Drink for a Good Cause!

Posted by | Posted in Wine Events | Posted on 10-31-2012

In 2003, eight friends got together to taste wine and share a traditional Thanksgiving dinner. The event started growing, and just a few years later, 23 people were packed into an apartment for a sit down Thanksgiving feast and 7-flight wine tasting.

The original dinner guests then realized they could turn the event into something bigger – so in 2007, they launched Uncorked, an annual event that would raise money for So Others Might Eat (SOME), a Washington-DC based organization that helps the poor and homeless.

The sixth annual Uncorked DC is just two weeks away. The event – which includes a silent auction and a Thanksgiving dinner served with six different wines — will be MC’ed by Washington Post wine writer Dave McIntyre

And I’m serving on the host committee – so please come! For a limited time, tickets are available for the discounted price of $95. After you buy your tickets, be sure to also RSVP on Facebook.

If you can’t make it to the event but still want to help out, let me know! We’d be happy to take your money, of course, but we’re also looking for silent auction items. Whether it’s tickets to sporting events, gift certificates, or rare bottles of wine, we’ll take them! Uncorked DC is also looking for sponsors.

Daily Wine News: 37-Year Low

Posted by | Posted in Wine News | Posted on 10-31-2012

Hurricane Sandhi

This year, global wine production is expected to slump to the lowest level in 37 years.

In Bloomberg News, Krista Giovacco writes about the “vacation opportunities” available just outside Florence in San Miniato. There, tourists pay to pick and sort grapes, label and pack of boxes of wine, and prepare their own meals. It sounds awesome (seriously)!

“By playing with the parameters of how wine is fermented and aged — oxygen exposure, temperature, darkness, pressure, and agitation — winemakers are using the sea to rethink how we make great wine.” In Wine Spectator, a fascinating piece on the move by some winemakers to experiment with aging wine underwater.

In Wine Spectator, Katherine Cole sits down with author T.C. Boyle, who “finds inspiration in the wines produced near his Santa Barbara home.”

In Oregon, “winegrowers and winemakers up and down the state are happy campers.” In Washington, the wine industry is expecting a record haul.

Jo Diaz “decided to see who’s saying what about Greek wines.”

Joseph & Curtis chats with Leslie Alexander, the owner of Société du Vin, a unique wine storage facility in Bridgehampton, New York.

From Panos Kakaviatos, The Judgment of Strasbourg!

A reminder: Terroirist is giving away two free tickets to the grand tasting at Rhone Rangers New York! Time is running out!

Rum has returned to New England!

During Hurricane Sandy, Dave McIntyre of the Washington Post opened a Pinot Noir from Sandhi. What’d you open?

An Iron Fist in a Velvet Glove

Posted by | Posted in White's Wines | Posted on 10-30-2012

As regular readers know, I write a free, twice monthly wine column that’s distributed to newspapers across the country.

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 — in which I write about Napa Valley’s Stags Leap District — went out this morning.

An Iron Fist in a Velvet Glove

Napa Valley accounts for less than 4 percent of America’s total wine production. Yet it’s the country’s best-known wine region.

Napa rocketed to the forefront of American winemaking in 1976, when British wine merchant Steven Spurrier organized a wine competition in Paris to pit California’s best Chardonnay and Cabernet Sauvignon against the best wines France had to offer.

Everyone assumed that France would win. After all, the nation had been making wine for thousands of years and was widely regarded as the world’s top wine region. But with both its whites and reds, California won.

The white wine, produced by Chateau Montelena, came from Calistoga, a city at the north end of Napa Valley. The red, produced by Stag’s Leap Wine Cellars, came from the southern Napa town of Yountville.

The outcome shocked the world. Ten years later, the red wines were re-tasted at the French Culinary Institute. Once again, California came out on top. This time, the Cabernet Sauvignon was produced by Clos Du Val, a winery located down the road from Stag’s Leap.

Ever since, the world has recognized America’s ability to produce world-class wine.

The portion of Napa Valley that stretches from just north of Stag’s Leap Wine Cellars to Clos du Val is now known as the Stags Leap District, a one-mile-by-three mile stretch of land that comprises just 1/100th of Napa Valley. The federal government recognized this district as an official American Viticultural Area in 1989.

If it weren’t for this stretch of Napa Valley, America might not have its reputation for producing some of the world’s best wines. Read the rest of this entry »

Food and Wine during Frankenstorm

Posted by | Posted in Wine Reviews | Posted on 10-30-2012

On Sunday evening, as Hurricane Sandy started to settle in, the entire eastern seaboard dashed to the grocery store to shore up on sustenance for the coming days.

