Lodi Native’s Old Vine Zins Shine in 2014

Posted by | Posted in Wine Reviews | Posted on 08-19-2017

A centenarian vine in Marian's Vineyard. Credit: Lodi Wine

A centenarian vine in Marian’s Vineyard. Credit: Lodi Wine

Lodi is a gold mine of delicious, fascinating wines. Old vines, tons of relatively obscure grape varieties, winemakers carving out their own style.

Perhaps one of my favorite wine developments from this region has been Lodi Native, a cooperative project between six like-minded winemakers. They each source Zinfandel from very old vines in a specific vineyard, and craft the wine using native yeast fermentation, no new oak.

Lodi Native Zins are dynamic, delicious expressions of Lodi terroir. To taste them all side-by-side is a real treat, and I was surprised again by the uniqueness of each vineyard and the dynamism of the Zinfandel grape. If you’re a Zin-head, you need to taste these. If you’re a Zin skeptic convinced you hold justifiable derision for the wines, try these wines and let the scales fall from your eyes.

Most of the wines come from the sub-appellation of Mokelumne River, although one wine is sourced from an old vineyard in Clements Hills. 2014 is the third vintage of this cooperative endeavor, and I think it’s the best I’ve tasted (although the 2013 and 2012 iterations are both excellent). The wines are available as a six-pack only, for a total of $180. (Click here for more information).

I received these wines as trade samples and tasted them sighted. Read the rest of this entry »

Daily Wine News: Look to Alsace

Posted by | Posted in Wine News | Posted on 08-18-2017

Vineyards in Alsace. (Wikimedia)

Vineyards in Alsace. (Wikimedia)

In the New York Times, Eric Asimov says it’s time for a deeper look at Alsatian wines. “The best wine lists in New York may have only a handful of Alsatian bottles, and the hipper lists none at all. Yet no region in France has a higher percentage of organic or biodynamic growers than Alsace, which theoretically should attract the keepers of natural wine lists.”

In Decanter, Jane Anson uncovers some long-lost gems in Roussillon, and wonders if rare grapes are the future of the region.

In Vinous, Antonio Galloni explores the 2016 Bordeaux vintage and considers the importance of the wines’ pricing for Bordeaux’s future.

In VinePair, Courtney Schiessl considers the monetary pressure sommeliers face when it comes to buying wine. “Part of this pressure comes from sommelier culture. Whether or not somms are willing to state it outright, there is often the notion that industry members have lofty expectations.”

The latest data from Nielsen shows that sales of wine and spirits in the U.S. grew at a faster rate than beer sales in the past year.

Jennifer Fiedler looks at how a number of sommeliers are turning to winemaking in SevenFifty Daily.

In Wine-Searcher, James Lawrence looks at the sense of optimism Washington and Oregon wineries that have invested in Malbec have.

Hipsters are reviving sherry sales in the U.K., reports Food & Wine.

Daily Wine News: Duckhorn Buys Calera

Posted by | Posted in Wine News | Posted on 08-17-2017

caleraDuckhorn Wine Company has acquired Calera Wine Company, which has been referred to as “California’s Romanée-Conti”. The sale includes the Calera winery, time-honored brand, tasting room, estate vineyards, and all inventory and assets.

Esther Mobley reports on the sale in the San Francisco Chronicle. “Duckhorn wasn’t looking to buy a winery, said the company’s longtime president and CEO, Alex Ryan, but “when we happened to come across an extraordinary brand, we had no choice but to consider it.””

“By taking the preciousness out of wine service and by bolstering by-the-glass offerings, fast-casual restaurants showcase the pleasures of a fine-dining experience in 30 minutes or less.” In SevenFifty Daily, Shana Clarke looks at how fast-casual restaurants are approaching wine lists.

Can one man change the way an entire city thinks about wine? In VinePair, Adam Teeter profiles Patrick Cappiello, who is opening “a potentially game-changing new restaurant,” Walnut St. Cafe in Philadelphia. “Resisting wine snobbery is arguably the definitive characteristic of Cappiello’s impressive career.”

In Wine & Spirits Magazine, Wolfgang Weber talks with Ceri Smith of Biondivino in San Francisco about their shared passion for Ligurian wine.

In Decanter, Chris Mercer reports on the inaccuracies of Trump’s name-dropping his Virginia winery during a press conference on white supremacist violence in Charlottesville.

On the blog for First Vine, Tom Natan highlights a spaghetti recipe that includes one whole bottle of wine (!).

In Vinous, Josh Raynolds offers his thoughts on the 2015 vintage in Châteauneuf-du-Pape.


Daily Wine News: Dennis Martin Tributes

Posted by | Posted in Wine News | Posted on 08-16-2017

Dennis Martin, courtesy of Fetzer.

Dennis Martin (Photo courtesy of Fetzer.)

