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~ June 2008 Archives ~



Ohyama Tokubetsu Junmai Nigori, Yamagata Prefecture

We all understand the power of brands. There was likely a time for most Americans alive to day when we used "Reynolds Wrap" when we meant aluminum foil. Some of us still say Kleenex instead of tissue and Xerox instead of photocopy. When one company pioneers a product that becomes so ubiquitous and common, it's likely that the name will stick, even when we're no longer using the original product. There was a time in Japan's history when sake was more easily referred to as Oyamazake, for exactly the same reasons. In 1882, the Shogun commanded that a sake... continue reading


The Myth of the Monolithic Wine Palate

If you have more than a passing interest in wine, you've no doubt heard some form of this common complaint: wine critic Robert Parker's palate, with it's emphasis for 'hedonistic fruit bombs,' has ruined the wine world, because now everyone makes (unappealing/monstrous/one-dimensional/sweet/spoofulated/choose-your-adjective) wines that taste the same and have the singular goal of a high point score from Parker. I have long maintained that this "sky is falling" point of view (perhaps best typified by the irresponsible polemic, Mondovino) and in particular the demonization of Robert Parker's palate as monolithic represents a sort of irrational fanaticism with little basis in... continue reading


Italian Wine Tasting Notes From The Golden Glass 2008

These days, with a newborn, I don't get out to many large tasting events, but one I decided I shouldn't miss this year was the annual Golden Glass tasting in San Francisco a couple of weeks ago. This tasting is an annual fundraiser for Slow Food USA, and has been called the best single wine tasting event in San Francisco by more than a few wine lovers I know. In addition to having a reputation for pouring a lot of great wine (mostly Italian) the Slow Food focus attracts many of the top artisan food producers and restaurants from around... continue reading


2005 Veramonte "Primus" Red Wine, Casablanca Valley, Chile

It's hard to believe that in the early 1990's less than 100 acres of vineyards were planted in Chile's Casablanca valley. In little more than two decades, this region of Chile has surged in growth and popularity, and is currently producing excellent wines that generally represent fantastic values on the world market. The region is currently home to more than 10,000 acres of vineyards. Back when the grape acreage was still in the triple digits Agustin Huneeus decided that the Casablanca valley was one of Chile's most promising wine regions, and that he needed to start making wine there. Not... continue reading


Kamotsuru "Sokaku" Daiginjo, Hiroshima Prefecture

One of the fascinating and attractive things about sake breweries are their (usually) much longer and storied histories than the wineries of the western world. While there are a few wineries that have been in existence for a few hundred years, there are many more sake breweries that have been doing their thing for many hundreds, some continuously operated by a single family. Kamotsuru Shuzo may not be one of the oldest breweries in Japan, as it can only trace its history back to 1623, and really only began production under the Kamotsuru name in 1873, but it is one... continue reading


2005 Star Lane Vineyards "Astral" Cabernet Sauvignon, Santa Ynez Valley

There are those in the wine world who seek out (and often pay for) the best possible advice they can get. Winemaking and winegrowing are sciences as much as they are arts, and these days, there are plenty of experts to be had in both arenas. And then there are those in the wine world that no matter what the scientists, experts, and even their friends say, choose to follow their instincts. Call them pig-headed, call them eccentric, call them iconoclasts, there are certain people that will always walk their own paths when it comes to wine. Jim Dierberg seems... continue reading


Taste3 Conference: July 17-19, Napa

I know how you think. You're sitting there, scratching your head, wondering, "now what on earth am I going to do here in the middle of the summer to exercise both my brain and my taste buds in a sophisticated way?" It's a good thing I caught you early on in your musing, otherwise you might have frittered away the whole summer in frustration, trying to come up with something suitably intellectual and delicious to occupy your time. So instead of sitting there updating your cellar list in Excel, or converting that old rolodex of recipes into a new digital... continue reading


