Weekly Interview: Scott Lindstrom-Dake

Posted by | Posted in Interviews | Posted on 03-30-2012

Erica & Scott Lindstrom-Dake

Each week, as regular readers know, we pose a series of questions to a winemaker. This week, we’re featuring Scott Lindstrom-Dake, the owner and winemaker of Thumbprint Cellars in Healdsburg, California.

Along with his wife Erica, Scott Lindstrom-Dake is churning out 3,500 cases of fantastic whites and reds each year from Sonoma County’s principle appellations like Dry Creek Valley, Alexander Valley, and Knight’s Valley. Scott developed a taste for fine wine at an early age, but when he found himself in the financial doldrums of college, he did what any sensible person would do: make his own wine. The name of the winery and design of the label came about when Scott had an excess of gold-ink running down a bottle with which he subsequently added his thumbprint to future bottles.

Thumbprint’s first commercial vintage was in 2000 and the winery has been successful ever since.  To back the toothsome juice inside, the wines are labeled with sultry monikers like “Arousal,” “Threesome,” and “Four Play.” Scott and Erica host guests in a swanky tasting room in the Healdsburg Plaza.

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

Daily Wine News: Following Bliss

Posted by | Posted in Wine News | Posted on 03-30-2012

Seven Stones Winery, where Roy Piper works.

“I decided to take the risk and follow my bliss, and it was to the wine industry. It’s worked out better than I ever thought it would.” In the St. Helena Star, Cary Shott writes a wonderful profile of Roy Piper.

Paul Mabray screams, “Hey Wine Industry, You’re Looking at Wine Bloggers all Wrong.”

The Connoisseurs’ Guide takes “the growing group of self-possessed, ‘cutting edge’ restaurant wine directors” to task for trying to “relegate the ‘legacy varieties’ like Cabernet Sauvignon, Chardonnay and Pinot Noir to has-been status.”

“Despite appearances, there’s a serious side to this fresh approach. And it all starts with permeability.” The Associated Press covers the wine industry’s embrace of egg-shaped fermenters.

According to the Wall Street Journal’s Will Lyons, Loire Valley wines are perfect to “pop into your picnic hamper when the sun starts to shine.”

Meanwhile, in the Wall Street Journal, Lettie Teague profiles MCF Rare Wine.

In his first Playboy.com column, Joe Roberts profiles Ben Flajnik — star of ABC’s The Bachelor — and Mike Benziger. They’re the “force behind Sonoma’s Envolve Winery.”

Richard Jennings offers his thoughts on the recent “In Pursuit of Balance” event in San Francisco.

Imbibe and Inspire features superstar sommelier Levi Dalton, discussing “his early mentors, Miles Davis, social media, and what inspires him.” (H/T: Eric Asimov.)

Fred Swan offers a valuable lesson: “The difference… between a bad wine and a good one [is] a matter of degrees — Fahrenheit.”

Bruce Cass explains why he chose Roussanne as his focus during last week’s Rhone Rangers tasting in San Francisco.

Looking to induce superconductivity? Grab some Beaujolais!

In Washington State, “the bids are rolling in on the state’s 167 liquor stores.”

Daily Wine News: Napa Terroir

Posted by | Posted in Wine News | Posted on 03-29-2012

According to Talia Baiocchi, one would be “hard-pressed to find a better argument for the existence of true terroir in the Napa Valley” than Diamond Creek.

Courtesy of Diamond Creek Vineyards.

In Forbes, Larry Olmsted profiles Revel Custom Wine Cellars, which manufactures “the Bentley of wine cellars.” Clients include Richard Branson, Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie, and former Amway CEO Dick DeVos.

In California, there’s a serious vine shortage. “[This] could slow production at a time when growers are getting top dollar for their grapes.”

“I think sommeliers are rock stars. They taste a lot of wines, from all parts of the world, in search of those that provide extra value for the buck, much like I do as a wine columnist, but they do so in a high-stakes environment with the success of their restaurants and their livelihoods on the line.” Dave McIntyre, in the Washington Post.

