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Blogs  :  James Laube's Wine Flights

An Early Look at 2011 Napa Cabernets

A mixed vintage is off the pace, but stars can be found

Posted: July 15, 2014  By James Laube

To best appreciate how far viticultural and winemaking practices have come in the past decade, one need look no further than the 2011 Napa Valley Cabernets.

By most accounts this was the most damning vintage in perhaps 15 years. An altogether cool, damp year ended with heavy storms, and by some estimates as much as 50 percent of the grapes were of little or no use. I've talked with vintners who made about one-fourth of what they might have in a better year. Severe thinning led to a quarter-ton or less per acre. Thinning proved a winning strategy if only to salvage what might otherwise have been a dismal year. But based on nearly 200 reviews, the quality of the 2011 Napa Cabernets ranges from fair to, on a few occasions, outstanding.

Blogs  :  Stirring the Lees with James Molesworth

Negotiating the Languedoc and Provence at Hecht & Bannier

A pair of schoolmates starts from scratch

Posted: July 14, 2014  By James Molesworth

Today I visited Hecht & Bannier's Gregory Hecht and François Bannier at their négociant office in Aix-en-Provence to taste their 2013 Provence wines and a recent vertical of their Bandols. Here are my notes.

Blogs  :  Stirring the Lees with James Molesworth

Contrasting Vintages at Domaines St.-Préfert and Ferrando

Isabel Ferrando's Châteauneuf domaines remain reference points as her holdings have grown

Posted: July 11, 2014  By James Molesworth

Domaine St.-Préfert and Domaine Ferrando, the joint domaines owned by Isabel Ferrando, have become reference points for red and white Châteauneuf-du-Pape since they were founded in 2002 and 2004, respectively. On this visit, I tasted both the 2012 and 2013 lineups. Here are my notes.

Blogs  :  Stirring the Lees with James Molesworth

Always Something New at Château de St.-Cosme

Louis Barruol sets the bar in Gigondas

Posted: July 10, 2014  By James Molesworth

Louis Barruol no longer needs an introduction on this blog. I've visited Château de St.-Cosme regularly for several years, so you can reference background information starting with my most recent entry. This remains the reference-point estate for Gigondas, as well as one of the most dynamic estates in all of the Rhône Valley, south or north. Here are my notes on the 2012 lineup here.

Blogs  :  Bruce Sanderson Decanted

Marchesi de’ Frescobaldi Goes Native with New Old-Vine Chianti

Old-vine parcel escapes replanting at Castello di Nipozzano

Posted: July 9, 2014  By Bruce Sanderson

Wine Spectator senior editor Bruce Sanderson tastes the newest wine from Tuscany's Marchesi de' Frescobaldi, the "accidental" Chianti Rufina Nipozzano Vecchie Viti Riserva 2011, made entirely from indigenous old vines.

Blogs  :  Stirring the Lees with James Molesworth

Chêne Bleu Finds Its Footing

Up in the breezy hills, Nicole Sierra-Rolet's project blossoms

Posted: July 9, 2014  By James Molesworth

The all-star vinification team behind the still relatively nascent Chêne Bleu hasn't changed—Zelma Long has been consulting here since 2008 and Philippe Cambie since its inception. Thomas Oui is the day-to-day enologist while the husband-and-wife team of Jean-Louis and Benedicte Ballucci handles the vineyards, cellar and just about everything else on this sprawling 321-acre estate, which now has 57 acres of vines in production. Here are my notes on the 2011 lineup.

Blogs  :  Harvey Steiman At Large

Charles Smith Reinvents Substance

Washington winery with "chemical symbols" on the label returns with a new direction

Posted: July 8, 2014  By Harvey Steiman

The Washington wine label Wines of Substance was invented in 2006 by a couple of Walla Walla hotshots—Waters' winemaker Jamie Brown and Greg Harrington, founder of Gramercy Cellars. It had a promising early run. Some of the wines hit 90 points on the Wine Spectator 100-point scale. The black-and-white label design emulated the periodic table of the elements you might recall from chemistry class, assigning two-letter symbols to the grape varieties used to make the wines, priced at $14 to $20.

