America’s Thirst for Wine Insatiable, Despite Rise of Cocktails, Craft Beer

Posted by | Posted in White's Wines | Posted on 09-30-2014

From wikipedia.

From wikipedia.

As regular readers know, I write a free, twice monthly wine column that’s distributed to newspapers across the country.

These columns are hosted by Grape Collective. If you don’t see my column in your local newspaper, please send an email to your paper’s editor and CC me (David – at –

In my latest column, I explain why the wine industry has nothing to fear from cocktails and craft beer.

America’s Thirst for Wine Insatiable, Despite Rise of Cocktails, Craft Beer

Wine industry executives are worried about the growing interest in craft beer and spirits from America’s 20- and 30-somethings. That’s one takeaway from a fascinating new survey of the wine industry’s top executives by Robert Smiley, dean and professor emeritus at the University of California Davis Graduate School of Management.

Smiley’s survey is conducted each year and always generates headlines, since Smiley is able to connect with some of wine’s heaviest hitters. This year, for instance, senior executives at E&J Gallo, The Wine Group, and Constellation Brands participated. The nation’s three largest wine companies, these firms account for nearly half the wine sold in the United States.

Worrying about America’s 75 million millennials makes sense. But fearing millennials’ interest in craft beer and spirits is misguided. America’s thirst for wine appears insatiable.

Check out the rest of the piece on Grape Collective!

Daily Wine News: Soulful & Expressive

Posted by | Posted in Wine News | Posted on 09-30-2014

forlorn hope 1“It’s important to respect traditions, or to revise them in a respectful way. Offbeat for the sake of offbeat isn’t sustainable. But craft isn’t simply about doing things as they were done before. Today’s winemaker needs to play both classical and freestyle.” Jon Bonné explains why if you “continue to fear the unfamiliar… one day you [will] find yourself shouting at kids to get off your lawn.”

“The result are soulful, expressive wines with a wild, almost feral component, as if you can taste blood, granite, iron ore and, yes, sweat in the wines. I mean this in the best possible way.” Eric Asimov praises the wines of Cornas.

“Changing your subjective filter will deliver new results and perspectives, but for wines with a long track record, sighted tasting is liable to provide the most profound pleasure of all.” In Decanter, Andrew Jefford comes out as “a label drinker.”

“I can’t fully give him a pass, but I love seeing someone who never had much interest in wine become fully captured by it.” In Palate Press, Evan Dawson tentatively recommends Shadows in the Vineyard.

“After fast-forwarding from zero to Lafite in less than two decades, China’s wine market is finally doing what it should have done at the beginning. It’s easing back into user-friendly, entry-level wines.” On CNN, Kristie Lu Stout explores China’s wine scene.

“Think about your coffee as you do wine, and you’ll drink better brew.” In the Village Voice, Lauren Mowery offers some sound advice.

Shanken News Daily chats with Annette Alvarez-Peters Of Costco.

“Is Pinot Blanc about as exciting as the Laffer curve?” In Grape Collective, Jameson Fink wonders if anyone gets excited about drinking Pinot Blanc.

“Duckhorn Vineyards is not the first California winery to explore Washington wine country,” but according to Andy Perdue, “it might be the most significant.”

“I am a slave to the wine gods, and at this point, willingly. It gives meaning to my otherwise insignificant life.” Alfonso Cevola ruminates “On the Nature of Being Sicilian in the Wine Business.”

Daily Wine News: Nasty Feud

Posted by | Posted in Wine News | Posted on 09-29-2014

Flickr, Spring Dew.

Flickr, Spring Dew.

“Should wine, broadly speaking, be ripe, luscious and powerful, or should it be lean, racy and restrained?” In Food & Wine, Ray Isle writes about “Wine’s Nastiest Feud.”

“Look out for the collection of one of Jura’s cult vineyards, Domaine Overnoy-Houillon, whose much sought-after wines rarely appear on Parisian wine lists nowadays.” In the Financial Times, Isabelle Legeron lists Paris’ top natural wine bars.

Meanwhile, Jancis Robinson finds Paris’ most interesting wine shops.

In Wine-Searcher, W. Blake Gray contends that Napa’s “2011 Cabernets might one day be the best-tasting bottles in those wineries’ cellars.”

In the Wall Street Journal, Lettie Teague contends that New York is “the world’s greatest wine city.”

