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Blogs  :  Harvey Steiman At Large

On Balance, It's Not So Easy

Hit and miss at the third annual In Pursuit of Balance tasting of Pinot Noirs and Chardonnays

Posted: February 12, 2013  By Harvey Steiman

Last week, In Pursuit of Balance staged its third annual tasting event in San Francisco, pouring its members' California Pinot Noirs and Chardonnays of recent vintage for trade and consumers. I was traveling for the first two, but I made it a point to get to this one. I wanted to see what the fuss was about.

Blogs  :  Stirring the Lees with James Molesworth

The South Africa Diary: Marc Kent

The Boekenhoutskloof winemaker has a new Syrah project in the Swartland's untamed Porseleinberg

Posted: February 11, 2013  By James Molesworth

On the surface, writing a blog about a winery that makes one wine should be easier than writing a blog about a winery that makes dozens. But for Marc Kent's latest project, it's not quite that simple. There's too much energy and passion going in to a remote, previously undeveloped spot to make this an easy report. I'm lucky to get to see places like this and kick the dirt or, in this case, kick the jagged chunks of blue schist, right at the beginning of a project and to try and convey what is going on here to you. Don't tell Marvin, but these are the ones I would do for free …

Blogs  :  Stirring the Lees with James Molesworth

The South Africa Diary: Sadie Family

Eben Sadie marches to his own beat, and his new lineup of single-vineyard wines are each unique on the Cape

Posted: February 8, 2013  By James Molesworth

In the Swartland, a new brand of winemakers is shaking things up. At Sadie Family, Eben Sadie is one of the devoted winemakers rescuing abandoned old vineyards.

Blogs  :  James Laube's Wine Flights

Up for Some Do-It-Yourself Wine?

Not because you want it done right, but because your mistakes will teach you a newfound appreciation (and your successes will be unforgettable)

Posted: February 8, 2013  By James Laube

If you're still looking for a big wine idea for 2013—something that will change the way you look at and appreciate wine—try making your own.

Blogs  :  Harvey Steiman At Large

Coffee in Paradise

What we can learn from a tour of coffee joints in Honolulu

Posted: February 8, 2013  By Harvey Steiman

Whenever I hang out with serious coffee people, I am struck by how much we wine folks have in common with them. We obsess over the sources of the product and how it was made. We even use some of the same language. Coffee tasters assess acid balance, body, intensity and finish, as we do with wine, and describe aromatics such as fruit, nuts and floral notes. They might find winy character in their brews while we might notice a hint of coffee on the finish in our glasses.

I watched my cousin Shawn Steiman, a coffee consultant who seems to be the coffee guru for the state of Hawaii, blend Hawaiian-grown and -roasted coffee beans on the spot. He used to make a distinctive and heady espresso after the dinner he and his bride Julia cooked for my wife and me at their home near Diamond Head.

Blogs  :  Stirring the Lees with James Molesworth

The South Africa Diary: A.A. Badenhorst Family

Adi Badenhorst has a boisterous, outsized personality, but his wines are elegant and refined

Posted: February 7, 2013  By James Molesworth

In the Swartland, a new brand of winemakers is shaking things up. At A.A. Badenhorst Family, Adi Badenhorst.

Blogs  :  Mixed Case: Opinion and Advice

Will You Pay More for Wine in 2013?

Grapes are becoming more expensive, and wineries are feeling the pinch

Posted: February 7, 2013  By Mitch Frank

At the end of 2008, my California colleague Tim Fish and I made a bet. So far, neither of us has won. Tim was working with me on a cover story on how the wine industry was confronting the darkest days of the Great Recession, when average Americans were watching the value of their biggest assets—their homes—evaporate.

Despite their woes, consumers never abandoned wine. Since the early 1990s, wine has become an increasing presence in Americans' lives, and they were not willing to suddenly part with what they saw as a pretty affordable luxury. But they did cut back on what they were willing to spend—a $9 bottle became very attractive, and a special-occasion wine meant $25 instead of $40. Wineries responded. They did not cut prices too obviously, but they made less of their more expensive wines (like Russian River single-vineyard Pinot Noir) and shifted that juice into more affordable wines (cheaper Sonoma County Pinot).

Are you coming for the game? Good. (If not, pay attention, because you should visit soon.) It's not hyperbole to say that New Orleans is one of the greatest cities on the planet in which to celebrate. If you enjoy good food, wine, beer, cocktails and music, it is hard to go wrong. Here are some tips for making the best of a trip down here. This isn't a comprehensive list of the best places to eat and drink. It's a handy cheat sheet for anyone coming to watch the 49ers and the Ravens, or just coming to enjoy our insanity.

