Wine Reviews: California Pinot Noir

Posted by | Posted in Wine Reviews | Posted on 12-20-2014

Lots of winemakers from across California have praised the 2012 vintage. The more Pinot Noirs from 2012 I taste, the more I understand their excitement.

This report features a few exciting wines from 2012, as well as some from the leaner, tangier 2011 vintage, and a pair of late releases from 2009.

All these wines were received as trade samples and tasted single-blind unless otherwise noted. Read the rest of this entry »

Weekly Interview: Tanya Woodley

Posted by | Posted in Interviews | Posted on 12-19-2014

Tanya Woodley

Tanya Woodley

Each week, as regular readers know, we pose a series of questions to a winemaker. This week, we’re featuring Tanya Woodley, the winemaker at SuLei Cellars.

Regular readers will remember that we interviewed John Freeman at Waterbrook in August. John mentioned Tanya as a new winemaker that he was excited about.

With Tanya, we hope to kick off a series of interviews of winemakers based in the Walla Walla Valley AVA. The bold paradigmatic reds of Walla Walla seem to fit the time of the year; and when compared to Napa, the region receives much less attention in the wine press.

Below, Tanya discusses her career path to winemaking, what makes Walla Walla special, and the 2013 vintage.

Check out the interview below the fold!

Read the rest of this entry »

Daily Wine News: Caring & Genuine

Posted by | Posted in Wine News | Posted on 12-19-2014

In the Napa Valley Register, Tom Stockwell offers a thoughtful obituary for Herb Lamb, “a no-nonsense, caring, genuine, from-the-heart kind of guy.”

From Herb Lamb Vineyards.

From Herb Lamb Vineyards.

“He believes filtering a wine before bottling “sucks the life out of it.” In Grape Collective, Kristen Bieler profiles Paolo Bea.

“There is a lot of wine in this store. And all of it is mass-produced, barely anything beyond the standard oaky chardonnays and headache-inducing zinfandels and cat-pee-smelling New Zealand Sauvignon Blancs.” LA Weekly’s Besha Rodell urges America to “drink better wine.”

On February 1, FedEx will begin shipping wine to Massachusetts!

“I don’t consider myself an alcohol apologist, but I also don’t understand why there have to be sides in the world of wine. Us vs. them. Burgundy vs. California Pinot Noir. Low alcohol vs. high alcohol.” MaryAnn Worobiec wishes the wine world weren’t so divided.

In Zester Daily, Rosemary George contends that Switzerland’s “best kept secret” is its wine.

In Playboy, Patrick Cappiello offers some holiday gift-giving tips.

“Need a gift for someone who revels in the bubbly not just on New Year’s Eve, but all year long?” S. Irene Virbila recommends Riedel’s new Veritas Champagne glasses.

In Palate Press, Michelle Locke tries to keep “abreast of fashions in sparkling stemware.”

Tom Natan suggests some kitchen gadgets that make good stocking stuffers.

VinePair offers “The Quick And Dirty Guide To Sparkling Wines.”

W. Blake Gray reviews Klingon Bloodwine.

Drinking Lessons from Harvest

Posted by | Posted in Grape Adventures | Posted on 12-18-2014

From Naked Mountain Winery.

From Naked Mountain Winery.

Note: This is a guest post from Aaron Menenberg, a wine enthusiast who has worked two vintages at Naked Mountain Winery in Markham, Virginia.

We were hosting a wine critic. So early in the morning, the winemaker and I met up to decide which wines to pour — and open the bottles that needed air. When we poured one of our top-selling whites, the nose seemed fine. On the palate, however, I noted a hint of sherry.

“You taste the sherry?” the winemaker asked me. “That’s unfortunate,” he said. “This bottle is oxidized.”

“Glad we opened it now,” I thought. I had smelled and tasted sherry on wines previously and thought little of it. Until that moment, though, I didn’t realize it was a flaw.

In another instance, the winemaker and I were in the crushpad tasting samples that had spent about a week in tank. On one wine, we detected sulfur. I was told that while this was unfortunate, it was both fixable and not uncommon. The winemaker then pulled out a shiny, clean penny and told me to drop it into my glass. After about 60 seconds, the sulfur had vanished.  News to me.

