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~ August 2008 Archives ~



Church Attendance Down? Try Installing a Wine Bar.

At one point in the glorified history of Western civilization, people were beaten or berated if they failed to show up for religious services. You didn't simply put money in the collection box, it was taken from you. But we're in the 21st century, and the church must rely less on force and more on marketing if it wants to hold onto its market share in an increasingly competitive marketplace. In a move that may have been inspired by scripture itself ("Wine was created from the beginning to make men joyful, and not to make men drunk. Wine drunk with... continue reading


1997 Staglin Family Vineyards Cabernet Sauvignon, Rutherford

From the late 1800's to the first half of the twentieth century California represented a land of opportunity for many. In Northern California, this potential seems to have been realized in particular by Italian immigrants who settled North of San Francisco in great numbers, founding small towns up the coast and in the inland valleys. Drive Highway 1, Highway 12, Highway 116, and the Bohemian Highway North of the city and you'll pass old barns and homesteads, country stores, and several Italian restaurants that have been operating continuously since at least the Thirties. That these fiercely determined immigrants met with... continue reading


Still Seats Left for the Sake Dinner at Manresa

Some of the best meals of my life have been from the kitchen of chef David Kinch at Manresa Restaurant in Los Gatos. I'd take half a tasting menu from him over anything at the French Laundry, any day of the week. Which is why I'm humbled at his continued interest in collaborating with me to provide an unparalleled dining and drinking experience for a few adventurous diners every once in a while. David and I both have an enduring love for Japanese cuisine. If you've ever eaten at Manresa you may have noticed this influence in Chef Kinch's cooking.... continue reading


JC Cellars, Oakland: Current Releases

In the Silicon Valley, business incubation is quite common -- larger companies often provide financial, operations, and moral support to smaller companies that they themselves have started, or outside start-ups that they believe have a good potential for success. This practice has become so normal that some companies have established entire business models based on incubation. Incubation has also become common in the wine industry, where the costs of all the equipment and supplies required to make wine can be an extreme barrier to entry, and a source of extremely high overhead for those who do take the plunge. Just... continue reading


Slow Food Nation Wine and Food Event: Aug 29 - Sept 1, San Francisco

It's a pretty good time to be alive. I don't find myself often wishing that I had lived in earlier times. However, there are events in the past that I would give my right arm to have been able to experience first hand. One of my top choices for time-travel destinations would certainly be the 1893 Worlds Fair in Chicago. I'd love a week to explore the wares of the world amidst Olmstead's gardens. There may not ever be another event so grand as that, but when it comes to American food and wine, Slow Food Nation may very well... continue reading


Kamoizumi "Summer Snow" Nigori Ginjo, Hiroshima Prefecture

Review By W. Blake Gray Stop the presses -- no, wait, this isn't printed. OK, stop the Internet -- I found an excellent nigori sake! Nigori is the White Zinfandel of sake. It's tremendously popular, particularly with people just discovering sake. It tends to be very sweet. And experts turn up their noses at it, usually with good reason. Nigori sakes are white and cloudy because they contain bits of rice that didn't complete fermentation. They have an interesting, chewy texture. What turns off sake aficionados, more than their sweetness, is their lack of complexity -- you don't get the... continue reading


Tasting the Wines of San Francisco's East Bay Wineries

Wine country is now 15 minutes from downtown San Francisco, thanks to the surge in wine producers that are popping up all over the East Bay (and in San Francisco proper, too!). Oakland, Alameda, and Berkeley are now home to more than a dozen wineries that range in size from a couple of people and a couple of barrels, to some of California's most lauded wineries. A couple of years ago, these wineries got together and formed a marketing association that would help them all gain more visibility. This organization, known as the East Bay Vintners Alliance, has begun to... continue reading


Wine Spectator Restaurant Awards Exposed as a Total Farce

My colleague Jim Gordon who currently edits Wines & Vines magazine just pointed me to an article on their web site that made my jaw hit the table. Reporting from the recent meeting of the American Society for Wine Economists, writer Peter Mitham describes a presentation by researcher Robin Goldstein, who seems to have performed a sting operation on the Wine Spectator Restaurant Awards and exposed them as a total farce, as part of his ongoing investigations on the perceptions of value and quality in wine. In summary: 1. Researcher invents fake restaurant in Italy. 2. Researcher builds web site... continue reading


Sonoma Wine Country Weekend: Aug 29-31, 2008

Most people, when they come visit me in San Francisco and ask to be taken to wine country, assume that they're going to Napa, but at least half the time, that's definitely not where we end up. These well meaning tourists aren't the only ones who seem to forget that Northern California has many different "wine countries." Napa casts a long shadow, as it were. I've got lots of love for every piece of wine country we've got, and a special place in my heart for Sonoma County, both because it is the place of my birth, but also because... continue reading


When is The Right Time to Establish Wine Appellations?

