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~ June 2006 Archives ~



At Least You Don't Live in Russia

Sometimes when American kids complain about the smallest things, parents say "at least you don't live in [insert downtrodden, usually African country here]." Because really, most of the time, none of us really bother to think about how well off we are, especially compared with the rest of the world. Now, when wine lovers complain about the fact that they can't get their favorite bottles shipped from California to Illinois, we can say "At least you don't live in Russia." Thanks to the bumbling bureaucracy of the Russian government and trade ministries, wine is nearly totally absent from shelves in... continue reading


California's Best Pinot Noir: A Report From Pinot Days 2006

Well folks, I'm here to tell you. The 2005 vintage of Pinot Noir in California looks to be an excellent one. It's taken me three days to recover from, and two days to write up my notes on the second ever Pinot Days festival held here in San Francisco. Last year's event was the first of its kind in San Francisco, and it was also pre-Sideways phenomon. It was also somewhat tranquil and low key. That has all changed now, of course. This past Sunday's grand tasting held at Fort Mason reminded me of nothing so much as the ZAP... continue reading


A Deep Look Into The Glossy Wine Mags

We all (wine writers included) like to bitch about the glossy wine magazines in some way or another. I, for instance, like to sling mud in the direction of the Wine Spectator for what I feel is a completely idiotic internet strategy. I also happen to single them out on occasion for overlooking a lot of wines, or for what I feel is an occasional lack of subtlety in their ratings. If you're a wine connoisseur I'm sure you've got your favorite magazine or critic you like to bash, too. Well, despite all our kvetching about this or that with... continue reading


Rivers-Marie Winery, Sonoma: Current Releases

The creation of a new winery is always an exciting thing, especially when it is founded with the goal of being small, conscientious, and expressive of a particular place and grape. By exciting, I mean especially exciting to me. Like turning the corner in a new neighborhood and discovering a tiny shop that sells exquisite crafts, or finding a hole in the wall restaurant that serves the perfect version of a favorite dish, tasting a great wine from a recently begun boutique winery is one of my favorite experiences in the world. We hear a lot (and I certainly write... continue reading


Weird Wine Questions

Last night Ruth and I met some friends at a local taqueria for dinner. As we were munching on chips, waiting for our burritos to arrive, Ken stopped the conversation by turning to me and announcing the following: "Alder, I want to ask you what I think is quite possibly the stupidest wine question you will have ever been asked. But I don't care how stupid it is, I want to know the answer" "And I want to see the expression on your face when he asks it!" chimed in Lila, who had gotten a preview of his query on... continue reading


WBW#23 Has Been Anounced: Fire Up The Barbie!

My favorite bit of food I ever personally cooked over an open flame was a piece of frozen elk meat, seared at 10:00 PM in the dead of a Colorado winter over a fire that required a couple liters of gasoline to ignite. A bunch of us high schoolers were freezing our butts off on an impromptu snow camping trip that we had decided to take, and I gotta say it's one of my best grilling memories ever. I can't remember what I was drinking with it, but it certainly wasn't wine. Though wine would have been a good choice... continue reading


Carter Cellars, Napa: Current Releases

Every good wine has a story behind it. I've never found one that doesn't. Sometimes it takes some work to find the story, but it's always there. In addition to loving to drink wine, these stories are what keep me coming back to favorite bottles and seeking out new ones. Once upon a time, there was a guy named Mark Carter. He liked to build stuff and to drink wine. We'll come back to the wine in a minute, but as far as building things goes, Mark, in particular, liked old Victorian homes. He grew up in one, and spent... continue reading


More Underwater Cellarage

Apparently it's not just the Chileans who think that the bottom of the ocean is a good place to keep their wine -- the French are getting in on the action as well. Regular readers will remember several months ago, I reported that a winery and at least one restaurant at a resort in Chile was storing its wine on the bottom of the ocean, and sommeliers (as well as guests) were suiting up in SCUBA gear to select bottles for their dinner. Well apparently this is no longer a gimmick, but a technique that is being tested (albeit pseudo-scientifically)... continue reading


Warm Milk or Red Wine. It's a tough call.

