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~ May 2009 Archives ~



2006 Jack Larkin Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa

The allure of Napa is legendary, even clichéd. The wine country lifestyle, or whatever you want to call it, combined with the love of wine has inspired countless people to sell everything they own and head to Napa to try and live their own personal wine dream. There must be people who simply flounder and fail in these endeavors. Like many of the unfortunate, their stories never surface for most of us. We tend to only hear about those that succeed in turning their dreams into reality. Yet I continue to be astonished at just how many people seem to... continue reading


Vinography Images: The Golden Glow

The Golden Glow As anyone who has spend more than a little time there knows, wine country is a special place. Sure, during the day it may be teeming with tourists, hot and dusty, and unglamorous as hell. But when the sun dips low on the horizon, things quiet down, and the light turns golden, there's no place on earth like it. -- Alder Yarrow INSTRUCTIONS: Download this image by right-clicking 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... continue reading


The Best Wine in Washington State: Notes from Taste Washington 2009

The first week of April I got the opportunity to do an "immersion" course in Washington State wine. No, this didn't involve repeatedly dunking me in a vat of wine, amusing though that would have been. Rather, it involved attending the annual Taste Washington wine festival in Seattle. I flew up to Seattle for two reasons. I was asked to give a seminar at the event, which I gladly did, focusing on wineries that made their wine in unconventional places like garages, barns, airplane hangers, fire houses, etc. But mostly I was excited for the opportunity to taste a ton... continue reading


Wine & Spirits Restaurant Wine Tasting: June 2, New York City

Summer is almost upon us, which means a last minute flurry of wine events around the country before the heat sets in. Especially in New York City. New Yorkers don't seem to get quite as many large public tasting events as we do in California, no doubt in part because of the expense of flying in with a big box of wines to pour for the public. This is a shame, really, as it's a great market for such tastings. Which is why I always try to point out to my New York readers when the opportunity arises to spend... continue reading


TAPAS Tempranillo Tasting: June 14, San Francisco

Sometimes I feel like California vintners don't experiment enough. While they may be trying a wide range of rootstocks, clonal material, yeast strains, trellising methods, barrel regimes, and the various other minor, yet important variables that can make for higher quality wine, far too few wineries are trying to grow different grape varieties from around the world. That's a generalization, of course, and there are plenty of exceptions, but by and large most California winemakers stick to the tried and true: white and red Bordeaux varieties, Syrah, Zinfandel, Chardonnay, and Pinot Noir, with occasional branching out into Grenache, Viognier, or... continue reading


The Chinese Roots of California Wine

Every time I visit Meadowood in Napa Valley, I find myself spending time in front of a reproduction of an engraving that hangs somewhere in most of their rooms. It is entitled "The vintage in California, at work at the wine presses" and was the work of an artist named Paul Frenzeny in the late 1800's for Harpers Weekly. Here's what it looks like (click the image to view it full size): I probably looked at this engraving half a dozen times before I noticed the details that now make it fascinating to me. In short, most of the people... continue reading


Vinography Images: Medium Toast

Medium Toast In general, the less a barrel is toasted, the more tannins and other wood characteristics will be leached into the wine by the alcohol. Wine matured in lightly toasted barrels therefore tends to taste 'oaky,' 'woody' or even 'vegetal,' while wine matured in heavily toasted barrels is more likely to taste 'toasty' or 'spicy.' Barrels that are classified as Heavy Toast have been toasted for about 15 minutes at 440 degrees. -- The Oxford Companion to Wine INSTRUCTIONS: Download this image by right-clicking on the image and selecting "save link as" or "save target as" and then... continue reading


A Game Changing New Marketplace for Wine

Did you feel that just now? It was the wine world shifting under your feet. As of this morning, the wine world is quite different, and will never be the same again. Now, Robert Parker caught a lot of heat last year after jumping on his own bulletin boards one day and proclaiming that the next day, some news would break that would shake the foundations of the wine world. He was referring to the sale of Chateau Montelena to Cos d'Estournel, which not only was yawn-inducing for most everyone who heard the hyped-up announcement the day before, but ended... continue reading


