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Blogs  :  Stirring the Lees with James Molesworth

An Afternoon with Pax, Agharta and Jolie-Laide

Tasting the newest wines from Pax Mahle and his cellar master, Scott Schultz

Posted: June 5, 2014  By James Molesworth

On my first day of winery visits in California, I visited Pax Mahle and tasted through his lineup of recent Wind Gap wines. Following that, we tasted through his Pax and Agharta labels, and then I tasted the Jolie-Laide Wines made by Scott Schultz. Here are my notes on the wines I tasted.

Blogs  :  Stirring the Lees with James Molesworth

The Evolution of Pax Mahle and His Wines

The Wind Gap, Agharta and Pax labels have broadened Mahle's range

Posted: June 4, 2014  By James Molesworth

With three developing labels, Pax Mahle needed some new digs. So he just recently moved his Wind Gap operation (6,000 cases annually and growing) into a gentrified section of old warehouses called the Barlow in Sebastopol, replete with Kosta Browne as neighbor and surrounded by busy hipster coffeeshops and breweries. Along with his 1,200-case Pax label and 1,000-case Agharta label, Mahle is busy.

"But it's still about how much [my wife] Pam and I can handle, without it consuming us," said Mahle, who wants to stay hands-on with all his projects.

Blogs  :  Exploring Wine with Tim Fish

Reflecting on 20 Years of Zinfandels

Comparing the latest vintages to a retrospective tasting of the 2004s and 1994s

Posted: June 4, 2014  By Tim Fish

I've been thinking about California Zinfandel a lot lately, its past and the future. For the June 30 issue of Wine Spectator, I sized up the 2011s and 2012s for my annual Zin report and also revisited the 1994 and 2004 vintages in a retrospective tasting.

Blogs  :  James Laube's Wine Flights

Napa's BottleRock Pairs Aging Classics with Fresh Acts

It's better to catch an older band than none at all, but like wine, they're best experienced in their prime

Posted: June 3, 2014  By James Laube

Just like that, BottleRock came and went. The three-day music festival in Napa attracted tens of thousands to hear 60 bands, from cutting edge Indies to aging rockers, perform on four stages at the Napa Valley Expo.

Watching acts from yesteryear has limited appeal to me. Occasionally I attend concerts by performers decades past their heyday, and when they're on they can be inspiring. Usually, though, I'm disappointed, and almost always find myself thinking they were so much better in their prime. It reminds me of the way some people act when they extol a wine made decades ago.

Blogs  :  Stirring the Lees with James Molesworth

Back to Cali

A return to California wine country to visit more wineries in Napa and Sonoma

Posted: June 2, 2014  By James Molesworth

I can't help but think of that song from my teenaged years every time I head back to California. Luckily, it's become a regular thing, making an annual visit to the Golden State. Not only getting to attend the Wine Spectator magnum parties in Sonoma and Napa that kick off the summer in wine country, but also getting to make a few stops at wineries.

Blogs  :  Harvey Steiman At Large

The Orange Kerfuffle

Or how protecting a wine district can ruffle feathers

Posted: May 30, 2014  By Harvey Steiman

Wine regions have shown vigilance in protecting their names. Years ago Champagne successfully campaigned to get people to quit applying their region's name to every sparkling wine, not just on labels but in descriptions. Chablis, Burgundy, Chianti and Tokaji did so too. Wine Australia wants the same courtesy for Orange.

Blogs  :  James Laube's Wine Flights

A Three-Pronged Winemaking Approach Yields Outstanding Results

Cattleya's Bibiana Gonzáles Rave brings France, California and Colombia to her wines

Posted: May 29, 2014  By James Laube

Bibiana Gonzáles Rave approaches winemaking from at least three perspectives. The first is French, and the exacting standards she learned and rigorous training she received during her five vintages in France. Then there's the free-spirited, emotional South American approach that comes from growing up in Colombia. The third is what she's learned since making California her home.

Blogs  :  Mixed Case: Opinion and Advice

Rosé Comes of Age—Next Up, Aging?

