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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


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


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


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


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


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


Tasting Organic Rosé Wines from the South of France

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


Organic Wines of the Languedoc: An Initial Taste

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


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


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


Vinography Unboxed: Week of January 6, 2013

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


Vinography Unboxed: Here We Go, 2013!

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


Vinography Unboxed: Week of October 7, 2012

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


Vinography Unboxed: Week of September 24, 2012

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


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

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


Treasure in the Hills: Tasting Oregon's Rieslings

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


Mountain Wines of Italy: Tasting Notes from Alto Adige

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


2008 Pheasant's Tears Rkatsiteli, Republic of Georgia

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


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

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


2009 Dry Creek Vineyard "Heritage" Zinfandel, Sonoma County

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


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

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


2008 Star Lane Vineyards Sauvignon Blanc, Santa Ynez Valley

There are those in the wine world who seek out (and often pay for) the best possible advice they can get. Winemaking and winegrowing are sciences as much as they are arts, and these days, there are plenty of experts to be had in both arenas. And then there are those in the wine world that no matter what the scientists, experts, and even their friends say, choose to follow their instincts. Call them pig-headed, call them eccentric, call them iconoclasts, there are certain people that will always walk their own paths when it comes to wine. Jim Dierberg seems... continue reading


Greek Wine: A Compendium of Tasting Notes

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


The Joy of Pink Pinot: Tasting at the 2011 IPNC

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


South African Sauvignon Blanc: Some Tasting Notes

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


Montenidoli, San Gimignano, Tuscany: Some Current Releases

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


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

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


2009 Dancing Coyote Gewurztraminer, Clarksburg, California

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


2007 Hess Collection "Allomi Vineyard" Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa

I can still remember my first wine tasting trip to the Napa Valley. I'm young, so it wasn't that long ago -- probably 1997 or so. Having been born and grown up in Sonoma County, most of my first winery visits as a legal drinker were there. But given my growing love of wine, my girlfriend at the time arranged a trip up to Napa with some friends and I gamely went along for the ride. The first place we stopped was, and remains, one of the cooler wineries in Napa. These days I continue to send those who ask... continue reading


2008 Clos de los Siete Red Wine, Mendoza, Argentina

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


2008 Ridge Vineyards "Three Valleys" Red Blend, Sonoma County

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


2007 Quinta de Roriz "Prazo de Roriz" Red Blend, Douro, Portugal

I think one of the greatest assets any wine lover can possess is an unflagging curiosity in the form of a desire to taste as many different kinds of wine as possible. Certainly such an orientation to the wine world provides the basis for the best kind of self-education available to anyone who is interested in wine. I consciously nurture my own appetite for wines I have never tried before, and whenever possible try to encourage it in others. These days, when I find someone who is interested in breaking out of a rut of Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah, or Zinfandel... continue reading


2004 St. Hallett Semillon, Barossa Valley, Australia

I'll tell you right off the bat that if you live in the United States, you can't buy this wine. It's currently not imported. Those of you who live in Europe or Asia may be able to get your hands on it, but not much leaves Australia. What is the point, you may ask, of reviewing a wine that most will not be able to buy? Firstly, the wine is delicious, and worthy of a review on its own merits alone. But more importantly, the wine represents a very under-appreciated Australian contribution to the world of wine: old vine Semillon.... continue reading


D'Arenberg Winery, McLaren Vale, Australia: Current Releases

I can't remember when, exactly, I had my first Australian wine, but there's a good chance that it was made by D'Arenberg. Most certainly I first learned to recognize the distinct area of McLaren Vale courtesy of a bottle with a characteristic red slash through the label. I've drunk D'Arenberg wines for years, always appreciating their value for the money, and often recommending them to friends who are looking for crowd-pleasing wines that are relatively easy to find. So when I found myself in McLaren Vale a few weeks ago, I made sure to stop by the winery, have a... continue reading


2007 TAZ Vineyard Pinot Noir, Santa Barbara County

The good $15 Pinot Noir is the unicorn of the California wine industry. A mythic beast, highly sought after, no one is actually sure whether it exists or not. I'm always on the lookout myself, as it's one of the most frequent questions I get asked when people find out I review wines. Consequently, whenever I do come across something that comes close, I feel almost obligated to share the find. It's been some time since I visited the wines made under the brand TAZ, but a couple of bottles arrived recently and went into the tasting lineup and they... continue reading


2007 Potel-Aviron Fleurie Vielles Vignes, Beaujolais, France

Should one of your New Years' resolutions be to broaden your wine horizons without breaking your wine budget, one of the places worth exploring would certainly be Beaujolais. Much maligned, or at the very least avoided -- and rightly so -- by many wine lovers whose experience with Beaujolais consists of a glass of banana-scented Nouveau in November, the region actually produces some truly wonderful wines that can be tremendous values. The Beaujolais region has seen a renaissance of winemaking in the past decade, with many serious, small producers trying to make wines that have much more in common with... continue reading


Errazuriz Winery, Chile: Current Releases

The Aconcagua valley presents the first time visitor with a surreal vista. From the flattened floodplain of the valley floor, mountains rise steeply on either side but only their rocky peaks are visible. Starting only a short distance down from their spires, and extending all the way to valley below, the mountains are wreathed in a bumpy, dense green outgrowth that makes them look like they've been carpeted with a dark Astroturf on a grand scale. How someone figured out that they could grow avocados on slopes so steep I'd love to know. But once upon a time they did,... continue reading


Veramonte Winery, Chile: Current Releases

It's hard to believe that in the early 1990's less than 100 acres of vineyards were planted in Chile's Casablanca valley. In little more than two decades, this region of Chile has surged in growth and popularity, and is currently producing excellent wines that generally represent excellent values on the world market. The region is currently home to more than 10,000 acres of vineyards. Back when the grape acreage was still in the triple digits Agustin Huneeus decided that the Casablanca valley was one of Chile's most promising wine regions, and that he needed to start making wine there. Not... continue reading


Tasting the Wines of Lodi

I suppose you might measure my enthusiasm (or insanity) for learning about wine by the glee with which I look forward to the opportunities to taste several hundred wines from a particular region, vintage, or variety. The public tastings that afford any wine lover the chance to taste in this fashion are the single most valuable way to educate the palate as well as to find out what's going on in a particular place or vintage. So when the chance came to hang out on Treasure Island for a few hours to taste the wines of Lodi a couple of... continue reading


Oriel Wines: Current Releases

There are those who suggest that the moment that wine went wrong when it became more than just what a few family members could manage to carefully wring out of a few acres. Wine's romance and magic tends to be bound up in a picture of how wine gets made that increasingly does not accurately portray the reality of today. And with good reason. The world of wine is bigger and more complicated than the local villages it grew up in, and there is both room and reason for there to be many size, shapes, and strategies for wineries throughout... continue reading


2005 Savanna "Sogno Due" White Wine, Campania, Italy

Despite all kinds of advice to the contrary, we continue to judge our books by the cover and our wines by the label. As humans we find it quite hard to turn off the part of our brains that rushes to judgment based on the surface of things. Presumably our lightning-quick opinions were advantageous to us at some point in evolutionary history, to the point that our first impressions are often so powerful we can't move past them. From racial stereotypes to celebrity obsession, we're often captives to our own psychology, whether we like it or not. So tell me,... continue reading


Tasting Oregon Riesling...At the International Pinot Noir Celebration?

Adulterous. Maybe a little sneaky, and a tiny bit rebellious. There I was at the International Pinot Noir Celebration in Oregon -- a whole weekend dedicated to the glory of Oregon Pinot Noir and it's Burgundy forebears -- when someone in a trench coat pulled me aside and whispered, "Hey buddy, wanna taste some Riesling?" The thought, frankly, couldn't have been the furthest thing from my mind at that point. But when the shadowy figure suggested that this was a nearly comprehensive tasting of all the Rieslings made in the state of Oregon, give or take a few, my interest... continue reading


2007 Point Concepcion "Celestina" Pinot Grigio, Santa Barbara County

I make it my habit to seek out and try a particular kind of wine that flies well under the radar of most wine lovers. Indeed, this kind of wine is all but unknown to most, yet some of my favorite wines in the world fall into this category -- a category that is not included in any book, classification, or encyclopedia of wines anywhere. These wines have something very special in common. Not the grapes used, nor the soils on which they are grown; not the country they come from, nor the climate in which they are grown. The... continue reading


2007 Morgan "Metallico" Chardonnay, Monterey

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


2005 François Blanchard "Violoncelite" Cabernet Franc, Touraine, France

Perhaps some of the most interesting wines in the world are made by cranks, crackpots, and wackos -- iconoclasts that keep time to their own secret rhythms and make wine in ways that often make sense only to them. You might say that I'm a collector of such wines and winemakers, in the same way that young boys collect baseball cards. And today I'll add another to my growing menagerie of eccentric visionaries that make extraordinary wine. François Blanchard is a jazz musician who one day found himself the owner of his family's (somewhat decrepit) wine estate and decided that... continue reading


Croatian Wine: Some Tasting Notes

There are a lot of wine regions I have yet to visit in the world, and with a young child I don't think I'll be getting to many in the next few years. But now that I've ticked South Africa off the list (a list that I've never really sat down to write), the region at the top may very well be Croatia. And this was before I tasted through the recent case of Croatian wines that arrived on my doorstep. Now that I've tasted them, I'm kicking myself for not dragging myself and Ruth there while we were childless.... continue reading


2007 Rosemount Estate Show Reserve Chardonnay, Mudgee, Australia

In this day and age of farmers markets, boutique stores, and micro-breweries, it's easy for the upwardly mobile wine lover to forget that there are a lot of great wines on the market that are made in quantities well north of 5000 cases. There are big wine companies that make great wine, and big wine companies that make lousy wine. And some that do both. I've had mixed luck with Rosemount Estate wines throughout the years. I've had some wines that were everything I wanted them to be, and others that sent me running for the hills. In particular I... continue reading


2006 Handley Cellars "Hein Vineyard" Pinot Blanc, Anderson Valley

California's Anderson Valley remains one of its least known and most under-appreciated wine regions. In particular I believe it to be under-appreciated for its Pinot Noir, in particular, and in some cases, its Alsatian varieties of wine. I offer a slight caveat to the latter because while Anderson Valley is certainly known for producing wines in the style and varieties of those found in Alsace, France, in my experience they are mixed in quality. But when winemakers manage to get things right, Anderson Valley can produce some stunning examples of wines that might, in the right circumstances be mistaken for... continue reading


2007 York Creek Vineyards Touriga Nacional Rose, Sonoma County

One of my favorite punching bags in the world is the sorry state of California rosé. For some reason, winemakers just don't seem to be able to produce the beautifully dry, crisp, tart rosés that I have come to expect from southern France, southern Italy, and northern Spain. These Mediterranean wines are the benchmark for rosé, and most American wines fall quite short. Which is why I'm so enthusiastic when I discover pink wines that are made well in this country. And when they're made of exotic grape varieties, so much the better! If you gave me three guesses as... continue reading


