Daily Wine News: Improbable Darlings

Posted by | Posted in Wine News | Posted on 10-14-2014

From Wikipedia.

From Wikipedia.

In Punch, Alice Feiring visits Georgia, whose “wines have become improbable darlings in the natural wine world.”

“De Villeneuve’s survival is a good thing for Provence wine.” Robert Camuto chats with Raimond de Villeneuve, who is in his 20th vintage at Château de Roquefort. Villeneuve lost his entire, 62-acre crop after a hailstorm in 2012 and the resulting damage left him with just half his crop in 2013.

“The grape variety that has, to quote the stereotypical disc jockey, zoomed up the charts most dramatically is Spain’s most famous red wine grape Tempranillo.” In 1990, Tempranillo was the world’s 24th most-planted wine grape. Today, it’s in fourth place. Jancis Robinson comments on this stunning surge.

Dave McIntyre, meanwhile, urges his readers to check out Texas Tempranillo.

“It’s a type of winemaking that relies on the faith of both the place and the eventual drinker that you’re working with a site that is deigned to grow something delicious.” Jon Bonné helps with the “first real harvest” at SunHawk vineyard in Mendocino.

“We are vital partners with many of the wineries. We depend on them for quality items and they depend on us to deliver their product to the end-user.” In the Press Democrat, Bill Swindell chats with Costco’s Annette Alvarez-Peters.

“Grape yield isn’t directly related to wine quality. Lower yields often do mean higher quality, but that’s not because one causes the other.” In Palate Press, Erika Szymanski looks at the science on grape yields.

“Constantia in South Africa is one possibility, as is Australia’s Hunter Valley, but neither is as old as Chile’s best known wine region.” Tim Atkin explains why “there aren’t many New World vineyards with the Maipo Valley’s pedigree.”

In Grape Collective, Jameson Fink interviews master sommelier Evan Goldstein, author of the just-released Wines of South America: The Essential Guide.

Daily Wine News: Licking Rocks

Posted by | Posted in Wine News | Posted on 10-13-2014

gravel“Françoise told us about how she used to think that, through taste, she would be able to find a correlation between the rocks and their resulting wines. As she said this, I looked over at Helen who was discretely licking the inside of one of these freshly smashed rocks.” Ted Vance spends time with Françoise Vannier, Burgundy’s resident geologist.

In a wonderful post, Cari Borja profiles and chats with three Bay Area couples who “interact, overlap and share a similar passion for wine.”

“California has better things to spend taxpayer money on than prosecuting wineries who invite some friends over to help them pick grapes.” Alder Yarrow is pissed about California levying Westover Winery in Castro Valley with $115,000 in fines for using unpaid volunteers.

“Over the next 12 months, Rosen will surely appear at gatherings of alcohol regulators where he will get a standing ovation from his peers.” Tom Wark worries that the New York State Liquor Authority’s crazy behavior will be “precedent setting.”

Lettie Teague heads to Napa Valley to find out “when and how some key California winemakers became interested in producing ‘serious Sauvignon.’”

“Sherry covers a dazzling gamut of styles and flavor profiles, from bone-dry fino and manzanilla to raisin-y sweet Pedro Ximénez (a.k.a. PX). And there is much in between, all of it ably described by Baiocchi.” In the Los Angeles Times, S. Irene Virbela reviews Talia Baiocchi’s new book, Sherry: A Modern Guide to the Wine World’s Best-Kept Secret.

“Is Alquimie the most ravishing drinks magazine to publish in the last decade?” Lauren Mowery thinks so. I agree.

Although “we are unlikely to see a widespread move to vintage blending,” it can create complexity and fill gaps in a wine. Dave McIntyre explains.

In Wine-Searcher, Jane Anson offers “The Busy Wine Lover’s Guide to Clos des Papes.”

Wine Reviews: California Chardonnay

Posted by | Posted in Wine Reviews | Posted on 10-11-2014

Since our last review of California Chardonnay, more goodies have found their way to my glass. This batch includes some impressive value-driven wines and a wide range of stylistic interpretations.

