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~ February 2006 Archives ~



Napa's Best Cabernet: Tasting The Premiere Napa Valley

Perhaps the most well known event in California wine country is a star-studded auction that takes place every summer, known as Auction Napa Valley. This is the most lavish and flamboyant face of Napa Valley, despite the event's focus on raising money for charity, which weds celebrity, exclusivity, and wine in an evening celebration capable of raising millions. Less well known, and perhaps the more accurate picture of the Napa community and lifestyle is another auction that takes place behind closed doors every Spring. Premiere Napa Valley, modeled in part on the en primeur tastings held in Bordeaux every year,... continue reading


Look For The High Priced Hologram

I love Brunello. I really do. These Sangiovese based wines of Tuscany have a special place in my heart and when well made, can be utterly absorbing and fantastic. However, they have become in the last 10 years, increasingly overpriced. Perhaps they are following the popular lead of Barolo, which has become consistently the highest priced wine in Italy. Regardless, it's hard to find a decent Brunello these days for under fifty or sixty bucks, making what was once the hearty red of Tuscan farmers now the crystal decanted collectors' wine. And now, it seems, this high-priced wine is now... continue reading


The Uber Appellation: South of France

I remember hearing about this about eight or ten months ago, but now apparently it is official. France has taken one tiny step towards modern wine marketing. In a slightly odd, but I predict successful move, a whole new class of wines are now eligible to be labeled "Sud de France," or South of France. This is not a new Appellation d'Origine (yes my title is a little misleading), but a brand or labeling scheme that unites all 19 of the different appellations in the Languedoc Roussillon, plus nearly 15,000 village producers under a single designation. Now any wine produced... continue reading


2003 Naggiar Vineyards Sangiovese, Sierra Foothills, CA

The Sierra foothills is one of California's most under explored, and perhaps, underappreciated winegrowing regions. The Sierra Foothills AVA (American Viticultural Area) is the third largest appellation in California after the Central Coast, and the North Coast. It encompasses entirely the AVAs of Shenandoah Valley, El Dorado, Fair Play, Fiddletown, and North Yuba, and overlaps with Amador and Lodi. In other countries in the world, the foothills of major mountain ranges are often the primary and most famous winegrowing regions, but in California they take a back seat to some of the valleys. Certainly Napa and Sonoma are more consistent... continue reading


Vinography in The LA Times

I was as surprised as some of my readers (thanks, Hector, for the tipoff) to discover that Vinography was featured today as part of an LA times article surveying the best wine sites on the Internet. Vinography, Joe Dressner's blog, and Red Wine Haiku are all highlighted in the blog category along with other wine sites and bulletin boards. Here's an excerpt from the article:"As you delve into wine blogs through a clearinghouse website such as wineblogwatch.arrr.net, what will amaze you is the variety, intensity and occasionally the hilarity of wine-world views on display. The ones I like to read... continue reading


Vineyard Protection Goes Low Tech

Seems like owning a a vineyard and having a dog (or three) pretty much go hand in hand for most parts of the world. It's so common in certain places like Australia that there are calendars and even books dedicated to canine cellar companions. Well it turns out that in addition to providing companionship along the frequent walks up and down the rows of vines, they might actually even help keep vineyards healthy. A new program in Northern California is using young Golden Retrievers to sniff out an increasingly common and problematic vineyard pest: the vine mealybug. This little maggot-like... continue reading


Row Eleven Wine Company: Current Releases

Making and selling a wine these days means managing a brand. Regardless of the quality of the wine, there are those who embrace this fully, and dive headlong into the mechanics of making an emotional connection between product and consumer, and then there are those who participate almost reluctantly, eschewing any thinking about the personality of their product beyond what they want the label to look like. Neither is the "right" way to go -- many have been successful taking either path -- but wineries in my experience seem to infrequently walk the middle ground; they are either marketers or... continue reading


The Winemaking Revenge of The Pod People

I like to keep up on the latest bizarre technologies out there for wine lovers, and was therefore pleased as pod...er..punch to have Tom over at Fermentation point out The Wine Pod. Apparently home winemaking is a big enough business (or these people think it will be) to create what amounts to basically the winemaking equivalent of those fancy automatic breadmakers: "Just add all the ingredients, set the timer and wake up in the morning to smell of freshly baked bread." While I don't think these guys have figured out how to make wine overnight, they seem to have a... continue reading


Kizakura Tokuri-Ikkon Dai Ginjo Sake

Just to the south of downtown Kyoto, Japan, a 15 minute train ride from the main station brings the lucky visitor to Fushimi, a sleepy little section of the city that is tucked against the Eastern mountains. Here, after wandering up through quiet streets, you will find one of my favorite places to walk in all of Japan, a shrine named Fushimi Inari, where it is possible to walk literally for miles under a solid canopy of bright orange Tori gates, one after another, each inscribed and painted by a reverent donor. These surreal paths wind their way up the... continue reading


Oh Thank Heavens. The Media Got It Wrong.

