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In Wine-Searcher, James Lawrence explores the changing face of Champagne. “The idea of Champagne becoming renowned for Burgundy-style reds and whites seems ludicrous today, but it’s a thought increasingly being entertained by the region’s top producers.”

In Food & Wine, Mike Pomranz reports that James Suckling is teaching a wine appreciation class online through MasterClass. In the official trailer, he sells the class by saying: ““I try not to be pretentious about wine, but if you want to be, I can help you do that also.”

Wine Enthusiast highlights six producers creating small-quantity, vineyard-designated zinfandel bottles that reflect California terroir.

In the Wall Street Journal, Lettie Teague explores Barbaresco in the third in a three-part series on wines from Italy’s Piedmont. (subscription req.)

Tom Wark shares the six people identified in his 2018 American Wine Writer Survey as the most influential wine writers.

In Vinous, Neal Martin writes about a tasting of Symington Family Estate’s Vintage and Tawny Ports.

Japanese wine consumers have a wide and deep range of buying options. Roddy Ropner explores the major outlets in Meininger’s.

Tom Hyland looks at the wines of Etna in Forbes.

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Montalcino landscape (Flickr: Eric@focus)

In Decanter, Andrew Jefford gauges the challenges facing Montalcino. “In theory, Brunello should be easy to understand, at least by comparison with the complexities of Chianti: it is a single, unitary area, roughly square in shape, lying to the south of Siena and rather closer to the sea than does Chianti. That apparent simplicity, though, hides some intriguing complications.”

“Willi Klinger, the irrepressible head of the Austrian Wine Marketing Board (ÖWM), has announced that he will step down as Managing Director at the end of 2019,” reports Meininger’s.

Elsewhere in Meininger’s, Robert Joseph ponders the importance of a wine label.

“How did a dispute over appellations and marketing turn into a call to ban a wine brand? The answer may lie in competing visions of Oregon wine’s future.” Mitch Frank looks at what the pushback against Joe Wagner’s wines means in Wine Spectator.

Antonio Galloni offers a holiday gift guide with new books, wine glasses, maps and more in Vinous.

The California Aggie talks to Alecia Moore, more commonly known as Pink, and her assistant winemaker, Alison Thomson, about taking the pretentiousness out of the craft, the utter terribleness of Manischewitz and sharing their passion for winemaking with their children.

In Grape Collective, Dorthy Gaiter and John Brecher offer their sparkling wine picks for the holidays.

Elsewhere in Grape Collective, Lisa Denning chats with Christian Voeux of Domaine de l’Amauve about the Seguret appellation, in the process of becoming its own cru like neighboring Gigondas, and how simple his approach to winemaking is.

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(Flickr: theloushe)

The Oregon ruckus over the Elouan and the Willametter Journal brands shows no sign of abating. Liza B. Zimmerman reports on the latest details in Wine-Searcher.

In VinePair, Gina Ciliberto pens a short profile of Zidanelia Arcidiacono, the 36-year-old assistant winemaker at Sonoma-Cutrer. “Her goal is to democratize wine for people of all backgrounds and professions, especially within wineries… Born in Texas to a Mexican mother and an Argentinian father of Italian descent, Arcidiacono identifies with the community of Latinas who harvest the grapes she makes into wine.”

Elin McCoy offers a list of the 50 best wines under $50 she tasted this year in Bloomberg.

As the end of the year approaches, Tom Natan reflects on four things he learned about wine this year on the blog for First Vine.

Andy Perdue writes about four new wine books that make for great gifts in the Seattle Times.

In Forbes, Lana Bortolot on what makes Georgian wines so unique.

Bon Jovi’s Hampton Water rosé is just one of two rosés to make Wine Spectator’s top 100 wines of the year.

In the Washington Post, Dave McIntyre covers sparkling wine alternatives.

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We’re headed back to California this week for another batch of new releases.

I’ve reviewed the wines of Jed Steele several times in the past, and they continue to offer tons of value for the money. Although the winery sources grapes from other regions, all of the wines in this report hail from Lake County. With more than 50 vintages under his belt, these are tried and true California wines that deliver gobs of goodness, and most of them cost $20 or less.

