Wine Reviews: Black Kite Cellars

Posted by | Posted in Wine Reviews | Posted on 06-12-2021

Anderson Valley Pinot Noir likely needs no introduction here. This Mendocino appellation is packed with well-known vineyards and producers, making quite a wide array of styles.

Among them, Black Kite Cellars has an impressive portfolio. Kicked off in 2003, Black Kite Cellars is the product of Rebecca and Tom Birdsall, and co-founded by Rebecca’s parents, Donald and Maureen Green. They bought the site that would become Kite’s Rest in 1995, and it was replanted to Pinot Noir in 1999. Divided into several blocks, the 40-acre parcel rises up from the Navarro River (River Turn), through gravelly loam (Stony Terrace), and up to the edge of the forest (Redwood’s Edge). The wines are made by Jeff Gaffner, formerly of Arrowood, who also has his own label, Saxon Brown.

They produce five different Pinot Noirs from their estate Kite’s Rest vineyard (their “home” Pinots), in addition to some “away” Pinot Noirs from other sites. The Pinot Noirs offers a great look into the differences between these sites. And their Chardonnays, sourced from some epic Sonoma sites, are delightful. Two are featured today.

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

Daily Wine News: Text Your Somm

Posted by | Posted in Wine News | Posted on 06-11-2021

In PUNCH, Emily Wilson considers the role of texting as part of the pandemic wine retail experience. “The ability to text a sommelier as you would your friends lessens the anxiety that often comes with buying wine… While wine shops have opened back up and restaurants can host diners at full capacity, the potential for texting as a permanent feature of the wine retail experience remains.”

In the New York Times, Eric Asimov reports on the companies experimenting with reusable wine bottles and flexitanks. “These reusable bottles are just tiny steps toward confronting a huge problem of waste and energy consumption… What’s clear is the current system of shipping heavy, throwaway bottles around the globe is unsustainable, as simple and familiar as it might be. Change may seem difficult and inconvenient, but it’s necessary and in the long run easier to accept than an overheated planet.”

Wine Country is experiencing a rise in tourism, but that doesn’t mean it will translate to lasting wine sales, sales Esther Mobley in the San Francisco Chronicle. “Will the lower grape prices ultimately translate to lower wine prices for the consumer? They may not: High-end Napa estates have historically been reluctant to drop their wine prices, ever. I want to know what will happen if these disconnects continue: if the behind-the-scenes agricultural equation shifts for wineries, but prices for customers keep rising; if the slowing pace of premiumization eventually throws a wrench in the ever-more-expensive cost of visiting a region like Napa Valley. “

In Wine Enthusiast, Matt Kettmann explores the new generation of winemakers reviving Los Angeles’ wine history.

Speaking of Wine Enthusiast, the company named new presidents, Erika and Jacqueline Strum.

In Club Oenologique, Adam Lechmere on why Etna seems to be having a moment. “The secret of Etna is no more complicated than this: it produces wines of elegance and simplicity with fine acidity, fresh fruit and soft tannins – in short, wines that are perfectly attuned to modern tastes. And then there’s something magical, even primal, about the great volcano. There are few wine regions which inspire more devotion.”

In Vinous, Eric Guido explores the diversity of Sicilian wines.

Daily Wine News: Lighten Up

Posted by | Posted in Wine News | Posted on 06-10-2021

Uploaded to flickr by Bayhaus.

Heavy bottles are out, says Wine Enthusiast’s Virginie Boone, who looks at how some wineries are trying to lessen their carbon footprint by using lighter wine bottles.

“US and EU negotiators in Brussels and Washington are putting the four-month moratorium on taxes introduced on both sides of the Atlantic in retaliation for the civil aviation dispute (and subsidies to aircraft manufacturers Airbus and Boeing) to good use. As the deadline approaches, confidential technical discussions continue, with 11 July marking the end of the suspension of 25% customs duties on still wines and certain spirits,” reports Vitisphere.

California’s Grand Cru vineyards are emerging, reports Kathleen Willcox in Wine-Searcher. “While California is unlikely to ever formally recognize these rock star vineyards, that doesn’t mean we can’t. We also wanted to understand just what makes these places so distinctly phenomenal, and if and how much the growers and winemakers work together to determine what happens in the vineyard.”

