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~ June 2005 Archives ~



Extravaganza For The Senses: July 16th, Los Angeles

OK all you wine lovers in Los Angeles, listen up. July 16th marks the 8th annual Extravaganza For The Senses, which is basically LA's version of some of the big wine and food events that take place every few months up here in the San Francisco Bay Area. Like some of those events, this one benefits an extremely good cause: the LA Free Clinic, which has been providing free medical care, counseling, and legal and social services to needy folks in LA since 1967. Held on the main lot of 20th Century Fox, this 3 to 4 hour evening extravaganza... continue reading


California's Best Pinot Noirs?: I'm Still Recovering From Pinot Days

Don't think you'd ever get tired of drinking Pinot Noir? Try tasting 200 of them on a single day. I attended the First Annual Pinot Days Festival in San Francisco last Saturday and I'm still recovering. This festival is actually a long time in coming. Several varietals have had their own trade organizations and tasting events for years (Zinfandel - ZAP, Petite Sirah - P.S. I Love You, Cabernet - The Cabernet Society, Rhone Varietals - Rhone Rangers and Hospice du Rhone, etc.) but Pinot has languished with inattention from a big budget tasting event perspective. No longer. The... continue reading


Look Out NY, Here Comes CA, (and Vice Versa)

OK. Now we can say that the May Supreme Court decision has actually changed something. Wildly misunderstood, this ruling simply set new rules for how individual states must legislate wine sales directly to consumers. Which meant that we had to wait around for states to get busy passing legislation. Well New York (and Connecticut, by the way) has quickly done just that, and changed the lives of its wine buying residents forever. Governor Pataki is expected to sign a bill this week allowing out-of-state wineries to ship up to 36 cases of wine per year to each resident of New... continue reading


Hollywood takes another shot at wine

There's a new wine show in the works apparently, perhaps following on the tradition of John Cleese's Wine For The Confused. In this latest attempt to translate the mystery and fun of wine to accessible sound bites for viewers everywhere, we've got Jason Priestly wandering around Napa and Sonoma drinking and eating with a co-host and commentator in tow. Apparently Priestly, one of the teen heart-throbs who made a name for himself on the infamous Beverly Hills 90210, is a big time wine collector and drinker. If anyone knows how to get a hold of a copy of this show... continue reading


Un-Corking Wine: Technology To Save Spoiled Bottles

Even as I post this I'm shaking my head in disbelief. I haven't heard as outrageous a claim for a wine gadget since the Clef du Vin was released last Christmas. But there's someone in the UK who has apparently created a device that can eliminate the "corked" flavor from TCA spoiled wines and restore them to their former "un-corked" state. I know. It sounds preposterous. But many bets have been lost taking odds against modern chemistry, especially when it is reported by generally reputable news sources like the Telegraph in the U.K. Short story: After 20 years of messing... continue reading


1980 Beringer Vineyards Private Reserve "Lemmon-Chabot Vineyard" Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa

The only way to start a story about Beringer Winery is: Once Upon A Time, there were two brothers, Frederick and Jacob Beringer. They grew up in Mainz in the Rhine Valley of Germany, and both emigrated to the United States in the late 1800's. Within a few years they had explored as far west as they could get, and recognized the terrain of Napa as being suited for grape growing. In 1876 they founded the Beringer Brothers Winery, which is now the oldest operating winery in Napa Valley. Jacob had worked in the cellars in Germany, and Frederick... continue reading


A New Category: Older Vintages

Today I am inaugurating a new category of wine reviews focusing on older vintages. Sometimes called "library wines" these wines are found only in the cellars of collectors, on auction blocks around the world, in finer restaurants, and at the wineries themselves. As my personal cellar tends to not go back farther than a decade at most, I don't end up drinking these wines regularly. On occasion through the generosity of a friend, or just being in the right place at the right time, I do sometimes get a chance to sample an older wine (more than a decade), and... continue reading


It's Restaurant Week in New York (6/20 - 7/1)

Well, technically this post should have gone up on Monday, but it got lost in the shuffle. The important thing to know, though, is that it's not too late to get some of the best deals in dining on the planet. Restaurant week is, of course, the week (actually two) in New York where some of the finest restaurants offer prix fixe meals for lunch and dinner at rock bottom prices. This year it's $20.12 for lunch and $35 for dinner on weekdays. Here's the official NYC Restaurant Week site which lists the participating restaurants and offers OpenTable reservations for... continue reading


And You Wonder Why the French Have Problems...

