Lodi Native: Master Class in Old Vine Zin

Posted by | Posted in Wine Reviews | Posted on 09-13-2014

Soucie Vineyard Zinfandel.

Soucie Vineyard Zinfandel. Credit: Lodi Native.

When I heard about Lodi Native, I was instantly intrigued. Old vines, historic vineyards, minimalist winemaking, indigenous yeasts, no new oak, no fining or filtration. What’s not to love?

Through this collaborative effort, a group of winegrowers and vintners in the Mokelumne River AVA seeks to reclaim Lodi’s heritage by crafting complex, terroir-driven Zinfandels. The fruit comes from very old vines, some dating back to the late 1800s.

The team has released six wines from the 2012 vintage, all from Lodi’s Mokelumne River AVA. Tasting all six together, I was stunned by the tremendous variation in flavors and textures, and found it fascinating to dissect my perceptions of each wine. They’re all very high quality, and picking a favorite comes down to personal preference.

Collectively, these are some of the most thought-provoking Zinfandels I’ve tasted in a very long time. They’re deep, complex, lingering, surprisingly elegant and quite food-friendly. They comprise a master class in old vine Lodi Zinfandel.

The wines are only sold as a group; a six-bottle case goes for $180. They were received as trade samples and tasted single blind.

Read the rest of this entry »

Weekly Interview: Aurelio Montes

Posted by | Posted in Interviews | Posted on 09-12-2014

aurelio - photoEach week, as regular readers know, we pose a series of questions to a winemaker. This week, we’re featuring Aurelio Montes, the chairman of Montes Wines, which mainly produces wine in Chile, but also in Napa Valley.

Born in Santiago in 1948, Aurelio graduated from the Catholic University in Santiago with a degree in agronomy and oenology. After travelling the world and gaining experience in both the Old World and the New World, Aurelio worked at the Undurraga Winery as chief oenologist from 1972 to 1984 before moving to Vina San Pedro where he worked as technical manager and chief oenologist for four years.

Aurelio then co-founded the Montes Winery in 1988 with the goal of making world-class wine for the export market. At the time there were only ten wineries in Chile who exported their wines. Now there are over a hundred. Respected as a pioneer and a visionary in Chile, Aurelio has been an advisor to multiple other Chilean wineries such as Echeverria Wines, Santa Ines, Viu Manent, and Casa Lapostelle. Aurelio expanded his portfolio to the Napa Valley in 2006.

Critics have called Aurelio “one of Chile’s most experienced and respected winemakers.” In 1995, Aurelio was named the “Chilean Winemaker of the Year.”

Check out our interview with Aurelio below the fold. Read the rest of this entry »

Daily Wine News: Another Look

Posted by | Posted in Wine News | Posted on 09-12-2014

The view from the Leonardo da Vinci Museum in Vinci, Tuscany. (Wikimedia.)

The view from the Leonardo da Vinci Museum in Vinci, Tuscany. (Wikimedia.)

“I haven’t been to Australia, but I know from professional tastings, from books and periodicals and from speaking with people in the Australian wine trade that Aussie chardonnay has undergone a stylistic evolution similar to California’s.” In the New York Times, Eric Asimov takes another look at Australian chardonnay.

“”With so many high-quality and highly rated Super Tuscans available in the U.S. market for less than half that price, its virtually unchallenged market dominance is surreal, if not absurd.” In Wine-Searcher, Jeremy Parzen contends that an “Italian wine is overpriced and overrated [if] it ends in ‘-aia.’” And he finds lots of Super Tuscans worth buying.

“It’s too early for the heavy, full-bodied reds just yet,” so “as autumn approaches,” Will Lyons is turning “away from the spritzy, bright acidity that was so refreshing in summer to heavier, smoother whites.”

In the Mercury News, Jessica Yadegaran visits Turley Wine Cellars new winery and tasting room in Amador County.

In the Wall Street Journal, Jen Murphy takes part in the “inaugural Bottega Gran Fondo, a charity bike ride that Napa chef Michael Chiarello has organized to raise money for the construction of the Vine Trail, a 60-kilometer trail that will span from Vallejo to Calistoga.”

Frank Morgan goes way back in time and discovers that “the most notable Virginia viticulture milestone in the 150 years between Jefferson and the beginning of the modern-day industry… was the establishment of a farming cooperative called the Monticello Wine Company.”

