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~ August 2005 Archives ~



Ode to The Winemaker

My fellow blogger Tom over at Fermentations has a nice piece this week about winemakers, and how they can be some of the most underappreciated professionals in the world. We give doctors, lawyers, architects, engineers, and CEO's their due, but when was the last time you heard anyone acknowledging how hard it is to be a really good winemaker? Tom has written a nice appreciation, that we would all do well to contemplate, and give thanks in our own ways for the people who create what we love to consume. Check out his post.... continue reading


The Great California Cabernet Classification

It was only a matter of time before someone went ahead and classified California Cabernet along the lines of the 1855 Classification in Bordeaux, or the Langton's classification of Australian wine. That someone, or at least the latest someone, is Simon Woods of Wine International. He has put together a tiered classification (First through Fifth growths, plus some additional classifications such as "Top Non-Napa Wines") based on wines that are below 1000 cases in production and which have been available on the market since 1999. Like the two classifications mentioned above, wines are ranked based on their historic ability to... continue reading


2003 Viñedos de Ithaca "Odysseus" Pedro Ximinez, Priorat, Spain

There's nothing like a mystery to get me all riled up. For all I know it's not really a mystery -- I'm sure thousands of Spaniards would laugh out loud knowing that I'm now obsessed with this -- but I really want to know who Pedro Ximinez was. And why there is a grape named after him. I imagine him the humble yet respected mayor of a small Andalusian town who rescued his faithful villagers from economic ruin by breeding a grape that winemakers idolized and a nation desired. Sigh. Not even my wine bible had the answer to that... continue reading


The Boy In The Bubble Visits New York Hot Spots

Warning: This is decidedly not Politically Correct, but it is too funny not to post, even though it's a bit off in left field for Vinography. McSweeney's, the delightful literary and everything-tangential-to-literature magazine founded and run by Dave Eggers has a series of New York restaurant reviews from The Boy In The Bubble. Says the Boy In The Bubble about Asia De Cuba:"Deciding that I mustn't be the last member of New York's illustrious glitterati to show off the exploits of a recent Milan shopping spree at Asia de Cuba, the Philippe Starck-designed Cuban-Asian fusion hot spot, I ventured into... continue reading


Burgundy, Terroir, and Globalization

Folks who have hung around here for a while might remember my problems with Jonathan Nossiter's film Mondovino. In particular I felt he did a very poor job conveying the complexity and nuances of what really is going on in a global economy. "But that's so difficult," some said, "even in a 3 hour film." Well here's a short little piece from the International Herald Tribune that does a darn sight better than Nossiter in less than about 2000 words.Anyone pondering the mysteries of French misgivings about modernity (in general) and globalization (in particular) might wish to linger a moment... continue reading


1999 Domaine de Nizas, Coteaux De Languedoc, France

The Languedoc wine region of southeast France that straddles the bottom of a the better known region of Provence produces more wine than any other area of France by volume. Most of it never makes it to the USA, and much of it never even makes it to the table of French wine drinkers, at least the discerning ones. Most of the production goes to what we would call "jug wine" here in the US, and what generally passes here at Vinography for "crap wine." To dismiss the Languedoc on that basis, however, would be a grave mistake, as it... continue reading


Fewer grapes this year in lots of places

Harvest is nearly here. Throughout California, and in many other places in the country, grapes have already gone through veraison, the process where red grapes turn from green to red, blue, purple, or black, and where some white grapes begin to take on a golden, translucent sheen. By most estimates, and depending on the varietal and the specific location, the harvest will begin in 2 to 4 weeks. And so it goes elsewhere around the northern hemisphere (Bordeaux began harvest this week). But this year has brought with it some significant challenges for grape growers around the world. In Canada,... continue reading


