In Vino Veritas: A St. John’s Fundraiser

Posted by | Posted in Wine Events | Posted on 04-07-2014

St. John's College.

St. John’s College.

St. John’s College in Annapolis is best known for its commitment to the “great books” curriculum. But it should also be known for its impact on America’s wine industry.

Warren Winiarski, who played a pivotal role in the transformation of American wine, is an alumnus. Last summer, Jon Bonné credited Winiarski for birthing “an informal St. John’s mafia” in Napa, noting that the legendary vintner hired Abe Schoener and played a huge role in convincing Alex Kongsgaard to attend the school.

In 2011, The Friends of St. John’s College and Annapolis’ Bay Ridge Wine & Spirits launched a wine-centered fundraiser — In Vino Veritas — to raise scholarship money for the school. This year’s event takes place on Friday, April 25 and Saturday, April 26.

On Friday night, I’ll be moderating a discussion and tasting with an all-star lineup of SJ alumni. It features Abe Schoener of The Scholium Project; Christina Turley of Turley Wine Cellars; Zach Rasmuson of Goldeneye; August Deimel of Keuka Spring Vineyards; Paul Speck of Henry of Pelham; and Rory Williams of Calder Wine Company.

We’ll be exploring the concept of “honesty” in wine in seminar entitled “Transparency, Truth, and Terroir.” It should be a blast, so if you’re looking for a fun weekend in Annapolis, please join!

Daily Wine News: Con & Sham

Posted by | Posted in Wine News | Posted on 04-07-2014

In Harper’s, “two of wine’s most-respected wine critics have called for urgent reform of Bordeaux’s en primeur system, describing it, in turn, as a ‘con’ a ‘sham’ and a system that the trade and investors have ‘lost faith in.’”

Lafite Rothschild. Flickr, BillBl.

Lafite Rothschild. Flickr, BillBl.

In case “you’ve forgotten what Bordeaux brings to the table,” Jon Bonné offers “a refresher course.”

In the Wall Street Journal, Lettie Teague visits “eight wine shops in three cities, seeking recommendations for any fabulous wine — red or white — under $30.”

“I’m not surprised that the labels are so familiar… but I never expected that the prices for the top-selling wines would be so high.” S. Irene Virbila comments on Wine & Spirits’ latest list of the top-selling restaurant wines.

“In the early years of the boom, buyers, still unsure of themselves, focused on just a few dozen notable names… Now buyers have spread their wings and are purchasing more types of wines, and from more places, than they did a few years ago.” In Asia, wine consumers are gaining confidence.

“There is still a great deal of very ordinary, often faulty, sometimes extremely questionable liquid on sale in China labeled as Chinese wine.” But today, according to Jancis Robinson, “the number of good Chinese wines is definitely rising fast.

In the Los Angeles Times, Jerry Hirsch profiles Kosher winemaker Gabriel Weiss, co-owner of Shirah Wine Co. in Santa Barbara County.

In Punch, Kenzi Wilbur digs into “The Twisted History of Jungle Juice.”

“Meals on wheels has suddenly taken on a new meaning.” In the Observer, Jay Rayner writes about the decision by The Fat Duck, Noma, and other high-end restaurants to completely relocate for short periods.

Wine Reviews: American Odds & Ends

Posted by | Posted in Wine Reviews | Posted on 04-05-2014

I don’t know how else to describe them.

These odds and ends were mixed into blind-tasted samples of California Cabernets and Chardonnays, Oregon Pinot Noirs, South African wines, stuff from everywhere. The dry wines were tasted blind, as they were mixed in with other regions, but I tasted the dessert wines sighted.

All wines were received as trade samples.

Review: 2012 Vie Winery “Belle-Amie” RoséCalifornia, Central Coast, Santa Barbara County
SRP: $18
Looks like the color of a cherry Jolly Rancher. A kick of pepper is the first thing I notice on the nose, followed up by roses, watermelon and wild strawberries. The palate displays a big, creamy feel along with persistent acid. The watermelon and strawberry fruit tastes fresh and ripe, there’s also this lime and grapefruit aspect that keeps it snappy. The white pepper and herbal undertones work great. Full, complex, but the acid makes it food-friendly. An impressive rosé blend of Mourvèdre, Grenache and Syrah. (89 points IJB)

Review: 2013 Macari Chardonnay Early WineNew York, Long Island, North Fork
SRP: $17
Faint bubbles, straw colored. Aromas of white peach, bright honeysuckle, lime zest, crushed rocks and sea shells. Medium-bodied with tingling acid on the palate. Crisp green pears and apples, sweet white peach, tangy, minerals. Very bright and steely, but there are also some honey and sweet floral notes. Really tasty stuff. Ideal for deli sandwiches, salads and seafood. They call it an early wine because it was harvested September 7, bottled after a brief fermentation on October 26, and released a few days later. An exciting wine. (89 points IJB)

