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~ September 2010 Archives ~



Winemaker Sues Anonymous Commenters on Wine Blog

About a month ago, my friend and fellow wine writer Blake Gray wrote a piece on his blog about a visit with Charles Smith of K Vintners in Washington. Smith is a larger than life winemaker with a reputation that is even larger (and more controversial). Several anonymous commenters on Blake's piece took swipes at Smith, and Blake announced today that Smith is suing those commenters and requesting that Google (who hosts Blake's blog) disclose the IP addresses of those anonymous commenters so they can be brought to court. I don't know about you, but this is damn interesting stuff.... continue reading


2007 Hess Collection "Allomi Vineyard" Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa

I can still remember my first wine tasting trip to the Napa Valley. I'm young, so it wasn't that long ago -- probably 1997 or so. Having been born and grown up in Sonoma County, most of my first winery visits as a legal drinker were there. But given my growing love of wine, my girlfriend at the time arranged a trip up to Napa with some friends and I gamely went along for the ride. The first place we stopped was, and remains, one of the cooler wineries in Napa. These days I continue to send those who ask... continue reading


Wine and Spirits Top 100 Tasting: October 13, 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


Vinography Images: Vines and Sky

Vines and Sky One of the things that makes wine so magical is the alchemy that it embodies. The vine's ability to fuse the products of earth and sky into something that somehow can express the sunlight and the soil is fantastic and amazing. When I look at vineyard landscapes I always see the sky as a foil for the vineyard, the matrix in which the green gem of the vineyard is embedded. The vineyard in the photo is a plot of Pinot Noir from Vina Tabali La Serena in Chile's Limari wine region. -- Alder Yarrow INSTRUCTIONS: Download... continue reading


The Wine Super Villain Strikes

Seems like every few months the news carries the story of some wine theft. Whether it's a mentally ill woman stealing wine from a gas station mini mart, or high profile thefts of bottles worth thousands of dollars, the concept is pretty well understood. Sneak in or break in, grab some bottles, and make a run for it. Given how common wine theft is, I'm not sure whether it's the sign of a mastermind or a madman when someone steals the grapes before they're even made into wine. Maybe what we're dealing with here is a wine Super Villain --... continue reading


Where is All the Deeply Discounted Champagne?

Every day, I get e-mails with wines being offered at more and more outrageous prices. What you can get for $20 now astounds me, from Napa and Washington State Cabernet to Brunello di Montalcino. Hell, I got a 1978 Brunello di Montalcino for little more than $20 recently. That's just a little bit insane. It's not just the flash sale web sites. It's everywhere. While the newspapers are printing stories about how the wine world is weathering the recession pretty well, the offers that I am getting (and I'm subscribed to maybe 5 or 6 retailer's e-mail lists) tell a... continue reading


Masters of Wine Champagne Tasting 2010: September 27, San Francisco

I never liked Champagne until I had the really good stuff. For years I went to weddings and New Year's Eve bashes and dutifully tried all the bubbly, but didn't see what the fuss was about. My lack of experience with quality Champagne was understandable, given how much money I, and the people I hung out with, were typically spending on bubbly. It's a sad reality of the wine world that by and large most quality Champagne starts at about $35 to $40 a bottle, and the really good stuff starts in the $60 to $80 price range. Once I... continue reading


Dry Creek Vineyard, Healdsburg, CA: Some Current Releases

Driving through California's wine country, with its carefully manicured vineyards carpeting huge swaths of the countryside, it's easy to imagine that people have been growing grapes there for centuries. Indeed, in many places in Northern California, the first vineyards sprang up in the middle to late 1800's and a thriving wine industry along with them. But what most people forget, if they ever knew, is that the California wine industry suffered several decades that were the equivalent to Europe's Dark Ages. First, 99.9% of the vineyards were wiped out by the Phylloxera epidemic that swept through around the turn of... continue reading


Vinography Images: Vines in Autumn

Vines in Autumn Harvest has begun in many places in the northern hemisphere as autumn is fast approaching. Soon the vines will look like these, from Chile's Maule Valley. We don't get many trees changing color here in the Bay Area, so colors like this are what we have to be satisfied with for Autumn. -- 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... continue reading


Book Review: Reading Between The Wines by Terry Theise

I can honestly say that of all the people in the wine world that hadn't written books, the one I wished most to do so was Terry Theise. And now that he has? Well, let's hope he doesn't stop at one. Terry Theise is not a name that will ring a bell with the average wine drinker. But to many a serious wine lover, especially those acquainted with the wines of Germany, Austria, and the back roads of Champagne, Theise is a rock star of a wine importer. His portfolio of wines, focused exclusively on those three regions, is one... continue reading


