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james laube's wine flights archive

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James Laube
Archives

March 2012

Rajat Parr's Star Rises in Santa Barbara
Sandhi, the renowned sommelier's new Sta. Rita Hills Pinot and Chardonnay project, is off to a bright start
Posted: Mar 30, 2012 5:30pm ET

Sommelier-turned-winemaker Rajat Parr has found a home. He's settled in Santa Barbara's Sta. Rita Hills for the next chapter in his young winemaking career.

Teaming up with financier Charles Banks, a one-time partner at Screaming Eagle, and Sashi Moorman, a veteran winemaker who makes Evening Land's wines, Parr is the front man and mind behind their new label, Sandhi ("alliance" in Sanskrit), founded in 2009. From 2004 to 2008 Parr made wines with other winemakers under the Parr Selection label. The Sandhi wines show considerable progress in style, density and substance.


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Thirty Years Later: 1982 Bordeaux
No single vintage did more to change the world of wine than 1982
Posted: Mar 26, 2012 4:30pm ET

Most of us can point to an instant that changed our wine lives. For some, it's a single bottle that captures the moment (1968 Heitz Martha's Vineyard for me), when a wine transforms into something extraordinary.

There are great moments, and then there are great eras, and the benchmark vintages that define them. For me, the vintage that changed everything was 1982.


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White House Wines Shouldn't Be Top Secret
The state dinner wine lists should be a matter of good taste and national pride
Posted: Mar 20, 2012 3:30pm ET
>p>I like knowing that wines are served at White House dinners to the president and his guests. I'm curious and I consider it a matter of national pride.

Therefore, I found it both odd and out of character for the White House to recently announce that it would no longer disclose which wines were being poured for dignitaries. It's a terrible idea, and what's to stop dinner guests from reporting the selections afterward, as one recently did after attending the state dinner held for British Prime Minister David Cameron?


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New Pinots from a Gal Named Walt
Kathryn "Walt" Hall and others are adding to the explosion of single-vineyard California Pinot Noirs
Posted: Mar 16, 2012 3:30pm ET

Wine labels may fade, but they rarely disappear. Most find new owners or reinvent themselves, to wit: Sonoma's Roessler is gone; enter Walt. Walt is Kathryn Hall's new lineup of Pinot Noirs and Chardonnays. It's a reincarnation of sorts of the former Roessler operation. She and her husband, Craig, bought Roessler in 2010. Walt is Hall's maiden name, as well as a childhood nickname.

Walt is the Halls' ambitious entry into the Pinot Noir and Chardonnay sweepstakes. Under the winemaking direction of Steve Leveque, who also makes the Kathryn Hall Napa Valley wines, Walt has 10 new wines, all from 2010. Most of them are Pinots made in the 200- to 300-case range, and all but one are from California.

The Halls' new endeavor is just one of several fresh rebranding efforts emphasizing single-vineyard wines in California.


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Remembering a California Wine Game Changer
Ernie Van Asperen shocked the competition with his restaurant wine prices and drew a blueprint for California négociants
Posted: Mar 12, 2012 3:30pm ET

Ernie Van Asperen, who died last month, set the restaurant business on its ear in the 1970s when he started selling wines in his two Marin County eateries at retail price.

The one I recall, the Dock in Tiburon, was often the first happy-hour stop for businessmen returning by ferry from working in San Francisco. Windjammer, named for Van Asperen's passion for yachting, had the same pricing policy.

Bay Area restaurateurs took a dim view of Van Asperen's pricing, but his reasoning was two-fold: He felt retail markup was a sufficient profit margin, and he knew that Marinites, living in an upscale wine-drinking community, would embrace the concept. He figured, too, that sales would soar, which they did, and that increased volume made up for the narrower margins. Asperen's wine sales reportedly increased 600 percent, according to a 1975 story in the New York Times.


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The Curious Case of Pinot at Auction
The world's rarest wines are overshadowed by Cabernet, and it might just be because Pinot lovers would rather drink than sell
Posted: Mar 9, 2012 2:40pm ET

All things being equal, one would expect great Burgundies to fetch higher auction prices than Bordeauxs based on availability alone. And they did in a recent auction in New York where the top-selling lots were Domaine de la Romanée-Conti bottlings that sold above estimate and a slew of Bordeaux first-growths realized less than their Wine Spectator Auction Index averages.

But that’s not usually the case, which is a surprise since there is far more great Bordeaux produced than Burgundy. The top growths in Bordeaux can produce 20,000 cases of great wine a year, which means buyers can secure cases. With Burgundy, or Pinot, you’re usually trying to hunt down a bottle or two.


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A Mixed View of New Zealand Wine News
Sales and quality are up, prices are down, and with the 2012 harvest around the corner, anticipations are mixed
Posted: Mar 2, 2012 10:00am ET

The man who joined me for coffee at the community table introduced himself as a "Sparky." "I'm an electrician," he said, motioning to his truck parked outside the convenience store-coffee shop on the town's main drag.

When he asked what brought me to Martinborough, the subject quickly turned to wine. He knew enough about the state of affairs with New Zealand wine to appreciate the country's present oversupply amid a clumsy global economy. Many wine stores had slashed prices, and because of that he was drinking better wine now than ever before.


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