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~ September 2004 Archives ~



Spain's Latest Vintage: A Report From the 2004 Wine & Tapas Great Match Tasting

On Tuesday of this week I attended a rather glitzy event called "The Great Match: Wine and Tapas 2004," put on by the Trade Commission of Spain which was an unadulterated marketing ploy for Spanish wine and associated food products (cheeses, olive oils, etc.). It was quite the affair with tickets running $50 a pop and catering tables by some of the top chefs and restaurants in the city including Gerald Hirogoyen of Piperade, Michael Mina, Martin Castillo of Limon, Jack Yoss at Postrio, Khai Duong from Ana-Mandara, Robert Riescher from Tablespoon, Stephen Barber from Mecca, and David Bazirgan from... continue reading


The State of Wine Writing and What Wine Writers Think

In my weekly trolling of all things wine, I recently came across this interesting article from Wine Business Weekly. It presents the result of a yearly study of wine writing and writers in America. The study is a good brush across the surface of wine writing today with several obvious gaps. The first is the simplistic dismissal of the Internet as simply a delivery mechanism for writing originating elsewhere. While it's no surprise that people in the industry aren't yet clued into blogs like this one, its surprising they do not mention several increasingly reliable sources of wine information that... continue reading


2001 Azienda Ag. Fay "Ronco del Picchio" Niebbolo Sforzato, Valtellina (Lombardy), Italy

It's not every day you find wine that's endorsed by Leonardo DaVinci. OK, OK, maybe that's pushing it a little. He didn't really endorse this particular wine, but he did enjoy wines from Valtellina enough to include the following note in his Codice Atlantico: "A valley surrounded by tall and terrible mountains, it makes really powerful wines." As if you needed any other reason to seek out the robust reds produced in this corner of the country. Winemaking has been around in this section of Lombardy since the Etruscans were the biggest baddest civilization in the region, and wines from... continue reading


Riedel vs. Spiegelau is now settled....

Forever and a day, people have been arguing about the role that glasses play in the taste of wine. The shape, the stem, the crystal -- everyone has an opinion, especially the manufacturers who tout their wares as the BEST way to taste your wine. Lending credence to some of those who think the whole debate is an overblown mess and that, barring a few key parameters a glass is a glass, is this recent news tidbit: Riedel, maker of wine glasses that are so much better than their competitor, just bought Spiegelau, whose wine glasses are so much better... continue reading


2002 Caymus Conundrum, Napa

Everybody knows Caymus, right? [note: their web site seems to be having issues at the moment] They're one of the producers regularly ticked off on the fingers of Cabernet lovers' left hands as they enumerate the "hallowed" producers in the Napa valley. Their wines are good, but not often surprising, and consistently priced higher than they should be. However, one exception is the wine that deviated so far from their primary brand expectations that in 2001 they decided to give it its own separate brand, website and all. I've been a fan of Conundrum for a while now, and often... continue reading


2002 Chateau Ste. Michelle "Horse Heaven Vineyard" Sauvignon Blanc, Columbia Valley, Washington

Chateau Ste. Michelle is the Mondavi of Washington State. They've been around forever (since 1934) and they're monstrous, producing over 400,000 cases of Reisling. Their total production is a staggering 800,000 plus cases of wine a year. The analogy to Mondavi is appropriate to describe their portfolio which is wide and varied, from fairly generic commercial blends to more exclusive reserve wines and single vineyard designates. Ste. Michelle is part of the family of wineries that include Conn Creek, Columbia Crest, and Villa Mt. Eden, all of which are owned by Stimson Lane, a division of U.S. Tobacco. They have... continue reading


Wine Spectator's 2004 Restaurant Awards

I know, I know, this isn't exactly news, but I'm really behind on my magazine reading. In this case, I'm just now getting to the 2004 annual restaurant awards from the Wine Spectator. There are lots of awards, and if you want to see who has won in your local area, there's a handy database to find out. I will spend a little time on the awards for the San Francisco Bay Area. We weren't the recipients of any new Grand Awards this year but four restaurants have maintained their Grand Award status from previous years: Rubicon, Fifth Floor, Gary... continue reading


2002 Saintsbury Chardonnay, Carneros

I was first introduced to Saintsbury wines through their Garnet Pinot Noir, which is a Carneros pinot made in a lighter style with less oak and more fruit, and a really nice wine for buying by the truckload and drinking every day. Saintsbury is one of the moderately large commercial producers in Napa that in my opinion is still maintaining high levels of quality and boutique style winemaking processes. They pretty much abjure filtering and they are not afraid of making wine in time consuming ways like fermenting and barrelling all of their vineyard lots separately to be blended as... continue reading


