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james laube's wine flights archive

Photo by: Greg Gorman
James Laube

November 2011

It's Beringer's Day in Knights Valley
Beringer and others are proving that Sonoma Valley can make some sensational Cabernets
Posted: Nov 30, 2011 3:30pm ET

Last week, in one of my regular weekly blind tastings, I came across a pair of wines that consumers will love. But one is also a wine that has to make Napa Cabernet producers nervous.

It's the 2009 Beringer Vineyards Cabernet Sauvignon Knights Valley Reserve, a strikingly excellent Bordeaux-style blend that offers a wide array of flavors presented in an elegant, graceful style. The price: $45, with 3,600 cases made. It's the best Beringer Knights Valley wine I can recall and one of winemaker Laurie Hook's best efforts.

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Is Yao Big Enough?
Whether or not Yao Ming's new Napa venture will be a slam dunk is still up in the air
Posted: Nov 28, 2011 3:30pm ET

Is Yao Ming big enough to clear the lane for California wine in China?

Probably not. But his new Napa Cabernet venture is certainly a big step, and likely to generate plenty of publicity both here in the U.S. and the Far East.

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Turkey Day Wine Strategies
Pour your best wines first, then lighten up
Posted: Nov 22, 2011 3:30pm ET

As one of America’s big feasting festivities approaches, here are some thoughts for food and wine.

You’re probably heard of a food coma. It’s a common occurrence for those who like to eat and drink to the fullest on Thanksgiving. Even though traditional Thanksgiving meals are heavy, most people have a hard time pushing back from the table. Over-indulgence is often the order of the day, even when you try to apply the brakes and park your fork.

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A Small Winery's Huge Achievement
A California Sonoma Pinot Noir producer triumphs for small winegrowers everywhere
Posted: Nov 18, 2011 3:00pm ET

The success of a Kosta Browne, Wine Spectator's 2011 Wine of the Year, is a personal triumph for the founders and their staff. But it also validates the American Dream, the vision of farmers who, decades ago, believed in wine—not to mention Pinot Noir—and confirms for the next generation of winegrowers, wherever they may be, that this is an ambition worth pursuing. It's a livelihood beyond a lifestyle—something substantive and real that's worth pursuing.

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Benefits of Time
A complete vertical of Kosta Browne Pinot Noirs
Posted: Nov 16, 2011 10:00am ET

Kosta Browne may have quietly stumbled out of the starting gate. But it has provided an amazingly steady stream of excellent Pinot Noirs ever since.

Founders Dan Kosta and Michael Browne have also been at the forefront of a movement that has staked out new territory with Pinot Noir. It's a fruit-driven style that emphasizes ripe, opulent berry flavors with a measure of elegance, detail and finesse. Few wineries in California have enjoyed such dramatic success inside a decade. Few too have shown such a deft hand with Pinot Noir, which is all the more surprising considering neither of the principals had any winemaking training or experience prior to this.

Since 2002, the winery's third vintage with Pinot Noir, KB has produced 69 Pinots, with this rather striking statistic: All but one have earned 90 points or higher, and 24 have earned ratings of 95 points or higher. No other California Pinot producer comes close to matching those figures. Here are my tasting notes on their Pinot Noirs going back to 2000.

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Blind Is Best if You Must Assess
Tasting wines without knowing their identity is both humbling and educational
Posted: Nov 14, 2011 2:00pm ET
There are many worthwhile ways to evaluate wines. Probably the most enjoyable is to drink them with food and friends. It’s also very instructive to taste them non-blind, knowing what the wine is and where it comes from, in order to understand its origins and character.

But if you want to be as fair and objective as possible, blind tasting is the most honest and reliable way to assess wine. And that is our methodology here at Wine Spectator. That eliminates bias, which might come from a producer’s prestige, or a wine’s price. It enables you—forces you, really—to judge a wine based on what is truly in the glass.

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Who Is the Most Powerful Person in Wine?
When it comes to having the most clout, who are your candidates in the business?
Posted: Nov 3, 2011 10:00am ET

I have a few thoughts on who wine's king of the hill is, and one clue about my choice as you consider yours: She is not a he.

When he was alive, Ernest Gallo was certainly king of the hill, heading up the world's largest wine company. Big distribution companies flex muscles in many states. Robert Mondavi, at the height of his career, was the most influential, at least in this country. For a long time, Ab Simon, when he ran Seagram Chateau & Estates Wine Co., presided over the largest importer of classified-growth Bordeaux and many of France's and Europe's finest properties.

No, the person I'm thinking of is a petite young woman who heads up one of wine's biggest sellers. Annette Alvarez-Peters heads up Costco Wholesale Corp.'s alcohol sales, the nation's largest retailer of said products.

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Wax on, Easy; Wax off, Not so Much
Wax capsules look nice, but removing them is a messy chore
Posted: Nov 1, 2011 10:00am ET

Some years ago, when Randy Dunn was about to release his first Cabernet from Howell Mountain, he offered to show me the wine, the package, label and closure. The bright red wax capsule that topped the 1979 vintage particularly pleased him; each bottle was hand-dipped in hot wax. It was striking. I liked the wine and the label. The label is still unchanged. But I've come to dislike the wax capsule almost as much as I loathe corks.

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