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Taste Washington Day One in Brief

I'm up here in (yes, rainy) Seattle for Taste Washington, the annual festival and celebration of Washington State wine. It's been five years since I attended this event, and that's about four years too long. I came up here to lead a seminar for the event, which we carried off without a hitch this morning to a packed room of enthusiastic tasters. The seminar carried the title, The Allure of the Exotic, and featured off-the-beaten-path grape varieties from a selection of vintners from the tiny White Heron Cellars to the well known likes of Woodward Canyon and Leonetti. I... continue reading


Checking On Some Older CA Pinot Noir

Once upon a time, among the many criticisms leveled at California wine, there existed the notion that California wines did not age as well as their European counterparts. While such notions are less common these days, I still frequently run across the assumptions that most California wine needs to be consumed within 10 years. "Is this stuff going to be any good?" someone will ask me, brandishing a 2001 wine they found in a corner of their wine rack. Despite ranking in the top tier of world-class wines that California produces, Pinot Noir in particular falls prey to doubts about... continue reading


Chateau Rayas and the 2012 Vintage of Chateauneuf-du-Pape

Some wineries are famous. Some are infamous. And some are legendary. Château Rayas sits comfortably between the latter two: equally enigmatic and revered. People don't speak of visiting the place as much as making a pilgrimage, and the stories of such visits often take on an air of the fantastic as well as the absurd. The reclusive and eccentric owner from 1978 to 1997, Jacques Reynaud, on various occasions would hide from visitors, or simply walk them around for a while and bid them adieu without offering them a drop of wine to taste. When Reynaud left the estate... continue reading


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


Premiere Napa Valley and 2012 Cabernet

This past Saturday, The Napa Valley Vintners association held its annual Premiere Napa Valley barrel auction. Held each February as a fundraiser for the Vintners' operations, this auction, and the various associated parties and tastings that turn a sleepy February into a buzzing maelstrom for a few days, are open only to members of the trade (retailers, corporate buyers, and the like). Every year, this auction provides a gauge of the overall demand for Napa wine, and perhaps a broader barometer of the American fine wine market overall. Judging by the auction's haul of of $5.9 million, which obliterated the... continue reading


2008 Rivers-Marie "Summa Old Vines" Pinot Noir, Sonoma Coast

We hear a lot (and I certainly write a lot) about wineries or wine labels that represent the realization of a lifelong dream. Or equally as often they are the expression of someone's ultimate vision, usually something like: "I want to make the most awesome [fill in the blank with varietal or appellation] ever." These wineries and wines begin with a story already formed within them -- a story of the life and trials and tribulations involved in getting the opportunity to pursue the dream or that vision, and the wines are the first chapters of its completion. But there... continue reading


Vinography Unboxed: Week of February 2, 2014

Hello from the bottom of the samples pile. This is the latest installment of Vinography Unboxed, where I highlight some of the better bottles of sample wine that have crossed my doorstep recently. There are some gems from Greece this week, including two of the top wines from Domaine Skouras, one of the better producers making wine in the Nemea region of Greece. If you've not tried Agiorgitiko, you're missing out. A bottle of Ridge Vineyards' Lytton Springs was also in the pile this week, and it, true to form, didn't disappoint. This wine is one of California's best interpretations... continue reading


Tasting Organic Rosé Wines from the South of France

Early this week I spent a few days wandering around the Millesime Bio fair in France. Billed as the world's largest biodynamic and organic wine fair, it was definitely a sight to behold. Lest anyone think that organic and biodynamic wine were a fringe movement, there were more than 800 vintners from dozens of countries showing their wares to tens of thousands of attendees. I explored a number of things at the fair, but by far my most pleasurable tasting experience was the couple of hours I spent tasting organic rosés from the Languedoc and Provence. Whereas in other areas... continue reading


Organic Wines of the Languedoc: An Initial Taste

Hello from France. I'm over here in the Languedoc-Roussillon in advance of the Millesime Bio conference next week, an event which is billed as the world's largest organic and biodynamic wine fair. The organizers, who brought me over to the fair on a press trip, have organized a couple of days prior to the fair that involve some visits in the region and a little tasting here and there. Today we headed down to the little town of Rivesaltes for a tasting of a bunch of organic Languedoc wines. As France's largest wine region, and one that has historically... continue reading


Friuli Meets California: The Wines of Arbe Garbe

You can take the boy out of Friuli, but you can't take the Friuli out of the boy. One quick flash of his boyish smile and it's easy to understand the bright conviviality that you taste in Enrico Bertoz and his wife Letizia's wines. Like the man, they are positively brimming with big love -- a zesty, sunny cheer that is, like his smile, quite infectious. Bertoz, 37, spends his days making wine for Flora Springs Winery in Napa (and as a brief aside, seems to have made a wonderful improvement to the wines in his recent years there). Look... continue reading


Vinography Unboxed: First Week of 2014

Hello from the bottom of the samples pile. This is the latest installment of Vinography Unboxed, where I highlight some of the better bottles of sample wine that have crossed my doorstep recently. This week I was stunned by the latest releases of Nickel & Nickel's single vineyard Cabernets. These are always well made wines, but usually with far too much oak influence for my taste. The 2010 vintage, however combines the leaner fruit of a cooler year with less new oak than usual for a dynamite showing. With great acidity and balance these wines will last for 20 or... continue reading


The Best Champagnes I've Tasted Lately

Champagne cap collection in Reims France © 2013 George Rose. When I look back on my days as a beginning wine drinker, I find many reasons to chuckle, and more than a few at which to shake my head. As we begin our journeys to becoming wine lovers there are so many things we do not know. Our limited experiences tell us something about the world of wine, but only much later do we realize how little. For many years after I started drinking wine, I didn't like Champagne. I found it bitter and parching, an angular sort of drink... continue reading


Vinography Unboxed: Week of December 15, 2013

Hello from the bottom of the samples pile. This is the latest installment of Vinography Unboxed, where I highlight some of the better bottles of sample wine that have crossed my doorstep recently. Let's start this week with the beauty of age. I dug a 2005 Clos du Val Cabernet Sauvignon out of the pile this week and it was a stunner -- seamless, regal, restrained, and utterly delicious. It made the rest of the samples this week seem like amateurs. In addition to that wine in the red department, we've got a very pretty Pinot Noir from Sequana, from... continue reading


Jim Barry Wines, Clare Valley, Australia: Some Current Releases

The early American colonists were at a pretty big disadvantage when it came to making their own wine. It just so happens that they picked pretty much exactly the wrong section of the country to settle, at least as far as grapevines (and perhaps Native Americans) were concerned. But that was ok, I guess, as most of them thought drinking was a sin. The first major settlers to colonize Australia, on the other hand, had their priorities straight, and decided to live where they could actually grow vines in their backyards. Or at least the combination of English, Polish,... continue reading


Forlorn Hope: The Remarkable Wines of Matthew Rorick

I've decided that Matthew Rorick, despite his muscular frame and the weathered crow's feet of a classic California surf bum, is the crazy cat lady of California wine. When I tell him this, he puts his strong-jawed, blonde-stubbled face in his hands with a mock sob and shakes his head. His longish blond locks spill over wine-stained fingers. "Its true, it's true," he chokes with laughter. He raises his head with a smile. "No, I couldn't possibly take another one! OK, OK come on in, come on in," he pantomimes, ushering yet another obscure grape variety into the fold of... continue reading


Vinography Unboxed: Week of November 24, 2013

Hello from the bottom of the samples pile. This is the latest installment of Vinography Unboxed, where I highlight some of the better bottles of sample wine that have crossed my doorstep recently. Let's start this week with a truly stunning Chardonnay from what is quickly becoming the gold standard for Southern Hemisphere Chardonnay, the Limari Valley in Chile. This single vineyard bottling from Merino is outstanding, and at $30 puts many California Chardonnays that cost twice as much to shame. Chile makes up a good portion of this week's samples. From a lovely Sauvignon Blanc from one of the... continue reading


Vinography Unboxed: Week of November 17, 2013

Hello from the bottom of the samples pile. This is the latest installment of Vinography Unboxed, where I highlight some of the better bottles of sample wine that have crossed my doorstep recently. Let's start this week with a couple of very unusual wines from Chile, that are both quite compelling in their own right. The first is a wine made from the Pedro Ximenez grape, a grape imported to Chile from Spain, that has historically been used to make Pisco, the distilled spirit quite popular in Chile and neighboring Peru. The high desert areas of Elqui have been growing... continue reading


Vinography Unboxed: Week of November 10, 2013

Hello from the bottom of the samples pile. This is the latest installment of Vinography Unboxed, where I highlight some of the better bottles of sample wine that have crossed my doorstep recently. Let's start this week with two winners from the southern hemisphere. The first is one of the more exciting Chilean wines I've tasted in a long time, and just the sort of thing that Chile ought to be trying to do more of: an old vine blend of lots of different grapes from the Cauquenes Valley in the Maule region. The Clos des Fous "Cauquenina" is juicy... continue reading


Henschke Wines, Eden Valley, Australia: Some Current Releases

While many may argue about just which individual wine represents Australia's finest expression of Shiraz, few could argue that when considering top producers of Australian Shiraz, Henschke shouldn't be on the short list. For more than 140 years, across five generations, the Henschke family has been growing grapes and making wine in a little corner of the hills surrounding the Barossa Valley. For the last 30 years, the winery has been run by Stephen Henschke and his wife Prue, with increasing help from their children. The history of the Henschke family is in many ways the history of the... continue reading


Vinography Unboxed: Week of November 3, 2013

Hello from the bottom of the samples pile. This is the latest installment of Vinography Unboxed, where I highlight some of the better bottles of sample wine that have crossed my doorstep recently. This week included one of the better orange wines I've tasted from California. For those unfamiliar with this designation, an orange wine is a white wine made like a red wine -- namely with an extended contact between the juice and the skins of the grape, resulting in a wine the hue of slightly diluted orange soda. This lovely rendition from the Santa Cruz mountains was quite... continue reading


The Best of New Zealand Pinot Noir

Sometimes it almost seems possible to taste the beauty of a place when we're sipping a wine. If this were actually possible, instead of just being a compelling romantic metaphor that we like to invoke about wine, then without a doubt, the world's greatest wines would come from New Zealand. There's little to say about New Zealand's staggering beauty that hasn't been said in words well by others, and a million times over in photographs. It's one of the most unspoiled landscapes on the planet, and its diverse topography defies easy description. Not everyone can manage a visit to... continue reading


Vinography Unboxed: Week of October 27, 2013

Hello from the bottom of the samples pile. This is the latest installment of Vinography Unboxed, where I highlight some of the better bottles of sample wine that have crossed my doorstep recently. This week is the Sparkling Wine edition of Unboxed. Tasting sparkling wine is something best done in large quantities and all at once, right? So this week I popped the cork on a lot of the sparkling samples that I had sitting in a corner, and here's what I thought. The stars of the domestic set were certainly, and predictably a couple of the Schramsberg bottlings. All... continue reading


The Doctor is In: A Visit with the Mosel's Dr. Loosen

Winding your way along the German Moselstrasse, tucked in between the curves of the river that the highway mirrors, and the impossibly steep vineyards, the picturesque villages whose names adorn some of the world's greatest Rieslings give the impression of timelessness. When the stately homes whose family names also appear on these labels cozy up to 12th Century churches and cobbled courtyards, you can be forgiven for imagining unbroken lines of winemaking patriarchy stretching back for a millennium, as each father handed the cellar keys to his son through the ages. Certainly, most of the region's famous estates easily... continue reading


Icon Wines of Napa: A Tasting

What would you do if someone offered to hold a tasting of all the best Cabernets in Napa according to you? You'd give them a list, and then do a little dance, and then you'd show up early with bells on. That's not entirely how it went down, but a few weeks ago I was indeed invited to help put on a tasting of many of Napa's top wines for a group of visiting writers, sommeliers, and wine buyers from all over the world. Organized by the Wine Institute, this tasting and the dinner that followed were the penultimate... continue reading


