity goes unmarked. It is a remarkable time for those who are interested in how wines get... continue reading


2001 Saucelito Canyon Zinfandel, Arroyo Grande Valley, California

There are a lot of things that go into making up the complexity of flavors in a wine, but none by my judge better than the age of the vines growing the fruit. The effects of vine age were first made starkly real to me on a trip I took to Australia's Hunter Valley. There, in the capable hands of a man whose name and touring company have sadly escaped me, I got a chance to taste through a large, prestigious winery's entire portfolio of Chardonnay and Shiraz in horizontal and vertical tastings stretching back almost 10 years. The ability... continue reading


Corked Off: A Follow Up To a Lively Debate

One of the posts that has generated the most comment here was my posting of an article by Ben Giliberti from the Washington Post who recently went out on a limb and suggested that restaurants who serve customers spoiled wine should replace the spoiled bottle AND not charge the customer for that wine. It turns out that Ben got quite a few comments himself and has posted a follow up article here. One of the interesting points that Ben brings up in defense of his argument is that most distributors replace spoiled wine for free to the restaurant, meaning that... continue reading


Free (Good) Food and Olive Oil This Saturday

Chez Pim just let us know that a friend of hers (ex pastry chef at Citizen Cake) will be cooking up goodies for free at the new Stonehouse Olive Oil shop on 24th Street in Noe Valley this Saturday, August 21st. The excuse is, of course, a new store, and they'll be showcasing olive oil (duh) as well as charcuterie from The Fatted Calf which Pim says is great. Stonehouse California Olive Oil 24th St. and Sanchez Saturday August 21st lunchtime to dinnertime food prepared by Shuna Lydon, in-house chef 415.695.0227... continue reading


2001 Domaine Faively "Les Joncs" Chardonnay, Montagny (Burgundy), France

I was at a party the other day with someone who swore up and down that all California Chardonnay was crap, and that no one was making wines to equal the best whites of Bordeaux or Burgundy. I begged to differ, but embedded in his point was that there are very few winemakers, indeed, who are doing Chardonnay in a true European style, which I would characterize as high acidity, stronger mineral component, lighter fruit flavors, and less oak -- not to mention no trace of the buttery malolactic fermentation that is so Californian. While there are exceptions, I have... continue reading


Buy California Wine Now, Napa Will Soon Be a Desert

Yes, I'm sorry to report but due to the current rate of global warming, the Napa Valley will soon be a desert. You think I'm kidding, but the National Academy of Sciences has just done a whole new batch of computer modeling based on current rates of global warming, and it looks bad for California. Specifically, in the next couple of decades we are looking at significant and prolonged heat waves that will lay waste to the wine and dairy industries in California -- not to mention significantly disrupt the tenuous water rights system in the state as snowpacks and... continue reading


Restaurant Review: Manresa, Los Gatos

"In the future, I think we'll go even further in mixing cuisines. French and Italian, Italian and Japanese, etc. We'll take ideas right and left" says Gilles Bajolle, pastry chef extraordinaire at the venerable three-star Taillevent in Paris. Bajolle is talking about the future of cooking with Andrew Todhunter in his recent book "A Meal Observed," which I just finished last night. If Bajolle is right, and I have no reason to believe he isn't, then chef David Kinch of Manresa Restaurant in Los Gatos, California is certainly in the vanguard of this culinary future. Mixing French, Catalan (northern coastal... continue reading


2002 Cline "Ancient Vines" Zinfandel, Contra Costa County, California

In general, I enjoy finding and reviewing wines here that are from smaller producers, as well as wines from areas that are off the beaten track. With this wine from Cline Cellars I've managed to do the latter, but certainly not the former. Cline is one of the biggest names in the Sonoma Valley. However, they happen to have a piece of land in an area known as Oakley in Contra Costa County, 55 miles east of San Francisco, that has some old, old Zinfandel vines on it. It's from this little out of the way patch of land that... continue reading


1999 Mount Eden "Estate" Chardonnay, Santa Cruz Mountains California

It's pretty typical for folks who don't live in California to think of Napa as the original site of winemaking in California, but in reality, winemaking has an even older history in several parts of the state like Amador county in the Sierra foothills and in particular, the Santa Cruz Mountains. In 1878, a Frenchman named Paul Masson traveled from Burgundy to the little nothing of a mission town and orchards that were San Jose, California and started planting vines in the hills above what today is Saratoga. He quickly became the region's "famous Frenchman" and primary winemaker, and started... continue reading


As If You Needed an Excuse to Drink More Wine...

We've already been through most of the reasons why, really, you SHOULD have that sixth glass of red wine over dinner. In case you still get a look of suspicion from someone even after your convincing argument that you are treating your herpes, lowering your bad cholesterol, and preventing melanoma, here's the one final excuse you can use: we're evolutionarily predisposed to drink. Yes that's right, now you have Darwin on your side. I shudder to think about how this is going to play out in AA sessions all over the country, but it turns out that primates (us) as... continue reading


2000 Domaine Les Pallieres Gigondas, Southern Rhone Valley, France

I've always had a thing for the wines that Kermit Lynch imports. As far as I'm concerned he's the demi-god of imported French wine values, and I've never had a wine from him that I haven't liked. This wine, in particular, has a little more of his touch than most, as it comes from an estate that he owns and manages. Because he has a day job (let's hope he doesn't quit) he has teamed up with the Bruniers of Chateauneuf-du-Pape's Domaine de Vieux Telegraphe, who do the winemaking and tending of the estate, and work with Lynch to do... continue reading


