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~ May 2006 Archives ~



WBW22 Has Been Announced: Low Alchohol Reds

The next incarnation of the popular virtual wine tasting event Wine Blogging Wednesday has been announced. Hosted by Tim over at Winecast.Net, WBW22 will feature red wines with less than 12.5% alcohol. Alcohol levels in wine, especially red wine, is a hot topic (no pun intended) these days. There certainly have been several lively conversations on the subject here at Vinography. The fact is, it will be tough for most of you who are interested in participating to actually find wines that qualify for this event. My suggestion, seek out red wines from the Loire, South Africa, and Northern Italy.... continue reading


Fred Franzia: Great Businessman or Wine Antichrist?

Whatever your opinion of Fred Franzia, you have to hand it to the guy -- he knows how to get your attention. Franzia is, of course, the guy behind the Two Buck Chuck juggernaut and the recent loser of a 6 month court battle with the Napa Valley Vintner's association over the labeling of his wines. Like a kung-fu master who knows exactly where to hit someone with a single finger with devastating results, Franzia has a gift for provoking outrage with a minimum of words. Here are a few gems from a rare press conference he held recently:"No bottle... continue reading


1999 Louis Bernard Vacqueyras, Rhone Valley, France

Why people still argue about global warming is beyond me. The only proof I need are folks like the Inuit, whose boots are now squelching mud where permafrost used to be, and the grape growers of France's Southern Rhone whose weather is getting much less volatile and quite a bit warmer. Most American wine drinkers, even those who consider themselves wine aficionados can't be bothered to keep track of the historically variable weather and subsequent harvest quality in the winegrowing regions of France. Heck, I read all about it, but I can't always remember half the time whether it was... continue reading


What I Did Today Instead of Blogging

Purely utilitarian. Long overdue. Hard work -- I think I'll stick to blogging. 578 bottle / 48 case capacity. Only one crooked shelf to fix when I get a few minutes. Hope everyone enjoyed their three day weekend as much as I did.... continue reading


Dear Christies Auction House.....

Stardate -317404.87 Dear Christies Auction House, First of all, congratulations on securing the auction rights to what looks like the entire contents of the Starship Enterprise. I was disappointed to note that you're not selling off any of the more impressive hardware. I've been trying to get some of those "swissssh, swissssh" doors in my place for a long time, but no one seems to want to backorder them for the next 200 years. But I'm not writing you today about doors. No, I'm much more interested in wine. Specifically, I have a number of questions about your upcoming offering... continue reading


Space, The Final Frontier of Sake Tasting Notes

Did I mention how much I love the Internet? I suppose its fairly obvious as a blogger that I dig this whole medium, but honestly, it has made so many fantastic things possible in my life. Take, for example the following story. About two months ago, I wrote a post here about Tosa Space Sake. Thanks to the magic of news feeds I was able to find out that as a crazy marketing stunt of some sort, a group of Japanese sake manufacturers had figured out how to get some yeast on a rocket into space for some time. Once... continue reading


Vinography in San Francisco Magazine

San Francisco. How do I love thee? Let me count the ways. Or rather, let San Francisco Magazine count the ways. This month's issue of the newly redesigned city glossypages is all about wine. More specifically it's about how San Francisco, perhaps more than any other major urban center in the world is a fantastic place for wine lovers. From wine bars to wine events, from fantastic wine lists to myriad services for collectors and newbies alike, you just can't get any better than San Francisco when it comes to wine. This month's issue also happens to feature a profile... continue reading


Auction Napa Valley, June 1-4, Napa, CA

There are only two things to do in Napa the first weekend in June: live it up or avoid it altogether. On this particular weekend, and every year in June, the valley celebrates its wine and its lifestyle in a three-day-long extravaganza that is as fantastic as it is fatal for the local traffic. Those who stay away avoid the madness on Highway 29, but they also miss the best opportunity of the year to experience the breadth and depth of what Napa has to offer California wine and food lovers. Auction Napa Valley is actually three separate events rolled... continue reading


