Wine Reviews: California Chardonnay

Posted by | Posted in Wine Reviews | Posted on 05-14-2016

For the California Chardonnay newcomers, or those looking to expand their palates and try different kinds of Chardonnays, welcome to the club. There are more diverse California Chardonnays today than ever before, and no matter what kind of style you like, there is a Cali Chard out there for you.

I love exploring lesser-known varieties and interesting blends from all over California, but there’s something about these wines that never gets old for me. Are some of them bland or over-oaked? Sure. But, for me, those well-priced delicious bottles and the more expensive gems I come across are worth the effort of exploring some of the less exciting wines. A lot of my wine friends have moved on from Cali Chard, as if it were a gateway drug one consumes before moving onto the hardcore stuff from Chablis and the Cote de Beaune. But I never outgrew the stuff, partly because California Chardonnay is a constantly evolving field, reinventing itself over and over again, interpreting incredibly diverse sites into unique and compelling wines.

Since my last report on California Chardonnay, I’ve tasted through a bunch of wines, most from the 2014 vintage, although a few late-released 2013s are still hitting shelves.

These wines were received as trade samples and tasted single-blind. Read the rest of this entry »

Daily Wine News: Redefining Rosé

Posted by | Posted in Wine News | Posted on 05-13-2016

Chateau d'Esclans rosé wines.

Château d’Esclans rosé wines.

In Decanter, Jane Anson looks at how Château d’Esclans (producer of Whispering Angel) is working to re-define rosé, and also briefly reacts to Jon Bonné’s recent piece on Provence rosé: “I would agree wholeheartedly that there are pockets of Provence that should be far more widely celebrated…but complaining about the success of Provence rosé is a bit like moaning about Champagne being known only for its sparkling wines.”

Elsewhere in Decanter, Harry Fawkes looks at the values of Bordeaux 2015 en primeur wines compared to previous vintages.

W. Blake Gray makes a bold statement after tasting only 12 grower Champagnes at a recent wine competition: “Grower Champagne might be, as a category, the most overrated wine in the world today… There’s a reason that big Champagne houses exist, and this competition showed it.”

Charles Banks’ Terroir Life Wine Group has sold Sandhi Wines to Rajat Parr, Sashi Moorman and Texas Venture Capitalist Steve Webster. Sandhi Wines will now be under the same partnership as Moorman and Parr’s two estate programs: Domaine de la Côte in the Santa Rita Hills, and Evening Land’s Seven Springs Vineyard in Oregon’s Eola-Amity Hills.

Drew Lazor resurrects old memories of Slap the Bag in Punch.

In Palate Press, Simon Woolf features Jurgen Gouws and his South African wine label, Intellego Wines.

Stephen Tanzer tackles the range of New Zealand wines in Vinous.

In the New York Times, Eric Asimov takes a break from wine this week to sample single malt whiskies from anywhere but Scotland.

Daily Wine News: Jefferson’s Tastes

Posted by | Posted in Wine News | Posted on 05-12-2016

Thomas Jefferson (Wikimedia)

Thomas Jefferson (Wikimedia)

In the Wall Street Journal, Lettie Teague gets the chance to page through Thomas Jefferson’s records of wine purchases, a book that can now be found online in the New York Public Library’s Digital Collections.

Tom Wark seems to think that millennials will one day embrace Napa, Bordeaux and Burgundy wine because “it’s about aspiration,” and says that “the wines from these places, reputations maintained, will serve for the more well-off Millennials as symbols and totems of success, power and wealth. They will see them as examples of the best in a category. And they, like today’s well off, will flock to them.”

In Vinous, Ian D’Agata encounters signs that producers in Alsace are starting to devote more attention to Sylvaner, the highlight wine of a recent vertical tasting he had at Domaine Dirler-Cadé.

Grape Collective talks with John Martini of Anthony Road in the Finger Lakes about the evolution of FLX and the challenges of developing a family business.

Decanter reports that Tour de France and winemakers in Languedoc-Roussillon have struck a deal in order to avoid a threatened blockade of the annual race.

Elisabetta Tosi remembers Donnafugata’s Giacomo Rallo in Palate Press.

In Wine-Searcher, Liza B. Zimmerman considers the pros and cons of America’s three-tier system.

In Food & Wine, Ray Isle reveals the rosés that make him happy.

