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Posted: June 5, 2014 By James Molesworth
On my first day of winery visits in California, I visited Pax Mahle and tasted through his lineup of recent Wind Gap wines. Following that, we tasted through his Pax and Agharta labels, and then I tasted the Jolie-Laide Wines made by Scott Schultz. Here are my notes on the wines I tasted.
Posted: June 4, 2014 By James Molesworth
With three developing labels, Pax Mahle needed some new digs. So he just recently moved his Wind Gap operation (6,000 cases annually and growing) into a gentrified section of old warehouses called the Barlow in Sebastopol, replete with Kosta Browne as neighbor and surrounded by busy hipster coffeeshops and breweries. Along with his 1,200-case Pax label and 1,000-case Agharta label, Mahle is busy.
"But it's still about how much [my wife] Pam and I can handle, without it consuming us," said Mahle, who wants to stay hands-on with all his projects.
Posted: June 4, 2014 By Tim Fish
I've been thinking about California Zinfandel a lot lately, its past and the future. For the June 30 issue of Wine Spectator, I sized up the 2011s and 2012s for my annual Zin report and also revisited the 1994 and 2004 vintages in a retrospective tasting.
Posted: June 3, 2014 By James Laube
Just like that, BottleRock came and went. The three-day music festival in Napa attracted tens of thousands to hear 60 bands, from cutting edge Indies to aging rockers, perform on four stages at the Napa Valley Expo.
Watching acts from yesteryear has limited appeal to me. Occasionally I attend concerts by performers decades past their heyday, and when they're on they can be inspiring. Usually, though, I'm disappointed, and almost always find myself thinking they were so much better in their prime. It reminds me of the way some people act when they extol a wine made decades ago.
Posted: June 2, 2014 By James Molesworth
I can't help but think of that song from my teenaged years every time I head back to California. Luckily, it's become a regular thing, making an annual visit to the Golden State. Not only getting to attend the Wine Spectator magnum parties in Sonoma and Napa that kick off the summer in wine country, but also getting to make a few stops at wineries.
Posted: May 30, 2014 By Harvey Steiman
Wine regions have shown vigilance in protecting their names. Years ago Champagne successfully campaigned to get people to quit applying their region's name to every sparkling wine, not just on labels but in descriptions. Chablis, Burgundy, Chianti and Tokaji did so too. Wine Australia wants the same courtesy for Orange.
Posted: May 29, 2014 By James Laube
Bibiana Gonzáles Rave approaches winemaking from at least three perspectives. The first is French, and the exacting standards she learned and rigorous training she received during her five vintages in France. Then there's the free-spirited, emotional South American approach that comes from growing up in Colombia. The third is what she's learned since making California her home.
Posted: May 29, 2014 By Ben O'Donnell
Rosé season started in March at my local wine shop, even though winter would persist in New York for another, oh, month or so. One day, with temperatures soaring to the lower-tolerable range, a gaggle of magnums appeared on an endcap near the front of the store. I knew the rosé, from a respected Southern Rhône house, which usually went for about $10 to $12 for a 750; here, magnums were $10, or $16 for two. Seemed like a buy, so I bought one.
Only after I got home, opened and began to drink a very tasty rosé did I investigate more closely. In fine print, there was the vintage: 2011.
Posted: May 28, 2014 By Tim Fish
The Coast of California rambles 840 miles along the Pacific and somewhere about half way is the Monterey Peninsula and Big Sur. You might find a more beautiful place, but you'd have to look hard.
It wasn't just the scenery that drew me to the Monterey Coast a few weeks back. There's an active food-and-wine scene to go along with all that outdoor adventure.
Posted: May 27, 2014 By James Laube
Bibiana González Rave is, to my knowledge, the first Sonoma winemaker born and raised in Colombia. In California, she enjoyed her initial winemaking successes with Lynmar Pinot Noir, and as a result she has become something of a national celebrity in her homeland.
Posted: May 26, 2014 By Robert Camuto
Starting a wine estate from scratch in the Bandol appellation of Provence has become rare. But that's exactly what Jean-Marc Espinasse is doing, planting 8 acres of Mourvèdre and Cinsault, after having started Domaine Rouge-Bleu in France's Rhône Valley. Wine Spectator contributing editor Robert Camuto checks out his new project.