Ohyama Tokubetsu Junmai Nigori, Yamagata Prefecture

We all understand the power of brands. There was likely a time for most Americans alive to day when we used "Reynolds Wrap" when we meant aluminum foil. Some of us still say Kleenex instead of tissue and Xerox instead of photocopy. When one company pioneers a product that becomes so ubiquitous and common, it's likely that the name will stick, even when we're no longer using the original product. There was a time in Japan's history when sake was more easily referred to as Oyamazake, for exactly the same reasons. In 1882, the Shogun commanded that a sake... continue reading


2005 Veramonte "Primus" Red Wine, Casablanca Valley, Chile

It's hard to believe that in the early 1990's less than 100 acres of vineyards were planted in Chile's Casablanca valley. In little more than two decades, this region of Chile has surged in growth and popularity, and is currently producing excellent wines that generally represent fantastic values on the world market. The region is currently home to more than 10,000 acres of vineyards. Back when the grape acreage was still in the triple digits Agustin Huneeus decided that the Casablanca valley was one of Chile's most promising wine regions, and that he needed to start making wine there. Not... continue reading


2004 Chateau du Rouet "Cuvee Belle Poule" Blanc, Cotes de Provence, France

I drink wine from as many different countries as I can, as often as I can. I firmly believe that the only way I keep learning anything as a wine lover will be through continued exploration. There are times, though, when searching out new countries, grape varieties, and appellations just takes too much energy. At times like these, usually after a long week, I just want a nice meal and a good glass of wine to go with it. Like most people in these situations of part-exhaustion, I tend to stick to the predictable -- the least risky choice that... continue reading


2005 Domaine de Chateau Gaillard Saumur, Loire Valley, France

The Loire Valley is perhaps one of the most underrated and unexplored (by most Americans) wine producing regions in France. So often eclipsed by the bombast of Bordeaux, Burgundy, and the Rhone, if it is known at all, the Loire tends to be known for its famous Sauvignon Blanc from Sancerre. Yet the region, which is the largest white wine producing region in France, and the third largest winegrowing appellation (AOC) in the country, also produces many excellent red wines, chiefly from Cabernet Franc. The most dominating feature of the Loire Valley must be the river itself, France's longest and... continue reading


Kikusui Funaguchi Ichiban Shibori Honzojo, Niigata Prefecture

I'll admit it right off the bat: I'm a serious sake snob. I don't mean that in the sense that I believe my taste in aake is superior to anyone else's, only that I'm extremely picky when it comes to sake. In particular, I tend to discriminate on the basis of the class of sake. I tend to prefer ginjo and daiginjo sakes, and most often the junmai versions of these. Ginjo and daiginjo are the two top classes of sake, as measured by the degree to which the rice kernels used to make them have been milled or polished... continue reading


Kurosawa Kimoto Junmai, Nagano Prefecture

By W. Blake Gray. "Keep refrigerated," the labels say in English. So why do I keep finding these bottles of sake on ordinary store shelves? Here's an open letter to everyone who works in a store that carries sake. Walk over to the unrefrigerated sakes. Check the labels. If you find a delicate daiginjo with a label that says "keep refrigerated," take a big black marker and write "cooking sake" on it and slash the price to $5. Or, alternately, sell that sake to some unwitting customer, just as you would a case of beer that had been left out... continue reading


2006 Vincenzo Cesani Vernaccia di San Gimignano, Tuscany, Italy

If someone ever held my feet to the fire and forced me to name just one group of wines that I'm most excited about exploring these days, I would certainly squirm, as my curiosity for learning more about all the wines of the world does not have limits. However I would probably break down eventually, and with some honesty say that no category of wines really excites me as much these days, from a pure learning standpoint, as the indigenous white varietals of Italy. Throughout that country, on small farms and in small villages, winegrowers and winemakers are working with... continue reading


2005 René Noël Legrand "La Chaintrée" Cabernet Franc, Saumur Champigny, Loire Valley, France

Lots of people I know have a "house wine" -- some bottle that they buy in much larger quantities than any other wine and also consume in much larger quantities. A house wine is the inexpensive, drink-with-anything, because-I'd-just-like-a-glass, it-doesn't-matter-if-I-don't-finish-the-bottle, what-goes-with-day-old-pizza wine. In my opinion, every wine loving household should have one. For a lot of people this is clearly the place that Two Buck Chuck holds in their kitchen. I personally prefer to spend between ten and fifteen dollars on my house wine, and I'm constantly picking up random bottles at that price point just to see when I'm going... continue reading


Rolf Binder Wines, Barossa, Australia: Current Releases

Some of my favorite people in the world are those who offer no affect of their knowledge, even when you're swimming through waters in which they are clearly expert. I aspire to that sort of demeanor myself, but I've got work to do. Something in me always wants to be helpful, teacherly, and before I know it, I find myself rambling on about this or that. Guess what kind of old man I'm going to be? The kind that tells the same stories over, and over, and over again. I managed to sit through nearly an entire lunch of tasting... continue reading


2005 Spencer Roloson Grenache Blanc, California

It's particularly pleasurable to watch a small wine label mature and make a name for itself in the world. I guess that could sound patronizing if I didn't make clear that I underline this sentiment with the utmost admiration for the hard work and talent that is required to have a wine label survive at all, let alone thrive. I have been watching, and drinking, Spencer Roloson wines since I first started writing about wine. At that time they were on their third or fourth vintage, and owner winemaker Sam Spencer was still settling into his groove, as it were.... continue reading


WBW#35 Roundup Has Been Posted: Spanish Values

Wine Blogging Wednesday, the blogosphere's original virtual wine tasting party is going strong in its 35th month. We had top turnout of 41 bloggers, each of which sought out a value priced Spanish wine to taste as part of this month's event, hosted by Michelle and Kevin over at My Wine Education. I'm happy to see that people went far and wide to find a huge assortment of wines for this event, and many found their way to decent importers, successfully avoiding the mass market stuff, which while often decent, only represents a sliver of what Spain has to offer.... continue reading


The World's Best Prosecco: Tasting Conegliano Valdobbiadene

We Americans aren't deprived of much in the world when it comes to wine, but if there's one segment of the wine universe that remains highly unexplored by the average American wine drinker it's the world of non-Champagne sparkling wine. And I'm obviously not not talking about California wine. I'm talking about the hundreds of different types of sparkling wine made in dozens of countries around the world. Thankfully, as more people begin to appreciate the pleasures of bubbly but can't always spring for the price tag of Champagne, there is an increasing demand for alternatives, such as Prosecco. Prosecco... continue reading


2005 Torres "Mas Rabell" Red Wine, Catalunya, Spain

Most of the time I buy my wines from proper wine stores. Not just because I like to support them, but also because I'm a firm believer in cultivating a relationship with good wine retailers, who will inevitably turn you on to wines you might not have known about or tried. Sometimes, however, I'm wandering through the grocery store and something catches my eye (yes, sometimes I buy by the label, just like the rest of you) and I throw it in the cart. I came into possession of this wine in roughly that manner, with the additional variable of... continue reading


Tamas Wine Estates, Livermore, CA: Current Releases

These days, California wine country evokes names like Napa, Sonoma, Santa Barbara. But if you arrived in San Francisco on a steamship in 1890, stepped out on the dock and asked anyone directions to wine country, they would have told you to get back on another boat and head across the Bay to the country's largest wine region, The Livermore Valley. It comes as a surprise to many people that Livermore, now well known for its government research labs and astronomically high population of PhD's per capita, was once one of the most well known winegrowing areas in America. It's... continue reading


WBW#31 Roundup Has Been Posted: Box Wines

Drink inside the box, it might be called. This month's Wine Blogging Wednesday was hosted by Roger over at the Box Wines blog, and for this month's virtual wine tasting event, he suggested that we all go out and review wines with alternative packaging. From cans to bags to boxes to tetra-paks to bulk wine, bloggers around the world experimented with all the alternatives to the classic glass bottle -- and they lived to tell the tale. Not all of the wines were good -- some were downright bad, but it makes for amusing reading and certainly a great learning... continue reading


2005 French Rabbit Chardonnay, Vin de Pays d'Oc, France

In case you hadn't noticed, the wine packaging revolution is upon us. Or should I say, upon us again. It was only about a thousand years ago that wine came in a wide variety of packaging, from the scraped bladders of Eurasian mammals, to clay jugs, to woven waxed baskets, to precious glass bottles. Times changed of course, and wine packaging converged on the convenient, durable, and increasingly inexpensive glass bottle, but these days we are seeing a renaissance of options for toting man's favorite beverage. These days, the choices are even more varied than deer bladder vs. sheep bladder.... continue reading


Domaine de Nizas, Languedoc, France: Current Releases

I can't tell you how many times I've heard friends say "I can't really afford French wine." Even after I suggest that there are plenty of French wines under twenty bucks, they're still liable to complain that they can't really afford "good French wine." Whenever I have that conversation I find myself wishing I had a backpack full of wines from the Languedoc handy. I'd whip out a bottle and a corkscrew like a gunslinger from the wild west and set them straight once and for all. The Languedoc has been the historical home to most of France's low-end table... continue reading


NV "The Big Red Monster" Red Table Wine, California

You wouldn't believe the sort of stuff I get in the mail. Consumers are blissfully ignorant of the incredible amount of marketing dollars spent to push wines, not at everyday people, but specifically at journalists. In the last couple of years I've gained a certain amount of visibility in the wine world, and as a result, I receive a pretty steady stream of heavy boxes with "Adult Signature Required. 21 Years or older" stickers on them. Many of these simply contain a few bottles of wine and a letter from a winemaker urging me to try them. But many of... continue reading


2003 Bibich Debit, Skradin (North Dalmatia), Croatia

In my last post here on Vinography I mulled, tongue-in-cheek about the impact of wine on the hallowed halls of civilization, and in particular on the English language. Fun and games aside, wine and language are just as inextricably entwined through history as wine and culture. Lest there be any doubt, one need look no further than the northern coasts of Dalmatia, which has been making wine from a grape with a strangely (to English speakers) familiar name for two centuries. Actually the winemaking traditions in Croatia go back well before the Roman Empire, though it was the Romans who... continue reading


EOS Estate Winery, Paso Robles: Current Releases

There exist an endless number of stories about how families get into the wine business. Some (mostly in Europe) have been in the business so long no one can remember hearing about a time when the family wasn't making wines. Some come to it almost by accident, working for a winery and then slowly building a life around wine to the point they can't imagine doing anything else. Some of the more interesting traditions of family winemaking begin with an immigrant story, and the growing of wine literally becomes one of the ways that individuals finally set down their roots... continue reading


2005 Hook and Ladder "The Tillerman" White Blend, Russian River Valley, Sonoma

Old winemakers don't die, they just start another label. I've never seen this bumper sticker on any old pickup truck in Napa valley, but in addition to being cute, it's certainly a truism if I've ever heard one. While making wine is tough work, the better you get, the more you've got other folks who can do the heavy lifting for you while you make the critical decisions that ultimately determine the nature of the wine that is produced. That's why it's possible for us to have the cliché of the crusty old winemaker, still tottering around through the vineyards... continue reading


Tsuki no Katsura Junmai Daiginjo Nigori Sake, Kyoto

Little kids go through a phase where they need to put everything in their mouth. I wonder what it says about me that I'm pretty much stuck there? I really enjoy trying out new wines and sakes, especially those that are well off the beaten path. So when Beau Timkin, the owner of True Sake in San Francisco handed me this bottle and said "check this out" I couldn't resist. After all, it was the sake equivalent of....well.....(if you'll excuse what may be a somewhat obscure (to you) Japanese animation reference) Howl's Moving Castle. This sake is: 1. Nigori -... continue reading


