Daily Wine News: Happy Halloween!

Posted by | Posted in Wine News | Posted on 10-31-2011

Boo! What are you drinking tonight? Wines.com CEO Alex Andrawes has some wine-and-candy pairing advice.  Meanwhile, Kristine Hansen at Wine Enthusiast offers some cocktail recipes that “promise to raise spirits.”

Is selling wine at a winery tasting room an agricultural activity or commercial activity? The answer to that question could have enormous implications Virginia’s fast-growing wine industry.

Over at Dr. Vino, Levi Dalton writes a long but fascinating treatise on orange wine, and how they should be served.

In the Wall Street Journal, Lettie Teague catches up – and enjoys several wines – with Greg Norman.

The U.S. Board of Geographic Names has rejected the request by Jackson Family Wines to rename Black Mountain in the Alexander Valley.

Last week, Jancis Robinson tasted through 119 classified growths from 2009. Because the vintage was so opulent, she feared the wines would be showing signs of “going all sweet and jammy.” Fortunately, several did offer “refreshment.” Full tasting notes are available on Robinson’s website (subscription only).

Weekly Interview: Sebastian Beaumont

Posted by | Posted in Interviews | Posted on 10-28-2011

Sebastian Beaumont

Each week, as regular readers know, Terroirist poses 16 questions to a winemaker. This week, we’re featuring Sebastian Beaumont, the winemaker at Beaumont Wines in South Africa’s Walker Bay region.

The 1000-acre property can trace its history to the 18th century, when it served as an outpost for the Dutch East India Company. Sebastian’s parents, Raoul and Jayne, purchased the estate in 1973, and soon replanted about 84 acres of vineyards and also started harvesting pears, nectarines, and apricots. (Most of the property is untouched, as it’s part of the Groenlandberg Conservancy in the Kogelberg Biosphere.)

Twenty years later, Raoul and Jayne started revitalizing the property’s old wine cellar – and together produced three vintages of Pinotage before bringing on a full-time winemaker, Niels Verburg. When Sebastian finished a degree in oenology Elsenburg, he joined the family’s wine estate as its viticulturist, and in 2002, he started making wines with Niels. Since 2004, he’s been the solo winemaker.

I met Sebastian on my recent trip to South Africa, and then caught up with him again just a couple weeks later at Cape Wine Europe. All of Sebastian’s wines are impressive — Beaumont was the first winery in South Africa to bottle a 100 percent Mourvedré, and the property also makes an excellent Shiraz/Mourvedré blend – but his top Chenin Blanc, named after his late grandmother Hope Marguerite, is truly stunning.

The grapes for the Hope Marguerite come from 30+-year-old vines, and the wine is barrel fermented in 400L French oak, relies only natural yeasts, is kept on its lees for 10 months (with regular batonage), and doesn’t undergo malolactic fermentation. It’s a delicious wine – I actually purchased every single bottle that made its way to Washington DC!

Check out our interview with Sebastian below the fold. Read the rest of this entry »

Virginia Wine Cruise – Tonight!

Posted by | Posted in Terroirist | Posted on 10-28-2011

Virginia Wine Month winds down this weekend. To celebrate, the Washington Wine Academy has hosted a handful of wine cruises down the Potomac this month, and the last two cruises are tonight!

The Washington Wine Academy played a huge role in my wine education (it’s where I took my WSET classes a few years ago), so they’ve offered several pairs of tickets to Terroirist readers for both of tonight’s cruises. (One runs from 6:30 – 8:00 PM; the other from 8:30 – 10:00 PM. Boats depart from DC’s Southwest waterfront at the 7th Street Landing, and board 15 minutes in advance and leave on time.)

The 90-minute cruises feature some of Virginia’s best wineries, including Rappahannock Cellars, Boxwood Winery, Breaux Vineyards, Pearmund Cellars, Linden Vineyards, Winery at La Grange, Barboursville Vineyard, Ingleside, Vint Hill Craft Winery, and Whitehall Vineyard. Don’t worry, there’s plenty of local food onboard, as well.

The cruises sound like an absolute blast — so if you’re interest, leave a comment below and make your case in two sentences or less!

Daily Wine News: #ChampagneDay

Posted by | Posted in Wine News | Posted on 10-28-2011

A lesson in how not to open Champagne.

Today is Global Champagne Day! What are you opening?

U.S. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta will ring in the New Year with a bottle of 1870 Chateau Lafite Rothschild, courtesy of California restaurateur Ted Balestreri. Last year, Balestreri pledged to open the wine if Panetta could track down Osama bin Laden while at the CIA. No word on whether the wine is counterfeit or corked.

This past week, Jay McInerney experienced “a kind of figurative jet lag” when within just a few hours, he tasted Shiraz with Michael Twelftree of Two Hands and Volnay with the Marquis D’Angerville. He finds terroir in both!

In the Chicago Tribune, Bill St. John advises readers to avoid “overrated, overhyped, overpriced wines.”