Elsewhere in Wine-Searcher, W. Blake Gray looks at how a new generation of Pinotage—once derided as smelling of burnt rubber—is finding favor with wine lovers.

On his blog, Alfonso Cevola talks to Italian wine expert Ian D’Agata, who declares his disdain for natural wines. “I will try any and all wines, so my cellar is a real mixed bag. But I guess people would be surprised if they ever were to see a “natural” wine that stinks, because I literally hate them, and view them as an absolute plague born out of ignorance.”

A coalition of winemakers—the Malibu Coast Vintners and Grape Growers Alliance Inc. and John Gooden, the president of Montage Vineyards—is suing Los Angeles County and its Board of Supervisors over a ban on new vineyards in the Santa Monica Mountains.

Tablas Creek shares how Covid-19 changed their tasting room model for good.

Are Napa Valley grape prices sustainable? Cyril Penn looks into their pricing on

How much do we currently know about the relationship between grape and wine phenolics and cell water? One study delves into it.

Daily Wine News: Post-Natural Wine

Posted by | Posted in Wine News | Posted on 06-09-2021

Are we entering the post-natural wine era? Jamie Goode offers his opinion in VinePair. “So as these methods become more widespread, where does natural wine finish and conventional wine start? These days, it’s hard to tell…The result of all these changes is the blurring of lines between authentic, terroir-driven wine-growing and “natural” winemaking. And if the natural wine movement’s true purpose was to make the industry reconsider its position on issues ranging from farming to the need for additions and interventions in the winery, then its job is done.”

In SevenFifty Daily, Betsy Andrews highlights the new generation of Mexican-American winemakers. “For decades, the American wine industry has been powered by their people’s labor…Yet, the number of winemakers of Mexican heritage is few…They share a commitment to their identity, and to the hard work, community, and aspirational history that has driven the success of the generations before them.”

Wine subscription club Winc has acquired Natural Merchants, which up to now has supplied wine to restaurants and retailers like Whole Foods. Arianne Cohen shares more details in Fast Company.

A winery in Lake County is suing a grape growing company for allegedly selling them smoke-tainted grapes, according to the North Bay Business Journal. Langtry Farms claims that grapes delivered to them by Santa Rosa-based Torick Farms (a company run by a former top executive with Jackson Family Wines) harvested during last year’s wildfires ruined a number of tanks of wine.

In Modern Farmer, Dan Nosowitz reports that Texas wine grape growers are suing Bayer-Monsanto over dicamba drift damage. Some growers report the pesticide has caused losses of up to 95 percent.

On his blog, Jamie Goode calls Montebaco “one of the most exciting producers in Ribera del Duero.”

In TRINK Magazine, Steven Sidore considers the winners and losers of the revised German wine law. “The 2021 wine law framers soon found, in classic German fashion, that one pyramid simply wasn’t enough.”

Daily Wine News: Bulk Wine

Posted by | Posted in Wine News | Posted on 06-08-2021

In VinePair, Stephanie Cain delves into the role that bulk wine plays in the industry, and the stereotypes surrounding it. “When we set out to report this story, we quickly found that wine industry professionals, from sommeliers to company spokespeople, didn’t want to talk about bulk wine. Companies balked at the suggestion they may use bulk wine in their subscription service offerings or canned wine. One even went so far as to tell me they import only 20-liter kegs of their natural wine from France. To be considered bulk, they said, it would need to be a 60-liter keg. A master sommelier replied that they only work in “quality wine,” implying that bulk wine couldn’t possibly be quality.”

In the New York Times, Eric Asimov says Chianti Classico will be his wine for the summer. “I find a lightness, purity and eloquence to the wines that in my mind sets them apart from other sangiovese wines.”

A generous bequest from the Judgment of Paris winemakers will help boost the Smithsonian’s popular American Food History Project, reports Dave McIntyre in the Washington Post.

“There’s long been a linguistic dance between guests and wine professionals, with each doing their damndest to figure out exactly what the other is really saying. A big part of a sommelier’s job is to ask the right questions, interpret a guest’s wine knowledge and adapt language accordingly. Most of the time, that means skipping official Wine & Spirit Education Trust (WSET) tasting grid vocabulary in favor of more evocative phrasing.” Caroline Hatchett explores what wine pros’ favorite tasting terms really mean in Wine Enthusiast.

