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Blogs  :  Stirring the Lees with James Molesworth

The South Africa Diary: Hamilton Russell

Anthony Hamilton Russell and winemaker Hannes Storm specialize in Pinot Noir and Chardonnay, but continue to experiment in their own backyard

Posted: February 14, 2013  By James Molesworth

Walker Bay wine history starts with Hamilton Russell, when Tim Hamilton Russell founded his winery in 1979. At that time, the wine industry was ruled by a quote system for production, and the early vintages of Hamilton Russell were made in a, shall we say, slightly clandestine manner, sourcing fruit from what are now the estate's vineyards, though at the time were not "legal."

Today the winery is one of the most recognized brands in the U.S. market, and rightfully so, as it has become the flag bearer for Pinot Noir and Chardonnay from South Africa. Tim's son, Anthony Hamilton Russell, now runs the estate, zipping down from his house on his favorite motorcycle to the winery which sits at the bottom of the slope. In between are 160 acres of vines (the estate totals 420 acres) which often show the telltale band of red leaves along the base of the canopy that marks the leaf roll virus. The virus, which shortens a vine's lifespan and makes ripening difficult, is a fact of life on the farm, brought in with the original plantings. Hamilton Russell is constantly replanting and trying to stay ahead of the shorter life curve of his vineyard parcels.

Blogs  :  Stirring the Lees with James Molesworth

The South Africa Diary: Bouchard Finlayson

In the cooler climes of Walker Bay, Peter Finlayson makes Pinot Noir and Chardonnay

Posted: February 13, 2013  By James Molesworth

After finishing up in the warm Swartland it was time to take in some ocean-fed breezes in one of South Africa's cooler wine regions, Walker Bay. Located less than two hours drive east from Cape town, along a beautiful coastal road and over a dramatic mountain pass, Walker Bay is the home of the Cape's best Pinot Noir and Chardonnay producers. Among them, is Bouchard Finlayson.

With his white beard and slow cadence, Peter Finlayson, 64, easily evokes the person of one of the Cape's elder statesmen. He earned his stripes at next door's Hamilton-Russell as that winery's first winemaker starting in 1979, at just 31 years of age and working alongside Tim Hamilton-Russell.

Blogs  :  Bruce Sanderson Decanted

2011 Burgundy Preview: Refinement and Balance at Bouchard Père & Fils

Christophe Bouchard's 2011 lineup of Pinot Noirs and Chardonnays includes potential classics from Chambertin-Clos de Bèze, Montrachet and more

Posted: February 13, 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 of Pinot Noirs and Chardonnays at Bouchard Père & Fils. Here are his scores and tasting notes.

Blogs  :  Stirring the Lees with James Molesworth

The South Africa Diary: Fairview

Vintner Charles Back's Fairview and Spice Route operations set an example for the South African wine industry

Posted: February 12, 2013  By James Molesworth

A sit-down with Charles Back is like attending a State of the Wine Industry speech. Back, 57, is one of the South Africa wine industry's elder statesmen, though he still has plenty of pep in his step. He's one of its most respected leaders and one of its craftiest marketers as well. He combines quality in his Fairview wines with business smarts and a genial hands-on approach. Back has been and will continue to be critical to the success of South African wine.

Blogs  :  Mixed Case: Opinion and Advice

The World's Most Exclusive $20 Wines: Napa Cabernet

If you want the real deal, find the wineries that run lean, drive assertive deals with their growers and don't get caught up in the hype

Posted: February 12, 2013  By Ben O'Donnell

"I spent 10 years down in the Central Coast," Harry Hansen, head winemaker at Sterling Vineyards in Napa Valley, said. "I made Paso Robles Cab, I made Central Coast Cab, and it's always tough to sell your wine against Napa Valley Cabernet. There are just some things that are so good that even if you pay a little bit more for them, they're worth it."

Perhaps there's no substitute for the real thing in this case. (I previously recommended bargain alternatives to Châteauneuf and Champagne from their kin terroirs: Lirac, across the Rhône, and Burgundy's "Golden Gate.") But as I told Sauternes lovers on a $20 budget, sometimes the real thing is just the thing for your wallet.

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.

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