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~ September 2007 Archives ~



When Wine Tastes the Best

Wine carries with it so much baggage that it can be hard to forget how to really enjoy it. Not that most wine lovers ever don't enjoy their wine, but when you love the stuff so much, it's hard to avoid having the wine be the focus of your attention. The fact that wine carries with it so much ceremony (cut the foil, pop the cork, smell it, taste it, pour) and so much information (the vintage, the producer, the vineyard, the region, the alcohol level, the grape variety, and everything else we know about the wine), makes it pretty... continue reading


The World's Best Sake: Tasting the Joy of Sake 2007

I've currently got my man Blake Gray doing some writing here on sake, but that won't stop me from writing about it when I've got something to say or notes to share. Like Blake, I made my annual pilgrimage to the Joy of Sake, an event which is effectively the largest sake tasting outside of Japan, and which is a wonderful treat for those who enjoy this nectar. Much to my continued delight, America seems to be discovering fine sake at a fantastic rate. And I don't mean the hot stuff that every sushi restaurant has been serving since the... continue reading


Vinography Images: Sunset and Clouds

Sunset and Clouds "Like some of my other recent images, this photo was taken in Sonoma county, near the town of Healdsburg. There is a certain point during the sunset where the sky begins to divide into light and dark, which this photo emphasizes. Between the light from the sun, the darkness of the cloud, the mountains, and the velvet dark of the vineyards beneath, it's like the world has been divided into four parts." -- Michael Regnier INSTRUCTIONS: Download this image by right-clicking (Mac users, click and hold) on the image and selecting "save link as" or "save... continue reading


FallFest 2007 Food and Wine Tasting: October 6th, San Francisco

It seems like every major city has a dozens food and wine festivals every year. San Francisco, compared to many urban centers, tends to be more selective in what it puts on, however. And that's a good thing, because I've certainly been to enough food and wine events with crappy food and lousy wine (and too little of either). Honestly, the first time I attended FallFest in San Francisco, that was what I expected. But I was pleasantly surprised, and have continued to be impressed each time the event has been put on. The organizers (San Francisco Magazine, among... continue reading


Okunomatsu Ginjo, Fukushima prefecture

By W. Blake Gray. I'm so frustrated, I've got drinkus interruptus. Or more accurately, blatherus interruptus. Here's what happened: I went to Japan, drank a bunch of sake and took notes. Then I went to the Joy of Sake event; ditto. The idea, beyond maintaining a rice buzz, was to find Vinography readers some cutting-edge sakes that you just can't read about anywhere else in English. Well, I succeeded. But then I started floundering around trying to find out where you can buy these great sakes, and discovered it would be easier to get a first-edition copy of my first... continue reading


2001 Raphael Cabernet Sauvignon, North Fork of Long Island, NY

Like many wine lovers, I enjoy exploring the wine regions of the world from the comfort of my own kitchen table. Night after night I open a bottle or two and experience little bits and pieces of the world -- snapshots of places and times captured in flavors and colors and aromas. Some of these explorations don't offer much return on the investment. There's a lot of wine out there, and much of it is below ordinary in quality, especially from wine regions that often carry labels such as "up and coming." I take extra care and effort to try... continue reading


The Best of Brazilian Wine: My First Taste and Impressions

Call me curious, or just call me a big geek, but I get really excited when I get the opportunity to taste the wines from somewhere I've never tasted before. So when the invitation came in to attend an event focused on the wines of Brazil, I jiggled some appointments around and snuck out of work for an hour last week and spent some time on my "other job" -- the intrepid global wine explorer. My experience with and knowledge of Brazilian wine before this tasting amounted to a big fat zilch -- never tasted it, never talked about it,... continue reading


Vinography Images: Group of Trees in the Fog

Group of Trees in the Fog "This image was taken in Sonoma county, near the town of Healdsburg. Nearby, the Russian River acts like a siphon for the fog on the coast, which creeps up the river valley and eventually spills over the hills providing a fantastic atmosphere for the vineyards." -- Michael Regnier INSTRUCTIONS: Download this image by right-clicking (Mac users, click and hold) on the image and selecting "save link as" or "save target as" and then select the desired location on your computer to save the image. Mac users can also just click the image and... continue reading


Redefining Wine Geek

When I was a kid, there were two things I liked to do more than anything else: read, and play video games. I was pretty broke as a kid, so I got my fix at the local arcade with the few quarters I had left from my paper route after buying a bag of Jelly Bellies. That is, until a generous family friend got me an Apple IIe computer and I could then spend my weekends blissfully trying to avoid being eaten by a Grue. Flash forward twenty years and I'm far too busy blogging and running a company to... continue reading


WBW#37 Roundup Has Been Posted

Albariño, Tannat, Verdelho, Ribeyrenc, Fer Servadou, Ribolla Gialla, Poulsard, Pigato, Teroldigo Rotaliano, Touriga Nacional, Xinomovaro. Do you recognize all of these as grape varieties? And what do they all have in common? Each made an appearance in this month's Wine Blogging Wednesday, the blogosphere's virtual wine tasting event. Hosted this month by Tyler, who runs the blog Dr. Vino, WBW#37 had 54 bloggers from around the world reviewing wines made from indigenous varietals of all kinds. This was one of the best turnouts in a while for Wine Blogging Wednesday, and certainly one of the better themes that we've had... continue reading


