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Blogs  :  James Laube's Wine Flights

How to Approach the Grand Tour Tasting

With over 225 wines, it’s best to make a plan

Posted: April 25, 2013  By James Laube

There are many ways to approach the Wine Spectator Grand Tour tasting, which kicked off last night at San Francisco's Marriott Marquis. With some 225 wines being poured, there’s a little of everything, from Amarone to Vintage Port.

The event moves to Las Vegas Saturday night and then on to Chicago. Attendees can meander and see what strikes their fancy, or look for lines like the one that formed for Casanova di Neri last night. I suggest you go into it with a plan.

Blogs  :  Exploring Wine with Tim Fish

A Spanish Red Value that Puts California to Shame

When it comes to bang for the buck, Evodia Garnacha leaves the Golden State in the dust

Posted: April 24, 2013  By Tim Fish

A good $10 bottle of red is not easy to find anymore. It's funny how people get excited about a great bargain, whether 10 bucks is all they can afford or they're buying it by the case for a barbecue. California isn't a lot of help. Too many of the reds selling for $10 or less aren't worth a spit.

Why can't more wine regions—particularly California—make wines like Altovinum's Evodia Old Vines Garnacha Calatayud 2011? It has lively raspberry aromas with hints of lead pencil and grilled herb plus flavors that are lively and ripe, but balanced with minerally acidity. The suggested retail is $10, but it often sells for less. I gave it 88 points, non-blind, on the Wine Spectator 100-point scale.

Blogs  :  Mixed Case: Opinion and Advice

Have You Ever Taken a Break from Wine?

These industry pros gave wine up and not only lived to tell the tale, but say it made them better drinkers

Posted: April 23, 2013  By Jennifer Fiedler

These days, you can't open a browser window without hearing about the latest abstemious diet: juice fasts, raw diets and nutritional cleanses. We've turned into a culture on perma-Lent—unless you're in the wine and food industry.

There is no doubt that working in the good-life business has major perks: good wine, good food, and lots of it. But what happens when it gets to be too much? Is it even possible to cut back if consuming is part of the job? Some sommeliers and winemakers say that cutting out wine for a short period of time—going on a "wine cleanse," if you will—actually helps them appreciate wine more.

Blogs  :  James Laube's Wine Flights

A Salute to George Vare

Remembering the Napa wine industry veteran

Posted: April 19, 2013  By James Laube

Businessman and Napa vintner George Vare, who died earlier this month, was at the top of the shortest lists. In the 1970s, an era when California wine was in its formative years, Vare actually understood the wine business as a business, inside-out and bottom to top, far better than most.

Blogs  :  Mixed Case: Opinion and Advice

Does Wine Evangelism Work? Part 2

Somms, writers and other wine tastemakers are sold on Sherry. But is anyone else buying it?

Posted: April 19, 2013  By Ben O'Donnell

Sherry is hot right now among sommeliers, writers and other opinion peddlers in the wine world. But few would call it an easy sell. It's a style of drink from another era, when wine was more like booze, and even among the great fortified wines, it's hard to deny that Sherry sticks out.

It doesn't taste like wine is "supposed" to taste. The main grape variety, Palomino, is generally considered too bland for table wine. Sherry's 10-or-so different styles are all over the map in flavor profile. The winemaking process involves a series of bizarre-seeming selections and aging regimens that wouldn't make sense in most viniculture—from aging some styles under a protective, foamy cap of yeast called flor to letting others oxidize extensively, to blending the young wines into older wines in a complex rotating system of barrels called a solera. In my last post, I discussed why Sherry, the great flightless bird of wine, provokes such fierce admiration from a small-but-growing group of American wine sellers.

Blogs  :  Mixed Case: Opinion and Advice

Does Wine Evangelism Work?

Why are American wine's tastemakers falling in love with Sherry—and can they sell the stuff? Part 1 of a case study

Posted: April 18, 2013  By Ben O'Donnell

Readers of a certain age will recall this enduring line from the 2004 Tina Fey-Lindsay Lohan picture Mean Girls, snapped by Regina George—the meanest girl—at her lieutenant: "Gretchen, stop trying to make 'fetch' happen! It's not going to happen!" (For readers of a different age: In the movie, "fetch" is a vaguely approving slang term "from England" that Gretchen haplessly tries to popularize.)

Regina's admonition has come to mind at times on the subject of Sherry. Perhaps you know Sherry from Sherryfest, a weeklong celebration of the Spanish fortified wine, held last month in Portland, Ore., and last fall in New York, or from the buildup to next month's World Sherry Day. Maybe you (I) went to that party last year at that East Village Dutch-fusion joint (now closed) where guests were encouraged to write their Twitter handles on their nametags and do a "bone luge" (scoop the marrow out of a bone, then glug amontillado through the hollow shank). Or perhaps you've sipped it at one of New York's Terroir bars, on whose eclectic wine lists Sherry is, plainly stated, "the world's greatest beverage."

