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Blogs  :  Mixed Case: Opinion and Advice

Why Don't Food and Wine Trends Match?

Trendy menus get fattier while edgy wine lists focus on restraint

Posted: April 4, 2013  By Jennifer Fiedler

Can I ask a question? Why does it seem that menus in young, trendy restaurants tout big flavor from fat and spice, while the dog-whistle words of trendy wines are "balance" and "restraint"?

OK, I know the word "trendy" is problematic, so here, a warning: There will be some broad generalizations ahead. To avoid putting everything in "quotes," when I say young and trendy, I mean those restaurants designed to appeal to twenty-somethings in the creative class living in urban areas, and trendy wines are on those restaurants' wine lists.

Blogs  :  Harvey Steiman At Large

Surveying America for Wine

A new reference book, American Wine, by Jancis Robinson and Linda Murphy, looks beyond the obvious to all 50 states

Posted: April 3, 2013  By Harvey Steiman

One of the very first books I read about wine was Leon Adams' remarkable Wines of America. Published in 1973, its narrative took us into vineyards to see the land and into cellars to meet the people and learn their histories, just as wine was on the cusp of entering American culture. California was only just coming into focus for most Americans, but the intrepid Adams ranged from coast to coast. He explored the Finger Lakes in New York, the byways of the Ozark Mountains in Missouri and hardy souls seeking to make something of the grape in Texas, Arkansas, Ohio and Michigan. He did not miss the first glimmers of what would be coming from Washington and Oregon, either.

Over the years, others have taken a shot at capturing between the covers of a book the vibrant developments in the world of wine across America. Jancis Robinson and Linda Murphy are the authors of the latest, American Wine: The Ultimate Companion to the Wines and Wineries of the United States (University of California Press, 278 pages, $50), just published.

Blogs  :  Stirring the Lees with James Molesworth

The 2012 Bordeaux Barrels Diary: The Cabernet Test Continues at Latour and Mouton

How did this pair of Pauillac's flagship first-growths perform in the difficult 2012 vintage?

Posted: April 3, 2013  By James Molesworth

The performance of Pauillac and its Cabernet-based first-growth reds remains the most important indicator of vintage quality for most Bordeaux fans, and today I continued my tour through the upper Médoc's Cabernet country to check out the 2012 vintage at Châteaus Latour and Mouton-Rothschild.

Blogs  :  Exploring Wine with Tim Fish

Wine Tips for Braving the Tax Man

How to survive April 15, whether it’s an audit or a refund

Posted: April 3, 2013  By Tim Fish

I'm working on my taxes this weekend, so I'm not sure whether I'll be in the mood to celebrate or lash myself for my pitiful fiscal skills. I suspect it will be the lashing, but I'm thinking positive.

Whether you'll be toasting victory or wallowing in defeat over your 2012 tax returns, I suggest that you arm yourself with the appropriate bottle. So it's time for my second annual Surviving Tax Time Wine Tips.

If you owe The Man this year, I feel for you, but I also have a few frugal recommendations … as well as some ideas for splurging. All of them are widely available and should be on shelves near you.

Blogs  :  Stirring the Lees with James Molesworth

The 2012 Bordeaux Barrels Diary: Aiming for First-Growth Quality in St.-Julien

Château Ducru-Beaucaillou avoided the pitfalls of a tricky vintage; selection was key in Pauillac for Lafite

Posted: April 2, 2013  By James Molesworth

For most people Bordeaux is red wine (despite some superb whites). And within that rubric, for most people, Bordeaux means Cabernet Sauvignon (despite plenty of superb Merlot and Cabernet Franc). So for many people, the real test of a vintage in Bordeaux is how did the Cabernet of the upper Médoc do? Today, to start to answer that question, I began my visits in St.-Julien and Pauillac, Châteaus Ducru-Beaucaillou and Lafite Rothschild.

