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~ October 2005 Archives ~

 

10.31.2005

Good Enough To Bathe In

I've written about wine from Thailand before -- a shocking place if ever there was one for growing wine, so close to the equator. But apparently the Thai are doing it. What's more, I learned yesterday that one of the biggest wineries in Thailand is offering a complete wine tasting experience that ends with a spa treatment including a Shiraz bath. Aimed "people who don't want to drive immediately after a wine-tasting," the winery first developed a hotel and restaurant, and apparently spa services were the next logical conclusion. The use of wine in those services, was presumably a natural... continue reading

10.30.2005

Highlights from the Wine & Spirits Top 100 Tasting

As regular readers know, I pride myself on my coverage of major wine tasting events. I go, I taste a lot of wines, I'm very diligent about it, and I report on the tasting very quickly, sometimes the same day. Well perhaps I'm slipping a bit, but it's been over two weeks since the Wine & Spirits Magazine Top 100 Wineries and Wines of The Year tasting here in San Francisco and I'm just now getting around to writing it up. My delay has nothing to do with my lack of enthusiasm for the event. It was a very good... continue reading

10.28.2005

Advice For The Overwhelmed Consumer

It's ok. I was once one of you. Nearly everyone who loves wine was once in the market segment that was just given its first official name by one of the largest studies ever of wine consumers: The Overwhelmed Consumer. Constellation Brands, the behemoth wine and spirits company responsible for a sizeable portion of the Earth's wine production, recently commissioned a study to find out more about wine consumers. Their findings (despite being billed as the revolutionary results from a study "comparable to the Human Genome Project") were pretty prosaic. They identified six major groups into which all wine consumers... continue reading

10.28.2005

Pharaohs Prefer Red

We've known that the Egyptians had wine for a long time. If the funky jars with wax stoppers and grapey residue in them weren't enough, we had the gorgeous tomb paintings from the Tombs of Sennefer in the Valley of The Nobles in Luxor, Egypt showing in vivid color the growing, harvesting, mashing, and fermenting of grapes into wine. In fact, the specific paintings I'm talking about were some of the most beautiful and vivid tomb paintings that we saw anywhere in Egypt when Ruth and I were there this past May. Wine, which experts believe was introduced from Canaan... continue reading

10.27.2005

1997 Zind-Humbrecht "Clos Jebsal" Pinot Gris VT, Alsace

For anyone who drinks Alsatian wines on a regular basis, let alone someone who considers themselves a fan or an aficionado of the unique wines from this narrow slice of northeastern France, it's pretty much impossible to have a discussion about the area without the name Zind-Humbrecht coming up. While everyone is reticent to pronounce any one winery "the best" no matter which region you're talking about, many people would be hard pressed to find a reason why you couldn't say that Zind-Humbrecht has the position fairly well covered for Alsace. The Humbrecht family has a long history in winemaking,... continue reading

10.26.2005

Nazi Raccoons Wipe Out Vineyards in Germany

These are troubled times for wine growers around the world. If it's not too hot, it's too cold. If its not too rainy, its the biggest drought on record for centuries. Maybe there's somewhere that grape growing is always idyllic with no problems (Thailand? oops, no, they have tsunamis..) but I haven't heard of it. Some of the most severe and vexing problems facing modern winemakers are the ones that seem to come from out of left field (no pun intended). In the America West it's the glassy winged sharpshooter which rears its ugly miniscule head every once in a... continue reading

10.25.2005

The Grand Crus of Sake: Selections from Niigata Prefecture

While it's silly to try and draw parallels between sake and wine, which are so different in their creation and provenance, it's hard not to think about Niigata prefecture like Bordeaux. It is simply the most famous region of Japan (and therefore the world) for sake. Even before I knew the difference between a ginjo and daiginjo sake (daiginjo is made from rice grains that have been polished down about 20% more than those used to make ginjo sake) I had drunk enough sake with Japanese businessmen to get the picture that Niigata was where it was at when it... continue reading