Restaurant Review: Bar Masa, New York City

There's just something I will never get over about going to a fine restaurant in a shopping mall. Even if it is a clinically chic, modern mall like the Time Warner Center. Partly, great eating experiences make you feel special, and there's nothing like jostling your way down marble halls and up escalators packed with tourists and teenagers to set the wrong tone for your fine dining experience. But that's exactly where Masa Takayama's, highly hyped restaurant (which is split into two halves, Masa and Bar Masa) is located. Masa (the main dining room) seats 26, has no menus, and... continue reading


Qupe Winemaker Bob Lindquist Pouring his Wines in San Francisco

Tomorrow night (August 11) William Cross Wine Merchants will host Bob Lindquist, owner and winemaker from Qupe Vineyards for a tasting and discussion of his wines. Qupe is a Central Coast producer of exclusively Rhone style wines, and the tasting will include his Syrah, Viognier, Marsanne and a few others. It costs $15 and runs from 6:00 - 9:00 PM. William Cross is a small but intimate and friendly venue. William Cross Wine Merchants and Wine Bar 2253 Polk St @ Green San Francisco, 94109 415 346 1314... continue reading


2002 Storrs Zinfandel, Central Coast, California

It's been months since I had a Storrs wine, the last one (several actually) being a boatload of their Chardonnay which I served at my birthday party in April to everyone's satisfaction. Attending a party with a bunch of other food bloggers in San Francisco last night, I ended up with a glass or two of this and found it, while not the equal of their Chardonnay, definitely worthwhile. Storrs is a small family run winery that is currently without an estate, having no vineyards to call home, but which makes wine from fruit sourced all over the Santa Cruz... continue reading


Should Restaurants "Pay" You For Their Bad Wine?

The waiter pops the cork. He looks like he knows what he's doing. The cork is set in front of you for inspection as he pours an ounce or so in your glass. You swirl, swig, and swallow. The moment of truth.... Stop. Freeze the action mid-swallow. Time stands still. Nothing in the restaurant moves. We need to talk about what happens next. Specifically, what happens if it's bad wine? I mean really bad -- it's "corked" or tainted with TCA; maybe it's got overwhelming VA (volatile acidity), or maybe it's even just highly oxidized. Most people have never found... continue reading


2002 Girard Petite Sirah, Napa

I'm not a huge fan of Petite Sirah. I haven't drunk a whole lot of it, and what I have had was generally so heavily tannic to the point that it was tough to swallow. There have been exceptions to that rule, most notably every Petite produced by Francis Arroyo cellars in Napa (so small that his wines are only ever sold on his mailing list), and now this wine from Girard. It's interesting that so few winemakers in California are doing anything with Petite Sirah (except blending it into Zinfandel and other varietals) considering that before 1965 or so... continue reading


Architecture and Wine: Both Too Expensive

I'm a huge fan of modern architecture, even at its most extravagant, perhaps best embodied by the warped sheet metal excesses of architect Frank Gehry. I think the stuff is gorgeous, inspiring, and way, way too expensive. It's incredible to me how much people end up paying for these buildings, no matter how beautiful they are. It's sort of like paying a few hundred dollars for a bottle of wine. Yes you might enjoy it, but did you enjoy it ten times more than that $30 bottle? I'd bet not. In an unfortunate collision of these two worlds, it... continue reading


How a Winery Operates

H. Johnson again points us to an interesting article about how a winery actually works from a cash to product standpoint. This one is courtesy of the folks at Duckhorn, who, regardless of what you think of their wines, have clearly outperformed a lot of other wineries in the last couple of decades, and become one of the top few brands in Napa wine. Their article, which is broken into several sections on their site, is entitled, "How a Winery Operates" and they offer it with this simple explanation:"It is our philosophy that there are no secrets to operating a... continue reading


2000 Neyers Merlot, Napa

Maybe no one has noticed, but I'll come clean anyway. I don't review a lot of Merlot here. And while I want to make it perfectly clear that I'm not a Merlot hater -- no, no, quite the contrary -- I just haven't been into it much lately. I used to drink a lot of it, and a couple of my favorite wines ever have been Merlot (like the 1994 Robert Keenan Napa Merlot) but lately I guess you could say I've been taking a bit of a break. We've been giving each other some space and time, even though... continue reading


1999 Ridge "California Coast Range", Santa Cruz Mountains

Mutts are some of the best dogs in my opinion, and while the same thing can't always be said about wines, sometimes a mutt can be quite tasty, yesterday's review is a case in point. Of course, the wine world has a more sophisticated term for these "mutt" wines. We call them meritage blends, and they seem to range in quality in California -- from wines that are clearly just invented to get rid of extra juice to sophisticated red blends that are in the spirit of French or Italian winemaking. This wine is certainly a mutt wine if there... continue reading


2002 Borra "Fusion" Meritage, Lodi, California

I really love wine. No, I mean I REALLY love it. Because after tasting so many wines, you can taste just one more and think to yourself, "Wow, this is fantastic" and fall in love all over again. That falling in love may have to do with drinking a truly amazing wine, but it might also just be the right wine at the right time, delivering just what your tastebuds needed at that moment. That's what this little bottle from Borra Wines did for me -- delivered just what I needed at that moment, which turned out to be something... 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

2001 Schweiger Chardonnay, Spring Mountain District, Napa 2002 Manciat-Poncet Chardonnay, Macon-Charnay (Burgundy), France 2001 Wild Horse Merlot, Paso Robles, California Home Chef vs. Restaurant Chef: Dispelling The Illusions Wine Spectator's Global Values: A Few Observations 2000 Dashe "Todd Brothers Ranch" Zinfandel, Alexander Valley Crush. It's That Time of Year 2001 Saucelito Canyon Zinfandel, Arroyo Grande Valley, California Corked Off: A Follow Up To a Lively Debate Free (Good) Food and Olive Oil This Saturday

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