“If there was one man who could make an Alsace wine fashionable or a high-end Chilean Cabernet into a best seller, it was Mr. Dorin—with one hand tied behind his back.” Elsewhere, Teague visits Ian Dorin at the Wine Library.

“The greatest moment is when it’s four in the morning, and I think: ‘I’m done,’ and then someone opens one last bottle. I love those evenings.” In Wine-Searcher, Katherine Cole chats with Ernie Loosen.

Jon Bonné attends the Wine Industry Financial Symposium and learns that the wine industry is “worried about millennials… gravitating to high-quality beer and liquor, particularly over supermarket wine brands.”

In the Washington Post, Dave McIntyre toasts autumn — and Oktoberfest — with a glass of Riesling.

Weekly Interview: Timm Crull

Posted by | Posted in Interviews | Posted on 09-26-2014

tim crull photo

Timm Crull

Each week, as regular readers know, we pose a series of questions to a winemaker. This week, we’re featuring Timm Crull, the winemaker at The Terraces winery in Napa.

Timm was an undergraduate student at Berkeley at a time when it was, as he describes, a “gourmet ghetto” – with current titans like Alice Waters and Kermit Lynch just starting to establish themselves in the area. Quickly, Timm started blending in to the environment. He took some cooking classes, continued gardening, and, in the early 1980s, started making wine in his house with purchased grapes. “It’s the hobby that went awry,” he chuckles. Not long afterwards, in 1993, he took the plunge and bought a piece of property up in Napa – “back when it was still affordable for a guy who worked” – and started growing his own grapes at Quarry Vineyards.

At the time, Timm was mainly a grapegrower, and only secondarily a winemaker. He sold his grapes to Beringer which Beringer used in their Private Reserve line.

But then opportunity knocked. I guess opportunities tend to do that to guys who stick around long enough. Timm had gotten to know Wayne Hogue, as they were neighbors at the time. Wayne had founded The Terraces in 1991. Just like Timm, Wayne, too, had been a grapegrower for much longer than he was a winemaker. In the early 1980s, Wayne had had sold his Zinfandel and Cabernet Sauvignon to Caymus. Could it have been that similarity that persuaded Wayne? One Saturday morning, Wayne drove over to Timm’s house, had coffee, and said, “Timm I want to sell you my 20 acres to add on to your property.” And thus began Timm’s winemaking career at The Terraces.

Even though it’s harvest time in Napa – a grueling time for any winemaker – Timm’s enthusiasm and passion shone when I interviewed him. Check out the interview below the fold.

Read the rest of this entry »

Daily Wine News: Since 1300

Posted by | Posted in Wine News | Posted on 09-26-2014

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

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

“The debate over what kind of vineyards are most compatible with the environment has been taking place here since 1300.” In Tuscany, a new rural preservation plan has ignited a war with grape growers.

“In northern Oregon, delicious, highly coveted wines are being made with grapes that literally sprout from a bed of stones.” In Wine Enthusiast, Sean Sullivan lays out “everything you need to know about The Rocks region.”

In Wine-Searcher, “10 things every wine lover should know about Domaine du Vieux Telegraphe.”

On the west coast, it’s a vineyard seller’s market.

In the Wall Street Journal, Matthew Kronsberg details his favorite “Apps for Oenophiles, Beer Buffs and the Cocktail Crazed.”

Elsewhere in the Journal, Gemma Price finds California wine country’s secret guesthouses.

“Equal parts sleek and menacing, [it looks] like a medical device designed by Darth Vader for Prada.” In Bloomberg, Nick Summers profiles the Coravin.

Manischewitz has a story that “is as intriguing as the wine isn’t: stolen identity, price-fixing, a foursome, and even some deep space intrigue.” In Modern Farmer, Meaghan Agnew tells the tale.

A new study in Alcoholism: Clinical & Experimental Research concludes that “raising cigarette taxes also lowers the amount of drinking.” Not with wine, though. The thought there? “Wine drinkers… are more likely to have healthier lifestyle habits than beer or spirits drinkers.”

Ever wonder why most American bars serve beer out of awful pint glasses? In The Atlantic’s CityLab, Laura Bliss digs deep to find out.

Daily Wine News: Dark Moments

Posted by | Posted in Wine News | Posted on 09-25-2014

215px-Merlot_Grape“In some dark moments, I have fantasized about bombing the whole vineyard with chemicals or planting genetically modified supergrapes. So far I have resisted. But this year’s failure just about broke my heart.” In his latest letter from Europe, Robert Camuto shares some lessons he has learned trying to grow grapes and make wine.

