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~ Recently in Ramblings and Rants Category ~

 

07.04.2015

Brand vs. Terroir in Wine

Fuissé, one of Burgundy's picturesque villages. This week gave anyone interested in wine the opportunity to observe an almost perfect dichotomy of what we think of as "value" in the industry. This morning, UNESCO announced that the 1,247 climats (individual named vineyard sites) of Burgundy has been declared a World Heritage Site. This designation (though not the first in the wine world -- the vineyards of Austria's Wachau, Italy's Piedmont and Hungary's Tokaj regions are already on the list, and Champagne was also added today) represents an incredibly significant declaration of cultural value. In effect, the locations and artifacts on... continue reading

07.01.2015

Listen Up!! I'll Drink to That on Vinography

We live in a golden age of wine content. There have never been more ways to read about wine, learn about wine, and otherwise simmer in thoughts and ideas about wine at any time in history. Whereas wine commentary used to be dominated by several prominent voices, now there are thousands. Perhaps more importantly, there are more people to directly engage with about wine than ever before as well. The sommelier scene is exploding. After a period of much consolidation, it seems like distributors and importers are now popping up like mushrooms after an autumn rain, and we see... continue reading

06.18.2015

America's Most Peculiar Appellation

To say that the economy of California's Yuba County peaked during the Gold Rush and has been in slow decline ever since would not be much of an exaggeration. This sparsely populated area of the state has been among California's poorest regions for decades. Yet seemingly out of the blue in 1985, it became home to one of the very first few American Viticultural Areas (AVAs) in the country, and by then already housed the single largest vineyard in the entire state. The story of the North Yuba AVA sounds like something out of a satirical novel: a famous... continue reading

06.13.2015

What's Holding Wine Back in America

I guess by now I should not be surprised at the vitriol that wine sometimes inspires, especially given that people have been killed over it through the ages. But nonetheless, many of us currently live in a bubble where everyone enjoys wine and we think it's the most natural thing to drink, love, and explore it. But not everyone feels that way. In fact, some people feel quite the opposite. Perhaps in the heat of recent political races you heard right-wing commentators using the adjective "wine drinking" to characterize their despised opponents? Not everyone thinks of wine as just... continue reading

06.12.2015

The World's First Wine Bar

Scientists have long known that our relationship with booze goes back a ways, so to speak. This past year, they traced our genetic predisposition to digest alcohol back to at least 10 million years in our past. To put that 10 million years in perspective, that's about when we were known to separate (or speciate, as the technical term would have it) from the lineage of great apes. This fact may also mean that wine bars may have exploded on the scene about 10 million years ago. Of course, they looked a bit different back then than they do now.... continue reading

06.03.2015

Secrets of the World's Best Wine Lists

Up until this year, I had been a strong admirer and customer of great wine lists, but had never had an occasion to truly analyze them or compare them. I had come across great lists in my travels around the world, but hadn't spent a lot of time thinking about what made them great other than that they had wines on them that I wanted to drink. My point of view about great wine lists, to paraphrase Supreme Court Justice Stewart and perhaps oversimplify slightly, was simply that I knew one when I saw one. That all changed this... continue reading

05.24.2015

The Great Prosecco Crisis of 2015

Have you noticed something strange recently? Look closely at all those Millennials you see around you in the bars and restaurants across America. They might seem like their normal, skinny-jean-wearing, ride-sharing, out-for-drinks-with-friends selves, but observe carefully, and you'll see more than a few of them trembling in fear, their faces masking a rising wave of terror. This kind of brittle facade will be familiar to anyone who has observed the effects of PTSD first hand, but for most it may come as a shock. Today we find ourselves in the midst of a cresting wave of near-hysteria for an... continue reading

05.20.2015

California's Other Seven Percent

Most major wine regions of the world have come to be dominated by a select few grape varieties. In Europe, of course, the appellation system itself ensures this kind of varietal particularity from region to region. France's most recent survey of plantings (in 2011) indicated that eight grape varieties (only two of them pale-skinned) make up 64% of the country's plantings. While the wine regions in the New World lack the centuries of specialisation that have led to the indelible ties between Chenin Blanc and the Loire or Pinot Noir and Burgundy, for example, that doesn't mean New World... continue reading

04.27.2015

Imagining a Better Future for the Soils of Champagne

In Champagne, like in many of the world's most famous wine regions, vineyard land has become egregiously expensive. According to winemakers I spoke with on my recent visit, one hectare (about 2.5 acres) now sells for more than 1.5 million euros. Prices for grand cru vineyards go even higher. As I walked through the grand cru vineyards in the famed Cote des Blancs region near the picturesque village of Avize, in addition to simply enjoying my first stroll through a terroir I had tasted many times, I found myself experiencing another emotion I never would have expected to feel... continue reading

04.23.2015

Book Signing on May 9th, at Raymond Vineyards in Napa

Hello everyone, especially you there in Napa and surrounding environs. I'm coming to town to do a book signing on May 9th at Raymond Vineyards. For those of you who don't know Raymond, it is one of jewels in the portfolio of Jean-Charles Boisset, and a remarkable property in many respects, not least of which include the many rich sensory experiences they offer visitors. Raymond, therefore, is quite the appropriate setting for me to do a book signing with The Essence of Wine. From Noon to 4:00 PM, I'll be hanging out in the Red Room, the lushly appointed velvet... continue reading

04.22.2015

Doorman: Changing My Wine Delivery Life

The points of intersection between my day job life in the world of Silicon Valley technology and design and my night job here in wine are few and far between. But every once in a while the two collide in a spectacularly useful fashion. As a User Experience designer by trade, nothing delights me more than when someone uses today's (or even better, tomorrow's) technology to solve a truly annoying problem in everyday life. The feeling of satisfaction we get from apps like Uber or Luxe are great examples of those "it's about time someone came up with a better... continue reading

04.15.2015

Going Dry In California

On 1 April, while the rest of the country was engaged in harmless pranks, California's governor Jerry Brown was getting serious. Reports were coming in from government agencies that the Sierra Mountains snow pack, the source for most of the state's drinking water, was somewhere between 6 and 8% of normal, the first time in history it had ever fallen to a single digit. Later that day he issued an unprecedented executive order affecting the entire state of California. Effective immediately, every municipality in the state was going to be forced to reduce its water usage by 25%. 'A distinct... continue reading

04.11.2015

Off to Taste Champagne!

i've been lucky enough to spend some of my time writing about wine for the past 11 years. In the course of this secondary career of sorts, I've traveled to almost every continent to visit wine regions all over the globe. Of course, there are still a bunch of major wine regions I have not been to. There's only so much time I can spend traveling around the world without abusing the goodwill of my day job, let alone my wife. Today, however, I get to tick off one of the glaring omissions in my travels. Thanks to the... continue reading

03.30.2015

Vinography a Finalist in the 2015 Saveur Blog Awards

I'm quite pleased to announce that Vinography is a finalist in the 2015 Saveur Magazine Blog Awards in the category of Wine Coverage. My competition for this year's award could just as easily be the guest list for my next dinner party. I'm joined as a finalist this year by Jameson Fink, Lily Elaine Hawk Wakawaka, Alice Feiring, Aaron Ayscough, and Marissa A. Ross. As a matter of fact, the last time I sat down to drink more than six bottles of wine in one sitting, at least two of the people on this list were there to help (and... continue reading

03.28.2015

The Changing Love of Pinot Noir?

To properly frame the sort of revelation that follows, you need to understand a few things. The first is that I am deeply fortunate to be able to attend a number of fancy wine events each year. These events are one to three-day epics of tasting and eating that consumers pay hundreds if not thousands of dollars to go attend. By virtue of my status as a so-called member of the press, I get a free pass to bacchanals such as the Aspen Food and Wine Classic, The International Pinot Noir Celebration, the World of Pinot Noir, Flavor! Napa... continue reading

03.24.2015

California Wine Country Macabre

Holy moly. WTF, Wine Country? Something is seriously wrong. Anyone have a biodynamic calendar handy to see if we've just all had a long string of root days? Or maybe the arsenic is causing mental imbalance.... First we heard of the horrific events of last Monday, in which Robert Dahl shot his investor Emad Tawfilis execution-style and then took his own life as police were closing in. Police recently released the transcripts of Tawfilis' calls to 911 as he was running, bleeding through the vineyards with his killer in pursuit. Nearly the same day, two decomposing bodies were found... continue reading

03.20.2015

Vinography Images: The Rockpile

The Rockpile HEALDSBURG, CA: Fall colors decorate Sonoma County's Rockpile AVA near Healdsburg, California. This higher elevation growing area is known for its shallow oxidized soils that produce brilliant Zinfandels and other big red wines. 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 to their desktops. To set the image as your desktop wallpaper, Mac users should follow these... continue reading

03.19.2015

Do You Need to Worry About Arsenic in Your Wine?

It's all over the wine news channels, and will soon be in much wider distribution, as these stories spread like wildfire thanks to sensational headlines. CBS News reported today that an organization called BeverageGrades tested thousands of wines and found that more than 20% of the wines contained arsenic levels above the EPA recommended thresholds for drinking water. Arsenic is a naturally occurring metal that is toxic to humans in high doses. Once upon a time it was so common as a poisoning agent that it was known as "the king of poisons and the poison of kings." The... continue reading

03.16.2015

At What Price, To Kalon?

In the annals of California viticulture, few named vineyards can approach To Kalon in either historical significance or popular acclaim. To Kalon has long been known for producing phenomenal wines, but increasingly it has also become famous for something else entirely: the price of its grapes. A quote by grower Andy Beckstoffer graces the inside cover of a coffee-table book of photographs entitled Cabernet: A Photographic Journey from Vine to Wine by photographer Charles O'Rear. 'Cabernet is royalty!' it reads. 'She is noble, she is powerful, voluptuous, and a profit to all the senses.' Beckstoffer owns 89 acres (36 ha)... continue reading

03.11.2015

Wine and Beauty Explained

The more I drink the more beautiful you look, or so the saying goes. But according to new research, the more I drink the more beautiful I look, too. Researchers in the UK have recently completed a study linking consumption of alcohol to perceived attractiveness. Specifically, they have shown that people who have had one glass of wine statistically appear more attractive to strangers than they do when they have had no alcohol whatsoever. Unfortunately for those of us interested in boosting wine consumption, the researchers found that it didn't matter what kind of alcohol it was, but we... continue reading

03.10.2015

San Francisco's Lost Sommeliers

Just days after he announced his departure as full time wine Editor at the San Francisco Chronicle, and his intent to move from San Francisco for New York, Jon Bonné penned an article on Sunday suggesting that San Francisco's wine scene was on the decline due to what he called a "brain drain," and later on Twitter, "a void" of professional sommeliers in town. Perhaps the timing was coincidentally bad, but it's hard not to feel like this is some sort of parting shot as he heads to the New York wine scene, which he praises in the same... continue reading

03.09.2015

Finding Pirate Treasure With a Corkscrew

Ah, the lure of Pirate Treasure. Who doesn't enjoy the thrill of the search for a shipwreck? Growing up, the few times I got the opportunity to watch Jacques Cousteau search the ocean bottom found me wide-eyed with giddy delight. As I got older and grew out of my metal detector wielding, mineral collecting habits, in part thanks to their social stigma, I began to think that perhaps not everyone was quite so enthusiastic about buried treasure. Today, of course, I'm completely validated in my fascination with treasure hunting, thanks to the incredible proliferation of reality TV shows focused on... continue reading

02.17.2015

Imported Bulk Threatens 60k Acres of California Vines

In the early 1990s, while working in what was essentially the research and development arm of Silicon Valley Bank, Rob McMillan began looking into industries that were historically 'under-banked' and might represent an opportunity for his employer to stake a claim and build a significant presence. 'The first idea I came up with was mortuaries', chuckles McMillan. 'I presented all the data to the managing committee, and they only had one question for me: "Who's going to want to work for you?"' Fortunately for the California wine industry, McMillan was sent back to the drawing board with the instructions to... continue reading

01.24.2015

In Conversation with the Intrepid Wino

In the era of social media, we often get to know people long before we meet them in person. Anyone highly active on Twitter, for instance, likely has dozens or even hundreds of people that they have gradually gotten to know in little 140 character chunks, sometimes over years. That's the way I encountered James Scarcebrook for the first time. But then on a rainy, cold day in Austria's Wachau valley, lost while looking for Domaine Wachau, I ran into a stranger wearing a backpack who was also lost, and searching for the same winery. "Hey, are you Alder Yarrow?"... continue reading

01.15.2015

Redeeming Lodi, California

Analogies can be dangerous, but for anyone who doesn't know the more detailed geography of California, it may be easiest to describe the Lodi wine region as California's Languedoc. This massive American Viticultural Area (AVA) at the north end of California's Central Valley covers 551,000 acres (223,000 ha), and contains more than 103,000 planted acres across its six sub-AVAs. The region produces a staggering 25% of California's wine, which means that if you've ever had a $10 bottle of wine from California, you've almost certainly tasted what the region has to offer. But most people have never really tasted... continue reading