Blogs  :  Stirring the Lees with James Molesworth

The 2012 Bordeaux Barrels Diary: Margaux Headliners and Other Acts to Watch

Terroir was key for first-growth Margaux and Château Palmer in the tough 2012 vintage

Posted: April 1, 2013  By James Molesworth

After two days in Bordeaux's Pessac-Léognan, where I visited some châteaus with bright futures in addition to the venerable Châteaus Haut-Brion and La Mission, I headed into the Médoc's Margaux appellation, home to first-growth Château Margaux, the highly regarded third-growth Palmer and the exciting Monbrison, Siran, Giscours and du Tertre.

Blogs  :  Stirring the Lees with James Molesworth

The 2012 Bordeaux Barrels Diary: More Pessac and the First First-Growth

Visits to Château Olivier, Les Carmes Haut-Brion and then Château Haut-Brion to taste the 2012 lineup from Domaine Clarence Dillon

Posted: March 29, 2013  By James Molesworth

Continuing my visits through Pessac-Léognan on Bordeaux's Left Bank, I tasted the 2012 barrel samples at Château Olivier and Les Carmes Haut-Brion and then at the oldest of the first-growths, Haut-Brion, where I tasted La Mission Haut-Brion as well.

Blogs  :  Stirring the Lees with James Molesworth

The 2012 Bordeaux Barrels Diary: Keeping Up with the Neighbors in Pessac

Châteaus Larrivet Haut-Brion and Haut-Bailly have come on strong in recent years

Posted: March 28, 2013  By James Molesworth

I arrived in Bordeaux in time for lunch (I love when that happens), dropped my bags at Les Sources de Caudalie and then decided to check on two neighbors in the Pessac-Léognan AOC, Châteaus Larrivet Haut-Brion and Haut-Bailly.

Blogs  :  Mixed Case: Opinion and Advice

Does the Counterfeits Crusader Deserve Our Thanks?

Bill Koch has spent eight years and millions of dollars picking fights over wine

Posted: March 28, 2013  By Mitch Frank

The picture is still hanging in my office: Bill Koch, the energy executive who has made fighting sales of counterfeit rare wines a personal obsession, stares menacingly at me, wearing a cowboy hat, a bandana and a sheriff's star. The shot was taken when Wine Spectator photographed Koch for our Dec. 15, 2009, cover story, "The Crusade Against Counterfeits." The outfit was Koch's idea: In addition to wine, he collects Old West memorabilia.

In the end, we opted for a shot of Koch in a suit, holding a magnum of Château Pétrus 1921. Koch says he bought that bottle at a 2005 Zachys auction of 17,000 bottles of wine from the cellar of California tech entrepreneur Eric Greenberg. Koch alleges that Greenberg bought it from Royal Wine Merchants, and Royal sourced it from German wine broker Hardy Rodenstock. Koch believes it’s a fake.

That magnum, and all those players, are back in the headlines this week, as a jury of six men and two women hear Koch v. Greenberg in a Manhattan federal court. Koch has been suing Greenberg for six years over 24 bottles he bought for almost $350,000 at that auction, wines he says are counterfeit. (Contributor Peter Hellman, who has doggedly pursued this topic, has written an excellent summary of the case.)

Blogs  :  James Laube's Wine Flights

Struggles Show for California's 2011 Vintage

Chardonnays and Pinots are lighter and short on flavor; Cabernet won’t be much better

Posted: March 27, 2013  By James Laube

The difficulties of the 2011 vintage for California Chardonnay and Pinot Noir are more evident with every tasting. The 2011 Cabernets are a year away, but you can expect much of the same: variability and a lesser year. It's something you should consider when buying the current Cabernet vintages on the market.

Blogs  :  Harvey Steiman At Large

Thresholds and Wine Preferences

Why we don't always like the same wines others do

Posted: March 27, 2013  By Harvey Steiman

You pour a wine you adore for friends. It hits all your buttons and makes your eyes light up. One friend takes a sip, winces, and utters, "Yuck." How does this happen? Chances are a characteristic jumps out at your friend, who hates it but it doesn't bother you. This simple phenomenon explains so much rancor surrounding wine.