All wines were received as trade samples and tasted single-blind.

Review: 2012 Ripe Life Wines Chardonnay “The Clambake”- California, Central Coast, Santa Lucia Highlands
SRP: $17
Bright on the nose with sea salt, lemon curd, grapefruit and flowers. Creamy on the palate, tangy acid with white peach and green apple fruit. A leaner, crisper style, the seafood themed label fits with this wine’s lean, food-friendly aesthetic. All stainless steel. (87 points IJB)

Review: 2013 Tolosa Winery Chardonnay No-Oak- California, Central Coast, San Luis Obispo County
SRP: $21
Very bright on the nose, with green melon, limes, honeysuckle and some waxy notes. Crisp and clean on the palate with refreshing acid. Flavors of key lime, green melon, some pear. Clean, lean, with floral perfume and green apple on the finish. Fresh, fun, begs for mussels or white fish. (86 points IJB)

Review: 2011 Alma Rosa Chardonnay Santa Barbara County- California, Central Coast, Santa Barbara County
SRP: $19
Pale yellow color. Nose of dried apricot and pineapple, some serious honeyed tea and green herb elements, a kick of minerals, Tangy and lively on the palate, the green and yellow apples taste tart and crunchy. Also some lime and pineapple, a taste of lime peel, saline, white tea, chalk and herbal tea aspects. A much more tart and mineral-driven style, and quite impressive if you’re into this kind of Chardonnay. Aged in old oak with no maloactic fermentation. (88 points IJB)

Review: 2013 Alma Rosa Chardonnay Santa Barbara County- California, Central Coast, Santa Barbara County
SRP: $19
Smells of fresh laundry, some white peach, apricot and bright flowers, a some spicy-herbal notes. Medium body, medium acid, full of pear, green and yellow apples and honeydew melon, some ruby red grapefruit. White tea and a spicy herbal elements linger on the finish. Not as much nerve as the 2011 but very nice for this style. (87 points IJB)

Review: 2012 Moniker Chardonnay- California, North Coast, Mendocino County
SRP: $23
Medium golden color. Nose of whipped honey, yellow pear, nougat, some peanut shell and honeysuckle elements. Rich and creamy on the palate, with medium acid and a medium body but showing some complexity: white tea, honeycomb, sea shells, candied lemon, nougat, peanut skins. Big, bold, but complex and interesting. Includes a bit of barrel-fermented Viognier. (88 points IJB)

Review: 2012 Isabel Mondavi Chardonnay Carneros – California, Napa/Sonoma, Carneros
SRP: $30
Nose of bright white peach, honeysuckle, green pear and sea salt, Tangy and bright with lemon verbena, orange peel, apricots and crunchy white cherries. Lemon tea, margarita salt, whipped honey and graham cracker notes, but it’s still very floral and bright. (88 points IJB)

Review: 2012 Piña Cellars Chardonnay Low Vineyard – California, Napa Valley, Oak Knoll
SRP: $34
Nose of white peach, green apple, orange peel, some honeycomb and white flowers. Creamy and nutty on the palate, with apricot, white peach and glazed pear, but tangy acid cuts through. Some dried honey and white tea, along with complex nutty notes, drizzled with lime. Some minerals, sea salt and stones linger onto the finish. Balancing itself out well. Fermented in 38% new French oak. (90 points IJB)

Review: 2012 Amapola Creek Chardonnay Jos. Belli Vineyards- California, Sonoma County, Russian River Valley
SRP: $45
Light yellow color. Nose of golden apples, pears, some peach nectar and an herb butter element as well. Creamy texture but fresh and elegant as well, with complex interwoven flavors of apricot, golden apple, glazed pears. Notes of cinnamon, hazelnut and caramel corn add complexity but don’t overwhelm. Clean, fresh, notes of crushed chalk and sea shells in here as well. Clean, pure, but quite rich, this Chardonnay ends up pulling it off. I’d love to lay this down for four or five years because it’s got so much complexity to unravel. (91 points IJB)

