Posted: August 2, 2013 By Harvey Steiman
Every state in America makes wine. So everywhere I go, I try to taste at least a few examples of the local product. As my wife and I spend several weeks every summer in the Colorado Rockies, we have been exposed to Colorado bottlings from time to time. I've ordered glasses or bottles of local wines in places such as Arizona, Texas, Michigan, Maryland and Virginia, which get little respect except for a relatively few supporters. Generally I find what I've tasted likable enough. But two big questions keep me from hopping up and down with excitement. I ran into both of those questions as I tasted through a representative sample of 10 Colorado wines with Kyle Schlachter of the Colorado Wine Press website.
Posted: July 31, 2013 By Tim Fish
Back in school, there was always a smartass who'd taped a sign to a kid's back. California Merlot has been wearing one of those signs for years now, and it reads "Kick Me." The 1990s boom years are long gone, even though Merlot is still popular with consumers looking for an easygoing red for $10 to $20. There are a few high-end Merlot producers like Duckhorn, Lewis and Pahlmeyer that can charge a premium, but many wineries with $25 to $50 bottles can't give them away.
But if the 2009 vintage proved anything, it's way too soon to write off California Merlot.
Posted: July 30, 2013 By James Laube
A lay person could be forgiven for thinking a group of vintners and enophiles talking shop were speaking another language. In many ways, they are—the American winespeak vernacular draws on words rooted in many foreign tongues, but predominantly French. But some of our idiomatic terms are occasionally adopted by the general populace.
"Vintage" might be the most prominent example. Collectibles of every ilk are now referred to by aficionados as "vintage," from cars to clothes. Sportscasters regularly call a veteran ballplayer's banner day a "vintage performance."
Thanks to a bubbling battle of Paris cola drinkers and the Wall Street Journal, terroir could be the unlikely next wine term to make the leap into the mainstream.
Posted: July 25, 2013 By Jennifer Fiedler
It's no secret that wine people can come off as a little cultish, with their special vocabulary, tasting rituals and intensely focused gatherings. Yet it's an interesting hobby in the sense that it bumps up against the real world on a regular basis—at meal times, business dinners, and fun moments with friends and family. That means that wine people get to share wine with lots of folks who may not exactly have the same enthusiasm when it comes to talking about wine.
Posted: July 19, 2013 By Harvey Steiman
Aspen, Colo., tucked high in the Rocky Mountains, may not be an ideal indicator of economic trends in America. But at the luxury hotel the Little Nell, the expensive wines have started to fly out of the cellar. It has sommelier Carlton McCoy shaking his head in wonder.
Bottles and magnums of first-growth Bordeaux and big-name Burgundy stud a 700-bottle glassed-in wine storage unit that holds a bottle or two of the most-ordered wines and some top-shelf labels. It runs the length of a cocktail bar at the entrance to Element 47, the awkwardly renamed restaurant that won a Wine Spectator Grand Award as Montagna, its previous incarnation.
Posted: July 18, 2013 By Ben O'Donnell
If you're an American in the wine industry and are within my age range (mid-twenties to early thirties, not to put too fine a point on it), you have, or are somewhere on the path toward, a Master Sommelier diploma. That is barely an exaggeration. (Some folks pursue a Wine & Spirits Education Trust diploma, or go on to a Master of Wine, instead.) For a generation that purports to care little about what the so-called experts have to say about wine, it seems we all want to become one anyway.
"It definitely helps to have it on the résumé when it comes to scoring a great job in the wine world," said Dustin Wilson, wine director at Wine Spectator Grand Award-winning Eleven Madison Park and MS class of '11. "It's a title that earns you some automatic respect."
Posted: July 17, 2013 By Tim Fish
It's blasphemy, I know, but I don't always drink the perfect wine with my food.
Forget perfect: Sometimes I don't even remotely drink the right wine. This isn't a radical idea for old wine hands, but I think it's worth restating for new wine lovers. The right wine with the right meal remains the ideal, but who lives in an ideal world?
Posted: July 11, 2013 By Mitch Frank
Is there a China backlash in France's wine regions?
China's growing thirst for wine, particularly French wine, has been a favorite topic in wine circles for several years. Our fascination is understandable—the People's Republic of China has engineered a spectacular economic story during the past two decades, growing from 2 percent of global GDP to 16 percent, according to International Monetary Fund data. As China's wealth has soared and an upper class has arisen, wine sales have grown dramatically.
But anytime a new group joins an industry as tradition-minded as wine, some people are going to grumble. The three men in Hostens may be just isolated criminals, but they might also have given voice to an underlying tension: Some wine people may not welcome the planet's newest big spenders.
Posted: July 10, 2013 By Harvey Steiman
Washington wine writer Paul Gregutt got himself into quite a kerfuffle earlier this year when he sprung Waitsburg Cellars onto the world.
The longtime resident of the Evergreen state is a veteran critic and author of Washington Wines and Wineries, the definitive book on Washington wine, whose wine reviews appeared on his own blog and in several print publications. He had never been a winemaker, but in 2011 partnered with Precept Wines, the state's third-largest wine company, to craft his own wines for the new label. Questions were raised. Could a wine critic also be a winemaker without raising conflict-of-interest issues? Could an untrained neophyte's wines be any good?
Well, I tasted them blind with their peers, as we always do around here, and I can say they are better than good.
Posted: July 10, 2013 By Tim Fish
There's one thing you can say about the recent growing seasons in Northern California: They haven't been boring. 2010 was chilly then blazing hot. 2009 and 2011 were soggy. Only 2012 was a dream.
