Thinking While Drinking

Posted by | Posted in White's Wines | Posted on 04-30-2013

Abe Schoener.

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

These columns are hosted by Palate Press: The Online Wine Magazine. 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 –

My latest column, in which I explain how wine enthusiasts approach wine, went out this morning.

Thinking While Drinking

“Is a bottle of wine ever really worth $100?”

This is a question I’m regularly asked by friends who aren’t obsessed with wine. My answer is always the same.

“Of course,” I begin. “For starters, there’s supply and demand — bottles sell for what the market says they’re worth.”

“But to your real question,” I continue, “no one is dropping that sort of money simply because a wine tastes so good. On those special occasions when you splurge — whether for a $25 bottle, a $50 bottle, or even something that costs $100 or more — you’re hoping for something beyond deliciousness. You’re hoping for a wine that makes you think.”

Regardless of a wine’s price tag, this answer helps explain how wine enthusiasts approach wine. Those of us who obsess over what we drink aren’t just looking for something tasty; we’re looking for an experience. Whether a bottle costs $15 or $150, we’re hoping for something great. And a great wine makes you think.

This concept was made clearer last month while listening to Abe Schoener, an iconoclastic California winemaker, deliver a lecture in Washington, DC.

Check out the rest of the piece on Palate Press: The Online Wine Magazine.

Daily Wine News: British Fizz Boom

Posted by | Posted in Wine News | Posted on 04-30-2013

The British trade publication Restaurant Magazine releases its annual list of the World’s 50 Best Restaurants. At the top? El Celler de Can Roca in Girona, Spain. (Eleven Madison Park took the top U.S. slot, coming in at number five.)

“Blessed with soil similar to France’s Champagne region, vineyards in England nevertheless produced decades of low-grade goop that caused nary a Frenchman to tremble.” In the Washington Post, Anthony Faiola writes about the “Great British fizz boom.” 

“The winemakers who tried to ape the powerful style of the 2010s — and there were many — made wines that taste hollow, bitter, and unbalanced.” Elin McCoy offers her thoughts on Bordeaux’s 2012 vintage. 

“Millennials want wines that are authentic, that are unique expressions of interesting varieties grown by dedicated vintners who spare no labor or expense, who love the land and cherish the Earth and all its resources, who never, they swear to God, never manipulate the wines, who we feel a connection to because of their story so we want to support them, and, finally, the wines are also delicious and compelling, get you drunk, and don’t cost more than $15. Fucking simple.” On the HoseMaster of Wine, Lo Hai Qu explains what millennials want from wine. 

Over at Thinking-Drinking, Erin Scala chases Elizabeth Bird, New York City’s first female sommelier. (H/T: Eric Asimov.)  

In Wine-Searcher, Maureen Downey explains how to get the best results from selling your collection. 

From Maggie Hoffman, “7 Great California Rosés You Should Be Drinking Now.” Meanwhile, in the Star Tribune, Bill Ward works through an array of rosé. 

On New York Cork Report, Will Donbavand provides an update on how New York wine sales are faring in the United Kingdom. (In case you missed it, check out Lenn Thompson’s introduction of Will Donbavand.) 

In the Chicago Tribune, Bill St. John offers “short descriptions of the wines of the 10 Beaujolais crus, in an optional tasting lineup from lightest to heaviest.” 

“Lindquist bought tickets to a Kinks show — and when his boss wouldn’t give him the night off, he went anyway and got fired.” In the San Jose Mercury News, Laurie Daniel profiles Bob Lindquist, the founder of Qupé. 

“While women tend to be the buyers of wine, it is predominantly men who amass the large, ostentatious collections of old, rare, collectible, and expensive wines.” Tom Wark pivots off Judith Dobrzynski’s New York Times op-ed to comment about men and wine collecting. 

Panos Kakaviatos attends a magnificent tasting of wines from the Barossa.

Daily Wine News: Simpler Wine

Posted by | Posted in Wine News | Posted on 04-29-2013

From Wikipedia.

“Outside the rarefied world of wine tastings, small specialist wine shops and the fine-wine market the message is clear: the average consumer just wants wine made simpler.” In the Wall Street Journal Europe, Will Lyons writes a much-needed appeal to regular wine consumers.

“Sauternes is one of the greatest white wine terroirs in the world, for sweet or dry wine, [but] what the market wants now is dry wine.” In the International Herald Tribune, Eric Pfanner laments the declining popularity of Sauternes. 

J.J. Buckley releases a preview of its forthcoming 2012 Bordeaux report. 