Blogs  :  Exploring Wine with Tim Fish

Big Move by Zin Master Carlisle

Mike and Kendall Officer finally have a winery of their own to call home

Posted: April 17, 2013  By Tim Fish

It was time they had their own place. After 15 years of toiling in a warehouse custom-crush facility in Santa Rosa, Calif., Mike and Kendall Officer, owners of Carlisle Winery, have bought a winery in Russian River Valley.

They closed a deal yesterday on Robert Mueller's winery on Starr Road west of Windsor. The facility is approved to produce up to 10,000 cases annually, and while nearly 21 acres of land are included in the sale, there are no vineyards. Officer declined to reveal the purchase price.

Blogs  :  Harvey Steiman At Large

The Zen of Food and Wine

Sweat the details only if, like me, you really enjoy the exploration

Posted: April 16, 2013  By Harvey Steiman

A common trope about wine pretension says that we wine folks intimidate the rest of the world with our insistence upon always drinking the right wine with the right food. I don't know anyone who does that. Do you? I gave up a long time ago believing that there's a perfect wine for every dish.

That doesn't mean I ignore the message from my own taste buds that certain wines and foods can make beautiful music together. But I stubbornly resist didactic rules. The day I absent-mindedly picked up my glass of red wine to sip with my grilled fish, and discovered how the wine just brightened up and sang more clearly, started me on a lifelong quest for similarly unexpected but terrific wine-and-food combinations.

Blogs  :  Bruce Sanderson Decanted

Superb Sangiovese and Barrels of Fun in the Hills of Tuscany

Tasting Bibi Graetz' 2012 barrel samples in Chianti Classico, plus the latest vintages of Testamatta, Colore and Soffocone

Posted: April 15, 2013  By Bruce Sanderson

Does anyone have more fun making wine than Bibi Graetz?

He grew up in a castle outside Florence, Italy, and still lives there, making wine from an assortment of old vines sourced from around Chianti Classico, including 37 acres of vineyards at his property in Fiesole, where I caught up with him and his cellarmaster, Luigi Temperini.

Blogs  :  James Laube's Wine Flights

Climate Change Will Turn Up the Heat on California's Water Wars

A new report on how climate change could affect the viability of California's vineyards puts water rights in the spotlight again

Posted: April 12, 2013  By James Laube

If you’ve never seen the movie Chinatown, now’s a perfect time, as water rights issues are as hot a topic today in the Golden State as they were during the "California Water Wars," which began at the turn of the 20th century and serve as the backdrop to the classic film.

A report on climate change published by the National Academies of Sciences earlier this month is bringing California's seemingly endless disputes over water rights sharply into focus, especially as it pertains to the wine industry. The international team of researchers that conducted the study made predictions about where vineyards will and won't be viable by the year 2050.

As the report pertains to California, the scientists predict that 70 percent of the area currently suitable for viticulture here will no longer be viable by the year 2050—that is, without the use of adaptive measures such as irrigation or misting vineyards to cool them off. Factoring in the areas of California that will become viable for quality grapegrowing as a result of climate change, the net loss of California vineyard land becomes 60 percent by 2050.

Blogs  :  Mixed Case: Opinion and Advice

The Rules of Tasting-Room Etiquette

A friendly guide from winery tasting-room managers, including what not to bring: bad attitudes, strong perfumes, small children, handguns …

Posted: April 11, 2013  By Robert Taylor

We had our first 70-plus-degree day in New York this week, the wildflowers are blooming in Napa Valley after a chilly early spring, and winery tasting rooms across the country are playing host to more and more tourists by the day. Those visitors are a huge source of wine-country income, but they can also be a huge headache when they don't abide by proper tasting-room decorum.

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.

Blogs  :  Exploring Wine with Tim Fish

California Winemakers Aren't Singing in the Rain

Despite last week’s rainstorm, California's vineyards are getting dry

Posted: April 10, 2013  By Tim Fish

It has been dry in California's winegrowing regions the past three months, approaching records in some areas, so the inch of rain that fell on Napa and Sonoma last week was welcome.

But it was just a drop in an empty bucket. The Santa Rosa newspaper reports that precipitation in the area from January through March was just below 4 inches, the smallest amount of rain recorded for that period in 72 years. Budbreak has been delayed in some vineyards, but frost is still a concern thanks to the chilly spring, so the early drought hasn't made vintners nervous … yet.

Blogs  :  Harvey Steiman At Large

Shocking, Absolutely Shocking

Wherein I scandalize wine snobs of all stripes

Posted: April 9, 2013  By Harvey Steiman

Most people know me as a pretty reasonable guy. But I apparently have the ability to stun people with my wine behavior. You should have seen the jaws drop one hot day in Oregon when I swirled ice cubes into a glass of Pinot Noir in front of a crowd of wine lovers. Oh, the horror!

Blogs  :  Mixed Case: Opinion and Advice

Will Vineyards Really Push Pandas Out of Their Home?

Research finds changing climates may force growers to move to new areas—bumping right into wildlife

Posted: April 9, 2013  By Dana Nigro

If you love wines from the world's most famous regions, or grow them there, you might be worried right now. By 2050, areas suitable for wine grapes could shrink as much as 25 percent in Chile, 51 percent in South Africa's Cape region, 60 percent in California, 68 percent in Mediterranean Europe and 73 percent in parts of Australia, according to a new global analysis published April 8 in the Proceedings of the National Academies of Sciences.

