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~ January 2009 Archives ~



The Science of Scent

How exactly it is that we smell (the verb, not the adjective) continues to be somewhat of a mystery, even despite the "advanced" state of modern biochemistry and neurology. The more research we do, the more we continue to be amazed at how sophisticated our equipment is for detecting and appreciating aromas. So sophisticated, in fact, that we've started moving away from chemistry and biology to explain it, and into the realm of quantum mechanics. One of the world's leading scientists in the field of scent is a guy named Luca Turin. Dr. Turin is a biophysicist that got interested... continue reading


Will UV Treatment of Wine Save Terroir?

It seems like every week, there's a new story about some inventor debuting some newfangled technology to make wine better. Most such stories seem to involve some device that can turn cheap wine into much better wine, auto-magically, which I've now decided is the wine world's equivalent of the famous line "I've got a bridge to sell you." But occasionally we actually get some news of a technological innovation that doesn't involve auras, electromagnetic fields, or crappy wine, and which might actually make a difference in how wine gets made from here on out. Such is the case with the... continue reading


Vinography Images: One Red Grape

One Red Grape Veraison [ver-ay-zun]. Noun. The stage of grape berry development that marks the beginning of ripening when the grapes change from their hard green state to their soft and coloured form. During veraison the sugar volume in the berry and its size increase and the acidity decreases. The change in color marks the replacement of green chlorophyll with the darker pigmented anthocyanins that will produce the complex fruit flavors in the grape as well as the wine. INSTRUCTIONS: Download this image by right-clicking on the image and selecting "save link as" or "save target as" and then... continue reading


2007 Cooper Mountain Vineyards "20th Anniversary Reserve" Pinot Noir, Willamette Valley, Oregon

One of the great pleasures of wine appreciation will always be the process of tasting the wine of a single winery over a very long span of time. Tracking the products of a winery's labor over the years can be remarkably rewarding regardless of whether the experience is one of consistency, or of progress and change. I've only had the pleasure of tasting the last two vintages of wine from a little family winery in Oregon's Willamette Valley. Despite my recent introduction to Cooper Mountain Vineyards, I can almost taste the twenty years that came before this, their 20th vintage.... continue reading


Anderson Valley Alsace Varietals Festival: February 21, Boonville, 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. Enter what may be the most unique wine festival in California and perhaps the country. Some of the most under-appreciated and least consumed wines in the state are those made from grapes like Gewurztraminer, Pinot Blanc, Pinot Gris, and Riesling. There aren't a lot of places in California where these... continue reading


Crackpots, Wackos, Nutjobs and Wine: a Winning Combination.

Some of the best wines I've ever had in my life seem to have one strange thing in common. They are made by people that, depending on your mood, might be described as cranks, hermits, crackpots, wackos, or eccentrics. Winemaking it seems, tends to either bring out the strangeness in people, or it tends to simply attract the strange ones. Every wine writer has at one time or another compared wine to alchemy, myself included. Such comparisons invariably focus on the magical qualities of wine that somehow end up being more than the sum of their parts. But the characterization... continue reading


The Best 2006 Bordeaux: Tasting the Union des Grands Crus

Every Spring the wine world begins to buzz with the anticipation of tasting through the latest vintage of Bordeaux. I've never been to the En Primeurs tastings, but I would like to go sometime to see the pomp and circumstance, but not really to taste the wines. Young Bordeaux are some of the most difficult and unpleasant wines to taste in the entire universe, especially when they're not made particularly well. A tasting of the 2006 vintage a few days ago, sponsored by the Union de Grands Crus des Bordeaux, was a both a good reminder to not open any... continue reading


Vinography Images: Sunset Vineyard

Sunset Vineyard We talk a lot about the dirt that wine comes from, but we don't talk enough about the sky overhead. Somehow the geology is easier for us to get our brains around than all that shifting light and shadow. -- 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 image and drag it to your desktop. To set the image as... continue reading