Review: 2012 Nico Wines BarberaCalifornia
SRP: $30
Medium ruby color. Smells of ripe cherries, roses and red licorice candy. Medium bodied with medium acid and soft tannins. Juicy with cherries and sweet currant jam flavors, backed up by some earth and vanilla bean. A bit candied, but a fun, pleasant wine for sure. (85 points IJB)

Review: 2011 Stinson Vineyards MeritageVirginia
SRP: $25
Smells soft and sweet, lots of fresh blackberries and plums, mixed in with some mocha and toast. Medium tannins on the palate, some crisp acid, supporting fresh black cherry and plum fruit. I get some hazelnut and chestnut flavor, as well as some mocha. The combination of nutty and bright fruit flavors makes this a unique and tasty wine. A blend of 35% Merlot, 25% Petite Verdot, 20% Cabernet Sauvignon and 20% Cabernet Franc. (87 points IJB)

Review: 2010 Macari “Bergen Road”New York, Long Island, North Fork
SRP: $46
On the nose, raspberries, cherries, blueberries, all of it fresh and ripe. Silky and velvety, blueberry and black cherries, some nice acid adds tanginess, full and pure, some dark chocolate, earth, bell pepper and herbal elements, even some rocky-granite notes. Complex and long on the finish. Really delicious stuff, not overdone or bothersome. Tasted blind, I thought I was tasted an upper tier Washington State Bordeaux blend. But, no, this is an impressive Long Island blend of 56% Merlot, 26% Cabernet Sauvignon, 13% Cabernet Franc, 3% Malbec and 2% Petite Verdot. Wow. (91 points IJB)

(The following dessert wines were tasted sighted.)
Review: 2011 Macari Riesling “Block E”New York, Finger Lakes
SRP: $40
Yellow-orange color. Aromas of sweet marmalade, honeycomb, orange peel, banana and oil. Rich on honeyed, with lots of apricot and dried pineapple fruit. Honeycomb, sweet marmalade, lemon oil and nut flavors add complexity. A lot going on here, and not overly sweet, but a bit low on the acid perhaps. 12.9% alcohol and 180 g/l of sugar. An impressive effort. (88 points IJB)

Review: 2011 Stinson Vineyards Tannat “Imperialis”Virginia, Central Region, Monticello
SRP: $29/500ml
Nose of smoke, fig paste, currant jam, caramelized sugar and charcoal. Fresh and fruity, with lots of fig and cassis. The smoky, earthy tones are really nice, and there’s some sweet coconut and caramel as well. Sweet, but not too much, and the acid keeps it balanced. One of the most impressive dessert reds I’ve had from Virginia. This 100% Tannat is fermented in open top puncheons and aged in old French oak, bottled unfined or unfiltered. 16% alcohol. (89 points IJB)

Review: 2009 Hawk and Horse Vineyards “Latigo”California, North Coast, Lake County
SRP: $45/375ml
Dark purple colored. Aromas of chocolate-covered raisins, raspberry candies, sweet black licorice and caramel. There’s also a nice bourbon cask-coconut aspect. Nice structure, with some coffee grind tannins, rich blackberries and raspberries, some mocha and coconut. Sweet flowers and caramel notes on the finish. A delicious, but also intriguing, dessert wine. Not subtle, with 17.2% alcohol and 13% residual sugar, but tasty. This 100% Cabernet is fortified with high-proof, oak-aged brandy. (89 points IJB)

Weekly Interview: Brooks Painter

Posted by | Posted in Interviews | Posted on 04-04-2014

Brooks Painter.

Brooks Painter.

Each week, as regular readers know, we pose a series of questions to a winemaker. This week, we’re featuring Brooks Painter, the director of winemaking for V. Sattui Winery and Castello di Amorosa, both in Napa Valley.

Before joining the Sattui family in 2005, Painter worked at Robert Mondavi Winery, where he worked as the winemaking operations manager for five years. Before that, he was an assistant winemaker at Stag’s Leap Wine Cellars. Raised in northern California, Brooks studied chemistry and biology at UC Santa Cruz. He has been making wine for 30 years.

Check out our interview with Brooks below the fold! Read the rest of this entry »

Daily Wine News: Romantic Wine

Posted by | Posted in Wine News | Posted on 04-04-2014

Flickr, craig.camp.

Flickr, craig.camp.

“Nearly any reasonably good bottle of wine contains grapes grown on vines that have been in the ground for decades – sometimes many decades and even longer. You can’t get much more connected to the past than that.” In a wonderful essay, Tom Natan explores the concept of “romance” in wine.

“At the time Stony Hill was planted, Napa County boasted a mere ten wineries.” Joe Roberts makes the “the steep, two mile drive from Napa Valley’s Bale Grist Mill State Park up to Stony Hill Vineyard.”

