Tonight in Healdsburg is the first of this year's two Wine Spectator Bring Your Own Magnum parties. This evening's is at Dry Creek Kitchen; tomorrow's will be in Napa, at Tra Vigne.
These are company parties, a come-together of advertisers, winemakers, chefs, retailers, distributors and the like—a social mixer where a lot of people who never see each other all year mingle.
But it's raining now as I write—not a great sign for tonight's outdoor festivities, but what it means for the vintage can be interpreted in a few different ways.
A year ago, when I met Vito Bialla, I didn't know much about him, except that he made Cabernet. It turns out we had much more in common than our love for Napa Cabernet, including swimming, though he takes his love of the water a bit further than I do: Last week, Bialla completed a 14-hour open-water swim from the Golden Gate Bridge to the Farallon Islands.
What happens when you put together a handful of California's best Syrah vineyards with a crack winemaking team?
How about the 2009 Carlisle Sonoma County Syrah, featured in the May 18 Wine Spectator Insider. It's a good story and then some.
For one, it earned a 97-point rating and it is an amazingly complex, deep and layered wine that drank well for three days after it was opened and tasted in one of my blind tastings. For another, it sells (or sold) for $25. Those kinds of numbers—rating and price—don't usually go hand in hand. But it's nice when they do because it proves it can be done.
m as curious as everyone else about how well certain wines age, and one of the stress tests, if you will, is to taste older vintages.
When interviewing Fred Schrader last year, he poured two verticals to show how the wines were aging. Both flights were extraordinary and very revealing; all of the wines were outstanding (or better), youthful, vibrant and concentrated. Moreover, they all showed great potential for years ahead. The first flight came from the wine he's made the longest, the Beckstoffer To Kalon Vineyard, followed by the T-6 bottling, which takes its name from the clone of the same name.
There are stark contrasts between Old World wines—those from Piedmont and Tuscany in Italy and Bordeaux and Burgundy in France—and those from countries that are experiencing revivals, such as Spain, or are simply emerging, such as the table wines of Portugal or the new darling Sauvignon Blancs and Pinot Noirs of New Zealand. Yet the New World Guard is gaining respect and recognition based on the quality of its wines despite its relative lack of history and traditions.
This year's Wine Spectator Grand Tour in Las Vegas afforded guests the opportunity to compare the world's most expensive French wines from Bordeaux and Burgundy to the best the New World has to offer.
Blind tastings are often humbling, but perhaps none more so than one of wine's most famous encounters, the Paris Tasting of 1976.
When I met with Aubert de Villaine last week, I finally had a chance to ask him about his experience. He was one of a handful of French wine "experts" who tasted the wines that day and rendered the verdict, giving California wines a knockout—or at least a TKO—over the French wines.
The wait may be over. Aubert de Villaine has gingerly tiptoed around making California Pinot Noir for more than a decade. But he appears ready to give it a try. There are still a few elements of caution, as he explained last week, but he's looking for a vineyard to buy grapes. Once that's done, he should be good-to-go.
I had been looking forward to our visit, since de Villaine is one of the brightest and most measured of vintners I know. He brings a unique perspective to wine and I had hoped we could talk about Pinot Noir, among other topics, and we did. But I had forgotten one important thing: that du Villaine hadn't yet made a California Pinot Noir. The co-director of Domaine de La Romanée-Conti, as well as a partner in Hyde de Villaine, in Carneros. HdV makes Chardonnay, Syrah and a Merlot-Cabernet blend called Belle Cousine.