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~ January 2011 Archives ~



2011 SF Chronicle Wine Competition Tasting: February 19, San Francisco

If there is one public wine tasting event that rivals San Francisco's yearly ZAP Zinfandel tasting for sheer size and chaos, it could only be the annual SF Chronicle Wine Competition Tasting. Every year the San Francisco Chronicle (with a lot of help) holds a wine competition, judged by more than 60 wine professionals, in which they award medals to their top choices from among over 4,700 wines from all across America. This competition has grown over the last nine years to be the largest competitive tasting of American wines in the world. The judges hand out hundreds of medals... continue reading


Wine Competitions and Medals: A Panel at Vino2011

The signboard outside the door read: "Where have all the medals gone? Given the ubiquity of point ratings, do wine competitions still matter?" Thirty or forty of us assembled on Tuesday to hear the answer to those two questions as part of Vino2011, also known as Italian Wine Week. In service of the answer, W.R. Tish, a wine writer and blogger, had recruited the following panel of experts: Anthony Dias Blue -- Executive Director of the San Francisco International Wine Competition, lifestyle consultant, and author. Dan Berger -- Wine writer and organizer of the Riverside International Wine Competition. Alfonso Cevola... continue reading


Vinography Images: Pedro Jimenez

Pedro Jimenez Though this may look like an ordinary bunch of white grapes, it's really something much more special with an interesting story behind it. This grape variety is known as Pedro Jimenez in Chile (elsewhere known as Pedro Ximénez) and only a very small planting of this grape exists in Chile's far northern Elqui valley, where I believe it is used to make the distilled spirit called Pisco. Whenever I see a grape so clearly named after a person, I'm always super curious about the story. It turns out that this grape got its name from the guy... continue reading


The Future of Italian Wine: A Press Conference

It wasn't your usual press conference. OK, it did start with a diplomat regurgitating roughly the same speech he gave to a different group of people about two hours earlier, but from there it moved on to some very interesting people talking about Italian Wine. I'm here in New York at the Vino2011 conference (no, not with James Suckling). Vino2011 is the third annual Italian Wine Week celebration that both celebrates and promotes Italian wine in the United States. Last year I moderated a panel, this year I've just been given a pass (and a plane flight and hotel room)... continue reading


2011 Anderson Valley Alsace Festival: February 12-13, Boonville

With all the fanfare surrounding Cabernet and Pinot Noir coupled with the obsession this country seems to have with Chardonnay, it's sometimes hard for people to remember that California produces a lot of other different kinds of wine. It's even harder, it seems, to get people to drink some of it. Enter what may be the most unique wine festival in California and perhaps the country. Some of the most under-appreciated and least consumed wines in the state are those made from grapes like Gewurztraminer, Pinot Blanc, Pinot Gris, and Riesling. There aren't a lot of places in California where... continue reading


Results from the 2011 Vinography Reader Survey

First of all, thank you to all of you who bothered to fill out my online survey. It was a huge help. Six of you won tickets to the ZAP Zinfandel festival. I've sent you e-mails individually, so please check your inboxes and your spam bins (the subject line that includes the words "won tickets" might not look so healthy to your e-mail server). For the rest of you, I hope you go to the festival anyway, as it's a rollicking good time. The results from the survey range from expected, to interesting, to fairly surprising. Here's what I learned... continue reading


Vinography Images: Young Carmenere

Young Carmenere A budding leaf of new Carmenere growth bursts from a pruned cane. Carmenere has accidentally become Chile's signature grape. Imported early in the 19th Century to Chile by Bordeaux wine growers, it was mistaken for Merlot for more than a century before being properly identified for what it was. Carmenere is one of the more ancient French grape varieties, and is suspected of being an early clonal variety of Cabernet Franc. Despite being one of the historic components of Bordeaux, it is now grown almost exclusively in Chile. -- Alder Yarrow INSTRUCTIONS: Download this image by right-clicking... continue reading


