Posted: May 18, 2012 By James Laube
The more I taste the 2009 Napa Cabernets and 2010 California Pinot Noirs, the more I like them.
Posted: May 16, 2012 By Harvey Steiman
On vacation, with stops in Paris, Lyon, Piemonte and Liguria, my wife and I mostly avoided high-profile restaurants and opted for less-expensive wines. Still we ate well and drank a satisfying array of local favorites.
Highlights included a Paul Bocuse project and the "best tajarin ever," at Trattoria Antica Torre in Barbaresco.
Posted: May 16, 2012 By Tim Fish
Milla Handley was making Pinot Noir in the Anderson Valley before it was cool to be there. She has championed that remote valley in Mendocino County since launching Handley Cellars in 1982, back when winemaking there was just taking baby steps.
"In the old days, we were using old dairy tanks for fermenters," Handley said. "And we weren't sure we could get still wine grapes ripe or not."
Things change in 30 years. Anderson Valley has matured and is now considered one of California's best spots for Pinot Noir. Handley recently marked her three decades in the business by opening a few older wines from her extensive cellar.
Posted: May 15, 2012 By James Molesworth
I'm heading out on vacation tomorrow, for a few days of golf in South Carolina to recharge the batteries. When I get back, I'll be focusing on the bulk of my Rhône tastings, before heading over there for two weeks in June. But as I clear my desk today, I found myself thinking about tasting notes.
Not to put too fine a point on it, but I write a lot of them. Several thousand a year for the magazine, plus my own short-hand notes when I'm in cellars or tasting informally. I don't pen a note for every single wine I taste. I think you need to be able to enjoy wines unencumbered from time to time. But I do write a lot of notes.
Posted: May 14, 2012 By Harvey Steiman
Just back from two weeks in Europe, with stops in Paris, Lyon, Piemonte and Liguria. Intentionally, I scoped out relatively modest restaurants rather than anything trendy or luxe. (More about those in a future blog.) Thus, for the most part, my encounters with food and wine were blissfully free of attitude or pretension.
I promised my wife that I would not allow work to impinge on vacation. There was, however, one notable exception, when the volatile issue of "natural wines" reared its head and I had to deal with an awkward situation. I am an agnostic on natural wines, neither insisting upon drinking them nor avoiding them. For me the issue is always how good the wine is to drink, and all the better if it offers something beyond a pleasant way to wash down dinner.
Posted: May 9, 2012 By Tim Fish
The line to taste the Château Margaux 1999 at Saturday's Wine Spectator Grand Tour in Las Vegas seemed to stretch all the way to the Hoover Dam. Even though the 1999 vintage wasn't particularly outstanding for Bordeaux, it was a rare chance for some wine lovers to taste a well-cellared first-growth.
Not everyone is blessed with opportunities to taste great wines. Watching the crowd that night I started thinking about the wines I'd line up to taste. You might say it would be my bucket list, you know, the inventory of things you want to try before you kick the bucket. When it comes to wine (and food, for that matter) what would I put on my list?
Posted: May 8, 2012 By Bruce Sanderson
To celebrate the relaunch of the Lanson Champagne brand in the United States, chef de cave Jean-Paul Gandon and brand director Enguerrand Baijot hosted a vertical tasting last month of a dozen vintages reaching back to 1959.
Posted: May 3, 2012 By James Molesworth
I sat down with Margaux Pariente in my office yesterday. The newest generation to work at her family's Château Troplong-Mondot in Bordeaux's St.-Emilion, Pariente is relatively new to the wine business, young, energetic and passionate about her wine. She was in New York to work the market a little bit and she admitted finding the reaction to Bordeaux a little surprising.
Posted: May 2, 2012 By Tim Fish
At first glance, things in Northern California wine country are sleepy right now, but there's more going on than it seems.
Budbreak—when the first green leaves appear on the vines—started in early April. Temperatures in recent weeks have been generally in the mid-60s to low-70s, which is average or slightly below, and there has been plenty of sun, but the season is running a little behind normal. Bloom—when the tiny flowers open on the vines—should start in about three weeks or so.
Posted: April 26, 2012 By James Laube
There's talk of a pending grape shortage in the Golden State, and with it, the prospect of rising prices. Don't be concerned unless you exclusively buy California wines.
If California wine prices continue to rise—and that doesn't seem to be a widespread phenomenon—they will do so because of heightened demand. Typically that means brand by brand. As it is, California has long lagged the broader wine market when it comes to value anyway. People looking to get the most from their wine dollars shop across borders and oceans.
Posted: April 24, 2012 By James Laube
I'm finishing a retrospective tasting of 2002 California Cabernets this week, most of them from Napa Valley. Revisiting wines you reviewed seven or eight years ago is the best way to evaluate how the wines are aging and recalibrate drink recommendations.
It can also be a minefield of second guesses. There is one thing, however, that becomes obvious to those of us who routinely revisit wines we rated years ago: You can't replicate the moment.