2002 Domaine Henry Pelle Menetou-Salon Morogues (Sauvignon Blanc), Loire Valley, France

Widely regarded as the best producer in the small appellation of Menetou-Salon in the Loire Valley of France, Domaine Henry Pelle was also one of the first. A classic family run operation of 15 people, Pelle has been operating for over three generations in the Menetou-Salon since before it was granted appellation status in 1959. The Domaine has 75 organically farmed acres in and around the tiny town of Menetou-Salon, close to the heart of the valley and the heart of Loire Sauvignon Blanc: Sancerre. Here, the soil is incredibly calciferous, made up of millions of fossilized oyster shells from... continue reading


Kermit Lynch Brings Provence to Berkeley, September 18th

Long time readers (or those who surf my archives with any regularly) will know that I'm a fan of Kermit Lynch, or more specifically, I'm a fan of the small obscure wines he manages to ferret out of the nooks and crannies of France, Germany, and Italy. In addition to being a famous globe trotting wine importer, Kermit also happens to be based in the Bay Area and his store in Berkeley is a frequent stop on many wine connissuers shopping outings. In celebration of the 2003 vintage of wines from Provence that are just about to be released, Kermit... continue reading


Ridge Vineyards Z-List Tasting This Saturday and Sunday

I know there are a lot of Ridge fans out there because of the response I got to my recent review of one of their wines. Well now here's your change to go hang out and taste most of their lineup. Its an event that is theoretically for their mailing list customers, but it also happens to be open to the public if you're willing to cough up fifteen bucks. The event takes place at BOTH their Monte Bello (Santa Cruz Mountains) and Lytton Springs (Sonoma Valley) tasting rooms simultaneously, so pick whichever is closest to you and go drink... continue reading


Mondavi: Exit, Stage Left...

Thanks to H. Johnson for his recent entry on the familial infighting and restructuring at the original 800 pound gorilla in Napa: Robert Mondavi. Michael Mondavi is apparently exiting the family business because of...artistic differences with his brother. Lots more juice in the full post.... continue reading


Restaurant Review: Frisson, San Francisco

San Francisco has been a dining destination for years, but to those familiar with the New York restaurant scene, there is something categorically different about the nature of dining experiences in New York, especially those that attempt to push the boundaries of style and attitude along with their culinary aspirations. In a nutshell, New York just has many more "cool" restaurants than San Francisco in my opinion. For those yearning to exercise the outer fringes of their wardrobes and wallets, San Francisco now has a little bit of New York in it, courtesy of newly opened Frisson, the most recent... continue reading


2002 Rosenblum "Carla's Vineyard" Zinfandel, Contra Costa County, California

As someone who loves wine, and doesn't really bother to hide that fact, its quite frequent that people bring over a bottle when they come to dinner. I'm always thankful for the gesture, no matter what wine they bring, but I really enjoy it when the wine reflects a thoughtful choice and a good winemaker. I'm sure my eyes lit up when this bottle walked through the door in the hands of some friends who finally made it to dinner after months of schedule jockeying. I've reviewed a couple of Rosenblum wines before, and they generally shine out from the... continue reading


1999 Kiona Estate Reserve Cabernet, Red Mountain, Washington

Ruth and I had the pleasure of having dinner at some friends' house this past weekend, and it turns out that the husband's family has been growing grapes for some time just outside of Walla Walla, Washington -- the heart of Washington Cabernet country. Discussion turned to wine, of course, and in particular Cabernets, specifically from a growing region in the area that I had not heard of before: Red Mountain. Our host was kind enough to trot out this wine as a demonstration of the potential and characteristics of the region. I must say I was impressed. It turns... continue reading


Ghiradelli Chocolate Festival Today and Tomorrow

Amy, of Cooking with Amy, tells us that Ghiradelli Square hosts their annual chocolate festival today, September 11th, and tomorrow, September 12th. See her blog entry for more details.... continue reading


Parker Predicts The Future of Wine and I Respond

What should appear before mine eyes as I leaf through my latest issue of Food and Wine Magazine? Yea, verily, a prognostication from the most contentious of oracles, Robert M. Parker, Jr. Like it or not, this guy is the world authority, and so when he makes predictions, even I sit up and take notice. My comments are included below each prediction in italics. Parker Predicts the Future Robert M. Parker, Jr., the world's foremost wine guru, makes 12 bold predictions about seismic changes that will influence how we'll shop, what we'll buy and how much we'll pay. By Robert... continue reading


August Briggs Winery: Current Releases

August Briggs literally doesn't appear on most maps of Napa Valley that show wineries. I'm not sure if this is because they prefer to remain under the radar and off the lists of the major marketing associations that normally create such maps, or if they are just new enough (opened in 2003) that the maps of the valley haven't caught up with their little hillside nook on the Silverado Trail, just across from Silver Rose. I suspect its a little of both. Owner and winemaker Joe Briggs says he has no desire to push his production over its current levels... continue reading