Daily Wine News: The Loire Vibe

Posted by | Posted in Wine News | Posted on 05-11-2016

Spring in the Loire Valley. (Flickr: waldopics)

Spring in the Loire Valley. (Flickr: waldopics)

“I’m going to say good things about the wines I import and sell.  I wouldn’t sell things I didn’t like.  But does it automatically invalidate everything else I have to say?” On the blog for First Vine, Tom Natan pens a contemplative piece that looks at the divide between industry wine bloggers and “citizen” wine bloggers and rightfully hopes “that good content will be recognized, whatever the source.”

Sophie Barrett chronicles her recent adventures in Loire Valley. “I imagine most of my peers prefer the Loire Valley to Champagne, and for valid reasons: it’s objectively prettier, with more organic farming, more biodiversity…the vignerons are not business people the way most Champenois are; even the best wines are a hell of a lot cheaper than most Champagne. The vibe is different.”

Could Franciacorta become Italy’s first 100% organic appellation? Jeremy Parzen investigates and reflects on the possibility’s significance.

In the New York Times, Jason Grant covers the wine scene in New Jersey’s Cape May, which may be named an official AVA “in the next year or so.”

Baghera Wines‘ spring auction in Geneva on May 22 features a massive 1407 bottles from the Domaine de la Romanée-Conti stable,” reports Don Kavanagh in Wine-Searcher.

Giacomo Rallo, founder of the Donnafugata winery and leading figure of Sicilian wine, has passed away.

In Vinous, Josh Raynolds offers thoughts on 2014 and 2013 Gigondas, “wines to drink, not hold.”

Mike Veseth, the wine economist, compares the Australian and South African wine industries.

According to Bloomberg, “South Africa’s wine-grape crop will probably be the smallest since 2011 after El Nino caused excess heat and dry weather.”

In Wine Spectator, Bruce Sanderson checks in on the 2006 Barolo wines.

Daily Wine News: Spotlight on Italy

Posted by | Posted in Wine News | Posted on 05-10-2016

Vermentino (Source: Wikimedia)

Vermentino (Source: Wikimedia)

In Decanter, Andrew Jefford wonders if Vermentino will ever be considered one of the world’s great white wines. “I tend to think of it as the yachtsman’s white, and probably never better than when consumed on some deck…The more I taste it with food, though, the more I realise that its gastronomic potential is under-rated.”

In Punch, Megan Krigbaum on the staying power of pelaverga, freisa and ruché amidst the rise of nebbiolo in Piemonte.

Stuart Pigott is convinced that Castello di Morcote in Italy is “one of the world’s great Cru for red wines from the Merlot grape…I’m going to stick my neck out a considerable distance and say that there’s no department in which Morcote lags behind Petrus except in wine prices.”

Jamie Goode responds to Jon Bonne’s recent article on Provence rosé. “I’ve written this response, because I think that those of us in the wine world should be celebrating (and learning from) the great success of Provence rosé, instead of lamenting it.”

In Wine Spectator, Robert Camuto explores the Pinot Biancos of Cantina Terlano in Northeast Italy’s Alto Adige region.

In Vinous, David Schildknecht reports on the 2014 vintage in Germany.

Lettie Teague offers tips on picking special wines for a college graduate in the Wall Street Journal.

The Daily Mirror goes behind the scenes at the International Wine Challenge to find out what wine medal labels really mean.

In VinePair, Rachel Signer is enamored by the red wines from Loire Valley.

Daily Wine News: Virginia Rising

Posted by | Posted in Wine News | Posted on 05-09-2016

Barboursville Vineyards founder, Gianni Zonin, overlooking his Virginia vineyards

Barboursville Vineyards founder, Gianni Zonin, overlooking his Virginia vineyards

In Bloomberg, Guy Collins looks at the rise of Virginia’s wine industry, now generating $1 billion in annual sales. “Tourism is rising, with 1.6 million visitors to wineries in the state last year, and 2016 marks the 40th anniversary of the Italian winemaker Casa Vinicola Zonin SpA’s investment in Virginia’s Barboursville Vineyard.”

Jancis Robinson checks in on the Bordeaux 2006 vintage to see what’s drinking well today. “This was very much a Merlot vintage but it had nothing of the delightful freshness evident in the embryonic 2015s I tasted last month in Bordeaux.”

Grape Collective chats with Lapostolle winemaker Andrea León about the evolution of Chilean wine, working with famed wine consultant Michel Rolland and the importance of organic farming.

