Posted: May 24, 2013 By Harvey Steiman
It was in Barcelona that I realized why they call it a tapas bar. You know what it's like in a crowded pub, the crush of humanity trying to get the bartender's attention over the happy buzz of the drinking crowd? The shoulder-to-shoulder throng pressed together in tiny El Xampanyet, near the Picasso Museum in Barcelona's Barrì Gotic, had the same vibe on a rainy Saturday afternoon. I could not fathom how a barmaid, er, waitress, could possibly get plates of croquetas and pintxos, not to mention glasses of cava, to those who ordered them.
Somehow Barcelona denizens, happily regaling each other in Spanish and Càtalan, navigate these treacherous scenes with aplomb. Here are my notes of five of the more popular tapas bars.
Posted: May 23, 2013 By James Laube
The summer 2008 wildfires in Sonoma County have claimed another victim: Marcassin Pinot Noir.
The winery has decided not to release its 2008 vintage, it announced in its latest newsletter. "We are passing on the 2008 Pinot Noirs," wrote John Wetlaufer, who owns the Sonoma winery with his wife, winemaker Helen Turley.
Posted: May 23, 2013 By Jennifer Fiedler
A disclaimer first: Reality TV is generally not my bag. But I happened to catch some of The Voice recently, and despite not being involved in the worlds of a cappella/musical theater/pop vocals (I can't sing to save my life), I have to admit that I found it super compelling. Then I started wondering what it would look like as a wine show.
Posted: May 22, 2013 By Tim Fish
Memorial Day is not the time to over analyze your wine. Save that for a first-growth tasting or the next natural wine seminar. Summer is finally here, so just relax and enjoy.
Two words come to mind when I think of Memorial Day wine: easy and familiar. By "easy," I mean user-friendly, a good quaff to share with friends and family that doesn't cost a lot. And "familiar" means an old favorite, a wine you can trust not to disappoint you … or your guests or host.
I can't help you with the "familiar"—to each his own—but I'll share a few of my own later. I'll start with "easy," because there is no shortage of good, tasty value wines on the market right now. Here are 13 wines to kick off summer this Memorial Day weekend.
Posted: May 21, 2013 By Ben O'Donnell
The wine biz has spent several years now wringing its hands over What to Do About Millennials. Not so long ago, it was a received truth of this big, problematic, new generation of wine drinkers that they dismissed Bordeaux as an old man's game. But stop in at any Bordeaux walk-around tasting and it's immediately obvious that both sides of that formulation are wrongheaded today: More and more, what young Americans drink, young Frenchmen (and women) made. I asked a few of these young Bordelais what it's like trying to fit 2,000 years of tradition into our modern wine climate.
Posted: May 16, 2013 By Harvey Steiman
Near as I can tell, Ridge Vineyards started the trend. Saxum does it too. Andrew Will pioneered it in Washington, where Cadence followed suit, and Owen Roe is the latest to jump in. These are all first-class wineries, and they independently came to the same conclusion: That for these wines they would rather blend grape varieties from a single vineyard to a site-specific wine than make a series of vineyard-designated varietals.
It struck me, as I removed the bag in yesterday's blind tasting from Owen Roe's Cabernet Sauvignon-dominant blend simply called DuBrul Vineyard, that this is becoming a separate category. And yet, we don't have a name for it.
Posted: May 16, 2013 By Mitch Frank
Like most wine regions, Bordeaux has an annual rhythm. When the grapes ripen, it's time for harvest, or vendange. After the wine ferments, they pour it into oak barrels for élevage. With February, blending, or assemblage, begins.
May brings another annual Bordeaux ritual. Sadly, I don't know the French word for whining.
Posted: May 15, 2013 By James Laube
Anyone who pays attention to wine ratings knows one thing: Critics are giving more 100-point scores than ever before. Are there really so many more “perfect” wines today than in the past?
It’s indisputable that wines are better now than a generation ago. Vineyard management, winery technology, winemaker skill – all have progressed. And as wines have improved, ratings as reflected by scores have risen. Simply put, there are more 90-point wines, those wines of outstanding quality, today than in the past.
