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~ September 2009 Archives ~



Lodi Wine Festival on Treasure Island: October 11, San Francisco

I have been quite happy to see an increase in the frequency and number of public wine tastings held by regional or appellation specific organizations over the past few years. It seems that many people have woken up and realized that if they are not Napa, they've got some work to do in educating and building relationships with consumers. As a result, opportunities continue to pop up for Bay Area wine lovers to learn a lot more about the wines of some lesser known California appellations, without hopping in the car for a drive. The latest of these such... continue reading


Tasting Notes for Top Champagnes of the World

You might call me a born-again Champagne fanatic. There was a time when I didn't care for the stuff, but that was only because I had lived my life without ever tasting really good Champagne. Now, unfortunately, I've had the chance to understand the difference between the stuff you can get for $30 and the stuff costing around $200, and I live in a constant bittersweet state of longing that marks the lives of the truly devoted. I've written before about the travesty of wine and its associations with upper class sensibilities in this country. Equally as tragic, and no... continue reading


2007 S.A. Prüm "Wehlener Sonnenuhr" Riesling Kabinett , Mosel-Saar-Ruwer, Germany

As you know, I think wine reviews should be more than just tasting notes and scores. They should be the stories of the people and the places behind the wines. While the people quite often bring the most life to the story of a wine, sometimes the place, even the vineyard itself, can be the most prominent character in the drama. In the case of this wine, the story consists of the inextricable link between a family and a vineyard. By most accounts, the Prüm family has owned vineyards in and around the town of Wehlen in Germany's Mosel river... continue reading


Monterey Wine Festival 2009: October 1-2, Monterey, CA

Wine tastings come and go, and while most are a good opportunity to taste a wide range of wines of a given kind or from a specific place, but on occasion they have something more to recommend them than simply the chance to educate your palate. The Monterey Wine Festival is a great chance to taste a lot of interesting wines from a lesser know wine region, both from local producers, and many other wineries that make wine from grapes sourced in the region. But as far as I'm concerned, the real reason to attend the Monterey Wine Festival is... continue reading


2006 Cadaretta Cabernet Sauvignon, Columbia Valley, Washington

I make it my habit to pay attention to new, small wineries. Generally that means seeking them out at public tastings, perking up my ears when I hear the names of wineries I don't know, and approaching each box of unknown wine I get on my doorstep as the potential to be something new and exciting. Generally, whatever you might like to call these efforts of mine, if they can be described as efforts, tend to be focused on California. This has nothing to do with my preferences, so much as it does with where I live, who I know,... continue reading


How to Kill a Wine Brand

In my other life, the one I lead in the business world, I've been involved with or close to the acquisition of several services companies by a larger one. And I have to say, they have always been a bit of a train wreck. Such mergers, acquisitions, or significant ownership stakes always look great on paper, but invariably, when it comes to the real world, rubber meets the road stuff of integration, more often than not, it's a disaster. These disasters seem to arise from one of two main areas: cultural conflicts between the two companies, and/or differing priorities on... continue reading


Masters of Wine Champagne Tasting: September 28, San Francisco

I need to come clean about something. It wasn't too many years ago that I really didn't care for Champagne. After all the weddings and at least 15 New Years Eves and countless other occasions, I was pretty underwhelmed with the stuff. It was astringent, chalky and the pleasure of the bubbles didn't really make up for the flavor. But then one day someone handed me a glass (I don't remember exactly what it was) and I came to a horrible, immediate realization. Up until that point I had just never had any GOOD Champagne. My lack of experience with... continue reading


Who is the Average Wine Consumer?

Perhaps the American wine market needs its own persona incarnate like Joe the Plumber. We'll call her Jane the Accountant. We may not know much about her politics, but we do know what Jane drinks. Every year I look forward to a report by Restaurant Wine magazine that clearly shows what Jane and all the other basic wine consumers like her drink on a regular basis. The numbers vary, but estimates suggest that somewhere around 30% of the wine in America is consumed in restaurants, making up more than 50% of all the money that we spend on wine. The... continue reading


Top Wines of Sonoma: Tasting Notes from Sonoma Wine Country Weekend

Two weeks ago, under idyllic clear skies, I joined about 700 other wine lovers to wander around a winery lawn in Sonoma County soaking up the bounty of Sonoma. Known as TASTE Sonoma Weekend, this event combines two previously separate annual events: The Sonoma County Showcase of Wine and Food and the Sonoma Valley Harvest Wine Auction. The main attraction consists of hundreds of wineries and scores of restaurants plying their wares under beautiful white tents set up on the lawns of the Gallo-owned MacMurray Ranch winery. Perhaps one of the single best opportunities to taste through a large swath... continue reading


Wine & Spirits Top 100 Tasting, 2009: October 14, San Francisco

I beat the drum a lot about public wine tastings. They are the best way for wine lovers to educate their palates. Period. There's just no substitute for tasting a lot of wines in a single "sitting" to learn what the differences are, and more importantly, what you like. One of the other nice things about public tastings, put on as they are by big organizations, or in this case, publications, is that they often allow you to taste wines that you might not get a chance to taste otherwise for some reason -- whether that is because of their... continue reading


Kutch Wines, Sonoma: Current Releases

Every wine has a story behind it. Some are better than others. Every wine has a dream behind it. Some are bigger than others. While some people are content to drink wine their entire lives, and never once feel the urge to make it, there are those wine lovers who yearn for something more than they get out of even the best bottles. This is the story of a guy whose enthusiasm for wine got the best of him, and whose passion for his dreams got under the skin of some people who couldn't help but show him how to... continue reading