“This variety has a tendency to get contaminated with hydrogen sulfide in our state,” the winemaker explained. “It can happen for a number of reasons — too many sulfites, wrong nutrients, bacterial contamination, bad or wrong yeast.”

I knew it wasn’t contamination — the winemaker is meticulously clean. And he has a good track record of yeast selection and nutrient provision. I’m not sure how it was ultimately fixed — he ran the wine through a few tests on a day I wasn’t there before deciding how to fix it. But by process of elimination –and knowing the winemaker’s skill — I imagine it had to do with some purchased grapes that had probably received too much sulfur while on the vine. Now I keep a few sanitized pennies in my kitchen in case a wine smells like rotten eggs.

These are just two examples of how learning to make wine has impacted how I drink wine. I’ve appreciated wine since before I was allowed to buy it, and I’ve been filling an ever-expanding cellar since I was 25 (I’m now 31). It’s full mostly of wine from my home state of Washington, along with some offerings from Burgundy, Chablis, Rhone, Jumillia, Barossa, and Israel. There are usually a few bottles of Virginia wine hanging out, too.

I decided to learn how wine was made last summer. I had been to many wineries before — strolling vineyards and visiting winemakers — but that wasn’t enough. I needed to learn by doing. So I spent a few weekends traveling to wineries within an hour of my apartment in Arlington, Virginia, before deciding which to approach for a part-time internship. I couldn’t work more than one or two days a week, so I approached a small winery and offered to work for free.

Thankfully, the winery said yes. I’ve now worked two vintages at Naked Mountain Winery processing grapes, monitoring fermentation, doing punch downs, filling tanks and barrels, and racking. I’ve also poured in the tasting room and for two critics.

The experience has been amazing. It takes me out to the Blue Ridge Mountains, I get to work with my hands and make something, and I’ve formed great friendships with the winemaker and the winery staff. But it has also affected how I drink and buy wine, all for the better.

Apart from the two lessons described above, the experience has expanded my appreciation of a winemaker’s style. On one end, there are the winemakers who pay homage to Mother Nature by intervening as little as possible. On the other end are winemakers who use all sorts of additives –clay, gelatin, charcoal, eggs, casein (a milk protein), and even isinglass (fish bladder extract) — to construct their wines.

Unsurprisingly, larger producers tend to intervene more. Mother Nature will leave her mark on a wine no matter how much it’s doctored, but there is much a winemaker can do to alter what Mother Nature gives him.

Some observations to the wine enthusiast based on my experience. Here are three:

If a wine’s flavors are too exact — you take a sip and swear you have a mouthful of strawberries — it probably isn’t coincidental. The winemaker probably made adjustments to minimize some flavors and spotlight others.

Second, winemakers who take a less obtrusive route to making wine — the anti-interventionists– run the very real risk of making some terrible wine. Sometimes Mother Nature gives you a perfect growing season, beautiful and healthy fruit, and you do your best to do right by her and let the wine make itself — and you screw up and inadequately monitor the cleanliness of the fruit and the whole lot becomes tainted with Brettanomyces in the tank.

Finally, you can and should at least try to appreciate each wine for what it is. Even if you prefer “natural wines,” it’s still quite a challenge to make a really good doctored wine.

I may never be a professional winemaker. But I intend to keep working at Naked Mountain Winery for as long as I can, because every day I spend there makes me a better wine drinker and smarter consumer.

Daily Wine News: Right Now

Posted by | Posted in Wine News | Posted on 12-18-2014

Rudy's fake labels.

Rudy’s fake labels.

In Food Republic, Chad Walsh lists “The 9 People You Need To Know In American Wine Right Now.”

In Decanter, Chris Mercer reports: “A year since Rudy Kurniawan was convicted for mass wine fraud… experts are preparing to enter his private cellar to see if wines can be sold to compensate victims owed nearly $30m.”

VinePair details “The History of Champagne Sabering.”

