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Blogs  :  Exploring Wine with Tim Fish

Bubbly: It’s a Summertime Thing

Who needs New Year's Eve? U.S. sparkling wines are ideal for warm-weather

Posted: May 14, 2014  By Tim Fish

It's a shame that so many Americans put off drinking sparkling wine until New Year's Eve. I crave it most in the summer when the days are sunny and I want something refreshing to drink. It also complements the lighter menus of summer like salads, seafood and chicken.

Here I highlight a handful of my favorite new sparkling wines: two of the top wines, two values and one superb rosé.

Blogs  :  Harvey Steiman At Large

Finding the Strike Zone for Syrah

Onetime baseball player takes a cool (climate) approach in Australia

Posted: May 13, 2014  By Harvey Steiman

Gary Mills of Jamsheed makes modern-style wines that are polar opposite of what most Americans think of as Aussie Shiraz. He even calls them Syrah, to emphasize the difference. They have firm structure, open texture and a savory spiciness around pure fruit at the core. They display tremendous and distinctive personalities, even as alcohol levels seldom exceed 14 percent.

Blogs  :  Robert Camuto: Letter from Europe

Exiled on Wine Street

A Russian phone magnate unleashes Hedonism on London. Is it the world’s wildest wine shop or what?

Posted: May 12, 2014  By Robert Camuto

Yevgeny Chichvarkin is a big-shouldered guy who likes big wines—preferably in very big bottles.

When he opened a store in London nearly two years ago and decided to call it Hedonism Wines, he really meant it. Hedonism displays dozens of great wines—Bordeaux to Barolo to Spain and Sonoma—in huge formats that are at least eight times the size of a magnum.

Blogs  :  Harvey Steiman At Large

Whaddya Mean, 'Liquid Rock'?

When tasting notes specify flavors that can seem unpleasant

Posted: May 8, 2014  By Harvey Steiman

The photograph on Twitter showed a lineup of Hermitage bottles. The caption read "Liquid Rock."

This was obviously meant to laud the mineral character that famously runs through great Hermitage reds, made from Syrah on granite slopes. I get it. Minerality is the flavor darling of the moment in wine. We may not agree on exactly what it is—a whiff of the aroma we get off of wet pavement? River stones? That bricklike character that basalt rocks can give off? Or maybe just a vibrancy that comes from high acidity? But wines that have it get extra kudos from many sommeliers and wine writers, including me.

Blogs  :  Mixed Case: Opinion and Advice

Counterfeit Wine Ain't Parcheesi

Rudy Kurniawan's lawyers claim fakes are part of the collecting 'game'; that cheapens all wine

Posted: May 8, 2014  By Mitch Frank

At the end of the month, a federal judge will decide how serious the crime of wine counterfeiting is. Rudy Kurniawan, convicted of selling an estimated $2 million to $7 million worth of fakes (no one is quite sure how many prized bottles he counterfeited), will be sentenced. He faces up to 40 years in prison.

His lawyers have made their plea for leniency, asking the judge to sentence Kurniawan to time served since his arrest—roughly 27 months. But what of their argument that counterfeit wine is just a game?

Blogs  :  Stirring the Lees with James Molesworth

With Spring in Bloom, Is It Time to Think Pink?

When the weather warms, it's time open a bottle of Provencal rosé

Posted: May 7, 2014  By James Molesworth

There is perhaps no other wine so seasonal as rosé (maybe Port in winter). The sudden and quick flood of rosé that comes through the tasting room this time of year is the harbinger of sidewalk cafés filled with people knocking back the pink stuff as beads of condensation drip down the sides of overstuffed silver wine buckets.

Blogs  :  Exploring Wine with Tim Fish

California’s Vintage 2014 Kicks into Gear

It looks like an early season as winemakers and growers hope for more rain

Posted: May 7, 2014  By Tim Fish

Things are getting busy in the vineyards of California right now. Vines are blooming in all but the coolest regions of the state. Those little flowers will turn into tiny grapes before you know it. I checked with a few winemakers and growers for the latest in the vineyards. The season is running early throughout the state, generally two weeks earlier than normal, but in some areas it's more than that. Which means that unless summer sends a weather curve ball, it will be another early harvest like 2013. Here are their reports from Napa, Sonoma, Paso Robles, Santa Barbara and more.

Blogs  :  James Laube's Wine Flights

It's the Humidity

Keeping corks healthy means keeping the humidity just right

Posted: May 6, 2014  By James Laube

When it comes to cellaring wine, I've never paid much attention to humidity. But I've always been curious about the topic.

