Posted: February 14, 2014 By Dana Nigro
Alan York, a California-based leader in the biodynamic viticulture movement in the United States and abroad, died Feb. 3 at the age of 62. He inspired many to adopt greener horticultural practices in his decades-long career as a gardener and landscape designer, international vineyard consultant and speaker, and president of the Biodynamic Association and editor of the quarterly Biodynamics journal for a stint. He was overseeing biodynamic farming at all four of Benziger's certified vineyard estates and worked with clients ranging from Emiliana and Matetic in Chile and Alto Las Hormigas in Argentina to Sting's Il Palagio estate in Tuscany.
Posted: February 12, 2014 By Tim Fish
The first major storm in more than a year swept through Northern California over the weekend, and the sound heard in the skies wasn't thunder, but a sigh of collective relief.
Napa Valley and Sonoma County averaged about 8 inches in a few days, with some areas gaining as much as 12 to 15 inches. Central California wasn't as blessed, receiving no more than an inch or so.
The drought is far from over even in Northern California—rainfall levels are still below the previous record drought year of 1977—but you won't hear any complaints right now.
Posted: February 11, 2014 By Bruce Sanderson
Wine Spectator senior editor Bruce Sanderson has just returned from Burgundy, where he tasted the 2012 vintage. Here are his tasting notes and non-blind scores from his visit to Domaine de Courcel in Pommard.
Posted: February 10, 2014 By Robert Camuto
Ten years ago, when the board of Château d'Yquem fired him, president and former owner Count Alexandre de Lur Saluces was expected to fade into the Sauternes sunset.
Instead, Lur Saluces picked himself up off the mat. The 80-year-old aristocrat continues making great Sauternes a few miles away at his Château de Fargues. Here, since 2005, he has produced seven wines in the outstanding range or better by Wine Spectator. The most recently released, 2009 (97 points), sold for $170.
Not bad for a man who doesn't even consider himself a winemaker.
Posted: February 6, 2014 By Mitch Frank
The first time I met Nicolas Potel, I was legitimately concerned that his hair would burst into flame at some point during the day we spent together. I was visiting Burgundy in early 2009 to write a story on the négociant, and I found a man busting at the seams with energy, trying to grow his eponymous winery—which had gotten an infusion of capital from new owners—and devote some time to a few small but ambitious side projects.
I came away feeling like Potel, then 40, was going to be a success, if he could hold it all together. But two months after I left, his juggling act came crashing down. The new owners of Maison Nicolas Potel fired Nicolas Potel. (The wines still bear his name today, but he has no role in them.) When I checked in with him before my story appeared, he was putting the pieces back together, launching a new négociant and looking for vineyards to start a small domaine. His energy was still there. But I wondered if it was all too much.
Today, Potel remains full of energy, ambition and ideas. But he also seems more at peace.
Posted: February 5, 2014 By Bruce Sanderson
Wine Spectator senior editor Bruce Sanderson has just returned from Burgundy, where he tasted the 2012 vintage. Here are his tasting notes and non-blind scores from his visits to René Lequin-Colin, Domaine Caillot and Philippe Bouzereau.
Posted: February 5, 2014 By James Laube
There's a downside to aging wines too long. That might seem obvious, but few wine lovers take that into consideration when purchasing wines to lay down in the cellar for a while.
In a conversation and tasting with John Kongsgaard the other day, we talked about terroir, to what extent it exists (and can be identified), at what age it might be most readily identified in a wine and, ultimately, that with enough age, all wines lose their terroir. They become old wines inseparable from one another.
Illustrating this point, Kongsgaard poured two Cabernets that he made early on his career, as a 26-year-old home winemaker in the 1970s with his father, Thomas, in Napa.
Posted: February 4, 2014 By Robert Taylor
Many winemakers adorn their bottles with art. Very few make the label art themselves, and none is more famous for doing so than California Rhône cult icon Manfred Krankl, whose coveted Sine Qua Non wines feature a new piece of his original artwork on every cuvée.
A self-taught craftsman, Krankl was never formally trained as a winemaker or as an artist. But collectors patiently wait years for a chance to join the Sine Qua Non mailing list (the secondary-market price for his new wines is double to quadruple what Krankl charges), and his early one-off labels like The Marauder, The Hussy and The 17th Nail in My Cranium have become iconic works of winemaking art in their own right.
Posted: January 31, 2014 By Harvey Steiman
He did not seem like a revolutionary when I met Antonio Mastroberardino, who died this week at age 86, nearly 30 years ago. He carried himself with almost a regal bearing. Quiet-spoken, he matter-of-factly explained why he chose to focus his family's vineyards and wines on grapes hardly anyone on this side of the Atlantic knew: Fiano, Greco and, especially, Aglianico.
His son Carlo, who was with him on a tour of the U.S., really did look like a firebrand, intense, vigorous, single-mindedly pushing the notion that his region's historic grape varieties could and should stand on their own. It's difficult to underestimate the importance of that approach.