In Punch, Shanna Farrell explores the history of women behind — and in front of — the bar.

In the Washington Post, Dave McIntyre writes about a recent archaeological dig in Israel which unearthed one of the world’s earliest wine cellars.

“In New York, as in relatively few other areas, there’s little pressure to make a wine ‘typical’ of the region, and adventurous winemakers are taking full advantage of that.” In Wine Spectator, Ben O’Donnell visits Red Hook Winery in Brooklyn and Channing Daughters on Long Island.

Meanwhile, in Grape Collective, Edward Lewine visits Red Hook Winery to check in on the recovery from Hurricane Sandy. In a separate piece, Grape Collective’s Christopher Barnes chats with Red Hook owner Mark Snyder.

In Palate Press, Ben Carter details the four stages to enjoying wine.

“I can’t wait to see what comes next for the Navy Brat from Atlanta, who came to  Sonoma County to pursue a dream!” Thea Dwelle profiles Ed Thralls.

Mike Veseth explains how South Africa plans to confronts the “wine bottleneck syndrome.”

Randall Grahm has linked up with Naked Wines, a crowdfunded virtual winery. Mary Orlin has the details.

Daily Wine News: Semiotic Square

Posted by | Posted in Wine News | Posted on 04-03-2014

Chateau Lafite Rothschild. Flickr, BillBl.

Chateau Lafite Rothschild. Flickr, BillBl.

Alice Feiring praises “The Semiotic Square of (Wine) Lovers.”

“I first started writing about wine because I found so little good wine writing out there. That’s no longer true.” Capital New York chats with Jay McInerney.

Liv-ex’s Fine Wine 100 index has fallen for the 12th consecutive month.

Lauren Mowery reflects on the Central Otago Pinot Fest.

“Six Lodi winemakers have produced and released the Lodi Native Project, a collection of six different Zinfandel wines made from six separate heritage vineyards of Lodi’s Mokelumne River AVA.” Lily-Elaine Hawk Wakawaka has the details.

Reporting from Bordeaux, James Molesworth visits Latour, Mouton-Rothschild and Pontet-Canet.

Aaron Nix-Gomez takes one for the team and tastes through “Wine in Small Servings.”

“Dave Mustaine, the lead singer of thrash metal band Megadeth, has this week released a Californian Cabernet Sauvignon.” Rebecca Gibb reports.

“Shove it, Amaretto Girl: The most seductive spirits offer a time machine to far more fascinating places than some stranger’s shined-up sexual prime, places that smell of ocean and horses and orchards and wood smoke.” In the Washington Post, M. Carrie Allan writes about a peach brandy coming out of George Washington’s reconstructed distillery at Mount Vernon.

Daily Wine News: Internet Access

Posted by | Posted in Wine News | Posted on 04-02-2014

wine-glass-computer“I mean, I posted that on the internet, right? And, well, if I had access to the internet, I could have just looked up the wines that were poured instead of guessing them, or maybe fact-checked it with Asimov or Bonne before I posted.” Joe Roberts reports from a press conference organized by The Wine Advocate.

Richard Kuo, Branden McRill, and Patrick Cappiello of Pearl & Ash chat with Eater’s Marguerite Preston about their first year in business.

“Like all protectionist barriers, Massachusetts wine restrictions hurt the many to benefit the few.” In the Boston Globe, Jeff Jacoby writes an excellent piece on the Bay State’s ban on online wine sales.

Matt Kramer is wowed by some white wines in Portugal.

In his latest column, Richard Jennings reports that grape growers in Santa Barbara are having more and more success with Bordeaux varieties.

In the Wall Street Journal, Lettie Teague checks out some department store wine lists.

“Over the years, Domaine Drouhin’s pinot noirs have stood as a benchmark of how well the grape performs in the Willamette Valley.” In the Sacramento Bee, Mike Dunne praises the wines of Domaine Drouhin.

“As the Mondavis learned, it’s not easy to build a legacy from scratch. Perhaps it helps to carry some cheap perfume and a Taser.” In Wine-Searcher, W. Blake Gray writes a wonderful profile of Peter Michael Winery.

Elsewhere in Wine-Searcher, Claire Adamson takes a look at some of the world’s most-extreme vineyard locations.

In Wine Spectator, Dana Nigro reviews Down to Earth, a new book on sustainable wine.

In Wine Enthusiast, Roger Voss reports from En Primeur (Day OneDay Two).

Trading a Desk Job for One in the Vineyards

Posted by | Posted in White's Wines | Posted on 04-01-2014

Shane Finley

Shane Finley.

As regular readers know, I write a free, twice monthly wine column that’s distributed to newspapers across the country.

