Wine Reviews: California New Releases

Posted by | Posted in Wine Reviews | Posted on 09-22-2018

This week, I have a round-up of some wines from different California regions.

First off, I tasted some wines from Napa’s Amici Cellars and its sister brand of Sonoma County wines, Olema. The winemaking team at Amici and Olema consists of well-known, long-time winemaker Tony Biagi, and Jesse Fox. Amici offers moderately-priced takes on Napa classics (Cabernet and Sauvignon Blanc), while the Olema wines offer a sample of Sonoma goodness for $25 or less. (There’s a Provencal rosé under the Olema umbrella as well, which is included in this report.)

I also tasted some wines from Wine Insiders, a direct-to-consumer wine company that operates kind of like a wine club without strict membership requirements. The wines selections are curated by sommeliers Tyson Koster and Christopher Hoel and sourced from different countries. Customers can receive a quarterly shipment of wines based on their preferences, or shop at will online. I tasted through their half-case of Lodi wines (which sells for $81) and found some wines that really deliver for the price (like many wines from this region).

Lastly, I found a $20 Santa Barbara Pinot Noir that punches above its weight class.

All the wines in this report were received as samples and tasted sighted. Read the rest of this entry »

Daily Wine News: Rejected Grapes

Posted by | Posted in Wine News | Posted on 09-21-2018

(Flickr: KBJPhoto)

(Flickr: KBJPhoto)

“Large wineries, most notably Constellation Brands and Treasury Wine Estates, are now exercising the option to skip a vintage with many growers. They’ve been rejecting a significant share of the wine grapes they source from Lake and Mendocino counties,” reports Wine Business. “The amount of fruit that has been rejected over possible smoke exposure is unknown at this time, but it appears to be quite substantial.”

In Wine Enthusiast, Carrie Dykes looks at how a group of Virginia winemakers are making noteworthy wines with petit manseng and petit verdot.

Vitisphere reports the French AOC wine board has authorized the introduction of new varieties—under certain conditions. “INAO has validated the creation of a third category of grape varieties called “grape varieties for climate and environmental adaptation.””

Some of Rudy Kurniawan’s counterfeits are still floating around, but Stuart George questions the amount in Wine-Searcher.

In the Oregonian, Michael Alberty looks at how the success of NOVUM Ceramics, a new local venture involving the production of large amphorae.

Liza B. Zimmerman reports that the white wine emoji is finally here.

In Food & Wine, Jonathan Cristaldi highlights 30 bottles of pinot noir from Burgundy and California to Oregon, Italy, Australia, and Germany that “will turn you from a fan into a pro.”

Eric Asimov recommends 20 wines under $20 in the New York Times.

Daily Wine News: Taste & Texture

Posted by | Posted in Wine News | Posted on 09-20-2018

glass of red wine“We still talk about wine primarily in terms of taste, which is to say flavor, and our language for that is hacky. Too often it lands on comparison… Our language for texture is even more rudimentary.” In Punch, Jon Bonné argues that texture is one of wine’s most essential—and also the most overlooked—attributes.

“As producers and winemakers in Washington continue to explore the boundaries of what is possible for viticulture in the state, a number are looking in a new direction: up.” In Wine Enthusiast, Sean P. Sullivan looks at how Washington winemakers are turning to high-altitude vineyards to cope with climate change.

In Wine-Searcher, W. Blake Gray shares details about Red Mountain Elevated, a project led by two Microsoft alumni on Washington’s Red Mountain. “The project has been 14 years in the making; the first grapes are being harvested this month.”

Copper Cane LLC of Rutherford’s Elouan Wines has sparked concern in Oregon over labeling. Peter Mitham reports on the details in Wines & Vines, and Kerana Todorov also delves into the issue on

In SevenFifty Daily, Amanda Barnes looks at how winemakers in Argentina are carving a new niche with old-vine and terroir-driven whites.

In Forbes, Tom Mullen explores the popularity of wines from Bulgaria, Romania, and Moldova.

Marian Bull offers yet another beginner’s guide to natural wine in GQ.

Daily Wine News: Pre-Phylloxera Prestige

Posted by | Posted in Wine News | Posted on 09-19-2018

Vines on Mount Etna during winter (From Tenuta delle Terre Nere)

Vines on Mount Etna during winter (From Tenuta delle Terre Nere)

Tom Hyland explores the prestige of pre-phylloxera vines in Etna in Wine-Searcher. “The fact that wines are produced in Etna on such poor stony soils, comprised of volcanic ash, pumice and sand make Etna Rosso wines so intriguing… Add in the fact that a few producers are working with pre-phylloxera vines…and you have a recipe for highly distinctive wines that are highly sought after by sommeliers, wine critics and connoisseurs alike…”

At the end of this year, the EU must decide whether to reapprove the use of copper in organic farming. In Meininger’s, Darren Smith reports on the controversy and what the final decision could mean for organic winegrowing.