Vinography Unboxed: Week of October 13, 2013

Hello from the bottom of the samples pile. This is the latest installment of Vinography Unboxed, where I highlight some of the better bottles of sample wine that have crossed my doorstep recently. This week's dive into the samples pile yielded a wide range of wines. On the one hand we've got, frankly, a wine that was lost in the cellar for a while, and after a couple of years has yielded remarkable things. At six years of age, this Glen Carlou from South Africa may well be the best $15 bottle of Chardonnay I've ever had. A remarkable accident,... continue reading


Matthiasson Wines, Napa: Current Releases

If there is anything that could be described as a fabric of winemaking influence in Napa, it consists of a loose-knit network of shining threads connecting winemakers and wineries. There was a time in Napa when this network consisted of a few bright nodes from which all other connections spread. Icons such as Andre Tchelistcheff and Myron Nightingale were some of the strongest hubs of winemaking influence that spread to populate an entire valley with a next generation of vintners. With each generation, the web of influence has become more diffuse. Still, there are defined constellations of winemakers who... continue reading


Drinking The Past: The Wines of Zorah, Armenia

Wines are always a link to our past. At the very least they tell a story of a previous season, capturing in the bottle and in the glass the sum of one circuit around the sun. But there is still more. Wine is also the repository of hopes, dreams, struggles, and levity -- all the humanity that conspires to harness the soil, the weather, and the unruly grape into something delicious. But occasionally, wine can be yet even more. Some wines tell stories and represent a past much deeper and more profound than one, or even several, generations of toil... continue reading


Vinography Unboxed: Week of September 29, 2013

Hello from the bottom of the samples pile. This is the latest installment of Vinography Unboxed, where I highlight some of the better bottles of sample wine that have crossed my doorstep recently. The stars of this week's tastings were clear. It's tough to beat Gerard Bertrand's blend of Grenache, Syrah and Mourvedre from Corbieres in France for 16 bucks! I also swooned for the Dutton Goldfield Pinot Blanc, which is made in small quantities and can be tough to find, but should be snapped up, if you see it. Bonny Doon Vineyards have crafted an exceptionally proper Albariño, that... continue reading


Vinography Unboxed: Week of September 22, 2013

Hello from the bottom of the samples pile. This is the latest installment of Vinography Unboxed, where I highlight some of the better bottles of sample wine that have crossed my doorstep recently. This week's selections had a little something for everyone. For the cutting edge hipster crowd, I've got an unusual and distinctive Chenin Blanc from a very traditional, non-interventionalist winemaker from Savennieres in the Loire Valley of France. For the die-hard California heritage fans I've got a library-aged Zinfandel from old vines at Dry Creek Vineyard. For the svelte, Pinot-loving crowd you'll want to check out Pence Ranch's... continue reading


An Obsession With Pinot: The Wines of Jamie Kutch

"I was always a hobby person as a kid, but I I would push them beyond where anyone would normally go," chuckles winemaker Jamie Kutch. The last real hobby I had was DJing. We're not just talking about playing music, we're talking turntables, mixing, blending, scratching and shredding. This was an era when I was going to college in the Bronx, smoking a little pot and watching my roommate play with his turntables. He had been DJing for six or seven years at that point. I decided it was something I wanted to do, and within six months I... continue reading


Vinography Unboxed: Week of September 15, 2013

Hello from the bottom of the samples pile. This is the latest installment of Vinography Unboxed, where I highlight some of the better bottles of wine that have crossed my doorstep recently. This week's selections included one of my favorite new Syrah bottlings in California, from Petrichor. Which, incidentally, is definitely the aroma to beat all aromas, and probably what I would have wanted to call any wine I ever made (in all my hypothetical free time). This wine happens to be made by Duncan Myers of Arnot-Roberts, and, well, you can taste it. There's also a pedigreed Cabernet from... continue reading


Vinography Unboxed: Week of September 8, 2013

Hello from the bottom of the samples pile. This is the latest installment of Vinography Unboxed, where I highlight some of the better bottles of wine that have crossed my doorstep recently. A few interesting things came out of the pile this week, including a gorgeous Pinot Noir with a little age on it from Baxter Winery in the Anderson Valley. There are some bottles of this floating around on the market and it is well worth seeking out. I'm working through a number of Ridge Vineyards samples, and their stalwart East Bench Zinfandel continues to perform as expected. Tasty... continue reading


Cantine Nicosia, Sicily: Current Releases

In the shadow of the fiery Mount Etna, five generations of men with the last name Nicosia, some with the first name Francesco, some with the first name Carmelo have been shepherding Sicilian wine to greatness. The first Nicosia that anyone talks about was Francesco, who in 1898 began a wine trading business in the little town of Trecastagni to capitalize on the world's voracious appetite for Bordeaux. And what might Sicily have to do with Bordeaux in the 19th Century? Simple. Far more bottles of "Bordeaux" were being sold than could be produced in the region in the... continue reading


Vinography Unboxed: Week of September 1, 2013

Hello from the bottom of the samples pile. This is the latest installment of Vinography Unboxed, where I highlight some of the better bottles of wine that have crossed my doorstep recently. All sorts of exciting things showed up in the samples pile this week, including the dependably great Fumé Blanc from Grgich Hills which always brings a smile to my lips after the first sip. It's bright, sunny, and delicious. In the same category, Yangarra's entry-level, old vine Grenache is one of the wine world's great values -- bursting with flavor and from some seriously old vines in South... continue reading


Coolest of the Cool: Tasting Notes from West Sonoma Coast Vintners 2013

It may not be the sole source of many of California's most exciting wines being made (there are several frontiers active at the moment), but the far western coast of Sonoma County would be heavily -- very heavily -- present in any list I might make of the best wines produced in the state over the past few years. From nooks, crannies, ridges and ruffles studded with redwoods and shrouded in fog, some of the country's best Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Syrah wines are being eked out of chilly vineyards by passionate winemakers who are at the vanguard of... continue reading


Vinography Unboxed: Week of August 25, 2013

Hello from the bottom of the samples pile. This is the latest installment of Vinography Unboxed, where I highlight some of the better bottles of wine that have crossed my doorstep recently. This week included several wines from fairly stalwart producers. I tasted through a number of releases from Bonny Doon Vineyards, the star of which were his white Rhone blend that is aged in glass "bonbonnes" and the Cigare Volant red Rhone blend that happened to be aged in old oak foudres -- big casks that hold around 3,000 gallons. Dry Creek Vineyards sent me a library wine of... continue reading


Schlossgut Diel, Nahe, Germany: Current Releases

When Caroline Diel was seven, she was old enough to wonder whether or not her father loved her as much as her older brother, Victor. After all, her father had been making a wine called Cuvee Victor for several years. The question was clearly too much for her father, who capitulated immediately and began to make a Riesling named Cuvee Caroline. "But then by 1990," she recalls, "there was such a huge demand for Cuvee Victor, that my parents told me, 'Unfortunately we don't have enough wine to make yours anymore. We have to put it all into Cuvee... continue reading


From Blogger to Winemaker: The Wines of Two Shepherds

The longer I write about wine, the more roads to passion I discover. It was only a matter of time, then, before the ranks of successful winemakers became populated with wine bloggers. William Allen is one of several people I know of whose passion for wine led them first to blog about it, and then more recently to make it. Such a journey is not remarkable on its own -- more than a few wine writers have decided to try their hands at making the stuff they've spun yarns about for years. The fact that Allen happens to have been... continue reading


Vinography Unboxed: Week of August 11, 2013

Hello from the bottom of the samples pile. This is the latest installment of Vinography Unboxed, where I highlight some of the better bottles of wine that have crossed my doorstep recently. This week included a wonderful duo of Pinot Noirs from Foursight Wines in Anderson Valley. Wonderful not only because they were each an excellent wine, but for what they also had to teach. Both were made from the same fruit, from the same vineyard, but one was made in accordance with natural winemaking principles, with no added yeast, sulfur, or other common elements of winemaking technique. While both... continue reading


Weingut Fritz Haag, Mosel, Germany: Current Releases

The Mosel River placidly winds its way from the heart of Germany to the northwest on its journey to join the Rhine. Its deeply carved and ancient course through blue Devonian slate long ago defined the hallowed hillsides that have grown the world's greatest Rieslings for centuries. It takes a personal visit to the Mosel to fully appreciate the logic of the region's terroir. As it journeys sinuously from the village of Ruwer to the village of Alf, some 35 miles to the northwest, the river's course is dotted with town after tiny town. Each of these towns either... continue reading


Vinography Unboxed: Week of August 4, 2013

Hello from the bottom of the samples pile. This is the latest installment of Vinography Unboxed, where I highlight some of the better bottles of wine that have crossed my doorstep recently. Let's begin this week with some continued impressive work from Thomas Fogarty winery. Winemaker Nathan Kandler has been doing some truly stellar work there, and these Pinots (and a Chardonnay) are showing extremely well in their youth. I've got another Chardonnay in the pile worth looking at from Oregon, as well as a lovely white Rhone blend from Mendocino county courtesy of the reliable Sonoma producer, Anaba. One... continue reading


Weingut Dönnhoff, Nahe, Germany: Current Releases

Some great wines obscure their own greatness, and seemingly get noticed out of the corner of your eye, and then only if you're only paying close attention. Some great wines sidle up next to you, inclining their heads as if to say, "Hey there, good lookin'." And then there are the great wines that blow through the doors of the restaurant and knock you speechless on your ass. Welcome to Weingut Dönhoff, unquestionably home to some of the world's greatest Rieslings. Weingut Dönhoff sits unassumingly on the green banks of the placid and pastoral Nahe river, nestled in the... continue reading


Vinography Unboxed: Week of July 21, 2013

Hello from the bottom of the samples pile. This is the latest installment of Vinography Unboxed, where I highlight some of the better bottles of wine that have crossed my doorstep recently. Let's begin this week with the big surprise that came in the form of the Thomas Fogarty Pinot Noir. It's been some time since I've had the estate's wines, but let's just say they've come a LONG way since I got married at their facilities 8 years ago. This wine knocked my socks off. Winemaking is now being done by the young Nathan Kandler, and if this bottle... continue reading


Eva Fricke, Rheingau, Germany: Current Releases

Eva Frick's eyes are the same shade as her electric turquoise tennis shoes. They are so arresting that it can be hard to concentrate on her soft-spoken and humble answers to my somewhat persistent questions about how a young lady like herself, who didn't even like wine when she started her career is now making some of the most interesting wines in the Rheingau region of Germany. "At first," she says, "I just liked being outside. I liked the individual, creative part of the profession. You can see it as plain agriculture, if you like, but you can also... continue reading


Benanti Winery, Sicily: Current Releases

Few places so viscerally evoke their terroir as do the vineyards on the slopes of Mount Etna in Sicily. Especially when the mountain booms ominously, belching lava, smoke, and ash thousands of feet into the air above. Standing in the black soils from which gnarled 100-year-old vines reach like arthritic hands while fine bits of pulverized volcanic rock drift down from the sky, to add a few more powdery grains to the fine-grained soil at your feet, you can all but taste the terroir. You certainly can smell it, a faint flinty brimstone tinged with sea air. Standing a... continue reading


Vinography Unboxed: Week of July 14, 2013

Hello from the bottom of the samples pile. This is the latest installment of Vinography Unboxed, where I highlight some of the better bottles of wine that have crossed my doorstep recently. Let's begin this week with a classic value Cabernet from Ridge Vineyards, which you might consider the baby brother to their famous and unequaled Monte Bello bottling. The sibling certainly doesn't have the profundity or class of that much more expensive wine, but at 1/3 the price, this one is a bit easier on the pocketbook. On the other end of the spectrum we find the Antinori Family... continue reading


Seresin Estate, Marlborough, New Zealand: Current Releases

It would be all too easy to dismiss Seresin Estate wines as the vanity project of a very talented and very successful cinematographer who needed something to do with his money. Certainly, had you never been to the winery, nor tasted the wines, you could be forgiven for as much. There are plenty of folks who made a lot of money in Hollywood and then plowed it into a few acres of grapes, some expensive barrels, and some very heavy bottles. Anyone who might have tasted Seresin wines, however, would be hard pressed to uphold this misconception, however. And a... continue reading


