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Blogs  :  Harvey Steiman At Large

Dipping into Natural Wines

A snapshot of the scene in Australia

Posted: April 16, 2014  By Harvey Steiman

Winemakers who keep their wineries spotless and hygienic would have been horrified by the sight that greeted me at Jauma, one of the stars of the natural wine movement in Australia. Flies buzzed about a motley assortment of upturned barrels and plastic tanks—any handy vessel large enough to contain a fermentation—the tops draped with old tablecloths and bedsheets.

Blogs  :  Mixed Case: Opinion and Advice

Do You Serve Hubris by the Glass?

Small wine lists packed with geeky wines serve wine directors' egos over customers

Posted: April 10, 2014  By Mitch Frank

Call it the sommelier's dilemma. Wine professionals like sommeliers and retailers spend their days tasting the most interesting wines on earth. That is their passion. But the majority of their customers are looking for safe, reliable wines, ones that don't challenge the brain or the palate. Those wines pay the sommelier's salary.

Blogs  :  Harvey Steiman At Large

Where Is Torbreck Headed?

And what of Dave Powell, the ousted founder?

Posted: April 9, 2014  By Harvey Steiman

Torbreck, which ranks high on anyone's list of modern Australian wine producers, made headlines late last year when Dave Powell, who founded Torbreck in 1994, was summarily fired. Owner Pete Kight, the American entrepreneur who started CheckFree and also owns Quivira winery in Sonoma County, refused to renew Powell's contract.

A crossfire of accusations got ugly, lighting up the Australian press for several weeks. Powell has since been served with court papers invoking a non-compete clause in his contract. He cannot make any wine on his own in 2014, the vintage just wrapping up. The lawsuit goes to trial April 28 in Adelaide.

I recently visited Torbreck to taste the newest vintages, and then sat down with Powell to hear his plans for the future.

Blogs  :  Stirring the Lees with James Molesworth

The 2013 Bordeaux Barrels Diary: A Tough Vintage Passes the Test

In 2013, Bordeaux passed two tests: one of vintage, and one of faith

Posted: April 8, 2014  By James Molesworth

Thanks to Mother Nature, Bordeaux faced myriad problems in 2013. Cold, windy and wet weather during flowering. Mid-season hailstorms. Then steady disease pressure from botrytis that basically went rampant with season-ending rains that lasted from mid-September through October.

It was a stern test that, by all accounts, Bordeaux passed. Not with flying colors—the vintage is hardly anything special. It's likely in the range of 2007, if that. The best red wines will be charming, aromatic drinks in less than a decade (whites are excellent, as are the dessert wines, but Bordeaux remains defined by its reds). But had you thrown this weather at the Bordelais in the decades of the '60s, '70s and '80s, perhaps even the '90s, it would have been a washout. The fact that they passed the test and generally made a drinkable vintage out of a train wreck of a growing season is a testament to several things.

Blogs  :  Harvey Steiman At Large

Terroir? What Exactly Do You Mean?

Is it just the place, or how it defines the wine?

Posted: April 7, 2014  By Harvey Steiman

Actually tasting the effects of terroir in a wine can be problematic. This elusiveness makes cynics wave off the idea as nothing but a marketing ploy by French vintners looking for an edge. Although that does happen, I do believe terroir applies not just in France but anywhere in the world serious efforts go into the wine.

We often can't agree on what the word means, however. For some of us, myself included, it comprises all the physical elements of a place that can affect the character of wine made from it. To others it's a specific character, or a cluster of characteristics, they expect to find in the wine at hand, even if introduced by the winemaker.

In other words, is terroir about the basic material, or how it expresses itself in the wine?

Blogs  :  Robert Camuto: Letter from Europe

The Heart of Lambrusco

Italy's fizzy red is worth your attention once again

Posted: April 7, 2014  By Robert Camuto

Trattoria La Busa, on the southern outskirts of Modena, is a window onto Emilia-Romagna's traditions: Italy's fastest cars, fantastic food and its most misunderstood wines.

Ferrari-racing memorabilia cover the walls, platters of melt-in-your-mouth salumi lap around the dining room, and the kitchen turns out delicious handmade pastas drizzled with thick traditional balsamic vinegar. And dominating the wine list is fizzy red Lambrusco. This Lambrusco is not the sweet red fizz that became Italy's most exported wine in the decades after the 1970s. It's the good stuff: dry, not-quite-sparkling, easy-drinking wine crafted from select grapes and offered at reasonable prices.