Introducing Photographer Andy Katz

Whenever I think of Andy Katz, I will always remember a particular moment from my trip to South Africa in the fall of 2008. He and I, along with four other journalists were riding in a van towards the Franschhoek valley amidst intermittent rain showers and bursts of sunlight. We rounded a bend in the road and Andy started literally jumping up and down in his seat as he pleaded with the driver to stop the van. Out he leapt, before the vehicle had even come to a complete stop and rushed up a small embankment where he stood for... continue reading


Book Review: The Widow Cliquot by Tilar J. Mazzeo

Review by W. Blake Gray Great books are often the result of obsession. They have to be, considering the hours put into work that may never be published. Tilar Mazzeo, an assistant professor at Colby College, spent years pursuing her obsession with the life of the Veuve ("widow") Clicquot for her book The Widow Cliquot: The Story of a Champagne Empire and the Woman Who Ruled It. The Widow built one of the leading Champagne houses in the early 19th century in an era when few women were internationally famous for anything other than marrying well or divorcing scandalously. Most... continue reading


Tough Time to be a Wine Writer

In a contracting economy, the last things you want to sell are goods and services that people consider discretionary luxuries. Wine, especially bottles costing more than $15 certainly fits in that category. From limp auction results to the massive flushing sound of Champagne sales going down the toilet, those who sell expensive wines are scrambling to avoid losing their shirts as demand drops, at least for the moment. Apparently the next worst thing to be, apart from someone who sells wine these days, is a wine writer. With the downward spiral of print ad spending and a similar trajectory to... continue reading


Five Years of Vinography

Did you ever forget your birthday was coming up and only realized a few days after the fact that you'd missed it? Amidst the post-holiday cleanup and beginning of the New Year we passed a milestone here at Vinography. When I started this blog five years ago I had no idea where it was going to take me. It was merely a personal project that became a creative outlet, that became an excuse to drink more wine, that became something entirely with a life of its own. I'm not entirely sure when this blog ceased to be an experiment and... continue reading


La Paulee Grand Burgundy Tasting: March 7, New York City

Every budding wine lover faces what can often seem like a daunting mountain to climb. There are so many wines in the world to learn about and experience, it easy to feel overwhelmed. Novice wine lovers also often feel a special sense of frustration, characterized by an ambition that far outstrips our own means to fulfill it. Many of the wines that passionate wine lovers wish they could taste are simply out of reach -- too rare, too popular, and too expensive. When I was first starting out in my journey down the roads of wine, the most mysterious and... continue reading


2004 Domaine de la Bouissiere Gigondas, France

The best known and highest quality wines of the world continue to get more expensive over time. This is a function of the increasing value of their brands, the increasing recognition of the regions they are grown in, and the rising demand for top tier wines. These price and popularity gains filter down from the most well known wines to those that are slightly less well known, producing the aggregate effect of price increases in most of the world's famous wine regions, at least for the wines that represent the upper end of the regions production. As a result, regions... continue reading


Announcing the Menu For Hope 2009 Wine Prize Winners!

Thank you all for your patience while we whipped our random number generator into place so that we could be sure that the raffle was fair and square. Finally, though, the time has come to announce the winners of the fifth annual Menu For Hope charity raffle. This year, despite everything going on with the economy, we raised $62,206.86. That is a staggering figure and an incredible testament to your generosity and support for such a worthy cause. Thank you, thank you, a thousand times thank you. You have provided so much to people who have so little. If... continue reading


Good Time to Get on Those Winery Mailing Lists

Buy low, sell high, the saying goes. And don't forget to take advantage of the downturn if you can. I wrote two months ago about how now is a good time to buy wine. The auction markets continue to soften, as my buddy Eric Asimov noted recently. It also occurs to me, however, that if you were in the habit of or aspire to buy high-end wine, now might also be a great time to get on top winery mailing lists. The most sought after wines in America are sold almost exclusively to their mailing list customers. Getting on these... continue reading


Croatian Wine: Some Tasting Notes

There are a lot of wine regions I have yet to visit in the world, and with a young child I don't think I'll be getting to many in the next few years. But now that I've ticked South Africa off the list (a list that I've never really sat down to write), the region at the top may very well be Croatia. And this was before I tasted through the recent case of Croatian wines that arrived on my doorstep. Now that I've tasted them, I'm kicking myself for not dragging myself and Ruth there while we were childless.... continue reading