I also reviewed two wines from Windvane, the new Ramey Claret, and the new release of Cardinale, the latter of which (while expensive), is something to behold.

These wines were received as trade samples and tasted sighted.

2017 Steele Wines Riesling Shooting Star - California, North Coast, Lake County
SRP: $14
Pale straw color. Aromas of lime, peaches and lychee, mixed in with new tennis ball and clover honey. Crisp and punchy, the sugar (about 20 grams/liter) is woven in well. Lemons, peaches, guava and lychee, lot of juicy, tropical goodness mixed with a lot of orange blossoms, honey and dandelion. Fun Riesling at a good price. 12.1% alcohol. (86 points IJB)

2017 Steele Wines Viognier - California, North Coast, Lake County
SRP: $20
Light yellow color. Lovely aromas of peaches, kiwi, lemon curd, with whipped honey, orange blossoms, yellow flowers. Full and plump on the palate, nice waxy texture but — crisp acidity in my Viognier? Love it. Peaches, lemon curd, oranges, kiwi, fun and fruity but balanced and quite complex, with stony minerals, honey, white and yellow flowers. Excellent value, this is even better than I remember the 2016. Stainless steel fermented and aged four months in old oak. (90 points IJB)

2016 Steele Wines Merlot Shooting Star - California, North Coast, Lake County
SRP: $15
Light purple. Aromas of plums, black cherries, along with some violets, pepper and leather, which I find really attractive. The balance on the palate is quite nice, a good mix of dusty-light tannins and really fresh acidity. Black cherries, tangy currants, summer plums, the fruit is mixed with elements of cocoa, leather, pepper. Fresh and juicy but nice complexity, too. Aged eight months in French and American oak. (87 points IJB)

2016 Steele Wines Cabernet Franc - California, North Coast, Lake County
SRP: $20
Light purple color. Nose shows pure, deep plums and black cherries on the nose, along with anise, pepper, sage and sweet cocoa. Full but fresh, medium-strength tannins meets moderate acidity, balanced off of black cherries and dark plums, rich but tangy fruit. Notes of loamy earth, black pepper, anise, with coffee and wood notes woven in well. Yummy now, this could actually age for a few years, too. Aged 14 months in 30% new French and American oak. (88 points IJB)

2016 Steele Wines Cabernet Franc Writer’s Block - California, North Coast, Lake County
SRP: $17
Deep ruby, light purple. Smells of sweet plums and red and black cherries, with cola, clove and black pepper, some violets and earth. Fleshy and velvety but stays fresh, a nice mix of juicy, tangy, red and black cherries and plums, backed up by notes of cedar, cola, coffee, and some black pepper and earth. Fun, pleasant, shows some complexity at the price point. (87 points IJB)

2016 Steele Wines Syrah Stymie Founder’s Reserve - California, North Coast, Lake County
SRP: $38
Deep purple color. Smells like tart black currants and dark plums, along with smoky, earthy, leathery notes that are quite complex, along with some violets and clove. Full-bodied, surprising acidity on the palate, integrated but structured tannins, and tangy plums and black cherries — the balance is quite nice. Lots of violets, clove, pepper and leather notes, some cocoa and wood as well, with an earthy, tangy finish. Nice now, but you could easily forget about this in the cellar for three or four years. Aged 22 months in 20% new French and American oak. (90 points IJB)

2016 Windvane Chardonnay - California, Napa/Sonoma, Carneros
SRP: $40
Light yellow color. Nose boasts yellow apples, lemon curd, apricot, along with toasted almond, whipped butter and sea salt. Full and rich, a bold and classic style but fresh acidity keeps it lively. Lemon curd, bruised apple, mixed with nougat, honey butter, spiced white tea, sea salt and ginger. Bold but lovely depth and balance. About a third of the wine goes through maloactic fermentation, and the wine is aged nine months in ¼ new French oak. (90 points IJB)

