harvey steiman

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Blogs  :  Harvey Steiman At Large

Thresholds and Wine Preferences

Why we don't always like the same wines others do

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.

Blogs  :  Harvey Steiman At Large

Up From the Cellar: Two Syrahs

Six years on, these two cool-climate Syrahs from Washington and Australia are going strong

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.

Blogs  :  Harvey Steiman At Large

Blind Tasting and Context

What it means and why it matters

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.

Blogs  :  Harvey Steiman At Large

New Walla Walla AVA Faces Rocky Road

Washington vintners who use grapes from "The Rocks" won't be able to put it on their labels

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.

Jan. 31 - Feb. 28, 2013 Issue  :  Features

Harvey Steiman

Editor at large Harvey Steiman has been with Wine Spectator since 1984. He is lead taster for the wines of Australia, Oregon and Washington.

Posted: February 28, 2013  By Harvey Steiman

Jan. 31 - Feb. 28, 2013 Issue  :  Tasting Reports

Delicate Delights

2010 proves a landmark vintage for balanced and flavorful Oregon Pinot Noir

Posted: February 28, 2013  By Harvey Steiman

Blogs  :  Harvey Steiman At Large

My Dinner at Saison in San Francisco

A thought-provoking evening at an ambitious new restaurant

Posted: February 25, 2013  By Harvey Steiman

Sommelier Mark Bright poured a splash of Krug Champagne Grande Cuvée as I settled in for an 18-course dinner at Saison in San Francisco. "We welcome all our guests with Krug," he said, a clear message that this is meant to be a luxury experience, if the credit card deposit of $248 per person didn't already do that.

That's pretty ambitious for a restaurant that started life only three years ago as a pop-up. Its first brick-and-mortar incarnation in a tiny Mission District space got two Michelin stars in the most recent San Francisco guide, and chef-owner Joshua Skenes could fill a trophy case with rising star chef awards. The new location, in a historic building a block from the San Francisco Giants' AT&T Park, ups the ante with a unique, spacious design, a longer menu and a price tag that puts it among the most costly in the U.S., even more than the long-venerated French Laundry in Napa Valley.

Blogs  :  Harvey Steiman At Large

Wolf Blass Reflects Where Oz Is Going

Always deft in style, the wines are getting more specific

Posted: February 20, 2013  By Harvey Steiman

Over a casual dinner of sardine chips, pasta with bergamot and steak with chimichurri and mushrooms at the new Rich Table in San Francisco, Wolf Blass' Chris Hatcher brought me up to date on what his end of the company had been up to. Never among the biggest wines on the block, Wolf Blass has always aimed for balance and drinkability without losing the ripe flavors Australia can do so well.

We tasted three examples of what's coming next. The first wine encapsulated in a single sip the overarching trend in Australian wine today. Wolf Blass Chardonnay Adelaide Hills White Label 2010, silky in texture, graceful, expressive but not at all weighty, tasted like biting into a raw heirloom apple, getting complexity more from maturing on lees in older barrels than from oak. The first word that came to mind was "deft."

Blogs  :  Harvey Steiman At Large

On Balance, It's Not So Easy

Hit and miss at the third annual In Pursuit of Balance tasting of Pinot Noirs and Chardonnays

Posted: February 12, 2013  By Harvey Steiman

Last week, In Pursuit of Balance staged its third annual tasting event in San Francisco, pouring its members' California Pinot Noirs and Chardonnays of recent vintage for trade and consumers. I was traveling for the first two, but I made it a point to get to this one. I wanted to see what the fuss was about.

Blogs  :  Harvey Steiman At Large

Coffee in Paradise

What we can learn from a tour of coffee joints in Honolulu

Posted: February 8, 2013  By Harvey Steiman

Whenever I hang out with serious coffee people, I am struck by how much we wine folks have in common with them. We obsess over the sources of the product and how it was made. We even use some of the same language. Coffee tasters assess acid balance, body, intensity and finish, as we do with wine, and describe aromatics such as fruit, nuts and floral notes. They might find winy character in their brews while we might notice a hint of coffee on the finish in our glasses.

I watched my cousin Shawn Steiman, a coffee consultant who seems to be the coffee guru for the state of Hawaii, blend Hawaiian-grown and -roasted coffee beans on the spot. He used to make a distinctive and heady espresso after the dinner he and his bride Julia cooked for my wife and me at their home near Diamond Head.

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