My jewish grandmother had cures for everything, most of which involved matzoh ball soup. One of them which I tended to get whether I needed it or not, at least until the age of ten, was a warm glass of milk before bedtime. I have no idea whether there's any scientific basis for it, but it certainly did seem to help me get to sleep (as well as ensuring at least one trip during the night to the bathroom). When I got older, of course, I grew out of that cure, and about ten years ago instituted my own. A... continue reading


Gargiulo Vineyards, Napa: Current Releases

There's something really cool about seeing a young winery start to hit its stride. I've only seen a few newborn calves and foals in their first moments after birth as they learn to use their spindly legs, but it's hard not to feel a sense of pride when after a few minutes, they go galloping around in circles. I feel the same way after my recent tasting of current releases from Gargiulo vineyards. They're starting to make some very good stuff. I was first introduced to Gargiulo at a wine bar in San Francisco a couple of years ago. I... continue reading


Pinot Days Grand Tasting: Sunday June 25, San Francisco

Pinot Noir lovers would do well to block off a few hours of their Sunday next week to attend the largest tasting of California Pinot Noir ever held in the Bay Area, as San Francisco plays host to the second annual Pinot Days tasting. On Sunday, from 1:00 PM to 4:00 PM the public can taste hundreds of current releases from more than 150 Pinot Noir producers, mostly from California, but also from Oregon and France and elsewhere around the globe. If you're interested in what's on offer, you might check out my coverage of last year's event. It is... continue reading


Restaurant Review: Range, San Francisco

If orange is the new black, then small is the new big when it comes to San Francisco restaurants. Over the last 12 months, San Francisco has see a steady number of restaurant openings, the majority of which, much to my great satisfaction, are small operations that are bringing a wonderful variety of styles and charm to the San Francisco dining scene. Many of these boutique restaurants are appearing in what has been (appropriately) dubbed the Valencia Culinary Corridor, and none of them is a better example of the nature and potential of this phenomenon than Range. I've now eaten... continue reading


WBW22 Roundup Has Been Posted

Feeling like that stuff in your glass is a little too potent? Wish you could drink more than a glass or two of red wine without feeling like you shouldn't be walking, let alone driving yourself home? Then you might be interested in some wines that are a bit lower in alcohol. Thirty of them to be exact. Tim over at Winecast.net has posted the roundup of this month's Wine Blogging Wednesday. The theme this month was red wines at or under 12.5% alcohol, which aren't easy to find these days. But more than thirty bloggers managed to track something... continue reading


Much Ado About Bubbles

I've remarked here more than once about the oddly strong relationship between rappers and champagne. It's been one of those questions that I'd love to take up with some social anthropologist who has studied the rap and hip-hop subcultures. This week, it seems, hip-hop and bubbly are having a bit of a falling out, however. After a recent article in the Economist discussion the history of this relationship -- in particular the near cult-status of Louis Roederer's "Cristal" champagne in the hip-hop world -- rapper Jay-Z is now calling for a boycott of this champagne, and has already had it... continue reading


Why Community Tasting Note Sites Will Fail

A lot of you are going to disagree with what follows. Especially if you use one of these services or, worse yet, have spent a lot of your time, energy, and money building one of them. To you folks who will dismiss the analysis and predictions below, I have this to say: I hope I'm wrong. I really do. But unfortunately as I see it today, the recent rash of community-based tasting note web sites will not succeed. ONCE UPON A TIME When I started this blog two and a half years ago, one of the first folks who contacted... continue reading


2001 Vignerons du Quercy "Les Hauts Lastour" Red wine, Coteaux du Quercy (Cahors), France

Ask anyone in the wine business, or any serious wine snob what the top five most salient "issues" are in the world of wine and chances are good that somewhere in those top five will be some variation on rising alcohol levels. That wines are getting more potent worldwide is an unassailable fact. Since the 1970s (a time when alcohol levels remained pretty much unchanged from their historical values for the past century) the average potency of wines has risen several percentage points. That doesn't sound like much, but when you look at it in relative terms for some wines,... continue reading


Mid-life Crisis? Alcoholic? Blame The Wine!

File this one under irresponsible journalism and a failing grade in college-level statistics. Not to mention a complete ignorance of the scientific method. Apparently someone has noticed a few statistics in Ireland associated with booze: 1. People in Ireland are drinking more wine than ever 2. Women in Ireland are drinking more alcohol than ever. 3. Women in Ireland are drinking more wine than ever before. 4. The incidence of alcoholism in women between the ages of 30 and 40 is on the rise 5. Those women who are becoming alcoholics do not have histories of heavy drinking 6. An... continue reading


When Wine Labels Get Political

We all know that wine plays into politics on a regular basis, and not just in places like France where politicians are often called on to regulate wine-related matters. Direct shipping of wine has become a political football in the US, and recently Russia shoved wine to the forefront of its trade dispute with Georgia and Moldova. The latest political news involving wine, however, has got all the others beat. On a technicality. In a move that can only be described as bizarre, the state run liquor board in Sweden has decided that all the wine it imports from the... continue reading


2003 Azienda Agricola Ajello "Furat" IGT Red Blend, Sicily

I learn things drinking wine all the time, and some of what I learn is even the sort of stuff that I missed in history class. For instance, I had no idea that at one time Sicily was a part of the Islamic empire of that ruled north Africa for a few centuries. But here we have a wine, and a lovely one at that, whose name "Furat" speaks volumes of history. Asad ibn al Furat was a Mesopotamian, but emigrated to what is now Tunisia in the beginning of the 9th century. He distinguished himself as a religious scholar... continue reading