Uchigasaki Hoyo "Kura no Hana" Junmai Daiginjo Sake

Part of the joy traveling to another country for an extended period of time comes from the opportunity to not just sample tidbits of culture, art, food, and drink, but to stew yourself in them for periods of time and figure out what you really think. In my 18 months or so spent living in Japan, I didn't "figure out" a lot about Japanese culture, despite my enjoyment of every minute, but I did completely fall in love with sake. My first real experience of sake beyond the hot little carafes that provided endless sake bomb entertainment in college was... continue reading


California's Best Artisan Wines: A Report From Family Winemakers' 2005

My teeth hurt every time I brush, but I don't expect any sympathy from anyone for spending 5 hours on Monday tasting through more than 200 wines at the Family Winemakers 2005 Tasting here in San Francisco. Family Winemakers is a marketing association dedicated to promoting wines made by small and family run wineries throughout the state. Each year they hold what ends up being the largest tasting of California wines anywhere in the world. Because of their focus on family producers, this also ends up being a collection of often the best of what California has to offer. Only... continue reading


The King of Luckytown

There are 16 apricots in a blue and grey bowl on the kitchen counter this evening, in varying states of ripeness. Three more rest near the kitchen sink, where they'll soon be trimmed around the spots where the birds and squirrels and bugs went after them before I could pick them. There's only one left on the tree, now. The full crop this year was something like 55. (Coincidentally, the age I'll be in another seven weeks or so. Also a famous speed limit during the era of Richard Nixon, and a few other notorious characters from the recent past.)... continue reading


Provence in Berkeley, Saturday August 27th

Every year Kermit Lynch and his next door neighbor Cafe Fanny (Alice Waters) throw a party in the parking lot that they both share in Berkeley, CA. The event is usually a celebration of Provence food and wine, and comes with live music, catered food, and lots of wine from the Kermit Lynch portfolio, including sneak peaks at wines not yet on the market. This year the event will be catered by Christopher Lee, of Eccolo Restaurant in Berkeley and Kermit will be pouring some "fresh-off-the-plane" samples of his 2003 Domaine Les Pallieres Gigondas. I missed this event last year,... continue reading


2000 Loring Wine Company "Clos Pepe Vineyard" Pinot Noir, Santa Rita Hills, CA

Brian Loring has shot to prominence in the last 4 years as one of the hottest young winemakers in California. His down to earth approach to wine, access to some of the most revered Pinot Noir fruit in California, casual humor, and some very high scores from the critics have propelled his wines to remarkable popularity in a very short period of time. The wine world discovered Brian Loring only a short time after he discovered his own identity as a closeted winemaker. Brian worked in the retail end of the wine business during and after college and there discovered... continue reading


Do You Need Your Wine Zapped?

Purveyors of crazy, magic wine implements, beware, you've now got to compete with the mental powers of young farm boys. In an incredible little story (who cares if it's all true or not) Alan Goldfarb of the St. Helena Star relates a bizarre set of events that recently happened to him. To keep the story short, a man and his son visited Alan in his office and proceeded to demonstrate the talents of the son, which amounted to mentally zapping a glass of wine to smooth out its tannins and make it taste better, and, oh yes, "allow you to... continue reading


WBW#13 Has Been Announced

Wine Blogging Wednesday, the global online wine tasting event is now in its 13th month, and will be hosted by the charming Clotilde, whose blog Chocolate & Zucchini is the current darling of the food blogging world. For this month's tasting, she has selected the theme Like Wine For Chocolate, encouraging us all to select wines to drink with chocolate cake. Conveniently (and delectably, I might add) she has provided us all with a simple recipe for a chocolate torte, should we be inspired to bake with glass in hand. Clotilde's blog (as heard on NPR and as featured in... continue reading


2002 Papapietro Perry "Peters Vineyard" Pinot Noir, Sonoma Coast, CA

Most of us are guilty of taking wine too seriously. I know I am at times. Certainly when talking about it and writing about it here. The drinking part is easy, but when it comes to discussing wine, marketing wine, and pouring wine for the public, so many wineries are deadly earnest and often formal. It's hard to remember sometimes that wine should most of all be fun. The folks at Papapietro Perry don't ever seem to forget that. I've tasted their wines at probably 10 different public tastings, and the folks at their table (usually the Perrys or the... continue reading


