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Blogs  :  James Laube's Wine Flights

Not Just Another Anderson Valley Roadside Attraction

Navarro winery has been selling Pinot Noir, Gewürztraminer and everything in between to loyal customers for decades

Posted: May 13, 2013  By James Laube

Wine Spectator senior editor James Laube catches up with Ted Bennett of Navarro winery, a roadside institution in California's Anderson Valley where loyal fans lineup to buy everything from Pinot Noir to Gewürztraminer.

Blogs  :  Mixed Case: Opinion and Advice

Goodbye Cork, Hello Sugar Cane? Wineries Try New Plant-Based Closure

Allegrini will seal bottles with a new renewable alternative targeted at sustainable, organic and biodynamic wineries

Posted: May 13, 2013  By Dana Nigro

I just want to say one word to you. Just one word. Are you listening?

Bioplastics.

If you were remaking The Graduate in wine country this decade, there might be a great future in bioplastics. When organic, biodynamic and sustainable vintners look to bring their low-impact philosophies to their packaging, they often end up torn over what to do about closures.

Cork is the traditional choice, and it is a renewable material, unlike the alternatives: screw caps are made from mined metals, while synthetic corks are typically derived from petrochemicals. On the other hand, if some of your wine ends up flawed because even a small percentage of corks fail, that's outright waste—not exactly a sustainable practice either.

Blogs  :  James Laube's Wine Flights

A Matter of Style?

As much as wine pros like to debate alcohol and ripeness, consumers' main concerns are consistency, availability and affordability

Posted: May 9, 2013  By James Laube

Within wine industry circles, there's often debate about style. Winemakers talk about scaling up or down in ripeness or alcohol. Restaurateurs and sommeliers consider which wines are better-suited for their eatery, or different cuisines, or occasions.

I never hear much of anything from consumers about wanting different styles. In fact, when I'm on the road, visiting with or drinking with friends and readers, the concerns I hear most often relate to where people live and which wines are (and are not) available to them there.

Blogs  :  Exploring Wine with Tim Fish

From Farm to Table, Except for Wine

The new hipster restaurants of Portland, Ore., are emblematic of a national phenomenon

Posted: May 8, 2013  By Tim Fish

I spent a few days in Portland, Ore., last week, and you can't deny it has a distinctive personality, a combo of the laidback vibe of the West Coast with the rusty sneer of an old East Coast port city. It's also one of the hipster capitals of America. Every generation has its young, counter-culture crowd, from the beatniks and hippies to the punks, rappers and beyond, but today's hipsters have created a lifestyle. You may have seen it parodied on The Simpsons and Portlandia on TV.

One thing that distinguishes this new generation of hipsters is its passion for serious food and wine and, in the past five years, dozens of hip restaurants and wine bars targeting that crowd have sprung up in Portland. These aren't places you just stumble upon. They're generally smallish and quirky, hidden away in one of the city's numerous neighborhoods. You have to go looking for them.

Blogs  :  James Laube's Wine Flights

Napa's Biggest Party Yet

The BottleRock music, wine and food festival will welcome 40,000 visitors a day to the city of Napa

Posted: May 6, 2013  By James Laube

Tens of thousands of visitors are expected to descend on the city of Napa (pop. 76,915) this week, but, oddly enough, that has little to do directly with wine. They're coming for BottleRock, a five-day music festival featuring more than 60 bands on three stages, headlined by the Black Keys, the Kings of Leon, Jane's Addiction, Train, Alabama Shakes and the Zac Brown Band.

It would be a big event anywhere; it's truly seismic for Napa. BottleRock promoters expect to draw 35,000 to 40,000 music lovers each day to the Napa Valley Expo, a 26-acre plot of state-owned property best known for the annual Napa Town & Country Fair in August, which might draw 40,000 people in a week. To get a grasp on the scale of BottleRock, think Bonnaroo Music and Arts Festival in Manchester, Tenn., or Coachella Valley Music & Arts Festival in Southern California's Indio, two big outdoor music festivals with scores of big-name acts and huge crowds.

Blogs  :  James Laube's Wine Flights

Things Will Change at Mayacamas, and Some Will Stay the Same

New owners, a new winemaker and new vines won't change the character of the Napa Valley icon atop Mount Veeder

Posted: May 3, 2013  By James Laube

Some things need fixing at the recently sold Mayacamas Vineyards.

