Posted: April 18, 2012 By Tim Fish
Bringing your own bottle of wine to a restaurant is routine in Napa and Sonoma, but it's not so easy if you live in Ohio or Colorado or nearly half the other states in the union. The alcohol laws in this country are kooky and outdated, but you've probably figured that out by now.
Even where it's legal, restaurateurs have mixed feelings about BYOB, or as it's sometimes called "brown bagging" or corkage. Like it or not, the profit margin is thin in the restaurant business and wine sales help balance the books.
There's a time-honored etiquette to BYOB that newcomers should learn, but even veterans need the occasional refresher course on the subject. Here are a few guidelines to follow.
Posted: April 16, 2012 By James Laube
Yao Ming, the world's tallest vintner, has put a towering price on his premiere wine. Yao's 2009 Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon Family Reserve, priced at $625 a bottle. All 300 cases have already sold out in China, the only market the where the reserve was offered. A second Napa Valley Cabernet, also from 2009, was released at $175; 5,000 cases were made.
The quality of the reserve is impressive. Here are my notes.
Posted: April 11, 2012 By James Laube
A life-size statue of André Tchelistcheff may be on the market. If I had a $1 million, I'd bid on it. Seriously.
It could be auctioned as part of the liquidation of the bankrupt Copia, which begins with sales at the American Center for Wine, Food and the Arts' gift shop this weekend and culminates in two days of auctions April 20 and 21. It will be an estate sale of unparalleled scope and value, at least here in Napa.
I consider Mr. T perhaps the most influential man in Napa Valley history, right up there alongside Robert Mondavi. Though André the Great has been dead for two decades, winemakers still speak of him in reverential terms. One could write a book about his contributions to wine. But today I'll just mention a few of the ways Tchelistcheff stood out.
Posted: April 11, 2012 By Tim Fish
There are particular days of the year in which Americans indulge with gusto the need for a drink. New Year's Eve and St. Patrick's Day come to mind, but if ever there was a day that called for either celebration or drowning your sorrows, it's Tax Day, April 17 this year. I'm just getting around to working on my return—I wonder what I'll be doing on Sunday—so I'm not sure whether I'll be toasting victory or defeat. But I believe in being prepared, so I advise all wine lovers to have a good bottle ready no matter how things turn out. I have a few ideas for you, and since these wines are meant to be consumed for Tax Day, I've targeted current releases that don't need cellaring.
Posted: April 10, 2012 By James Molesworth
It's been a busy two weeks, covering a lot of ground while visiting more than two dozen estates and then tasting over 400 barrel samples of Bordeaux's newest vintage. The 2011 vintage is shaping up as one of freshness and purity for the region's reds, with brighter acidity and markedly lower alcohol than 2009 and 2010, two highly touted vintages. 2011 won't be a classic vin de garde year by any stretch.
For now, the question everyone is asking is, "What about prices?" The 2011 vintage is good, but not great.
But what a golden opportunity the 2011 vintage presents for Bordeaux. The opportunity isn't for consumers to snap up values. Rather, it's for Bordeaux to reposition itself. To win some hearts and minds back.
Posted: April 9, 2012 By Harvey Steiman
You may have noticed that some sommeliers and wine directors now refer to themselves as “curators” of their wine lists. Occasionally a restaurant or wine critic may compliment a short wine list as “well-curated,” if it brims with fascinating options.
Posted: April 9, 2012 By Tim Fish
One of California's best sweet spots for great old-vine Zinfandel is a remote little valley in western Russian River not far from Forestville. The best-known vineyard there is Jackass Hill, which was first planted in 1889 and is notably bottled by Martinelli Winery.
Just down the hill, and once part of the original Giuseppe Martinelli ranch, is the 18-acre Martinelli Road Vineyard. It's not nearly as well known as Jackass Hill, but Turley bottled it under the Rancho Burro designation for many years, and Mike Officer at Carlisle launched a single-vineyard Martinelli Road in 2009, which I rated 94 points on Wine Spectator's 100-point scale. Last week, the McWilliams family of Arista Winery purchased the vineyard for an undisclosed sum. It sounds like the vineyard is in good hands.
Posted: April 5, 2012 By James Laube
Think what you may and drink what you like, but California Chardonnay is alive and well. At the top end of quality, the wine is not only surviving, but thriving.
Posted: April 5, 2012 By James Molesworth
The last of my Right Bank visits were spent at Château Cheval-Blanc (where I checked out the state-of-the-art new cellar as well as reviewed the stunning 2011 barrel sample from d'Yquem), Château Troplong-Mondot, Angélus and Pavie Macquin. Here are my reviews for Cheval-Blanc and Yquem, and notes on all the others.
Posted: April 4, 2012 By James Molesworth
Today I left the Médoc and headed across the river to Bordeaux's Right Bank, starting off in Pomerol to taste the 2011 vintage at Château Pétrus. The it was Alexandre Thienpont's wines at Vieux Château Certan, including Le Pin, followed by Christian Moueix's Trotanoy and much more. Finally, I previewed the 2011 lineup at L'Église-Clinet.