Yet there is something else going on. The surge of 100-point ratings is about much more than wine quality. In fact, it has little to do with the wine in the bottle. Awarding a wine a perfect rating is a powerful statement. It brings attention to the wine and the winemaker – and also to the critic.
Posted: May 15, 2013 By Tim Fish
In California wine country, Mendocino County is out in left field in more ways than one. Not only is it the Golden State’s most remote and northernmost wine region, but the attitude there is different compared to places like Sonoma or Santa Barbara. Life moves at a slower pace and the mindset is more unconventional, some might even say eccentric.
It’s not quite like any wine region you’ll ever visit, which is just what we discovered while researching “A Wine and Food Tour of Mendocino” in the June 15 issue of Wine Spectator.
Posted: May 14, 2013 By Dana Nigro
In my last post, I discussed the dilemma that eco-oriented wineries face when it comes to stoppering their bottles: Corks, which are natural and renewable, or screw-caps and synthetics, which can be more reliable? The same potential conflict between sustainability and efficiency crops up with the foil and plastic capsules that top bottles.
Some wineries eschew the capsule altogether, maybe opting for a little foil or wax top over a natural cork, but then miss out on a branding opportunity. Now, however, a wine-industry supplier has brought a new option to the market.
Posted: May 13, 2013 By James Laube
Wine Spectator senior editor James Laube catches up with Ted Bennett of Navarro winery, a roadside institution in California's Anderson Valley where loyal fans lineup to buy everything from Pinot Noir to Gewürztraminer.
Posted: May 13, 2013 By Dana Nigro
I just want to say one word to you. Just one word. Are you listening?
If you were remaking The Graduate in wine country this decade, there might be a great future in bioplastics. When organic, biodynamic and sustainable vintners look to bring their low-impact philosophies to their packaging, they often end up torn over what to do about closures.
Cork is the traditional choice, and it is a renewable material, unlike the alternatives: screw caps are made from mined metals, while synthetic corks are typically derived from petrochemicals. On the other hand, if some of your wine ends up flawed because even a small percentage of corks fail, that's outright waste—not exactly a sustainable practice either.
Posted: May 9, 2013 By James Laube
Within wine industry circles, there's often debate about style. Winemakers talk about scaling up or down in ripeness or alcohol. Restaurateurs and sommeliers consider which wines are better-suited for their eatery, or different cuisines, or occasions.
I never hear much of anything from consumers about wanting different styles. In fact, when I'm on the road, visiting with or drinking with friends and readers, the concerns I hear most often relate to where people live and which wines are (and are not) available to them there.
Posted: May 8, 2013 By Tim Fish
I spent a few days in Portland, Ore., last week, and you can't deny it has a distinctive personality, a combo of the laidback vibe of the West Coast with the rusty sneer of an old East Coast port city. It's also one of the hipster capitals of America. Every generation has its young, counter-culture crowd, from the beatniks and hippies to the punks, rappers and beyond, but today's hipsters have created a lifestyle. You may have seen it parodied on The Simpsons and Portlandia on TV.
One thing that distinguishes this new generation of hipsters is its passion for serious food and wine and, in the past five years, dozens of hip restaurants and wine bars targeting that crowd have sprung up in Portland. These aren't places you just stumble upon. They're generally smallish and quirky, hidden away in one of the city's numerous neighborhoods. You have to go looking for them.
Posted: May 6, 2013 By James Laube
Tens of thousands of visitors are expected to descend on the city of Napa (pop. 76,915) this week, but, oddly enough, that has little to do directly with wine. They're coming for BottleRock, a five-day music festival featuring more than 60 bands on three stages, headlined by the Black Keys, the Kings of Leon, Jane's Addiction, Train, Alabama Shakes and the Zac Brown Band.
It would be a big event anywhere; it's truly seismic for Napa. BottleRock promoters expect to draw 35,000 to 40,000 music lovers each day to the Napa Valley Expo, a 26-acre plot of state-owned property best known for the annual Napa Town & Country Fair in August, which might draw 40,000 people in a week. To get a grasp on the scale of BottleRock, think Bonnaroo Music and Arts Festival in Manchester, Tenn., or Coachella Valley Music & Arts Festival in Southern California's Indio, two big outdoor music festivals with scores of big-name acts and huge crowds.