In the Buyer, Tim Atkin declares Argentina 2019 as the best vintage he has ever tasted.

Darling Cellars winery in South Africa was flooded with red wine after a 50,000-liter tank fell, setting off a domino effect, reports Wine Spectator.

In Vinous, Josh Raynolds, Eric Guido and Joaquín Hidalgo offer notes on a range of 2021 rosés.

Daily Wine News: Evolving Language

Posted by | Posted in Wine News | Posted on 06-07-2021

Jancis Robinson considers the evolving language of wine. “Now that at long last the ethnicity of wine consumers, wine students and wine media is widening, with white skin and red trousers becoming slightly less prevalent, the calls for wine writing that is, in the words of the Wine Writers Symposium [program], ‘more creative, accessible, and inclusive’ are increasingly strident.”

It’s best known for producing Pinot Noir, but could the Willamette Valley be the perfect spot for Chardonnay? W. Blake Gray consider’s the AVA’s future as “the new Burgundy” in Wine-Searcher.

In Club Oenologique, Alistair Morrell from Cider is Wine says it’s time that wine lovers took cider more seriously.

Jeni Port explores a new generation of Australian wines in the Drop, the new wine magazine from wine discovery platform Pix.

In Wine Enthusiast, Paul Gregutt looks at the history of Pinot Gris in Oregon.

On his blog, Alfonso Cevola highlights 10 wines that changed how the world sees Italian wine.

Lettie Teague tastes through a number of boxed wines in the Wall Street Journal. (subscription req.)

“This moment, right now, is the best time to find a job in the wine industry that I’ve witnessed in more than 30 years,” says Tom Wark, who looks at the number of open service positions on his blog.

Wine Reviews: California Wines for Summer

Posted by | Posted in Wine Reviews | Posted on 06-06-2021

It’s not officially summer in the Northern Hemisphere yet, but it sure does feel like it. Personally, I don’t handle any sort of heat and humidity well, unless I’m a stone’s throw from a beach or pool. So now that it’s regularly hitting 90+ degrees in DC, I won’t be popping too many red wines.

This Spring, I’ve received a lot of California wines that would do well to beat the heat, and I’ve compiled some white and pink wines that deliver. Smith-Madrone’s Spring Mountain Riesling does it again; it is consistently one of the most exciting California Rieslings I’ve come across. FEL represents Anderson Valley well with their three offerings, while Sonoma’s Notre Vue is a that’s putting out some exciting stuff.

Some eye-opening Sauvignon Blancs, a delicious Grenache Blanc and a few others round out this solid mix. These wines were received as trade samples and tasted sighted. Read the rest of this entry »

Daily Wine News: Beyond Cabernet

Posted by | Posted in Wine News | Posted on 06-04-2021

(Source: Visit Napa Valley)

In Wine Enthusiast, Virginie Boone looks at why Napa winemakers are embracing grapes beyond Cabernet. “For now, in Napa Valley, there’s no doubt that Cab remains king. In 2019, 64.6% of all red grapes harvested were Cabernet Sauvignon… Cab hasn’t always reigned supreme here. In 1966, the year Robert Mondavi built his Oakville winery, there were more acres of Carignan, Gamay, Zinfandel and Petite Sirah than Cabernet. As the reality sets in that the region is getting hotter and drier, increasing the already pressing challenges of water, fire and disease, producers look to diversify once again.”

In Food & Wine, Markham Heid looks at the new generation of Instagram-ready wine labels. “While the popularity of brooding or unorthodox label art shows no signs of abating, there’s a coincident movement toward splashy color and whimsical imagery—something that was more prevalent 20 years ago, but that for a time went out of fashion.”

On, Louise Hurren looks at how the Mexican wine scene is changing in the face of current challenges. (subscription req.)

On the blog for First Vine, Tom Natan considers the issues involved with nutrition labeling on wine bottles. “Nutrition labeling contains amounts of and calories from fats, carbohydrates, protein, certain vitamins and minerals, and alcohol (at least for foods containing alcohol). This seems pretty straightforward. But in practice, it’s not.”

