On Monday, I visited Outpost, a winery on Howell Mountain, east and above the Napa Valley floor. It is home to perhaps a dozen or more wine companies, including Schrader, Maybach and Outpost.
I met with Thomas Brown, of Rivers Marie, who makes Schrader's Cabernets and Outpost's Zinfandels. We took a short drive from Outpost to Black Sears winery, where Brown cellars his wines. What made the tasting of Brown's wines special was Brown's discussion about the inherent stylistic disparities within his own label.
Sine Qua Non's Manfred Krankl discusses several vital elements in winemaking, once the grapes are crushed and barreled. He talks about how he goes about evaluating his infant wines, his use of different sizes and kinds of oak and, most important, how he keeps close to his wines and likes to examine them blind in order to avoid prejudices or preconceptions.
There’s a good reason why there aren’t more appealing Viogniers and Roussannes. They are both wickedly difficult grapes to grow. But Manfred Krankl is equal to the challenge, as he explains here.
I met Manfred Krankl, the man behind the highly sought-after Sine Qua Non wines, for the first time over dinner in Yountville in late January. It served as the first of many interviews with Krankl for the cover story of the June 15 issue of Wine Spectator.
In Northern California, people swear they know what the grape crop would be like based on how easy or difficult their tomato season goes. It's a flimsy theory, but you hear it all the time in wine country. And I'm coming out of gardening retirement to put it to the test.
Napa's Philippe Melka and his wife, Cherie, have a new label for their line of wines, which is a radical departure from the rather vaguely defined Melka label used in the past. But I'm not sure I want to be staring at that label (or stared at by it) throughout dinner. Philippe says it's intended to convey a serious determination and intensity. Take a look for yourself.
Randy Dunn has been one of California's most vocal opponents of high-alcohol wines. Recently, we met to talk about the trend toward riper grapes and rising alcohol levels. He's in the camp that wines shouldn't exceed 14 percent alcohol.
We met last week, over a flight of six variations on his 2007 Washington state Cabernet, which Dunn is making under the Feather label. The wines Dunn poured ranged from 13.7 to 15.1 percent alcohol, with stops at 14, 14.3, 14.7 and 15 in between. To demonstrate a point, the original wine had been doctored to lower the alcohol levels, using reverse osmosis.
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