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~ November 2009 Archives ~



Off to Chile to Taste Some Wine

I'm an incredibly lucky guy. If you'd told me six years ago when I started dribbling out my thoughts on wine on some little web site I set up that one day people would want to fly me to foreign countries and pick up the tab just with the hopes that I'd write something about it, I'd have told you that you were nuts. But here I go, off to Chile for a week of wandering and wine tasting. Hot damn. Increasingly, I get asked to go on a lot of these kinds of wine trips. Unfortunately, I can't... continue reading


Vinography Images: The Sphere

The Sphere Grape or sculpture? I might just pay money for a handblown glass lamp resembling this luminous sphere of soon-to-be-wine, it's veined translucent body glowing with afternoon sun. As with other images from Andy, I marvel at the beauty of this individual berry, so often ignored as we think on the scale of cluster most of the time. -- 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... continue reading


Menu For Hope is Coming. Will You Donate a Wine Prize and Become Famous?

Think of this as the early warning system. Our annual Menu For Hope campaign is right around the corner. In its sixth year, this charity event brings together bloggers from all over the world to raise money for the United Nations World Food Programme. It's an awesome event that raises tens of thousands of dollars each year for hungry children around the world. For those who are not familiar with this initiative, it is essentially a raffle, with prizes donated by bloggers (or other kind folks who want to participate but don't have blogs). Participants post a description of their... continue reading


Thanksgiving: No Wine is Too Good for Friends

OK wine lovers, listen up. Thanksgiving approaches, and in this country that means for the past few weeks every wine columnist in the world has been talking about what wines go with the big dinner. Well you're not going to get that from me, for reasons previously stated. But I do want to talk about the whole affair of serving wine with the Thanksgiving feast. More specifically, I want to talk about the usually treacherous emotional landscape of choosing which wines to serve to your guests. I woke up this morning to find that my friend Lettie Teague had kindly... continue reading


2008 Grgich Hills Estate Fume Blanc, Napa

Visitors to Napa Valley, even those on their first trip, have a hard time missing the Grgich Hills winery, which sits prominently on the west side of Highway 29, its flower beds almost pushed right up against the edge of the blacktop. Of course, when the winery was established in the late 1970s there was a lot less traffic on that same highway, and founder Miljenko "Mike" Grgich was a young man. But despite his youth, this Croatian-born immigrant did not lack for experience or acclaim. Indeed, it was partly based on his success as the winemaker for the 1973... continue reading


Vinography Images: One Berry

One Berry The first time I tasted a Cabernet grape I was surprised at how unlike Cabernet wine it tasted. Some of the flavor lies in that bright leathery surface that Andy captures here so well in vivid blue. Grape skins hold many different volatile aroma compounds (some of which are also found in the juicy flesh of the berry) that contribute to the flavors of the wine. Just biting into a ripe berry isn't quite the same as tasting that same berry in a bottle three years later. They still taste pretty damn good, though. -- Alder Yarrow... continue reading


2003 Descendientes de J. Palacios "Moncerbal," Bierzo, Spain

This is one of those wines that I live for. The kind that begins with an unknown bottle thrust in front of me by a friend with a twinkle in their eye, and ends with a profound memory of taste that becomes one of those moments that wine lovers cherish. Such wines are not common, at least not for me, but they are what keep me passionate about drinking and writing and enjoying the world of wine. Occasionally still described by romanticizing writers as "off in a forgotten corner of Northwestern Spain," the winegrowing region of Bierzo can no longer... continue reading


What's Next? Wine Labels in Jive?

I haven't stopped chuckling this evening since I read a post on Spittoon.Biz, a long running wine blog run by Andrew Barrow over in the UK. About a week ago he reported on the latest marketing efforts by a national supermarket chain to make sure the wine labels on their wines were readable by all their clientele (UK supermarkets often bottle and label their own wines from around Europe). These efforts involved something quite straightforward: translating the back labels of the wines into different languages. Except the languages they translated them into are some of the local dialects of the... continue reading


Vinography Images: Golden Globes

Golden Globes Andy's close-up images of grapes are really special. The translucency of the skin with the light shining through reminds me that each berry is this tiny little body, with its own anatomy and structure. Each golden globe is a complete system, a little planet unto itself. -- 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 drag that... continue reading


Wine Education as Big Business

In an already crowded field of certifications for wine knowledge, add one more: the Parker & Zraly Wine Certification courtesy of Robert Parker and Kevin Zraly. While no doubt well intentioned and likely to be filled with good questions (Kevin Zraly is a renowned wine educator) it's hard not to see this as more than yet another revenue stream in the Robert Parker empire. Did the world need another wine certification? I'd argue no, but who knows. Perhaps people will flock to this one, especially considering the barrier to entry is so low. The first set of eight exams costs... continue reading


Just Where Is That Winery, Exactly?

