An Introduction to Beer!

Posted by | Posted in Beer | Posted on 11-30-2011

Editor’s note: As craft beer becomes more popular, an increasing number of oenophiles (myself included!) are interested in learning more about it. So we’ve brought on a beer blogger. Justin Dietz first became interested in beer thanks to craft breweries across the Midwest, and he soon became obsessed with it. Today, Justin doesn’t just drink beer – he also brews it. His first post is a primer, and we’ll get geekier from here. –David White

Believe it or not, there are more styles of beer than just Bud Heavy and Bud Light (and the future Bud Light Platinum). And no, dark and light aren’t the two words one would use to categorize beer. Much like wine, beer comes in many different styles with some room within each category for variations.

A beer’s style is largely based on the interaction of the malt, hops, yeast and any special ingredients (e.g. spices in a fall pumpkin beer) used on brewing day. A beer’s style is assessed according to four characteristics: Aroma, Appearance, Flavor and Mouthfeel.

According to the Beer Judge Certification Program (BJCP) there are 23 different categories of beer, each with multiple styles. With so many types of beer to explore, it’s no wonder the craft brewing industry has exploded in recent decades.

The beer industry has come a long way since The Reinheitsgebot, or the “German Beer Purity Law” of 1516, which stated that beer could only be brewed with water, barley and hops. It’s a good thing too — as yeast wasn’t known to humankind in the 16th century, and therefore wasn’t included in the law. Read the rest of this entry »

Daily Wine News: The Greatest Time

Posted by | Posted in Wine News | Posted on 11-30-2011

Uploaded to flickr by Keith Allison.

According to Paul Mabray, Steve Heimoff has no idea what he’s talking about when it comes to social media. It’s an excellent post and has generated some great comments.

Eric Asimov is certain that “we live in the greatest time ever to be wine lovers, with access to more high-quality wine in more different styles from a greater diversity of places than ever before.” I agree. A big reason? The “soaring cost” of Bordeaux and Burgundy.

Jon Bonné and W. Blake Gray comment on the news that Chinese NBA star Yao Ming is launching his own Napa Valley winery, and will retail it for $289 per bottle in China.

Wine Spectator reports on the shift from Bordeaux to Burgundy at Asian wine auctions. “‘While Bordeaux prices have moderated in recent months, Burgundy has taken off,’” explains Hart Davis Hart CEO Paul Hart.”

Andrew Jefford recently attended Alain Brumont’s “Rendez-Vous des Icônes,” where the winemaker “pits three of his own best wines against seven of the world’s best. Twice.” As a moderator of the event, Jefford tasted sighted — while everyone else was blind. As one might guess, the event provided for some interesting observations.

Over at Wine Diarist, Mike Steinberger has introduced a new series: The Wine Ethicist. Steinberger promises to post every Monday, or “until we run out of subjects or it is clear that this was a bad idea that interests no one.”

“[Australia's] biggest and best-known family-owned wine companies have posted flat revenue and shrinking earnings for the past financial year, as the sector faces a maelstrom of external shocks, led by the high dollar, which has cut exports, and a grape glut and competition from new world producers.” In the Sydney Morning Herald, a detailed look at Australia’s wine exports.

This week in Milan, winemakers appeared most interested in the egg-shaped wooden fermentors produced by Bordeaux-based artisan Joseph François

Elsewhere in Wines & Vines, a look at Joseph Gallo’s recent speech before the San Joaquin Valley Winegrowers Association.

Napa Valley has been named the “official wine region” of the next year’s America’s Cup, which will take place in San Francisco Bay.

Dreaming of a Wine Christmas?

Posted by | Posted in White's Wines | Posted on 11-29-2011

As regular readers know, I now write a free, twice monthly wine column that’s distributed to newspapers across the country. All the columns are housed at Wines.com, the fastest growing wine portal on the Internet. 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 -Terroirist.com).