Posted: January 30, 2014 By Alison Napjus
Krug Champagne managing director Olivier Krug was recognized as the event's honored vintner, which meant that the weekend afforded attendees, myself included, several opportunities to enjoy a glass of Krug. But I wasn't truly Krug'd until Friday night's dinner, at which chef Barbara Lynch of Boston's Menton restaurant created six courses paired with six different Krug bottlings, including a sneak preview of the soon-to-be-released 2003 vintage.
Posted: January 29, 2014 By Tim Fish
The only good thing about junk mail is how easy it is to throw out, or light a fire with. And yet here we are at the end of January, when every letter and slice of paper in the mailbox must be sifted through in case a Christmas bill or tax form is overlooked.
As tempting as it is to burn those, too, it won't get you very far. It's time to buck up, and if need be, take on some fiscal responsibility. As a wine lover, that is never a first choice, obviously. We all want to drink Château Latour 1945 on a Tuesday night. Well, I do anyway, but that's probably not going to happen, not even on a Friday or Saturday night.
The point is that fiscal responsibility as a wine lover may not be preferable, but it is possible. Case in point: the 10 wines detailed below. Each sells for $20 or less and earned an 88-point rating or higher on the Wine Spectator 100-point scale. That's a tough quality-to-price ratio to beat.
Posted: January 27, 2014 By Robert Camuto
The 2013 vintage was tough for all of Montalcino, Tuscany's premier wine region. But for Jacopo Biondi Santi, it was a moment of truth.
It was the first harvest at his family's legendary estate following the death of his father, Franco Biondi Santi, this past spring at the age of 91.
"I have been harvesting here since I was eight years old, first with grandfather, then with my father," Jacopo, 63, said in his office over the winery. "This was the first time I did it alone."
Posted: January 22, 2014 By Harvey Steiman
Australian wine is gaining the attention of American wine drinkers again, significantly that of the gatekeepers: wine merchants, sommeliers and writers.
The reasons for Australia's slide in these parts from 2008 to 2012 probably involve some combination of their own overreach and a wine-drinking public's fascination with some other Next Big Thing. Whatever, every Aussie winemaker I've met trying to sell their wares in the U.S. this past year has spoken of doors opening that had been shut to them.
Posted: January 21, 2014 By Jennifer Fiedler
Gianpaolo Paterlini, wine director of Wine Spectator Grand Award-winning Acquerello in San Francisco, lays out a game plan for understanding Italy's Piedmont region.
Posted: January 17, 2014 By James Laube
Wine Spectator senior editor James Laube reports his latest findings on the percentage of corked and tainted California wines that were tasted in Wine Spectator's tasting room in 2013. Cork taint frequency was up just a tick last year to a 4.26 percent failure rate.
Posted: January 15, 2014 By Tim Fish
California is thirsty—and not for wine. It barely rained in 2013, and the wine industry is worried.
How bad is it? Some of the growing regions in Napa Valley got less rain than Las Vegas. Paso Robles, on the California Central Coast, got 1.92 inches of rain in 2013 instead of the average 12.78, according to the National Weather Service. By comparison, Death Valley got 2.17 inches.
That makes 2013 the driest year on record in California, and the records go back to about 1880. Droughts are nothing new here, but this is a new level of parched. It doesn't help that 2012 was an exceptionally dry year as well.
Posted: January 14, 2014 By Harvey Steiman
Victor Hazan's late wife, Marcella, whose cookbooks have afforded me no end of pleasure, taught many of us about Italian food. Victor often supplied the wine-half of the equation, but he was no stranger to foodways himself. Since Marcella's death last year, he has been writing occasional posts to thousands of followers of her Facebook account. At first he penned eloquent reminiscences about Marcella. Lately he has been commenting on cuisine.
This past week he stirred up a bit of a reflexive firestorm among his Facebook friends. Inspired by a photo of New York's new mayor, Bill di Blasio, eating pizza with a knife and fork, he waded into the age-old debate over the best way to consume Italy's signature flatbread.
Posted: January 14, 2014 By Mitch Frank
Chinese businessman Lam Kok's deal to fulfill his dream of owning a Bordeaux château with the purchase of Château La Rivière turned tragic when he and la Rivière's former owner died in a helicopter crash.
Now someone has decided to take advantage of the tragedy. A group calling itself the Agricultural Action Committee has sent a letter to a local newspaper and numerous real-estate agents, claiming that Gregoire "paid with his life for selling the vineyard to a foreign buyer exactly 10 days after we had warned him not to."
Posted: January 13, 2014 By Robert Camuto
There are lots of reasons to love wine, but for me the most important reason is people. Wine is, after all, a story of humans working within the dynamics of nature, culture and history. When you put those forces together, you are bound to have tales of operatic proportions. These are the stories I love telling and will share in my new twice-monthly blog, Letter from Europe, reporting from the wine regions of France, Italy and beyond.
Posted: January 8, 2014 By Tim Fish
If you drink Robert Mondavi wines and Jim Beam Bourbon, you probably vote Republican. If you prefer Moët & Chandon and Courvoisier Cognac, chances are you’re a Democrat.
Who knew that you were making a political statement every time you reached for a bottle of wine or spirits? Consumer data supplied by research group GFK MRI and analyzed by the National Media Research Planning and Placement, suggests that what you drink says a lot about how you vote.
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