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~ July 2008 Archives ~



Just When You Thought France Was Making Progress

No matter how bad you think you have it, there are other folks who have it worse than you. We American wine lovers like to bitch about what a royal pain it is to buy wine from out of state wineries and from internet merchants. In truth, it is a broken and corrupt system -- a perversion of the free market that enriches protectionist state governments and their wholesale lobbyists. But it's not as broken as France. Yes, this is another rant against the idiocy of the French government and their utterly astonishing tendency to ruin their own wine industry,... continue reading


How Simple Should Wine Get?

As an advocate for wine, I try to help people enjoy wine more (or for the first time) in whatever small way I can. I recommend what I think are interesting wines that range in price from $10 to several hundred, and I'm always consciously careful about explaining aspects of winemaking or the wine business to my readers whenever they seem relevant or necessary. At the same time, however, I strive desperately not to dumb down wine. It is a complex beast in some ways, and part of its beauty is in its complexity. This desire to avoid oversimplifying wine... continue reading


Best Brunch in San Francisco

Brunch is about indulgence. There's nothing quite so gratifying as sleeping as late as you want on the weekend, and then wandering out to a meal over which you can linger as long as you like and whose dishes are crafted to satisfy sweet tooth and searing headache alike. Brunch may be more socially acceptable for adults than having pancakes for dinner, but it offers the same exciting prospect of choosing what to eat with only our pleasure as a criteria. Dinner is the most sophisticated meal, but brunch is the most hedonistic. If only because no one seems to... continue reading


Book Review: Passion on the Vine by Sergio Esposito

Review by Alfonso Cevola. There are stories that are meant to be true and stories that are intended to stir one's enthusiasm. In reading Sergio Esposito's highly engaging Passion on the Vine: A Memoir of Food, Wine, and Family in the Heart of Italy, how can you not want to have your very own Neapolitan family? While some of the anecdotes may not be the gospel truth, the book follows in the tradition of the Neapolitan, who are known as the story tellers of Italy. An extra pinch of salt, one more clove of garlic, and what does it matter,... continue reading


La Brancaia, Chianti, Italy: Current Releases

Tuscany will always hold a special place in my heart. If not for the dreamlike quality of the rolling Chianti hills in Spring, then for the fact that it was the place I realized I was probably going to marry the woman who is now my wife, and the place she fell in love with wine (she was already in love with me, thankfully) for the first time. The red wines of Tuscany can be as frustrating as they are fantastic. Just ask anyone who's had their share of lousy, watery Chianti at neighborhood Italian restaurants in the United States.... continue reading


Bay Area Urban Wine Experience Tasting: August 9th, Oakland

Wine country means a lot of things in California, a state with winegrowing regions stretching most of its 800 mile length. For most residents of the San Francisco Bay Area, we tend to think of Wine Country as Napa or Sonoma. Increasingly, however, wine country must also include the East Bay. The cities of Berkeley, Oakland, and Alameda are now home to dozens of "Urban" wineries that are producing some of California's most sought-after wines. Recently united by an organization known as the East Bay Vintners Alliance, this group of 15 winemakers is holding its third annual Urban Wine Experience... continue reading


Messages in a Bottle: Ode to the Blended Wine

Growing up in America cripples us wine lovers from the very start. Sure, we are born into the land of boundless opportunity, where the dreams and hard work of a vineyard worker can result in the ownership of a winery twenty years later. But unless our parents provide us with a very particular upbringing, we grow up thinking that wine isn't wine unless it has the name of the grape on the front of the label. America and its wine lovers have a varietal bias. There's nothing inherently wrong with an attraction to wines made from a single grape variety.... continue reading


Breaking Wine News: Bordeaux's Cos d'Estournel Buys Napa's Chateau Montelena

To those of you in the wine world paying attention to the dollar's stomach churning lows against the Euro, this news may come as little or no surprise. This morning, Chateau Cos d'Estournel announced it's purchase of the historic Chateau Montelena in Napa. While not the first bit of investment from Bordeaux in the Napa Valley, it is certainly a significant one, given both the landmark historical status of Chateau Montelena as well as the prestige and success of Cos d'Estournel, whose star has certainly been rising in Bordeaux over the past decade. Exact details of the transaction aren't available,... continue reading