Blogs  :  Bruce Sanderson Decanted

2011 Burgundy Preview: Expressing DRC

The lineup of 2011s at Domaine de la Romanée-Conti is very expressive and easy drinking

Posted: February 7, 2013  By Bruce Sanderson

Wine Spectator senior editor Bruce Sanderson is blogging from Burgundy as he previews the 2011 vintage. Some of the wines he is tasting have yet to be racked, while others have been assembled in barrel but not yet bottled; consequently, scores are given in ranges as these are unfinished wines that will continue to be refined before being bottled.

Today he tasted the 2011 lineup at Domaine de la Romanée-Conti with Aubert de Villaine. Here are his scores and tasting notes.

Blogs  :  Stirring the Lees with James Molesworth

The South Africa Diary: Mullineux

In the Swartland, a new brand of winemakers is shaking things up, including Chris and Andrea Mullineux

Posted: February 6, 2013  By James Molesworth

In the Swartland, a new brand of winemakers is shaking things up. The young husband-and-wife team of Chris, 36, and Andrea Mullineux, 33, already has a fair amount of experience—they worked at Tulbagh Mountains Vineyards, where I first met them during my visit here in 2007. The couple leases vineyards and purchases fruit, but does not yet own any vines. They work 26 parcels covering 47 acres and are focusing on Rhône varieties based on three main soil types: schist and granite similar to what you might see in Côte-Rôtie, along with the iron/clay soil in the area known as koffieklip.

Blogs  :  Bruce Sanderson Decanted

2011 Burgundy Preview: Nuit et Jour

Exploring Nuits-St.-Georges with Maison Bertrand Ambroise and Domaine Lécheneaut

Posted: February 6, 2013  By Bruce Sanderson

Wine Spectator senior editor Bruce Sanderson is blogging from Burgundy as he previews the 2011 vintage. Some of the wines he is tasting have yet to be racked, while others have been assembled in barrel but not yet bottled; consequently, scores are given in ranges as these are unfinished wines that will continue to be refined before being bottled.

Today he explored Nuits-St.-Georges with Maison Bertrand Ambroise and Domaine Lécheneaut. Here are his scores and tasting notes.

Blogs  :  Exploring Wine with Tim Fish

2011 Zinfandels Surprise at ZAP Tasting

Annual San Francisco event shows the versatility of Zin

Posted: February 6, 2013  By Tim Fish

They may have pulled out a toupee's worth of hair during harvest 2011, but California Zinfandel producers have been telling me for months that the 2011s are much better than they expected. Of course, winemakers always say that after a difficult vintage because, eventually, they have to sell the wine, so I generally take it with a grain of salt.

But as the annual Zinfandel Advocates & Producers (ZAP) Festival in San Francisco on Saturday showed, they weren't stretching the truth this time. The 2011 Zinfandels are lovely wines in general: fresh, floral and elegant, with crisp acidity and modest levels of alcohol. Those who love to bash Zinfandels as fruit-bomb monsters have nothing to complain about with the 2011s.

Blogs  :  Stirring the Lees with James Molesworth

The South Africa Diary: Anthonij Rupert

Johann Rupert's renamed L'Ormarins estate is making world-class wine

Posted: February 5, 2013  By James Molesworth

Anthonij Rupert, owned by Johann Rupert, has gone into a hyperdrive pursuit of quality since 2005 when Rupert took over control of the estate following the death of his father, Anton. The estate has been renamed (from the original L'Ormarins) for Johann's brother, Anthonij, who died in 2001 and whose dream it was to see the Cape produce world-class wine.

Blogs  :  Stirring the Lees with James Molesworth

The South Africa Diary: Boekenhoutskloof

At Boekenhoutskloof in Franschoek, the most compelling wine comes from mutated 111-year-old Sémillon vines

Posted: February 4, 2013  By James Molesworth

Boekenhoutskloof, despite the tricky name, has become one of the most respected South African wineries in the U.S. Market. Owner Marc Kent is a Rhône lover, and his Syrah and other Rhône-style blends display a more Old World profile, while his Cabernet and Sémillon bottlings show how South Africa has an uncanny knack for both diversity and quality.

Blogs  :  Harvey Steiman At Large

Bass Man Knows His Wine

Matt Penman explores the worlds of wine and jazz

Posted: February 4, 2013  By Harvey Steiman

Matt Penman pulled the cork on a Huët Vouvray Le Haut-Lieu 2011, poured me a sip and apologizes for the glassware. "I'm sorry for the plastic cups, but they won't let us have real wineglasses here."

We are in the green room in the new SFJAZZ Center, which bills itself as the first concert hall of its type in the United States: a freestanding performance venue with flexible seating and staging for artists of every stature, built specifically for jazz music and audiences alike. It opened recently in San Francisco on the corner of Franklin and Fell streets with a series of all-star concerts.