Harrington Wines, San Francisco: Current Releases

Our mental images of the single-minded winemaker who long ago forsook all but one grape in the pursuit of something nearly spiritual in wine, tend to be sepia colored and involve the backdrops of small villages in the European countryside. These men (and women) who work, often alone, in both the vineyards and the cellar to master the equation of one grape + one barrel + one vineyard on a personal level seem decidedly Old World. Over time, I have found a few new world examples of such winemakers, holed up in small towns or in the far reaches of... continue reading


The Re-Judgment Of Paris Results In California Landslide

Everyone can give a big sigh of relief. We won't have to go through that for another thirty years, and by that time all the angry people will be dead anyway. But for the next few months, there are going to be some REALLY angry people. Today marked the 30th anniversary of the fateful Judgment of Paris, where European wine experts selected California wines in a double blind tasting over their French counterparts. Those of you who follow wine news with any regularity know that there's been quite a bit of hoopla these past few weeks about today's recreation of... continue reading


Tasting Wilson Daniels' European Portfolio

The average wine drinker doesn't think much about distributors and importers. And why should he? There's not much need to interact with the folks behind the scenes who are responsible for getting wine into stores and restaurants where the public gets a chance to try them. Despite a lack of familiarity with this whole tier of the wine industry, it should come as no surprise that there are a lot of different kinds of wine distribution companies. Just as there are different kinds of wine retailers, from the corner liquor store to the highest-end wine retailer on Madison avenue, the... continue reading


If It's Good Enough For Monkeys...

Not that I really need any more excuses to pop a cork. But if you're looking to rationalize with anyone about that next bottle you're about to open, you can now say that the Hungarian apes recommended it. Or perhaps more correctly, Hungarian zookeepers. Apparently the apes and monkeys at the Budapest Zoo go through 55 liters (a little more than 6 cases) of red wine a year. That seems far too little to me, only a little more than a bottle per week for the entire primate population of 11, but apparently the monkeys don't need too much. "it's... continue reading


My Bottle of Screaming Eagle Was Corked. Can I Have Another?

Who says you can't learn anything useful by watching TV? After a scam to defraud wine companies by claiming to have purchased faulty bottles was featured on a New Zealand television show, some enterprising lady in Wellington, NZ decided to give it a go herself, firing off various e-mails to wine companies demanding replacements for spoiled bottles that she had purchased. She's been busted, of course, but I suppose Internet communications coupled with the distribution infrastructure of huge grocery chains make these sorts of things so much easier these days. Dear Harlan Estate, I bought this bottle the other day,... continue reading


2003 Puccioni "Old Vine" Zinfandel, Dry Creek Valley, Sonoma

On our recent trip to Mendoza, Argentina, we visited and tasted wines at a number of wineries that the locals referred to as "renovated." I've forgotten the specific term in Spanish, but they were referring to the increasingly common practice of new owners re-opening long shuttered wineries in the area. New owners (occasionally descendents of the original founders) were reviving old vineyards, remodeling or rebuilding old winery facilities, and generally building on the shoulders of a huge, vibrant wine industry that dried up around the same time that Prohibition was putting the final nail in the coffin of a similarly... continue reading


New Feature on Vinography: Subscribe to Comments

This weekend Vinography moved to a new server, which, in addition to offering the benefits of more stability and faster loading and response times, also gave me the opportunity to introduce a new piece of functionality for readers. Sometimes the chain of comments at the end of my postings here reach 30 or 40 in length. This happens because people actually start having a conversation with each other -- responding not only to my posts but also to other comments made by me and other readers. Up until today, the only way to participate in this dialogue was to keep... continue reading


