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~ December 2005 Archives ~



Can Computers Make for Better Wine?

Some of the most lively discussions on Vinography have been about the role of technology in the winemaking process and how much is too much. When does wine go from a magical mix of human art and nature's bounty to a chemically engineered beverage? If a wine's taste has been engineered by more than the decisions of when and where to pick the grapes, what to ferment them in, and for how long, does that make it a lesser wine? There are all sorts of gray areas here which intrigue some people, send others running for the hills, and conjure... continue reading


A Waiter's Perspective On Wine

My favorite ornery comedian-philosopher has decided to teach his readers about wine from a waiter's perspective, and has some interesting and sometimes funny notes on "How to Order Wine Without Looking Like an Asshole." This isn't wine class for those who may be dining in the finest restaurants in New York, this is wine class for the folks who want a $30 bottle to go with their pasta. Amidst all the snark and attitude (don't be scared off, he's old and jaded), the Waiter provides some pretty no nonsense advice for those looking to learn, as well as some admonitions... continue reading


1986 Fiorano (Boncompagni Ludovisi) Malvasia Bianca VdT Botte 25, Latium, Italy

I've insisted many times that the story behind a wine is an important part of my enjoyment of a wine -- knowing about who made a wine and the circumstance of its creation is part of appreciating it fully. Sometimes, though, the story of a wine is so compelling that it can transform the experience of drinking the wine into something else entirely. Such is the case with the wines of Alberico Boncompagni Ludovisi. The story behind this man, his wine cellar, and the wines that he made was so extraordinary when I first heard it, I hardly imagined that... continue reading


Trying To Pin Down an Apellation's Flavors

What does the Dry Creek Valley taste like? Not an easy question to answer with anything other than "It depends..." Yet that was precisely the goal of a little get together on a cold rainy morning a few weeks ago in southern Sonoma County. Along with some famous local winemakers, a couple of journalists, and a couple of local restaurateurs and sommeliers, I had been invited to a most unusual wine tasting event. Over the course of four hours and nearly forty glasses of wine, our group of "experts" was tasked with trying to decide and describe the standard characteristics... continue reading


No Skipping Barefoot Through These Vineyards

OK, maybe skipping barefoot through most vineyards is an invitation to a broken ankle, but in some New Zealand vineyards now such a display of frivolity is likely to result in bloody feet. Apparently in an experiment to find uses for recycled glass, some vintners are covering the soil of their vineyards with a layer of crushed glass. In addition to looking pretty, the vintners think that the glass may reflect heat up onto the vines and result in more consistent ripening. I guess this is based on somewhat the same principles involved in some Biodynamic preparations which involve spraying... continue reading


2005 La Yunta Torrontés Riojana, La Rioja, Argentina

I'm always looking for good wines to go with Chinese food. Especially around the holidays, when we eat with my Chinese in-laws. I like to drink wine with meals, and so does Ruth, but we haven't yet found the perfect wine for her country's cuisine. We enjoy Gewurztraminer with certain dishes, or Verdelho with others, an occasional Austrian Riesling or Gruner Veltliner, but we haven't quite hit on one that is consistently a good match with the wide variety of flavors that can be found in a proper Chinese meal. Hence, we're constantly experimenting with different wines. We're visiting Ruth's... continue reading


Kermit Lynch Joins Legion d'Honneur

Congratulations to Kermit Lynch for being awarded the top honor bestowed on civilians in France: Chevalier de la Legion d'Honneur. Lynch will receive this honor in a private ceremony next year, joining Robert M. Parker, Julia Child, and Robert Mondavi as recipients of this rare award. Regular readers know I am a fan of Lynch as well as the wines he has been importing for the last few decades in Berkeley. Lynch pioneered the consistent use of refrigerated shipping containers for imported wine (which are sadly still not the industry standard) and has long championed small producers of France who... continue reading


Final Plug for A Menu For Hope II

If you have not yet made a donation to a Menu For Hope II, I'd like to sincerely ask you to consider it. For those who may have missed the earlier posting, scores of food and wine bloggers from all over the globe are donating prizes to encourage charitable donations for the Kashmir earthquake victims. Every $5 in donation to UNICEF equals one raffle ticket to win some fabulous prizes (including one from Vinography, which you can read about in the announcement of the campaign) Our host Pim has summarized the prizes and the prospects in a recap post which... continue reading


How The Business World Thinks About Wine

When I first saw this story, I couldn't stop laughing. But the more I thought about it, the stranger and scarier it became. Of course I know (from lots of first-hand experience) that for many people, wine is entirely a game of status. I'm reminded of the anecdote a friend relayed to me the other day about her experience taking a bunch of very wealthy businessmen around Bordeaux. They stopped at Chateau Latour and one of the businessmen (who up until this point had been bored stiff) looking at the sign at the driveway entrance exclaimed, "Hey, I've got some... continue reading