01.01.2015

Losing a Legend in Serge Hochar

On the last day of December, 2014, the wine world lost a legend, twenty years too soon. Serge Hochar, the second generation owner and winemaker of Lebanon's Chateau Musar Winery died at the age of 75 while on holiday in Mexico, according to news reports that are beginning to emerge. No official statements have been released, but according to Jancis Robinson, who received a phone call from his friend and commercial representative Michael Broadbent, Hochar died in a swimming accident. He was on holiday to celebrate his 75th birthday and 50th wedding anniversary. Hochar was quite simply one of... continue reading

12.23.2014

A Grape By Any Other Name

That fabric of our lives, the culture in which we find ourselves immersed, remains a rich symbol of the lives, both significant and insignificant, that came before. We live in a palimpsest of existence. Wine, as a part of that culture, binds many threads of the past together, some of which surface curiously in the names of the grapes that go into the bottle, especially in Portugal. Portugal ranks comfortably among the more storied wine growing regions of the Old World. Like several others, it boasts a rich tradition of winemaking that spans several centuries, and hosts a panoply of... continue reading

12.15.2014

2014 - Worth Celebrating

Some years are unarguably more momentous than others. The question is whether we can really recognise them without the benefit of hindsight. History may prove me wrong, but as 2014 comes to a close I'm prepared to declare it one of the most important years for American wine. The last 12 months were filled with more than a few revelations, triumphs, and vindications, even as they revealed a good measure of hard truths for some. Keep drinking America The first wine-related news story of 2014 still lingers for American wine lovers as a warm glow of satisfaction. By the end... continue reading

12.10.2014

Holiday Gifts Worth Giving to Wine Lovers

Giving gifts to wine lovers during the holidays can be a royal pain. Especially if your recipient tends to have many of the basics covered when it comes to wine. That's not even considering the royal pains that people like me tend to be for prospective gift givers. I'm one of those wine lovers who already has most of the gear that he wants, and has strong opinions about everything else. Sound like anyone you know? I've said before that buying wine for your favorite wine lover can be an exercise fraught with peril. Many wine lovers I know... continue reading

12.03.2014

What do You Really Smell in That Glass?

While biologists have recently established that our relationship with alcohol may stretch back more than 10 million years, that still doesn't mean we can reliably stick our noses in a glass and figure out what it is we are smelling. Night-blooming jasmine. Creme-de-cassis. White peaches. Graphite. Ambitious newbies, eager to experience the breadth and depth of what the world of wine has to offer, often find themselves frustrated at their inability to pick out some of the tantalizing scents that wine critics offer up in their tasting notes. In his book How to Love Wine, New York Times wine critic... continue reading

11.27.2014

Happy Thanksgiving from Vinography

I am thankful for the fact that I am still alive, and healthy, and able to enjoy my life. I am thankful for my family and my friends and those who have touched my life in so many wonderful ways. I am grateful for the privilege to live a life free from most wants, from strife, and from pain, full of so much that many go without. I am grateful for wine and food, and the world's infinite bounty of deliciousness that I have the great fortune in which to partake. I am thankful for the opportunity to express... continue reading

11.24.2014

Putting a Cork in Your Thanksgiving Wine Anxiety

Judging from media coverage alone, no other holiday in America instills as much wine anxiety as does Thanksgiving. From bloggers to television hosts to nearly every newspaper wine column in the country, wine advice pours forth to salve the worried minds of the wine inclined "A Guide to the Best Wines For Thanksgiving." "Top Thanksgiving Bottles." "What Wines to Serve for Thanksgiving Dinner." "Which Wine's a Winner for Thanksgiving?" The advice is well meaning, and the need very real. Everyone seems to want help figuring out what to drink, and serve, with America's most important meal. My words here serve... continue reading

11.19.2014

The Mysterious Art of Selling Direct

A good friend of mine was recently given the opportunity to join the most exclusive club in the world of wine: the individuals who get a chance to purchase the wines of the Domaine de la Romanée-Conti directly from the estate. And how did this young lady pull off a feat that almost anyone in the wine world might have considered undergoing a minor amputation in order to receive? She doesn't know. She just happened to sit next to the correct person at a dinner party and the next thing she knew, she was an insider. Despite my friend's remarkable... continue reading

11.18.2014

Critical Consolidation in Wine

Antonio Galloni announced today the acquisition of Stephen Tanzer's International Wine Cellar, as reported on Forbes.Com. The acquisition will involve a merger of the IWC, it's staff and content with Galloni's own Vinous platform. This move represents a new dynamic in the wine criticism landscape. Up until this point Robert Parker's Wine Advocate was the only outlet for wine criticism that had grown through acquisition. By bringing on writers, many of whom had their own smaller niche publications such as Galloni's Piedmont Report, Parker significantly increased both his breadth and depth of coverage around the world. I think it a... continue reading

11.15.2014

What Has California Got Against Wineries?

I promise I'm not going to turn this web site into the California Wine Law Blog, but for Pete's sake, it seems like California law has suddenly turned on one of it's largest economic players. First it was the utterly ridiculous Proposition 65 madness that is letting rogue legal groups all but extort money from wineries. Then it was enforcement of a law basically designed to prevent abusive labor practices against wineries letting their customers volunteer to work at harvest. Now it's threatening to take away the liquor licenses of wineries (and a few breweries) because they're re-tweeting wine events... continue reading

11.15.2014

Dirty Money for a Legendary Brand

I've been out of the country and away from most sources of news for the past week. For instance I'm just now hearing about some comet or other that we're busy invading. But now that I've crawled out from under my rock, I'm shocked to learn that the Australian mob seems to be buying Peter Lehmann wines. I returned from my trip to Portugal to find two sets of news stories in my inbox. The first was the shocking news that one of the three Casella brothers running Yellow Tail wines in Australia had been arrested on drug trafficking charges.... continue reading

11.08.2014

Off to Portugal for a Drink

After a couple months of busting my rear for the day job, today I get the opportunity to enjoy one of the perks of my night job. I'm headed to Portugal for a whirlwind orientation to that country's wine regions. The Wines of Portugal organization is bringing myself, a couple of other journalists, and a mixed case of sommeliers (that is the proper collective noun is it not?) over for some extended maceration in several of the country's wine regions. As it is my first time, I thought this kind of trip would be the thing to do. We're... continue reading

11.01.2014

Does California Have Too Many AVAs?

Last week, my friend Blake Gray described the current state of California AVAs (American Viticultural Areas) as too much of a good thing. In his nicely written piece for Wine-Searcher.Com, which came just days after the announcement that the Paso Robles region had been subdivided into eleven new AVAs, he made the definitive claim that California has too many AVAs. I'm in complete agreement. But I also think the state needs a few more. The problem with AVAs, as Blake points out, seems to be how they are established. For those unfamiliar with the process, it merely involves petitioning the... continue reading

10.29.2014

Hang out with the World's Top Wine Writers. For Free.

One of the great perks of having been at this wine writing thing for some time involves my association with the Symposium for Professional Wine Writers, for which I am now a member of its Advisory Council (just by way of a disclaimer in advance of the plug which follows). And one of the great pleasures of this association is getting to spend a few days every year attending the convocation that occurs under this association's banner, nestled into the luxurious surroundings of Meadowood Resort in the Napa Valley. I've been to all of these Symposiums in the last... continue reading

10.21.2014

US 2014 Vintage - Early, Fast, Eventful

It has become my habit each year to check in with winemakers across the United States as harvest concludes in order to get a sense of the vintage as a whole. Without fail, the assessments I receive from the far-flung winegrowing regions of the country generally sound like descriptions of something completely different from what we have experienced here in California. If nothing else, these reports serve as an excellent reminder of the dangers of generalising about the character of any one harvest, especially in a country as large as America. Despite their differences in 2014, most of the winemakers... continue reading

10.11.2014

Another Idiotic California Law Screws Wineries

Last week I wrote about the perverted horrors of Proposition 65, the law ostensibly created to protect Californians against toxic chemicals but which inadvertently makes most wineries vulnerable to frivolous lawsuits. The legislators in Sacramento are generally well disposed towards one of their state's largest industries, so while that particular legal snafu was awful, I assumed it would be a relatively rare problem in a legal landscape quite favorable to wineries. But then I read about the plight of Westover Winery in Castro Valley who, faced with $115,000 worth of fines from the California, actually had to go out... continue reading

10.06.2014

The Fake Tongue Illusion and Wine Tasting

The degree to which the mechanics of our own perception continue to be a mystery to us gives me no end of delight. Of course I equally enjoy the insights from our progress chipping away at this mystery, one experiment at a time. While not done with the kind of rigor normally applied to neuroscience, the wine world has offered up several bits of evidence on how our brains and our sensory organs, in particular our sense of taste and smell, can easily be fooled. From putting red food coloring in white wines, to drinking from black glasses and... continue reading

09.26.2014

The Essence of Wine is Ready to Buy!

It is with great pleasure that I announce the official publishing and general availability of my book The Essence of Wine. It arrived at the warehouse a few days ago and is now available for purchase here on Vinography for $75 plus shipping costs. The road to get to this point has been a long and occasionally tedious one, but I'm thrilled to have completed this odyssey of self publishing, and with a product of which I am very proud. The book is gorgeous and everything I hoped it would be. I hope you'll agree. BOOK SIGNINGS! I'm going... continue reading

09.23.2014

California Law and Wine: Ups and Downs

California is by most measures, the eighth largest economy in the world. And of the state's $2.05 Trillion domestic production, wine makes up more than $51 Billion, or about 2.5% of the economy. As we might expect, the California state legislature, therefore, pays some serious attention to the wine industry. Occasionally they do quite well by the industry. Such as the recent and incredibly sensible bill that would allow students who are not yet of drinking age, but who are enrolled in wine studies classes to actually taste wine without fear of arrest for them or criminal charges for their... continue reading

09.20.2014

Tallying the Damage from the Napa Quake

The 2014 harvest is under way in California, but in Napa, instead of enjoying a beer in between loads of processed fruit, many winemakers are rushing back to their offices to speak with accountants, lawyers, and insurance adjusters. On Thursday 11 September, while the country was remembering a national disaster of larger proportions, the Obama Administration officially declared southern Napa County a Federal Disaster Area, clearing the way for federal funds to flow to the region. When the largest earthquake to hit California in 25 years strikes a few days before the beginning of harvest, all hell breaks loose... continue reading

09.09.2014

Social Media Answers the Question: Where Did Australian Wine Go Wrong

The other day I found myself contemplating the question of how Australian wine lost its footing after being so popular for so long, and what it could do to recover. I'm not close enough to the wine trade to have my finger on the pulse of what people say when they're perusing the aisles of wine stores and are pointed in the direction of Barossa Shiraz by a clerk. Clearly they're not as amenable to that suggestion as they have been in the past. Australian wine sales have fallen significantly in the US (and in the UK) over the past... continue reading

09.06.2014

Drought Problems? Just Have an Earthquake

Folks in Napa and its surrounding areas are still cleaning up after the earthquake that struck the region two weeks ago. The piles of toppled barrels are being picked apart barrel after barrel to salvage those that remain intact, and repairs are being made to homes and wineries that suffered damage. The after-effects of a disaster like this are usually quite predictable. Losses are tallied, tears are shed, and people move on. But something unusual is going on in Napa in addition to all the typical fallout from a serious earthquake. Things are getting wetter. A lot wetter. According to... continue reading

08.23.2014

NIMBY Versus Vineyard in Malibu

Welcome to America's newest wine appellation, the Malibu coast. Just don't plant anything, especially not grapes. Only a matter of weeks after its approval by the federal government, the country's newest AVA may be the subject of local legislation that will not only prevent further vineyard planting in the area, but may also force some vineyards to be ripped out. In a classic case of Not In My Back Yard politics, the LA County Board of Supervisors in conjunction with the California Coastal Commission drafted a new Land Use Plan for the Malibu area that specifically outlaws new vineyard... continue reading

08.19.2014

The (Still) Dismal State of California Chardonnay

It is the best of times, and it is the worst of times. In 2013, California celebrated its largest grape harvest in history, with just shy of 4.7 million tonnes crushed according to official government statistics. Chardonnay, still reigning supreme as the single most popular grape variety grown in the state, made up a full 16.1% of that total, representing a volume of wine roughly equivalent to the total yearly production of Hungary. This is no doubt the consequence of the wine's popularity at tables throughout the nation. The single best-selling wine in restaurants around the country has for... continue reading

08.16.2014

What a Way to Go: Wine At the End of Your Life

At lunch the other day, my companion shared the wonderfully poignant story of his aging father, the man who inspired his lifelong love of wine. He related how, as his father approached his final days, he would ask his son to "go to the cellar and get something good." Far too many great bottles of wine are denied their purpose: to be shared with those you love, or at the very least, to be enjoyed in contemplation of everything they represent, whether that be decades of careful cellaring, or the whim of a passionate purchase. I can understand the urgency... continue reading

