California’s Volatile Spring


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Grapevines are notoriously hardy organisms. I was recently reminded of this while driving through the back roads of Chile’s Itata region, where, thanks to the golden hues of their autumn leaves, it was easy to see decades- perhaps even centuries-old vines of País growing seemingly everywhere along the roadside and through the surrounding forests, surviving against the considerable odds of neglect and natural competition for resources.

But the conditions for mere survival may be some distance from the tolerances generally considered optimal for the production of fine wine. Indeed, at certain times of the year, Vitis vinifera can be quite a delicate plant as far as winegrowing is concerned. Which is why farmers in California have been gritting their teeth for the past few weeks as heavy late-season rains followed hard by multiple days of sweltering heat arrived just as many vines in California began flowering.

The state of California …

I’ll Drink to That: Burgundy Vigneron Benjamin Leroux


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Episode 467 of I’ll Drink to That! was released recently, and it features Burgundy vigneron Benjamin Leroux of the winery also named Benjamin Leroux, located in Beaune, France.

Benjamin Leroux began his wine career in 1990 at the age of 15 years old, and took on his first head winemaking job in 1999. In hindsight, it can be said that his winemaking generation was also the generation of climate change. Ben discusses 2003 in this interview, a vintage with unprecendented heat in the summer months. Having recently moved into a new home, Ben had stayed in Burgundy during the customary summer holiday travel time to instead settle into his new place. What he then saw in the vineyards caught him completely by surprise: dark colored grapes and high sugars already in July. Passing a much older vigneron in the vineyard a short time later, the man called out to Ben …

Napa’s Royal Cabernets: The Wines of Oakville


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While often considered a single “place” when it comes to wine, Napa is hardly a monolithic growing region. Each of its 16 established AVAs (American Viticultural Areas) lays claim to a separate identity, characterized by geology, microclimate, and different histories of production.

The Oakville AVA has one of the most storied of such histories. It is home to the famed To Kalon Vineyard, purchased by H.W. Crabb in 1868, shortly after the installation of a railroad stop made the tiny village of Oakville spring to life. In 1876 Crabb’s neighbor John Benson bottled his inaugural vintage of Far Niente wine just down the road.

By the year 1880 the Oakville area had 430 acres under production, and these would nearly triple to more than 1000 acres in the next 10 years and continue to grow until Prohibition turned off the spigot in the 1920’s.

In 1965 Heitz Vineyards made …

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Vinography Images: Layers of Light


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Layers of Light
PAUILLAC, FRANCE: Layers of clouds and light and vines at Château Lafite Rothschild, which has been owned by the Rothschild family since the 19th Century. Lafite, as it is affectionately known, is one of four First Growths established by the 1855 Classification in Bordeaux.

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Wine News: What I’m Reading the Week of 6/9/18


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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.

A French Wine With a 900-Year-Old Vintage
Wait, millenniums is the plural?!?

We Drink Basically The Same Wine As Ancient Romans — And That’s Not So Great
NPR’s take on the story.

A Medieval Grape Is Still Used to Make Wine
And the Atlantic’s.

Uncovering the Magic of Old Vines
Older vines are the shizzle.

After Losing $1 Billion, a Russian Exile Rebounds With Bond’s Favorite Bubbly
And a helluva shop.

The Inexorable Rise of Wine Prices
Creeping on up.

The Prince of Liechtenstein’s Vineyard and Wine Cellar
I’d go see that.

Wine Industry Anxiously Awaits Supreme Court Decision
Something I care …

Vinography Images: The Last Gold


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The Last Gold
PAUILLAC, FRANCE: The last golden light of day falls on Château Lafite Rothschild, which has been owned by the Rothschild family since the 19th Century. Lafite, as it is affectionately known, is one of four First Growths established by the 1855 Classification in Bordeaux.

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This image is from a series of photographs captured by Andy Katz in the process of shooting his most recent work The Club of Nine, a visual …

Wine News: What I’m Reading the Week of 6/2/19


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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.

Outstanding in Her Field
Lady vineyard managers rule.

Why Californian wine will soon cost more in Beijing
Because… Trump.

It’s time to re-think single origin wines
Robert Joseph is good at radical thinking.

The Beginning of the End of the Old World Appellation System?
Mike Veseth has an interesting point of view.

Gator busts through kitchen window, breaks bottles of wine
They’re big, mean, and coming for your wine.

