Posted: September 4, 2012 By Robert Taylor
You may have noticed it's an election year, not just here but around the world. Of all the recent campaigns, I was particularly captivated by the one in Russia. The return to power of Vladimir Putin-who remains a regular headliner in the news-got me thinking about the wines of the old Soviet Bloc.
The former U.S.S.R. once had a booming wine industry, much of it in what is now the Republic of Georgia. Even after Georgia declared independence in 1991, almost all of its wine was exported to Russia, but that ended in 2006 when Russia placed an embargo on Georgian wine and mineral water. Russia claimed the Georgian products were of such poor quality that they could no longer be accepted. However, the embargo also happened to coincide with Georgia's announced intentions to join NATO (which doesn't exactly always share Russian interests) and a 2006 espionage controversy, in which Georgia very publicly arrested four Russian officers and charged them with spying.
That all turned out to be a good thing for those of us who love undiscovered—and undervalued—wines.
Posted: August 31, 2012 By James Laube
The berry people are out, bacon sales are on the uptick and harvest widows (and widowers) are girding themselves for vintage 2012.
The berry people's numbers have been growing for the past few weeks. You see them mostly on back roads, picking the wild blackberries that grow on prickly tangled vines along the streambeds. Early in the season it's tricky finding the ripe berries, because even if they've darkened, they can be tart, as in mouth-puckeringly supersour. Those who prefer riper berries wait.
Posted: August 30, 2012 By Harvey Steiman
Back in the tasting room after a hiatus of several weeks, I am wrestling with whether my approach to tasting notes helps readers or makes wine seem too la-di-da for them.
Some fairly well-known wine writers have weighed in on the subject recently, the general thrust of their criticism being that it’s a fool’s errand to try to paint a detailed picture of a wine. Specific descriptors only turn off potential wine drinkers.
Posted: August 30, 2012 By Mitch Frank
When Telmo Rodriguez and Pablo Eguzkiza saw the big, juicy clusters of Garnacha grapes hanging on the vines in their Las Beatas vineyard, they were tempted to kill their vineyard manager. Except he was already dead.
Rodriguez is one of Spain's best known winemakers today. He grew up at the historic winery Remelluri in Rioja, but left in 1994 when his father refused to let him innovate. He partnered with Eguzkiza, a fellow Basque he had met while studying enology in Bordeaux. Together they began searching for old forgotten vineyards no one had bothered to tear up in under-appreciated regions of Spain—and in the 1990s, Spain had a lot of under-appreciated regions.
Today they make wine in nine appellations. When they expand to a new place, they always hire a young enologist to help them make the wine and an old grower to manage the vineyards. "These old guys, they remember how things were done before viticulture became industrial," says Rodriguez.
"The problem is, there aren't many of them left," adds Eguzkiza. "And you have to keep an eye on them." Old guys, it seems, often think they know better than hotshot winemakers. That was the problem with the Garnacha in Las Beatas.
Posted: August 29, 2012 By James Laube
Napa Valley's Pine Ridge Vineyards has recently made some of its best wines in years, and the 30-plus-year-old winery could be on the path to making even better California Cabernets and more.
Posted: August 29, 2012 By Tim Fish
My grandparents owned a corner grocery store back in Indiana when I was growing up and my grandfather Sam was an old-fashioned butcher, cutting meat by hand on a wood butcher block table. Every Monday, a new side of beef arrived and he would painstakingly whittle it down to the various roasts and cuts and grind his own hamburger.
If there were any leftover steaks by noon Sunday--yes, he worked 6½ days a week--he would call my dad and say, “Light the grill!” That didn’t happen a lot, but somehow he managed to always have leftovers on Labor Day Weekend. So when I was 7 or 8, I was accustomed to eating good and incredibly fresh steak. The fact that my dad tended to cook the life out of them is another blog post altogether.
Posted: August 28, 2012 By Jennifer Fiedler
One of the best things about working at Wine Spectator is that we get advance copies of most of the wine books that come out each year. I can tell you this much: A serious amount of words are spilled on the topic per annum. Come every fall, it's tough for the editors to choose which ones make it into the book review roundup for the December 15 issue.