Vérité Wines, Sonoma: Current Releases

Formulaic is an adjective that is often leveled at some of California's top boutique wines and their winemaking. As if when you finally manage to afford all the components required to make a high-end wine, that somehow you just throw them together and, "poof" you've got yourself a $300, 94 point superstar. This stereotype is especially convenient for those who can't afford to drink such wines. I should know. I still can't afford to drink such wines, and while I've learned better now, about 10 years ago I believed that the only thing special about big name wines was how... continue reading


Where Vinography Gets Read Around the World

I don't get a lot of reader requests for me to write specific articles here on Vinography, but a series of e-mail conversations with a reader today led to a request that I publish some information about where my other readers come from. This particular reader was in Hong Kong and was proud of being part of my international contingent of readers, but wondered where else around the world I get traffic from. Well, since you asked, I include below the list of the places that readers have come from in the last month, in order of descending traffic. For... continue reading


2006 Baker Lane "Hurst Vineyard" Pinot Noir, Sonoma Coast

Some people seem to get into the wine business through sheer determination. After years of saving, scraping, dreaming and planning, vineyard or winery ownership is the fulfillment of many people's long held (if not hard earned) fantasies. And then there are those people who somehow seem destined for it -- people whose stories you hear and you think, how on Earth did you manage not to do this earlier? If Stephen Singer was going to fall into one of these categories it would most certainly be the latter. In 2003 he became the proprietor of a small winery called Baker... continue reading


That Smoky 2008 Vintage: California Wine and Wildfires

There were a few weeks in June when the last place a wine lover would have wanted to be was the ordinarily idyllic Napa Valley. A thick haze of blue-gray smoke hung in the air, as if the San Francisco summer fog had crept north and picked up every bit of car exhaust along the way between the Golden Gate bridge and Oakville Crossroads. Unless you've been hiding under a rock lately, you'll know that here in California we're having an unprecedented fire season. Somewhere over 3000 blazes in just the first month of the summer, when in some years... continue reading


Vinography Images: The Tinsel Vineyard

The Tinsel Vineyard "As soon as the vines begin to bear fruit, they become targets for all manner of attacks from the natural world. From bears to boars to birds, the list of animals that consider wine grapes a tasty snack is long. Birds are often dealt with using strips of mylar that glint in the sun as the air moves them and which presumably scare off the airborne predators. They also happen to make the vineyards look festive for the rest of us." -- Alder Yarrow INSTRUCTIONS: Download this image by right-clicking (Mac users, click and hold) on... continue reading


Hungarian Wine on My Doorstep

After nearly five years of writing about wine on the Internet, you wouldn't believe all the things that I've been propositioned with. Of course, I get a lot of wine samples, but I also get all sorts of unsolicited e-mail offers of sample products (many of which have nothing to with wine), offers to pay me to review products or services, requests to visit various places, to have dinner with strangers, not to mention all the honest questions and requests for advice from wine lovers. One of the oddest e-mails I've ever gotten however, was an e-mail that simply read... continue reading


Grand Jury Cru: Part Deux

I wrote a post over a year ago entitled Grand Jury Cru, which described the unfortunate plight of the wineries of St. Emilion in Bordeaux, who at the time had recently been told by a French court that the reclassification of the Chateaux (into Grand Cru, Premiere Cru, etc.) was null and void. At the time everyone, including myself, believed there would be a political resolution to the issue by the time the current vintage went into bottles. And indeed, the issue yo-yo'ed back and forth several more times as the French bureaucracy and the lobbying bodies tussled over the... continue reading


Domaine Marc Kreydenweiss, Alsace: Current Releases

The wines of Alsace are some of the most unique and distinctive in the world. They are also some of my favorites, not only because they are delicious, but also because they are made by some of France's most individualistic and headstrong vintners. Alsace has long been a place apart, both from France and Germany, each of which have laid claim over the valleys and hills that lie west of the Rhine river which currently demarcates the border between the two nations. It's easy to characterize the region as a smooth and quirky blend between the two countries, but... continue reading


