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~ October 2004 Archives ~



Sonoma's Best Pinot Noir: A Report From Pinot On The River

Today I had the pleasure and the fortune to attend Pinot On The River, the first (hopefully annual) festival celebrating Sonoma County's Pinot Noir. To those familiar with the Sonoma Valley it will come as no surprise that this event was both a heck of a lot of fun, and filled with stupendous wines. If you're not so familiar with Sonoma, there are really two important things to know. The first is that unlike its rockstar cousin, the Napa Valley, Sonoma is a lot more laid back. If Napa is a collared shirt tasting experience often with standoffish or disinterested... continue reading


2003 Borsao "Primizia" Grenache, Campo De Borja, Spain

I like to keep it real here. The last couple of weeks has seen me drinking some pretty expensive stuff, to the point that people are sending me e-mails asking me for charitable donations. Not really. But the last thing I want this blog to become is a journal of great wines that most people can't afford. With that in mind I bring you probably the single best supermarket wine available in the States today and unarguably one of the best global wine values anywhere. I've been buying this stuff by the twos and threes in my local grocery store... continue reading


Vino & Da Boot: A Report From VinItaly 2004

I can't quite justify (yet) the flight to Verona every spring to experience the complete breadth of what Italy has to offer at THE Italian wine event: VinItaly. I love Verona, though, so one day I may just find a way over there. Lucky for me, and for the other few hundred people who joined me today, there is VinItaly USA -- a smaller, traveling expo that brings 50 to 80 Italian producers to Miami and San Francisco for a trade tasting and seminars. Staged at the gorgeous Palace Hotel downtown, the event manages to feel relaxed and intimate, perhaps... continue reading


Wine For Your Vote

I love San Francisco. Thanks to Sam over at Becks & Posh for pointing out the fabulous offer from the Ferry Plaza Wine Merchants: show them you voted on November 2nd, and get a glass wine for a dollar! Good all day long as long as you have proof that you voted. Knowing them, it won't be a glass of plonk, either -- they've got a great wine bar and store. And, please, if you don't do it for your country, at least do it for Sam -- she's English and therefore ineligible.... continue reading


Pinot On The River Festival This Weekend

Fall is festival time in California -- seems like every winery and small town has something going on. Amidst all of these shindigs, though, there has never been a celebration of the fabulous Pinot Noir that is grown in Sonoma County. I know, I know. I couldn't believe it either. Lucky for us, someone came up with the idea of the Pinot on The River Festival which promises to be a good one. Guided vineyard tours, a big tasting event, and lots of great food over the course of three days this weekend. The festivities kick off with a winemaker... continue reading


1997 Heitz "Martha's Vineyard" Cabernet , Napa

What's life without a little splurging? What's California without a little Cabernet? California cabs put us on the map when it came to wine in the 1980's and they continue to be the most popular and expensive wines made in the US. This wine may be a classic example of both (popular and expensive), and it is most certainly a classic example of the category. Heitz Cellars is one of the original "cult" producers of wine in Napa. So consistent and revered are their wines, that their Cabernet is used by some collectors much like the Dow Jones Industrial Average... continue reading


2001 Bodegas J.C. Conde "Neo", Ribera Del Duero, Spain

For the past few months I've been on the prowl to sample a spectrum of what Spain has to offer the world these days in terms of wine. Call it a bit of self education. I've been trolling supermarkets, attending tasting events, and checking out what some of the critics are heaping praises on. This particular wine has gotten a lot of attention as an (albeit on the high end) example of what the region Ribera Del Duero is capable of producing these days. It has also garnered some attention as it is a boutique label that is not attached... continue reading


The Architecture of World Class Restaurant Service

What is it that really defines exceptional service in a restaurant? The attitude? Knowledge of the food? Respect? In a recent article in the San Francisco Chronicle (thanks to Bruce at Sauté Wednesday for the pointer) I was introduced to the woman behind the service at what some call the best restaurant in the world, The French Laundry. The article talks about how Laura Cunningham went from assistant manager to what can only be described as Maestro at the Napa restaurant which is known both in the kitchen and in the front of the house for its precise perfection. From... continue reading


