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Blogs  :  Harvey Steiman At Large

The Slippery Slope of Ripeness

It's not defined as, um, crisply as you might think

Posted: March 17, 2014  By Harvey Steiman

Ripeness (and its kissing cousin, alcohol) seems to be the wine issue of the year. So I made it a point to attend winery group In Pursuit of Balance's panel discussion on the subject last week at its San Francisco confab and tasting.

The panel, led by London-based wine writer Jamie Goode, included Justin Willett of Tyler in Santa Barbara, Josh Jensen of Calera in Mt. Harlan, Wells Guthrie of Copaín in Anderson Valley and Katy Wilson of LaRue in Sonoma Coast. Each presented two wines, exploring just how much ripeness matters in determining a Pinot Noir's quality.

Blogs  :  Mixed Case: Opinion and Advice

How Serious Is Long Island About Sustainable Wine?

Region's new program gets green thumbs-up from outside expert

Posted: March 17, 2014  By Dana Nigro

When a group of winegrowers develops an eco-friendly certification program for their own region, one question you have to ask is: How serious are they? If the very people who have to live up to the goals are setting the goals, isn't there a possibility that they won't set the bar higher than they and their neighbors can easily reach? Does the certification hold everyone's feet to the fire or is it just a way to look good for the public?

That was a potential concern when four leading Long Island producers—Bedell Cellars, Shinn Estate, Channing Daughters and Martha Clara Vineyards—developed the first sustainability code and certification for vineyards on the East Coast in 2012 and launched the nonprofit Long Island Sustainable Winegrowing organization to oversee it. But if you didn't personally know the sincerity and commitment of people like Bedell winemaker Rich Olsen-Harbich and Barbara Shinn, if you hadn't walked their vineyards with them, as I have, how sure could you be of what they were trying to do?

Blogs  :  Exploring Wine with Tim Fish

A Zinfandel Star on the Rise

The low profile of Miraflores belies the high quality of its wines

Posted: March 12, 2014  By Tim Fish

Secluded high in the mountains of the Sierra Foothills, Miraflores Winery has gone quietly about the business of making great Zinfandel for a decade now.

Foothills wineries often have trouble getting the attention they deserve in the California wine industry, and none are more deserving of a higher profile than Miraflores. Of the nine Zinfandels I've reviewed, seven received outstanding ratings.

Blogs  :  Bruce Sanderson Decanted

Crosstown Traffic, Part 1: Chanson Père & Fils

The 2012 Burgundy vintage at Chanson confirms this domaine's lineup is flying under the radar

Posted: March 11, 2014  By Bruce Sanderson

Wine Spectator senior editor Bruce Sanderson has just returned from Burgundy, where he tasted the 2012 vintage. Here are his tasting notes and non-blind scores from his visit to Domaine Chanson.

Blogs  :  Harvey Steiman At Large

Drink What You Like

Bien sûr! say Le Bernardin's Eric Ripert and Aldo Sohm—even red Bordeaux with fish

Posted: March 11, 2014  By Harvey Steiman

When the perfectly named (for a sommelier) Aldo Sohm went to work at the classic New York French fish restaurant Le Bernardin seven years ago, one of his first special assignments was to select wines for chef Eric Ripert's birthday party.

The entrée was escolar with sauce Bearnaise. Sohm, unaware that Ripert famously loves to drink red Bordeaux with everything and damn the consequences, chose Hubert de Lignier Morey St-Denis Chaffots 2001, a deliciously fragrant and silky red Burgundy. "It was drinking perfect," said the affable sommelier, still with a tinge of his native Austria in his accent.

Ten minutes before the event started, however, the maître d' and two captains approached the new guy. "They started yelling, ‘Didn't they tell you chef only likes Bordeaux?'"

Blogs  :  Robert Camuto: Letter from Europe

Avant-Garde Meets Tradition on the Plate

A visit with the Italian culinary master every wine connoisseur should know

Posted: March 10, 2014  By Robert Camuto

If there were a Nobel Prize for Parmigiano cheese, Massimo Bottura would certainly be its first laureate.

For more than 20 years, Bottura, Italy's most acclaimed modern chef, has worked to perfect a signature dish founded on the belief that this famous aged cheese made near his native Modena wasn't getting the respect it deserved. "Why did we only use this incredible cheese—this symbol of our land—just to grate on pasta?" The 50-year-old Bottura, clad in chef's jacket and jeans, is nearly shouting.

