Posted: March 28, 2013 By James Molesworth
I arrived in Bordeaux in time for lunch (I love when that happens), dropped my bags at Les Sources de Caudalie and then decided to check on two neighbors in the Pessac-Léognan AOC, Châteaus Larrivet Haut-Brion and Haut-Bailly.
Posted: March 28, 2013 By Mitch Frank
The picture is still hanging in my office: Bill Koch, the energy executive who has made fighting sales of counterfeit rare wines a personal obsession, stares menacingly at me, wearing a cowboy hat, a bandana and a sheriff's star. The shot was taken when Wine Spectator photographed Koch for our Dec. 15, 2009, cover story, "The Crusade Against Counterfeits." The outfit was Koch's idea: In addition to wine, he collects Old West memorabilia.
In the end, we opted for a shot of Koch in a suit, holding a magnum of Château Pétrus 1921. Koch says he bought that bottle at a 2005 Zachys auction of 17,000 bottles of wine from the cellar of California tech entrepreneur Eric Greenberg. Koch alleges that Greenberg bought it from Royal Wine Merchants, and Royal sourced it from German wine broker Hardy Rodenstock. Koch believes it’s a fake.
That magnum, and all those players, are back in the headlines this week, as a jury of six men and two women hear Koch v. Greenberg in a Manhattan federal court. Koch has been suing Greenberg for six years over 24 bottles he bought for almost $350,000 at that auction, wines he says are counterfeit. (Contributor Peter Hellman, who has doggedly pursued this topic, has written an excellent summary of the case.)
Posted: March 27, 2013 By James Laube
The difficulties of the 2011 vintage for California Chardonnay and Pinot Noir are more evident with every tasting. The 2011 Cabernets are a year away, but you can expect much of the same: variability and a lesser year. It's something you should consider when buying the current Cabernet vintages on the market.
Posted: March 27, 2013 By Harvey Steiman
You pour a wine you adore for friends. It hits all your buttons and makes your eyes light up. One friend takes a sip, winces, and utters, "Yuck." How does this happen? Chances are a characteristic jumps out at your friend, who hates it but it doesn't bother you. This simple phenomenon explains so much rancor surrounding wine.
Posted: March 26, 2013 By Ben O'Donnell
If you're a fan of big, ripe, concentrated reds nowadays, you can expect to get slugged with equally muscular prices. In the span of a decade and change, longtime aficionados of Napa, Bordeaux, even Piedmont and Châteauneuf, have seen prices fly away, often out of reach.
There is yet one place, in France no less, where intense reds pop for as little as 10 or 15 bucks. "This region has been forgotten for 50 years," Michel Chapoutier said. "You can have some of the best soil in France and probably in the world." Could this be the next great region for red wine in France? "Oh, I am absolutely certain about that," he said. "Absolutely."
If you haven't guessed, we were talking about the Roussillon region, known in the United States as sidekick to the massive Languedoc zone in the south of France, with Roussillon reaching the Spanish border. Rhône power player Chapoutier has been snapping up plots around Roussillon for 15 years or so now, most of which go into his Domaine de Bila-Haut label. The wines run about $10 to $25, depending on the subappellation.
Posted: March 21, 2013 By Robert Taylor
Will this be the year that Massachusetts, the seventh-largest wine-consuming state, finally gets a legitimate winery-to-consumer shipping bill? Hopes are high in the Bay State, despite repeated setbacks: The state's most recent direct-shipping law passed in 2005 and, not long afterward, was ruled unconstitutional. The preceding law had been declared unconstitutional as well.
Rep. Theodore Speliotis has introduced House Bill 294, which would allow local and out-of-state wineries, after applying for a $100 state permit, to ship up to 24 cases of wine a year to Massachusetts residents. Sen. Daniel Wolf has co-sponsored the bill, crafted with the assistance of the Wine Institute, a winery advocacy organization.
And now the bill's proponents have a new secret weapon: former Patriots quarterback-turned-Washington vintner Drew Bledsoe.
Posted: March 20, 2013 By Tim Fish
For every three bottles of wine opened in America, two come from California. (Well, for statistic nitpickers, it's almost two.) That tells you how important the Golden State is to U.S. wine drinkers, especially when it comes to bottles that sell for $25 or less, which make up the lion's share of those sales.
