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~ January 2008 Archives ~



2006 Orin Swift Cellars "The Prisoner" Red Wine, Napa

I wish I knew how many wineries in Napa started as "just a guy who decided he wanted to make wine one day." There must be dozens of them. Maybe hundreds. These numbers shouldn't be allowed to devalue the effort and vision it takes to create a successful winery, but sometimes I scratch my head in bemusement at the audacity of so many people who simply decide to throw their lives into the wine business. While we don't really hear about the ones that don't make it, there are enough of them that have become wildly successful that "the guy... continue reading


Wine's Inversion of Effort

I'm pretty stressed out these days. My favorite metaphor for stress has got to be those incredible acrobats that get all those plates spinning on the end of their sticks, and then have to keep them spinning through contortions, contrivance, and concentration. Spinning plates, balls in the air, irons in the fire. Sometimes it seems like we're all bumping up against the limits of what our little brains can manage. The reasons for my stress are all the usual excuses -- a surfeit of work coupled with a general tendency to be more responsible than I should, multiplied by a... continue reading


3rd Annual Anderson Valley Alsace Varietals Festival: February 9-10, Booneville, CA

With all the fanfare surrounding Cabernet and Pinot Noir coupled with the obsession this country seems to have with Chardonnay, it's sometimes hard for people to remember that California produces a lot of different kinds of wine. It's even harder, it seems, to get people to drink some of it. Perhaps some of the most under-appreciated and least consumed California wines are those made from grapes like Gewurztraminer, Pinot Blanc, Pinot Gris, and Riesling. There aren't a lot of places in California where these grapes thrive, but the Anderson Valley, three hours north of San Francisco, may well be the... continue reading


Taste Top Bordeaux Without Going Broke: February 1, Chicago

There are three ways to taste older vintages of the top wines of Bordeaux. The first is to be wealthy enough to collect them, or to buy them at restaurants. The second is to pool your money with friends and buy a couple of bottles that you wouldn't ordinarily be able to afford. The third is to attend pre-auction tastings. An often poorly publicized part of the high stakes wine auction market, pre-auction tastings are held by many major wine auction houses to allow prospective bidders a chance to taste some of the wines they will be bidding on in... continue reading


Tablas Creek Vineyard, Paso Robles: Current Releases

It always comes as a surprise to some American wine lovers when they hear about French wineries deciding to open up shop on American soil. I think this surprise comes not only from the historical rivalry between California and France that came to head in the 1976 Paris Tasting, but also because America is used to being in the role of colonizer, rather than the colonized. I also think that most wine lovers have the impression that the all French think of America as the land of fake wines made on soil with no terroir. Unfortunately, it is pretty easy... continue reading


WBW#41 Roundup Has Been Posted: Friuli White Wines

The white wines of northeastern Italy have never been on the radar for most Americans. Robert Parker's Wine Advocate only began covering this area in the past year, thanks to the addition of Italian critic Antonio Galloni to his staff. Yet this area produces some of the world's finest white wines. The best of these wines are made in very small quantities and are quite expensive and difficult to get ahold of here in the U.S. but as more importers seek out the nooks and crannies of the wine world, we are slowly beginning to see more wines from Friuli... continue reading


Dark and Delicious Petite Sirah Tasting: February 8, San Francisco

I've referred to it in the past as "the beast." Possessing tannins that need to be tamed through intelligent winemaking, Petite Sirah can truly be a monster of a wine. One of the least well known red grape varieties, it does not command legions of rabid followers like Zinfandel or Cabernet or even Syrah, from which it takes its misleading name. In the right hands, however, Petite Sirah can be a stunning wine -- deep, resonant, and rich. Petite Sirah has been grown in California for a long time, but apart from some limited success in the 1970s at the... continue reading


Vinography Images: Winter Hill and Trees

Winter Hill and Trees "Across the country and around the world (in the northern hemisphere, that is) grapevines slumber through the cold. In the coming months the waving canes, like those shown here, will be pruned back to let the plants devote all their energies to the new growth of the 2008 vintage." -- 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 can also just click the... continue reading


Kikusui Funaguchi Ichiban Shibori Honzojo, Niigata Prefecture

I'll admit it right off the bat: I'm a serious sake snob. I don't mean that in the sense that I believe my taste in aake is superior to anyone else's, only that I'm extremely picky when it comes to sake. In particular, I tend to discriminate on the basis of the class of sake. I tend to prefer ginjo and daiginjo sakes, and most often the junmai versions of these. Ginjo and daiginjo are the two top classes of sake, as measured by the degree to which the rice kernels used to make them have been milled or polished... continue reading


San Francisco Wine Bar: The Bubble Lounge

There's definitely something to be said for finding your niche and sticking with it. For nearly 10 years the Bubble Lounge has been serving Champagne and sparkling wine to San Francisco's jet set and financial district fun seekers. While the dot-com boom days that packed them in are gone, the Bubble Lounge continues to be a popular post-work watering hole, and enough of a weekend seen that it can be a daunting place to drop in on a Friday night with friends without some pre-planning. Perhaps its continued popularity is due to its location at the nexus of Ad Agency... continue reading