2005 Boutari Moschofilero, Mantinia (Peloponnese), Greece

OK. So I'm on a bit of a Greek wine kick these days. Trying to poke my nose into potentially up-and-coming wine regions. Although, as I've mentioned, Greece would be entering perhaps it's "third time around" as a major global wine region. Certainly there's a lot of wine made in Greece, but less than historical times, and only some of it is gradually winning acclaim on the world market for being high quality. Quality seems like it has two ways of building in the marketplace of any wine region, at the well-financed hands of the big guys, and in the... continue reading


Pey-Marin Vineyards, Marin: Current Releases

I love watching the wine world evolve. In particular I enjoy seeing new wines spring up like the proverbial dragon's teeth, sown by the visionary and the lucky in sometimes surprising places. I harbor the private theory that great wines can be grown in a lot more places than they currently are. Which is why I'm thrilled to explore wines from the fringes of the known winegrowing world, such as Malbec from the far southern reaches of Patagonia, or perhaps closer to home, Alsatian varietals grown in Marin county. Marin County wine? Those unfamiliar with the San Francisco Bay Area... continue reading


2004 Argyros Estate "Barrel Select" White Wine, Santorini, Greece

I go out of my way to taste wines from up-and-coming, out of the way, and generally obscure wine regions. I never know what I'm going to find, and sometimes I'm really surprised. Greece can hardly be considered any of those things, perhaps with the exception of up-and-coming, but if one were to be wholly accurate you'd have to say "up-and-coming, again." The Greeks have been making wine for a long long time (since roughly 1600 BC), though unfortunately their reputation as winemakers suffered a setback in the 1960's with the dramatic rise in popularity of retsina, a white wine... continue reading


2004 Kiona Vineyards Late Harvest Riesling, Red Mountain, Washington

Frequent readers know that I'm not the greatest fan of dessert wines. Most sweet wines just don't have enough acidity to keep me from feeling like I'm drinking syrup, and many are just too sweet for me to take. Even though I had a huge sweet tooth as a kid, these days it's pretty easy for less than stellar dessert wine to push me into the zone where I feel like I ought to be taking insulin pills along with each sip. Dessert wines, however, are certainly one of the wine world's most hedonistic pleasures. When they are good, I... continue reading


2004 Palmina Pinot Grigio, Santa Barbara County

You know how some entrepreneurs seem to start businesses in their sleep? They create a company, make it profitable or sell it to someone, and then it seems like a week into their "vacation" they're starting another one, and another. The most successful of these seem to have the Midas touch, with each business more successful than the last, as if they can't help but make tons of money. There's an analogue to this type of personality in the wine world, and it is readily demonstrated by one Steve Clifton. Clifton is best known for his partnership in Brewer-Clifton wines... continue reading


2003 Movia Ribolla Gialla, Brda, Slovenia

I am, like many of you readers, supremely lucky to be able to buy and to drink a wide variety of wines. Certainly the selection of wines here in California is exceptional, unfettered as we are from state-run liquor monopolies. Despite such an abundance of wines from all over the world, it never ceases to amaze me how many people seem to be stuck in the rut of only ever drinking a few basic California-produced varietals. While the number of different types of wine produced in California is growing all the time, it still pales in comparison to somewhere like... continue reading


Cumulus Wines, Orange, Australia: Current Releases

Where exactly on earth is Orange? Sounds like the beginning of either a children's riddle or a dirty joke. But it's a very interesting question, especially if you care about Australian wine Orange is the most interesting Australia appellation that I've never heard of. Interestingly, it's one of the closest appellations to Sydney, but somehow has never made it out of the shadow of its elder sibling, the Hunter Valley. Yet this craggy region, marked by extinct volcanoes and plunging hills, is one of Australia's highest altitude and coolest winegrowing zones, and to a certain type of winemaker and wine... continue reading


2001 Smith Madrone Chardonnay, Spring Mountain District, Napa

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


1994 Domaine Aux Moines Chenin Blanc, Savennieres-Roche Aux Moines, France

South-central France has many distinguishing characteristics, but the one that cannot be avoided and ignored, and certainly cannot be underestimated, is the Massif Central. This huge upwelling of ancient granite, and the limestone and sandstone it sloughed aside as it rose, present a formidable obstacle for anyone attempting to drive from, say, Clermont-Ferrand to Nimes. As large mountain ranges have a habit of doing, it also drives many of the weather systems in the area, capturing moisture, and unleashing it in torrents. Somewhere in a sub-range of the Massif Central called the Cévennes, a trickle begins amidst granite and limestone,... continue reading


Cameron Hughes Wines, San Francisco: Current Releases

The continued evolution of the global wine marketplace has made many things possible for many people. Small regional wineries that couldn't survive, let alone exist twenty years ago are now thriving because there are folks out there like me and you that are looking for just the type of wines they are producing. Likewise, the proliferation of estateless wineries (bonded, licensed wineries that own no land and may even rent their winemaking facilities) has exploded in California in particular. Finally, a relatively recent phenomenon for California and the US (though old news to the negociants in France) has surfaced in... continue reading


Drinking Pink: Notes From the RAP Pink Out Rose Tasting

When the temperatures are topping out above 90 nearly every day in San Francisco, you know it's hot. The poor folks in the rest of the country are usually anywhere from ten to twenty degrees hotter than we ever get, so we have no reason to complain. But we might have reason to heavily chill some rosé and take off all our clothes. It's no wonder then, that in addition to seeing more publicly bared flesh within the San Francisco city limits than I can remember in a long time, I also found myself at the RAP Pink Out Rosé... continue reading


2004 Sula Vineyards Chenin Blanc, Nashik, India

Regular readers know I jump at any opportunity to try interesting wines, especially from regions that I'm unfamiliar with. I've been hearing about Indian wines off and on for a while now, and I took special note when I saw recently that some famous winemakers like Michel Rolland were going there to help people make wine. India is such a huge country with such a wide range of topography that there just have to be places that are good for growing wine grapes, provided there were people with the interest and the expertise to do so. Apparently, the Nashik region... continue reading


2003 Bokisch Graciano, Lodi, CA

There are endless stories of winemakers (and those who dream of becoming winemakers) spending their careers and lives waiting for the chance to finally buy a piece of land in Napa and start their own label. Markus and Liz Bokisch did just the opposite. It wasn't necessarily that they wanted to flee Napa. Markus was having a fine time as a viticulturalist working for Joseph Phelps, and in particular in his role on what Phelps called the "Le Mistral" program. Markus' job was to scour Northern California for out of the way growing areas planted with old vines bearing Grenache,... continue reading


2001 Vignerons du Quercy "Les Hauts Lastour" Red wine, Coteaux du Quercy (Cahors), France

Ask anyone in the wine business, or any serious wine snob what the top five most salient "issues" are in the world of wine and chances are good that somewhere in those top five will be some variation on rising alcohol levels. That wines are getting more potent worldwide is an unassailable fact. Since the 1970s (a time when alcohol levels remained pretty much unchanged from their historical values for the past century) the average potency of wines has risen several percentage points. That doesn't sound like much, but when you look at it in relative terms for some wines,... continue reading


2003 Azienda Agricola Ajello "Furat" IGT Red Blend, Sicily

I learn things drinking wine all the time, and some of what I learn is even the sort of stuff that I missed in history class. For instance, I had no idea that at one time Sicily was a part of the Islamic empire of that ruled north Africa for a few centuries. But here we have a wine, and a lovely one at that, whose name "Furat" speaks volumes of history. Asad ibn al Furat was a Mesopotamian, but emigrated to what is now Tunisia in the beginning of the 9th century. He distinguished himself as a religious scholar... continue reading


1999 Louis Bernard Vacqueyras, Rhone Valley, France

Why people still argue about global warming is beyond me. The only proof I need are folks like the Inuit, whose boots are now squelching mud where permafrost used to be, and the grape growers of France's Southern Rhone whose weather is getting much less volatile and quite a bit warmer. Most American wine drinkers, even those who consider themselves wine aficionados can't be bothered to keep track of the historically variable weather and subsequent harvest quality in the winegrowing regions of France. Heck, I read all about it, but I can't always remember half the time whether it was... continue reading


2004 Domaine Rimbert Rosé, Saint Chinian, Languedoc, France

It may be cold as hell in San Francisco right now, and pouring rain earlier in the day, but that doesn't stop me from drinking pink wines. Touted as the savior of summer, and other such nonsense that basically puts these wines on the same level as cold soda pop on a hot day, rosé wines are some of my favorites to pair with a good part of the wide variety of ethnic foods that we eat in the Bay Area on a regular basis. Going out for Mediterranean? Vietnamese? Tapas? I'm much more likely to leave the house with... continue reading


1995 Hau Xia Cabernet Sauvignon, Changli of Hebei Province, China

I've been wanting to try Chinese wine for a year or so, as I've followed the increasing growth of the Chinese wine industry and the growing popularity of wine in China. On a business trip to LA a couple of weeks ago, I happened to eat a rushed meal at the bar in a restaurant with an extensive by-the-glass list, and what should appear on one of the pages but this little gem. When I placed my order, the bartender raised his eyebrow, and said "Oh, adventurous, aren't you?" I don't normally take that as an encouraging sign, but I... continue reading


2004 Domaine Gaillard "Le Secret Ivre" White Wine, Vin de Pays des Collines (Rhone), France

I'm on a kick. That's the opposite of a rut, I guess. I'm drinking a bunch of the same stuff and loving it. This month, despite the chilly weather in San Francisco, I'm all about white wines from the Southern Rhone. I've always enjoyed these in the past when I've had them (most often by the glass at French restaurants) but more and more I'm seeking them out as extremely food friendly alternatives to my usual white Burgundy and whites from the Loire. So when I found myself and a couple of new friends recently in an LA restaurant (possibly... continue reading


2003 Naggiar Vineyards Sangiovese, Sierra Foothills, CA

The Sierra foothills is one of California's most under explored, and perhaps, underappreciated winegrowing regions. The Sierra Foothills AVA (American Viticultural Area) is the third largest appellation in California after the Central Coast, and the North Coast. It encompasses entirely the AVAs of Shenandoah Valley, El Dorado, Fair Play, Fiddletown, and North Yuba, and overlaps with Amador and Lodi. In other countries in the world, the foothills of major mountain ranges are often the primary and most famous winegrowing regions, but in California they take a back seat to some of the valleys. Certainly Napa and Sonoma are more consistent... continue reading


2004 Domaine August Clape Blanc, Côtes-du-Rhône, France

Some wines just ruin you. One sip and you realize the folly of your ways and can never go back to thinking or drinking wine quite the same way again. Really, when I think about it, this happens to me all the time. Not with every wine, mind you, but with many good ones, there's something in the glass that lifts you to a place that you can't come back from. Of course, you do go back and have a California Sauvignon Blanc every once in a while after tasting a great Sancerre, but you'll always remember that there's something... continue reading