07.31.2014

Taking Celebrity Wine to the Next Level

It seems like we hear about a new celebrity wine project almost every month. I long ago stopped reporting on these new projects because, well, after a golfer, a porn star, an NFL quarterback, and a rapper all have wines, what else is there to say? OK, Chateau Miraval is pretty damn good. I admit it. But why wouldn't it be, in the hands of Famille Perrin?!? There is celebrity wine, and then there is celebrity wine. Because who the hell wants to just bottle your own wine, when you can run your own wine region? No one ever suggested... continue reading

07.16.2014

Dot Wine and the Fear of Change

As someone who makes his primary living helping leading companies utilise internet technologies for competitive advantage, I have always found observing the wine industry's approach to the Internet an amusing spectator sport. When feeling particularly uncharitable, I liken it to the early antics of a young puppy that has been brought to the seaside, or to a snow bank, for the first time: gingerly approaching the unknown and quickly shying away at the first unfamiliar sensation. I shouldn't have been surprised, therefore, when, following the announcement of their approval by ICANN (the organisation that regulates Internet domain names), the shiny... continue reading

06.23.2014

Austria: The Wine Lover's Dream Destination

Every wine region in the world has its own unique allure, but not all are created equal. Some offer better wines than scenery, others have landscapes that make up for their relative lack of creature comforts. The best wine destinations in the world offer combinations of many charms, but few can match what I now consider the single best wine tasting destination in the world: Austria. While it might not immediately leap to mind along with the picturesque rolling hills of Tuscany or the cobblestone charms of Burgundy, Austria bests them all. Don't believe me? Here are the ten... continue reading

06.18.2014

A Guide to the Post Wine Blog Era

The world of wine media has changed greatly in the 10 years since I began my wine blog, Vinography.com. By the end of 2004 there were perhaps a dozen wine blogs in existence, but within two years that number would swell into the hundreds, and later, thousands. With the exception of a few pioneering websites such as Tom Cannavan's Wine-Pages.com and the late Daniel Rogov's website on Israeli wine, the emergence of wine blogs marked the first true wave of non-mainstream wine journalism, made all the more interesting (as well as variable in quality) by the fact that many wine... continue reading

06.07.2014

Crack Smoking Wine PR

The press release carried the title "Going Against the Trend Pays Off for..." (I'm leaving off the winemaker name because I don't think it's fair to pillory a winemaker because of lousy PR work). "After many years in the business," the press release continued, "this winemaker is looking back on his career and looking forward to the future." The winemaker in question, the press release went on to claim, "is known for going against the trend of high alcohol wines and staying with his roots from his European training." At which point I spewed my mouthful of wine all over... continue reading

05.25.2014

Building a Foundation The Right Way: The Wines of Cornerstone Cellars, Napa

I first met Craig Camp in Oregon, where he was running Anne Amie vineyards, and where he had already proven to be one of the most internet-savvy individuals I had ever seen in the wine business. An early industry blogger, Craig was just as earnest in person as I found his writings to be online. I got to know Craig in fits and starts, as online interactions and occasional meet-ups in Oregon migrated from acquaintance to friendship. And then one day, Camp announced he was coming to Napa. I must admit to being slightly shocked at the news, so deeply... continue reading

05.22.2014

Would You Rather Have a New BMW or a Bottle of Rosé?

This week a bottle of 1995 California Rosé sold at auction for a winning bid of $37,200. Go ahead and pick your jaw up off the floor. It took me a while to recover from this news myself. As much as I would love to trumpet this sale as the ultimate proof that rosé has finally earned the respect it deserves as a world-class wine, the fact remains that this absurd price merely proves what we all knew already: namely that the fine wine auction market is ridiculously out of touch with reality, not to mention any truth about what... continue reading

05.22.2014

Saying Goodbye to Tim Patterson

On Saturday May 17th, 2014, wine writer Tim Patterson died of complications from brain cancer following surgery to remove a brain tumor. Regular readers will know that Tim was the co-editor of the book review section here on Vinography, and author of a good share of the book reviews that were posted on Vinography. In fact, the whole idea to review wine books on Vinography was Tim's idea. We met several years ago at the Symposium for Professional Wine Writers, and he proposed the idea to me over a glass of Zinfandel. Our irregular collaboration over the past few... continue reading

05.19.2014

Washington Rising

Living for all intents and purposes in the epicentre of California wine, I find it less than easy to consistently explore America's other wine regions, let alone immerse myself in them. Tasting wines from elsewhere in the country takes a special effort, but often pays great dividends. My recent trip to Washington State served to remind me of this fact. I came away (in truth as I always do from my irregular Washington forays) terribly impressed with the region's wines and their potential. In point of fact, I have come to believe that on a dollar for dollar basis,... continue reading

05.17.2014

Boo Hoo, Rudy Kurniawan Doesn't Like Jail

You know, it's pretty rough when you defraud some people of millions of dollars and then you have to go to jail when you're found guilty. Especially when you've got a defense team of lawyers that hardly seems to have tried to get you acquitted. But alas, that was wine counterfeiter Rudy Kurniawan's fate this past Autumn. Apparently he doesn't like it too much. I dare say it's a pretty big change from his coastal mansion, fast cars, and dinners at the top restaurants in Los Angeles. In a brilliant display of the same twisted logic used to defend him... continue reading

04.21.2014

An American Perspective on (the Wine Scene in) Japan

Two weeks ago I had occasion to return to Japan, a place where I left a small piece of my heart in 2001, when I ended my nearly two-year stay in Tokyo. My tenure in Japan was mostly characterised by perpetual exhaustion, as I put in the long hours required to set up and launch a branch office for the consulting company for which I worked at the time, but even 80-hour weeks couldn't prevent me from falling in love with the people, the culture and, of course, the food. For this reason I read with some interest, and... continue reading

04.04.2014

Are You a Red, Pink or a Purple Wine Stater?

Forget red states and blue states. Let's talk about wine states. They come in shades of pink and purple, according to a new map published by Business Insider based on a recent study by the Beverage Information Group. Serious props go to the folks in New Hampshire and Washington, DC for topping the charts at 25.7 liters and 19.6 liters per capita in 2013, respectively. Of course, that pales in comparison to the reigning champs at the Vatican, who consume a whopping 66.67 liters per capita each year, but everyone has to start somewhere, right? Wine consumption in the U.S.... continue reading

03.18.2014

IPOB - The Tasting That Became a Movement

It began on a whim and has become a focal point for the conversation about where California wine is going. The tasting known as In Pursuit of Balance, held last week at Bluxome Street Winery in San Francisco (see below), and six weeks ago in New York, has now become the most talked-about wine event among the cognoscenti on either coast. The event began four years ago as friends Jasmine Hirsch, daughter of famed Sonoma Coast pioneer David Hirsch, and sommelier Rajat Parr of the Michael Mina group fantasised about getting a group of their favourite California Pinot Noir producers... continue reading

03.15.2014

Does Vine Age Matter?

Vielles Vignes. Alte Reben. Viñas Viejas. Vinhas Velhas. These terms appear, if not frequently, then with some regularity on wine labels throughout the world. Here in California we're treated to "old vines," "ancient vines," and sometimes even "century vines," thanks to some particularly well-preserved specimens throughout the state. Winegrowers sometimes make a big deal out of old vines, particularly when they are in possession of them. But do they really matter? And if so, how? These were two of many questions that I set out to answer with a panel of winemakers and their wines last week at the In... continue reading

03.13.2014

A Little Vinography Housekeeping

I owe a lot of you readers an apology of sorts. You've probably noticed that over the last few weeks, Vinography has been generating a lot of unwanted e-mail in your inbox. Those of you who have used the "subscribe to replies" feature of my blog have borne witness to the fact that I am under an attack of SPAM comments the likes of which I have never seen in 10 years of writing this blog. I'm getting about 300 comments per day, despite having a very aggressive filter for this sort of thing. In order to avoid your inboxes... continue reading

03.09.2014

Napa Wines and a Diversity of Opinions

Who would have thought a simple little tasting of lesser known grape varieties made into wine in Napa would be so divisive? Last month, as many of you know, a bunch of journalists and aspiring journalists attended the Symposium for Professional Wine Writers in Napa. This three-day event offers a unique opportunity to both network with fellow wine writers, as well as to improve one's craft. The organizers (which includes me, by way of full disclosure, as a member of the event's advisory board) attempt to create an agenda that focuses partly on wine knowledge, partly on the craft... continue reading

03.06.2014

Returning to Chateauneuf-du-Pape For the First Time

I am in love with Grenache again. Estrangement from the grape hardly describes the last ten years of my life, in which my consumption probably outpaced your average wine geek. Yet as the furiously working windshield wipers revealed more and more of the rain-soaked banks of the Rhone north of Montpellier a few weeks ago, I found myself thinking about how long it had been since I pulled one of my once-treasured bottles of Châteauneuf-du-Pape out of my cellar. The honest truth is that, like a man with far too many mistresses, I have been neglecting one of my... continue reading

02.24.2014

Robert Parker Addresses Wine Writers

As some of you know, I spent the last week at the Symposium for Professional Wine Writers in Napa. This event offers an unparalleled opportunity to spend time hanging out with people who make their living (in part or in full) from writing about wine, as well as to learn and practice the craft itself. I've been attending this event for nine years and it is one of the most enjoyable weeks I spend all year. The event draws talent small and large, but this year's lineup proved particularly excellent, beginning with the keynote speech, delivered by none other... continue reading

02.18.2014

The Worst Drought in Five Centuries

As I write these words, the usually sunny state of Georgia has been brought to a standstill thanks to more than six inches of snow and freezing rain. A weather front that has been dubbed a 'polar vortex' has caused one of the greatest travel disruptions in American history, cancelling tens of thousands of flights over the course of several successive storms. On St Valentine's Day, while the President of the United States flew to Fresno, California, to bestow more than $100 million US in emergency aid for drought-hit farmers in the Central Valley, members of Congress were wrangling with... continue reading

02.17.2014

Journalists Banned from Tasting Domaine Huet Wines

I was surprised to learn this morning that a Loire Valley winery refused to let two journalists taste their wines at the recent Salon des Vins de Loire trade show. And not just any winery, but the venerable Domaine Huet, widely regarded as one of the world's great wine estates. Huet has been going through something of a transition since the abrupt resignation of winemaker Noel Pinguet from the domaine in 2012, where he had been in charge of winemaking since 1976. Upon his resignation, Sarah Hwang, daughter of owner Anthony Hwang, who purchased the domaine in 2003, was put... continue reading

01.30.2014

10 Years of Blogging About Wine

Too many things have been said about the fleeting passage of time to come up with a new way of expressing awe at the rate our past accumulates behind us. I can still remember thinking myself quite clever for coming up with a term that literally got zero google results in 2004 (Vinography!). I only wish I had taken a screen shot. I've been writing about wine for ten years now. Comparing the young man who naively began this journey back then and the unshaven hack on the fourth day of his latest press trip (typing away in a lonely... continue reading

01.27.2014

Debating Robert Parker At His Invitation

In a recent "Article of Merit" on his web site, wine critic Robert M. Parker, Jr. went on a tear against what he described as essentially one or many anti-consumer movements that fly in the face of what he believes is proper and right when it comes to the "truth" of quality wine. In this sweeping piece of highly-charged opinion, Parker manages to condemn the "natural wine movement," the "low alcohol wine movement," and a whole string of "obscure grape varieties." He ends his article with the following statement: "I desperately have tried to find merit in these movements, and... continue reading

01.23.2014

Sorry, We Own That Color

In the world of wine, trademarks are fiercely defended, usually in direct proportion to the net worth of the organization doing the defending. A friend who owned a vineyard known as Olivet Grange was sued by Australian Wine Giant Penfolds because of that word Grange that appeared on her bottles of Pinot Noir. E&J Gallo has sued a number of people for the use of the word Gallo, even in realms completely unrelated to wine. And speaking of Gallo, as in Gallo Nero ("black rooster"), the folks in Chianti don't take kindly to use of their favorite mascot. Most of... continue reading

01.16.2014

What Did Rudy Ruin?