California Dodges the Zinfandel Bullet

Whew. It feels good to narrowly avoid disaster. That adrenaline rush of the almost-car-accident, the thrill of the nearly-over-the-handlebars bike move -- they remind us that we are alive, and that we are mortal. This past week, the State of California had a brush with travesty, when Zinfandel almost became the official state grape, despite my public warnings about the imminent dangers of such a move (as written to the Editor of the San Francisco Chronicle):Editor, It is with great concern that I write to you about state Sen. Carole Migden's proposed bill to make Zinfandel the state wine. Your... continue reading


2002 Paloma Merlot, Spring Mountain District, Napa

Today is Wine Blogging Wednesday. What's that you say? It's actually Friday? Listen, don't ask me why, all of a sudden, we're being asked to blog about wine together at the end of the week. I just work here. Today represents a collision of two blogging phenomena on the web. The original food blogging collaborative Is My Blog Burning, and the wine tasting event which was inspired by this event, Wine Blogging Wednesday. Jointly celebrating Wine Blogging Wednesday #21 and Is My Blog Burning #26 as the Fabulous Favorites Festival today, wine bloggers are being asked to cook and blog,... continue reading


You Know Things Are Desperate When...

You know things are desperate when drinking a bottle of wine is a form of civil disobedience. No I'm not talking about the resurfacing of prohibition, I'm talking about the current political blowup surrounding the Russian importation of Georgian (the country, not the state) wine. The short story is that there's a lot of economic maneuvering between the two countries which has turned into a big-time trade dispute over a number of issues including Georgian mineral water as well as Georgian wine. In their latest move for this chess game of import-export, Russian politicians recently passed a measure outlawing Georgian... continue reading


The Nigerian Wine Scam

I'm so excited. I have been contacted by a mysterious foreign dignitary, or at least the relative of one who is going to help me make some big money without me having to lift a finger. It's also a great deal because I'll be helping some poor unfortunate soul who has had millions wrongfully denied them. Isn't the internet great? We can all help each other and get rich doing it! What? You don't believe me? But I have this e-mail right here that proves it: Winemaker Ben Kanobe & CO Tel/Fax: 234 8032564512 899 4922 E-mail: [email protected] Yarrow Alder... continue reading


2001 Macari Reserve Merlot, North Fork of Long Island, NY

I love the experience of gradually getting to know an new wine region. The more wines I have from Long Island, the more intrigued I am. Many of them are not great, which is typical of emerging wine regions, but every once in a while, you get a wine that shows the promise of a place, and the dedication and hard work of the folks who believe in it. New York has played host to vineyards for about as long as European's have tried to live there. At first, European vine varieties were planted on the island of Manhattan itself,... continue reading


Highlights from The Loire Valley Wine Bureau Tasting

I really appreciate and applaud the increasing growth in marketing efforts at the level of distinct wine regions around the world. In the last two years, more and more winegrowing areas, big and small, have formed marketing associations, and taken their member wineries on the road so that journalists, members of the trade, and the public can sample a large group of wines. Tastings such as those put on by The Union des Grand Crus de Bordeaux, The New Zealand Wine Commission, The Western Australia Winegrowers Association, The Spanish Wine Trade Commission, etc. have the double effect of effectively marketing... continue reading


Mouton Rothschild and Monkey Brains

This is so barely wine related I can hardly stand to post it. Except that this is such a horrifying, fascinating article that I can't help but share it. Advance warning to vegetarians, PETA members, and the generally squeamish: stop reading now. You know how when you approach a car accident, you really don't want to look? You want to drive on by and keep traffic moving and not be a rubbernecker, but when the time comes you stare just like everyone else? That's what reading this article is like. It starts off innocently enough, with the food writer attending... continue reading


Lodi Zinfest, Saturday May 20, Lodi, CA

There's more to the small town in the Sierra Foothills than the famous Creedence Clearwater Revival song might lend you to believe. Certainly you could find worse places to be (Oh Lord) stuck in (again) on Saturday, May 20th than Lodi, California. That's because from Noon until 8:00 PM the town will be hosting the 2nd annual Lodi Zinfest, celebrating the region's growing prominence as a producer of some of the state's finest Zinfandel. Thanks to the enterprising efforts of Italian and Russian immigrants during and after the Gold Rush, Lodi is home to some of the state's oldest grapevines,... continue reading


