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~ August 2009 Archives ~



Anaba Wines, Sonoma: Inaugural Releases

One of my greatest pleasures remains the surprise and delight of opening the very first wines made by a new winery and discovering in them both enjoyment and the signs of great potential. Alas, such pleasures are only occasional, which make them all the more exciting when they do occur. My latest opportunity to celebrate the beginnings of a new winery came at the hands of a few bottles that showed up on my doorstep bearing the name Anaba in beautiful looping script. I was immediately intrigued to note that the first releases from this new Sonoma County winery were... continue reading


2001 Gravner "Anfora" Ribolla Gialla, Friuli, Italy

When it comes to winemaking there's New World, and there's Old World. There's new school, and of course, there's old school. And then there are a select few people and wines who make the old school winemakers look like young tykes with newfangled toys. In a world where "traditional" or "natural" winemaking has now become a self imposed designation of the most extreme proponents of biodynamic and non-interventionalist winemaking, Josko Gravner puts them all to shame. These people proclaim how in touch they are with the "traditional" methods of winemaking, but they're still using what Gravner would call modern technology:... continue reading


Vinography Images: Old Vine

Old Vine The whorls and gnarls of old vines are like fingerprints. I never get tired of looking at their stocky twisted shapes. I thought their shapes are best appreciated against a background of mustard flowers, but that was because I had never seen one in a field of daisies. -- 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


Small Signs of Troubled Times in the Top Tier of Wine

I'm not the most plugged in person when it comes to the California wine industry. I'm not a buyer, a salesperson, or a marketer, and certainly have no real visibility into what's going on behind the scenes at any wineries, even with a fair number of winemaker friends. Consequently, I'm a bit of an outsider when it comes to measuring the impact of this recession on the California wine industry. But the picture that I'm starting to piece together from tidbits here and there is somewhat sobering -- not the calamity that is the U.S. Auto Industry, but certainly what... continue reading


Patz & Hall Winery, Napa: Current Releases

The story of two friends drinking late into the evening and fantasizing of one day owning their own winery has been reenacted countless times over the past few decades in California. Remarkably, though, these dreams have frequently become a reality. Countless wineries spring forth from the passion and hard work of "just a couple of friends" and a surprising number of them become great successes. Maybe after watching this phenomenon for twenty more years I may be able to pin down the reason that so many wineries that begin as passing fancies, even in the heads of people who are... continue reading


Testing the Old Spoon in the Champagne Bottle Trick

I don't know exactly when I was first told, but for years I've "known" that if you want to keep a bottle of opened Champagne from going flat, you drop a silver spoon into the neck of the bottle, handle first. Sort of like knowing you shouldn't go swimming for an hour after you eat, this trick with the spoon seems to be yet another proclamation from the infamous Department of They. You know the one. "They" say you shouldn't go outside on a cold day with a wet head, because you'll catch a cold. Why not? Well that's just... continue reading


2005 Savanna "Sogno Due" White Wine, Campania, Italy

Despite all kinds of advice to the contrary, we continue to judge our books by the cover and our wines by the label. As humans we find it quite hard to turn off the part of our brains that rushes to judgment based on the surface of things. Presumably our lightning-quick opinions were advantageous to us at some point in evolutionary history, to the point that our first impressions are often so powerful we can't move past them. From racial stereotypes to celebrity obsession, we're often captives to our own psychology, whether we like it or not. So tell me,... continue reading


Sonoma Wine Country Weekend: September 4-6, 2009

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. My well meaning friends 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 a bit of love for every piece of wine country we've got here in California, but there's a special place in my heart for Sonoma County, both because it is the place of... continue reading


Vinography Images: Taking Wing

Taking Wing I love great photographs of vineyards, which is mostly why I try to bring you a new image from photographer Andy Katz each week. The best vineyard photographs though have a little something special about them in addition to the raw natural beauty that they so often possess. This is a perfect example of a gorgeous image, made even more special by the hawk caught mid take-off from the middle of this Sonoma vineyard. -- Alder Yarrow INSTRUCTIONS: Download this image by right-clicking on the image and selecting "save link as" or "save target as" and then... continue reading


When Biodynamic and Organic Winegrowing Might Not Work

I recently moderated a panel of Biodynamic winemakers for the SF Chefs. Food. Wine event that took place here in San Francisco. We tasted through their wines, and then got down and dirty on Biodynamics with the audience. At one point someone in the audience asked whether anyone anywhere in the world could produce Biodynamic wine, or whether only some people could. This was a very good question, and one I've often thought about myself more than once. Biodynamics, for those less familiar with the practice, forbids the use of chemical fertilizers, pesticides, and forbids or extremely limits the use... continue reading