2002 Southern Right Pinotage, Western Cape, South Africa

I like underdogs -- the scrappy runts of the litter that have to struggle to survive, the desperately pitiful teams that make up in spunk what they lack in talent. I also have a soft spot in my heart for those folks who are stubbornly persistent in the face of lousy odds and prevailing common sense stacked against them. This may be part of the reason that, despite never really having one that I've enjoyed, I keep trying Pinotage whenever I get the chance. Pinotage is the sort of red-headed stepchild of the wine grape world, brought into the world... continue reading


2005 La Yunta Torrontés Riojana, La Rioja, Argentina

I'm always looking for good wines to go with Chinese food. Especially around the holidays, when we eat with my Chinese in-laws. I like to drink wine with meals, and so does Ruth, but we haven't yet found the perfect wine for her country's cuisine. We enjoy Gewurztraminer with certain dishes, or Verdelho with others, an occasional Austrian Riesling or Gruner Veltliner, but we haven't quite hit on one that is consistently a good match with the wide variety of flavors that can be found in a proper Chinese meal. Hence, we're constantly experimenting with different wines. We're visiting Ruth's... continue reading


2002 Jim Barry "The Cover Drive" Cabernet, Clare Valley, Australia

I'm not convinced entirely that Australia is a great place for Cabernet. I've had some pretty solid Cabernet/Shiraz blends from Down Under, but it is rare that I find a pure Cabernet wine that I think stands on its own. Much of the time they have a green, vegetal characteristic and very bitter tannins which, though they might mellow with ten years in the cellar, make them downright unpleasant to drink on release. How surprised I was, then, to come across this little gem of a wine, which was not only decent, but also a steal. Jim Barry is... continue reading


2004 Magnet (Sin é) Pinot Noir, Sonoma

We all occasionally buy wine by the label. While I imagine that there are a few complete wine snobs out there who only drink four or five different wines whose names everyone knows, pretty much anyone who is curious about wine has at one time or another shrugged their shoulders and reached for that strange bottle on the shelf just because, well, it looked interesting. What would happen if scores of people all over the world went out to their local grocery stores and wine shops to buy a bottle, with the only criteria being that they had to select... continue reading


2003 Vinum Cellars 'VIO" Viognier, San Benito County, CA

I can't tell you how many stories I've heard of winemakers striking out on their own or forming partnership brokered by their shared love for Pinot Noir. Happens every day, practically. This is not one of those stories. Or rather it is one of those stories, but Pinot Noir is not part of the cast. Instead, the guys at Vinum Cellars were brought together because of their shared love of Chenin Blanc. A quirky and unlikely candidate for creating the passion that fuels the creation of a new winery to be sure, but the winery that this grape has spawned,... continue reading


2004 Uriondo Txakolina, Bizkaiko (Basque), Spain

If I could find a wine like this once a month, for the rest of my life, I think I would die a happy man. Not that it's such an amazing wine, it's tasty but not mind-blowing, but its just got so much unique personality, and it is so different from what I drink on a daily basis. The world of wine is a wide and wonderful place. But let me back up, since you may still be stumbling over the name of the thing, which to most Americans is quite a mouthful. The name of the producer is Uriondo,... continue reading


Cameron Hughes Wines, San Francisco: Current Releases

The continued evolution of the global wine marketplace has made many things possible for many people. Small regional wineries that couldn't survive, let alone exist twenty years ago are now thriving because there are folks out there like me and you that are looking for just the type of wines they are producing. Likewise, the proliferation of estateless wineries (bonded, licensed wineries that own no land and may even rent their winemaking facilities) has exploded in California in particular. Finally, a relatively recent phenomenon for California and the US (though old news to the negociants in France) has surfaced in... continue reading


2003 Chateau de Montpezat "Palombieres" Coteaux du Languedoc, France

It seems like my friends who are serious wine drinkers and even winemakers are strictly divided on Grenache. Some think it's the next big thing, while others could really take it or leave it. Sure, they'll drink a nice Gigondas every once in a while, or a good crisp rose, but they don't understand what all the fuss is about. If I had to fall into one of those camps, I'm probably in the former, rather than the latter. I happen to like the tart acidity and berry flavors of Grenache, and I especially like it when it's not turned... continue reading


2004 Quinta do Alqueve Fernão Pires, Ribetejano, Portugal

Perhaps we can make this week be about fantastic wine bargains. Earlier in the week I blogged about a great New Zealand Pinot Noir for about twelve bucks, now I'm telling about what might just be the best white wine I've ever had at the $11 price range. Let's start off by asking the most obvious question: Who was Fernão Pires anyway, and why is there an obscure Mediterranean Grape named after him? Well the first answer is that Fernao Pires is the same grape as one called Maria Gomes elsewhere in Portugal, which is where this grape makes its... continue reading


2001 Syren Pinot Noir, Central Otago, New Zealand

If you you take all the Pinot Noir winegrowing regions of the world and you subtract out all that are in Europe, and likewise all that are on the west coast of the United States, what are you left with? Quite a few places, really, but all of them might be lumped together in a flight of fancy under the name "New New World." Call them up-and-coming, call them fringe, call them frontiers of winemaking -- it was from these regions that bloggers around the Internet were instructed to select a wine for Wine Blogging Wednesday 14, hosted by Jens... continue reading


Small Producers of France: A Tasting of Robert Kacher Selections

This entry could just have easily been entitled "eclectic little wines from France" or "the best French wines you may never have heard of" or "One man's guide to some good French &%$@." Robert Kacher has been chasing down and importing wines from France (and, it turns out, Portugal) for over 30 years. It's unfair to both of their accomplishments to compare him with Kermit Lynch, but by way of illustration, I hold both of them in the same esteem as luminaries and ambassadors to a world of fabulous wines that even many wine lovers have never heard of. The... continue reading


1996 Stony Hill Semillon de Soleil, Napa

OK. I admit it. I really don't like dessert wines. Eiswein? Forget it. Muscat? Ick. Even many Sauternes just are overkill on the sweetness. I really need a wine to have enough acidity to cut through the sweetness before I will pay attention. Too many dessert wines are cloying and sticky, basically as appealing to me as drinking a mouthful of maple syrup. So when a dessert wine has the right balance of sugar, acid, and alcohol, when there is more than one dominant flavor in the wine, I tend to sit up and take notice. I don't know how... continue reading


1999 Királyudvar "Lapis" Late Harvest Tokaji Furmint, Tokaj, Hungary

Let me get down on my knees and pray to the gods of wine drinking. "Please, oh gods who bestow blessings upon those who call themselves wine drinkers, let me continue to be surprised and delighted by random wines that I stumble across in my life. I don't need to taste the vintage of the century, and I probably can't afford it, but I really want to still be finding out about wines like this when I'm eighty-five." Of course, this is where the fantasy of being a sommelier comes along. Imagine spending your days actually hunting down these wines.... continue reading


2003 CrauforD "The Highlander" Sauvignon Blanc, Napa

The CrauforD Wine Company began as a conversation over dinner. Marilyn "Mama" Crawford Anderson sat at the dinner table and looked around at her daughter, a working winemaker, and her daughter-in-law, an accomplished viticultralist and vineyard manager. "There's just too much talent at this table for us girls not to be making our own wines," she said. She would know -- she and her husband were the founder and owners of Monticello Vineyards for years. Apparently a little encouragement and support from Mama Crawford was hard to ignore, especially when it came with a bit of start-up financing. So by... continue reading


1999 Domaine de Nizas, Coteaux De Languedoc, France

The Languedoc wine region of southeast France that straddles the bottom of a the better known region of Provence produces more wine than any other area of France by volume. Most of it never makes it to the USA, and much of it never even makes it to the table of French wine drinkers, at least the discerning ones. Most of the production goes to what we would call "jug wine" here in the US, and what generally passes here at Vinography for "crap wine." To dismiss the Languedoc on that basis, however, would be a grave mistake, as it... continue reading


2002 Nicolette Christopher "Daniela" Pinot Noir, Carneros, CA

Hand-crafted is a term that has been abused by wine marketers and copywriters for a long time, but it still means something, and there are still winemakers who live up to its humble promise. There are a lot of small wineries that could qualify for the use of this descriptor, all at varying sizes, but you don't get much closer to hand crafted than a man, his wife, a friend, 5 barrels and 2186 pounds of Pinot Noir. Nicolette Christopher is a tiny winery started in 2001 by Chris and Nicolette Demetre. Like many small wineries, it represents the realization... continue reading


2003 Taft Street Winery Chardonnay, Russian River Valley, Sonoma

The term garagiste entered the wine lexicon about 10 or 15 years ago, mostly because of some enterprising small producers in Bordeaux who were bucking the tradition and winemaking styles of the large established Chateaux. Since these winemakers rose to prominence, with a little help from Robert Parker, the term has gone from an originally derogatory or at least disdainful label to one that is useful for describing all manner of small winemakers around the world, some of whom actually do make wine in their garages. While certainly not the first to make wine in a garage John and Mike... continue reading


2003 Chateau des Gavelles Rosé, Coteaux d'Aix en Provence, France

I drink rosé all year round, but it's awfully nice in the summer (as nearly every wine magazine and newspaper has been telling you for the past three months). And where better to get your rosé than the one appellation that is practically dedicated to it: Coteaux d'Aix en Provence. This area of southern France produces 1.7 million cases of wine each year, a full fifty percent of which are rosé. I don't know any other place in the world that produces that high a percentage of pink wine in their overall output. Perhaps it's because they've always been making... continue reading


The 2004 Vintage in Germany and Austria: An Idiots Point of View

Before you read any further, you should know that I'm the idiot. I know next to nothing about German and Austrian wines. Before last week I had tasted probably thirty of them in my life. Maybe fifty. They'd just never been a real source of interest. Sure I'd had a lovely Gewurztraminer here and there, a gorgeous dry Riesling over Thai food, but honestly I never really made a serious study. This, of course, is problematic when you hang out with people who are convinced that German and Austrian wines are the best wines on the planet. And I do... continue reading


2003 Morgante Nero d' Avola IGT Vendemmia, Sicily

The more Nero d'Avola I have, the more I like it. This earthy old world varietal, native to the island of Sicily, seems to produce wines that are capable of calling one back to an earlier time and atmosphere, filtered with afternoon sunlight and redolent with the smells of fresh coffee, dirt from the fields, and someone's mother's cooking from down the cobblestone streets. True connoisseurs of the varietal will tell you it's pretty hard to get wines that really do that, as they are made by small families in small quantities, even smaller bits of which seem to make... continue reading


2002 Cellar de Capçanes "Mas Donis Barrica" Red Wine, Montsant, Spain

As far as Spanish appellations go, Montsant is a bit of a baby -- small and young. Only established in 2001, after being pulled out as a distinct D.O. (Denominacion de Origen) from the larger Tarragona region that surrounds the famous Priorat, Montsant now rings the Priorat, a concentric circle around its famous forbearer, roughly 100 miles south of Barcelona, Spain. The Montsant region is marked by old volcanic slopes of nutrient poor, mineral rich soils covering granite and slate, and little rainfall. The primarily Grenache vines (along with Tempranillo, Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah, and Carignan) in the area must... continue reading


2002 Samos Grand Cru Vin Doux (Muscat), Samos, Greece

It's not everyone that can claim they've been making quality wine pretty much continuously since at least the twelfth century B.C. Most people also can't say with authority that their wines were the favorites of people like Hippocrates. You know, that greek guy who invented, um, well. At least I know they named the Hippocratic Oath after him. In any case, very few places in the world have a winemaking pedigree like the people of the island of Samos. A thumbnail sized, green mountainous island that pokes up out of the eastern Agean sea, the name Samos comes from... continue reading