WBW#12 Roundup Has Been Posted

What do bloggers drink when they can't stray far from home? The 43 answers to this question can be found in the roundup to this month's Wine Blogging Wednesday, the virtual tasting event where food and wine bloggers taste wines according to a specific theme. This month's tasting, the 12th, marking a full year since the event began in 2004 was hosted by Lenn at Lenndevours, who conceived of the concept. This month's theme was "Drink Local. Real Local." And bloggers were given strict instructions to drink a wine from the winery closest to their house. This led to all... continue reading


Family Winemakers Tasting, Sunday August 21, San Francisco

I can hardly believe it, but it's time again for the Family Winemakers' tasting event -- without a doubt my favorite public wine event. Period. The reason I like this event has mostly to do with the nature of the wineries that are pouring their stuff. Though the "family" designation is pretty loose and allows some big time winemakers like Ravenswood and Bonny Doon to qualify as "family-run," for the most part those who show up are really the smaller outfits whose wines I love to love. That aside, it is the largest tasting of California wines in the... continue reading


The Terroir Conference

I just wish they'd have come up with a better name for this thing. I mean, if the Catholic Church can have the Diet of Worms, can't we have something more interesting on Terroir? Ah well. Terroir is a controversial enough word and concept, someone could put together a whole conference just to define it. Hey, wait a minute.... This coming March, the venerable U.C. Davis will be hosting something of a first: a conference that brings together geologists and vintners to talk about Terroir. This might have gone unremarked, except for the increasing discussions about it here on Vinography,... continue reading


2003 Highland Estates "Seco Highlands" Pinot Noir, Arroyo Seco, CA

It's easy for to dismiss big corporate wine producers as makers of industrial products far inferior to what small artisans can make. For the most part, that's true, but some large corporate wineries got that big just because they were successful and were able to grow to meet the demand for their products in the marketplace. Don't get me wrong, I'm no apologist for the corporatization of wine, but I do think sometimes we forget that some big guys started small, and still care about making great wine. Kendall-Jackson, the 9th largest wine producer by sales volume in the USA,... continue reading


Results From the Vinography Reader Survey

A few weeks ago I conducted the first survey of who you folks are and what the heck you're doing here at Vinography. I wanted to know something about my readership, and so I created a quick 20 questions to find out. Thank you again, to all of you who took the time to fill out the survey. I'd also like to extend a special thank you to my wife, who actually knew how to compile and analyze all this data. Thanks to her help, I'm pleased to be able to share the following statistics with you: DEMOGRAPHICS: In general,... continue reading


The Most Powerful People in Wine

Last month's (I think -- I'm way behind on my reading) Decanter magazine had an interesting feature on the "most powerful people in the wine world" and the list they put together is worth sharing and commenting on (I encourage you to take a look at the issue as they have profiles of most of the people on their list). So what does power mean? To Decanter, powerful means having a direct influence on the style of wine being drunk around the world today. Each of their selections (50 in total) were chosen for the level and reach of that... continue reading


Israeli Wine on The Radio

While we're on the topic of smaller, out of the way wine regions, I might as well post this piece about Israel, by way of NPR. Their show Day to Day did a segment earlier in the week on the boom that's underway in the Israeli wine market. Of course, wine has been made in Israel for thousands of years before there WAS an Israel, but in the last 15 years the industry has apparently taken off, in response to a greater public appreciation and interest in wine. Israel now boasts nearly 200 wineries, and wine consumption per capita has... continue reading


The World's Least Likely Wine Region?: Thailand

Ninety degree heat. Ninety percent humidity. Incredibly high precipitation. Flat, low altitude topology. Sounds like exactly the wrong place to grow grapes, right? Well apparently no one told the Thais that. And when we were talking about new wine regions to watch here last week, we certainly forgot to include Thailand. Growing wine grapes in Thailand has to be done a bit differently than pretty much everywhere else, as you might expect, starting with the staggering fact that they actually get two crops of grapes per year without even trying(!). This incredible growth needs to be carefully checked through judicious... continue reading