Some vineyard parcels are ancient by California standards. The late-1800s Zinfandel vines are gone, but some of the Chardonnay dates to the 1950s, along with Cabernet vines planted in the 1960s. Many of the vines have the girth of a tree trunk.

But the essence of Mayacamas is best left alone.

Blogs  :  Mixed Case: Opinion and Advice

No Slowing the Winery Direct Shipping Movement

Direct-to-consumer wine sales jumped dramatically again in 2012, to the tune of $1.46 billion

Posted: May 2, 2013  By Robert Taylor

The numbers are in and, as expected, 2012 was another banner year for winery direct-to-consumer shipping. American wineries shipped nearly 3.2 million cases of wine directly to consumers’ front doors in 2012, at a value of $1.46 billion.

That’s a 7.7 percent increase in volume and a 10 percent increase in value over 2011. Not only are Americans buying more wine straight from the cellar, we’re buying more expensive wine—at an average price of $38.42 per bottle, up from $37.63 in 2011 and $36.56 in 2010.

$1.46 billion, with a B, is an eye-popping sum. But these numbers, presented in an annual report issued in April by ShipCompliant and Wines & Vines, shouldn’t surprise anyone who’s been following the decade-plus-long fight to make winery direct shipping legal across the United States. Today it’s permitted in 39 states, and a look at a few newcomers confirms that wine lovers love having the option to buy straight from the winery, especially smaller wineries that aren’t carried by local wholesalers.

Rep. Theodore Speliotis has introduced House Bill 294, which would allow local and out-of-state wineries, after applying for a $100 state permit, to ship up to 24 cases of wine a year to Massachusetts residents. Sen. Daniel Wolf has co-sponsored the bill, crafted with the assistance of the Wine Institute, a winery advocacy organization.

And now the bill's proponents have a new secret weapon: former Patriots quarterback-turned-Washington vintner Drew Bledsoe.

Blogs  :  Exploring Wine with Tim Fish

Are We Losing that Wonder about Wine?

Don’t let the been-there, done-that attitude ruin the experience

Posted: May 1, 2013  By Tim Fish

The curmudgeon gene runs deep in my family, so I'm always trying to look at things through fresh eyes. I was reminded of this last week during that Wine Spectator Grand Tour tasting in San Francisco.

I ran into a group of friends at the tasting and stopped to chat. These folks love wine but have gone to few large tastings. One asked if I was having a good time. Of course, I said, with more than 200 wineries pouring, how could I not be? And yet they were clearly having an even better time, and it wasn't because they were guzzling. They were just excited to be there.

Blogs  :  Bruce Sanderson Decanted

Rocca di Montegrossi: Making Wine from Stone

San Marcellino vineyard Sangiovese makes for outstanding, mineral-driven Chianti Classico

Posted: April 30, 2013  By Bruce Sanderson

Marco Ricasoli-Firidolfi grows Sangiovese from the majority of 49 acres of vineyards surrounding his Rocca di Montegrossi cellar located in Monti, part of the Chianti Classico commune of Gaiole in Tuscany.

The soil here is very rocky, a mix of the friable schist called galestro and the harder albarese, a form of limestone, plus some clay. Sangiovese from this area possesses a very strong backbone and mineral expression, and is capable of long aging.

The vineyards are farmed organically, based on Ricasoli-Firidolfi's philosophy and personal observations since taking control of the estate in 1990. "The more careful you are with nature—organic farming, for example—the more nature responds," he said. "It's not scientifically proven, but my opinion."

Blogs  :  Harvey Steiman At Large

Barcelona Channeling Japan

Two of the Catalan city's most exciting restaurants owe much to sushi

Posted: April 30, 2013  By Harvey Steiman

Here in Barcelona on vacation, I could not resist trying what by all accounts is the go-to sushi place, Koy Shunka. Having explored the sushi cultures of Japan and America in my cover story of the May 31 issue of Wine Spectator, I wanted to see how another great food culture, that of Catalunya, translates the subtleties of Japan's most famous cuisine using the products of the Mediterranean Sea, as abundantly revered here as those of the Pacific Ocean are in Japan.

