Vinography Unboxed: Week of 10/28/18

bigstock-box-of-wine-on-the-plain-backg-26760620.jpgHello, and welcome to my periodic dig through the samples pile. I'm pleased to bring you the latest installment of Vinography Unboxed, where I highlight some of the better bottles that have crossed my doorstep recently. This week included a lot of really great stuff, including some superstars. Let's start with a very pretty Riesling from one of the top producers from Germany's Rheingau region, Leitz, and indeed one of the best known wineries in Germany. This lovely wine comes from a small slate-filled vineyard next to a Benedictine abbey near the town of Geisenheim. It's lip smacking good with just a fain't hint of sweetness. Just add Thai food. Next on the list is a white from a new-to-me producer Reva, which appears to be a winery AND resort in Monfortino, in Italy's Piedmont region. This distinctive blend of two types of Sauvignon was quite tasty, and worth seeking ...
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Vinography Unboxed: Week of 10/21/18

bigstock-box-of-wine-on-the-plain-backg-26760620.jpgHello, and welcome to my periodic dig through the samples pile. I'm pleased to bring you the latest installment of Vinography Unboxed, where I highlight some of the better bottles that have crossed my doorstep recently. This week included a number of high quality "usual suspects." Let's start with some current releases from Dutton Goldfield in Sonoma County. Dutton Goldfield is one of the wine labels that benefits from the massive vineyard holdings at the Dutton Ranch, Sonoma County's largest single farmer of wine grapes. A collaboration between Steve Dutton and winemaker Dan Goldfield, their wines are always restrained and reliably high quality. Their Chardonnays are generally excellent, as the two I tasted this week show -- first their standard issue Russian River bottling, and then the single vineyard Walker Hill. Both have little trace of new wood, and lots of redeeming features. Likewise, the two Pinots from Dutton ...
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Tasting Cambria Estate Winery

Jackson Family Wines has another winner in the Chardonnay and Pinot Noir from Cambria Wine Estate. The 2015 Katherine Vineyard Chardonnay is the dream of the perfect “California Chardonnay” – buttery, vanilla flavors yet restrained and balanced. The secret is the barrel aging and judicious use of new French oak. Now the 2015 Julia’s Vineyard Pinot Noir was very rich and vibrant with a slight transparent hue. The nose was very perfumed and the finish of the wine long in length and quite elegant. I could see pairing this with a substantial dish like Salmon and also risotto. The estate is owned by Katie and Julia Jackson, and located in the coastal Santa Maria Bench of Santa Barbara, where all the best wines come from. When I taste Jackson Family wines, I often wonder how they can deliver such great quality at an affordable price. These are two great wines ...

Vinoptima: Too Much of a Good Thing

vinoptima.jpg There's no doubt that wine is romantic, and that this romance inspires and motivates consumers and producers alike, especially in the new world, where wine as a profession and wine as a beverage are adopted, rather than hereditary. The popular discourse of wine remains so littered with near-mythical stories of people following their passions to create great wines and great wineries, that we all too easily forget that basic principles of economics always apply. No amount of passion can compensate for wine that consumers just don't want to buy, or that a winery owner can't figure out how to sell (as they are different but often related problems). All of that, by way of introduction to a winery named Vinoptima, in the out-of-the-way wine growing region of Gisborne, on New Zealand's North Island. Started by wine industry veteran Nick Nobilo in 2000, Vinoptima may be one of the world's ...
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Vinography Unboxed: Week of October 7, 2018

bigstock-box-of-wine-on-the-plain-backg-26760620.jpgHello, and welcome to my periodic dig through the samples pile. I'm pleased to bring you the latest installment of Vinography Unboxed, where I highlight some of the better bottles that have crossed my doorstep recently. This week included a few gems from around California and one from Italy. Last week I featured newest Chenin Blanc from Lang & Reed winery, sourced from Mendocino. This week I've got their traditional Napa apellated wine, which has even more depth and complexity. This week I've also got a couple more wines from Katy Wilson's LaRue cellars. The first, her Sonoma Coast bottling seems like it's been slapped with a touch too much new wood, and isn't holding it very well at this point in its evolution, despite having some very pretty fruit. The other bottling on the other hand, a Pinot from the Thorn Ridge Vineyard, is a knockout wine that shows ...
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Vinography Unboxed: Week of September 30, 2018

