Posted: May 16, 2013 By Harvey Steiman
Near as I can tell, Ridge Vineyards started the trend. Saxum does it too. Andrew Will pioneered it in Washington, where Cadence followed suit, and Owen Roe is the latest to jump in. These are all first-class wineries, and they independently came to the same conclusion: That for these wines they would rather blend grape varieties from a single vineyard to a site-specific wine than make a series of vineyard-designated varietals.
It struck me, as I removed the bag in yesterday's blind tasting from Owen Roe's Cabernet Sauvignon-dominant blend simply called DuBrul Vineyard, that this is becoming a separate category. And yet, we don't have a name for it.
Posted: April 30, 2013 By Harvey Steiman
Here in Barcelona on vacation, I could not resist trying what by all accounts is the go-to sushi place, Koy Shunka. Having explored the sushi cultures of Japan and America in my cover story of the May 31 issue of Wine Spectator, I wanted to see how another great food culture, that of Catalunya, translates the subtleties of Japan's most famous cuisine using the products of the Mediterranean Sea, as abundantly revered here as those of the Pacific Ocean are in Japan.
And then, for good measure, wouldn't you know that Japanese cuisine and sushi would play a critical role in the latest venture from brothers Albert and Ferran Adrià (who famously closed his own celebrated restaurant, El Bulli). They opened Pakta in early April, serving what they call Nikkei cuisine. Sushi is a part of the cuisine, Japanese by way of Peru, an east-west fusion made famous in America by Nobu Matsuhisa.
Posted: April 16, 2013 By Harvey Steiman
A common trope about wine pretension says that we wine folks intimidate the rest of the world with our insistence upon always drinking the right wine with the right food. I don't know anyone who does that. Do you? I gave up a long time ago believing that there's a perfect wine for every dish.
That doesn't mean I ignore the message from my own taste buds that certain wines and foods can make beautiful music together. But I stubbornly resist didactic rules. The day I absent-mindedly picked up my glass of red wine to sip with my grilled fish, and discovered how the wine just brightened up and sang more clearly, started me on a lifelong quest for similarly unexpected but terrific wine-and-food combinations.
Posted: April 9, 2013 By Harvey Steiman
Most people know me as a pretty reasonable guy. But I apparently have the ability to stun people with my wine behavior. You should have seen the jaws drop one hot day in Oregon when I swirled ice cubes into a glass of Pinot Noir in front of a crowd of wine lovers. Oh, the horror!
Posted: April 3, 2013 By Harvey Steiman
One of the very first books I read about wine was Leon Adams' remarkable Wines of America. Published in 1973, its narrative took us into vineyards to see the land and into cellars to meet the people and learn their histories, just as wine was on the cusp of entering American culture. California was only just coming into focus for most Americans, but the intrepid Adams ranged from coast to coast. He explored the Finger Lakes in New York, the byways of the Ozark Mountains in Missouri and hardy souls seeking to make something of the grape in Texas, Arkansas, Ohio and Michigan. He did not miss the first glimmers of what would be coming from Washington and Oregon, either.
Over the years, others have taken a shot at capturing between the covers of a book the vibrant developments in the world of wine across America. Jancis Robinson and Linda Murphy are the authors of the latest, American Wine: The Ultimate Companion to the Wines and Wineries of the United States (University of California Press, 278 pages, $50), just published.
Posted: March 27, 2013 By Harvey Steiman
You pour a wine you adore for friends. It hits all your buttons and makes your eyes light up. One friend takes a sip, winces, and utters, "Yuck." How does this happen? Chances are a characteristic jumps out at your friend, who hates it but it doesn't bother you. This simple phenomenon explains so much rancor surrounding wine.
Posted: March 19, 2013 By Harvey Steiman
Usually I try not to inflict wine-geek stuff on unsuspecting guests, but I knew that our friends coming for dinner Sunday loved full-bodied red wines and had some great ones in their own cellars. So to drink with dinner I pulled out a couple of New World Syrahs that I think of as candidates for modern standard-bearers. I did not feel at all guilty, especially when I learned that none of them had ever tasted either wine.
I chose Terlato & Chapoutier Shiraz Pyrenees Malakoff 2007 from Australia and Owen Roe Syrah Yakima Valley Lady Rosa 2006 from Washington for several reasons. First of all, the wineries have gotten plenty of ink and they have been making these wines only recently—since 2004. They are distinctive, and I have consistently rated them both in the low to mid-90s. Australia, long known for its Shiraz (its name for Syrah), is finally beginning to get some love around the world for its cooler-climate styles, of which this one is a fine example. As for the Washington wine, it eloquently makes the case that Syrah belongs right up there with Cabernet and other Bordeaux varieties as the state's calling card.
Posted: March 5, 2013 By Harvey Steiman
Recently, several prominent wine writers argued on Twitter in a contentious back-and-forth with me and others that blind tasting was bad. It's tasting without context, they said. I am not setting up a straw man here. Here are some of their actual tweets:
"Why should wine routinely be tasted blind, devoid of context or perspective? Why deprive those who would judge it of that information?" contended Bruce Schoenfeld, who writes a wine column for Travel + Leisure magazine.
"I question whether blind tasting … can uncover the most compelling and virtuous wines," read another comment from Jon Bonné, wine editor of the San Francisco Chronicle.
Posted: February 28, 2013 By Harvey Steiman
A new American Viticultural Area is being considered for one of the most distinctive terroirs in America, one that has produced unmistakably great wines. Unfortunately, most of the actual wines won't be able to use it.
On an old riverbed south of the town of Walla Walla, cobblestones litter the ground, in some areas totally obliterating any view of the soil. Locals have taken to calling this part of the Walla Walla Valley AVA "The Rocks." Vines struggle to grow, resulting in tiny grapes of amazing flavor intensity. And yes, the wines show the sort of flavors that fall under the heading of "minerality," although to my taste it's more like black olive and tar.
The stones drew Christophe Baron to plant grapes in the region, just north of the town of Milton-Freewater, Ore., starting in 1997. He named the vineyard Cailloux, French for stones, and planted six others in the area. They produce the grapes for his highly coveted Cayuse wines, no stranger to the Wine Spectator Top 100.
Posted: February 28, 2013 By Harvey Steiman
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