2002 Nicolette Christopher "Daniela" Pinot Noir, Carneros, CA

Hand-crafted is a term that has been abused by wine marketers and copywriters for a long time, but it still means something, and there are still winemakers who live up to its humble promise. There are a lot of small wineries that could qualify for the use of this descriptor, all at varying sizes, but you don't get much closer to hand crafted than a man, his wife, a friend, 5 barrels and 2186 pounds of Pinot Noir. Nicolette Christopher is a tiny winery started in 2001 by Chris and Nicolette Demetre. Like many small wineries, it represents the realization... continue reading


Lowering The Octane

Certain readers *you know who you are* like to harp on the alcohol level issue a lot. And to be honest, it is a rising concern, no pun intended. Average alcohol content for some wines has risen as much as 4% in the last 20 years (resulting in wines that are on average 15-20% more alcoholic than they used to be), and more and more people are starting to talk about it. Some people say that it's not an issue, really, and that it just reflects changing tastes. Some people say well, the tastes are actually for fruitier wines rather... continue reading


2001 York Creek Cabernet / Meritage, Spring Mountain District, Napa

This wine review is my entry in this month's Wine Blogging Wednesday, hosted by it's pioneer, Lenn Thompson over at Lenndevours. The theme guiding dozens of wine and food bloggers this month is "Drink Local. Real Local." Lenn has challenged us all to taste and review a wine from the winery closest to our own home. For me, that was a pretty simple proposition: Exactly 2.7 miles from my front door lies York Creek Winery. What is a Napa winery doing smack dab in the middle of San Francisco? It's sitting across the street from its other half, The Anchor... continue reading


Messages In a Bottle: The Wine Comedy

This afternoon I poured myself the last of a bottle that had been opened earlier in the week, and wandered to the back yard to relax a little. I must not have slept well the night before, because after a few sips and a few moments in the sun, my eyes became heavy, and their lids fell. I awoke with a start, and found myself alone on a level plain of grey concrete stretching far and away into the distance. Alarmed, I gulped what was left of my tepid wine, presumably warmed by the sun which now seemed to recede... continue reading


2003 Taft Street Winery Chardonnay, Russian River Valley, Sonoma

The term garagiste entered the wine lexicon about 10 or 15 years ago, mostly because of some enterprising small producers in Bordeaux who were bucking the tradition and winemaking styles of the large established Chateaux. Since these winemakers rose to prominence, with a little help from Robert Parker, the term has gone from an originally derogatory or at least disdainful label to one that is useful for describing all manner of small winemakers around the world, some of whom actually do make wine in their garages. While certainly not the first to make wine in a garage John and Mike... continue reading


Number By Half (Wines You Can Count On)

My friend David Darlington's name appeared in the byline of an article, published in yesterday's (August 7, 2005) New York Times magazine, about making wines that get high scores from prominent critics. The piece explores the work of a fellow named Leo McCloskey, who runs a company that works with wineries to help them figure out ways to increase their chances of being favorably reviewed in the pages of (among other places) Robert M. Parker's The Wine Advocate, and of The Wine Spectator. McCloskey is, apparently, an accomplished chemist, who has devised a way to measure, very precisely, the components... continue reading


1985 Chateaux Pichon-Longueville Comtesse de Lalande, Pauillac (Bordeax), France

There's something remarkable about the generosity of wine lovers and collectors. Their willingness to share a bottle, even the most expensive bottle that they have cared for and stored sometimes for decades, often with complete strangers never ceases to fill me with wonder, admiration, and pride. I have the same tendency. We're good folk, us wine lovers. Even the biggest snobs I've met, ones that I can barely stand to be in a room with are perfectly willing, and even excited to pop open a dusty bottle and share it with people they know will appreciate it. I got invited,... continue reading