Posted: April 23, 2012 By Harvey Steiman
Someone could write a treatise on why some researchers seem hell-bent on proving that wine experts are full of it. The most recent is a study by John E. Hayes of Pennsylvania State University and Gary Pickering of Brock University in Ontario, Canada. Early news coverage was along the lines of "all those expert wine reviews are meaningless because most of us can't taste that stuff anyway.”
My colleague Ben O’Donnell reports on the actual paper. Having read the study, my take is that it falls in line with others of recent vintage that purport to show that experts can’t differentiate high-quality wine from rotgut, or that we always prefer a wine identified as more expensive.
Posted: April 18, 2012 By James Laube
For the longest time, Bordeaux has been the envy of most vintners everywhere.
Its wines have history, tradition and prestige and are often in great demand. The top classified-growths produce thousands of cases that command top-rung prices. Most of the elite wines are sold before they're even bottled. As a business model, it has few peers.
Yet apparently it's not perfect. Last week, Château Latour announced it would abandon the long-time tradition of selling wine futures, a move that sent shock waves through the Bordelais wine trade, primarily because of Latour's status.
Posted: April 18, 2012 By James Molesworth
During my two-week run through Bordeaux to taste the newly released 2011 Bordeaux barrel samples, I had the opportunity to stop in at Vignobles Gonet-Médeville, the multi-property winery owned and run by the husband-and-wife team of Xavier Gonet and Julie Gonet-Médeville. The highlights here included a vertical of Château Gilette Sauternes Crème de Tête dessert wines going back to 1949, including the 99-point 1967. Here are my notes.
Posted: April 18, 2012 By Tim Fish
Bringing your own bottle of wine to a restaurant is routine in Napa and Sonoma, but it's not so easy if you live in Ohio or Colorado or nearly half the other states in the union. The alcohol laws in this country are kooky and outdated, but you've probably figured that out by now.
Even where it's legal, restaurateurs have mixed feelings about BYOB, or as it's sometimes called "brown bagging" or corkage. Like it or not, the profit margin is thin in the restaurant business and wine sales help balance the books.
There's a time-honored etiquette to BYOB that newcomers should learn, but even veterans need the occasional refresher course on the subject. Here are a few guidelines to follow.
Posted: April 16, 2012 By James Laube
Yao Ming, the world's tallest vintner, has put a towering price on his premiere wine. Yao's 2009 Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon Family Reserve, priced at $625 a bottle. All 300 cases have already sold out in China, the only market the where the reserve was offered. A second Napa Valley Cabernet, also from 2009, was released at $175; 5,000 cases were made.
The quality of the reserve is impressive. Here are my notes.
Posted: April 11, 2012 By James Laube
A life-size statue of André Tchelistcheff may be on the market. If I had a $1 million, I'd bid on it. Seriously.
It could be auctioned as part of the liquidation of the bankrupt Copia, which begins with sales at the American Center for Wine, Food and the Arts' gift shop this weekend and culminates in two days of auctions April 20 and 21. It will be an estate sale of unparalleled scope and value, at least here in Napa.
I consider Mr. T perhaps the most influential man in Napa Valley history, right up there alongside Robert Mondavi. Though André the Great has been dead for two decades, winemakers still speak of him in reverential terms. One could write a book about his contributions to wine. But today I'll just mention a few of the ways Tchelistcheff stood out.
Posted: April 11, 2012 By Tim Fish
There are particular days of the year in which Americans indulge with gusto the need for a drink. New Year's Eve and St. Patrick's Day come to mind, but if ever there was a day that called for either celebration or drowning your sorrows, it's Tax Day, April 17 this year. I'm just getting around to working on my return—I wonder what I'll be doing on Sunday—so I'm not sure whether I'll be toasting victory or defeat. But I believe in being prepared, so I advise all wine lovers to have a good bottle ready no matter how things turn out. I have a few ideas for you, and since these wines are meant to be consumed for Tax Day, I've targeted current releases that don't need cellaring.
Posted: April 10, 2012 By James Molesworth
It's been a busy two weeks, covering a lot of ground while visiting more than two dozen estates and then tasting over 400 barrel samples of Bordeaux's newest vintage. The 2011 vintage is shaping up as one of freshness and purity for the region's reds, with brighter acidity and markedly lower alcohol than 2009 and 2010, two highly touted vintages. 2011 won't be a classic vin de garde year by any stretch.
For now, the question everyone is asking is, "What about prices?" The 2011 vintage is good, but not great.
But what a golden opportunity the 2011 vintage presents for Bordeaux. The opportunity isn't for consumers to snap up values. Rather, it's for Bordeaux to reposition itself. To win some hearts and minds back.
Posted: April 9, 2012 By Harvey Steiman
You may have noticed that some sommeliers and wine directors now refer to themselves as “curators” of their wine lists. Occasionally a restaurant or wine critic may compliment a short wine list as “well-curated,” if it brims with fascinating options.
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