Wine Spectator reports that Dennis Martin, whose career at California’s Fetzer Vineyards spanned 30 years, died Aug. 13 after battling prostate cancer. He was 69.

Giancarlo Bianchetti, CEO of Fetzer Vineyards, pays tribute to Dennis Martin. “Dennis Martin was a terrific winemaker and inspiring colleague who left an indelible mark on those he knew.”

It’s hard to talk about wine without addressing elegance, terroir and minerality, says Matt Kramer in Wine Spectator. “Are they all overused? They sure are….But precisely because these words are so vital to fine wine—and because they have no comparable equivalents to take up the slack if banished from our vocabularies—we have no choice but to keep them employed, if only more judiciously.”

In Maxim, Jason Wilson suggests traveling to French wine regions beyond the well trodden Bordeaux and Burgundy.

In Meininger’s, Wojciech Bońkowski reports from the Italian-Slovenian border about how winemakers of two nationalities work hand in hand toward a new future.

In Wine-Searcher, W. Blake Gray profiles François Morissette of Chamboulé Winery, a Canadian natural wine enthusiast making waves in California.

Roger Morris explores Sardinian wines beyond cannonau in Palate Press.

Bloomberg does a tasting of 10 canned wines and recommends the ones they liked best.


Daily Wine News: Parker’s Successors

Posted by | Posted in Wine News | Posted on 08-15-2017

Robert_Parker“Parker’s influence is much greater than everyone else’s… The jury is still out as to the impact of his successors.” In the Drinks Business, Philip Staveley looks at how Robert Parker’s retirement has impacted fine wine prices and offers an analysis of the impact of The Wine Advocate opinion on wine price movement.

In VinePair, Kathleen Willcox wonders how the local wine shop will survive in the age of Amazon. “Retailers like Astor Wine & Spirits – one of the most beloved and well-established stores in the world – are probably safe… But everyone else? They should, as Galloway pointed out, be very frightened indeed.”

Amanda Barnes reveals how Argentina’s appellation system is changing in SevenFifty Daily. “The future of premium Argentine wine is undoubtedly in regional identity. It’s no surprise that this movement of new appellations is concentrated in the Uco Valley, which has seen a 65 percent increase in vineyards over the last decade…”

Grape Collective talks to Michael Seresin­ — a cinematographer whose work includes Midnight Express, Fame, Dawn of the Planet of the Apes, and more — about biodynamics, movies and why helicopters are a good business in New Zealand wine country.

In Wine Enthusiast, Steve Dollar talks to journalist Peter Hellman about his new book, In Vino Duplicitas, in which he tells the story of how Rudy K fooled the wine world.

Liza B. Zimmerman covers the trendiness of chilled reds in Meininger’s.

Jamie Goode explores the wines of Mexico at Texsom.

GQ taste tests the Game of Thrones wines. “They were all, not super surprisingly, not great.”

Book Review: In Vino Duplicitas: The Rise and Fall of a Wine Forger Extraordinaire, by Peter Hellman

Posted by | Posted in Book Reviews | Posted on 08-14-2017

In Vino Duplicitas - Book CoverPeter Hellman’s In Vino Duplicitas is the best account to date of super-taster turned wine forger Rudy Kurniawan‘s elaborate con of the upper set. It’s also a delight to read.

Hellman, longtime contributor to Wine Spectator, has been on the journalistic front lines of the Rudy story since the beginning. He was there at the infamous Acker Merrall & Condit auction of April 25, 2008, when Burgundian winemaker Laurent Ponsot compelled the removal of several of his domaine’s wines from bidding. The consigner of the dubious Ponsots had of course been Rudy.

“Hey, Rudy, what happened with those Ponsot wines?” Hellman asked. “We try to do the right thing,” answered Rudy, “but it’s burgundy. Shit happens.”

That Hellman actually interacted with Rudy, and engaged with the story as it unfolded, adds a level of credibility to the book, and makes it all the more compelling. (Apart from the epilogue, that is, where compelling turns to creepy as Hellman talks about his visits to California’s Taft Correctional Institution and a failed attempt with a pair of binoculars to spot Rudy in the exercise yard.)

As is the privilege of text, In Vino Duplicitas is rich in detail, far more so than previous accounts of the Rudy story, most notably the 2016 documentary Sour Grapes (my review), which is still an excellent overview. Hellman’s book just goes deeper.

I was pleased to see in the book a more robust history of Rudy’s fakery, including some of his earliest cons. Between 2003 and 2005, Brian Devine, then CEO and chairman of Petco, was sold $5.3 million in wine, which later proved to be “amateurishly fabricated,” by an online seller named “Leny,” who was in fact Rudy. During this same period, a noted collector with a more trained palate discovered a “uniform oxidative quality” in the hundreds-of-thousands of dollars worth of wine he’d purchased from Rudy. But in that case a refund was given, so the forging scheme remained undetected.

