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.
Posted: May 13, 2013 By Dana Nigro
I just want to say one word to you. Just one word. Are you listening?
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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."
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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."
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.
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.
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.
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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