Blogs  :  Stirring the Lees with James Molesworth

The 2013 Bordeaux Barrels Diary: The Finish Line

A sweet end to my Bordeaux visits at Sauternes neighbors Châteaus de Fargues and d'Yquem

Posted: April 4, 2014  By James Molesworth

I spent my last day of 2013 Bordeaux barrel tasting visits at Château de Fargues and Château d'Yquem. Here are my notes.

Blogs  :  Mixed Case: Opinion and Advice

Fly Your Freak Flag

Pushing the boundaries in pursuit of betterment at Red Hook Winery and Channing Daughters in New York

Posted: April 2, 2014  By Ben O'Donnell

The world of winemakers has no shortage of madmen, fire-eaters, swashbucklers, prophets-a confederacy of crazy from the contrarians in California planting obscure Italian varieties to the biodynamic scofflaws of France who tussle with the governmental agency that regulates wines. Of course, that's why we love them: With great risks can come great wines. Without maverick spirits guiding them, we wouldn't have some of the world's iconic wines, like Penfolds Grange or Dagueneau Silex.

Both the Finger Lakes and Long Island are young regions, for vinifera anyway, and in nascent fine wine regions, to get to the next level, you have to go outside your own and your peers' vision of what those wines can be. To do that, you have to be defiant, ballsy, risky, crazy. I want to focus here on two wineries I recently visited where the driving philosophy is to get weird in the service of better wine.

Blogs  :  Harvey Steiman At Large

A Starry Wine from Heathcote

Cluster M45 is looking a lot like a classic

Posted: April 2, 2014  By Harvey Steiman

On my first day in Victoria, the cool-climate capital of Australia, I went up to Heathcote to see what Michel Chapoutier has been up to. Unfortunately, the Rhône-based vintner arrives to check on the 2014 harvest after I must move on to appointments in South Australia. With limited time, I figured to taste a few fermenting 2014s and perhaps a few older bottles, meet the rest of the crew and get back to Melbourne to check in at my hotel before it got to be too late.

To my pleasant surprise, Ron Laughton was there waiting with a nifty vertical of La Pleiade, produced in partnership with Chapoutier. Because the original name is a bit too close to a preexisting California wine, the U.S. label is Cluster M45, the scientific name for Pleiades, the constellation visible to both of the partners from their homes a hemisphere away from each other.

WineSpectator.com members can read my non-blind scores and tasting notes.

Blogs  :  Stirring the Lees with James Molesworth

The 2013 Bordeaux Barrels Diary: The High-Rent District

Back to Pauillac, where Latour, Mouton-Rothschild and Pontet-Canet set the quality bar

Posted: April 2, 2014  By James Molesworth

I spent my fifth day of 2013 Bordeaux barrel tasting visits at Château Latour, Mouton-Rothschild and Pontet-Canet. Here are my notes.

Blogs  :  Mixed Case: Opinion and Advice

Books to Boost Your Green IQ: 'Down to Earth'

California growers show off the benefits and beauty of working in environmentally and socially responsible ways

Posted: April 1, 2014  By Dana Nigro

Sustainability never looked so good as in Down to Earth, an informative new coffee-table book for wine lovers that's packed with enticing photography of vineyards full of flowering plants, beautiful birds, lush grapes, adorable weed-grazing sheep and goats, and the people who farm these plots.

Created to showcase the work of the California Sustainable Winegrowing Alliance, the book highlights the stories of 15 of the state's winegrowers—representing small and large businesses, families and corporations, green pioneers like Bonterra and newer converts.

Blogs  :  Stirring the Lees with James Molesworth

The 2013 Bordeaux Barrels Diary: The Sun Shines on Pomerol

Charles Chevalier brought Lafite Rothschild and Rieussec to me, at the Right Bank's L'Evangile; I also tasted at Figeac and VCC

Posted: April 1, 2014  By James Molesworth

I finished my fourth day of 2013 Bordeaux barrel tasting visits with Château Lafite Rothschild, Rieussec, L'Evangile, Vieux Château Certan, Le Pin, Figeac and more. Here are my notes.