My latest column — holiday gift advice for wine enthusiasts — went out this morning.

Dreaming of a Wine Christmas?

The gift-giving season is in full swing.

For those looking to impress a wine enthusiast, it’s a daunting time. Department stores offer little that would please an oenophile, and the staff at Best Buy doesn’t know a thing about wine. The internet, meanwhile, presents too many options!

Relax. Wine lovers are easy to please, regardless of your budget. Here are my top picks.

If you’re shopping for a friend or family member, I’d suggest a wine club membership. Whether you’re spending money on a complete novice or the next Iron Sommelier, everyone appreciates trying new wines.

Check out the full piece at Wines.com!

Daily Wine News: Duchang!

Posted by | Posted in Wine News | Posted on 11-29-2011

Decanter reports that “scientists in Australia have sequenced the Brettanomyces genome — a breakthrough that will ‘future-proof’ the industry against spoilage by the yeast organism.” Hooray!

Can’t afford a case of Château Lafite Rothschild? Don’t worry about it — Hong Kong-based Wing Lung Bank will lend you as much as $641,840 to make the purchase. No wonder why Elin McCoy’s nickname for the Chinese wine investment market is “duchang.”

“EU protectionism sucks.” Which is why Jamie Goode believes “we should support plans to lift restrictions on EU vineyard planting.”

“The only thing more challenging than matching the right drink to the right person in your life? Doing it during the holidays.” In the San Francisco Chronicle, Jon Bonné dons his “gift matchmaker hat” and allays your fears.

Elsewhere in the Chronicle, a wonderful piece on the Corralitos Wine Trail, “a short hop south of Santa Cruz in a pocket of gentle hills and valleys where the mountain range begins its slide into the Pacific.”

Chinese NBA star Yao Ming is launching his own Napa Valley winery. The target for his $289 per bottle wine? China, of course.

In recent months, bottles with Grignan-les-Adhémar AOC have started to appear on retail shelves. If you’ve never heard of this wine-growing region, that’s because it used to be known as the Coteaux du Tricastin AOC. But then things went nuclear.

In the New York Times, Eric Asimov pays homage to the latest obsessesion of beer geeks: Sour Beer!

Weekly Wine Roundup: Feasting Wines!

Posted by | Posted in Wine Reviews | Posted on 11-28-2011

We hope you had many pleasant sips and hearty laughs with friends and family over the holiday weekend. As you might have assumed, the Terroirist cell opened many bottles last week, many of which were American offerings and most of which impressed!

Read on to see what we had. If something wowed you over the weekend, let us know in the comments!

David White
On Sunday, my brother and I got together for some pizza and opened a 2008 Sandler Wine Company Pinot Noir Santa Lucia Highlands. I’m a huge fan of the wines Ed Kurtzman makes (in addition to Sandler, he’s the winemaker behind August West, Freeman, and Roar), so my expectations were high. And sadly, I was a bit disappointed. The wine was certainly tasty – super tart raspberries, cherries, and even some nectarines, along with a good dose of baking spices – but it lacked the depth and concentration I’ve come to expect from Sandler wines.

On Tuesday, Robby Schrum and I visited Medium Rare – a DC restaurant that exclusively serves steak frites – and brought a 1973 Freemark Abbey Petite Sirah York Creek. The wine was stunning – easily one of the most memorable (and tastiest) wines I’ve ever had. For a solid 45+ minutes, the wine was focused, precise, and full of life. Lots of beautiful red and dark fruits, along with tobacco, sweet herbs, Christmas spices, dried plums, and more. The wine started to become flabby after about an hour, but overall, it was phenomenal.

On Thanksgiving, I failed to abide by my own guidelines (I’ll blame the host!), but fortunately, a number of different wines were opened. We pulled corks on a 2008 Becker Vineyards Cabernet Sauvignon Reserve; a 2009 Arista Winery Pinot Noir Bacigalupi Vineyard; a 2008 Merry Edwards Pinot Noir Klopp Ranch; a 2007 Woodenhead Syrah Russian River Valley; and a 2007 Novy Family Wines Syrah Russian River Valley.