I hope my French readers can distinguish between my criticism of the bureaucracies and intellectual quagmires that make up their ministries or trade organizations like the Grand Chais de France, and my respect and love for the people, the country, and their wine. This is important because I'm about to do some French bashing here. Today France is considering reviving a category of wine that once existed called "Vin de Pays de France" or "Cepage de France" as a way of battling the current crisis of slumping sales that is seen across France. Cepage de France is the name for... continue reading


Oh, So THAT's How You Make a Cult Cabernet

Thanks to an e-mail from Hector Hill, a regular Vinography reader, I caught a couple of articles yesterday in the Los Angeles Times about California Cult Cabernets. The Times tasting panel went through a dozen or so top Cabernets (minus Screaming Eagle and a couple of other big names) and then staff writer Corie Brown did a piece about how these winemakers go about making their wines. I wasn't particularly impressed with the tasting notes, but Corie managed to uncover something so brilliant in his piece that I must reprint it here. Yes folks, it's the L.A. Times 12 step... continue reading


2002 Domaine Lignier-Michelot Chambolle Musigny Vielles Vignes, Burgundy, France

Burgundy is a confounding place to everyone save its most intense devotees. Broken into hundreds of small village appellations which produce red and white wines of widely varying characteristics and qualities, it can be daunting to find a wine that suits your taste, let alone wines of real distinction. I, like most people, have taken a haphazard path to understanding and appreciating in particular the red Pinot Noir based wines of Burgundy. There are clear benchmarks and icons, some of which I've sampled, like the grand crus of Chambertin or Echezeaux or Romanee Conti, but there are far more stabs... continue reading


Grapeleaf Cellars Closing Wine Sale, June 25th and 26th in Berkeley, CA

I've just been notified that Grapeleaf cellars in Berkeley, CA will be closing its doors this weekend and is selling off all of its wine by the case at unbelievably low prices. These wines, in my experience, are of extremely good quality and are sourced from vineyards that winemaker Tom Leaf has had long standing contracts with. I reviewed one of his Syrahs last year, and have tasted through many of his other wines. If I didn't have too much wine already, I'd be there buying several cases. If you're getting married sometime soon, or know anyone who is, this... continue reading


First Ever PinotDays Festival, June 24-26

Most serious wine drinkers in the Bay Area have heard of ZAP, the annual smorgasbord of Zinfandel that takes place at Fort Mason in the winter. Well someone decided that it was about time that another California grape ought to get some attention, and PinotDays was born. Taking place this weekend, starting Friday afternoon and continuing through Sunday, over 100 Pinot Noir producers from all over California and around the world will descend on Fort Mason to celebrate and showcase their wines. Events for the weekend include sit-down tastings on Friday with selected winemakers, the main Festival on Saturday, and... continue reading


Steinberger Sings Happy Birthday to the AOC

This year, in case you missed the massive announcement and fanfare (there wasn't one), is the 150th Anniversary of the famous 1855 classification which decided for the first (and possibly last) time the ranked hierarchy of Bordeaux Chateaux. This illustrious document gave us (barring one or two minor changes since) the current set of Premier Cru, Grand Cru, First Growth, Second Growth, etc. classifications that confuse the hell out of all but the most dedicated Bordeaux drinkers. Michael Steinberger, the wine columnist for Slate has written a very nice piece in honor of this anniversary. It's part celebration, part eulogy,... continue reading


Gaja Winery, Italy: Current Releases

What can one say about Gaja? Among wine collectors and wine lovers it is one of the most sought after and prestigious wine labels across Italy and around the world. It is so instantly recognizable as such, that more often than not Gaja is the wine that I see fancy restaurants putting in the front of their wine cases or windows. Charlie Trotters in Chicago, for instance has several jeroboam sized bottles front and center in his restaurant's private dining room. One reason for this celebrity status is that as opposed to the great Chateaux of Bordeaux which produce tens... continue reading


How Much Cesium Would You Like With That Bordeaux, Sir?

