I’ve been reading Johnny U: The Life and Times of John Unitas the past few days as a sort of mental preparation for Sunday’s Super Bowl. It’s a great read about one of the game’s all-time greats—and a must for any football fan.
Today I’m the guest speaker at the Napa Valley Vintners annual meeting in St Helena. This is an association of 280 vintners bound by a mission to make Napa the best winegrowing region it can be, and it's one of the most powerful and successful organizations of its kind.
On Saturday, I met one of my wine-collector friends for lunch. Lately, we've been focusing on Pinot Noir when we get together, and despite our fascination with Pinot from anywhere, he delights in tasting older wines.
Zinfandel has a lot going for it, but it also has its share of problems and missed opportunities. The wine is uniquely Californian. It grows well in many areas of the state, is capable of expressing terroir and is stylistically versatile.
It was sometime around 1990 when Jerry Seps approached me about how Wine Spectator might increase its coverage of Zinfandel. Seps is the owner-winemaker of Storybook Mountain in Napa Valley and a long-time champion of Zinfandel.
Call it naïveté, but when I started writing about wine in 1978, I had no idea that I'd also be totally immersed in the world of food. Wine was intimidating enough. Getting a handle on California wine seemed like a full plate at the time, and I took every opportunity to learn more about European wines.
On Sunday, I joined a group of Pinot Noir lovers in Danville, an East Bay suburb. They were gracious, congenial folks who either don't own TVs or don't have an obsessive interest in football. They were, to be sure, more concerned about the future of Pinot Noir than who will be tackling whom in Miami in two weeks.
I've had a few security breaches in the past with my personal cellar. Earlier this I year, I wrote about my then-teenage son and his buddies dipping into some of my rare, but mostly undrinkable, collectibles.
Given the choice, most wineries would prefer to keep their production figures top secret. But we always reveal how many cases were made of each wine that we review, because we know you're interested in these numbers, and we are too.
I had hoped to taste the first Levy & McClellan Napa Valley Cabernet today, and I came very close. But when Martha McClellan arrived in my office in Napa this morning, she was missing one thing—the 2004 barrel sample I wished to try.
I figured that I’d never taste the 1991 Williams Selyem Summa Vineyard Pinot Noir again. It was a magical wine the two times I’d had it before, in the 1990s—a taste sensation that was an early introduction of what the Sonoma Coast could offer.
Last Friday, Tim Mondavi was ready to show me the first Napa Cabernet Sauvignon he's worked on since leaving his family's Robert Mondavi Corp. in 2003. He poured a barrel sample of his new wine, the 2005 Continuum—a dark, rich, supple youngster that proves he hasn’t lost his touch with Cabernet.
A couple of parting thoughts about this week’s discussion of TCA taint in wineries. I don't blame any of the wineries for what happened to their cellars and then to their wines. They are primarily victims of circumstance and are not inattentive or negligent vintners.
Pillar Rock is a boutique winery in Napa Valley that specializes in Cabernet Sauvignon grown in its vineyard in Stags Leap District. The winery made its first wine in 1999, and three of its first four vintages earned outstanding marks from me.
We're seeing more "new-wave" Chardonnays these days, and that's definitely a good thing. What's new wave? Pure Chardonnay produced without oak, barrel fermentation or, oftentimes, malolactic fermentation.
Not long after the Pinot Noir Tasting Highlights were posted online yesterday, my e-mail blinker began to light up with comments along the lines of this: "Well, I was happy to see you liked the 2005 vintage.
Sure, Gene Cuneo was old. But for 94 he was spry, alert and talkative. He didn't need a walker or a cane, had a healthy appetite and his handshake felt like a vice grip, tight and strong. He didn't miss a beat, or a glass of Zinfandel, as he and I sat around the dining room table for lunch with the Seghesio family a few days before Christmas.
We're finishing up our annual review of Rhône-style wines from California, and it's a big report. In the past year, we've tasted more than 320 wines, and they're among California's rising stars. For sure, using the term "Rhône-style" to describe these wines, as we often do, is a compliment.
Some people aren't cut out for the corporate life. Count Bruno D’Alfonso among them. When Terlato Wine Group took over Sanford winery in 2006, I figured it was only a matter of time before D’Alfonso, Sanford's winemaker, would be gone.
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