Japan’s Sake Makers Look to Wine to Define Craft Brews by Region
But it doesnt make much sense with sake.

Thanks to Drones, French Wine Tastes Better
Yes but can you taste the …

Vinography Unboxed: Week of 5/26/19


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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 decent white wines from near and far.

Let’s start with the more familiar — a Chardonnay from one of the top growers in the state, Dutton Ranch. I tend to review a lot of the Dutton Goldfield wines, but this is the wine from the other brother, Joe Dutton. It’s named after Joe’s oldest daughter who is carrying on the family’s business these days.

In addition to this Chardonnay I’ve got a nice Viognier from Domaine Terre Rouge in the Sierra Foothills. Made by Bill Easton, this wine comes from the Fiddletown area of Amador County, which is a higher elevation area and that fact no doubt helps …

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Vinography Images: The Infinite Curve


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The Infinite Curve
SAINT-ÉMILION, FRANCE: The alluring curve of the roof designed by Christian de Portzamparc peeks above the vineyard beneath dramatic skies at Chateau Cheval Blanc in Bordeaux. Cheval Blanc, which means “white horse” in French, is one of only four estates elevated to the rank of Premier Grand Cru Classé in the classification of Saint-Émilion wine.

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Wine News: What I’m Reading the Week of 5/26/19


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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 Pay It Forward Philosophy of Laura Maniec Fiorvanti
The most gracious lady.

New Innovations in White Wine Production
Many of which are very old techniques.

Wine’s Salon des Refusés
Bucking the system.

Napa grape growers say the late rain should not be a major problem
Not too much flowering yet.

What’s Next for Long Island Wine?
If the towns don’t ruin it.

Over 100,000 GBP worth of Burgundy wine stolen from winery
This will continue as prices rise.

Small is Beautiful? Scratching the Surface of Pennsylvania Wine
Mike Veseth pens an overview. See what I did there?

What is Piquette? Meet …

Vinography Unboxed: Week of 5/19/19


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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 continued the rosé onslaught that marks spring wine releases everywhere. For starters, I’ve got a somewhat unusual pink from Laurel Glen vineyards, which has three rows of old-vine “mixed blacks” that they harvest every year and blend with Cabernet to make this rosé.

Randall Grahm sent along his consistently crisp Vin Gris de Cigare, which is done in the Rhône style and includes some white grapes as well as a mix of reds. Grahm uses a little Vermentino which no doubt helps with the citrus kick. I’ve also got a nice rosé of Nerello Mascalese from Tasca d’Amlerita in Sicily, which offers a taste of Sicily for summer.

In addition to a …

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Vinography Images: The Fine Fields


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The Fine Fields
PAUILLAC, FRANCE: Storm light dapples the gently rolling vineyards surrounding Château Lafite Rothschild, which has been owned by the Rothschild family since the 19th Century. Lafite, as it is affectionately known, is one of four First Growths established by the 1855 Classification in Bordeaux.

INSTRUCTIONS:
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This image is from a series of photographs captured by Andy Katz in the process of shooting his most recent work The Club of Nine, a visual …

Chile Continues to Punch Above Its Weight


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Amidst all the romance and storytelling in the wine world, it’s easy to lose sight of one of the most important aspects of wine: value for money. I’m certainly guilty of overemphasizing the latest tiny producer making wines in minute quantities that are difficult to obtain. While such wines are fascinating and exciting and often have great stories behind them, they don’t relate much to the everyday drinking goals of many people who enjoy wine.

Sometimes you don’t need a wine with an incredible story behind it. Sometimes you just want a $20 wine that tastes like a $50 one.

While the sommeliers on Instagram gush over “unicorn wines” — wines that are so rarified or obscure that you’re lucky if you ever get to open a single bottle in your career — sometimes it can feel like great wine values are equally as scarce, especially from California, the source …

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Seven Percent Solution Tasting: June 2, Los Angeles


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There comes a point in every intrepid wine lover’s life when the well-traveled road must be left behind. One can only drink so much Cabernet, Merlot, Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, and Sauvignon Blanc. But finding one’s way out of the multitudes of these bottles to something more exotic and interesting takes some effort.

Which is where the folks behind the Seven Percent Solution come in. These fine folks have organized themselves behind the fact that 93% of Northern California’s vineyard acreage is planted to eight major grape varieties, leaving a mere seven percent for all the others.

