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Krug: A Quintessence of Champagne

When, in 1989, Olivier Krug became the sixth generation of his family to work at the Champagne house that bears their name, his grandfather gave him a tattered, leather-bound book. "One day you have to read this," he said. The book was the personal journal of the house's founder, Joseph Krug. Krug thanked his grandfather and, with the casual disinterest of youth, put the book in a safe and promptly forgot about it for 20 years. By 2009, the winery had been sold to the luxury house of LVMH Moët Hennessy, and CEO Maggie Henríquez sat down with Krug... continue reading


Tasting Integrity: 25 Years of Corison Napa Cabernet

"This is how integrity tastes," I found myself concluding as I tasted through 25 years of Cathy Corison's efforts to express what she thinks her little patch of Napa Valley can say. In addition to meaning honest and upright, integrity means wholeness and completeness, and both definitions apply to Cathy's wines individually, and as a group of 25 vintages. The honesty expressed in these wines manifested as a transparency to the qualities of each vintage, and a willingness to let the fruit speak freely without a veneer of oak. But perhaps more impressive was the constancy of these wines.... continue reading


The Glory of 2013 Napa Cabernet: Tasting Premiere Napa Valley

Each year, the Napa Valley Vintners Association pulls out all the stops to host its annual fundraising event known as Premiere Napa Valley. Not to be confused with its star-studded charity auction in the spring (known as Auction Napa Valley), Premiere Napa Valley is a more focused event. All the bidders are ostensibly in the wine trade (retailers, distributors, etc.), while other attendees include the media and winery staff, and the proceeds from the auction of 225 unique lots of wine go to help fund the Vintners Association. The auction action at Premiere always serves as something of a... continue reading


MORIC: The Apogee of Blaufränkisch

"I am hardcore," says Roland Velich, describing his winemaking while lounging in the mid-century modern comfort of his living room, where the decor, the casual angle of his body and the informality of this tasting seem to belie this claim. But putting my nose in the outsized Burgundy glass I hold in front of me, and smelling an intoxicating perfume of crushed juniper, forest berries, and wet loam, I recognize, as I have every time I have had a chance to taste his wines, the fruits of an obsession that can easily bear up to that characterization. Like others... continue reading


The Beauty of 2011 Burgundy: Highlights from La Paulee de San Francisco

I don't drink nearly enough Burgundy. But that's not saying much. Most wine lovers without trust funds or best-friend-sommeliers might complain of the same thing. The region's really amazing wines are just too expensive for mere mortals to buy with any regularity. All of which is why I usually jump at the chance to attend the La Paulee de San Francisco event whenever it comes to San Francisco every couple of years. The La Paulee Grand Tasting provides an opportunity to taste a large amount of incredibly high quality Burgundy in an afternoon's walk around the Fairmont ballroom, with... continue reading


The Legendary Wines of Napa: Tasting Notes

Last weekend I had the singular pleasure of co-leading a tasting with the title Legends of Napa Valley. I wrote about my impressions of the tasting overall, and the lessons that it offered, such as they were, about the aging of Napa wines across the last five decades, as part of my monthly column for Jancis Robinson. Now that I'm done editorializing, we can get down to the wines themselves. Below I offer my tasting notes for every wine that we tasted, in the order we tasted them. We tasted in four flights, two each day. The start of every... continue reading


1988 Domaine de la Romanee-Conti La Tache Grand Cru, Burgundy

You don't get very far in a journey towards being a wine lover without hearing the words "Romanée-Conti" spoken with some combination of reverence and amazement. And in today's world of Asian fueled wine-auction speculation, even those with casual interest in wine have heard of this famous domaine. Equally referred to as both the best wines in the world and the most expensive, the wines produced by the small Domaine de la Romanée-Conti are inarguably some of the most revered and sought after wines in the world. Their price and scarcity mean that many wine lovers with modest means may... continue reading