2006 Girard Winery "Artistry" Red Wine, Napa

You can often tell just how much someone loves Napa wine from their familiarity with the sub-appellations or American Viticultural Areas (AVAs) that divide the larger Napa Valley into select, smaller sections. Many consumers have heard of the Stag's Leap District, and possibly Rutherford or Oakville, but there are more than ten other AVAs in the Napa Valley. AVAs are not enough for some people, however, especially those that pursue the most expensive and difficult to acquire wines of Napa. Discussions of the finer points of these wines rarely begin with appellations or AVAs. Instead they invoke individual vineyards and... continue reading


The World's Best Sake: Tasting at the Joy of Sake Soiree 2009

One of the public wine tastings I most look forward to every year doesn't serve a single drop of wine. There aren't many opportunities (OK, there are almost none) to taste a large number of high quality sakes anywhere outside of Japan, let alone here in San Francisco. Which is why I make an annual pilgrimage to a yearly event called the Joy of Sake, which is effectively the largest sake tasting outside of Japan. This event highlights the finalists and winners of something called the Annual U.S. Sake Appraisal, which is the largest (and only?) sake competition held outside... continue reading


Vinography Images: In The Mustard

In the Mustard Mustard, a common signature of Spring vineyards in Napa may be pretty to look at, but it also plays a valuable role in viticulture, as do all cover crops. These crops, grown between the rows, compete with the vines for moisture and nutrients, which places an additional healthy stress on the vines and can cause them to ripen earlier. Mustard is often mown after it grows, or even turned under the soil, where it adds back nitrogen. -- Alder Yarrow INSTRUCTIONS: Download this image by right-clicking on the image and selecting "save link as" or "save... continue reading


Book Review: The Psychology of Wine by Evan and Brian Mitchell

Review by W. Blake Gray I hate this book. I hate this book primarily because its title is misleading. Though one of the authors was once a psychologist, there's very little psychology here. If it were titled, "Logorrheic Lit Major/Sommelier Muses On Wine And Literature," that would at least be truth in advertising. Psychology is a science; this book has no charts and graphs, but it does have 298 footnotes, most of them to books of fiction or literary analysis. Even if it were better titled, I would still hate this book, because I hate the writing style. The Australian... continue reading


Natural Wine: The Panel Transcript

I find it quite fascinating that in many ways, the cutting edge of winemaking today involves a return to quite ancient methods, and a principled rejection of many of the innovations that have produced such an increase in the volume and quality of wine around the world. It's not unlike the progression of communications technology in the business world. First no one had cell phones, then the richest early adopting business people had cell phones, then everyone had cell phones, and now some of the world's visionary CEO's and business leaders pride themselves on not having cell phones (or even... continue reading


California's Best Boutique Wines: Tasting Family Winemakers 2009

For those unfamiliar, Family Winemakers is a marketing association that represents family owned wineries throughout California. By virtue of its focus, this means that the membership consists of many of California's boutique wine producers. The annual tasting put on by the association every year claims (with reasonable credibility) to be the single largest tasting of California wines in the world each year, and remains one of my favorite wine tasting events. This tasting has become a victim of its own success, however, and has grown to a simply unmanageable size. Unmanageable, that is, for anyone looking to thoroughly explore the... continue reading


Vinography Images: Vine Color

Vine Color Harvest has begun in many places in North America, and soon the vines will begin to take on their fall colors. As someone who grew up with a distinct Autumn, marked by brilliant color, I cherish the few signs of that season we get here in northern California. Especially the vines in their various hues -- 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... continue reading


Joy of Sake Tasting 2009: September 10 - SFO, September 24 - NYC

I absolutely love the fact that we've reached a point in this country where I don't need to explain why a sake tasting in San Francisco or New York might be an enjoyable way to spend an evening. In the five years since I've been writing this blog, sake has gone from obscure to obvious, hardly known to hip. The availability and visibility of sake in the US has blossomed, driving by fine dining establishments and the increasing popularity of all things Japanese. Despite this, however, the average wine lovers' knowledge of sake is extremely limited, mostly by virtue of... continue reading


Gold Medals Do Not Mean Good Wine: Actual Proof?

Bear with me while I get this out of the way: I told you so. I've taken a lot of flak here at Vinography for my stance on the competition, state and county fair medals that wineries like to make a big deal about. I think they're all bunk -- useless to the consumer, and a waste of money for the wineries trying to win them. For reference, I suggest you look at my posts entitled: Stop The State Fair Madness and Wine Competitions are One Big Racket. My opinion has been based up until this point on purely anecdotal... continue reading

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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

Lodi Wine Festival on Treasure Island: October 11, San Francisco Tasting Notes for Top Champagnes of the World 2007 S.A. Prüm "Wehlener Sonnenuhr" Riesling Kabinett , Mosel-Saar-Ruwer, Germany Monterey Wine Festival 2009: October 1-2, Monterey, CA 2006 Cadaretta Cabernet Sauvignon, Columbia Valley, Washington How to Kill a Wine Brand Masters of Wine Champagne Tasting: September 28, San Francisco Who is the Average Wine Consumer? Top Wines of Sonoma: Tasting Notes from Sonoma Wine Country Weekend Wine & Spirits Top 100 Tasting, 2009: October 14, 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