bigstock-box-of-wine-on-the-plain-backg-26760620.jpgHello, and welcome to my periodic dig through the samples pile. I'm pleased to bring you the latest installment of Vinography Unboxed, where I highlight some of the better bottles that have crossed my doorstep recently. This week included a bunch of excellent wines from some favorite producers. Let's start with the newest Chenin Blanc from Lang & Reed winery, whose Loire-focused Cabernet Franc portfolio was expanded a few years ago to include Chenin. Now John and Tracy Skupny are producing two Chenin Blancs, with this Mendocino sourced bottling being their newest project. It's very classically styled and bound to make fans of the grape happy. I've also got a couple of wines from they young Katy Wilson, who has proven to be one of California's youngest superstar winemakers, and whose LaRue label (her Grandmother's middle name) includes deftly made Pinot and Chardonnay. I've got one of each this week ...
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Vinography Unboxed: Week of 9/2/18

bigstock-box-of-wine-on-the-plain-backg-26760620.jpgHello, and welcome to my periodic dig through the samples pile. I'm pleased to bring you the latest installment of Vinography Unboxed, where I highlight some of the better bottles that have crossed my doorstep recently. This week included the always bright and fresh Sauvignon Blanc from Girard in Napa, and likewise consistently excellent, from over the hill, the Jordan Winery Chardonnay, which manages to walk the wonderfully fine line between classically oaky and buttery California Chardonnay and the nervy, acid-driven wines that are redefining the form. Next we've got a pair of Pinots from another reliable producer, Dutton Goldfield. The first is their basic estate Pinot from the cool climes of the Green Valley, and then, even cooler, the Azaya Ranch vineyard from Marin County, which is generally one of my favorites of their Pinot. Before we move on to a small trove of Cabernet Sauvignon, let's dally with ...
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Vinography Unboxed: Week of 8/26/18

bigstock-box-of-wine-on-the-plain-backg-26760620.jpgHello, and welcome to my periodic dig through the samples pile. I'm pleased to bring you the latest installment of Vinography Unboxed, where I highlight some of the better bottles that have crossed my doorstep recently. This week included perhaps my favorite wine of the new portfolio at the recently rebooted Eden Rift Vineyards south of Gilroy (formerly known as Pietra Santa). Their palest of pale Pinot Gris had just enough skin contact apparently to make it interesting and give it just a hint of color. It's worth seeking out. Staying in the crisp zone, I can highly recommend the Calera Chardonnay, which offers all the things you want from a California Chardonnay without a slathering of oak. Finally, don't miss the rosé from Limerick Lane Cellars, which is one more point of proof that Rhone-style grapes really do make the best rosés. Limerick Lane offered several other wines ER-PinotGris-Estate-KO.pngfor ...

Vinography Unboxed: Week of 8/19/18

bigstock-box-of-wine-on-the-plain-backg-26760620.jpgHello, and welcome to my periodic dig through the samples pile. I'm pleased to bring you the latest installment of Vinography Unboxed, where I highlight some of the better bottles that have crossed my doorstep recently. This week included a few wines from what you might consider a modern miracle of rebranding, Eden Rift vineyards, which has entirely upgraded the tired brand and wines formerly known as Pietra Santa from the out-of-the-way Cienega Valley down on the Central Coast south of Gilroy. Of the three wines reviewed this week, the rosé was the most exciting, but both the Chardonnay and Pinot were both competent and suggest more good stuff may be coming from this revamped estate. Ive got some truly excellent Pinots for you this week, starting with Alma Fria, the project started by Carroll Kemp, the founder and winemaker at Red Car, and his winegrower friend Jan Holtermann. These ...
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Wine News: What I’m Reading the Week of 8/19/18