1983 Schloss Schonborn Rudesheimer Bichofsberg Riesling Spatlese, Rheingau, Germany

Wine is the closest we come to alchemy. And ironically, the most magical transmutation that takes place within wine is almost entirely out of our control. Far be it for me to deny winemakers their due for what is surely the magical feat of assisting in the transformation of simple grapes into fluids that evoke things as exotic as mangos, lavender, chocolate, and wood smoke. But at least half of the magic in wine comes from what happens to it when we stop messing with it and leave it to its own devices for a decade or two. Aged Riesling,... continue reading


1957 R. Lopez de Heredia Viña Tondonia Blanco, Rioja, Spain

There are few wineries in Spain whose names conjure the heritage and prestige evoked by R. Lopez de Heredia. Don Rafael Lopez de Heredia was born in Santiago, Chile in 1857. At the age of 12 he was sent by his family to Spain to study with the Jesuits, and nearly became a doctor before discovering the world of business, leaving his brother Fernando to realize the family dream of having a doctor for a son. When he was 19 years old, Don Rafael arrived at the railway station in Haro, Spain suffused with the aromas of wine. The railway... continue reading


J.L. Chave, Mauve en Ardeche, France: Current Releases

Some places in this world are simply hallowed ground when it comes to winemaking. Of course every deep-rooted and honest winemaker treats his own land that way, but there are some places on earth that long ago transcended the brief attentions of mortal winemakers and instead exist in a pantheon of the world's greatest vineyard sites. No one knows exactly when the first vines were sunk into the impossibly steep granite hillsides in this particular elbow of the Rhone river valley, but in all likelihood there were grapes growing on the hillside now called Hermitage for more than five centuries... continue reading


1980 Soldera Case Basse Brunello Riserva, Montalcino, Italy

When I was a kid, I read a lot of science fiction. On long plane flights I still occasionally pick up a book to read, and I still get a thrill from letting my imagination explore the fantastic possibilities of the future. Perhaps it's a bit of a stretch as an analogy, but I get that same sort of thrill from exploring the world of wine. Every new wine offers an opportunity to discover and learn something new -- to recalibrate my own sense of possibility. On occasion, in my curiosity-driven stumbling through the world of wine, I come across... continue reading


Bond Estates, Napa: A Retrospective Tasting

Like the saying goes, if I had a nickel for every time I'd heard or read about a winery "sparing no expense" to get the "best possible fruit" to make the "best wine they could," I'd be a rich man. Winery owners and winemakers are like proud parents -- they see the best in their operations, and if they are aware of their flaws or shortcomings, when company is over, they put on their best face. After all, they're ultimately trying to sell wine. As someone who has spent a lot of time visiting wineries, and hearing the owners and... continue reading


Masuizumi Junmai Daiginjo, Toyama Prefecture

Many of us drink wine as a portal to a sense of place and time -- to be transported through flavor and aroma to a patch of land and the cumulative effects of a season under the sun in our glasses. No matter what your definition or personal religious stance on the concept of terroir, it cannot be denied that the best wines convey some sense of locality. Sake, on the other hand, tends to defy our traditional notions of terroir. Of course, there's certainly an analogue to wine's sense of place -- the specific spring water, the particular strain... continue reading


1988 Chateau Climens Sauternes-Barsac, Bordeaux, France

There are an endless number of formative wine experiences to provide enthusiastic wine lovers with memorable introductions to new levels of wine appreciation or knowledge. These moments, which are so easily to forget in a lifetime of serious wine drinking, should definitely be cherished in the same way we might hang onto the infant drawings of our children. Most wine lovers don't remember their first taste of Cabernet or Merlot. These early introductions to different varietals are best forgotten anyway, coming as they often do in bottles that could charitably be called "value priced." There is one type of wine,... continue reading


1961 Hospices de Beaune Emile Chandesais "Cuvée Rousseau Deslandes," Côte de Beaune, Burgundy

I will never be able to taste all the wines out there, no matter how hard I try, just as I'll never be able to travel to all the places I want to go in the world. Wine offers a landscape of exploration seemingly as varied as the world around us, and just as likely to offer up surprises and treasures to those who are intent enough, or lucky enough, to find them. Great wines sometimes just sneak up on you. They are like precious gems, or veins of gold. Many of the main sources are well known and consistently... continue reading


