Text Size:-+

~ Recently in Wine Reviews Category ~

 

06.18.2016

Vinography Unboxed: Week of June 12, 2016

Hello, and welcome to my periodic dig through the samples pile. I'm pleased to bring you the latest installment of Vinography Unboxed, where I highlight some of the better bottles that have crossed my doorstep recently. This week included a nice bright example of why we should all be drinking more Soave from one of its stalwart producers. After that white, however, the rest of the show is red. Let's begin with a pair of red blends from Carlos Pulenta's Vistalba Estate in Argentina, which are rich and ripe and just what your average Malbec lover seems to be looking... continue reading

06.11.2016

Vinography Unboxed: Week of June 5, 2016

Hello, and welcome to my periodic dig through the samples pile. I'm pleased to bring you the latest installment of Vinography Unboxed, where I highlight some of the better bottles that have crossed my doorstep recently. This week included a wine that made me very happy, my first taste of a California-grown Blaufränkisch from the quirky, little, Austrian-influenced producer, Solminer. Their Grüner Veltliner and rosé also made it into this week's roundup, and all are worth seeking out if you can track them down. Perennially favorite producer Lang & Reed's latest Chenin Blanc is a winner, and Dutton Goldfield offered... continue reading

06.04.2016

California's Most Interesting Wines: Tasting the 7% Solution

One of the "worst" mistakes any wine lover can make involves the wine drinking equivalent of getting stuck in a rut. Lots of people know what they like, and choose to stick with it, always opting for the Merlot, or the Pinot Noir, or the buttery Chardonnay because they want something they'll enjoy and they don't want to have to think too much about it. There's nothing wrong with this inherently, but those who always drink the same thing and never explore anything else are robbing themselves of an immense amount of pleasure. Variety being the spice of life,... continue reading

05.28.2016

Vinography Unboxed: Week of May 22, 2016

Hello, and welcome to my periodic dig through the samples pile. I'm pleased to bring you the latest installment of Vinography Unboxed, where I highlight some of the better bottles that have crossed my doorstep recently. This week included a couple nice values from Italy in the form of Inama Soave and Selvapiana Chianti Rufina. And, if not of the same blood, then certainly of the same persuasion, two wines from Palmina showed nicely this week, especially their Barbera, which is everything you want a Barbera to be. Other wines of note include the current releases from father and son... continue reading

05.21.2016

Vinography Unboxed: Week of May 15, 2016

Hello, and welcome to my periodic dig through the samples pile. I'm pleased to bring you the latest installment of Vinography Unboxed, where I highlight some of the better bottles that have crossed my doorstep recently. This week included a couple of wines from some favorite producers down in Santa Barbara County, Presqu'ile and Palmina. If you're looking for some aromatics, you'll not want to miss the Malvasia Blanca from Palmina, and if you're a fan of Sauvignon Blanc, Presqu'ile's rendition is one of the best made in the state. On the red side, Morgan Winery delivers pretty darn good... continue reading

05.07.2016

Vinography Unboxed: Week of May 1, 2016

Hello, and welcome to my periodic dig through the samples pile. I'm pleased to bring you the latest installment of Vinography Unboxed, where I highlight some of the better bottles that have crossed my doorstep recently. This week included an unusual still white wine made from Pinot Noir, hailing from Germany of all places, as well as an easygoing Riesling, also from Germany's Nahe river valley. It was interesting to compare the Trefethen Riesling side by side, which was a very different style but an equally valid interpretation of the grape. On the red side, don't miss a couple of... continue reading

04.23.2016

Vinography Unboxed: Week of April 17, 2016

Hello, and welcome to my periodic dig through the samples pile. I'm pleased to bring you the latest installment of Vinography Unboxed, where I highlight some of the better bottles that have crossed my doorstep recently. This week included some preparation for summer, in the form of a few bottles of bright crisp juiciness. First off, take a look at the Stoller Family Vineyards rosé of Pinot Noir, which begs for a hot afternoon on which to be served ice cold. It's nice to see people making pale, crisp, pink wines that are picked for the purpose of being rosé.... continue reading

04.17.2016

A Rescued Vintage: 2013 Burgundy Highlights from La Paulée

The world of wine offers no end of fantasies. One of mine is the chance to have the money and time to visit Burgundy every year and sample the latest vintage of some of the world's greatest wines. That dream may have to wait for retirement or some unexpected windfall. In the meantime, on rare occasion, however, you don't have to go Burgundy. Burgundy instead comes to you. La Pauléve, an event put on each year, alternating between New York and San Francisco, represents the best of such opportunities. Created by superstar sommelier Daniel Johnnes and modeled on the... continue reading

04.16.2016

Vinography Unboxed: Week of April 10, 2016

Hello, and welcome to my periodic dig through the samples pile. I'm pleased to bring you the latest installment of Vinography Unboxed, where I highlight some of the better bottles that have crossed my doorstep recently. This week included some flavors of the volcano, courtesy of Sicilian winery Tasca d'Almerita. Don't miss their Carricante, in particular for its deep stony quality and yummy floral crispness. Speaking of crisp, Williams Selyem has just recently released their unoaked Chardonnay, which is zingy and bright. On the other end of the spectrum, there are a few bruisers in this week's roundup for those... continue reading

04.09.2016

Vinography Unboxed: Week of April 3, 2016

Hello, and welcome to my periodic dig through the samples pile. I'm pleased to bring you the latest installment of Vinography Unboxed, where I highlight some of the better bottles that have crossed my doorstep recently. This week included a few of the recent releases from superstar winery Williams Selyem. My favorite of the bunch is their Westside Road Neighbors, which rarely fails to please. A couple of wines from Medlock Ames in Alexander valley also showed relatively well this week, as did a Chardonnay from Oregon. But the real star this week, sadly very hard to find online (call... continue reading

03.29.2016

Mayacamas is Going to Be Fine. Really.

The wine world is a funny place. So many people act like they have a monopoly on tradition, deliberately ignoring the continuity of human experience while glorifying the past. That's not to say that things always improve in the inexorable march of progress, but those who idealize an unchanging moment in history blind themselves to one of life's great lessons: impermanence. Three years ago, investor Charles Banks bought Mayacamas Vineyards, one of the most quietly revered and least modernized wineries in the Napa Valley. When Bob Travers, its sole proprietor since his purchase of the estate in 1968 announced... continue reading

03.26.2016

Vinography Unboxed: Week of March 20, 2016

Hello, and welcome to my periodic dig through the samples pile. I'm pleased to bring you the latest installment of Vinography Unboxed, where I highlight some of the better bottles that have crossed my doorstep recently. This week included a nicely aged and stunning Chardonnay from a producer who has become legendary for their ability to produce wines that can easily fool tasters into thinking they're drinking white Burgundy, and this bottling from Kumeu River is no exception. I also really enjoyed this bottled of white wine from Rhos Winery in Crete, but sadly can't find anywhere online for you... continue reading

03.19.2016

Vinography Unboxed: Week of March 13, 2016

Hello, and welcome to my periodic dig through the samples pile. I'm pleased to bring you the latest installment of Vinography Unboxed, where I highlight some of the better bottles that have crossed my doorstep recently. This week included a couple of nice Pinots, one from Anderson Valley, which showed off the cherry sweetness of Clone 5, a specific clone of Pinot Noir, and the other which showed the spectacular potential of one of California's Grand Cru vineyards in one of the best vintages in recent memory. If you can get your hands on either of these wines you won't... continue reading

03.16.2016

Flavors of a World-Changing Wine Event: Celebrating the Judgment of Paris

On May 24th, the world will celebrate the 40th anniversary of perhaps the single most important event in the modern history of wine. I celebrated it just a wee bit early while attending the Naples Winter Wine Festival in January, an event that afforded about forty of us the opportunity to taste a bunch of older vintages of Chateau Montelena Chardonnay and Stag's Leap Vineyard SLV Cabernet Sauvignon while listening to Steven Spurrier and George Taber recount their memories of the day that changed wine forever. For those unfamiliar with the event that has become known as the Judgment... continue reading

03.12.2016

Vinography Unboxed: Week of March 6, 2016

Hello, and welcome to my periodic dig through the samples pile. I'm pleased to bring you the latest installment of Vinography Unboxed, where I highlight some of the better bottles that have crossed my doorstep recently. This week included a couple of lovely Pinots, from two very reliable producers, Hirsch Vineyards and Foursight wines, both brimming with zippy, mouthwatering acidity and delivering a juicy mix of fruit and herbs. It's not easy to find, but if you're looking for a similar sensation but with some darker earthier tones and richer fruit, I'd seek out the Sylva Plana Faugéres from the... continue reading