The debate over the importance of humidity has long been taken up by wine folks. One school of thought is that high humidity keeps a cork damp so it won't dry out or crumble, possibly exposing the wine to oxygen. My fellow columnist Matt Kramer is skeptical of the role humidity plays in the cellar. My general distrust of corks includes the crumbling effect. Usually, older corks are susceptible to cracking and crumbling. But I find younger corks are just as big a pain. No one likes to fish crumbled cork out of their glass of wine, even if it hasn't been oxidized.

Blogs  :  Mixed Case: Opinion and Advice

Faith and Science

By refusing to spray pesticides, is Burgundy's Emmanuel Giboulot a hero? Or wine's Jenny McCarthy?

Posted: May 1, 2014  By Mitch Frank

Should a biodynamic winegrower be forced to use pesticides against his will? Your answer probably depends on how much faith you put in science.

Blogs  :  Exploring Wine with Tim Fish

Good Merlot for Less Than $20?

Winemaker Nick Goldschmidt makes winning values that retain a sense of place

Posted: April 30, 2014  By Tim Fish

Nick Goldschmidt is one of the busiest winemakers I know. He's more under-the-radar than his friends Michel Rolland and Paul Hobbs, but spends five months a year on the road consulting for 26 wineries in seven countries, including Mission Hill in New Zealand, Viña Errázuriz in Chile and Don Sebastiani & Sons in California.

His Alexander and Dry Creek Valley Merlots are well-made, true to the variety and sell for $20 or less. Here are my notes on five of his recently-released 2012s.

Blogs  :  Mixed Case: Opinion and Advice

How to Buy Bordeaux

Bordeaux wine is having its turn as whipping boy, as longtime fans groan and turn away. Just means more for you

Posted: April 29, 2014  By Ben O'Donnell

Bordeaux futures is an old-timey and kind of archaic way to buy a commodity like wine. Nowadays, you won't save or make much, if any, money off Bordeaux futures, but that's not why you buy wine, right? "A lot of people like that it's something different, it's a little exciting," said Chuck Hayward, Bordeaux buyer for online retailer J.J. Buckley. "You figure, what the heck, why not buy it now and have something in a couple years? It's almost like a treat for them."

The 2013 futures campaign is a good one to practice on. Once you know how it's done, if 2014 turns out to be an exciting vintage, you'll know what kinds of prices to look for and which wines are rare enough that they're worth snagging early.

Blogs  :  Harvey Steiman At Large

California Comes to Australia

Surprises in Clarendon Hills from Jackson Family

Posted: April 28, 2014  By Harvey Steiman

Australians were worried when Jackson Family, which seems to be all over the California wine world, added a historic vineyard in Clarendon Hills to its voluminous holdings in 2001. A big California wine company taking over 250 acres of vineyards that included some vines that had been producing enviable wines for more than 50 years? Seemed like heresy. The Jacksons renamed it Yangarra Estate and quietly went to work on improving things.

Then, in February 2012, Jackson Family won the bidding for the historic 450-acre Hickinbotham Vineyard, about 2 miles away. Rather than making its own wines, Hickinbotham had been producing grapes for Clarendon Hills' single-vineyard bottlings and material for Penfolds Grange and Eileen Hardy Shiraz. Heady stuff.

On my recent visit to Australia I checked in on some experiments at Yangarra and tasted through the debut vintage of Hickinbotham Clarendon Hills Estate wines, due to be released next year.

Blogs  :  Stirring the Lees with James Molesworth

Domaine des Baumard Under Screw Cap: 10 Years After

Florent Baumard rocks out with Stelvin

Posted: April 28, 2014  By James Molesworth

When Florent Baumard, the mild-mannered owner of Domaine des Baumard in France's Loire Valley, announced he was switching to bottling his entire production under screw cap, more than a few people noticed. It was a bold move, not only because of the domaine's high profile as one of the wine world's flagship estates for Chenin Blanc, but because it was still relatively early in the cork versus screw cap closure debate. But while it started as an experiment in the 2003 and 2004 vintages, it didn't take long for Baumard to commit.

Blogs  :  Exploring Wine with Tim Fish

Growing Pains in Sonoma County

The chore of putting in a garden is lessened by thoughts of refreshing spring wines

Posted: April 23, 2014  By Tim Fish

It was such a beautiful day in Sonoma on Sunday that I started thinking about refreshing spring wines as I gardened. I like to take a break in the shade to sip a glass of wine, otherwise gardening seems like such a chore, so I pulled out a few wines to sample whenever my back started complaining. Here are 5 new reds and whites perfect for sipping outdoors this spring.

Blogs  :  Harvey Steiman At Large

Wines for Oysters

Is it better to be neutral or flavorful? Putting wine-and-oyster pairings to the test

Posted: April 22, 2014  By Harvey Steiman

I can't help it. I am a wine guy. I want my wines to contribute to the conversation on my palate when I drink them with food. That comes to mind when I occasionally participate in fun tastings such as the Pacific Coast Oyster Wine Competition. I joined in on the 20th annual judging as much for unlimited quantities of really good oysters as for the wines, but also to test out a theory.

