Daily Wine News: Indie Rock

Posted by | Posted in Wine News | Posted on 02-28-2013

“‘It is like the indie rock of the early 80′s,’ said Steve Matthiasson, in reference to the collective sigh away from the big wines that had come to define California.” Karen Ulrich writes a wonderful profile of Steve Matthiasson – and promises a forthcoming piece on the “New Wave of California Wines.” 

Well-known acidhead Lyle Fass explains why he’s launched his own import company, Fass Selections. 

“There are now a host of appealing, balanced and complex California Chardonnays available.” In the Huffington Post, Richard Jennings wonders if Chardonnay “has at last entered its golden era.” 

On WineSpectator.com, Tim Fish reports that Ehren Jordan has departed Turley Wine Cellars to focus entirely on his own winery, Failla. 

Kyle Schlachter offers six thoughts on Premiere Napa Valley. (This is a follow-up to an earlier post.) Alder Yarrow, meanwhile, offers his thoughts on all the wines (literally) presented at this year’s event. In 7×7, Courtney Humiston writes about Premiere. 

On Forbes.com, Gary Walther profiles Press, home to “the deepest Napa Valley wine list.” 

In the Minneapolis Star-Tribune, Bill Ward offers a “few tips and topics that generally garner a good reaction from folks interested in wine.” 

“Once upon a time, 20 years ago and more, Carneros was the great, bright hope for Pinot Noir… But then, reality gathered its forces and overtook fantasy.” Steve Heimoff comments on Carneros Pinot Noir.

2010 Bordeaux: High Prices, High Praise

Posted by | Posted in Wine Reviews | Posted on 02-27-2013

Credit: Union des Grands Crus de Bordeaux

Late last month, I attended the 2010 Union des Grands Crus de Bordeaux tasting at the famous Drake Hotel in Chicago. 

This tasting is held in Chicago every January and it’s always a great opportunity to preview the new vintage. While the First Growths and a few other major classified houses don’t participate, there are usually over 100 wines to sample. This tasting was especially exciting, as there’s a lot of hype surrounding the 2010 vintage. 

In the latest Wine Spectator, the cover proclaims that 2010 is “Bordeaux at its best.” Robert Parker has already declared that more than a dozen wines might receive 100 points. (Parker scores will be released on February 28.) Many other critics have written with similar enthusiasm. 

Some critics have been more cautious with their praise — Chris Kissack wrote that “anyone who claims 2010 is another Vintage of the Century is… far wide of the mark.” — but virtually everyone agrees that the wines are extremely good. 

As a result, the futures campaign has given us some of the highest prices we’ve ever seen for young Bordeaux. In recent years, price has been the most important — and prevalent — question when it comes to Bordeaux. 

For those of us with budgets, is it possible to justify the prices for, say, Leoville Las Cases, Ducru-Beaucalliou, or Cos d’Estournel? Just five years ago, all those wines could be found for less than $100. In 2010, each is being released at $250 or more! So while I’d love to have a deep cellar of young Bordeaux to grow old with, it is extremely hard at the prices we now see. When it comes to the First Growths, it’s hard to imagine anyone but an oligarch being able to afford such wines! 

Price and praise are only part of the narrative, though. Considering that the 2010s are still just babies, it’s worth looking at the most important factor in what the vintage will yield: mother nature. 

In Bordeaux, the only constant was inconsistency. There was a very cold winter, good amounts of rain in both March and June,  heat spikes in April and May, some drought conditions throughout the summer, and then long and cool August. Just reading that sentence is enough to make your head spin! Add the coulure and millerandage that many vignerons experienced, and it’s hard to imagine how anyone could produce delicious wines — much less the wines that so many critics have hyped. 

Vintners credit two factors for saving the vintage. First, thanks to high water levels in the ground and few sustained heat spikes, most vineyards were able to survive the drought. Second, the cooler weather in August also allowed the grapes to retain good acidity. 

Overall, the wines I tasted displayed structure and richness. In some cases, the tannins were punishing, even for young Bordeaux. 

On the Left Bank, Pauillac and St. Julien showed the best — showing off their terroir and achieving serious heights. Margaux was a disappointment. The wines were very good, to be sure, but I was expecting something tremendous. 

The Right Bank showed well on the whole, though the oak on some of the wines from Saint-Émilion was too noticeable. 

Across all the appellations, the wines were more variable than I expected. While there were some stunning wines, too many suffered from a real thinness on the mid-palate that raised some concerns about aging. And I have to wonder if the tannins will outlast the fruit on some of the wines. 