Blogs  :  James Laube's Wine Flights

The Economics of Terroir

Hudson Vineyard's eclectic mix of grapes earns well-deserved attention, but California Cabernet isn't going anywhere

Posted: March 31, 2014  By James Laube

Lee Hudson can grow pretty much anything he wants in his highly regarded Carneros vineyard, and he does. Albariño, Arneis, Greco, Ribolla Gialla, Riesling and Vermentino are all getting a chance there. But it's slow and go with those newbies, as they and other grapes are largely untested as marketable wines, at least on the scale many Napa wineries are accustomed to. Hudson expects they'll catch on. But for now, those plantings are more experimental than essential, underscoring the economics of terroir.

Blogs  :  Stirring the Lees with James Molesworth

The 2013 Bordeaux Barrels Diary: Clay or Gravel? Depends Who You Ask

Château Cheval-Blanc, La Fleur-Pétrus and Trotanoy express the Right Bank's diverse terroirs

Posted: March 31, 2014  By James Molesworth

I began my fourth day of 2013 Bordeaux barrel tasting visits at Château Cheval-Blanc, La Fleur-Pétrus, Trotanoy and more. Here are my notes.

Blogs  :  Stirring the Lees with James Molesworth

The 2013 Bordeaux Barrels Diary: A Vintage for a Slow Hand

Patience and mindfulness in the vineyard and the winery were key to making quality 2013s at Lynch Bages and Ducru-Beaucaillou

Posted: March 28, 2014  By James Molesworth

I began my third day of 2013 Bordeaux barrel tasting visits at Châteaus Lynch Bages and Ducru-Beaucaillou. Here are my notes.

Blogs  :  Stirring the Lees with James Molesworth

The 2013 Bordeaux Barrels Diary: The Future Is Now at Montrose

A brand-new chai and attention to detail in the vineyards at Montrose have this estate purring; Léoville Las Cases remains elite in St.-Julien

Posted: March 27, 2014  By James Molesworth

I began my third day of 2013 Bordeaux barrel tasting visits at Châteaus Montrose and Léoville Las Cases. Here are my notes.

Blogs  :  Stirring the Lees with James Molesworth

The 2013 Bordeaux Barrels Diary: Bringing Biodynamics to Palmer, Cautiously

Thomas Duroux puts quality ahead of his romantic vision for Château Palmer

Posted: March 26, 2014  By James Molesworth

I finished my second day of 2013 Bordeaux barrel tasting visits at Châteaus Palmer and Beau-Séjour-Bécot. Here are my notes.

Blogs  :  Stirring the Lees with James Molesworth

The 2013 Bordeaux Barrels Diary: An Early Candidate for Wine of the Vintage

Château Haut-Brion might have one of the best red Bordeauxs of 2013, but the white is the real stunner

Posted: March 25, 2014  By James Molesworth

I started my day at Domaine Clarence Dillon to taste the 2013s from first-growth Château Haut-Brion and its sister, La Mission Haut-Brion, as well as from Quintus. Haut-Brion may have made one of the best red wines of the vintage, but the real star in 2013 is the white.

Blogs  :  Harvey Steiman At Large

Colorful Cuisine at Sydney's Sepia

And a classy tour of Australian wine's past, present and future

Posted: March 25, 2014  By Harvey Steiman

Several Sydney insiders told me Sepia was the place to go for a great wine-pairing menu, so it was my first stop after arriving in Australia last week. Chef Martin Benn, once a protégé of Marco Pierre White in London, indulges a modernist bent since he left his post as chef de cuisine at Tetsuya's in 1999. His wife, Vicki Wild, once Tetsuya's personal assistant, brings warmth to the sharp-edged dining room on the ground floor of a Darling Harbour high-rise, and sommelier Rodney Setter has built up a broad and knowledgeably chosen international wine list of more than 1,100 selections, mostly current vintages although older wines, especially Bordeaux, Rhône and Australian Shiraz bottlings, scatter throughout.

Blogs  :  Bruce Sanderson Decanted

Crosstown Traffic, Part 2: Maison Alex Gambal

Beaune négociant Alex Gambal has a potentially outstanding lineup of 2012 red and white Burgundies

Posted: March 25, 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 Maison Alex Gambal.

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