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Blogs  :  Harvey Steiman At Large

Drink What You Like

Bien sûr! say Le Bernardin's Eric Ripert and Aldo Sohm—even red Bordeaux with fish

Posted: March 11, 2014  By Harvey Steiman

When the perfectly named (for a sommelier) Aldo Sohm went to work at the classic New York French fish restaurant Le Bernardin seven years ago, one of his first special assignments was to select wines for chef Eric Ripert's birthday party.

The entrée was escolar with sauce Bearnaise. Sohm, unaware that Ripert famously loves to drink red Bordeaux with everything and damn the consequences, chose Hubert de Lignier Morey St-Denis Chaffots 2001, a deliciously fragrant and silky red Burgundy. "It was drinking perfect," said the affable sommelier, still with a tinge of his native Austria in his accent.

Ten minutes before the event started, however, the maître d' and two captains approached the new guy. "They started yelling, ‘Didn't they tell you chef only likes Bordeaux?'"

Blogs  :  Robert Camuto: Letter from Europe

Avant-Garde Meets Tradition on the Plate

A visit with the Italian culinary master every wine connoisseur should know

Posted: March 10, 2014  By Robert Camuto

If there were a Nobel Prize for Parmigiano cheese, Massimo Bottura would certainly be its first laureate.

For more than 20 years, Bottura, Italy's most acclaimed modern chef, has worked to perfect a signature dish founded on the belief that this famous aged cheese made near his native Modena wasn't getting the respect it deserved. "Why did we only use this incredible cheese—this symbol of our land—just to grate on pasta?" The 50-year-old Bottura, clad in chef's jacket and jeans, is nearly shouting.

Blogs  :  James Laube's Wine Flights

Sweet on Lemon

Littorai's Ted Lemon hosts a blind tasting of 45 of his wines from California, Burgundy and beyond

Posted: March 6, 2014  By James Laube

One reason people like Ted Lemon's wines so much is that they like Ted Lemon. And his wines are a lot like him.

He is one of the most agreeable and thoughtful winemakers in California. He's a hero, too, these days, for many young winemakers. They aspire to what he's accomplished since arriving in California in the early 1980s from Burgundy, where he worked and learned his trade.

Blogs  :  Mixed Case: Opinion and Advice

5 Tips for Planning a Bike Trip Through Wine Country

Start daydreaming now …

Posted: March 4, 2014  By Jennifer Fiedler

There's nothing like the tail end of winter to set off daydreaming about the year's upcoming vacations, right? This February, I've been reminiscing in particular about a cycling trip I took a few years ago with five friends through Canada's Okanagan Valley wine region. I had done wine-tasting trips before, as well as bike trips, but this was the first time I had combined the two. The good news: We survived, put on some great mileage, drank great wine and are still friends! But we definitely could have planned things better. Here's what I learned,

Blogs  :  Exploring Wine with Tim Fish

Is Wine Your Obsession?

Compulsively collecting is a stage that many of us go through

Posted: February 27, 2014  By Tim Fish

When I first started drinking wine--meaning good wine--I was in my late twenties. It didn't take long to become obsessed, or as obsessed as anyone can be on a newspaper reporter's salary.

Given my discretionary income, I wasn't your average wine collector, but whenever I read a great review the scheming would begin. Buying a case was out of the question, but a bottle or two was possible, if I could even track it down.

Blogs  :  Bruce Sanderson Decanted

Temperature Rising at Domaine Faiveley

Faiveley continues a hot streak with a terrific range of 2012 Burgundies

Posted: February 27, 2014  By Bruce Sanderson

Wine Spectator senior editor Bruce Sanderson has just returned from Burgundy, where he tasted the 2012 vintage. Here are his tasting notes and non-blind scores from his visit to Domaine Faiveley.

Blogs  :  James Laube's Wine Flights

Big Gains for Napa Valley Vintners at Premiere Napa Valley

But what does the record-setting auction mean for nearly priced-out consumers?

Posted: February 26, 2014  By James Laube

If you need a perspective on Premiere Napa Valley, the Napa Valley Vintners' trade-only tasting and auction, consider the sports world: Sports fans are keenly aware of what a team's popularity brings. It usually means the team is improved, and that usually translates to higher ticket prices.

This past weekend, the Premiere Napa Valley auction shattered its previous record, with $5.9 million in winning bids, or $283 per bottle. The top lot, 5 cases of 2012 Scarecrow Cabernet, sold for $260,000.