As for 2013, it's too early to tell.
Because of warm weather in late winter and spring, the season began early, with budbreak starting March 1 and bloom unfolding in mid-May. Skies were mostly sunny as summer began, and the season was moving along at a good clip, and then an extended heat wave arrived (with temperatures hovering around 100° F) in late June and continued through the Fourth of July.
Posted: July 3, 2013 By Harvey Steiman
The news media has jumped on a new study of judges at the California State Fair wine competition as evidence that all wine tasting is baloney. But the author of the study says that's not what he meant. Not by a mile.
Posted: July 3, 2013 By Robert Taylor
The 21st century has been a tumultuous, albeit productive, one for Drinkers Rights, were one so inclined to dub the movement. The tug-of-war over where, when and how alcohol can be bought and consumed has played out everywhere from local community boards to state legislatures to the U.S. Congress and the Supreme Court.
In the past 10 years, interstate direct-to-consumer shipping has vastly expanded for wineries, but contracted for retailers; wholesalers continue to thrive and exert political influence despite claims that deregulated wine markets would drive them out of business; politicians perpetuate stereotypes of politicians by pandering to special interests. Yet somehow one group affected by each development—consumers—never seems to have a say. The founders of a new wine lovers' advocacy group hope they can change that.
Posted: July 3, 2013 By Tim Fish
I usually smoke ribs or a brisket or chicken on Independence Day, but that's not going to happen this year. Thanks to the heat, I'll be outside as little as possible. As Woody Allen said, "I don't tan. I stroke." This year I'll grill salmon or something else that's easy and light.
As for the wine, it's bubbly for me. Not only will it go well with the heat and salmon, but also the Fourth is a day of celebration after all, right?
Posted: June 28, 2013 By Harvey Steiman
This story should sound familiar to anyone who has fallen for the world of wine. One day about a decade ago, a budding opera singer and his wife were sitting outside a caffè in Rome. "I had quit drinking in my very early 20s due to the financial constraints of college and grad school," said Matthew Polenzani, "but on a beautiful warm evening the moment called for a nice glass of wine. We've never looked back."
Posted: June 27, 2013 By Jennifer Fiedler
Among the beer-drinking community, the ongoing "winification" of beer—750ml bottles, beer sommeliers, ultra-high-alcohol products—is a fairly controversial phenomenon. But looking at this development from the wine side of things, one facet is particularly interesting: the rise of single-hop beers.
Posted: June 26, 2013 By Tim Fish
Nail biting over the wine to drink with Thanksgiving dinner pales next to the challenge of pairing wine with a classic Fourth of July barbecue. That's one reason so many Americans reach for a beer.
I'm something of an anarchist when it comes to food and wine. There's too much fuss put into finding the seamless match in my view. Seamlessness is boring. I prefer a wine that offers a playful contrast and enhances the food or brings out something new.
And face it, if you can't be playful and have fun with food and wine on July 4, then you don't deserve to watch the fireworks.
Posted: June 24, 2013 By Bruce Sanderson
In 1995, Vittorio Frescobaldi of Italy's venerable Marchesi Frescobaldi joined forces with Napa Valley icon Robert Mondavi to produce a Tuscan red called Luce della Vite. The grapes came from vineyards in Montalcino, adjacent to the Frescobaldis' Castelgiocondo estate.
Luce debuted two years later with the 1993 vintage. There is also a second wine called Lucente produced from the same vineyards. Earlier this year in New York, Lamberto Frescobaldi, vice president of the company in charge of production for Marchesi Frescobaldi, presented a vertical tasting of every vintage of Luce from the past 20 years, exclusively for Wine Spectator. Here are my scores and tasting notes.
Posted: June 20, 2013 By Ben O'Donnell
"We have chaptalized. We have done in it California, on rare occasions, but we have, and we've done it in wines from Oregon, again on fairly rare occasions." That's probably not something you'd expect to hear from any veteran winemaker, much less Adam Lee, co-owner of Siduri and Novy Family, whose current releases total 37 single-vineyard and appellation bottlings, from the Sta. Rita Hills in California's Central Coast up to the Chehalem Mountains, in Oregon's Willamette Valley. After all, in California, chaptalization—the addition of sugar during fermentation—has long been illegal.
It's time to change that.
Posted: June 19, 2013 By Tim Fish
It's good to see that Americans are beginning to ignore one of the long-standing "rules" of California wine—that it has to be varietally specific: Cabernet Sauvignon, Chardonnay, etc.
Blends have been a no-no, particularly when it comes to value wines, but America is now more confident and comfortable with wine, and we no longer have to live down the days we swilled cheap "Hearty Burgundy" and generic jugs of "Chablis."
Millennials, the industry is learning, are open-minded about blends, and that changing mindset has lead to a new generation of value-oriented California red blends.
Posted: June 18, 2013 By Harvey Steiman
After offering my take on ingredient labeling for wine, I got to thinking about why this is such a vexing issue. We do, after all, want to know what goes into what we consume, including wine. The tricky aspect for wine, of course, is that what goes in does not necessarily wind up in the bottle.
All of the adjustments winemakers can apply to wine remind me of what can happen in making music recordings. It's an apt analogy on several levels. One can even argue that, as humans, we need music as much as we need food and wine. At least some of us do.
Here's the thing. Just as manipulations in the winery can make a wine seem like more than what the vineyard actually produced, what we hear on most recordings is not exactly what the musicians actually played and sang. Sophisticated electronic and digital processes add reverberation, replace flubbed notes, and these days can even modify pitch to get a sour note in tune.
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