In Pennsylvania, a bill that would legalize winery-to-consumer shipping passed a big hurdle Thursday when it passed the state’s Senate. Unfortunately, the measure is expected to face a tougher battle in the house.

After reading a New York magazine article about young foodies, Dr. Vino wonders when he’ll see a similar piece on young wine geeks. “I can’t wait for the NY mag article profiling a budding wino, posting pics of Jura labels to Instagram.” Me neither!

In New York Cork Report, Bryan Calandrelli writes about a recent a blind tasting of Pinot Noir, featuring wines from New Zealand, Russian River Valley, and Burgundy – served alongside wines from Niagara Ontario and New York.

At ProWein, Germany’s largest wine exhibition, Alder Yarrow explores “a few lessons in obscurity” by sampling wines from Bulgaria, Croatia, the Czech Republic, Turkey, Slovenia, Romania, Moldova, China, and Luxembourg.

In Alabama, the state’s 13 wineries are pushing for an exemption from the three-tier system so they can self-distribute their wine to restaurants and retailers. But, as Jeff Siegel reports, they’re facing stiff opposition from the state’s beer distributors.

Highlights from Rhone Rangers SF

Posted by | Posted in Grape Adventures | Posted on 03-28-2012

Fort Mason was the stunning setting for the Rhone Rangers San Francisco Grand Tasting

The Rhone Rangers is an organization devoted to one of the best causes in the wine world: promoting the creation and enjoyment of Rhone style wines. While Napa Cab still dominates America’s high-end wine market, there’s obvious potential in California and elsewhere for the production of noteworthy wines from Rhone varieties.

Syrah and Viognier are certainly in the lead for red and white, respectively, but Grenache, Roussanne, and a handful of others are up-and-coming in the California wine world. I attended the Rhone Rangers San Francisco grand tasting on Sunday — here are my highlights from the dozens of wines I tried:

Favorite white: 2010 Donelan Venus, Sonoma County (pre-release) — This is a Roussanne-based wine with some Viognier blended in. The Viognier definitely adds a boost to the aromatics. The nose explodes with peach, guava, pineapple, and lemon over a wet stone aroma with just a touch of oak. My favorite thing about this wine is how well it combines Viognier aromatics and Roussanne structure, skillfully avoiding the dreaded flabbiness that plagues many Viogniers. At $45 this isn’t a nightly quaffer for most, but it’s worth the money for a great white wine experience.

Favorite red: 2009 Stolpman Hilltops Syrah Santa Ynez Valley — Stolpman caught me by surprise one day when I wondered into their Lompoc “wine ghetto” tasting room in Santa Barbara County. The Syrahs blew me away with their resemblance of Cayuse, the cult Walla Walla winery with a supposed seven year waiting list. Unfortunately my favorite of that tasting, the Originals Syrah, was sold out, but the Hilltops is a worthy successor. This is a savory Syrah with a smokey, bacon fat nose over top plum and blueberry flavors. The Hilltops runs at a cool $48, but they also have their gorgeous Estate Syrah at $30 and the 2010 Originals at $38 for more affordable versions.

Most unexpected wine: 2009 Lagier Meredith Mondeuse Mount Veeder – Carole Meredith is a well-known grapevine geneticist, and according to her Mondeuse is “Syrah’s crazy uncle”. She couldn’t find the vines to purchase at a commercial nursery, but knowing that UC Davis had a couple of them which she had identified, she used cuttings to propagate a small vineyard of Mondeuse on Mount Veeder. The grape is grown in the alpine Savoie region of France, where the climate is significantly cooler than Napa Valley. It is extremely interesting to taste a California version; the wine is hardly recognizable as coming from the same grape as Savoie wines. It has voluptuous amounts of blackberry and boysenberry fruit with a great mineral-driven finish, and the fact that it was poured after the Syrah surprisingly seems correct. This wine is from only the vines’ third year, so I’ll be curious to try this in the future as the vines begin to mature.

