Posted: April 2, 2014 By Ben O'Donnell
The world of winemakers has no shortage of madmen, fire-eaters, swashbucklers, prophets-a confederacy of crazy from the contrarians in California planting obscure Italian varieties to the biodynamic scofflaws of France who tussle with the governmental agency that regulates wines. Of course, that's why we love them: With great risks can come great wines. Without maverick spirits guiding them, we wouldn't have some of the world's iconic wines, like Penfolds Grange or Dagueneau Silex.
Both the Finger Lakes and Long Island are young regions, for vinifera anyway, and in nascent fine wine regions, to get to the next level, you have to go outside your own and your peers' vision of what those wines can be. To do that, you have to be defiant, ballsy, risky, crazy. I want to focus here on two wineries I recently visited where the driving philosophy is to get weird in the service of better wine.
Posted: April 2, 2014 By Harvey Steiman
On my first day in Victoria, the cool-climate capital of Australia, I went up to Heathcote to see what Michel Chapoutier has been up to. Unfortunately, the Rhône-based vintner arrives to check on the 2014 harvest after I must move on to appointments in South Australia. With limited time, I figured to taste a few fermenting 2014s and perhaps a few older bottles, meet the rest of the crew and get back to Melbourne to check in at my hotel before it got to be too late.
To my pleasant surprise, Ron Laughton was there waiting with a nifty vertical of La Pleiade, produced in partnership with Chapoutier. Because the original name is a bit too close to a preexisting California wine, the U.S. label is Cluster M45, the scientific name for Pleiades, the constellation visible to both of the partners from their homes a hemisphere away from each other.
WineSpectator.com members can read my non-blind scores and tasting notes.
Posted: April 2, 2014 By James Molesworth
I spent my fifth day of 2013 Bordeaux barrel tasting visits at Château Latour, Mouton-Rothschild and Pontet-Canet. Here are my notes.
Posted: April 1, 2014 By Dana Nigro
Sustainability never looked so good as in Down to Earth, an informative new coffee-table book for wine lovers that's packed with enticing photography of vineyards full of flowering plants, beautiful birds, lush grapes, adorable weed-grazing sheep and goats, and the people who farm these plots.
Created to showcase the work of the California Sustainable Winegrowing Alliance, the book highlights the stories of 15 of the state's winegrowers—representing small and large businesses, families and corporations, green pioneers like Bonterra and newer converts.
Posted: April 1, 2014 By James Molesworth
I finished my fourth day of 2013 Bordeaux barrel tasting visits with Château Lafite Rothschild, Rieussec, L'Evangile, Vieux Château Certan, Le Pin, Figeac and more. Here are my notes.
Posted: March 31, 2014 By James Laube
Lee Hudson can grow pretty much anything he wants in his highly regarded Carneros vineyard, and he does. Albariño, Arneis, Greco, Ribolla Gialla, Riesling and Vermentino are all getting a chance there. But it's slow and go with those newbies, as they and other grapes are largely untested as marketable wines, at least on the scale many Napa wineries are accustomed to. Hudson expects they'll catch on. But for now, those plantings are more experimental than essential, underscoring the economics of terroir.
Posted: March 31, 2014 By James Molesworth
I began my fourth day of 2013 Bordeaux barrel tasting visits at Château Cheval-Blanc, La Fleur-Pétrus, Trotanoy and more. Here are my notes.
Posted: March 28, 2014 By James Molesworth
I began my third day of 2013 Bordeaux barrel tasting visits at Châteaus Lynch Bages and Ducru-Beaucaillou. Here are my notes.
Posted: March 27, 2014 By James Molesworth
I began my third day of 2013 Bordeaux barrel tasting visits at Châteaus Montrose and Léoville Las Cases. Here are my notes.
Posted: March 26, 2014 By James Molesworth
I finished my second day of 2013 Bordeaux barrel tasting visits at Châteaus Palmer and Beau-Séjour-Bécot. Here are my notes.
Posted: March 25, 2014 By James Molesworth
I started my day at Domaine Clarence Dillon to taste the 2013s from first-growth Château Haut-Brion and its sister, La Mission Haut-Brion, as well as from Quintus. Haut-Brion may have made one of the best red wines of the vintage, but the real star in 2013 is the white.