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Welcome to my weekly roundup of the wine stories that I find of interest on the web. I post them to my magazine on on Flipboard, but for those of you who aren't Flipboard inclined, here's everything I've strained out of the wine-related muck for the week. The Great Wine Industry Shake-up
Not sure what the conclusion is, exactly other than, more change. 4 Ways Somms Can Stay Relevant in a Changing Industry
Short answer: build a brand. Early French wine harvest suffers from lack of workers
Anyone want to go to Alsace and help? Exclusive: Bordeaux Wins Landmark Case Against Counterfeiters in China
Very good news. What Does the World's Best Wine Taste Like?
Mark Oldman breaks it down. Andrew Jefford: Horizontal and vertical
It's about enjoying difference says Andrew. How long should we cellar our wines?
No consensus exists. Can Sancerre Be More Than Basique?
Jon Bonné ...

Wine Reviews: Weekly Mini Round-Up For August 20, 2018

I taste a bunch-o-wine (technical term for more than most people). So each week, I share some of my wine reviews (mostly from samples) and tasting notes in a “mini-review” format. They are meant to be quirky, fun, and (mostly) easily-digestible reviews of (mostly) currently available wines (click here for the skinny on how to read them), and are presented links to help you find them, so that you can try them out for yourself. Cheers!

The Secret Grapes of the Willamette Valley

bigstock--179979535.jpg An ironic dichotomy characterizes many young wine regions around the world. Lacking the hundreds or even thousands of years worth of cultural precedent that established and then sanctioned certain grape varieties to be grown in specific places, many newer regions seek to identify their defining grape variety. The lessons of recent history make the power of such a strategy quite evident. Chile had its Carmenere. Argentina its Malbec. Marlborough its Sauvignon Blanc. But the more successful a young region is in establishing a dominant and popular grape variety, the more it tends to plant of that variety, and the less interest (or economic value) there seems to be in trying other grape varieties. Despite clear logic that might suggest it ridiculous to have settled on the ideal grape variety for a given region or country in a mere 20, 30 or even 40 years, the economic pressure and self-reinforcing social ...
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Wine Reviews: Weekly Mini Round-Up For August 13, 2018

I taste a bunch-o-wine (technical term for more than most people). So each week, I share some of my wine reviews (mostly from samples) and tasting notes in a “mini-review” format. They are meant to be quirky, fun, and (mostly) easily-digestible reviews of (mostly) currently available wines (click here for the skinny on how to read them), and are presented links to help you find them, so that you can try them out for yourself. Cheers!

Vinography Unboxed: Week of 8/5/18

bigstock-box-of-wine-on-the-plain-backg-26760620.jpgHello, and welcome to my periodic dig through the samples pile. I'm pleased to bring you the latest installment of Vinography Unboxed, where I highlight some of the better bottles that have crossed my doorstep recently. This week included a couple of Sauvignon Blancs firmly in the California style. The first, from Smith Story, is slightly leaner with more citrus qualities, while the Rombauer offers a bit more sweetness and green apple. Both are tasty. The latest vintage of their Chardonnay proves that Chappellet Vineyards are trying to walk the very fine line between the more traditional (and popular) sensibility of California Chardonnay, while backing off the oak and aiming for more balance. They've done it quite well in my opinion, making a wine with broad appeal. I've got three pink wines to offer you thoughts on this week, two of which hail from the Redwood Valley, an all-but-unknown wine ...
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Vinography Unboxed: Week of 7/29/18

bigstock-box-of-wine-on-the-plain-backg-26760620.jpgHello, and welcome to my periodic dig through the samples pile. I'm pleased to bring you the latest installment of Vinography Unboxed, where I highlight some of the better bottles that have crossed my doorstep recently. This week was an all-California week, and involved a number of interesting wines. Let's start with the reliably excellent Riesling from Smith-Madrone, who have thumbed their noses at the world for decades and made Riesling from the slopes of Spring Mountain, where everyone else would be growing Cabernet. The wine is usually excellent, but I do think this is the best it's ever tasted on release. Speaking of reliable, I've also got a couple of Pinots from Dutton-Goldfield, both tasty and delicious, but very different in character. The Russian River bottling is bright juicy fruit, and the Anderson Valley wine has a deeper soulful earthiness to it. Before we leave the Pinot Zone, there ...
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Wine Reviews: Weekly Mini Round-Up For July 9, 2018

I taste a bunch-o-wine (technical term for more than most people). So each week, I share some of my wine reviews (mostly from samples) and tasting notes in a “mini-review” format. They are meant to be quirky, fun, and (mostly) easily-digestible reviews of (mostly) currently available wines (click here for the skinny on how to read them), and are presented links to help you find them, so that you can try them out for yourself. Cheers!