2001 Acorn Winery "Axiom" Syrah, Sonoma

When I get a chance to write about wines like this, I feel like I am really succeeding in what I wanted to do when I set out on the journey to create Vinography. While I had no (and still don't have) official mission statement detailing what I wanted this site to be, one of my definite goals is to find great wines that aren't well known, that are made by good people, and that won't break the bank. This lovely little Syrah made by the folks at Acorn Winery in Healdsburg is a perfect example of such a wine.... continue reading


How to Order in French: A Cheat Sheet

Oh, yes, I'm getting around to learning French (again). One of these days. But until I do manage to augment my one year of high school Francais with something more substantial and professional, I have the same troubles as all of you folks when it comes to deciphering "Epeautre du Pays de Sault cuisiné comme un Risotto". Thanks to a tip from Right This Way, the Fodor's Blog, I'm now armed with the ultimate secret weapon that will be immediately downloaded to my PDA: a French menu cheat sheet from Patricia Wells, the woman who brought us The Food Lover's... continue reading


The Best New Restaurants of The Year (U.S.A)

Thanks to Alaina over at A Full Belly for pointing us to John Mariani's recently released annual list of the best new restaurants in the United States. Mariani writes for Esquire Magazine and this list appears in the November issue on newsstands now. Hopefully Mariani and Esquire will forgive me for reprinting the list here for easy access: BEST NEW RESTAURANT OF THE YEAR: Patina, Los Angeles CHEF OF THE YEAR: Masa Takayama, Masa, NYC BEST NEW RESTAURANTS (in alphabetical order of city): Atlanta:    Restaurant Eugene - Chef Linton Hopkins    Rathbun's - Chef Kevin Rathbun Boston: Restaurant L - Chef... continue reading


2002 Falcor Sangiovese, Napa

As I uncorked this wine and let it aerate a while, as I do with all Sangiovese, something was nagging at me. Where had I heard the name "falcor" before? Was it the name of some fictional soap opera town? No, no, that was Falcon Crest. Even after several glasses, my relaxed mind still could not place it. So it was off to Google I went, and there it was. Of course. Only one of the most important books of my adolescence, and I had managed to forget already. Falcor the Luckdragon is one of the central characters in the... continue reading


Gourmet Releases Its 2004 Restaurant Guide

Epicurious (the thinly disguised online incarnation of Gourmet Magazine) has recently launched their 2004 restaurant guide, which covers 30 major metropolitan areas in the US. Its a handy little thing for those who might be visiting a new city on business or those who are looking for an easily digestible set of recommendations instead of an entire Zagat Guide. Gourmet's guide is simply organized by city and has two categories, "Big Deal" for fancy places and "Good Deal" for good values. No nonsense, easy to understand. Its not clear exactly what criteria went into the selection of their more expensive... continue reading


2002 Calera "Mount Harlan" Viognier, Central Coast, California

It's worth noting, if only to give more weight to this review, that I'm really not much of a fan of Viognier wines from the US. Most of them are a little too one dimensional - pleasant, but not really interesting expressions of fruit in the same way that their Australian or European cousins can be. Something special, in my opinion is going on in the hills to the east of Salinas. Calera Vineyards sits atop Mount Harlan on the east side of Highway 101 about halfway between Salinas and Soledad in the Central Coast appellation of California. Formerly the... continue reading


2002 Frias Family Merlot, Spring Mountain, Napa

Steal this wine. Or at least get it while you can, because it won't last long at this price. But I am getting ahead of myself. What I really should be telling you are all the reasons why this wine is a no-brainer for those who are fans of Napa Merlot, which is most people these days, wine snobs and novices alike. First, and maybe not so important to the consumer who is staring at a bottle on the shelf of a store, the Frias Family is actually a family, and more than that, they're really great folks -- super... continue reading


2002 Mojon's Bench Cabernet Franc, Alexander Valley, Sonoma

I love the fact that small families who have been growing grapes for decades are now moving into the winemaking business. I suppose my own interest in smaller production, boutique wines is indicative of the larger market demand which is encouraging these small producers to come forward with their own labels. Regardless of the reason, we all stand to benefit when families like the one behind Mojon's Bench make such a decision. I'm kicking myself now for not cornering the owner and his wife and getting a little more information about them and their history in Sonoma when I had... continue reading


The Legendary Year For Bordeaux: What Does 1982 Taste Like?

