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05.20.2015

California's Other Seven Percent

Most major wine regions of the world have come to be dominated by a select few grape varieties. In Europe, of course, the appellation system itself ensures this kind of varietal particularity from region to region. France's most recent survey of plantings (in 2011) indicated that eight grape varieties (only two of them pale-skinned) make up 64% of the country's plantings. While the wine regions in the New World lack the centuries of specialisation that have led to the indelible ties between Chenin Blanc and the Loire or Pinot Noir and Burgundy, for example, that doesn't mean New World... continue reading

05.16.2015

Vinography Unboxed: Week of May 10, 2015

Hello, 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's tasting included a couple of excellent wines from Greece, including what I believe to be one of the best Xinomavro's available in the US, the old vine reserve bottling from Alpha Estate in Amyndeon, Greece. If you haven't had a Xinomavro before, this is a great place to start. I was also thrilled to get a bottle of Assyrtiko from my absolute... continue reading

05.15.2015

Vinography Images: Spring Dreams

SPRING DREAMS HEALDSBURG, CA: Spring mustard flowers bask in the cool light following a rain shower in 2012. California wine country still dreams of such rains in the midst of one of the worst droughts in the state's history. INSTRUCTIONS: Download this image by right-clicking on the image and selecting "save link as" or "save target as" and then select the desired location on your computer to save the image. Mac users can also just click the image to open the full size view and drag that to their desktops. To set the image as your desktop wallpaper, Mac... continue reading

05.13.2015

Tasting One Man's Experience: The Champagnes of Agrapart et Fil

"Lots of winemakers want to have an easy life," says a grizzled and clearly muscular Pascal Agrapart. "Not me. I want to go work in the vineyard and I'm not asking what time it is. If the sun is shining, I'm in the vineyard, it doesn't matter what day. Weekends too. This is what you do if you work the soils. If I used a lot of chemicals, I would have much more time." As he talks, he gestures with hands that clearly belong to a farmer -- thick and callused, with dirt still under the fingernails. He's been... continue reading

05.09.2015

Vinography Unboxed: Week of May 4, 2015

Hello, 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's tasting included the latest entry-level malbec from superstar Argentine producer Achaval Ferrer, as well as an interesting red blend from Faugeres in France's Languedoc region. I also tasted through a few of the reds from Grgich Hills and Gundlach Bundschu that are currently on the market. Finally, look for the two entry level wines from Pfendler Vineyards in the Petaluma Gap region... continue reading

05.08.2015

Vinography Images: A Shaggy Guardian

A Shaggy Guardian HEALDSBURG, CA: Beringer's Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot vineyard property in Sonoma County's Knights Valley lies under the protective shade of a California live oak tree, its branches laden with lichen. Knights Valley offers ideal growing conditions for all the Bordeaux grape varieties. INSTRUCTIONS: Download this image by right-clicking on the image and selecting "save link as" or "save target as" and then select the desired location on your computer to save the image. Mac users can also just click the image to open the full size view and drag that to their desktops. To set the... continue reading

05.02.2015

Vinography Unboxed: Week of April 26, 2015

Hello, 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's tasting included a most wonderful, mineral wine made from Xarel lo, the grape predominantly responsible for most Cava wines, but here turned into a fantastically bright still wine by one of the most prestigious of Cava producers, Raventos i Blanc. Speaking of bright, I've also got two German Rieslings this week, both of which have fantastically redeeming qualities. Don't miss the basic... continue reading

05.01.2015

Vinography Images: Above the Coast

Above The Coast JENNER, CA: Fort Ross Vineyard & Winery overlooks the Pacific Ocean on near Jenner, California. Located one hour north of San Francisco, Sonoma County is the largest wine producer on California's North Coast and is visited by more than 7 million tourists each year. (Photo by George Rose/Getty Images) INSTRUCTIONS: Download this image by right-clicking on the image and selecting "save link as" or "save target as" and then select the desired location on your computer to save the image. Mac users can also just click the image to open the full size view and drag... continue reading

04.29.2015

2015 Seven Percent Solution Tasting: May 6, San Francisco

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 wine producers 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... continue reading