Not since the Mondavi brothers faced each other in a San Francisco courtroom has there been so much drama in the world of fine wine. Like many of my fellow pundits, I followed the trial of Rudy Kurniawan and the events that led up to it closely. Being slightly more inquisitive than your average wine geek, but unable to put my life on hold by flying to New York to attend the trial, I also read many of the daily courtroom transcripts. The trial was possessed of a Hollywood feel even before Aubert de Villaine, Christophe Roumier and Laurent Ponsot... continue reading

12.23.2013

Vinography's Flipboard Magazine Honored

For the past few months I've been publishing a Flipboard Magazine version of Vinography. You can view it on the web, but it is really designed to be consumed on the iPad using the Flipboard app. I've not only been posting Vinography content to this magazine, but also lot of other articles, photographs, and other news from around the wine world. I was told yesterday that the Vinography Flipboard Magazine was chosen as one of 74 Favorite magazines for 2013 by the employees of Flipboard. One of 74 doesn't sound so hot, until you hear that over 5 million... continue reading

12.19.2013

Bulk - The Quiet Wine Economy

Stand long enough by the side of any major highway that traverses one of California's major wine regions and you'll see them: bright, shiny tanker trucks filled with wine. As visible as these trucks are on the roads, their loads represent a part of the wine world that everyone seems content to keep mostly invisible to the consumer. Consisting of transactions between producers for as little as a few dozen gallons to volumes that would require a convoy of these tankers for delivery, the bulk wine market has become central to the economics of American wine, to the point that... continue reading

12.18.2013

Jury Convicts Wine Collector Rudy Kurniawan of Fraud

If I lived in New York, I would have spent the last eight days in an uncomfortable bench seat in a courthouse watching what almost certainly is the most interesting wine-related courtroom drama since the breakup of the Mondavi empire. Today, after less than two hours' deliberation, a jury convicted Rudy Kurniawan of two counts of fraud: one for counterfeiting millions of dollars worth of wine, the other for lying about his immigration status and collateral on a loan application. Known as Dr. Conti by his friends, and infamous for his penchant to buy, sell, and drink some of... continue reading

12.09.2013

Urban Renewal Through Wine

Cities all over the world flounder in various states of decay, as municipal and regional governments go bankrupt, or at the very least fall on hard times. Residents watch their neighborhoods slowly drain of the life they once held, as windows are boarded up and families move away towards better prospects. Every politician and pundit has an opinion about the cause, and almost none of them agree. Dealing with such problems has become a battleground for ideologies. Let's allow the radio personalities and the politicians to continue their verbal flailing, and let's instead get to work on making the... continue reading

12.02.2013

Introducing The Essence of Wine Book

Almost two years ago now, I began a collaboration with superstar food photographer Leigh Beisch that I called The Essence of Wine. The premise was simple. I wanted to celebrate some of the mystery and beauty of wine through gorgeous images of the various aromas and flavors in wine. The resulting feature on Vinography has been one of the most talked about elements of Vinography for some time. Many of you readers have eagerly awaited the results of each new photo shoot. And ever since the series began, some of you have been asking for a book. Today I'm happy... continue reading

11.26.2013

When Should You Not Be Allowed to Be Biodynamic?

Spraying biodynamic teas at Seresin Vineyards, Marlborough, NZ As the father of a kindergartener it will come as no surprise to you that of late I have been immersed in a world of debate and discussion around the many issues that shape educational, health, and social policy, at least as five-year-olds are concerned. Not only that, as a family we have been subject to any number of new restrictions and requirements that come from participating in the particular school system that we have chosen to patronize. One of those new requirements is as simple as it is blunt. In order... continue reading

11.19.2013

Don't Ask a Dinosaur for Directions

Those of us who spend our days working if not in the vanguard, at least squarely in the mainstream of the internet technology revolution are at once both amused and infuriated by many wine writers' attempts to dismiss the relevance of social media in the wine world. Steve Heimoff, in particular continues to worry away at the subject, like a Chihuahua intent on bringing down the elephant it thinks it has cornered. But Steve's not the only member of the old guard who believes that because he knows about wine and the wine business therefore he has the tools to... continue reading

11.18.2013

California's Current Wine Revolution

What does the world look like to those in the midst of a quiet revolution? As with the frog in a pot of slowly heating water, sometimes change can be hard to see when it doesn't arrive with a clap of thunder, an overnight recession, or live narration from a serious-looking news reporter with a microphone. If you weren't paying particularly close attention, or your relationship to California wine consisted of what you might find on your supermarket shelves each week as you shopped for your dinner, things might not look all that different from a few years ago. But... continue reading

11.13.2013

Finding Treasure in the Wine of Vienna

The streets of Vienna are like nowhere else in the world. Culture all but oozes out of the cracks between the cobblestones that fill in the quaint plazas beneath houses once occupied by the likes of Freud, Thomas Mann, Mozart, and Beethoven. But if music, literature, drama, and philosophy saturate the skin and flesh of the city, then it is wine that pumps through its veins. For Vienna is like no other major capital city in the world. The city limits themselves contain an entire appellation, so intimately nestled into the nooks and crannies of the city, that one... continue reading

11.08.2013

Almost 70% of the Wine Sold in China is Fake, Says Expert

Who needs John Grisham when we've got real, live anti-counterfeit attorneys such as Nick Bartman running cloak-and-dagger operations in China to expose endemic levels of fraud in their domestic wine industry? Jancis Robinson has just published a lengthy, five-part essay by Mr. Bartman that offers an incredibly detailed insight into what is going on in the Chinese wine industry right now. The first two articles are free to the public, no doubt due to Jancis' desire for this information to be more widely known, and should be required reading for anyone in the wine industry. The tribulations of Bartman and... continue reading

10.30.2013

An Open Letter to the United Kingdom

Old Chap, I miss you terribly. Especially as Guy Fawkes day approaches. It seems like just yesterday that we were slinging firecrackers into the Cherwell off the Magdalen bridge and arguing about the honest virtues of hard cider (I do think the world has come out on my side of the argument, incidentally). But let's to business, for as much as I'd like to regale you with tales of my Yankee lifestyle, the occasion for this letter is rather of a more serious sort. You've no doubt received the missive from those I am ashamed to call my fellow countrymen:... continue reading

10.29.2013

Wine Writing Income Continues to Challenge

By Susan Kostrzewa Gloria Steinem once said that writing was the only thing she ever did where she felt she should not be doing something else. Most writers accept that writing, and in particular wine journalism, is a profession and passion that has chosen them, and not the other way around. But at what cost? A recent controlled survey of 20 journalists working in the wine media field revealed that while fulfilling, the wine writing trade was still extremely challenging as regards livelihood. Survey respondents working in freelance and full-time roles in the wine media field answered questions about per-word... continue reading

10.18.2013

Hang Out with America's Top Wine Writers. For Free.

One of the great perks of having been at this wine writing thing for some time involves my association with the Symposium for Professional Wine Writers, for which I am now a member of its board of advisors (just by way of a disclaimer in advance of the plug which follows). And one of the great pleasures of this association is getting to spend a few days every year attending the convocation that occurs under this association's banner, nestled into the luxurious surroundings of Meadowood Resort in the Napa Valley. I've been to all of these Symposiums in the... continue reading

10.17.2013

Buzzwords of America

Following trends in America on any subject can be a recipe for motion sickness. As anyone who has spent time observing what is 'trending' on Twitter can attest, the American zeitgeist ebbs and flows at a rapid clip. But my job is to keep my finger on the pulse of this throbbing artery, and give you a glimpse of what currently engages the minds and glassware of my big country. So without further ado, here is my finger in the wind of the American wine scene. Hyper decanting To call the ridiculous notion of putting one's wine through a blender... continue reading

10.16.2013

Delectable: The Only Wine App Worth a Damn

A dismal state of affairs Ever since the iPhone was first released, I've been trying apps that are aimed at wine lovers. For the relatively niche market that wine represents, there have been a surprising number of apps trying to address it. There are maps, buying guides, ratings databases, food and wine pairing, cellar management, e-commerce, wine tasting tools, regional guidebooks, and social networks. It sounds ridiculous for me to claim that I've tried every single wine app that is out there on the market, and it's probably not true, but let me tell you, I've tried most of... continue reading

10.11.2013

Vinography: The Complete Story

I've done a lot of radio interviews, and a few TV interviews since I started tapping away on this keyboard 10 years ago. The nature of such interviews usually involves a focus on sound bytes, and even then, a lot gets left on the cutting room floor. But when I was in New York a couple of weeks ago, I had the opportunity to sit down with Levi Dalton, sommelier and podcaster, for an hour-long conversation that ranged through the full history of Vinography, and my relationship with wine. The resulting podcast, which just became available today for download... continue reading

10.10.2013

San Francisco Wine Bars and Wine Stores: The Map

Looking to get your vino fix in San Francisco? Look no further. I've created a map of San Francisco wine bars and the specialty wine stores that can connect you with fabulous wine. Google recently released a product called Maps Engine that allows anyone to create a custom map. I started playing with it, and well, one thing led to another. The scary thing is that this map would have had perhaps five or six pins on it a mere 10 years ago. The explosion in wine bars and wine retail stores in this city has been nothing short... continue reading

10.04.2013

Introducing the Vinography Flipboard Magazine

I both read and write on my iPad depending on where I am in the world, the situation in which I find myself. I've tried to ensure that Vinography itself is fairly readable via an iPad, but that is not the same thing as being fully optimized for consumption on the iPad. Close to 30% of my readers access Vinography on a mobile device, and of those, 30% are using an iPad, which means somewhere around 1 in 10 of my readers at any given time are using an iPad to read Vinography. That makes sense to me, as... continue reading

09.17.2013

Foreign Investment in Napa

When it was announced in late July that François Pinault's Artemis Group, owner of Chateau Latour, was purchasing Napa Valley's famed Araujo estate, waves of speculation and commentary rippled through the California wine community. On popular wine bulletin boards, some wine geeks and Araujo customers proclaimed they were 'shocked' by the move, while others joked that perhaps it meant Araujo's wines would get less expensive in poor vintages. That one of Bordeaux's greatest estates would look to the Napa Valley somehow still seems a novelty to most, despite a long history of European investment in California in general, and in... continue reading

08.30.2013

When Place Name Protection Goes Too Far

Let's start off with the fact that I'm a big believer in protecting place names of origin in the world of wine. Brunello should only come from Montalcino. Napa Cabernet should only come from Napa. And yes, Champagne should only come from Champagne. But the folks in Champagne are frequently far too rabid about the usage of the word Champagne in the world, especially when it comes to usages completely outside the world of wine. The latest case in point: objections by the Interprofessional Committee for Champagne Wine over the possibility that Apple may name one of the new color... continue reading

08.23.2013

Should We Care What Winemakers Say?

Like many in the wine world, I was horrified to learn today of winemaker Fulvio Bressan's appalling rant on Facebook against Italy's first African-Italian government minister, Cécile Kyenge, in response to her suggestion that undocumented immigrants be given temporary housing under certain circumstances. His comments, as translated by Jeremy Parzen of Do Bianchi, from whom I learned of this (after a tweet from colleague Hande Leimar), are as follows: "hey, dirty Black MONKEY, I DON'T PAY TAXES to put your GORILLA friends up at a HOTEL. Please take them to your house where you can be the big shot... continue reading

08.20.2013

The Illogic of the Ancients

Ah, I remember a time when wine blogging was new on the face of the earth, full of enthusiasm and the heady rush of youth. A time when it bore the full brunt of disdain and contempt from the so called "traditional" wine writers and journalists who looked at the blogosphere from their lofty perches of experience and saw only drivel. Dangerous drivel at that, for these blatherings of bloggers were free for the taking and inexplicably appealing to so many young wine drinkers. Luckily we've moved on from that era. Many of the most vocal opponents of the new... continue reading

08.19.2013

The New Name in Cool for California Pinot Noir

The Tobacco and Trade Bureau, the latest incarnation of bureaucracy responsible for the US system of American Viticultural Areas (AVAs), is not particularly known for getting things right. That is, unless you happen to be one of its successful petitioners, having spent years (and a significant amount of cash) assembling the documentation to justify your request for a patch of ground with a governmentally sanctioned name. Thanks to our political machinery, those petitioners are most often big wine companies with the deep pockets required to produce the various studies required by the government as part of the process. As a... continue reading

07.17.2013

Buying Wine in America

Here in the United States, we've just finished celebrating our independence as a nation, and students of history will know that the battles fought and won for this cause, while clearly ideological, were largely motivated by commercial interests. In short, we were damn tired of not being able to buy and sell what we wanted, when we wanted. Our Independence Day remains as much a celebration of capitalism as anything else. The irascible nature of America in the face of constraints on commerce has been one of the driving forces of my country's progress for more than two hundred years.... continue reading

07.08.2013

Champagne, Lutte Raisonnée, and Vineyard Nightmares

Anyone who has spent time in the vineyards of France has no doubt encountered the concept of lutte raisonnée, (literally "reasoned fight") which effectively means "I'm not certified organic/biodynamic, and don't intend to be because I'd prefer to use chemicals where and when I see fit, but sparingly, so I can respect the environment." Talking with some vintners, it's clear that some of them really are essentially organic, and simply want the ability to attack a mildew infestation with something that doesn't have a lot of copper in it (copper sulfate being seemingly the most hated organic fungicide thanks to... continue reading

07.05.2013

Off to Germany to Drink Some Riesling!

I'm a lucky guy. A few times a year I get to jet off to one of the world's great wine regions to taste a lot of wine on someone else's dime. Today I'm headed to Germany, where I'll spend a week in the Mosel (and surrounding areas) courtesy of the Wines of Germany organization. This is my first pilgrimage to the Mosel. I've been in love with Riesling for years, but I've never made it to the steep slate hillsides and the meandering river that represent the ultimate homeland for the grape. It was with slate dreams that... continue reading

06.23.2013

Wine and the Power of Ritual

You carefully swirl the glass, gazing intently as the wine arcs its way along the balloon of the glass. You put it to your nose and inhale deeply with your eyes closed. Depending on who's watching, these are the actions of an ardent enthusiast, a poseur, or an utter snob. The careful swirling and sniffing of wine is only one of its many rituals. The pull of a cork, the pop of champagne, the clinking glasses of a toast -- they all have their meanings and their place in the fabric of wine appreciation. The serious wine lover has no... continue reading

06.18.2013

2013: A Sunny US Vintage So Far

On 10 June, the skies above Napa and Sonoma crackled and boomed with the rare sounds of a spring thunderstorm (image by ~Prescott). Within 24 hours, the more than 200 lightning strikes in Northern California had ignited dozens of small wildfires. Luckily the fires were quickly contained and threatened no vineyards or homes, but the surreal evening was yet one more event in what has been an unusual beginning to the 2013 vintage in California. 'That was a very weird event', says winemaker Aaron Pott. 'It reminded me of Bordeaux.' Pott, who makes wines for many labels in Napa including... continue reading

06.13.2013

France, WTF?!?