2015 Windvane Pinot Noir - California, Napa/Sonoma, Carneros
SRP: $45
Dark ruby color. Pretty, warm, inviting nose with raspberries, black cherries, birch beer, rose petals. Full-bodied but crisp and bright with fleshy tannins and flavors of cherries, raspberry jam, dark plums. Notes of cola, rhubarb, mint and cedar, with some nice floral, earthy depth. Lovely vibrancy here, and I’d love to see this in three to four years. Aged nine months in 46% new French oak. (90 points)

2016 Ramey Claret - California, Napa Valley
SRP: $42
Deep ruby color. I love the nose, a mix of juicy, bright fruit (cherries, cranberries, currant) along with anise, tilled soil and pine. Full-bodied but velvety, this wine is smooth and approachable but balanced with vibrant acidity. Nice depth to the red and black cherries, spiced cranberry sauce flavors, along with sweet spice, lots of floral and earthy tones. Deep but lots of brightness and spicy elements. A blend of Cabernet Sauvignon with 26% Merlot, 12% Malbec, 8% Syrah and 20% Petit Verdot aged 12 months in 13% new French and American oak. (90 points IJB)

2015 Cardinale - California, Napa Valley
SRP: $275
Bright purple color. Needs time to open up, but has lovely aromas: showing blackberries, dark currants, plums, concentrated but lovely fruit, with complex notes of sweet pipe tobacco, mint, eucalyptus, black tea, vanilla. Full-bodied, structured but so velvety and suave, medium acidity keeping it vibrant. Blackberry, cassis, plum, mixed with a complex host of roasted chestnut, espresso, tobacco, mint, charcoal, earth and mineral. Complex, long-lasting, this could be buried and forgotten for a long time but gorgeous and polished young. A blend of fruit from 12 different vineyards across Napa Valley, with a focus on Mountain fruit, this includes 10% Howell Mountain Merlot. This is aged 20 months in 84% new French oak. (96 points IJB)

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Bottles of Barolo. (Wikimedia)

“Is Barolo the new Burgundy? According to some members of the wine-world cognoscenti, the answer is yes. But do the Barolo producers themselves think this is true?” WSJ’s Lettie Teague asks the producers during a recent trip to the Piedmont.

“The Court of Master Sommeliers has welcomed six new Master Sommeliers to their ranks today,” reports Elaine Chukan Brown on JancisRobinson.com. “Yesterday’s blind tasting was the first of three possible special tasting exams offered by the Court following September’s breach.”

“By the time you read this, most, if not all, of the 2016 Vintage Port will have been sold, a very short crop of some of the most polished wines the Douro has ever grown,” writes Joshua Green in Wine & Spirits Magazine. “But it’s a vintage worth committing to memory: These wines will be around for many decades to come, their flavor impact grown out of an unusual season.”

In SevenFifty Daily, Sophia McDonald highlights 8 new California AVAs on the horizon.

In Wine Enthusiast, Paul Gregutt analyzes Oregon’s Iberian connection. “The increased interest in Spain’s leading grape [tempranillo] has also benefited Grenache, which struggled initially in the Pacific Northwest due to harsh winters. The southern Oregon climate makes all the difference as far as its long-term potential.”

Courtney Schiessl on the changing face of carmenère in Guild Somm.

The PUNCH staff put together a list of the best magnums for your money.

In Decanter, Jane Anson enjoys a vertical of Domaine de Chevalier white wines and shares her notes. (subscription req.)

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“The Court of Master Sommeliers has finally made a comment on the shocking scandal that rocked the wine world in October, but it has made no obvious attempt to actually investigate the matter.” Liza B. Zimmerman reports in Wine-Searcher. “The Court has clearly decided not to pursue legal actions. My MS source, along with Downey, agrees that no one who leaked or accepted a list of wines should ever have been or be allowed to become a Master Sommelier.”

In Wine Enthusiast, Shayla Martin looks at how Prohibition shaped American wine country.

Elsewhere in Wine Enthusiast, Paul Gregutt looks at British Columbia’s growing wine scene.

In Vinous, Ian D’Agata writes about the wines of Alto Adige. “In matters of wine, it is not an exaggeration to say that Alto Adige offers something for everyone. And it really could not be otherwise.”