These columns are hosted by Grape Collective. If you don’t see my column in your local newspaper, please send an email to your paper’s editor and CC me (David – at – Terroirist.com).

In my latest column, I profile several winemakers who traded in their desk jobs for a life in the vineyards.

Trading a Desk Job for One in the Vineyards

Finding Shane Finley was easy.

Via email, we planned to meet for lunch at Bourbon Steak in Washington, D.C., a restaurant that’s housed at the Four Seasons. While the steakhouse is known for having one of the best wine lists in the city, it’s typically filled with tee-totaling lobbyists and power brokers during the day. So when I spotted a redheaded thirty-something with unkempt hair wearing jeans and an untucked flannel, I figured it was Shane.

I was right.

Finley stopped wearing suits in 2001. That summer, he quit his job as an insurance underwriter in Manhattan to make wine. Both his parents thought the move was a bit nuts, as his career was progressing nicely. They hoped that after a few months on the edge of bankruptcy, he’d get the wine bug out of his system.

But after interning during harvest in Sonoma, Finley was hooked. So he headed off to Australia to work another harvest and then to France’s Rhone Valley. When he returned to the United States in 2003, there was no turning back. He quickly built an impressive resume, and in 2006, he launched his own label with the release of three distinct Syrahs. He called it Shane, naturally.

Finley’s decision was certainly gutsy. But in wine, this career trajectory is hardly unique.

Check out the rest of the piece on Grape Collective!

Daily Wine News: Laid-Back Approach

Posted by | Posted in Wine News | Posted on 04-01-2014

snoop-dogg-doggystyle“He is something of a maverick in the New York sommelier community, not only for his now-famous big bottle glass pours… but [for] his independent and laid-back approach to fine wine service.” In Punch, Echo Thomas profiles Michael Madrigale.

“Yes, Champagne is a phenomenal wealth-creation machine – but, according to Charles Philipponnat, it could do better.” Andrew Jefford reports from Champagne.

“I have a lot of candor and no self-filter. I get into trouble daily.” In Wine-Searcher, Katherine Cole chats with Jim Clendenen, the owner of Au Bon Climat.

Elsewhere in Wine-Searcher, Claire Adamson explains “how a small town in Missouri beat Napa to become the first American Viticultural Area.”

“No matter how good an obscure varietal from Hudson Vineyard might be, no one is going to start ripping out Cabernet vines to plant Albariño. It’s simple economics.” James Laube explains why California Cabernet isn’t going anywhere.

Alder Yarrow checks in on some older California Pinot Noir. And one Chardonnay.

“We can talk all day about Riesling, Merlot, Syrah and Chardonnay. But in the end, we will be measured by how we handle king cab.” In the Seattle Times, Andy Purdue writes about a blind tasting of a dozen Cabernet Sauvignons from Washington, Napa Valley, and Sonoma County.

In Palate Press, Becky Sue Epstein writes about the new category of Chianti Classico, Gran Selezione.

Gregory Dal Piaz reports from Prowein 2014.

In the Syracuse Post-Standard, on Don Cazentre highlights the remarkable growth of New York’s wine industry.

A Brief History of Wine at Blandy’s: Exploring Madeira (Part 2/2)

Posted by | Posted in Grape Adventures | Posted on 03-31-2014

Blandy's Lodge - 1If Madeira wine seems to exist out of time, so too does it complicate our conventional thinking about space. The history of the wine is the history of travel, colonial expansion, and the dream of the Edenic return.

Madeira is first a product of the vast spaces in between the vineyard and the table; it is a product of the open sea. Indeed, the peculiar qualities of the wine were so elusive that it was long assumed that the ocean voyage itself created the maderized effect. Owing to this belief, barrels were sent on long voyages to the New World in preparation for their appearance in British drawing rooms; these were the so-called “vinho da roda” (round trip wines).

Eventually, more budget minded producers developed technologies to imitate the ocean voyage — mechanical contraptions used to loll the wine back and forth. We now know that the darkening, oxidative effects of maderization occur through exposure to air and heat, and the process, called the canteiro system, all happens on the island.

But even this edenic island seems set adrift, no place at all, floating like a ship between the Old and New Worlds.

Of course, Madeira’s origins are now clear enough, and the story of the wine begins with vines rooted in the islands’ complex and dramatic terroir, which plunges from cool mountain heights to more consistently warm plateaus along the sea. The soil on the island, rich in minerals like iron and phosphorous, gives the wine its characteristic acidity. It also gives rise to another of the island’s major draws as a tourist destination: abundant, exotic, and diverse flora and fauna.

Perhaps no one place is as important to Madeira wine as Blandy’s Wine Lodge in Funchal. When I arrived at the timeless lodge and stepped into a library of history’s best bottles of the wine, I knew I had found the heart, the main nerve. Read the rest of this entry »