Some wine blogs offer value recommendations. Others catalog tasting notes. Many cover the wine industry. Just about all sit dormant for weeks at a time. David White launched Terroirist on November 9, 2010 to change all that by covering everything, daily.
“If talented winemakers love Lodi fruit, why does the region continue to struggle to shake its low-quality reputation?” In the San Francisco Chronicle, Esther Mobley reports on the increasingly diverse modern Lodi region, the future home of Sandlands and star winemaker Tegan Passalacqua. “If you explore, it’s clear: This is a very fine place to grow wine grapes.”
In Decanter, Hugh Johnson considers the times when your highly anticipated bottles end up a disappointment.
Margaret Rand reports on the vintage port market in Wine-Searcher. “Until now Vintage Port, for all its undoubted quality and its famous ability to improve with age – which should put it up there with Classed Growth Bordeaux and Grand Cru Burgundy as a wine collector’s must-have – has lagged behind those wines.”
In Meininger’s, Keren Lavelle discovers Hatten Wines, a winery in Bali. “Demand both for table grapes and fermented rice beverages, for use in Balinese religious ceremonies, has been instrumental in the birth of Hatten Wines, and thus the creation of a wine industry in Indonesia.”
On the blog for First Vine, Tom Natan looks into the use of fungicides in vineyards. “Vineyards account for 80% of the total fungicide use in France, despite the low overall percentage of acreage of vineyards in total agricultural land use.”
This year’s Heart’s Delight charity wine auction raised $1.5 million for the American Heart Association, reports Wine Spectator.
In Grape Collective, David Ramey of Ramey Wine Cellars talks with Lisa Denning about the changes he has seen over the years and the challenges for young California winemakers today.
If I trace my love for wine all the way back, it starts in Alsace. I was living in the far southwestern corner of Germany, in boarding school for 11th and 12th grades, and Alsace was a quick trip. I made a few excursions into quaint villages there, scarfing down (and swooning over) the local food, hiking around steep hills — I was enthralled by the way vineyards carved their place into the hillsides, all over the place.
As I hiked, I noticed vineyards planted into what looked like pure rock, and there were so many different kinds of rocks and chunks of earth that changed from ridge to ridge. Each nook and cranny was different. After a hike, I walked into a bistro in a small village, ordered a bowl of French onion soup, and asked if the bartender had any wine from the huge vineyard that climbed up the steep hills above town. I spoke no French and he almost no English (there was much pointing and gesturing), but I was served a glass of white wine I understood came from the vineyard I had just hiked through.
My teenage mind was blown away at this concept. I don’t remember the wine, I think it was a Riesling, and I had no idea how to evaluate or appreciate it in any serious sense. But it was delicious. And, more importantly, it instilled in me a desire to find more about this relationship between specific places and their wines.
All this to say, to this day, I have a special appreciation for wines from Alsace. They continue to intrigue and excite me, so I’m always happy to review more of them. This week, I have a range of wines from Alsace, all hailing from the extended Pinot family (Noir, Gris, Blanc). Like a lot of wines from this region, they can be moderately priced, considering the high quality.
These wines were received as samples and tasted sighted.