With the rapid rise to respectability of dry rosé, the best pass the cellar test

Posted: May 29, 2014  By Ben O'Donnell

Rosé season started in March at my local wine shop, even though winter would persist in New York for another, oh, month or so. One day, with temperatures soaring to the lower-tolerable range, a gaggle of magnums appeared on an endcap near the front of the store. I knew the rosé, from a respected Southern Rhône house, which usually went for about $10 to $12 for a 750; here, magnums were $10, or $16 for two. Seemed like a buy, so I bought one.

Only after I got home, opened and began to drink a very tasty rosé did I investigate more closely. In fine print, there was the vintage: 2011.

Blogs  :  Exploring Wine with Tim Fish

Discovering the Monterey Coast

Good food and wine abound in this strikingly beautiful part of California

Posted: May 28, 2014  By Tim Fish

The Coast of California rambles 840 miles along the Pacific and somewhere about half way is the Monterey Peninsula and Big Sur. You might find a more beautiful place, but you'd have to look hard.

It wasn't just the scenery that drew me to the Monterey Coast a few weeks back. There's an active food-and-wine scene to go along with all that outdoor adventure.

Blogs  :  James Laube's Wine Flights

A Globetrotting Winemaker's Sonoma Roots Grow Deeper

Native Colombian Bibiana González Rave wound her way through France, South Africa and California before making Sonoma home

Posted: May 27, 2014  By James Laube

Bibiana González Rave is, to my knowledge, the first Sonoma winemaker born and raised in Colombia. In California, she enjoyed her initial winemaking successes with Lynmar Pinot Noir, and as a result she has become something of a national celebrity in her homeland.

Blogs  :  Robert Camuto: Letter from Europe

Bandol—The Hard Way

A Rhône winemaker's labor of love in coastal Provence

Posted: May 26, 2014  By Robert Camuto

Starting a wine estate from scratch in the Bandol appellation of Provence has become rare. But that's exactly what Jean-Marc Espinasse is doing, planting 8 acres of Mourvèdre and Cinsault, after having started Domaine Rouge-Bleu in France's Rhône Valley. Wine Spectator contributing editor Robert Camuto checks out his new project.

Blogs  :  Harvey Steiman At Large

Authentic Sangria … Mmmmmm

For this recipe picked up on the coast of Spain, all it takes is decent red wine and fruit accoutrements

Posted: May 23, 2014  By Harvey Steiman

Memorial Day being the official start of summer eating and drinking, make this stellar recipe for sangria my contribution to your enjoyment. I watched the bartender make this version at a terrific seaside hotel in the Costa Brava of Spain last year, and it's become a warm-day favorite around our house (on those few days when late-afternoon temperatures rise in San Francisco). I watched the bartender make it enough times to glean the recipe, which I'll share with you.

Blogs  :  Bruce Sanderson Decanted

Domaine de la Romanée-Conti’s Brilliant 2012s

Terroir dominates the vintage in DRC's 2012 lineup

Posted: May 22, 2014  By Bruce Sanderson

I made my annual pilgrimage to Domaine de la Romanée-Conti earlier this year. It marked the first time since I began visiting the domaine in 2005 that I did not taste with Aubert de Villaine, who was traveling.

However, I met Bertrand de Villaine, who is being groomed to succeed his uncle as codirector of DRC. Along with cellar master Bernard Noblet, we tasted through the 2012 vintage in barrel. WineSpectator.com members can read my non-blind scores and tasting notes below for the 7 DRC wines: Corton, Echezeaux, Grands Echezeaux, Romanée-St.-Vivant, Richebourg, La Tâche and Romanée-Conti..

Blogs  :  Harvey Steiman At Large

Tasting Tahbilk with Alister Purbrick

Noble Shiraz, but the whites made from Marsanne are the head-turners

Posted: May 22, 2014  By Harvey Steiman

Château Tahbilk, the winery estate in central Victoria's Goulburn Valley, dates from the 19th century. The Australian property has been in the Purbrick family since 1925, known for Shiraz from old vines, some dating to 1860. Alister Purbrick, the fourth generation, has run the estate (now at 120,000 cases) since 1979. He brought a series of mini-verticals for me to taste in San Francisco.

