Wine Reviews: California New Releases

Posted by | Posted in Wine Reviews | Posted on 03-25-2017

It’s time for a round-up of new releases from California. I gathered together some of the samples I’d received over the winter and early spring and collected them into this catch-all report.

I recommend a lot of small production, hard-to-find wines from California (because those are the greatest), but it can be harder to find larger production, widely-available wines from California that deliver deliciousness and some excitement. The Q Wines are available in retail stores nationwide from WX brands, and they really deliver in their price points and availability.

The Eighty-Four Wines are the result of a project between Elias Fernandez and Doug Shafter, named after the year in which they began making wine together. And we have a Chard and a Pinot from Alder Fels. Lastly, throw in some Cabs and blends from Napa producers Silverado Vineyards, Rombauer, and Shafer. Most of those wines need time but are great examples of the beautiful reds coming out of Napa from the 2013 and 2014 vintages. Read the rest of this entry »

Daily Wine News: A Mission Revival

Posted by | Posted in Wine News | Posted on 03-24-2017

Mission grapes growing around Santa Barbara, California, circa 1875. (Wikimedia)

Mission grapes growing around Santa Barbara, California, circa 1875. (Wikimedia)

In the San Francisco Chronicle, Esthey Mobley explores the mission grape revival in California, and wonders if there’s any weight behind the trend. “It all makes a good story, maybe too good of a story. The ur-vine, the parent of California viticulture — the history of the Mission grape calls irresistibly to our nostalgia… But as a wine drinker, I fear that Mission wine, whether dry or fortified, delivers more pleasure from novelty than from taste.”

E. & J. Gallo has agreed to buy Stagecoach Vineyard, a 1,300-acre site on Pritchard Hill in Napa Valley, reports Mitch Frank in Wine Spectator.

In Wine Enthusiast, Paul Gregutt and Sean P. Sullivan look at the Oregon and Washington winemakers that are crossing state lines to find the best grapes.

Champagne Mumm has released its anticipated 2002 vintage of the Cuvée R. Lalou, the house’s grand marque. In Wine-Searcher, Claire Adamson gets a taste and calls it “an exceptional wine.”

In Decanter, Jane Anson meets with “the last little guys of Pauillac.”

Aaron Menenberg puts together a tasting of 24 wines from Ontario and attempts to come to some conclusions about the region as a whole. “There are clearly people in Ontario making good and interesting wine, and if more can sharpen their craft it’s a region that could well rise in status in the wine world.”

In Bon Appétit, Marissa A. Ross ponders what makes a good lunch wine.

In Vinous, Ian D’Agata offers his thoughts on the 2015s and late-released 2014s from Alsace.



Daily Wine News: A Drip-Free Bottle

Posted by | Posted in Wine News | Posted on 03-23-2017

(Flickr: theloushe)

(Flickr: theloushe)

“Current wine bottle designs date to the early 1800s and haven’t changed much since. About 200 years of drips, drabs, stains and spots may be coming to an end” because a Brandeis University biophysicist has developed a drip-free wine bottle.

Food & Wine’s 2017 Sommeliers of the Year select their favorite wines.

Isaac James Baker hit the trails—including wine trails—in Arizona, and discovered that a combination of elevation, climate, soil and a long wine history makes the area an exciting wine destination for the adventurous.

W. Blake Gray is feeling overwhelmed by wine education. “It’s all so much. My favorite type of wine education is to drink a glass of wine and THEN learn why it is the way it is.”

The Alcohol Professor’s Christine Campbell talks terroir with terroir expert Pedro Parra.

In Wine Enthusiast, Michael Schachner looks at how Chile’s recent wildfires have impacted local wineries and vineyards.

In Palate Press, W. Blake Gray dives into Brunello and now feels like he finally understands it.

Jeannie Cho Lee profiles Lalou Bize-Leroy, “the Queen of Burgundy.”

In the New York Times, Jennifer Senior reviews Bianca Bosker’s book, Cork Dork.

Daily Wine News: Fake Rossi Products

Posted by | Posted in Wine News | Posted on 03-22-2017

One of the Facebook posts promoting fake Carlo Rossi products.

One of the Facebook posts promoting fake Carlo Rossi products.

Adweek looks at Carlo Rossi’s strange Facebook success with posts about products that exist only in the minds of the marketing team—like “Rossi bath bombs” and “Rossi on tap.” “The team has more than doubled the brand’s fan base without spending a dollar on follows while also introducing the wine to a young audience.”

A group of ten people have been arrested by police in Modena, Italy for stealing more than $250,000 in fine wines and gourmet cheeses (16,000 bottles of wine—worth about $140,000—and 168 wheels of parmesan). According to TIME, the sting is being called “Operation Wine and Cheese.”