Vinography Unboxed: Week of July 1, 2013

Hello from the bottom of the samples pile. This is the latest installment of Vinography Unboxed, where I highlight some of the better bottles of wine that have crossed my doorstep recently. I've recently done a seriously large amount of unboxing, and some tasting to boot, so Unboxed will become a bit more regular again. This week we'll start the list with three wines from a relatively new entrant into the American market, and a new entrant into its home market. Lenikus is a new producer of a very old style of wine called Wiener Gemischter Satz. These wines are... continue reading


Tasting the Stars of Trento: A Vertical Tasting of Cantine Ferrari

At the turn of the 20th century, people everywhere set their dreams adrift in the currents of a new era, hoping or feverishly working for a future that matched their visions. One man, born in the mountains of northern Italy was beginning a quest of historic proportions. Giulio Ferrari was in love with wine. But not just with any wine. He loved wine with bubbles. These days, sparkling wines are commonplace, and so beloved around the world that a majority of the world's wine regions produce them. But back in 1898, sparkling wine was still largely the province of, if... continue reading


Massican Wines, Napa: Current Releases

Let's begin with the fact that, in my opinion, Dan Petroski makes the single best bottle of Sauvignon Blanc in the entire state of California. In a world full of superlatives and cliché, I cringe whenever I find myself saying things like "it blew my mind" but his Sauvignon Blanc really did blow my mind the first time I tasted it. This wine makes you want to violently grab your nearest Napa winemaker (whose 14.5% alcohol, 100% New French Oak Sauvignon Blanc sells out every year) by the lapels and shake them, shouting, "Why the hell can't you make wine... continue reading


Passopisciaro Winery, Etna, Sicily: Current Releases

Andrea Franchetti is worrying about a door. It's two days before the Contrada dell'Etna, the main seasonal tasting of Etna wines, and Franchetti is hosting the event at his winery, in the new salon behind his main winery building. A crew of workers is busy pressure testing the fountain that has also recently been installed in the courtyard in the fading light of the afternoon. My Italian is poor, so I can't quite tell just how annoyed the soft-spoken Franchetti is, but it's clear he's not happy that the doors to his tasting salon are hanging a good inch... continue reading


Italy's Best Wines? Tasting at OperaWine 2013

I've often said that if forced to choose a single country, I'd drink the wines of Italy for the rest of my life, forsaking all others. It wouldn't be an easy choice, mind you, but in that proverbial gun-to-the-head scenario, I could certainly face my fate with a certain amount of equanimity, knowing I could range from Lombardy to Sicily for the rest of my life. Yes, I love Italian wine, and I'm not afraid to admit it. That's why, when I got the chance to show up a couple days before VinItaly this year to attend an event... continue reading


Fromm Winery, Marlborough, New Zealand: Current Releases

When was the last time you thanked the Cold War for giving you a great glass of wine? It's not an everyday occurrence for me either, but with the afternoon sunlight streaming in over my shoulder as winemaker Hätsch Kalberer passionately described what was behind the wine I had in my glass, the idea that this pleasurable Pinot was due, in some measure, to the threat of nuclear annihilation made me smile all the wider. (In fact, it turns out that Marlborough Pinot Noir as a whole owes a lot to the nuclear arms race, but hold that thought for... continue reading


2011 Napa Cabernet: Through the Lens of Auction Napa Valley

The event called Auction Napa Valley is actually three auctions in one. I wrote yesterday about the fireworks at this year's auction, which smashed all previous records of charitable giving. But that account focused primarily on the live auction, where more than 40 different star-studded lots are auctioned off by charismatic live auctioneers. While that part of the auction is quite the spectacle, my attendance at the event every year remains focused on the less glamorous barrel auction, in which barrels of wine are auctioned off, a case at a time to the 10 highest bidders by the time... continue reading


Keplinger Wines, Napa: Current Releases

One of the most often proclaimed credentials for winemakers in California consists of having been trained in the Old World. While plenty of California winemakers often "work a harvest" somewhere, it still remains uncommon to find those individuals that have spent multiple years abroad making wine before coming back to the U.S. The number of winemakers in California that have not just consulted, but lived and worked for three or more years in Bordeaux or Burgundy before coming back to make Cabernet or Pinot locally is quite low, but there are those such as David Ramey and Ted Lemon whose... continue reading


The Rhone Renaissance: Tasting Notes from Rhone Rangers 2013

"I'm not dead yet!" protests the old man as he is about to be dumped on the wheelbarrow of corpses. "I think I'll go for a walk," he volunteers. "Shut up, you're not fooling anyone," insists the man trying to get rid of him. I can't help but think of this scene from Monty Python and the Holy Grail whenever I contemplate the fate of California Syrah. For reasons completely unbeknownst to me, it's apparently easier to get rid of a case of the clap than a case of Syrah according to what is now a well worn joke among... continue reading


Vinography Unboxed: Week of May 20, 2013

Hello from the bottom (or more truthfully, from floundering near the top) of the samples pile. This is the latest installment of Vinography Unboxed, where I highlight some of the better bottles of wine that have crossed my doorstep recently. I'm just getting back to the pile after some travel and craziness that has made it hard to find time to open boxes and taste things lately. This week we've got a pretty Riesling from Germany, with a lemon complexion and a hint of something deeper. The couple of biodynamic and mostly unsulfured wines from Ambyth Estate in Paso Robles... continue reading


Pietradolce Winery, Solichiatta, Sicily: Recent Releases

Michele Faro loves his mother, and I do too. In fact, I wanted to kiss the woman after a long day of driving from the northern tip of Sicily down to the eastern slopes of Mount Etna. Tired and hungry, I arrived at the tiny boutique hotel that Faro has named after his mother, Donna Carmela, and sat down to a bowl of her rustic pork ragu and freshly made pasta, and practically burst into tears it was so good. Simple, essential, bursting with flavor, and perfectly spiced -- the tangy tomato sauce playing counterpoint to the rich, fatty saltiness... continue reading


Framingham Wines, Marlborough, New Zealand: Current Releases

Sometimes the true story of a winery is not found in its history, tracing back the ownership from generation to generation. The story of some wineries begins when someone decides to start afresh with the materials of the past, looking forward instead of back. Rex Brooke-Taylor was certainly forward looking when he planted his Marlborough Vineyards in 1980 and 1981. An engineer from Wellington, Brooke-Taylor named his winery Framingham after his ancestral estate in East Anglia, and had the unusual foresight to plant Phylloxera-resistant rootstock in an era when many couldn't imagine the pest making it to New Zealand's... continue reading


Bressan Mastri Vinai, Friuli Izonzo, Italy: Current Releases

I'm not entirely sure why some of the best wines in the world are made by people who are more than a little crazy, but there are enough wacko winemakers out there to make it clear that the connection between great wine and eccentric iconoclasts is more than mere coincidence. Even more telling are the number of these "eno savants" (to perhaps coin a phrase) that live in Friuli, in northeast Italy. Once upon a time, there was no Italy, there was only the river Isonzo, winding its way down out of the Alps towards the Adriatic sea. From the... continue reading


Frank Cornelissen, Etna, Sicily: Upcoming Releases

"It's not going to be big enough," says Frank Cornelissen, watching the backhoe dig out the foundations of his second generation winery in the shadow of the little village church. But before I can ask him why he's bothering to build a winery that he knows isn't going to handle his dreams, he adds, "That's why we bought another cellar. We'll move into that one eventually. The third one will be right." Eventually, in Cornelissen time frames, is about 10 years. It's all part of a plan he is executing with the frenetic passion of a man running across a... continue reading


Churton Wines, Marlborough, New Zealand: Recent Releases

Sometimes we head off into the world searching for our heart's desire only to return home to find that what we needed was right in our own back yard. Like all literary tropes, this one has more than a grain of truth. When Sam Weaver and his wife Mandy decided to move to New Zealand from their native England, they found themselves a pretty house at the base of a hill with a gorgeous view and a lot of big trees. Ten years later, after searching throughout Marlborough for a hillside vineyard to buy, Weaver realized he had been... continue reading


Stella di Campalto, Castelnuovo dell'Abate, Italy: Current Releases

Some stories are just about enough to make you believe in fate. Fifteen years ago, no one in their right mind would have ever predicted that the young Stella di Campalto would be one of the most exciting new producers of Brunello di Montalcino in the last decade. Being of sound mind, she certainly couldn't have imagined it herself, especially given the fact that she didn't drink wine. But luckily for her, and for those of us who love Brunello di Montalcino, she had an aunt who was decidedly not in her right mind. "My mother's family is from Florence,... continue reading


When it Comes to Rosé, Italy Gives France a Run for the Money

My gold standard for pink wine has long been the wines of southern France, in particular Provence. Add in some of the wines of Tavel, Marsannay, and the Loire Valley, and you've pretty much covered the vast majority of what I think is the world's greatest rosé. For anyone who's not familiar with those appellations, they all have one thing in common. They're in France. Have I had good rosés from other places? Sure I have. From all over the world. We're not talking about France having a monopoly here, they're just the safest bet I know of. Or knew... continue reading


Three Glasses Full: Highlights from the 2013 Tre Bicchieri Tasting

When given the opportunity -- usually the occasion of someone asking me "what's your favorite wine" -- I often tell people, with some degree of pride, that my tastes in wine are quite broad. I like wine from everywhere, and love wine from a ton of places, and lust after wines from many places. I don't believe I have a specific bias towards one region or another, and get great enjoyment out of drinking wine from all over. However, each year, my confidence in my catholic tastes is shaken a little as I emerge from the Gambero Rosso Tre... continue reading


2009 Ladera Vineyards Cabernet Sauvignon, Howell Mountain, Napa

I've been drinking wine for nearly 50% of my life at this point, taking notes on wine for almost 20 years, and writing this blog for nine, but despite that fact, it's not exactly common for me to be able to say with certainty that I've tasted every vintage of a particular wine made by any one winery. Even those wineries whose inaugural vintages debuted since Vinography became a going concern I am generally not able to taste their wines with regularity every single year. But there are a few wineries whose wines I have been buying and tasting since... continue reading


Vinography Unboxed: Week of March 24, 2013

Hello from the bottom (or more truthfully, from somewhere in the middle) of the samples pile. This is the latest installment of Vinography Unboxed, where I highlight some of the better bottles of wine that have crossed my doorstep recently. This week seems to be the all-California week for wine samples, with a few favorite brands showing up this week. The Arista and Dutton Goldfield Pinots are always a good bet for quality and reasonable prices (as far as California Pinot Noir goes -- it's all relative). When it comes to white, Macrostie is as sure bet as you can... continue reading


Te Whare Ra, Marlborough, New Zealand: Current Releases

"I think if I hear 'wine must be such a great lifestyle' one more time," says Anna Flowerday, "I think I'm going to punch someone. A lot of people don't understand the crazy hours, the way that wine is such an all encompassing thing." "It's not a lifestyle, it's a life" agrees her husband Jason, as they both dry off their well-worn hands and settle down into dusty chairs in the chilly and slightly ramshackle workroom-cum-enology lab that sits towards the back of their small winery, named Te Whare Ra. A team of two other workers continues racking wine while... continue reading


Dog Point Vineyard, Marlborough, New Zealand: Current Releases

What do you get when two guys who helped to build one of New Zealand's most iconic and successful brands decide they're tired of being administrators and want to get their hands dirty again? You can find it down a little dirt road a ways outside of Blenheim. Drive slow. You might miss the sign. Once through this unassuming gate, you'll likely be attacked. But don't worry, dog slobber won't kill you. After you've met the welcoming committee (Stella, Charlie, Case, Dixon, and/or Monty) you'll find your way to the unassuming sheds and tanks that make up Dog Point Vineyard,... continue reading


Kapcsándy Family Winery, Napa: Current Releases

Napa has a way of turning modest dreams into major productions. Lou Kapcsándy and his wife Bobbie decided to retire to Napa mostly out of nostalgia for the picnics and wine tasting they used to do as a young married couple living in Sausalito. Forty years after the first of these romantic escapes, their retirement dream included only a little cottage with at most an acre or so of vines, so Lou could putter in the garage and make a barrel or two of wine from his backyard fruit. Three years after the family, including their son Louis, made the... continue reading


