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james laube's wine flights archive

Photo by: Greg Gorman
James Laube

May 2011

The Uninvited Guest: Mother Nature
Guests at tonight's Wine Spectator Bring Your Own Magnum party should bring their own umbrella, too
Posted: May 31, 2011 11:48am ET

Tonight in Healdsburg is the first of this year's two Wine Spectator Bring Your Own Magnum parties. This evening's is at Dry Creek Kitchen; tomorrow's will be in Napa, at Tra Vigne.

These are company parties, a come-together of advertisers, winemakers, chefs, retailers, distributors and the like—a social mixer where a lot of people who never see each other all year mingle.

But it's raining now as I write—not a great sign for tonight's outdoor festivities, but what it means for the vintage can be interpreted in a few different ways.

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Common Ground on the Water
A Napa vintner finds thrills wIth long-distance swimming
Posted: May 25, 2011 12:48pm ET

A year ago, when I met Vito Bialla, I didn't know much about him, except that he made Cabernet. It turns out we had much more in common than our love for Napa Cabernet, including swimming, though he takes his love of the water a bit further than I do: Last week, Bialla completed a 14-hour open-water swim from the Golden Gate Bridge to the Farallon Islands.

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A Sonoma Syrah Sum Greater Than Its Parts
The 2009 Carlisle Sonoma County is a classic-rated county wine blending grapes from some of Sonoma's top Syrah vineyards
Posted: May 23, 2011 10:41am ET

What happens when you put together a handful of California's best Syrah vineyards with a crack winemaking team?

How about the 2009 Carlisle Sonoma County Syrah, featured in the May 18 Wine Spectator Insider. It's a good story and then some.

For one, it earned a 97-point rating and it is an amazingly complex, deep and layered wine that drank well for three days after it was opened and tasted in one of my blind tastings. For another, it sells (or sold) for $25. Those kinds of numbers—rating and price—don't usually go hand in hand. But it's nice when they do because it proves it can be done.

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Two Napa Cabernet Verticals with Fred Schrader
The California Cabernet icon pulled out two verticals of his Beckstoffer To Kalon and T-6 Cabernets when I interviewed him last year
Posted: May 19, 2011 4:41pm ET

m as curious as everyone else about how well certain wines age, and one of the stress tests, if you will, is to taste older vintages.

When interviewing Fred Schrader last year, he poured two verticals to show how the wines were aging. Both flights were extraordinary and very revealing; all of the wines were outstanding (or better), youthful, vibrant and concentrated. Moreover, they all showed great potential for years ahead. The first flight came from the wine he's made the longest, the Beckstoffer To Kalon Vineyard, followed by the T-6 bottling, which takes its name from the clone of the same name.

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A Grand Tour, from the Old World to the New
At this year's Wine Spectator Grand Tour in Las Vegas, the contrasts between traditional and modern wine styles were on full display
Posted: May 17, 2011 4:41pm ET

There are stark contrasts between Old World wines—those from Piedmont and Tuscany in Italy and Bordeaux and Burgundy in France—and those from countries that are experiencing revivals, such as Spain, or are simply emerging, such as the table wines of Portugal or the new darling Sauvignon Blancs and Pinot Noirs of New Zealand. Yet the New World Guard is gaining respect and recognition based on the quality of its wines despite its relative lack of history and traditions.

This year's Wine Spectator Grand Tour in Las Vegas afforded guests the opportunity to compare the world's most expensive French wines from Bordeaux and Burgundy to the best the New World has to offer.

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Aubert de Villaine Recalls the 1976 Paris Tasting
An attendee at the famous tasting competition talks about how he reacted to the wines of California and France
Posted: May 3, 2011 2:56pm ET

Blind tastings are often humbling, but perhaps none more so than one of wine's most famous encounters, the Paris Tasting of 1976.

When I met with Aubert de Villaine last week, I finally had a chance to ask him about his experience. He was one of a handful of French wine "experts" who tasted the wines that day and rendered the verdict, giving California wines a knockout—or at least a TKO—over the French wines.

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DRC's de Villaine to Test California Pinot
After a long wait, Domaine de la Romanée-Conti's director is looking for a site in western Sonoma
Posted: May 2, 2011 2:56pm ET

The wait may be over. Aubert de Villaine has gingerly tiptoed around making California Pinot Noir for more than a decade. But he appears ready to give it a try. There are still a few elements of caution, as he explained last week, but he's looking for a vineyard to buy grapes. Once that's done, he should be good-to-go.

I had been looking forward to our visit, since de Villaine is one of the brightest and most measured of vintners I know. He brings a unique perspective to wine and I had hoped we could talk about Pinot Noir, among other topics, and we did. But I had forgotten one important thing: that du Villaine hadn't yet made a California Pinot Noir. The co-director of Domaine de La Romanée-Conti, as well as a partner in Hyde de Villaine, in Carneros. HdV makes Chardonnay, Syrah and a Merlot-Cabernet blend called Belle Cousine.

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