We purchased the essentials, of course, but also picked up an occasional pleasure, pork chops. With the afternoon and evening free, we had plenty of time to brine them while watching my beloved Cowboys lose to the Giants (the cathartic act of cooking helped soothe my heart).

The chops were dusted with Asian five-spice, salt, and pepper; seared for 1.5 minutes on each side; and then thrown in the oven for ten minutes until they achieved a perfect rosy center. We coupled the pork with cast-iron cornbread and steamed green beans.

“Sounds delicious,” you might be thinking, “but what were we drinking?!”

Pork, as we know, can accompany a wide selection of wines, Riesling leading the charge along with a myriad of fresh, lighter reds. Dinner was paired with two wines I blind tasted the day before.

Wine #1, the 2010 Domaine Barville Optimum Châteauneuf-du-Pape, was not my favorite of the two, yet sported an appealingly rich texture and smelled like a holiday favorite — eggnog coupled with ripe fruits and hot, stewed cherries.  Grenache is quickly making its way into my blind tasting repertoire.

Wine #2 was more appealing. The 2010 Domaine de la Perrière Chinon was a classic, cooler expression of Cabernet Franc. The wine was marked by red fruits — fresh, underripe strawberries, along with cranberries and raspberries — and green peppers. It’s healthy acidity (and chewey tannins) made the wine wonderfully food friendly. This wine reaffirmed my belief that the “green” aspects of wine can be a positive influence when food is involved.

This once-in-a-lifetime storm was certainly memorable. So hopefully, all our readers reached into their cellars and pulled out some memorable wines to pair with the storm! Please let us know what you opened in the comments. A few of the the highlights leaving the Bourbon Steak cellar were the 2006 Frederic Mangien Chambolle-Musigny “Les Charmes,’ 2008 Vincent & Sophie Morey Puligny-Montrachet ‘La Truffière,’ 2004 Château Pichon-Longueville au Baron, and, oh yes, 1998 Château Margaux.

Our thoughts go out to all our readers along the east coast — especially those in New York and New Jersey, who appear to have suffered the worst from the storm.

Daily Wine News: New Wave

Posted by | Posted in Wine News | Posted on 10-30-2012

Uploaded to flickr by craig.camp.

“The trick is exposing the new reality that this generation represents, so that the next generation doesn’t grow up with the same preconceptions of Napa that myself, Ricciato and Mody have all harbored.” Talia Baiocchi writes her debut column on WineSpectator.com.

“Frustrated by this fading link to the past, several prominent vintners… created the nonprofit Historic Vineyard Society. Their hope was that, by creating a registry of the state’s old vineyards, currently with more than 200 listed, they would draw attention to a living connection to the past.” In the San Francisco Chronicle, Jon Bonné writes about the effort to protect California’s oldest vineyards.

“For some reason the world sweet keeps on coming to me. The book is written with sweetness. By the time I read the book the second time, the volume took on weight, very much like a lively wine might.” Alice Feiring praises Eric Asimov’s just-released book, How to Love Wine.

From Alder Yarrow, a fascinating conversation with Randall Grahm.

“As overproduction and high alcohol wines increasingly dominate Spanish viniculture, it now appears Portugal can steal some of its thunder.” So proclaims John Mariani in Businessweek.

According to Steve Heimoff, tasting “plonk” is important.

On Palate Press, Tom Mansell writes a fascinating piece on “The Science of Sour Beers.”

Stags Leap Harvest Immersion – Day 4

Posted by | Posted in Terroirist | Posted on 10-29-2012

As regular readers know, I spent mid-October in Napa Valley doing a five-day harvest immersion with the Stags Leap District Winegrowers. I’ve been detailing my activities over the past few days. (The first installment was published on October 17; the second on October 19; the third on October 25.)

Day four began just before 7:00 am at Stag’s Leap Wine Cellars, where Kirk Grace, the property’s vineyard manager, promptly invited me into his pickup.

We then headed into the vineyard with grape shears, a digital fish scale, and about a dozen five-gallon buckets. Kirk needed to project the yield of the grape crop that was about to be harvested — so we selected random rows, pulled all the grape clusters, and then weighed them to project the total yield.

Kirk Grace, projecting grape yields.


While pulling grapes, I learned about Kirk’s history in Napa Valley.

His family moved to Napa Valley in 1976 and soon launched a small, family winery — Grace Family Vineyards — that would quickly garner international acclaim. In short order, Kirk decided that he wanted to become a farmer, so he headed to Cal Poly to study crop science and focus on viticulture, as he “figured out that grapes pay better than carrots.”