Blogs  :  Stirring the Lees with James Molesworth

At Rotem & Mounir Saouma, a Little Bit of Everything

But there's nothing ordinary about this young Rhône domaine

Posted: July 8, 2014  By James Molesworth

There are different ways to create a domaine. Most who start from scratch build up slowly, progressing linearly, either growing in size and/or refining or evolving their style over the years (see: Barrot, Julien or Giraud, Marie). Or you can go about it in a completely different way, experimenting, exploring tangents and basically doing things that people tell you not to do.

"I have people stopping when they see my vineyard and coming to tell me I'm crazy. They say 'You can't do it that way.' And I say, 'Why not?'" said Mounir Saouma.

Blogs  :  Stirring the Lees with James Molesworth

Château de Beaucastel: A Châteauneuf Benchmark

The Perrin family just keeps going and going and going …

Posted: July 7, 2014  By James Molesworth

No introduction needed here. Château de Beaucastel is one of the benchmark estates in Châteauneuf-du-Pape and has been a large presence for a long time in the U.S. market. Here are my tasting notes on the 2012 Beaucastels, tasted with Marc Perrin.

Blogs  :  Robert Camuto: Letter from Europe

The Etna Job

Rescuing a Sicilian cru in the middle of the night

Posted: July 7, 2014  By Robert Camuto

Wine Spectator contributing editor Robert Camuto visits Mount Etna winemaker Ciro Biondi in Italy, where Biondi was once forced to steal his own Sicilian wine under cover of night.

Blogs  :  Stirring the Lees with James Molesworth

The Wind of Change Blows Through Domaine de la Vieille Julienne

Jean-Paul Daumen shifts his philosophy while maintaining quality

Posted: July 3, 2014  By James Molesworth

The last time I visited with Jean-Paul Daumen, I wrote about how this soft-spoken but very serious vigneron doesn't change much, but instead just quietly cranks out some of the best and most long-lived wines in the AOC. Of course, on this visit, he's now in the midst of quite a bit of change ….

Blogs  :  James Laube's Wine Flights

Taking Twist-Offs on the High Seas

Alternative closures minimize the chance of a faulty wine

Posted: July 2, 2014  By James Laube

When I travel with wine, I prefer bottles with twist-off seals. That shouldn't come as a surprise to any regular readers of this blog or my magazine column. I'm convinced of the validity of twisties, and hauling around a case of them gives me a chance to test my own belief.

I recently spent a week on the Pacific on a fishing boat half-way down the Baja California coast, and the captain and the owners of the Sojourn, out of San Diego, all but encouraged anglers to BYOW, since that was one item they didn't stock (the meals, by the way, were excellent).

Blogs  :  Stirring the Lees with James Molesworth

Checking In with the Good Ol' Boys

The Coulon brothers of Domaine de Beaurenard bring out the terroir in their Châteauneuf reds and whites

Posted: July 2, 2014  By James Molesworth

I always like to stop in with the brothers Coulon at Domaine de Beaurenard after visiting Clos des Papes. Not only are they right across the street, so I won't be running too late, as tastings with Paul and Vincent Avril can run a little over budgeted time, but they provide a great contrast. Clos des Papes makes one wine, aged in foudre and without new oak, while at Beaurenard there are a few cuvées, and there's a mix of vat, demi-muid and barrel aging, including some new oak.

But don't make the mistake of thinking that Domaine de Beaurenard only makes a merely modernized wine—far from it. The Coulons have been farming biodynamically for a few years now and their wines, while framed by toasty spice notes, drip with plenty of terroir. For background on Frédéric and Daniel Coulon, the good ol' boys of Châteauneuf-du-Pape white wines, you can reference several older posts, starting with the notes from my June 2012 visit.

Blogs  :  Exploring Wine with Tim Fish

Honoring the World’s Best Wine Lists

There’s a lot of hard work and devotion behind Grand Award-winning restaurants

Posted: July 2, 2014  By Tim Fish

Some of my favorite non-fiction books are restaurant wine lists. I can read them for hours. But have you ever been to a restaurant that seemed out of a key wine or two on the list? Sometimes you have to wonder if a wine list is more fiction than fact.