Just Call Me Your Wine Lifeline

So, I get a call late last night. First it hits my cell phone which I've left in the bedroom on the dresser, but I catch the last few buzzings from the vibrate mode on my way down the hall. As I'm picking it up to check the missed caller ID, the home phone rings, and on the other line is my friend Leigh. "Alder!" he says breathily into the phone. "You gotta help me!" Leigh is drunk. "Hi Leigh, what's going on?" "I'm at this fancy dinner thing. And I'm sat next to some guy named [name withheld to... continue reading


Inside the Napa Valley Wine Auction

If you follow wine news at all, you will doubtless have heard that the Napa Valley Auction raised 8.4 million dollars for local charities this past Saturday. This is down from 10.4 million the year before, but a hefty sum nonetheless. Of course, the auction usually never misses a chance to break some record or other, and this year was no exception, even though the total raised didn't merit an entry in the record books. Last Saturday, Joy Croft of Woodside, California paid $1.05 million dollars for a single auction lot -- the highest price ever. With that cool million,... continue reading


What Would YOU Do With 42 Cases of Sketchy Wine?

Consider this the first Vinography Reader Challenge. I happen to have a very good friend who works for a non-profit. A few months ago, they were contacted by a winery (who shall remain nameless) who offered to give them about 50 cases of wine that was, from the winery's perspective, unsellable. The wine was a mix of older vintages, returns from distributors, and unsold excess. The winery had only a few stipulations -- that the wine could not just be resold and that the non-profit do what it could to minimize the brand exposure (understandably if the wine was not... continue reading


1999 Domaine Clos St. Landelin (Rene Muré) "Vorbourg" Grand Cru Riesling, Alsace

If you ever needed an example of why my wine reviews aren't just tasting notes, here's one for you. Scroll down to the bottom of this page and see what this wine tastes like and what score I gave it. Then come back up here to the top, read this story, and then explain to me why everyone persists in reviewing wines with a couple of simple sentences about how the darn stuff tastes. There is so much more to wine than flavors and aromas. Once upon a time, roughly around the 7th century AD, an Irish monk by the... continue reading


The Best 2004 Napa Cabernet: Tasting Notes From Auction Napa Valley 2006

I've just returned from a yearly fete that a fanciful movie director might call Napa's Big Weekend. Auction Napa Valley is THE event of the year as far as the valley is concerned -- four days of celebration and indulgence for those who have a passion (and corresponding pocketbook) for wine and like to support charity through revelry. One of the main events of the weekend was an all day festival and barrel auction on Friday on the grounds of Trinchero family estate in St. Helena. Outside on the lawn an armada of tents are set up populated with wineries... continue reading


Messages In a Bottle: The Better Half of My Palate

I heard my wife say something unbelievable last week. It just sort of popped out, casually, as we were putting the final touches on a simple Tuesday night pasta dinner. "Honey, I'm worried that we're not buying enough good red wine to lay down for the long term." I nearly dropped my plate. This was the wine lover's equivalent to any number of preposterous fantasies: the sports fan whose wife requests a much bigger TV and matching tattoos of his favorite team; the meat lover's vegan girlfriend who suddenly offers to make prime rib at home; or the oversexed Woody... continue reading


What To Drink With Dinner: The WBW21 and IMBB26 Roundup

Wine Blogging Wednesday (WBW for short) as regular readers know, is a virtual wine tasting party, where bloggers all over the world taste wine according to the theme and then blog about it. This event was inspired by the original cooperative blogging event known as Is My Blog Burning? (IMBB), where food bloggers create or execute recipes based on a theme and then blog about it. I suppose it was only a matter of time before these two worlds collided, and last month it happened for the first time, as the original founders of both events co-hosted something they called... continue reading


The Golden Glass Tasting Event, June 10th, San Francisco

One of the earliest movies I remember seeing was Jason and the Argonauts, an epic fantasy that combined stop motion animation with live action film to treat wide-eyed young viewers like me to a cornucopia of delights including the Cyclops, a skeleton army, sea serpents, and more. Jason's goal, of course, was the mythic quest for the golden fleece, the hide of a golden ram that had been sent by the goddess Nephele to rescue her mortal children from being sacrificed at the hands of an evil stepmother. Why anyone would want a sheepskin made out of gold is a... 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

At Least You Don't Live in Russia California's Best Pinot Noir: A Report From Pinot Days 2006 A Deep Look Into The Glossy Wine Mags Rivers-Marie Winery, Sonoma: Current Releases Weird Wine Questions WBW#23 Has Been Anounced: Fire Up The Barbie! Carter Cellars, Napa: Current Releases More Underwater Cellarage Warm Milk or Red Wine. It's a tough call. Gargiulo Vineyards, Napa: Current Releases

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