Blogs  :  Stirring the Lees with James Molesworth

The South Africa Diary: Ken Forrester

An afternoon tasting Cape Chenin Blancs and Rhône-style reds with the charming, bow-tied Ken Forrester

Posted: February 1, 2013  By James Molesworth

Ken Forrester is known for several things: bow ties, Chenin Blanc and a youthful passion for living hedonistically. Forrester, 55, is as affable as they come, and nothing gets his hearty laugh going going like a good bottle of wine, a good cigar and a few good jokes. The former restaurateur still has his hospitality skills from his early days, but he has added winemaking to his repertoire. His tireless work in the U.S. has been responsible for him building a 54,000-case operation, of which half goes to the U.S. market. And he seems to relish being one of the flag bearers for his country's still-developing wine industry.

Blogs  :  Bruce Sanderson Decanted

2011 Burgundy Preview: Elegance and Purity at Méo-Camuzet

Jean-Nicolas Méo's 2011 Pinot Noirs, from Echézaux, Vosne-Romanée, Richebourg and more, exhibit a rare combination of low alcohol and ripeness

Posted: February 1, 2013  By Bruce Sanderson

Wine Spectator senior editor Bruce Sanderson is blogging from Burgundy as he previews the 2011 vintage. Some of the wines he is tasting have yet to be racked, while others have been assembled in barrel but not yet bottled; consequently, scores are given in ranges as these are unfinished wines that will continue to be refined before being bottled.

The range of 2011s from Domaine Méo-Camuzet captures the purity and elegance of the vintage. They exhibit freshness, ripe fruit and tannins on slimmer, lighter-bodied frames due to lower alcohol levels. Here are my scores and notes.

Blogs  :  Stirring the Lees with James Molesworth

The South Africa Diary: De Trafford

At the top of one of the Cape's most jarring roads lie some of its most compelling wines

Posted: January 31, 2013  By James Molesworth

The last time I visited David Trafford's place, my lower back took a week to loosen up after driving up the steep, bumpy road to his winery. I was secretly hoping it would be better-paved this time, but no such luck.

No matter. The incentive to meet and taste with David is more than enough to power through. I'm often asked what my favorite wines are, and I always say I can't play favorites, especially as a professional critic. What I put in print is what I stand behind. But let me make this clear if a decade's worth of reviews haven't made it clear enough already: David Trafford makes some of the most distinctive, compelling wine in South Africa. And his Syrah is one of my favorites.

Blogs  :  Mixed Case: Opinion and Advice

The Three Biggest Health Myths in Wine

Let's put an end to these tall tales

Posted: January 31, 2013  By Jennifer Fiedler

Of all the health-related questions that end up in the Wine Spectator electronic mailbag, some get asked with a you-can-set-your-watch-by-it type of regularity. We've answered them before, and we'll answer them again, but I thought I'd address these topics here with the help of Dr. Andrew Waterhouse, professor of enology at the University of California at Davis, to weigh in on the three most enduring topics.

Blogs  :  Stirring the Lees with James Molesworth

The South Africa Diary: Ernie Els Wines

Golfer Ernie Els' Stellenbosch operation is running smoothly on its own now under the day-to-day oversight of winemaker Louis Strydom

Posted: January 30, 2013  By James Molesworth

Just next door to Rust en Vrede is Ernie Els Wines, which carries the name of the internationally acclaimed professional golfer. While Els himself likes wine and puts his (slightly more than) 2 cents into the project, the day-to-day work falls to winemaker Louis Strydom.

Strydom was the winemaker at Rust en Vrede previously, and from 2000 through 2005 he worked at both wineries, which were coupled by Jean Englebrecht's helping Ernie Els break into the wine business and some shared fruit sources. But Els has developed and is maturing into its own stand-alone winery, and since 2006 has been running by itself. The 185-acre property now has 94 acres of vines with plans to plant up to 20 more acres.

Blogs  :  Exploring Wine with Tim Fish

Can Sonoma Finally Get Its Act Together?

After years of herding cats, the county may be on the verge

Posted: January 30, 2013  By Tim Fish

The wine regions of Sonoma County don't play well together.

It has been that way since I can remember and I've lived there for 25 years. Being a stubborn bastard is a rich tradition in Sonoma County for some reason. I think it dates to those grumpy old Italian farmers who spawned the local wine industry. Everything had to be their way, even if they didn't know what the hell they were talking about.

Sonoma County's American Viticultural Areas (AVAs) aren't much different. Each region has been so busy promoting itself that the big picture is fuzzy. What brings this up is a new effort by Sonoma Valley Vintners and Growers Alliance (SVVGA) to rebrand Sonoma Valley—the area in the southeastern part of the county.

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