Tim Atkin offers his full 2017 Burgundy en primeur report in Decanter. (subscription req.)

Michael Austin pens his final wine column for the Chicago Tribune.

Alder Yarrow delivers “The Holiday Gift Guide for Wine Loves Who (Already) Have Everything.”

In Wine & Spirits Magazine, Rachel DelRocco Terrazas highlights a few spirits and wine books.

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(Flickr: ajroder)

In Bloomberg, Elin McCoy says it’s time to move on from prosecco to what’s next: “under-the-radar, world-class bubblies from Northern Italy’s Franciacorta and Trentino regions.”

Spain’s Bodegas Valdemar is spending $18 million to develop a winery and vineyard in Walla Walla, reports Peter Mitham in Wines & Vines.

In Wine-Searcher, Château Lafleur’s Omri Ram gives his thoughts on the estate, recent vintages and Bordeaux prices.

In SevenFifty Daily, Amanda Barnes highlights five South American grape varieties on the rise.

“To dedicate oneself to winemaking is to potentially have walked into a life-long vocation. It is impossible to master wine in one’s lifetime; a seemingly countless number of grape varieties, an infinite number of potential winegrowing sites, unimaginable terroirs that have yet to be discovered; the opportunities are endless.” Paul Hobbs reflects on his years as a winemaker, and how his 40 years of experience led to the Nathan Coombs estate.

In Decanter, Jane Anson talks to Château Palmer’s Thomas Duroux about converting the Margaux estate to biodynamics and about his quest for quality. (subscription req.)

Travel + Leisure suggests a shortlist of wine regions to visit in 2019.

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Source: Go Brazil Wines

In Wine Spectator, Liz Thach reports on Brazil’s growing wine industry. “Brazil’s wine industry dates to the 1880s, when a handful of wineries were established by northern Italian immigrants, but has now grown to more than 1,100 wineries. During the past decade, the wine industry has expanded, with revenues increasing from US$213 million in 2007 to more than $640 million in 2017.”

Tom Wark shares the results of his 2018 American Wine Writer Survey. “While numerous aspects of the wine writers’ work remain very similar to what it was 25 years ago, a great deal has changed too. The most obvious change is the advent of the Internet and digital publishing and all the disruption to subscriber bases and ad dollars that come with it. But as the survey shows, the community of wine writers is also changing, particularly with regard to gender.”

“Albert Frère, the billionaire veteran Belgian businessman and who became co-owner of Château Cheval Blanc in Bordeaux after investing with Bernard Arnault, has died aged 92,” reports Chris Mercer in Decanter.

Alfonso Cevola looks at the state of natural wine in flyover country.

Antonio Galloni explores Champagne’s new releases in Vinous.

On WineBusiness.com, Cyril Penn reports on the ways climate change is affecting vineyards around the world.

In Grape Collective, Christopher Barnes talks with Valle Reale general manager Giulia Migliorati about the winemaking path of Valle Reale and the uniqueness of the Abruzzo region.

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In the San Francisco Chronicle, Esther Mobley looks at how fine wine has become the NBA’s new status symbol. “If that basketball-player stereotype used to involve fancy Tequila and Lamborghinis, with wine it has taken a more cerebral turn in the arena of luxury goods. [Lebron] James, for example, “is a really knowledgeable wine drinker,” says Braiden Albrecht, winemaker at Napa’s Mayacamas…”

Elsewhere in the Chronicle, Esther Mobley delves into the questions about Joe Wagner’s Oregon wine label scandal that nobody is asking. “If Wagner isn’t actually mischaracterizing wherehis grapes came from — if instead, his offense is only that he made his wine in California rather than in Oregon — how is the consumer being harmed?”

In PUNCH, Jon Bonné highlights New York’s Ruffian and explores what makes the wine bar’s wine list so exciting.

In Food & Wine, Sara Schneider gives an overview of three wine clubs that make great holiday gifts.

Eric Asimov offers notes for the most recent wine school, on California carignan, and announces what’s up next: tawny port. “Both sherry and Madeira, the other two leading fortified wines, have had some semblance of a revival. But port? Not so much.”