Fingerprinting Wine: Your Tax Dollars at Work

Lanthanum, Cerium, Uranium, Vanadium, Chromium, Manganese, Strontium, Barium, Titanium, Rubidium, Zinc and Copper. Sounds like a bad flashback from honors chemistry in high school or a Gilbert and Sullivan melody that you never knew the words to, right? These are the twelve trace elements that all wine grapes pull up from the soil. It's in the roots, in the leaves, and in the fruit. It's also in the wine. Don't want any Strontium with your Cabernet? Too bad, because there's no way to get it out. Of course these elements are in such minor quantities, such microscopic amounts, that it... continue reading


Restaurant Review: Pizzeria Delfina, San Francisco

What is it with pizza anyway? Short of sushi and steaks, I don't know any other foodstuff that inspires so much fervor of specificity among people who love to eat. And I'm not talking about pies from your local delivery service, however good they may be. What really sends people into paroxysms and polemics of culinary criticism are proper thin-crust pizzas that are increasingly finding their way onto menus of all types, from the casual bistro to the chic upper-end restaurants all over the city. Everyone has their own opinion of where the best pizza can be found, and what... continue reading


Monterey Winemakers Celebration, August 13th, Monterey, CA

If you're looking for a mellow way to enjoy some wine, music and good food next weekend, perhaps you should check out the 13th Annual Monterey Winemakers' Celebration. Wines from more than 40 Monterey County producers will be poured at the event, held at the Custom House Plaza in Monterey. Highlights include a silent auction of vintage bottles, winemaker dinners and more. The wineries that will be featured include: Bargetto Winery, Baywood Cellars, Bernardus Winery , Black Diamond Cellars , Blackstone Winery, Boyer Wines, Carmel Road Winery, Carmichael Vintners, Chateau Christina, Chateau Julien Wine Estate, De Tierra Vineyards, Escafeld, Estancia... continue reading


China's The Biggest Market For Everything, Even Wine

What would happen if the Chinese got to be as rampant wine drinkers as the Japanese? The wine world would never be the same. Certainly Australia and France wouldn't have that much to worry about in terms of overproduction. Of course, we're not there yet, but the Chinese market for western style wine has doubled in the last ten years and by all reports is accelerating. There are three relatively mature producers in China making western style wine, and in August, the first Chinese-French joint venture winery will release 15,000 cases of its initial vintage. Situated in Huailai county, Hebei... continue reading


On The Rise Down Under

Australia recently awarded a set of medals to its best winemakers, including its best emerging winemaker and I happen to like everything about their choice. First of all, she's a woman. Kudos to the judges, or whoever they were for breaking the mold. It's still very much a man's world in the wine business, but without good reason. Secondly, she's young -- Fran Austin is 30 years old, and clearly accomplished. Thirdly, she's from Tasmania (or at least that's where her winery is -- she's actually West Australian). Not Barossa, not Coonawarra, not the Hunter Valley, but the tiny island... continue reading


2003 Chateau des Gavelles Rosé, Coteaux d'Aix en Provence, France

I drink rosé all year round, but it's awfully nice in the summer (as nearly every wine magazine and newspaper has been telling you for the past three months). And where better to get your rosé than the one appellation that is practically dedicated to it: Coteaux d'Aix en Provence. This area of southern France produces 1.7 million cases of wine each year, a full fifty percent of which are rosé. I don't know any other place in the world that produces that high a percentage of pink wine in their overall output. Perhaps it's because they've always been making... 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

Ode to The Winemaker The Great California Cabernet Classification 2003 Viñedos de Ithaca "Odysseus" Pedro Ximinez, Priorat, Spain The Boy In The Bubble Visits New York Hot Spots Burgundy, Terroir, and Globalization 1999 Domaine de Nizas, Coteaux De Languedoc, France Fewer grapes this year in lots of places Uchigasaki Hoyo "Kura no Hana" Junmai Daiginjo Sake California's Best Artisan Wines: A Report From Family Winemakers' 2005 The King of Luckytown

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