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Blogs  :  Stirring the Lees with James Molesworth

Chêne Bleu Finds Its Footing

Up in the breezy hills, Nicole Sierra-Rolet's project blossoms

Posted: July 9, 2014  By James Molesworth

The all-star vinification team behind the still relatively nascent Chêne Bleu hasn't changed—Zelma Long has been consulting here since 2008 and Philippe Cambie since its inception. Thomas Oui is the day-to-day enologist while the husband-and-wife team of Jean-Louis and Benedicte Ballucci handles the vineyards, cellar and just about everything else on this sprawling 321-acre estate, which now has 57 acres of vines in production. Here are my notes on the 2011 lineup.

Blogs  :  Harvey Steiman At Large

Charles Smith Reinvents Substance

Washington winery with "chemical symbols" on the label returns with a new direction

Posted: July 8, 2014  By Harvey Steiman

The Washington wine label Wines of Substance was invented in 2006 by a couple of Walla Walla hotshots—Waters' winemaker Jamie Brown and Greg Harrington, founder of Gramercy Cellars. It had a promising early run. Some of the wines hit 90 points on the Wine Spectator 100-point scale. The black-and-white label design emulated the periodic table of the elements you might recall from chemistry class, assigning two-letter symbols to the grape varieties used to make the wines, priced at $14 to $20.

Blogs  :  Stirring the Lees with James Molesworth

At Rotem & Mounir Saouma, a Little Bit of Everything

But there's nothing ordinary about this young Rhône domaine

Posted: July 8, 2014  By James Molesworth

There are different ways to create a domaine. Most who start from scratch build up slowly, progressing linearly, either growing in size and/or refining or evolving their style over the years (see: Barrot, Julien or Giraud, Marie). Or you can go about it in a completely different way, experimenting, exploring tangents and basically doing things that people tell you not to do.

"I have people stopping when they see my vineyard and coming to tell me I'm crazy. They say 'You can't do it that way.' And I say, 'Why not?'" said Mounir Saouma.

Blogs  :  Stirring the Lees with James Molesworth

Château de Beaucastel: A Châteauneuf Benchmark

The Perrin family just keeps going and going and going …

Posted: July 7, 2014  By James Molesworth

No introduction needed here. Château de Beaucastel is one of the benchmark estates in Châteauneuf-du-Pape and has been a large presence for a long time in the U.S. market. Here are my tasting notes on the 2012 Beaucastels, tasted with Marc Perrin.

Blogs  :  Robert Camuto: Letter from Europe

The Etna Job

Rescuing a Sicilian cru in the middle of the night

Posted: July 7, 2014  By Robert Camuto

Wine Spectator contributing editor Robert Camuto visits Mount Etna winemaker Ciro Biondi in Italy, where Biondi was once forced to steal his own Sicilian wine under cover of night.

Blogs  :  Stirring the Lees with James Molesworth

The Wind of Change Blows Through Domaine de la Vieille Julienne

Jean-Paul Daumen shifts his philosophy while maintaining quality

Posted: July 3, 2014  By James Molesworth

The last time I visited with Jean-Paul Daumen, I wrote about how this soft-spoken but very serious vigneron doesn't change much, but instead just quietly cranks out some of the best and most long-lived wines in the AOC. Of course, on this visit, he's now in the midst of quite a bit of change ….

Blogs  :  James Laube's Wine Flights

Taking Twist-Offs on the High Seas

Alternative closures minimize the chance of a faulty wine

Posted: July 2, 2014  By James Laube

When I travel with wine, I prefer bottles with twist-off seals. That shouldn't come as a surprise to any regular readers of this blog or my magazine column. I'm convinced of the validity of twisties, and hauling around a case of them gives me a chance to test my own belief.

I recently spent a week on the Pacific on a fishing boat half-way down the Baja California coast, and the captain and the owners of the Sojourn, out of San Diego, all but encouraged anglers to BYOW, since that was one item they didn't stock (the meals, by the way, were excellent).

