Posted: June 20, 2014 By Harvey Steiman
Ripeness and alcohol continue to polarize wine drinkers. The prevailing trend almost everywhere these days is toward more moderate levels of alcohol, but a highly vocal wing still finds too much alcohol in too many wines.
It's the sugar in the grapes, of course, that ferments into alcohol, so winegrowers are seeking ways to get enough ripeness to deliver pleasurable flavors without the sugar getting out of hand. Finding a cool climate can do it. But sometimes a cool vintage is a mixed blessing, as my recent experience sampling 2011 Washington reds demonstrates.
Posted: June 19, 2014 By James Laube
The Educated Guess cuvée gets its name from the many best-guess scenarios that arise during the winemaking process, from when to pick the grapes to how long to age the wine in barrel, the bottom line being that there's no scientific formula for delivering the best wine that the owners of Roots Run Deep winery can. They use their knowledge, intuition and experience to make the best decisions for their wine, allowing too that at the end of the day it's still merely an educated guess.
Posted: June 18, 2014 By Tim Fish
Take your vacation soon, California winemakers. Early signs of veraison are already upon us. Veraison—when grapes begin ripening, turn softer and change color—rarely starts this early. It usually doesn't get going until the Fourth of July.
Veraison is significant for many reasons, but it's a big indicator of when harvest could begin: about six weeks later is the general rule. A lot depends on the region, grape variety, how a vineyard is farmed and, of course, the weather, but it boggles the mind that harvest could begin before Aug. 1, and not just for sparkling wine.
Posted: June 16, 2014 By James Laube
The 2011 and 2012 Pinot Noir harvests in California could hardly have been more different. In 2012, the weather was ideal from start to finish, but that's only part of the story. Despite superior weather, the wines are not head-and-shoulders above 2011, and the reason has much to do with yields.
Posted: June 13, 2014 By Bruce Sanderson
It wasn't quite the A to Z of dining in San Francisco, but a recent trip there provided an opportunity to visit Acquerello and St. Vincent Tavern and Wine Merchant, two very different restaurant concepts.
Posted: June 12, 2014 By Mitch Frank
Wine, consumed in reasonable amounts, can improve your health. Too much of it can kill you. (Isn't that true for most enjoyable things in life? Chocolate, sex, Game of Thrones ...)
America became the top wine-consuming nation last year, according to my number-crunching colleagues at Impact Databank. That's quite a twist for a country that once banned alcohol. One spark behind our increasing thirst is our growing belief that a little wine may be good for us. When 60 Minutes reported on the French Paradox in 1991, concluding that red wine was lowering French rates of heart disease, we started self-prescribing red wine overnight.
Posted: June 11, 2014 By James Molesworth
You can tell it's a family business at Continuum. Carissa Mondavi, 37, the newest generation of the storied vintner family, has no official title.
"I don't know how to answer that," she said when I asked her. "All I want to do is tell my dad's story and, in turn, my grandfather's," she added with a hint of wistful pride.
Posted: June 11, 2014 By Tim Fish
I've been reviewing a lot of 2013 rosés from California in recent weeks. The vintage offers a fine opportunity for winemakers who know what they're doing. I'm stocking up, and I've put together a list. Here a few of my highlights.
Posted: June 10, 2014 By Harvey Steiman
I moved to Miami from Los Angeles in 1969 to work for the Miami Herald, my first job on a big-city newspaper. From our apartment a few blocks from the office, my wife and I strolled the neighborhood and discovered a familiar sight to former Angelenos, but unusual then in Miami. A Chinese restaurant had just opened.
Hooked, we went often, and when I became the restaurant critic at the Herald I wrote up Tiger Tiger Teahouse. It became hugely popular. Regulars, we got to know the family, who often shared with us whatever they were cooking for themselves. When James Beard came to Miami to teach a cooking class, knowing that he had been raised in Oregon by a Chinese amah, I asked Mr. Tom to cook some of the family dishes for him. Tears streamed down Beard's face as he devoured pork trotters in hoisin sauce. Just like home, he said.
Posted: June 9, 2014 By James Molesworth
I'll admit, I was a little anxious to get to the historic Dominus Estate property and kick the dirt. Sure, the winery is as suave a bit of architecture as you're likely to find. But the dirt is where it's at for me. Today I tasted the 2012, 2010, 2004 and 2001 vintages. Here are my notes.
Posted: June 9, 2014 By Robert Camuto
Wine Spectator contributing editor Robert Camuto visits Filippo Filippi's family estate in Soave, where he is making an intriguing range of small-production whites.
Posted: June 6, 2014 By Harvey Steiman
One sure way to start an argument when tasting with others is to decry the effects of the yeast organism brettanomyces in a wine. Someone is bound to roll eyes and proclaim the opposite. I know. It's happened to me. A lot.
But if it takes an academically trained pro to detect brettanomyces, should it matter for ordinary wine drinkers? I say it does, and here's why.
Posted: June 6, 2014 By James Molesworth
Jamie Kutch is living the life. After cashing out on his Wall Street gig, the native New Yorker picked up and headed west to start his own wine label, which debuted in the 2005 vintage. He had success early and, now in his tenth vintage, he seems to be settling, producing cool-climate Pinot Noirs with a distinctive profile. I tasted through his 2013 Pinots; here are my notes.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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