02.25.2016

A Look at 2014 Napa Cabernet: Tasting at Premiere Napa Valley

Each year, the Napa Valley Vintners Association pulls out all the stops to host its annual fundraising event known as Premiere Napa Valley. Not to be confused with its star-studded charity auction in the spring (known as Auction Napa Valley), Premiere Napa Valley is a more focused event. It is a barrel tasting and auction, in which the wines on offer are all unique creations made specifically and only for this event, offering purchasers the opportunity to own an incredibly rare wine that often represents the very pinnacle of the winemaker's efforts in that vintage. All the invited bidders... continue reading

02.06.2016

Vinography Unboxed: Week of January 31, 2016

Hello, and welcome to my periodic dig through the samples pile. I'm pleased to bring you the latest installment of Vinography Unboxed, where I highlight some of the better bottles that have crossed my doorstep recently. This week included a couple of nice white wines, starting with a very nice Viognier from Anaba in Sonoma Valley. California Viogniers often end up too syrupy and ripe, but this wine avoids that trap nicely. The Smith-Madrone Chardonnay also breaks the stereotypical mold, and offers juicy bright citrus fruit without overt oak. On the red end of the spectrum I was quite pleased... continue reading

01.30.2016

Vinography Unboxed: Week of January 24, 2016

Hello, and welcome to my periodic dig through the samples pile. I'm pleased to bring you the latest installment of Vinography Unboxed, where I highlight some of the better bottles that have crossed my doorstep recently. This week offered a bit of a short stack of Sonoma wines, ranging from some usual suspects, such as Dutton Goldfield and Hirsch Vineyards, both of whose Chardonnays are excellent this week. I've also got a Gewurztraminer from Gundlach-Bundschu (try saying that three times fast), which is usually a dependable bottling from them, but I have preferred previous vintages to this one. I haven't... continue reading

01.23.2016

Vinography Unboxed: Week of January 17, 2016

Hello, and welcome to my periodic dig through the samples pile. I'm pleased to bring you the latest installment of Vinography Unboxed, where I highlight some of the better bottles that have crossed my doorstep recently. This week included a couple of killer Pinots from pioneer Hirsch Vineyards out on the Sonoma Coast, their 2012 San Andreas bottling and their reserve bottling which is pretty hard to come by. There was also a very nice white Rhone blend by Anaba, a Rhone-focused winery in Sonoma that I've really enjoyed over the years. One of my favorite little wineries in Napa,... continue reading

01.09.2016

Vinography Unboxed: Week of January 3, 2016

Hello, and welcome to my periodic dig through the samples pile. I'm pleased to bring you the latest installment of Vinography Unboxed, where I highlight some of the better bottles that have crossed my doorstep recently. This week included a couple of the most exceptional Cabernets from the 2012 vintage I've had the pleasure of tasting, the always-impeccable Spottswoode and the really excellent black label blend from Viader Vineyards. If you're in the market for wines like these, run, don't walk to the nearest fine wine store and snap them up. Other wines of note this week included the pair... continue reading

01.09.2016

The Bodeguero's Table: The Wines of De Lucca, Uruguay

Populated by many more cows than people, the pastoral landscape of Uruguay is a place of kitchen hearths and kitchen tables. Most homes outside of the city feature a wood-fired parilla and the kind of kitchen table at which you could spend the entire day. I was privileged to spend time at many such tables during my visit to Uruguay. But by far the biggest of those tables, and among the most welcoming, was the massive wooden slab that, thigh-thick and yards across, dominated the center of Reinaldo De Lucca's home. It was the kind of table that I'd... continue reading

01.02.2016

Vinography Unboxed: Week of December 27, 2015

Hello, and welcome to my periodic dig through the samples pile. I'm pleased to bring you the latest installment of Vinography Unboxed, where I highlight some of the better bottles that have crossed my doorstep recently. This week included some excellent bottles, first of which was one of my favorite white wines in the world, a wine that tastes so utterly of the windswept and sea stained ash and tufa that it was grown in you can close your eyes and be transported to the little archipelago of Santorini. The best producer on the island is Hatzidakis, a man of... continue reading

12.26.2015

Vinography Unboxed: Week of December 20, 2015

Hello, and welcome to my periodic dig through the samples pile. I'm pleased to bring you the latest installment of Vinography Unboxed, where I highlight some of the better bottles that have crossed my doorstep recently. This week I decided to make it sparkling wine week, and open up all those sample bottles of bubbly lying around. If you're looking for some ideas for holiday sparkle, then I've got a great list for you below. The most notable wines this week were a remarkable trio whose very existence deserves respect, regardless of their quality, which happens to be astounding. The... continue reading

12.24.2015

50 Years of American Sparkling Wine: The Schramsberg Odyssey

The famous sign that welcomes the world to Napa Valley hosts a quote by author Robert Louis Stevenson: "...and the wine was bottled poetry." In the early 1880's Stevenson took his honeymoon in the northern end of Napa valley, and wrote about it in a book called Silverado Squatters. In it, he describes his visit to the property of German immigrant Jacob Schram:"Mr. Schram's, on the other hand, is the oldest vineyard in the valley, eighteen years old I think; yet he began a penniless barber, and even after he had broken ground up here with his black malvoisies,... continue reading

12.12.2015

Vinography Unboxed: Week of December 6, 2015

Hello, and welcome to my periodic dig through the samples pile. I'm pleased to bring you the latest installment of Vinography Unboxed, where I highlight some of the better bottles that have crossed my doorstep recently. This week, like last, was full of big reds, the most notable of which was the 2011 bottling of Shafer's Hillside Select, which was at once both surprisingly herbal, but at the same time clearly very ripe in a tricky year. My recollection from talking with the Shafers that their harvest was in before the rains that complicated many people's year, so that says... continue reading

12.05.2015

Vinography Unboxed: Week of November 29, 2015

Hello, and welcome to my periodic dig through the samples pile. I'm pleased to bring you the latest installment of Vinography Unboxed, where I highlight some of the better bottles that have crossed my doorstep recently. The cold weather we're getting in California has me in a red wine mood. This week's tasting included mostly robust red wines of various pedigrees. The one to single out for starters is most certainly the wine that I had never heard of until I got a bottle in the mail recently. But one look at the back label told me everything I needed... continue reading

11.28.2015

Vinography Unboxed: Week of November 22, 2015

Hello, and welcome to my periodic dig through the samples pile. Hope you had a fabulous Thanksgiving if you celebrated. I'm pleased to bring you the latest installment of Vinography Unboxed, where I highlight some of the better bottles that have crossed my doorstep recently. This week's tasting included, most notably, the first wines from a new wine project started by Steve Clifton (of Palmina and Brewer-Clifton fame) and his wife Chrystal. The wines are very solid, not to mention stylish, and worth checking out, especially the 2012 Reflektor Pinot Noir. I was also happy to dig out a couple... continue reading

11.26.2015

A Lonely Hillside: The Wines of Alto de la Ballena, Uruguay

Most people probably hold the supposition that visiting vineyards and tasting wine are best done in good weather, when you can stroll among the vineyard rows with a glass in hand, blue sky overhead, and the sound of exotic birds calling from the nearby trees. Those moments, of which I have been lucky enough to partake many times, offer a certain idyll that can't be denied. Yet I often learn much more about the character of a place under less than ideal circumstances. A few weeks ago I emerged from the shelter and warmth of a vehicle to howling... continue reading

11.14.2015

Vinography Unboxed: Week of November 8, 2015

Hello, and welcome to my periodic dig through the samples pile. I'm pleased to bring you the latest installment of Vinography Unboxed, where I highlight some of the better bottles that have crossed my doorstep recently. This week's tasting was all about the red wine. And let's just get it out of the way. The 2012 Ridge Monte Bello was pretty much owning the kitchen table no matter what else I put on it this week. But despite few wines being able to compete with its regal poise, several other big reds recommended themselves as well. For starters there are... continue reading

11.07.2015

Vinography Unboxed: Week of November 1, 2015

Hello, and welcome (back -- I've been too busy to open boxes lately) to my periodic dig through the samples pile. I'm pleased to bring you the latest installment of Vinography Unboxed, where I highlight some of the better bottles that have crossed my doorstep recently. This week's tasting included one of the most interesting bottles of Napa wine I've had in some time, a Charbono from J. McClelland, that I highly recommend for anyone who thinks they know Napa well. Of course we've also got a couple of more typical wines from Napa, the Keith Webster and Revivial Vineyards... continue reading

10.31.2015

Vinography Unboxed: Week of October 25, 2015

Hello, and welcome (back -- I've been too busy to open boxes lately) to my periodic dig through the samples pile. I'm pleased to bring you the latest installment of Vinography Unboxed, where I highlight some of the better bottles that have crossed my doorstep recently. This week's tasting included an unusual sweet white from near the famed Sauternes region of Bordeaux, made by a tiny producer that is unfortunately tough to get ahold of here in the US. More easy to find will be the lovely Chardonnays from famed Hanzell Vineyards, which are, as usual models of poise in... continue reading

