I've been discussing the merits of alcohol levels in tasting notes for some time.
Some publications are starting to print alcohol levels with reviews or recommendations. There are two big questions surrounding this decision. How would you, the consumer, use that information? And would it influence your buying decisions?
Jess Jackson thrived on competition, and often confrontation.
It didn't matter whether it was the legal profession, where he was a high-powered trial lawyer, or wine, where he became an industry titan with a global empire, or horse racing, where his thoroughbreds challenged the best. He was one of the three most influential vintners of his times, right there with Ernest Gallo and Robert Mondavi.
I met Jackson in 1986, as an attorney, shortly after he had started K-J with the famous stuck fermentation, "sweet" Vintner's Reserve Chardonnay. At the time he represented Joseph Gallo, Ernest and Julio's younger brother, in their lawsuit. Joseph had started the Joseph Gallo cheese company; his brothers claimed a trademark infringement. Both sides claimed the right to the Gallo name and trademark, and Joseph, with Jackson's counsel, raised the ante, seeking a one-third interest in the Gallo winery, then worth about $1 billion.
Inglenook's owner after Prohibition, John Daniel Jr., set the highest winemaking standards in Napa valley. André Tchelistcheff, who worked at Beaulieu, across the highway in Rutherford, said Daniel’s motto was “pride not profits.” Daniel went so far as to declassify, unheard of then. The 1945 and 1947 vintages were sold in bulk. Eventually, Daniel himself went bankrupt.
Now, Francis Ford Coppola plans to revive the label.
Francis Ford Coppola was unwavering. He owned the house in Rutherford, where John Daniel Jr., resided. He bought the grand old château nearby and much of the surrounding vineyard land. He was determined to restore the once famous property to its original glory and make great wines. He'd set ambitious goals. The only missing piece: the name.
This should seemingly close the saga of Inglenook's demise. At least for the time being. With Coppola one is never sure.
On Monday, the famous filmmaker-vintner announced he'd bought the Inglenook trademark, something he'd vowed to do for years. In his mind the property, the house, chateau, vineyards, always were Inglenook, in spirit and physical presence. He never felt comfortable with anything other than Inglenook. But he didn't own the name.
California Chardonnays are undergoing some positive stylistic changes, which has been refreshing. I've just finished tasting 300 of these wines, a mix of 2008s and 2009s, for Wine Spectator's July issue.
Chardonnay has its detractors, and there's plenty to critique about this often mass-produced, innocuous wine. But it is still the most consistently excellent white wine made from the Golden State (although there is more competition now than ever).
Wine drinkers deserve a stable product.
Most winemakers do their best to ensure that their wines are stable when they're bottled. They have nothing to gain and everything to lose if they knowingly bottle a wine that still has active microbes that could lead to something along the lines of brettanomyces.
That doesn't mean that problems can't crop up once a wine is bottle. They often do. The subject came up in my blog earlier this week when I tasted a 20-wine vertical of Peter Michael's Cabernet-based Les Pavots bottlings. A reader asked whether it's possible that fermentable sugar might be the cause of brett in some of the Les Pavots bottlings, but I don't think it's likely.
I'm surprised people are surprised.
I'm referring to a new study of wine drinkers by an organization called Wine Opinions. One of the report's findings that apparently surprised some is something I consider obvious. Most wine isn't consumed with meals. People drink wine under all kinds of situations. At or with a meal is just one setting.
One could make a strong case that Peter Michael Winery is the best in California. All of its wines are routinely outstanding. Many are sensational. The winery puts tremendous effort into its vineyards, winemaking and marketing, and the wines, irrespective of varietal or composition, readily reflect an identifiable and consistent house style.
But time can be tough on even the best wines. Last week a vertical tasting of Michael’s Les Pavots demonstrated that some of its earlier wines, despite being impressive upon release, had not aged very well. A few vintages from 1989 to 1996 were borderline in quality. One culprit: brettanomyces, a spoilage yeast which can wreak havoc on any wine, particularly reds. The later vintages, from 1997 through 2008, the current release, show Les Pavots at its best. Below are my notes.