2003 Ferenc Takler "Proprietors Reserve" Cabernet Franc, Szekszárd, Hungary

It's not often that I come across Hungarian wines at all, especially given my very low tolerance for dessert wines. Hungary is, of course, famous for its Tokaji dessert wines, whose sugar levels are measured in puttonyos or "buckets" of sugar. My last occasion to review a Hungarian wine turned Vinography into an instant destination for wine-loving Hungarians, who arrived in droves with suggestions, praise, and travel tips after a Hungarian internet news site picked up my review. I may be potentially opening the floodgates again with this review, but I can hardly help myself from reviewing this stunning wine... continue reading


A Wine Job For The Holidays

Hello wine lover. Do you wish you knew more about wine, but aren't sure really where to begin? Are you facing two weeks of boring vacation with family members you spend most of the year avoiding? Unbeknownst to me, there is apparently a way to solve both problems at once, and earn a bit of hard cash besides. No, I'm not talking about hawking Rolexes at Grand Central Station all day. I'm talking about becoming a wine retail underling. Or something that comes close. Apparently, it's not only the clothing stores around town that pick up extra seasonal help. It's... continue reading


WBW#17 Has Been Announced: New Zealand Reds

The first Wine Blogging Wednesday of 2006 has been announced. For next month's virtual wine tasting party, participating bloggers will all be reviewing red wines from New Zealand, thanks to the guidance of host The Cork Dork. Known primarily for its Sauvignon Blanc, New Zealand is increasingly becoming a force in the world of Pinot Noir. There are other reds grown there as well, in smaller quantities, such as Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Syrah, and Zinfandel among others, but many do not make it stateside. See you on January 4th with your Red Kiwi!... continue reading


Wine And Food Pairing World Championships

Annoucer 1: Jim, here comes the next contestant, Andreas Larsson, former winner of the Sommelier of Sweden award, and finalist several years running for the International Sommelier of The Year award. Announcer 2: Yes Dave, he's looking alert and trim in his tux by Lloyds of London. Announcer 1: Jim, don't you think those little bibs they all have to wear this year make the overall effect a little, well, lame? Announcer 2: Shut up Dave. Announcer 1: Right. Sorry. Announcer 2: Rumor has it that his routine tonight will consist of the incredibly difficult Two Dishes, One Wine maneuver,... continue reading


2002 Jim Barry "The Cover Drive" Cabernet, Clare Valley, Australia

I'm not convinced entirely that Australia is a great place for Cabernet. I've had some pretty solid Cabernet/Shiraz blends from Down Under, but it is rare that I find a pure Cabernet wine that I think stands on its own. Much of the time they have a green, vegetal characteristic and very bitter tannins which, though they might mellow with ten years in the cellar, make them downright unpleasant to drink on release. How surprised I was, then, to come across this little gem of a wine, which was not only decent, but also a steal. Jim Barry is... continue reading


Backlash Against Parker?

I don't really read the San Francisco Chronicle, mostly because they don't provide RSS feeds that would allow me to easily do so. I mostly can't be bothered to go trolling through their web site, even on Thursdays, when the Wine and Food section comes out. Luckily for me I have friends who are more diligent, more forgiving, or who actually still subscribe to the paper version, who can tip me off when things show up there that might be of interest. That's what happened today when I got a note from a friend with the following excerpt from this... continue reading


WBW#16 Roundup Has Been Posted

I've been doing the Wine Blogging Wednesday virtual tasting event for, well, 16 months now and I gotta say this month's event was one of my favorites. I love the idea of forty bloggers from all over the world going out, buying a wine based on the label alone, and then blogging about it. We can thank Derrick at An Obsession with Food for the theme and for hosting this month's event. He has just posted a roundup of all the reviews, and as anyone who knows Derrick might expect, he has taken it to the next level and even... continue reading


2003 Marilyn Merlot and Velvet Collection, Napa

There are some people that are popular. Then there are some people that are celebrities. And then there are people that hold such a legendary status in culture that it is sometimes hard to describe what they have become. Not being someone prone to follow cults of personality, these people and those who worship them are a mystery to me. I've never understood, for instance, the Princess Diana following. Likewise, it is also hard for me to understand how Marilyn Monroe continues to capture the imagination of our culture. Perhaps this will fade over time, as fewer and fewer people... continue reading


A Menu For Hope: Wine Touring For Kashmir Earthquake Relief

Last year around the holidays the world was watching in horror as we learned of the full devastation which the tsunamis and earthquake wrought across Southeast Asia. This year people are reeling from many things, but perhaps none so deadly as the horrible earthquake in Kashmir. Coming on the heels of hurricane Katrina, so much closer to home for us Americans, the earthquake didn't get as much media attention as it should have, and some have talked about donor fatigue after the outpouring of support for Katrina victims. So it seems fitting that my friend Pim has decided to repeat... continue reading


The Ocean As Your Wine Cellar

I don't know why every crackpot idea when it comes to wine has to do with aging wine, but it seems like every few months (and especially around the holidays) I hear of some new device or method for turning average wine into great wine, or great wine into legendary wine. This new idea isn't something you can buy on the internet, but all those folks who installed the Rolls Royce of wine cellars in their beach houses are going to be sorry when they hear this: apparently tossing your favorite bottles in the ocean is just as good. Thanks... continue reading