10.17.2015

Vinography Unboxed: Week of October 11, 2015

Hello, and welcome (back -- I've been too busy to open boxes lately) to my periodic dig through the samples pile. I'm pleased to bring you the latest installment of Vinography Unboxed, where I highlight some of the better bottles that have crossed my doorstep recently. This week's tasting included a couple of very lively white wines. One is a Greek Assyrtiko, but instead of hailing from Santorini, the homeland of Assyrtiko, it is from Crete, and has a very distinctive charm. The other is a Chenin Blanc from Lang & Reed Wine Company, inveterate producers of Cabernet Franc for... continue reading

10.10.2015

Vinography Unboxed: Week of October 4, 2015

Hello, and welcome (back -- I've been too busy to open boxes lately) to my periodic dig through the samples pile. I'm pleased to bring you the latest installment of Vinography Unboxed, where I highlight some of the better bottles that have crossed my doorstep recently. This week's tasting included a wine that is not particularly profound, but that is just so pretty and pleasurable, that I defy anyone to take just one sip when it's ice cold on a warm day. Most people aren't familiar with the grape Moschofilero, but this little Greek number is wonderfully light and aromatic... continue reading

09.29.2015

Vinography Unboxed: Week of September 27, 2015

Hello, and welcome (back -- I've been too busy to open boxes lately) to my periodic dig through the samples pile. I'm pleased to bring you the latest installment of Vinography Unboxed, where I highlight some of the better bottles that have crossed my doorstep recently. This week's tasting included a few really excellent white wines, in particular the Müller Thurgau from Abbazia di Novacella, a lesser known white grape that absolutely sings when grown by monks in the mountains of the Alto Adige. If you've never had it, this is the best place to start. Also in the lighter... continue reading

09.26.2015

The Lodi Zinfandel Revolution Continues

Let me begin with total honesty. I fell out of love with Zinfandel. When I first got into wine, I loved the carefree jubilation that spilled out of every bottle of Zinfandel I opened. Zinfandel is a wine that makes no apologies for its exuberant fruit. Like a gay man flying his queer flag in full flaming glory, if it does nothing else, Zinfandel gives good fruit. As authentic as this personality can be, Zinfandel all too easily strays into the realm of caricature. If its boisterous blackberry, black pepper, and blueberry essence is good, surely a bit more... continue reading

09.19.2015

Vinography Unboxed: Week of September 13, 2015

Hello, and welcome (back -- I've been too busy to open boxes lately) to my periodic dig through the samples pile. I'm pleased to bring you the latest installment of Vinography Unboxed, where I highlight some of the better bottles that have crossed my doorstep recently. This week's tasting included a couple of Rieslings from Ontario Canada, which is producing really super wines that no one seems to know about here in the US. Unfortunately that goes for distributors, too, which means they're tough to get ahold of. A new wine project in Oregon's Willamette Valley called Vinum Ferus caught... continue reading

09.12.2015

The Flavor of Cool: Tasting the Wines of the Western Sonoma Coast

I'll admit it. I'm an acid freak. More than anything else in a wine, I'm looking for the juiciness that I get from well-balanced wines that lean towards the lower side of pH. There's nothing quite like that zip and crackle of a wine that gets your tastebuds tingling and your mouth watering. With care, mouthwatering wines can be made just about anywhere. Farming well and then paying close attention to the harvest in order to ensure the grapes retain enough acidity to balance their sugars remains the best way to make excellent wine in my opinion. But that... continue reading

08.22.2015

Small is Beautiful: The Champagnes of Savart

The famous designers Charles and Ray Eames, in the employ of the then young company named IBM, once created a groundbreaking piece of film suggesting the relative scale of the universe in "Powers of Ten". It begins with footage of a picnic and zooms out to a galactic scale before zooming back in to an atomic level. This 10 minutes of film put in perspective some truths about our universe that were all but impossible to grasp in the abstraction of numbers or words. The same might be said for the Champagnes of young Frederic "Fred" Savart. If you... continue reading

08.15.2015

A Selection of Georgian Wines

If you've never had a wine from the Republic of Georgia, then you've never really tasted history. By most estimates, Georgia is the birthplace of winemaking, which is to say that this region (the area where Georgia, Turkey, and Armenia connect on today's maps) houses the earliest archeological evidence of winemaking yet known. Wine production is 8000 years old in Georgia, and has been a central part of the culture ever since. The country is home to more than 500 indigenous grape varieties, and is the source of today's increasing interest with making wine in clay amphorae -- the... continue reading

08.08.2015

Vinography Unboxed: Week of August 2, 2015

Hello, and welcome to my periodic dig through the samples pile. I'm pleased to bring you the latest installment of Vinography Unboxed, where I highlight some of the better bottles that have crossed my doorstep recently. This week's tasting included a couple of excellent Rhone inspired white wines, one from a newer project in Napa, Cairdean vineyards, the other from Native American run Kitá in Santa Barbara. The expectedly excellent Assyrtiko from Domaine Sigalas in Santorini is worth your attention as well, not to mention a good bet to help prop up the Greek economy. Elsewhere I dug up a... continue reading

08.01.2015

Vinography Unboxed: Week of July 26, 2015

Hello, and welcome to my periodic dig through the samples pile. I'm pleased to bring you the latest installment of Vinography Unboxed, where I highlight some of the better bottles that have crossed my doorstep recently. This week's tasting included a couple of lovely Weissburgunders (known as Pinot Blanc to us English speakers) from the mountains in the north of Italy. If you like crisper styles of Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc, you'll love these very mineral, citrusy whites. The other white wine not to miss is the Wild Ferment Assyrtiko by one of Greece's best winemakers. And this is one... continue reading

07.30.2015

The Brilliance of Canadian Chardonnay

Less than an hour from Buffalo, New York, some of the best Chardonnay I've tasted in years is being made, and practically no one in America knows about it. If Americans think of anything when it comes to Canadian wine, they almost always think of icewine. Just why this treasure trove of crisp and bright lemony Chardonnay goodness has remained almost completely off the radar of American wine lovers is a topic for another time. Right now, I simply need to tell you that Canada's province of Ontario is making some seriously world-class Chardonnay. I found out about it... continue reading

07.23.2015

Lost Treasures in the Sierra Foothills: The Wines of Renaissance Vineyards

Soon after gold was discovered in California in 1848, and word spread east, more than 80,000 prospectors descended upon the foothills of the Sierras in search of their fortunes. Most only found hardship and broken dreams. Almost as soon as the Gold Rush began, stories began to circulate about "lost mines," rich troves of gold that were never to be found again when their discoverers met with misfortune. Even today an occasional prospector still goes in search of these forgotten treasures. What would you think if I told you that the legends of a massive treasure buried in the... continue reading

07.13.2015

Vinography Unboxed: Week of July 12, 2015

Hello, and welcome to my periodic dig through the samples pile. I'm pleased to bring you the latest installment of Vinography Unboxed, where I highlight some of the better bottles that have crossed my doorstep recently. This week's tasting included three recent releases from one of my favorite Pinot Noir producers in California, Ross Cobb. His nervy wines are usually jam packed with bright acidity, so it's no surprise that his 2012s are very nice, indeed, and that he's avoided the flab-trap that some producers fell into during this generous, easygoing vintage. Speaking of acid, is there anything more crisp... continue reading

07.04.2015

Vinography Unboxed: Week of June 28, 2015

Hello, and welcome to my periodic dig through the samples pile. I'm pleased to bring you the latest installment of Vinography Unboxed, where I highlight some of the better bottles that have crossed my doorstep recently. This week's tasting included one of the best California Chardonnays I've had in recent memory, and it was no surprise to have come from Thomas Fogarty Winery. Winemaker Nathan Kandler is crafting some of the most extraordinary Pinot Noirs and Chardonnays in the Santa Cruz Mountains. This single vineyard bottling from one of their oldest, steepest, and most difficult to work vineyards is a... continue reading

06.29.2015

A First Taste of Idaho Wine

Wine from Idaho? Why not? Idaho's climate and geology share many things in common with Eastern Washington State, a place that is making some pretty exciting red wines these days. Idaho's first grapes were planted in 1864, and several wineries grew to prominence in the late 1800's and early 1900s. Like in many places, Prohibition took its toll and wiped out the state's fledgling wine industry. Idaho wasn't planted with grapes again until 1970, but since then more than 50 wineries have sprung up around the state, and more than 1300 acres are under cultivation. When a case of... continue reading