Archaeologists have Carbon-14 dating to help them identify the age of ancient artifacts, and now European wine professionals have their own tool: Cesium-137 dating. Turns out that thanks to Chernobyl and various other Soviet underground nuke testing, all the grapes in Europe were irradiated to some degree over the last 50 years. These exposures to radiation leave such distinct signatures depending on the grape and the region that apparently they can be used to identify the vintage year and one day perhaps even the general appellation of a wine. Read the full story at Decanter Magazine.... continue reading


Restaurant Review: Bouley, New York

Good art is a dichotomy that merges the completely obvious and the utterly mysterious. There used to be an artist on public TV named Bob Ross, who, until his death ten years ago, bared the inner workings of an oil painting to thousands of viewers per day. In just 26 minutes Bob would go from a blank canvas to a finished landscape painting showing you exactly how to do it: which paints, which brushes, and the technique for putting them together. If you've never seen this show, it's hard to describe both the miraculousness of watching the painting take... continue reading


How to Spit Wine Like a Pro

It's hard enough for some people to make the transition to actually spitting out the wine, but when they finally do, they're faced with the daunting task of actually getting it in the bucket, which is harder than it looks, especially at crowded wine tastings where they're just as likely to get it all over themselves or someone else than the bucket. Thanks to a tip from Professor Bainbridge, I'm happy to provide a lesson in spitting wine courtesy of Michael Steinberger in Slate Magazine this week. Despite the surface silliness of writing a column on how to spit, it... continue reading


WBW#11 Announced: Get Off-Dry

That multiplicitous multi-national virtual wine tasting event known as Wine Blogging Wednesday will take place next month on July 6th. July's theme will be Off Dry wines, courtesy of our host Beau, over at Basic Juice. Beau has a nice explanation of what off-dry means in terms of wine, and he's even been so kind as to illustrate it with photographs, in case you need a little emotional stimulation as well. The short story is that we're looking for wines with just a hint of residual sugar left, making them just slightly sweet, but not the super sweet that you'd... continue reading


2001 Strata Vineyards Estate Merlot, Oak Knoll District, Napa

While it's rare to find a winery dedicated to producing wines from a single varietal, it's even more rare to find one that produces a single varietal that ISN'T Pinot Noir. For some reason that grape seems to inspire the cultish, obsessive compulsive instinct in winemakers like none other. How refreshing, then, to encounter the little known wines of Strata Vineyards. Strata is one of those small projects that is becoming more and more common in the Napa valley: a labor of love by highly experienced, talented wine professionals who decided that retirement was boring and there's nothing better... continue reading


How The Wine Gets Into The Restaurant (and Into Your Glass)

If you're like me, you don't spend much time thinking about the mechanics of a restaurant wine list. Sure, you notice just like I do when there's a great set of wines on there -- a special bottle or two or an amazing by the glass list. Maybe, if you're a regular at the restaurant, you even notice that they change the list every week, or that every time you go there are different wines by the glass. This is all the visible part of the restaurant's wine program, usually run by the wine director of sommelier, and underneath it... continue reading


Wine Geography Online

As someone who makes his living in the Design arena, it pains me sometimes to promote a piece of work that is not up to my standards*, but as there is nothing else like this online, it's worth pointing you to the flash based wine region maps that have been put together by Kobrand. Thanks to Paul over at The Sweet and Sour Spectator for the tip. * The type treatments are small and poor quality, you can't click on the countries, and aspects of flash that would have made the whole experience better (zooming, transitions, etc.) were not used.... continue reading


WBW#10 Roundup: White Pinot

This month's virtual, world-wide wine tasting event has wrapped up and Alice over at My Adventures In The Breadbox has posted a roundup of all the wine reviews of white Pinots. 25 reviews of Pinot Blanc, Pinot Gris (and Grigio) later, it's clear that there are a lot of decent wines out there at pretty good price points. Check out the goods!... continue reading


My First Message In a Bottle

I'm very proud to announce something new here at Vinography. Today marks the launch of my position as the monthly wine columnist for Gastronomic Meditations, a recently begun but already great online magazine about the pleasures of food and wine. My column, "Messages In a Bottle" will be a monthly exploration of what I find so compelling about wine and the wine world. I've spent enough time criticizing and bemoaning the state of wine writing in the English speaking world, but now no one can claim that I'm not trying to do something about it. MESSAGES IN A BOTTLE Searching,... continue reading