Blogs  :  Mixed Case: Opinion and Advice

Where the Big Reds Grow

Michel Chapoutier, Dave Phinney, Jean-Luc Thunevin and others are mining an obscure region in France for bold yet affordable reds

Posted: March 26, 2013  By Ben O'Donnell

If you're a fan of big, ripe, concentrated reds nowadays, you can expect to get slugged with equally muscular prices. In the span of a decade and change, longtime aficionados of Napa, Bordeaux, even Piedmont and Châteauneuf, have seen prices fly away, often out of reach.

There is yet one place, in France no less, where intense reds pop for as little as 10 or 15 bucks. "This region has been forgotten for 50 years," Michel Chapoutier said. "You can have some of the best soil in France and probably in the world." Could this be the next great region for red wine in France? "Oh, I am absolutely certain about that," he said. "Absolutely."

If you haven't guessed, we were talking about the Roussillon region, known in the United States as sidekick to the massive Languedoc zone in the south of France, with Roussillon reaching the Spanish border. Rhône power player Chapoutier has been snapping up plots around Roussillon for 15 years or so now, most of which go into his Domaine de Bila-Haut label. The wines run about $10 to $25, depending on the subappellation.

Blogs  :  Mixed Case: Opinion and Advice

Has Massachusetts Winery Shipping Legislation Finally Reached the Red Zone?

Patriots QB-turned-vintner Drew Bledsoe is under center in the drive to pass House Bill 294

Posted: March 21, 2013  By Robert Taylor

Will this be the year that Massachusetts, the seventh-largest wine-consuming state, finally gets a legitimate winery-to-consumer shipping bill? Hopes are high in the Bay State, despite repeated setbacks: The state's most recent direct-shipping law passed in 2005 and, not long afterward, was ruled unconstitutional. The preceding law had been declared unconstitutional as well.

Rep. Theodore Speliotis has introduced House Bill 294, which would allow local and out-of-state wineries, after applying for a $100 state permit, to ship up to 24 cases of wine a year to Massachusetts residents. Sen. Daniel Wolf has co-sponsored the bill, crafted with the assistance of the Wine Institute, a winery advocacy organization.

And now the bill's proponents have a new secret weapon: former Patriots quarterback-turned-Washington vintner Drew Bledsoe.

Blogs  :  Exploring Wine with Tim Fish

California Is Golden with Values

Very good wines for $25 or less are ripe for the picking

Posted: March 20, 2013  By Tim Fish

For every three bottles of wine opened in America, two come from California. (Well, for statistic nitpickers, it's almost two.) That tells you how important the Golden State is to U.S. wine drinkers, especially when it comes to bottles that sell for $25 or less, which make up the lion's share of those sales.

That's one reason Wine Spectator takes values seriously. Consider my story "Golden State Values" in the April issue of the magazine, in which I combed through recent tastings and found more than 100 California wines that offer quality at a fair price. Each scored 85 points or higher on our 100-point scale, and none costs more than $25 a bottle.

Blogs  :  Harvey Steiman At Large

Up From the Cellar: Two Syrahs

Six years on, these two cool-climate Syrahs from Washington and Australia are going strong

Posted: March 19, 2013  By Harvey Steiman

Usually I try not to inflict wine-geek stuff on unsuspecting guests, but I knew that our friends coming for dinner Sunday loved full-bodied red wines and had some great ones in their own cellars. So to drink with dinner I pulled out a couple of New World Syrahs that I think of as candidates for modern standard-bearers. I did not feel at all guilty, especially when I learned that none of them had ever tasted either wine.

