Daily Wine News: Congrats, Chambers!

Posted by | Posted in Wine News | Posted on 09-22-2014

chambersJancis Robinson names Chambers Street Wines the “best independent wine merchant in the world.”

“I think of great Washington Cabernet showing a slightly different arid quality. They can be brighter in their fruit and sometimes more floral, but more than anything they are reflective of the eastern Washington desert, adding just the right austerity to their generous flavors.” In the San Francisco Chronicle, Jon Bonné heads north to search for “Washington-ness.”

“Charles Smith has made some bold moves in his life… but moving his base of operations from Walla Walla wine country to Seattle may be the biggest.” In Wine Spectator, Harvey Steiman explores Charles Smith’s decision to set up shop in Seattle.

“I can’t start a dinner without a little bit of white. But I need red afterward. You need to balance your body. White wine brings you energy, red wine calms you down.” In Wine-Searcher, Katherine Cole chats with Dominique Lagon.

“To protect themselves, clients and managers need to acknowledge that fine wine markets are unlike any other, suggests Oliver Gregson, head of HSBC Private Bank’s investment group in the UK.” In the Financial Times, Matthew Vincent explains “how vineyard villains play on the vanity of collectors.”

For his 40th birthday, Wine Spectator’s Mitch Frank opened a 1968 d’Oliveira Boal Madeira. The reason? He wanted “something that can stand up to all life throws at it…. [and] sees 40 years as a good start.”

In the Wall Street Journal, Lettie Teague explores Carmenere.

“You’ll want to drink at this new Racines, and you’ll probably want to drink a lot, because the wine list is excellent and surprisingly affordable. You’ll also want to eat, and the food at Racines New York is impressive.” In The Infatuation, Chris Stang reviews Racines.

Wine Reviews: Crémant d’Alsace

Posted by | Posted in Wine Reviews | Posted on 09-20-2014

If I could afford it, I’d drink Champagne always. But Crémant d’Alsace tends to be my go-to bubbly when I’m trying not to break the bank. I served a Crémant d’Alsace at my wedding last year, and it was a huge hit — and not very expensive.

I recently tasted through four Crémants d’Alsace and enjoyed all of them. These wines were received as trade samples and, because there were only four of them, tasted sighted.

Review: N.V. René Muré Crémant d’Alsace Brut- France, Alsace, Crémant d’Alsace
SRP: $18
Salty on the nose with some hazelnut, biscuits, quinine and crushed rocks. Fine bubbles, medium acid, some creaminess to the mouthfeel, stays lean and zippy though. Ruby red grapefruit and green apple mix with elements of cucumber water, minerals and limestone. Notes of graham cracker, vanilla and almond. Decent depth and length of finish, with elements of oyster shell. A blend of Pinot Blanc, Auxerrois, Riesling, Pinot Gris and Pinot Noir. (87 points)

Review: N.V. Lucien Albrecht Crémant d’Alsace Brut Rosé- France, Alsace, Crémant d’Alsace
SRP: $20
Nose of white and red flowers, watermelon and strawberries. Very fizzy on the palate, this is a fun wine, but it’s neither deep nor complex. Tangy with flavors of watermelons, strawberries, lemons and some minerals. Seems like a crowd-pleasing pink bubbly. 100% Pinot Noir. (85 points)

Review: N.V. François Schmitt Crémant d’Alsace Blanc de Noirs Brut- France, Alsace, Crémant d’Alsace
SRP: $29
Crisp and clean aromas of oyster shell, flowers, white peach and white cherries. Creamy but tangy on the palate, the white cherry and apricot fruit is laced with oceanic elements of sea salt and oyster shell. Finishes with minerals and slight toast. 100% Pinot Noir From 40-year-old vines in Orschwihr. (87 points)

Review: N.V. Domaine Agape Crémant d’Alsace “Emotion” - France, Alsace, Crémant d’Alsace
SRP: $23
Smells like white flowers, green apple, toasted and salted nuts and. Big and creamy on the palate, but also fine and tangy. Green apple, white peach and some lime, the wine is also laced with minerals and toasted bread. Solid complexity and depth. (88 points IJB)

Weekly Interview: Sarah Cabot

Posted by | Posted in Interviews | Posted on 09-19-2014

Sarah Cabot.