There are times when those we love need tenderness, affection, and understanding. That's probably most of the time. But then there are times when we see the people we care about making horrible mistakes, again and again and again. And then it's time for some tough love. So here goes. France, what the fuck do you think you're doing? Are you completely and utterly insane? Are you really going to let these extremist anti-alcohol bastards drive your already ailing wine industry into the grave? For a country that supposedly cares a lot about its cultural heritage, you seem altogether sanguine... continue reading

05.16.2013

Wine In 140 Characters or Less

There was a time when the conversations between the cognoscenti of the wine world happened behind closed doors. Until recently, most of us could have only imagined the whispered commentary of top sommeliers as they passed in the wine cellars of the world's best restaurants, or fantasised about the kinds of things that top wine writers discussed in conclave. So, too, the drinking habits of the well-known in the wine world were only available if published, often on paper, and then usually with a tantalising lack of precision. Opinions abound as to the true value of Twitter and many employ... continue reading

05.14.2013

Is Wine Tasting Bullshit? No.

Who knew some snarky article trashing wine connoisseurship and wine experts could be so popular. But it just goes to show you how much people like seeing anyone ripped off a pedestal. I've been thinking about writing a response to the silly thing, but couldn't bring myself to do it. Thankfully my friend Blake Gray's willpower was flagging one night this week after a lot of wine judging, and he saved me the trouble. Blake gets it pretty much right on the money. Wine tasting (i.e. criticism) is only bullshit if you think all criticism is bullshit. It's a subjective... continue reading

05.10.2013

Charles Banks: The New Man Behind Mayacamas

When Charles Banks, one of the former owners of Oakville's Screaming Eagle winery and the head of investment firm Terroir Capital, recently bought a big stake in Wind Gap Wines, it raised some eyebrows. The contrast between cult Cabernet and concrete-egg-aged, cool climate, 12% alcohol Grenache couldn't have been stronger. But when Banks announced a week ago that he was buying the venerable Mayacamas Vineyards, you could hear wine geeks all over the country falling off their chairs. Then when the news emerged that former Screaming Eagle winemaker Andy Erickson might be brought in to make the wines at this... continue reading

04.23.2013

A Dark Day For Wine Lovers

We all dream big dreams, hope springing from our chests as easily as breathing. This is the human condition -- to aspire to a better life, even against the fiercest of odds. Sometimes the only thing that can sustain us through dark times is the tiny light of faith we hold in our hearts. I have been carrying just such a flickering flame of hope for some time now, but life can sometimes be cruel. Today my hopes were dashed against the rock wall of reality, and I am back to resignation and despair. At the beginning of March, the... continue reading

04.22.2013

How to Love Italian Wine or Die Trying: A First Timer's Guide to VinItaly

So, you enjoy a nice glass of Chianti now and then? You savor a Barolo or two when given the chance? You've been known to throw back a bottle of Pinot Grigio with a friend on a summer's day? If so, it's time for you to ask yourself a simple question. Do you think you could survive on Italian wine alone? Are the combined passions of an entire nation of rabid Italian winemakers and their thousands of precious indigenous grape varieties enough to slake your deepest thirsts and desires? VinItaly, the world's largest wine trade show, can answer many... continue reading

04.18.2013

Grape Pickings for US Lawyers

These days it seems as though the tool of choice for the upper echelon of the American fine-wine scene is neither a Laguiole nor a personal cellar consultant, but a lawyer. The buzz of conversation among sommeliers and wine geeks this past month has not been over the latest lower-alcohol wine from the Sonoma Coast or the effects of root days on wine-tasting events, but instead has focused on the veritable soap operas of wine unfolding in the courtrooms of America. The biggest news by far was last week's announcement that billionaire William Koch had won a lawsuit against wine... continue reading

04.11.2013

Vinitaly 2013, Days 2-4: Drinking From the Italian Firehose

In seemingly only a blink of an eye, Vinitaly2013 is over. I suppose it's hardly a surprise that after four days at the world's largest wine exposition, I feel like I've barely scratched the surface. I tasted a lot of wine, but not nearly enough. Italy's incredible diversity and depth was fully displayed but any ordinary human would need weeks, not days, to fully appreciate it. Admittedly, I spent a chunk of my time at Vinitaly not tasting wine, but participating in conversations with winery owners and industry folks. Monday I participated in the VinItaly Business Series conversations, both as... continue reading

04.08.2013

VinItaly 2013, Day One: Impressions and Highlights

I spent yesterday at the world's craziest gathering of the world's craziest wines. The Italians like to joke about how they embrace chaos, so approaching VinItaly I was expecting mayhem. But there's just no way to put on one of the world's largest wine trade shows while embracing the principles of anarchy. VinItaly is simply just another big wine trade show. The crazy part isn't about its disorganization, it's simply about just how big it is. I shudder to think how I'd have to approach this monstrosity if I actually had to do business here. Big buyers of Italian... continue reading

04.01.2013

The App that Will Revolutionize Your Wine Tasting

As many of you know, I've long struggled with the idea of an aroma wheel. I've never understood why it needed to be round, nor believed there was relevancy in the spatial relationships between the various aromas on the wheel. That's why I created my aroma cards that a) fit into a wallet, and b) have a lot more of the aromas I smell in wine than most of the wheels I've ever seen. But there were inherent limitations to the card. Chief among them were the fact that it only offered a set of words on paper. For curious... continue reading

03.20.2013

Wine and Food Matching, But Not In Store

To much of the civilised world, it seems most natural. You walk into your local grocery store or supermarket and walk out with the ingredients for your dinner and a wine to drink with it. This is, after all, the entire point of something called a supermarket - namely that a single, self-service destination should provide for all your needs. Yet despite the fact that we invented the concept, here in America roughly 29% of the country's population, across 17 states, cannot buy a steak and a bottle of wine to go with it from the same store. When I... continue reading

03.18.2013

A Nice Way to Start the Week

I've learned this morning that Vinography has been nominated for a James Beard Award, in the category of "Individual Food Blog." Yes, I know, this is hardly a food blog, but wine is food, right? While the category name doesn't include wine, the description, does, however, and I'm thrilled -- utterly thrilled -- to have been included. My fellow nominees are at the top of their respective games when it comes to food. If you haven't heard of Cannelle et Vanille or Hunter, Angler, Gardener, Cook you should take a cruise on by their sites. While this is a moment... continue reading

03.02.2013

Drinking Off the Grid

Isn't it funny how attached we can get to digital technology? I'm just about to head out of town to spend a few days with some good friends in a beach house that is officially in the middle of nowhere, Mexico. There's no phone, no internet, and no cell phone coverage at this little beach escape. And I will admit to currently operating under a certain level of anxiety about the whole thing. I'm used to being able to check in on my business, and on my blog whenever I want, and it's a little nerve wracking to not be... continue reading

02.23.2013

Great Dirt is Not Sentimental: Ted Lemon on Terroir

Perhaps the most commented on post I have made in the past few months has been my posting of the transcript of Matt Kramer's speech at the Wellington Pinot Noir symposium in New Zealand. Kramer's thoughts on what it takes to make truly great wine were both inspiring and controversial. A couple of weeks after Kramer made his comments, another articulate American found his way to the southern hemisphere and offered his own thinking on making great wines. Ted Lemon is one of America's most experienced and thoughtful winemakers. Trained in Burgundy, Lemon has been making wines under his Littorai... continue reading

02.20.2013

Robert Parker and Cesar Chavez Inducted into Vintners Hall of Fame

What do the world's most influential wine critic and one of America's foremost community organizers have in common? As of Monday night, they are both members of the Vintner's Hall of Fame at the Culinary Institute of America in St. Helena, California. Robert M. Parker, Jr. and Cesar Chavez, along with winemaker Merry Edwards and writer Frank Schoonmaker, were honored at an induction ceremony where they joined forty other luminaries from two centuries of California wine history. The Vintners Hall of fame was founded in 2007 by the Culinary Institute of America as a way of honoring the men and... continue reading

02.13.2013

A Trans-pacific View of Kiwi Wine

You can never revisit the past, but sometimes all you have to do is travel a little bit to be reminded of where you've been. I've just spent the past three weeks in New Zealand attending three of the country's major wine conferences, the Hawke's Bay Symposium, the New Zealand Pinot Noir conference in Wellington, and the Nelson Aromatics Symposium. These events were opportunities to check in on the state of Kiwi wine and how it might have changed in the eight years since I last visited, but they also provided cause for some reflection on how wine industries evolve... continue reading

02.02.2013

Finding Terroir in New Zealand: A Presentation by Emmanuel Bourguignon

I'm keenly aware of how much I don't know about making wine. I try to learn as much as I can from the very talented people I have the privilege of meeting and speaking with in the course of my journalistic adventures. But I've still got lots of gaps. Once of the biggest has to do with the really down and dirty aspects of viticulture. That's why I was quite impressed and engaged by a presentation at the recent New Zealand Pinot Noir 2013 conference by Dr. Emmanuel Bourguignon. Bourguignon is the son of arguably the two most famous viticultural... continue reading

01.29.2013

Matt Kramer: Can Atheists Make Great Pinot Noir?

As some of you know, I'm down in Wellington, New Zealand, attending the New Zealand Pinot Noir 2013 conference. It was kicked off on Monday by two keynote addresses. The first, was by actor and winegrower Sam Neill, but the second was by wine writer Matt Kramer. I immensely enjoy Matt's writing, and have for years. In some ways his columns in the Wine Spectator were an inspiration to me as I fumbled about trying to teach myself how to write about wine in ways that made sense to me. His keynote delivered just what many of us have come... continue reading

01.27.2013

Actor Sam Neill Gives Advice to Prospective Pinot Winegrowers

"You hire entertainers to give speeches. I don't know who chose me to give a speech but just in case you hadn't noticed, I'm not an entertainer. For heaven's sake, Im the guy who chops a woman's finger off with a blunt axe to make a point." Entertainer or no, Sam Neill's keynote speech to kick off this weeks Pinot 2013 Conference in Wellington New Zealand was riotously funny. For those of you who don't know, Neill is both a Hollywood actor, and also the proprietor of a winery called Two Paddocks in New Zealand's Central Otago wine region. Before... continue reading

01.20.2013

Off to New Zealand

I'm excited. I'm about to hop on a plane for New Zealand. It's been about seven, perhaps eight years since I visited, and I'm looking forward to retracing some of my previous steps there, as well as exploring some new areas. Courtesy of Wines of New Zealand, I'm headed down for a series of regional conferences highlighting some of the key elements of the New Zealand wine industry. The Kiwis are quite clever in their scheduling. Knowing that they're a fair haul from most places in the world, they schedule their three main wine events back-to-back, to allow folks like... continue reading

01.17.2013

Winemaker Musical Chairs

"I've never fired a winemaker, they've always fired themselves. Every one of them has had their own issues," said Don Bryant, proprietor of Bryant Family Wines, when I called him up to talk about the recent departure of his winemaker Helen Keplinger, after just a single vintage on the job. For her part, Keplinger chuckled at the notion of firing herself. "It is interesting to note that over the last 10 years, five winemakers have departed from Bryant - two of them during harvest. It's clear to me that there is a disconnect", she said. The roster of winemakers at... continue reading

01.14.2013

Vinography Turns Nine

My how the time flies. I looked up from my desk today and realized with a shock that today is the day, nine years ago, that I decided to try my hand at writing about wine. Which means I've been writing about wine somewhere between four days a week and seven days a week for nine years, with only a couple of short breaks for my honeymoon, the birth of my daughter, and a long fishing trip in Alaska. Last year I spent a lot of time thinking about what had transpired over the (then eight) years I've been blogging... continue reading

01.13.2013

France In Crisis, Again: Red Wine Ruins the Tour de France

France is on the ropes when it comes to wine. I reported several weeks ago about the looming disaster of the French Wine Cliff, which threatened to send the French wine industry into a death spiral. And now hard on the heels of that reality comes another blow not only to the wine industry, but to a great source of national pride: the Tour de France. Lance Armstrong's formal admission this week that he used performance enhancing drugs provoked outrage and near panic in France, not because of the admission itself, which was widely expected, but because of his disclosure... continue reading

01.08.2013

Is the Wine Writing World Out of Touch?