Blogs  :  Mixed Case: Opinion and Advice

How Rational Is the GMO Debate? A Court Just Legitimized Mob Destruction

It's hard to discuss the potential promise and perils of genetically modified organisms if fear trumps reason

Posted: May 21, 2014  By Mitch Frank

A French court ruled last week that a mob that destroyed an experimental vineyard in Alsace planted to genetically modified vines in 2010 was completely justified. It's another win for fear over reason when it comes to genetically modified organisms (GMOs).

Blogs  :  Exploring Wine with Tim Fish

Value Wines for a Season of Grilling

Try this mixed case as Memorial Day weekend kicks off a summer of great meals

Posted: May 21, 2014  By Tim Fish

Last week's heat wave in Sonoma put me in the grilling mood. It was, in part, a survival tactic, since there's no AC in our kitchen and I wilt easily. But now that Memorial Day weekend is upon us, Americans are dusting off their grills and smokers, gathering the charcoal and researching new summer recipes the family isn't sick to death of.

Summer wine drinking deserves the same level of devotion. It takes prep work to find the right combination of qualities in a warm-weather wine: a style or variety you like, refreshing, good with grilled foods and, of course, a good value doesn't hurt. The last point is key for those do a lot of entertaining in the summer.

Blogs  :  James Laube's Wine Flights

Birth-Year and Graduation Wine Advice

Save your generosity for loved ones who've figured out what they like

Posted: May 19, 2014  By James Laube

A reader asked me to recommend some wines to cellar for their newborn, which means candidates to age 20 to 25 years or more, when junior or sissy is of drinking age. My answer is the same I would give for those seeking appropriate wine gifts for graduates, which is another common query at this time of year.

It's best to pass along a gift of wine after you've learned what the recipient likes to drink, as in, once they themselves have become adults.

Blogs  :  James Laube's Wine Flights

Bob Sessions Had Something to Show

He always looked forward to the next vertical of old Hanzell wines

Posted: May 16, 2014  By James Laube

When the "food wine" craze hit California in the early 1980s, many vintners talked about changing their style. But there were two winemakers I knew wouldn't.

One was Joe Heitz. Bob Sessions, who died earlier this week at age 82, was the other. Both took a dim view of the new direction. Food wines—made by harvesting grapes at lower sugar levels, with higher acidity—were merely a passing fad in their minds. Grapes picked early had plenty of zip, yet lacked sufficient flavor and body, and neither winemaker had any intention of scrapping their style.

Blogs  :  Bruce Sanderson Decanted

Remembering Laurence Faller and Bob Sessions

Both Faller's and Sessions' beautiful wines made a lasting impression

Posted: May 15, 2014  By Bruce Sanderson

The wine world lost two winemakers this week. Laurence Faller, 47, who made the wines at Domaine Weinbach in Alsace, died of a suspected heart attack. Longtime Hanzell winemaker Bob Sessions died after battling Alzheimer's disease for several years. He was 82.

Both Laurence Faller and Bob Sessions made beautiful wines. They made a lasting impact on me as a critic and taster, and I consider myself fortunate to have shared some of those wines with them.

Blogs  :  Harvey Steiman At Large

An Australian One-Stop Winery: Innocent Bystander

Yarra Valley favorite shows what a tasting room can be

Posted: May 15, 2014  By Harvey Steiman

Healesville, a Yarra Valley town an hour's drive from Melbourne, attracted me not only for the wines, but also a visit to Innocent Bystander, where Phil Sexton makes Pinot Noirs and Chardonnays in the steely style currently in vogue. His Giant Steps label, which focuses on single-vineyard Yarra Valley wines, often rates among my leaders for Chardonnay.

More than the wines intrigued me. The modern building is an architectural award winner for its angled placement, green certifications and distinctive long swaths of wooden slats on the exterior. The 70,000-case cellar door (Aussie talk for tasting room) also bakes artisan bread, makes pizza, mongs cheese and pulls some of the better espresso in the neighborhood. Dipping into the lunch menu is rewarding.

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