2003 St. Innocent "Freedom Hill Vineyard" Pinot Blanc, Willamette Valley, Oregon

This wine review is my contribution to today's online wine tasting event known as Wine Blogging Wednesday. This incarnation is being hosted by Alice over at My Adventures In The Breadbox and she has decided the theme would be White Pinot. White Pinot refers to the two common mutations of the Pinot Noir grape that are cultivated with regularity: Pinot Gris and Pinot Blanc, which for many years people thought was Chardonnay (and vice versa). As a result, here I am sipping the fruits of St. Innocent, a small winery in the Willamette Valley of Oregon. Founded by Mark Vlossak... continue reading


2001 Ancien Chardonnay, Carneros, Napa

I presume that some of you have friends like mine who belong to the ABC club. That's "Anything But Chardonnay" to the uninitiated, and what's required for membership is an abiding love of White Burgundy and Chablis and the belief that there's not a single Chardonnay made in California that can come close to the way that it is done in the "motherland." I'm constantly having conversations with friends like this and while I continue to maintain that they are wrong, I certainly don't have a huge portfolio of wines that I can point to as examples which disprove their... continue reading


Alsace: Great Wines, Backward Thinking

I had to read this news headline twice just to make sure I wasn't dreaming: "Alsace wins right to drop grape names." Say what? While it seems like a majority of French winegrowers have been arguing for some time now that being able to put the varietal name on their bottles will help French wines compete in the global marketplace, apparently the growers of Alsace (which is the only place in France where this practice has been legal for some time) have been lobbying for the exact opposite! Just when you thought we were turning a corner in the revision... continue reading


2003 Napa Cabernet: A Report From Auction Napa Valley

If you were anywhere near Napa on Friday June 3rd, you knew about the annual Auction Napa Valley. Why? Because it was the reason you were stuck in traffic for hours. Friday was the first major event in a weekend of festivities held annually by the Napa Valley Vintners association. This weekend glorifying all things wine-related from Napa has been held for the past 25 years both as a celebration for valley residents and wine aficionados and as a benefit for local charities. The lawn and stage with live music at the Friday festival. The auction took place this year... continue reading


Taste of New Zealand on Wednesday June 8th

I'm a member of the Museum of Modern Art here in San Francisco, but every six months or so, I have even more of a reason to go visit. Next Wednesday, June 8th, the museum again plays host to Taste of New Zealand, a wine tasting of over 50 New Zealand wineries paired with hors d¹oeuvres and the option of a special tasting of Sauvignon Blancs with a neverending supply of oysters courtesy of our local Hog Island Oyster company. The best thing about this event is that in addition to being about publicity for these winemakers, it's a fundraiser... continue reading


2001 Piña Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon, Howell Mountain, Napa

If one were to speculate on the wine market as a savvy investor might in the small-cap stock market, the game would be the same: follow people you know with good track records. In the wine world, we'd also have to include a corollary about betting on great vineyard sites, but that's beside my point. What I'm getting at is that good wines don't happen by accident. They're made by talented people, great vineyards sites or a combination of both. So my theory is that most of the time it shouldn't come as much of a surprise to stumble across... continue reading


French Winegrowers Invade England

No, no, no. Not the same ones that are rioting in the streets. This is a more peaceful (if not covert) invasion. Apparently, without most people noticing, the English have actually begun to grow grapes well enough to make decent wines. As a result several French producers are apparently on the prowl to purchase English vineyards. It must really chap their hides, though, to have to pay for them in pounds sterling. Read the full story here.... continue reading


Fess Parker Winery: Current Releases

Say the name Fess Parker these days and you usually get one of three reactions. From people under the age of 25 you'll get a blank stare. From folks in my generation (that would be Gen X) who happen to be wine lovers, you'll get a polite chuckle about the winery tasting room that hosted the spit-bucket scene in Sideways. And from anyone over 50, you're liable to see their eyes light up and hear them whistling the movie theme to Davy Crockett. Fess Parker, now 81, became an American icon himself by playing American icons on screen. Most famous... 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

Extravaganza For The Senses: July 16th, Los Angeles California's Best Pinot Noirs?: I'm Still Recovering From Pinot Days Look Out NY, Here Comes CA, (and Vice Versa) Hollywood takes another shot at wine Un-Corking Wine: Technology To Save Spoiled Bottles 1980 Beringer Vineyards Private Reserve "Lemmon-Chabot Vineyard" Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa A New Category: Older Vintages It's Restaurant Week in New York (6/20 - 7/1) And You Wonder Why the French Have Problems... Oh, So THAT's How You Make a Cult Cabernet

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