Superstar iron chef Masaharu Morimoto opened his namesake Japanese restaurant on the new Napa River waterfront in downtown a few days ago. I had dinner there on one of the opening nights and give it two chopsticks up. On the night I dined there, a swift, cool breeze zipped up the Napa River, making it too cold to dine outside. This has been an abnormally cool year. Winegrowers seeking warmer weather are getting restless. Zinfandel growers need it to get much hotter; ditto for Cabernet. Pinot, though, is happily moving along, enjoying the milder temperatures.
There's a fair amount of hand-wringing and speculation in the wine industry regarding the fate of the Golden State’s Syrah and Rhône-style reds. Several points bear consideration as these wines, as a group, seek greater acceptance in the market.
• For one, not all Syrah is struggling.
• It's not just Syrah. The market is more competitive than ever.
• California Syrahs have never been better.
Syrah does suffer from not having the kind of marketing presence that California wines such as Cabernet and Chardonnay had from the 1980s on.
In the beginning we were part of a skeletal staff, moving into new digs in San Francisco. Our office in Opera Plaza was so new that it was still under construction. We sometimes wore hard hats in the halls as workers scrambled to complete the building.
Marvin Shanken, Wine Spectator’s new owner, inherited most of the staff, and that included two Jims: Jim Suckling and me. Suckling preceded me, having joined the publication while it was still based in a warehouse district in San Diego. I wrote as a freelancer from Napa before coming aboard full time. Over the years, Suckling and I watched the wine industry grow.
If you're from a wine country venue like Napa, or Sonoma, you're supposed to know your wines and bring the good stuff to parties and gatherings.
This is often truest when you're in mixed company with people from afar, and one of my Napa friends, Carl, related this story to me the other day about a man he encountered often on his trips who considered himself a connoisseur and kept bugging him to bring wines of higher caliber. But this person was equating price with quality. Here's how Carl dealt with him.
I'm heading off to the Last Frontier for my summer vacation. The forecast calls for rain, but one of my charter captains seems confident we'll have good fishing. No telling yet as to whether he'll be as memorable as the captain of my last salmon fishing charter...