On Forbes.com, Cathy Huyghe profiles Damien Wilson, director of the wine business program at the School of Wine and Spirits Business in Burgundy.

In the New York Times, Danielle Pergament goes searching for “wine, olive oil, and the good life in Uruguay.”

Daily Wine News: Terroir and Drinkability

Posted by | Posted in Wine News | Posted on 09-11-2014

On Reuters, Oliver Holmes profiles Domaine de Bargylus, a Syrian winery that’s still producing wine despite the civil war.



“The younger wine drinkers are paying more attention to the broader landscape of wine and are more interested in terroir and drinkability and food friendliness and the story behind it.” Christie’s chats with Dustin Wilson.

Alder Yarrow discovers what “the social media universe thinks of Australian wine.”

“The “anti-bling” policies and the anti-corruption measures of the Chinese authorities are taking a toll on French wine and spirits, with exports down more than 7 percent in the first half of the year.” Wine-Searcher has the details.

“With the addition of Winery 32 to Loudoun County’s “Potomac Cluster” of vineyards, the Mooshers became the latest on a growing list of entrepreneurs who have flocked to the county, transforming the scenic Washington suburban area into a premier wine tourist destination.” In the Washington Post, Caitlin Gibson looks at the growth of Loudon County’s wine industry.

“When I thought about it, it seemed worth the price of roughly one bottle of collectable wine, to be able to sample all the bottles in my wine cellar… to see which ones are at their peak, which can age a bit longer, and which ones must be mourned.” In Palate Press, Becky Sue Epstein tracks “The Rise and Fall and Rise of Coravin.”

“Why does cabernet sauvignon from Napa not taste like cabernet from Bordeaux? Terroir is a much better explanation than a cluster effect.” Even the Wine Curmudgeon believes in terroir.

On Forbes.com, Joe Harpaz wonders if “Sales Of $50 Pinots And Merlots Predict Our Economy’s Future.”

The latest wine app “Scans A Restaurant’s Wine List To Pair Your Dish With The Right One.”

In Wine Spectator, Tim Fish offers a guide to tasting room etiquette.

If you have a moment, check out today’s big news on Luxury Launches.

Daily Wine News: Roederer Awards

Posted by | Posted in Wine News | Posted on 09-10-2014

Flickr, vxla.

Flickr, vxla.

On Tuesday, the annual Louis Roederer International Wine Writers’ Awards were presented in London.

“Would this have happened without Sideways? Perhaps. But I think all of us involved in making, selling, or drinking California wine should plan on raising a glass this Saturday to the success of this quirky movie. And if you’re feeling subversive, go ahead and make it a Merlot.” Jason Haas looks at “The Enduring Effects of Sideways, 10 Years Later.”

In Wines & Vines, Andrew Adams tastes the effects of wine closures.

“You wouldn’t expect to find wines like that still giving so much pleasure, which shows what perfect storage conditions can achieve.” In northern Italy, a “treasure trove of wines” was discovered in a ham cellar.

Paul Wallbank of Decoding the New Economy sits down with Paul Mabray of VinTank.

“Most wine collectors didn’t start out with a collection. Instead, they discovered that they liked wine. And they began to buy what they liked to drink. So one bottle became three and then a case, then a couple of cases and, before too long, the cases filled a closet and then spilled out.” In Wine-Searcher, Leslie Gevirtz explores the best way to start a wine collection.

Wine-Searcher offers a “Busy Wine Lover’s Guide to La Fleur-Pétrus.”

Wine Enthusiast lists “The 10 Strangest Harvest Superstitions.

In Grape Collective, Charlotte Chipperfield contents that the “TTB needs to come together with winemakers and consumers alike to create new and ultimately more informative labels that are appropriate for wine.”

A Conversation with Tony Terlato

Posted by | Posted in Interviews | Posted on 09-09-2014

Tony Terlato.

Tony Terlato.

In June, I conducted an in-depth interview with Tony Terlato, chairman of the Terlato Wine Group. Lots of the interview made it into one of my Grape Collective columns.

While going through some notes, I came across the full transcript of our conversation — and realized that it’s a fascinating read. Terlato has spent nearly 60 years in the wine industry, so has an endless number of stories to share.

Check out the interview below!

David White: Let’s go way back in time. In 1955, you were working for your dad in his wine shop. A year later, your future father-in-law invited you to join his wine bottling and distribution company. Did you ever have a choice — or did you feel like you had to follow in the family footsteps and join the wine industry? You were being pressured on both sides!

