Wine Reviews: Cantine San Marzano (Puglia)

Posted by | Posted in Wine Reviews | Posted on 10-08-2017

When I was first legally able to purchase wine, a lot of my early buys hailed from Puglia. These wines were inexpensive, reliably delicious, and they paired with the kinds of food I was cooking at the time (bastardized New Jersey/Italian dishes, mainly).

Puglia is still home to inexpensive, tasty (mainly red) wines, including a lineup from from Cantine San Marzano.These wines are cost about $17 bucks, and a few of them are seriously good for that price. These wines were received as trade samples and tasted sighted. Read the rest of this entry »

Paso Robles: Beyond Bordeaux & Rhone Reds

Posted by | Posted in Wine Reviews | Posted on 10-07-2017


Derby Vineyard – Paso Robles

Paso Robles built its reputation on big, juicy red wines made from Rhone or Bordeaux varieties. That reputation is well-earned, as there are thrilling Cabs, Syrahs, Mourvedres, and all sorts of blends, coming out of Paso. But, after spending a few days exploring the wine scene in this Central Coast wine region, I came away impressed with wines made from grapes that might surprise you. And a lot of them are really, really good.

Cabernet Sauvignon is the most widely planted grape in Paso Robles, and Bordeaux varieties make up 55% of the region’s vineyard acreage, according to the Paso Robles Wine Country Alliance. And there are Rhone grapes (Syrah, Grenache, Mourvedre, Counoise, Petite Sirah), all over the place. Add in Zinfandel, and you’ve got most of Paso’s wine covered.

But to focus solely on those wines (as good as they are) would be to miss out on some really cool stuff. I found several white Rhones that were salty, brisk and delicious (Grenache Blanc, usually blended, seems to do exceedingly well here.) Ditto for Viognier. More producers are releasing rosé, both from Rhone and other grapes, so there are plenty of lively, spicy pinks out in Paso. Then there are wines made from Spanish, Portuguese, and Italian grapes. Chris and Adrienne Ferrara, the husband-wife team behind the winery Clesi, seem intent on proving that they can make exceptional Southern Italian style wines in Paso — I’m convinced.

Paso’s varied soils and microclimates allow conscientious winegrowers to explore all sorts of grapes for all sorts of wine styles. More than 40 grape varieties are grown in Paso Robles, and there is likely room for growth in that department.

These wines were tasted in Paso Robles, sighted, usually with the winemaker.  Read the rest of this entry »

Daily Wine News: Poorest Harvest in 36 Years

Posted by | Posted in Wine News | Posted on 10-06-2017

Vineyards in Valpolicella. (Source: Wikimedia)

Vineyards in Valpolicella. (Source: Wikimedia)

The 2017 EU harvest is “expected to result in the poorest wine grape harvest in 36 years,” reports Reuters.

In the New York Times, Eric Asimov, Florence Fabricant, and Justin Timsit conduct a tasting of 20 Valpolicella wines. “Some of the wines seemed modern and highly polished, which made them less distinctive. But the best were quintessential Italian reds, balancing the flavors of sweet cherry fruit with a tart, earthy quality and a welcome bitterness that refreshed.”

A stash of hand grenades from WWII was recently discovered near St-Emilion vineyards. In Decanter, Jane Anson explores how Bordeaux’s Right Bank fared as a dividing line between the German Occupation and the Resistance in Vichy France.

Wine can see us through difficult times and also uncork happy memories. Lettie Teague considers the many ways a wine can resonate in the Wall Street Journal. (subscription req.)

Wines & Vines reports on how UC Davis researchers are studying oral surface interactions to understand mouthfeel perception.

In VinePair, Courtney Schiessl ponders the question: Does sommelier certification matter?

Grape Collective talks with Michael Smith, whose OR winery on Long Island is the region’s smallest.

In Punch, Megan Krigbaum goes inside the wine cellar at Birmingham’s Highlands Bar and Grill.

Daily Wine News: Score Inflation

Posted by | Posted in Wine News | Posted on 10-05-2017

100_pointsJamie Goode considers score inflation and how it’s killing wine criticism. “This score inflation is caused by competition among critics, big egos, and the fact that these critics like being liked… I’m not sure whether the 100 point scale can be saved. These critics show no signs of slowing down, and the score creep continues.”

“Is Soave a cheap, downmarket white of neutral character, inoffensive but unexciting, or Italy’s most stylish white wine, capable of complexity and nuance?” In Meininger’s, Giles Fallowfield looks at the difficulty facing the Soave region.

In the World of Fine Wine, Katherine Houston ventures along the Route des Vins du Beaujolais, and sees how Beaujolais is repositioning itself in the 21st century.

“While modern society’s wine tastes run dry, with dry white and red wines attracting the most attention and recording the biggest sales, it was sweet wines that were important throughout much of history,” says Ian D’Agata, who covers Italy’s late harvest and air-dried sweet red wines in Vinous.

Ferrari-Carano remembers Donald Louis Carano, founder of Ferrari-Carano Vineyards and Winery, who died Mon. Oct. 3. He was 85.