Blogs  :  Harvey Steiman At Large

How Ripe Is Right?

Drilling down into the ideal alcohol kerfuffle

Posted: February 26, 2014  By Harvey Steiman

Alcohol, a necessary byproduct of fermenting ripe grapes, seems to have polarized the wine community these past few years. Most wine drinkers seem to like ripe flavors in wine, and don't mind if alcohol levels are higher, but a vocal minority wants to change that. There's even an organization of vintners in California, In Pursuit of Balance, which stumps for lower levels of alcohol.

This dichotomy jumped out at me when I read reactions to a recent study that reported consumer responses to Cabernet Sauvignons made at different alcohol levels. The study, conducted in Sydney, presented 104 consumers ages 18 to 65 who drink red wine at least once a week with five different Cabernet Sauvignons harvested sequentially, with alcohol levels varying from 12 percent up to 15.5 percent, and asked them to give each wine a preference score on a scale of 0 to 9. Ratings for each of the five wines on nearly two dozen sensory attributes pertaining to appearance, aroma and palate were determined in a separate panel comprising 12 trained tasters from the Australian Wine and Research Institute (AWRI).

Blogs  :  James Laube's Wine Flights

Napa Vintner All in for Cold Weather

Mike Drash finds a new home in Minnesota

Posted: February 25, 2014  By James Laube

Mike Drash brought about his own climate change.

The 45-year-old vintner, who's been making wine in California, including Napa Valley, for two decades, has relocated with his family to Kasota, Minn., where he signed on as winemaker at Chankaska Creek Winery, a growing 5,300-case operation; the nearest big city is Des Moines, Iowa, to the south.

Blogs  :  Harvey Steiman At Large

A Twist on the Aging Question

Screw caps would reduce the risk of aging red wines

Posted: February 24, 2014  By Harvey Steiman

When will the wine world come to its senses about how wine ages under screw caps? My good friend James Laube, who champions twist-offs (as he prefers to call them) didn't mention the possibilities in his recent tirades against the risks of aging wine too long. But I will.

Blogs  :  Robert Camuto: Letter from Europe

Uprooting France’s ‘Louvre of the Vine’

The world’s greatest collection of vinestock is in play and vignerons sound the alarm

Posted: February 24, 2014  By Robert Camuto

One of France's greatest wine treasures lies off a dead-end road on a wind-swept strip of Mediterranean coastline.

Here, Blaise Genna, 60, sporting a white handlebar mustache direct from central vigneron casting, greets wine pilgrims (scientists, viticulturists and other professionals) who come for the world's greatest collection of vine stock: 2,600 separate grape varieties—7,500 genotypes—from 50 countries.

And like any wine lover should be, I am concerned about the tentative future of the collection, caught in a lease dispute after 65 years at this site.

Blogs  :  James Laube's Wine Flights

Tasting with the Master

Michael Broadbent's vast catalog of wine writing offers much to learn

Posted: February 21, 2014  By James Laube

Michael Broadbent, 86, is one of wine's foremost authorities. In honor of his service to the wine auction industry at Christie's, he was the recipient of Wine Spectator's Distinguished Service Award in 1991. A prolific author of more than a dozen books, he is a scholar with a preoccupation for ancient wines, mostly French, but also German, Vintage Port, Champagne and Madeira. His two reference works, The Great Vintage Wine Book (Knopf, 1980), and its successor, The New Great Vintage Wine Book (Knopf, 1991), should be in any wine lover's library.

Blogs  :  Harvey Steiman At Large

In Latest Change, Evening Land's Winemaker Says Adieu

Isabelle Meunier leaves; partner Rajat Parr says Burgundy's Dominique Lafon will play larger role

Posted: February 19, 2014  By Harvey Steiman

The changes continue at Evening Land in Oregon, one of the state's top-rated producers of Pinot Noir and Chardonnay. Wine Spectator has learned that Isabelle Meunier has left the winery where she has been overseeing winemaking and viticulture since Mark Tarlov founded it in 2007.

Blogs  :  Mixed Case: Opinion and Advice

Remembering a Guru of Green: Biodynamic Consultant Alan York

Posted: February 14, 2014  By Dana Nigro

Alan York, a California-based leader in the biodynamic viticulture movement in the United States and abroad, died Feb. 3 at the age of 62. He inspired many to adopt greener horticultural practices in his decades-long career as a gardener and landscape designer, international vineyard consultant and speaker, and president of the Biodynamic Association and editor of the quarterly Biodynamics journal for a stint. He was overseeing biodynamic farming at all four of Benziger's certified vineyard estates and worked with clients ranging from Emiliana and Matetic in Chile and Alto Las Hormigas in Argentina to Sting's Il Palagio estate in Tuscany.