Kirk’s resume includes stints at St. Supery Vineyards, Bettinelli Vineyard Management, and Robert Sinskey. He’s been with Stag’s Leap Wine Cellars since 2006, where he oversees the company’s 142 acres of estate vineyards.

After about an hour, I linked up with Nicki Pruss, Stag’s Leap Wine Cellars’ veteran winemaker.

Unlike Kirk, Nicki didn’t set out to work in wine — she started her professional career as a podiatrist. But in 1995, during a long bike trip through the wine regions of France and Germany, she realized that her heart was in wine. So when she returned, Nicki began studying winemaking at Napa Valley College and making wine at home. In 1998, she landed an internship at Stag’s Leap Wine Cellars and has been there ever since, becoming the head winemaker in 2005.

Tasting through various "factions" of pressed juice.

Nicki toured me through the entire operation, which was humming with activity as tons and tons of grapes were being processed. Our most interesting activity was tasting through the various “factions” of juice produced from initial pressing through subsequent — and harsher — pressing.

At 9:50 AM, I hopped in my car and drove to Malk Family Vineyards, the smallest producer in the Stags Leap District. I was met by Robbie Meyer (better known for his two personal labels, L’Angevin and Peirson Meyer), and we quickly started walking the property’s two-acre vineyard.

While walking, we filled a ziplock bag with various grapes, crushed them, and poured the juice into a portable refractometer to measure the sugar content, or brix, of the grapes. We then headed to the vineyard at Regusci Winery to do the same thing, as Malk sources some fruit from there.

Robbie Meyer, walking the Regusci Vineyard.


Brix testing at the Malk Vineyard.

Later that afternoon, I headed back to Chimney Rock Winery for the official release of the Stags Leap District Winegrowers’ 2008 Appellation Collection, where I was able to taste through 2008 offerings from all 18 member wineries. Favorites included Chimney Rock’s 2008 Ganymede Vineyard; Hartwell Vineyards’ 2008 Estate Reserve; and the Malk Family offering.

At about 9:00 PM that evening, Jim Regusci reached out to see if I wanted to go watch some nighttime picks. So we hopped in his pickup and spent the next two hours driving through Stag’s Leap, Oak Knoll, and Carneros watching various crews hard at work — some hand harvesting and others on machines. It was awesome.


An evening harvest.

Daily Wine News: Patchwork

Posted by | Posted in Wine News | Posted on 10-29-2012

“While bigger online audiences and efficient shipping operations have enabled categories like pet food and diapers to become viable Web businesses, selling wine over the Internet remains thorny.” The Wall Street Journal takes a look at the “patchwork of U.S. and state regulations governing alcohol sales that makes shipping bottles directly to consumers’ doorsteps a mind-boggling proposition.”

On WineSpectator.com, Ben O’Donnell sits down with Tyler Balliet, the founder of Wine Riot, to hear how wine producers can win the millennial Market.”

“For those looking for a slightly wilder experience, one region that feels unspoiled and, in some places, untamed, is the Roussillon, home to France’s most southern vineyards.” So writes Will Lyons in the Wall Street Journal Europe.

“I don’t believe in using the iPad for a winelist. I hate that. When I go to a restaurant, I want the wine list.” Michael Mina explains why he hates iPad wine lists. (H/T: SFist.)

Lettie Teague hangs out with Hugh Johnson, “the world’s most popular wine writer.”

Elsewhere in the Journal, Teague writes about California’s next hotspot, Lake County.

In the Huffington Post, Mary Orlin writes about “The Evolution of Sokol Blosser Wines.”

Joe Roberts chats with Paul Cullen, Bad Company’s former touring bassist, about his wine endeavor.

On Saturday, a British sommelier “smashed the world record for the number of wine glasses held in one hand… handling 51 glasses to surpass the previous record of 39.”

Men’s Journal goes “cycling through Colorado wine country.”

A reminder: Terroirist is giving away two free tickets to the grand tasting at Rhone Rangers New York!


Wine Reviews: Odds & Ends (Whites)

Posted by | Posted in Wine Reviews | Posted on 10-27-2012

This week’s wine reviews. All wines were received as press samples. Wines were tasted sighted, due to the unusual nature of the wines.

2011 Recuerdo Torrontés
Argentina, Mendoza
SRP: $15. Nose shows bright, ripe citrus fruits, lime-favored chewy candies, and white flowers. On the palate, simple and extremely ripe, with a slightly awkward finish. (86 pts.) 

2010 Trumpeter (Familia Rutini) Torrontés
Argentina, Mendoza, Valle de Uco, Tupungato
SRP: $12. Restrained nose of ripe white peaches, cantaloupe, and fresh flowers. Balanced and lively on the palate with mouth-watering acidity. (88 pts.) 

