What to do with a wine with only 99 cases? Well, this one I’m recommending. It’s the 2004 Native 9 Santa Maria Valley Rancho Ontiveros Vineyards Pinot Noir, and it’s a smooth, rich, supple charmer with sassafras and black cherry fruit that retails for $48.
On Sunday, I rode my bike from my home in Napa to Yountville, which is about 10 miles north of Napa. It’s the tail end of harvest 2006 in Napa Valley and most parts of California, and the weather yesterday was perfect.
I wondered about it. James Suckling blogged about it , too. And several people who tried the Screaming Eagle Cabernet -- including new owner Charles Banks and his winemaker, Andy Erickson -- at Friday’s Wine Experience seminar had the same impression: The wine didn’t have the richness and opulence it typically shows.
People often ask me if I ever get tired of tasting wine. Yes, there are tough days, when the wines are uninspiring and tasting seems more like work than the fun it usually is. But with my beat, California, there are almost always exciting wines in the wings, in their brown paper bags, waiting to be tasted.
One of the things I enjoy most about the Wine Experience is the chance to meet readers, old and new, and talk about what I’m (or we’re) doing right or wrong, or how we might improve. In the span of nearly four days, I ran into dozens of readers, producers, restaurateurs and retailers at the walk-around tastings, dinners, restaurants, lunches and seminars—even in the coffee line at the Starbucks kiosk at the Marriott.
Late Saturday night, a few minutes before it turned into Sunday morning, my bubble finally burst. Up until that moment I thought that perhaps I had succeeded. My intent in showcasing 10 great Napa Valley Cabernets on Friday had been to show the diversity of styles and different expressions of terroir and style within the valley.
I found myself moved and inspired by many of the speakers at the California Wine Experience. This is a great time for wine, and there are many dedicated vintners who have devoted their lives to wine, grapegrowing, their businesses and, for many of us, wine education.
Jesse Calderon has a great question about how I arrive at vintage chart ratings. I'm sure my colleagues will be glad to share their thoughts on this subject as well, since we all have our own ways of analyzing vintage quality.
Most years, if you’re a farmer or winegrower or winemaker in California, you bet on the weather coming through. Most of the time the weather delivers, as in the right mix of sunshine and dryness. But this year is one of those years where the odds-makers would have handicapped this harvest as too close for comfort.
On Sunday night I hooked up for dinner with my colleague Harvey Steiman and Australian winemaker Michael Twelftree. We dined at Cindy Pawlcyn’s new restaurant, Go Fish, south of St. Helena, in the building most recently occupied by Pinot Blanc.
On Friday, a friend called and invited me to join a group headed for an impromptu dinner at Ad Hoc, Thomas Keller’s new Napa Valley restaurant in Yountville, Calif. Keller also owns notable restaurants such as French Laundry , also in Yountville, and Per Se in New York, and though Ad Hoc has only been open for a few weeks, it's already creating quite a buzz.
Come this time of year--and a lot earlier for some of you--many folks start guessing about Wine Spectator 's annual Top 100 list and the Wine of the Year. Over the years, we’ve used essentially the same criteria to make our decision: The factors include a wine’s quality (as reflected in the rating), its value (based on its release price) and its availability (based on the number of cases produced, or for foreign wines, the number of cases imported).
I’m back on home turf again, having arrived in New York over the weekend. For exercise on Sunday, before joining Tom and Sara Matthews for dinner, I walked to a few wine shops near my hotel at East 34th Street and 3rd Avenue.
I savored many delicious meals on my trip to Italy. The food-and-wine pairings worked at every sitting. As is often the case when dining, the food is the star, and the wine is part of the supporting cast.
Having spent a few days in Positano, and briefly visiting Ravello, I can say that staying in this charming coastal town, about 30 minutes from Positano, would be a definite choice for a return and extended visit.
My friend Nino, whose clothes supply I tapped when my luggage was delayed, is a vet, and he loves canines. Periodically he’s checked out some of the winery and street dogs we’ve met at different intervals along the way.
Today, as my Tuscan-Campania holiday settled into beach mode, I really relaxed and kicked back in the sand and sun. I took a leisurely boat ride with friends and swam in the brilliant blue sea off Positano and Amalfi.
As you might expect, I’ve tasted dozens of great wines on my Tuscan holiday. Spent a couple of days in Brunello di Montalcino, at Altesino and Fuligni. From what the owners and winemakers say, the quality of the 2006 harvest--which is either finished or ending in many areas in Tuscany--is very high.
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