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~ June 2009 Archives ~



The Best Pinot Noir in California?: Tasting Pinot Days 2009

The Pinot Days grand tasting event, which took place yesterday at Fort Mason in San Francisco, brings together one of the largest collections of Pinot Noir producers in North America for the tasting pleasure of the public. I was interested to see whether attendance at this year's event would be noticeably lower, but if it was, I couldn't tell. The place seemed just as packed as ever, which is a good thing -- the California wine industry needs all the help it can get in this recession. So needless to say, I was in good company tasting yesterday with 3500... continue reading


Do We Have eBay to Thank for All That Counterfeit Wine?

If you aren't yet aware of the fact that fake wine is a big deal, you will be soon. It's coming to a theater near you. Billionaires getting swindled by fake bottles of wine purportedly belonging to Thomas Jefferson aside, as the world's greatest wines continue to climb in price, wine fraud continues to increase in frequency and in value. At this point, the fakery of wines has become a big business. No one knows just how large, but some wine experts say the real figure is probably shudderingly large: millions of dollars worth, to be sure, and perhaps even... continue reading


Giacomo Conterno Barolo and Barbera: Italy's Greatest Wines?

Because of our deep history with wine, the standards by which we judge today's efforts must be placed within the context of tradition. While we can judge California Pinot Noir on its own merits, we cannot understand or evaluate it completely without reference to Burgundy, its ancestral home. Burgundy will always be the benchmark for Pinot Noir, as it has been for centuries. Just as there exist regional benchmarks for grape varieties or wine styles, there also exist some individual wine producers, and even individual wines, that manage to define the uppermost limits of quality or the epitome of a... continue reading


Vinography Images: Lone Trees

Lone Trees Every week, photographer Andy Katz sends me a new image to post here for your viewing pleasure. I never know what I'm going to get, but I do know that it's going to be good. This week, when I opened his e-mail, something different happened. Everything got quiet, and I smelled freshly cut grass, bee pollen, and felt a warm breeze.... Amazingly, we are not lost, but I wouldn't care if we were. Just as I give up and decide we have no idea where we are, another road sign appears that tells us indeed, we are... continue reading


International Pinot Noir Conference: July 24-26, McMinnville, OR

There are wine tastings, and then there are wine tastings. And then, there are experiences that completely transcend a bunch of tables with vintners standing behind them pouring their wines. I've been to a few "destination" wine experiences, some of which have been great, but none of which have been better than the International Pinot Noir Conference that takes place every year in McMinnville, Oregon. Scheduled over a long July weekend every year, IPNC is one of the most relaxed and intimate wine tasting experiences I've had the pleasure of attending, not to mention the fact that it also involves... continue reading


Denshu Hyakuyonju "140" Junmai Daiginjo, Aomori Prefecture

By W. Blake Gray One of the main characteristics of Japanese is its vagueness. Language is culture, and Japanese helps people get along in crowded, resource-poor cities by preventing hard feelings in conversation. Here's a good example of how this works: In a business meeting, everyone sits around the table vaguely feeling out each others' position until eventually everyone realizes what they're expected to say. Thus the first and only vote is almost always unanimous. Here's a more frustrating example: I think this sake is named "140" (hyakuyonju) because it's the 140th attempt at crossing Aomori's native Hanafubuki rice with... continue reading


Highlights from the 2009 Aspen Food & Wine Classic

I just returned from a weekend as a speaker at the 27th annual Aspen Food & Wine Classic, the grandaddy of all food and wine festivals. This was my second opportunity to attend the festival as a speaker, and, like the first year, a doubly special honor, as Aspen also happens to be my home town. DAY 0 I got the opportunity to kick off the weekend's festivities as the guest speaker at a luncheon for the Aspen Chamber Resort Association. My job was to entertain, to guide the attendees through the wines selected for the lunch, and to thank... continue reading


Vinography Images: A New Leaf

A New Leaf So much attention is paid to the fruit of the vine. Everything in wine, at least from the standpoint of the drinker, is about the grapes. Grape vines are particularly beautiful, though, especially as they are just unfurling their downy little leaves as Andy has so nicely captured here. And more than beautiful, leaves play a crucial role in displaying the health of the vine, shading the fruit, and converting sunlight into the sugars from which we derive so much pleasure. -- Alder Yarrow INSTRUCTIONS: Download this image by right-clicking on the image and selecting "save... continue reading


2006 Hourglass "Blueline Estate" Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa

There is no single recipe for greatness when it comes to Napa wine, but starting with a great plot of land can take you a long way. The only problem is, a lot of people don't necessarily know a great plot of land when they see one. Sometimes these plots of land can be hidden in plain sight until the right person comes along to notice. When Jeff Smith's father moved the family to St. Helena in 1964, he wasn't thinking about wine, he was thinking about real estate development. He was also thinking about the tiny trickle of tourists... continue reading


Pinot Days Festival and Tasting: June 24-28, 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 five 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 fifth year, Pinot Days has firmly established itself as one of the largest... continue reading


2005 Lieff "Auberge Road Vineyard" Cabernet Sauvignon, Rutherford, Napa

There are people who start wineries and work for a long time to get to the point that their names become synonymous with good wine, regardless of whether their names are on the bottle or not. And then there are those who you wonder at how they managed to avoid having their name on a wine bottle for as long as they did. Robert Lieff has a long history with wine, and with Napa Valley in particular. How he has managed to only just now end up with his name on a bottle, is in part a testament to his... continue reading