All That Grand Cru Wine is not Worthless After All

In the real olden days, grape farmers had to deal with plagues of locusts, rampaging armies, and all manner of biblical-scale disasters. When things settled down in the 16th and 17th centuries, most of the European folks making wine got pretty complacent, until a little bug came along and wiped 98% of their vineyards off the face of the planet. Eventually everyone got over Phylloxera, and the wine world settled back into its groove, and for a while it seemed that the scourges of old might not continue into the modern era. Safe from locusts, boll weevils, and all manner... continue reading


Peay Vineyards, Sonoma Coast: Current Releases

As a wine reviewer who gets paid next to nothing for his work, I have the luxury of only reviewing wines that I think are worth writing about. I've got no deadlines, no quotas to fill, and no obligation to anyone. All of which means that it's always a great pleasure to say nice things about a wine or wines that I enjoy. But this is perhaps the most pleasurable kind of review I write. The review of a winery whose wines I can safely say are all spectacularly good -- so good that I will simply buy any wine... continue reading


2005 Peacock Family Cabernet Sauvignon, Spring Mountain District, Napa

I have a hard spot in my heart for peacocks. Spending summers with my father in Sonoma County as a kid, we had a neighbor with a bunch of peacocks that would wander over towards our house and hang out in the trees nearby. Beautiful birds? Yes. But they also have an incredibly loud, piercing call that at 5:00 AM makes you wonder what peacock stew tastes like. I recently learned what Peacock wine, er, rather Peacock Family wine tastes like, and we won't hold the bird's reputation against Christopher and Betsy Peacock, because the wine they're making from their... continue reading


Wine and Architecture

Wine and architecture have a long history together. If architecture is frozen music, then wine is liquid weather. Each transmutes something into a whole greater than the sum of its parts. But beyond this metaphorical kinship, wine has often inspired (and funded) the creation of grand architecture. And vice versa. From the early castles and monasteries to the great estates of the Old World, wineries have long been marked by great edifices. In no small part, this doubtless resulted from the simple realities of economics. Those who could afford to own the land, hire the workers, and produce the wine... continue reading


Carneros Heritage Festival: May 30, Sonoma

Carneros is one of California's most distinctive and special winegrowing regions. While wine lovers can argue for hours about the concept of terroir, few California wine aficionados can dispute that Carneros possesses a unique and dynamic climate that is forged from geography and weather. As summer heat spikes into the 100's just a few miles away, Carneros remains cool, even chilled by ocean breezes and fog banks, making for perfect cool-climate grape growing conditions that favor the Burgundy varietals of Pinot Noir and Chardonnay. Additionally, it represents a bit of an oddity when it comes to California appellations, as it... continue reading


The Soft, Hidden Underbelly of Wine Sales

Here's an e-mail that a little bird forwarded to me the other day. Names have been redacted to protect the innocent. Hey [winebuyer for fancy restaurant], I am going out on a limb here, I know, but I want to ask you for your absolute honesty. Please... I will be disappointed, but not unsurprised if you do not answer. Tell me why you are and have always been uninterested in [my winery's] wine? You are a true professional - I know this - that is why I am asking. What is it about our wines that does not attract you?... continue reading


The Blind Wine Taster

Show's the size of the rock I've been living under, but I just found out about the series of photo essays and audio recordings that the New York Times has been doing called "One in 8 Million." These slide shows focus on individual New Yorkers and tell a little of their story with some gorgeous photographs and a recording of their own words. Interestingly, the most recent slideshow was about a woman named Alexandra Elman who lost her sight due to diabetes in 1995, but has kept up her career as a wine consultant nonetheless. For the past 14 years... continue reading


All He Wanted Was a Bottle of Wine After Work

I've been working really hard lately. Not here on Vinography, but at the day job that pays the bills. So I can understand the desire to get off work, grab a bottle of wine, and relax a little. Apparently though, that's not so easy if you're any sort of uniformed service officer in the UK. There, they've got laws that say, if you're wearing your uniform, you don't get to buy alcohol. Presumably, this law exists because there either was a problem at one time with uniformed public servants drunk on the job, or simply because politicians and the public... continue reading


Vinography Images: Last Rays Vineyard

Last Rays Vineyard The only thing that would improve this view of a Paso Robles vineyard at sunset would be the ability to enjoy it with a glass of wine in hand. Which, I suppose is the appeal of having a house in wine country. OK, maybe if you had a glass of wine in hand, AND you were sitting in a pool while enjoying this view.... Sigh. -- Alder Yarrow INSTRUCTIONS: Download this image by right-clicking on the image and selecting "save link as" or "save target as" and then select the desired location on your computer to... continue reading


The Future of Wine: Urban Vineyards?