06.27.2015

Tasting Integrity: 25 Years of Corison Napa Cabernet

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

06.27.2015

Vinography Unboxed: Week of June 21, 2015

Hello, and welcome to my periodic dig through the samples pile. I'm pleased to bring you the latest installment of Vinography Unboxed, where I highlight some of the better bottles that have crossed my doorstep recently. This week's tasting included a couple of tasty Pinot Noirs from minimalist producer Big Table Farm in Oregon. Their single vineyard bottling from the Pelos Sandberg vineyard is especially worthy of attention for its distinctive aromatics and unique personality. I'm always telling myself I don't drink enough Washington State red wine, especially after I encounter bottles like those I dug out this week from... continue reading

06.20.2015

Vinography Unboxed: Week of June 14, 2015

Hello, and welcome to my periodic dig through the samples pile. I'm pleased to bring you the latest installment of Vinography Unboxed, where I highlight some of the better bottles that have crossed my doorstep recently. This week's tasting included a couple of tasty rosés made from Pinot Noir, one from the Sonoma Coast, the other from Oregon's Willamette Valley. Both are worth seeking out. There's also a Chardonnay from a very cute little outfit in Oregon called Big Table Farm, who have been making individualistic, small production wines with minimalist techniques for a few years. Finally, I'd like to... continue reading

06.16.2015

Drink Different: Highlights From the 7% Solution Tasting

One of the "worst" mistakes any wine lover can make involves the wine drinking equivalent of getting stuck in a rut. Lots of people know what they like, and choose to stick with it, always opting for the Merlot, or the Pinot Noir, or the buttery Chardonnay because they want something they'll enjoy and they don't want to have to think too much about it. There's nothing wrong with this inherently, but those who always drink the same thing and never explore anything else are robbing themselves of an immense amount of pleasure. Variety being the spice of life,... continue reading

06.06.2015

Vinography Unboxed: Week of May 31, 2015

Hello, and welcome to my periodic dig through the samples pile. I'm pleased to bring you the latest installment of Vinography Unboxed, where I highlight some of the better bottles that have crossed my doorstep recently. This week's tasting included some older wines that were rather fun to observe in their evolution. Ever had a nicely aged Zinfandel? A couple of examples from Bella Vineyards and Wine Caves showed off the qualities of older Zinfandel quite nicely. Two major highlights this week would certainly be the wonderfully mature Cabernet blend from Craggy Range in New Zealand as well as the... continue reading

05.30.2015

Vinography Unboxed: Week of May 24, 2015

Hello, and welcome to my periodic dig through the samples pile. I'm pleased to bring you the latest installment of Vinography Unboxed, where I highlight some of the better bottles that have crossed my doorstep recently. This week's tasting included a couple of the current release Pinots from Saintsbury, though not from their Carneros vineyards, instead these hail from the Sonoma Coast, including a single-vineyard offering from the Pratt Vineyard. Both are quite tasty. If you're looking for something unusual and interesting, you'd do well to take a look at this very pretty red blend called Cauquenina from Chile, which... continue reading

05.23.2015

Vinography Unboxed: Week of May 17th, 2015

Hello, and welcome to my periodic dig through the samples pile. I'm pleased to bring you the latest installment of Vinography Unboxed, where I highlight some of the better bottles that have crossed my doorstep recently. This week's tasting included a bunch of completely knock-out wines. It's hard to know where to begin, but let's start with the three single vineyard Chardonnays from Thomas Fogarty winery which are literally some of the finest Chardonnays I've had from California in some time. Phenomenally bright, nervy, and completely mouthwatering, these wines are the work of the (relatively) young Nathan Kandler, who has... continue reading

05.16.2015

Vinography Unboxed: Week of May 10, 2015

Hello, and welcome to my periodic dig through the samples pile. I'm pleased to bring you the latest installment of Vinography Unboxed, where I highlight some of the better bottles that have crossed my doorstep recently. This week's tasting included a couple of excellent wines from Greece, including what I believe to be one of the best Xinomavro's available in the US, the old vine reserve bottling from Alpha Estate in Amyndeon, Greece. If you haven't had a Xinomavro before, this is a great place to start. I was also thrilled to get a bottle of Assyrtiko from my absolute... continue reading

05.13.2015

Tasting One Man's Experience: The Champagnes of Agrapart et Fil

"Lots of winemakers want to have an easy life," says a grizzled and clearly muscular Pascal Agrapart. "Not me. I want to go work in the vineyard and I'm not asking what time it is. If the sun is shining, I'm in the vineyard, it doesn't matter what day. Weekends too. This is what you do if you work the soils. If I used a lot of chemicals, I would have much more time." As he talks, he gestures with hands that clearly belong to a farmer -- thick and callused, with dirt still under the fingernails. He's been... continue reading

05.09.2015

Vinography Unboxed: Week of May 4, 2015

Hello, and welcome to my periodic dig through the samples pile. I'm pleased to bring you the latest installment of Vinography Unboxed, where I highlight some of the better bottles that have crossed my doorstep recently. This week's tasting included the latest entry-level malbec from superstar Argentine producer Achaval Ferrer, as well as an interesting red blend from Faugeres in France's Languedoc region. I also tasted through a few of the reds from Grgich Hills and Gundlach Bundschu that are currently on the market. Finally, look for the two entry level wines from Pfendler Vineyards in the Petaluma Gap region... continue reading

05.02.2015

Vinography Unboxed: Week of April 26, 2015

Hello, and welcome to my periodic dig through the samples pile. I'm pleased to bring you the latest installment of Vinography Unboxed, where I highlight some of the better bottles that have crossed my doorstep recently. This week's tasting included a most wonderful, mineral wine made from Xarel lo, the grape predominantly responsible for most Cava wines, but here turned into a fantastically bright still wine by one of the most prestigious of Cava producers, Raventos i Blanc. Speaking of bright, I've also got two German Rieslings this week, both of which have fantastically redeeming qualities. Don't miss the basic... continue reading

04.21.2015

A Singular Expression: The Champagnes of Cédric Bouchard

When I first met the improbably youthful Cédric Bouchard six years ago on his first visit to the United States, he had already decided to break just about every rule he could in Champagne while still labeling his wines as such. "I hate bubbles," he said to me at that time. "If I could make my wines without bubbles, I would." Sitting in the back garden of his beautiful, circa-1728 villa in the tiny village of Landreville, I remind him of those comments, and he laughs. "Absolutely," he says. "I still feel the same way. I suggest everyone decant... continue reading

04.18.2015

Acid Freaks Unite: Highlights From the 2015 IPOB Tasting

Every year, I look forward to the In Pursuit of Balance (IPOB) tasting in San Francisco. Started by Raj Parr and Jasmine Hirsch as a way to highlight a group of Pinot Noir producers in California that they felt were pioneering a more delicate, refined, and yes, balanced, style of wines, the tasting has grown into one of the highest quality tastings of Pinot Noir and Chardonnay (with an occasional Syrah slipped out from underneath the table) in California. Despite having been held for five years now (in cities across the country and most recently Japan, too) the event... continue reading

04.11.2015

Vinography Unboxed: Week of April 5, 2015

Hello, and welcome to my periodic dig through the samples pile. I'm pleased to bring you the latest installment of Vinography Unboxed, where I highlight some of the better bottles that have crossed my doorstep recently. This week's tasting included some really excellent Cava sparkling wines from one of the most prestigious producers in Spain, Raventos i Blanc. This winery, which has a good claim on being one of the longest running wine properties on the planet (dating back to 1497), makes Cava that rivals Champagne in sophistication and depth. In addition, it was fun to have the chance to... continue reading

04.04.2015

Vinography Unboxed: Week of March 29, 2015

Hello, and welcome to my periodic dig through the samples pile. I'm pleased to bring you the latest installment of Vinography Unboxed, where I highlight some of the better bottles that have crossed my doorstep recently. This week's tasting included what I think is now one of the best wine values in California, the latest vintage of Randall Grahm's Clos de Gilroy Grenache, a juicy bright wine that absolutely kills it for $15. Then there are the bright, juicy Pinots from Foursight Vineyards in Anderson Valley, which continue to impress me with their lithe elegance. The Apex 39 white blend... continue reading

04.01.2015

A Man, an Island, and a Bottle of Grüner: The Wines of Rudi Pichler

"I am not a modern winemaker," says Rudi Pichler, as we walk through his compact, and yes, very modern winery in the little village of Wosendorf within view of the Wachau river in Austria. What little hair he has left on his head is closely cropped, emphasizing the broad, deeply lined expanse of his forehead that frames a genial, even cherubic face animated with enthusiasm. "If I were a modern winemaker," he continues, "I would be whole cluster pressing, and doing all sorts of stuff to make nosy wines. That is not my job. It is much more important... continue reading