Vinography Unboxed: Week of March 10, 2013

Hello from the bottom (or more truthfully, from somewhere in the middle) of the samples pile. This is the latest installment of Vinography Unboxed, where I highlight some of the better bottles of wine that have crossed my doorstep recently. This week's offerings hail from France, Australia, Italy, and even Portugal, and bring with them some nice surprises. I continue to be impressed with the still wines of Gloria Ferrer. Better known for their (decent, but not fantastic) sparkling wines, Ferrer's still wines have never garnered much attention (from me or elsewhere). But I've been tasting them for the last... continue reading


Bilancia Wines, Hawke's Bay, New Zealand: Current Releases

New Zealand's Hawke's Bay wine region nestles up against the astonishing natural harbor that lends the area its name, sprawling primarily across flat, former river-beds. These generally gravel-rich and nutrient-poor soils, including the increasingly well-known Gimblett Gravels sub-region, have lent themselves to little else but grape growing. But when they first began to be planted in the early part of the 20th Century, everyone discovered just how good they were for wine. Consequently, you don't see many hillside vineyards in Hawke's Bay. When the former floodplains of the area's many rivers have leveled out such a gorgeous section of land... continue reading


Vinography Unboxed: Week of February 24, 2013

I'm not on the road at the moment, which gives me some time to dive back into the samples pile. So welcome to the latest installment of Vinography Unboxed, where I highlight some of the better wine samples that have crossed my doorstep recently. This week's offerings span the globe, from France, to Australia, to Uruguay, to Italy. I got a pair of white Burgundies from small producer Henri Darnat, whose village Puligny-Montrachet was quite tasty, and made a nice counterpoint to the Grgich Hills Chardonnay, which is always a reliable bottle of wine. I really enjoyed the Clos du... continue reading


The Best of Napa's 2011 Cabernets: Tasting at Premiere Napa Valley

This past Saturday, Napa Valley held what the Napa Valley Vintners association refers to as its "Annual Bake Sale." The event officially named Premiere Napa Valley is held each February as a fundraiser for the Vintners' operations, and is open only to members of the trade (retailers, corporate buyers, and the like). Every year, this auction provides a gauge of the overall demand for Napa wine, and perhaps a broader barometer of the American fine wine market overall. Judging by the auction's proceeds of $3.04 million, which didn't quite top last year's record haul of $3.1 million, the demand for... continue reading


Hawke's Bay Wines With Some Age On Them

With the clouds turning a peachy pink against the always-riveting-blue sky above Hawke's Bay, New Zealand, I found myself strolling around the grounds of Clearview Estate sampling bits of the region's past. To celebrate the final evening of the few days that I and a few dozen other journalists, sommeliers, and wine buyers had spent immersed in the region, several producers grabbed a couple of older bottles from their cellars and offered them up for a leisurely tasting as the last rays of the day hit the cliffs of Cape Kidnappers above the gentle swells of the bay. New Zealand's... continue reading


New Zealand and a Tale of Two Grapes

When you don't have two thousand years of history proving which grapes grow best in your soils, how do you decide what to grow, and how do you learn how to grow it well? And perhaps even trickier, once you've planted something, how do you decide whether you made the right decision? These were some of the questions that went through my mind as I tasted some of the first Grüner Veltliners produced in New Zealand. Along with a few dozen other journalists and members of the wine trade, I attended the 2013 Nelson International Aromatics Symposium a few weeks... continue reading


Man O'War Vineyards, Waiheke Island, New Zealand: Current Releases

Under painfully blue skies and across the turquoise waters of the Hauraki Gulf on a 40-minute ferry ride from Auckland, it's hard to believe you're approaching wine country as the rolling hills of Waiheke Island fill your view. But climb off the ferry in the small cove dotted with lolling sailboats, and wind your way over the hill through the little village with no stoplights, and soon enough, you'll see a vineyard. Continue down the road a ways after a left hand turn and past the place where the pavement runs out permanently, and other than sheep paddocks, stands of... continue reading


Hawkes Bay Merlot: Worth the Effort?

Continuing my coverage of my time spent last week in Hawkes Bay, New Zealand, we come to the opportunity to contemplate the most widely planted grape in the region, and what it may offer. Of the slightly more than 11,800 vineyard acres in the Hawkes Bay, more than 2500 are planted to Merlot. Merlot has long featured in the region's Bordeaux-style blends, along with Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Malbec, and occasionally Petite Verdot. In most wines, just as in the Bordeaux regions of Pomerol and St. Emilion, it is the dominant player rather than Cabernet Sauvignon. And, as one might... continue reading


Hawkes Bay Chardonnay Versus the World

Hello from the land of the Kiwi. As some of you know, I'm down here at the bottom of the world exploring the wines of New Zealand for a couple of weeks. It's been about 8 years since I've been to New Zealand, and I'm quite excited to see how the industry has changed and evolved. New Zealand was the first wine region I visited after beginning my odyssey as a wine writer, and I'm sure I've changed a lot, too. I've tasted a good bit of New Zealand wine in the intervening years, but if feels good to be... continue reading


Best of the West: Tasting the Wines of the Extreme Sonoma Coast

What are the most exciting wines being made in the state of California? From nooks, crannies, ridges and ruffles of western Sonoma county, some of the country's best Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Syrah wines are being eked out of chilly vineyards by passionate winemakers who are at the vanguard of where wine is going in this state. These winemakers, who have sought out some of the most extreme (read: cold) vineyard sites in Sonoma county, have recently rallied together under the banner of the West Sonoma Coast Vintners Association. In August, they put on their second annual public tasting and... continue reading


Vinography Unboxed: Week of January 6, 2013

Welcome to the latest installment of Vinography Unboxed, where I highlight some of the better wine samples that have crossed my doorstep recently. This week's samples included the remainder of the group of wines I was recently sent from Alsace producer Pierre Sparr, and I find that over several of these Unboxed postings, I've basically recommended nearly every wine from this producer. None of them are knockout amazing, but they are all quite tasty, and most are fantastic values. I've got another wine in here this week from Dry Creek producer Quivira, a special blend of Zinfandel from their biodynamically... continue reading


Vinography Unboxed: Here We Go, 2013!

Welcome to the latest installment of Vinography Unboxed, where I highlight some of the better wine samples that have crossed my doorstep recently, and the first edition of 2013. This week's samples included a stellar wine that has quickly become one of Napa's best values, the (slightly difficult to find) "Herrick" red blend from the folks at Conn Creek winery. This bottle is great candidate for a house wine, but sophisticated enough for serious Cabernet drinkers. Quivira, the biodynamic estate in Sonoma's Dry Creek Valley has been producing great wines over the past few years, many of which are excellent... continue reading


2007 Shafer Vineyards "Hillside Select" Cabernet Sauvignon, Stag's Leap District, Napa

In a family wine business, one of the most crucial moments in the history of the enterprise will always be when the parent decides to hand over control of the family's winery to the next generation. This is a time honored tradition, and one that has marked wine dynasties old and new. In Napa's short modern history (following the end of Prohibition) only a few families have achieved or are even trying to create the kind of family legacy that has ensured the continuing success of many old world wineries. Doug Shafer and his father John Shafer have been working... continue reading


2004 Craggy Range "The Quarry" Bordeaux Blend, Hawkes Bay, New Zealand

New Zealand is certainly a land of surprises. A relatively compact landmass, it seems to possess every possible topography and climate. Tropical rainforests, glaciers, arid plains, high deserts, rich low country farmlands, coastal beaches, and alpine foothills, to name just a few. While the country may perhaps be known best for its cool-climate winegrowing, it should really come as no surprise that its winegrowing regions mirror the diversity of its larger geography. The fact that the country has a growing region with a climate like Bordeaux or the upper Rhone Valley (minus some annual moisture), however, still remains somewhat under... continue reading


Vinography Unboxed: Week of December 23, 2012

Welcome to the latest installment of Vinography Unboxed, where I highlight some of the better wine samples that have crossed my doorstep recently. This week's samples included further proof that Syrah is not dead in the form of two excellent wines, one from Napa, the other from the Central Coast of California. Now whether anyone will buy them is another matter, but at $15 (in some outlets) the Morgan Syrah is definitely a steal, and the Spring Mountain Syrah is worth its heftier price tag as well. A nice Aszu Eszenscia wine is worth seeking out as well, made from... continue reading


Suvla Vineyards, Gallipoli, Turkey: Current Releases

Walking through the front door of Suvla Vineyards' immaculate visitors center on Turkey's Gallipoli peninsula a visitor familiar with California wine country might experience a brief and intense moment of dislocation. This especially if they had spent time visiting other wineries in the area, whose hospitality facilities ranged from modest terra cotta bars, to polished modern architecture. None that I visited so unnervingly matched the crisp and bountiful offerings of the trendiest wineries in California. Walls of olive oil bottles, freshly filled from the winery's stone press alternate with preserved vegetables and fruits, as well as lovingly showcased examples of... continue reading


Vinography Unboxed: Week of December 16th 2012

Welcome to the latest installment of Vinography Unboxed, where I highlight some of the better wine samples that have crossed my doorstep recently. This week's samples included a Riesling I enjoyed very much even though I suspect it might have been slightly oxidized. It was a 2010 vintage but tasted 5 to 10 years old at least -- which is to say, quite pleasurable, but my suspicion is that I didn't get a perfect bottle. But that didn't particularly matter to my palate. Don't miss the incredible value represented by the Pierre Sparr white blend from Alsace, which offers a... continue reading


Cantine Ferrari, Trentino, Italy: Entry-Level Wines

Who knows what it is, exactly, about sparkling wine that entices us so. But go to any wine region around the world, and you're bound to find someone making sparkling wine there (for better or worse). Most, even the best contenders, have a hard time holding a candle to the benchmarks of Champagne. There are a select few regions and producers outside of France, however, that manage to make sparkling wines that are truly exceptional. Two of them (at least) are in Italy, and this is the story of one of them. At the turn of the 20th century, Champagne... continue reading


2011 Tatomer "Paragon" Gruner Veltliner, Edna Valley

When you meet some winemakers, who are seemingly making a living at a pursuit borne entirely of passion, it's hard not to look at success in their chosen field as a product of luck. Many of them will encourage this impression, speaking honestly of how lucky they are to be doing what they love, and to have been successful at it. The younger they are, the more likely they are to talk this way. Such surfaces belie the deeper truth of what it takes to really make it as a winemaker -- the incredible amount of work, persistence, and knowledge... continue reading


Turkish Wine: Some Tasting Notes

I have fond memories of the two weeks I spent in Turkey during early November. As some of you know, I visited to attend the European Wine Bloggers Conference, and to explore a bit of the Turkish wine country. I'm in the process of writing up a few more profiles of individual wineries, but thought I'd share my tasting notes from a large number of the Turkish wines I tasted throughout my time in Turkey. Without also preempting another future blog post which will contain my deeper impressions of Turkish Wine, here are some short thoughts on the state of... continue reading


Smith Madrone Winery, Napa: Current Releases

There are more legends, stories, fairytales, and fables than anyone could count that all involve some guy up on a mountainside somewhere. Sometimes a hermit, sometimes a wizard, sometimes a troll -- sometimes just an old man who went to sleep under a tree for a long, long time. No matter what the story, there's always something a little different about the guy on the mountain, something that is both scary and alluring at the same time. Stu Smith might be living out yet another version of one of these tales. The fact that Stu sports a big gray and... continue reading


Pasaeli Winery, Izmir, Turkey: Current Releases

At the age of 17, Seyit Karagozoglu was far from home. For three years he had been away from his native Turkey at a boarding school in Switzerland. His father, a tobacco dealer, wanted him to receive an international education. One weekend in his third year, Karagozoglu's father came to visit, and they went out to dinner. His father ordered a bottle of Musigny, and gave the young man a glass. "It was the first time I had ever had a French wine, and I remember the taste to this day. How could a wine be this good?" says Karagozoglu.... continue reading


Kocabag Winery, Cappadocia, Turkey: Current Releases

From the small airport of Nevsehir you must cross the Kizilirmak or "the red river," the longest river in Turkey which earns its name each spring as it fills with the iron-rich soils washed down from the painted hills of Cappadocia. But for now, the river exists in placid greenish-gray, slightly turbid from the recent rains, flowing as ever towards its end in the Black Sea. Once across the narrow bridge, the road climbs back onto the the terraced plateaus of former floodplains which silently date this wide expanse of high desert to somewhere between ancient and eternal. It's easy... continue reading