Seven Hills Winery, Walla Walla, Washington: Current Releases

We're funny, us humans. We like to draw these imaginary lines on the earth and give names to the places on either side, and then we treat those figments of our imaginations like they mean something. The mental model of a map becomes so ingrained in us that when we look at the world around us, its as if we can see those imaginary lines. Grapes, of course, don't care much for maps. They like to grow where they like to grow, just as the soil that makes this so meanders without regard to the political boundaries we draw in... continue reading


Book Review: Wine by Thomas Pellechia

Review by Tim Patterson Unlike the fads and fancies and 15-minute trends that come with every new vintage, the history of wine tends to stay put: the wine gods from ancient Greece and Rome don't get dethroned retroactively, and the 1855 classification of properties in Bordeaux, for better or for worse, said what it said. So even though Thomas Pellechia's Wine has been around for a while, it hasn't gone out of date, and it still provides an excellent read for anyone curious about the complex interplay between this amazing beverage and the history of the world. As the subtitle... continue reading


2006 Shafer Vineyards "Hillside Select" Cabernet Sauvignon, Stag's Leap District, Napa

Napa Cabernet is getting a pretty bad rap these days from ordinary wine consumers, and from the economy as a whole. In some ways it has fallen from a pinnacle that may never be reached again -- a place where people really didn't blink an eye about paying $200 for a bottle of California wine. While sales are down a little, they are picking up, and even in the darkest hours of the global financial meltdown, top Napa wines continued to sell, even if just barely. At this point while there are probably less people willing to shell out more... continue reading


Vinography Turns Seven

There's some sort of reality distortion in our brains that keeps us from being able to observe our own aging process. It happens so slowly and so gradually, and in our heads we're always the same person, so the passage of time seems surreal. That's a little how I feel as Vinography turns seven years old this weekend. I can hardly believe that I've been doing this wine writing thing for that long. It's a little strange. I remember when the idea of starting Vinography first occurred to me, as a way of both digitizing my somewhat obsessive note taking... continue reading


Vinography Images: Vineyard Poppies

Vineyard Poppies California Poppies are soon to come on the rapidly greening hillsides of Northern California as we turn the corner towards Spring. Of course in the Southern Hemisphere, fruit is hanging heavy on the vine a couple of months before harvest. But a Spring-like mood drew me to this image from the Casa Lapostolle Clos Apalta winery in Chile. -- 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... continue reading


Boston Wine Expo 2011: January 22-23, Boston

Wine lovers in Beantown, listen up. Right about now you may be wondering just what you're doing freezing your keisters off in the depths of yet another winter. But January provides at least one good reason: the Boston Wine Expo. There are very few reasons that I'd venture out to Boston in the middle of winter, but let me tell you, the Boston Wine Expo is almost enough of a reason for me to jet on out there from San Francisco. Almost, but not quite. However, if I lived anywhere within 100 miles of the Boston, I would be at... continue reading


2009 Dancing Coyote Gewurztraminer, Clarksburg, California

I try to taste widely. I'm always excited when I come across wines from regions that I haven't heard of before, especially when those regions are in my back yard. It's been a few years since I first spotted the region "Clarksburg" on a California wine, but that first experience with a Grenache Blanc from the region made me sit up and pay attention. Since then I've been pleased to gradually see more wines appearing from the region. The Clarksburg AVA (American Viticultural Area) has been called California's "secret appellation" because so few have heard of it, yet its grapes... continue reading


20th Annual ZAP Zinfandel Tasting: January 27-29, San Francisco

It's that time of year again. I know of no other event that seems to bring out the inner wine lover in so many San Franciscans more than the annual ZAP (Zinfandel Advocates and Producers) Festival. It never ceases to amaze me how many people turn out with such enthusiasm for this single varietal festival. Don't get me wrong. I love Zinfandel -- unabashedly so. But I tend to forget how many other people do too. Especially those that live in San Francisco. Of course it's not just San Franciscans that turn out for this one-of-a-kind weekend. People come from... continue reading


Take the Vinography Reader Survey (and Win Tickets to ZAP!)