Two Shepherds' Debut Vintage

With so many wineries present I wasn’t able to taste wine from everybody, but among those I did make it to a few caught my attention. Petrichor, a new single vineyard project with Duncan Arnot Meyers (Arnot-Roberts) as winemaker has enormous potential but the wines could use more bottle age. Two Shepherds – the project of wine blogger William Allen — continues to make waves, and he had one of the most popular tables at the tasting. I highly recommend securing a bottle of the 2010 Viognier before it is gone. (David White wrote about the Two Shepherds wines yesterday.)

This tasting confirmed my belief that Rhone style wines from California continue to be underrated and under-priced relative to their Bordeaux and Burgundy-inspired counterparts. California Syrah in particular can be one of the best values on the shelf, but I expect this won’t always be the case as the market will eventually catch up to the quality.

Daily Wine News: Good Provenance

Posted by | Posted in Wine News | Posted on 03-28-2012

Photo: Sotheby's.

On April 28, Sotheby’s will offer a number of wines directly from the cellars of Château Cheval Blanc and Château Yquem. Since one can safely assume Rudy K. had nothing to do with the manufacture of these wines, it’ll be interesting to see how their provenance impacts the auction price.

At a dinner with wines from Chateau Musar, a Lebanese winery founded in 1930, Jay McInerney tastes some of the “most original and eccentric reds, whites and rosés that [he’s] ever tasted.”

In the face of declining consumption at home, European producers are trying to “stay in the game” by focusing on Asia.

Wine Times highlights “10 South African wine personalities worth following” on Twitter. Meanwhile, over at Society Grapevine, Mike Ratcliffe of Warwick and Vilafonte offers his thoughts on South Africa’s 2012 harvest.

Anthony Rose offers a thoughtful consideration of En Primeur.

Merlot is making a comeback! In the Santa Rosa Press Democrat, Virginie Boone makes the case. Elsewhere, Steve Heimoff declares that the “Sideways effect on Merlot is officially dead.”

Alaska’s “oldest licensed winery” is turning 13 this year. So it’s not quite old enough to drink, but its owners sure are happy.

In Palate Press, Meg Houston Maker provides some “Wine Sample Request Etiquette.”

“Why sit in front of a computer screen for the rest of your life watching prices go up and down when watching grapes grow is so much less stressful?”  In Bloomberg Businessweek, a profile of Hedge Fund chief Mark Driver, who recently quit the world of finance to make sparkling wine on the coast of England.

The HoseMaster of Wine pens a wonderful parody of the leading wine blogs.

Winery Profile & Review: Two Shepherds

Posted by | Posted in Wine Reviews | Posted on 03-27-2012

The wine blogosphere is full of wine evangelists. But few people can match the passion of William Allen, the creator and editor of Simple Hedonisms. His fervor for wine is infectious, and it’s been a pleasure to get to know William since meeting him last July at 2011 Wine Bloggers’ Conference.

William first discovered wine two decades ago, and the hobby quickly became an obsession. At first, he began making wine and beer and taking regular trips to wine country.

Soon enough, he was writing prolifically on CellarTracker, taking classes, and spending more and more time visiting wineries across California.

In June 2009, he decided to plunge into the deep end – and moved to northern Sonoma during during a sabbatical from his job in the tech sector. During a four-month sabbatical, William planted his first vineyard, launched Simple Hedonisms, helped with harvest, and started networking. He kept quite busy.

The next year, William decided to take things up a notch with his winemaking – and sourced enough fruit to make 175 cases of Rhone wines. He documented the harvest on his blog, and bottled it under the Two Shepherds label. (For more on William’s project, check out his recent interview with UC Beau.)