So where have all these wine bloggers and writers been living for the past 10 years? Under a rock? Last week, a professor at Michigan State University named Philip Howard made the news by publishing an article with a semi-nifty interactive graphic, entitled Concentration in the U.S. Wine Industry. The article has been tweeted, its graphics stolen and republished (usually with proper credit given to the professor), and dozens of articles have been written by bloggers and mainstream journalists about the "news" that about 50% of the wine sold in America has been produced by just three large companies: E&J... continue reading

12.22.2012

The December Soap Opera of Wine

Someone once told me that the three most popular types of shows on American public television were, in the following order: shows about sharks, shows about lions, and shows about the British Royal Family. I have no idea whether this is still true, or whether it was ever true, but I've always remembered it because it says something to me about our affinity for blood in the water, both literal and figurative. The wine world can hardly compete with sharks and lions, but we've had our share of royal fascinations recently. I can hardly remember three weeks in the wine... continue reading

12.19.2012

Alder's American Wines of the Year

One of my embarrassing personal secrets has always been that I have a lousy memory for what I drink. People often ask me, have you had this or that wine, and quite often my answer involves fumbling for my mobile phone in an attempt to search my own website to answer the question. Half the reason I have my blog in the first place derives from my desire to perform just such an operation, since paging through several years' worth of Moleskine notebooks hardly provides a practical way to answer such a query. I write things down, or more often,... continue reading

12.10.2012

A Firestorm of Speculation Over Robert Parker's "Retirement"

Twitter and the Blogosphere erupted with chatter this morning as Lettie Teague's article in the Wall Street Journal entitled "Big Shake-Up at Robert Parker's Wine Advocate" hit the paper's web site. Teague reported that Parker "intends to phase out the print version of the newsletter" and begin accepting advertising, as part of a series of changes that will correspond with "selling a 'substantial interest' in the Wine Advocate to a trio of Singapore-based investors who will take over its day-to-day financial operations." Teague went on to suggest that the company's headquarters would be moved to Singapore as a result. But... continue reading

11.30.2012

Forget the Fiscal Cliff. What About the French Wine Cliff?

As American politics becomes consumed with the power play that everyone is calling the fiscal cliff, a far more dire and permanent disaster is looming for wine lovers everywhere. I'm speaking, of course, of the impending French Wine Cliff. Doubtless you've heard of the five-decades-long decline in per-capita consumption of wine by the French people. Well it has just hit a new low. As soft drinks, mixed drinks, and yes, even fruit juice has taken a larger role on the French table at mealtimes, French wine consumption has dropped to merely one glass per person, per day. And fewer than... continue reading

11.28.2012

Why Wine is a Lousy Investment

I'll admit it. At various times over the years, I've flirted with the idea of seriously investing in wine. Not just buying a case or two of blue-chip wines and locking them in my basement. I even went so far as to discuss with a friend of mine in the financial services industry what it would take to put together a wine investment fund. I know that such things have been done, some of them even by people who weren't criminals. But every time I got close, I eventually got spooked. I probably didn't have the self-confidence to pull it... continue reading

11.21.2012

Napa Valley in Retrospect

Do the wines of Napa share the characteristic of so many of the world's greatest wines, namely the ability to improve over the decades? And if they do, is this equally true for contemporary releases as it is for historical bottlings? Over the course of two days last week, in the company of Anthony Dias Blue, Karen MacNeil, and Sotheby's wine specialist Nicholas Jackson, I had the good fortune and great pleasure to guide 35 interested wine lovers through a truly historic tasting of wines from California's Napa Valley. The premise was as simple as it was literal: assemble 80... continue reading

11.15.2012

Andrew Jefford: The Wine Writer is Dead

As some of you know, I just returned from about two weeks spent in Turkey, during which time I wandered around some vineyards, floated above a few more in a hot air balloon at sunrise, and attended the European Wine Bloggers Conference. Look for some coverage of all these preceding activities in the days and weeks to come, but I'd like to kick it off by sharing one of my favorite moments from the EWBC event, which was a keynote address by wine writer Andrew Jefford. Jefford's career in writing has been long and varied, including stints at many reputable... continue reading

11.09.2012

Lead the Armada or Drink Burgundy. Apparently You Can't Do Both.

If you had the opportunity to easily commandeer a massive C-47 air transport plane and you needed to get to a meeting of the Confrérie des Chevaliers du Tastevin, would you do it? If you were in the running for being Chief of the Navy, the correct answer would be no, apparently, even if the meeting you were attending happened to include a lot of heads of state. According to Time Magazine, James Stavridis, the U.S. Navy Supreme Allied Commander for Europe is no longer eligible to run the entire U.S. Navy because he did exactly that, and it was... continue reading

11.06.2012

Let's Talk Turkey

This morning I woke to the sounds of the muezzin's call to prayer on the banks of the Bosphorus. Sleeping in the shadow of the ancient walls of Constantinople and a stones throw from the Hagia Sophia, I dreamed of an olive harvest, but woke before I had the chance to sample my efforts. Thanks to the folks at of Wines of Turkey, I'm in the country for a couple of weeks to explore and to participate in the European Wine Bloggers Conference, which has decamped to Izmir later this week for their annual symposium. Today I ate lunch on... continue reading

10.22.2012

Hang Out With America's Top Wine Writers. For Free.

One of the great perks of having been at this wine writing thing for some time involves my association with the Symposium for Professional Wine Writers, for which I am now a member of its board of advisors (just by way of a disclaimer in advance of the plug which follows). And one of the great pleasures of this association is getting to spend a few days every year attending the convocation that occurs under this association's banner, nestled into the luxurious surroundings of Meadowood Resort in the Napa Valley. I've been to all of these Symposiums in the last... continue reading

10.21.2012

A Conversation with Winemaker Ted Lemon

A couple of months ago, I had the great pleasure of being on a panel at the West of West Wine Festival in Occidental, California, which was an intimate gathering of winemakers from what many call "The True" Sonoma Coast. In addition to sitting on that panel, and getting the chance to taste the wines on offer at the tasting (notes will be forthcoming). I also got a chance to sit and listen to several of the sessions on offer. One of them was an interview with Littorai owner and winemaker Ted Lemon conducted by my friend and illustrious wine... continue reading

10.17.2012

Just How Perfect is California's 2012 Wine Vintage?

Most California winemakers are far too busy tending their bubbling tanks and barrels to hold press conferences at this time of year, but trust me when I say those press conferences are going to come at some point, replete with the kinds of superlatives that only the most triumphant of vintages can elicit. Simply put, 2012 will be one of the best vintages California has seen for decades. It certainly represents one of the first vintages in a long time that requires neither circumspection from those who think they could have made better wine had conditions been better, nor cautious... continue reading

09.25.2012

Wine Can Save You From Serial Killers, Divorce, and Bad Roommates

We all knew wine was good for you, but now it turns out to be a complete lifesaver. Here's how to protect yourself with wine. The next time you're out on a first date, or your next occasion interviewing a roommate, employee, or mail-order spouse, make sure to give them a glass of wine. As them to swirl it carefully, sniff deeply, and then tell you what they smell. They may demure, and appear uncomfortable to be put on the spot, but put them at ease, and tell them you are deeply interested in what they might smell in the... continue reading

09.22.2012

Robert Parker and Cesar Chavez, Together At Last

As some of you know, I have the pleasure of serving as a member of the Nominating Committee for an organization known as the Vintners Hall of Fame, an effort by the Culinary Institute of America to celebrate individuals that have had the greatest impact on the California wine industry. I share this honor with a lot of people much more illustrious than I, including many of the living members of the Hall of Fame. Typically each year I poll my readers for their opinions about who they think should get in. Not that we really need a longer list.... continue reading

09.22.2012

Wine Bloggers on the Bosphorus

Nine years ago, if you had told me that there would one day be conferences for wine bloggers, I would have laughed in your face. But, of course, nine years is an eternity on the Internet, and a lot has changed. Now not only do hundreds of bloggers descend on such a conference each year in a different North American city, a European conference has also sprung up, and is now in its fifth year. This year's conference, which has actually lost the word "blogger" from its official title, is being held in Izmir, Turkey, and I'm headed there to... continue reading

09.21.2012

I Want My Wine Apartment

One of the defining phrases of my generation will always be "I want my MTV." I did, at one point, want it. But once I got it, I quickly tired. These days I'm much more likely to be chanting "I want my sleep." But that comes with the territory of fatherhood. But a couple of days ago I found a new obsession. I want my wine apartment. In a brilliant move that exploits everything about the dense urban economic landscape of Tokyo, a developer recently announced the construction of an apartment building centered around a single philosophical purpose: the love... continue reading

09.20.2012

Prices and Politics in California's 2012 Harvest

Workdays start before dawn this week across Northern California, as this year's harvest gets underway with a massive sigh of relief shared by most vintners on America's west coast. After two years in which the adjectives used by many to describe the harvest ranged from 'nail-biting' to 'disastrous', California vintners are celebrating what has been a near-perfect growing season and a flawless start to harvest with the heat spikes and deluges of recent years noticeably absent. But in the aftermath of two small, tricky vintages, a heavy, high-quality crop isn't all good news, at least not for some. Some winemakers... continue reading

08.21.2012

My Wine List Fantasy

I have a fantasy, and I thought it was probably time to come clean and admit it here openly. I've dreamed for a while about creating a restaurant wine list. Not a mammoth tome of hundreds of bottles, mind you, just a nice compact list that would fit on a single page and might be appropriate for a neighborhood boutique restaurant with a serious interest in wine. Anyone who works in the wine business is probably shaking their heads, wondering why in heaven's name I'd be interested in doing this. Putting together and maintaining wine lists isn't exactly easy, as... continue reading

08.16.2012

Crushpad - The Death of a Business Model

Silicon Valley lies a mere 90 miles from the heart of California wine country, but sits worlds apart. The frenzy of venture-backed start-ups doesn't seem to overlap the world of wine, except to provide a steady stream of wealthy individuals whose dreams include a nice house, a few acres of vines, and their name on a label. As the old joke would have it, Silicon Valley is where you make the large fortune, wine country is where you turn it into a small one. Perhaps it was inevitable that some daring entrepreneurs would try to bridge these two worlds, so... continue reading

08.12.2012

California Winemaking, Circa 1978

Growing up in Colorado, I readily acquired a reverence for the work of a filmmaker named Warren Miller, whose quirky, campy, and inspiring ski films were shown a few weeks before the first snows of the season to packed auditoriums of locals. It's been years since I've seen one of his films, or even thought of the delight I used to take in his work, so imagine my surprise when I came across a film he made about wine. OK, perhaps calling it a film may be a bit charitable, as it's essentially a 23-minute infomercial for Simi Winery, but... continue reading

08.09.2012

A Bottle by Any Other Shape?

Ready for the battle of the Champagne brands? Champagne house Bruno Palliard is considering legal action against Bollinger for allegedly copying the shape of their bottle. Big brands tend to take such things very seriously, and everything from perfume bottles to soft drink bottles have been registered trademarks for years. According to a Decanter.Com story (from which I've nicked the image to the right) the Palliard bottle shape is based on a 19th century bottle they found in their cellar. Well, unfortunately, Bollinger says the same thing. When you use a 150-year old bottle as the mold, or even the... continue reading

08.02.2012

A Walk Through the Cote de Nuits with Allen Meadows

As some of you know, I spent last week at the (always) fabulous International Pinot Noir Celebration in Oregon's Willamette Valley. Apart from my responsibilities hosting a tasting, I attended events like everyone else, including the featured Burgundy seminar and tasting run by Allen Meadows of Burghound. As is my habit, I tend to make fairly detailed notes of these seminars, so I can offer my readers a taste of what it was like. What follows below, as usual, is not an actual word-for-word transcript, but it's the closest I can come. Any misstatements, innacuracies, etc, are mine. * *... continue reading

07.31.2012

Google Knows Wine Grapes

There I was, just minding my own business, doing what I do as a blogger, and all of a sudden I realize I need to know something. So where do I turn? The same place everyone does these days. I go to Google. Specifically, I was looking to remind myself which letter in the name of the grape Blaufränkisch had a diacritical marks on it and which mark that was. Yes, I'm super geeky that way. I know what they're called and I even sometimes try to use them correctly. After typing in those last few letters and hitting return,... continue reading

07.28.2012

The Life and Wines of Jacques Lardiere

As some of you who follow my adventures on Twitter know, I'm spending the weekend at the International Pinot Noir Celebration in Oregon's Willamette Valley. I attend this event periodically as a media guest, and enjoy the event's relaxed style, fabulous food, and wonderful mix of Pinot Noir producers from all over the world, including a significant number of Burgundy producers. This year, in addition to enjoying the event, I was asked to host one of the event's add on seminars, a celebration of winemaker jacques Lardiere, and a retrospective tasting os some of the wines he's produced in his... continue reading

07.20.2012

Vote for Vinography in the 2012 Wine Blog Awards

The finalists for the 2012 Wine Blog Awards have been announced and voting is now open to members of the public. The Wine Blog Awards are the longest running set of awards focused exclusively on the world of Wine Blogs. If you're reading this wine blog, then chances are you probably read one or two others, and therefore you know better than anyone what passes for compelling content when it comes to wine blogs. Which is why you should exercise your vote and support the folks that spend their time writing about wine for free so you can enjoy it.... continue reading

07.17.2012

Summer Vacations in Wine Country

By the time I was four years old, I had begun to visit my father during the summer at the hippie commune on which I was born. After spending winters with my mother in Colorado, my summers wandering the backwaters of California's Sonoma County with a bunch of hippies were nothing short of idyllic. There were bonfires, stargazing, sleeping out of doors (both with and without tents), fishing, and most activities you can imagine that involved getting as dirty as possible. And oh yes, there was wine tasting. My visits to my father, you see, presented an excuse for my... continue reading

07.16.2012

How Many Wine Regions are Too Many?