I'm in the middle of a book project. I've agreed to write a chapter in a big wine book that will cover all the major wine regions of the world and the top producers in each region. My area of responsibility will be Sonoma and Marin counties, which the book is combining into a single section. I'm enjoying the process of thoroughly combing through the region's wineries to select the several hundred that I get to highlight in the book, but in the process I'm running up against a conundrum. My charter is quite simple: list a bunch of Sonoma... continue reading


2007 Smith Madrone Riesling, Spring Mountain District, Napa

There are more legends, stories, fairytales, and fables than anyone could count that 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


PinotFest 2009 Tasting: November 21, San Francisco

One of the longest running wine tasting events in San Francisco is also one of its best. While the city often plays host to really huge public tastings like ZAP, Family Winemakers, and PinotDays, some of the better tastings are more intimate and focused. Both words appropriately describe PinotFest, a low key event held every year at Farallon Restaurant. Despite practically non-existent marketing or announcement, PinotFest quietly pulls together 50 or so top producers of West Coast Pinot Noir every year for a dedicated crowd of Pinot lovers in San Francisco. Attendees get nibbles from Farallon's kitchen, and access for... continue reading


Vinography Images: Fresh Fruit

Fresh Fruit I love the color in this image, and the bright wetness of the fruit and its motion into the destemmer. This fruit is alive and just waiting to be tasted. This is the top end of the destemmer, on the bottom end, each of these fat little blueberries will roll down the sorting table to be picked at by expert eyes and hands, ensuring that the fruit that is finally crushed (or dumped whole) into the fermenters is as pristine as possible. -- Alder Yarrow INSTRUCTIONS: Download this image by right-clicking on the image and selecting "save... continue reading


The Great Wine Writer Migration of 2008-2009?

Something unusual is happening in the world of wine writing. While not surprising given the disastrous conditions in the market for those who want to make a living writing about wine, this phenomenon prompts some reflection. In short: I'm beginning to notice folks who have heretofore made their living as journalists, wine writers, or wine critics are now taking jobs as PR and communication pros in the wine industry. Two moves that recently caught my eye were Lettie Teague's appointment as Director of Communications at the Italian Wine Merchant [she's since moved back to journalism - see comments below], and... continue reading


NV Henri Billiot "Cuvee Laetitia" Grand Cru Brut Champagne, Ambonnay, France

It seems that this week has me on a sparkling wine kick, and I see no reason to stop. As I often say (to myself and others who bother to listen): it took me a while to get here, but now I realize that we are all drinking far too little Champagne. These days, the whole world isn't drinking much Champagne, which is why the industry is in a bit of a crisis -- at least the really big players are. But this is not the wine of a big player. To say that Serge Billiot runs a small winery... continue reading


Farmer Fizz: Tasting the Terry Theise Champagne Portfolio

Ask most people to name a good Champagne, and most will likely stall after a couple of well known names like "Cristal" or "Dom Perignon." Like many industries, the world of Champagne (and at this point I'm not talking about sparkling wine in general, but literally the stuff from the Champagne region of France) is represented in the minds of many and the world media by a few mega-brands whose very identities have come to stand for Champagne, and who often literally eclipse many others with their popularity. By some estimates, however, there are more than 3500 producers within... 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

Off to Chile to Taste Some Wine Vinography Images: The Sphere Menu For Hope is Coming. Will You Donate a Wine Prize and Become Famous? Thanksgiving: No Wine is Too Good for Friends 2008 Grgich Hills Estate Fume Blanc, Napa Vinography Images: One Berry 2003 Descendientes de J. Palacios "Moncerbal," Bierzo, Spain What's Next? Wine Labels in Jive? Vinography Images: Golden Globes Wine Education as Big Business

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