2003 Jeff Runquist "R" Barbera, Amador County, CA

During the Gold Rush, when the Italian immigrants came west across the plains and through the rugged mountainous section of the Sierras they named the Desolation Wilderness, their arrival on the gently sloping foothills of Amador County must have seemed a bit like coming home to the old country. Green in the winter, and shining golden in the summer, this section of California is not unlike areas of Northern Tuscany or Piedmont. It's no wonder then, that in addition to settling down to prospect for gold, open up restaurants and stores, and set up family farms that some of... continue reading


2002 Domaine Taluau-Foltzenlogel "Vieilles Vignes" Saint-Nicolas-de-Bourgueil, Loire Valley, France

I'm sure I'm going to end up on some Homeland Security watch list, or at least on the Republican National Committee blacklist for this but who cares. I'm reviewing a French wine on Independence Day. Consider it an homage to the philosophical underpinnings of our own revolution, a tip-of-the-hat to the ideological impetus behind our eventual independence. In a further obfuscatory and untraditional manner, I've reviewing a Loire wine, but not one of the famous Sauvignon Blanc based wines of the region. Instead I'm reviewing this lovely Cabernet Franc based wine from Saint-Nicolas-de-Bourgueil, a small appellation smack-dab in the middle... continue reading


2003 St. Innocent "Freedom Hill Vineyard" Pinot Blanc, Willamette Valley, Oregon

This wine review is my contribution to today's online wine tasting event known as Wine Blogging Wednesday. This incarnation is being hosted by Alice over at My Adventures In The Breadbox and she has decided the theme would be White Pinot. White Pinot refers to the two common mutations of the Pinot Noir grape that are cultivated with regularity: Pinot Gris and Pinot Blanc, which for many years people thought was Chardonnay (and vice versa). As a result, here I am sipping the fruits of St. Innocent, a small winery in the Willamette Valley of Oregon. Founded by Mark Vlossak... continue reading


2003 Olson & Ogden "Sonoma Valley" Syrah, Sonoma

As regular readers know, I am very interested in small, family-run wineries. These come in several flavors in the industry, and one of the most interesting to me is the estate-less label -- those wineries who have no permanent physical presence. These types of operations have no vineyards, own no buildings, and sometimes don't even own any equipment. Such wineries are most often the result of someone taking small steps towards their personal dream of being in the wine business, and are often sources for great wines at reasonable prices. Olson & Ogden winery is a perfect example of such... continue reading


2001 Luna Vineyards Merlot, Napa

I must have driven past Luna Vineyards about a hundred times. As it is right at the start of the Silverado Trail, I've been reluctant to stop on my way to places farther up the valley. Recently, though, I had the opportunity to try this wine and I'm realizing that I may have been missing out on some good wines. Luna Vineyards might be the answer to the proverbial question, "How many high-powered wine industry executives does it take to...er...start a winery?" Luna, started in 1995, is the brain child of George Vare, Mike Moone, and John Kongsgaard, all big-time... continue reading


2002 Steltzner Claret, Napa

If you're a Napa wine drinker, even if you've never heard of Steltzner Vineyards, you have almost assuredly had a wine that in some way has been touched by Dick Steltzner. A third generation Californian, from a farming family, Steltzner originally wanted to leave all that behind and become an artist, and in the early Sixties he was living in St. Helena following his dream. By 1964 though, he was having second thoughts about his chosen path, and in what would be a fateful decision, bought some land in the Stag's Leap district and started growing grapes. Having been acquainted... continue reading


2002 Chateau de Lascaux, Coteaux Du Languedoc, France

OK. So I bought another wine because of the label. And because I'm into Languedoc wines these days. And because it was imported by Kermit Lynch. But really? I bought it because of the name and the label. You see, I have a thing for Lascaux, the gorgeous cave site that hosts a massive mural of 18,000 year old prehistoric art beautifully preserved into modern times. I've never been there, but some of the figures from the wall, including the small horse which adorns the label of this wine are indelibly etched in my mind. Some day I will make... continue reading


2002 X Winery Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa

Why should wine lovers constantly be tasting wines, even from wineries that don't make great wines? Because they can, and sometimes do get better. Now I'm not saying you should be going out and buying cases of stuff from wineries whose wines you don't like. But what I am saying is don't write anyone off completely. Case in point: this wine from X Winery up in Napa. Their 2001 Cabernet was one of the first wines I tasted and wrote about after starting Vinography, and frankly I hated it. It was vegetal and tannic and really closed. I was probably... continue reading


2003 TAZ Chardonnay, Santa Barbara County, California

It's always a little bit of a mystery to me when I come across small producers that are part of huge wine corporations. Firstly, I wonder at their ability to remain relatively independent entities and I'm inherently suspicious about whether they are actually small producers that perhaps one day decided to cash out and become part of a conglomerate, or whether they are cleverly executed niche marketing programs set up by savvy corporate marketers. Take TAZ Vineyards for instance, which is part of the large wine conglomerate known as Beringer-Blass which produces a staggering 7.7 million cases of wine per... continue reading


2002 Big Ass Cab, Napa

It's Wine Blogging Wednesday again, and this month's theme is Wacky Wine Names, hosted and invented by Chez Pim. I toyed with many options for a potential entry to this event, but ultimately, I was strolling through a deli up in Sonoma county when this wine's label caught my eye like one of those pointy hook latches that used to dangle from screen doors and would fly up whenever you banged the door open again. The idea of big ass Cabernet is distinctly Californian, and frankly it's about time someone just put it on the label. If the Old World... continue reading


2003 Adegas Galegas "Dionisos" Albariño, Rias Baixas, Spain

It's always great for me to be able to bring you wines that are relatively cheap and totally delicious. It's even a bigger bonus if they are made by small artisan producers, which this producer sort of qualifies for (See more below). It is with glee that I present what is one of the best, if not THE BEST tasting Albariño I've ever had. Albariño is appreciated by many for the steely, highly mineral, crisp white wines made from it, mostly in the Rias Baixas area of Spain. Albariños typically have lots of calcium, lime, and slate flavors accompanied by... continue reading


2001 Domaine De La Verde, Vacqueyras (Rhone), France

For a while I've maintained a strong attraction to the wines of Gigondas, a tiny little appellation tucked into the southern Rhone, and I'm beginning to develop a bit of a crush on its even tinier neighbor, the microscopic town called Vacqueyras. This little 12th century village is situated in the general Cotes-du-Rhone winemaking region, but like a few other small villages in the area, it also has its own appellation with the same name. Vacqueyras is located in the Ouvèze valley just to the west of the Dentelles de Montmirail, whose limestone peaks are the primary geologic feature of... continue reading


2002 Spann Vineyards "Mo Jo" Red Blend, Sonoma

Everyone comes to the wine business from different places and for different reasons. Peter and Betsy Spann describe their entry into the wine business as "a combination of stupidity and bad real estate decisions." Peter had worked in the wine business for years - in retail, wholesale, marketing, you name it - when he and his wine decided to move to the Bay Area for work during the height of the dot.com boom. They couldn't afford to buy a house anywhere near San Francisco and so started looking farther and farther north until they found themselves visiting properties that came... continue reading


2002 Tulip Hill "Old Vines" Zinfandel, Lake County, California

I've been curious lately about some of the more fringe appellations of Northern California, such as Lake County. A lot of grapes are being grown there, but not a lot of wine shows up with Lake County as its appellation on the bottle. What does this mean? Mostly that juice from these grapes is being blended in with juice from more "fashionable" appellations by wineries big and small in quantities below the 20% level that would require them to disclose their origin. It's nice, then, to see winemakers like the folks at Tulip Hill making a wine that is 100%... continue reading


2003 Caves Plaimont "Colombelle" Blanc, Vin de Pays, Gascony, France

A few weeks ago I came across one of the best values in red wine I have encountered in a long time, and it seems this week I am bringing you its mate in the white wine category. What do I look for in a value white wine? Something that has enough complexity to warrant sipping on its own and something that pairs well with food. Caves Plaimont has managed to meet both of these criteria with a wine they call "Colombelle" which is a play on the primary varietal used in the wine, Colombard. For many, including myself, this... continue reading


Spencer Roloson Winery: Current Releases

I first encountered the wines of Spencer Roloson at the Rhone Rangers tasting last March. At the time, I had their 2002 Viognier and thought it was one of the better interpretations of that varietal amidst a mostly lackluster showing. Their brightly colored labels with sans-serif type caught my eye at the time, and I recognized them at the Family winemakers tasting this fall, and spent some time tasting through their lineup and chatting with winemaker and co-owner Sam Spencer. Sam is one half of the ownership team of Spencer Roloson and the other half is Wendy Roloson. Sam brings... continue reading


2003 Azienda Agricola Trere "Sperone" Sangiovese, Emilia Romagna, Italy

Frequent readers will know that I'm a fan of Italian wines, in particular the muscular Sangiovese based reds of Montepulciano and Montalcino in Tuscany. I don't often find a lot of people who are a huge fan of this varietal in its Italian incarnation, as it tends to have dominant earthy and leathery flavors with heavy tannic structures that take years if not decades to mellow out. I break out an occasional Vino Nobile de Montepulciano and some folks edge their way to the end of the table that holds a Syrah or Cabernet, or something with more fruit. With... continue reading


2002 Feudo Arancio Syrah, Sicily

This is it. I've discovered by far the best wine for under ten bucks I've ever had. You think Yellowtail Syrah is a good value? In a street fight, this scrappy Sicilian is going to send Australia packing. Fortunately for us they're probably going to stay far under the radar of most consumers. While it's made by a relatively large wine conglomerate in Italy, they've not yet figured out how to market wines to the US in the same way that the Australians can. Never you mind though. Just go out and buy some. Feudo Arancio is a new winery... continue reading


2002 Altos de Medrano "Las Hormiga" Malbec, Mendoza, Argentina

A while ago, I posted some commentary on a few predictions made by Robert M. Parker, Jr. about the future of the global wine trade. One of my comments which generated a lot of conversation here at Vinography was my comment that while I understood Malbec's prominence as a varietal in Argentina, and its long history of use in Bordeaux, I had actually never had a Malbec that I really liked. Sure I'd had some that were powerful and clearly made with care, but most of them were over-oaked, very tannic, and wholly unbalanced. A number of readers agreed with... continue reading


2002 Leeuwin "Art Series" Riesling, Margaret River, Australia

This is my entry for WBW4, the fourth installment of Wine Blogging Wednesday, which this month is being hosted by Derrick over at An Obsession With Food. Derrick is a huge fan of Alsace, Austrian and German wines and so it's no surprise that he selected Riesling as the theme for this month's virtual tasting event. That would have been fine with me, even exciting, but the bugger had to go one dastardly step further and tell us it had to be New World Riesling, ruling out the whole set of wines that he likes, and even worse, ensuring that... continue reading