The Legendary Wines of Napa: Tasting Notes

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


Cobb Wines, Sonoma Coast, CA: Two Vineyards, Four Vintages

When we are children, we don't necessarily comprehend what our parents do for fun, and when we do, we rarely approve. As a teenager, the view from Ross Cobb's room included a few dozen Pinot Noir vines that his father, David Cobb, a marine biologist and environmental scientist, had planted in the backyard of their Mill Valley home. The fact that his parents were spending their Tuesday and Thursday nights taking viticulture classes at the Santa Rosa Junior College, and their weekends looking at land in Sonoma meant very little to him. "It seemed like a funny hobby, but I... continue reading


Vinography Unboxed: Week of November 11, 2012

Welcome to the latest installment of Vinography Unboxed, where I highlight some of the better wine samples that have crossed my doorstep recently. This week's samples included a very nice Syrah from the coolest part of the Russian River Valley, Green Valley, from a producer who keeps getting better and better. Don't miss the earthy, herbal red blend from Weingut Christ in the city limits of Vienna, whose whites are also excellent, should you ever come across them. Russian Hill Estate Vineyards in the Russian River Valley is a reliable source of excellent California Pinot Noir, and their Lera's single... continue reading


Highlights from the Wine & Spirits Top 100 Event

I attend a lot of public tasting events for the same reason I tell my readers to attend them. They are simply the best way to educate the palate, and often the only way to get a chance to taste certain wines that you might not otherwise have a chance to afford. Such tastings can be quite exhausting and by the end of the event, I'm usually ready to take a nap. At the end of the annual Wine & Spirits Top 100 tasting every year, however, I find myself wishing I had another couple of hours to wander around... continue reading


Vivier Wines, Napa: Current Releases

Most winemakers have some story of how they discovered wine. It's quite commonplace in Europe to simply grow up in a winemaking family, but here in the U.S. most winemakers don't have that luxury. Instead they often can recall a specific moment when the world of wine opened up to them, and they recognized the possibility of finding their life's work in it. Stéphane Vivier grew up in the heart of Burgundy, but his family, which hailed from elsewhere, was not a winemaking family, unless you count the small batches of homemade wine by aunts and uncles. When asked how... continue reading


Bonny Doon Vineyards: Syrah is not Dead, and Other Matters

There's just something about Randall Grahm that demands only the use of adjectives pulled off of a rack clearly bearing the label "erudite." The man isn't busy, he's peripatetic. He's not merely opinionated, he's irrepressible. More so than many winemakers, an afternoon's conversation with Grahm seems likely to range deep and wide across philosophic, economic, political, literary, and scientific domains. And that's before you even start talking about the wine. "I can't be consistent, I can't stay on message. How boring is that? I try to be a little more focused but.... " Grahm trails off with a smile. Grahm... continue reading


Vinography Unboxed: Week of October 22, 2012

Welcome to this week's installment of my new feature, Vinography Unboxed, where I highlight some of the better wine samples that have crossed my doorstep recently. This weeks samples included a rather austere Hunter Valley Semillon from Australia. The Hunter Valley is known for its Shiraz and Semillon, and this little number from Brokenwood tasted completely ageless, and was quite a palate shocker. On the other end of the spectrum, a 6 Puttonyos Tokaji Aszu from Grof Degenfeld, a well known Hungarian producer was liquid sunshine on the tongue. Don't miss the Alta Maria Vineyards Pinot Noir (now releasing their... continue reading


Vinography Unboxed: Week of October 7, 2012

Welcome to this week's installment of my new feature, Vinography Unboxed, where I highlight some of the better wine samples that have crossed my doorstep recently. This weeks samples included a number of great values from France, South Africa, and Italy. I was particularly impressed with the Laurentaise Corbieres, a very pretty little wine from the Languedoc, which I was unfortunately unable to find for sale online anywhere, but keep your eye out for it as it's a phenomenal value. The Chateau Chambert was a nice surprise, as it avoided the trap of austerity and stiffness into which lot of... continue reading


The World's Best Champagne?: Tasting Bubbly with The Masters of Wine

There was a time I didn't care for Champagne. Now, a week doesn't go by without me wishing I had more Champagne in my modest little cellar. But perhaps even more often than that, I find myself wanting a glass in my hand. Champagne, it turns out -- at least when it's good, has all of my favorite things when it comes to wine: texture, complexity, savoriness, and acidity. My particular problem, however, is that I tend to find these qualities most concentrated with, and in direct correlation to, the price of the bottle. Turns out that I have Champagne... continue reading


2007 Ruston Family Vineyards "La Maestra" Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley

I love Napa and its wines, but the bits of it that are truly dear to my heart tend to be off the beaten path, away from the big shiny wineries that front the main roads, with parking lots big enough for tour buses. Finding the "down home" bits of Napa has become harder and harder, but thankfully not impossible. It is still easy, with a little sleuthing, to track down tiny producers that cling to their little vineyards, making small quantities of good wine, and selling them for a reasonable price. Often, these last bastions of down-to-earth winemaking and... continue reading


Vinography Unboxed: Week of September 24, 2012

Welcome to this week's installment of my new feature, Vinography Unboxed, where I highlight some of the better wine samples that have crossed my doorstep recently. This week offers the usual grab bag of wines, with some unusual bottles that somehow made their way to me to taste, among them an older vintage Bordeaux and a wine from Cahors, both of which were a nice change from a lot of California wines. The first 2010 Pinot Noirs are starting to to be released and I can say I'm very excited about them. There are a couple from Dutton Goldfield that... continue reading


Vinography Unboxed: Week of September 17th

Welcome to this week's installment of my new feature, Vinography Unboxed, where I highlight some of the better wine samples that have crossed my doorstep recently. This week highlights many places on the globe, from Burgundy, Greece, Chile, New Zealand, Germany, and of course a bunch of wines from California. Look for the Gallica Cabernet, a personal project of winemaker Rosemary Cakebread, as well as the perpetually reliable Cabernets from Grgich Hills, and Dry Creek Vineyard. Did you know that Cloudy Bay made Pinot Noir in addition to their famous Sauvignon Blanc? Have you ever tried a wine made from... continue reading


2009 Clos de los Siete Red Wine, Lujan de Cuyo, Mendoza, Argentina

Fifty miles south of the city of Mendoza the valley of Tunuyan feels less like a valley and more like a vast, kneeling supplicant to the immediate, looming bulk of the Northern Andes mountains. Though the valley floor is massive -- sweeping away from the jagged, snow capped peaks in every possible direction as if it were trying to get out of the way of their falling bulk -- you never get the sense that it is very flat. No matter where you stand, the world seems to be constantly tipping up towards (or down away from, as the case... continue reading


Vinography Unboxed: Week of September 10th

Welcome to this week's installment of my new feature, Vinography Unboxed, where I highlight some of the better wine samples that have crossed my doorstep recently. This week highlights a bunch of new Napa Cabernets that are being released to the market this fall. The Cabernets I chose to feature this week represent quite a stylistic range, from the leaner, stonier notes of the Smith Madrone to the ripeness and oak influence of Pine Ridge's Fortis. There's a nice Chardonnay from Dierberg, whose wines just keep getting better in my opinion, as well as an interesting Merlot or two (one... continue reading


Domaine Coffinet-Duvernay, Chassagne-Montrachet, Burgundy: Some Current Releases

Burgundy is nothing if not consistent. The unbroken line that the region traces back through thousands of years of winegrowing history anchors the soul of the place as firmly as it does its vines. Families, too, for sometimes dozens of generations, seem rooted in place, as the father's wines give way to those of the son, preserving and slowly evolving the family link to the place. Anyone who has visited Burgundy and descended into the mold-encrusted cellars understands how everything there is steeped in time and tradition, as if somehow you could strip away a few trappings of modernity like... continue reading


Introducing Vinography Unboxed

I've been sitting on the horns of a minor dilemma. For eight years, I've written about wine precisely the way I want to -- primarily telling stories about the people, places, and histories behind the wine. I've long maintained that in doing so the tasting note for the wine is one of the least important aspects of my reviews, and that Vinography would never become the equivalent of the last 30 pages of every wine magazine, simply a long litany of tasting notes, one after the other. But there's a reason, of course, that wine magazines like the Spectator and... continue reading


2009 Hyde de Villaine Chardonnay, Carneros, Napa

In some quarters, speaking of the greatness to be found in California Chardonnay will earn nothing but sniggers and the complete loss of credibility when it comes to quality wine. The cognoscenti of the wine world, with few exceptions, have largely written off California's rendition of one of the world's greatest grapes as a failed experiment with excess: too much ripeness and too much oak. Of course, most American wine drinkers care not a whit for what the elite of the wine world think. They never even hear their babbling. Instead they're content to keep buying the slightly sweet, overly... continue reading


Tasting Notes from the 2012 International Pinot Noir Celebration

The International Pinot Noir Celebration is perhaps my favorite tasting event that I attend each year here in the U.S. Held on the bucolic grounds of a small college in a little town in Oregon's Willamette Valley, the event always manages to get just about everything right. It offers great food, fantastic wines, and interesting lectures all wrapped up in a very casual, relaxed atmosphere that simply makes it a joy to attend. I've already posted some of my coverage of the 2012 event (here and here) but now it's time to get down to the wines on offer.... continue reading


Heimann Family Estate, Szekszard, Hungary: Current Releases

The Transdanubian hills in Szekszárd (pronounced sex-sahrd), rise up sharply off the Hungarian Plain, bounding up several hundred meters in short order, so that the roads to the top must hairpin and switchback all the way. Once atop the ridge, however, the view is worth the climb, as beautiful hills and little valleys cascade from the central ridge line, carpeted in grapevines and dotted with the small farmhouses that seem like they could have been there since the beginning of time. Szekszárd is one of Hungary's 22 growing regions. Like most, it has a long tradition of growing grapes, but... continue reading


Forgotten Jewels: Reviving Chile's Old Vine Carignane

As a child, the lure of archeology cannot be denied. Fantasies of discovering ancient treasures fuel the dreams of many youngsters, as they did my adolescent imagination. These days, such notions have been replaced in my life with interests no less exciting in the wine world. For the curious wine lover, opportunities abound to explore the treasures of the past in the form of old vines, recently discovered and under rehabilitation by vintners around the world. I delight in tasting wines made from gnarled old plants to which no one paid attention for years until someone realized they might make... continue reading


Treasure in the Hills: Tasting Oregon's Rieslings

"Pssst. Hey buddy. Wanna taste some Riesling?" said the shadowy figure in the trench coat from behind a tree. I must say, I wasn't surprised at this open solicitation in broad daylight amidst the festivities of the International Pinot Noir Celebration. After all, it had happened to me once before -- a mysterious invitation to slip away from the orgy of Pinot Noir for something a little more.... racy. In fact, I've come to eagerly anticipate the opportunity to check in on the progress of Oregon's least known wine trend. In the land of hills awash with fantastic Pinot Noir,... continue reading


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


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


Weingut Franz Hirtzberger, Wachau, Austria: Current Releases

Standing at the edge of the Danube on a cold spring day, gazing at darkening clouds above the picturesque church of Spitz that is set against a natural bowl of steep terraced hillsides lined with vines, it would be so easy to imagine that you are actually looking backward through time. Other than the modern highway snaking past this little village at the northern end of Austria's Wachau wine region, some barely visible power lines, and the occasional hum of aircraft, not much seems to have changed since the 13th century, when countless hands built these stone terraces that now... continue reading


2008 Ovid Proprietary Red Wine, Napa Valley

I've learned a lot about many things in the course of meeting with Napa winemakers and writing about Napa wines for more than eight years. But I tell you, few lessons have been beaten into my head more than the dangers of looking for a vacation home in Napa. If you have the means to buy a nice place in the Napa Valley you are already imperiled. If you start looking, however, you expose yourself to supernatural forces whose breadth and depth have yet to be mapped. Much like the famed Bermuda Triangle, the Napa Valley chews you up and... continue reading