Remember a few weeks ago when the sky was falling? Well it turns out that it was just a piece of roofing tile all along. Thanks to Michael Steinberger, all those panicking art gallery owners can safely return to serving cheese cubes with their wine at parties again. It turns out that the now infamous study at U.C. Davis that determined that wine and cheese were incompatible actually found nothing of the sort. It was just a big misunderstanding between scientists and the media, which we all know happens all the time. What the scientists actually said was that mixing... continue reading


Restaurant Review: Ame, San Francisco

I was very excited when I learned that Starwood Resorts was going to be opening a new property in downtown San Francisco. Not that I'll ever stay there, but I'm generally a fan of their hotels and I'm of the opinion that San Francisco could use a few more good high-end hotels, especially ones which lean towards the contemporary in their design, as theirs do. I was also pleased when I found out that the hotel was not only going to satisfy from the design perspective (it's very nicely done) but that it would play host to Ame, a new... continue reading


SF Chronicle Wine Competition Tasting: Saturday, Feb. 25th

If there is one public wine tasting event that rivals San Francisco's yearly ZAP Zinfandel tasting for sheer size and chaos, it could only be the annual Chronicle Wine Competition Tasting. Every year the San Francisco Chronicle holds a wine competition, judged by 55 wine professionals, in which they award medals to their top choices from among over three thousand California wines. This competition has grown over the last 6 years to be the largest competitive tasting of American wines in the world. The judges (who really have a tough job of it) hand out hundreds of medals and awards.... continue reading


2002 Holdredge Pinot Noir, Russian River Valley, CA

There is a whole class of wines in Napa and Sonoma that represent dreams in the process of being realized. These small efforts are usually what I like to call "estateless" wineries. Such wineries are the work usually of one or two individuals (surprisingly often a husband and wife team) who have made tentative but substantial steps towards a goal of becoming winemakers. Often, these people are doing this work in addition to their day jobs -- sourcing fruit after hours and on the weekends, taking classes in winemaking in the evenings, requesting a couple of extra days off work... continue reading


WBW#19 Has Been Announced: When in Rhone...

The next edition of Wine Blogging Wednesday, the Web's only virtual wine tasting event, has been announced. This month's tasting, hosted by Jathan over at Wineexpression.com, is taking all the participating bloggers on a wine tasting tour of Rhone blends, either from the New world or the Old. Not sure what qualifies as a Rhone blend? Jathan has provided a list as well as links to some appropriate resources for folks to learn more. If you've got a blog and want to participate, just drink a wine, take some notes, and post them on Wednesday March 8th, 2006 along with... continue reading


Ordering From The Secret Wine List

Thanks to fellow blogger Amy Sherman of Cooking with Amy for e-mailing me a note about a recent article in the LA Times that takes up the subject of wines that don't appear on the wine list at fancy restaurants. We've all suspected at one time or another that there might be a secret list that well-heeled or well-known customers get to order from, and perhaps even experienced it ourselves. In fact many fine restaurants do have stashes of bottles that don't appear on the regular wine list for many reasons, chiefest among them being either the restaurant has very... continue reading


1997 Clos Des Truffiers "Hommage a Max" Syrah, Coteaux du Languedoc, France

One of the things I love about being a wine lover is the connection that can be made between more academic and intellectual learnings about wine (names of varietals, appellations, winemakers, techniques) and personal sensory experiences. We wine lovers, with enough practice and attention, can literally taste what we have learned over time. One of the things that most interests me is the transformation and expression of a place over time. I won't get into a deep contemplation of terroir here, but leave the discussion at a simpler place: it's delightful to taste the evolution of a wine region --... continue reading


Let a Computer Chip Do The Sniffing For You

While wine geeks and snobs alike enjoy the ritual of wine presentation at a restaurant -- the presentation of the bottle, the presentation of the cork, the small pour, the swirl and sniff -- many amateurs or budding wine enthusiasts are intimidated by all aspects of buying wine in a restaurant. I remember when I first started ordering wine out to dinner. It was a scary proposition, especially the part where I was supposed to determine whether the wine was any good or not. Like most neophyte wine consumers, there was a time that I thought the wine was being... continue reading


Numerical Wine Ratings: Consumer Friend or Spawn of Devil?