Vinography Unboxed: Week of 6/17/18

bigstock-box-of-wine-on-the-plain-backg-26760620.jpgHello, and welcome to my periodic dig through the samples pile. I'm pleased to bring you the latest installment of Vinography Unboxed, where I highlight some of the better bottles that have crossed my doorstep recently. This week included a few snappy Savvies from Napa. My favorite among them was the nervy Sauvignon Blanc from Gamble Family, which showcases the best characteristics of California-style Sauvignon Blanc, so to speak. Next up, the Cliff Lede interpretation has some distinctive personality thanks in part to the high dose of Semillon and a touch of Muscadelle, though I wish it had a touch more verve. The Girard Sauvignon Blanc has plenty of acidity but doesn't quite achieve what it could. Before we move on to red wines, I'll point out the Pinot Gris from Smith Story, which offers a textbook dose of pear and pastry cream for those who enjoy such flavors. Our ...
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Vinography Unboxed: Week of 6/10/18

bigstock-box-of-wine-on-the-plain-backg-26760620.jpgHello, and welcome to my periodic dig through the samples pile. I'm pleased to bring you the latest installment of Vinography Unboxed, where I highlight some of the better bottles that have crossed my doorstep recently. This week included A wide range of interesting wines. Let's start with a couple of Napa Sauvignon Blancs, most notable of which was the Mondavi Reserve Fume Blanc which is the winery's oak aged Sauvignon Blanc from their To Kalon vineyard. This year the wine has more Semillon than normal, lending the wine a wonderful lemony aspect that I really enjoyed. I got a nice Riesling from Germany this week from the venerable Schloss Johannisberg in the Rheingau, and it proved a classic example of the form, with a couple of years on it to add a bit more aromatic complexity. As long as I'm talking Germany, let me bring your attention to the ...
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Patience Becomes Virtue (About 40 Years Of Vintage Port)

Vintage Port tasting 2018 NYC

“I hate waiting…”

So… I promised a follow-up to that 2016 Vintage Port preview, and since I’m a man(-child) of my word, here ’tis! The central theme of my `16 VP roundup was that we all need to slow the f*ck down and accept the fact that Vintage Port not only takes a looooooong time to come around, and that a) many of us might be dead before newly-released VPs are fully developed, but we should buy them for future generations, and b) your patience regarding waiting on the slow maturation of VP will be well rewarded. It’s time for us to get to the “b)” part, as we take a trip back through roughly thirty years of time, beginning with 2007 (when we were lamenting the state of our 401k balances) and ending with 1980 (when we were wearing JAMs, listening to disco, and some of you were ...
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Vinography Unboxed: Week of 6/3/18

bigstock-box-of-wine-on-the-plain-backg-26760620.jpgHello, and welcome to my periodic dig through the samples pile. I'm pleased to bring you the latest installment of Vinography Unboxed, where I highlight some of the better bottles that have crossed my doorstep recently. This week included a raft of Chardonnays from the relatively new Alma Fria label, whose Pinots wowed me last week. Started by Carroll Kemp, the founder and winemaker at Red Car, and his winegrower friend Jan Holtermann, Alma Fria is a small production outfit focused on making wines from the coldest parts of the Sonoma Coast AVA. The wines are fantastic and worth seeking out. This week's Chardonnays included the superstar bottling from the Campbell Ranch, which is everything I would want in a California Chardonnay - verve, brightness, crispness, and mouthwatering flavors. Moving to reds, there's a Malbec from the venerable Catena family in Argentina, a red blend from Kelly Fleming in Napa, ...
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