It's been a long time since I found out anything about my readers, other than the glimpses I get of you from your comments here. In fact, that last time I conducted a survey was a mere 18 months after I started blogging, when there were still only about a couple dozen wine blogs on the Internet. A lot has changed since then, but I'm still here plonking away, expressing my passion for wine by writing here every day. But I'm curious about who you are, how you got here, and why. So I'm hoping I can convince you to... continue reading


Vinography Images: Young Cabernet

Young Cabernet In the Casablanca valley, a lone tree is surrounded by young Cabernet Sauvignon vines, just emerging from their protective covers. The first plantings of Cabernet (or anything else for that matter) in Chile were traditionally on the flat, easy-to-farm land, but increasingly ambitious winemakers are pursuing hillside vineyards. That is, when they have access to the water to do so. At this point, the water rights to irrigate this vineyard probably cost more than the land itself. -- Alder Yarrow INSTRUCTIONS: Download this image by right-clicking on the image and selecting "save link as" or "save target... continue reading


Domaine Seguin-Manuel, Beaune, France: Current Releases

My recent trip to Burgundy was an exploration of the Burgundy of tradition and heritage, as well as the Burgundy of a new generation. While I thrilled to visit sixth generation vignerons working in their family cellars as many generations had before, under the same name, and with the same parcels of grapes, I was also interested in the (somewhat less common) new ventures. Such new ventures are rare, simply because vineyard plots are so difficult to get ahold of, thanks in part to the strict laws of inheritance and the relative scarcity of the vineyards to begin with. While... continue reading


Pinot Days Southern California Tasting: January 15, Los Angeles

Wine festivals in Southern California, and especially in Los Angeles, aren't particularly plentiful, for reasons I don't entirely understand. There are plenty of wine lovers in LA, but the large public wine events that make such frequent appearances in San Francisco, and increasingly in New York, just don't seem to make it down the West Coast. Two years ago, the Pinot Days Festival came to Los Angeles, and has started what appears to be a dedicated annual event, giving SoCal Pinot lovers a reason to celebrate. This year's Grand Tasting will offer the opportunity to taste more than 400 Pinot... continue reading


Vinography Loves Sediment In Wine. You Should, Too.

While many are celebrating (even fawning) over the new wine bottle design by chef Martín Berasategui that hit the news today, I'm bemoaning the fact that it solves a problem that didn't need solving. This new bottle design, which is indeed quite clever, introduces a sharp indentation towards the bottom of the bottle that would (in theory) prevent any sediment that was in the bottom of the bottle from being poured into the wine as the bottle neared empty. The efficacy of the design in the real world will likely be less than perfect, especially when much sediment accumulates in... continue reading


My Burgundy Nights: Tasting Notes from Les Trois Glorieuses

I've written already about my experiences as a first timer at the Hospices du Beaune in November, the events known as Les Trois Glorieuses and in particular the incredibly orgy of wine drinking that is La Paulee de Meursault. For seven or eight hours (the longest lunch you may ever have) more incredible wine is opened up than any sane human being really knows what to do with. I admit to being completely charmed by the event. I've never attended such a raucous, convivial party of wine lovers, where such great wine flowed so freely. Strangers share their most precious... 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.

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Most Recent Entries

2011 SF Chronicle Wine Competition Tasting: February 19, San Francisco Wine Competitions and Medals: A Panel at Vino2011 Vinography Images: Pedro Jimenez The Future of Italian Wine: A Press Conference 2011 Anderson Valley Alsace Festival: February 12-13, Boonville Results from the 2011 Vinography Reader Survey Vinography Images: Young Carmenere Seven Hills Winery, Walla Walla, Washington: Current Releases Book Review: Wine by Thomas Pellechia 2006 Shafer Vineyards "Hillside Select" Cabernet Sauvignon, Stag's Leap District, Napa

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