Subjectivity, Aesthetics, and the Evaluation of Wine

If you'd rather drink your wine instead of intellectualizing about it, close your browser window now. However, if you're game for an occasional foray into philosophy, then let's talk about something I've been "arguing" about with one of my readers. The question at hand is whether subjective judgments have any place in proper wine criticism. To put it plainly, should wine critics evaluations of wine include notions of "enjoyment" or "personal preference" ? If you want to witness the origins of this discussion, you'll need to read the comment thread on my recent post about the Myth of the Monolithic... continue reading


Introducing the World's Best (FREE!) Wine Cellar Management Software

This constitutes the first and possibly the only time you will ever find me endorsing, recommending, and generally plugging a commercial product (that isn't a bottle of wine or sake) here on Vinography. There are two clear reasons for this. The first is that the product I am endorsing is free. The second is because I designed it. Those of you who know a little bit about me may be aware that by day I run an interactive design and strategy consulting firm called HYDRANT, which, among other things designs some of the best e-commerce and web applications in... continue reading


Akitabare "Shunsetsu" Nama Honjozo, Akita Prefecture

By W. Blake Gray "Spring Snow" is a pretty good nickname for a sake because it sounds not just delicate and natural, but outright freaky when you think about it. Snowing in springtime? You don't see that often. Same for its sake namesake -- although in this case, blame not Mother Nature, but the US government. Akitabare "Shunsetsu" ("spring snow") Nama Honjozo is highly unusual because it combines a class of sake we often see in the U.S. -- nama -- with one that we don't, honjozo. Honjozo sakes are basically the same quality as junmai sakes, because at least... continue reading


Red Wine and Charred Meat Cure Leprosy

I'm sorry about that headline. I couldn't help myself. Everyone else is doing it. When I first started writing about wine several years ago, I thought one of the things I might do was to help my readers keep up with the health news surrounding wine, so I started posting little tidbits every time I saw a news item about the health benefits of wine. After about three weeks it was clear that unless I was planning on writing the Wine and Health Blog, there was just no way I could possibly cover it all. There's a new bit of... continue reading


Into the Wilderness with Wine

The trunk contains a cooler. The cooler contains ten bottles of wine: three whites, two rosés, and five reds. In four hours I will be miles from nowhere. No cell phone coverage, no Internet access -- just the wife, the baby daughter, four days' supply of vino and a corkscrew. My oldest friend in the world is getting married outside of Yosemite this weekend and I'm a Bridesman, or whatever you might want to call it. I have three jobs over the next few days: get stuff done for the wedding, stand up there at the altar without looking like... continue reading


Vinography Images: The Vineyard Fence

The Vineyard Fence "One of the things I really enjoy about Michael's approach to Vineyard photography has to do with his willingness to avoid the traditional ways of looking at a vineyard in favor of the unexpected. Sometimes the vineyard almost becomes a minor detail in the overall landscape, but we are nonetheless drawn to it, however subtle." -- 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


Sake Rice Matters: the Experts are Wrong.

By W. Blake Gray How much does the type of rice matter in sake? "Not much," most experts say. But I disagree, and one of my favorite breweries, Dewazakura from Yamagata prefecture, has made it possible to taste for yourself. Wine lovers may take it as a given that rice "varietals" matter. We all believe we can tell a Pinot Noir from a Cabernet Sauvignon without difficulty. So why wouldn't we be able to taste the difference between Yamada Nishiki and Gohyakumangoku? With sake, though, the brewing process has always been considered more important than the type of rice. The... 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.

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Most Recent Entries

Just When You Thought France Was Making Progress How Simple Should Wine Get? Best Brunch in San Francisco Book Review: Passion on the Vine by Sergio Esposito La Brancaia, Chianti, Italy: Current Releases Bay Area Urban Wine Experience Tasting: August 9th, Oakland Messages in a Bottle: Ode to the Blended Wine Breaking Wine News: Bordeaux's Cos d'Estournel Buys Napa's Chateau Montelena Vérité Wines, Sonoma: Current Releases Where Vinography Gets Read Around the World

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