“America’s 70 million millennials are a major focus for top wine executives,” and according to the Press Democrat’s Bill Swindell, those executives are worried about competition from craft beer, cider, and specialty spirits.

“As the 2014 harvest in Champagne slowly draws to an end, many growers and houses are happy with this year’s crop, as a warm, dry September helps boost the grape quality.” In Wine-Searcher, Caroline Henry shares this wonderful news.

In Grape Collective, Jameson Fink chats with Frank Morgan of Drink What You Like. (Frank is my go-to source on all things Virginia wine, so if you’re not familiar with his blog, check it out!)

In Snooth, Claudia Angelillo lists “five wine-tastic tunes.”

Alder Yarrow brings attention to a really dumb law.

In Palate Press, Elisabetta Tosi profiles Lara Albertini, Claudia Donegaglia, and Valeria Carastro, three women of Italian wine who “never give up.”

“The grape could be aggressively astringent, but today’s bottles are easier to approach, with vibrant, ripe fruit that does not sacrifice its dry, chewy character.” In the Boston Globe, Ellen Bhang contends that Tannat is “steak’s best friend.”

Daily Wine News: Exploring Virginia

Posted by | Posted in Wine News | Posted on 09-24-2014

RdV Vineyards.

RdV Vineyards.

“Like many of the best Virginia wines, it hits a midpoint between American opulence and European structure and restraint.” In Food & Wine, Ray Isle explores Virginia wine with José Andrés.

“We need criticism. We can’t see every film, eat at every restaurant, attend every art exposition, purchase every 200 lb appliance via Amazon and then return it, be everywhere at once. If you are eager to write off wine criticism and tasting notes, you’d better be ready to write off nearly all these equally subjective yet indispensable forms of criticism.” Jonathan Lipsmeyer stands up for wine critics.

In Wine Spectator, Robert Taylor reports: “The New York State Liquor Authority has charged Albany wine retailer Empire Wine with 16 counts of improperly shipping wine to out-of-state customers… In response, Empire Wine announced it will file a lawsuit… alleging that the NYSLA has no jurisdiction over out-of-state wine sales.”

Tom Wark explains why this is bad for California wineries.

At Donostia, an Iberian restaurant in New York City’s East Village, Zachary Sussman takes a crash course in Sherry.

“Krutzler is basically a one-man cellar crew. His wife Elisabeth takes care of sales, but helps him with ‘all the major decisions’ with the wine. He has ‘a couple of guys from Macedonia’ that help him harvest, and if he’s lucky, his mother-in-law will also help manage things in the vineyards.” Alder Yarrow falls in love with the wines of Pichler-Krutzler.

In Palate Press, Charles Olken fires back at W. Blake Gray.

Alfonso Cevola eats his way through Sicily.

On CNN, Katie Hunt debunks five Chinese wine myths.

In Cahors, Dorothy Gaiter recently discovered the best Malbec she has ever tasted.

Daily Wine News: Important Guide

Posted by | Posted in Wine News | Posted on 09-23-2014

horse-heaven-hills-ava-sign“Regular consumption is the single most important characteristic of the confident wine lover.” Eric Asimov offers a guide to drinking wine at home.

“In all his years in the wine business, [Alexander Stuempfig of European Cellars has] never had the response he got for this sherry tasting and seminar.” In the Los Angeles Times, S. Irene Virbila tastes some sherry.

“The cynic in me suspects they are hoping that the fact that their ‘Supreme World Champion’ was Roederer’s Cristal Rosé 2002 may lure in some more of the Champagne aristocracy next year.” Jancis Robinson attends the first-ever Champagne & Sparkling Wine World Championships.

“You thought Oregon and Washington was all green, rainy, and dreary. Nope.” In Palate Press, Mary Cressler visits the Horse Heaven Hills AVA.

In Burgundy, according to Lucy Shaw, “the desire to own vineyard land… has reached fever pitch.”

In Wine-Searcher, “10 Things Every Wine Lover Should Know About Billecart-Salmon.”

“Instead of the typical dense, pitch black nature of so many red wines, grenache is often pale, light, has less tannin, and a more interesting aromatic spectrum of flavors than most other red grapes.” Dan Berger declares his love for Grenache.