In Decanter, Peter Richards looks at how a new generation has been fighting to save some of Chile’s oldest vineyards from industrial pine forests and pulp factories. (subscription req.)

In SevenFifty Daily, industry professionals share the most awkward and obnoxious situations they’ve encountered at winery tasting rooms.

Tom Mullen on the sparkling wines made in Trentino in Forbes.

Joe Roberts visits Troon Vineyard in Oregon. “…it was with a sort of mixed fascination and trepidation that I recently observed firsthand Troon Vineyard‘s Biodynamic compost preparations (#502-507) in the gorgeous (but, at the time, quite smokey) Applegate Valley, to literally see “the good sh*t”…”

In Condé Nast Traveler, Mark Ellwood explores how to navigate wine tourism in China.

In Chicago Mag, Maggie Hennessy offers a natural wine primer for rookies.

Daily Wine News: Tension in Wine

Posted by | Posted in Wine News | Posted on 09-18-2018

(Source: Wikimedia)

(Source: Wikimedia)

In Decanter, Andrew Jefford explores the nature of tension in wine, and its relationship to concepts of energy, precision and focus. “Of one thing I’m sure: tension isn’t, as so often simplistically assumed, related to prominent acidity or modest alcohol levels in a wine.”

Ulises Valdez, who emigrated from Mexico to work as a vineyard laborer in Sonoma County, then rose to become one of California’s most renowned vineyard managers and founder of his own family winery, died last week of a heart attack, reports Aaron Romano in Wine Spectator. He was 49.

“Ulises was one of the most gifted, knowledgeable and intuitive vineyard managers in California… His confidence around the vine underscored his ease with the natural environs of Sonoma County. His understanding of the entire growing region and its diverse topography and soils was breathtaking to behold, but he was very down-to-earth when sharing his knowledge.” Paul Hobbs remembers Ulises Valdez on his blog.

In Bloomberg, Elin McCoy looks at the widespread excitement over a high-volume, high-quality 2018 harvest in France’s top wine-producing regions.

In SevenFifty Daily, Betsy Andrews explores the ways in which larger wine companies are turning to biodynamics.

After years of being seen as a red wine country, Italy is making a big impact with its white wines. In Meininger’s, Wojciech Bońkowski analyzes the trend.

In Grape Collective, Dorothy Gaiter and John Brecher have a small furmint epiphany.

Daily Wine News: Labeling Changes

Posted by | Posted in Wine News | Posted on 09-17-2018

Willamette Valley vineyards. (Wikimedia)

Willamette Valley vineyards. (Wikimedia)

In the Oregonian, Michael Alberty reports on the reasons why Willamette Valley winemakers are proposing major labeling changes. “Ken Wright and David Adelsheim are ringing the village church bells to warn Willamette Valley wineries about a pair of threats: colleagues who are losing sight of the value of the Willamette Valley name and outsiders looking to exploit it.”

In Wine-Searcher, Liza B. Zimmerman talks to liquor attorney Rob Tobassien about the ups and downs of the three-tier liquor model.

The wine industry appears uneasy about — and could be threatened by — cannabis legalization. Dave McIntyre delves into wine’s newest competitor in the Washington Post.

The Martinelli family has bought out other family members to retain ownership of the Three Sisters and Charles Ranch vineyards in Sonoma County’s Fort Ross-Seaview AVA. Esther Mobley reports on the news in the San Francisco Chronicle.

On the blog for First Vine, Tom Natan takes a look at French vineyard subsidies. “It turns out that France, unlike Spain and Italy, doesn’t allow vineyards to get the general EU agricultural subsidy that pays farmers annually based on the amount of land they own and farm.  This means, all else being equal, that wine is cheaper to produce in Spain and Italy than it is in France.”

In Wine Enthusiast, Layla Schlack falls in love with the story of a tenacious Bordeaux winemaker. “I found myself rooting for her, like I would for a Jane Austen heroine trying to save her family’s fortune. There was such purity in her intentions, such care. I desperately wanted the wine to be good.”

Ryan Smith checks out Arizona’s wine culture in VinePair.

In the Guardian, David Williams explores what climate change means for the wine industry.

Wine Reviews: Alsace Gewürztraminer

Posted by | Posted in Wine Reviews | Posted on 09-15-2018

If you’re a frequent reader of these wine reviews, you may have seen me sing praises of Alsace. I love this region, which I first began exploring in high school, and its wines. But while Riesling and grapes from the extended Pinot family tend to be my favorite options, I have a lot of love for Gewürztraminer as well.