2007 Quivira Vineyards "Wine Creek Ranch" Grenache, Dry Creek Valley, Sonoma

If there's one thing you can bet on in the wine industry, it's change. Nothing stays the same for long -- that goes as much for any of business aspects of the industry as it does the conditions from vintage to vintage. Despite this variation, our judgments as consumers about wineries and their wines tend to be absolute. Casual wine drinkers are likely to treat wines like candy bars -- they taste them once and if they don't like them, they never buy again. There's a certain amount of sense to this, and it certainly fits my mantra of "life's... continue reading


Introducing the Vinography Wine Club

This blogging business stinks. You can't make any money at it. Advertising revenues are plummeting, readership is down, and those readers that are left only want to read heartwarming stories of human compassion or stories about 9.5 rated wines under $8. So what's a blogger to do? I'll start a wine club! But of course, I have my journalistic integrity to worry about. So to insulate this desperate move to generate capital, I want to assure you that I'm merely exploiting the Vinography brand and nothing more. To be honest, it's not even me that will be exploiting it. I've... continue reading


Wine Geek Out: What They Know About Oxygen and Wine

Forgive the pocket protector with the waiter's friend protruding from it: I'm a wine geek at heart and sometimes I can't help myself. If you would rather just drink good wine without thinking at all about how it is made, close your browser right now, because things are about to get geeky, thanks to a great article by my fellow blogger and wine science buff Jamie Goode. We still don't know a lot of things about wine. It's a complex animal, where a lot of variables are in play, and direct cause and effect relationships are often difficult to pin... continue reading


Winemaking as Feminism in Thailand

It wasn't long ago that I learned about Thailand's nascent wine industry. I wish I had known about it back in 2001 when I was passing through. I would have loved to check it out. For now, I'll just have to imagine it in all its tropical splendor, in between the occasional news clip about it that pops up on my radar. The latest news from Thailand's wine industry involves the story of Nikki Lohitnavy, who at 22 years old is Thailands youngest, and first female winemaker. It's neat to see how the development of Lohitnavy's family as winegrowers echoes... continue reading


1994 Zind-Humbrecht "Brand" Riesling, Alsace, France

For anyone who drinks Alsatian wines on a regular basis, let alone someone who considers themselves a fan or an aficionado of the unique wines from this narrow slice of northeastern France, it's pretty much impossible to have a discussion about the area without the name Zind-Humbrecht coming up. While everyone is reticent to pronounce any one winery "the best" no matter which region you're talking about, many people would be hard pressed to find a reason why you couldn't say that Zind-Humbrecht has the position fairly well covered for Alsace. The Humbrecht family has a long history in winemaking,... continue reading


Piña Napa Valley: Current Releases

If one were to speculate on the wine market as a savvy investor might in the small-cap stock market, the game would be the same: follow people you know with good track records. In the wine world, we'd also have to include a corollary about betting on great vineyard sites, but leaving aside the raw materials, it's clear that most good wines don't happen by accident. They're made by talented people. Finding talented people in Napa isn't hard at first. There are a lot of them, many of whom have big brand names. When they start working for a winery,... continue reading


Family Winemakers Tasting 2009: August 23, 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


The Last Drops: Miscellaneous Tasting Notes from IPNC 2009

I like to tell people that when it comes to reviewing wines, my tasting notes are the least important part of the wine review. As you know, I like to focus on story: the people, places, and history behind a wine. But sometimes, I get the opportunity to taste a lot of really damn good wine, and I can't simply do individual reviews of all the wines because I haven't got the time. So on rare occasions, I write a little report like this one. If you recall from last week and the prior weekend, I spent a couple of... continue reading


Napa Wine Library Tasting: August 16, Napa

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


Patton Valley Vineyard, Willamette Valley: Current Releases

When it comes to wineries I generally know I'm in for something good when I drive down a long dirt road (unsure if I'm headed in the right direction) and finally come upon some vineyards and a couple of small aluminum barns with harvest bins stacked outside. For many small winery operations, the barrel storage, the lab, the office, and the tasting room are all under one corrugated roof. I had the pleasure of winding my way down just such a road on a rainy Autumn day three years ago to arrive at the little operation that is Patton Valley... 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

Anaba Wines, Sonoma: Inaugural Releases 2001 Gravner "Anfora" Ribolla Gialla, Friuli, Italy Vinography Images: Old Vine Small Signs of Troubled Times in the Top Tier of Wine Patz & Hall Winery, Napa: Current Releases Testing the Old Spoon in the Champagne Bottle Trick 2005 Savanna "Sogno Due" White Wine, Campania, Italy Sonoma Wine Country Weekend: September 4-6, 2009 Vinography Images: Taking Wing When Biodynamic and Organic Winegrowing Might Not Work

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