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~ February 2011 Archives ~



The Best Cabernet in Napa: Tasting at Premiere Napa Valley 2011

One of my favorite events each year involves the opportunity to sample some of the best wines that Napa produces in a given vintage. At Premiere Napa Valley, an auction that serves as the world's most expensive "bake sale" to support the efforts of the non-profit Napa Valley Vintners Association, journalists like me get a chance to sneak a taste of hundreds of unique wines that are purchased by the nation's top wine retailers at staggeringly high prices. This year, as every year, 200 member wineries each crafted a unique auction lot of wine that in most cases represents the... continue reading


Vinography Images: Colchagua Sky

Colchagua Sky Sometimes I like to think of grapes as the permeable membrane that separates the earth from the sky. They take in the sunlight and the air and they channel the water and the soil into their leaves and fruit. Which makes wine a bit of bottled sunshine, and the chemical embodiment of a season's weather. This photo shows the dramatic Chilean sky above the Colchagua valley. -- 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... continue reading


A Short Conversation Between Wine Writers About Wine as Art. Or Not.

If there's one thing that Twitter is good for, it's having meta conversations quietly in a room full of people talking about something else. Yesterday I posted Gerald Asher's keynote speech to the Symposium for Professional Wine Writers. Towards the end of that speech he said something which sparked a conversation between a few of us attendees on Twitter. He made the statement: "I'm not very sympathetic to the world of wine criticism. It's not like music criticism, or any of the arts" in response to my question about whether he distinguished wine writing and wine criticism. The resulting silent... continue reading


Gerald Asher on Wine Writing

This week I'm living in two worlds. Not by choice mind you, but mostly because I can't leave the day job fully behind, ever. But most of my brain is here in Napa at the Symposium for Professional Wine Writers. This morning we began the symposium in earnest with two keynote sessions ("Why have one when you can have two," said director Jim Gordon?) one from author and magazine editor Dominique Browning, and the other from wine writer Gerald Asher. I'm going to share my notes from Asher's remarks first, mostly because they touch on the ongoing discussion that surrounds... continue reading


The Purpose of Tasting Notes

Eric Asimov, wine writer for the New York Times, and I agree on a lot of things, but we have quite divergent opinions about a subject that is near and dear to Eric's heart: tasting notes. Actually, tasting notes aren't near and dear to Eric's heart, rather, the opposite is true. He is a big proponent for the elimination, or at the very least a complete reformation, of tasting notes as a vehicle for communication about wine. Eric's point of view, which we have discussed over many bottles of wine, comes down to the fact that he feels the strings... continue reading


The Wines of Alsace in Anderson Valley: Tasting Notes

My first memories of Alsace? A confusing little strip of land that the Germans and the French kept fighting over. Somehow the grade-school history lesson never quite resolved itself, as I had lingering uncertainty for many years about which country this beautiful little wine region had ended up in. But many years later, I got my first taste of the wines of Alsace and I started to pay a lot more attention to this unique wine region in northeast France. Subsequently, I have fallen in love with the region through its wines, and I harbor deep seated fantasies of a... continue reading


California's Best Zinfandel: Notes from the ZAP 2011 Tasting

Ah, Zinfandel. The all-American grape that fuels much passion in the Bay Area. The annual ZAP Zinfandel festival draws crowds bigger than most other wine events, even in the midst of a tough economy. Truth be told, this year continued the slightly mellower note of last year's tasting, with fewer producers and fewer attendees, though no shortage of great juice was to be had. One of the reasons, it seems to me, that the public gets so excited about Zinfandel is that the wine refuses to be taken too seriously. While there are certainly a few cult Zinfandels that are... continue reading


Vinography Images: The Harvest Race

The Harvest Race If you've never seen workers racing to get the harvest in, lugging 20 kilogram boxes of grapes at a rapid clip you're missing something of the picture of all the hard work that goes into wine. Harvesting is back-breaking work, even when you're not carrying the grapes on your head, like this worker at Casa Lapostolle's 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... continue reading


Fight For Your Right to Write....About Wine

Much to-do has been made over the past week or two of Robert Parker's handing over his responsibilities for reviewing California wines at The Wine Advocate. By handing the mantle to Antonio Galloni, he further reduced his influence in the world of wine, and increased the focus on (and speculation about) the growing responsibilities of his staff of contributors. Amidst speculation as to whether anyone can step in to fill the void that may be left by the waning power of Robert Parker, many are increasingly paying attention to the activities of James Suckling, who recently left the Wine Spectator... continue reading


Thoughts on the Wines of Alsace and Their Cousins

Last weekend I decamped with the family to the brightly greening hills of the Anderson Valley. Every time I go to Anderson Valley, I realize I have forgotten how beautiful it is, especially in the throes of approaching Spring. The vines are still bare, as are the oaks, but the newborn lambs and their new grasses both frolic when the sun is out. I was in the valley for the International Alsace Varietals Festival -- a celebration of the wines made in (and in the style of) France's Alsace region. That means wines made of Riesling, Pinot Blanc, Gewurztraminer, Pinot... continue reading