Wine Tasting: Man Against Machine

First, there was Kasparov against Deep Blue. A test of whether the subtlety and complexity of human thought can outperform the sheer speed and parallel processing power of silicon. As a game based in mathematics, or at least mappable using mathematical principles, it's not surprising that eventually we got to the point where the machine can trounce or at least draw the grand master consistently. But wine tasting? Intuition would say that the complexities of flavor and quality would be much harder to predict via computer, and certainly humans would have an edge. A group of wine experts was put... continue reading


Wine Pairing Advice Via Text Message

So how many times have you found yourself standing in the supermarket with the ingredients for a dinner wondering just what wine would be a good match? Whenever I'm in the grocery store, I always like to watch how people do their shopping in the wine aisle. I see a lot of bewildered staring, biting of lips, and tapping of feet as people scan the shelves looking for something they're not very sure about. I have to restrain myself from running up to them, throwing my arms around them and saying, "Look, it's gonna be OK. I'm here to help."... continue reading


1989 Fiorano (Boncompagni Ludovisi) Botte 48 Semillion, Roma, Italy

So what is a perfect wine, anyway? There are several answers to that question, one of my favorites being, "There are no perfect wines, only perfect bottles." Most folks who buy and drink their favorite wines with regularity know that some bottles just are better than others. Another answer to the question might be, "There are no perfect wines, just perfect tasting moments," where the wine drinker gets some celestial alignment between all things important to wine tasting -- the flavors of the wine, the environment of tasting, the company, and the food on the table. Finally, of course, I... continue reading


Vineyards Instead of Hashish Fields

OK, so maybe they shouldn't have pulled out ALL of the marijuana and opium poppies. On the other hand, better vineyards than civil war and UN sanctions. You probably know that I have a curiosity concerning emerging and underappreciated wine regions, so I was pleased to come across a recent article about Lebanese wine. I had vaguely heard of Lebanese wine over the years, but my first chance to taste it was my trip to Egypt, where the very nice rosé we got with dinner was literally the only drinkable wine we had on the whole trip. It was made... continue reading


The 2006 James Beard Awards (Wine Related)

The Annual James Beard Foundation awards for Journalism were announced last night. Effectively the Oscars for the food and wine writing world, these awards are given out each year to honor the top* examples of writing of various kinds and genres within the sphere of food and wine. The Foundation also gives out awards to chefs, but today we're focusing on writing. It is my pleasure to heartily congratulate the 2006 James Beard Foundation Award winners whose work relates to Wine and Spirits: BOOK ON WINE OR SPIRITS: Whiskey, by Michael Jackson MAGAZINE WRITING ON WINE SPIRITS OR BEER: A... continue reading


Paso Robles Wine Festival, May 19, 20, & 21

If you missed the Paso Robles event here in San Francisco, and you don't mind driving a bit, or if you live in Southern California, you still have a chance to party with Paso. The Paso Robles Wine Festival begins on Friday, May 19th with its annual golf tournament. What golf has to do with wine, I have no idea. Perhaps they force everyone to drink a different wine at every hole. That's how I would hold a golf tournament, anyway. Then on Saturday the 20th everyone will descend on the park in downtown Paso Robles for a grand tasting... continue reading


Vinography on Wine and Dine Radio

Tired of reading reading reading everything at Vinography? No, I'm not starting a podcast, but I did get interviewed on the radio this week by the woman known as The Wine Fairy -- Lynn Chamberlain, the host of the nationally syndicated show Wine and Dine Radio. I first spoke to Lynn over a year ago about the then relatively new world of wine blogging. Lynn caught up to me after my return from Argentina and wanted to sit down with me and hear all about it. So if your eyes are tired, or you just want a little Vinography audio... continue reading