And then, for good measure, wouldn't you know that Japanese cuisine and sushi would play a critical role in the latest venture from brothers Albert and Ferran Adrià (who famously closed his own celebrated restaurant, El Bulli). They opened Pakta in early April, serving what they call Nikkei cuisine. Sushi is a part of the cuisine, Japanese by way of Peru, an east-west fusion made famous in America by Nobu Matsuhisa.

Blogs  :  James Laube's Wine Flights

How to Approach the Grand Tour Tasting

With over 225 wines, it’s best to make a plan

Posted: April 25, 2013  By James Laube

There are many ways to approach the Wine Spectator Grand Tour tasting, which kicked off last night at San Francisco's Marriott Marquis. With some 225 wines being poured, there’s a little of everything, from Amarone to Vintage Port.

The event moves to Las Vegas Saturday night and then on to Chicago. Attendees can meander and see what strikes their fancy, or look for lines like the one that formed for Casanova di Neri last night. I suggest you go into it with a plan.

Blogs  :  Exploring Wine with Tim Fish

A Spanish Red Value that Puts California to Shame

When it comes to bang for the buck, Evodia Garnacha leaves the Golden State in the dust

Posted: April 24, 2013  By Tim Fish

A good $10 bottle of red is not easy to find anymore. It's funny how people get excited about a great bargain, whether 10 bucks is all they can afford or they're buying it by the case for a barbecue. California isn't a lot of help. Too many of the reds selling for $10 or less aren't worth a spit.

Why can't more wine regions—particularly California—make wines like Altovinum's Evodia Old Vines Garnacha Calatayud 2011? It has lively raspberry aromas with hints of lead pencil and grilled herb plus flavors that are lively and ripe, but balanced with minerally acidity. The suggested retail is $10, but it often sells for less. I gave it 88 points, non-blind, on the Wine Spectator 100-point scale.

Blogs  :  Mixed Case: Opinion and Advice

Have You Ever Taken a Break from Wine?

These industry pros gave wine up and not only lived to tell the tale, but say it made them better drinkers

Posted: April 23, 2013  By Jennifer Fiedler

These days, you can't open a browser window without hearing about the latest abstemious diet: juice fasts, raw diets and nutritional cleanses. We've turned into a culture on perma-Lent—unless you're in the wine and food industry.

There is no doubt that working in the good-life business has major perks: good wine, good food, and lots of it. But what happens when it gets to be too much? Is it even possible to cut back if consuming is part of the job? Some sommeliers and winemakers say that cutting out wine for a short period of time—going on a "wine cleanse," if you will—actually helps them appreciate wine more.

Blogs  :  James Laube's Wine Flights

A Salute to George Vare

Remembering the Napa wine industry veteran

Posted: April 19, 2013  By James Laube

Businessman and Napa vintner George Vare, who died earlier this month, was at the top of the shortest lists. In the 1970s, an era when California wine was in its formative years, Vare actually understood the wine business as a business, inside-out and bottom to top, far better than most.

Blogs  :  Mixed Case: Opinion and Advice

Does Wine Evangelism Work? Part 2

Somms, writers and other wine tastemakers are sold on Sherry. But is anyone else buying it?

Posted: April 19, 2013  By Ben O'Donnell

Sherry is hot right now among sommeliers, writers and other opinion peddlers in the wine world. But few would call it an easy sell. It's a style of drink from another era, when wine was more like booze, and even among the great fortified wines, it's hard to deny that Sherry sticks out.

It doesn't taste like wine is "supposed" to taste. The main grape variety, Palomino, is generally considered too bland for table wine. Sherry's 10-or-so different styles are all over the map in flavor profile. The winemaking process involves a series of bizarre-seeming selections and aging regimens that wouldn't make sense in most viniculture—from aging some styles under a protective, foamy cap of yeast called flor to letting others oxidize extensively, to blending the young wines into older wines in a complex rotating system of barrels called a solera. In my last post, I discussed why Sherry, the great flightless bird of wine, provokes such fierce admiration from a small-but-growing group of American wine sellers.

Blogs  :  Mixed Case: Opinion and Advice

Does Wine Evangelism Work?