04.27.2015

Imagining a Better Future for the Soils of Champagne

In Champagne, like in many of the world's most famous wine regions, vineyard land has become egregiously expensive. According to winemakers I spoke with on my recent visit, one hectare (about 2.5 acres) now sells for more than 1.5 million euros. Prices for grand cru vineyards go even higher. As I walked through the grand cru vineyards in the famed Cote des Blancs region near the picturesque village of Avize, in addition to simply enjoying my first stroll through a terroir I had tasted many times, I found myself experiencing another emotion I never would have expected to feel... continue reading

04.26.2015

A Brief Video Lesson in Champagne Disgorgement

Compared to normal still wine production, Champagne winemaking gets pretty complicated. Once you've made a still wine, you put it into a bottle with a mix of yeast and sugar and let it ferment for a second time (which provides the bubbles we all love) and and age in contact with the yeast (current regulations require non-vintage wines to be aged for at least 15 months, and vintage dated wines to be aged for at least 36 months). At some point in that process you need to get all the bottles pointed down so that the leftover particles of yeast... continue reading

04.25.2015

Vinography Images: The World of the Leaf

The World of the Leaf RUTHERFORD, CA: A group of ladybugs gather on a Cabernet Sauvignon grape leaf behind Napa's famed Robert Mondavi Winery near Rutherford, California in the Napa Valley. Spring has again come early to Northern California wine country this year. INSTRUCTIONS: Download this image by right-clicking on the image and selecting "save link as" or "save target as" and then select the desired location on your computer to save the image. Mac users can also just click the image to open the full size view and drag that to their desktops. To set the image as... continue reading

04.23.2015

Book Signing on May 9th, at Raymond Vineyards in Napa

Hello everyone, especially you there in Napa and surrounding environs. I'm coming to town to do a book signing on May 9th at Raymond Vineyards. For those of you who don't know Raymond, it is one of jewels in the portfolio of Jean-Charles Boisset, and a remarkable property in many respects, not least of which include the many rich sensory experiences they offer visitors. Raymond, therefore, is quite the appropriate setting for me to do a book signing with The Essence of Wine. From Noon to 4:00 PM, I'll be hanging out in the Red Room, the lushly appointed velvet... continue reading

04.22.2015

Doorman: Changing My Wine Delivery Life

The points of intersection between my day job life in the world of Silicon Valley technology and design and my night job here in wine are few and far between. But every once in a while the two collide in a spectacularly useful fashion. As a User Experience designer by trade, nothing delights me more than when someone uses today's (or even better, tomorrow's) technology to solve a truly annoying problem in everyday life. The feeling of satisfaction we get from apps like Uber or Luxe are great examples of those "it's about time someone came up with a better... continue reading

04.21.2015

A Singular Expression: The Champagnes of Cédric Bouchard

When I first met the improbably youthful Cédric Bouchard six years ago on his first visit to the United States, he had already decided to break just about every rule he could in Champagne while still labeling his wines as such. "I hate bubbles," he said to me at that time. "If I could make my wines without bubbles, I would." Sitting in the back garden of his beautiful, circa-1728 villa in the tiny village of Landreville, I remind him of those comments, and he laughs. "Absolutely," he says. "I still feel the same way. I suggest everyone decant... continue reading

04.18.2015

Acid Freaks Unite: Highlights From the 2015 IPOB Tasting

Every year, I look forward to the In Pursuit of Balance (IPOB) tasting in San Francisco. Started by Raj Parr and Jasmine Hirsch as a way to highlight a group of Pinot Noir producers in California that they felt were pioneering a more delicate, refined, and yes, balanced, style of wines, the tasting has grown into one of the highest quality tastings of Pinot Noir and Chardonnay (with an occasional Syrah slipped out from underneath the table) in California. Despite having been held for five years now (in cities across the country and most recently Japan, too) the event... continue reading