Luigi Bosca, Mendoza, Argentina: Current Releases

I can't imagine what Mendoza looked like in 1889. Somewhere in the world there must be photographs of the area, taken by an enterprising Argentinean photographer who lugged a big glass plate camera around the foothills of the Andes to document the local countryside. His images, were we able to see them today, would no doubt have shown what could only be described as rugged farmland, cut here and there with dirt roads, and broken only by the occasional tower of a windmill, which would look puny compared to the massif of Aconcagua in the background. If one were... continue reading


Messages In a Bottle: Trying to Taste a Place

It's Spring now in the vineyards of Northern California. The mustard blossoms yellow between the rows of newly budded vines and the vineyards which were, in some places, underwater just a few weeks ago now resemble their normal selves. Where there is not mustard there are tall green grasses waving in the same rhythms as the apple blossoms, which too are bursting forth with the warming weather. The trees do not yet have many leaves, however, and the green on the vines remains just small sprouts and sprigs, both of which provide the acute observer with an opportunity to... continue reading


The Wine Spectator Just Doesn't Get It

Let's get this straight from the get go. I'm a Specator subscriber. It's clear they've got some very smart, very talented people working there. I even had a great time hanging out with Harvey Steiman at the Wine Writers Symposium this past March. But whoever calls the shots around that place when it comes to the Internet is totally clueless or completely short-sighted and greedy. Or both. The reason for such harsh criticism? Very quietly, over the last couple of weeks, The Wine Spectator has entered the world of wine blogging. Quite seriously, as a matter of fact. All of... continue reading


The Best Restaurants In The World for 2006

While I was on vacation recently someone pointed out that Restaurant Magazine had once again announced their yearly list of the best restaurants in the world. I tend to post this list every year it comes out, but grow more and more suspicious of it each year that passes. The magazine changed its methodology this year, dividing the world into 20 sections and having votes cast by restaurant professionals in each section. You would think that this might lead to more accuracy, whatever that means, or at the very least better representation for certain areas. But the results are a... continue reading


The Taste of Fear

Paris. 1976. These two words mean a lot to a certain class of wine lover. If they don't mean much to you then here's a quick synopsis. That place, that year, a reporter from time magazine attended a rather small blind tasting which pitted California wines (Chardonnays and Cabernets) against French Bordeaux and White Burgundy. The tasters were French wine experts, and after tasting they all felt certain of which wines were superior and that the ones they had selected were French. Well, they were wrong about the last part. A California Cabernet and Chardonnay ended up on top for... continue reading


Biodynamics From the Horse's Mouth

Several recent discussions here on Vinography have touched on Biodynamics. It's a compelling subject if only for the way it tends to bring out strong opinions. Those of us who like to opine about it don't know as much about it as those who actually practice it on a daily basis, and those folks probably don't know as much as a guy named Nicolas Joly, the owner and winemaker of Clos de la Coulee de Serrant, and the de facto spokesman for the movement. I've missed my opportunity to listen to Joly speak here in San Francisco with much regret... continue reading


Thoughts On The Chronicle's Top Restaurants

While I was away in Argentina a couple of weeks ago, the San Francisco Chronicle came out with their annual list of top 100 restaurants in the Bay Area. This list is always contentious (as are most lists of this type) but in particular I always find a lot to argue about with the Chronicle's picks, and this year is no different. One reason this year IS different, however, is that it is the last year in which the Chronicle will have THE authoritative voice on Bay Area restaurants. Discounting Zagat, the Chronicle has never had much competition when it... 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

June 2016

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Most Recent Entries

WBW22 Has Been Announced: Low Alchohol Reds Fred Franzia: Great Businessman or Wine Antichrist? 1999 Louis Bernard Vacqueyras, Rhone Valley, France What I Did Today Instead of Blogging Dear Christies Auction House..... Space, The Final Frontier of Sake Tasting Notes Vinography in San Francisco Magazine Auction Napa Valley, June 1-4, Napa, CA Harrington Wines, San Francisco: Current Releases The Re-Judgment Of Paris Results In California Landslide

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