Sonoma's Best Pinot Noir: Highlights From Pinot on The River 2005

Better late than never, isn't that what they say? I attended the Pinot on The River event over a month ago (October 20-30, 2005), but my schedule has prevented me from writing anything up about it until now. If only I didn't have to work for a living. In any case, here's my report from what continues to be one of California's best wine tasting events. Last year's event, the debut of this weekend festival of Pinot Noir held in the sleepy town of Guerneville on the Russian River, was a joy to attend. Fabulous weather, a low key atmosphere,... continue reading


Messages In a Bottle: Wine Holidays

It's that time of year, isn't it? It's just barely December and I can feel the holidays bearing down like the thick clouds that have started the rainy season here in San Francisco once and for all. I watch the effect of these December days marching by on myself and those around me with the sort of perverse interest that we all seem to have in traffic accidents. It's at once totally befuddling and completely natural how much the holidays seem to throw us for a loop. Take me, for instance: Most of the year I contentedly write about the... continue reading


2004 Magnet (Sin é) Pinot Noir, Sonoma

We all occasionally buy wine by the label. While I imagine that there are a few complete wine snobs out there who only drink four or five different wines whose names everyone knows, pretty much anyone who is curious about wine has at one time or another shrugged their shoulders and reached for that strange bottle on the shelf just because, well, it looked interesting. What would happen if scores of people all over the world went out to their local grocery stores and wine shops to buy a bottle, with the only criteria being that they had to select... continue reading


More Sniping at The Top of The Wine World

Like the Royal Family trading insults or the latest antics of Scientology obsessed celebrities, I continue to be fascintated with the sniping that takes place at the top of the wine world, as critics, and the critics of critics let loose. Invariably it involves Robert Parker, the powerful critic that can't help but be at the center of most shit-storms when it comes to flagrant opinions about what is good, what is bad, and how little the critics know anyway. Earlier in the year he ran afoul of Hugh Johnson, who ended up calling him a "dictator of taste" among... continue reading


2003 Vinum Cellars 'VIO" Viognier, San Benito County, CA

I can't tell you how many stories I've heard of winemakers striking out on their own or forming partnership brokered by their shared love for Pinot Noir. Happens every day, practically. This is not one of those stories. Or rather it is one of those stories, but Pinot Noir is not part of the cast. Instead, the guys at Vinum Cellars were brought together because of their shared love of Chenin Blanc. A quirky and unlikely candidate for creating the passion that fuels the creation of a new winery to be sure, but the winery that this grape has spawned,... continue reading


Some French Continue To Get It Completely Wrong

I continue to be amazed at what seems to me to be the jaw-dropping stupidity of the major marketing and trade bodies of the French wine industry. Their houses are on fire, and they are holding meetings at which they are basically deciding, well, instead of putting out the fire, why don't we just decide that we don't live there anymore -- problem solved! OK. Maybe that's too obscure of a metaphor. Basically, though, the Bordeaux and Bordeaux Supérieur unions (the marketing and trade bodies which represent the Bordeaux chateaux) are acting like the steel industry in the Nineties --... continue reading


Thoughts On The Spectator's Top 10

Every year around this time, the Wine Spectator releases their list of top 100 wines of the year. And then all around the country, people scramble to buy them. Stocks disappear overnight, and prices skyrocket. This year's top 10 wines were: #1 - 2002 Joseph Phelps Insignia Red Blend, Napa #2 - 2003 Clos des Papes Châteauneuf-du-Pape, Southern Rhone, France #3 - 2003 Rosenblum Rockpile Road Vineyard Zinfandel, Rockpile, Sonoma, CA #4 - 2001 Concha y Toro "Puente Alto Don Melchor" Cabernet Sauvignon, Maipo Valley, Chile #5 - 2003 Sette Ponti Toscana Oreno, Tuscany, Italy #6 - 2003 Alban "Reva"... continue reading


Who Forbes Thinks Make The Best Wine

I had to chuckle the other day when my friend Jack over at Fork & Bottle sent me this link to an article in Forbes magazine which has the subtitle: "Lift your glasses to the ten individuals who craft the finest wines in the U.S." Now I won't tell you the various expletives and emoticons that Jack used to convey how flabbergast he was at this article, but I will encourage you to note that after the name of the individual and the wineries they work at, the next piece of data which Forbes chooses to show is their gross... continue reading

But Wait, There's More!

This page only has the last sixty entries in this category. If you're interested in digging farther into my archives, you'll want to use the complete list of archives to access my articles by month.

Calendar of Postings

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Most Recent Entries

Can Computers Make for Better Wine? A Waiter's Perspective On Wine 1986 Fiorano (Boncompagni Ludovisi) Malvasia Bianca VdT Botte 25, Latium, Italy Trying To Pin Down an Apellation's Flavors No Skipping Barefoot Through These Vineyards 2005 La Yunta Torrontés Riojana, La Rioja, Argentina Kermit Lynch Joins Legion d'Honneur Final Plug for A Menu For Hope II How The Business World Thinks About Wine 2003 Ferenc Takler "Proprietors Reserve" Cabernet Franc, Szekszárd, Hungary

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