2003 William Fevre "Champs Royaux" Chablis (Chardonnay), Burgundy, France

It's wines like this one that make me begrudgingly admit that some of my friends have a pretty valid point. You see, I hang out with a bunch of folks who have completely sworn off of California white wines, especially Chardonnay, in favor of French whites -- in particular the Chardonnay based White Burgundies and Sauvignon Blanc based wines from the Loire. They clamor (at any given opportunity) that there are hundreds of wines that can be purchased for around twenty bucks that are infinitely better than most $20 California Chardonnays. Better tasting, better food pairing, and just all around... continue reading


2001 Two-Tone Farm Merlot, Napa

It's always a little icky to think that the wine you're drinking is just some marketer's idea of targeting a specific segment or niche in the marketplace. What happened to passionate people coaxing bottled poetry from the earth in the pursuit of something transcendent of mere grapes??? I mean, c'mon, isn't that where we all want our wines to come from? Well there are only so many of those types of wineries and wines, and the reality that's been beaten into everyone in the market these days is that its possible to make perfectly good wine, even excellent wine, under... continue reading


2001 Casa Vinicola Firriato "Chiaramonte" Nero D' Avola, Sicily

Sicily has been making wine for ages and ages, but it's getting a lot more attention these days as newer winemakers compete to get their wines a broader audience around the world and change their production methods to achieve higher quality. Firriato is a fairly new producer on the island. It was started in 1985 by Salvatore and Vinzia Di Gaetano in northwestern Sicily near Trapani. Things move slower in Sicily, I guess, as their first real production ended up being in 1994. Since their initial vintage, they have scaled their production levels to nearly 500,000 cases. That's a lot... continue reading


2001 R. Stuart & Co "Big Fire" Pinot Noir, Willamette Valley, Oregon

In case you hadn't noticed, Oregon Pinot Noir is hot right now. So hot, perhaps, that the folks at R. Stuart & Co. have called it "Big Fire." They could have also called it "Big Fun" and it would have fit within their brand image nicely. This quirky little winery operation/family/company is run by Rob Stuart, a veteran west coast winemaker who is now in his 21st vintage as a winemaker. His most recent stint was at Erath Vineyards but now he's focused on fulfilling his long time love of Pinot Noir by just making it for himself. Along the... continue reading


2003 Alice White Shiraz, South Eastern Australia

This is my entry for WBW3, the third Wine Blogging Wednesday event online, where folks who have blogs all drink and review wines on the same day. This month's event is being hosted by Seattle Bon Vivant, so visit with her in the next couple of days for a complete listing of all the participants. For last month's event, I drank a pricey, critically acclaimed, upper echelon wine. This month I'm doing the opposite. However, I was unable to get my (lazy) hands on a bottle of Yellow Tail Shiraz which is what I wanted to review. I know, I... continue reading


Jim Neal Wines: Current Releases

I'm particularly excited to be able to introduce you to Jim Neal, a winemaker you probably have never heard of. As you know, one of my goals here at Vinography is to "discover" great new wines that we all want to drink. I use quotes around that word because I don't pretend to be the first person that has ever heard of these winemakers, some of whom have been making wine for years, but many are extremely small and below the radar of most wine consumers. Some, like Jim are even struggling to get their wines into retail shops and... continue reading


2003 Borsao "Primizia" Grenache, Campo De Borja, Spain

I like to keep it real here. The last couple of weeks has seen me drinking some pretty expensive stuff, to the point that people are sending me e-mails asking me for charitable donations. Not really. But the last thing I want this blog to become is a journal of great wines that most people can't afford. With that in mind I bring you probably the single best supermarket wine available in the States today and unarguably one of the best global wine values anywhere. I've been buying this stuff by the twos and threes in my local grocery store... continue reading


2001 Arrowood "Grand Archer" Chardonnay, Sonoma

Massive corporate wine property or small family run business? With Arrowood, you're looking at both. Started as a family affair in 1986 by Dick Arrowood, who spent years making wine at Chateau St. Jean, Arrowood Vineyards was a popular Sonoma Winery from the start. In 2000 it was purchased by the Mondavi Corporation in an effort to expand their portfolio of premium Sonoma wines, and with the impending breakup of the company, it looks like it's going to be on the market again. This may be good or bad news for Dick depending on how you look at it. He... continue reading


NV Azienda Ag. Malvira "Birbet" Brachetto, Roero (Piemonte), Italy

Sparkling red wine? Sacre Bleu! Or in this case I guess you'd say Mizzica! or some other Italian equivalent. Yes, this really is a sparkling red wine and quite an interesting one at that. It's made by a small producer in Piemonte, Azienda Agricola Malvira. I love the name of the winery, which literally translates to "Situated Wrong," because the winery's original courtyard faced North instead of to the South as popular wisdom dictated it should. Even though the winery is in its new location along the banks of the Tanaro river in the small village of Canova, the name... continue reading


2003 Jaffurs Viognier, Santa Barbara

I find myself drinking a lot of wines from Santa Barbara these days, partially because they're new to me, and also partially because they are affordable. But perhaps most of all, it seems that many of these winemakers are small, family operations that are guided by their own principles and vision for winemaking and are not simply making what has come to be stereotypical California wine. Jaffurs Wine Cellars is a classic example of these principles at work. Owner/Winemaker Craig Jaffurs started his operation in 1994 with a singular purpose, to take what he saw as a particular microclimate (Santa... continue reading


2003 Domaine Bru Bache Jurancon Sec, Jurancon, France

I was first introduced to Jurancon through a dessert wine poured in a local French bistro here in San Francisco. "Here, try this," said our waiter and whipped out a few glasses which he filled with a nearly colorless wine with a simple parchment colored label. "Henry the Fourth was baptized in this stuff" he said as he wandered off. We thought, "did we hear him right?" but sure enough, that is the claim to fame of this tiny little appellation in the south-eastern part of Provence in southern France. It also happens to be one of France's oldest appellations.... continue reading


2002 Saintsbury Chardonnay, Carneros

I was first introduced to Saintsbury wines through their Garnet Pinot Noir, which is a Carneros pinot made in a lighter style with less oak and more fruit, and a really nice wine for buying by the truckload and drinking every day. Saintsbury is one of the moderately large commercial producers in Napa that in my opinion is still maintaining high levels of quality and boutique style winemaking processes. They pretty much abjure filtering and they are not afraid of making wine in time consuming ways like fermenting and barrelling all of their vineyard lots separately to be blended as... continue reading


2002 Domaine Henry Pelle Menetou-Salon Morogues (Sauvignon Blanc), Loire Valley, France

Widely regarded as the best producer in the small appellation of Menetou-Salon in the Loire Valley of France, Domaine Henry Pelle was also one of the first. A classic family run operation of 15 people, Pelle has been operating for over three generations in the Menetou-Salon since before it was granted appellation status in 1959. The Domaine has 75 organically farmed acres in and around the tiny town of Menetou-Salon, close to the heart of the valley and the heart of Loire Sauvignon Blanc: Sancerre. Here, the soil is incredibly calciferous, made up of millions of fossilized oyster shells from... continue reading


2002 Rosenblum "Carla's Vineyard" Zinfandel, Contra Costa County, California

As someone who loves wine, and doesn't really bother to hide that fact, its quite frequent that people bring over a bottle when they come to dinner. I'm always thankful for the gesture, no matter what wine they bring, but I really enjoy it when the wine reflects a thoughtful choice and a good winemaker. I'm sure my eyes lit up when this bottle walked through the door in the hands of some friends who finally made it to dinner after months of schedule jockeying. I've reviewed a couple of Rosenblum wines before, and they generally shine out from the... continue reading


2001 Markham Merlot, Napa

As I've mentioned in the last few weeks, I'm trying to drink more Merlot. In the last few years I haven't favored it, and until my recent focus on it, I couldn't remember the last time I had drunk a full glass of it, let alone bought a bottle. So in my quest to bring a little bit more of that varietal here to Vinography, I've returned to a wine that has a certain nostalgic value for me. You see, Markham Merlot was one of the first wines that graduated me out of the "buy a bottle at Safeway" wine... continue reading


2002 Manciat-Poncet Chardonnay, Macon-Charnay (Burgundy), France

Claude Manciat and his wife Simone Poncet are regular features of the landscape in the section of Burgundy known as the Maconnais. This region has been producing Europe's classic Chardonnays for decades, and so have Claude and his wife. Growers since the 1950's they began bottling their own wines in 1979, and have changed little since then. They maintain strict quality standards which include all hand harvesting and whole cluster pressing, among other things. Both of which are increasingly rare in the Maconnais. Domaine Manciat-Poncet (which also has a presence in Pouilly-Fuissé)is located near the small village of Charnay. Wines... continue reading


2001 Wild Horse Merlot, Paso Robles, California

Wild Horse was one of the first major commercial vineyards in the Paso Robles area of the Central Coast here in California. Started by Ken Volk in 1982 and purportedly named after the herds of wild horses that roam the hills behind the estate, the winery has grown to be one of the largest and well known producers in the area, at a volume of 140,000 cases. In 2003 it was acquired by Peak Wines International, and became part of a family of wineries that include Geyser Peak. Up until recently I had only had their Pinot Noir, which they... continue reading


2001 Saucelito Canyon Zinfandel, Arroyo Grande Valley, California

There are a lot of things that go into making up the complexity of flavors in a wine, but none by my judge better than the age of the vines growing the fruit. The effects of vine age were first made starkly real to me on a trip I took to Australia's Hunter Valley. There, in the capable hands of a man whose name and touring company have sadly escaped me, I got a chance to taste through a large, prestigious winery's entire portfolio of Chardonnay and Shiraz in horizontal and vertical tastings stretching back almost 10 years. The ability... continue reading


2001 Domaine Faively "Les Joncs" Chardonnay, Montagny (Burgundy), France

I was at a party the other day with someone who swore up and down that all California Chardonnay was crap, and that no one was making wines to equal the best whites of Bordeaux or Burgundy. I begged to differ, but embedded in his point was that there are very few winemakers, indeed, who are doing Chardonnay in a true European style, which I would characterize as high acidity, stronger mineral component, lighter fruit flavors, and less oak -- not to mention no trace of the buttery malolactic fermentation that is so Californian. While there are exceptions, I have... continue reading


2002 Cline "Ancient Vines" Zinfandel, Contra Costa County, California

In general, I enjoy finding and reviewing wines here that are from smaller producers, as well as wines from areas that are off the beaten track. With this wine from Cline Cellars I've managed to do the latter, but certainly not the former. Cline is one of the biggest names in the Sonoma Valley. However, they happen to have a piece of land in an area known as Oakley in Contra Costa County, 55 miles east of San Francisco, that has some old, old Zinfandel vines on it. It's from this little out of the way patch of land that... continue reading


2000 Neyers Merlot, Napa

Maybe no one has noticed, but I'll come clean anyway. I don't review a lot of Merlot here. And while I want to make it perfectly clear that I'm not a Merlot hater -- no, no, quite the contrary -- I just haven't been into it much lately. I used to drink a lot of it, and a couple of my favorite wines ever have been Merlot (like the 1994 Robert Keenan Napa Merlot) but lately I guess you could say I've been taking a bit of a break. We've been giving each other some space and time, even though... continue reading


1999 Ridge "California Coast Range", Santa Cruz Mountains

Mutts are some of the best dogs in my opinion, and while the same thing can't always be said about wines, sometimes a mutt can be quite tasty, yesterday's review is a case in point. Of course, the wine world has a more sophisticated term for these "mutt" wines. We call them meritage blends, and they seem to range in quality in California -- from wines that are clearly just invented to get rid of extra juice to sophisticated red blends that are in the spirit of French or Italian winemaking. This wine is certainly a mutt wine if there... continue reading