THE BACKGROUND Picture this: the young Robert M. Parker, Jr. has been selling his newsletter, The Wine Advocate for four years with some success. His notion of applying a numeric score to wines is a novel one, and he hasn't exactly hit the big time. As per usual, he makes the pilgrimage to Bordeaux in the spring for the marathon of tastings, and by the end of the year he is a bit of a lone loud voice in the crowd, proclaiming the triumph of the vintage amidst more than a little doubt. Within a relatively short period of time... continue reading


John Cleese and Wine: A Deadly Mix?

I'm not sure whether I'm proud or sad that I've never laughed so hard that wine came out my nose, but if I had cable you can bet I'd be sitting in front of the TV with a big mouthful of wine this Sunday as none other than John Cleese makes his debut as the host of a Food Network show called "Wine For The Confused." The show, in Cleese's own words is supposed to bring wine down to an everyman's level. "I felt it was a shame that something that is such a source of pleasure should have become... continue reading


2001 Arrowood "Grand Archer" Chardonnay, Sonoma

Massive corporate wine property or small family run business? With Arrowood, you're looking at both. Started as a family affair in 1986 by Dick Arrowood, who spent years making wine at Chateau St. Jean, Arrowood Vineyards was a popular Sonoma Winery from the start. In 2000 it was purchased by the Mondavi Corporation in an effort to expand their portfolio of premium Sonoma wines, and with the impending breakup of the company, it looks like it's going to be on the market again. This may be good or bad news for Dick depending on how you look at it. He... continue reading


WBW #3 Has Been Announced

Yes, that's right, the increasingly popular and devastatingly hip online wine event called Wine Blogging Wednesday is into its third incarnation on November 3rd, thanks to Seattle Bon Vivant, a well-written foodie blog from -- you guessed it -- Seattle. In case you're new to the event, it involves purchasing a wine based on a theme chosen by the hosting blog (November's theme is Australian Shiraz) and then reviewing it online, or if you don't have a blog, sending your review in to the host. It's loads of fun and an interesting way to get the scoop on a lot... continue reading


NV Azienda Ag. Malvira "Birbet" Brachetto, Roero (Piemonte), Italy

Sparkling red wine? Sacre Bleu! Or in this case I guess you'd say Mizzica! or some other Italian equivalent. Yes, this really is a sparkling red wine and quite an interesting one at that. It's made by a small producer in Piemonte, Azienda Agricola Malvira. I love the name of the winery, which literally translates to "Situated Wrong," because the winery's original courtyard faced North instead of to the South as popular wisdom dictated it should. Even though the winery is in its new location along the banks of the Tanaro river in the small village of Canova, the name... continue reading


2003 Jaffurs Viognier, Santa Barbara

I find myself drinking a lot of wines from Santa Barbara these days, partially because they're new to me, and also partially because they are affordable. But perhaps most of all, it seems that many of these winemakers are small, family operations that are guided by their own principles and vision for winemaking and are not simply making what has come to be stereotypical California wine. Jaffurs Wine Cellars is a classic example of these principles at work. Owner/Winemaker Craig Jaffurs started his operation in 1994 with a singular purpose, to take what he saw as a particular microclimate (Santa... continue reading


