The first time I used the expression “wine geek” to describe a persnickety wine scribe at a winery-hosted luncheon, in 1983, my colleagues laughed. The words just came out of my mouth (and fit this guy’s personality perfectly).
Prices for a few elite California wines are heating up--although given the small size of these wineries, the rise is more like an outdoor patio heating lamp than a roaring bonfire on campus before a big football game.
The other day, I tried the new Chasseur Pinot Noirs --which are among the most exciting 2004 Pinots I’ve tasted from California--and the blind tasting reminded me how different these wines are in style from the Sonoma winery's Chardonnays.
I’ve never wanted to be a restaurant critic. Having to eat, think, take notes and dine out night after night, or lunch after lunch, has never had any appeal. Too many rich, buttery, artery-clogging, pound-inducing, uber calories and late nights for me.
I still visit dozens of wineries each year, but usually only for work-related reasons. Come weekends or holidays, or even when guests arrive in town, I try to keep my distance from the cellars and tasting rooms.
George Taber stopped by my office in Napa on Friday. The Block Island, R.I., author is researching a new book, Battle For The Bottle , which is about wine closures. Specifically it’s about cork--its past, present and future (?)--and its challengers: synthetics, twist offs, glass tops, crown caps and whatever alternatives might emerge in coming years.
When good friends come to town, there’s usually lots of wine and, as goes wine, always surprises. Earlier this week, on a school night, I hooked up with two old friends -- Andy Katz and Greg Gorman -- both of whom are extraordinary photographers and wine lovers.
I need help. I’m working on a story about California Pinot Noir, and I’m looking for a few wines that are no longer for sale to fill in a few gaps in my research. The wineries are Kistler, Littorai and Rochioli, for the Reserve Pinots, and the vintages are 2001 to 2003 or 2004.
When winemakers ask me what’s new I often reply, well, lots. New brands are popping up like mushrooms on an over-watered lawn. Then I cite this figure (which we checked in our database): In the past year--August 2005 to August 2006--we recorded 261 new brands just in California.
A reporter from the New York Times called the other day to talk about ratings and reviews and the 100-point scale. (He said his story would run this Sunday.) How, he asked, does one determine the difference between a 92-point wine and a 91-point wine? Me: I liked one wine a little better than the other… Another thing he wanted to know, apparently courtesy of a comment from a producer, was how much time I spend analyzing a wine.
It looks like airline travel just got a little more complicated after British authorities in London today thwarted a sophisticated plot to blow up several airplanes. As of now, it’s unclear what will happen to security measures in the future, though many airlines today were limiting what you can carry on, or perhaps more succinctly, eliminating any liquids or gels.
Is this the beginning of the end? Or just a market correction blip? One of my major concerns about the 2003 vintage of California Cabernet has been pricing. I’ve tasted more than 250 of the wines now, and I think many of them would be a lot more appealing at discounted prices.
Sometimes stories cross my desk that don't fall into my typical coverage, but are just too interesting to pass up. Take this one, for instance. What does it take to make a fine California wine? Grapes, water, sunshine, the skilled hand of a master vintner – and, now for the punch line – a few thousand dead fish.
A couple of weeks ago, during one of those July heat blasts, I went to a poolside potluck and opted to shuck a few dozen Kumamoto oysters as my contribution to the day’s spread. I made a couple of simple vinaigrettes, with lemon, vinegar, horseradish and the like, and decided not to grill the oysters due to the heat.
When you taste wines, seriously or for fun, do yourself a favor. Take notes. Written ones. This was an important lesson I learned early on in my career. Before I wrote about wine, when I simply drank it, one way my friends and I kept track of what we liked was to place the empty bottles on the hearth above the fireplace.
Without a doubt, one of the greatest pleasures of being a wine critic is being able to direct readers to great wines that are also great values. One of our recent office favorites is a tiny wine company called Olabisi (Nigerian for “joy multiplied”), which is based in Napa Valley.
When I read stories like Tim Fish’s on the possibility of labor shortages in U.S. vineyards , I wonder how long it will be before mechanical harvesting is the norm here in California. Many people thought machines would be doing much of this work by now.
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