Posted: July 23, 2014 By James Laube
The decision about what wine to make is often as basic as what you like to drink and what you can sell. Winemakers figure if they make a wine they can't sell, they can drink it themselves. Up to a point.
Carl Doumani always liked Petite Syrah (his spelling), a drop in Napa Valley's bigger sea of Cabernet. When he bought the original Stags' Leap Winery property in 1971, it came with blocks of old-vine Petite that suited Doumani just fine. And true to his contrarian nature, he hung his white hat on Chenin Blanc, another old-time favorite that was losing steam. Selling those two wines amounted to paddling upstream as Cabernet and Chardonnay become the marquee wines of Napa, and favorites of American wine drinkers.
Posted: July 23, 2014 By James Molesworth
Wine Spectator senior editor James Molesworth is back in France. Today he visited Clos Ste.-Magdeleine in Cassis. Here are his notes on the white wine with a red name.
Posted: July 22, 2014 By Ben O'Donnell
New York Restaurant Week is upon us in the city, a time when restaurants that are well north of my supper budget open their doors a little wider with prix-fixe specials. I always look for spots that offer wine specials as well, and in past years have found that New York wines are often given this platform to shine.
When I interviewed Long Island winemakers for my June 15 issue feature on the region, they felt confident that their wines could equal the best. But what did our high-end restaurant wine directors think?
Posted: July 22, 2014 By James Molesworth
Wine Spectator senior editor James Molesworth is back in France. Today he visited Domaine Tempier in Bandol. Here are his notes on the reds.
Posted: July 21, 2014 By Harvey Steiman
One key moment stands out when I was researching my Wine Spectator Aug. 31 issue profile of Eric Ripert, chef and partner of New York's fabled fish restaurant, Le Bernardin. It was the creative meeting.
Ripert and his top-ranking chefs meet daily in a small conference room, away from the hustle and bustle of the kitchen, to perfect their ideas for new dishes. The menu is constantly in flux. Anyone in the kitchen can present an idea, then work out the details until the results get the approval of Ripert and his lieutenants. They bring trays full of the latest iteration of the dish, along with some options they are considering, all in an effort to keep things fresh and lively.
Posted: July 21, 2014 By James Molesworth
Wine Spectator senior editor James Molesworth is back in France. Today he visited Domaine Tempier in Bandol. Here are his notes.
Posted: July 21, 2014 By Robert Camuto
Wine Spectator contributing editor Robert Camuto visits the Abbaye de Lérins, a Cistercian monastery on the tiny, idyllic island of Saint Honorat, about two miles and a 15-minute ferry ride off the yacht-jammed Cannes coast where winemaker Frère Marie turns out high-end reds and whites.
Posted: July 18, 2014 By James Molesworth
Wine Spectator senior editor James Molesworth is back in France. Today he visited Domaine de la Tour du Bon in Bandol to taste the recent vintages of rosé, red and white wine. Here are his notes.
Posted: July 17, 2014 By Mitch Frank
Wine has a duality of School of Books versus School of Real World. Once upon a not-so-long-ago time, most American sommeliers got their jobs because they were the only waiter who actually drank wine. "Like wine, kid?" the owner would ask one day, handing them the list. "You're wine director. Don't screw up."
As diners have grown more thirsty, sommeliers have gone to school. The Court of Master Sommeliers, in particular, has worked to raise standards by making sure more wine people receive proper training.
Posted: July 16, 2014 By James Molesworth
The Jolie-Pitt & Perrin joint venture has gotten a fair amount of publicity, thanks to its Hollywood A-list owners Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie. They hooked up with the Perrin family of the Rhône Valley's Château de Beaucastel to help make their rosé and white wine from the Château Miraval estate. The resources of Pitt and Jolie and the viticulture and winemaking expertise of the Perrin family count for a lot. But ultimately the terroir will have its say, and with that in mind, Marc Perrin was eager to show me the dirt and roots behind the project.
Posted: July 16, 2014 By Harvey Steiman
Wine Spectator editor at large Harvey Steiman offers his recipe for Not Pesto, a basil-and-pine nut puree perfect over sliced heirloom tomatoes and fresh mozzarella or burrata and paired with a crisp rosé.
Posted: July 15, 2014 By James Laube
I thought I'd been offered a plum assignment, covering the 1967 Major League Baseball All-Star Game, held for the first time in my hometown of Anaheim, Calif., in its new stadium. I was a cub reporter for the Anaheim Bulletin and contributed little to our coverage. All the newspapers' front-line baseball writers were on hand and my editor, Doug Miles, sent as many of us to the game as wanted, likely me just for the experience. Only later did I find out why not all the staffers cared to go.
Posted: July 15, 2014 By Ben O'Donnell
"We don't allow the buses here" is a proud refrain at Long Island wineries these days. Not so long ago, Long Island wine travel was considered rowdy and unserious, just as Napa is tarred in some circles as overpriced and impersonal—both regions magnets for the much-scorned wine tourist. And yet: What fun those folks always seem to be having.
So when I visited California wine country in June, I decided to stop at a few places that unabashedly cater to "tourists." One was Sonoma's Francis Ford Coppola Winery, which boasts a swimming pool, bocce lanes, a restaurant and a movie memorabilia collection. It's not just about the wine, but is that the same as not caring about the wine?
Posted: July 15, 2014 By James Laube
To best appreciate how far viticultural and winemaking practices have come in the past decade, one need look no further than the 2011 Napa Valley Cabernets.
By most accounts this was the most damning vintage in perhaps 15 years. An altogether cool, damp year ended with heavy storms, and by some estimates as much as 50 percent of the grapes were of little or no use. I've talked with vintners who made about one-fourth of what they might have in a better year. Severe thinning led to a quarter-ton or less per acre. Thinning proved a winning strategy if only to salvage what might otherwise have been a dismal year. But based on nearly 200 reviews, the quality of the 2011 Napa Cabernets ranges from fair to, on a few occasions, outstanding.
Posted: July 14, 2014 By James Molesworth
Today I visited Hecht & Bannier's Gregory Hecht and François Bannier at their négociant office in Aix-en-Provence to taste their 2013 Provence wines and a recent vertical of their Bandols. Here are my notes.
Posted: July 11, 2014 By James Molesworth
Domaine St.-Préfert and Domaine Ferrando, the joint domaines owned by Isabel Ferrando, have become reference points for red and white Châteauneuf-du-Pape since they were founded in 2002 and 2004, respectively. On this visit, I tasted both the 2012 and 2013 lineups. Here are my notes.
Posted: July 10, 2014 By James Molesworth
Louis Barruol no longer needs an introduction on this blog. I've visited Château de St.-Cosme regularly for several years, so you can reference background information starting with my most recent entry. This remains the reference-point estate for Gigondas, as well as one of the most dynamic estates in all of the Rhône Valley, south or north. Here are my notes on the 2012 lineup here.
Posted: July 9, 2014 By Bruce Sanderson
Wine Spectator senior editor Bruce Sanderson tastes the newest wine from Tuscany's Marchesi de' Frescobaldi, the "accidental" Chianti Rufina Nipozzano Vecchie Viti Riserva 2011, made entirely from indigenous old vines.
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.
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.
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