Tony Terlato: It was intriguing when he asked me, but I was friends with Guy Armanetti. You know the chain of liquor stores? He was my handball partner. My thought in my mind was to do the same thing that Armanetti did, open up maybe 8 or 10 stores in different parts of the city. I liked the retail business. It was a lot of hours and 7 days a week, but I liked it and I liked the idea what we were doing.

We had a big wine section. It was 80 feet on one side with all the bottles lying down, 4 shelves high. Top shelf was standing up, bottom shelf was standing up with gallons and stuff and the three middle shelves were all wines lying down. I started in 1955, so I had the benefit of ’47, ’49, ’53 and the ‘45’s. I had the benefit of some marvelous wines that we were selling in the store and I liked that.

My father-in-law was a wine bottler and he would buy wine. At that time, he was buying wine from Gallo and bottling it in Chicago. We were selling gallons of the stuff — it used to sell for 79 cents per gallon! A fifth of Italian Swiss Colony was 49 cents per gallon at that time. I was hesitant to go join my father-in-law, because that wasn’t what I wanted to do. But my father suggested I try it, since it was an opportunity. My father-in-law only had two salesmen working at the time for him at the time, so I became the third.

After I told my father-in-law I would join his team, Bob Mondavi called me because we took our honeymoon to his winery in Napa and I then learned that he was the one who told my father-in-law to get me out of the store!

But when you decided to work in wine, you were more interested in the retail side than the bottling side?

Right, because of the quality of the products that we were selling. At the store, we were selling single malts. My father had 70 imported beers. It was 1955!  We were a center for imported beers. People would come from 20, 30 miles away because his selection was so large. The wine section was equally as impressive, all things that were high-end.

Did you fall in love with wine?

We attracted the premium customer of that time. I liked it, selling gallons on Madison Street, pushing guys who were sleeping on the floor in the liquor stores out of the way to get my order. I wore a tie and a shirt and a jacket. When I was in those neighborhoods, I looked like a flying milk bottle, the way I was dressed. But I wasn’t happy there, so told my father I needed to get out.

Let’s talk about that trip to Napa and when you fell in love with wine. You’re working in this retail shop, so you’re tasting ’47, ’49, ’53, some of the greatest Bordeaux vintages ever. Then you go to Napa on your honeymoon. Was that decision made because you were in love with wine?

No, not really. I came from New York — so I didn’t need to go back to New York for my honeymoon. I spoke to my wife and asked where she wanted to go, and I’m sure she said California. I had never been there, so that sounded great. When Bob Mondavi found out — I think he might have even been at the wedding, and I guess my father-in-law told him we were going to be in California — he said we had to go spend some time with me.

So on our honeymoon, I’d get up at 6:00 in the morning and go with him and Peter [Mondavi] and we would taste wines. Of course, you spend time with Bob, he makes you fall in love with quality. He was doing Charles Krug at the time.

What was Napa Valley like back in the ‘60s? Read the rest of this entry »

Daily Wine News: Mostly Psychological

Posted by | Posted in Wine News | Posted on 09-09-2014

Flickr, Frank Fujimoto.

Flickr, Frank Fujimoto.

“The primary position that I hold is that a winemaker should be able to make whatever style of wine she or he chooses and that includes alcohol levels.” Joe Roberts sits down with Siduri’s Adam Lee.

“It seems that the effects of the Riedel glassware are psychological more than scientific.” In VinePair, Batya Ungar-Sargon wonders if we are “wasting hundreds of millions of dollars on wine glasses every year.”

“In a corner of eastern Piedmont you probably haven’t heard of, Walter Massa is considered something of a prophet.” In Wine Spectator, Robert Camuto pays a visit.

“The eno-blogosphere has been almost as active as the mountain’s Strombolian eruptions.” In Wine-Searcher, Alfonso Cevola explains why Etna is a big deal.

Across northern California, wineries are evaluating the safety of barrel rooms after the recent earthquake.

Jennifer Huffman reports that “the producers of BottleRock 2014 announced plans to co-host an earthquake relief concert at the Napa Valley Expo on Sunday Sept. 28.”

Jon Bonné offers a pocket guide on “what to drink with oysters.”

Union Wine Company — the producer of Underwood Pinot in a Can – has released some fun videos mocking wine culture.

