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 ...

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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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 ...
Fonseca 20017 & Croft 2003
Noval 1994
Taylor Fladgate 1985
Graham's 1983 & Dow's 1980

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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Who’s Your Daddy… Of RRV Single Vineyard Pinot? (Davis Bynum Recent Releases)

Zama Sushi

sushi – it’s not just for Pinot anymore

Recently, I was invited for a media-lunch-tasting-type-thingy in Philly with the affably hippie-ish-appearing Greg Morthole, who has been making wines for the Davis Bynum label since 2010. Davis Bynum wa purchased by Rodney Strong in 2007, and before that was a bit of a Sonoma-area legend, based on its eponymous founder. That Davis Bynum (who passed away in 2017) is literally the daddy of Russian River Valley single-vineyard Pinot Noir, having harvested the first ever such varietal wine in 1973. Bynum got his start as a home winemaker in the 1950s, went pro in the 1960s, and at times had vineyard land in Napa and handshake grape deals with the Rochioli clan. And those last two sentences are a gross oversimplification of why Bynum’s name is well-regarded in the vinous world; I mean, this is also the former San Francisco Chronicle reporter ...
Davis Bynum 2017 Sauvignon Blanc
sexy
Davis Bynum Chardonnay
sexy
elegant
Davis Bynum Pinots
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Davis Bynum Pommard Clone

Vinography Unboxed: Week of May 27, 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 all sorts of great stuff. Starting with the whites, there's a nice Sauvignon Blanc from Aperture Cellars that offers plenty of green in your glass, and if you're looking for a bit more lemon, you can check out the Ladera and Shaffer Chardonnays. The Shafer is made, per the house style, quite rich, so if you're looking, as I am, for something a bit leaner, you should check out the Ladera. However anyone who wants a ripe, polished, and just-a-touch buttery California Chardonnay will definitely enjoy the Shafer. The wines I'm most excited about this week are the early releases from a new wine project called Alma Fria, which was co-founded ...
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Vinography Unboxed: Week of April 20, 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 wide range of wines. Perhaps a good place to start -- well really always a great place to start -- is with an excellent rosé Champagne from the reliable producer Bruno Paillard. Closer to home, and also on the refreshing side, you'll find the latest vintage of Ridge's Chardonnay, made from the Monte Bello Estate vineyard. My recollection is that the prior release -- the 2015 -- was showing a lot of oak, but while this wine has unmistakable traces of the American oak that Ridge favors, it is nicely integrated to the wine, and much less in your face. Which I find to be a very good thing. Moving ...
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Vinography Unboxed: Week of May 13, 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 really killer wines. In the white category, the two most impressive were the Macrostie rendition of the excellent Chardonnay from Kent Ritchie's vineyard in the Russian River Valley. Highly sought after by many top producers, this Chardonnay is a great rendition, and one of the least expensive wines made from that vineyard. I highly recommend it to lovers of California Chardonnay. Also excellent was the 2017 Cariblanco from Kingston Family Vineyards which offered everything one could want in a Sauvignon Blanc. Crisp, green, refreshing, zingy. The adjectives go on and on, but the bottle finishes quickly. Before I move on to reds, there were two unusual whites of note ...

Chateau Montelena 2015 Calistoga Zinfandel

Do you love Zinfandel? On the Master of Wine exams, you can usually find a California Zinfandel in our flight of 12 wines to be blind tasted. Why do I mention this?  Because the Institute of Masters of Wine is a British based program (though filled with international students), the UK folks seem to see “California Zinfandel” as the shinning star of what the USA has to offer. And if you love Zinfandel, you must agree! Last night I tried the Chateau Montelena 2015 Calistoga Zinfandel and thought it was fabulous. The tannins were very velvet, showcasing the way the wine spent 16 months in French, Irih, and American oak, 19% new. And the acidity was very well integrated into the wine, rendering it brisk and refreshing as opposed to heavy despite the 14.5%. It’s a great wine for all types of cuisine, not just steak, though it is ...

Vinography Unboxed: Week of May 6, 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 interesting wines. Let's start farthest afield with the dry Riesling from Gunderloch in Germany Rheinhessen. This is a very nice bottling with a wonderful balance that makes it quite easy to drink, and despite no real sweetness it avoids being too tart, instead opting for crisp and mouthwatering. The other white wine this week was a perennial performer, the Rued Vineyard Chardonnay from Dutton Goldfield, which offers everything you'd really want in a California Chardonnay, especially if you were of the opinion that oak isn't one of those things. Oh there's wood there, to be sure, but it plays second fiddle to lemony goodness. This week included three Pinots ...
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Vinography Unboxed: Week of April 29, 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. Let's start this week with a couple of wines that rocked my world. Two whites from Lodi that are without a doubt two of the best white wines I've ever had from that region, including what's most probably the single best Vermentino from California I've ever had. Fields Family Wines sent through their Vermentino and Grenache Blanc, both of which are crackling with acidity and are beautifully balanced and fresh. I felt like chugging both of them. Also in the white department I've got a smattering of other things to recommend this week, from the delicate biodynamic Chardonnay from Cooper Mountain Vineyards in Oregon (a steal at $25) to David Ramey's Sidebar Cellars Kerner, ...
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Vinography Unboxed: Week of April 8, 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 features all white wines from across the country and one entrant from Germany. Let's start with some truly delicious Chardonnays from California and Oregon. The star this week was the 2015 Smith Madrone Chardonnay which really hits all the right notes. Regular readers know I'm a fan of this producers wines, but their Chardonnay doesn't always thrill me. The 2015, however, is a stunning effort and one that fans of various styles of California Chardonnay are bound to love, as it walks a fine line between old and new world styles. The other two Chards from Oregon are also worth looking at, but very different in style, with the Big Table Farm ...
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Two Wines That Prove Colorado Is The Next Wine Region to Watch

western-slop-sunset.jpg I grew up in Colorado. If you had told me as a high schooler that Colorado would one day be making fine wine, I would have laughed in your face. High quality beef? Sure. Beer? of course. Fantastic weed? Plausible. But wine? Never. But that was before I understood the origins of the vitis vinifera in the arid plateaus and of central Asia. That was before I visited Chile and Argentina and Turkey and Sicily and before I tasted wines from the high deserts and scrubby foothills of snow capped mountain ranges. Now the idea of Colorado wine is not only plausible, it's quite intriguing. Which is why, two years ago, I jumped at the chance to be a judge at the Colorado Governor's Cup wine competition. Wine judging is thankless work. It's tedious and difficult, and usually yields a splitting headache for me at the end of the day. ...
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