Review: 2012 Gundlach Bundschu Chardonnay Estate Vineyard – California, Sonoma County, Sonoma Coast
SRP: $27
Floral aromas, some white peach, baked apple and honey but also some rocks and minerals. Crisp acid and a creamy mouthfeel, this is rich but also nervy and lively. Lots of green apple and apricot, mixing with honey, limestone, slate and minerals. Quite deep and mineral-driven, with saline notes on the finish. Impressive stuff that doesn’t fall into one Chard camp or the other. Aged 10 months in 20% new French oak. (90 points IJB)

Weekly Interview: Christine Barbe

Posted by | Posted in Interviews | Posted on 10-10-2014

Credit: Coquerel Family Estates.

Credit: Coquerel Family Estates.

Each week, as regular readers know, we pose a series of questions to a winemaker. This week, we’re featuring Christine Barbe, the owner and winemaker of Toquade Wines and the winemaker at Coquerel Family Estates.

Christine was born and raised in Bordeaux. And even though her family worked in the wine industry, Christine says she was never interested in following the family career path. But still – can it really be attributed to pure chance? – her studies undoubtedly prepared her well for the wine career that was to come. She graduated with a degree in biochemistry without knowing what to do with it. It led to a seamless transition to a PhD program in Enology and Viticulture at the Bordeaux Institute of Enology.

While she was a doctoral student, Christine had the fortune of applying her studies to help make wine at Château Carbonnieux and La Louvière in Pessac-Léognan. This is when she fell in love with Sauvignon Blanc. Or, as Christine would say, this is when she developed a certain toquade for Sauvignon Blanc (hence Toquade Wines).

In 1996, Christine graduated with the PhD and she came to California. She explained that in Bordeaux, it is very difficult for female winemakers outside of well-established Bordelais families to advance in the wine industry. And in comparison, in California, “you can do whatever you want.” Not only are jobs more accessible to qualified people, winemakers have the freedom to experiment – something which might be sneered at in Bordeaux as untraditional.

After some time at Gallo, Robert Mondavi, and Trinchero, Christine became the winemaker at Coquerel Family Estates in 2010.

Chatting with Christine was a joy. She retains a thick French accent, and her answers to my questions – sometimes succinct, sometimes stream-of-consciousness – revealed plenty of savoir faire.

Check out our interview with Christine below the fold.

Read the rest of this entry »

Daily Wine News: Insanity

Posted by | Posted in Wine News | Posted on 10-10-2014

new yorkOfficials at the New York State Liquor Authority have gone completely insane.

In the New York Times, Eric Asimov finds 10 Manhattan restaurants that “cherish” $40 to $60 wines.

“At 80 she has the energy and enthusiasm of someone two decades younger. She’s off to Macchu Picchu this month and has a passion for white water rafting.” In Wine-Searcher, Elin McCoy profiles legendary wine importer Martine Saunier.

Jason Wilson believes “we’re in the midst of a sea change in the overall consumer perception of white wine.” I think he’s right.

“It is believed the flies lay eggs inside the healthy fruit and larvae then feed on the grapes. There is so far no effective treatment.” Across Europe, there is rising concern about an Asian fruit fly that causes sour rot.

On Forbes.com, Cathy Huyghe wonders why we don’t drink more Franciacorta.

Harper’s Bazaar names “the best wineries to visit this fall.”

In Grape Collective, Jameson Fink chats with Dezel Quillen of My Vine Spot.

After harvesting olives in Napa, Lily-Elaine Hawk Wakawaka decided to write about the olive oils of Portugal.

“‘Life is a compromise,’ Mr. Riedel says, before admitting that no one can use his grape range every day.” Will Lyons chats with Georg Riedel.

Four entrepreneurs in France have launched “Fundovino,” a crowdfunding platform for wine.

“As a rallying cry to Riesling lovers worldwide, and to bring to fruition latent love for the grape, this is an excellent book.” Jamie Goode reviews Stuart Pigott’s Best White Wine on Earth.