Of course, since we’re talking about statistics, only about twenty percent of wine lovers probably ever stray away from those eight dominant grape varieties anyhow, which is why California’s acreage stands where it does.

But you, dear reader, are certainly among that twenty percent. You are a fearless wine consumer, ready to drink Tinta …

Wine News: What I’m Reading the Week of 5/19/19


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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.

Agustin Huneeus Jr. to plead guilty Tuesday to college admission scandal charges
The question is: will he do time?

Inside Wine: Keep it Clean
Laura Ness looks for neat freaks.

Rain and windy weather causing problems for North Coast wine grape growers
2019 is going to be a smaller crop.

Understanding Biodynamic Wine: The Monty Waldin Interview
Christoper Barnes asks the questions.

Turning the Tables on Austin Beeman
Another industry insider profiled.

Spanish police arrest four in connection with major wine fraud
2 million fake bottles.

Natural wine at home in Japan
Simon Woolf reports.

Phylloxera Outbreak Puts Aussies on Edge
Tragic …

Vinography Unboxed: Week of 5/12/19


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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 interesting stuff.

Lets start with a shockingly good and quite unusual wine. Pepe Raventos is a name known to wine geeks. He started the now quite well-known Raventos i Blanc project, which is making some of the highest quality and stunningly terroir-driven Sparkling wines in the traditional Cava region. Except they’re not Cava. Raventos decided to leave the appellation so that he could make wines true to a specific patch of soil that is the Raventos estate, which has been in the family since 1497, and is in the area known as Conca del Riu Anoia. Always an innovator, Raventos recently started a separate “garage” project a couple …

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Vinography Images: Mists of Margaux


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Mists of Margaux
MARGAUX, FRANCE: The silhouettes of trees show dull colors in the morning mists along a canal on the grounds of Chateau Margaux. Margaux is one of four original Premier Grand Cru classé wines according to the famous 1855 Bordeaux Classification. The estate is located in the commune of Margaux on the left bank of the Garonne estuary in the Médoc region, in the department of Gironde.

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Wine Critic Robert M. Parker, Jr. Officially Retires


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It’s the end of an era. Today, wine critic and founder of the Wine Advocate, Robert M. Parker, Jr announced his retirement. Of course, to anyone paying attention, the end of his reign as tastemaker and singular force in the wine world happened when he sold a majority stake in the Wine Advocate to a Singapore-based investment group in 2012.

As in many such corporate acquisitions, especially when the founder is inextricably linked to the brand, Parker stuck around and did his part to provide the impression that the status was quo while attending expensive wine dinners and speaking engagements. But with Lisa Perotti-Brown taking over as editor and the addition of new staff, followed by the acquisition of a 40% stake by Michelin in 2017, Parker’s nominal contributions to his publication slowed to a trickle and eventually stopped.

With Parker’s traditional beats (California and Bordeaux) covered by other …

California is Fizzing Again


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I’ve been having something of an unnerving experience of late. Receiving unsolicited wine samples from all over the world is a regular ‘hazard’ of my wine-writing life. A majority, as you might expect, are California wines, more often than not from producers of whom I know or have heard. Opening a box to find wines from an unknown California producer is always a treat, especially when the wines are worth writing about. Recently, however, I’ve been opening the constant barrage of boxes to discover an increasing number of bottles of unknown-to-me California sparkling wine. While many are not spectacular, most are competently made wines which, out of sheer numbers, suggest that California may have entered a new era of sparkling winemaking.

Benjamin Wilson likely produced the first sparkling wine in California in 1856 from his vineyards outside of Los Angeles, followed by the Sainsevain brothers in 1857 and 1858. But …

Wine News: What I’m Reading the Week of 5/12/19


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stack_of_news.jpg
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.

France’s Orphan Wine Region Grows Up
The oldest orphan there is.

Matt Stamp: We’re In a New Era of Napa Cabernet
The pendulum keeps swinging.

How Women’s Sexuality Is Used to Sell Wine
The ladies of wine reflect.

The State of Discrimination in Wine
Tom Wark continues the good fight.

North Coast winemakers shifting to machines to harvest grapes as labor woes mount
Not a surprise.

Nailing the Myth of Minerality
Except it’s not a myth. It’s a metaphor.

Dry Red Wines’ ‘Big Tannins’ Are Literally Bigger, Study Says
Check out the size of those tannins!

Applegate Valley AVA, Oregon In Depth