10.24.2005

Celebrating The Design of The Wine Label

As someone who makes his living through design, I have a greater interest than most in the labels which grace the bottles I drink with regularity. For too many winemakers, the label is just a required piece of packaging that needs to just "stand out" and have all the legal information required by the state. In reality, that small square of paper is a beautifully constrained space for design, an opportunity to use the restrictions of a small piece of real estate (the front and back labels for a bottle) to create a real emotional impact and embody something of... continue reading

10.23.2005

The Best Grenache in The World?: A Tasting With Robert Parker

"Grenache has basically been disregarded for the last century," said Robert M. Parker, Jr. on his recent visit to Napa where he conducted a tasting of 14 examples of the varietal with several dozen wine lovers at the Culinary Institute of America in St. Helena. The second annual guided tasting hosted by Parker to benefit a scholarship fund in his name to the recently opened Rudd Center for Wine Studies at the CIA, the event was an opportunity for Parker to talk about and taste some of the finest examples he knows of a varietal that he counts among his... continue reading

10.21.2005

Vinography on Good Libations

Today I had the pleasure of being interviewed on an Internet based radio show called "Good Libations," which is part of the Food and Wine Radio Network. I had a nice chat with the hosts Debbie Elder and Karl S. Von Senden about how I got started doing Vinography, some background on wine blogs, and a few tidbits about what it's like to be a wine blogger. If you care to, you can listen to the show here. My segment starts at almost exactly 17:00 minutes into the show. Enjoy.... continue reading

10.20.2005

My Life As a Small Time Wine Criminal

I'd like to confess to a truly wine geek fantasy: I want to know what all the great varietals taste like. As grapes. Yep. I want to eat the major varieties raw. There's something about tasting the grape before the wine that fascinates me. I don't know why, but it's there. So over the years I've encountered the jovian Muscat grapes in my supermarket, as well as the trendy Champagne grapes. But other than that, I'm embarrassed to say, I haven't made much progress on my fantasy. Which is silly, really, because I certainly know enough winemakers to have done... continue reading

10.19.2005

What is an Authentic Wine?

My fellow wine blogger Huge Johnson has got a lovely post this week about so-called "authentic" wines. For those of you who may not be up on the jargon, authentic is increasingly being used hand in hand with "natural" to describe a supposedly unique class of wines -- usually those made with biodynamic processes, in small quantities, using traditional techniques. Johnson (whom I love for his ability to do just this) properly and deftly skewers the whole idea. Natural wine, he says? No such thing. Left to nature we would have vinegar every time. Wine, is by definition, unnatural --... continue reading

10.17.2005

2003 Chateau de Montpezat "Palombieres" Coteaux du Languedoc, France

It seems like my friends who are serious wine drinkers and even winemakers are strictly divided on Grenache. Some think it's the next big thing, while others could really take it or leave it. Sure, they'll drink a nice Gigondas every once in a while, or a good crisp rose, but they don't understand what all the fuss is about. If I had to fall into one of those camps, I'm probably in the former, rather than the latter. I happen to like the tart acidity and berry flavors of Grenache, and I especially like it when it's not turned... continue reading

10.16.2005

Get Out From Behind That Desk and Into The Fields

I'm sure every one of my readers who's a winemaker or works at a winery will shake their heads in wonder, but I know a lot of people who fantasize about owning vineyards and harvesting grapes to make their own wine. Some of them even dream of "breaking in" to the wine industry by dropping their corporate job and beginning life at the bottom rung of the winemaking business. But what does that bottom rung actually look like? Thanks to the masochism and keen observations of one of our local wine writers, W. Blake Gray, we now have an answer.... continue reading

10.15.2005

2002 Domaine Le Sang des Cailloux "Cuvee Doucinello," Vacqueyras (Rhone), France

I think I've really started to fall in love with the wines of Vacqueyras, in the Southern Rhone. I haven't quite gotten to the point where I can spell the name of the appellation without carefully checking twice to make sure I've got my "q" and "y" in the right places, but the more of it I drink the more I want to drink. If you catch my meaning. Perhaps the crown jewel of this tiny appellation that sits nestled against it's much larger and more famous (though not much easier to spell) neighbor Chateauneuf-du-Pape, Domaine Le Sang des Cailloux... continue reading

