Posted: July 13, 2012 By James Molesworth
As if being privileged to taste through 20 vintages of Jean-Louis Chave Hermitage the other day wasn't enough, I headed back over to the domaine in Mauves this morning to focus on the 2010 and 2011 vintages. I then headed over to Delas to check out the new wines with Jacques Grange and Claire Darnaud-McKerrow. Here are my reviews.
Posted: July 12, 2012 By Harvey Steiman
I have been ambivalent about the foie gras ban that took effect in California July 1. It doesn’t affect my food choices, as I gave up the fatty delicacy years ago—a double whammy of high cholesterol and a tendency to gout on my part. And while I am generally with the animal rights folks when it comes to clubbing baby seals and exposing inhumane farming practices, I wonder whether this controversy should have risen to the level it’s reached.
Posted: July 11, 2012 By James Molesworth
Today was a white wine day, with stops at Château-Grillet and then Georges Vernay, two domaines where the Viognier grape reigns. I also tasted the latest efforts from Pierre-Jean Villa. Here are my notes.
Posted: July 11, 2012 By Tim Fish
Vacations generally fall into two categories: active and relaxing. Some people like to explore exotic locales or scamper to the top of large and dangerous things, while others prefer to beach themselves in the sun for a week. It also depends on what vacation you're in the mood for. It's more complicated for wine lovers, however. Should you take a wine vacation or a vacation from wine?
Posted: July 10, 2012 By James Laube
It had been decades since I tried the 1969 Chappellet Napa Valley Cabernet. The last bottle I tasted had expired. Not this time around.
The other day, over lunch at their winery, Donn and Molly Chappellet uncorked their 1969, their first commercial wine, for a taste of history. It captured the wine in all its glory.
Paired alongside the 1999 and 2009 versions from the family's Pritchard Hill vineyard, the '69 looked nearly identical in color to the two younger vintages, still very dark red ruby-garnet, with little if any browning. It had retained its rich core of dark berry, tobacco and cedar and could have easily passed as a timeless Latour.
Posted: July 9, 2012 By James Molesworth
Since my trips tend to be long—upwards of two weeks—I invariably have a weekend to fill on my schedule. But I don't take time off while I'm here, so I need to fill them with work, and not play. Sundays can be tough though, as many domaines are family-run and Sundays are sort of sacred in France. So, in recent years I've often taken the opportunity to use Sunday as a time to taste through verticals of wines or horizontals of vintages, with samples provided by the domaines. I keep working, and they get me out of their hair for a day.
On this quiet Sunday, I was particularly grateful for the the opportunity to taste through 20 vintages of Hermitage from Jean-Louis Chave, a complete set from 2009 back to 1990. But a quiet Sunday turned into a family affair. For the tasting, I was joined not only by Jean-Louis Chave, but his father, Gérard, and Jean-Louis' wife, Erin, as well as Chave's cellar hands and vineyard manager. Jean-Louis admitted he had never opened 20 vintages of his wine for a single tasting before, so he wanted to share the experience with his team.
Posted: July 2, 2012 By James Molesworth
Cornas and Côte-Rôtie: same grape, same region, but two totally different wines. Cornas is all about controlled rusticity, with olive, bramble and chalk notes that need to be massaged into a core of fruit. Few producers manage to do it well, but at its best, it's arguably the Northern Rhône's most distinctive wine.
In Côte-Rôtie, it's about controlling amplitude of fruit to find balance. Letting the sanguine and mineral notes edge out from a ripe blackberry and plum core, as well as a sometimes-exuberant new oak élevage employed by a few vignerons, is key.
Put the two together, and Cornas and Côte-Rôtie are the yin and yang of Northern Rhône Syrah. Today I visited A. Clape and Stéphane Ogier.
Posted: July 2, 2012 By Harvey Steiman
Rummaging around the cellar for something interesting for dinner with old friends, I brought up my last bottle of Kendall-Jackson Syrah Durell Vineyard 1986. It had held up beautifully, wowing everyone at the table.
Posted: June 29, 2012 By James Molesworth
On my fifth day in France's Rhône Valley, I visited Château de St.-Cosme in Gigondas, then headed north to Paul Jaboulet Aîné. Here are my tasting notes on the 2010 Northern Rhônes at both domaines, and much more.
Posted: June 28, 2012 By James Laube
It's been a long time in the works. So it is with the Peter Mondavi family. It has always been the tortoise to Robert Mondavi's hare. The hare no longer exists as it once did, but the Peter Mondavi family, owners of Charles Krug Winery, is stretching its neck out with a new signature wine called Aloft, made by Thomas Brown. It comes from a family-owned site on Howell Mountain, above the Napa Valley floor, territory that is relatively new to the Krug Mondavis, as they're often known, who make most of their Napa wines from valley floor grapes.
Posted: June 27, 2012 By James Molesworth
On my fourth day in France's Rhône Valley, I made one last stop in Châteauneuf-du-Pape at the new La Consonniere domaine, then headed up into the hills to Séguret, where I checked out the family-run operation at Domaine de Mourchon. Here are my tasting notes on the 2010 Châteauneufs at both domaines, and much more.