From Wine-Searcher, “The Busy Wine Lover’s Guide to Louis Roederer.”

W. Blake Gray finds lots to love in Napa Valley Merlot.

“Future plans include planting the four historic grape varieties “en foule,” in a mixed vineyard, as is the tradition in the region, and creating a museum at the vineyard.” In Wine Spectator, Lynn Alley writes about a Swiss vine geneticist and his efforts to save a historic vineyard.

In the Oregonian, Katherine Cole profiles a group of local women who get together regularly to taste “grower Champagne and nothing else.”

In the Village Voice, Lauren Mowery recommends Wines of California: A Comprehensive Guide.

LA Confidential chats with Drew Barrymore about wine.

Daily Wine News: Museum-ification

Posted by | Posted in Wine News | Posted on 12-17-2014

Flickr, Norman27.

Flickr, Norman27.

“The supreme wine example of this is, of course, Domaine de la Romanée-Conti. Its fame is unsurpassed; its prices are eye-popping.” Matt Kramer worries about “The Museum-ification of Wine.”

ConeTech claims that it removes alcohol from “one quarter of all the Pinot Noir and Chardonnay produced in California.”

“A diversity that, coupled with producers’ continuing commitment to improving quality, means that Port is attracting new consumers while holding onto its established fans.” In Wine-Searcher, Sarah Ahmed praises “The Growing Diversity of Premium Port.”

The Drinks Business lists the “Top 10 Wine Thefts.”

“While there is good evidence that the shape of a glass affects how we perceive what is in the glass, there is scant to no evidence that there is a difference in perception that is related to the grape itself.” From Rob Stein, an important reminder: “Focus on the wine, not the glass.”

“They try to educate me about wine, but what they really do is trumpet the importance of men writing about a subject that, really, has little importance.” The HoseMaster turns his site over to Lo Hai Qu so she can comment on wine magazines.

W. Blake Gray opens nearly 20 bottles of wine to find something for dinner. But his palate was off.

In Bloomberg, Hannah Goldfield explains “Why You’re Drinking Champagne All Wrong.”

Writing about the best palate cleansers, Jessica Yadegaran says that “rare roast beef… works like a ninja on tannins in big red wines.”

In the Los Angeles Times, Margy Rochlin asks Lou Amdur what to drink for Hanukkah.

Daily Wine News: Genie in a Bottle

Posted by | Posted in Wine News | Posted on 12-16-2014

jura“Wine with a sense of place is so much more than just a bottle o’ booze; there’s a genie in there somewhere which speaks of a different culture. And there’s a historic record of weather and time itself, etched in the liquid.” Jonathan Lipsmeyer writes about wine collecting.

With a bottle of Tissot’s 2007 Chateau-Chalon, Sophie Barrett realizes she has “a raging voile addiction.”

“South Africa has always been considered part of the New World,” but according to Matt Walls, “it’s time for us to move South Africa from New World to Old World.”

In Grape Collective, Dorothy Gaiter writes about one of her favorite Barolo producers, Damilano.

In the Australian Financial Review, Misa Han writes about Jayne Powell’s fight against the “French Champagne police.”

“Sometimes I don’t want to analyze what I’m drinking. I don’t want to take notes. And I don’t actually want greatness, because greatness would force me to pay attention.” Sometimes, W. Blake Gray just wants a “mouth rinse.”

“Top Bordeaux growers need to price 2014 wines so they’re cheaper than mature vintages to revive demand, according to Simon Berry, chairman of London merchant Berry Bros. & Rudd.” Guy Collins reports in Bloomberg.

In Wine Spectator, James Molesworth discovers Château Gombaude-Guillot, which “sits a stone’s throw from Château Trotanoy in Pomerol.”

“When the maker of the world’s rarest and most collectible vintage port experiments with dry red table wines, the results are bound to be pretty exciting.” That’s Elin McCoy’s recent conclusion.

In VinePair, Adrienne Stillman offers “The Quick and Dirty Guide to Sparkling Wines From Around the World.”