04.17.2015

Vinography Images: A Brief Oasis

A Brief Oasis HEALDSBURG, CA - FEBRUARY 27: Spring arrives early in Northern California's Wine Country with warm temperatures in Healdsburg, California. This past winter was the driest in history, prompting the Governor of California to recently issue state-wide water use restrictions. INSTRUCTIONS: Download this image by right-clicking on the image and selecting "save link as" or "save target as" and then select the desired location on your computer to save the image. Mac users can also just click the image to open the full size view and drag that to their desktops. To set the image as your... continue reading

04.15.2015

Going Dry In California

On 1 April, while the rest of the country was engaged in harmless pranks, California's governor Jerry Brown was getting serious. Reports were coming in from government agencies that the Sierra Mountains snow pack, the source for most of the state's drinking water, was somewhere between 6 and 8% of normal, the first time in history it had ever fallen to a single digit. Later that day he issued an unprecedented executive order affecting the entire state of California. Effective immediately, every municipality in the state was going to be forced to reduce its water usage by 25%. 'A distinct... continue reading

04.11.2015

Off to Taste Champagne!

i've been lucky enough to spend some of my time writing about wine for the past 11 years. In the course of this secondary career of sorts, I've traveled to almost every continent to visit wine regions all over the globe. Of course, there are still a bunch of major wine regions I have not been to. There's only so much time I can spend traveling around the world without abusing the goodwill of my day job, let alone my wife. Today, however, I get to tick off one of the glaring omissions in my travels. Thanks to the... continue reading

04.11.2015

Vinography Unboxed: Week of April 5, 2015

Hello, 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's tasting included some really excellent Cava sparkling wines from one of the most prestigious producers in Spain, Raventos i Blanc. This winery, which has a good claim on being one of the longest running wine properties on the planet (dating back to 1497), makes Cava that rivals Champagne in sophistication and depth. In addition, it was fun to have the chance to... continue reading

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Most Recent Entries

California's Other Seven Percent Vinography Unboxed: Week of May 10, 2015 Vinography Images: Spring Dreams Tasting One Man's Experience: The Champagnes of Agrapart et Fil Vinography Unboxed: Week of May 4, 2015 Vinography Images: A Shaggy Guardian Vinography Unboxed: Week of April 26, 2015 Vinography Images: Above the Coast 2015 Seven Percent Solution Tasting: May 6, San Francisco Imagining a Better Future for the Soils of Champagne

Favorite Posts From the Archives

Wine Will Never Smell the Same Again: Luca Turin and the Science of Scent Forlorn Hope: The Remarkable Wines of Matthew Rorick Debating Robert Parker At His Invitation Passopisciaro Winery, Etna, Sicily: Current Releases Should We Care What Winemakers Say? The Sweet Taste of Freedom: Austria's Ruster Ausbruch Wines 2009 Burgundy Vintage According to Domaine de la Romanée-Conti Charles Banks: The New Man Behind Mayacamas Wine from the Caldera: The Incredible Viticulture of Santorini Why Community Tasting Notes Sites Will Fail Chateau Rayas and the 2012 Vintage of Chateauneuf-du-Pape A Life Indomitable: The Wines of Casal Santa Maria, Portugal Bay Area Bordeaux: Tasting Santa Cruz Mountain Cabernets Forgotten Jewels: Reviving Chile's Old Vine Carignane The First-Timer's Guide to Les Trois Glorieuses of Hospices de Beaune

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Wine Blogs I've Newly Discovered

Wine on Six The Wine Stalker Wines of the World The Grape Belt A March in the Vines Social Vignerons Terroirs (BR) Tanglewood Wine Talk

Want more? Check out blogs and podcasts from around the world on the complete list of wine blogs.

Required Reading for Wine Lovers

The Oxford Companion to Wine by Jancis Robinson Wine Grapes The World Atlas of Wine by Hugh Johnson to cork or not to cork by George Taber reading between the vines by Terry Theise adventures on the wine route by Kermit Lynch Love By the Glass by Dorothy Gaiter & John Brecher Noble Rot by William Echikson The Science of Wine by Jamie Goode The Judgement of Paris by George Taber The Wine Bible by Karen MacNeil The Botanist and the Vintner by Christy Campbell The Emperor of Wine by Elin McCoy The Taste of Wine by Emile Peynaud