In Wine-Searcher, Tom Hyland surveys German and Alsatian winemakers to find out what they think of each other’s Riesling.

In the Washington Post, Dave McIntyre reflects on the Judgment of Paris and its impact on American wine.

In Eater, Lisa Elaine Held questions why “Contains Sulfites” triggers so much fear, despite less than 1% of the U.S. suffering from sulfite sensitivity.

In Food & Wine, sommeliers from around the country weigh in on how to get diners to try and embrace sherry.

Abby Schultz reports on her experience in a two-day, 16-hour intensive WSET course in Barron’s.


Wine Reviews: Lodi, California

Posted by | Posted in Wine Reviews | Posted on 05-07-2016

Credit: Lodi Winegrape Commission

What the hell is going on in Lodi?

This historic region, which stretches between Sacramento and Stockton, is home to more and more thrilling wines, year after year. They keep shocking me with their quality and value. It’s getting a bit absurd.

While vineyards were first planted here in the mid-19th Century, the 20th Century saw Lodi develop a reputation as a fruit basket for bulk wines. And, yes, tons of Lodi Zinfandel (and other grapes) were blended into tons of crappy wine. But to dismiss, or simply ignore, the wines of Lodi is to miss out on a whole lot. Today, Lodi is California wine’s big tent freak show of awesomeness.

Adventurous consumers and beverage buyers have so much to explore: small producers, incredibly varied grape varieties, old vines, funky blends, organic or “natural” stuff. And, due to a variety of factors (like cheaper vineyard land and decades of indifference from large media outlets), the price to deliciousness ratio is excellent.

Lodi wines are getting credit like never before, but this is no accident. The Lodi Winegrape Commission, the region’s trade group, has been preaching the gospel of Lodi wine for about a quarter century, but they’ve really stepped it up in recent years. With their $1.8 million budget, they put together tastings and trade events to showcase the 750 growers they represent. And small producers like St. Amant, Fields Family, m2, Macchia, McCay Cellars and Borra have turned this region’s rich history and diverse grape varieties into a compelling case that Lodi wines can stand shoulder-to-shoulder with the big boys.

Take Lodi Native, for example, a cooperative project that brings together a half dozen of the region’s best producers to harness the real treasure of this region — gnarly ancient vine Zinfandel. The wines are made with native yeasts and no new oak, so the unique terroir of these old vineyards (some are a century old) shines through gloriously. I’ve been floored by both the 2012 and 2013 iterations of Lodi Native, and I can’t wait to see what they bring in future vintages.

A lot of the most interesting wines (like the Lodi Natives) hail from the Mokelumne River sub-appellation. This area is home to so many unique and old-school vineyards. Bob Koth planted his Mokelumne Glen Vineyard to a dizzying array of German and Austrian grape varieties in the 1990s, after being blown away by some Riesling on a trip to Germany. He now farms what is surely one of the largest and most diverse collections of Northern European grape varieties in the New World. We’re talking about grapes like Kerner, Bacchus, Dornfelder, Zweigelt, and a bunch of others we native English speakers have trouble pronouncing. The Mokelumne Glen Vineyard produced its own estate wines from 1998 until 2009, but now the fruit is sold to producers like m2, Borra, Ramey and Forlorn Hope.

But Lodi is a very hot place, so the choice to plant cold climate varieties struck me as odd. During a recent online tasting and video chat, I asked Markus Niggli (winemaker at Borra Vineyards and Markus Wine Co.) how these grapes do in Lodi’s climate.

Markus, originally from Switzerland, had worked with a lot of these grapes in his home country, and he said the two climates are obviously and drastically different. But, he added, the reason these grapes work in Mokelumne River is the large diurnal temperature swing, which is especially noticeable in this riverside vineyard. When the temperate drops some 40 degrees overnight, it allows the grapes to cool down, resulting in wines that boast high ripeness while maintaining some refreshing acidity.

Over the past few weeks, I’ve tasted through a bunch of wines from Lodi, including the Mokelumne River Vineyard wines, a few from Ryan Sherman’s awesome project Fields Family, and a trio of reds from Mettler Vineyards.

These wines were all received as trade samples and tasted sighted (except for the Fields wines, which were tasted single-blind along with a bunch of other California reds). Read the rest of this entry »

Daily Wine News: Pioneering in Provence

Posted by | Posted in Wine News | Posted on 05-06-2016

(Source: Wikimedia)

(Source: Wikimedia)

Provence has become synonymous with rosé—both the place and wine becoming symbols of some aspirational lifestyle. But at what cost? In Punch, Jon Bonné reflects on what we’ve lost in the wake of rosé’s event horizon, and offers a guide to the pioneering wines (read: not generic pink wines) of Provence.