2010 FallFest Wine and Food Tasting: October 9, San Francisco

Once upon a time in this country, back when we didn't buy our food and instead we grew it, Autumn was a time for celebration. If we were lucky, or good at farming, we'd be able to celebrate a bountiful harvest of food that might sustain us through the winter. Other than our Thanksgiving holiday, which isn't so much a harvest celebration as much as it is a commemoration of not starving to death thanks to the charity of Native Americans, we don't have much of a national tradition in this country of celebrating the harvest. Elsewhere in the world... continue reading


The World's Best Sake: Tasting at the Joy of Sake Soiree 2010

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


Lake County People's Choice Wine Awards Tasting: September 26, Lower Lake, CA

A few weeks ago I participated as a judge in a somewhat unusual wine tasting competition. My job, and the job of the rest of the judges present, was to taste most of the wines currently being made in Lake County, and select the top few examples of different kinds of wine so that these "finalists" could be presented to the public, who would eventually determine the "winners" of the competition. The People's Choice Awards of Lake County are somewhat unique in the world of wine competitions. Instead of critics bestowing their all important scores on wines, or state fairs... continue reading


Vinography Images: The Cellar

The Cellar Old wine cellars are magical places. One of my favorite smells in the world is the damp woody winey smell of a barrel cellar. And when they have the patina of ancient use like this cellar at Casillero del Diablo in Chile, they're a feast for the eyes as well. -- 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... continue reading


2008 Outpost Grenache, Howell Mountain, Napa

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 (going... continue reading


There Will Be Blood

True grievance or flagrant publicity stunt? Lawyers are revving their engines as domestic diva Martha Stewart is rumored to be sued by Vampire Vineyards for what the gossip rags quote "to disparage and tarnish [Vampire's] wine brands by portraying a mock label of Vampire Vineyards affixed to cheap, non-descript wine and spirits products." Furthermore, and not necessarily quoted from a reliable source, the rumors suggest that the lawsuit also alleges that Stewart is engaging in this "smear campaign" to further sales of her own branded wine that the Gallo company produces for her. After a little digging online, it looks... continue reading


For Pete's Sake, Don't Throw Out That Wine!

In the course of trolling the Internet for all things wine, I recently came across a remarkable statistic: UK consumers throw away around 50 million liters of wine per year, valued at around $726 million. That's a lot of wine being poured down the sink. The British supermarket chain that reported this statistic, presumably from some study they had done, suggests that it is due "in part, to Brits not knowing how long it stays fresh in open bottles and too much wine being served at a time." Leaving aside for the moment the fact that the people reporting this... continue reading


Lake County's Best Wines: Tasting the People's Choice Awards

Those of you who follow this blog closely know that a few weeks ago I played hooky from work and drove over the mountain into Lake County to be a judge for the Lake County People's Choice Wine Awards. Now, wine competitions are definitely not my thing, in general, but this competition was an interesting one because we weren't giving out any of the medals I so despise; because we were just narrowing the field of wines to a few top wines per category that the public then gets to taste blind and judge themselves; and finally because more than... continue reading


Vinography Images: The Old Way

The Old Way Vineyards have gone through several evolutions in how they are planted. At first, the vines were planted willy-nilly, at incredibly high densities, and were only (could only) be worked by hand. Then as the use of horses became common in European agriculture, the vineyards were replanted in regular rows to allow them to be worked in just the same way as this picture from the Apalta Valley demonstrates. Some, like this gentleman, still choose to work vineyards this way, even as vineyards are now planted with spacing to allow tractors between the rows. -- Alder Yarrow... continue reading


2007 Anaba Pinot Noir, Sonoma Coast

One of my greatest pleasures remains my "discovery" of small new wineries, and the opportunity to watch them mature over time. Of course, three vintages isn't exactly a lot of time to watch a winery mature, but it's quite exciting to see the third vintage of a winery that seemed to hit it out of the ballpark with their very first release. A couple of years ago some bottles 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 Rhone... 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.

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Most Recent Entries

Winemaker Sues Anonymous Commenters on Wine Blog 2007 Hess Collection "Allomi Vineyard" Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Wine and Spirits Top 100 Tasting: October 13, San Francisco Vinography Images: Vines and Sky The Wine Super Villain Strikes Where is All the Deeply Discounted Champagne? Masters of Wine Champagne Tasting 2010: September 27, San Francisco Dry Creek Vineyard, Healdsburg, CA: Some Current Releases Vinography Images: Vines in Autumn Book Review: Reading Between The Wines by Terry Theise

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