The Becker Vineyards Cab was fun because it came from Texas Hill Country, but I wasn’t a huge fan. The Oak Monster was on steroids, and the finish had an off, banana-like flavor. The Pinot Noirs from Arista and Merry Edwards were phenomenal – both were textbook examples of wines that pull off power and finesse. The Woodenhead Syrah, sadly, was terribly corked (and no, I didn’t try the saran-wrap trick). I’ve probably had this Novy Syrah a dozen or more times, and it never disappoints. It’s opulent wine — dominated by bold blackberries and black olives – and it’s always delicious. Read the rest of this entry »

Daily Wine News: Cycle Manipulation

Posted by | Posted in Wine News | Posted on 11-28-2011

From the Associated Press, a fascinating piece on the efforts of CSU Fresno viticulture professor Sanliang Gu, who has been attempting to “manipulate the growing cycle of grapes around Fresno” for the past dozen years. “This week he succeeded: the 2011 vintage that normally would have been picked in July or August came off the vines two days before Thanksgiving… In an industry where ‘hang time’ is cherished for adding complexities to flavors, the implications are profound.”

In the Vancouver Sun, a wonderful profile of wine writer Natalie MacLean.

“To boost the wine sector’s competitiveness by reducing production costs,” the European Commission is considering an amendment that would remove virtually all restrictions on planting vines across the European Union. If the amendment passes, Bordeaux could increase in size by 85 percent; Burgundy could double; and Rioja could be six times larger!

Mike Steinberger believes that Pamela Anderson should launch her own line of wines.

On the Washington Post’s All We Can Eat blog, Dave McIntyre highlights Gordon W. Murchie, who was recently honored by the American Wine Society “for his work promoting advances in viticulture along the East Coast.”

In the Wall Street Journal, Lettie Teague gets together with Michael Graves, the famed architect and designer.

Over at VinoManiac.TV, a wonderful video on South Africa’s Swartland Revolution. (H/T: Jamie Goode.)

Weekly Interview: Ray Walker

Posted by | Posted in Interviews | Posted on 11-25-2011

Each week, as regular readers know, Terroirist poses 16 questions to a winemaker. This week, we’re featuring Ray Walker of Maison Ilan in Nuits-Saint-Georges.

Until seven years ago, Walker knew nothing about wine. But while on a trip to Italy with his soon-to-be wife, something clicked – and he quickly became obsessed. A few months later, Walker tasted a Meursault – a 2002 Domaine des Comtes Lafon Meursault Clos de la Barre – and knew that his passion would be Burgundy.

Fast forward to 2008, and even though Walker had just started a new job as a financial analyst at Merrill Lynch, realized that he would never be happy with a life in finance. So with the support of his family, he quit his job to learn about wine and landed a job at Freeman Winery in Sebastopol with Ed Kurtzman.

Shortly thereafter, Walker decided to go make wine in Burgundy – and secured access to an incredible array of vineyards just in time for one of the region’s best vintages. And just before his 29th birthday, as Eric Asimov recently detailed, Walker “became the first American ever to make Le Chambertin, the grand cru red Burgundy that is one of the most revered names in wine.”

His first two vintages are sold out, but a small amount of his 2009s are available at Woodland Hills Wine Company. (Production will expand – slightly – with 2011.) Check out our interview with Walker below the fold. Read the rest of this entry »

Daily Wine News: Iconic Rant

Posted by | Posted in Wine News | Posted on 11-25-2011

Wine writer Jamie Goode.

“My chief problem is that they are usually really uninteresting wines, with dollops of ripe fruit, lots of expensive oak, and bags of ego. When a wealthy winery owner gives their winemaker a brief to make a really expensive wine, the winemaker is… forced down the route of power, concentration, super-sweet fruit expression and lots of new oak.” Jamie Goode, explaining why he doesn’t like “icon” wines.