“The first known commercial crop of California-grown Mencia, a red wine grape variety native to Spain, was harvested September 14 from Silvaspoons Vineyards near Galt, located in the Alta Mesa sub-appellation of the Lodi,” reports Ted Rieger in

“If any grape can conquer mortality, it is surely Cabernet Sauvignon,” argues Nina Caplan in the New Statesman.

The Drinks Business highlights Australia’s top women winemakers.




Daily Wine News: Almost-Reds

Posted by | Posted in Wine News | Posted on 10-04-2017

(Source: Pixabay)

(Source: Pixabay)

“If only the term “red” weren’t being used already for wines of a very different shade, and “claret” had not become an artifact associated with long bygone times, it might be easier for what one is forced to describe as almost-reds to catch on.” David Schildknecht explores the history of fashions for “almost-red” wines in Wine & Spirits Magazine.

In SevenFifty Daily, Julie H. Case looks at how winemaker Andrew Davis—who left Argyle Winery in 2013 and launched his own business, The Radiant Sparkling Wine Company—is putting Willamette Valley sparkling wine on the world wine map.

In Wine Enthusiast, Matt Kettman profiles Mexican-American winemakers in California. “Nowhere is the American dream more alive than in the hearts of immigrants, who overcome countless obstacles to strive for better lives in this country… Their stories are poignant reminders of how bravery, hard work and talent are still the primary keys to achieve success.”

W. Blake Gray reports on trouble brewing in the interstate wine business and what that means for shipping wines in Wine-Searcher.

Wines & Vines looks at how the cool-climate Rieslings from the Finger Lakes compare to those Rieslings from other regions in Washington, Alsace, and Germany.

Jon Bonné explores Southern Italy’s fiano wines in Punch. “My hope is that both fiano’s global spread, and some well-due love at home in Campania, continue to grow…”

In Roads & Kingdoms, Jackie Bryant visits a Hawaiian winery.

In VinePair, Courtney Schiessl talks traditional vs. modern wines.


Daily Wine News: Missing Parker

Posted by | Posted in Wine News | Posted on 10-03-2017

Robert_ParkerIn Wine-Searcher, Oliver Styles worries we’ll be lost without Robert Parker now that he’s “retired.” “Whatever you think of the man or the palate, I suspect we might well miss it in the long run. That’s something I didn’t think I’d ever say, but the great thing about Parker was that his clout was so weighty and so revered that it almost became a hobby to find the counterpoints.

In Decanter, Andrew Jefford reports from the inaugural International Rebula Masterclass, and explores the virtues of the rebula grape (ribolla gialla, as it’s called in Italy).

Anne Fadiman has an excerpt about taste, supertasters, and wine appreciation from her new book, The Wine Lover’s Daughter, in the New Yorker.

In Wine Enthusiast, Laura Beausire looks at how tasting room design is redefining the winery experience and highlights a selection of tasting rooms with powerful connections between design and wine.

How do vegetarian sommeliers pair wines with meat? Zach Geballe talks to several somms who weigh in on how they do it in SevenFifty Daily.

Synthetic cork producer Nomacorc is rebranding as Vinventions and the Drinks Business has the details.

“Santa Barbara is one of the most exciting and dynamic regions anywhere in the world,” says Antonio Galloni in Vinous.

In the Mercury News, Mary Orlin checks in on once-favored wines like Blue Nun, Mateus Rosé and Reunite to see how they taste to modern palates now.

Daily Wine News: Merlot’s Comeback

Posted by | Posted in Wine News | Posted on 10-02-2017

Merlot. (Wikimedia)

Merlot. (Wikimedia)

The Sideways curse has lifted, says Elin McCoy, who looks at merlot’s comeback in Bloomberg. “Don’t thank hip sommeliers for this reputation rehab. Most are in love with every grape but merlot—for the wine-geek Instagram crowd, the more obscure the better. To me, the reason merlot was bound to return to favor was simple: It’s very often delicious.”

“Ventoux must be one of the southern French appellations that has changed the most in the last 20 years or so.” Jancis Robinson considers the growth of Ventoux, and how climate change has contributed to the region’s evolution.

“Sancerre is riper and richer than ever. New styles continue to appear in which tropical fruit and toasty notes dominate. It’s not just the whites that have changed…” Roger Voss looks at the evolution of Sancerre’s wines and ponders the region’s future in Wine Enthusiast.

In Wine-Searcher, Margaret Rand reports on the 2017 Bordeaux harvest. “Frost is the story of the 2017 vintage here. Not everybody is affected: as ever, the weather was capricious.”

On, Lisa Perrotti-Brown discusses rising alcohol and CO2 levels in wine and makes a case for needing more dedicated research.

In the Los Angeles Times, Margo Pfeiff travels through the Finger Lakes region, “an old-world, unhurried and unpretentious oasis of nature, culture, cuisine and world-class wine.”

In Decanter, Amanda Barnes talks to seven sommeliers about what’s next for South American wine trends.

Dave McIntyre offers wine glass advice in the Washington Post.