Posted: May 3, 2013 By James Laube
Some things need fixing at the recently sold Mayacamas Vineyards.
Some vineyard parcels are ancient by California standards. The late-1800s Zinfandel vines are gone, but some of the Chardonnay dates to the 1950s, along with Cabernet vines planted in the 1960s. Many of the vines have the girth of a tree trunk.
But the essence of Mayacamas is best left alone.
Posted: May 2, 2013 By Robert Taylor
The numbers are in and, as expected, 2012 was another banner year for winery direct-to-consumer shipping. American wineries shipped nearly 3.2 million cases of wine directly to consumers’ front doors in 2012, at a value of $1.46 billion.
That’s a 7.7 percent increase in volume and a 10 percent increase in value over 2011. Not only are Americans buying more wine straight from the cellar, we’re buying more expensive wine—at an average price of $38.42 per bottle, up from $37.63 in 2011 and $36.56 in 2010.
$1.46 billion, with a B, is an eye-popping sum. But these numbers, presented in an annual report issued in April by ShipCompliant and Wines & Vines, shouldn’t surprise anyone who’s been following the decade-plus-long fight to make winery direct shipping legal across the United States. Today it’s permitted in 39 states, and a look at a few newcomers confirms that wine lovers love having the option to buy straight from the winery, especially smaller wineries that aren’t carried by local wholesalers.
Rep. Theodore Speliotis has introduced House Bill 294, which would allow local and out-of-state wineries, after applying for a $100 state permit, to ship up to 24 cases of wine a year to Massachusetts residents. Sen. Daniel Wolf has co-sponsored the bill, crafted with the assistance of the Wine Institute, a winery advocacy organization.
And now the bill's proponents have a new secret weapon: former Patriots quarterback-turned-Washington vintner Drew Bledsoe.
Posted: May 1, 2013 By Tim Fish
The curmudgeon gene runs deep in my family, so I'm always trying to look at things through fresh eyes. I was reminded of this last week during that Wine Spectator Grand Tour tasting in San Francisco.
I ran into a group of friends at the tasting and stopped to chat. These folks love wine but have gone to few large tastings. One asked if I was having a good time. Of course, I said, with more than 200 wineries pouring, how could I not be? And yet they were clearly having an even better time, and it wasn't because they were guzzling. They were just excited to be there.
Posted: April 30, 2013 By Bruce Sanderson
Marco Ricasoli-Firidolfi grows Sangiovese from the majority of 49 acres of vineyards surrounding his Rocca di Montegrossi cellar located in Monti, part of the Chianti Classico commune of Gaiole in Tuscany.
The soil here is very rocky, a mix of the friable schist called galestro and the harder albarese, a form of limestone, plus some clay. Sangiovese from this area possesses a very strong backbone and mineral expression, and is capable of long aging.
The vineyards are farmed organically, based on Ricasoli-Firidolfi's philosophy and personal observations since taking control of the estate in 1990. "The more careful you are with nature—organic farming, for example—the more nature responds," he said. "It's not scientifically proven, but my opinion."
Posted: April 30, 2013 By Harvey Steiman
Here in Barcelona on vacation, I could not resist trying what by all accounts is the go-to sushi place, Koy Shunka. Having explored the sushi cultures of Japan and America in my cover story of the May 31 issue of Wine Spectator, I wanted to see how another great food culture, that of Catalunya, translates the subtleties of Japan's most famous cuisine using the products of the Mediterranean Sea, as abundantly revered here as those of the Pacific Ocean are in Japan.
And then, for good measure, wouldn't you know that Japanese cuisine and sushi would play a critical role in the latest venture from brothers Albert and Ferran Adrià (who famously closed his own celebrated restaurant, El Bulli). They opened Pakta in early April, serving what they call Nikkei cuisine. Sushi is a part of the cuisine, Japanese by way of Peru, an east-west fusion made famous in America by Nobu Matsuhisa.
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