Can wine grapes be made to grow where you live? For a lot of the world, the answer is yes. But should they? This second question may pose more difficulty to answer depending on your point of view. Certainly if you're a human being, and you need some booze to ease your way along the hard road of life, and you can grow grapes well enough to make wine for yourself, you most certainly should do that. Along with anything else that you can distill, ferment, or otherwise cook up that makes your life a little better. For millennia, necessity... continue reading

07.13.2012

French To Destroy the California Wine Industry Over Foie Gras

OK people, now is the time for outrage. If you value the California wine industry, then you can't ignore the imminent threat it now faces from an official in southern France, who may singlehandedly destroy California wine. Outraged over the fact that on July 1, 2012, it became illegal to produce, serve, or sell foie gras in California, Philippe Martin, President of the Gers regional council (an area of France near the border with Spain), demanded that French restaurants immediately stop serving California wine. Some may say "turnabout is fair play" especially after the Congressional cafe in Washington D.C. renamed... continue reading

06.28.2012

The Screaming Secondary Wine Market

One of the most difficult winery mailing lists to get on in the world is most certainly Domaine de la Romanée-Conti. Not only are the number of bottles that the domaine has to sell minuscule, but permission to be on the list is typically only granted to people whom the domaine and its agents believe are unlikely to simply turn around and resell the wine. I happen to know this because a friend of mine was recently offered such a coveted position, and when, flabbergasted, she asked why she'd been given this opportunity, the person making the offer simply said,... continue reading

06.23.2012

Hungarian Wine: The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly. My Notes From the 2012 Pannon Wine Challenge.

As some of my readers know, I spent four days in May as a judge at the Pannon Wine Challenge, a national competition for Hungarian wine. While this competition is not the sole national proving ground for Hungarian wines, it is perhaps the best known. Along with eight other judges, three of whom were Hungarian, I spent many hours tasting hundreds of wines and passing judgement. In the interest of my more intrepid readers, and anyone in Hungary who cares (perhaps a bit more than my average US reader), I've decided to post all my tasting notes from the competition... continue reading

06.20.2012

Syrah - The End of an Era?

For the past 20 years, the last weekend in April or the first weekend in May has always meant the same thing for thousands of wine lovers in California. Each spring at this time, we hop in our cars and make a pilgrimage to the town of Paso Robles for a round of inebriated bowling followed by two days of Syrah, Grenache, Carignane, Cinsault, and every other grape you'd expect in the line-up at an event named Hospice du Rhône. The event, which grew out of wine lover Matt Garretson's love of Viognier, has long been the premier Rhône-focused event... continue reading

05.31.2012

You Can't Make This Wine Shit Up!

Superstar rocker Maynard James Keenan, who recently decided Arizona wasn't hot enough for making wine and moved to growing vines in the Gobi Desert, recently got Dr. Ruth Westheimer drunk off her ass, fed her some human flesh, seduced her, and now the two of them now have a love child. Or something like that. Bat boy has escaped again. The internets are a wonderful thing. Not only do they permit the atrocious yet topically appropriate grammar displayed by the previous sentence, they bring us glorious tales of the wine world's reality that are too precious to imagine. The aforementioned... continue reading

05.30.2012

Starter Wine Cellars for New Facebook Millionaires

Dear newly-minted-millionaires, Firstly, let me say congratulations on making the investment of time, money, or blood-sweat-and-tears that landed you with a sizable piece of a $100 billion $57 Billion company. I'm sure you're already fantasizing about what you might do with all that money once it turns from paper to potential cash. I would be. I do hope that the first thing you do is put a big chunk of it away to safely guarantee yourself and your family some income for the rest of your lives, and not end up like the Baby Boomers who seem to have spent... continue reading

05.17.2012

California Grape Shortage - Fact or Fiction?

"Panic! Wine Prices Due to Rise" read a recent headline on TIME Magazine's website. Welcome to the absurd states of America. That TIME Magazine, not generally known for sarcastic titling, would be reporting on the subtleties of the wine grape market is surprise enough, but the suggestion that Americans care enough about wine to panic simply boggles the mind. According to the statistics released by several sources, including the United States Department of Agriculture as well as The Wine Institute, California (which produces 90% of American wine) indeed faces a grape shortage. These statistics arrive each year in the inboxes... continue reading

05.13.2012

Hungarian Wine Judging

As some of you know, I've just spent the last few days holed up on top of a hill overlooking the plains of Hungary tasting several hundred Hungarian wines and passing judgement upon them. An 11th Century abbey that also happens to be a world heritage site makes for a pretty impressive spot to be passing judgement, it turns out. I'm participating as a judge for something called the Pannon Wine Challenge. Now in its 13th year, this contest is effectively the main national competition for Hungarian wines. Two years ago the event was taken over by a gentleman named... continue reading

05.06.2012

Off to Hungary to Judge, Taste, and Learn

It was 2005. I was in New York City on business, and convinced (not that I had to twist his arm) my business partner to come to a restaurant called Cru with me for the first time. I had been reading about Cru for years, and positively salivated at glimpses their wine list online. To make a long story short, Robert Bohr suggested a bottle of Furmint. It was my first taste of the grape outside of Tokaji dessert wine, of which I had tasted only a few at that point as well. I swooned, and reviewed the wine on... continue reading

04.19.2012

Exporting America

On my recent trip to Austria, I stopped in at one of the city's more well-regarded chain wine stores, Wein & Co, and took a browse around. I always try to visit wine stores whenever I travel abroad, not only to do a little shopping, but also to get an impression of what the locals are faced with when they pop in to grab a bottle for dinner. I'm interested in the selection of wines on offer - the balance between local wines and imports, the depth of offerings, price ranges, and more. In particular I'm always curious to see... continue reading

04.09.2012

Vote for Vinography in the 2012 Saveur Blog Awards

I'm honored to have been nominated again for the Saveur Blog Awards, and if you enjoy Vinography and don't mind spending a minute or two on my behalf, I certainly would appreciate your vote. The folks at Saveur do a very good job of putting these awards together. This year there were a jaw dropping 40,000 nominations across their various categories. The finalists they narrowed their choices down to are truly excellent. Every year I discover some new blogger from their list of finalists.That's reason enough to head on over to the awards web site and check out who is... continue reading

04.08.2012

Meet The German Wine Queen

Beauty pageants have come and gone in America as a source of prime time entertainment. Where the Miss America pageant used to get serious top billing, it now can't compete with even the middle-rung of reality television, which provides all of the drama, and infinitely more lascivious, trash-talking vicariousness than a family-friendly catwalk of beauties in bikinis who all love puppies and want to have six children. Given the success of shows like American Idol, perhaps we'd still be interested in beauty pageants in this country if the competition also involved some degree of talent or intelligence beyond looking pretty... continue reading

04.01.2012

Advancing Vinography Wine Press Relations

This post is another one of my periodic entries focused primarily on the wine industry. If you are a consumer, you may find this of less interest. I've been blogging about wine here for more than 8 years, as many of you know, all the while, working pretty hard at my real job to pay the bills and put food on my family's table. Periodically (actually, all the time) I get asked, "so when are you going to give up that day job and become a full time wine writer." My answer is always disappointing to most of these folks,... continue reading

03.25.2012

The Future of American Wine

I just came across what is perhaps the most insightful, well written piece of commentary on the future of the American wine industry I have ever seen. It displays a command of the language, a quality of prose, and a level of research and insight that are altogether rare today in wine journalism. That's probably because the article was written in 1934. Apparently Fortune magazine has, every Sunday, been publishing a favorite story from their archives, and today they decided to publish an article entitled "Can wine become an American habit?" which left my jaw on the table. It provides... continue reading

03.20.2012

In Pursuit of California Balance

Clumsy. Overripe. High alcohol. Over oaked. Fruit driven. Massive. Sweet. Made for Mr Parker's Palate. The historical stereotype of California wine, like all stereotypes, has a basis in truth. Especially for many Europeans, whose exposure to these wines consist of a lot of industry commentary flavoured by a precious few bottles that make it across the Atlantic and don't go far towards dispelling the reputation. Even most Americans in the wine business with more than an ounce of perspective will readily admit that American tastes in wine lean towards the bigger, riper, and sweeter end of the spectrum. Both national... continue reading

03.19.2012

How Would You Like an All-Expenses-Paid Wine Trip?

File this under things I always meant to do but have never gotten around to.... Every year an organization called the Geoffrey Roberts Trust picks several people to give about $4200 to so they can travel someplace in the world to eat, drink, and write about it, or do something that makes a positive difference in the culinary or beverage world. Yes, you heard that right, you could get ~$4200 towards some fabulous culinary or wine adventure provided you had a good reason to go other than simply wanting to see how much Barolo you could drink before falling over.... continue reading

03.19.2012

And the Winners of Rhone Rangers Tasting Tickets Are...

Thanks to all who entered the Limerick Raffle. We had some choice submissions (see below). The two names I picked from a hat from those who entered were: David Voong Jamie Hwang Congratulations. You're on your way to the Rhone Rangers tasting. I sent you each an e-mail about how to claim your ticket. Thanks to the rest of you for composing limericks. For your reading pleasure, here are all the submissions. Not all exactly in true limerick form, but we're not going to be sticklers here. There was a Vielles Vignes red wine Syrah who said bollocks all to... continue reading

03.15.2012

Aubert de Villaine on Fake Wines

"This has been a bit of an awakening for us," said Aubert de Villaine, when I cornered him after the 2009 vintage tasting in San Francisco three weeks ago and asked him about the controversy surrounding the recent Spectrum auction in London, which, in part, has led to the arrest of Rudy Kurniawan. "We didn't realize there was so much controversy." De Villaine is, of course, the co-director of Domaine de la Romanée-Conti, and one of the most powerful and respected men in the fine wine industry. I felt, and still do feel, quite strongly that he has a responsibility... continue reading

03.09.2012

GOTCHA!: Wine Collector Rudy Kurniawan Arrested by the FBI

Though it may go unnoticed by a large part of the wine world, the high-end collecting and auction world was rocked yesterday by a major development, one that promises to turn what was an obscure facet of the wine world into serious news. Millionaire playboy and infamous wine collector Rudy Kurniawan was arrested yesterday by the FBI and is being charged with mail and wire fraud charges alleging that he attempted to sell fake wine at auction that could have been worth more than $1.3 million if real. Kurniawan was not only the subject of a suit by billionaire William... continue reading

03.07.2012

A Brief Tale of Three Vintages in Napa Valley

For the past few years, just prior to the big barrel auction that the Napa Valley Vintners uses to fund much of its operations, it puts on a very interesting wine tasting event. Called the Vintage Perspective Tasting, it offers up a number of wines to be tasted blind by the trade and press as an educational exercise. This year's tasting offered 14 Cabernets and 9 Merlots from Napa Valley, each across three different vintages: 2007, 2008, and 2009. The idea, of course, is to taste these wines and see what you think about the vintage character. I often spend... continue reading

03.03.2012

2009 Burgundy Vintage According to Domaine de la Romanée-Conti

Pick your metaphor. It's the wine world's equivalent of being invited to the White House for a dinner, or to the G8 Summit in Davos. Or a getting a ticket to the Oscars, except there's only thirty people in attendance, and the awards are going only to one movie. When the invitation arrives to join a very small group of people to taste the current releases from Domaine de la Romanée-Conti along with the co-director of the domaine, Aubert de Villaine, you cancel whatever plans you have, and just go. Then, on the appointed morning, you file quietly into the... continue reading

03.01.2012

What Wine Drinkers Can Learn from Leonardo Da Vinci

As some of you know, I was in Napa last week at the Symposium for Professional Wine Writers. The keynote speaker was Michael Gelb, the best selling author and speaker, whose most popular book How to Think Like Leonardo da Vinci, served as the primary subject for his talk. Gelb is a passionate wine drinker, who also has written a book called Wine Drinking for Inspired Thinking, so a talk on creativity from him didn't come entirely out of the blue. Even though wine was not his subject, he wove several wine anecdotes into his speech. His talk was focused... continue reading

02.26.2012

Napa's Best Cabernet: Tasting at Premiere Napa Valley 2012

It looks like the California wine industry is officially out of the recession. Yesterday, at the annual Premiere Napa Valley wine auction, the Napa Valley Vintners Association cleaned up, earning a total of $3.1 million, a gain of 31% from 2011's total. As usual, the auction featured 200 unique wines, most from the 2010 vintage, which were sold to raise funds for the organization. These wines are made solely for the auction in quantities of 5, 10, or 20 cases, and often represent the highest quality wine that each producer can make. For anyone (such as myself) with no aspirations... continue reading