San Francisco Wine Bar: Pres a Vi

There have been only two times in my life when I seriously wished that I worked at Industrial Light and Magic. The first was a period of about 10 years between the ages of ten and twenty, when I really thought I wanted to get into special effects as a career. The second was when I saw the wine list at Pres a Vi, and I had an immediate fantasy of being able to wander down after work to share a bottle with friends. Pres a Vi, a sister restaurant to the Va de Vi bistro in Walnut Creek, and... continue reading


Dewazakura Dewasansan Nama Junmai Ginjo, Yamagata Prefecture

By W. Blake Gray It's easy to taste the difference between wine grapes. But can you taste the difference between strains of rice used in sake? Often times, no: the unique flavors of different rice strains are purposely minimized in many, if not most, brands of sake. This week's sake is a rare exception: a sake that allows you to taste how, in this case, Dewasansan rice differs from its genetic parent Omachi, or the most popular premium sake rice, Yamada Nishiki. Dewazakura makes three junmai ginjos in similar styles, varying only the rice. Tasting them side-by-side is a revelation.... continue reading


Wine and Mining Do Mix After All

That a glass of wine poured over a bunch of crushed rocks and soil could leach out some heavy metals should come as no surprise to anyone who remembers a little bit of high school chemistry. Wine is acidic, of course, and acids have a way of grabbing on to lots of materials and dissolving them. The fact that wine may be better at doing this than some industrial solvents might generate some surprise, however. It certainly surprised a bunch of Australian researchers who recently spent a little of their extracurricular time testing out how well wine and soda might... continue reading


Vinography Images: One Vineyard Row

One Vineyard Row "We all know what vineyards look like. There is a pretty common mental picture that springs to mind when someone asks us to imagine a beautiful vineyard. This is not that image. While we've seen them from the road or off the back porch of a winery, many people have never been into a vineyard properly. When you're in the midst of big, mature vines, the sky is sliced away into a narrow band and your vision is channeled by walls of green." -- Alder Yarrow INSTRUCTIONS: Download this image by right-clicking (Mac users, click and... continue reading


2006 Vincenzo Cesani Vernaccia di San Gimignano, Tuscany, Italy

If someone ever held my feet to the fire and forced me to name just one group of wines that I'm most excited about exploring these days, I would certainly squirm, as my curiosity for learning more about all the wines of the world does not have limits. However I would probably break down eventually, and with some honesty say that no category of wines really excites me as much these days, from a pure learning standpoint, as the indigenous white varietals of Italy. Throughout that country, on small farms and in small villages, winegrowers and winemakers are working with... continue reading


California's Best Boutique Wines: Tasting Family Winemakers 2007

Better late than never? Many of you have been e-mailing me for the last few weeks since the Family Winemakers tasting event here in San Francisco asking when my notes from the tasting would be up on Vinography. My intent has not been to teach you a lesson of patience, rather I was learning a lesson myself: DO NOT GO FOR TWO DAYS. Folks, I ended up tasting over three hundred fifty wines over two days, and that is just too many. It's taken me hours and hours to transcribe my scores from the tasting, but I've finally finished. Family... continue reading


Vinography in the Sunday New York Times

It was quite a surprise to find myself featured quite so prominently in the Sunday New York Times Travel Section yesterday. When the author asked if I would join him for a glass of wine to talk about wine bars a couple of months ago, I thought perhaps at most I'd end up getting quoted in the story, and so I armed myself with pithy quotes about the rash of restaurants in San Francisco that call themselves wine bars, but are really just restaurants with more than eight wines by the glass. Instead, I got a few minutes of fame... continue reading


Shirataki Shuzo Jozen Mizunogotoshi Junmai Ginjo, Niigata Prefecture

By W. Blake Gray. Shirataki brewery was founded by an innkeeper on a road through the snowy Mikuni mountains in 1855, a little more than a year after U.S. Commodore Matthew Perry and his black ships forced Japan to open to the rest of the world. The name of the brand, "Jozen mizunogotoshi," means roughly "the way of living is just like water" and comes from an interpretation of Chinese philosopher Laozi. Unusually for the chauvinistic sake industry, Shirataki maintains a research section staffed entirely by women. That's nice. But that's not why I picked it. I wanted to kick... continue reading


W. Blake Gray on Sake

Irrashaimase! Welcome to Sakography. (Rice-ography?) We're in the golden age of sake on this planet: sake has never been better than this. Technology advances as simple as refrigeration and as complex as regional rice breeding programs have taken sake to a higher level than ever before. And thanks to increased use of refrigerated shipping to the U.S., we now taste many of these great sakes the way they should be. American drinkers are starting to realize this. But at the same time sake invades more and more wine lists at non-Asian restaurants here, the sake industry is facing a long-term... continue reading