Clos Solène’s French-Inspired Paso Robles Wines

Posted by | Posted in Wine Reviews | Posted on 09-30-2017


Clos Selene’s new estate vineyard in Paso Robles.

Sipping brisk rosé, surrounded by brush and herbs and sun-scorched hills, it did remind me of my wine travels in the Languedoc. Clos Solène’s winemaker, Guillame Fabre, was raised in the winemaking business in France’s Languedoc-Roussillon, and the inspiration is evident in his earthy, spicy wines. But Clos Solène is also pure Paso, with plenty of vibrant, juicy fruit.

Kicked off in 2007, and named for his wife Solène, Guillame founded this winery after working as assistant winemaker at nearby Paso Robles’ producer L’Aventure. On a recent trip to Paso Robles, I stopped by this boutique winery’s tasting room, located in the Willow Creek District, and was thoroughly impressed with the wines.

They produce about 1,700 cases a year, and, like many small Paso Robles producers, most of their wine is sold direct to consumer. But if you ever are traveling in Paso or come across a bottle, don’t hold back – these are really great examples of what’s coming out of Paso Robles these days.

Guillame crafts the wines in the Tin City facility, which is something like a super hip version of the Lompoc Wine Ghetto. He sources his grapes from various sites within the Willow Creek District, as well as others, working with some growers to farm the vineyards. When I visited Clos Solène’s estate and tasting room, the new vineyards had just been grafted, but in a few years the winery should have some high quality estate fruit to add to the mix.

Read the rest of this entry »

Paso Robles’ Dynamic Wine Culture Is a Standing Invitation to Travelers

Posted by | Posted in Grape Adventures | Posted on 09-30-2017


The view from atop the vineyards of Kukkula Wines.

In early September, I spent several days digging into the Paso Robles wine scene, and I came back feeling refreshed and inspired about the future of this region. I’ve loved Paso Robles wines for many years, but it remained one of the few California wine regions still on my list to visit. So I was excited to go on a trip, sponsored by the Paso Robles Wine Country Alliance, and it proved to be an exciting place.

It boasts a mix of geographical features, varied soils and microclimates, allowing many different grape varieties to flourish. I found a thriving wine culture marked both by experimentation and tradition, individualism and cooperation. It’s easy to see why more and more wine-lovers are visiting Paso Robles.

Paso wines have received large-scale attention, high praise, and high scores from major wine critics for a long time (Justin’s Isosceles and Saxum’s Syrahs come to mind). But another thing that’s great about Paso: there are so many intriguing wines flying well under the radar. With more than 200 wineries, and vineyards that grow more than 40 grape varieties, there’s a little bit of everything happening out here.

Geographically located about halfway between Los Angeles and San Francisco, the Paso winelands are intimately linked with the nearby Pacific Ocean. When I got off the plane at San Luis Obispo airport, the surfer in me grew stoked as I tasted cool, salty air streaming in from Morro Bay. In the morning it may be cool and foggy, but when the sun heats up, winds come whipping over the hills. As grapes here ripen, they get plenty of heat and sunshine, and they also receive plenty of cool, fresh air.

Onshore winds from the ocean get sucked into the Paso Robles appellation through the Templeton Gap, basically a crack in the coastal mountain range that separates Paso from the Pacific. This results in a day-night temperature swing of some 40-50 degrees during the growing season, one of the largest temperature swings in wine-growing California. While I was visiting, the mornings were crisp and foggy, the afternoons warm and windy, the evenings cool and long. Read the rest of this entry »

Daily Wine News: Old Wine Books

Posted by | Posted in Wine News | Posted on 09-29-2017

adventuresonthewinerouteIn Forbes, Susan H. Gordon shares what she’s learned from reading old wine books. “I can’t resist old wine books. I see them as concrete preservers of timeless information and forgotten wisdom, each one a snapshot of a particular moment in wine history once deemed important enough to merit paper and ink, and a commitment of both time and finances.”

On the blog for First Vine, Tom Natan reflects on all that has changed in the wine world since first getting into the business and reading Kermit Lynch’s Adventures on the Wine Route (published in 1988). “As much as it pains me to say it, France just isn’t the center of the winemaking world that it used to be… The wine world is a much bigger place…”

In the New York Times, Eric Asimov shares notes on the most recent Wine School, Austrian Blaufränkisch, and announces what’s up next: Crozes-Hermitage.

Decanter’s Jane Anson gets a look inside Lafite’s Chinese wine project.

In Wine-Searcher, W. Blake Gray reports on the biggest takeway from the Wine Industry Financial Symposium: “It turns out you like paying more for wine.”

“As the 2017 study from Wine Opinions suggest, cork is still the MacDaddy of wine closures and cork taint doesn’t appear to be slowing it down.” In Alcohol Professor, Becca Yeamans-Irwin reports on recent reports and studies regarding cork taint and consumer perspective on cork vs. other closures.

In SevenFifty Daily, Andrew Kaplan considers whether the wine industry can replicate the “limited edition” excitement that helped propel the craft beer movement.

In the Wall Street Journal, Lettie Teague takes a second look at pairing pizza and wine. (subscription req.)