In Wine Spectator, Matt Kramer considers the influence of context—our companions, the time of day, accompanying food, glass shape and size—on our experience of a wine.

In Punch, Wayne Curtis traces the relationship between sherry and Scotch, and explores the importance of sherry barrels to Scotch’s flavor profile.

Ed Sheeran has purchased a property in Umbria with a vineyard. ““I didn’t want to buy in Tuscany because there are too many English people there,” he said.

In the Drinks Business, Mike Edmunds discusses how the beverage industry can better track allergen awareness in drinks.

Decanter tracks international Champagne sales and exports.

Josh Raynolds offers his thoughts on 2015 Châteauneuf-du-Pape in Vinous.

In Wine Enthusiast, Maggie Hoffman gets to know Barolo Chinato.


Daily Wine News: Fermentation Vessels

Posted by | Posted in Wine News | Posted on 03-21-2017

Amphora. (Flickr: Khuroshvili Ilya)

Amphora. (Flickr: Khuroshvili Ilya)

“…have you ever heard of a wine tasting “concrete-y?” Or “amphora-y”? Concrete, clay and glass vessels have their own unique impact on a wine’s flavor.” In Wine Enthusiast, Rachel Signer looks at the ways winemakers are experimenting with different ways to ferment wine—from amphorae to eggs and even glass.

In Decanter, Andrew Jefford provides argues that the Crozes-Hermitage appellation offers some of the best value in the highly praised 2015 Rhône vintage, and offers tasting notes on some of his favorite wines.

Henry Lutz reports on the springtime growing season in Napa vineyards in the Napa Valley Register.

In the New York Times, Thomas Fuller reports on the marijuana industry in California’s wine country. “Sonoma County, known to the world for its wines, is these days a seedbed of cannabis experimentation.”

In Wine-Searcher, W. Blake Gray meets the family behind Boscarelli, which he argues makes the best Vino Nobile di Montepulciano.

Joshua Green talks with Ed Zimmerman about Meursault in Wine & Spirits Magazine.

In VinePair, Nick Hines on “a day in the life of a wine publicist.”

Elsewhere in VinePair, Nick Hines delves into the history of wine drinking in Japan.

In the Washington Post, Dave McIntyre visits RdV Vineyards in Deplane, Virginia.

Daily Wine News: “Ignore the Snobs”

Posted by | Posted in Wine News | Posted on 03-20-2017

wine-890371_1280“Connoisseurs consider processed wines the enological equivalent of processed foods, if not worse. The natural winemaker Anselme Selosse maintains that chemical futzing “lobotomizes the wine. But they are wrong,” says Bianca Bosker, who pens a defense of mass-market wines in the New York Times. “These maligned bottles have a place. The time has come to learn to love unnatural wines.”

Alfonso Cevola reflects on gateway wines. “Don’t worry about how you got here. If Barefoot brought you, so be it. If Gaja was your gateway, count yourself lucky (and pecuniarily propitious). We are overwhelmed with commercially produced, industrialized wine. And as well, we are admonished, regularly, by influencers, to only place pure, organic, special stuff into the temples that are our bodies. But you have to start – somewhere.”

In the Los Angeles Times, Natalie Kitroeff and Geoffrey Mohan report on the desperate labor shortage California winemakers and farmers after facing after Trump’s immigration crackdown.

Jancis Robinson takes a journey to Mexican wine country. “Locals may hate the comparison but the Valle de Guadalupe reminded me of nothing more than a slightly untidy Napa Valley.”

In Grape Collective, Anthony Lynch, son of pioneer importer Kermit Lynch discusses joining the family business, natural wine, and growing up around iconic winemakers.

In Meininger’s, Jeff Siegel explores the slowdown of the U.S. wine boom.

Stephen Tanzer on the 2014 red Burgundies in Vinous: “this is a lovely classic midweight vintage with real éclat—the sixth or seventh best of the past 25 years…”

In Wine-Searcher, Margaret Rand shares her thoughts of the 2015 Bordeaux wines.

Wine Reviews: Smith-Madrone

Posted by | Posted in Wine Reviews | Posted on 03-18-2017


Credit: Smith-Madrone

When it comes to old-school, time-tested Napa producers, I have so much respect for Smith-Madrone. And on top of being an historic piece of the Napa wine puzzle, this winery continues, vintage after vintage, releasing exciting, even thrilling wines.