10.14.2005

WBW #15 Has Been Announced: Drink Small

The fifteenth incarnation of Wine Blogging Wednesday, the blogging world's virtual wine tasting event, is coming next month and its theme is close to my heart. As is the host. My neighbor across the bay, Fatemeh, who runs the blog Gastronomie, will be the master of ceremonies for this next tasting, and as the theme she has selected wines made in quantities of less than 250 cases. And of course, that's a wonderful thing. So if you have a blog, go out and find a small production wine and pop the cork by Wednesday November 2nd, and then write up... continue reading

10.14.2005

Dewazakura Shuzo "Oka" Namazake Junmai Ginjo, Yamagata Prefecture

If there was a single sake that might be responsible for the fact that you now see sake on all sorts of restaurant menus outside of Japan, this might very well be the one. Up until the latter part of the 20th century, there weren't high-end grades of sake. The Ginjo and Daiginjo designations which are now normally associated with ultra-premium sakes didn't exist. When they finally debuted in Japanese sake competitions, they quickly caught on, but even then, only within the competition circuit, as the Ginjo and Daiginjo sakes were just too expensive to produce for mass consumption. For... continue reading

10.13.2005

Chicago Wine & Food Festival: October 21, 22, 2005

Before the wind starts to blow cold off the lake and your eyeballs want to crack and fall out of your head from cold, Chicago has a lovely fall with temperate days and exciting, dramatic thunderstorms. Perfect weather, if you ask me, for drinking wine and eating great food (if only to store up some fat for the winter that will soon fall like a cinderblock on the fragile and unprepared). Just in time, then, arrives the Chicago Wine and Food Festival, a three day extravaganza of top chefs, excellent wines, and a nice mix of celebration and education.... continue reading

10.12.2005

The Gender Gap vs. The Consumer Gap In Wine

There are an incredible number of individual wines and entire new wine brands hitting the market right now expressly targeted at women. There's even a new wine magazine devoted to women wine drinkers. The real question, though, is WHY? Is there really so much of a gender gap in wine drinking and wine connoisseurship that we need special marketing efforts? These are the questions that Michael Steinberger raises in his latest column for Slate Magazine, and he does a great job marching through questions that I've been musing over for some time, but never really fully articulated. What is it... continue reading

10.12.2005

The NEW Crackpot Christmas Wine Gift

Yes, it's a little early, but when Mike, one of my readers, sent me this story I knew that there was no topping this contraption as a candidate for the crackpot Christmas gift of the year. Last year it was the Clef du Vin, and this year?:"The machine works by pumping wine and tap water through a specially designed electrolysis chamber equipped with wafer-thin platinum electrodes. The water and wine are separated by an ion exchange membrane -- the key component, for which Mr Tanaka holds the patent."Just think of it as electroshock therapy for your wines. Your wines do... continue reading

10.11.2005

2003 Belle Glos "Clark & Telephone Vineyard" Pinot Noir, Santa Maria Valley, CA

So let's say you're a winemaker. You have a winery. You've been making Cabernet for maybe 50 years. You've made a lot of it. You've won a lot of awards. You made more Cabernet. You've made so much Cabernet, for so many years that your name is nearly synonymous with Napa Cabernet. What happens, then, when one day you want to make Pinot Noir? In 2001 Chuck Wagner faced this precise problem. Caymus Pinot just doesn't quite roll off the tongue like Caymus Cab, now does it? In reality the owner and winemaker for Caymus Vineyards has always had a... continue reading

10.10.2005

Some Facts About California Wine

I'm not sure how much anyone cares, but here are some interesting current facts and figures about the California wine industry, as reported by the Wine Institute, a non-profit organization dedicated to promoting the California wine industry. Some of them were news to me. For instance I had no idea that Southern California held our highest altitude vineyard. CALIFORNIA WINE California makes 90 percent of the wine made in the United States, and also ranks first in consumption -- we drink 20% of the wine produced in the US. If California were a country, it would be the fourth leading... continue reading