Vinography Images: Hall of Barrels

Hall of Barrels This is a view down one of the long arms of the Miguel Torres Real wine cellar in Spain. The Torres family runs one of Spain's most well known wine dynasties, stretching back to their founding in 1870. The Torres name is now prominent on three continents, Europe, South America, and The U.S. -- 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... continue reading


The Dumbest Austrian Imaginable

It never ceases to amaze me how stupid human beings can get. The latest example of the nadir of our sense and sensitivity? Someone took an axe to one of the world's oldest grapevines, a singular vine thought to be at least 500 years-old and the likely ancestor of the grape variety we know as Gruner Veltliner. This is the first I've heard of this vine, which was apparently discovered in 2000 outside the village of St. Georgen. As the news story which related it's destruction notes, it had survived several wars, the scourge of phylloxera, droughts, and who knows... continue reading


2011 Dark and Delicious Petite Sirah Tasting: February 18, Alameda, CA

I've referred to it in the past as "the beast." Possessing tannins that need to be tamed through intelligent winemaking, Petite Sirah can truly be a monster of a wine. One of the least-well-known red grape varieties that are commonly grown in California, it does not command legions of rabid followers like those who attended last week's ZAP Zinfandel festival, or the loyal drinkers of Cabernet, or even those who swear by Syrah, from which it takes its misleading name. In the right hands, however, Petite Sirah can be a stunning wine -- deep, resonant, and rich. Petite Sirah has... continue reading


2009 Patton Valley Vineyards Rosé of Pinot Noir, Willamette Valley, Oregon

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 five years ago to arrive at the little operation that is Patton Valley... continue reading


9th Annual Pinot Noir Summit: February 26, San Francisco

Every January, unbeknownst to most wine consumers, a group of wine writers, sommeliers, and other wine industry professionals spend many the entire month doing nothing but tasting Pinot Noir. Over many successive days, through rigorous double-blind tastings, these judges whittle down hundreds of Pinot Noirs from all over the world (though mostly California and Oregon) to a select final few. This process is called the Pinot Noir Shootout, and it is put on every year by an organization called Affairs of The Vine. I have participated as a judge for this event in the past and lived to tell the... continue reading


The End of an Era: Robert Parker Stops Reviewing California Wine

Most that follow the wine world closely, knew this day was going to come, but many, including myself would not have thought so soon. In an e-mail to subscribers today, Robert M. Parker, Jr. announced that he was handing over primary responsibility for reviewing California wines to his associate Antonio Galloni. Parker will continue to conduct vertical and other special tastings of California wine, but the regular critical coverage has been ceded to Galloni. I first learned of this announcement this morning on a site called the Wine Cellar Insider, run by a gentleman by the name of Jeff Leve,... continue reading


New York Wine Expo 2011: February 25-26, New York City

OK New Yorkers, listen up. Most of the time, America looks your way with envy. You've got the best restaurants, the best films, the best theater, the best art scene, it goes on and on. But one thing you ain't got so much of is good public wine tasting events. Which is why there's always a bit of jealousy in the voices of my friends in New York when we talk about the wine events that happen every month or so here in San Francisco. So here's your chance to fix that in a big way: The New York Wine... continue reading


Vinography Images: Against the Andes

Against the Andes All my favorite wine regions around the world have at least one unique feature, apart from their wines, that make them special. It's hard to miss Argentina's -- the incredible backdrop that the Andes play to the gentle sloping plateau of Mendoza wine country is one of the wine world's greatest vistas. The view is so stunning, it might actually make the wine taste even better than it does naturally. -- 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... continue reading


Domaine Jean Chartron, Puligny-Montrachet: 2009 Barrel Samples

One of the most characteristic qualities of the Burgundian wine experience is missing for visitors to the village of Puligny-Montrachet. Because of the shallowness of the water table, none of the winemakers have cellars. So instead of tramping down into an ancient cellar, you're more likely to be taken "around back" to the barrel shed, or some variation thereof. What the village lacks in ancient stone cellars, it makes up for in quality wine, of course. The little village (which today still has less than 1000 inhabitants) takes its name from its Roman designation Puliniacus, where vines were planted at... continue reading


Why Trust a Wine Blogger?

This is the first blog entry (of thousands) in the seven years I've been writing, where I am actually writing an article about a press release that was sent to me. I mention that simply because it's worth noting how generally worthless most press releases are to me, and how little inspiration they provide to write anything. This press release wasn't from a winery, however, it was from an organization called Wine Intelligence, that conducts surveys and analyzes trends in the wine industry. They recently conducted a survey that purports to examine the level of trust that wine drinkers have... 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

The Best Cabernet in Napa: Tasting at Premiere Napa Valley 2011 Vinography Images: Colchagua Sky A Short Conversation Between Wine Writers About Wine as Art. Or Not. Gerald Asher on Wine Writing The Purpose of Tasting Notes The Wines of Alsace in Anderson Valley: Tasting Notes California's Best Zinfandel: Notes from the ZAP 2011 Tasting Vinography Images: The Harvest Race Fight For Your Right to Write....About Wine Thoughts on the Wines of Alsace and Their Cousins

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