On a recent trip to California, William sent me home with his five different bottlings as press samples. What most impressed me about the wines was their authenticity. These wines tasted real – there wasn’t a hint of expensive oak or manipulated fruit.

Full tasting notes below the fold. Note that the wines were tasted sighted.
Read the rest of this entry »

Daily Wine News: Petite Sirah

Posted by | Posted in Wine News | Posted on 03-27-2012

Louis Foppiano.

Louis J. Foppiano, who managed Sonoma’s oldest family-run winery, Foppiano Vineyards, for much of its 116 years, died March 23 at the age of 101.” Foppiano bottled one of the first solo bottlings of Petite Sirah in California and helped popularize the varietal.

In his latest column, Jon Bonné praises the “Bay Area’s incredible shrinking wine lists.”

“Continuum seems to be precisely what Tim wanted all along — the realization of his father’s dream, which the family almost lost sight of along the way, to create a Napa Valley red that could stand alongside the best of the Old World.” In the Wall Street Journal, a wonderful profile of Tim Mondavi and the wines of Continuum.

Elsewhere, Will Lyons catches up with Sideways author Rex Pickett.

In the Financial Times, Jancis Robinson contends that “Australian ‘stickies’ are some of the most extraordinary wines in the world.”

Annette Badenhorst, the former European marketing manager for Wines of South Africa, has opened up a U.S. office. Winebusiness.com sits down with Badenhorst to chat about her priorities for the year.

In Bloomberg, John Mariani explores “just how different Chianti is today from what it was when the name was first protected in 1716.”

Counterfeit (?) Wines: Still Profitable

Posted by | Posted in Wine News | Posted on 03-26-2012

With the recent arrest of Rudy Kurniawan for trying to sell counterfeit wine, many were wondering how the arrest would impact Spectrum Wine Auctions, an auction house that almost sold some of Kurniawan’s wine back in February.

We now know the answer: Not much.

This past weekend in Hong Kong, Spectrum held its first auction since the arrest of Kurniawan. Over at WineBerserkers, eagle-eyed oenophiles — led by Burgundy-expert Don Cornwell — noticed a number of questionable wines.

Some were pulled from the auction, without any acknowledgement by Spectrum. (Lot #630, a likely fake of a 1989 DRC Montrachet.) Most others remained and sold. Results — with the questions that were raised — were as follows:

Lot #1298. G. Roumier Chambolle Musigny Les Amoureuses 1999
- Even though this wine is a magnum, the label says it’s a 750ml.

- Don Cornwell caught that the capsule is also missing the Domaine name, “which is printed in black going around the capsule. This one has a plain capsule.”

Sold for $2,748 (Estimate $2,000)

Lot #1526. H. Jayer Echézeaux 1996
- From Don Cornwell on WineBerserkers:

“This is listed as Henri Jayer Echezaux but it is in fact Georges Jayer Echezaux. Henri quit making Echezaux under his own label after the 1994 vintage. The photo is quite fuzzy, but on the lower left it says Georges Jayer Propriétaire in smaller print below Henri Jayer — in the customary fashion. Additionally, the crest or coat of arms for Henri Jayer is quite different. The one on the label is for Georges Jayer.”

Sold for $1,912 (Estimate $1,200)

Lot #1794. Domaine De La Romanée-Conti Richebourg 1985
- This wine has “Percy Fox” — the well-known UK wine distributor — misspelled as “Percx Fox.”

Sold for $3,824 (Estimate $4,000)

Lot #2130. Domaine De La Romanée-Conti La Tâche 1952
- From Don Cornwell on WineBerserkers:

“First, note the ultra pristine new-looking main label. On the other hand, the Lebègue Bichot neck label on Lot 2130 has notable bin soil and and at least some visible oxidation. This makes no sense.”

Sold for $2,988 (Estimate $3,500)

Lot #2167. Domaine De La Romanée-Conti Romanée Conti 1980
- This wine has “Percy Fox” — the well-known UK wine distributor — misspelled as “Percy Foy.”