I chose Terlato & Chapoutier Shiraz Pyrenees Malakoff 2007 from Australia and Owen Roe Syrah Yakima Valley Lady Rosa 2006 from Washington for several reasons. First of all, the wineries have gotten plenty of ink and they have been making these wines only recently—since 2004. They are distinctive, and I have consistently rated them both in the low to mid-90s. Australia, long known for its Shiraz (its name for Syrah), is finally beginning to get some love around the world for its cooler-climate styles, of which this one is a fine example. As for the Washington wine, it eloquently makes the case that Syrah belongs right up there with Cabernet and other Bordeaux varieties as the state's calling card.

Blogs  :  Mixed Case: Opinion and Advice

From Compost to Cosmetics to Cupcakes: What to Do With a Giant Pile of Grape Pulp

Oregon researchers uncover creative new uses for a winemaking byproduct. Pomace muffin, anyone?

Posted: March 19, 2013  By Dana Nigro

Last year, California and Washington wineries crushed around 4.5 million tons of wine grapes. That's an awful lot of skins, seeds and stems left over—something like 1.5 million tons. When it comes to reducing waste, many wineries are cutting the use of electricity, fuel, water and packaging. One thing I don't hear a lot about when covering sustainability efforts is post-harvest waste: pomace. Maybe a big, squishy mass of pulp sounds less sexy than an elegant, energy-efficient building, but pomace is no less ripe for innovation.

Blogs  :  Stirring the Lees with James Molesworth

Talking Scents with Carlos Huber

Sticking my nose into perfume production with an architect-turned-perfumer whose scents carry a tale of time and place

Posted: March 18, 2013  By James Molesworth

Perfume has always intrigued me. And not just for the lilting effect it has when a deftly scented woman draws close. More than that, I've always wondered how difficult it is to create a perfume, and what kind of nose skills one would need. And surely there are parallels to making perfume and tasting wine, since I often find the greatest wines to be defined more by their aromas than their flavors.

So when I was put in touch with Carlos Huber, I smelled a good opportunity to learn a little something,

Blogs  :  James Laube's Wine Flights

At the Intersection of Wine and Baseball

It's that time of year again

Posted: March 15, 2013  By James Laube

There are quite a few parallels between two of my longtime favorite pastimes, wine and baseball. In fact, the analogies between the two fit like a glove.

The wine and baseball seasons each begin in the winter and end in the fall, with baseball club managers pruning rosters in spring training not long after vineyard managers have finished some pruning of their own. Ballplayers who get sheared find themselves back in the farm system.

Blogs  :  Bruce Sanderson Decanted

DRC 2010s Lead an Outstanding Vintage

Scores are in for the 2010s from Burgundy's legendary Domaine de la Romanée-Conti, which pushes the vintage to new heights

Posted: March 13, 2013  By Bruce Sanderson

Wine Spectator senior editor Bruce Sanderson gives his notes on the 2010 releases from Burgundy's Domaine de la Romanée-Conti. The Richebourg, La Tâche, Romanée-St.-Vivant, Romanée-Conti and more show just what could be achieved in this excellent vintage.

Blogs  :  Mixed Case: Opinion and Advice

Mixed Case: Mr. President, What's For Dinner?

Hunt for great wines and legendary winemakers, and you'll always find good food

Posted: March 12, 2013  By Mitch Frank

One thing I have learned in life—if you travel and can't find good food, good wine and good company, you might as well have stayed home.

In September 2000, I was a young political reporter at Time magazine, living a dream-I was covering a presidential race. For two weeks, I traveled with then-Governor George W. Bush as he crisscrossed the country, campaigning for the White House. Halfway through my stint, the campaign plane headed to Austin. Bush was taking the weekend off, so the press corps had two days free in the Texas capital.

During the flight, Bush wandered back to chat-off the record. The governor was not known for taking questions from reporters, but he did like to chat. When he got to my row, what did I ask the next President of the United States? "Governor, I've never been to Austin. Where can I find good barbecue?"

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