More on Maryland: Del. Davis Chimes In

Posted by | Posted in Wine Politics | Posted on 03-31-2011

This past Sunday, as regular readers know, I had a short oped in the Washington Post commenting on the move by Maryland lawmakers to legalize the direct shipment of wine from out-of-state wineries but not out-of-state retailers.

That day, I received a long email from Maryland Delegate Dereck Davis, who chairs the House Economic Matters Committee. I strongly criticized Del. Davis in my piece, and he took issue with most of what I wrote.

His note was thoughtful, and his argument deserves to be heard. And I very much respect his engagement with me on this. So with Del. Davis’s permission, I’m publishing his letter in its entirety. Unsurprisingly, I disagree with most of what he’s written. So once you read his letter, check out my rebuttal below the fold.

I hope that this is educational – and once again, I urge all readers to “like” the American Wine Consumers Coalition on facebook. Wine consumers desperately need an organization like this to take root. Read the rest of this entry »

Daily Wine News: A Female Clark Kent

Posted by | Posted in Wine News | Posted on 03-31-2011

On, Talia Baiocchi writes a wonderful profile of Cathy Corison, “a female Clark Kent of California Cabernet.”

In National Journal, Ben Terris explains why HR 1161 would hurt craft beer producers.

For other HR 1161 news, check out Tom Wark’s latest post, where he explains how the wholesaling lobby is hoodwinking lawmakers.

Fred Swan was quite impressed with the wines at the Rhone Rangers Grand Tasting in San Francisco. He was especially struck by the authenticity of the Viognier. His best line? “I didn’t find a single Viognier yesterday that reminded me of Anna Nicole Smith.”

Ever heard of the wine growler? If not, you haven’t spent enough time in Greenville, South Carolina.

Daily Wine News: Read Wine Diarist!

Posted by | Posted in Wine News | Posted on 03-30-2011

Uploaded to flickr by rudynorff.

If you haven’t made Mike Steinberger’s part of your daily reading, do so now! It’s a real blog — he actually posts new content just about every day. Over the past week, he has praised Jancis Robinson for suggesting that wine writers should hold off on releasing their en primeur scores until after the wineries have set prices, brought attention to the Geoffrey Roberts Award, and highlighted a hard hitting letter from Michel Bettane to the Bordeaux trade group “denouncing the en primeur charade.”

On Monday, Eric Asimov wrote about the wines of Alto Adige, a wine region in Northeast Italy. On Tuesday, Talia Baiocchi covered the wines of Emilia-Romagna, a different wine region in Northeast Italy. According to Baiocchi, “Italy’s march of wine progress has finally made inroads to Emilia-Romagna.”

Steve Heimoff chimes in on the now famous “Alcohol and Balance” seminar at the World of Pinot Noir. His take is refreshing.

In Tennessee, lawmakers opened debate on a bill that would allow the sale of wine in grocery stores.

Meanwhile, in Maryland, a bill that would have legalized corkage has failed.

On the website for Time, Brad Tuttle writes about 90+Cellars, a new “winemaker without a winery,” as Terroirist Robby Schrum dubbed Cameron Hughes and Banshee Wines earlier this year. The company, created by a Boston entrepreneur, was recently featured in a Boston Globe story that included a blind tasting.

A week in the life of Ray Isle, executive wine editor at Food & Wine. His life is not indicative of other wine writers!

Daily Wine News: Obscure Wine Regions

Posted by | Posted in Wine News | Posted on 03-29-2011

A vineyard in Alto Adige. Uploaded to flickr by ezioman.

Jay McInerney just returned from a week in Burgundy, and offers some buying advice “for those who don’t like paying through the nose.”

In the print edition of the Journal, Jay McInerney profiles “Becky Wasserman, the American-born Earth Mother of Burgundy.”

In his latest column, Eric Asimov writes about the wines of Alto Adige, a wine region in Northeast Italy.

Speaking of obscure wine regions, check out the new YouTube channel from the London-based Wine and Spirits Education Trust. There, you’ll find three minute wine school classes from Tim Atkin, Master of Wine.

In a super informative piece at Palate Press, W. Blake Gray explains why right now, “sustainable” is just “a meaningless buzzword.”