“Swiss wines remain rare on the international wine scene,” writes Daniel Schönberger, who profiles Markus Ruch in TRINK Magazine. “But a new generation of talent committed to uncompromising work and meaningfully sustainable viticulture is slowly changing this.”

In Vinous, Antonio Galloni offers his notes on 2020 Bordeaux en primeur.

In Grape Collective, Jackson Mattek talks to Apostolos Thymiopoulos about the history of the Thymiopoulos estate and the challenges and gifts of growing Xinomavro in Naoussa.

In the Washington Post, Douglas Heye explores how cooking at home helped him travel to places he couldn’t reach during the pandemic.

In Wine & Spirits Magazine, Patrick Comiskey and Corey Warren review two new books: Vines & Vision by Everton Kettmann and American Cider by Dan Pucci and Craig Cavallo.

Daily Wine News: TX Wine Labeling Law

Posted by | Posted in Wine News | Posted on 06-03-2021

From Wikipedia.

The Texas Legislature passed a new wine labeling law. On, Michelle Williams shares the details: “Labels listing a county designation must include 75% grapes from within the stated county, with the remaining 25% from within Texas. Labels listing an American Viticultural Area (AVA) must include 85% grapes from within the stated AVA, with the remaining 15% from within Texas. Labels listing a vineyard designation must contain 95% grapes from within the stated vineyard, with the remaining 5% from within Texas. Labels stating only Texas may include up to 25% grapes from outside of the state.”

On, Caroline Gilby profiles the powerful women of Bulgarian wine. “The restructuring of the industry after privatisation, with the loss of the large state Vinproms in favour of small estates and private projects, has also been significant factor in bringing women out of the shadows. This created opportunities for winemakers who were able to multi-task and allowed many women to shine (though this is not to say there aren’t some great male winemakers in the new era too).”

Denied property insurance, Napa Valley wineries are “extremely vulnerable” this fire season, reports Sarah Klearman in the Napa Valley Register.

It’s time to stop comparing English sparkling wine to Champagne, says David Kermode in Club Oenologique.

Wine Country is roaring back to life, and fine dining restaurants are in high demand, reports Ellen Fort in Eater.

In Decanter, Andrew Jefford discusses Kylie Minogue’s rosé wines with the star.

In Wine Enthusiast, Matt Kettmann explores Paso Robles’ renaissance of crisp and clean white wines.

Daily Wine News: Worker Welfare

Posted by | Posted in Wine News | Posted on 06-02-2021

In SevenFifty Daily, Valerie Kathawala looks at the push to make worker welfare as important to the natural wine conversation as sulfur use and native yeasts. “The natural wine movement has pushed the conversation about farming much closer to the top of the list of considerations for a growing number of wine consumers. Now it has the chance to do the same thing for the welfare of winery workers.

In Wine Enthusiast, Alia Akkam explores Hungary’s natural wine scene. “Those who view natural wine as a passing fancy endanger its burgeoning role in Hungary, says Szekeres… Dedicated natural winemakers in Hungary are eager to forge a level of standardization similar to France’s natural wine charter implemented in 2020.”

Also in Wine Enthusiast, Mike DeSimone and Jeff Jenssen highlight three LGBTQ+ wine pros working to make wine a more inclusive industry.

Warming wine regions are leaving some German growers contemplating replacing traditional varieties with something very different, reports Kathleen Willcox in Wine-Searcher.

Producers are turning to Brittany, on the Atlantic edge of Europe, to make fresh, lighter styles of organic wine. If quality wine can be made in Britain, it can be made further south in Brittany, say wine producers in France. Barnaby Eales reports on the emerging region in Meininger’s.

In TRINK Magazine, Eva Biringer considers the growth of sober culture in Germany. “It will be interesting to watch how, over time, the pandemic affects Germany’s drinking behavior. What is certain is that the selection of alcohol-free alternatives will continue to grow, and Berlin is leading the pack.”

In Wine Spectator, Robert Camuto visits with Chianti’s Michele Braganti, who went “from bad boy to meticulous vintner in two decades.”