In Grape Collective, Jameson Fink has lunch with Jean Trimbach.

The Kings of Charlottesville (Part 2 of 2)

Posted by | Posted in Grape Adventures | Posted on 09-22-2014

Claude Thibaut. (Photo credit: Jordan Rongers.)

Claude Thibaut. (Photo credit: Jordan Rongers.)

This is the second post in a two-part series. Read Part 1 here.

On a recent trip made with a group of friends to Virginia’s idyllic Monticello Wine Trail outside Charlottesville, we arranged to visit a gauntlet of the areas best wineries and to meet with some of the areas most interesting, important, and innovative winemakers.

We quickly discovered that King Family Vineyards’ talented winemaker, Matthieu Finot was a common thread between these wineries, placing him, I suppose, right at the heart the quality revolution. Born in Crozes Hermitage in the Rhone Valley and well travelled thereafter, Matthieu typifies the ambitious, worldly, tuned-in and connected culture of the new Virginia.

But if Finot represents the future, this is in part thanks to the fact that Virginia began to attract winemakers looking for a challenge and interested in making a difference, like Claude Thibaut from Thibaut-Janneson. Thibaut, a vastly experienced winemaker who makes sparklers with the traditional methode champenoise, has succeeded in Virginia in part because of his empirical and practical approach to traditional winemaking.

Listening to Thibaut speak about the intricacies of grape growing in Virginia, from pest regulation to the advantages and disadvantages of different biodynamic methods, is to receive a master class in marginal climate grape growing. Having made massive batches of champagne for years at champagne powerhouse Nikolas Foullette, Thibaut now produces only small batches.  Thibaut-Jannesen wines are difficult to find, and even harder to come by now that the White House is snatching it up by the case, serving Thibaut-Janssen to everybody from the President of France to the Queen of England. If you get your hands on a bottle, be happy.

I’m thrilled by these wines. I can’t believe that Virginia makes sparklers of such intensity and sophistication, and in an Old World style that I’d gladly take over many vaunted California sparklers. Enjoy the look on your friends’ faces when you blind taste them on a bottle and then tell them they’re from Virginia.

If the wines of Thibaut-Janssen are worldly but traditional, the wines of King Family Vineyards have one foot in both the Old and the New World. The region’s culture fosters collaboration, and Thibaut and Finot at King Family are more than just neighbors — Thibaut makes the champagne for King Family. While Finot was away during our visit, we were very lucky to have the knowledgeable James King to tell the story of his family’s wines and explain the connections. But judging from the wines, it would seem that some of Thibaut’s practicality and precision has rubbed off over the years on Finot. Read the rest of this entry »

Daily Wine News: Congrats, Chambers!

Posted by | Posted in Wine News | Posted on 09-22-2014

chambersJancis Robinson names Chambers Street Wines the “best independent wine merchant in the world.”

“I think of great Washington Cabernet showing a slightly different arid quality. They can be brighter in their fruit and sometimes more floral, but more than anything they are reflective of the eastern Washington desert, adding just the right austerity to their generous flavors.” In the San Francisco Chronicle, Jon Bonné heads north to search for “Washington-ness.”

“Charles Smith has made some bold moves in his life… but moving his base of operations from Walla Walla wine country to Seattle may be the biggest.” In Wine Spectator, Harvey Steiman explores Charles Smith’s decision to set up shop in Seattle.

“I can’t start a dinner without a little bit of white. But I need red afterward. You need to balance your body. White wine brings you energy, red wine calms you down.” In Wine-Searcher, Katherine Cole chats with Dominique Lagon.

“To protect themselves, clients and managers need to acknowledge that fine wine markets are unlike any other, suggests Oliver Gregson, head of HSBC Private Bank’s investment group in the UK.” In the Financial Times, Matthew Vincent explains “how vineyard villains play on the vanity of collectors.”

For his 40th birthday, Wine Spectator’s Mitch Frank opened a 1968 d’Oliveira Boal Madeira. The reason? He wanted “something that can stand up to all life throws at it…. [and] sees 40 years as a good start.”

In the Wall Street Journal, Lettie Teague explores Carmenere.

“You’ll want to drink at this new Racines, and you’ll probably want to drink a lot, because the wine list is excellent and surprisingly affordable. You’ll also want to eat, and the food at Racines New York is impressive.” In The Infatuation, Chris Stang reviews Racines.