Sommelier Erin Barbour Scala of Charlottesville’s Fleurie and Petit Pois Restaurants pairs six Virginia wines with their classic region counterparts in Food & Wine.

In the New York Times, Eric Asimov offers his thoughts on the latest Wine School, Austrian Riesling and announces what’s up next: Langhe Barbera.

In Decanter, Jane Anson gets a sneak preview tour of Bordeaux’s €80m euro wine cultural centre.

The serious frosts that hit Burgundy last week gravely damaged almost half of the viticultural area, according to the Drinks Business.

Jeff Kralik, the drunken cyclist, considers the changing perceptions of Soave Classico after tasting a range of Inama wines.

Frances Dinkelspiel analyzes court documents relating to the books and inventory of the bankrupt Premier Cru, which reveals the company was not run in a “reliable fashion.”

Wines & Vines looks at whether wineries should be delving into producing beer and spirits.

Harpers wonders if Wikipedia for the wine industry is possible.

In Smithsonian Magazine, Owen Edwards on the 40th anniversary of The Judgement of Paris.

In the Wall Street Journal, Lettie Teague profiles Rajeev Vaidya, new head sommelier of chef Daniel Boulud’s Dinez Group.

Daily Wine News: Hungary Beyond Tokaj

Posted by | Posted in Wine News | Posted on 05-05-2016

Furmint. (Wikimedia)

Furmint. (Wikimedia)

“While it has yet to be actually legislated as such, Furmint has been openly described by government representatives as the national grape… The vestigal effects of the Cold War continue to reverberate through the country…” Alder Yarrow shares details about his latest visit to Hungary, where he “spent a week battling Apple’s maddening tendency to autocorrect Furmint to Ferment.”

In Wine-Searcher, Caroline Henry features the Champagnes of Franck Pascal and his biodynamic winemaking philosophies and experiments.

In Wine Enthusiast, Virginie Boone believes Carneros’s “true calling card might be Chardonnay.”

According to George Hodson of Veritas Vineyard and Winery, the time is right for the wines of Virginia to make a serious impact on the UK market.

Steve Heimoff considers the (few) ways wine bloggers can make money.

In Vinous, Antonio Galloni reports on a vertical tasting at Mouton Rothschild encompassing the 2003-2015 vintages.

Mark Byrne looks at the hype around natural wines in GQ.

“The VDP Rheinhessen passed a resolution which now allows the category of Kabinett wines to use the Grosse Lage designation,” reports Michael Schmidt in Purple Pages.

Grape Collective talks with Luca Currado, winemaker at Vietti in Piemonte.

In Beverage Media, W.R. Tish looks into why the young “Vin de France” designation has seen such success.

Daily Wine News: Love for the Loire

Posted by | Posted in Wine News | Posted on 05-04-2016

The Loire.

The Loire.

In the Wall Street Journal, Lettie Teague endorses Loire Valley wines for their value. “As a longtime fan of Loire Valley wines, I’ve never understood why they’ve remained so affordable. (Not that I’m complaining, of course.)”

Decanter reports that Champagne house Vranken-Pommery Monopole has followed in Taittinger’s footsteps by announcing it will produce English sparkling wine.

According to Wine Spectator, two California men have been indicted in there. French Laundry wine theft.

“But to understand and appreciate the greatness of such wines, you have to understand, as Mr. Salonen suggests, the “rules”: Complexity. Harmony. Cohesion. Nuance. Finesse. Surprise (call it originality if you like).” Elsewhere in Wine Spectator, Matt Kramer on “how to proselytize wine.”

In Vinous, Stephen Tanzer enjoys a vertical tasting of Kongsgaard Syrah back to the 1998 vintage.

Le Pan profiles Napa Valley’s Rosemary Cakebread, founder-producer of the Gallica label.

In Wine-Searcher, Adam Lechmere talks with Edouard Moueix, of Ets J-P Moueix, who explains why a career in Bordeaux was not inevitable.

Ted Loos offers an all-encompassing guide to the best airline wines in Travel + Leisure.

Wine Enthusiast profiles four young, entrepreneurial winemakers from Long Island.

In Wine & Spirits, Fiona Morrison pens a letter from Bordeaux.