Daily Wine News: Urban Outfitters

Posted by | Posted in Wine News | Posted on 12-15-2014



“One is also reminded of the mentality found in the “indie” rock scene, wherein fans become angry when their favorite obscure band signs with a major label.” In Punch, Zachary Sussman wonders if the Jura is “dealing with the ‘Urban Outfitters Effect.’”

In Eater, Claire Carusillo explains why the champagne coupe probably isn’t modeled after Marie Antoinette’s breast.

“As points handed down by a handful of arbiters become less important and consumer reviews gain traction, the wine world feels less competitive and more co-operative — more stereotypically feminine, perhaps.” Jancis Robinson explores “women’s effect on wine.”

Alfonso Cevola explains “What New World Sommeliers Need to Know About Old World Italian Wine.”

“Today, many District restaurants proudly pepper their lists with local wines. There are other reasons for the change… [but] the Blanc de Chardonnay played a key role in priming the market.” In the Washington Post, Dave McIntyre praises Thibaut-Janisson for shedding “locavore light on some of Virginia’s finest vineyards.”

In the Village Voice, Lauren Mowery praises Deirdre Heekin’s An Unlikely VineyardIn a separate piece, she praises Talia Baiocchi’s Sherry: A Modern Guide to the Wine World’s Best-Kept Secret.

In Wine-Searcher, Adam Lechmere chats with Nicolas de Bailliencourt of Pomerol’s Château Gazin.

In the Press Democrat, Bill Swindell explores the “saga of how immigration plays out in the North Coast wine industry.

In the San Francisco Chronicle, Jon Bonné visits Rx bar, “a drinker’s bar.”

Wine Reviews: New Zealand

Posted by | Posted in Wine Reviews | Posted on 12-13-2014

I don’t pay nearly enough attention to New Zealand wines. I’m only one person, and wine has many worlds in which to lose oneself. But I need to lose myself in New Zealand more often.

I’ve enjoyed many a New Zealand Pinot Noir, Chardonnay and the national staple variety, Sauvignon Blanc. The latter of which is a hit with pretty much every casual wine drinker I know, and I usually spot at least one Kiwi Sauv Blanc per house party. They’re inexpensive, tasty and almost always reliable. No wonder they’re all over the place.

This report features a range of wines from New Zealand, all of which were received as trade samples and tasted sighted.

Read the rest of this entry »

Daily Wine News: With Distinction

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

Pippa Middleton (Wikimedia Commons).

Pippa Middleton (Wikimedia).

Pippa Middleton has passed the Wine and Spirit Education Trust’s advanced wine exam. With distinction!

“Move over Bordeaux. When it comes to the 50 most expensive bottles of wine in the world, more than three quarters of them now come from Burgundy.” Stephen Heyman reports.

“In many ways, white Bordeaux is a phantom wine. We know it exists, but it’s seldom visible, rarely mentioned and hardly ever consumed, at least not with fanfare.” Eric Asimov tries to drum up interest in white Bordeaux.

Will Lyons is “not even a Malbec fan,” but he’s quite impressed with many of Argentina’s latest offerings.

“Austrian vintners are really into rock, soil, and gravel.” That’s one observation from Kim Marcus’ recent trip to Austria.

The National Association of Wine Retailers has pledged to “support Empire Wine as it battles against [the] obscene regulatory overreach” of the New York State Liquor Authority.

Chicagoist’s John Lenart sits down with Tom MacDonald, the owner of Webster’s Wine Bar, to discuss why restaurant critics seem to ignore wine lists in their reviews.

In Wine-Searcher, “10 Things Every Wine Lover Should Know About Diamond Creek.”

Alder Yarrow offers a holiday gift guide for wine lovers.

“A warning to all the new “players” during harvest: Roman is a very competitive and physical player, a real perfectionist in the cellar as well as on the soccer field.” In Grape Collective, Joshua Aranda writes about harvest at Wölffer Estate.

On the blog for First Vine, Tom Natan digs deep into a recent Journal of the American Medical Association study which concluded that drinking more wine was not associated with better health outcomes and lower mortality rates.

Napa Valley is mourning. On Wednesday, Herb Lamb passed away.