Blogs  :  Stirring the Lees with James Molesworth

Checking In with the Good Ol' Boys

The Coulon brothers of Domaine de Beaurenard bring out the terroir in their Châteauneuf reds and whites

Posted: July 2, 2014  By James Molesworth

I always like to stop in with the brothers Coulon at Domaine de Beaurenard after visiting Clos des Papes. Not only are they right across the street, so I won't be running too late, as tastings with Paul and Vincent Avril can run a little over budgeted time, but they provide a great contrast. Clos des Papes makes one wine, aged in foudre and without new oak, while at Beaurenard there are a few cuvées, and there's a mix of vat, demi-muid and barrel aging, including some new oak.

But don't make the mistake of thinking that Domaine de Beaurenard only makes a merely modernized wine—far from it. The Coulons have been farming biodynamically for a few years now and their wines, while framed by toasty spice notes, drip with plenty of terroir. For background on Frédéric and Daniel Coulon, the good ol' boys of Châteauneuf-du-Pape white wines, you can reference several older posts, starting with the notes from my June 2012 visit.

Blogs  :  Exploring Wine with Tim Fish

Honoring the World’s Best Wine Lists

There’s a lot of hard work and devotion behind Grand Award-winning restaurants

Posted: July 2, 2014  By Tim Fish

Some of my favorite non-fiction books are restaurant wine lists. I can read them for hours. But have you ever been to a restaurant that seemed out of a key wine or two on the list? Sometimes you have to wonder if a wine list is more fiction than fact.

That's not a concern when it comes to restaurants with Grand Awards from Wine Spectator's Restaurant Wine List program. Each potential Grand Award winner is thoroughly vetted and goes through an onsite inspection. The goal is to discover and honor truly great wine programs, and nine times out of 10 that's exactly what we find.

Blogs  :  Mixed Case: Opinion and Advice

Where California Meets Champagne

Schramsberg Vineyards sparkles in an Old World–New World face-off

Posted: July 1, 2014  By Alison Napjus

I have an Old World palate. What can I say? After years of reviewing and drinking French, Italian and Spanish wines, there's really no avoiding it. But that doesn't mean I eschew bottlings from the other side of the ocean, i.e. this side! I'm particularly fascinated by those modeled on Old World versions, and I love to see where the Old and the New line up and where they diverge.

With that philosophy in mind, and given the special place in my heart for France's Champagne region, I was excited when recently in Napa Valley to visit with Schramsberg Vineyards owner and winemaker Hugh Davies.

Blogs  :  Stirring the Lees with James Molesworth

Clos des Papes Sets the Pace

Vincent Avril has Châteauneuf-du-Pape's flagship estate rolling

Posted: July 1, 2014  By James Molesworth

I finished off a day of visiting some of the town's youngest vignerons (Julien Barrot of Domaine La Barroche and Marie Giraud of Domaine Giraud) with a stop at Domaine de la Charbonnière, where Véronique Maret, just 30, assumed full control of the winemaking in 2012, after starting at the domaine alongside her father, Michel, in 2009.

Blogs  :  Bruce Sanderson Decanted

19 Vintages of Louis Latour Corton-Charlemagne

A vertical tasting shows off 1990 to 2012, spanning Louis-Fabrice Latour’s tenure as head of Maison Latour

Posted: June 30, 2014  By Bruce Sanderson

With nearly 25 acres of estate vines in Corton-Charlemagne, almost one-third of the appellation, Louis Latour is an important producer. Along with Bonneau du Martray, Latour's Corton-Charlemagne is the version that Americans are most likely to find at restaurants and retail stores.

Louis-Fabrice Latour, president of Beaune-based Louis Latour, was in New York this month to present a vertical of 19 vintages of its Corton-Charlemagne from 2012 back to 1990.

Blogs  :  Stirring the Lees with James Molesworth

At Domaine de la Charbonnière, Another Young Vigneron Settles In

Véronique Maret hits the mark in her first solo vintage (though Dad is still hanging around)

Posted: June 30, 2014  By James Molesworth

I finished off a day of visiting some of the town's youngest vignerons (Julien Barrot of Domaine La Barroche and Marie Giraud of Domaine Giraud) with a stop at Domaine de la Charbonnière, where Véronique Maret, just 30, assumed full control of the winemaking in 2012, after starting at the domaine alongside her father, Michel, in 2009.