WBW2: Spanish Red Wine -- October 6th, 2004

I've offered to host and promote the second version of the Wine Blogging Wednesday which occurred last week. It was a lot of fun to see various bloggers reviewing wines around a theme on the same day. We had about 13 participants last time and I hope to see more this time -- we have a ways to go before we catch up with the incredibly popular Is My Blog Burning? How WBW Works: Each month we choose a theme. This month will be Spanish Red wine. On the first Wednesday of the month (October 6th) you post a blog... continue reading


2001 Austin Hope Syrah, Paso Robles, California

More and more winemakers in California seem to be starting small, eponymous labels on the side, which invariably allow them to concentrate on their true passion, whether it be for a particular varietal, style of winemaking, or region of the state. Austin Hope, currently a winemaker for Treana and Liberty School wines, has turned to his own label to pursue his love of the Rhone, specifically Syrah. Austin's family has been farming in Paso Robles for decades, and that seemed a natural place for him to establish his own winery, both because of his three generations of farming history there,... continue reading


Robert Keenan Winery Current Releases

As I began to get more exposed to wine, and more interested in better quality smaller production wines, I graduated from wines like the Markham I reviewed last week to wines like those that Robert Keenan Winery produces. I still remain a fan of their wines, although I have now discovered better. Their 1994 and 1996 Merlots and Cabernets remain some of my favorites (I just polished off my last bottle of '96 Merlot this year). In 1974 Robert Keenan purchased a defunct winery site high on the side of Spring Mountain in the Napa Valley and began producing wines... continue reading


What's the Lowest Priced 95 Point Wine? Now You Can Find Out

Most of the time, when the wine magazines talk about "values" they're talking about wines that they can barely bring themselves to rate because they're under $15 and drunk mostly by the proletariat. To the rest of the us, value is just a simple equation -- am I getting a good wine at a great price? It may be $22 but taste as good as wines three times its price, or it may be $90 instead of $150. Either way, I want wines that incorporate as little snobbery and as few big marketing budgets into the price as possible. Well... continue reading


2001 Markham Merlot, Napa

As I've mentioned in the last few weeks, I'm trying to drink more Merlot. In the last few years I haven't favored it, and until my recent focus on it, I couldn't remember the last time I had drunk a full glass of it, let alone bought a bottle. So in my quest to bring a little bit more of that varietal here to Vinography, I've returned to a wine that has a certain nostalgic value for me. You see, Markham Merlot was one of the first wines that graduated me out of the "buy a bottle at Safeway" wine... continue reading


WWWBW Wrap up Posted

Lenndevours has posted a wrap up of the first Wine Blogging Wednesday (in the tradition of Is My Blog Burning?) which includes 17.5 reviews of New World (but not US) Merlots under $15 from as many bloggers. Participation ranged far and wide with a couple of good wines discovered in the process. By any measure a success. I'm thinking of hosting the next one, so stay tuned.... continue reading


And For Christmas I'd Like....Wine From The Titanic

Some people are obsessive about owning certain wines. Some people just have too much money on their hands. Some people actually have both problems, and there's a company out there to help them. I present to you a recent press release from Wineflyers.Com -- purveyor to the rich and silly: Rare International Wine Sourcing Service Finds Wine from Titanic Wineflyers.com has located what has been considered the world's rarest wine, that from the Titanic. This has been a major coup for the company and one that will put Wineflyers.com on the top of the list when it comes to sourcing... continue reading


The first World Wide Wine Blogging Wednesday -- New World Merlot, under $15

Welcome to the first WWWBW, in the tradition of Is My Blog Burning, this is a blogging event for folks who blog about or just like wine. The theme for this first event was "a New World Merlot (but not from the USA) under $15." The idea being that interested parties would select a wine, talk about it, and then post tasting notes all on the same day for the benefit of all. My participation in this event was made difficult by the fact that I am traveling on business this week and in a fit of forgetfulness I didn't... 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

Spain's Latest Vintage: A Report From the 2004 Wine & Tapas Great Match Tasting The State of Wine Writing and What Wine Writers Think 2001 Azienda Ag. Fay "Ronco del Picchio" Niebbolo Sforzato, Valtellina (Lombardy), Italy Riedel vs. Spiegelau is now settled.... 2002 Caymus Conundrum, Napa 2002 Chateau Ste. Michelle "Horse Heaven Vineyard" Sauvignon Blanc, Columbia Valley, Washington Wine Spectator's 2004 Restaurant Awards 2002 Saintsbury Chardonnay, Carneros 2002 Domaine Henry Pelle Menetou-Salon Morogues (Sauvignon Blanc), Loire Valley, France Kermit Lynch Brings Provence to Berkeley, September 18th

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