In Wine-Searcher, W. Blake Gray profiles Yannis Voyatzis, “the man who made Santorini wines what they are today.” 

Aaron Nix-Gomez makes a fascinating historical discovery! In the Colony of Virginia, the first wine was likely produced by the  Popham Colony in 1607 — earlier than winemaking efforts in Jamestown, which was thought to produce the first wine in Virginia. 

“The grape’s fortunes are on an upswing; there’s more interest now than in nearly a generation, perhaps, in discussing it as an important part of California’s past and present.” Jon Bonné tastes his way through some Sonoma Zinfandel. Meanwhile, on his blog, Bonné ponders the grape’s future. 

“Why no glossy magazine features, no fashion spreads featuring him pontificating on Pinot Noir while wearing an Armani suit?” In the Wall Street Journal, Lettie Teague profiles Joshua Nadel, who directs the wine program’s at New York’s Locanda Verde, The Dutch, and the Lafayette. 

Elsewhere, Teague explains why everyone loves Sancerre.

In Wine Review Online, Rebecca Murphy writes about Tim Hanni’s “quest to understand taste physiology and how it affects our wine and food choices.”

If you haven’t seen it yet, be sure to check out the 2013 Direct-to-Consumer Shipping Report – it’s full of some fascinating data. (Free, but registration is required. Highlights here.)

“When visiting a winery, it’s very much about the wine, but it’s also about making the tasting experience memorable.” In Washington Wine Report, Ryan Messer explains why “the most important thing in the tasting room isn’t always the wine.”

Weekly Interview: Blair Pethel

Posted by | Posted in Interviews | Posted on 04-26-2013

Each week, as regular readers know, we pose a series of questions to a winemaker. This week, we’re featuring Blair Pethel of Domaine Dublère in Burgundy. 

Throughout the 1990s, Blair worked as a political journalist in Washington, DC. Every year, however, he’d visit Burgundy to taste wine, learn, and meet with friends. In 1999, he decided to take a sabbatical from journalism to work harvest — and quickly realized that his heart was already in Burgundy.   

So in 2003, he uprooted his family and moved to Beaune, where he enrolled at the Lycée Viticole, the local winemaking school. The very next year, he began making wine.

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

Heart’s Delight Wine Tasting & Auction: Discount Tickets!

Posted by | Posted in Wine Events | Posted on 04-26-2013

Photo courtesy of Heart's Delight on Facebook

Here at Terroirist, we are big supporters of the Heart’s Delight Wine Tasting & Auction, Washington, DC’s premiere wine and food event that we wrote about last year.

To refresh you, Heart’s Delight is a four-day celebration bringing together winemakers, celebrity chefs, gourmands, and wine enthusiasts to raise money for the American Heart Association.

The week culminates with a Grand Tasting Reception and Auction on Saturday, May 4th. Guests will enjoy wine from outstanding producers such as Château Pontet-Canet and Château Léoville Poyferré from Bordeaux, Chile’s Concha y Toro, and Argentina’s Bodegas Catena Zapata. From closer to home, local brewery DC Brau Brewing Company will be pouring its well-regarded craft beers.

For fortification, attendees will be able to munch on delicious bites from exceptional chefs such as Chicago’s Graham Elliot, New York’s Gabrielle Hamilton of PRUNE, and local favorites like Sebastien Archambault of Blue Duck Tavern.

During the reception, guests can peruse the many wonderful silent auction items available for bidding, including bottles of Krug Champagne, a case of Château Cos d’Estournel, several great trips and many restaurant packages. Later in the evening, a live auction will feature even more impressive trip packages, experiences and of course, wine! Some of the best lots include a VIP dinner at New York’s Gramercy Tavern including 18 vintages of La Mission Haut Brion going back to 1948, two cases of high-scoring 2010 Bordeaux, and an insider’s trip to Italy, including VIP tastings in Tuscany.

This year, Terroirist is very excited to be able to offer our readers tickets to the Saturday event for 50% OFF the regular price! Just go to the web site for Saturday tickets, enter the discount code TERROIRIST, and at checkout your price for the Tasting Reception & Auctions will be $125 instead of $250.*

So, if you live in the Metro Washington area — or want to make a weekend trip! — please consider buying a ticket and joining us for what promises to be another fantastic year of Heart’s Delight. We hope to see you there!

*Discount only applies to the Tasting Reception & Auctions ticket, not the other portion’s of Saturday’s event lineup. If you purchase a ticket at $125, it will not be tax deductible. You can purchase a full price ticket for $250 and $125 of the cost may be tax deductible. Consult a tax professional for guidance.