10.08.2005

2nd Annual Robert M. Parker, Jr. Wine Tasting, St. Helena, Oct. 20th

Earlier this week I wrote about the stages of a self-education in wine. In one of those stages the curious and committed wine drinker must start to define benchmarks for their experience and their taste. By far the best way to do this is to somehow find an occasion to drink some of the best wines in the world. Now some wine lovers I know, especially those who are winemakers, would love to sit around all day long and argue with you about what wines are actually the best in the world, but the reality is that it's fairly easy... continue reading

10.07.2005

WBW#14 Roundup Has Been Posted

What do you drink when you have to drink Pinot Noir but it can't be from France or the West Coast of the United States? Turns out there are a lot of options. The recap of this month's Wine Blogging Wednesday was posted yesterday by the host of the event, Jens at The Cincinnati Wine Garage. His roundup of the Web's favorite monthly virtual wine tasting event highlights around 35 reviews of New World Pinot Noir from places like Slovenia, New Zealand, New York State, Spain, Chile, New Mexico, Canada, and Australia. It's a great set of wines and looks... continue reading

10.07.2005

2004 Quinta do Alqueve Fernão Pires, Ribetejano, Portugal

Perhaps we can make this week be about fantastic wine bargains. Earlier in the week I blogged about a great New Zealand Pinot Noir for about twelve bucks, now I'm telling about what might just be the best white wine I've ever had at the $11 price range. Let's start off by asking the most obvious question: Who was Fernão Pires anyway, and why is there an obscure Mediterranean Grape named after him? Well the first answer is that Fernao Pires is the same grape as one called Maria Gomes elsewhere in Portugal, which is where this grape makes its... continue reading

10.06.2005

Messages In a Bottle: The 5 Stages of a Self Education in Wine

In the course of putting on wine dinners, attending and hosting wine tastings, and generally just drinking wine in public, I end up talking a lot with people about wine. Increasingly, many of those conversations are turning towards the subject of "wine education." This means different things to different people, but in general, from novice to expert, people seem to want more of it. They're not necessarily clamoring for their neighborhood stores to start holding classes, or for me to start an online wine university, but they are frequently asking me: "How can I learn more about wine?" After getting... continue reading

10.06.2005

Pinot On The River Festival: October 28-30, Guerneville, CA

This is one of my favorite times of year in Northern California. We've lost the hard heat of the summer (and the heavy duty summer fog in San Francisco) but the days are warm and the light of the shortening days has a bright clarity to it that, along with the harvested vineyards, is our only real indication of fall. For the most part we have no changing colors here for fall, unless you count the grape vines, but they won't be crimson for another month or two. So what better to do with cooler days of bright sunshine than... continue reading

10.05.2005

2001 Syren Pinot Noir, Central Otago, New Zealand

If you you take all the Pinot Noir winegrowing regions of the world and you subtract out all that are in Europe, and likewise all that are on the west coast of the United States, what are you left with? Quite a few places, really, but all of them might be lumped together in a flight of fancy under the name "New New World." Call them up-and-coming, call them fringe, call them frontiers of winemaking -- it was from these regions that bloggers around the Internet were instructed to select a wine for Wine Blogging Wednesday 14, hosted by Jens... continue reading

10.04.2005

A Case of The Vapors: Labor Day

[Editors note: This piece was written by Steve Edmunds in 2001, but since harvest is taking place at this very moment, it couldn't be more appropriate.] These are the days when I wake up of a morning, and remember what time of year it is because I can smell the fermenting of dark grapes on my skin. Just beneath the surface of me, where I'm pulling on a clean T-shirt and wondering how many more clean T-shirts I can pull on before they're all smeared with the skins of Mourvèdre, drenched with the juice of Syrah, or the pressings of... continue reading