That's one reason Wine Spectator takes values seriously. Consider my story "Golden State Values" in the April issue of the magazine, in which I combed through recent tastings and found more than 100 California wines that offer quality at a fair price. Each scored 85 points or higher on our 100-point scale, and none costs more than $25 a bottle.
Posted: March 19, 2013 By Harvey Steiman
Usually I try not to inflict wine-geek stuff on unsuspecting guests, but I knew that our friends coming for dinner Sunday loved full-bodied red wines and had some great ones in their own cellars. So to drink with dinner I pulled out a couple of New World Syrahs that I think of as candidates for modern standard-bearers. I did not feel at all guilty, especially when I learned that none of them had ever tasted either wine.
I chose Terlato & Chapoutier Shiraz Pyrenees Malakoff 2007 from Australia and Owen Roe Syrah Yakima Valley Lady Rosa 2006 from Washington for several reasons. First of all, the wineries have gotten plenty of ink and they have been making these wines only recently—since 2004. They are distinctive, and I have consistently rated them both in the low to mid-90s. Australia, long known for its Shiraz (its name for Syrah), is finally beginning to get some love around the world for its cooler-climate styles, of which this one is a fine example. As for the Washington wine, it eloquently makes the case that Syrah belongs right up there with Cabernet and other Bordeaux varieties as the state's calling card.
Posted: March 19, 2013 By Dana Nigro
Last year, California and Washington wineries crushed around 4.5 million tons of wine grapes. That's an awful lot of skins, seeds and stems left over—something like 1.5 million tons. When it comes to reducing waste, many wineries are cutting the use of electricity, fuel, water and packaging. One thing I don't hear a lot about when covering sustainability efforts is post-harvest waste: pomace. Maybe a big, squishy mass of pulp sounds less sexy than an elegant, energy-efficient building, but pomace is no less ripe for innovation.
Posted: March 18, 2013 By James Molesworth
Perfume has always intrigued me. And not just for the lilting effect it has when a deftly scented woman draws close. More than that, I've always wondered how difficult it is to create a perfume, and what kind of nose skills one would need. And surely there are parallels to making perfume and tasting wine, since I often find the greatest wines to be defined more by their aromas than their flavors.
So when I was put in touch with Carlos Huber, I smelled a good opportunity to learn a little something,
Posted: March 15, 2013 By James Laube
There are quite a few parallels between two of my longtime favorite pastimes, wine and baseball. In fact, the analogies between the two fit like a glove.
The wine and baseball seasons each begin in the winter and end in the fall, with baseball club managers pruning rosters in spring training not long after vineyard managers have finished some pruning of their own. Ballplayers who get sheared find themselves back in the farm system.
Posted: March 13, 2013 By Bruce Sanderson
Wine Spectator senior editor Bruce Sanderson gives his notes on the 2010 releases from Burgundy's Domaine de la Romanée-Conti. The Richebourg, La Tâche, Romanée-St.-Vivant, Romanée-Conti and more show just what could be achieved in this excellent vintage.
Posted: March 12, 2013 By Mitch Frank
One thing I have learned in life—if you travel and can't find good food, good wine and good company, you might as well have stayed home.
In September 2000, I was a young political reporter at Time magazine, living a dream-I was covering a presidential race. For two weeks, I traveled with then-Governor George W. Bush as he crisscrossed the country, campaigning for the White House. Halfway through my stint, the campaign plane headed to Austin. Bush was taking the weekend off, so the press corps had two days free in the Texas capital.
During the flight, Bush wandered back to chat-off the record. The governor was not known for taking questions from reporters, but he did like to chat. When he got to my row, what did I ask the next President of the United States? "Governor, I've never been to Austin. Where can I find good barbecue?"
Posted: March 11, 2013 By James Laube
Recently, my colleague Harvey Steiman tackled many of the issues, pro and con, of blind vs. non-blind tasting. One aspect I'd like to address is one that's rarely discussed: the cost of staffing and staging blind tastings.
Over the course of more than 20 years, Wine Spectator has developed a methodology for our blind tastings, one designed to keep them independent, consistent and fair to the wines. When you factor in the costs of handling nearly 20,000 wines each year, that methodology costs serious money.
Posted: March 6, 2013 By Tim Fish
It seems like I've driven all over Sonoma, Napa and Mendocino counties the past few weeks. We're busy this time of year researching stories for the summer issues, and there always seems to be a vineyard to visit or a winemaker worth knowing better.