Daily Wine News: 115,000 Miles

Posted by | Posted in Wine News | Posted on 04-26-2013

Jill and Steve Matthiasson write about “the impact George [Vare] has had on our lives, how much he meant to us, and how much we already miss him.”

“He’s put more than 115,000 miles on his 2009 Nissan Xterra, traveling the back roads of wine country with a pick, shovel and other tools of the trade, looking for unusual geological and climatological combinations.” In the New York Times, Eric Asimov profiles Whitman College geology professor Kevin Pogue, who has a thriving side business as a “terroir finder.”

Paging Steve Heimoff. Check out Meg Houston Maker’s excellent article in Beverage Media Group. “Can social media really sell wine? Yes, and many stories prove it.”

“Showboating what’s in my glass just doesn’t make me a better taster – just a better bragger.” Alfonso Cevola writes a thoughtful post about tasting trophy wines – especially relevent in a day of #Instabrag.

“I promise you, I am approaching them with more appreciation, heightened sensitivity, and a much broader understanding of all that goes into making any wine before it is released.” Paul Gregutt contends that making wine has turned him into a better critic.

“Two little words are once again at issue in the Empire State: ‘At rest.’” In Wine Spectator, Robert Taylor writes about the effort in the New York legislature to require all New York wholesalers to store their wines within the state for at least 24 hours prior to delivery.

Last Friday, while traveling to DC from New York on Amtrak’s Acela, Paul Goldschmidt of Chateau Siaurac in Bordeaux held an impromptu wine tasting. On the train.

The Academic Wino highlights a new study that examined the physics behind a Champagne cork popping out of a bottle — and how temperature influences the pop. The point of this research? Who knows. But it was probably fun!

Joe Roberts endorses Shelby Vittek. And drinks some delicious wines!

Ever wonder if the “vibrations of a tuning fork improve a cocktail?” Me neither. But the video is worth watching.

The Seven Percent Solution

Posted by | Posted in Wine Events | Posted on 04-25-2013

Last month, I gathered with several friends for a tasting of California’s “hipster” wines.

The goal was to explore the wines being produced by revolutionary vintners — those in Napa Valley willing to eschew Cabernet Sauvignon in favor of Ribolla Gialla; those making distinctly American wines by identifying California’s oldest vineyards; those who embrace California’s vast and varied climate by bottling esoteric grapes.

All the wines, which were pulled from our personal cellars, came from Arnot RobertsBedrock Wine Co.Broc CellarsDirty & RowdyForlorn HopeJolie-LaideMassicanMatthiassonThe Scholium Project, and Two Shepherds. While I didn’t take formal notes, all the wines were fantastic. And it was fun to open some eyes up to the fact that California produces more than just the usual suspects.

It turns out my friends and I could have easily dubbed our event “The Seven Percent Solution.”

The reason? As the organizers of an event coming up on May 11 in Healdsburg explain, “roughly 93 percent of Northern California vineyard acreage is planted to eight major grape varietals. The remaining 7 percent acreage is home to numerous lesser known varietals. These ‘seven percent’ varietals are finding anchor with a small but growing number of winemakers.”

On May 11, seventeen producers will gather in Healdsburg to showcase their wines. The producers include all the wineries above, along with Idlewild Wines, Leo Steen RPMRyme CellarsStark Wine, Unti Vineyards, and Wind Gap. Tickets are just $40.

Without question, this is one of the most exciting wine events in the country. So in two weeks, regardless of where you live, you should consider packing your bags and heading to Healdsburg!


Buy your tickets here.

Daily Wine News: Declaring 2011

Posted by | Posted in Wine News | Posted on 04-25-2013

In Wine-Searcher, Rebecca Gibb reports that “Robert Parker and The Wine Advocate have announced that American Monica Larner and Spaniard Luis Gutierrez have joined their reviewing team.” And in case you’re wondering, The Wine Advocate knows how to party.

From Wikipedia.

“Dosage adds to the beauty of the Champagne in the same way make-up can add to a woman’s beauty.” Elsewhere in Wine-Searcher, Caroline Henry chats with Bollinger’s Ghislain de Montgolfier.

“The very best sake in the US — the best I’ve ever had, and I’ve tried most of them — is maybe an 80-pointer. Whereas Japan has 95 pointers all over the place.” W. Blake Gray urges the Wine Spectator to review sake on the 100-point scale.

“They ask their friends and family; if their circle likes the wine, then it’s good enough to drink.” Jeff Siegel explains how Millennials are changing the wine business.