Posted: May 23, 2014 By Harvey Steiman
Memorial Day being the official start of summer eating and drinking, make this stellar recipe for sangria my contribution to your enjoyment. I watched the bartender make this version at a terrific seaside hotel in the Costa Brava of Spain last year, and it's become a warm-day favorite around our house (on those few days when late-afternoon temperatures rise in San Francisco). I watched the bartender make it enough times to glean the recipe, which I'll share with you.
Posted: May 22, 2014 By Bruce Sanderson
I made my annual pilgrimage to Domaine de la Romanée-Conti earlier this year. It marked the first time since I began visiting the domaine in 2005 that I did not taste with Aubert de Villaine, who was traveling.
However, I met Bertrand de Villaine, who is being groomed to succeed his uncle as codirector of DRC. Along with cellar master Bernard Noblet, we tasted through the 2012 vintage in barrel. WineSpectator.com members can read my non-blind scores and tasting notes below for the 7 DRC wines: Corton, Echezeaux, Grands Echezeaux, Romanée-St.-Vivant, Richebourg, La Tâche and Romanée-Conti..
Posted: May 22, 2014 By Harvey Steiman
Château Tahbilk, the winery estate in central Victoria's Goulburn Valley, dates from the 19th century. The Australian property has been in the Purbrick family since 1925, known for Shiraz from old vines, some dating to 1860. Alister Purbrick, the fourth generation, has run the estate (now at 120,000 cases) since 1979. He brought a series of mini-verticals for me to taste in San Francisco.
Posted: May 21, 2014 By Mitch Frank
A French court ruled last week that a mob that destroyed an experimental vineyard in Alsace planted to genetically modified vines in 2010 was completely justified. It's another win for fear over reason when it comes to genetically modified organisms (GMOs).
Posted: May 21, 2014 By Tim Fish
Last week's heat wave in Sonoma put me in the grilling mood. It was, in part, a survival tactic, since there's no AC in our kitchen and I wilt easily. But now that Memorial Day weekend is upon us, Americans are dusting off their grills and smokers, gathering the charcoal and researching new summer recipes the family isn't sick to death of.
Summer wine drinking deserves the same level of devotion. It takes prep work to find the right combination of qualities in a warm-weather wine: a style or variety you like, refreshing, good with grilled foods and, of course, a good value doesn't hurt. The last point is key for those do a lot of entertaining in the summer.
Posted: May 19, 2014 By James Laube
A reader asked me to recommend some wines to cellar for their newborn, which means candidates to age 20 to 25 years or more, when junior or sissy is of drinking age. My answer is the same I would give for those seeking appropriate wine gifts for graduates, which is another common query at this time of year.
It's best to pass along a gift of wine after you've learned what the recipient likes to drink, as in, once they themselves have become adults.
Posted: May 16, 2014 By James Laube
When the "food wine" craze hit California in the early 1980s, many vintners talked about changing their style. But there were two winemakers I knew wouldn't.
One was Joe Heitz. Bob Sessions, who died earlier this week at age 82, was the other. Both took a dim view of the new direction. Food wines—made by harvesting grapes at lower sugar levels, with higher acidity—were merely a passing fad in their minds. Grapes picked early had plenty of zip, yet lacked sufficient flavor and body, and neither winemaker had any intention of scrapping their style.
Posted: May 15, 2014 By Bruce Sanderson
The wine world lost two winemakers this week. Laurence Faller, 47, who made the wines at Domaine Weinbach in Alsace, died of a suspected heart attack. Longtime Hanzell winemaker Bob Sessions died after battling Alzheimer's disease for several years. He was 82.
Both Laurence Faller and Bob Sessions made beautiful wines. They made a lasting impact on me as a critic and taster, and I consider myself fortunate to have shared some of those wines with them.
Posted: May 15, 2014 By Harvey Steiman
Healesville, a Yarra Valley town an hour's drive from Melbourne, attracted me not only for the wines, but also a visit to Innocent Bystander, where Phil Sexton makes Pinot Noirs and Chardonnays in the steely style currently in vogue. His Giant Steps label, which focuses on single-vineyard Yarra Valley wines, often rates among my leaders for Chardonnay.
More than the wines intrigued me. The modern building is an architectural award winner for its angled placement, green certifications and distinctive long swaths of wooden slats on the exterior. The 70,000-case cellar door (Aussie talk for tasting room) also bakes artisan bread, makes pizza, mongs cheese and pulls some of the better espresso in the neighborhood. Dipping into the lunch menu is rewarding.
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