Blogs  :  James Laube's Wine Flights

Sweet on Lemon

Littorai's Ted Lemon hosts a blind tasting of 45 of his wines from California, Burgundy and beyond

Posted: March 6, 2014  By James Laube

One reason people like Ted Lemon's wines so much is that they like Ted Lemon. And his wines are a lot like him.

He is one of the most agreeable and thoughtful winemakers in California. He's a hero, too, these days, for many young winemakers. They aspire to what he's accomplished since arriving in California in the early 1980s from Burgundy, where he worked and learned his trade.

Blogs  :  Mixed Case: Opinion and Advice

5 Tips for Planning a Bike Trip Through Wine Country

Start daydreaming now …

Posted: March 4, 2014  By Jennifer Fiedler

There's nothing like the tail end of winter to set off daydreaming about the year's upcoming vacations, right? This February, I've been reminiscing in particular about a cycling trip I took a few years ago with five friends through Canada's Okanagan Valley wine region. I had done wine-tasting trips before, as well as bike trips, but this was the first time I had combined the two. The good news: We survived, put on some great mileage, drank great wine and are still friends! But we definitely could have planned things better. Here's what I learned,

Blogs  :  Exploring Wine with Tim Fish

Is Wine Your Obsession?

Compulsively collecting is a stage that many of us go through

Posted: February 27, 2014  By Tim Fish

When I first started drinking wine--meaning good wine--I was in my late twenties. It didn't take long to become obsessed, or as obsessed as anyone can be on a newspaper reporter's salary.

Given my discretionary income, I wasn't your average wine collector, but whenever I read a great review the scheming would begin. Buying a case was out of the question, but a bottle or two was possible, if I could even track it down.

Blogs  :  Bruce Sanderson Decanted

Temperature Rising at Domaine Faiveley

Faiveley continues a hot streak with a terrific range of 2012 Burgundies

Posted: February 27, 2014  By Bruce Sanderson

Wine Spectator senior editor Bruce Sanderson has just returned from Burgundy, where he tasted the 2012 vintage. Here are his tasting notes and non-blind scores from his visit to Domaine Faiveley.

Blogs  :  James Laube's Wine Flights

Big Gains for Napa Valley Vintners at Premiere Napa Valley

But what does the record-setting auction mean for nearly priced-out consumers?

Posted: February 26, 2014  By James Laube

If you need a perspective on Premiere Napa Valley, the Napa Valley Vintners' trade-only tasting and auction, consider the sports world: Sports fans are keenly aware of what a team's popularity brings. It usually means the team is improved, and that usually translates to higher ticket prices.

This past weekend, the Premiere Napa Valley auction shattered its previous record, with $5.9 million in winning bids, or $283 per bottle. The top lot, 5 cases of 2012 Scarecrow Cabernet, sold for $260,000.

Blogs  :  Harvey Steiman At Large

How Ripe Is Right?

Drilling down into the ideal alcohol kerfuffle

Posted: February 26, 2014  By Harvey Steiman

Alcohol, a necessary byproduct of fermenting ripe grapes, seems to have polarized the wine community these past few years. Most wine drinkers seem to like ripe flavors in wine, and don't mind if alcohol levels are higher, but a vocal minority wants to change that. There's even an organization of vintners in California, In Pursuit of Balance, which stumps for lower levels of alcohol.

This dichotomy jumped out at me when I read reactions to a recent study that reported consumer responses to Cabernet Sauvignons made at different alcohol levels. The study, conducted in Sydney, presented 104 consumers ages 18 to 65 who drink red wine at least once a week with five different Cabernet Sauvignons harvested sequentially, with alcohol levels varying from 12 percent up to 15.5 percent, and asked them to give each wine a preference score on a scale of 0 to 9. Ratings for each of the five wines on nearly two dozen sensory attributes pertaining to appearance, aroma and palate were determined in a separate panel comprising 12 trained tasters from the Australian Wine and Research Institute (AWRI).

Blogs  :  James Laube's Wine Flights

Napa Vintner All in for Cold Weather

Mike Drash finds a new home in Minnesota

Posted: February 25, 2014  By James Laube

Mike Drash brought about his own climate change.