Vinography Images: Dusty Grapes

Dusty Grapes "I spend a lot of time photographing in vineyards, and sometimes the landscape just gets overwhelming. It's too much to look at. So there are times when I get tired of the grand vistas, and instead retreat to smaller things, like the perfect bunch of grapes." -- 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 drag it to... continue reading


Terroir vs. Pleasure in Wine

How many times have I told myself not to meddle in the world of terroir? Having (or starting) discussions about the traditionally French notion of how wines possess unmistakable signatures of their place of origin is not unlike having discussions about religion and sexual orientation: you need to take care who you have them with. But here I am again meddling in the "somewhereness" of wines, to borrow writer Matt Kramer's favorite shorthand for terroir. The question of the day is whether terroir includes the "bad" flavors as well as good -- and if it does, whether such flavors should... continue reading


Blogging From Paradise: Day 2 at the Aspen Food and Wine Classic

Day two of Aspen's Food and Wine Classic was blessed with the same weather as the first. Crystalline blue skies, 75 degrees and sunny. I gave my second Napa's Next Superstars seminar to a nearly full auditorium at the Given Institute, and after hanging around to chat with some of the attendees about the wines, I was free. With all my seminars behind me I had the opportunity to finally explore the Classic as a spectator instead of a speaker. The first thing I did was head down to the Grand Tasting tent to get a few bites of food... continue reading


Wine Blogging From Paradise: Day One of the Aspen Food & Wine Classic

I just finished my first day at the Aspen Food and Wine Classic, and my second day back in my home town for the first time in 14 years. It's been quite an honor to be asked to speak at this year's classic, but so far it has been an incredible pleasure and a deeply nostalgic experience. Returning to the little town where I grew up (most people don't think of Aspen as so small, but in my day there were about 9,000 permanent residents -- my high school class had 72 people in it) is a very surreal experience.... continue reading


Takasago Ginga Shizuku "Divine Droplets" Junmai Daiginjo, Hokkaido Prefecture

It is deep winter. The snows lay heavy on the mountains of northern Japan. Cedar trees hang sparkling, dusted with ice, over frozen rivers and streams. The air is crisp, even crystalline in its stillness, and the white landscape yields only the slightest muffled sounds. In the heart of this winter landscape a strange sight emerges every winter. A huge igloo, constructed entirely of ice, filled with rotund canvas bags. From these somewhat alien shapes that hang suspended from the ceiling at minus 2 degrees Centigrade, drip solitary drops of a sake unlike any other in the world. This strange... continue reading


Asahi Shuzo Dassai Niwari Sanbu "Otterfest 23" Junmai Daiginjo, Yamaguchi Prefecture

There is no real reason to attempt a comparison between sake and wine. Each are their own universe and deserve to be evaluated on their own terms. Leaving aside for a moment the radically different methods of their making, sake and wine are different enough that comparisons tend to introduce more confusion than clarity to any particular effort to make a point. Nonetheless, I continue to draw parallels between wine and sake if only to explain sake in terms that most wine lovers can understand. My latest angle at helping wine lovers make sense of sake comes in the form... continue reading


Pinot Days Festival and Tasting: June 26-29, San Francisco

It's hard to believe there was once a time that San Francisco had no major public wine tasting focused on Pinot Noir. I've only been blogging about wine for the last four and a half years, but when I started, no such festival existed. We had a Zinfandel Festival, a tasting for small family winemakers, a tasting for Rhone varietals, a cabernet tasting, and more, but not until 2005 did San Francisco get a festival dedicated to what has been called the "heartbreak grape." Now in it's fourth year, Pinot Days has firmly established itself as one of the largest... continue reading


Ethiopian Wine: A New Frontier in Africa

I'm a sucker for pioneers. Especially those that strike out into the wilderness to try making great wine where no one has tried before. This is why I was positively tickled when I learned about people making wine in Thailand a few of years ago. My latest source of delight in this regard is Ethiopia, which frankly is a much more likely locale for winemaking than Thailand. Thanks to the famine in the 80's, most people's mental picture of Ethiopia looks like this: Photo by Calips96 But Ethiopia is far from a flat wasteland. In fact, it is incredibly mountainous.... continue reading