02.21.2012

Next Week: My First Wine Trip to Germany and Austria

I've always wondered just how many Rieslings I could taste in a single day before my teeth cracked and fell out of my face. I'm about to find out. In a couple of weeks I'll be headed to the frigid banks of the Rhine to engage in what can only be called an endurance sport: tasting as much German wine as possible in four days at the international wine expo known as ProWein. Italians have their VinItaly. The Bordelais have their VinExpo. And the Germans and Austrians have ProWein. Held in a massive convention center in Düsseldorf over several days,... continue reading

02.19.2012

Wine, Rap, and the Power of Product Placement

No one should ever underestimate the power of the American media and entertainment universe. Pinot Noir producers tried valiantly for years to increase consumption of that grape variety by the American public with little success. Then a fun little movie comes out that glorifies the grape, and sales shoot through the roof. Rap may well be the best thing that ever happened to Cristal champagne, or, perhaps according to them, the worst. Rapper Jay-Z and others were constantly weaving the $250 champagne into their lyrics (and serving it at the clubs they owned), and sales predictably skyrocketed. But then in... continue reading

02.07.2012

Don Cornwell, The Fine Wine Bidder's Hero

Don Cornwell may well be a wine fraudster's worst nightmare -- a highly motivated, highly educated, and extremely experienced collector who is tired of seeing people pay outrageous sums for fake wine and of auction houses that seem to have no qualms about selling it to them. Cornwell has been collecting burgundy for more than three decades. But he's not just a wealthy lawyer with a taste for Pinot Noir. By night he's the owner and editor of the Oxidized Burgundies Wiki Site, which is building a community database of experiences with prematurely oxidized white burgundies. And by day he... continue reading

02.02.2012

Social Media and the Wine Industry: A New Era

Ordinary wine consumers may want to skip this post. On occasion I write purely for the wine industry, and today I'd like to address the role of social media in the wine industry. Whenever I write these kinds of things, I like to remind people that by day I run a company called HYDRANT that gets paid a lot of money to help big brands be extremely successful marketing, selling, and engaging with their customers online. In short, what follows below isn't just random opinion. Let's be clear, first, what I mean by social media, a phrase that has become... continue reading

01.30.2012

Australia as a Lesson on Currency and the Wine Industry

Some of the big news last week in the wine world had to do with the shifting buying habits of our friends Down Under. Thanks to the vagaries of the international currency markets, the Australian Dollar has appreciated greatly against the Euro, and for the first time since the Euro was launched, stuff from Europe is pretty cheap in Australia. So, what does a wine loving country like Australia (they consume about three times as much wine per capita as America) do when imports get cheap? They stop buying Australian wine all the time and they start buying imported wine.... continue reading

01.24.2012

Gallo and Constellation Screwed by U.S. Tort Law

I'm sure I'm going to catch hell for this post from any number of quarters, but it needs to be said. Big wine companies are favorite punching bags for wine lovers that would never buy their products. Sometime's there's a good reason for this, like when they throw their weight around in the marketplace in ways that aren't exactly good for the industry. The bigger the company, the bigger the mistakes they can make as well. When they make mistakes, sometimes these companies can be hung out to dry simply because they have deep pockets. And that's exactly what seems... continue reading

01.24.2012

The States of Wine Shipping

'It will cost the economy thousands of jobs.' 'It will reduce tax revenues and destroy retailers.' 'It will result in an epidemic of teen drunk driving.' These were but a few of the vociferous arguments made on 5 January against a bill introduced to the New Jersey state legislature that merely proposed to allow New Jersey state wineries (of which there are now more than 40) to ship their wines to state residents, just like wineries in the neighbouring state of New York. The individuals offering these arguments were primarily representatives of the state's liquor wholesalers, who purportedly spent more... continue reading

01.14.2012

Reflections on 8 Years of Wine Blogging

Eight years ago, I decided that instead of giving my friends the same advice over and over again about my favorite wines and restaurants, I would start a blog -- both so that I would have someplace to send them, and so that I could learn about what a blog was and how it worked. And that, as they say, was the first day of the rest of my life. I've been writing about wine almost every day since then, pausing only to go on my honeymoon, hang out with my new baby girl, and go fishing in Alaska this... continue reading

01.03.2012

Knock it Off: Things I'd Like to See Disappear From the Wine World in 2012

It's the beginning of a new year. Everyone's making lists. The most memorable wines of 2011. Predictions about what will happen in the wine world in 2012. Lists of new years wine resolutions. Actually, I wrote an article for Fine Cooking Magazine's last issue with five New Years wine resolutions. Mine were focused on exploring niches of the wine world that are generally ignored. Check it out if you're interested. It's an excellent magazine and is on newsstands now. But let's talk now about a different sort of list: the stuff that should go away. Here's the list of stuff... continue reading

01.02.2012

You Won Tickets to the ZAP Zinfandel Festival!

Thanks to everyone who submitted Zinfandel themed haiku poems as entries for a chance to win tickets to the ZAP Zinfandel tasting taking place on January 26-28, 2012 here in San Francisco. After assigning everyone a number and then using a true random number generator, I have picked the following six names "out of a hat" as winners. Each of the people below will receive two tickets to the grand tasting, courtesy of Vinography. I will send you each an e-mail, but you can pick up your tickets the day of the event at will call under the name you... continue reading

12.31.2011

Happy New Year. I'm Not Recommending Any Sparkling Wine.

2011 comes to a close. If you're a wine consumer, and one that likes to read about wine, you've been bombarded for the last three weeks with recommendations for sparkling wine. I promise not to subject you to more of the same. In fact, I'm here to object to the fact that 98% of the writing about sparkling wine takes place in the few weeks that run up to New Year's Eve. OK, I'll admit that I haven't done a scientific study, but really, as someone who reads pretty much everything published on the internet with the word "wine" in... continue reading

12.25.2011

And From Napa, a Huge Sigh of Relief

A couple of months ago, I did some speculating in my monthly column for Jancis Robinson about what would happen in Napa now that the reins for reviewing the region have been handed from Robert Parker to Antonio Galloni. The fact that Galloni's scores for Napa have just come out wouldn't ordinarily merit much attention from me, except that in my article I made some predictions about what might change as a result. My prediction was: nothing. And it turns out that's pretty much what happened. To save you, and anyone else insane enough to waste a few hours of... continue reading

12.21.2011

Bringing Your Own Wine Glasses to a Restaurant

It's not every day as a wine blogger you get to write about Madonna. But she made news recently (as she does every time she appears in public, because, hey, what better do we have to do with our time?) when she showed up at an Italian restaurant for a romantic dinner bearing not only her own bottle of wine, but her own glasses, too. While the gossip mongers pounced on this detail of her dinner as an excuse to speculate about her being a germaphobe. I do happen to know that the restaurant where she was dining, Osteria Cotta,... continue reading

12.20.2011

2011 Tests U.S. Vintners

'Mildew, botrytis, blue mould, green mould, you name it, it was everywhere. This is the most difficult vintage I've ever been a part of', said winemaker Sam Spencer, summing up his point of view on the 2011 vintage in Napa and Sonoma. Spencer's role at one of California's most well known négociants, Cameron Hughes Wine, means he has the opportunity to evaluate both thousands of tons of harvested fruit and tens of thousands of hectolitres of finished wines on the market each year. 'There's a lot of really, really fucked up wine out there', he confessed to me forcefully in... continue reading

12.11.2011

Looking for Bias in All the Wrong Places

Do wine critics have a nationalist bias? According to Beppi Crosariol, the wine and spirits columnist for Canada's Globe and Mail newspaper, wine critics from any country with a significant wine industry (but especially America and Australia) can't be trusted to rate their own country's wines without artificially inflating the scores. Crosariol claims that when he is out buying wine based on scores (that this particular wine critic buys his wine based on scores should be your first sign of ignorance) he deducts points if the reviewer is reviewing a wine from their own country. What a load of crap.... continue reading

12.08.2011

Ensuring Organic Wine's Lousy Reputation for Years to Come

I'll bet you didn't know there was an anti-sulfur lobby did you? Sure, you thought, there are those winemakers who try to make wines without sulfur, but they're mostly renegades and eccentrics, mad scientist winemakers-cum-philosophers (all, by the way, terms of endearment from my perspective) who spend more time with goats than with human beings. Some of them make great wine, but they'd most certainly never bother with something ugly like the bureaucracy of food policy, right? They're too busy following their personal vision to make transcendent wines. And thank goodness. That's what I thought, at least, until I got... continue reading

12.07.2011

Giving Gifts to Wine Lovers: My Advice

Here we are in the Holidaze. A time I enjoy and dread with equal measure. I love Winter as a season, and the festive atmosphere that surrounds the holidays, but have always cringed at the massive consumer frenzy and the psychological pressure of gift giving. Finding the right presents to get everyone is right up there with getting a root canal. Don't get me wrong. I love giving people gifts, but the process of trying to decide what to get them and then shopping for it drives me a little batty. In some ways I can't wait to be an... continue reading

11.27.2011

Time for a Margin Call on your Wine?

I wrote last week about the great slurping sound that can be heard from China these days when it comes to wine. The explosion in the wine auction market there has been making news for some time. One of my readers who lives in Hong Kong had some very interesting perspective on the matter, which I am copying from his comment on that previous post:Here is the reality in China from someone who lives in Hong Kong and watches all this development. The biggest reality is that hardly anyone is drinking this stuff. It is being gifted. The problem with... continue reading

11.24.2011

Giving Thanks in 2011

Happy Thanksgiving from Vinography. For those of you outside of North America, today is America's food holiday, where there is no excuse for consuming massive quantities of food with people you love.  I'm in Puerto Vallarta, myself, and plan on spending the evening drinking some big reds from Baja if I can find them, along with some choice Argentinean beef if the claims of the restaurant we've booked for the occasion can be believed. But I'm still thinking about the spirit of this holiday, which has always been one of my favorites.  Growing up, I enjoyed it for the food.... continue reading

11.21.2011

Alder on America: Thanksgiving and Wine

At a certain point in my childhood, Christmas faced a stiff challenge as my favourite holiday. Never mind that I am technically Jewish. For whatever reason, we ended up with a Christmas tree and presents instead of a menorah and the eight nights of chocolate coins for Hanukkah. But at a certain point, as much as I loved getting presents, there was one thing I enjoyed almost as much as ripping the wrapping paper off brightly coloured packages, and that was eating meat. While other kids saw the months between the beginning of the school year and the Christmas holidays... continue reading

11.17.2011

The Downside of AOC

News broke today of the prosecution of a convenience store owner in France, near Bordeaux, whose sales of sugar apparently went off the charts right about around harvest time this year. The sugar was allegedly purchased by local "farmers" to "make jam." Authorities, of course, suspected these farmers of being winemakers, and that the sugar was to be used in wines. While chaptalization, the process of adding sugar to grapes that might not have enough natural sugars in them to ferment properly to the desired alcohol level, is technically legal, there are strict limits on how much and when it... continue reading

11.15.2011

China the Wine Juggernaut

Did you need any further confirmation that China is now the 8000000000 pound gorilla in the global wine industry? From the low end of the consumption spectrum to the high end, Chinese consumers are transforming the global wine scene. First we heard of it, they were beginning to buy up large quantities of very cheap Australian wine. Then they started investing in the wineries themselves. That was good for Australia, who had fallen on hard times in other parts of the world. With exports up 36% year over year, apparently, China was picking up the slack. When Hong Kong eliminated... continue reading

11.10.2011

When I Look at a Wine, I See...

My buddy Joe Roberts, who runs the blog OneWineDude.Com had a nice posting the other day that pointed out one of the great idiocies of what I might call "academic" wine criticism. Entitled "Are Wine Critics 'Wasting' Points on a Wine's Color?" his article explained how most "official" wine scoring methodologies (both those espoused by critics, as well as those taught in the more rigorous wine education curricula around town) include a certain number of points for the "color" of a wine. While I've never been a fan of such strictly metered wine appraisal (my own scoring system attempts, perhaps... continue reading

11.06.2011

Pay For Play Wine Criticism: Everybody On Board

When I first heard about Sam Kim, the New Zealand blogger who was charging wineries to submit wine samples to review, I thought to myself, here's the next guy Robert Parker ought to hire on to the staff at the Wine Advocate. He seems to have the right nose for the business side of wine criticism. Alas, it seems that one of Parkers current contributors has stolen the idea. Sorry Sam, you've been outflanked. But wait, this just in: now that the lawyers have all discussed things it's only the Murcia Wine Association (ASEVIN) that wanted money for tasting wines!... 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

Brand vs. Terroir in Wine Listen Up!! I'll Drink to That on Vinography America's Most Peculiar Appellation What's Holding Wine Back in America The World's First Wine Bar Secrets of the World's Best Wine Lists The Great Prosecco Crisis of 2015 California's Other Seven Percent Imagining a Better Future for the Soils of Champagne Book Signing on May 9th, at Raymond Vineyards in 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

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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