On Eater, Talia Baiocchi asks some of the nation’s top sommeliers — Raj Parr, Richard Betts, Michael Madrigale, and Harley Carbery — if sommelier certification is “bullshit.” (I don’t think it is!)

Have wine commercials changed in the past 30 years? Jeff Siegel says no. “The best way to convince Americans to drink wine is to show hip and with-it young people drinking wine.”

On the Wall Street Journal’s wine blog, Lettie Teague previews four new wine books that “will likely endure for many seasons more.”

Announcing “White’s Wines”

Posted by | Posted in Terroirist | Posted on 10-27-2011

Yesterday, I let hundreds of newspapers across the country know that I’m launching a free, twice monthly wine column on Tuesday. It will be written for the general reader, and all the columns will be housed at Wines.com, the fastest growing wine portal on the Internet.

Fewer and fewer newspapers can afford to employ a wine writer – and these days, most even struggle to pay freelancers. But consumers are still eager to learn about wine.

What are the best wines to open on Thanksgiving? How do you navigate a restaurant wine list? What are some good wine-themed Christmas gifts? Is wine reserved strictly for connoisseurs?

Twice each month, I’ll explore – and attempt to answer – questions like these. I’ll also offer guidance on food-and-wine pairing, advocate for wine consumers’ rights, and report general wine trends.

I’m hopeful it’ll be a hit – several dozen newspapers have already pledged to publish the column!

This is a shoestring effort, so if you’d like to see it in your local paper, please write to your paper’s editor and CC me (David – at – Terroirist.com). Editors can choose to run it whenever they’d like – whether it’s once in a blue moon or 26 times each year.

Daily Wine News: Free My Drink!

Posted by | Posted in Wine News | Posted on 10-27-2011

Pennsylvania’s Commonwealth Foundation launches a new effort – Free My Drink – which aims to end state-controlled liquor sales. Its “top 13 reasons to get government out of the booze biz” is fantastic.

W. Blake Gray is “shocked” by Wine & Spirits’ decision to exclude Bordeaux wineries – all of them! – from its list of the Top 100 wineries in the world.

On the Washington Post’s All We Can Eat blog, Dave McIntyre chats with Miguel Roquette, marketing director for Quinta do Crasto winery.

Dr. Vino checks out Pax Mahle’s enormous eggs!

Joe Roberts takes issue with Tom Wark’s recent claim that “we are living in the Golden Age of Wine Writing and the Golden Age of Wine Writing Talent,” and praises Gerald Asher’s A Vineyard In My Glass.

In a fantastic post, Tom Wark explains why interstate retailer-to-consumer shipping is so important. “[It’s] an important market-based tool for adjusting the gargantuanly inefficient distribution patterns brought on by the three-tier system. Retailer-to-consumer shipping across state lines moves fine wine from markets where its demand is less into those markets where its demand is greater. The three-tier system is incapable of efficiently doing this because wholesalers in one state can’t move wine into other states’ markets.” For the record, just 14 states currently allow out-of-state retailers to legally ship wine to their residents.

Daily Wine News: Profound Pinot

Posted by | Posted in Wine News | Posted on 10-26-2011

The Extreme Sonoma Coast

Eric Asimov puts together a panel to taste through 20 bottles of Rosso di Montalcino — and revels in the “unmistakable earthy, dusty flavors of pure Sangiovese. With their winsomely bitter, citrus-tinged cherry flavors, these wines were soulful and elemental, like good trattoria food. They wanted less talking and more drinking.”

“Forty years after breaking into the wine industry, Merry Edwards stills finds herself battling with the boys in the business.” In Reuters, a wonderful piece on one of America’s best winemakers.

Wine Spectator’s Matt Kramer has named the extreme Sonoma Coast the source of “the most profound Pinot Noirs grown in America today.” I agree.

“It’s time for Bud Light to grow up.” According to advertising pro Tim Arnold, Anheuser-Busch InBev’s “sophomoric humor” has “finally [and] predictably led to Bud Light’s first sales decline in 27 years.” (H/T: Eric Asimov.)

Until the New York Times names its next restaurant critic, Eric Asimov will be filling in!

In Bloomberg, Elin McCoy pays homage to Anderson Valley Pinot Noir.

Mike Veseth, aka The Wine Economist, shares his notes from a recent address to the San Francisco Treasury Symposium, where he gave the luncheon keynote speech: “Wine Boom and Bust — With Lessons for Finance in the 21st Century.”

“When Salisbury Vineyards issued a ‘Call to Arms’ inviting unemployed Central Coast locals to harvest its 2011 vintage, owner John Salisbury hoped to enlist a new source of vineyard labor and provide reasonably paid temporary jobs to those in need. Despite his best intentions and persistence, his social experiment did not pan out exactly as planned.” In Wines & Vines, an article on the perils of “Citizen Wine Pickers.”

Combating Wine Snobbery in DC

Posted by | Posted in Out of the Glass | Posted on 10-25-2011

This past Sunday, Jeff Siegel (aka The Wine Curmudgeon) explained that his “goal is [to] help Americans see wine as Europeans do, as something to drink every day. Even if it kills me.”

