james laube

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Nov. 15, 2013 Issue  :  Features

At Age 10, 2003 Cabernets Show Year’s Difficulties

Twenty wines shine in a recent tasting, but the vintage comes up short overall

Posted: November 15, 2013  By James Laube

Nov. 15, 2013 Issue  :  Features

Cool Victory for Cabernet

The 2010 wines from California are dense, balanced, and ideal for the cellar

Posted: November 15, 2013  By James Laube

Blogs  :  James Laube's Wine Flights

Grading the 100-Point Scale

Winemakers have come to embrace the 100-point rating system as much as consumers have

Posted: November 11, 2013  By James Laube

One big benefit of the 100-point scale is that it has given winemakers a target. It's one way for critics to show vintners where their strike zone lies.

Consumers embraced the scoring system a long time ago. Vintners were more skeptical and cautious. They can rate their own wines intellectually, by flavor, density, balance—any number of ways—but assigning a number, or even using the esoteric descriptors most wine writers use, hasn't fit their comfort zone.

That's changed.

News & Features  :  Tasting Highlights

10 Bold California Reds

New reviews of Syrah and Grenache from the Central Coast

Posted: November 11, 2013  By James Laube

Blogs  :  James Laube's Wine Flights

No Time Like the Present

There's no guarantee when it comes to aging wines

Posted: November 4, 2013  By James Laube

More than one person asked me during the Wine Spectator Wine Experience, "What is the fascination with wines aging?" To one man's ears, several vintners emphasized not only the youth of their wines but that they had long lives ahead. Since I'm not a fan of aged wines, the answer was easy and came in parts.

In my experience, and to my tastes, most wines don't improve with age. Most of the time they stay about the same for the first few years of their lives. Therefore, there's little motivation to cellar them.

But there are just as many wine lovers on the other side of the ledger. Old or long-lived wines evoke excitement among connoisseurs, a sort of time travel that can provide a unique drinking experience, provided you like the wines once they've aged. The biggest tradeoff that comes with age affects its fruit profile. The compromise: pure fruit vitality for the subtle nuances that may come with time.

Lynch isn't much a fan of California wine, yet it appears that he disqualifies himself from passing judgment on the mere basis that he hasn't and doesn't follow California's wines as closely as many. His import business is based in St. Helena, in Napa Valley, run by a Napa vintner, Bruce Neyers, and I suspect Lynch pays far greater attention to California wine than he allows. He is, after all, a businessman who competes against California.

Blogs  :  James Laube's Wine Flights

In Rare Harmony with Matt Kramer

At Matt Kramer's Wine Experience seminar, our wine tastes aligned

Posted: October 31, 2013  By James Laube

It happens. Not often, but it happens: Matt Kramer and I agree on a wine. In this case, three wines.

Kramer had just led a seminar of Portuguese and Spanish wines from terraced vineyards, and I complimented him on his wine selections, which momentarily caught him off balance.

"I'm happy," I offered in jest. "Your palate is really coming around."

Oct. 31, 2013 Issue  :  Columns

Natural Confusion

Posted: October 31, 2013  By James Laube

Blogs  :  James Laube's Wine Flights

Let the Consumers Decide if Natural Wines Are Popular

An interview with Kermit Lynch asserts that ripe wines are off the menu, but sales don't bear that out

Posted: October 30, 2013  By James Laube

Last week, while in New York for the Wine Spectator Wine Experience, many people brought up Kermit Lynch's interview in the New York Times, in which he discusses high-alcohol wines, the 100-point rating system, terroir and natural wines, among other hot-button wine topics. I have a few thoughts of my own to offer …

Lynch isn't much a fan of California wine, yet it appears that he disqualifies himself from passing judgment on the mere basis that he hasn't and doesn't follow California's wines as closely as many. His import business is based in St. Helena, in Napa Valley, run by a Napa vintner, Bruce Neyers, and I suspect Lynch pays far greater attention to California wine than he allows. He is, after all, a businessman who competes against California.

News & Features  :  Tasting Highlights

11 Noteworthy California Reds

New reviews of Rhône-style wines from Paso Robles and Santa Barbara County

Posted: October 28, 2013  By James Laube

Blogs  :  James Laube's Wine Flights

Do I Smell Mocha in this Wine?

I find the caffè mocha aromas of coffee and chocolate in today's wines much more frequently than those of yesteryear

Posted: October 23, 2013  By James Laube

"Mocha" has worked its way into my vocabulary as a wine descriptor over the past decade or so. I use it in reference to the aroma of a caffè mocha, particularly that dusting of cocoa powder on top of the foamed milk.

I first used "mocha" as a tasting descriptor in the magazine in 1998. In 2000, it appeared in 43 Cailfornia wine reviews and 150 Wine Spectator reviews from around the world; in 2005, it appeared in 134 and 246, respectively. So far this year, "mocha" has popped up in 232 reviews of California wines (out of more than 3,700 total), and it's been used in 614 reviews of nearly 20,000 wines around the world, so it's not just me: Mocha's popularity as a tasting descriptor is at an all-time high.

But where does that mocha aroma come from?

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