In an age of backlash against big-business agriculture and of increasing value placed on local, sustainable living, the phenomenon known as urban farming flourishes. From tiny planters on the balconies of chic lofts to reclaimed industrial lots, city dwellers in some of America's larger urban centers are finding joy and sustenance in growing their own organic food. And if people can grow tomatoes and corn in an old vacant lot, then why can't they grow wine grapes? My friend, winemaker Bryan Harrington, has planted Pinot Noir in several places within the San Francisco city limits over the years and I... continue reading


The Fine Wine Bubble of the Early 21st Century

While in most media circles, the larger global economic meltdown consumes the lion's share of attention, the wine world is experiencing its own nasty correction. Many top wineries, especially those with bottle prices over $80 find themselves struggling to sell their wines as the usual outlets are simply refusing purchases that they used to beg for. Vegas restaurants, long-standing bastions of "I don't care what it costs as long as it sounds expensive" buying habits, are dumping their allocations of high-end wines like ballast water from an unstable ship. Cult wineries with mailing lists that had waiting lists thousands of... continue reading


2003 Adagio "Premium" Malbec, Lujan de Cuyo, Mendoza, Argentina

Every time Spring rolls around, I find myself thinking wistfully of Argentina. I spent a wonderful three weeks there a few years ago just after the harvest eating, drinking, and generally appreciating everything about the country. Now, especially as our family budget gets tighter, I reminisce about amazing dinners for $25 and great bottles of wine for $15. So I dug through my notes a little just for nostalgia's sake and found a really nice wine that I discovered while I was there, but didn't end up writing about for some reason. I had asked the sommelier at Cabaña Las... continue reading


Outpost Wines, Napa: Current Releases

To the casual visitor or inexperienced wine lover, Napa may just be a name on a bottle, or a vision of vineyards stretched between Highway 29 and the Silverado Trail. But like many wine regions, Napa is only a word on a map and an official designation for a group of winegrowing regions that, at times, seem to have little in common. The extreme variations of climate, soils, and topography among the various sections of Napa County make the subdivision of the region into separate AVA's (American Viticultural Areas) an inevitability. The variety of terroirs represented by these 14... continue reading


Paso Robles Wine Festival 2009: May 15-16th, Paso Robles, CA

Anyone who hasn't yet discovered Paso Robles wines is missing some of the most interesting and dynamic wines that California has to offer. And anyone who hasn't discovered Paso Robles, would do well to mosey on down there for their 27th Annual Wine Festival in a couple of weeks. Once a sleepy undiscovered little wine town, Paso has become the epicenter of a wine explosion in the last decade with wineries popping up like Spring crocuses every year. The limestone terroir of western Paso Robles in particular is producing some absolutely stunning Syrahs and other Rhone Varietals that every wine... continue reading


Vinography Images: Spring in the Vineyard

Spring in the Vineyard All over California old gnarled vines that have looked half-dead since they were pruned some months ago are sprouting green tips like these. I only hope the chilly rain that is pouring down on them as I write this isn't making for a difficult vintage already -- Alder Yarrow INSTRUCTIONS: Download this image by right-clicking 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 to open the full size view and... 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

2006 Jack Larkin Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Vinography Images: The Golden Glow The Best Wine in Washington State: Notes from Taste Washington 2009 Wine & Spirits Restaurant Wine Tasting: June 2, New York City TAPAS Tempranillo Tasting: June 14, San Francisco The Chinese Roots of California Wine Vinography Images: Medium Toast A Game Changing New Marketplace for Wine All That Grand Cru Wine is not Worthless After All Peay Vineyards, Sonoma Coast: Current Releases

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

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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