The birth of a wine region is a fascinating thing to watch, and I'm sure an even more fascinating process to be a part of. Much of the wine that we drink comes from regions that have been established anywhere from decades to centuries ago, but the quest for great wine and great places to grow it (not to mention the changing whims of the global climate) means that there are always new frontiers when it comes to wine growing. All new wine regions begin the same -- with a pioneering spirit and a hell of a lot of determination.... continue reading


My ISP Owes You an Apology

For the last 18 or so hours, and for some people it may still be so, Vinography has been deader than a doornail, thanks to a botched network upgrade by my hosting provider. I'm sorry for the inconvenience, and I thank you for your patience. This is only the third or fourth time Vinography has gone down in about 5 years, so while it's incredibly annoying, I'm trying to keep it in perspective. The irony of this downtime is that just two days ago I upgraded my Movable Type installation to the new release which dramatically improved the performance of... continue reading


2003 Meyer Family Cellars "Bonny's Vineyard" Cabernet Sauvignon, Oakville

Heritage plays out in many ways in the Napa Valley. There are only a few remaining families that have been farming in the valley since Prohibition, and even those that have tenures lasting more than three decades are increasingly being supplanted by new blood or corporate interests. Some of those families that have left the valley after decades often move on to other enterprises after cashing out on their vineyard investments. However, it's tough to abandon Napa Valley once you've lived and loved there for so long. Winemaker Justin Meyer moved his family to the Anderson Valley in 1999 after... continue reading


Napa Valley Wine Library Tasting: August 24th, St. Helena

Serious wine lovers in the San Francisco Bay area get several opportunities each year to indulge their passions for wine. Large, themed tastings like the ZAP Zinfandel Festival or the recent Pinot Days are great opportunities to get a sense of a certain varietal and the quality of the recent vintage in California and events like the upcoming Family Winemakers are an opportunity to taste wines from smaller producers. It is quite rare, however, despite the nearness of the appellation and the saturation of wine in the Bay Area, for consumers to get the opportunity to get an in-depth or... continue reading


Wine Competitions are One Big Racket

If I ever wanted to make a lot of money in the wine industry, I know just what I'd do. It wouldn't be starting a vineyard, or publishing a book, or making my own wine, or marketing someone else's. No if I wanted to make a pile of money, I'd simply organize a big wine competition. Such competitions and their gold medals are good for one thing and one thing only: making a pile of money for the people who organize them. I don't believe they do a bit of good for the wine industry as a whole, no matter... continue reading


When Wine Isn't Enough of a Cash Crop, Grow Marijuana

Who knows where this stuff comes from? Or why the first place I find out about it is some newspaper in the UK. But apparently times are tough for some grape growers in Washington state, so instead of putting the hard work in to grow wine grapes, they're turning to Marijuana instead. Or perhaps more accurately, they're selling out to friendly people who show up willing to pay cash for their vineyards. Apparently several former vineyards have been converted to Ganja fields in the last year or two. But one has to wonder at the wisdom of such an approach... continue reading


The Best Pinot Noir in California?: Tasting at Pinot Days 2008

The Pinot Days event, which took place on the last weekend in June this year, brings together one of the largest collections of Pinot Noir producers in North America for the tasting pleasure of the public. It's taken me quite some time to get this report out. Such tasting reports are the most time intensive blogging that I do, especially when the organizers of events like Pinot Days don't have an electronic list of the wines that are being poured at the event. Which means I need to transcribe the hundreds of wines and scores that I record in my... continue reading


Hear That? It's the Sound of a Billion Wine Corks Pulled in China.