Chicago-based Goose Island Brewery, one of the nation’s most popular craft beer producers, is purchased by Anheuser-Busch for $39 million.

Last year, Chateau & Estate – America’s leading importer of classified-growth Bordeaux for three decades – announced that it quitting Bordeaux. Wine Spectator looks at what has happened since.

On the blog for Reason magazine, Jacob Sullum looks at the move by Maryland lawmakers to legalize the direct shipment of wine from out-of-state wineries but not out-of-state retailers — and links to Terroirist and my recent oped in the Washington Post.

The Govt. Shouldn’t Run Home Depots (Or Liquor Stores)

Posted by | Posted in Wine Politics | Posted on 03-28-2011

Pennsylvania State Rep. Mike Sturla (D-Lancaster), who chairs the state’s powerful House Democratic Policy Committee, recently met with reporters and editors at the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review to discuss the Republican push to turn the state’s liquor monopoly over to private operators.

Based on the article, Sturla is economically incompetent. And that’s putting it kindly. Here’s a letter I sent the Tribune-Review:


Rep. Mike Sturla is convinced that “prices would increase and the enormous selection the state leverages through buying power would shrink” if Pennsylvania sold the state’s liquor stores to private operators (“Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board against private sales,” March 23).

If that’s the case, then why hasn’t Rep. Sturla called for the state takeover of grocery stores or electronics outlets? Just think how much money Pennsylvania’s consumers could save if the state leveraged its buying power for food or iPods!

The state has no more business running liquor stores than it does operating Home Depots.

David White
Founder and Editor,

Daily Wine News: Quasi Good News

Posted by | Posted in Wine News | Posted on 03-28-2011

Uploaded to flickr by yomanimus.

Maryland lawmakers move forward with a bill that legalizes shipping from out-of-state wineries (yay!) but not out-of-state retailers (boo!). I comment in the Washington Post, lamenting the retail component’s disappearance. I also follow the money – since 2004, the three most powerful groups representing Maryland wholesalers and retailers have contributed more than $260,000 to Maryland lawmakers. It’s hard to prove a direct correlation, of course, but money does buy access to lawmakers. And right now, there’s NO equally powerful, organized group speaking out on behalf of consumers.

At Bordeaux’s En Primeur, where wine merchants, brokers and critics sample last year’s vintage while still in cask, wine authority Jancis Robinson increasingly feels “like a pawn in a game designed to part you with as much money as possible.” So she is seriously considering holding off on “publishing individual notes and scores until the prices [have] been announced.”

ShipCompliant offers a “summary of the most important direct shipping legislation as it stands as of today.”

At the Wine Cellar Insider, a great article from Tom Wark explaining and analyzing the Wholesaler Protection Act (HR 1161).

In Sacramento News & Review, Alastair Bland writes about Abe Schoener, who “makes wines that would be ‘commercial suicide’ for any other vintner.”

Italy’s wine laws get even more confusing.

Weekly Interview: Dennis Martin

Posted by | Posted in Interviews | Posted on 03-25-2011

Each week, as regular readers know, Terroirist poses 16 questions to a winemaker. This week, we’re featuring Dennis Martin. There’s a good chance you’ve never heard of him.

Several weeks ago, I was emailing back-and-forth with Jim Caudill, the PR Director for the Hess Collection and a living encyclopedia of the California wine scene. I had just written about how much I enjoyed the wines at WesMar, and he had just gotten back from the World of Pinot Noir.

“You should get to know Dennis Martin,” Jim wrote. “He’s the best winemaker you’ve never heard about.”

I had no reason to doubt Jim, as Martin didn’t work for a winery in the Hess portfolio. But nonetheless, it was a bold statement. So I did a little research, and discovered that Jim could be right.

Dennis Martin has been making wine in California since the 1970s and is well known among his peers. But not too many wine geeks get to know the winemaker behind Fetzer Vineyards, and that’s where Martin has been since 1985, managing the entire production since 1996.

Everyone has heard of Fetzer, of course. It’s one of the ten best-selling brands in the country, with sales of 2.2 million cases annually. Under the Bonterra label, Fetzer makes another 300,000 cases of organic wine each year.

