Posted: October 2, 2012 By Robert Taylor
When "normal" people think of wine experts, occasionally a few unsavory words come to mind: Geek. Snob. Bibulous fusspot. Coincidentally, those same words are commonly associated with another profession: Copy editor.
Imagine, then, the frustrations of the copy-editing wine pro. As someone who has copy edited professionally for more than a dozen years and has been a member of the Wine Spectator editorial staff for nearly 10, it's my pleasure to present here a few of the myriad misused terms in the wine industry. Hopefully we can all learn a little, laugh a little and lift each other's wine language skills.
Posted: October 1, 2012 By Bruce Sanderson
Jacques Lardière, the winemaker for Maison Louis Jadot is retiring at the end of 2012, after 42 consecutive vintages. He was in New York earlier this year, for a farewell lunch with some of the wine journalists he has met during his career. We also sat down for an interview on video.
Posted: October 1, 2012 By James Molesworth
I caught up with Richard Betts the other day. Betts, the former sommelier at the Grand Award–winning Montagna at the Little Nell in Aspen, former partner in the Betts & Scholl brand which made Rhône and Aussie wines, current mezcal producer with his own Sombra label, general all-around hipster … And what's he doing now? Making Bordeaux.
Here are my notes on the first two releases of St.-Glinglin, Betts' collaborative effort with François Thienpont.
Posted: September 27, 2012 By Mitch Frank
Fall tends to be my favorite time of year, a sentiment many wine lovers apparently share. After a long, hot summer, temperatures are finally dipping—and lower temperatures bring happy boxes to my door. When the weather cools off, wineries I order from can ship bottles to my New Orleans home without fretting that summer heat will turn their Merlot into Madeira. A new study finds that October is the busiest month for direct shipping orders from U.S. wineries.
More than seven years have passed since the Supreme Court's Granholm decision, which said that state governments cannot prohibit out-of-state wineries from shipping to residents while allowing in-state wineries to do so. Today, 39 states allow some form of direct shipping, up from 27 before the 2005 ruling.
The new report, authored by Ship Compliant, measured the direct shipping market from August 2011 to July 2012, surveying every U.S. winery in Wines & Vines' comprehensive directory about their direct shipping sales. They found that consumers ordered 2.98 million cases of wine in that time. With a value of $1.35 billion, that wine represents 8.6 percent of the total wine market in the United States by value. (Tasting room sales that were shipped to customers' homes were not included, which would make the growth even bigger.)
Posted: September 26, 2012 By James Molesworth
I sat down with Aline Baly, whose family owns Château Coutet in Barsac, here at my office today. The estate has made its first dry white, which debuts with the 2010 vintage. Here are my notes on the debut vintage.
Posted: September 26, 2012 By Tim Fish
An honest value is something you appreciate when you grow up in a blue-collar house like I did. Dad always joked that Mom had "Champagne taste on beer money," which was partially right. She didn't believe in settling for something inferior even if she wasn't spending a lot of money.
That's one reason I've always had a soft spot for wineries like Pedroncelli. It's owned by an old Italian family that has been in Sonoma County for four generations. They grow their own grapes and, without a lot of fuss, make wine that people can afford to drink every day. While many of California's Italian winemaking families have taken their businesses upscale or have sold to large companies, the Pedroncellis have stayed the course.
Posted: September 25, 2012 By Jennifer Fiedler
Getting "good" at wine is not necessarily just about being good at tasting wine. A lot of non-drinking homework is involved too. And the crazy volume of places, names and vintages tends to reward those with a good memory for facts (or those who work at memorizing facts).
But is it possible to get better at remembering data? Certainly, suggests author Joshua Foer, in his 2011 book Walking with Einstein: The Art and Science of Remembering Everything, which chronicles his rise from regular guy to winner of the 2006 U.S.A. Memory Championships. His experience shows that we all have the ability to improve our memory, with effort. I called Foer to see if he had any memory tips regarding wine specifically. Below are three of his suggestions.
Posted: September 24, 2012 By James Laube
Michael Browne is stepping beyond, but not out of, Kosta Browne.