Tasting The Wine & Spirits Top 100 Wines

I don't believe in Top 100 lists, or any other list that purports to catalog the "Best Of" when it comes to wine. The criteria for even the best of such lists tend to be so muddled that there's no way for any list to offer any sort of authoritative judgment on the world of wine. Having said that, no matter what the publication, these sorts of lists inevitably have some good wines on them, so anyone prepared to ignore the rankings and just explore some of the offering can usually find some good stuff. It is with exactly this... continue reading


1988 Chateau de Beaucastel Chateauneuf-du-Pape, France

Wine, when at its most triumphant and expressive, nearly defies description. Some people speak of "perfect wines" which is always a problematic moniker, because the appreciation of wine is always contextual and always subjective. But there are some wines that have a magic to them -- from the instant they touch your lips to the residual memories that linger for days after their consumption. These wines bafflingly seem to be more than the sum of their parts, as if someone added two and three and got six -- they shine brighter and deeper than it seems possible for a simple... continue reading


1989 Fiorano (Boncompagni Ludovisi) Botte 48 Semillion, Roma, Italy

So what is a perfect wine, anyway? There are several answers to that question, one of my favorites being, "There are no perfect wines, only perfect bottles." Most folks who buy and drink their favorite wines with regularity know that some bottles just are better than others. Another answer to the question might be, "There are no perfect wines, just perfect tasting moments," where the wine drinker gets some celestial alignment between all things important to wine tasting -- the flavors of the wine, the environment of tasting, the company, and the food on the table. Finally, of course, I... continue reading


1997 Zind-Humbrecht "Clos Jebsal" Pinot Gris VT, Alsace

For anyone who drinks Alsatian wines on a regular basis, let alone someone who considers themselves a fan or an aficionado of the unique wines from this narrow slice of northeastern France, it's pretty much impossible to have a discussion about the area without the name Zind-Humbrecht coming up. While everyone is reticent to pronounce any one winery "the best" no matter which region you're talking about, many people would be hard pressed to find a reason why you couldn't say that Zind-Humbrecht has the position fairly well covered for Alsace. The Humbrecht family has a long history in winemaking,... continue reading


The Best Grenache in The World?: A Tasting With Robert Parker

"Grenache has basically been disregarded for the last century," said Robert M. Parker, Jr. on his recent visit to Napa where he conducted a tasting of 14 examples of the varietal with several dozen wine lovers at the Culinary Institute of America in St. Helena. The second annual guided tasting hosted by Parker to benefit a scholarship fund in his name to the recently opened Rudd Center for Wine Studies at the CIA, the event was an opportunity for Parker to talk about and taste some of the finest examples he knows of a varietal that he counts among his... continue reading


2001 Chateau Haut-Brion, Pessac-Leognan (Bordeaux), France

I've actually had a number of people tell me something approximating, "I just don't understand what all the fuss is about Bordeaux." I'll admit that early in my wine drinking career I felt much the same. I occasionally went to wine stores and spent twenty or thirty dollars to buy a wine that said Bordeaux on the label and enjoyed it, but without the heavens opening or the ground shaking beneath my feet. What was the big deal? In the last 7 or 8 years as my experience with wine has grown in depth and breath, and my ability to... continue reading


1995 Pride Mountain Vineyards Reserve Claret, Napa

OK. Time to trot out another one of the classics from the cellar. I try and review a range of wines here on Vinography (I try to drink a range of wines) and the wines of the last few days represent perhaps two ends of the spectrum I normally travel. Last week saw perhaps one of the best wines for under ten bucks I've ever had, and this wine represents one of the best California Cabernets I've ever had. I'm keeping myself happy, and hope you're learning in the process. Pride Mountain Vineyards is located at one of the oldest... continue reading


My Conversation With Robert M. Parker, Jr.