October is The Month for Swanky Wine Events in San Francisco

Well, I never. Who knew there were so many high-priced, super-swanky wine events in San Francisco. Maybe I was just not paying attention in the past, or maybe because I can't afford most of them they never crossed my radar. However, if you love wine and do have some extra cash lying around, October is the month to spend it in San Francisco. This month we are playing host to the following events which range in price from $45 to $5000 per person. If anyone wants to buy me tickets to one of these things, just let me know. Wine... continue reading


2003 Domaine Tempier Bandol Rose, Bandol (Provence), France

It's almost futile to really try and do justice to Domaine Tempier as a vintner from any perspective -- historical, cultural, oenological. Certainly it's hard to do a better job than Kermit Lynch, the importer who is responsible for bringing their wines to the US and who wrote about them in his wonderful book Adventures on the Wine Route. So, rather than my feeble attempt, let me share with you some of what Lynch has to say about this producer from Bandol, the wine region which takes its name from a little tourist town on the Mediterranean coast. "Domaine Tempier... continue reading


Who Knew?: A Short Review of SF FallFest 2004

Normally when I hear about big marketing events where for fifty, seventy, one hundred bucks you get a ticket to wander around various booths offering nibbles and small splashes of wine I'm incredibly suspicious. I've been burned more than once after shelling out a big chunk of change and then finding myself in a massive crush of people, waiting fifteen minutes at each station for a crappy bit of food and a wine I could buy at Safeway later if I wanted. Imagine my surprise, then as I experienced the SF FallFest 2004 today at Justin Herman Plaza, where not... continue reading


2001 Hitching Post Pinot Noir, Santa Barbara, California

My tastings recorded here tend to wander, and today I've found myself back in the heart of one of the hottest new areas of California viticulture -- Santa Barbara. In particular this area is becoming well known for its Pinot Noir -- thanks to producers like Au Bon Climat, and thanks to vineyard sites like Sanford & Benedict and Bien Nacido. This wine fits right in with that high profile crowd, as up until recently it was produced at the Au bon Climat facility, and the grapes often come from the two aforementioned vineyards among others. Hitching Post wines are... continue reading


Now There's An Idea: Pay to Avoid Plonk

In this interesting tidbit (that I illegally scraped off of a random news site) it looks like the EU has taken an interest in improving the quality of its wine -- by paying growers. I guess that's one way to do it. Heck we've been paying people here in the States to not grow things at all, maybe this will work? AP - BRUSSELS, Belgium A fine wine improves with age, but not when you're cranking out the bottles so fast that the quality suffers. That is what's prompting the European Union to set aside millions of dollars to encourage... continue reading


WBW2 Roundup: Spanish Reds

Yesterday was Wine Blogging Wednesday #2, and what a day it was, with 21 bloggers from around the globe all drinking wine and writing about it. The theme for this second incarnation of the wine blogging event pioneered by Lenn Thompson was Spanish Reds, which I selected because Spain is getting a lot of hype lately as the Next Big Thing. I also don't know much about Spanish wine so the opportunity to explore something new that has also been much talked about recently appealed to me. Robert M. Parker, Jr. the world's most influential wine critic recently made several... continue reading


2001 Artadi "Pagos Viejos" Rioja, Spain

Here we are at WBW2, the second ever Wine Blogging Wednesday and I'm your host for this episode entitled "Spanish Reds." Today I am posting my entry into this global online tasting event with this wine, and in the next 24 to 36 hours I will provide a recap of the dozens of other bloggers around the world who have each tasted a wine and written about it today. I've decided to drink and write about this wine from Rioja, perhaps Spain's most well known winemaking region. This section of the country, which is about 75 miles long and 35... continue reading


It's Wine Blogging Wednesday

Yes, today is WBW2, the second ever Wine Blogging Wednesday and I'm hosting this time around. The entries are already streaming in from across the globe. My wine review will be put up later this evening -- I plan on doing a pairing with dinner. If you're just finding out about this event, it's not too late -- just grab a bottle of red wine from Spain, drink it and post an entry on your blog, or anyone's blog. If you really want to participate and don't have a blog, just send me an e-mail with your tasting notes and... continue reading