“Beaune is a wine lover’s city, not a city for days of museum-going or sightseeing. But if you wish to get a sense of the culture of Burgundy, whose people so largely work in the industry with enormous pride that they produce some of the world’s greatest wines, then Beaune should be your center.” John Mariani visits Beaune.

Daily Wine News: A Hoot

Posted by | Posted in Wine News | Posted on 09-08-2014

Lafite Rothschild. Flickr, BillBl.

Lafite Rothschild. Flickr, BillBl.

“She was a hoot, and sharp as a tack. She constantly regaled those around her in French or English, while everyone nodded somewhat sycophantically.” Dave McIntyre remembers Baroness Philippine de Rothschild.

In the Wall Street Journal Europe, Will Lyons wonders if a wine from Chile is ever worth $1370.

Eric Asimov announces his next wine school: Chianti Classico.

“There is this great movement now in the Finger Lakes, finally. Small wineries are starting to push quality levels.” In Wine Spectator, Esther Mobley chats with Fred Merwarth, the owner and winemaker at Hermann J. Wiemer.

Alder Yarrow tastes through the latest releases from Hourglass.

In Wine-Searcher, W. Blake Gray suggests a few offbeat ideas for wine lovers planning a trip to the West Coast.

In Decanter, Andrew Jefford attempts to define “vinosity.”

In 7×7, Marcia Gagliardi offers “some ideas on new things happening in downtown Napa, all designed to inspire you to head on up and show some much-needed support.”

Cameron Hughes continues to grow.

“Even though much of my time here has been spent chronicling the city’s drinking habits, I remain mystified by this shortfall.” Jon Bonné goes hunting for San Francisco’s best hotel bars.

Weekly Interview: Pierre Seillan

Posted by | Posted in Interviews | Posted on 09-05-2014

Pierre SeillanEach week, as regular readers know, we pose a series of questions to a winemaker. This week, we’re featuring Pierre Seillan, a revered veteran of the industry. Pierre is the current winemaker at six properties sprawled across multiple winemaking areas: Vérité and Anakota in Sonoma County, Château Lassègue and Château Vignot in Saint-Émilion, Arcanum Valadorna in Tuscany, and Bellevue Seillan in Gascony.

It was at the very last property on that list – Bellevue Seillan, a family estate – that Pierre began his wine career. Pierre then did some work in the Loire Valley and Bordeaux. But Pierre’s real breakout project came some time later – and on the other side of the Atlantic Ocean. In the mid-1990s, Pierre came to America, to Sonoma, and created Vérité. Vérité’s wines have garnered high praise from the critics, including seven 100 point scores from Robert Parker. Unsurprisingly, that achievement opened even more doors for Pierre. He quickly expanded his portfolio to the current list of six properties.

Check out our interview with Pierre below the fold. Read the rest of this entry »

Daily Wine News: Obscure Fascination

Posted by | Posted in Wine News | Posted on 09-05-2014

Flickr, Damian Liszatynski

Flickr, Damian Liszatynski

Jameson Fink takes James Laube to task for his recent missive about sommeliers.

“Sommeliers… are fascinated by the obscure, the different and the rare because, like the chefs at the restaurants they work in, they are constantly looking for new ways to engage with and excite diners and drinkers.” Max Allen comments on the recent “Oz somm spat.” His piece has all the relevant links if you need to catch up on the fight.

“If a guest says to me, ‘This wine is bad,’ I don’t argue with them… But it’s also my job to let people know what they are getting into when they order a bottle of wine that is sailing the seas of ‘natural’ or is somehow unusual.” In the Stranger, Marc Papineau comments on new challenges sommeliers are facing as the wine industry “moves toward a less manipulated, less processed, more ‘authentic’ style.”

Alfonso Cevola finds “two wine blogs that are bright lights in a forest of darkness.”

In Medium, Rob Millis reviews CellarTracker’s mobile app.

“Aging frat boys become rosé drinkers because they like sweet things and don’t want to get fat.” In First We Feast, Chris Schonberger comments on the “Bro-sé Effect.”

Forbes lists “Five New Destinations For Wine Lovers.”

In Illinois, Republican gubernatorial candidate Bruce Rauner has discovered that a $140,000 wine club can be a political liability.

“So, he called up several leading yoga instructors, a couple of his favorite bands and one of his favorite winemakers and asked them to go on tour.” In the Atlanta Journal Constitution, Gil Kulers writes about the four tenets of Michael Franti’s life: Music, yoga, charity, and good wine & food.