In 2014, the co-founder and winemaker at the Sonoma County winery synonymous with a stable of fine Pinot Noirs is adding a new wine called Cirq. The 2011 vintage is from Treehouse vineyard, which he and his partners lease in Russian River Valley.
Posted: September 21, 2012 By James Molesworth
I caught up today with Marc Kent, owner and winemaker of South Africa's Boekenhoutskloof winery, a top producer of high-end Syrah, Cabernet Sauvignon and Sémillon, as well as several value brans such as Chocolate Block, Wolftrap and Helderberg Wijnmakerij. The vintner has a new Syrah to add to his lineup and as is usual with Kent, he's got a good story to go with it as well (you can read this previous blog entry on the genesis of a previous wine called The Journeyman).
Posted: September 20, 2012 By Harvey Steiman
Yoshikazu Ono runs his thumb over the exposed surface of an abalone, a grimace spreading across his face. He thinks the shellfish is too small, and it feels too firm. “Not good. I don’t know if we can serve abalone today,” he mutters in Japanese. “It should be plump. And darker. These are yellow.”
Ono, 52, is responsible for buying the fresh fish each day for Sukiyabashi Jiro, the 11-seat sushi bar where he makes sushi shoulder-to-shoulder with his father, 86-year-old Jiro Ono. They were featured earlier this year in the film documentary Jiro Dreams of Sushi.
Posted: September 20, 2012 By Ben O'Donnell
I remember, four years ago, seeing the headline "Obama Clinches 'Joe Cabernet Sauvignon' Vote" in a humor magazine. It's a send-up of both the "Champagne liberal" stereotype and that of coveted, mythical voter Joe Six-Pack.
But is wine really a Democrat's game? I decided to ask Greg Martellotto, owner and winemaker at California-based Wine Dreamer. In 2010, the company launched a wine called Let The People Decide, a Tempranillo-based red blend from Santa Ynez bottled under two labels, Progressive and Conservative. One label is blue, with a donkey silhouette; the other red, with an elephant. Martellotto says, "We had high aspirations-could this be a straw poll for divining upcoming elections?"
I also spoke to Chris Trebilcock, who, half a country away, in Michigan, makes wine at The Political Winery; using Lodi, Calif., grapes, he blends "Jack Blue," "Ron Red," "Jackie O'Rouge" and "Elie Blanc."
Posted: September 18, 2012 By Robert Taylor
The Northern Hemisphere harvest begins this month, and in the vast, vast majority of the world's vineyards, it starts with a heavy machinery operator turning the ignition on a mechanical grape harvester.
Many wine lovers might imagine—or might prefer—a scenario that involved skilled harvesters gently selecting the very best bunches of grapes, all by hand. But the half-dozen experts I polled—including industry insiders, vintners and mechanical harvester operators—conceded that 90 percent or more of the world's wine grapes are likely harvested mechanically.
If you're interested in the intersection of quality and value, you should be grateful.
Posted: September 17, 2012 By Harvey Steiman
A week in Tokyo drove home the point that the most venerated sushi restaurants there only serve sushi. They don’t also make tempura. They don’t deal in teppanyaki. You can’t get ramen or soba noodles in the same place. They devote 100 percent of their efforts to making rice, finding great fish, butchering, aging, cooking and curing the seafood properly, then serving it simply.
Sushi is not the only specialty food craft that’s treated with such specificity and luxury. In the span of 24 hours I experienced what many believe to be the very best specialists of three of these foods, steered in the right direction by Masuhiro Yamamoto, author of several books on sushi and what he calls “cuisines de terroir” of Tokyo.
Posted: September 13, 2012 By Mitch Frank
It was 87 degrees inside my house. The doors, which we had opened in a futile effort to circulate the stagnant air, were now too swollen from the humidity to shut properly. The power had been down for about 48 hours.
"Honey, I'm opening the Mouton-Rothschild 2000. Grab a glass," I said.