But when it comes to the books I recommend privately to friends who want to "get more into wine," I have a very short list of all-time favorites. Maybe it's a matter of which books I read first myself or a bias toward older books, but most of my picks have been around for a while.
Making a starter library is like making a mixtape: You need a balance of upbeat and down-tempo, of familiarity and surprise. Unless someone really wants to get academic, I generally steer clear of recommending intro-to-wine books. It's like including music scales on your 60s garage-rock mixtape; I'd rather learn from the songs themselves.
I'll share four of my favorites below, but I'm curious: Which books would you choose for a starter library?
Posted: August 24, 2012 By James Laube
If you've noticed a proliferation of highly rated Napa Cabernets, here's one reason why: The subdivision of Beckstoffer To Kalon Vineyard in Oakville has become the source of more and more Cabernets and, consequently, more and more highly rated wines.
Posted: August 23, 2012 By James Molesworth
It was with a little bit of sadness that I watched the liquidation of assets at the struggling Crushpad in California in recent weeks. The do-it-yourself by-the-barrel winery was a great way to get people hands-on with winemaking. As a former client (I made my own barrel of Syrah there from the 2007 vintage a few years ago) and as a pro-consumer wine advocate, it was tough to hear how clients were being forced to pay additional fees to get the wines they had already made and paid for.
So, I was interested to hear how Crushpad Bordeaux was doing. The operation is based in the town of Bages behind Château Lynch-Bages, in Pauillac, Bordeaux. It was started in 2009 by Stephen Bolger as a partnership with the California-based Crushpad, but in April of 2012 the Cazes family of Lynch-Bages bought out the California partners and today the operation is completely separate from its U.S. namesake. And apparently thriving, growing at a 50 percent rate in its first three vintages, according to Bolger, Crushpad Bordeaux's CEO.
Posted: August 23, 2012 By Ben O'Donnell
Author and journalist Ron Rosenbaum once called New Jersey "the second most maligned and unfashionable place to come from in America." The line appeared in an essay about Long Island.
"I don't think it's a secret," said Kareem Massoud of the North Fork's Paumanok Vineyards, "that Long Island has an image problem." We were in the vineyard, talking about the thorny issue of Long Island wine, which also gets some punch-line treatment in the American wine world. I'd describe the skeptic spectrum as running from "underripe and overpriced" to "a bachelorette party with vines."
I went out to the East End with some friends to do some casual wine touring, but I also wanted to meet with a few winemakers and ask them about this. Why do Long Island wines get a bad rap, still? What can be done about it?
Posted: August 22, 2012 By Tim Fish
There's plenty of talk about wine and food but what about wine and mood? At our house it's not, "What do you want to eat for dinner?" It's, "What wine do you want to drink?"
Remember mood rings, that 1970s fad that lives on at Spencer's and other cheesy gift shops? The ring was supposed to be like a soul crystal that tapped into your vibe. Or something like that. Wine is my mood ring.
Posted: August 22, 2012 By James Laube
Stag's Leap Wine Cellars has cleaned up its cellar.
After nearly a decade of mediocre red wines, many flawed by the spoilage yeast brettanomyces, the owners of this once prominent Napa Valley winery have released the first vintage of what seem to be clean, complex Cabernets.
Posted: August 21, 2012 By Robert Taylor
With the amount of time I spend at Citi Field each summer, I've come to learn the restaurants along the No. 7 train through Queens fairly well. As decent as the ballpark's food is, sometimes you want to stop at a real restaurant (or just pick up one of the city's best Cubanos on the way home).
All-Time N.L. East villain John Rocker certainly didn't mean it nicely when he commented to Sports Illustrated about the diversity along the No. 7 train, but it's wonderfully true that there are myriad ethnic cuisines and exciting restaurants to be found along every turn and stop of the subway ride from Manhattan to Citi Field (and beyond).
My favorite restaurant in Queens, just one stop from Manhattan, is Tournesol, an authentically French restaurant with affordable prices and a solid wine list. I'm also including a run-down of some of my other Queens' top draws on the way to or from the game.
