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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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."
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.
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.
Posted: April 10, 2014 By Mitch Frank
Call it the sommelier's dilemma. Wine professionals like sommeliers and retailers spend their days tasting the most interesting wines on earth. That is their passion. But the majority of their customers are looking for safe, reliable wines, ones that don't challenge the brain or the palate. Those wines pay the sommelier's salary.
Posted: April 9, 2014 By Harvey Steiman
Torbreck, which ranks high on anyone's list of modern Australian wine producers, made headlines late last year when Dave Powell, who founded Torbreck in 1994, was summarily fired. Owner Pete Kight, the American entrepreneur who started CheckFree and also owns Quivira winery in Sonoma County, refused to renew Powell's contract.
A crossfire of accusations got ugly, lighting up the Australian press for several weeks. Powell has since been served with court papers invoking a non-compete clause in his contract. He cannot make any wine on his own in 2014, the vintage just wrapping up. The lawsuit goes to trial April 28 in Adelaide.
I recently visited Torbreck to taste the newest vintages, and then sat down with Powell to hear his plans for the future.
Posted: April 8, 2014 By James Molesworth
Thanks to Mother Nature, Bordeaux faced myriad problems in 2013. Cold, windy and wet weather during flowering. Mid-season hailstorms. Then steady disease pressure from botrytis that basically went rampant with season-ending rains that lasted from mid-September through October.
It was a stern test that, by all accounts, Bordeaux passed. Not with flying colors—the vintage is hardly anything special. It's likely in the range of 2007, if that. The best red wines will be charming, aromatic drinks in less than a decade (whites are excellent, as are the dessert wines, but Bordeaux remains defined by its reds). But had you thrown this weather at the Bordelais in the decades of the '60s, '70s and '80s, perhaps even the '90s, it would have been a washout. The fact that they passed the test and generally made a drinkable vintage out of a train wreck of a growing season is a testament to several things.
Posted: April 7, 2014 By Harvey Steiman
Actually tasting the effects of terroir in a wine can be problematic. This elusiveness makes cynics wave off the idea as nothing but a marketing ploy by French vintners looking for an edge. Although that does happen, I do believe terroir applies not just in France but anywhere in the world serious efforts go into the wine.
We often can't agree on what the word means, however. For some of us, myself included, it comprises all the physical elements of a place that can affect the character of wine made from it. To others it's a specific character, or a cluster of characteristics, they expect to find in the wine at hand, even if introduced by the winemaker.
In other words, is terroir about the basic material, or how it expresses itself in the wine?
Posted: April 7, 2014 By Robert Camuto
Trattoria La Busa, on the southern outskirts of Modena, is a window onto Emilia-Romagna's traditions: Italy's fastest cars, fantastic food and its most misunderstood wines.
Ferrari-racing memorabilia cover the walls, platters of melt-in-your-mouth salumi lap around the dining room, and the kitchen turns out delicious handmade pastas drizzled with thick traditional balsamic vinegar. And dominating the wine list is fizzy red Lambrusco. This Lambrusco is not the sweet red fizz that became Italy's most exported wine in the decades after the 1970s. It's the good stuff: dry, not-quite-sparkling, easy-drinking wine crafted from select grapes and offered at reasonable prices.
Posted: April 4, 2014 By James Molesworth
I spent my last day of 2013 Bordeaux barrel tasting visits at Château de Fargues and Château d'Yquem. Here are my notes.
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