France Makes Progress Towards Rational Wine Laws

I can't tell you how happy it makes me to write a piece acknowledging progress in France towards a rational approach to laws concerning wine production and marketing. It seems like every few months for the last couple of years, I have found myself with my head in my hands, bemoaning another setback for the French wine industry at the hands of ignorant, stubborn, and backwards politicians. I've written so many articles criticizing French policies that some of you have even written to complain that I have something against the country, despite my professed love for French wine. This past... continue reading


Kamoizumi "Shusen - Three Dots" Junmai, Hiroshima Prefecture

In the world of sake, perhaps even more so than the world of wine, just when you think you've figured out that things work a certain way, you stumble across an exception that completely destroys whatever sense of predictability you might have been cultivating. It's fairly safe to say that most fine sakes should be served chilled, to preserve and highlight their subtleties and delicate qualities. However, there are a specific class of higher end sakes that not only can be served at room temperature, but actually benefit from a little warmth. These sakes bear no resemblance in style (or... continue reading


Vinography Images: The Rolling Hills

The Rolling Hills "In some respects, vineyards make for fairly uninteresting photographic subject matter. The uniformity of the rows, the bushy and relatively undistinguishable vines, all conspire to create a sameness that is difficult to escape. Photographs like this one, however, demonstrate that with the right atmospheric light, and the correct perspective, vineyards can become something altogether magical -- a living skin on the rippling contours of the earth that catch the light and throw it back at you." -- Alder Yarrow INSTRUCTIONS: Download this image by right-clicking (Mac users, click and hold) on the image and selecting "save... continue reading


The Flavors in Wine are Yours Alone

I do not need to tell you that I'm a geek of the first degree when it comes to wine, but you may not know that my interests in the minutiae of life extend beyond the wine world into lots of other areas. When it comes right down to it, I just love knowing how things work. And why. Which is why I absolutely fell for Harold McGee when I first encountered his book, On Food and Cooking: The Science and Lore of the Kitchen, which might as well have been titled: The Geeks Guide to the Kitchen. McGee took... continue reading


2005 Blackbird Vineyards Proprietary Red Wine, Napa

I make it my business to keep my eye on new California wineries, especially in Napa and Sonoma, as much as I can given the fact that I do a lot of other things besides write about wine. Whenever possible, I like to taste the first releases from these wineries. They are not always fantastic - some are good, some show potential, and some simply need to be written off as first efforts and retried again later. That's the thing about wines, just because they're not good now, that doesn't mean they won't be later, and, of course, vice versa.... continue reading


What Happens to All Those Wine Samples?

When I first started writing Vinography, I'll admit, I had fantasies that one day, just maybe, someone would send me some free wine to review. At the time it was nearly inconceivable. Here I was, just a passionate wine lover, tapping away my thoughts in an unnoticed corner of the Internet. The idea that any winemaker could possibly even find my web site, let alone think it might be worth their while to send me a bottle wasn't an idea I entertained with any seriousness. Of course, one day I did get a box of wines, much to my surprise.... 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

Ohyama Tokubetsu Junmai Nigori, Yamagata Prefecture The Myth of the Monolithic Wine Palate Italian Wine Tasting Notes From The Golden Glass 2008 2005 Veramonte "Primus" Red Wine, Casablanca Valley, Chile Kamotsuru "Sokaku" Daiginjo, Hiroshima Prefecture 2005 Star Lane Vineyards "Astral" Cabernet Sauvignon, Santa Ynez Valley Taste3 Conference: July 17-19, Napa Vinography Images: Dusty Grapes Terroir vs. Pleasure in Wine Blogging From Paradise: Day 2 at the Aspen Food and Wine Classic

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