Sarah Cabot.

Each week, as regular readers know, we pose a series of questions to a winemaker. This week, we’re featuring Sarah Cabot, a winemaker at Precept Wines in the Willamette Valley.

Last week, we interviewed a globe-trotting veteran winemaker with projects in multiple continents.  We’re taking a sharp turn in the other direction this week with Sarah, who is a young emerging specialist in Oregon Pinot Noir.  Sarah has spent most of her career in the Willamette Valley – for eight consecutive years now.  Prior to joining Precept Wines, she worked at Omero Cellars since its start in 2008, at Willakenzie Estate before and during her tenure at Omero, and also at Belle Pente Vineyard.

These days, Sarah is working at Precept Wines on a variety of single-vineyard projects. She’s busy with harvest right now, so we were very glad to be able to catch her in her free time!

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

Daily Wine News: Scandalous

Posted by | Posted in Wine News | Posted on 09-19-2014

Syrah. (Flickr, McD22.)

Syrah. (Flickr, McD22.)

“Sitting with Delaski, it’s hard not to share in his near-childish delight at what clearly is an adventure of grand proportions with the love of his life and their young son in tow.” Alder Yarrow falls in love with Solminer Wines.

Jon Bonné finds some wines worth drinking in Chianti.

In Grape Collective, Ethan Millspaugh lists the “Top Five Wine Scandals.”

“When the apple market collapsed about 15 years ago in the region around Lake Chelan in central Washington State, a handful of farmers decided to make the transition from apples to grapes.” In the New York Times, Alison Gregor visits Lake Chelan, where “wineries have been popping up as quickly as bubbles in a newly uncorked bottle of Champagne.”

“The corkscrew is the best textbook.” In Wine Review Online, Michael Apstein explains how wine education has changed over the past 35 years.

“One last observation: The Kiwis know how to make a heck of a good cup of coffee.” MaryAnn Worobiec shares some insights from a tour of New Zealand.

In Northern Greece, Michelle Locke “learned to love big reds.”

“There’s a lot of noise surrounding England’s burgeoning wine industry. But what tends to get overlooked is the fact that Britain already produces two world-class beverages: Scotch whisky and cask-conditioned beer, or ‘real ale.’” In the Wall Street Journal Europe, Will Lyons praises England’s “real ale.”

The Kings of Charlottesville (Part 1 of 2)

Posted by | Posted in Grape Adventures | Posted on 09-18-2014

Ankida Ridge Vineyards. (Photo credit: Jordan Rongers.)

Ankida Ridge Vineyards. (Photo credit: Jordan Rongers.)

The time has come to reassess the wines of Virginia. Gone are the days of weedy, green, foxy, thin and charmless wines of little consequence. In their place have emerged wines of character in a panoply of styles, many of which speak convincingly to Virginia’s terroir.

For a while now I’ve been excited by Virginia whites, and especially Virginia’s Chardonnays that, to my palate, are frequently vastly superior to those over-ripe and oaky versions from California and generally have more in common with Chablis. And I’ll take the Chards over the vast majority of “Virginia’s signature grape,” Viognier, which are too often (although not always) sweet, flabby, and cloying.

But as a rule, historically, I’ve never been a big fan of Virginia reds — with so many great red wine regions to chose from, whatever cache or advantage that was conferred by “buying local” was simply overwhelmed by the massive price-quality gap.

Sure, I’ve sometimes enjoyed Linden reds well enough (although unlike the winemaker, I’ve always preferred his whites), but I’ve never thought of Virginia reds as much more than a novelty. You might come across a drinkable one and say: “Isn’t that adorable! Virginia made a red!” You might then open it for your friends to prove that such a thing can be done, but never because you thought in earnest that the wine could compete with the world’s best.

I’m happy to have been proven wrong.

Much to my surprise, it’s clear that Virginia’s red wines now have a place at the table with the big boys. Indeed, there is now enough good red wine in Virginia that a tipping point has been reached. And some of these are downright world class and well worth of collecting.