N.V. Lucien Albrecht Crémant d’Alsace Brut Rosé- France, Alsace, Crémant d’Alsace
Bright and floral aromas with grapefruit, peaches, red apple peel, spicy herbal notes. Zesty and crisp on the palate with lots of red apples, grapefruit, red apple peel, along with notes of spiced tea, white pepper and floral perfume. So good for the money, this is fresh and lively and crowd-pleasing. All Pinot Noir. (87 points IJB)
2016 Paul Blanck Pinot Blanc- France, Alsace
Pale yellow color. Nose of crushed shells, raw almond, honeysuckle, over peaches and apples. Rich texture but medium-body, brisk acid meets plump apricot and peach. Notes of salty seashells on a dry and crisp finish – a summer day, oysters and shellfish style Pinot Blanc. (87 points IJB)
2013 Albert Boxler Pinot Blanc Reserve- France, Alsace
Deep yellow color. Aromas are rich with honey and bruised apple, but also bright and lively with lemon verbena, chalk and minerals. Crisp acidity frames the wine nicely, while medium-bodied and honeyed texture adds depth. Peaches, apricot, lime, lemon, doused in minerals, chalk dust and smashed rocks. Deep, focused, yet airy and elegant at the same time. Some interesting cellar potential here. (90 points IJB)
2013 Trimbach Pinot Gris Reserve- France, Alsace SRP: $26
Light yellow color. Aromas of apricot, papaya, drizzled with lime, topped with seashells and floral perfume. Medium-bodied on the palate, crisp and nervy style with a long streak of minerals and crushed shells. Dry but packed with fruit (papaya, pineapple, lime juice), with some white floral tones. Lovely, crisp but complex Pinot Gris that has a few years of aging potential for sure. (89 points IJB)
2016 Emile Beyer Pinot Gris Tradition- France, Alsace
Light gold color. Aromas of apricots, yellow plums, yellow raisins, rich with honey but also some bright white floral notes. Plump and rich on the palate but moderating acidity. Yellow plums, juicy apricots, laced with honey, cinnamon spiced tea, some crushed chalk and mineral tones clean out the finish. Rich texture and fruit but also clear and pretty. (88 points IJB)
2016 Lucien Albrecht Pinot Gris Cuvée Romanus – France, Alsace
Pale yellow color. Plump aromas of peaches, nectarine, spiced white tea, honeysuckle, daisies. Rich and juicy fruit on the palate but fresh acidity, this shows peaches cantaloupe, nectarine, along with some floral, white pepper, mineral tones. Pleasant and easy to drink but sports solid complexity. (88 points IJB)
2016 Domaine Osterag Pinot Noir Les Jardins- France, Alsace
Interesting light purple color. Aromas of juicy black cherries and raspberries, a lovely spicy herbal and pepper element, with roses and violets and rhubarb. Bright and airy feel to this wine, even though the acidity is tart and the tannins show grip. The fruit is red, bright and delicious, and I love those classic Alsace earthy-spice elements (this one shows black tea, rhubarb, black pepper). I’d like to see how this shows in four to five years. (89 points IJB)
2014 Domaines Schlumberger Pinot Noir Les Princes Abbés – France, Alsace
Medium ruby color. Aromas of tart cherries, strawberries, along with pickling spices, roses, spices tea, earthy-tobacco notes. Medium-bodied, dusty tannins, zippy acidity, it all lines up very well. Tart cherries, strawberries, red plums, laced with tobacco, sage, mushroom, pickle notes. I tasted this a year ago, and it’s developed nicely since then and should continue to do so. (89 points IJB)
In Vinous, Ian D’Agata covers Italy’s Friuli Venezia Giulia wine region. “You can look at Friuli Venezia Giulia as Italy’s mirror image to Piedmont. While Piedmont has numerous high-quality red wine grapes and only a few whites, Friuli Venezia Giulia is the exact opposite…”
“Domaine de la Romanée-Conti has entered into a lease to farm an approximately 7-acre parcel of Corton-Charlemagne owned by Domaine Bonneau du Martray,” reports Bruce Sanderson. “Aubert de Villaine, codirector of DRC, told Wine Spectator that the lease will start in November 2018 and “our first harvest will be 2019.””
Mary Holland on the sparkling wines of Istenič winery in Bizeljsko, Slovenia in VinePair. “In Slovenia, Istenič is what Moet & Chandon is in France. Walk into any wine shop in the country and Istenič bottles line the shelves. Open almost any restaurant wine list in Ljubljana and you’ll see Istenič emblazoned on the page in front of you.”
In Wine-Searcher, Oliver Styles responds to the criticism that followed Naked Wines ran a campaign that included, “don’t trust wine critic recommendations…”
In SevenFifty Daily, Peter Weltman explores the rise of winemakers embracing clay vessels around the world. “While historic wine regions are showing renewed interest in making wine in clay vessels, New World winemakers have also launched experiments.”
Has rosé gone too far? In Bloomberg, Elin McCoy tastes the latest invasive innovations in pink wine. “We now have rosé-flavored vodka, tequila, gin, rum, and sake; gummy bears; ice cream; vinegar; and hard seltzer. I’ve even tasted a pretty awful rosé doughnut…Does it feel as if we’re in the middle of a glut yet? My guess: We’re only just getting started.”
In Wines & Vines, Peter Mitham with a U.S. wine sales report for April. “While growth in table wine sales softened, rosé growth outpaced the category with sales in the past year rising 53%. Meanwhile, surging direct to consumer (DtC) saw both rosé and sparkling wine…moving in ever greater volumes from U.S. wineries to consumers.”