Posted: April 4, 2012 By Tim Fish
Back in the mid 1990s, there were three kings of California Zinfandel, the Three Rs we called them: Ravenswood, Ridge and Rosenblum. The snotty young punk in Zintown was Turley. Fast-forward almost 20 years and things have sure changed. The Three Rs continue to make fine Zinfandels—Ridge most frequently—but only Turley is on top of its game."
That's my takeaway after tasting through the winery's most-recent releases. I've been drinking Turley since the first vintage, 1993, and, taken as a group, these are some of the best Zinfandels that Turley has made. The group included 2009s from the winery's top single vineyards as well as early-release 2010 from its value-oriented blends.
Posted: April 3, 2012 By James Molesworth
Today I finished my Médoc visits to taste the 2011 Bordeaux barrel samples. Some last stops on the Left Bank included St.-Estèphe's Montrose and Cos-d'Estournel, but first a visit to St.-Julien's Branaire-Ducru. Here are my tasting notes for all three visits, with scores for Cos-d'Estournel.
Posted: April 2, 2012 By Harvey Steiman
Over dinner the other night, Chris Hancock, the wily veteran of Australian wine, posed an intriguing question. We had been tasting the new line of signature wines from Robert Oatley, which for the first time included several bottlings from Western Australia and cooler regions in Victoria, in the southeast.
Hancock’s question was simple: “If you were starting a portfolio of Australian wines, what regions would you go to for the grapes?”
Posted: April 2, 2012 By James Molesworth
The cellar renovation continues at Château Mouton-Rothschild, though under the Baroness Philippine de Rothschild's order, no one is allowed to see it until it is finished. The plan is to have it complete in time for VinExpo 2013.
In the meantime, director Philippe Dhalluin continues to put Mouton and its sister properties on a path to a distinctly pure profile. The 2009 here was distilled Cabernet essence, the 2010 a step ahead of that, and the 2011 an unqualified success for the vintage.
Here are my scores and tasting notes for the 2011 barrel samples at Mouton, plus a preview of Clerc Milon and d'Armailhac.
Posted: March 30, 2012 By James Laube
Sommelier-turned-winemaker Rajat Parr has found a home. He's settled in Santa Barbara's Sta. Rita Hills for the next chapter in his young winemaking career.
Teaming up with financier Charles Banks, a one-time partner at Screaming Eagle, and Sashi Moorman, a veteran winemaker who makes Evening Land's wines, Parr is the front man and mind behind their new label, Sandhi ("alliance" in Sanskrit), founded in 2009. From 2004 to 2008 Parr made wines with other winemakers under the Parr Selection label. The Sandhi wines show considerable progress in style, density and substance.
Posted: March 30, 2012 By James Molesworth
Nothing stands still at Château Latour. There's a large pneumatic drill breaking up the ground in the courtyard, as the cellar needs expansion. With more than 60 acres added to the estate in the past seven years, the current cellar has reached its capacity. The always intense Frédéric Engerer said he finished his blends at the end of February. "So what you're tasting has been living together for four weeks, which is really the minimum to see how it will be," he said.
Here are my scores and tasting notes for the Château Latour Pauillac 2011 and Les Forts de Latour 2011.
Posted: March 29, 2012 By James Molesworth
Director Charles Chevalier was in a very good mood, catching the sun as he stood in the doorway of the tasting room at Lafite Rothschild. "It's like summer," he said with a wide grin. "But one problem. Very, very dry in the vineyards right now. We got no moisture in February or March." The hail that arrived on Sept. 1, 2011, cutting across southern St.-Estèphe, just skirted the edge of Duhart and Lafite's vineyards in Pauillac and had minimal effect on the production.
Here are my scores and tasting notes for the 2011 Château Lafite Rothschild barrel samples.
Posted: March 28, 2012 By James Molesworth
Today I swung through Bordeaux's Margaux appellation to taste the 2011 reds and whites from barrel. He are my scores and tasting notes for the 2011s at first-growth Château Margaux and the esteemed Château Palmer. I also visited and tasted at Cantenac-Brown.
Posted: March 28, 2012 By Tim Fish
Wine needs food” is the customary mantra, but I’m not sure how devoted Americans have ever been to that idea. We’ve been a country of beer and cocktail drinkers since the end of Prohibition and as wine has become more mainstream in the past 20 years, it has become another alcoholic beverage that’s OK to drink by itself.
Posted: March 27, 2012 By James Molesworth
It seems fitting that my first full day in Bordeaux for the '11 en primeur, and I would start with the first first-growth, Haut-Brion, which is the oldest of the five famed Left Bank properties atop the 1855 Classification.
Tasting the 2011s here also provides the first opportunity to see the efforts at the former Terte-Daugay, the St.-Emilion property purchased in 2011 by Haut-Brion's owner and renamed Quintus. For general director Jean-Philippe Delmas, there will be a learning curve as he works on the right bank, where the limestone terroir is markedly different from the gravelly soils of Pessac.
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