Weingut Fred Loimer, Kamptal, Austria: Current Releases

"This can't be the way, there's nothing out here," I hear myself saying as my traveling companion and I dutifully follow the GPS into a landscape so pitch black that our high beams barely make a dent in it. All we can see is a rutted dirt road extending in front of us for as far as the beams can see, with a hill falling steeply off to the right and the edge of an embankment to the left, so close that we'll never be able to pass or turn around if we happen to run into another car. Of... continue reading


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


Italy's Best Wines?: Highlights from the 2012 Tre Bicchieri Tasting

One of the pitfalls involved in blogging-as-therapy, as opposed to blogging-as-profession manifests as the paradox of too much content. If I made my living at wine blogging I'd need to post several times per day, and I'm sure I'd be looking for good content in between my sofa cushions. But since I blog, at best, once a day, and not even seven days a week anymore, I have way more to write about than I have time to write it. Too many wines I've drunk, too many places I've been, and too many events attended. All of which is a... continue reading


Futo Wines, Napa: Current Releases

In some ways the stories aren't all that different. A wealthy businessman falls in love with wine at some point, starts visiting Napa, and eventually dreams of owning a vineyard, to make a small amount of wine, just for fun. A vineyard is purchased, wine made, and everyone lives happily ever after. I can't tell you how many times I've watched this narrative play out in Napa, and tasted the result. Nine times out of ten, the wine that results from such a venture never transcends being merely good, even for those that have spent top dollar on grapes and... continue reading


Zoltan Demeter, Tokaj, Hungary: Current Releases

It's hard to fathom what it must be like to have the world change beneath your feet overnight. When the Iron Curtain fell in 1989, I was a relatively clueless high schooler for whom the news was elating, but only in a purely theoretical sense. For a whole generation of Eastern Europeans, however, the event wrought an entirely new future. When the wall came down, Zoltan Demeter was a Hungarian student, dreaming of a future as a winemaker. Before 1989, that future in Hungary would have involved working for one of the huge state-run winemaking companies whose primary mission was... continue reading


Domaine Marcel Deiss, Alsace: Current Releases

Alsace, the oft-contested and much-coveted skinny strip of land between northeastern France and its neighbor Germany, is an odd and unique place. Like several other such zones around the world, it has been a part of so many different countries and empires that it enjoys a sort of twilight zone atmosphere, where place names reflect one language, spoken words another, and family histories often both or none of the above. Alsace is also a unique landscape sculpted by both rivers and volcanic events, but bearing the unmistakable and essential traces of a more ancient geological past as the bottom of... continue reading


Weingut Nikolaihof, Wachau, Austria: Current Releases

There are certain places in this world that feel as if they exist outside of time. Or perhaps they exist inside of time but move much slower than the world around them. As I stepped through the doorway into the inner courtyard of Weingut Nikolaihof, a stones throw from the Danube, and saw the morning light filtering down through the century-old linden tree, the world narrowed down to this quiet bounded space. Gravel crunched under my feet, and there was a stillness as I gazed up at the bell tower that spoke of the building's storied past as part of... continue reading


Napa Royalty: Tasting the Wines of Oakville

While often considered a single "place" when it comes to wine, Napa is hardly a monolithic growing region. Each of its 14 established AVAs (American Viticultural Areas) lays claim to a separate identity, characterized by geology, microclimate, and different histories of production. The Oakville AVA has one of the most storied of such histories. It is home to the famed To Kalon Vineyard, purchased by H.W. Crabb in 1868, shortly after the installation of a railroad stop made the tiny village of Oakville spring to life. In 1876 Crabb's neighbor John Benson bottled his inaugural vintage of Far Niente wine... continue reading


Burgundy Comes to San Francisco: Some Tasting Notes

It's been two years since I've been to Burgundy and I miss it terribly. And not just because I haven't had my fix of Delice de Pommard, the utterly addictive soft cow's milk cheese that is encrusted with whole mustard grains. Burgundy is magical, and so are its wines. There's nothing like winding your way through the back roads of the region to little towns like Pouilly-Fuisse (pictured at right), stopping to step down into ancient cellars and taste vibrant Chardonnay and Pinot Noir with people whose lives are suffused with wine and the soil in which it grows. If... continue reading


Matthiasson, Napa Valley: Current Releases

The past of most wine regions becomes physically embodied in its most iconic destinations, whether grand Chateaux, or venerable old cellars. The future of many wine regions, on the other hand, can be much harder to find. It is often tucked away, or sometimes hiding in plain sight, but usually off the beaten pathways of expectation. One incarnation of Napa Valley's future, or at least a future furtively hoped for by many, can indeed be found in a place most unexpected. Just off of Highway 29, down a back street, a modern sub-division gives way to the valley's ubiquitous vineyards,... continue reading


Schloss Gobelsburg, Kamptal, Austria: Current Releases

It seems like they have always been there. For centuries, the monks have been rooted as firmly as their grape vines, watching empires come and go, tending their secrets as carefully as the grapes and the sacred wines they produce. Shrewd investment and politics have brought great wealth through the ages -- palaces and vineyards, coffers and buildings. Not to mention the troves of knowledge. But time does not preserve all -- neither fortunes nor knowledge -- and one day, after nearly eight centuries of unbroken devotion to a place, and to the vines that grow there, the monks turn... continue reading


Mountain Wines of Italy: Tasting Notes from Alto Adige

From the snow-capped peaks of the Dolomites and the Alps, water trickles off glaciers down into steep-walled fertile alpine valleys where small villages and their vineyards beg to be photographed against the stunning backdrop of one of the world's most impressive mountain ranges. Snug between Austria and Switzerland, the northernmost part of Italy hosts some of the most stunning vineyard landscapes in the world. With an official name of Trentino-Alto Adige/Sudtirol, but usually shortened to Alto Adige (also the name of its best known DOC wine region), this region of both German and Italian speaking residents is primarily known for... continue reading


Weingut Veyder-Malberg, Wachau, Austria: Current Releases

In Austria's Wachau valley, it's hard to pay attention to what winemakers tell you, especially when they're talking with you in a vineyard. The Danube twists olive and lazy below incredibly steep hillsides terraced with centuries-old rock walls, each containing but a single row of vines, climbing for thousands of feet from the floodplain. Never mind the vertigo that anyone susceptible to heights might feel perched on these ledges that perch precariously on slopes many would not ski down -- the view is so incredible that you easily lose yourself in the vast majesty. My appointment with Peter Veyder-Malberg was... continue reading


Weingut Nigl, Kremstal, Austria: Current Releases

If you begin in the medieval town of Krems, and turn your back on the Danube to instead follow the Krems river from where it hits the Danube back up a narrow valley, you will eventually find yourself in the village of Senftenberg, gazing up at an ancient church perched on a rocky promontory overlooking the valley, itself overshadowed by the crumbling ruin of a castle. If you bring yourself right up to the base of the escarpment, you may find yourself imagining life in this little valley in the 16th century, dark and feudal, punctuated with the pleasures of... continue reading


Acid Freaks Unite!: Tasting Notes from In Pursuit of Balance 2012

I may be mangling the quote a little, but I swear I saw someone on twitter the other day say something along the lines of: "It may be possible that there's a wine out there with too much acidity, but I have yet to taste it." I couldn't agree more. For me, acidity (and perhaps more specifically, the perception of acidity -- since they are a little different) is a crucial component that can make or break a wine. I love wines that have higher levels of acidity. They make the mouth water, they give life to the fruit, they... continue reading


2010 Grgich Hills Estate "Fume Blanc" Sauvignon Blanc, Napa

Visitors to Napa Valley, even those on their first trip, have a hard time missing the Grgich Hills winery, which sits prominently on the west side of Highway 29, its flower beds almost pushed right up against the edge of the blacktop. Of course, when the winery was established in the late 1970s there was a lot less traffic on that same highway, and founder Miljenko "Mike" Grgich (pronounced "gur-gich")was a young man. But despite his youth, this Croatian-born immigrant did not lack for experience or acclaim. Indeed, it was partly based on his success as the winemaker for the... continue reading


Tasting the World at ProWein

Imagine my surprise when I arrived at ProWein, Germany's largest wine exhibition, to find that German wines were in the minority. What I expected to be one large (but doubtlessly well organized) German wine love-fest, was in fact a stupendously large, and (supremely well organized) international wine fair of gigantic proportions, with wine regions from all over the world very well represented. It's not the largest wine exhibition in the world, but the way it continues to grow, it's only a matter of time before it can easily make that claim. In the mean-time, it will simply be one of... continue reading


The Sweet Taste of Freedom: Austria's Ruster Ausbruch Wines

It's hard to imagine an age when wine might have literally been seen as treasure. Certainly those of us with the privilege of living in first-world countries take the idea of drinking wine for granted as an everyday pleasure. There was a time, however, that wine, especially the good stuff, was more valuable than gold in some places in this world. So valuable, in fact, that it could be used to buy your way out from underneath the control of an empire. With a mouthful of the finest Ruster Ausbruch swirling around your tongue, it's not difficult to accept the... continue reading


The Beauty of Blaufrankisch: Tasting Wines from Leithaberg, Austria

My first tastes of Austrian red wine were without context, and I will admit, not favorable. In tasting through the various portfolios of different importers, I would taste a lot of Riesling and Gruner Veltliner and occasionally find a red or two scattered in the mix. My impressions were not fully formed, but they weren't encouraging. But then I had the wines of the MORIC project in 2007, and I realized I was missing something. More importantly I realized that there was great potential in a place and a grape to produce a wine that was quite profound. Therefore it... continue reading


Weinlaubenhof Kracher, Burgenland, Austria: Current Releases

When it comes to dessert wines, most people have heard of Sauternes or ice wine (location unspecific). Perhaps some have heard of Tokaji, the sweet wines of Hungary. But few have heard of the sweet wines of Austria's Burgenland region. There are several reasons for this. Dessert wine isn't all that popular, Burgenland doesn't make all that much of it to begin with, and those who actually do know about these wines tend to buy as many as they can afford and guard them like buried treasure. The sweet wines of Burgenland are one of Austria's best kept secrets, and... continue reading


The Taste of Zweigelt

If you can tear yourself away from the gorgeous facades and ancient spires of Vienna, to head south-southeast as if your goal is Hungary, you quickly leave behind the cultured world of music and stone, and cleave through soil rich with history. Sweep away from the plateaus carved by the Danube across the Pannonian plains, with windmills churning lazily and winter-bare trees rimming vast fields of tilled soil. The earth, in rich shades of ochre and umber, also catches and reflects back the pale steel-blue of the sky. The nearly imperceptible tilt of the landscape away from the hills of... continue reading


Domaine de la Romanée-Conti, Burgundy: Current Releases

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


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


Spottswoode Estate, Napa: Current Releases

Great wines are always tapestries of story, with people and place making up the warp and weft of their fabric. When a family stays long enough in one place, they grow roots that can never fully come free from the soil. Such a connection doesn't take centuries, but merely a couple of generations. When children grow up running through the vines, they may wander away, but are often drawn back inexorably to the place where their roots run deepest. Such is the story of two generations of women and a place called Spottswoode, an estate in the picturesque town of... continue reading


Critically Tasting Santa Lucia Highlands Pinot Noir

One of my unbroken refrains here at Vinography has to do with the value of large public wine tastings as opportunities to educate the palate. There's just nothing like the chance to taste a lot of wines side by side to teach you a thing or two -- about what you like and what you don't, as well as the character of a grape, a region, or a vintage. Tastings held by regional wine marketing organizations continue to proliferate in the San Francisco Bay Area, much to my delight. So when the winery association of the Santa Lucia Highlands decided... continue reading


The Best Zinfandels of California: Tasting at ZAP 2012

You can always count on the ZAP Zinfandel festival in San Francisco to draw a crowd, no matter what the economy is doing. The fact that things are picking up, both for business, and specifically in the wine world, meant for a very lively event last week. The big news was a new venue for this traditionally mobbed tasting, that most attendees seemed to love, myself included. While the arrangement of vintners left something to be desired (tables were supposed to be alphabetical, but it was more like alphabet soup than a line from A to Z), everything else about... continue reading