The 45-year-old vintner, who's been making wine in California, including Napa Valley, for two decades, has relocated with his family to Kasota, Minn., where he signed on as winemaker at Chankaska Creek Winery, a growing 5,300-case operation; the nearest big city is Des Moines, Iowa, to the south.

Blogs  :  Harvey Steiman At Large

A Twist on the Aging Question

Screw caps would reduce the risk of aging red wines

Posted: February 24, 2014  By Harvey Steiman

When will the wine world come to its senses about how wine ages under screw caps? My good friend James Laube, who champions twist-offs (as he prefers to call them) didn't mention the possibilities in his recent tirades against the risks of aging wine too long. But I will.

Blogs  :  Robert Camuto: Letter from Europe

Uprooting France’s ‘Louvre of the Vine’

The world’s greatest collection of vinestock is in play and vignerons sound the alarm

Posted: February 24, 2014  By Robert Camuto

One of France's greatest wine treasures lies off a dead-end road on a wind-swept strip of Mediterranean coastline.

Here, Blaise Genna, 60, sporting a white handlebar mustache direct from central vigneron casting, greets wine pilgrims (scientists, viticulturists and other professionals) who come for the world's greatest collection of vine stock: 2,600 separate grape varieties—7,500 genotypes—from 50 countries.

And like any wine lover should be, I am concerned about the tentative future of the collection, caught in a lease dispute after 65 years at this site.

Blogs  :  James Laube's Wine Flights

Tasting with the Master

Michael Broadbent's vast catalog of wine writing offers much to learn

Posted: February 21, 2014  By James Laube

Michael Broadbent, 86, is one of wine's foremost authorities. In honor of his service to the wine auction industry at Christie's, he was the recipient of Wine Spectator's Distinguished Service Award in 1991. A prolific author of more than a dozen books, he is a scholar with a preoccupation for ancient wines, mostly French, but also German, Vintage Port, Champagne and Madeira. His two reference works, The Great Vintage Wine Book (Knopf, 1980), and its successor, The New Great Vintage Wine Book (Knopf, 1991), should be in any wine lover's library.

Blogs  :  Harvey Steiman At Large

In Latest Change, Evening Land's Winemaker Says Adieu

Isabelle Meunier leaves; partner Rajat Parr says Burgundy's Dominique Lafon will play larger role

Posted: February 19, 2014  By Harvey Steiman

The changes continue at Evening Land in Oregon, one of the state's top-rated producers of Pinot Noir and Chardonnay. Wine Spectator has learned that Isabelle Meunier has left the winery where she has been overseeing winemaking and viticulture since Mark Tarlov founded it in 2007.

Blogs  :  Mixed Case: Opinion and Advice

Remembering a Guru of Green: Biodynamic Consultant Alan York

Posted: February 14, 2014  By Dana Nigro

Alan York, a California-based leader in the biodynamic viticulture movement in the United States and abroad, died Feb. 3 at the age of 62. He inspired many to adopt greener horticultural practices in his decades-long career as a gardener and landscape designer, international vineyard consultant and speaker, and president of the Biodynamic Association and editor of the quarterly Biodynamics journal for a stint. He was overseeing biodynamic farming at all four of Benziger's certified vineyard estates and worked with clients ranging from Emiliana and Matetic in Chile and Alto Las Hormigas in Argentina to Sting's Il Palagio estate in Tuscany.

Blogs  :  Exploring Wine with Tim Fish

California Is Finally All Wet

Big weekend storm gives hope to winemakers, particularly in Northern California

Posted: February 12, 2014  By Tim Fish

The first major storm in more than a year swept through Northern California over the weekend, and the sound heard in the skies wasn't thunder, but a sigh of collective relief.

Napa Valley and Sonoma County averaged about 8 inches in a few days, with some areas gaining as much as 12 to 15 inches. Central California wasn't as blessed, receiving no more than an inch or so.

The drought is far from over even in Northern California—rainfall levels are still below the previous record drought year of 1977—but you won't hear any complaints right now.

Blogs  :  Bruce Sanderson Decanted

Patience in Pommard

Tasting the 2012 Burgundies at Domaine de Courcel

Posted: February 11, 2014  By Bruce Sanderson

Wine Spectator senior editor Bruce Sanderson has just returned from Burgundy, where he tasted the 2012 vintage. Here are his tasting notes and non-blind scores from his visit to Domaine de Courcel in Pommard.

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