I love the intensity of floral and spice aromas, the rich, tropical, lychee-infused flavors. But as a huge fan of acidity in wine, Gewürz can present some problems. High sugar and low acidity can be an issue in some of the wines. But when sourced from the right spots (especially from Alsace’s calcareous soils) the wines are like nothing else. And the food pairing options (from autumnal soups to spicy pad Thai) can be uniquely satisfying. Considering there’s only about 20,000 acres of Gewürz planted on the planet, and Alsace is home to some 7,000 of those acres, there’s no better place to go if you’re looking to explore this aromatic white grape variety.

I recently received a few sample bottles of Gewürztraminers from Alsace, and tasted them single-blind. My reviews are below. Read the rest of this entry »

Daily Wine News: Standing Apart

Posted by | Posted in Wine News | Posted on 09-14-2018

Ripe Pinot Noir (Flickr: docoverachiever)

Ripe Pinot Noir (Flickr: docoverachiever)

Eric Asimov sings the praises of Anderson Valley pinot noir in the New York Times. “These regions, along with the Santa Rita Hills in Santa Barbara County, are the sources of California’s finest pinot noirs. The Anderson Valley may wish by nature to stand apart, but it has taken its place among California’s pinot noir elite.”

In Condé Nast Traveler, Mark Ellwood explores the world of Swiss wine.

Wine Enthusiast reports that Hubert Opici, founder and owner of Opici Wine Group, Opici Distributing and Market Street Spirits, died Tuesday at the age of 102.

What’s the difference between a popular wine and a perennially fashionable one? Lettie Teague delves into the answer in the Wall Street Journal. (subscription req.)

Kelli White profiles Ulises Valdez in Vinous. “Valdez is one of California’s most prestigious grape growers, though you wouldn’t know it by just speaking with him…”

Andre Shearer talked with Grape Collective about the challenges still faced by the South African wine industry today.

In Decanter, Jane Anson meets Pierre Le Hong, who is making a name for himself in the region by producing detailed, digital maps of prized vineyards.

Daily Wine News: Evolving AVAs

Posted by | Posted in Wine News | Posted on 09-13-2018

Cabernet Sauvignon. (Wikimedia)

Cabernet Sauvignon. (Wikimedia)

Joshua Greene reports on changes in farming and winemaking that are leading growers to turn out finely ripened, silken cabernet sauvignon in the Alexander Valley in Wine & Spirits Magazine.

Sophia McDonald details the 5 new Washington AVAs on the horizon, and what you need to know about each one in SevenFifty Daily.

In Wine-Searcher, W. Blake Gray explores the ageability of Italian verdicchio, and how its quality has changed in recent years. “In 2006, 58 percent of Verdicchio by volume in the Marche was made by co-ops, and only 42 percent by independent producers. By 2017, that number had shifted: 66 percent of Verdicchio was made by individual producers, who traditionally have much greater interest in making quality wine because it’s hard to sell otherwise.”

In Wines & Vines, Peter Mitham reports on how grapegrowers and wineries in British Columbia are monitoring and testing for smoke taint.

In the Chicago Tribune, Michael Austin explores the wines of Texas.

Jon Bonné offers the “insider’s guide to orange wine” in Punch.

There’s another natural wine primer, written by Alex Erdekian, over on Thrillist.

Daily Wine News: Hess Collection is Back

Posted by | Posted in Wine News | Posted on 09-12-2018

(Source: Hess Collection)

(Source: Hess Collection)

In the San Francisco Chronicle, Esther Mobley reports on Hess Collection’s reopening after weathering an earthquake, landslide, and fire. “Wineries are accustomed to being at the mercy of Mother Nature. But in recent years the Hess Collection, on Napa Valley’s Mount Veeder, has gotten a lot more of her than it ever bargained for…But now Hess is back, at long last. Just before Labor Day, the company unveiled Lion’s Head, its new winery and tasting room, a $5 million renovation of the building destroyed by the earthquake.”

In Meininger’s, Felicity Carter reports on a new initiative by Österreichische Traditionsweingüter (ÖTW), or Association of Traditional Austrian Winemakers, who have been working together on a special project: the Erste Lagen (first growths).

The oldest grape varieties in South America have been sidelined for the past hundred years, but a new generation is now reclaiming its lost winemaking heritage as Criolla varieties re-emerge from the shadows. Amanda Barnes delves into the story in Decanter. (subscription req.)

America welcomes 24 new Master Sommeliers.

Michael Edwards reviews Champagne: The Future Uncorked by Gert Crum in the World of Fine Wine.

In Wine-Searcher, Liza B. Zimmerman talks to Rob McMillan of the Silicon Valley Bank Wine Division about the future of wine marketing and sales.

Mike Veseth, the wine economist, shares five surprising facts about U.S. wine sales.

On his blog, W. Blake Gray explores the “polarizing” Lacrima di Morro d’Alba.