In short, learn from my ignorance: if you gave up on Virginian wines earlier than, say, about five years ago, you are missing a quality revolution. Read the rest of this entry »

Daily Wine News: Fighting Fakes

Posted by | Posted in Wine News | Posted on 09-18-2014

rudy Kurniawan“For collectors like Koch, who recently choked up while extolling the craft of the winemaker to Brian Ross of ABC News, the incentive to end counterfeiting isn’t strictly financial. The current onslaught of impostor bottles detracts from the pleasures of a six-figure magnum.” In Bloomberg, Mark Ellwood writes about the fight against fake wine.

“One can absolutely taste region or vineyard in the many hundreds of California wines made with restraint.” In Grape Collective, Jameson Fink chats with Fred Swan of NorCal Wine.

Elsewhere, Swan names his favorite spots for eating and drinking around the Bay Area.

“Although he seems just as edgy about how his latest vintage is showing, it looks like he’s found a winning pattern.” In Wine Spectator, Harvey Steiman visits Doubleback’s Drew Bledsoe.

“Of all the dramatic visuals the morning after the Napa earthquake—the shattered wine cellars and landslides of fallen barrels—nothing for me was more startling than the live TV images of the historic McIntyre building, crippled and sagging on the grounds of Trefethen Vineyards in Yountville.” Elsewhere in Wine Spectator, Tim Fish explores if this Napa icon can be saved.

Researchers in Denmark have “developed a nanosensor that can mimic what happens in your mouth when you drink wine.” The implications are quite cool.

“When you think of the French Riviera, you tend to think of sun, sand, sex and sophistication.” But just a mile away, “a small community of Cistercian monks works the land to produce wines that can sell for more than $210 a bottle.”

More Civility from Robert Parker

Posted by | Posted in Commentary | Posted on 09-17-2014

Flickr, Spring Dew.

Flickr, Spring Dew.

Last Monday, Ron Washam (the “HoseMaster of Wine”) wrote a satirical essay on In Pursuit of Balance.

Created in 2011 by Rajat Parr and Jasmine Hirsch, IPOB has been somewhat controversial. In showcasing producers who eschew power and in favor of restraint, the organization is exclusionary by design. And many have taken issue with its use of the word “balance.” (Last year, for example, Wine Spectator’s Harvey Steiman proclaimed that he “[resented] the implication that richer, more full-bodied wines can’t be balanced.”)

On Tuesday, Robert Parker decided to share his feelings on IPOB:

Subject: Hosemaster classic

His latest comedic genius is especially skull-breaking through the wonderful imagery of a Coravin needle in Jim Laube’s head,…capturing the silly nonsense and money-grubbing lunacy of the Pursuit of Balance crowd….how about In Pursuit of Breathing? Even one of the old geezers from my formulative past-Charlie Olken(who has probably forgotten in one day more about California wine than all the “balancers” know collectively)-CO is the founder and pioneer of the long and excellent Connoisseur’s Guide to California Wine….in short, no serious person pays any attention to Raj Parr and his zealots as it is so obvious they are only trying to sell their own wines….aren’t there enough sommeliers to support them? Keep the humor flowing RW….turds that actually or so full of hot air and float to the surface will eventually end up where they belong….history tells us this…..

In summary, Robert Parker believes that “no serious person pays any attention to Raj Parr” and that IPOB producers are “turds.”

Never mind Parr’s various wine ventures, his role as wine director for Michael Mina’s 21 restaurants, or the huge following he has on Instagram and Twitter. And never mind the fact that many IPOB producers (Au Bon Climat, Calera, Failla, Hanzell, etc.) have been praised by Parker in the past.

To quote New York Times wine critic Eric Asimov, “this must be an example of the new civility among wine writers that Bob has recommended.”

Daily Wine News: Bridge Champion

Posted by | Posted in Wine News | Posted on 09-17-2014

Flickr, Norman27.

Flickr, Norman27.

“How does someone amass a wine collection worth $15 million? That’s a little more than late-night binge shopping at an online wine store.” In Wine-Searcher, Tyler Colman profiles Roy Welland.

“You probably haven’t heard of Pine Mountain-Cloverdale Peak.” But as W. Blake Gray explains, “some smart wineries are placing big bets there.”

In Decanter, Yohan Castaing reports that “Chateau de Pommard in Burgundy has been sold to American digital entrepreneur Michael Baum for an undisclosed fee.”