Daily Wine News: Powdered Tannins

Posted by | Posted in Wine News | Posted on 10-09-2014

Mega-Purple“It hasn’t happened with food; I doubt it will happen with wine.” Mike Steinberger believes that it’s “fantasy to believe that ingredient lists are going to somehow discourage the use of things like gum arabic and powdered tannins.”

“Instructors can usually spot the laypeople because, while enthusiastic and eager to learn, ‘they don’t know what they’re talking about at all,’ says Shayn Bjornholm, a master sommelier and frequent intro-course teacher.” In the Wall Street Journal, Erin Geiger Smith explains “What Amateurs Get Out of Taking Rigorous Certification Courses.”

“Colleen and Nicholas’ nonchalance makes it seem as if they’ve simply followed their whims and the stars have aligned.” In Grape Collective, Emily Spillman profiles Colleen and Nicholas Harbour, a Canadian-American duo who “ditched their careers in Luxembourg finance and moved to Burgundy three years ago with the broad goal of making a new life in the wine world.”

The Drinks Business interviews Jancis Robinson.

On the blog for First Vine, Tom Natan gets a history lesson from Bernard Mante, a producer in Champagne who is growing Arbanne, Petit Meslier, Pinot Blanc, and Pinot Gris.

“So if you find yourself worried from time to time that you may not be doing this whole wine tasting thing right, cut yourself some slack. Even when we think we’re getting it right, we’re at the mercy of our own mysterious wiring.” Alder Yarrow ruminates on “the fake tongue illusion.”

Lily-Elaine Hawk Wakawaka praises William Shatner’s Ora.tv interview wine show, Brown Bag Wine Tasting.

Daily Wine News: NYC BYOB

Posted by | Posted in Wine News | Posted on 10-08-2014

rdv brown bagIn Wine-Searcher, Tyler Colman solicits BYOB tips from some of New York City’s top wine personalities.

“Since somms are drinkers first and wine obsessives second, the source of their excitment can stray far from the first-growth Bordeaux and premier cru Champagnes you’d expect — anything from funky Belgian sours to vintage Chartreuse has the potential to be a somm’s liquid Viagra.” Jonathan Cristaldi attempts to define “#sommboner.”

“The life of the senses is subtle and rich. Such a life represents a substantial truth, never mind that it can (and should) vary from one person to the next.” Matt Kramer explains why “wine can’t be quantified.”

“It has been reported that the president joined in on Churchill’s notorious benders. Staying up all night drinking brandy and smoking cigars, FDR happily took part in what White House staffers dubbed ‘Winston Hours.’” In Grape Collective, Rachael Doob looks at the drinking habbits of Winston Churchill and FDR.

“Harmed more than any other entity was the wine retailer, who was all but left out of the wine shipping brouhaha.” Dan Berger contends that wine shipping is still a mess.

Jamie Goode discusses the concept of minerality in wine.

“For the producers I visited, admittedly from the top tier, 2013 will be anything but a washout.” According to Harvey Steiman, Oregon’s 2013 wines are “worth a good look.”

From Forbes Travel Guide, “7 Secret Wine Spots You Should Know About In Las Vegas.”

Joe Roberts explains why people hate wine geeks. It has something to do with the Lalique “100 Points” leather briefcase by James Suckling and Salvatore Ferragamo, available for $8,500 USD.

In D Magazine, Lauryn Bodden chats with Jordan’s Lisa Mattson.

Julie Ann Kodmur remembers Harvey Posert Jr.

Daily Wine News: Tipping Point

Posted by | Posted in Wine News | Posted on 10-07-2014

Flickr, Spring Dew.

Flickr, Spring Dew.

“Have we reached a tipping point, a moment when producers, sommeliers, wine writers and consumers say they’ve had enough?” Tim Atkin MW believes we have. “All over the world… wines are shifting towards balance and fresher fruit flavors, with less prominent oak and alcohol and a greater sense of place.”

“Despite the bloody conflict and the threat of Islamic extremists, he is determined to produce world-class wines.” In the Associated Press, Diaa Hadid finds winemakers in Syria and Lebanon who are continuing to make wine.