Hellman’s book also includes selections from Rudy’s email correspondence, the tone of which vacillates between confidence and urgency, and affability and anger. Rudy’s trial, too, gets its own chapter. Noteworthy there is a look at the strategies of both defense and prosecution.

While In Vino Duplicitas is the most comprehensive account so far written, questions still remain. Like, where did Rudy’s money really come from? Did he have accomplices, either foreign or domestic? And how many Rudy bottles are still in circulation? Despite the millions spent by Bill Koch, a serial victim of wine forgery, to unearth the truth about Rudy, the story sits irritatingly incomplete.

My Recommendation
I can’t recommend In Vino Duplicitas enough! I read this book lying oceanside on my honeymoon in Belize, so maybe I’m biased, but it’s the most captivating thing I’ve read all year. Hellman has really done his research and written something that will appeal to any and all who appreciate wine and/or enjoy tales of true crime in high society.

Daily Wine News: Saving Historic Zin

Posted by | Posted in Wine News | Posted on 08-14-2017



Esther Mobley reports on how vintners are rallying to preserve Russian River Valley’s historic zinfandel vineyards in the San Francisco Chronicle. “When asked what their plans are for these properties, these newcomers all voice the same, unequivocal answer: Heck yes they’re keeping the Zin.”

Bradbury Kuett explores the love affair between the late Jim Harrison and Domaine Tempier. “The exultant, unabashedly richly textured mouthfeel of Mourvèdre in the red wines of Domaine Tempier was Harrison’s reverie, his lyric.”

Jancis Robinson offers tips for finding good-value, vintage-dated wines. “One way round the difficulty of squaring suitable vintage year with depth of pocket is to look for solera wines carrying the year when the solera was established.”

““What do you look for in a wine?” is not really an easy question to answer,” says the Washington Post’s Dave McIntyre , who does his best to explain how to evaluate a wine’s quality. “I emphasize the three stages of tasting wine: the attack, the middle and the finish.”

In VinePair, Laura Burgess considers the potential of hybrid grapes.

Elsewhere in VinePair, Madison Margolin looks at how rosé is disrupting Champagne’s grip on affordable luxury.

Sean P. Sullivan ponders the diversity of Washington state wines in Wine Enthusiast.

In the Wall Street Journal, Lettie Teague explores what it takes to be a sommelier. (subscription req.)

Wine Reviews: Virginia Wines

Posted by | Posted in Wine Reviews | Posted on 08-13-2017

Stinson is one of my favorite Virginia wine producers, and the Chardonnay and Pinot Noir from Ankida Ridge have been causing a justifiable stir for a few years now. I recently tasted wines from both producers, and found all sorts of reasons to get excited about the future of Virginia wine. If producers like these keep putting out wines like these, the best is yet to come. These wines were received as trade samples and tasted sighted. Read the rest of this entry »

Wine Reviews: International Grab Bag

Posted by | Posted in Wine Reviews | Posted on 08-12-2017

I’m back with another grab bag of wines from all over the world.

I was really surprised by three Greek white wines from Domaine Papagiannakos. Made from the Savatiano grape, traditionally used for the production of Restina, these are dry, zesty, complex white wines with unique flavor profiles.

There are some tasty, inexpensive rosés, and some delicious and value-driven wines from New Zealand.

These wines were received as trade samples and tasted sighted. Read the rest of this entry »

Daily Wine News: A Case For White Rioja

Posted by | Posted in Wine News | Posted on 08-11-2017

R. Lopez de Heredia Vina Tondonia Reserva Blanco, a widely-loved White Rioja.

R. Lopez de Heredia Vina Tondonia Reserva Blanco, a widely-loved White Rioja.

In the New York Times, Eric Asimov and the wine panel explore White Rioja. “It is fair to say that white Rioja is not exactly a well-known wine, nor is it well understood. Many people are not even aware of its existence… The most surprising element in our tasting was the relative absence of fresh young whites…”

In RobertParker.com’s Wine Journal, R.H. Drexel meets the women of the newly formed group called Women in Wine, Central Coast. “I did notice that throughout the night, the women with whom I tasted mentioned flaws in wine much less often than my male friends, and that intrigued me. I enjoyed tasting for the positives in a wine, rather than searching for its faults.”

Eater has an excerpt of Peter Hellman’s new book, In Vino Duplicitas, about Rudy K and the biggest wine hoax in history.

In the San Francisco Chronicle, Mark C. Anderson takes a look at the year in California wine.

A new study suggests that frequent, moderate alcohol consumption might lower chance of developing Type 2 diabetes. Wine Spectator reports on the findings.

Grape Collective chats with Federica Nardello about Soave and her family’s love of the Garganega grape.

On the blog for Coastal Vineyard Care Associates, Heather Daenitz discusses crop thinning with the owners. “Thinning is all about vine balance; balancing the leaf surface with the crop load…”

Thomas Pellechia shares his excitement for Hungary’s dry furmint in Forbes.