Book Review: Grape Man of Texas by Sherrie McLeRoy and Roy Renfro

Review by Alfonso Cevola. Twenty-five years ago, I got a call from a client of mine, originally from Bordeaux, who had a wine bar in Dallas, Texas. "My father is visiting from France and would like to go to Denison, Texas, and see where Mr. Munson lived and worked. Would you like to go with us?" My friend's father was Raymond Chandou, who studied and worked under Emile Peynaud, and who ran one of the largest and most successful wine cooperatives in France. "You bet," I said. I was definitely in on this trip. A few years before, while making... continue reading


2006 Hall "Exzellenz" Sacrashe Vineyard Proprietary Red Wine, Rutherford, Napa

The pleasures of childhood call to us as adults. The tug of nostalgia is so great that we so often find ourselves indulging in little things that remind us of our early years, and in some cases we throw ourselves passionately into the pursuit of the things we have lost. Kathryn Hall lost the vineyard that was her childhood playground. Despite having managed the vineyard for nearly a decade, letting it go after her father's death was the right thing to do. But her memories of growing up among the grape vines in Redwood Valley, coupled with her enduring love... continue reading


Vinography Images: Below the Fog

Below the Fog While I often find myself praying for sun in San Francisco, I don't ever tire of the fog in wine country. The bright gray blanket and its tendrils have the remarkable quality of making the colors of the earth and vines so much brighter and more vivid. This shot from a Sonoma vineyard is the perfect illustration of this effect. -- 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... continue reading


Fontanella Family Wines, Napa: Inaugural Releases

When it comes to family-run wineries, I always enjoy seeing how the many different roles and responsibilities involved in a full-fledged winery are divvied up among the family. Often, the winery benefits from the luck of a child that has gone into marketing as a career, or a sibling that has gone back to school to learn about enology. The combined skills, passion, and familial bond that makes such wineries tick can sometimes make for quite a powerful operation. I don't think I've ever seen quite the combination represented by Jeff and Karen Fontanella. They're just a young couple in... continue reading


Golden Glass Tasting: June 21, San Francisco

There aren't many "secret" public wine tastings in San Francisco, but for several years, the Golden Glass tasting was about as close as you could get to a "wine insiders" tasting. Historically under-promoted, and generally not well attended, this tasting is often described as the single best public wine tasting in San Francisco. I'm not sure that's true, but it certainly is one of the better ones. This event, which is a fundraiser for Slow Food USA, has focused almost exclusively on small Italian wine producers -- apropos of the fact that Slow Food was founded in Italy. In recent... continue reading


2004 Erba Mountainside Vineyards Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa

In Isaac Asimov's Foundation series of science fiction books, the main character has invented a science called Psychohistory for predicting the behavior of large groups of people. And by large groups, I mean the entire galaxy. Based partly in sociology, partly in history, and heavily in math, the psychohistorians have developed algorithms that can be used to figure out what big groups of people will do in any situation. I'm not so sure there isn't some sort of algorithm that we might be able to construct to figure out the kind of person (apart from trained winemakers or wine business... continue reading


Let the Good Wine Take a Back Seat

Last night I went out for dinner with a couple of colleagues from a business strategy course that I've been taking for a while. One of them has taught me an awful lot in the past couple months, and I've been working with them both to create a presentation that we successfully delivered to a group of 34 of our fellow students today. Naturally, I brought a good bottle of wine to dinner, and we drank it while getting to know each other better, and talking about the challenges and opportunities we each face in our businesses. The conversation was... continue reading


Marin County Pinot Noir Tasting: June 13, Larkspur

Most of the major appellations of California tend to have their own large tastings, where members of the public have an opportunity to sample a broad range of wines from a specific area. These tastings, as I am fond of reminding you readers, are by far the best way to educate your palate and to learn both what you like and do not like, but also who you like and do not like when it comes to California wine. These tastings are the best places to discover your next favorite wine. This particular wine tasting may be a chance to... continue reading


Flowers Winery, Sonoma Coast: Single Vineyard Pinot Noirs

I love the places where wine grows in spite of the adversity heaped upon it by the place, the climate, and the geology. I also love the places where wine grows despite all conventional wisdom to the contrary -- the places everyone else avoided, but where visionary winegrowers and winemakers have staked their claims and bet their futures. Often times these two types of places are one in the same. Call them extreme vineyard sites. The places that most people would dismiss as infeasible for making wine, for one reason or another. Some of these places stay extreme, and the... continue reading


Vinography on Women and Wine Radio

For those who may crave a little more multi-media around these parts, I'm happy to let you know that I recently sat down with Julie Brosterman of Women and Wine Radio for a chat about Vinography, wine, travel, and the state of the wine blogging world. Julie runs a wine shop in Los Angeles and has been doing podcasts for a long time. We've been meaning to catch up, and finally got the chance last week. Julie is a gracious host, and we had a very nice conversation which you can listen to if you like on her weekly podcast... continue reading


The Canary in the California Wine Cellar?

These days are filled with unexpected and disastrous business news to be sure. I'd imagine not many people were very surprised to wake up this morning to find General Motors filing for bankruptcy protection. On the other hand, I was frankly shocked to learn today that a company named New Vine Logistics had closed its doors for lack of operating capital. Most wine lovers would never have heard of this company, and rightly so. Their business model depended upon them being invisible to most. Yet this single company was projected to ship nearly 20% of the wine sold in California... 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

The Best Pinot Noir in California?: Tasting Pinot Days 2009 Do We Have eBay to Thank for All That Counterfeit Wine? Giacomo Conterno Barolo and Barbera: Italy's Greatest Wines? Vinography Images: Lone Trees International Pinot Noir Conference: July 24-26, McMinnville, OR Denshu Hyakuyonju "140" Junmai Daiginjo, Aomori Prefecture Highlights from the 2009 Aspen Food & Wine Classic Vinography Images: A New Leaf 2006 Hourglass "Blueline Estate" Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Pinot Days Festival and Tasting: June 24-28, San Francisco

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