2011 Bodega Colomé Torrontés
Argentina, Salta, Calchaquies
SRP: $15. Nose explodes with fresh citrus fruits, grapefruit, kiwi, and white flowers. Ripe, lush, and clean on the palate, with refreshing acidity. A simple but delightful wine. (88 pts.)

2010 Vionta Albariño Rías Baixas
Spain, Galicia, Rías Baixas
SRP: $15. A fascinating nose of banana and limes, backed by a hint of seawater. Refreshing on the palate, with notes that match up with the nose. A fun, refreshing wine. (89 pts.) 

2011 Rosa D’Oro Muscat Canelli
USA, California, Central Valley, Yolo County
SRP: $16. A grapey nose of marked by oranges, pineapple, and honey. Slightly sweet on the palate, with a fat, awkward finish. (85 pts.) 

2011 Murrieta’s Well The Whip
USA, California, San Francisco Bay, Livermore Valley
SRP: $20. A fascinating blend of 39% Chardonnay; 26% Semillon; 13% Gewurztraminer; 9% Orange Muscat; 7% Viognier; and 6% Sauvignon Blanc. On the nose, toast, white peaches, honeydew melon, and ripe melons – as if a simple Riesling were blended with a New World Chardonnay. Simple but refreshing. (87 pts.) 

2008 Saxon-Brown Sémillon Cricket Creek
USA, California, Sonoma County, Alexander Valley
SRP: $18. A delicate, seductive nose of ripe apples, melon, and a hint of lime rind and lemon curd. The palate is serious and rich, although it finishes slightly bitter. (89 pts.) 

2011 Bersano Gavi
Italy, Piedmont, Gavi
SRP: $19. A seductive nose of almonds, lemon curd, ripe McIntosh apples, and honey. The palate matches, but is marked by a great texture and shows some really nice minerality. (90 pts.) 

2010 Beni di Batasiolo Gavi Granée
Italy, Piedmont, Gavi
SRP: $18. Restrained nose of ripe stone fruits and citrus notes. The palate shows ripe fruits, but is exceptionally balanced and refreshing. (90 pts.) 

2009 Bastianich Vespa Bianco Venezia Giulia IGT
Italy, Friuli-Venezia Giulia, Venezia Giulia IGT
SRP: $36. A blend of 45% Chardonnay; 45% Sauvignon Blanc; and 10% Picolit. A beautiful nose of fleshy stone fruits, ripe limes, almond, and a hint of honey. The palate shows remarkable depth and richness, but it remains refreshing and light on its feet. A fantastic wine. (93 pts.) 

2010 Bastianich Colli Orientali del Friuli Friulano “Adriatico”
Italy, Friuli-Venezia Giulia, Colli Orientali del Friuli
SRP: $16. An exceptionally aromatic nose of ginger, pears, and fresh-cut grass. The palate shows impressive concentration and has a lingering, lively finish. (90 pts.)

2011 Troon Vineyard Vermentino
USA, Oregon, Southern Oregon, Applegate Valley
SRP: $18. A seductive nose of lime rind, lemon curd, and green apple that draws you in. The palate is remarkably juicy, with fantastic acid, a great mouth feel, and a long finish. Delightful. (92 pts.)

2011 Peltier Station Vermentino Hybrid
USA, California, Lodi
SRP: $8. A blend of 90% Vermentino; 5% Pinot Grigio; and 5% Sauvignon Blanc. A grassy, citrus-heavy nose that’s indistinguishable from Sauvignon Blanc. That said, it’s certainly an enjoyable, refreshing wine. 85 

2011 Seghesio Family Vineyards Arneis
USA, California, Sonoma County, Russian River Valley
SRP: $22. A fun nose of pear, apricot, and slate. The palate is full-bodied but balanced by crisp acidity and a fun, fruity finish. (91 pts.) 

2011 Cusumano Insolia Sicilia IGT
Italy, Sicily, Sicilia IGT
SRP: $12. A highly fragrant nose of ripe pineapples and other tropical fruit, baked by a fascinating note of Nilla Wafers. The palate is shows both ripe and tart fruits, but somehow seems harmonious. A terrific value. (90 pts.)

2010 Quinta da Aveleda Vinho Verde Fonte
Portugal, Minho, Vinho Verde
SRP: $6. A simple nose of ripe limes and green apples. The palate is simple, slightly sweet, and refreshing. (85 pts.) 