Posted: August 16, 2012 By Mitch Frank
My job doesn't hinge much on nature, and I'm grateful for that. Two years ago, Sonoma winegrowers weathered unseasonably cool weather for much of the summer. With the fruit not getting any riper, some opted to pluck leaves, exposing the grapes to more sunlight. A random heat wave then cooked their grapes on the vine. Who says Mother Nature doesn't have a sense of humor? It's a cruel one.
Wine producers are always boxing a far, bigger, faster opponent. They have to think fast, ready to change course if necessary. They always have to be prepared for the worst. Sometimes, nature is a partner. Other times, she just hits them with a sucker punch.
Posted: August 15, 2012 By Tim Fish
My annual California Merlot report won't hit print for a few months, but I've been tasting the wines at our Napa office all summer. So far I'm impressed with the 2009s. It's a particularly good year for high-end Napa Merlot, but there's plenty of value to be found as well.
Posted: August 14, 2012 By Ben O'Donnell
I admit: I'm a sucker for the classics, the stuff out of Bordeaux, or Oporto, or the Mosel tippled at feasts and fairs by princes, pashas and men in powdered wigs. These made up our modern wine world in its infancy, and these are the styles that taught the rest of the world how wine is made. I think it's important that they remain a part of a drinker's education and evolution. I also think that to understand a wine, you need to drink it, regularly, from different producers and vintages. Here's the rub: There are certain appellations that you essentially cannot crack without at least $35 to put down on a bottle. So I benchmark on a budget. How? By drinking on the edge. Here are two examples—alternatives to Champagne and Châteauneuf-du-Pape.
Posted: August 13, 2012 By Harvey Steiman
Remember Rosemount? In the early 1990s, when it was the flagship of Australia’s wine armada, Rosemount Shiraz introduced the notion that Australian wines could deliver the sort of flavors and textures that we Americans wanted. And then, well, there’s no getting around it: Rosemount screwed up.
Revamped and reimagined, the label has returned with a new look and a new wine style that aims to erase all the mistakes. A visit from winemaker Matt Koch laid it all out for me. My take? It’s clear that a lot of thought has gone into how to put better wines in the bottle, designed to appeal to today’s wine drinkers the way the earlier wines did.
Posted: August 10, 2012 By Bruce Sanderson
Nicola Marzovilla, owner of I Trulli restaurant in New York and the Italian wine importer Domenico Vaentino was on a mission.
"I found this great wine for pizza," he told me. "It's called Lettere. Let's get together and have some pizza."
Posted: August 9, 2012 By Jennifer Fiedler
If there’s one thing I learned from a very short-lived side career as an art director on television shows, it’s this: no prop is accidental. Which means when I watch TV and see a wine bottle, I have to wonder, what is that doing there? And what is it supposed to mean? Too often, wine (or wine appreciation) gets used as a shorthand cue for an “evil” character or some other moral deficiency and a wine bottle on screen signifies there’s about to be some evil-doing ahead—equivalent to a James Bond villain having a foreign accent and laughing maniacally. But that’s too bad, because I know plenty of non-evil wine drinkers, and I’d like to think that enjoying wine doesn’t have to be a character flaw.
With that in mind, I graded some of this season’s televisions shows on how positive their portrayal of wine drinking was on a scale from 1 (wine = evil) to 5 (wine = good). Is it really possible the Bachelor had the most positive view of wine on TV?
Posted: August 7, 2012 By Robert Taylor
It ain't easy being Philly in New York. As a Philadelphia sports fan, I accept that I face harassment from the locals. And as a Phillies fan in particular, I hear it pretty regularly from my diehard Mets fan colleagues. But the Phillies come to town frequently, and I've braved the hostile confines of Citi Field in Queens for a few games so far this season. I was also there to check back on the wine and food offerings of Citi Field, where restaurateur and recent Wine Spectator cover boy Danny Meyer runs most of the operation. For denizens of the "nose-bleed seats," there's the upper-deck wine bar, or for more high-end bottlings, the Delta Sky360 Club. And of the dining spots, two of my favorites are Catch of the Day and El Verano Taquería.
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