Wine Reviews: International Grab Bag

Posted by | Posted in Wine Reviews | Posted on 03-28-2020

The coronavirus pandemic is causing havoc the world over. While tasting wines from Italy, Spain, the United States, I can’t help think of how all these places are being upended by this pandemic. I hope you all are staying safe, taking care of yourselves and each other, and also enjoying some good wine and food at home.

I’ve been trying to cook as much vegetables as I can during these past two weeks of lockdown, and I’ve found myself playing around with lots of Indian and Moroccan spices. Luckily, I had two Pinot Blancs from Alsace to sample that also work really well with the dishes I’ve been slinging. Alsace is where I first fell in love with wine, and it is vibrant, exciting, inexpensive wines like the two in this report that keep me coming back.

This report also includes two wines from Fournier, in Ribera del Duero, which was purchased by Gonzalez Byass in 2019.

And from the U.S. come several Oregon and Washington wines. I’ve been hurling praise at Applegate Valley’s Troon wines for years now. And while I tend to personally enjoy their whites more, these Tannat-based reds are crisp, crunchy and juicy in a way that’s more accessible than most Tannats that I’ve tasted.

Tamarack Cellars offers a whole lot of Washington red goodness for less than $30, and Owen Roe’s wines also make an appearance.

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

Daily Wine News: How Restaurants Are Keeping Up

Posted by | Posted in Wine News | Posted on 03-27-2020

Flickr: Ren Kuo

In Food & Wine, Sara Ventiera reports on how restaurateurs and sommeliers around the U.S. are unloading their wine collections as they try to stay afloat. “But this is not just happening in New York City, one of the cities ordered to stay at home. All over the country, restaurateurs and sommeliers are making tough decisions as they try to avoid complete financial catastrophe.”

In Eater, Leah Rosenzweig also reports on the top restaurant wine lists that are turning into bottle shops.

Esther Mobley surveys the California wineries rushing to offer virtual wine tastings in the San Francisco Chronicle.

According to Wine Spectator, Carlos Falcó y Fernandéz de Córdova, Marqués de Griñón, an innovator in Spanish wine and olive oil, died March 20 in Madrid from COVID-19. He was 83.

In Wine-Searcher, W. Blake Gray reports on how the coronavirus is impacting the Chilean vintage.

Hannah Selinger explores the wines of the American Southwest in Wine Enthusiast.

In Forbes, Liza B. Zimmerman looks at how the coronavirus continues to disrupt the wine industry.

In the Wall Street Journal, Lettie Teague on “sleeper wines.” (subscription req.)

Daily Wine News: France Recognizes Natural Wine Designation

Posted by | Posted in Wine News | Posted on 03-26-2020

France has officially recognized a natural wine designation, reports Diana Macle on “After 10 years effort, the French wine industry has obtained the right to market wines officially recognized as “natural”. In collaboration with the French Ministry for Agriculture, the French National Institute for Origins and Quality (INAO) and the French Fraud Control Office, the newly created Natural Wines Union, presided by Loire Valley vintner Jacques Carroget, has established a list of criteria and a screening protocol dedicated to this new designation.”

It’s time to end wine shipping bans, says Tom Wark in Wine-Searcher. “If ever there was a moment that demonstrated both the utility and necessity of allowing consumers to receive shipments of wine from out-of-state wine retailers, it is now, as we isolate and require Americans to migrate even more of their lives into an online setting.”

In Wine Enthusiast, Virginie Boone, Jim Gordon and Matt Kettmann report on how the California wine industry is adjusting to the new not-normal.

The Institute of Masters of Wine has cancelled upcoming MW exams in the face of the coronavirus pandemic.

In Bloomberg, Elin McCoy reports on the online wine-buying boom that’s resulted from the COVID-19 outbreak.

On Tim Atkin’s site, Andy Neather ponders wine and writing in the age of the coronavirus.

Renato Vacca, one of Barbaresco’s most talented winemakers, died March 14 after a yearlong battle with cancer, reports Bruce Sanderson in Wine Spectator. He was 51.

Victoria James discusses her new book, Wine Girl, with Megan O’Neill Melle in Parade.

Daily Wine News: Remembering a Wine Auction Icon

Posted by | Posted in Wine News | Posted on 03-25-2020

In the New York Times, Eric Asimov pens an obituary for Michael Broadbent, who died on March 17 at the age of 92. “When commercial wine auctions got going in Britain in the 1960s, they were largely illegal in the United States, a result of archaic Prohibition-era laws and lobbying pressure from the wine and spirits industries. But Mr. Broadbent noticed wine being shipped by American collectors to London for auction only to be then bought by Americans, who shipped their purchases back to the United States. He wanted to get in on that market.”