San Francisco Wine Bar: Parea

One of the enduring mysteries of San Francisco will always be why in the world it took the Mission so long to get its own proper wine bar. Valencia street has been gradually colonized over the years by some of San Francisco's new culinary hotspots, but for the longest time, we had no wine bar. Telly and Nicole Topakas came to the rescue of Mission wine lovers about a year ago when they opened Parea, a comfy, brightly colored space tucked into a storefront on Valencia street. There are only a few wine bars in San Francisco that genuinely have... continue reading


2005 René Noël Legrand "La Chaintrée" Cabernet Franc, Saumur Champigny, Loire Valley, France

Lots of people I know have a "house wine" -- some bottle that they buy in much larger quantities than any other wine and also consume in much larger quantities. A house wine is the inexpensive, drink-with-anything, because-I'd-just-like-a-glass, it-doesn't-matter-if-I-don't-finish-the-bottle, what-goes-with-day-old-pizza wine. In my opinion, every wine loving household should have one. For a lot of people this is clearly the place that Two Buck Chuck holds in their kitchen. I personally prefer to spend between ten and fifteen dollars on my house wine, and I'm constantly picking up random bottles at that price point just to see when I'm going... continue reading


Vinography Images: Crest of the Vineyard

Crest of The Vineyard "I love the way this image, like so many of Michael's vineyard photos, captures the symbiotic and often symbolic relationship between vineyards and trees. Trees provide windbreaks, shade, and sometimes even mulch to the vineyards laid out beneath them, whose sinuous lines seem to caress or even tease at the roots of their benefactors." -- Alder Yarrow INSTRUCTIONS: Download this image by right-clicking (Mac users, click and hold) on the image and selecting "save link as" or "save target as" and then select the desired location on your computer to save the image. Mac users... continue reading


Much Ado about AVAs

AVA stands for American Viticultural Area, and refers to a designated geographical area that may be legally printed on a bottle of wine if 85% of the grapes that went into the wine were grown in that area. Sometimes these areas, like the Russian River Valley, for instance, are referred to by the generic (and French derived term) appellation. AVAs are overseen at a national level by the Tax and Trade Bureau, which for the last few decades has been managing the process by which new AVAs are recognized and codified. This is a long, drawn out, and often political... continue reading


Masters of Wine Champagne Tasting: September 17th, San Francisco

There was a time, I am not ashamed to admit, that I wasn't really a fan of Champagne or sparkling wine. Frankly I didn't see what all the fuss was about. People I knew, wine lovers especially, would rave about how amazing Champagne was. I would read quotes from famous epicures, chefs, and even wine critics, suggesting in not so many words that given the opportunity they'd drink Champagne every day with every meal without ever tiring of it. "Man," I thought to myself, "what is the big deal, here? It doesn't taste that good!" And then I found out... continue reading


2007 Joy of Sake Tasting: September 13, San Francisco

It brings me great pleasure to not even really have to explain why a sake tasting in San Francisco might be an enjoyable way of spending an evening. In the nearly four years since I've been writing this blog, sake has gone from obscure to obvious, hardly known to hip. The availability and visibility of sake in the US has blossomed, driving by fine dining establishments and the increasing popularity of all things Japanese. Despite this, however, the average wine lovers' knowledge of sake is extremely limited, mostly by virtue of not having tasted very much sake side-by-side in comparison... continue reading


Labor Day for Wine Lovers

Here in the United States we are celebrating our national holiday known as Labor Day. On the first Monday of September since 1882, we have reserved a day to laud and celebrate the toils of the common working man and woman. In the absence of a holiday celebrating wine itself, I cannot think of a better holiday for wine lovers to observe, given the pleasures we reap from countless hours of back-breaking work by mostly nameless, faceless workers. Indeed, even as I write this, vineyards throughout the world are swarming with immigrant laborers, each nimble form carrying a plastic box... continue reading


Mendocino Wine by The Bay: September 15th, San Francisco

I think the question I get asked the most when people find out that I spend several hours a day drinking and then writing about wine is: how can I learn more about wine? My answer is always the same: taste a lot more. Of course I usually go into details as to exactly how an interested consumer might do that, and one of my suggestions is always to go to large public wine tasting events. Even if you consider yourself fairly knowledgeable about wine, and familiar with the wines of various wine regions, public tastings focusing on a single... continue reading


Rolf Binder Wines, Barossa, Australia: Current Releases

Some of my favorite people in the world are those who offer no affect of their knowledge, even when you're swimming through waters in which they are clearly expert. I aspire to that sort of demeanor myself, but I've got work to do. Something in me always wants to be helpful, teacherly, and before I know it, I find myself rambling on about this or that. Guess what kind of old man I'm going to be? The kind that tells the same stories over, and over, and over again. I managed to sit through nearly an entire lunch of tasting... 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

When Wine Tastes the Best The World's Best Sake: Tasting the Joy of Sake 2007 Vinography Images: Sunset and Clouds FallFest 2007 Food and Wine Tasting: October 6th, San Francisco Okunomatsu Ginjo, Fukushima prefecture 2001 Raphael Cabernet Sauvignon, North Fork of Long Island, NY The Best of Brazilian Wine: My First Taste and Impressions Vinography Images: Group of Trees in the Fog Redefining Wine Geek WBW#37 Roundup Has Been Posted

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