Personal Terroir: The Individual Language of Taste

I received an interesting question by e-mail the other day that prompted some interesting thoughts, and with the permission of the person who sent it to me, I'm going to reprint it here, and do my best to answer it, as well as hope that my readers may have additional things to say. Subject: An Asian palate? Hi Alder, I am a sommelier and work as a wine educator in Italy. I am European and usually have American or European guests for my wine tastings. I do know a thing or two about the differences in the palates of these... continue reading


2003 Smith Madrone Cabernet Sauvignon, Spring Mountain District, Napa

There are more legends, stories, fairytales, and fables than anyone could count which all involve some guy up on a mountainside somewhere. Sometimes a hermit, sometimes a wizard, sometimes a troll -- sometimes just an old man who went to sleep under a tree for a long, long time. No matter what the story, there's always something a little different about the guy on the mountain, something that is both scary and alluring at the same time. Stu Smith might be living out yet another version of one of these tales. The fact that Stu sports a big gray and... continue reading


The Travesty of Wine and Social Class in America

There are a lot of things that I would like to change about wine in America. I'd love to lower the prices, reduce the influence of scores on buying patterns, increase consumption, broaden the varieties that we consume, and on and on. I've got a long list the next time any omnipotent being comes along and asks my opinion on the situation. But if I had to choose one thing, above all else, that really needs changing when it comes to America and wine, I would choose to destroy the association between wine and the upper class. The fact that... continue reading


ZAP Zinfandel Festival: January 28 - 31, San Francisco

It's that time of year again. I know of no other event that seems to bring out the inner wine lover in so many San Franciscans more than the annual ZAP (Zinfandel Advocates and Producers) Festival. It never ceases to amaze me how many people turn out with such enthusiasm for this single varietal festival. Don't get me wrong. I love Zinfandel -- unabashedly so. But I tend to forget how many other people do too. Especially those that live in San Francisco. Of course it's not just San Franciscans that turn out for this one-of-a-kind weekend. People come from... continue reading


Kubota Manju (Junmai Daiginjo), Niigata Prefecture

When people often ask me how I "got into wine" I have a sense that they are expecting me to relate some story of a revelatory mouthful -- that one wine which struck me like a lightning bolt and sent me down the path to become the wine fanatic that I am today. Strangely, I possess no story like that about wine. I remember merely a pastiche of many special and prosaic moments with wine that have gradually led to me to the depths of my current passion. I do, however, have a story like that about how I fell... continue reading


Alfred Gratien Champagne, Epernay, France: Current Releases

The more good Champagne I have, the more it seems to me that you really get what you pay for. Unfortunately, what you have to pay for the really good stuff is out of the reach of most wine lovers, which was why I didn't like Champagne until several years after I started getting into wine. Now I love it, but only because I've been able to taste Champagnes like these. Alfred Gratien represents an interesting class of Champagne producer. When we speak of those who make Champagne, we most often talk about the Champagne "Houses" -- the massive brands... continue reading


Join Vinography at The Aspen Food & Wine Classic '09

Now that you're wrapping up your Winter holidays, it's the perfect time to plan your Summer ones. In my opinion Summer holidays should be filled with beautiful scenery, great wine, and delicious food. If you agree, then perhaps you'll consider joining me at the Aspen Food and Wine Classic 2009. I grew up in Aspen, and as a kid, I worked as a catering scamp at the Classic, hauling crates of dishes around, not really knowing what the whole thing was about, other than there was lots of free food. Last year I had the double pleasure of not only... 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

April 2016

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Most Recent Entries

The Science of Scent Will UV Treatment of Wine Save Terroir? Vinography Images: One Red Grape 2007 Cooper Mountain Vineyards "20th Anniversary Reserve" Pinot Noir, Willamette Valley, Oregon Anderson Valley Alsace Varietals Festival: February 21, Boonville, CA Crackpots, Wackos, Nutjobs and Wine: a Winning Combination. The Best 2006 Bordeaux: Tasting the Union des Grands Crus Vinography Images: Sunset Vineyard Introducing Photographer Andy Katz Book Review: The Widow Cliquot by Tilar J. Mazzeo

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