2006 Peay Vineyards Roussane/Marsanne Blend, Sonoma Coast

As a wine reviewer who gets paid next to nothing for his work, I have the luxury of only reviewing wines that I think are worth writing about. I've got no deadlines, no quotas to fill, and no obligation to anyone. All of which means that it's always a great pleasure to say nice things about a wine or wines that I enjoy. But this is perhaps the most pleasurable kind of review I write. The review of a winery whose wines I can safely say are all spectacularly good -- so good that I will simply buy any wine... continue reading


2008 Alta Maria Vineyards Pinot Noir, Santa Maria Valley

If I were doing now what I thought I would probably do with my life as a sophomore in college, I would be a photographer living in a tent or an old VW Bus somewhere, splitting my time between rock climbing and taking pictures of stuff that most people wouldn't give a second glance. This wouldn't necessarily be a bad thing, but I offer it as proof of how little sense I had of what path my life would take. James Ontiveros, on the other hand, was spending his sophomore year at Cal Poly, San Luis Obispo going to classes... continue reading


2008 Pheasant's Tears Rkatsiteli, Republic of Georgia

We don't know exactly where and when mankind first made wine in any significant quantity, but we believe that it was approximately 8000 years ago -- long before the rise of the Egyptian civilization. We're also fairly sure that these initial efforts to produce large quantities of fermented grape juice took place in the region currently occupied by the Republic of Georgia. These estimates of the time and location of mankind's earliest forays into oenology are based on the carbon dating of grape seeds found in the bottom of ancient clay amphorae, the remarkable progenitors of the world of wine... continue reading


Dutton-Goldfield Winery, Russian River Valley: Some Current Releases

What's hot in the wine world tends to focus the most attention. The newest superstar winemaker. The hot new vineyard. The latest cult wine brand. The stratospheric auction results in Hong Kong. But in so many ways, these bright lights are not at all representative of the real world of wine -- a world in which farmers and winemakers (sometimes the same person) work day after day to produce something that not only fires their passion, but also pays their bills. For every winery that makes news, there are dozens or hundreds that never seem to get much of the... continue reading


2001 York Creek Vineyards Cabernet Franc, Spring Mountain District, Napa

One of the most gratifying experiences I have as a wine lover and very, very small time wine collector involves pulling a dusty bottle off the shelf from where it has slumbered for years, and popping it open to find an utterly fantastic wine. I don't own a lot of wine, and I have even fewer bottles that I've been deliberately aging long enough for them to be mature, so this experience isn't a regular occurrence for me, but when it happens, it engenders nothing short of joy. I think it was 2003 when I bought a couple of bottles... continue reading


Piña Napa Valley: Current Releases

If one were to speculate on the wine market as a savvy investor might in the small-cap stock market, the game would be the same: follow people you know with good track records. In the wine world, we'd also have to include a corollary about betting on great vineyard sites, but leaving aside the raw materials, it's clear that most good wines don't happen by accident. They're made by talented people. Finding talented people in Napa isn't hard at first. There are a lot of them, many of whom have big brand names. When they start working for a winery,... continue reading


2009 Morgan Winery "Cote du Crows" Rhone Blend, Monterey

It's not a huge leap from veterinary medicine to winemaking, and that leap is made even shorter when you're enrolled at UC Davis which happens to be the top school in the nation for both. Dan Lee initially thought he wanted to work with animals, but a few courses as electives during his vet school tenure were enough to convince him to immediately enroll in the Enology program as soon as he finished his undergraduate degree. While he still loves animals, Dan hasn't looked back, graduating and continuing on to become a winemaker for Jekel and Durney (now Heller Estate),... continue reading


Tatomer Wines: Current Releases

When you meet some winemakers, who are seemingly making a living at a pursuit borne entirely of passion, it's hard not to look at success in their chosen field as a product of luck. Many of them will encourage this impression, speaking honestly of how lucky they are to be doing what they love, and to have been successful at it. The younger they are, the more likely they are to talk this way. Such surfaces belie the deeper truth of what it takes to really make it as a winemaker -- the incredible amount of work, persistence, and knowledge... continue reading


2009 Dry Creek Vineyard "Heritage" Zinfandel, Sonoma County

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


2007 Bodega del Fin del Mundo "Special Reserve Blend" Red Wine, Patagonia, Argentina

When I visited Argentina a few years ago, my trip was a mix of vacation and wine investigation, and, like so many great trips, left me feeling like I had done too little of both. In the wine department, I left with two main regrets. The first was the lack of a visit to Salta, which is the first place I'll head in South America next time I get down that way. And while I did get down to Bariloche in Patagonia for a little while to hike and fish, and generally relax, I really wish I had taken a... continue reading


What's Your Best Wine? Tasting the Wine & Spirits Top 100

The difference between a good public wine tasting and a bad one can be quite dramatic. The bad ones are in crappy locations, are poorly organized, offer no food, and only mediocre wines. The good ones are, well, just the opposite -- nicely organized, well catered, and offer great wines. And the best ones? Well, they throw in a jazz quartet, and all you can eat oyster bar, a dessert bar, and wines that sometimes retail for hundreds of dollars, if you can find them at all. This year's Wine & Spirits Top 100 Tasting threw in all that, and... continue reading


2006 Arnot-Roberts "Clary Ranch" Syrah, Sonoma Coast

The reported death of California Syrah has been greatly exaggerated. That's the topic for a rant some other time. But it's a fitting way to open this review of a wine that represents my favorite kind of wine discovery: a situation where someone pours me a glass that I'm not paying that much attention to, I stick my nose in it, take a sip, and then the next thirty seconds of my life are some combination of a sense of whiplash and usually more than a few very positive expletives. I love it when wines literally turn my head, as... continue reading


2008 Bordeaux: Some Tasting Notes

It's a measure of just exactly how busy I am these days at work that it's taken me approximately eight months to write this post. Way back in January, I happened to be in New York City when the Union des Grands Crus de Bordeaux came to town to show off the 2008 vintage. I had about an hour and a half to kill before I had to run to the airport and catch a flight home, so I got the chance to taste through some of the wines. It's taken me some time, but I finally managed to transcribe... continue reading


Bastianich Wines, Friuli-Venezia Giulia, Italy: Some Current Releases

Celebrity wines cause most serious wine lovers to cringe. Despite the immediate tendency to dismiss such wines as vanity projects with little substance, a lot of celebrity wines are fairly good, if only because making good wine can sometimes take a lot of money. There's a different sort of celebrity wine starting to emerge on the scene, however. Wines that can be called celebrity wines only because we live in an era of celebrity chefs and restaurant personalities. If we didn't have the food network, and the 21st Century foodie craze sweeping across America, very few people would have any... continue reading


Penché Winery, Napa: Recent Releases

As you might imagine, I get sent a lot of Cabernet from Napa. At first I eagerly anticipated the arrival of every new label that I had never heard of, but over the years, I've become a bit jaded, as so many fail to rise above reasonably competent, over-oaked expressions of the grape. These days it's a lot harder to turn my head with a new Napa Cab, but when they arrived, two dark bottles with simple parallelogram labels did more than turn my head, they rocked me back on my heels. A successful orthodontist, Scott Asbill eventually picked up... continue reading


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

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


Greek Wine: A Compendium of Tasting Notes

Occasionally I still dream of Greece. Warm breezes above the terra cotta roofs of Nafplion, grilled octopus and crisp rosé.... I had better stop before I get depressed. The press trip I took to Greece at the end of June this year was a wonderful introduction to the region, and served to cement a budding notion that Greece was home to a wonderfully unique combination of interesting wines that represent phenomenal values on a global scale. And that's even before Greece dumps the Euro. My trip, as you might remember, was concentrated first on the island of Santorini, where I... continue reading


The Joy of Pink Pinot: Tasting at the 2011 IPNC

Regular readers will know that I'm a fan of everything pink when it comes to wine. Rosé is one of the most underrated and least appreciated wines by "serious" wine lovers. Food friendly, refreshing, and complex, the best rosés are among the wine world's most versatile and exciting wines. Thankfully, they are not only becoming more accepted, but increasingly popular, especially as the stigma of sickly-sweet White Zinfandel fades from the collective consciousness. One of my favorite features of the IPNC event that I am attending this week in Oregon's Willamette Valley has always been their afternoon rosé of Pinot... continue reading


Domaine Skouras, Greece: Current Releases

"Now with 27 vintages under my belt, there is not one vintage the same. It's like having 27 different kids, all with different personalities. Waiting for a new vintage, you become like you were in the first vintage. You become young. Young of thinking." With someone like George Skouras, a man who has been such a prominent force in the Greek wine industry, it's hard to imagine him as a young twenty-something, crushing his first vintage of wine. Especially because 27 years ago, few would have predicted that there would be a thriving Greek wine industry in 2011. But thanks,... continue reading


Santorini Wines: Reviews and Impressions

As many of you readers know, I spent about 10 days in Greece on a press trip a couple of weeks ago, and I've been busy working through my notes from the trip. The primary place I visited during this trip was the tiny island of Santorini. While the name Santorini is well known as a picturesque resort, most people aren't aware of its status as one of Greece's most famous wine regions. I wrote earlier in the week about the remarkable history and methods of viticulture on the island of Santorini (which if you haven't read, I suggest breezing... continue reading


2008 HALL "Kathryn Hall" Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley

The pleasures of childhood call to us as adults. The tug of nostalgia is so great that we so often find ourselves indulging in little things that remind us of our early years, and in some cases we throw ourselves passionately into the pursuit of the things we have lost. Kathryn Hall lost the vineyard that was her childhood playground. Despite having managed the vineyard for nearly a decade, letting it go after her father's death was the right thing to do. But her memories of growing up among the grape vines in Redwood Valley, coupled with her enduring love... continue reading


2008 Ridge Vineyards "Estate" Cabernet Sauvignon, Santa Cruz Mountains

If there's one thing about a winery that is likely to earn my immediate respect it is what you might describe as consistency of vision. Some of my favorite wineries not only make great wine, they have been making great wine in much the same way for decades, according to a deeply held philosophy that pervades everything they do. This sort of conviction, married to excellent winemaking, is not as common in California as you might think, but there are few who could argue against Ridge Vineyards as one of the finest examples of such a fusion of skill and... continue reading


South African Sauvignon Blanc: Some Tasting Notes

I've been trying to remember the first South African wine I tasted, but it's a little fuzzy in my mind. At the time I wasn't keeping notes on wine, so I don't have a scribble in any notebook to look back on for my very first impression. I do remember subsequent opportunities to drink South African wines, and in particular their Sauvignon Blancs. My general impression of these wines were that they were competent, but they didn't grab my attention much more than that. Three years ago, however, I had the opportunity to visit South Africa and taste hundreds of... continue reading


1983 Schloss Schonborn Rudesheimer Bichofsberg Riesling Spatlese, Rheingau, Germany

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


Presqu'ile Winery, Santa Maria Valley: Current Releases

I'm wandering around the grand tasting tent at the World of Pinot Noir conference, focusing, as I often do, on a combination of wines that I know well, and those that I've never heard of. I walk up to a table with an unfamiliar label, get a little something poured into my glass, lift it up to my nose, and WHAM! It's like I've been slapped upside the head and my senses have just kicked into overdrive. All of a sudden I'm hyper-aware and focused on this delicious experience: a wine that grabs me by the lapels, shakes me... continue reading


Tasting the Superstar Wines of Napa's Oakville AVA

Napa Valley is famous, or infamous depending on your point of view, for some of the world's best and priciest Cabernet Sauvignon. While it has yet to reach the heights of the few First Growths in Bordeaux in terms of pricing, the Napa Valley has been producing some of the most sought after wines in the Western Hemisphere for several decades. Napa Valley, like so many wine regions, is not actually one place, but many - its various sub-regions offering a wide variety of topographies, microclimates, soil types, and exposures. The AVAs (American Viticultural Areas) that have been created to... continue reading


The Best Central Coast Pinot?: Tasting at the World of Pinot Noir

I don't know about you, but spending a couple of days tasting Pinot Noir while strolling along cliffs overlooking the Pacific Ocean is definitely my idea of a good time. Back at the beginning of March, I joined several hundred other wine enthusiasts for the World of Pinot Noir, a two day festival celebrating Pinot Noir set in the idyllic seaside tourist town of Shell Beach. Well known for its festive atmosphere and an emphasis (though not an exclusive focus by any means) on showcasing the Pinot Noirs of the Central Coast, WOPN, as it is abbreviated, draws Pinot Noir... continue reading


