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Blogs  :  Harvey Steiman At Large

California Comes to Australia

Surprises in Clarendon Hills from Jackson Family

Posted: April 28, 2014  By Harvey Steiman

Australians were worried when Jackson Family, which seems to be all over the California wine world, added a historic vineyard in Clarendon Hills to its voluminous holdings in 2001. A big California wine company taking over 250 acres of vineyards that included some vines that had been producing enviable wines for more than 50 years? Seemed like heresy. The Jacksons renamed it Yangarra Estate and quietly went to work on improving things.

Then, in February 2012, Jackson Family won the bidding for the historic 450-acre Hickinbotham Vineyard, about 2 miles away. Rather than making its own wines, Hickinbotham had been producing grapes for Clarendon Hills' single-vineyard bottlings and material for Penfolds Grange and Eileen Hardy Shiraz. Heady stuff.

On my recent visit to Australia I checked in on some experiments at Yangarra and tasted through the debut vintage of Hickinbotham Clarendon Hills Estate wines, due to be released next year.

Blogs  :  Stirring the Lees with James Molesworth

Domaine des Baumard Under Screw Cap: 10 Years After

Florent Baumard rocks out with Stelvin

Posted: April 28, 2014  By James Molesworth

When Florent Baumard, the mild-mannered owner of Domaine des Baumard in France's Loire Valley, announced he was switching to bottling his entire production under screw cap, more than a few people noticed. It was a bold move, not only because of the domaine's high profile as one of the wine world's flagship estates for Chenin Blanc, but because it was still relatively early in the cork versus screw cap closure debate. But while it started as an experiment in the 2003 and 2004 vintages, it didn't take long for Baumard to commit.

Blogs  :  Exploring Wine with Tim Fish

Growing Pains in Sonoma County

The chore of putting in a garden is lessened by thoughts of refreshing spring wines

Posted: April 23, 2014  By Tim Fish

It was such a beautiful day in Sonoma on Sunday that I started thinking about refreshing spring wines as I gardened. I like to take a break in the shade to sip a glass of wine, otherwise gardening seems like such a chore, so I pulled out a few wines to sample whenever my back started complaining. Here are 5 new reds and whites perfect for sipping outdoors this spring.

Blogs  :  Harvey Steiman At Large

Wines for Oysters

Is it better to be neutral or flavorful? Putting wine-and-oyster pairings to the test

Posted: April 22, 2014  By Harvey Steiman

I can't help it. I am a wine guy. I want my wines to contribute to the conversation on my palate when I drink them with food. That comes to mind when I occasionally participate in fun tastings such as the Pacific Coast Oyster Wine Competition. I joined in on the 20th annual judging as much for unlimited quantities of really good oysters as for the wines, but also to test out a theory.

My brain says, let's find a wine that can stand on its own but also makes nice with the mollusks. Jon Rowley, the tasting's organizer, takes a different approach. "Don't taste the wine first," he admonished us. He wanted us to chew up the oyster first to establish its flavor and texture in our mouths, then wash it down with the wine.

Blogs  :  Mixed Case: Opinion and Advice

Does Organically Grown Wine Need a 'Lifestyle' Expert?

A green style author, designer and merchandiser takes on the category

Posted: April 22, 2014  By Dana Nigro

Danny Seo believes that organically grown wines still have an image problem among a vast swath of Americans. He thinks he can help. If you don't know Danny, he's a boyishly personable former editor of Organic Style magazine who has positioned himself as an expert on living green stylishly and affordably with his Simply Green, Upcycling and Conscious Style Home books, "Do Just One Thing" syndicated newspaper tips, TV appearances on The Today Show and Dr. Oz and his own line of eco-chic housewares. Now he's adding wine to his portfolio.

Seo admits to knowing little about wine except what he likes. During a showcase last year for his upcoming new product lines, he either had the self-deprecating charm to act nervous about speaking to Wine Spectator or was a bit uncomfortable at having to field questions without his wine partner, Mike Votto of Connecticut-based Votto Vines Importing. "I'm not a winemaker. I'm not going to pretend I'm a Real Housewife," Seo quipped. "I don't want to pretend I'm out at the vineyard crushing grapes." What he does, Seo said, is work with partners who are experts in the field, sourcing the products.

Blogs  :  Robert Camuto: Letter from Europe

Antinori’s Architectural Labor of Love

New home in Chianti Classico demonstrates the family's commitment and connection to the land

Posted: April 21, 2014  By Robert Camuto

After seven years of work, nightmarish construction problems and a budget that ballooned 170 percent to more than $130 million, Marchesi Antinori’s flagship property opened in 2013 on a hillside in Chianti Classico zone of Italy. The Tuscan winery was immediately praised for its audacious environmental design and has already attracted thousands of visitors. The facility includes a 129,000-square-foot winery, the company headquarters, an auditorium, boutique, restaurant, museum, olive oil mill and a facility for producing sweet Vin Santo.

“The idea was to bring the heart of the company back to the countryside where the wine is produced,” says the trim, energetic Piero Antinori, who represents the family wine business’s 25th generation.

Blogs  :  Mixed Case: Opinion and Advice

What Wine Do You Serve with General Tso’s Chicken?

When a cuisine isn't tied to a strong wine tradition, pairing takes on new aspects

Posted: April 17, 2014  By Jennifer Fiedler

This upcoming weekend marks the premiere of The Search for General Tso, a new documentary about Chinese food in America, at the Tribeca Film Festival in New York. (Disclosure: I know the filmmakers.) It tells the story of why there's a Chinese restaurant in almost every small town in the United States by tracing the roots of this popular fried chicken takeout dish back to Taiwan. Be forewarned: It will make you hungry.

While wine doesn't play a role in the movie, the film touches on the ideas of migration, adaptation and authenticity—all concepts that philosophically minded wine lovers can extrapolate to the wine world—and the occasion of its release seems like a good time to talk about pairing wine with "Chinese food."

Blogs  :  Bruce Sanderson Decanted

Will Chianti Classico’s Gran Selezione Designation Guarantee Quality?

The new Gran Selezione designation promises stricter quality standards. At Agricola San Felice, the new bottling is the result of years of research

Posted: April 16, 2014  By Bruce Sanderson

The Consorzio of Chianti Classico introduced its new designation—Gran Selezione—in 2013. It represents the pinnacle of a quality pyramid whose base are the Chianti Classico annate and mid-tier riserva. The goal is to have stricter standards to drive quality and inspire consumer confidence in the wines of Chianti Classico.

Currently, there is a lot of confusion between Chianti, which can be produced from a large area in central Tuscany, bottled by a company that doesn’t grow any grapes and sell for as little as $10 and estate grown and bottled wine from the Classico zone in the heart of the entire Chianti area.

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.

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