Numerical ratings for wine are one of the the wine world's favorite all-night-debate topics. Nothing seems to polarize a crowd of wine lovers or engender such impassioned debate as the seemingly innocent question, "So just how useful is it to score wines, anyway?" Some people think these scoring systems (dominated by the 100 point method developed by Robert M. Parker, Jr.) are really useful tools for the consumer. Others think they're one of the worst things that's ever happened to the wine world. It's probably not hard for you to guess where I come down on the issue. After all,... continue reading


WBW18 Roundup Has Been Posted: Wine Shop Reviews

Frequent wine drinkers who have graduated from their local supermarket and are looking for something better are often at a loss for where to go. They want a good local shop that will take care of them and offer advice, new ideas, and good wine that won't break the bank. This month for Wine Blogging Wednesday, the Internet's virtual wine tasting event, instead of reviewing wines, bloggers all over the world reviewed their favorite wine store. The host, Dr. Vino, has recently posted a roundup of all the different shop reviews and it's an interesting read. There might even be... continue reading


2004 Domaine August Clape Blanc, Côtes-du-Rhône, France

Some wines just ruin you. One sip and you realize the folly of your ways and can never go back to thinking or drinking wine quite the same way again. Really, when I think about it, this happens to me all the time. Not with every wine, mind you, but with many good ones, there's something in the glass that lifts you to a place that you can't come back from. Of course, you do go back and have a California Sauvignon Blanc every once in a while after tasting a great Sancerre, but you'll always remember that there's something... continue reading


Messages In a Bottle: Wine, Version 2.0

I'm a man, and a member of Generation X, which among other things means that I'm into gadgets. You might even say I'm as much of a tech geek as a wine geek, though admittedly I'm not driven to try a new piece of technology every week the same way I'm driven to try new wines. I own way more than my share of electronic gizmos, love the fact that I can automate probably 60% of my life using the Internet, and secretly harbor the hope that one day I can get rid of this wallet altogether and just walk... continue reading


The Great San Francisco Corkage Debate

San Francisco readers may have noticed a flurry of letters to the wine section of the Chronicle recently about one of this wine drinker's favorite topics: corkage policies. Specifically, these letters address a controversy (stirred in part by a quote from Vinography in the paper a few weeks ago) over the fact that Pizzeria Delfina, the new venture by Craig and Annie Stoll, does not allow diners to bring their own wine. I'm very pleased to see that this topic has been of interest and has fueled some public debate on the subject. If you'd like to catch up on... continue reading


2002 Southern Right Pinotage, Western Cape, South Africa

I like underdogs -- the scrappy runts of the litter that have to struggle to survive, the desperately pitiful teams that make up in spunk what they lack in talent. I also have a soft spot in my heart for those folks who are stubbornly persistent in the face of lousy odds and prevailing common sense stacked against them. This may be part of the reason that, despite never really having one that I've enjoyed, I keep trying Pinotage whenever I get the chance. Pinotage is the sort of red-headed stepchild of the wine grape world, brought into the world... continue reading


The Modern Disaster

First there was the Tsunami, then hurricane Katrina, then the Kashmir earthquake, and now, a disaster of upper class proportions that might actually stir the slumbering nuvo-riche: London is running out of Champagne. Yes, that's right. Apparently the overcompensated financial services elite, flush with cash as the Euro crushes the dollar and other currencies into submission, have simply drunk French bubbly into endangerment, at least on one side of the channel. Oh, sure, you can still wander down to Oddbins and pick up a nice bottle of non-vintage bubbly, but if you're of the mind some Friday night in the... continue reading


California's Best Zinfandels: A Report From ZAP 2006

This past weekend, along with 8000 of my closest friends, I attended the 15th annual ZAP Festival (Zinfandel Advocates and Producers) in San Francisco, as I do every year. The premiere event for Zinfandel around the world (does anyone even care about it outside the US?), ZAP is one of San Francisco's longest-running and largest wine tasting events. The event has gotten so big it fills both exhibition halls of Fort Mason, and any year now it's gonna move to Moscone and go big time. OK. Maybe not, but it's getting more popular every year, both from the public's perspective... 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

Napa's Best Cabernet: Tasting The Premiere Napa Valley Look For The High Priced Hologram The Uber Appellation: South of France 2003 Naggiar Vineyards Sangiovese, Sierra Foothills, CA Vinography in The LA Times Vineyard Protection Goes Low Tech Row Eleven Wine Company: Current Releases The Winemaking Revenge of The Pod People Kizakura Tokuri-Ikkon Dai Ginjo Sake Oh Thank Heavens. The Media Got It Wrong.

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