10.03.2005

The Rise of the $100 Bottle

Thanks to Deena at Viti-Culture for the tip-off on a great six-year-old article in the Economist about the history, influences, and factors involved in the increasingly astronomic prices of the worlds finest wines. Frankly, I wish the Economist would write more these days about wine, as their editorial standards are exceedingly high, and their research, generally impeccable. This story is no exception, and it concisely details the complexities of the Asian wine buying craze in the 80's, the rise of Robert Parker, the ascendance of the Garagistes and more. If you've ever wondered how the heck anyone ever got the... continue reading

10.02.2005

For the Wine Lover Who Has Everything

Thanks to the folks over at Luxist for digging up what will certainly be the, mark my words, hot wine gift of this holiday season (at least among your millionaire friends). It's not just a wine cooler, it's a wine preserving cooler that takes four of your recently opened bottles and turns them into tap dispensing wine preserved with nitrogen. So I'm sitting here staring at this product and thinking. OK. Good concept, I get it. And then I start looking at those plastic dispensing nozzles, and wondering, how the heck do you manage to get those clean? Especially if... continue reading

10.02.2005

Dan Berger on The Five Levels of Wine

Here's an interesting article from Napa resident and well-known wine writer Dan Berger about the different levels of wine -- five to be exact -- that describe the range of vinous experiences from plonk to Petrus. ( Coincidentally, I've also developed my own 5 tier system, though not for types of wine, but for stages of knowledge about wine -- stay tuned later this week for more on that). Berger's levels are (as paraphrased by me): 1. Wine-like beverages sold in 3-liter jugs or bags-in-boxes generally below $1-per-750ml-bottle in cost. 2. Bulk wines sold in regular and 1 liter bottles... continue reading

10.01.2005

Wine & Spirits' Top 100 Tasting, October 12, San Francisco

Pssst. Want the scoop on an invitation only wine tasting event in San Francisco? OK. So this isn't top secret, but you'll only find it advertised in select places, and it's likely to sell out rather quickly. Wine and Spirits Magazine will be holding its top 100 wineries of the year tasting at the Golden Gate Club in San Francisco on Wednesday, October 12th. This event will feature wines from each of the top 100 wineries (for a list see the ticket sales web site) and finger food, charcuterie, and oysters from A16, César, The Fatted Calf, The Slanted Door... continue reading

10.01.2005

2001 Ruston Family Vineyards Cabernet, St. Helena, Napa

There still are bits of authentic Napa valley tucked into the side valleys and nooks and crannies of a valley that is increasingly dominated by grand architecture, big companies, and industrial size wine facilities. Invariably these last bastions of down-to-earth winemaking and hospitality are hold outs -- families that have been there for decades and who still cling to their family land, working it as they always have done, refusing to sell out to the suits that come knocking. It's odd that St. Helena, arguably the yuppie epicenter of the valley should play host to more than a few of... continue reading

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Most Recent Entries

Good Enough To Bathe In Highlights from the Wine & Spirits Top 100 Tasting Advice For The Overwhelmed Consumer Pharaohs Prefer Red 1997 Zind-Humbrecht "Clos Jebsal" Pinot Gris VT, Alsace Nazi Raccoons Wipe Out Vineyards in Germany The Grand Crus of Sake: Selections from Niigata Prefecture Celebrating The Design of The Wine Label The Best Grenache in The World?: A Tasting With Robert Parker Vinography on Good Libations

Favorite Posts From the Archives

Masuizumi Junmai Daiginjo, Toyama Prefecture Wine.Com Gives Retailers (and Consumers) the Finger 1961 Hospices de Beaune Emile Chandesais, Burgundy Wine Over Time The Better Half of My Palate 1999 Királyudvar "Lapis" Tokaji Furmint, Hungary What's Allowed in Your Wine and Winemaking Why Community Tasting Notes Sites Will Fail Appreciating Wine in Context The Soul vs. The Market 1989 Fiorano Botte 48 Semillion,Italy

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Required Reading for Wine Lovers

The Oxford Companion to Wine by Jancis Robinson The Taste of Wine by Emile Peynaud 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 World Atlas of Wine by Hugh Johnson The World's Greatest Wine Estates by Robert M. Parker, Jr.