Tickets On Sale for SF Fallfest 2004: Saturday, October 9th

In the category of swanky food and wine events, The Embarcadero Center and San Francisco Magazine are putting on the San Francisco Fallfest 2004, an exhibition of wine and food in a "European style marketplace with live jazz." Last time I looked, Justin Herman plaza looked nothing like a European marketplace, but I'm willing to give them the benefit of the doubt. They've got an impressive list of caterers and wineries who are on tap to both ply the attending public with free samples as well as some interesting demonstrations of culinary acrobatics and potentially some informational talks. Most interesting... continue reading


Three New Appellations in California

Well it may not exactly be breaking news, but in the last few weeks, three new appellations were created in California: Red Hills Lake County, in Lake County; San Bernabe, in southern Monterey County; and Salado Creek, in western Stanislaus County. So the next obvious question is, why should you care? Here's some thoughts. The Red Hills Lake County appellation is just north of Napa and seems well suited for the famous red varietals of Napa (Cabernet in particular) so much so that grapes from this region are already going into wines from Cakebread, Carmenet, Dynamite, Rosenblum, and Stag's Leap's... continue reading


2003 Domaine Bru Bache Jurancon Sec, Jurancon, France

I was first introduced to Jurancon through a dessert wine poured in a local French bistro here in San Francisco. "Here, try this," said our waiter and whipped out a few glasses which he filled with a nearly colorless wine with a simple parchment colored label. "Henry the Fourth was baptized in this stuff" he said as he wandered off. We thought, "did we hear him right?" but sure enough, that is the claim to fame of this tiny little appellation in the south-eastern part of Provence in southern France. It also happens to be one of France's oldest appellations.... continue reading


Reminder: WBW2 (Wine Blogging Wednesday) is next week

Just a reminder for all those participating, WBW2 is next week, so if you haven't gone out to get your bottle of Spanish Red wine to drink and blog about, you've got a few more days left. We've got nearly 25 people signed up to participate, so it should be a good one. Remember, please send me an e-mail to let me know when you've posted your review. If you're just now finding out about it and would like to participate drop me a line or leave a comment here.... continue reading


The Best Sushi in New York City: The Excel Spreadsheet

Epicurious has recently redone their site and they now have a food column called The Corner Table. They recently got the scoop on a (brilliantly) obsessive Wall Street Stockbroker's pride and joy -- a 91 line excel spreadsheet ranking sushi restaurants in Manhattan. This may be old news to Manhattan-ites just like the law clerk who wrote the long brief on take out restaurants but I think it's great. Don't ask me how this guy manages to eat sushi sometimes up to 6 times per week (I like it too, but not that much) but the thing is a work... continue reading


Undrinkable Now, But Not In 20 Years? What is Going On Here?

Consider this: 1995 Beaucastel 93 pts. Robert M. Parker, Jr. "The classic 1995 Chateauneuf du Pape will require discipline. Like most top vintages of Beaucastel, a decade of patience will be warranted before this wine will be enjoyable to drink....The 1995 will have three decades of longevity, but it will not be approachable before 2006. It exhibits a deep dark ruby/purple color, and a provocative (probably controversial) aromatic profile of animal fur...etc...etc." I've often wondered how it is that someone can taste a wine out of a barrel (or even a bottle) and declare that while it's nasty now, it... 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

April 2016

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Most Recent Entries

Sonoma's Best Pinot Noir: A Report From Pinot On The River 2003 Borsao "Primizia" Grenache, Campo De Borja, Spain Vino & Da Boot: A Report From VinItaly 2004 Wine For Your Vote Pinot On The River Festival This Weekend 1997 Heitz "Martha's Vineyard" Cabernet , Napa 2001 Bodegas J.C. Conde "Neo", Ribera Del Duero, Spain The Architecture of World Class Restaurant Service 2001 Acorn Winery "Axiom" Syrah, Sonoma How to Order in French: A Cheat Sheet

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