In the Washington Post, Dave McIntyre offers a guide to the different styles of port.

In Meininger’s, Robert Joseph ponders the future of synthetic wine.

Lauren Mowery explores Dublin’s wine scene in Wine Enthusiast.

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I love Albariño, and there’s no better place to find the good ones than the Rias Baixas region of Galicia, Spain.

This winegrowing region, located across the Miño River from Portugal, produces 99% white wine, and Albariño makes up about 96% of all grape varieties planted there. So, it’s safe to say, producers here know what they’re doing with the grape.

Rias Baixas wines get lots of cooling, coastal influences from the Atlantic Ocean, and the region is also known for its series of jagged inlets, like shallow fjords, called rias. (The region’s name means “lower rias.”) The region is divided into five subzones (Val do Salnés, Ribeira do Ulla, Condado de Tea, O Rosal, and Soutomaior) typified by their topography and proximity to the ocean or rivers. The soils here boast lots of granite and schist, and the rivers add in alluvial elements.

All of this results in wines that are bright, vibrant, floral, salty, crisp and full of minerals. Plenty of fruit for sure, but I love the complexity of non-fruit elements in Albariño, and its lively, food-friendly appeal. It’s cold and windy on the East Coast as I write this, but crisp white wines are always welcome on my table, regardless of season.

I’ve covered this region before, but I recently tasted a few Albariño wines from Rias Baixas, and found a lot of quality for the price points. I received these wines as trade samples and tasted them single-blind (except for the sole sparkling one).

2017 Marqués de Frías Albariño- Spain, Galicia, Rías Baixas
SRP: $13
Rich yellow color. Bright and floral with magnolia and lemongrass, lots of kiwi and peaches and honey, sea salt. Juicy white peaches, kiwis and limes, a plump texture but brisk acidity. A floral, honeyed, salty complexity here that is really attractive, a lot of depth and some exciting mineral and seashell notes. Complex, delicious, and very, very good for the price. (89 points)

2016 Pazo Pondal Albariño- Spain, Galicia, Rías Baixas
SRP: $20
Bold yellow color. Perfumed with white peaches, lemons, lots of nettle, cut flower stems, crusty sea salt. Crisp acidity on the palate but lots of juicy appeal and punchy fruit (orange, white peach, lemon curd). Notes of ocean spray, sea salt and crushed shells mix nicely with white and yellow flowers. Impressive, depth, precision, this is a delicious Albarino. (90 points)

2017 Bodegas Altos de Torona Albariño Sobre Lías- Spain, Galicia, Rías Baixas, O Rosal
SRP: $20
Medium yellow color. Bursting aromas of limes, lemons, green and yellow apples, with lots of white flowers, sea salt, oyster shell, some green onion, too. A plump texture balances out with the bright acidity, along with lemons and limes, green apples, white peach, fruity but really fresh. Complex notes of honeysuckle, nettle, sea salt, crushed chalk. Love the balance here between zesty and juicy elements. (89 points)

2016 Bodegas As Laxas Albariño Sensum- Spain, Galicia, Rías Baixas
SRP: $30
Medium yellow color with fine bubbles. So bright on the nose, like a bouquet of honeysuckle, baby’s breath, dandelion and lilies, along with white peaches and lemons. Crisp acidity on the palate, with a nervy appeal and light, focused bubbles (not a lot of yeasty depth). This is a zesty, light, brisk sparkler with lemons and white peaches mixed in with a generous helping of flowers, minerals and chalk. Lots of fun, and so widely food-friendly. (88 points)

2017 Santiago Ruiz Albariño- Spain, Galicia, Rías Baixas, O Rosal
SRP: $20
Medium yellow color. So floral on the nose, with all kinds of blossoms and baby’s breath, along with peaches, lemon curd, petrichor and sea salt. Crisp and fresh on the palate with zesty acidity and a clean, mineral-driven appeal. Lemons, peaches, nectarine, laced with sea salt, white tea, honeysuckle and minerals. Juicy, fleshy, yet so nervy and crisp, this is just lovely. Tasted sighted. (90 points)

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