03.22.2015

The Latitudes and Longitudes of Pinot Noir

Every year, just as Winter, or what passes for winter in southern California, begins to turn the corner towards Spring, lovers of Pinot Noir gather on the cliffs of Santa Barbara for a celebration of the grape they love. The World of Pinot Noir offers three days of immersion into everything Pinot in the bucolic setting of Bacara Resort. This event has many redeeming features, but among my favorite of its many charms is the fact that the organizers make a concerted effort to recruit Pinot Noir producers from many different places around the world, and almost always have... continue reading

03.21.2015

Vinography Unboxed: Week of March 15th, 2015

Hello, and welcome to my periodic dig through the samples pile. I'm pleased to bring you the latest installment of Vinography Unboxed, where I highlight some of the better bottles that have crossed my doorstep recently. This week's tasting unearthed a couple of excellent Chardonnays from producer Alta Maria Vineyards down in Santa Barbara County, which will celebrate its 10th harvest this year. Their Pinot Noirs and Chardonnays are excellent and worth seeking out, as these two demonstrate. Grgich Hills joined the Chardonnay bandwagon this week as well, with predictable consistency and quality. For those interested in something a little... continue reading

03.07.2015

Vinography Unboxed: Week of March 1, 2015

Hello, and welcome to my periodic dig through the samples pile. I'm pleased to bring you the latest installment of Vinography Unboxed, where I highlight some of the better bottles that have crossed my doorstep recently. This week's trove of bottles included a very nice Torrontes from Mendoza, Argentina that I might delight even the most jaded palate. There were a few nice Pinots in there, too, from Dutton-Goldfield, Sojourn Cellars, and Foursight wines out in Anderson Valley. Finally, I dug up a couple of bottles that have been languishing for some time hidden underneath some others that showed quite... continue reading

03.05.2015

Siduri Wines: Rewarding the Search for Flavor

About a month ago, after twenty years in business, and arguably at the peak of their business, Adam and Diana Lee sold Siduri Wines, and their sister project Novy Family Winery to Jackson Family Wines for an undisclosed sum. Siduri began in 1994 when Lee and his wife, betting on the security of Adam landing a job at Lambert Bridge winery, used some of their savings to buy some fruit from people who responded to their ad in Wine Country Classifieds looking to buy some Pinot Noir. Within four years, they had moved into an industrial park on the... continue reading

02.28.2015

Vinography Unboxed: Week of February 22, 2015

Hello, and welcome to my periodic dig through the samples pile. I'm pleased to bring you the latest installment of Vinography Unboxed, where I highlight some of the better bottles that have crossed my doorstep recently. This week's trove of bottles included one of the sexiest, most impressive wines from Livermore that I've ever had: the Lineage bottling from Steven Kent winery, whose wines have been impressing me for the last couple of years quite consistently. There were also a couple of standout Chardonnays as well, from Thomas Fogarty Winery and Whitcraft Winery, both of which were fresh, bright, and... continue reading

02.27.2015

The Glory of 2013 Napa Cabernet: Tasting Premiere Napa Valley

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

02.21.2015

A Dose of Claret: Visiting With 2010 Bordeaux

I have two confessions to make, the first slightly more gauche (among wine lovers) than the last. Here goes. I don't have much interest in Bordeaux. While I've not yet tasted all the greats (I have yet to run into an open bottle of Petrus with my name on it) I've certainly tasted enough of the First Growths on down to the bourgeoisie to understand the nature of a proper claret. When I could still buy the once-modest Pontet Canet for less than $50 (a thing I find myself surprised to be able to say given my relative youth)... continue reading

02.14.2015

An Apogee of Red: Drinking with the Douro Boys

You could call them the First Growths of Portugal, but they call themselves The Douro Boys -- the scions of five great winemaking families in Portugal and the proprietors of the most famous wine estates in the Douro Valley. Together, they make some of Portugal's most sought after, highly-rated, and expensive wines, and since 2003, they have loosely banded together to promote each other, and their region on the world stage. While my recent visit to Portugal didn't include a trip to the Douro, I did get a chance to sit down for a tasting of all their wines,... continue reading

02.07.2015

Vinography Unboxed: Week of February 2, 2015

Hello, and welcome to my periodic dig through the samples pile. I'm pleased to bring you the latest installment of Vinography Unboxed, where I highlight some of the better bottles that have crossed my doorstep recently. This week's bevy of bottles brought some wonderful nostalgia to my dining room table in the form of some wines from Turkey. I visited Turkey in 2011 and fell in love with some of the wines there. In particular I swooned repeatedly for wines made from the indigenous grape Kalecik Karasi, which I describe as the Trousseau or Poulsard of Turkey. I was thrilled,... continue reading

02.01.2015

California Chardonnay According to David Ramey

"Some people say, 'Why shouldn't California Chardonnay be something else entirely, instead of like the whites of Burgundy' and there's no reason why it can't be," says winemaker David Ramey. "If you can reinvent the wheel, go ahead and do it. But the techniques of Burgundy evolved over thousands of years," he continues. "Someone once said that tradition is the result of experimentation that has succeeded. When it comes to California Chardonnay, I find myself fairly ecclesiastical on these matters. Trying to reinvent the wheel is just an ego quest." If anyone could have succeeded in such a quest... continue reading

01.24.2015

Vinography Unboxed: Week of January 18, 2015

Hello, and welcome to my periodic dig through the samples pile. I'm pleased to bring you the latest installment of Vinography Unboxed, where I highlight some of the better bottles that have crossed my doorstep recently. This week's samples included a most unusual trio of rosés. Now I'm generally not a fan of most California rosés, which tend to be made by simply bleeding off juice from a red wine early in the fermentation process and then fermenting that to something slightly less than dryness. They tend to be a little sweet, a bit bitter, and a lot clumsy. These... continue reading

01.17.2015

Vinography Unboxed: Week of January 11, 2015

Hello, and welcome to my periodic dig through the samples pile. I'm pleased to bring you the latest installment of Vinography Unboxed, where I highlight some of the better bottles that have crossed my doorstep recently. This week's samples included a whole lotta Napa Cabernet, and some pretty damn good ones at that, headed up by what might be the best bottle of Spring Mountain's Elivette blend I think I may have ever had. The 2011 vintage has added a mineral and herbal edge to this wine that I find irresistible. Perhaps on the opposite end of the spectrum, the... continue reading

01.11.2015

The Superb Grace of Old Vines: Drinking Janasse

In a region where castles crumble to ruins on the hills, and the vines outlive their farmers, one of the youngest wineries has been setting the quality bar for decades. Despite only 40 years of history, Domaine de La Janasse easily ranks among the greatest estates of Châteauneuf-du-Pape. But you wouldn't know that from the small personal wine cellar with low ceilings and rough hewn shelving that served as my tasting room on a cold January day. Amidst an eclectic collection of bottles tucked in around a gravel strewn floor, Christophe Sabon took me through his latest releases, a... continue reading

01.10.2015

Vinography Unboxed: Week of January 4, 2015

Hello, and welcome to my periodic dig through the samples pile. I'm pleased to bring you the latest installment of Vinography Unboxed, where I highlight some of the better bottles that have crossed my doorstep recently. This week's samples included a trio of wines from one of California's hottest rising star winemakers, Jesse Katz. The first was his 2011 Cabernet Sauvignon from Lancaster Estate which is a beautiful study in balance, power, and elegance. The second and third wines are two new labels he has just begun, Devil Proof Vineyards and Aperture, both of which feature the photography of his... continue reading

01.03.2015

Vinography Unboxed: Week of December 27th, 2014

Hello, and welcome to my periodic dig through the samples pile. I'm pleased to bring you the latest installment of Vinography Unboxed, where I highlight some of the better bottles that have crossed my doorstep recently. And, oh yes, Happy New Year! This week included some of the latest releases from Nickel & Nickel winery that continue that winery's trend towards making less oak influenced wines, which to my palate, means they are making some of the best wines they have ever produced. This duo of Cabernets and a Merlot are wonderfully bright and juicy, and have successfully avoided a... continue reading

12.30.2014

Flirting with the Ecstatic: The Wines of Nikolaihof, Austria

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. Stepping through the doorway into the inner courtyard of Weingut Nikolaihof, a stone's throw from the Danube, with the morning light filtering down through the century-old linden tree, the world narrows down to this quiet bounded space. Gravel crunches underfoot, and there exists a stillness in the shadow of the bell tower that speaks of the building's storied past as a monastery. That moment of stillness may... continue reading