If these case numbers seem huge, that’s because they are – most of the labels we obsess about at Terroirist produce fewer than 10,000 cases annually. Many of the wineries we write about regularly, like WesMar and Talty, produce under 1,000.

Martin has a label like that, too. Called Sanctuary, it was launched together with Martin’s longtime colleague, friend, and collaborator, Christian LeSommer, who had spent more than a dozen years at the famed Chateau Latour. Today, it’s an incredibly small, spare-no-expense facility where Martin crafts Zinfandel, Cabernet Sauvignon, and Pinot Noir – the three grapes he’s most passionate about turning into wine.

Earlier this month, the entire Fetzer line-up was purchased from Brown-Forman by Concha y Toro. My suspicion is that the Concha Y Toro takeover will be good news for Martin’s entire lineup, as it knows a thing or two about making tasty wines. Check out our interview below the fold… Read the rest of this entry »

Daily Wine News: The Best Pinots Ever

Posted by | Posted in Wine News | Posted on 03-25-2011

Courtesy of Rhys Vineyards.

The wines of Rhys Vineyards are “the best New World Pinot Noirs” Mike Steinberger has “ever encountered.” Steinberger isn’t one to hyperbolize, so this is quite a statement. He writes more on his blog, where he concludes that the “emergence of Rhys is one of the most exciting developments on the American wine scene in a very long time.”

Elsewhere in Slate, Brian Palmer researches whether wines labeled as “natural,” “organic,” and/or “biodynamic” are really any better for the environment.

Will Lyons is headed to Bordeaux for en primeur week, and fears that prices will be even higher than they were last year.

In Maryland, the bill to allow consumers to purchase wines directly from out-of-state producers hit a roadblock in both the House and the Senate.

On his blog, Joe Roberts writes a great piece on Chateau Montelena.

A nice piece on’s Eatocracy looking at millennial drinking habits and the difficulty of becoming a licensed sommelier.

A new study reveals that most wine is not consumed with meals – but rather as a stand-alone beverage, with snacks, or while preparing food. This contradicts industry assertions.

Red Wine and Radiation

Posted by | Posted in Out of the Glass, Wine and Wellness | Posted on 03-24-2011

Over the past week, low levels of radiation from the Fukushima Daiichi power plant in Japan began reaching the western United States. Despite heavy news coverage, the U.S. has largely avoided the panic-buying seen in other countries of items like salt, seaweed, and … red wine.

Given the short supply of iodine pills, people around the world concerned about radioactive fallout have been buying up other products rumored to protect against radiation. Although the run on salt in China was misguided (an adult would need to swallow over 6 lbs. of it to prevent radiation poisoning), consumers in Russia stocking up on wine were on to something.

As it turns out, several studies indicate that red wine does indeed provide some defense against radiation. The antioxidant Resveratrol may help mitigate the harmful effects of radiation exposure, in addition to its purported roles in cancer prevention and increased longevity.

Read the rest of this entry »

Daily Wine News: Winemakers Debate!

Posted by | Posted in Wine News | Posted on 03-24-2011

The ubiquitous Adam Lee, who makes an incredible array of (balanced) Pinot Noirs at Siduri -- and a host of different varietals at Novy.

Eric Asimov’s column about the “Great Pinot Noir Kerfuffle” that Adam Lee instigated at this year’s World of Pinot Noir has launched a lively conversation (and heated debate) on the WineBerskers message board. Winemakers Brian Loring, Larry Schaffer, Jamie Kutch, and Dan Kosta take part, as does Adam Lee himself.

Adam Lee is everywhere! At, Mike Steinberger and Adam Lee discuss older California wines (and alcohol levels, naturally).

Speaking of older California wines, Talia Baiocchi will take a look at “classic Napa Valley Cabernet via the people who still make it” over the next few weeks at In the first installment, she provides some background and history.

According to Evan Dawson, “more writers and critics [are] moving their focus away from color.” Let’s hope so.

Until reading Tim Fish’s latest Wine Spectator column, I had never heard of John Buehler, who describes himself as “the resident meshugana of Napa Valley.” Meshugana is Yiddish for crazy person. According to Fish, most of Buehler’s wines retail for $36 or less, and the $18 Zinfandel is “sleek and focused with elegantly complex notes of cherry, vanilla and spicy oak.”