“I’m not alone when I say that I’ve never been through anything like this and didn’t see it coming. I had no way of imagining such a circumstance: a world-wide pandemic that closes down the US and World economies?” Rob McMillan surveys the wine industry to get a sense of how the coronavirus is impacting business.

Napa Valley’s Heitz Cellar closed its tasting room, but is still paying its staff, reports Chris Matyszczyk in Inc.

After originally postponing it to a later month, Vinitaly 2020 is now officially cancelled and postponded to 2021.

Victoria James discusses her new book, Wine Girl, on NPR.

VinePair talks with Esther Mobley about covering wine in a pandemic.

Meininger’s pulled together a list of virtual wine events to join in the age of social distancing.

Alice Feiring highlights all the places you can buy wine in the age of COVID-19.

Daily Wine News: Weathering the New Reality

Posted by | Posted in Wine News | Posted on 03-24-2020

Vineyards in Napa Valley. (Source: Wikimedia)

In VinePair, Tim McKirdy looks at how American wineries are weathering the COVID-19 pandemic. “With crucial vineyard and bottling work on the horizon, grape growers and winemakers must juggle seasonal winery operations while also navigating “shelter in place” orders, staffing decisions, and sales disruptions throughout the supply chain. The confluence of these events could result in one of the most challenging vintages in recent memory.”

In SevenFifty Daily, Courtney Schiessl reports on how wine retailers are managing in the coronavirus era.

First came the U.S. tariffs, then came coronavirus. In Meininger’s, Jason Sych speaks with industry professionals to understand how the wine industry is faring.

Virginie Boone offers a guide to buying wine online in Wine Enthusiast.

In Forbes, Jeanne O’Brien Coffey report son how COVID-19 is driving cheap shipping deals for wine.

This year’s Food & Wine Classic in Aspen has been cancelled in response to the coronavirus crisis.

In Thrillist, Adriana Velez talks to Dante DeCicco, co-owner of The Natural Wine Shoppe, about natural wine.

In Wine-Searcher, Vicki Denig explores the role of texture in wine.

Daily Wine News: Now Is the Time to Support the Wine Industry

Posted by | Posted in Wine News | Posted on 03-23-2020

(Source: Wikimedia)

Uncork a bottle of wine, it might just help save a small business, says Dave McIntyre in the Washington Post.

The world may have been turned upside down, but that should stop you from drinking wine. More from Don Kavanagh in Wine-Searcher.

In Meininger’s, Felicty Carter reports that wine retailers are seeing a surge in wine buying during this pandemic.

In Wine Spectator, Robert Camuto reports on how COVID-19 and a quarantine Italy is impacting an early spring in vineyards.

In the Robb Report, Sara L. Schneider highlights a handful of virtual wine tastings.

In the Buyer, Peter Ranscombe on why Syrah is the unsung hero from Washington State.

Jancis Robinson explores the Anderson Valley. “Anderson Valley, while being decidedly cool – too cool to ripen grapes at all on some valley-floor sites – makes wines that have fragrant charm rather than austerity, and can be relatively reasonably priced. It also, as I found out on this recent trip, has a special hidden, homespun quality about it.”

Robert Joseph remembers Michael Broadbent MW, who died on March 17 at the age of 93.

Fiona Morrison also remember Michael Broadbent in Wine & Spirits Magazine.

Wine Reviews: Alma Fria

Posted by | Posted in Wine Reviews | Posted on 03-21-2020

I first tasted Alma Fria’s Chardonnays and Pinot Noirs in 2016, and I knew I had stumbled onto something special.

These West Sonoma Coast wines sport lower alcohol, but plenty of delicious fruit. I love their Chards for this sea spray, salinity that makes me salivate, and their Pinots for the elegant floral, spice and earth tones.

Founder Jan Holtermann comes from a background of wine importing with his family’s business in Costa Rica. But, in 2011, he and his wife Silvia moved their family to Healdsburg, California, to start Alma Fria. They purchased their own vineyard in 2012, the Holtermann Vineyard in Annapolis.

They found a winemaker in Carroll Kemp (also of Red Car), whose children went to the same Kindergarten class in Healdsburg. With vineyard manager Greg Adams (who has worked with other local producers like Lynmar, Patz & Hall) the team was underway. (Click here for a 2016 Terroirist interview with Jan Holtermann.)

 I recently received a batch of some Chardonnays and Pinot Noirs from the 2016 and 2017 vintages. Across the board, these wines are fantastic, especially if you’re looking for more sleek, crisp styles. These wines were received as trade samples and tasted single-blind. Read the rest of this entry »

Daily Wine News: Wine Retailers Adapt

Posted by | Posted in Wine News | Posted on 03-20-2020

(Source: Wikimedia)

In Wine Enthusiast, Emily Saladino reports on how coronavirus is transforming wine retail. “No matter what the new circumstances are, many small business owners are struggling to adapt. They have to transform their operations every time nearby offices require their employees work from home, or when a governmental decree shutters all bars and restaurants. But surprisingly, the news has not been all bad for retailers, so far.” highlights 200 wine retailers around the world who deliver to those quarantined at home due to the coronavirus.