Below the fold are my tasting notes from the top wines I sampled at UGC. I will repeat that there were some absolute stunners — these notes don’t reflect is that this is a much more varied vintage than 2009 and 2005. Tasting before you buy is important, but for most consumers, that’s simply cost-prohibitive. And that’s the ultimate conundrum of Bordeaux these days. Read the rest of this entry »

Daily Wine News: Bottom Shelf

Posted by | Posted in Wine News | Posted on 02-27-2013

Tom Wark brings attention to Maryland’s “Anti-Amazon Wine Law.” Be on the lookout in your state.

“If I wanted to shock you I’d say that California will be forced to retreat and to concede the bottom shelf of the wine wall to imports.” Mike Veseth writes more about the future of wine. 

“I hate to think of people seizing on wine as a panacea the way they did oat bran after some other study in some other decade.” Eric Asimov comments on the recent study touting the health benefits of the “Mediterranean diet.”

Do California vintners pay too much attention to clones? Steve Heimoff explores the question.

Robert Parker will release his 2010 Bordeaux scores this Thursday. Just in time for any last-minute, pre-score purchases, J.J. Buckley has released its 2010 Bordeaux Report.

Riedel is releasing a Malbec wine glass. In Bloomberg, Elin McCoy wonders if the world needs it.

On Serious Eats, Stevie Stacionis writes a fun piece about a Valentine’s Day tasting of some Zweigelt.

Decanter.com reports: “Wineries across Europe are being scammed out of hundreds of thousands of Euros by conmen impersonating buyers at bona fide wine merchants such as Berry Bros & Rudd.”

In Wine Enthusiast, Andrew Hoover reports that “Chateau Montelena Winery has been placed on the National Register of Historic Places.”

In Palate Press, Erika Szymanski explores “Pairing and the Power of Suggestion.”

In Washington DC, urban wineries could soon be coming to the tunnels beneath Dupont Circle. Fingers crossed!

In Wine-Searcher, Rose Hoare explains how wine lovers can bring some “Downton Abbey” into their lives. (With wine, of course.)

(Extremely) Long Shadows

Posted by | Posted in Grape Adventures | Posted on 02-26-2013

Get it? (Credit: Julian Mayor.)

Allen Shoup may have been the first wine industry insider to realize that premium wine could be grown and made in Washington State.

Shoup began his career in Modesto, California, where he worked at Gallo as a marketing director. In 1980, he moved to Washington to take a job with Chateau Ste. Michelle, which at the time was just an upstart. He would watch the company grow tremendously — today, Chateau Ste. Michelle brings in nearly $200 million in revenue annually.

At Chateau Ste. Michelle, Shoup realized he had a knack for producing great wines — not by making the wine, but by bringing in great winemakers from across the world. While there, Shoup was instrumental in the collaborations with Piero Antinori — which resulted in the uber-smooth Col Solare — and the iconic Dr. Ernst Loosen, which resulted in the Eroica Riesling.

Soon enough, Shoup began dreaming of creating a line that produced nothing but iconic wines by iconic winemakers. So in 2002, he established Long Shadows: 7 wineries for 8 winemakers to make “best of type” wines from the Columbia Valley.

Credit: Julian Mayor.

Make no mistake: These are new world wines that boast all the ripeness Washington has to offer. And the wines don’t disappoint. Those that I’ve sampled all show age-worthiness, purity of fruit, tremendous balance, and distinctly Washington terroir. The reds range from $45-$55 and pack a lot of wine into each dollar, particularly when compared to their Napa counterparts.

The sole white wine in Shoup’s lineup is Poet’s Leap, made by Armin Diel of Schlossgut Diel in Germany’s Nahe region. Along with keeping the high standards of the estate that has been in his family’s hands for 112 years, Armin is an award-winning wine writer and president of the Verband Deutscher Prädikatsweinguter’s Nahe chapter. His wines perhaps are under-appreciated because they’re so rarely mentioned in his own writings. The 2011 Poet’s Leap shows off a lot of what one can expect from a ripe German spätlese.  A mere hint of residual sugar tames the tingling acidity of lime pulp, lemon juice and quince. A slate and flint minerality wash away a large percentage of said fruit, leaving a clean and lasting finish. A straight steal for $20.

Credit: Julian Mayor.

A little research through Seattle sommelier Luke Wohlers found me salivating for Carmina Burana. Basically, the Poet’s Leap but aged in large fudre. Unfortunately this wine hasn’t been made since 2008. Very little seems to be on the market as well.

I have to employ my “get out of Napa” philosophy when looking for a great Cabernet in the lower price points of a wine list. Consequently, I have turned a lot of people onto the 2007 Feather.

Credit: Julian Mayor.

This wine embodies everything one wants in a steakhouse red. The fruits are dark and elegantly ripe, with a moderate amount of jammy concentration. The wine finishes with a strong, chewy grip which is unmistakably Washington. Feather is made by Randy Dunn, yes, THAT Randy Dunn. Known for his namesake Dunn Vineyards and a more restrained style of Napa Valley Cabernet, he took his Howell Mountain expertise to Long Shadows and made his seventh Feather in 2009.

