Anyone with even a passing interest in the fine wines of Burgundy should make sure they don't miss Per-Henrik Mansson's excellent cover story "Burgundy Divided" in the Nov. 15 Wine Spectator. . . .
I've long believed that Burgundy, for all its great wines, produces some of the biggest rip-offs known to wine, some of which are detailed in Mansson's piece. . . .
I'm talking about overhyped, overpriced, mediocre wines pushed on consumers by the trade and media, along with the flat-out criminal practices of surchapitalization (adding more sugar than the law allows), adjusting wines with high levels of tartaric acid and, worst of all, blending grapes from different appellations together and then claiming the wine came from one single appellation. . . .
It's appalling that this kind of deceit and fraudulent behavior goes on in Burgundy today and it's no wonder many of us are rightfully suspicious about the authenticity and quality of the wines we buy from there. . . .
I'm afraid that too many Burgundy lovers, awed by the romance and seduction of the area, are blinded by their passion for Burgundy and defend the wines at times when they should be coming forth to tell consumers the truth about how cynical these vignerons and wine growers are. . . .
This kind of shoddy winemaking is embarrassing to anyone in the business and it's no wonder that so many wine drinkers are turned off by Burgundy, the greed and inflated prices, and are turning to California and Oregon Pinot Noirs as real alternatives to red Burgundy. . . .
The 1994 Pinot Noir vintage is clearly the best ever in California and Oregon too, and you should be buying whatever wines you can while they're still available. A few late release 1994s are worth the search, including Robert Mondavi Reserve, any of Dehlinger's five excellent Russian River bottlings, Saintsbury Reserve or the soon-to-be-released debut from Beringer, the Napa Valley Stanly Ranch 1994. . . .
The big news from California wine country isn't really startling. Headlines in the West Coast papers proclaim higher wine prices lie ahead as consumer demand and grape prices rise and the grape supply dwindles. No surprise there. The 1996 harvest is down by 25 to 40 percent at a time when California wine sales are red hot. . . .
In the same breath, there's talk that with all the new grape plantings throughout California that vintners will soon be facing an over supply or "grape glut," all of which proves how difficult it is to keep ahead of the next wine cycle. . . .
Vintners believe that the current wine boom will last through the year 2000, according to a new industry survey, and that's as good a guess as any, but according to my unofficial analysis of wine boom-and-bust cycles, the health of the economy ultimately determines whether we're free spending or tight-fisted consumers. All it takes is a recession to put a squeeze on buying. . . .
Matanzas Creek Winery in Sonoma rolls out its new Journey Merlot this week, a wine that will raise eyebrows with its $125-a-bottle price tag, making it one of the most expensive wine in California. . . .
Troubling as the price may seem, this is an amazingly complex and detailed wine and it's heartening to see wineries set high standards for their creations. . . .
The 1992 Journey Merlot is Sonoma Valley grown and as good a young Merlot as I've tasted. Dark in color, rich and concentrated, with bright, vivid, currant, black cherry and plum flavors and a wonderful, exotic spiciness. Is it four or five times better than St. Francis Merlot or Beringer Howell Mountain Merlot? No, but it's a classy wine. Your best bet to buy this wine, sold in two bottle cases, is to call the winery at 707-528-6464. . . .
I retried the first three vintages of the Journey Chardonnay. The debut in 1990 is fully mature, about as close to a grand cru White Burgundy as you'll likely find from Californiait's big, ripe and round, with lots of fig, apricot and smoky nuances, combing the best attributes of youth and age. . . .
The 1992 also is quite concentrated, with tightly reined-in flavors, and not as extracted as the 1990. The best is the 1993, which shows better focus, fruit definition, elegance and finesse, as the spicy pear, fig, apple and nutmeg flavors are in wonderful harmony. . . .
Matanzas Creek may be famous among wine lovers, but not even all its neighbors know about this Bennett Valley winery, located outside the Santa Rosa city limits. . . .
On my journey to taste Journey I took a wrong turn somewhere on Sonoma Mountain and got lost. When I got close to the winery I stopped at a gas station to double check my whereabouts. When I asked how close I was to Matanzas Creek, the first attendant drew a blank expression, as if I had dreamed up the name Matanzas Creek. The next person I asked took a shot: "It's in Healdsburg, man" . . . .
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