The Brunello consortium has filed a lawsuit against Gianfranco Soldera and expelled him from the organization.

In the Douro Valley, every top producer has declared the 2011 vintage.

Su Birch, the CEO of Wines of South Africa, has announced plans to leave the organization.

When it comes to by-the-glass sales, “high-end wine consumption… isn’t as robust as it was in the pre-downturn days,” but sales are rising. Shanken News Daily has the details.

“It is a great question, and sherry is an excellent test case. It is a complicated category, and the wines are not obvious crowd-pleasers.” Mike Steinberger joins Wine Specator’s Ben O’Donnell in wondering if regular people are starting to drink sherry.

Next Wednesday, to raise money for the New York victims of hurricane Sandy, 12 wholesalers in New York are teaming up to “each present their 50 best wines.” Buy your tickets here.


Daily Wine News: Drinking Games

Posted by | Posted in Wine News | Posted on 04-24-2013

“The rise of mass-market light beer put an end to most games with wine, save for the occasional (non-lethal) passatella or Tour de Franzia.” From Ben O’Donnell, a history of drinking games! (Hint: They used to be much more violent.)

Châteaus Corbin Michotte, La Tour du Pin Figeac, and Croque-Michotte have filed suit “demanding an investigation into illegal interference by people involved with [St.-Emilion's 2012 classification.]“ 

“One of the things I understood about George’s love for Ribolla was the range of possible styles it had to offer, its unique history, and its place as a bit of an underdog.” Lily-Elaine Hawk Wakawaka attends a tasting of the wines made from Ribolla Gialla of the Vare Vineyard. 

“With your sanity and bodily sanctity in mind,” Alder Yarrow offers “tips on how to immerse yourself fully in VinItaly and survive to tell the tale.” 

In Croatia, some vintners are itching for a “wine war.” One reason? Under E.U. rules, “the traditional sweet dessert wine known as prosek” can no longer be sold under its name — it sounds too similar to prosecco. 

W. Blake Gray is “haunted by the idea” that he might prefer wines bottled without SO2 — if only such a thing were pragmatic. 

“In the United States, the wine industry takes the view that making money out of giving consumers what they like is an entirely legitimate thing to do.” From Robert Joseph, some smart commentary on the surge in sales of Moscato and sweet red wine in the United States. (H/T: Jeff Siegel.) 

“Lewin puts Napa on a pedestal at least as high as Bordeaux’s but — significantly — he doesn’t deny the possibility that Cabernet wines from other regions might rise just as high in their own particular way.” Mike Veseth reviews the forthcoming book from Benjamin Lewin MW, Claret & Cabs: The Story of Cabernet Sauvignon.

In New York, “Finger Lakes wineries hope Dry Rosé is the next big thing.”

Daily Wine News: No Corkscrews

Posted by | Posted in Wine News | Posted on 04-23-2013

From Wikipedia.

The Transportation Security Administration has decided to “temporarily delay a controversial rule that would again permit passengers to carry small knives on commercial flights.” There goes my corkscrew.

In the Wall Street Journal, Jay McInerney profiles Robert Bohr and David Beckwith of Grand Cru Wine Consulting, “a kind of concierge service for well-heeled wine aficionados.” 

Alfonso Cevola wonders why “Parker and his new crew snubbed Vinitaly this year.” His best guess? “Perhaps the re-org over at TWA is more important than ¼ of the wine producers on Planet Earth in one place.” 

Alice Feiring pays respect to Pedro López de Heredia, who passed away over the weekend. 

In 2012, according to Robert Parker, Pomerol “unquestionably” produced the best wines, with quality “not far off the blockbuster years of 2009 and 2010.” 

Steven Spurrier agrees, writing “The winners were the dry whites (especially in Pessac-Léognan but all over the region), the Right Bank with its high Merlot content, Pessac-Leognan, and those Médoc châteaux with money to sacrifice quantity for quality.  

Wine Spectator has the details on 2012 pricing. 

“It’s a beautiful thing that New World California winemakers are increasingly embracing Old World white-wine grapes, and giving them their own stylistic spins.” Linda Murphy applauds California’s willingness to make white wines from so many different varieties. 

“Uruguay and Tannat really is the perfect mix of terroir — windy, humid, oceanic, cool for South America — and grape.” So declares W. Blake Gray. 

In Palate Press, Becky Sue Epstein reviews Jane Anson’s latest book, Bordeaux Legends: the 1855 First Growth Wines. 

Tom Wark is excited about Enfield Wine Co.