12.24.2014

Vinography Unboxed: Week of December 20, 2014

Hello, and welcome to my periodic dig through the samples pile. I'm pleased to bring you the latest installment of Vinography Unboxed, where I highlight some of the better bottles that have crossed my doorstep recently. This week included a lovely Roussanne from Truchard Vineyards in Napa's Carneros district. Roussanne is not typically what you'd expect to be grown in this cooler region of Napa, but Truchard has long produced one, and this particular vintage is excellent. Speaking of Carneros, the Cuvaison Estate Pinot Noir was a wonderfully pleasant surprise -- a wine that anyone looking for a moderately priced... continue reading

12.22.2014

Setting a New Bar for Oregon Pinot: Brittan Vineyards

Expressed briefly, making a great wine is rather simple. You find the right piece of ground; you put the right grapes in; you tend them well and harvest them at the right time; and then you smash them together and nudge the product gently away from its tendency towards vinegar. For some people, the most important step is finding the right piece of ground, and for anyone looking to start a winery, it is certainly the first step. It's really important. If you get it wrong, the rest of the stuff doesn't matter. At least, that's the way that... continue reading

12.18.2014

Vinography Unboxed: Week of December 13, 2014

Hello, and welcome to my periodic dig through the samples pile. I'm pleased to bring you the latest installment of Vinography Unboxed, where I highlight some of the better bottles that have crossed my doorstep recently. This week included a lovely Syrah from the peripatetic Randall Grahm, another in a series of excellent wines he continues to make from Bien Nacido X Block; a pretty damn good Pinot Noir for under $25, which is a rarity these days; a couple of nice Napa Merlots; and a Super Tuscan. The couple of bottles from Whitcraft Winery in Santa Barbara particularly impressed... continue reading

12.11.2014

Vinography Unboxed: Week of December 7, 2014

Hello, and welcome to my periodic dig through the samples pile. I'm pleased to bring you the latest installment of Vinography Unboxed, where I highlight some of the better bottles that have crossed my doorstep recently. This week included a few more recent releases from Medlock Ames in Sonoma's Alexander Valley. I continue to be impressed with these wines, which I have been following off and on since their first release. I think they've never been better. Other reliable producers showed up in this week's tasting pool, including Cornerstone and Smith Madrone, both of whom can be counted on for... continue reading

12.06.2014

A Life Indomitable: The Wines of Casal Santa Maria, Portugal

"I have been condemned to death four times," says the man that everyone calls Senhor Baron with a smile that emerges broadly from underneath his thin mane of snow-white hair and droopy eyelids, "but as you can see, here I am." It is two days after his one hundred third birthday and he is dressed in a bold three piece houndstooth suit with a brilliant blue tie and matching pocket square. His wrinkled, pale hands wrap sturdily if slightly trembling around the well worn handle of his cane, and he leans in with a conspiratorial air to tell me... continue reading

11.26.2014

Vinography Unboxed: Week of November 23, 2014

Hello, and welcome to my periodic dig through the samples pile. I'm pleased to bring you the latest installment of Vinography Unboxed, where I highlight some of the better bottles that have crossed my doorstep recently. This week included a major accomplishment for me: I have officially unboxed and sorted every wine sample in my basement. That's only happened about twice in the last 5 years. There are usually piles of unopened boxes lying around. I'm sure there will be again soon. But on to the wine. I'm thrilled to have tasted through a group of wines from a blogger-turned-winemaker... continue reading

11.22.2014

Plumbing the Depths of Portugal: A Tasting Journey

In the pantheon of global wine regions, Portugal doesn't rank among the most storied, at least as far as the average wine lover is concerned. Most wine drinkers have heard of, if not tasted Port, the dark, rich dessert wine named after the town at the mouth of the Douro river in the country's north. I may be on the younger side of a generation of wine drinkers that were both enthusiastically, and sometimes regrettably (after a few bottles) familiar with Mateus Rosé, which proved, in my case, to be somewhat of a gateway wine. Fewer wine lovers have... continue reading

11.11.2014

Highlights from Tasting Champagne with the Masters

The best wines often have a quality that I tend to summarize as gulpable. While I am perfectly content with that word as an adjective, a slightly deeper analysis of the term would yield a set of components that a wine needs to have in order to be gulpable. Those almost always include juicy acidity that gets the mouth watering, a combination of fruit and more savory characteristics that excite the palate, and a lack of the massively thick richness (and often accompanying alcohol) that is better sipped than gulped. Many wines have these qualities, but none so many... continue reading

11.06.2014

The Dark Queen of Châteauneuf-du-Pape: Domaine du Pégau

She may be the Dark Queen of Châteauneuf-du-Pape, but the darkness doesn't come from her. In fact, Laurence Feraud is hard to characterize as anything but light, even after a full day skiing and a long drive to meet me at her little winery on the edge of town. Bundled in her ski parka, her hair in braids, Feraud may be tired, but she still exudes the casual, gregarious charm that has endeared her to just about everyone I know who has ever met her. This is a woman in command of her life, and at the top of... continue reading

11.01.2014

Vinography Unboxed: Week of October 26, 2014

Hello, and welcome to my periodic dig through the samples pile. I'm pleased to bring you the latest installment of Vinography Unboxed, where I highlight some of the better bottles that have crossed my doorstep recently. This week's dive into the boxes piling up downstairs resulted in a beautfully aged California Chardonnay whose exact age most people would have been hard pressed to guess tasting it blind. All Mayacamas wines are known for their ageworthiness, and their Chardonnay is no exception. This bottle was drinking extremely well. Many people haven't heard of the tiny producer Blue Rock Vineyards from Alexander... continue reading

10.25.2014

Vinography Unboxed: Week of October 19, 2014

Hello, and welcome to my periodic dig through the samples pile. I'm pleased to bring you the latest installment of Vinography Unboxed, where I highlight some of the better bottles that have crossed my doorstep recently. This week's dive into the boxes piling up downstairs yielded an interesting range of wines, beginning with an excellent Riesling from the Finger Lakes that offers everything you'd want in a dry Riesling, brightness, juiciness, and a very reasonable tariff. Stoller is a well known name in the Willamette Valley, but it's been a while since I had a wine from them that impressed... continue reading

10.23.2014

Bay Area Bordeaux: Tasting Santa Cruz Mountain Cabernets

It sounds like the beginnings of a joke: how do you hook a wine writer? The answer, it turns out, at least in my case, involves offering to put on the most comprehensive tasting of Santa Cruz Mountains Cabernet ever held. When the Santa Cruz Mountains Winery Association made the offer, I suspect they knew I would have a hard time refusing. Just in case it was a trap, I brought my friend Elaine with me (you can read her writeup of the event here). As it turns out, the event was a trap, and a cleverly designed one... continue reading

10.11.2014

Vinography Unboxed: Week of October 5, 2014

Hello, and welcome to my periodic dig through the samples pile. I'm pleased to bring you the latest installment of Vinography Unboxed, where I highlight some of the better bottles that have crossed my doorstep recently. This week's brief foray into the samples pile included a lovely Pinot Blanc, or as they would call it, Weissburgunder, from Germany, as well as a nice Mosel Riesling. Spring Mountain Vineyards in Napa shows off a gorgeous Sauvignon Blanc, while Lang & Reed represents with an excellent Cabernet Franc. Finally, I continue to be impressed with Stark Wine Company, whose Mendocino Syrah was... continue reading

10.04.2014

Cool Beauty: Tasting the Wines of the Western Sonoma Coast

I'll admit it. I'm an acid freak. More than anything else in a wine, I'm looking for the juiciness that I get from well-balanced wines that lean towards the lower side of pH. There's nothing quite like that zip and crackle of a wine that gets your tastebuds tingling and your mouth watering. With care, mouthwatering wines can be made just about anywhere. Farming well and then paying close attention to the harvest in order to ensure the grapes retain enough acidity to balance their sugars remains the best way to make excellent wine in my opinion. But that... continue reading

09.27.2014

Vinography Unboxed: Week of September 21, 2014

Hello, and welcome to my periodic dig through the samples pile. I'm pleased to bring you the latest installment of Vinography Unboxed, where I highlight some of the better bottles that have crossed my doorstep recently. This week's samples included the inaugural releases from a new project out of the Thomas Fogarty Winery in the Santa Cruz Mountains of California. Known primarily for their Pinot Noir, which has become exceptionally good under the careful hand of winemaker Nathan Kandler, Fogarty has now embarked on a new Bordeaux varietal program under a label called Lexington. Their initial wines look quite promising... continue reading

09.22.2014

From the Quiet Garden: The Wines of Pichler-Krutzler, Wachau, Austria

Winemaker Erich Krutzler has carried a lot of baggage in his life. At 46 he is still a relatively young man, but when he smiles from under his mop of slightly graying bangs, you can see the miles he has traveled in the corners of his eyes. Even leaving aside the difficulty of purchasing vineyards in the very limited market of Austria's Wachau valley, beginning a wine label wasn't going to be easy for Krutzler. For starters, there was the long shadow of Blaufränkisch to step away from. Krutzler was partners with Roland Velich when he began the MORIC... continue reading