My real epiphany for the Long Shadows line came in the 2003 Chester-Kidder. Named for Shoup’s grandparents, this wine showed off the longevity of these wines. A six-grape blend dominated by Cabernet Sauvignon and Syrah, it could be their best. It is, after all, made by the winemaker with the most Washington experience, Gilles Nicault, formerly of Woodward Canyon.

Adorned with the art of Tacoma, Washington native Dale Chihuly, and other winemaker names such as Rolland, Melka and Duval, this winery looks to cast long shadows for a long time.

Read more about the all-star lineup here. Huge thanks to Julian Mayor, the consummate traveler and sommelier, for the pictures featured in this article. He recently visited the winery while touring Washington wine country.

Daily Wine News: Mediterranean Diet

Posted by | Posted in Wine News | Posted on 02-26-2013

Flickr, The Skinny Gourmande.

“I seldom run across a bad bottle of Châteauneuf-du-Pape, but if I’m forced to pick favorites I especially like Château de Beaucastel… and Château Rayas.” Jay McInerney writes about the wines of Châteauneuf-du-Pape. Fortunately, some of his recommendations are affordable. 

Serious Eats asks 19 rock star winemakers how they got their start. 

A new study in the New England Journal of Medicine finds that a “Mediterranean Diet” — which includes wine, of course — benefits your heart. (H/T: Dr. Vino.) 

“It has been there before you and will still be there after you.” In Wine-Searcher, Sophie Kevany chats with Christophe Salin, the director and chairman of Domaines Barons de Rothschild. 

John Mariani praises the Bordelais for “selling and shipping wines that show their terroir well and are priced to move.” 

Burgundy and Champagne would like to be recognized as UNESCO World Heritage sites, but haven’t yet succeed. Andrew Jefford comments in his latest column. 

On Saturday, Premiere Napa Valley raised $3.04 million for the Napa Valley Vintners, a nonprofit trade association made up of 450 member wineries. 

In the Star-Ledger, John Foy reviews the beautiful wines of Il Poggione.

Daily Wine News: #EWBC13

Posted by | Posted in Wine News | Posted on 02-25-2013

Flickr, Daniel González S.

The sixth annual Digital Wine Communications Conference — formerly known as the European Wine Bloggers’ Conference – will be held in Rioja, Spain from October 25-27. 

In the San Francisco Chronicle, Jon Bonné writes a thoughtful piece on the future of wine criticism. 

“The wine universe has been expanding at an accelerated rate over the last decade or so, and no place illustrates it better than Spain.” In the New York Times, Eric Asimov writes about the wines of Montsant, “a small Catalonian region nestled in the forbidding shadows of Priorat’s slate hills.” 

“Mr. Dagorn is a legend in New York wine service — not only for his remarkable longevity but for his generous nature and ‘dedication to the craft.” In the Wall Street Journal, Lettie Teague writes a great profile of 63-year-old sommelier Roger Dagorn. 

Lily-Elaine Hawk Wakawaka explains how “Victoria has reinspired [her] faith in Pinot Noir.” 

This week, Tennessee lawmakers are expected to decide whether or not to lift the ban on supermarket wine sales. 

The Federal Trade Commission’s recent announcement that the TTB should require Four Loko to bear a label indicating how much alcohol is in it “has reignited a long debate” about wine labels. 

In the Atlantic, Wayne Curtis writes a fun piece about “the drama (and sometimes danger) of the flaming cocktail.” 

Daily Wine News: Long Love Affair

Posted by | Posted in Wine News | Posted on 02-22-2013

Attention Wineries: Please help out Silicon Valley Bank with its latest survey!

Over at the Wine Cellar Insider, Jeff Leve chats with James Miles, the founder of Liv-ex. 

“For us weirdos who have had a long love affair with Spain’s great forgotten wines, Peter Liem and Jesús Barquín’s Sherry, Manzanilla and Montilla is as refreshing as a fino on a hot Andalucian day.” In Wine-Searcher, a great book review from Rebecca Gibb.

Although an increasing number of states now allow their residents to purchase wine directly from out-of-state wineries, a decreasing number are permitting residents to order wine from out-of-state retailers. 

“Marylanders will have to be vigilant to protect their right to buy wine online. It’s not always easy for consumers to understand what’s going on, even in two-page bills” On the blog for First Vine, Tom Natan writes an excellent blog post about some legislative shenanigans in Maryland. 

In 2012, U.S. Wine Exports hit a record high of $1.4 billion. 

Alder Yarrow writes about this year’s induction ceremony at the Vintners Hall of Fame, and provides a rough transcript of Robert Parker’s acceptance speech. 