Why are American wine's tastemakers falling in love with Sherry—and can they sell the stuff? Part 1 of a case study

Posted: April 18, 2013  By Ben O'Donnell

Readers of a certain age will recall this enduring line from the 2004 Tina Fey-Lindsay Lohan picture Mean Girls, snapped by Regina George—the meanest girl—at her lieutenant: "Gretchen, stop trying to make 'fetch' happen! It's not going to happen!" (For readers of a different age: In the movie, "fetch" is a vaguely approving slang term "from England" that Gretchen haplessly tries to popularize.)

Regina's admonition has come to mind at times on the subject of Sherry. Perhaps you know Sherry from Sherryfest, a weeklong celebration of the Spanish fortified wine, held last month in Portland, Ore., and last fall in New York, or from the buildup to next month's World Sherry Day. Maybe you (I) went to that party last year at that East Village Dutch-fusion joint (now closed) where guests were encouraged to write their Twitter handles on their nametags and do a "bone luge" (scoop the marrow out of a bone, then glug amontillado through the hollow shank). Or perhaps you've sipped it at one of New York's Terroir bars, on whose eclectic wine lists Sherry is, plainly stated, "the world's greatest beverage."

Blogs  :  Exploring Wine with Tim Fish

Big Move by Zin Master Carlisle

Mike and Kendall Officer finally have a winery of their own to call home

Posted: April 17, 2013  By Tim Fish

It was time they had their own place. After 15 years of toiling in a warehouse custom-crush facility in Santa Rosa, Calif., Mike and Kendall Officer, owners of Carlisle Winery, have bought a winery in Russian River Valley.

They closed a deal yesterday on Robert Mueller's winery on Starr Road west of Windsor. The facility is approved to produce up to 10,000 cases annually, and while nearly 21 acres of land are included in the sale, there are no vineyards. Officer declined to reveal the purchase price.

Blogs  :  Harvey Steiman At Large

The Zen of Food and Wine

Sweat the details only if, like me, you really enjoy the exploration

Posted: April 16, 2013  By Harvey Steiman

A common trope about wine pretension says that we wine folks intimidate the rest of the world with our insistence upon always drinking the right wine with the right food. I don't know anyone who does that. Do you? I gave up a long time ago believing that there's a perfect wine for every dish.

That doesn't mean I ignore the message from my own taste buds that certain wines and foods can make beautiful music together. But I stubbornly resist didactic rules. The day I absent-mindedly picked up my glass of red wine to sip with my grilled fish, and discovered how the wine just brightened up and sang more clearly, started me on a lifelong quest for similarly unexpected but terrific wine-and-food combinations.

Blogs  :  Bruce Sanderson Decanted

Superb Sangiovese and Barrels of Fun in the Hills of Tuscany

Tasting Bibi Graetz' 2012 barrel samples in Chianti Classico, plus the latest vintages of Testamatta, Colore and Soffocone

Posted: April 15, 2013  By Bruce Sanderson

Does anyone have more fun making wine than Bibi Graetz?

He grew up in a castle outside Florence, Italy, and still lives there, making wine from an assortment of old vines sourced from around Chianti Classico, including 37 acres of vineyards at his property in Fiesole, where I caught up with him and his cellarmaster, Luigi Temperini.

Blogs  :  James Laube's Wine Flights

Climate Change Will Turn Up the Heat on California's Water Wars

A new report on how climate change could affect the viability of California's vineyards puts water rights in the spotlight again

Posted: April 12, 2013  By James Laube

If you’ve never seen the movie Chinatown, now’s a perfect time, as water rights issues are as hot a topic today in the Golden State as they were during the "California Water Wars," which began at the turn of the 20th century and serve as the backdrop to the classic film.

A report on climate change published by the National Academies of Sciences earlier this month is bringing California's seemingly endless disputes over water rights sharply into focus, especially as it pertains to the wine industry. The international team of researchers that conducted the study made predictions about where vineyards will and won't be viable by the year 2050.

As the report pertains to California, the scientists predict that 70 percent of the area currently suitable for viticulture here will no longer be viable by the year 2050—that is, without the use of adaptive measures such as irrigation or misting vineyards to cool them off. Factoring in the areas of California that will become viable for quality grapegrowing as a result of climate change, the net loss of California vineyard land becomes 60 percent by 2050.

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