Science Confirms Gold Plated Wine Bottles Are Best

From now on, I'm only buying wine if it comes in a gold plated or platinum plated bottle. I want my wine bottles encrusted with jewels, and preferably as expensive as possible. Perhaps we can convince Damien Hirst to come up with something called For The Love of Wine? My newly expensive tastes are, of course, the result of some new neuroscience that has gotten a large amount of press in the past two weeks. I don't know what it is, exactly, that the mainstream media love about wine related science, but the recent experiments from some folks down at... continue reading


Book Review: The Botanist and the Vintner by Christy Campbell

They say those who do not learn from history are doomed to repeat it, but many of the events of the past were so dependent upon the knowledge of the times, that there is simply no way they could ever occur again. Indeed, those of us who are alive today take certain moments in history for granted, precisely because our modern experience blinds us to the extent of the crisis that these events most certainly represented at the time. Such is the case for the modern wine lover, who enjoys a bottle with the carefree ignorance that there was... continue reading


Wines of Baja Tasting Event: January 26, Napa

Most readers know that I have a strong interest in up-and-coming wine regions around the world. In particular I love exploring those that are in surprising and unknown areas. Baja Mexico clearly qualifies as the latter. I first learned of the area from a loyal Vinography reader, and then subsequently spoke with Eric Asimov after a trip he had taken a trip down there to explore for an article he was writing. Since then I've had only a couple of wines from the Guadalupe Valley, which is the name of the region's wine country, but they've been interesting enough to... continue reading


2002 Vodopivec Vitovska, Friuli-Venezia Giulia IGT, Italy

In the far Northeastern corner of Italy there lies a countryside that is better defined by wine than by any geopolitical affiliation. The far eastern edge of the Friuli-Venezia Giulia winegrowing region has been a member of many countries and many empires, and by now its people are used to living in different countries every three or four decades, it seems. The one constant in this area of small picturesque valleys and numerous natural limestone caves (good for hiding from whoever your present occupiers are), has always been wine, and in particular, white wines, some of which I will unabashedly... continue reading


Join Vinography at The Aspen Food & Wine Classic '08

Today I am quite pleased to announce that I will be leading two wine seminars at this year's Aspen Food & Wine Classic in Aspen Colorado. This is, of course, quite exciting on several fronts. The first is obviously the honor of being asked to participate in such a fantastic event, alongside some pretty amazing folks from the wine and food world. Perhaps less obvious, but equally fun, is the fact that Aspen is my home town. I grew up there from the age of 3 until I went away to college. As a teenager, I worked at a catering... continue reading


2002 Pietratorcia "Scheria" Rosso, Isola d'Ischia, Italy

The phrase "wine country" generally evokes a wide variety of mental images, largely derived from each person's individual experience in such landscapes. My mental image is most certainly the golden hills of Sonoma County from my summers spent as a child in Northern California, followed closely by the lush green hills of Tuscany in the springtime. I'd venture to say one of the least common pictures of wine country would be a tiny volcanic island, growing grapes within a stone's throw of the Mediterranean and interspersed with geysers and mud baths. Leaving aside the coincidence that Napa valley has its... continue reading


A Perfect Example of France's Problem

I've oft bemoaned the sorry state of bureaucracy that bogs down the French wine industry. The country has a huge albatross on its back that prevents it from both being as competitive as it could be on the world market, as well as simply thriving at home (French wine consumption has plummeted in the last 10 years). A lot of people like to argue with me that the French laws aren't that bad, that they really aren't hampering development of the industry, and that marketing isn't the problem, etc. This always blows me away considering the powers that be continue... continue reading


Book Review: I'll Drink To That, by Rudolph Chelminski

Review by Wanda Hennig "The story of how Beaujolais reached its present prominence is worth a look because it encapsulates so much not only about the wine itself but also about France and the French themselves: this quick, talented, nervous, occasionally maddening but altogether admirable people." So writes Rudolph Chelminski in the opening chapter of his book about Beaujolais: the wine (or more aptly, wines); "the" Beaujolais," as he reminds readers to call the region; and Georges Duboeuf—known as "Mr. Beaujolais" in the wine world. Duboeuf is the driven "French peasant" of the title, seemingly an intuitive marketing genius, who... continue reading


The Menu For Hope Prize Winners. Maybe You?