In Virginia, Barboursville Vineyards’ 2009 Octagon took home this year’s Governor’s Cup. 

Hypebeast asks André Hueston Mack about his essentials. 

Chris Mulcahy, formerly the chief financial officer of Brutocao Cellars in Hopland – and current owner of Sapphire Hill Winery in Healdsburg — is suspected of embezzling about $250,000 from his former employer. 


Daily Wine News: Top Critic

Posted by | Posted in Wine News | Posted on 02-21-2013

Antonio Galloni

In Wine-Searcher, W. Blake Gray chats with Antonio Galloni about his post-Wine Advocate plans. 

Meanwhile, on his personal site, Gray wonders who will emerge as “the world’s most important wine critic.” 

On the blog for J.J. Buckley, Chuck Hayward gets his hands on Ted Lemon’s speech to the sixth biannual Mornington Peninsula International Pinot Noir Celebration.

In California, “Chardonnays across the state are delivering a clear and unmistakable expression of place.” But, as Stephen Yafa explains in Wine-Searcher, it’s not yet clear if this is what consumers want. 

Joe Roberts turns his blog over to his intern, Shelby Vittek, who explains why there’s “hope for Millennials when it comes to this whole food-and-wine pairing thing.” 

Elsewhere in Wine-Searcher, a quick summary on this year’s inductees to the Vintners Hall of Fame. From Stark Insider, some videos from the event. 

In the latest newsletter from Weygandt Wines, Meghan Drueding profiles Richard Leroy, a vintner doing remarkable things in Anjou. 

“I have to wonder whether almost any wine grape variety given this much care, attention and love might not also make exceptional wine.” In case you missed it, Richard Jennings recently wrote a wonderful essay in the Huffington Post about Il Caberlot, which is believe to be “a natural crossing between Cabernet Franc and Merlot that was discovered in an abandoned vineyard near Padua in the 1950s.” 

Wine Spectator has promoted Tim Fish to senior editor.

Trione’s Wide Range of Sonoma Wines

Posted by | Posted in Wine Reviews | Posted on 02-20-2013

The Trione family has been managing Sonoma County vineyards for 35 years, growing grapes that have ended up in many award-winning wines. In 2005, they turned to making their own wine and built a winery in the Alexander Valley. In addition to making Russian River Pinot Noir and Chardonnay, Trione makes a Sauvignon Blanc and a Syrah, as well as a Cabernet Sauvignon and a red blend from the Alexander Valley.

These wines were made by Scot Covington, who brought his impressive resume to the the Trione family in 2005. He began working at Sonoma-Cutrer in 1990, and moved on to become a production enologist at Marimar Torres Estate. Covington also spent a year working with Vergelegen Estate of South Africa, trying his hand at Pinotage and Sauvignon Blanc grapes. Gallo Sonoma hired him as the “experimental winemaker” in 1997. He then went Down Under, working with Rosemount in the Hunter Valley and Yalumba in Barossa Valley. So it’s no surprise that Covington has been able to make solid wines from a wide range of grape varieties.

I have to hand it to Trione for this marketing idea. They managed to fit six 50ml sample bottles into a small cardboard case, and inserted all sorts of information about their winery. In the end, a marketing gimmick is only as good as the product itself. And in this case, Trione backs it up. Before this tasting I’d never tried a Trione wine, but I was legitimately wowed by these tiny bottles.

Check out my notes below the fold. Please note these wines were received as press samples and tasted sighted. Read the rest of this entry »

Daily Wine News: Fresh & Restrained

Posted by | Posted in Wine News | Posted on 02-20-2013

Flickr, Damian Liszatynski.

“I’m thrilled to say that a few of these wines, in very small numbers, are now making their way to the United States.” Eric Asimov discovers some Australian reds that are “fresh, restrained and even savory with, yes, finesse and moderate levels of alcohol.”

Lily-Elaine Hawk Wakawaka writes a brief-but-fantastic history of California’s experimentation with skin-fermented whites.

In Oregon, according to Dave McIntyre, an increasing number of winemakers are embracing “nuance and subtlety over flash and brawn.”

Some scary news out of France. According to a new study, pesticide residues are found in a whopping 90 percent of wines. 

“If you don’t get it, say so. Not everything about fine wine is obvious or even that clear.” Matt Kramer praises connoisseurship.

“More and more of the wines on store shelves will be imports as the U.S. wine market continues to expand and evolve.” Mike Veseth explains why imports will account for nearly half of the U.S. wine market by 2025.

Steve Heimoff shares his introduction of Merry Edwards at her induction into the Vintners Hall of Fame.

According to some reports, Champagne sales were down in the United States last year. Since those reports likely came from sales data provided by Big Houses, Tyler Colman wonders if Grower Champagne helps explain the numbers. 

In Sacramento, Total Wine and BevMo are fighting for supremacy