Posted: March 25, 2014 By Harvey Steiman
Several Sydney insiders told me Sepia was the place to go for a great wine-pairing menu, so it was my first stop after arriving in Australia last week. Chef Martin Benn, once a protégé of Marco Pierre White in London, indulges a modernist bent since he left his post as chef de cuisine at Tetsuya's in 1999. His wife, Vicki Wild, once Tetsuya's personal assistant, brings warmth to the sharp-edged dining room on the ground floor of a Darling Harbour high-rise, and sommelier Rodney Setter has built up a broad and knowledgeably chosen international wine list of more than 1,100 selections, mostly current vintages although older wines, especially Bordeaux, Rhône and Australian Shiraz bottlings, scatter throughout.
Posted: March 25, 2014 By Bruce Sanderson
Wine Spectator senior editor Bruce Sanderson has just returned from Burgundy, where he tasted the 2012 vintage. Here are his tasting notes and non-blind scores from his visit to Maison Alex Gambal.
Posted: March 24, 2014 By James Molesworth
Plane, train, automobile. Got to Bordeaux on time, dropped my bags at the hotel and drove up to Château Margaux for the first of my 2013 Bordeaux barrel visits, followed by a stop at Château Haut-Bailly. Time is the world's most precious commodity, and I hate to waste it.
Posted: March 24, 2014 By Robert Camuto
Giuseppe Rinaldi has always danced to his own tune. A producer of great old-school, cask-fermented Barolos, Rinaldi has been guided by his own gut and local tradition—not others' rules or expectations.
Now, Italy's wine authorities have hemmed in the maestro and provocateur at the age of 65 with a new law dictating how producers blend and label designated crus. Since the death of his father 22 years ago, Rinaldi has bucked the modern, French-influenced trend of single-cru Barolos in favor of a traditional approach of blending from different vineyards.
Posted: March 20, 2014 By Mitch Frank
If you're looking to simplify Riesling, to make it easy to understand, don't look to me. I visited Germany for the first time last month, and I hoped that a week in the Mosel, the Rheingau and the Rheinhessen—time spent strolling some of Riesling's most storied vineyards—would finally bring me clarity. Afterward, if someone asked me, "I want to try a great Riesling. Where should I start?" I could confidently reply with a list of wines that would teach them why Riesling is so special.
After a week in Germany, what I can say is that Riesling is a delicious and bewilderingly complex variety. And that's OK. That's what makes it an iconic grape.
Posted: March 19, 2014 By Tim Fish
Here we go again. Every 10 or 20 years, the “Old World Wine Intelligentsia” tries to convince us that California wines are lousy.
Surely we’re not falling for this again, right? We’re bigger people after all these years, more secure about the quality of the wines. There’s no need for California to justify its place in the wine world.
Posted: March 19, 2014 By James Laube
Garage wine. I can't think of many vintners that haven't made it.I thought of this Friday night after dining with some young friends and their 3-month-old daughter.
The proud new parents did it all: They shopped, cooked, popped, poured, served and cleaned, making it both a fun and breezy evening, where we covered a variety of topics. And afterward, there was homemade wine to be bottled.
Posted: March 17, 2014 By Harvey Steiman
Ripeness (and its kissing cousin, alcohol) seems to be the wine issue of the year. So I made it a point to attend winery group In Pursuit of Balance's panel discussion on the subject last week at its San Francisco confab and tasting.
The panel, led by London-based wine writer Jamie Goode, included Justin Willett of Tyler in Santa Barbara, Josh Jensen of Calera in Mt. Harlan, Wells Guthrie of Copaín in Anderson Valley and Katy Wilson of LaRue in Sonoma Coast. Each presented two wines, exploring just how much ripeness matters in determining a Pinot Noir's quality.
Posted: March 17, 2014 By Dana Nigro
When a group of winegrowers develops an eco-friendly certification program for their own region, one question you have to ask is: How serious are they? If the very people who have to live up to the goals are setting the goals, isn't there a possibility that they won't set the bar higher than they and their neighbors can easily reach? Does the certification hold everyone's feet to the fire or is it just a way to look good for the public?
That was a potential concern when four leading Long Island producers—Bedell Cellars, Shinn Estate, Channing Daughters and Martha Clara Vineyards—developed the first sustainability code and certification for vineyards on the East Coast in 2012 and launched the nonprofit Long Island Sustainable Winegrowing organization to oversee it. But if you didn't personally know the sincerity and commitment of people like Bedell winemaker Rich Olsen-Harbich and Barbara Shinn, if you hadn't walked their vineyards with them, as I have, how sure could you be of what they were trying to do?
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