Blogs  :  Exploring Wine with Tim Fish

California Is Finally All Wet

Big weekend storm gives hope to winemakers, particularly in Northern California

Posted: February 12, 2014  By Tim Fish

The first major storm in more than a year swept through Northern California over the weekend, and the sound heard in the skies wasn't thunder, but a sigh of collective relief.

Napa Valley and Sonoma County averaged about 8 inches in a few days, with some areas gaining as much as 12 to 15 inches. Central California wasn't as blessed, receiving no more than an inch or so.

The drought is far from over even in Northern California—rainfall levels are still below the previous record drought year of 1977—but you won't hear any complaints right now.

Blogs  :  Bruce Sanderson Decanted

Patience in Pommard

Tasting the 2012 Burgundies at Domaine de Courcel

Posted: February 11, 2014  By Bruce Sanderson

Wine Spectator senior editor Bruce Sanderson has just returned from Burgundy, where he tasted the 2012 vintage. Here are his tasting notes and non-blind scores from his visit to Domaine de Courcel in Pommard.

Blogs  :  Robert Camuto: Letter from Europe

Après-Yquem: Not Down for the Count

Alexandre de Lur Saluces has brought his exacting Sauternes methods to another family estate

Posted: February 10, 2014  By Robert Camuto

Ten years ago, when the board of Château d'Yquem fired him, president and former owner Count Alexandre de Lur Saluces was expected to fade into the Sauternes sunset.

Instead, Lur Saluces picked himself up off the mat. The 80-year-old aristocrat continues making great Sauternes a few miles away at his Château de Fargues. Here, since 2005, he has produced seven wines in the outstanding range or better by Wine Spectator. The most recently released, 2009 (97 points), sold for $170.

Not bad for a man who doesn't even consider himself a winemaker.

Blogs  :  Mixed Case: Opinion and Advice

Burgundy's Comeback Kid

Nicolas Potel lost his namesake winery five years ago; he's back and making even better wines

Posted: February 6, 2014  By Mitch Frank

The first time I met Nicolas Potel, I was legitimately concerned that his hair would burst into flame at some point during the day we spent together. I was visiting Burgundy in early 2009 to write a story on the négociant, and I found a man busting at the seams with energy, trying to grow his eponymous winery—which had gotten an infusion of capital from new owners—and devote some time to a few small but ambitious side projects.

I came away feeling like Potel, then 40, was going to be a success, if he could hold it all together. But two months after I left, his juggling act came crashing down. The new owners of Maison Nicolas Potel fired Nicolas Potel. (The wines still bear his name today, but he has no role in them.) When I checked in with him before my story appeared, he was putting the pieces back together, launching a new négociant and looking for vineyards to start a small domaine. His energy was still there. But I wondered if it was all too much.

Today, Potel remains full of energy, ambition and ideas. But he also seems more at peace.

Blogs  :  Bruce Sanderson Decanted

Morning in Meursault

Tasting the 2012 Burgundies at René Lequin-Colin, Domaine Caillot and Philippe Bouzereau

Posted: February 5, 2014  By Bruce Sanderson

Wine Spectator senior editor Bruce Sanderson has just returned from Burgundy, where he tasted the 2012 vintage. Here are his tasting notes and non-blind scores from his visits to René Lequin-Colin, Domaine Caillot and Philippe Bouzereau.

Blogs  :  James Laube's Wine Flights

A Teachable Moment in Aging Wine: 1970s Kongsgaard Cabernets

Two of John Kongsgaard's oldest wines proved nimble and fascinating—special wines that were nevertheless well past their prime

Posted: February 5, 2014  By James Laube

There's a downside to aging wines too long. That might seem obvious, but few wine lovers take that into consideration when purchasing wines to lay down in the cellar for a while.

In a conversation and tasting with John Kongsgaard the other day, we talked about terroir, to what extent it exists (and can be identified), at what age it might be most readily identified in a wine and, ultimately, that with enough age, all wines lose their terroir. They become old wines inseparable from one another.

Illustrating this point, Kongsgaard poured two Cabernets that he made early on his career, as a 26-year-old home winemaker in the 1970s with his father, Thomas, in Napa.

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