In Castro Valley, California, Westover Winery was fined $115,000 for using volunteer workers. The winery has since gone out of business.

“In the Golan Heights, two drastically different worlds exist side-by-side.” On CNN, Ian Lee visits Pelter Winery in northern Israel.

“I’m amazed that we as an industry let Redbull have all the fun with extreme sports, while we stick to tennis, golf, and polo. Wouldn’t it be fabulous to have a glass of bubbly after touching down to terra firm in the Redbull Circuit?” In Harpers, Ryan Opaz urges wine marketers to make wine exciting.

Tom Wark praises The Essence of Wine, the forthcoming book from Alder Yarrow.

“Seventeen years later, the wine list at Passionfish has grown from 50 choices to about 400 — a roster of some of the most desired wines from around the world, along with enough curiosities to make a Mission hipster green with envy.” In the San Francisco Chronicle, Jon Bonné writes a wonderful piece on Passionfish in Pacific Grove.

Life Is Richer With Wine: The Magical Connections We Make

Posted by | Posted in White's Wines | Posted on 09-16-2014

Smiles all around from current and former Terroirist contributors. (Left to right: Isaac James Baker, David White, Scott Claffee, Sarah Hexter.)

Smiles all around from current and former Terroirist contributors. (Left to right: Isaac James Baker, David White, Scott Claffee, Sarah Hexter.)

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 Grape Collective. 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).

In my latest column, by sharing stories from a number of wine enthusiasts, I explain why life is richer with wine.

Life Is Richer With Wine: The Magical Connections We Make

Wine demands to be shared. Enjoying a glass alone is fine, of course. But there’s an emotional component to wine appreciation. That’s a big reason why enjoying a bottle with friends is always more meaningful than drinking alone.

Chicago wine enthusiast Mark Boldizsar recognizes that few experiences are quite as enchanting as sharing a special wine. So last week, he took to the world’s most active wine discussion board, Wine Berserkers, to detail his journey of wine discovery — and ask fellow oenophiles about the doors that have opened thanks to wine.

“As much as I enjoy drinking nice wine, I have to admit it’s only a small part of a larger picture,” Boldizsar wrote. “From my personal experiences, my fondest wine-related memories are of sharing my wines in the good company of other wine lovers.

“In regards to my personal story, I was able to reconnect with a good childhood friend on the basis of wine. Over the past 4 years, we have been fortunate enough to meet up several hundred times (at least once a week). The wine is all well and good, but it’s the side stories, wine talk, and laughter that makes it so enjoyable.”

Shortly after his post went up, other enthusiasts shared their stories.

Many credited wine for their strongest friendships. For instance, California resident Leon Markham thanked wine for introducing him to “some of the smartest, kindest people I know.” Others praised wine for enhancing food and travel.

Check out the rest of the piece on Grape Collective!

Daily Wine News: Calling Bullshit

Posted by | Posted in Wine News | Posted on 09-16-2014

From Wikimedia.

From Wikimedia.

“If you think a restaurant’s wine list is too weird for you, you are too old to eat there. Eat somewhere else and stop your bullshit.” W. Blake Gray speaks truth to power.

“If people like me want to learn more about wine and gain deeper respect for those who serve it in restaurants, so what if we earn a lapel pin in the process?” Dave McIntyre comments on the backlash against sommeliers.

“I think the biggest problem with the newer generation of sommeliers is that they skip the classics and move straight towards the geeky and esoteric wines.” In Star Chefs, Chris Struck chats with Rajat Parr.

In the San Francisco Chronicle, Jon Bonné visits San Bernabe, one of the largest contiguous vineyards in California.

“Now in their mid-80s, each walks with a cane. They’re practically Sonoma County icons, and yet there’s plenty we don’t know about them.” In the Press Democrat, Peg Melnik spends some time with Barry and Audrey Sterling, the co-founders of Iron Horse Vineyards.

“What comes through loud and clear are his passion for wine and his fascination with its evolution from vineyard to cellar.” In the Los Angeles Times, S. Irene Virbila profiles Greg Brewer.

“If there’s an ingredient list for soda, there needs to be one for wine.” Alice Feiring offers her opinion on wine labeling.

Thrillist names America’s 21 best wine bars.