Founded in the early 70s, (the first vintage was ’77) Smith-Madrone’s winery is located on Spring Mountain, west of St. Helena. The operation is run by brothers Stuart Smith, managing partner and vineyard manager, Charles Smith III, winemaker, and Sam Smith, assistant winemaker. Their estate vines cling to steep slopes between 1,300 and 2,000 feet in elevation on soils of red, stony clay. A pioneer of dry farming in Napa, Smith-Madrone produces about 4,000 cases a year of dynamic and lively wines, which consistently show a sense of refreshment, purity and minerality, in addition to that deep, mountain Napa fruit. And, perhaps most exciting of all, the prices are so reasonable when compared with many other Napa wines of this quality and provenance.

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

Weekly Interview: Brandon Lapides

Posted by | Posted in Interviews | Posted on 03-17-2017

Brandon Lapides

Brandon Lapides

Each week, as our regular readers know, we pose a series of questions to a winemaker. This week, we are featuring Brandon Lapides, the winemaker at Armida Winery.

Brandon’s path to winemaking resembles many of our paths to wine appreciation. Growing up, Brandon saw that his grandfather collected wine — and did so seriously, buying among other things two cases of 1961 Chateau Latour — and so Brandon naturally developed an interest in wine, as he watched his grandfather open bottles at dinner. Born in Ithaca, the site of one prominent enology school, Brandon studied fementation science at another prominent enology school, UC Davis. After graduating, Brandon spent some time in New Zealand, before returning to California first and to Sonoma County in particular soon thereafter. In 2010, he joined Armida Wines.

Armida Winery was founded by brothers Steve and Bruce Cousins about twenty years ago. The estate produces several bottlings of Zinfandel, Pinot Noir, and Chardonnay from purchased fruits, and also produced a field blend of Zinfandel and Petite Syrah from a seven-acre estate vineyard.

Check out the interview below the fold!

Read the rest of this entry »

Daily Wine News: Wine Club Challenges

Posted by | Posted in Wine News | Posted on 03-17-2017

pouring-wine-1952051_1280“If wineries insist that clubs can only be built from people visiting the tasting room, you are purposefully ignoring the other 99% of the population that wont ever visit your tasting room.” Rob McMillan considers the tough questions wine clubs face.

In the San Francisco Chronicle, Stacy Briscoe explores the Clarksburg AVA. “90 percent of the grapes grown in Clarksburg are sold outside the county, predominantly to neighboring Napa Valley. But you’d never know it…Despite that 90 percent figure, there has been a recent increase in the number of vintners who want to keep more Clarksburg fruit in Clarksburg.”

Wine-Searcher’s Adam Lechmere reports on Bordeaux en Primeur and the 2016 vintage. “This up-and-down season is reflected in the character of the wines. Many are delightfully perfumed, the aromas leaping out of the glass, presaging something soft, sweet and rounded on the palate. But then come mighty tannins, especially in the Cabernet-based wines”

In Wine Enthusiast, Risa Wyatt offers tips for bicycling through wine country.

Heidi Barrett reflects on wine, pirates, helicopters and what 100-point scores really mean in the Napa Valley Register.

In the New York Times, Eric Asimov tests more than 50 different wine glasses and recommends the ones he liked best.

Ben O’Donnell looks a new wave of refined styles of grappa and their kinship with wine in Wine Spectator.

In Edible Manhattan, Eileen M. Duffy recommends wines made in New York State.

Daily Wine News: Bordeaux Awakening

Posted by | Posted in Wine News | Posted on 03-16-2017

La Cité du Vin in Bordeaux.

La Cité du Vin in Bordeaux.

“Despite being one of the world’s major wine industry capitals, the city was known for years as La Belle Endormie, or Sleeping Beauty, as much for the smoke-blackened walls of its center as for its sleepy, overlooked reputation.” In the New York Times, Charly Wilder celebrates the state of food and wine in Bordeaux. “But in the last two decades, Bordeaux has come awake.”

On the blog for First Vine, Tom Natan offers a few more thoughts on sustainability and wine—this time about non-environmental aspects of sustainability, and the additional cost that consumers claim they’ll pay for wines from producers that are certified sustainable.

Meg Houston Maker tastes through four decades of Napa Cabernet Sauvignon and wrestles with how to describe the experience. “Some say wine is bottled poetry, but it’s just a bottled liquid…the infinity of its other qualities, the vectors of flavor and affect and essence, are riotously incalculable. All we have for any wine is what we taste right now, descriptions of a genie released.”

“This generation, mine, is the one that will shape wine programs going forward. So what exactly does that mean?” In Seattle Weekly, Zach Geballe reflects on what millennials want from their wine.

Wine coolers are back, says Adam Erace, who explores artisanal offerings in Bloomberg.

In Edible Manhattan, Eileen M. Duffy gives a short recap of this year’s Slow Wine Tour.

In Wine Enthusiast, Anna Lee C. Iijima covers the growing world of New York State wines—from Long Island to the Finger Lakes.

In Vogue, Michaela Trimble on the new era of wine production in Argentina.