This is a goal that everyone who loves wine should rally behind — wine shouldn’t be reserved strictly for connoisseurs. Fortunately, an increasing number of wine lovers across the globe are helping combat the poison of wine snobbery. Two of these people — Lisa Byrne and Vanessa French – are doing more than their part in my hometown of Washington DC.

Lisa is a marketing and events professional, but she’s best known as the DC Event Junkie. Vanessa is the founder of Pivot Point Communications, a boutique creative communications agency. Over a Sunday brunch just two months ago, Lisa started lamenting the fact that Washington DC has a beer week – but didn’t have a wine week. So the two decided to start one. A few bar napkins later, the idea was fully hashed out.

“Our goal was to demystify wine by making it a less intimidating experience and by creating events that foster learning more about the vast subject — and the enjoyment of wine, of course,” Vanessa later explained to me.

DC Wine Week finished up this past Saturday, and by all accounts, it was a smashing success. All the official events were well attended, and the concept inspired other area wine bars, restaurants, retailers, and others to host their own wine-themed events.

Lisa and Vanessa plan on plan on hosting an even larger weeklong event in the spring. Huge congratulations to both! I hope their success inspires others to launch similar events.

Daily Wine News: Praising Bulk Wine

Posted by | Posted in Wine News | Posted on 10-25-2011

“Consumers, of course, have no way of proving that a wine Hughes sells for $15 should have cost them $30. But the wines are indisputably of high quality, and they cover a variety of styles.” In his latest Washington Post column, Dave McIntyre highlights the work of American negociant Cameron Hughes. McIntyre also offers several recommendations.

In Decanter, Andrew Jefford stands up for bulk wine — and hopes “it plays an ever-greater role in the international wine-trade in future.” The reason? Carbon footprints. As he explains, “From an environmental perspective, glass is a catastrophically poor way to transport any liquid over a long distance.”

W. Blake Gray  becomes Palate Press’ first columnist. His first piece is great, so I’m really excited about this announcement.

And in what could be huge news for organic grape growers, W. Blake Gray reports that “a petition to allow USDA Organic wine to include sulfites cleared the second — and perhaps most significant — of four procedural hurdles.”

Some sad news for Pennsylvania wine lovers — it looks like privatization won’t happen this year. As the Patriot-News reports, “If ever there was a time when selling the state’s liquor stores seemed like it was really going to happen, this appeared to be the year. Combine the installation of a Republican governor and Legislature, a desperate need for revenue and polls showing strong support for the idea: It seemed like the perfect recipe for privatization. But momentum has slowed this fall.”

According to Jon Bonné, Oregon’s 2009 wines show the “potential” of the Willamette Valley’s wines. Not because they’re “uniformly great,” but because they’re “distinctive,” and “show the virtues of experience – and transparency – in letting a vintage unfold in all its unpredictability.”

Daniel Opalacz, a former student of geology, has launched a wine-mapping project — called Vinosum – that “catalogs and displays information on about 500 premium California vineyards and 3,000+ single vineyard wines.” In addition to soil, geology, elevation, the site also tracks winemakers, average wine bottle price, and average Wine Advocate scores. It’s incredible – and according to Tom Wark, “one of the most amazing timesucks on the Internet.” Check it out!

Weekly Wine Roundup: Berserkerfest!

Posted by | Posted in Wine Reviews | Posted on 10-24-2011

Some incredible wines were consumed by the Terroirists last week. I visited New York City for Berserkerfest; Greg popped open what’s long been one of my favorite affordable Rhones; and Jeff went hiking with some wines (that’s one way to hydrate!).

Check out our notes below.

David White
This past weekend, I went to New York for Berserkerfest — a weekend when Wine Berserkers from across the country get together to meet and drink one another’s wines. This year’s event was at Peking Duck House, and nearly 100 bottles were open. I brought along three — a 1976 Freemark Abbey Petite Sirah York Creek, a 1982 Joseph Swan Vineyards Zinfandel Sonoma County, and a 2009 Rivers-Marie Chardonnay B. Thieriot Vineyard.

The Freemark Abbey was stunning for a solid hour — several folks said it was their Wine of the Night. The Swan, too, still had lots of fruit and was incredibly approachable — it was a bit simpler than the ’76, though. And the Rivers-Marie was also delicious — much more elegant and mineral-driven than the ’08 bottling of the wine.

Other highlights for me included a 1994 La Jota Cabernet Sauvignon Howell Mountain Selection and a 1997 Pahlmeyer Proprietary Red. But there were so many other good wines that it’d be impossible to catalogue them all! I tasted all sorts of wonderful Champagne and Riesling, a stunning ’96 M. Chapoutier Hermitage (I’m not sure which bottling it was), several aged Burgs, and, well, the list goes on. It was also great to meet so many generous people.

Earlier that day, I attend the Chambers Street Wines memorial for Joe Dressner, where money was raised for Partners-in-Health. It was fun to taste so many of his selections — and I particularly enjoyed the whites. Read the rest of this entry »