09.19.2014

Vinography Unboxed: Week of September 14, 2014

Hello, and welcome to my periodic dig through the samples pile. I'm pleased to bring you the latest installment of Vinography Unboxed, where I highlight some of the better bottles that have crossed my doorstep recently. This week included one of the best Xinomavros in existence. What's Xinomavro, you ask? A lovely, dark grape from northern Greece that can do great things in the right hands, and this is a prime example. If you haven't tried it, go out and get yourself a bottle! Winemakers in California seem to be backing away from the oak barrels when it comes to... continue reading

09.07.2014

Hourglass, Napa Valley: Current and Upcoming Releases

There is no single recipe for greatness when it comes to Napa wine, but starting with a great plot of land can take you a long way. The only problem is, a lot of people don't necessarily know a great plot of land when they see one. Sometimes these plots of land can be hidden in plain sight until the right person comes along to notice. When Jeff Smith's father moved the family to St. Helena in 1964, he wasn't thinking about wine, he was thinking about real estate development. He was also thinking about the tiny trickle of... continue reading

09.02.2014

Vinography Unboxed: Week of September 1, 2014

Hello, and welcome to my periodic dig through the samples pile. I'm pleased to bring you the latest installment of Vinography Unboxed, where I highlight some of the better bottles that have crossed my doorstep recently. This week included a couple of nice red wines from Napa and Sonoma. Anakota is a brand owned by Jackson Family Estates, and represents one of their terroir-driven, single-vineyard projects, notably made by winemaker Pierre Seillan, who also oversees the remarkable Verite wines, which are some of the best reds made in California each year. These two wines don't rise to those heights, but... continue reading

08.20.2014

MORIC: The Apogee of Blaufränkisch

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

08.13.2014

72 Pinot Noirs on a Sunny Afternoon: Tasting at IPNC 2014

I go to a lot of wine tastings, and have come to really appreciate those that are produced well. It may not be immediately apparent how easily a large public tasting can be screwed up, but it doesn't take much to turn such an event from a pleasure to a chore. Quite consistently some of my favorite wine tasting experiences have been at the International Pinot Noir Celebration, in McMinnville, Oregon, in the heart of the Willamette Valley. Both afternoons during this event, the "Al Fresco" tasting takes place, in which half of the attending wineries pour a wine... continue reading

08.09.2014

The Great White South: An Introduction to Châteauneuf-du-Pape Blanc

One of the world's greatest white wines is also one of its least known. The wines of Châteauneuf-du-Pape generally cross a wine lover's radar at some point, but even those who enjoy the vibrant Grenache-based reds from France's first officially declared appellation are often unfamiliar with the region's white wines. Yet they are often more consistently in their quality than the reds, and they can reward long cellaring with remarkable results. They also happen to be damn delicious. White wine makes up only a mere 7% of the production in the Châteauneuf-du-Pape appellation, but that percentage has been rising... continue reading

08.04.2014

Coastal Diamonds: The Rieslings of Oregon

About every two years, I get an invite to attend the International Pinot Noir Celebration in Oregon's Willamette Valley. The event continues to be one of the best run and highest quality wine events in the country, with a fantastic combination of excellent wine and equally fantastic food. More about Pinot Noir in a day or two. In addition to attending one of the best wine parties around, IPNC also gives me (and a number of other wine writers) the excuse to do something slightly less expected: taste a lot of Oregon Riesling. Each year following IPNC, the Oregon... continue reading

07.21.2014

The King of Zweigelt: The Wines of Umathum, Burgenland

Austria, for good reasons, continues to be better known around the world for its white wines than its reds. It's hard to compete with such an incredible wealth of Riesling and Grüner Veltliner. And in truth, far more bad red wine is made in Austria than good. But over the last decade or two, Austria has been making serious strides in its red wine production, following the lead of a few producers who have long been dedicated to the potential of Austria's native red grapes. Few would deny that Josef "Pepi" Umathum belongs in that number, and many would... continue reading

07.19.2014

Vinography Unboxed: Week of July 14, 2014

Hello, and welcome to my periodic dig through the samples pile. I'm pleased to bring you the latest installment of Vinography Unboxed, where I highlight some of the better bottles that have crossed my doorstep recently. This week included A few nice 2012's from LIOCO, a favorite producer. Their "Savia" bottling of Pinot from the Santa Cruz Mountains had all the hallmarks of full-cluster fermentation, and was all the better for the stemmy, green herb note on top of beautiful fruit. Flora Springs came through with a pretty Merlot, Far Niente with a surprisingly savory and well integrated Cabernet, and... continue reading

07.12.2014

Vinography Unboxed: Week of July 7, 2014

Hello, and welcome to my periodic dig through the samples pile. I'm pleased to bring you the latest installment of Vinography Unboxed, where I highlight some of the better bottles that have crossed my doorstep recently. This week included a couple of nice wines from Alta Maria Vineyards down in Santa Barbara. It appears to me that this producer is getting ever more adventurous in their winemaking, with mixed results, but that should be expected when taking risks. I discovered a nice bottle of Mayacamas Merlot in the pile, which was a real pleasure to drink, but certainly left me... continue reading

07.09.2014

Drew Wines, Mendocino, CA: Recent Releases

Jason Drew is talking to me about ripeness. "It's not easy to answer the question of what ripe tastes like," he says. "If the flavors are at their most optimum on the vine, then it's too late. There is that perfect moment of ripeness that occurs, but the challenging part is figuring out when to strike to get it. The perfect point isn't clear to the observer at the time, though. You have to have some kind of instinct or intuition, and to pick the grape before it crosses that line." As I'm listening to him, I get the... continue reading

07.03.2014

Vinography Unboxed: Week of June 29, 2014

Hello, and welcome to my periodic dig through the samples pile. I'm pleased to bring you the latest installment of Vinography Unboxed, where I highlight some of the better bottles that have crossed my doorstep recently. This week included an absolute knockout Pinot Noir from Adelsheim Vineyards in Oregon. I like their wines a lot, but this was one of the most ethereal, floral renditions I've ever had from them. It's only available for purchase direct from the winery, and a real treat. The wines of Sequoia Grove have been under the radar for a lot of people. It's not... continue reading

06.28.2014

Vinography Unboxed: Week of June 22, 2014

Hello, and welcome to my periodic dig through the samples pile. I'm pleased to bring you the latest installment of Vinography Unboxed, where I highlight some of the better bottles that have crossed my doorstep recently. As much as it pains me to admit, my process for going through samples is less than orderly, as is my basement, where they pile up, dangerously at times. Consequently there are bottles that get lost, tucked into a corner, only to be discovered a couple of years later as I move things around. As embarrassing as that can be, sometimes it yields great... continue reading

06.26.2014

Blaufränkisch is Best Before Breakfast

In the pantheon of wine grapes, a precious few are revered for what some refer to as their transparency to terroir. By this, we mean the degree to which the grape, when handled the same from a farming and winemaking perspective, demonstrates significant character differences depending on the specific place it is grown. Pinot Noir has been exalted for this tendency to exhibit terroir so strongly, as has Chardonnay. Every serious student of wine would have several other grape varieties worth serious debate as contenders for this list. Two years ago, after spending merely two or three days in... continue reading

06.21.2014

Weingut Veyder-Malburg, 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. When I first visited Veyder-Malburg,... continue reading

06.14.2014

You Bet Your Blauburgunder: Exploring Austrian Pinot Noir

Hello from Vienna, Austria, where I am spending a few days wandering around what has to be the greatest indoor wine tasting venue on the planet, the Hofburg Palace, where the bi-annual VieVinum wine festival is underway. Every two years, pretty much everyone who is anyone in the Austrian wine industry, and those who love their wines, show up for a couple of immersive days of tasting, drinking, and partying. This year's event kicked off for us attending journalists with a tasting of 2011 and 2012 red wines, two widely acclaimed vintages in the country. I began my morning... continue reading

06.07.2014

Vinography Unboxed: Week of June 1, 2014

Hello, and welcome to my periodic dig through the samples pile. I'm pleased to bring you the latest installment of Vinography Unboxed, where I highlight some of the better bottles that have crossed my doorstep recently. This week included the latest release from Tim Mondavi's Continuum project which is a real stunner. I thought the 2010 might have been the winery's best effort to date, but the 2011 may have topped it, yet again. Only time will tell, but if you're into high-end Napa reds, this one is definitely a keeper. Slightly more affordable but definitely compelling, the Flora Springs... continue reading