But hey, we wine lovers are adaptable. New parts of the world will become more promising for grapegrowing, particularly at higher elevations and in regions in northern Europe, New Zealand and western North America. The problem? Anyone planting vineyards there will likely be pushing into undeveloped wilderness and habitat for at-risk species, from grizzly bears and gray wolves that live in the Rockies to the giant panda in Central China. Uh-oh.

Blogs  :  Stirring the Lees with James Molesworth

The 2012 Bordeaux Barrels Diary: Christian Moueix's Wines of Distinction

Despite excellent quality, the Moueix family is dropping prices on its lineup of 2012 Pomerols

Posted: April 8, 2013  By James Molesworth

Christian Moueix is a man of distinction. Reserved, serious, intelligent. And he crafts distinctive wines. His efforts to resurrect the renamed Bélair-Monange estate in St.-Emilion (recently merging it with Magdelaine) along with his flagship properties of Trotanoy and La Fleur-Pétrus in Pomerol, place him among the elite château owners in all of Bordeaux.

Blogs  :  Stirring the Lees with James Molesworth

The 2012 Bordeaux Barrels Diary: The Right Bank Has the Right Stuff

The Merlot-based wines of Cheval-Blanc, Pétrus, Vieux Château Certan and Le Pin met greater success than their Left Bank cousins in 2012

Posted: April 4, 2013  By James Molesworth

With Merlot the early favorite for lead variety in 2012, I was anxious to see what the Right Bank accomplished in this tricky vintage. Here, in Pomerol and St.-Emilion, Merlot plays the lead over Cabernet Sauvignon, with Cabernet Franc often an important player as well. With the vintage putting an emphasis on a short ripening window, does the Merlot-dominated Right Bank have an upper hand on the Left Bank and its later-ripening Cabernet?

I visited Pétrus, Cheval-Blanc, Vieux Château Certan and Le Pin to find out.

Blogs  :  Mixed Case: Opinion and Advice

Why Don't Food and Wine Trends Match?

Trendy menus get fattier while edgy wine lists focus on restraint

Posted: April 4, 2013  By Jennifer Fiedler

Can I ask a question? Why does it seem that menus in young, trendy restaurants tout big flavor from fat and spice, while the dog-whistle words of trendy wines are "balance" and "restraint"?

OK, I know the word "trendy" is problematic, so here, a warning: There will be some broad generalizations ahead. To avoid putting everything in "quotes," when I say young and trendy, I mean those restaurants designed to appeal to twenty-somethings in the creative class living in urban areas, and trendy wines are on those restaurants' wine lists.

Blogs  :  Harvey Steiman At Large

Surveying America for Wine

A new reference book, American Wine, by Jancis Robinson and Linda Murphy, looks beyond the obvious to all 50 states

Posted: April 3, 2013  By Harvey Steiman

One of the very first books I read about wine was Leon Adams' remarkable Wines of America. Published in 1973, its narrative took us into vineyards to see the land and into cellars to meet the people and learn their histories, just as wine was on the cusp of entering American culture. California was only just coming into focus for most Americans, but the intrepid Adams ranged from coast to coast. He explored the Finger Lakes in New York, the byways of the Ozark Mountains in Missouri and hardy souls seeking to make something of the grape in Texas, Arkansas, Ohio and Michigan. He did not miss the first glimmers of what would be coming from Washington and Oregon, either.

Over the years, others have taken a shot at capturing between the covers of a book the vibrant developments in the world of wine across America. Jancis Robinson and Linda Murphy are the authors of the latest, American Wine: The Ultimate Companion to the Wines and Wineries of the United States (University of California Press, 278 pages, $50), just published.

Blogs  :  Stirring the Lees with James Molesworth

The 2012 Bordeaux Barrels Diary: The Cabernet Test Continues at Latour and Mouton

How did this pair of Pauillac's flagship first-growths perform in the difficult 2012 vintage?

Posted: April 3, 2013  By James Molesworth

The performance of Pauillac and its Cabernet-based first-growth reds remains the most important indicator of vintage quality for most Bordeaux fans, and today I continued my tour through the upper Médoc's Cabernet country to check out the 2012 vintage at Châteaus Latour and Mouton-Rothschild.

Blogs  :  Exploring Wine with Tim Fish

Wine Tips for Braving the Tax Man

How to survive April 15, whether it’s an audit or a refund

Posted: April 3, 2013  By Tim Fish

I'm working on my taxes this weekend, so I'm not sure whether I'll be in the mood to celebrate or lash myself for my pitiful fiscal skills. I suspect it will be the lashing, but I'm thinking positive.

Whether you'll be toasting victory or wallowing in defeat over your 2012 tax returns, I suggest that you arm yourself with the appropriate bottle. So it's time for my second annual Surviving Tax Time Wine Tips.

If you owe The Man this year, I feel for you, but I also have a few frugal recommendations … as well as some ideas for splurging. All of them are widely available and should be on shelves near you.

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