That's not a concern when it comes to restaurants with Grand Awards from Wine Spectator's Restaurant Wine List program. Each potential Grand Award winner is thoroughly vetted and goes through an onsite inspection. The goal is to discover and honor truly great wine programs, and nine times out of 10 that's exactly what we find.

Blogs  :  Mixed Case: Opinion and Advice

Where California Meets Champagne

Schramsberg Vineyards sparkles in an Old World–New World face-off

Posted: July 1, 2014  By Alison Napjus

I have an Old World palate. What can I say? After years of reviewing and drinking French, Italian and Spanish wines, there's really no avoiding it. But that doesn't mean I eschew bottlings from the other side of the ocean, i.e. this side! I'm particularly fascinated by those modeled on Old World versions, and I love to see where the Old and the New line up and where they diverge.

With that philosophy in mind, and given the special place in my heart for France's Champagne region, I was excited when recently in Napa Valley to visit with Schramsberg Vineyards owner and winemaker Hugh Davies.

Blogs  :  Stirring the Lees with James Molesworth

Clos des Papes Sets the Pace

Vincent Avril has Châteauneuf-du-Pape's flagship estate rolling

Posted: July 1, 2014  By James Molesworth

I finished off a day of visiting some of the town's youngest vignerons (Julien Barrot of Domaine La Barroche and Marie Giraud of Domaine Giraud) with a stop at Domaine de la Charbonnière, where Véronique Maret, just 30, assumed full control of the winemaking in 2012, after starting at the domaine alongside her father, Michel, in 2009.

Blogs  :  Bruce Sanderson Decanted

19 Vintages of Louis Latour Corton-Charlemagne

A vertical tasting shows off 1990 to 2012, spanning Louis-Fabrice Latour’s tenure as head of Maison Latour

Posted: June 30, 2014  By Bruce Sanderson

With nearly 25 acres of estate vines in Corton-Charlemagne, almost one-third of the appellation, Louis Latour is an important producer. Along with Bonneau du Martray, Latour's Corton-Charlemagne is the version that Americans are most likely to find at restaurants and retail stores.

Louis-Fabrice Latour, president of Beaune-based Louis Latour, was in New York this month to present a vertical of 19 vintages of its Corton-Charlemagne from 2012 back to 1990.

Blogs  :  Stirring the Lees with James Molesworth

At Domaine de la Charbonnière, Another Young Vigneron Settles In

Véronique Maret hits the mark in her first solo vintage (though Dad is still hanging around)

Posted: June 30, 2014  By James Molesworth

I finished off a day of visiting some of the town's youngest vignerons (Julien Barrot of Domaine La Barroche and Marie Giraud of Domaine Giraud) with a stop at Domaine de la Charbonnière, where Véronique Maret, just 30, assumed full control of the winemaking in 2012, after starting at the domaine alongside her father, Michel, in 2009.

Blogs  :  Harvey Steiman At Large

Wine Across America: The Movie

A scattered view of those who give it all up for wine

Posted: June 27, 2014  By Harvey Steiman

American Wine Story is a fascinating, gritty and ultimately bittersweet movie about the people who give up their day jobs to make wine in unexpected places across the United States. It focuses on the story of Brooks Wines, a small but fast-growing winery in Oregon founded in 1998, and the outpouring of support from others in the industry on the untimely death of its founder in 2004.

Blogs  :  Stirring the Lees with James Molesworth

Domaine Giraud, the Quiet Elite

Marie Giraud has steadily piloted her family domaine to the top

Posted: June 27, 2014  By James Molesworth

A semi-regular stop when I'm in the area, you can reference background on Domaine Giraud from my 2011, 2010, 2009 and 2008 blog notes.

Marie Giraud, along with her brother François, has steadily put this family domaine among the elite of Châteauneuf-du-Pape. The pair is hands-on, managing their 62 acres (spread over a staggering 64 parcels) and produce on average 5,000 cases annually.

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