Blogs  :  Harvey Steiman At Large

Wine Across America: The Movie

A scattered view of those who give it all up for wine

Posted: June 27, 2014  By Harvey Steiman

American Wine Story is a fascinating, gritty and ultimately bittersweet movie about the people who give up their day jobs to make wine in unexpected places across the United States. It focuses on the story of Brooks Wines, a small but fast-growing winery in Oregon founded in 1998, and the outpouring of support from others in the industry on the untimely death of its founder in 2004.

Blogs  :  Stirring the Lees with James Molesworth

Domaine Giraud, the Quiet Elite

Marie Giraud has steadily piloted her family domaine to the top

Posted: June 27, 2014  By James Molesworth

A semi-regular stop when I'm in the area, you can reference background on Domaine Giraud from my 2011, 2010, 2009 and 2008 blog notes.

Marie Giraud, along with her brother François, has steadily put this family domaine among the elite of Châteauneuf-du-Pape. The pair is hands-on, managing their 62 acres (spread over a staggering 64 parcels) and produce on average 5,000 cases annually.

Blogs  :  Stirring the Lees with James Molesworth

At Domaine La Barroche, the Kid Settles In

With 10 vintages under his belt, Julien Barrot refines his style

Posted: June 26, 2014  By James Molesworth

When he first started at his family domaine, Julien Barrot (who previously guest blogged for us during a harvest) had short hair and admittedly put a lot of himself into his wines. Now, though still just a young 34, Barrot has let his locks grow long, and he feels he's learned a thing or two over his first 10 vintages at Domaine La Barroche in Châteauneuf-du-Pape.

Blogs  :  Stirring the Lees with James Molesworth

Bosquet des Papes: Updating the Old School

Nicolas Boiron refines his approach without losing his identity

Posted: June 25, 2014  By James Molesworth

On the Route d'Orange, just past Pierre Usseglio as you head by the Châteauneuf itself, sits the family-run Bosquet des Papes.

Nicolas Boiron is the fifth generation of his family to tend vines. After his predecessors started the estate and cobbled together various parcels, his grandfather began planting vines, and his father eventually bottled the domaine's first commercial production in 1966. Nicolas, 43, took over in 2004, and today he oversees the winemaking from the family's 79 acres of vines (covering 42 parcels), the majority in the northern end of Châteauneuf-du-Pape in top lieux-dits such as Pignan, Gardioles, Gardine and Mont-Redon. The majority of the domaine's vines are on clay, with some galets and sand and a very small amount on limestone. Total annual production stands at about 7,000 cases.

Blogs  :  James Laube's Wine Flights

Understanding How Wine Moves Around

Distribution is a major obstacle for most small vintners

Posted: June 24, 2014  By James Laube

If you want an unsullied perspective on perhaps the major challenge facing any vintner, it's worth reading Bill Foley's comments on the distribution system in one of last week's Shanken News Daily reports (one of Wine Spectator's sister publications).

While wineries can sell direct to consumers in many states, most at one level or another require a distributor to handle their wines in some markets. Foley realized that early on and owns a stake in a distribution company, Epic Wines. His company, Foley Family Wineries, accounts for about 20 percent of Epic's business.

Blogs  :  Kim Marcus' Prunings

Paul Hobbs Takes the Malbec Plunge in Cahors

California's master of Argentine Malbec is trying his hand at the ancient grape in its homeland

Posted: June 24, 2014  By Kim Marcus

Paul Hobbs can grin like a Cheshire cat, especially when he has a new project up his sleeve. The California vintner, who has consulting projects and partnerships in Argentina, Armenia, Canada, Chile and France, as well as his home state, is now getting ready to release his latest venture. It's a red made from Malbec, but it doesn't hail from Argentina, where the grape is a star and Hobbs has long made memorable versions.

Blogs  :  Stirring the Lees with James Molesworth

To the Rhône, to Taste the 2012s

What will the recently bottled 2012s from Châteauneuf-du-Pape and Gigondas have in store?

Posted: June 24, 2014  By James Molesworth

After a long overnight and ensuing day of planes, trains and automobiles, I'm back in France's Rhône Valley for the first time since my last visit in November 2013.

This time I'm in the Southern Rhône, and not just for the wines. The weather here in June is idyllic—warm and sunny during the day, but pleasantly cool at night.

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