I knew when I moved to New Orleans that hurricane season was a fact of life. After Katrina, my wife's parents came home to find that 3 feet of floodwater had ruined much of their ground floor. Thankfully, Hurricane Isaac did not severely challenge New Orleans' newly strengthened levees. Neighboring parishes outside the levees suffered far more and need our help and prayers.
Still, the local utility spent days after the storm trying to bring New Orleans back to the 21st century. (We spent 60 hours without power; other neighborhoods were out for nearly five more days.) Residents could decide quickly what in the fridge needed to be eaten or tossed, but for restaurants, retailers and collectors around the city, wine was a bit of a concern. The experience prompted me to open a few of my best bottles rather than risk letting them spoil.
Posted: September 13, 2012 By Bruce Sanderson
After the recent purchase of Château Gevrey-Chambertin by Macao businessman Louis Ng, some Burgundians and conservative French groups voiced discontent over foreign investment in the region's vineyards. The controversy surrounding the sale may be overblown, however, it does shed light on several looming issues facing the region.
First and foremost, the business of buying and selling vineyards in Burgundy has changed. What once passed between families and neighbors is now the realm of corporations and investors, whether they are French, American, Canadian, European or Asian. Americans have invested in land in Burgundy since the 1950s, but are increasingly involved in recent transactions there.
Posted: September 12, 2012 By Harvey Steiman
Differences between sushi in Japan and sushi at home are getting clearer as I try a few of Tokyo’s thousands of options. Restaurants that specialize in one thing (such as tempura, sukiyaki, even eel) are more revered than those that offer a wider menu. Sushi is at the top of the food chain.
Posted: September 12, 2012 By Tim Fish
It's half-past September and do you know what California winemakers are drinking?
No, it's not a joke. There's an old saying, in fact: "It takes a lot of beer to make wine."
Posted: September 12, 2012 By Tim Fish
As wine dilemmas go, two of the biggest must be 1) obtaining a rare bottle you're desperate to taste and/or 2) paying for it once you get it. All of us have faced the first one and most of us the second.
I remember the first wine I obsessed over owning: Heitz Cabernet Sauvignon Napa Valley Martha's Vineyard 1985. I waited in line outside the St. Helena tasting room for an hour on the day it was released in 1990. I loved the wine and talked my brother into splitting a case with me, but careful what you obsess over. As it aged, its trademark hint of mint and earth became too pronounced for me, so a few years ago I sold my remaining bottles at auction.
Posted: September 11, 2012 By Ben O'Donnell
When the Nielsen Company surveyed members of different age groups in late 2010 on how many of their wine shop purchases topped $20 a bottle, Boomers averaged 12 percent. For Generation X, the number crept to 14. Millennials, however, paid more than $20 for one in every four bottles they bought.
"Young people have absolutely no problem coming in and buying a bottle of Le Nez de Muse for $25 on a Monday night," Justin Chearno, the wine buyer at Uva Wines, told me, referring to an organic cuvée from small Burgundy producer Les Faverelles.
Another fun fact, from the Simmons National Consumer Study: In 2010, 24 percent of Krug drinkers in America were between 21 and 24 years old; another 20 percent were 25 to 34. If you are in the business of selling wine right now, you may be very interested indeed in learning more about this demographic of "impressionable young people who are easily parted with their money."
Posted: September 10, 2012 By James Molesworth
"I was reading an article that was talking about people running naked through the vineyards. It really wasn't a serious article, but that storyline kept me hooked,"' said Bart Araujo, dryly, when I asked him how he got interested in biodynamic farming. "And then I got to the second page, and it mentioned Nicolas Joly and Huët. And also de Vogüé, DRC and Leflaive. And Zind-Humbrecht. I asked myself, well, if it's good enough for those guys, why isn't it good enough for me?"
Araujo, 68, has applied a pragmatic approach to the Eisele vineyard ever since he and his wife, Daphne, purchased it in 1990. They've kept the historical name of the vineyard (named for Milt Eisele, who planted much of it and tended it into his later years before selling it) and improved upon the site's impressive track record for producing some of Napa's best Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah and Sauvignon Blanc bottlings.
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