2002 Borra "Fusion" Meritage, Lodi, California

I really love wine. No, I mean I REALLY love it. Because after tasting so many wines, you can taste just one more and think to yourself, "Wow, this is fantastic" and fall in love all over again. That falling in love may have to do with drinking a truly amazing wine, but it might also just be the right wine at the right time, delivering just what your tastebuds needed at that moment. That's what this little bottle from Borra Wines did for me -- delivered just what I needed at that moment, which turned out to be something... continue reading


2000 Burson "Rosso Ravenna", Consorzio Il Bagnacavallo, Italy

Halfway between Bologna and Ravenna, Italy sits the little town of Bagnacavallo. Those with a background in Spanish, Italian, or Latin will easily pick out the origins of the name which, depending on who you talk to, can be read as "Horse Bath" or "Water for Horses" or something like that. Indeed, historical legend has it that the town was so named when the Emperor Tiberius discovered a spring in the town that had amazing curative powers for horses who drank it, the first of which being the war horses commanded by the Emperor himself. In all likelihood the spring... continue reading


2003 Chateau La Roque Pic Saint Loup Rose, Languedoc, France

Frequent readers will know that I have a bit of a thing for wines of the Languedoc, but mostly I concentrate my explorations to the dark earthy reds that are so unique to the area. I came across this wine recently, though, and because it was summer and I was looking for a few nice wines that might go well with some Latin or Asian foods, I had to give it a try. Pic Saint Loup, where this wine is made is one of the easternmost parts of the Languedoc in Southeast France, and is dominated by a mountain of... continue reading


2002 Yangarra Estate "Old Vine" Grenache, McLaren Vale, Australia

Yangarra is Aboriginal for "from the earth" and was chosen as the name of the vineyard because of the magic that seems to be required to make these old Australian vines grow in the sandy soil with no irrigation. Explains winemaker Peter Fraser:"McLaren Vale is a bounteous basin washed by the pristine Gulf St. Vincent. Ten miles from its water lies a hillock of 60 million year old sands, jokingly called "The Beach." It's actually the weathered remnant of a long-gone mountain range, revered for the earthy wholesomeness it feeds our 60 year old vines. These vines are bushy and... continue reading


2002 Three Saints Chardonnay, Santa Maria Valley, Santa Barbara, California

Three Saints Vineyard is a small production vineyard that I really don't know much about. They make a Pinot, a Chardonnay, and a Cabernet (all of which I have seen on the market), but other than that I can't tell you much -- they're mostly under the radar for now. So let's talk a little about the Santa Maria Valley instead. Home to the famous Bien Nacido vineyard, this is a low slung valley lies south of San Luis Obispo towards Santa Barbara. Set back away from the ocean, up against the foothills of the San Rafael mountains, it is... continue reading


2001 Villa Toscano "Fox Creek Vineyard" Zinfandel, Shenandoah Valley, California

A week or so ago, I had a friend come visit me from the Sierra Foothills in Amador county. Knowing that I'm a wine nut, and in exchange for lodging for the weekend, he brought me a little something from up in his neck of the woods: this great example of a foothill Zinfandel from Villa Toscano. The grapes for this wine come from 100 year old vines in Jim and Sue Fox's vineyard which is nestled in the beautiful Shenandoah Valley. This small valley is located between the towns of Jackson and Placerville in the foothills of the Sierras... continue reading


2001 Handley Pinot Noir, Mendocino County

Quaint is perhaps the best adjective to describe Handley Cellars, a small family run operation south of Mendocino in the heart of the Anderson Valley. Located just up the road a piece from downtown Philo, Handley resides at the old Holmes Ranch, established in the valley in the late 1800s, and maintains many of the original buildings. Milla Handley has been making wine since 1982 with the help of her family, and now produces a substantial 14,000 cases a year with fruit from their estate as well as other sources throughout the valley. Their portfolio is about 20 wines deep... continue reading


2003 Palama Salento Rosato Metiusco, Puglia, Italy

The winery at Azienda Vinicola Palama has been around since 1936, and is still in the Palama family. While proprietor Arcangelo Palama initially sold most of their wine in bulk, it eventually made its way into restaurants, and elsewhere. Now at the hands of third generation Palamas (sons Cosimo and Donato) and in collaboration with the consultant Leonardo Sergio, the winery is producing some of the highest quality wines in the Salento region. Salento is a small DOC in the Apulia (Puglia) region of Italy which covers the lower portion of "the boot." Salento is in the heel of the... continue reading


2001 Joseph Swan "Cuvee de Trois" Pinot Noir, Russian River Valley, Sonoma

Vineyards are often the stuff of dreams, the long sought after goals of some, or simply an inevitable plan for retirement. Joseph Swan started making wine casually even as a kid, perhaps as a rebellion against his tee totaling parents. Off and on throughout the years it was a passing hobby as Joe struggled through a passionate but somewhat unsuccessful career as an artist. Deciding his future lay elsewhere, he learned how to fly and began a teaching and eventually flying commercially. Occasionally throughout this time, Joe would touch down someplace long enough to make a small batch of wine... continue reading


2002 Jacques & Francois Lurton "Les Fumees Blanches" Fume Blanc, Vin de Pays d'Oc, France

Jacques and Francois Lurton preside over a modern-day wine dynasty that breaks the mold of their predecessors. The sons of a well known Bordeaux owner-grower named André Lurton (of Châteaux Bonnet and Clos Fourtet among others) they have chosen to forsake their ties to the traditional estate, and instead become globe trotting multi-continental winemakers. The Lurton brothers either own vineyards or have control over vineyards in France, Spain, Argentina, Chile, Australia, and Uraguay, and use them to produce several lines of generally value-priced wines. More experienced wine snobs have often scoffed at the Lurtons' high production, shotgun approach to producing... continue reading


2001 Gulfi Estate Vineyards Rosso "Nerojbleo" Nero D' Avola, Sicily

As some readers know, I'm a pretty big fan of Italian wines, especially those of Tuscany and Piedmont. I've recently begun to sample the wines of Sicily, especially after the urging of some friends whose opinions I trust when it comes to these things. So when the opportunity arose at a recent lunch to try out this Nero D' Avola, I jumped at the chance. First of all, for many people, including myself, Nero D' Avola is not a well known red varietal. It happens to be one of two primary native varietals from Sicily -- the other being the... continue reading


2001 Westerly "Estate" Sauvignon Blanc, Santa Ynez Valley California

It's unfortunate how sometimes the best way to describe something you like is a word or phrase that doesn't normally make people think good thoughts. Such is the unfortunate case for Sauvignon Blanc which, at times, manages to smell just a little like cat piss. Yes. I know. Who would drink a wine that reeks of a vengeful or incontinent feline? I've definitely experienced a few wines (mostly old Sancerres or Pouilly Fumes) in which this aroma was so overpowering I could not bring myself to drink them. However in many wines it is a mere background aroma, one that... continue reading


2002 Qupe "Bien Nacido Cuvee" White Meritage, Central Coast

After a recent review of a nice Edna Valley wine, let's move south and west along the central coast to the Santa Maria Valley and this all-purpose white from Qupe Wine cellars. Qupe shares a production facility with the famous Chardonnay producer Au Bon Climat, which is a cult favorite from the Central Coast appellation that commands hefty prices on the market. Qupe was founded Bob Lindquist who got his start, like many of today's small producers as a cellar rat for Zaca Mesa winery where he met and learned from winemakers Ken Brown and Jim Clendenen. After seven years... continue reading


2000 Domaine Alfred Pinot Noir, Chamisal Vineyard, Edna Valley

Edna Valley has been quietly establishing itself over the last decade as a place that can turn out fantastic wines, especially Pinot Noirs. It is now home to wineries whose names turn heads: Laetitia, Nichols, Stephen Ross, Alban, among others. Before all of these arrived, though, there was a vineyard called Chamisal. Planted in 1972 with Chardonnay, but now owned and operated by Domaine Alfred, this vineyard is still growing grapes cloned from the original vines planted nearly 30 years ago. In addition, owner and sometimes winemaker Terry Speizer started turning out wines in 1998 from this vineyard to the... continue reading


2001 Borie de Maurel "Esprit d' Automne" red blend, Minervois, France

I first encountered this wine in the "values" section of Robert Parker's Wine Advocate. It happened to be stocked by one of my local stores, so I picked up a bottle, and I was really impressed, to the point of thinking that this was probably the best $12 bottle of wine I've ever tasted. That opinion hasn't changed over the years, and I try to have a few of these bottles always lying around because it's a lot of fun to drink with food. This wine comes to us through the efforts of Robert Kacher, who has a singleminded focus... continue reading


1995 Ovello Barbaresco Riserva, Piemonte, Italy

This is the secret forgotten wine. The frozen man of wine, stuck in a glacier and thawed out in someones backyard. Or filed away in an importers warehouse, like the Ark of the Covenant in Indiana Jones and Raiders of the Lost Ark. But then what happens when the importer goes out of business ? People who know people get to scoop up amazing values and interesting wines that should have been off the marketplace years ago. Of course, I'm making it sound like an exclusive thing, which its not (you can get it various places on the Internet) but... continue reading


2003 Marquis-Philips "Holly's Blend," Verdelho, McLaren Vale, Australia

Whenever the tasting group I'm a member of does a blind tasting, the person who hosts always throws in a ringer -- some wine that's doing it own thing. Often it's an incredibly cheap wine of the varietal that we're tasting, or sometimes it's another varietal entirely (we tend to focus on a single varietal per tasting). This wine showed up as the ringer in a recent Sauvignon Blanc tasting and while several of us suspected that it was not a Sauvignon Blanc, its incredible floral aromas made it both an interesting comparison to the Sav Blancs we were tasting,... continue reading


2000 Rochioli Sauvignon Blanc, Russian River

Spring seems definitely to have sprung here in San Francisco, and cold, foggy Summer is right around the corner. So this is our brief reprieve from the fog, and one of the two times per year that the weather is just divine. On a sunny day if you're drinking wine, there's nothing better than Sauvignon Blanc for my money. With that in mind, the group of winemakers that I sometimes taste with got together a group of 11 Sav Blancs to taste blind (as usual). Our opinions were a little more divergent than usual, but this wine was my favorite,... continue reading


2002 Three Thieves California Cabernet, Napa

The wine industry in California is undergoing a slow revolution. First it was synthetic corks, then screwcaps, now tetra-paks; varietals like Syrah and Viognier were brought to prominence. Perhaps most controversially, people have actually started to make decent wine for under twenty bucks. For some though, this revolution isn't nearly fast nor radical enough. Enter, The Three Thieves. These self proclaimed "jug boys" and "liberators of world class wine" have strode through the swinging doors of the saloon with guns-a-blaring. Here's the plot: buy a ton of aftermarket wine (already pressed and fermented) blend it 'til you think its good,... continue reading