Sold for $7,170 (Estimate $6,000)

Lot #1251. Rousseau Chambertin Clos De Beze 1993
- From Don Cornwell on WineBerserkers:

Lot 1251 appears to be counterfeit. Lot 1251 has no capsule at all. It should have the intricate gold and white capsule… or the red capsule with black…

“Lot 1251 is also missing the vintage neck label plus it contains an incorrect Wildman neck label that’s falling off the bottle. The main label has the vintage typed on twice… and Rousseau never did that to my knowledge. The label also has a strange vertical fold from top to bottom which starts about 1/3 of the way across the label from the left. The colors on the Coat of Arms bunting don’t match at all. The pattern details on the Coat of Arms are blurred out from a bad photocopy job.”

Bidding did not reach reserve

Daily Wine News: Flaming Bag

Posted by | Posted in Wine News | Posted on 03-26-2012

“That gentlemanly respect for the cycle in the rare-book world struck me as a dramatic contrast to the latest scandal to pollute the wine world, where the bequest to future generations from the biggest hoarder of the rare and the great over the last decade is not so much a First Folio but a jeroboam-sized flaming bag of shit on our collective doorstep.” Keith Levenberg writes an excellent essay on Rudy Kurniawan.

Famed Italian vintner Angelo Gaja pens a missive on the state of Italy’s wine industry. (H/T: Eric Asimov.)

Alder Yarrow comes across the “the most insightful, well written piece of commentary on the future of the American wine” he’s ever seen. It was written in 1934.

Alice Feiring chats with Hank Beckmeyer of La Clarine Farm – who is “among the finest of the new generation of U.S. winemakers who are forging forward with bravery, talent and thoughtfulness.”

What’s in a wine label? Bureaucracy, of course.

In Wine Spectator, James Molesworth sits down with acclaimed jazz pianist Jacky Terrasson, who “also has a growing passion for wine.”

“The Bulgari name has long been associated with luxury jewelry.” Now, some members of the Bulgari family are going to try and make it in the world of fine wine.

In the San Francisco Chronicle, Nicholas Boer profiles Wente Vineyards.

“Mega Purple… can be a controversial topic among wine lovers.” You don’t say!

“Wine Enthusiast has announced its launch of an entirely Mandarin edition of the magazine.”

Weekly Interview: Giorgio Rivetti

Posted by | Posted in Interviews | Posted on 03-23-2012

Giorgio Rivetti of La Spinetta

Each week, as regular readers know, we pose a series of questions to a winemaker. This week, we’re featuring Giorgio Rivetti, the owner and winemaker of La Spinetta, one of Italy’s most acclaimed wineries.

At an early age, Giorgio knew that he had a passion for wine. At 16, he began studying viticulture and enology at the Scuola Enologica di Alba — one of Italy’s oldest wine schools — and soon thereafter apprenticed in both Burgundy and Bordeaux.

When he returned to his family’s home in Piedmont, he began working alongside his father, Giuseppe, who had launched La Spinetta in 1977 and quickly gained a reputation for his Moscato d’Asti.

The family introduced red wines in 1985, when Giorgio made a Barbera d’Asti. Many other reds quickly followed, as did international acclaim. By 2000, La Spinetta’s line-up included about 15 single-vineyard wines from Piedmont — and the family wanted to continue growing. So they expanded to Tuscany, where they acquired 65 hectares of vineyards to make three different Sangioveses. Last year, La Spinetta acquired Italy’s oldest Champagne-Method producer, Contratto in Canelli.

Robert Parker has described Giorgio’s winemaking as “masterful,” and the Wine Spectator has called him “one of the leading forces in Piedmont.”

Enormous thanks to VinConnect — the new company that enables U.S. consumers to order wines directly from overseas producers like La Spinetta — for facilitating this interview. As regular readers know, we wrote a feature on VinConnect back in February.

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