Posted: June 27, 2012 By Tim Fish
A long time ago, before I started writing about wine and food for a living, I was a newspaper reporter. I covered everything from fatal car crashes to rock concerts, and interviewed everyone from movie stars to murderers on death row.
A lot of the beats required little more than fearless interrogation skills and the ability to type like an AK-47, but some called for specific knowledge and experience, and that's when I learned that the line between passion and snobbishness is razor thin.
Posted: June 26, 2012 By Harvey Steiman
Barb Stuckey loves a glass of good Sauvignon Blanc, often at the end of a day in which she might be tasting everything but wine. She might be called upon to weigh in on the latest efforts at tortilla chips, cereals, processed garlic purees and inventive pizzas or, as required recently, analyze a few upscale chain restaurants, all in her job leading the marketing and consumer research functions at Mattson, a Bay-Area company that develops new foods.
When she started at Mattson, the business school graduate had no clue what the food experts were talking about as they dissected the food they tasted. But she learned, and soon what she knew about tasting made dining in her nonprofessional life a more satisfying experience. That was the impetus for her book, published this year: Taste What You’re Missing: The Passionate Eater’s Guide to Why Good Food Tastes Good (Free Press, 407 pages, $26).
Posted: June 25, 2012 By James Molesworth
On my third day in France's Rhône Valley, I visited a few benchmarks of the south, starting with Château de Beaucastel. After that I visited Isabel Ferrando at Domaine St.-Préfert, followed by a trip to Château Cabrières. Here are my tasting notes on the 2010 Châteauneuf-du-Papes and more.
Posted: June 22, 2012 By James Molesworth
On my second day back in France's Rhône Valley, I visited three domaines to check out the 2010 vintage (and a few 2011s), beginning with Domaine Jean Royer. I then checked out Ogier, followed by Domaine de Cristia. Here are my tasting notes.
Posted: June 21, 2012 By Harvey Steiman
When a foreign cuisine first wowed you in a restaurant, was it in a storefront run by a recent immigrant, or did it happen in a fancier place created by an American chef or restaurateur passionate about a cuisine that at one point was just as foreign to him or her as it was to you?
Some of the best-known practitioners in the U.S. of Thai, Mexican, Chinese and other “foreign” cuisines are Americans with no familial ties to the cultures in question. Andy Ricker recently opened branches in New York of Pok Pok, his hyper-successful Portland, Ore., Thai restaurant. Ed Schoenfeld of RedFarm, a stylized Chinese restaurant, and Alex Stupak of Empellón Cocina, a Mexican restaurant, have also wowed New York critics and customers. Rick Bayless of Chicago restaurants Frontera Grill and Topolobampo is acknowledged to be America’s master of Mexican cooking. All of them were referenced recently in a New York Times story, which asked who should best represent ethnic cuisines in the public’s mind.
Posted: June 20, 2012 By Tim Fish
With all the great California Cabernet Sauvignons that came after, people tend to forget the 1991 vintage, but it was an excellent one. California Cabernet came into its own with the 1985s, but for me the early benchmark was always 1991.
From the start, the wines showed great depth and balance, and were immediately drinkable, but you had the sense they would age gracefully. For me they had an additional significance: My daughter Sophie was born in 1991.
We celebrated her 21st birthday last week and I opened a few of the 1991s I've had in my cellar since they were released. The bottles were in great shape and the wines had aged beautifully. They made up for all those bottles I've opened with anticipation over the years only to be disappointed.
Posted: June 19, 2012 By James Molesworth
My flight was on time. My train was on time. And I even figured out the rental car in short order, getting that frustrating "eco" function off to avoid the maddening engine stop at red lights, as well as figuring out where the parking brake was.
After a quick lunch at La Mère Germain, I visited with Jean-Charles Cazes at Sénéchaux and Daniel and Frédéric Coulon at Beaurenard, where the 2010s are superb.
Here are my tasting notes.
Posted: June 18, 2012 By James Molesworth
Well, I'm off to the Rhône. Again.
It's probably no secret that France's Rhône Valley is my favorite wine region, and so while any trip there is technically work, it's always a little bit of fun too. I feel very much at home whether on the rolling plateau of Châteauneuf-du-Pape, along broad terraces of Gigondas in the southern portion of this region or on the steep slopes of Cornas, Hermitage and Côte-Rôtie in the north.
I'll be covering both the south and north this time, as I'm making just this one trip to the region this year. This time around, I'll be focusing primarily on the 2010s, which are just being bottled, and I might get an early look at some 2011s as well.
Posted: June 15, 2012 By James Laube
Along with Ridge Monte Bello, Heitz Martha's Vineyard is one of California's longest running single-vineyard Cabernets. Since 1962 for Ridge and 1967 for Martha's, these two Cabernets have been made continuously by the same respective wineries. They are grands crus in the purest spirit of the word.
Last year, Heitz celebrated its 50th year in business, and the Martha's Vineyard Cabernet remains a consistently complex, well-defined, distinctive expression of terroir. When the 2007 Martha's (94 points, 1,330 cases made) passed through my office the other day in a blind tasting, I wondered if the wine in the brown paper bag could possibly be Heitz. It had all the telltale signs: the minty chocolate-covered cherry aromas, the firm, dense and concentrated body, and long, persistent finish. It's the best new Martha's I can remember in years. Make that decades.
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