2000 Scott Harvey Cabernet, Napa

I guess you could say I'm a big fan of Scott Harvey. I've gushed over his Syrah many times here. So the other day when I was wandering through the Ferry Plaza Wine Merchant, I picked up a bottle of Scott's 2000 Cabernet. Other than Scotts imprimatur, I don't know much about this wine -- where he gets his fruit, the winemaking, and the production volume are all a bit of a mystery, as Scott doesn't have much publicity going for his own label. At the end of the day, though, what matters is how it tastes, so on with... continue reading


2001 Suhr Luchtel "Mosaique" Red Table Wine, Napa

Surh Luchtel. Say it quickly and it sounds like "stealth." Or sort of. Anyway it's close enough for me to make my point. Who's ever heard of this winery? They've been open for nearly 10 years but they are only on their second public offering. Presumably up until now their wines have only been available to insiders on their mailing list, or even more likely just to their friends and family. "Surh Luchtel wines are the result of collaboration between two long time friends Don Surh and Gary Luchtel. First as housemates in college in the Oakland hills in the... continue reading


1999 St. Supery Merlot, Napa

On occasion I come across a bottle in the cellar and I have no memory of where it came from. Such was the case with this lonely St. Supery, which was jammed into a case of wines I brought back from Italy. I definitely didn't get it there. In any case, I was hunting for some merlots so I dragged it out and served it to some friends as we sat talking the other night. St. Supery is hard to miss as you drive up Highway 29 through Rutherford in the Napa Valley. They're situated right off the road with... continue reading


2001 Sagelands Vineyard "Four Corners" Merlot, Columbia Valley, Washington

I have been searching for some lower priced wines that I can serve at a large birthday party and at a wedding, and I have already reviewed a possible choice here but I think I may end up serving this Sagelands because it is extremely accessible and I think most people will love it. A friend of mine suggested this wine to me and after taking the bottle home I came across the "best buy" designation in my latest Wine Spectator. This wine is a big commercial release, which I tend to try and avoid (both drinking and writing about),... continue reading


2002 Stephen Vincent Cabernet

I've been searching for a group of small production wines that I can serve at an upcoming big party for over 100 people. (It's a birthday party, but I've started to look at it as a testbed for picking wedding wine). I've settled on a Chardonnay and a Syrah, but I wanted to find something in the Cabernet or Merlot category that might appeal to red wine drinkers who were a little more mainstream in their tastes and who might not appreciate the fruit bomb of the Syrah. I also wanted it to not break the bank. I did some... continue reading


1999 Ravenswood Icon Red Blend, Sonoma

Like many folks, in my early (ignorant) days of wine drinking, I bought quite a bit of Ravenswood Zinfandel and other wines at Safeway. It was priced right, had a cool bottle, and to my unstudied palate, was better than a lot of the wines at its price range. Times have changed, and I prefer wines that are made with a little more care and attention to detail, often in smaller lots. However there is one Ravenswood wine that I continue to drink regularly, both because it is an outstanding value, and because it tastes damn good. The Icon is... continue reading


2003 Groth Sauvignon Blanc, Napa Valley

Get it while its hot, folks. Or better yet, get it while it's ice cold on a sunny day. It looks like this summer is going to be a hot one, and what better to drink as the hills get golden in Northern California than some outstanding Sauvignon Blanc. One of my favorite aspects of this varietal is how many different aromas it is capable of. Good winemakers can coax all manner of floral and fruit characteristics out of this grape. Groth certainly falls into that category of "good winemakers" in my book. I've known them for a while based... continue reading


2000 Havens Syrah, Napa Valley

Havens is famous for their Merlot, which was my introduction to their wine. When I came across their Syrah the other day, I decided to give it a try. This syrah, like the Merlot I first drank has a subdued and earthy complexity, which is due, I think, partially to the Carneros fruit that winemaker Michael Havens selects for his wines, but also I am beginning to suspect, to his vision for his wines. I look forward to trying the 2001 vintages of both his Merlot and this Syrah, as I suspect they will reflect the superiority of that harvest... continue reading


2002 Thomas Fogarty Gewurztraminer

Thomas Fogarty is one of the few good california wineries between San Francisco and Montery Bay. Nestled at the top of the coast range with an incredible view of the Penninsula, Fogarty churns out consistently good to excellent wines at decent prices, at the direction of winemaker Michael Martella, creator of the Martella "Hammer" Syrah, which I've written about here before. One of the wines they are known for is their Gewurztraminer, which I have tasted in previous vintages as well. They make it (thankfully) in a European style, which means that at the most it has .5% residual sugar,... continue reading


2000 Les Coteaux De Pouzols, Minervois-Aude, France

Dark loamy earth. The smell of your backyard just after it rains. Combine a little fruit with that, a touch of tannins, and you've got the wines of the Minervois. I've raved about them before, so I'll avoid extolling the virtues again, other than to say that they are a trove of surprises for those palates who have some familiarity with the benchmark French appellations. I first discovered the Minervois appellation through wines from Robert Katcher Selections. Specifically, the first one that ever made me sit up and take notice was the Borie de Maurel Esprit d'Autumn. $11 of smoky... continue reading


2002 Castle Rock Pinot Noir, Russian River Valley

I really enjoy blind tastings -- it's amazing how much a known name can really prejudice anyone's reading of a wine, even despite our best attempts at objectivity. Last night I sat down with 5 winemakers for a blind tasting of 8 California Pinot Noirs over $20. The host, a good friend of mine, threw in one "ringer" -- he wouldn't tell us what kind of ringer it was, but we were on the lookout for a different varietal or two-buck-chuck. The results after a couple hours of careful tasting? Most of us (but to be fair, not all) had... continue reading


2003 Beaujolais Cuvee JB Domaine Du Vissoux

I feel like this wine put me squarely back in the 1980's -- a young boy sitting at a table being fed breakfast cereal by his suspicious siblings. Hey, Mikey likes it! An avowed Beaujolais hater, I have never understood the fuss made about Beaujolais Nouveau. Every time I get the opportunity, I try it, and every time I am left wanting something with more.... backbone. I basically feel the same way about most Chianti. There are a few Chiantis that rise above their lackluster brothers and sisters, and now it seems I have found a Beaujolais that does the... continue reading


2002 Pascal Jolivet Sancerre, Loire, France

There's nothing like Sancerre (known anywhere else it grows as Sauvignon Blanc) to go with oysters and other shellfish. I happen to be a big fan of Loire sav blanc-based wines. One interesting thing I learned recently is that there are bottles of red wine sold as Sancerre, of course, made in the same region, but containing Pinot Noir grapes instead of Sauvignon Blanc. Not knowing a huge amount about the various sub-regions or chateaus of this region, up until recently I have often bought Sancerres and Pouilly-Fume wines blindly, just counting on generally good winemaking practices and the solid... continue reading


2001 Scott Harvey Syrah

If I had to pick one wine that has consistently blown away everyone I have served it to in the last year, the Scott Harvey would be the wine. I trotted it out last night along with a couple of other wines and it elicited the usual amazement among friends -- a clamoring for the cork, for the bottle, for a piece of paper to write down the name, anything to not forget this wine. This is a nuvo-syrah, one that tastes like a cross between Zinfandel and Syrah, perhaps nodding towards its origins in the Amador County foothills of... continue reading


2003 Mionetto Novello Marca Trevigiana, Italy

I bought this wine on a whim, after reading a review of it in one of my favorite wine newsletters put out by a little shop in Santa Monica, CA called Wine Expo. These guys send out an e-mail newsletter filled with finds from Italy and other international locales reviewed with gusto and humor. This little wine they described as the Italian answer to Beaujolais Nouveau, and that is a perfect characterization of it. The Mionetto is incredibly accessible as a wine, and drinkable as an aperitif or as an accompaniment to food. Tasting Notes: Well, it really tastes like... continue reading


2001 Martella "Hammer" Syrah

If I was going to name a wine "Hammer" I would damn well make sure that it had the oomph to knock back even the most discerning of critics, and Michael Martella has admirably done the job. This wine turned the heads of a number of people at a small gathering I had the other night, bringing person after person back to the table to enquire what it was we were drinking. Tasting Notes: Beautifully bright ruby red, its a pleasure to pour let alone drink. The wine has a classic smoky barnyard smell that characterizes all the best Syrah's... continue reading


2001 Edmeades Mendocino Zinfandel

Further proof that Mr. Robert Parker is not all he's cracked up to be. I've mentioned elsewhere that his palate and mine agree about half the time, maybe a little more, but there are times when we are two wine-tasting trains passing in the night. I picked up a bottle of Edmeades Zinfandel the other day in my local grocery store -- it had the right price, a Robert Parker Rating of 90, and I had just finished my tour at Zap and was interested in comparing my direct experience with hundreds of winemakers and "the greatest palate on earth:.... continue reading


1996 Mystal Merlot, St. Helena

Lest anyone think that I like everything I drink, or even worse, every wine I choose is a good one, I submit to you the following experience. I'm wandering around my local Good Life Grocery. They've got a wine buyer who sometimes gets interesting things in. I notice a unique bottle of Merlot with a nice label and an interesting form factor (more like a bottle of balsamic vinegar than wine). It also happens to be a '96 Merlot, which you don't nomally see lying around in grocery stores that often. So, of course, I bring the Mystal home, and... continue reading


2001 Rosenblum Viognier, Rodney's Vineyard

Viognier is, of course, the up-and-coming (read: cheaper and more accessible) and increasingly stylish alternative to California Chardonnay. The grape is very old and like much of our wine heritage, has been grown in France for thousands of years, but only recently has it been widely appreciated as a lone varietal. Many wineries are now making Viognier for the market in the US and abroad including Rosenblum. Tasting Notes: This wine is very mild and drinkable, which means that most people will like it, especially those who often have a hard time with the oak and butter of heavily malolactic... continue reading


2000 Trimbach Gewurtztraminer, Alsace

I'm still learning a lot about Alsatian wine, but I know enough to categorically say this: if you're gonna drink Reisling or Gewurtztraminer with dinner, don't drink it from California. I had the Trimbach with a Chinese dinner. Tasting Notes: Exquisitely light and crisp with none of the cloying sweetness of its California imitators. Not a lot of aroma in the glass, but as soon as it entered the mouth the bouquet exploded into white rose, lychee, and apricot mixed with cool honeysuckle and jasmine. A very clean finish made for an exceptionally refreshing wine. Food Pairing: Great with asian... continue reading


Cost Plus Wine Recommendations

My dad asked me the other day for a list of reasonably inexpensive wines that would be better than the Two-Buck-Chuck that he had taken to drinking for its value. Dad is trying to cut back on beer a little but likes to unwind after work, and doesn't mind the added health benefits of drinking red wine. He has a Cost Plus near him, so I suggested he head over there for some good wine values. Here's the list I provided. Note that he's a red drinker so its skewed a little towards that end of the spectrum. I've tasted... continue reading

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Most Recent Entries

Vinography Unboxed: Week of January 18, 2015 Vinography Unboxed: Week of November 23, 2014 Vinography Unboxed: Week of October 19, 2014 Vinography Unboxed: Week of September 14, 2014 Vinography Unboxed: Week of September 1, 2014 Coastal Diamonds: The Rieslings of Oregon Tasting Organic Rosé Wines from the South of France Organic Wines of the Languedoc: An Initial Taste Vinography Unboxed: Week of March 24, 2013 Vinography Unboxed: Week of March 10, 2013

Favorite Posts From the Archives

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

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Required Reading for Wine Lovers

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