Regular readers know that I have both a good amount of respect for Robert Parker, the founder and author of the Wine Advocate Newsletter, as well as a tendency to strongly and vehemently disagree with him on occasion. So what happens when the world's most powerful critic and I get a chance to sit down and have a chat over some Syrah? I come away from the experience wishing everyone had a chance to do so. The man that comes across in the manila-colored pages of his newsletter, his books, and in other print vehicles, and the man I met... continue reading


1997 Heitz "Martha's Vineyard" Cabernet , Napa

What's life without a little splurging? What's California without a little Cabernet? California cabs put us on the map when it came to wine in the 1980's and they continue to be the most popular and expensive wines made in the US. This wine may be a classic example of both (popular and expensive), and it is most certainly a classic example of the category. Heitz Cellars is one of the original "cult" producers of wine in Napa. So consistent and revered are their wines, that their Cabernet is used by some collectors much like the Dow Jones Industrial Average... continue reading


2003 Domaine Tempier Bandol Rose, Bandol (Provence), France

It's almost futile to really try and do justice to Domaine Tempier as a vintner from any perspective -- historical, cultural, oenological. Certainly it's hard to do a better job than Kermit Lynch, the importer who is responsible for bringing their wines to the US and who wrote about them in his wonderful book Adventures on the Wine Route. So, rather than my feeble attempt, let me share with you some of what Lynch has to say about this producer from Bandol, the wine region which takes its name from a little tourist town on the Mediterranean coast. "Domaine Tempier... continue reading


2002 Adrian Fog "Savoy Vineyard" Pinot Noir, Sonoma

So you think you know a varietal. You've had it hundreds of times in its various and varied incarnations. Old World. New World. East Coast. West Coast. Avant Garde New World. Die Hard Puritan Old World. Super Snobby European Creme De La Creme. You name it, I've had it when it comes to Pinot Noir. Not that I'm an expert by any means, but I've definitely tasted my fair share of Pinots, from Burgundy to Beaverville, Oregon. I pretty much thought I knew what they taste like. But then along comes a wine that completely redefines the boundaries and standards... continue reading


2001 Rudd Proprietary Red, Oakville Estate

I've already reviewed the Rudd Jericho Canyon Red Blend here, and therefore I was excited when last week I had the pleasure of sampling the just bottled 2001 Rudd Oakville Proprietary Red. Even with high expectations I was impressed. This wine is quintessential in its poise, depth of character, and flavor. It tastes more like a Cabernet than a meritage, but has some lovely depth and dimension that you only get with a blend. I think they make something like 1200 cases of this stuff and it is immediately snapped up by the market with good reason. If you can... continue reading


2002 Aubert Chardonnay, Ritchie Vineyard, Sonoma Coast

Mark Aubert has quite the resume: Rutherford Hills, MontiCello Cellars, Peter Michael Winery, Colgin Cellars, and since 2000, proprietor of his own label. In the decade and a half that he's been making wines, he's churned out his share of blockbusters to the accolades of Parker and Tanzer and the rest. This week I had the opportunity to taste his recent efforts in the Chardonnay category, and even though this review is about only one of his wines, honestly I can't decide which one I like better. These wines also define a point where Mr. Parker and I see eye... continue reading


1998 Leeuwin Art Series Chardonnay - Margaret River

I've had a fondness in my heart for Australian Chardonnays since the first time I visited Tyrrell's winery and had their Vat 47 Chardonnay, which is a lovely, un-oaked, crisp mouthful of sunshine. Indeed, that wine has been one of my gold standards for Chardonnays. Until last night. A friend and client of mine took me out to Sushi Ran in Sausalito, and we packed a couple of wines along, including the Leeuwin. Tasting Notes: This wine was simply stellar in every sense of the word. The nose was bursting with gorgeous aromas of pineapple, clean and clear as its... 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

June 2016

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Most Recent Entries

Krug: A Quintessence of Champagne Tasting Integrity: 25 Years of Corison Napa Cabernet The Glory of 2013 Napa Cabernet: Tasting Premiere Napa Valley MORIC: The Apogee of Blaufränkisch The Beauty of 2011 Burgundy: Highlights from La Paulee de San Francisco The Legendary Wines of Napa: Tasting Notes 1988 Domaine de la Romanee-Conti La Tache Grand Cru, Burgundy 1983 Schloss Schonborn Rudesheimer Bichofsberg Riesling Spatlese, Rheingau, Germany 1957 R. Lopez de Heredia Viña Tondonia Blanco, Rioja, Spain J.L. Chave, Mauve en Ardeche, France: Current Releases

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