Over at Vinography, Alder Yarrow pens a wonderful essay about Thanksgiving.

Evan Dawson, Finger Lakes editor at New York Cork Report, spends a night tending bar – and learns some important lessons.

Conrad Hilton, the 17-year-old brother of Paris Hilton, crashed into a parked car last weekend. TMZ has a photo of the scene.  Turns out he was driving with two wine bottles and a bottle of medical marijuana in his vehicle. (It looks like one of the bottles is from Napa Valley’s Hawkstone.)

Bush fires are sweeping across the Margaret River region in Western Australia, forcing many vineyard owners to evacuate.

Ever seen the “Vintage Express Aging Accelerator” in Skymall? At Palate Press, David Honig explains how it works

In the Wall Street Journal Europe, Will Lyons offers “holiday list of highly collectible bottles.”

Daily Wine News: Happy Thanksgiving!

Posted by | Posted in Wine News | Posted on 11-24-2011

Happy Thanksgiving! In case you missed it, my latest Wines.com column provides some guidelines for the big day.

At the end of today’s gluttonous feast, Jon Bonné is convinced he’ll be drawn to “what you can call brown liquor.”

Elsewhere at SFGate.com, Jon Bonné offers up some videos from a blind tasting event at this past weekend’s Flavor Napa Valley.

On the Wall Street Journal’s wine blog, Will Lyons reviews Real Men Drink Port … and ladies do too! A Contemporary Guide, “an entertaining romp through the myriad traditions and customs that have assembled around this wonderful wine.”

Yesterday morning, Kelly Ripa wore a Wine Rack on air – and drank from it! Awesome.

Ever wonder about the physics of wine swirling? Me neither. But it’s something that Martino Reclari, who studies fluid dynamics at the École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne in Switzerland, decided to study. Science Now details the findings.

Over the past week, Tom Wark has written a series of posts about Robert Parker’s history of rating wine and what it has meant. If you’ve missed it, be sure to check it out.

Wine Shop Interview: Chambers Street Wines

Posted by | Posted in Interviews, Wine Events | Posted on 11-23-2011

Chambers Street Wines (Credit: Joe Benavides)

Every other week, as regular readers know, Terroirist poses 15 questions to a wine shop owner. This week, we’re featuring Jamie Wolff, one of the partners behind Chambers Street Wines in New York City.

I paid Jamie a visit at the shop while passing through lower Manhattan last week. The store is impressive, particularly given Manhattan’s space limitations. High ceilings, a few tall racks of wine forming aisles, and racks along all the walls. The scene was bustling with customers but by no means mobbed. Definitely a pleasant place to browse.

And there’s quite a bit to look at! Chambers St. has one of the most impressive collections of old, rare, and expensive wine out on the floor that I’ve ever seen. As I spoke with Jamie in one of the aisles near the middle of the store, several bottles of Italian wine from the 1960s eavesdropped on our conversation.

Jamie tells me that he’s been devoting most of his palate lately to old Italian wines — Barolos and Barbarescos especially. Chambers Street has recently sourced a good deal of old Italian wine directly from The Boot, so they’re raving about the 20- 30-, 40-, and even 50-year old Italians in stock. Jamie feels that Nebbiolos from 1978, 1982, 1985, and 1989 are peaking right now.

As you might expect, his attention to detail when it comes to tasting is tremendous. He didn’t feel that he tasted things as clearly in the late afternoon as he would say, after getting a second wind later in the evening. Air pressure today — or air pressure 40 years ago at the bottling — could have a huge impact on how we experience the wine.

Rarely have I taken the barometer into account when cracking open a bottle, but he’s got a point. And those variations are part of what makes tasting wines — particularly old ones that may have changed so much in the bottle over the years — fun.

The rest of our interview with Jamie is below the fold. Read the rest of this entry »