05.31.2014

Vinography Unboxed: Week of May 25, 2014

Hello, and welcome to my periodic dig through the samples pile. I'm pleased to bring you the latest installment of Vinography Unboxed, where I highlight some of the better bottles that have crossed my doorstep recently. This week included my introduction to the Laurel Glen Vineyard wines, which proved quite competent renditions of Cabernet Sauvignon in a couple of different incarnations. Wine blogger turned winemaker William Allen also represented this month with a few of his Two Shepherds wines. Dry Creek Vineyards can always be depended upon to deliver quality and value, and their recent Cabernet releases don't disappoint in... continue reading

05.24.2014

Vinography Unboxed: Week of May 18, 2014

Hello, and welcome to my periodic dig through the samples pile. I'm pleased to bring you the latest installment of Vinography Unboxed, where I highlight some of the better bottles that have crossed my doorstep recently. This week included Clos du Val's 2009 Stag's Leap District Cabernet Sauvignon, which was as wonderfully balanced and restrained as it always is, ready to age for the long haul. In the Cabernet department I also received the latest release from Mt. Brave, made by the talented Chris Carpenter. This wine is more ripe and modern than the Clos du Val, but still a... continue reading

05.15.2014

The Abbot's Dinner: A Tale of New Beginnings in Châteauneuf-du-Pape

Few things excite me more than getting a peek into the birth of a promising new winery. Especially when such beginnings are humble and hard fought. I knew I was in for something good when I pulled up in the driveway of Chateauneuf-du-Pape's newest winery only to find a tin shed on a slightly overgrown lot. We leapt over large puddles in the muddy gravel of the driveway to take shelter under the corrugated metal overhang that shielded the door, and were met by the young and delightfully cheerful Nathalie Reynaud, who sweetly began apologizing (through an interpreter) for... continue reading

05.10.2014

Vinography Unboxed: Week of May 4, 2014

Hello, and welcome to my periodic dig through the samples pile. I'm pleased to bring you the latest installment of Vinography Unboxed, where I highlight some of the better bottles that have crossed my doorstep recently. This week's dive into the samples pile held a few gems, including a well-aged version of one of Germany's greatest Rieslings. Go figure. Who sends phenomenal, well-aged Spätlese to journalists? Germans, I guess. In any case, I was more than happy to pop open that Dönnhoff and take a swig. You should too. A few other Rieslings made an appearance this week, including a... continue reading

05.06.2014

Wine Highlights from Taste Washington 2014

Every spring, as new buds strain to burst out on trees still rainswept and windblown, Seattle plays host to its annual celebration of Washington State Wine. Every time I attend Taste Washington, I find myself asking why I don't visit every year. It is one of the best large scale tasting events in the country, and that's even before we begin talking about the wine. Held in the large convention center near the Seahawks' stadium, the event features wine seminars, food vendors, cooking demonstrations, and about ten people shucking oysters constantly during the event. The food alone makes the... continue reading

05.01.2014

25 Years in the Hills: A Seven Hills Winery Retrospective

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... continue reading

04.26.2014

Château de Beaucastel: The Difficult Vintages

For most lovers of Châteauneuf-du-Pape, Château de Beaucastel needs no introduction. One of the largest, most storied, and most respected estates in the region, its documented history goes back to the 16th Century, and its history as a wine estate, back to the 19th Century. As a modern wine producer, its reputation remains inseparably tied the Perrin family, who began shepherding the estate in 1909, and continue to do so today, three generations later. Farming 291 mistral-swept acres in the northernmost portion of the Chateauneuf-du-Pape appellation, Beaucastel remains one of the largest domaines in the appellation. The Perrin family... continue reading

04.23.2014

Vinography Unboxed: Week of April 20th, 2014

Hello, and welcome back to my periodic dig through the samples pile. It's been some time since I've had the opportunity to pry open some boxes and taste through what's inside, but I hope to be back to it with regularity now that things have settled down a bit at work. So I'm very happy to bring you 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 unearthed a very solid set of debut wines from a brand new... continue reading

04.20.2014

Domaine du Vieux Telegraphe, Chateauneuf-du-Pape: Current Releases

The transitive property of wine at work. For many, the stony plateau of La Crau defines Châteauneuf-du-Pape, the highest point of the appellation, with a stunning view of Mont Ventoux on a clear day, and the sun beating down on the blinding white of its round stones known as galets roulés. Likewise, for many, the name Domaine du Vieux Telegraphe is synonymous with La Crau, thanks to the estate's pioneering founder Hippolyte Brunier who cultivated his section of the plateau with diligence in the late 19th century despite the inherent difficulties involved. Is it any wonder, then, that for... continue reading

04.16.2014

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

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

03.29.2014

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

03.27.2014

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

03.22.2014

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

03.09.2014

Napa Wines and a Diversity of Opinions

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

02.27.2014

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

02.15.2014

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

02.05.2014

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

02.01.2014

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

01.25.2014

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

01.09.2014

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

01.04.2014

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

12.24.2013

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

12.21.2013

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

12.12.2013

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

12.01.2013

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

11.30.2013

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

11.23.2013

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

11.16.2013

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

11.14.2013

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

11.09.2013

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

11.06.2013

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

10.31.2013

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

10.28.2013

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

10.23.2013

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

10.19.2013

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

10.12.2013

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

10.09.2013

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

10.01.2013

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

09.26.2013

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

09.22.2013

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

09.19.2013

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

09.14.2013

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

09.07.2013

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

09.05.2013

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

09.02.2013

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

08.27.2013

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

08.22.2013

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

08.21.2013

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

08.15.2013

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

08.10.2013

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

08.06.2013

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

07.30.2013

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

07.25.2013

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

07.23.2013

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

07.20.2013

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

07.15.2013

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

07.05.2013

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

07.03.2013

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

06.27.2013

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

06.22.2013

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

06.17.2013

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

06.09.2013

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

06.08.2013

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

06.04.2013

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

05.30.2013

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

05.28.2013

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

05.22.2013

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

05.18.2013

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

05.09.2013

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

05.05.2013

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

04.30.2013

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

04.25.2013

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

04.21.2013

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

04.15.2013

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

04.05.2013

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

04.03.2013

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

03.27.2013

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

03.23.2013

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

03.19.2013

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

03.16.2013

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

03.11.2013

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

03.09.2013

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

02.27.2013

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

02.26.2013

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

02.17.2013

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

02.12.2013

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

02.09.2013

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

01.28.2013

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

01.26.2013

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

But Wait, There's More!

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

Calendar of Postings

June 2016

S M T W T F S
      1 2 3 4
5 6 7 8 9 10 11
12 13 14 15 16 17 18
19 20 21 22 23 24 25
26 27 28 29 30    

Most Recent Entries

Vinography Unboxed: Week of June 12, 2016 Vinography Unboxed: Week of June 5, 2016 California's Most Interesting Wines: Tasting the 7% Solution Vinography Unboxed: Week of May 22, 2016 Vinography Unboxed: Week of May 15, 2016 Vinography Unboxed: Week of May 1, 2016 Vinography Unboxed: Week of April 17, 2016 A Rescued Vintage: 2013 Burgundy Highlights from La Paulée Vinography Unboxed: Week of April 10, 2016 Vinography Unboxed: Week of April 3, 2016

Favorite Posts From the Archives

Wine Will Never Smell the Same Again: Luca Turin and the Science of Scent Forlorn Hope: The Remarkable Wines of Matthew Rorick Debating Robert Parker At His Invitation Passopisciaro Winery, Etna, Sicily: Current Releases Should We Care What Winemakers Say? The Sweet Taste of Freedom: Austria's Ruster Ausbruch Wines 2009 Burgundy Vintage According to Domaine de la Romanée-Conti Charles Banks: The New Man Behind Mayacamas Wine from the Caldera: The Incredible Viticulture of Santorini Why Community Tasting Notes Sites Will Fail Chateau Rayas and the 2012 Vintage of Chateauneuf-du-Pape A Life Indomitable: The Wines of Casal Santa Maria, Portugal Bay Area Bordeaux: Tasting Santa Cruz Mountain Cabernets Forgotten Jewels: Reviving Chile's Old Vine Carignane The First-Timer's Guide to Les Trois Glorieuses of Hospices de Beaune

Archives by Month

 

Required Reading for Wine Lovers

The Oxford Companion to Wine by Jancis Robinson Wine Grapes The World Atlas of Wine by Hugh Johnson to cork or not to cork by George Taber reading between the vines by Terry Theise adventures on the wine route by Kermit Lynch Love By the Glass by Dorothy Gaiter & John Brecher Noble Rot by William Echikson The Science of Wine by Jamie Goode The Judgement of Paris by George Taber The Wine Bible by Karen MacNeil The Botanist and the Vintner by Christy Campbell The Emperor of Wine by Elin McCoy The Taste of Wine by Emile Peynaud