2010 Great Sense Vinho Verde
Portugal, Minho, Vinho Verde
SRP: $6. A simple nose of ripe limes and green apples. The palate is simple, slightly sweet, and refreshing. 85 

Wines scoring less than 85 points.
2010 Double Decker Pinot Grigio
USA, California
SRP: $10. A simple nose of green apples and lime. Very light on the palate, with minimal flavor. 

2011 Jacuzzi Family Vineyard Arneis Paicines
USA, California, Central Coast, Paicines
SRP: $16. A simple nose that shows a hint of citrus fruits, but little else. The palate is slightly sweet, with harsh, unenjoyable flavors. 

N.V. Broadbent Vinho Verde
Portugal, Minho, Vinho Verde
SRP: $9. Fresh and fruity on the nose, with a spritzy, chemically palate.

N.V. Cruzeiro Branco Vinho Verde
Portugal, Minho, Vinho Verde
SRP: $9. An odd, smoky nose with some citrus fruits. Palate is very strange.

Weekly Interview: Dr. Rowald Hepp, Schloss Vollrads

Posted by | Posted in Interviews | Posted on 10-26-2012

I met Dr. Hepp, a German winemaker, in New York for lunch at Philippe, a Chinese restaurant with a French name. The seemingly mismatched confusion of genres and nationalities somehow worked together well. We enjoyed spicy and rich Chinese dishes with the refreshing acidity of Schloss Vollrads Rieslings in a quiet and refined atmosphere. The afternoon was defined by reverent, yet playful, pairings – quiet and racy; old and new; respect for the past with an eye on modern technology; sweet with puckering acidity; restless yet calm.

Dr. Hepp is the curious and youthful winemaker & managing director at Schloss Vollrads, a winery that is likely to be the oldest wine estate in the world and is the first in Germany’s Rheingau region. I met with him to celebrate the estate’s 800th anniversary. The first documented sale of wine from the estate’s family was in 1211…as context, that is four years before the signing of the Magna Charta; 100 years before Dante wrote the Divine Comedy; over 200 years before Columbus reached America…it’s old. However, the winery is always looking for ways to improve and innovate, including its usage of glass tops for all its bottles.

Schloss Vollrads’ focus is on Riesling alone and Dr. Hepp’s goal is to make food-friendly, balanced, and terroir-driven wines. We tasted through five or six of Schloss Vollrads Rieslings. The 2011 Riesling QbA dry had great balance and a pleasant minerality, like a sweet grilled lemon with coarse sea salt squeezed over your food. The 2011 Riesling Kabinett was amazing with spicy salmon. And the Auslese tasted like a bite of dark, sweet walnut bread.

Read more about Schloss Vollrads and Dr. Hepp from the interview below! Read the rest of this entry »

Daily Wine News: Sturdy Workhorse

Posted by | Posted in Wine News | Posted on 10-26-2012


“As for Monastrell, its reputation for much of the 20th century was as a sturdy workhorse… primarily as a blending grape for big, dark, coarse wines. In the last 25 years, though, Monastrell has redefined itself.” In the New York Times, Eric Asimov writes about the dramatic improvement of Monastrell, aka Mourvèdre.

Meanwhile, in the Daily Beast, Eric Asimov tells Sophie Menin “why tasting notes are pointless, how he fell in love with the juice, and his high school beer column.”

“With this particular vine he knows precisely how much water is flowing in the pipe at any given moment. That’s because he can see inside.” In Wired, Jeffrey O’Brien writes a fascinating profile on Fruition Sciences.

WineSpectator.com reports that Helen Keplinger has left Bryant Family Vineyard.

“Humboldt’s 26 wineries draw from vineyards spread out over a huge surface surrounding a central No Man’s Land — a hundred unplanted miles separating the Pinot Noir country of Southern Humboldt from the Bordeaux-like inland warmth of Willow Creek and Orleans in the County’s north east corner.” In Appellation America, Clark Smith writes a fantastic piece on the terroir of Humboldt County.

In the Bellingham Herald, a look at Washington State’s newest American Viticultural Area.

In Frank Morgan’s Drink What You Like, Michelle Gueydan guest posts with a great dispatch from the inaugural Virginia Wine Summit.

Tom Wark declares that Jancis Robinson’s just-released Wine Grapes is “The Most Important Wine Book in Years.”

“Storytelling has its place, but whenever you hear someone talking it up, look for their agenda. Little wineries such as Failla or Saxum have great stories, but journalists didn’t get around to writing about them until they [the wineries] proved themselves by establishing quality. People tend to forget that quality must precede the story.” From Steve Heimoff, a piece on story telling and wine sales.

Warning: A fraudulent Master of Wine is connecting with wine industry folks on LinkedIn!

A reminder: Terroirist is giving away two free tickets to the grand tasting at Rhone Rangers New York!