My brain says, let's find a wine that can stand on its own but also makes nice with the mollusks. Jon Rowley, the tasting's organizer, takes a different approach. "Don't taste the wine first," he admonished us. He wanted us to chew up the oyster first to establish its flavor and texture in our mouths, then wash it down with the wine.

Blogs  :  Mixed Case: Opinion and Advice

Does Organically Grown Wine Need a 'Lifestyle' Expert?

A green style author, designer and merchandiser takes on the category

Posted: April 22, 2014  By Dana Nigro

Danny Seo believes that organically grown wines still have an image problem among a vast swath of Americans. He thinks he can help. If you don't know Danny, he's a boyishly personable former editor of Organic Style magazine who has positioned himself as an expert on living green stylishly and affordably with his Simply Green, Upcycling and Conscious Style Home books, "Do Just One Thing" syndicated newspaper tips, TV appearances on The Today Show and Dr. Oz and his own line of eco-chic housewares. Now he's adding wine to his portfolio.

Seo admits to knowing little about wine except what he likes. During a showcase last year for his upcoming new product lines, he either had the self-deprecating charm to act nervous about speaking to Wine Spectator or was a bit uncomfortable at having to field questions without his wine partner, Mike Votto of Connecticut-based Votto Vines Importing. "I'm not a winemaker. I'm not going to pretend I'm a Real Housewife," Seo quipped. "I don't want to pretend I'm out at the vineyard crushing grapes." What he does, Seo said, is work with partners who are experts in the field, sourcing the products.

Blogs  :  Robert Camuto: Letter from Europe

Antinori’s Architectural Labor of Love

New home in Chianti Classico demonstrates the family's commitment and connection to the land

Posted: April 21, 2014  By Robert Camuto

After seven years of work, nightmarish construction problems and a budget that ballooned 170 percent to more than $130 million, Marchesi Antinori’s flagship property opened in 2013 on a hillside in Chianti Classico zone of Italy. The Tuscan winery was immediately praised for its audacious environmental design and has already attracted thousands of visitors. The facility includes a 129,000-square-foot winery, the company headquarters, an auditorium, boutique, restaurant, museum, olive oil mill and a facility for producing sweet Vin Santo.

“The idea was to bring the heart of the company back to the countryside where the wine is produced,” says the trim, energetic Piero Antinori, who represents the family wine business’s 25th generation.

Blogs  :  Mixed Case: Opinion and Advice

What Wine Do You Serve with General Tso’s Chicken?

When a cuisine isn't tied to a strong wine tradition, pairing takes on new aspects

Posted: April 17, 2014  By Jennifer Fiedler

This upcoming weekend marks the premiere of The Search for General Tso, a new documentary about Chinese food in America, at the Tribeca Film Festival in New York. (Disclosure: I know the filmmakers.) It tells the story of why there's a Chinese restaurant in almost every small town in the United States by tracing the roots of this popular fried chicken takeout dish back to Taiwan. Be forewarned: It will make you hungry.

While wine doesn't play a role in the movie, the film touches on the ideas of migration, adaptation and authenticity—all concepts that philosophically minded wine lovers can extrapolate to the wine world—and the occasion of its release seems like a good time to talk about pairing wine with "Chinese food."

Blogs  :  Bruce Sanderson Decanted

Will Chianti Classico’s Gran Selezione Designation Guarantee Quality?

The new Gran Selezione designation promises stricter quality standards. At Agricola San Felice, the new bottling is the result of years of research

Posted: April 16, 2014  By Bruce Sanderson

The Consorzio of Chianti Classico introduced its new designation—Gran Selezione—in 2013. It represents the pinnacle of a quality pyramid whose base are the Chianti Classico annate and mid-tier riserva. The goal is to have stricter standards to drive quality and inspire consumer confidence in the wines of Chianti Classico.

Currently, there is a lot of confusion between Chianti, which can be produced from a large area in central Tuscany, bottled by a company that doesn’t grow any grapes and sell for as little as $10 and estate grown and bottled wine from the Classico zone in the heart of the entire Chianti area.

Blogs  :  Harvey Steiman At Large

Dipping into Natural Wines

A snapshot of the scene in Australia

Posted: April 16, 2014  By Harvey Steiman

Winemakers who keep their wineries spotless and hygienic would have been horrified by the sight that greeted me at Jauma, one of the stars of the natural wine movement in Australia. Flies buzzed about a motley assortment of upturned barrels and plastic tanks—any handy vessel large enough to contain a fermentation—the tops draped with old tablecloths and bedsheets.

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