From Arnold Waldstein, a reminder that “people taste as much with their hearts and beliefs as they do with their palates.”

“A coalition of high-end vintners in Napa, which has been working to protect the Napa Valley wine label from counterfeit and other misuse in China and elsewhere, says the U.S. effort to protect American use of European wine names is wrong.” In the Los Angeles Times, Evan Halper and Don Lee explain how the “stew over European food names complicates trade talks.”

“For Legeron, natural wine reminds us we have the opportunity to choose what, as well as how we consume.” Lily-Elaine Hawk Wakawaka reviews Natural Wine: An introduction to organic and biodynamic wines made naturally, the new book from Isabelle Legeron MW.

Ron Washam uncovers some failed Master of Wine dissertations.

To celebrate his 50th birthday, Seattle Times wine writer Andy Perdue opened a vertical of his life.

“Gatekeepers trashed White Zinfandel because a lot of the wines were sweet dreck. But there was never any reason Zinfandel couldn’t be a fine Rosé, and now the geeks have their proof.” Dorothy Gaiter discovers Turley’s White Zinfandel.

“This wine country has everything in place to be a grown-up, but it lacks confidence in its own message and that makes it hard to convince the market to trust it.” In Wine-Searcher, Wink Lorch contends that Chile’s wines have come of age.

Jonathan Lipsmeyer offers “Three Ways To Cheat at Food and Wine Pairing.”

Daily Wine News: Sheer Disaffection

Posted by | Posted in Wine News | Posted on 10-06-2014

cristal_champagneFrom “an increasing number of thoughtful wine producers,” Jancis Robinson is noticing “sheer disaffection with the wines they made in the past.”

In the San Francisco Chronicle, Jon Bonné discovers a bounty of new books about wine and spirits.

“If a scientist in Israel is successful, we could someday taste the wine described in the Bible.” In USA Today, Matt Cantor explains.

“The bottle is made of crystal-clear glass to reveal any poisoning attempts on the monarch’s life.” In Wine-Searcher, Claire Adamson explains why Roederer Cristal is in a clear bottle — and also shares a host of other fascinating stories.

In Bloomberg, Guy Collins reports: “Chateau Haut-Brion, one of the five first-growth vineyards on the left bank of the Gironde in Bordeaux, has extended its known history of winegrowing back a further 139 years following a discovery in local records.”

Elsewhere in Wine-Searcher, Wink Lorch chats with Steve Lienert, Penfolds’ senior red winemaker.

At Hearth and Calabretta, Harvey Steiman finds two sommeliers “who listen and are eager to match the wine to their customers’ tastes.”

In the Wall Street Journal, Lettie Teague discovers a unique — and awesome — corkage policy at Amali.

Alder Yarrow attends this year’s West of West festival in Sebastopol.

Steve Heimoff explains why he doesn’t “go ape” over Riesling.

Jamie Goode visits Jerez for the first time.

“Joe Dobbes has been making wine in Oregon for 29 years. The 2014 fruit is, he says, the best he’s ever seen.” In the Portland Business Journal, Suzanne Stevens chats with Dobbes.

Panos Kakaviatos chats with a number of producers in Alsace about this year’s harvest.

In Grape Collective, Rachael Dobb assembles a list of wine cocktails.

Wine Reviews: Prosecco

Posted by | Posted in Wine Reviews | Posted on 10-04-2014

Looking for bubbles on the cheap? Well, there’s always Prosecco, right?



Look, I’m rarely excited by Prosecco. I can’t remember the last time I bought a bottle or ordered a glass at a wine bar. But I will admit this: I was surprised and pleased by a few of these Proseccos. Seriously. I especially liked the Mionetto Superiore di Cartizze, which is a complex and elegant wine.

Overall, they were all quite enjoyable. Some of them were yummy, and most of them were very cheap. And I have to remind myself never to underestimate the yummy and the cheap. I’m not really sure what place high-end Proseccos have in American wine scenes, but if you’re looking to expand your perception of what Prosecco can be, the wines are out there.

These wines were received as trade samples and tasted single blind.

Read the rest of this entry »