Chris Wilson also looks at how wine merchants are getting creative during COVID-19 uncertainty in Decanter.

In New York Magazine, Brian Feldman talks to Mark Schwartz of Little Mo Wine in Brooklyn about how the rapidly escalating coronavirus pandemic in New York has positively impacted business.

Going into lockdown presents specific challenges for the wine trade. But there are tried and tested ways to deal with them. Felicity Carter reports on them in Meininger’s.

In Bon Appétit, Alex Delaney offers a guide to buying wine online.

In Wine Enthusiast, Anne Krebiehl remembers wine writer and auctioneer Michael Broadbent.

Daily Wine News: What’s Ahead?

Posted by | Posted in Wine News | Posted on 03-19-2020

The shock of COVID-19 is transforming the world. In Meininger’s, Robert Joseph asks what it’s going to mean for wine. “The focus on the need to sit at a table and break bread together or to walk through the cellars or vineyard has blinded us to the more basic need to communicate with as efficiently as possible. But COVID-19 and the need to fight climate change which it has overshadowed, will force us all to rethink.”

On, Jon Moramarco considers the lasting impact of COVID-19 on the alcoholic beverage industry.

Wine Spectator reports on how West Coast winery tasting rooms are trying virtual tastings and other creative strategies in the midst of the coronavirus crisis.

How essential are wineries? And can we live without them? W. Blake Gray explores the answer in Wine-Searcher.

Michael Broadbent MW, “prolific wine writer and a leading light in the trade for decades,” has died, reports Chris Mercer in Decanter. He was 92.

Jancis Robinson also pays tribute to Michael Broadbent.

In Grape Collective, Christopher Barnes talks to Autumn Stoscheck of Eve’s Cider about cider’s potential in the Finger Lakes.

In Wine Enthusiast, Anne Krebiehl offers a guide to whole-bunch fermentation.

Book Review: Wine Girl by Victoria James

Posted by | Posted in Book Reviews | Posted on 03-18-2020

With Wine Girl, Victoria James has taken a blacklight to the bedsheet of somm life. A gritty, gripping autobiography of an incredibly resilient and gifted woman forging her own path very much despite circumstance, it’s arrived at exactly the right cultural moment. James pulls no punches, laying bare the traumas of her life, including episodes of sexual assault, and succeeds in delivering a book terrifying (in its truth) and inspiring all at once.

James, whose claim to fame is being America’s youngest sommelier, takes us through her story from childhood to her late twenties (she’s 29 now, if my math is correct). Her home life was turbulent: her father manipulating and controlling everyone and her mother too depressed to be a mother. At a point, James was forced to step up and play parent to her two siblings, whom it’s evident she treasures. But eventually, she needed an escape and, at 13, she took a job as a waiter.

The most chilling, hard-to-read moment comes when James shares how she was raped, at 15, by a customer who frequented the diner where she worked. There’s no shying away from anything in Wine Girl

While she didn’t find a safe haven in the restaurant industry, James did find purpose, a sense of belonging, and some coworker-mentors to learn from along the way.

She eventually developed an interest in wine, particularly its ability to carry a sense of place, and began taking Wine School classes. Ironically, the skills she developed during the traumas of her childhood turned out to be the exact skills she needed to become an excellent sommelier: a strong work ethic, a preternatural capacity for retaining information, a desire to make people happy, and an ability to thrive and self-motivate with little encouragement from others. At 21, James earned her Certified Sommelier pin from the Court of Master Sommeliers.

Just like so many books that deglamorize the winemaker’s life, Wine Girl exposes the realities of being a sommelier. What I didn’t expect, and what will take most readers aback, is the level of abuse James has endured in her young career. And she talks about it so nonchalantly, as if numb after years of just gutting things out. Some of the stories struck me as particularly egregious, even criminal. Like the time she was tricked into drinking roofied wine by a table of rowdy cowboys, or when a notable master somm (she doesn’t say who) slaps her backside at an event. Wine Girl sometimes feels like an endless sequence of men acting like children and abusing their positions of power. The lion’s share of the blame, in my view, falls on the managers and coworkers who turned a blind eye to James’s plight.

Wine Girl is a reminder that there’s brokenness everywhere—making James’s perseverance stand out as that much more incredible. She never let bitterness consume her. She was cracked by the cruelty and selfishness of so many, but never shattered. And in the end, she finds forgiveness and hope for redemption.

My recommendation
I doubt many men would make a book called Wine Girl their first choice. That’s a shame, because men, especially men in the food and wine industries, need to hear James’s story. On top of the eye-opening, “wow, I never knew” aspect, it’s just a good, attention-keeping read—for women too, of course.