It's no surprise that with the Olympics going on, all manner of news media have turned their eye on China. The wine media have taken this opportunity to explore and explicate the rapidly growing interest in wine that seems to have arisen in China in the last few years. Much of this coverage is quite superficial, but increasingly journalists are actually exploring China's wines, wine regions, and wine culture. Two recent articles are worth reading for their thoughtful commentary on China's burgeoning wine culture. The first, from the ever articulate Mike Steinberger at Slate, draws on his experience living in... continue reading


Vinography Images: Fog in the Distance

Fog in the Distance "The vineyard landscape is often as much about the sky as it is the rows of vines. The fog rolling through the vineyard makes it an entirely different place." -- 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 your desktop. To set the image as your desktop wallpaper, Mac users should follow these... continue reading


Manresa Restaurant and Vinography Present: The Sake Dinner, September 10th, 2008

Those of you who have been hanging around these parts for some time know that on occasion I get together with my incredibly talented friend Chef David Kinch of Manresa Restaurant in Los Gatos, and we collaborate on a meal together. He cooks and I pick a bunch of wines that I think people might enjoy drinking while they eat what I maintain is the best cuisine in all of Northern California. It's been a while since we've done one of these dinners, but I'm pleased to announce a very unique event that we're simply calling The Sake Dinner. The... continue reading


Italy Gets it Right. Scotland Gets it Very, Very Wrong.

There are those of you who believe that one of my favorite things to do here on Vinography consists of bashing the French government. Believe me, I wish I had no cause to do that whatsoever, but they just keep inviting it. Today, however, I'm happy to prove that I'm an equal opportunity mudslinger, as I pronounce the latest proposals on alcohol regulation by the Scottish government to be profoundly and malignantly ridiculous. The UK, it seems, has a problem with binge drinking, or so the government claims, and with the best intentions, has set out to do something about... continue reading


Book Review: The Geography of Wine by Brian J. Sommers

Review by Tim Patterson. This is a very useful, though not very exciting book. No rhapsodies about mind-bending encounters with memorable wines, no personality portraits of wild and crazy winemakers, no dirt on the owners of winedom's most precious pieces of dirt. But dirt, yes--the kind geographers start from and worry over. Brian Sommers teaches geography at Central Connecticut State University, including a course on the geography of wine, a subject that turns out to include a vast range of vinous things. Early on, he explains to non-geographers--that would be nearly all of us--that the geography of wine is more... continue reading


The Shakespeare of Terroir

"Oh my God," Terry Theise says, walking over to me, the only guy in the room with a laptop, with a twinkle in his eye. "You're not going to actually write down what I say, are you? Please promise me one thing, that you won't keep track of how many F-Bombs I drop." And that is how I first met the guy whose writing and wines I have admired for several years, ever since I was first introduced to his portfolio and his writings by distributor Hiram Simon, who runs the well regarded WineWise & The Vienna Wine Company in... continue reading


Family Winemakers Tasting: August 24th, San Francisco

Size isn't everything, they say, but sometimes it's mighty impressive. The yearly Family Winemakers tasting in San Francisco has as one of its many claims to fame that it is the single largest tasting of California wines in the world. That alone would not be reason for excitement, were it not for the generally exceptional quality of the wines that are on offer, year after year. Regular readers know that this tasting is one of my favorites every year. It provides an opportunity to sample the wares of smaller, family-run wineries, many of whose wines are made in such small... continue reading


2005 Hughes-Wellman Cabernet Sauvignon, St. Helena, Napa Valley

Good wine is rarely made by accident. So much can go wrong in the winemaking process that to get something that isn't complete dreck is a triumph, and those who are capable of creating fantastic wines are, despite their modesty and common protestations of "just letting nature take her course," truly talented artisans. While wines, and great wines in particular, are made with incredible forethought and planning, sometimes wine labels can spring up overnight as the result of an opportune conversation or new friendship. Such is the case with this wine, which may be the first and only vintage under... 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

Church Attendance Down? Try Installing a Wine Bar. 1997 Staglin Family Vineyards Cabernet Sauvignon, Rutherford Still Seats Left for the Sake Dinner at Manresa JC Cellars, Oakland: Current Releases Slow Food Nation Wine and Food Event: Aug 29 - Sept 1, San Francisco Kamoizumi "Summer Snow" Nigori Ginjo, Hiroshima Prefecture Tasting the Wines of San Francisco's East Bay Wineries Wine Spectator Restaurant Awards Exposed as a Total Farce Sonoma Wine Country Weekend: Aug 29-31, 2008 When is The Right Time to Establish Wine Appellations?

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