Turkish Wine: Some Initial Tasting Notes

Exploring new wine regions continues to be one of my greatest thrills as a wine lover and wine writer. And when I say new wine regions, I mean new to me, of course. I wish I were writing these words above the bustling streets of Istanbul or out in the countryside off the Aegean, but sadly my first explorations of Turkish wine had to be as an armchair traveler. Or should I say, by-the-bottle traveler? At the great generosity of a Turkish friend, who happens to be a wine critic for a Turkish newspaper, I got the chance to spend... continue reading


Low(er) Alcohol California Pinot Noir: Tasting Notes from 'In Pursuit of Balance'

Spring certainly seems to be Pinot Noir season in the Bay Area. Several major Pinot focused events -- the Pinot Noir Shootout, the World of Pinot Noir, the Anderson Valley Pinot Noir Festival, the Santa Cruz Mountains Pinot Passport Event, etc. -- all occur within a span of about three months. To this impressive list, we may be able to add yet one more annual event, judging by the crush of the crowd at the first ever "In Pursuit of Balance" tasting held a couple of weeks ago at RN74 in San Francisco. This was a somewhat unusual Pinot Noir... continue reading


Montenidoli, San Gimignano, Tuscany: Some Current Releases

About three months ago, I found myself wandering around the halls at the Vino2011 tradeshow in New York. Put on by the Italian Trade Commission, it is the largest Italian wine show outside of Italy, and an opportunity to taste an awful lot of Italian wine in a very short period of time. Sometimes when I go to such events, I have a plan to focus on certain regions, or grape varieties, but sometimes I just wander to see what catches my eye. Which is how one afternoon I ended up in the back corner of a side hall where... continue reading


Pinot Noir Everywhere: From the Expected to the Fringes

Yes, I'm on a Pinot Noir kick this week, thanks to my recent attendance at the World of Pinot Noir conference in Shell Beach, California. I haven't had time to write up my notes from the grand tasting of several hundred Pinots that I tasted, but I did want to share some notes from an interesting assortment of wines that I had the opportunity to experience. What places come to mind most easily when you think of growing Pinot Noir? For me the list, in order, goes something like this: Burgundy, California, Oregon, and New Zealand. If I want to... continue reading


The Young Turks of Burgundy: Allen Meadows with Domaine Marc Roy and Domaine Jean-Marc Bouley

As I mentioned in a previous post, last weekend I had the pleasure of attending the World of Pinot Noir conference in Shell Beach, California. In addition to the grand tasting of many different wines on the cliffs above the seaside, there were some focused tastings where moderators and panelists worked through some wines in great detail. I attended one entitled The Young Turks of Burgundy, led by Alan Meadows, the wine critic behind Burghound.Com, a newsletter that in the past decade, has become the de-facto critical authority on much of Burgundy, and especially the most famous part known as... continue reading


1971 J.J. Prum Wehlener Sonnenuhr Riesling Auslese, Mosel, Germany

As you know, I think wine reviews should be more than just tasting notes and scores. They should be the stories of the people and the places behind the wines. While the people quite often bring the most life to the story of a wine, sometimes the place, even the vineyard itself, can be the most prominent character in the drama. In the case of this wine, the story consists of the inextricable link between a family and a vineyard. By most accounts, the Prum family has owned vineyards in and around the town of Wehlen in Germany's Mosel river... continue reading


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

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


The Wines of Alsace in Anderson Valley: Tasting Notes

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


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

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


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

When it comes to wineries I generally know I'm in for something good when I drive down a long dirt road (unsure if I'm headed in the right direction) and finally come upon some vineyards and a couple of small aluminum barns with harvest bins stacked outside. For many small winery operations, the barrel storage, the lab, the office, and the tasting room are all under one corrugated roof. I had the pleasure of winding my way down just such a road on a rainy Autumn day five years ago to arrive at the little operation that is Patton Valley... continue reading


Domaine Jean Chartron, Puligny-Montrachet: 2009 Barrel Samples

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


Seven Hills Winery, Walla Walla, Washington: Current Releases

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


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

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


2009 Dancing Coyote Gewurztraminer, Clarksburg, California

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


Domaine Seguin-Manuel, Beaune, France: Current Releases

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


My Burgundy Nights: Tasting Notes from Les Trois Glorieuses

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


Chinese Wine Too Good to Be True

I had high hopes for Chinese wine. And I still do, to a certain extent. But I can't say I'm surprised by the latest news that the government is shutting down some wineries and pulling wine from the shelves after finding a whole lot of faked, adulterated, and chemically altered wine on the market. I've heard rumors of such practices from various people in the wine industry, many of whom scratch their heads when they compare the amount of wine on the market with the amount of acreage under cultivation in China. The two don't add up. Add to that... continue reading


Dominique Cornin, Chaintré, France: Current Releases

When you wind your way up to the east out of the little village of Fuisse in the Mâconnais region of southern Burgundy, you should take time to look back over your shoulder at the beautiful little church with its plot of vines, and the hillside skating back up behind it to the west. The narrow road will curve around the shoulder of the hill (atop which sits what has long been called the "faerie woods") and if you bear to the left, you will quickly find yourself in the little village of Chaintré, the home of many men bearing... continue reading


Domaine de la Vougeraie, Premeaux-Prissey, France: Some Current Releases

The village of Premeaux-Prissey is hardly more than a blip on the N74 as you head north towards Nuits-St-George. Blink and you'll miss it, along with the small sign that points you down the church lane to one of Burgundy's more remarkable domaines. Many domaines in Burgundy have existed under the same name for centuries, passed down through generations that have grown up living and farming in the same spot, each new generation working in the family's vineyard, which, on occasion, is right behind the house. Domaine de la Vougeraie is both the same and very different from these traditional... continue reading


Domaine Buisson-Battault, Meursault, France: Current Releases and Library Wines

Part of the charm of Burgundy has to do with the context of many of the wineries and their cellars. Rather than the grand Chateaux with long driveways between rows of trees and vines (though Burgundy has a few of these) more often than not, you simply round the corner of a narrow street in a small village, walk through a wrought iron gate into a gravel driveway, into a garage with a few steel tanks, and then down a set of stairs attached to a normal looking stone house, into a 16th century vaulted brick cellar (most recently used... continue reading


2009 Domaine Alain Gras Saint Romain Rouge, Burgundy, France

The vineyards of the Côte de Beaune spill off the limestone cliffs that mark the eastern edge of the region like a blanket that has slipped off the edge of a bed. Most of the vineyards that everyone knows lie puddled on the floor or in the crease between them. But a bit of vineyards still cling to the edges of the escarpments, cooler and higher than the rest of the Côte de Beaune. Perhaps one of the most important of these nooks and crannies in the cliffs above Beaune, and certainly the most picturesque, is the little village of... continue reading


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

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


Domaine des Vignes du Maynes, Cruzille, France: Current Releases

I went to Burgundy to dig my feet into the dirt a bit. To get down on my hands and knees and smell the wet leaves, and to stand on the crest of the hills and see the lay of the land. But I also went to Burgundy hoping to spend some time off the beaten path. Sure, I wanted to taste some Corton Charlemagne, and have dinner at Clos Vougeot, but I also wanted to see if I could find my favorite kind of winegrower -- the kind that is more "crusty hermit" than "lab chemist." And so,... continue reading


The Wines of Rully on a Wednesday Morning

Press trips like the one I'm on are not exactly the vacations that my friends and many readers imagine them to be. They are a lot of hard work, albeit quite civilized work in very nice places, interspersed by good things to eat and drink. Though I'm exhausted at the end of every day, it does, as they say, beat the hell out of sitting in a cubicle, pushing paper. The pattern of a press visit to a wine region is fairly standard. Once in a region, the day is made up of mostly visits to individual producers, where I... continue reading


Domaine Vessigaud, Pouilly, France: Current Releases

Arguably, one of the key defining features of Burgundy as a wine region must be the huge plateau of limestone on which it sits. Like a solid layer of frosting atop a deeper cake of sedimentary and metamorphic rocks, this limestone starts in the far north in Chablis and continues down into the southernmost parts of Burgundy. There exists a point in Burgundy, however, where this limestone ends, and rather abruptly at that. So sharply and starkly in fact, that you might easily fall to your death from the edge of it. Get too close, even, and the edge might... continue reading


2007 Three Sticks "Durell Vineyard" Pinot Noir, Sonoma Coast

People tend to turn up their noses at the word "pedigree" as it is most often invoked in the context of class, but for both grapevines and the skills of the people who work them, a long history can make a big difference. The tiny Three Sticks winery started in 2002, but unlike many wine labels that spring up overnight with nary a grapevine to their name, Three Sticks emerged as a logical conclusion from the collision of several decades of experience in the wine industry and one of Sonoma County's most well known vineyards. Bill Price made his money... continue reading


Looking Forward To, and Back On, the Last Decade of Napa Cabernet

There are few types of wine writing I tend to ignore so completely as I do vintage reports. The generally pithy paragraphs that attempt to sum up a vintage in Sonoma, for instance, are about as useful as a few sentences dedicated to an attempt at characterizing the quality of food in Lower Manhattan. No matter what you might say, there are a thousand and one exceptions. This vague uselessness tends to be true even if the vintage report purports to speak at the level of an individual AVA or appellation. There are just too many differences in micro climates... continue reading


The Best Wines of the Year?: Taste Testing the Wine & Spirits Top 100

The difference between a good public wine tasting and a bad one can be quite dramatic. The bad ones are in crappy locations, are poorly organized, offer no food, and only mediocre wines. The good ones are, well, just the opposite -- nicely organized, well catered, and offer great wines. And the best ones? Well, they throw in a jazz quartet, and all you can eat oyster bar, a dessert bar, and wines that sometimes retail for hundreds of dollars, if you can find them, at all. And that's just what you get at the annual Wine and Spirits Top... continue reading


2007 Freestone Vineyards "Ovation" Chardonnay, Sonoma Coast

Most people aren't aware that I grew up, at least partially, in Sonoma County. My parents split up pretty early on, and I moved with my mother to Colorado. But starting at the age of five, I would come out to visit my dad during the summer in the little town of Bodega, and spend my time chasing around the sheep ranch where he still lives. As a kid I knew Sonoma County was wine country. Mostly because whenever my dad's parents would come visit during the summer, we'd all pack into Grandpa's car, and trundle off to Rodney Strong... continue reading

But Wait, There's More!

This page only has the last sixty entries in this category. If you're interested in digging farther into my archives, you'll want to use the complete list of archives to access my articles by month.

Calendar of Postings

April 2014

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Most Recent Entries

Taste Washington Day One in Brief Checking On Some Older CA Pinot Noir Chateau Rayas and the 2012 Vintage of Chateauneuf-du-Pape Napa Wines and a Diversity of Opinions Premiere Napa Valley and 2012 Cabernet 2008 Rivers-Marie "Summa Old Vines" Pinot Noir, Sonoma Coast Vinography Unboxed: Week of February 2, 2014 Tasting Organic Rosé Wines from the South of France Organic Wines of the Languedoc: An Initial Taste Friuli Meets California: The Wines of Arbe Garbe

Favorite Posts From the Archives

Masuizumi Junmai Daiginjo, Toyama Prefecture Wine.Com Gives Retailers (and Consumers) the Finger 1961 Hospices de Beaune Emile Chandesais, Burgundy Wine Over Time The Better Half of My Palate 1999 Királyudvar "Lapis" Tokaji Furmint, Hungary What's Allowed in Your Wine and Winemaking Why Community Tasting Notes Sites Will Fail Appreciating Wine in Context The Soul vs. The Market 1989 Fiorano Botte 48 Semillion,Italy

Archives by Month


Required Reading for Wine Lovers

The Oxford Companion to Wine by Jancis Robinson The Taste of Wine by Emile Peynaud 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 World Atlas of Wine by Hugh Johnson The World's Greatest Wine Estates by Robert M. Parker, Jr.