I may be in a hurry to get where I'm going, but I try not to take the beauty of wine country for granted. It's like something you've seen in a movie, which of course you probably have. California's wine regions have been featured in a surprising number of Hollywood films and TV shows over the years.
Posted: March 5, 2013 By Harvey Steiman
Recently, several prominent wine writers argued on Twitter in a contentious back-and-forth with me and others that blind tasting was bad. It's tasting without context, they said. I am not setting up a straw man here. Here are some of their actual tweets:
"Why should wine routinely be tasted blind, devoid of context or perspective? Why deprive those who would judge it of that information?" contended Bruce Schoenfeld, who writes a wine column for Travel + Leisure magazine.
"I question whether blind tasting … can uncover the most compelling and virtuous wines," read another comment from Jon Bonné, wine editor of the San Francisco Chronicle.
Posted: March 5, 2013 By Jennifer Fiedler
Earlier this winter, Château Margaux managing director Paul Pontallier travelled to New York to present ongoing experiments involving organic and biodynamic viticulture, as well as experiments with screw caps. Coming from a famed first-growth, this is something of a big deal in the wine world.
Margaux, of course, isn't the only winery in the world taking steps toward organic or biodynamic farming (the chateau has not used herbicides or insecticides for the past decade-only fungicides to prevent rot) or considering adopting screw caps, but on account of its first-growth status, you could say that it might have more to lose than most. After all, why fix something that's not broken?
To answer that—and this may be a bit of a leap—let's look at what's been happening recently in big-wave surfing.
Posted: February 28, 2013 By Ben O'Donnell
There are some superlatives virtually everyone in a community of enthusiasts locks up in a bejeweled memory box, to be opened and shown off on occasion. Your fastest mile, if you're a runner. Your SAT score, if you're a try-hard. If you're a wine freak, one superlative you can trot out is your oldest wine, a snapshot of a different world of wine than we inhabit, less and less likely to be revisited as bottles fade and disappear.
The oldest wine I've ever drunk was a 1947 Porto Rozes. This was at the Dînner des Grands Chefs that Relais & Châteaux puts on every year; last winter's was in Manhattan, and 45 chefs cooked at stations around the perimeter of the ovoid Gotham Hall while guests ate in the middle. Daniel Boulud, Gary Danko and Jean Georges Vongerichten manned the stoves. Waitstaff paraded out cradling child-sized bottles of Pommery. The Port needed no fanfare, being the age of India, Israel and the CIA.
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.
Posted: February 28, 2013 By Harvey Steiman
A new American Viticultural Area is being considered for one of the most distinctive terroirs in America, one that has produced unmistakably great wines. Unfortunately, most of the actual wines won't be able to use it.
On an old riverbed south of the town of Walla Walla, cobblestones litter the ground, in some areas totally obliterating any view of the soil. Locals have taken to calling this part of the Walla Walla Valley AVA "The Rocks." Vines struggle to grow, resulting in tiny grapes of amazing flavor intensity. And yes, the wines show the sort of flavors that fall under the heading of "minerality," although to my taste it's more like black olive and tar.
The stones drew Christophe Baron to plant grapes in the region, just north of the town of Milton-Freewater, Ore., starting in 1997. He named the vineyard Cailloux, French for stones, and planted six others in the area. They produce the grapes for his highly coveted Cayuse wines, no stranger to the Wine Spectator Top 100.
Posted: February 27, 2013 By Tim Fish
Zinfandel lovers won't be happy to hear that winemaker Ehren Jordan has left Turley Wine Cellars after 18 years, but if you've followed Jordan and the impressive work he has done at his own winery, Failla, it should come as no surprise.
"Most people think Helen is still making the wine anyway," Jordan laughed, referring to Turley's short-tenured first winemaker, Helen Turley, the sister of owner Larry Turley.
In the past two decades, Jordan and Larry Turley together crafted what I think are some of California's most impressive and iconic Zinfandels. You'll find Turley wines on the best restaurant wine lists in the country. They are full-flavored, powerful yet refined, and express the distinctive character of Zin and the classic old vineyards from which they come, like Hayne in Napa Valley, Ueberroth in Paso Robles and Dogtown in Lodi.
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