The moment that you've all (OK, maybe some of you have) been patiently waiting for. The winners of this year's Menu For Hope Wine Prizes! Thank you all so much for your generous donations this year (to the tune of more than $90,000) and your support. An extra special thank you to all the bloggers and others who donated prizes -- your generosity is also astounding. For the winners, please reach out to the blogger who donated the prize to arrange delivery. We will also provide the donors with the e-mail addresses of their prize recipients. EXCEPT: For the Wine... continue reading


Restaurant Review: Kanda Yabusoba, Tokyo

Reviewing some Japanese restaurants presents a bit of a challenge in that the food so deceptively simple, that one is at a loss for describing the art behind it. Just as with sushi, in its elemental, stark composition of fish and rice, a discussion of soba will eventually descend into ethereal subtleties that sound more like spirituality than proper food criticism. Soba is essential, in the truest form of the word -- these buckwheat noodles are about an essence of flavor that mirrors many of the attractive elements of the traditional Japanese minimal aesthetic. Soba is to food what an... continue reading


Menu For Hope Prizes Announced...Friday 1/11

Dearest readers, I'm sorry to disappoint you. I know many of you are rushing here to see if you won one of the amazing, fabulous prizes as part of this year's Menu For Hope charity raffle. Indeed, the prizes were due to be announced mere hours from now, but as happens sometimes (always), Murphy's Law reigned supreme and we need a few more days to prepare this announcement. I won't bore you with the details (broken computers, etc.) but while we haven't suffered a disaster, we certainly have suffered a delay, and won't be announcing the prize winners until Friday... continue reading


San Francisco Wine Bar: Terroir Natural Wine Merchant

I derive a particular joy from the fact that the city of San Francisco is finally beginning to live up to its potential as the wine metropolis. In the last 2 years we've gone from a city of perhaps four or five wine bars to a city positively overflowing with them. 'Bout damn time, I say. Bring 'em on. Now that we're getting up in numbers, however, its good to see the market driving some differentiation between them. It simply wouldn't do to merely have a couple of dozen wine bars. Rather we need different wine bars for different occasions,... continue reading


Renaissance Vineyards, Sierra Foothills, CA: Current Releases

I don't think anything excites me quite as much as finding a small producer of wine that is off most people's radar and discovering that they are making tremendous wines. I'm always in a tricky position when I do this, because by virtue of publicizing great winemaking on a small scale, I make the wine harder to get for everyone, including myself. I do occasionally also get some e-mails from ticked off wine lovers bemoaning the fact that I've divulged one of their secret sources for great wine. But that's all occupational hazard for me, and doesn't outweigh the joy... continue reading


Book Review: Washington Wines & Wineries by Paul Gregutt

Review by Cole Danehower When I read James Laube advising in a recent Wine Spectator column that "Many Washington reds . . . make for good alternatives to their counterparts from California," I could almost feel the heat of Paul Gregutt's blood boiling. Gregutt is a well-known wine writer and authority in the Pacific Northwest and the author of the just published Washington Wines & Wineries: The Essential Guide. Gregutt is a partisan of Washington wine quality. I could easily imagine he might have claimed that many Washington reds would make good replacements for their California counterparts! Frankly, he'd... continue reading


Wine.Com Gives Retailers (and Consumers) The Finger

Vinography may be the last place you expect to see discussions about the esoterica of interstate wine shipping laws and the ongoing legal battles around them. But once in a while, dear readers, someone in the industry does something so outrageous that even I have to dip my toe into the pool, and start yelling "bullshit" along with all the other folks. The latest offenders? Wine.Com, the internet wine retailing giant, whose lawyers have just sent tattle-tale letters to state governments around the country trying to convince them to take legal action against Wine.Com's competitors. First, a little background. Most... continue reading


ZAP Zinfandel Festival: January 23 - 26, San Francisco

Yes wine lovers, it's that time of year again. Get out your raincoats, rubber boots, and prepare to drown in a sea of Zinfandel lovers. Quite possibly the most raucous public tasting every year in San Francisco, the ZAP Zinfandel festival is one of the Bay Area's most dependable wine tastings. You can always count on it to be big, crowded, and a heck of a lot of fun. The festival revolves around the hub of their huge public tasting on Saturday January 26th, but there are several other events put on throughout the weekend that are worthwhile to anyone... continue reading


Cornas Is Saved For Wine Lovers Everywhere

I can't think of a better Christmas gift. OK, maybe world peace would be a better one, but I'm thrilled to report that the vineyards of Cornas have been saved from the evil forces of real estate development. Regular readers will remember earlier in the year when I related the horrific news that despite protests from everyone involved, the mayor of Cornas was going to approve a commercial development that would have obliterated some of the best vineyard land in the village of Cornas in the Northern Rhone valley. Together with some of you readers, and wine lovers from around... 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

2006 Orin Swift Cellars "The Prisoner" Red Wine, Napa Wine's Inversion of Effort 3rd Annual Anderson Valley Alsace Varietals Festival: February 9-10, Booneville, CA Taste Top Bordeaux Without Going Broke: February 1, Chicago Tablas Creek Vineyard, Paso Robles: Current Releases WBW#41 Roundup Has Been Posted: Friuli White Wines Dark and Delicious Petite Sirah Tasting: February 8, San Francisco Vinography Images: Winter Hill and Trees Kikusui Funaguchi Ichiban Shibori Honzojo, Niigata Prefecture San Francisco Wine Bar: The Bubble Lounge

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