After years of growing and selling grapes, California’s Sangiacomo family finally release their own brand, reports W. Blake Gray in Wine-Searcher.
The Drinks Business explores Turkey’s wine industry. “Establishing Turkey’s native grape varieties has to be the single element for which Kayra is most well known, promoting red grapes including the lighter Kalecik Karasi and heavy-weights Öküzgözü and Bogazkere as well as white grapes Narince and Emir.”
In Punch, Jon Bonné looks at how a new generation of restaurants is placing non-Western cuisine alongside serious wine programs.
“There is a sense that alongside economic success, globalisation has slowly forced the wine world toward a dull, crowd-pleasing conformity.” In the Guardian, Stephen Buranyi dissects the biggest split in the wine world: natural wine vs. the modern wine industry. “Natural wine can’t remain segregated in its own market for ever. There are natural winemakers who want to expand, and mainstream winemakers – struggling with what a 2016 industry report called the “long-term issue of youth recruitment” – eager to learn from natural wine’s popularity with young people who are as interested in craft beer and spirits as they are in wine.”
In the San Francisco Chronicle, Peter Fish on the natural philosophy behind winemaker Avi Deixler’s Absentee Winery in Point Reyes Station, CA. “Deixler’s on the frontier, making wine in a region not known for wine. His carignan is pure, intense and a little wild.”
“Wine producers, buyers and sellers, writers as well as wine drinkers all continue to describe Willamette Valley pinot noir as Burgundian, even as the soil differences are black and white.” In Wine & Spirits Magazine, Joshua Greene reports on how Burgundians working in Oregon are coming to terms with the Willamette Valley, where there’s vastly different ground than their home turf.
In Wines & Vines, Andrew Adams reports on the thoughts experts shared about future trends at Wine Market Council’s annual meeting in Napa.
In the New Yorker, Adam Gopnik profiles Randall Grahm and reports on Popelouchum, his quest to create a truly American wine. “There are people who think that Grahm is crazy and people who think he’s a genius, and the people who think he’s a genius are also the ones most inclined to think he’ll fail.”
“A “disastrous” vintage has left Champagne producers faced with making wine from half-rotten grapes, while excessive herbicide use is putting the future of the famous region at risk.” In Wine-Searcher, Caroline Henry reports on the many challenges the Champagne region is facing.
In Bloomberg, Devon Pendleton shares how, four decades after her father bought Chateau Margaux, Corinne Mentzelopoulos has built the vineyard into a billion-dollar business.
Jancis Robinson on Rioja’s revitalized image. “It’s exciting that the region is feeling so confident, and that it seems to have at least partly addressed some of the criticisms so recently levelled at it. I just hope that the best traditional houses… will continue to provide us with fastidiously long oak-aged blends that are some of the longest-living wines in the world.”
Wines & Vines reports that Koerner Rombauer, the founder of Rombauer Vineyards and a beloved figure in the Napa Valley, died on May 10. He was 83.
“Under his leadership, the Rombauer Vineyards brand became practically synonymous with California Chardonnay. After the winery’s founding in 1980, it helped popularize Chardonnay made in a rich, buttery style.” Esther Mobley pens an obituary for Koerner Rombauer in the San Francisco Chronicle.
In the World of Fine Wine, Ella Lister reports on the 2017 Bordeayx en primeur. “Pricing for the 2017 vintage, rightly, will be as heterogenous as the quality of the wines themselves. For 2017 was not an obvious vintage in which to make a great wine, as 2015 and 2016 were.”
South Africa’s drought is so severe that Cape Town has faced the pospect of running out of water. In Meininger’s, Michael Fridjhon looks at what this has meant for nearby wine regions.
In Vinous, Josh Raynolds shares his thoughts of the 2016 Northern Rhône whites.
Is Bordeaux’s reign as the king of wines over? David Williams says its time to see out future classics from elsewhere in the Guardian.
California winemaker Adam Lee’s next chapter is just beginning. And things are looking good.
After 11 years, Adam and his wife, Dianna Novy Lee, sold their Siduri label to Jackson Family Wines in 2015. Adam agreed to stay on for three years, but he’s also been busy kicking off a different venture.
Named after his grandmother and inspiration, under the Clarice label Adam produces Pinot Noirs from two exquisite sites, Gary’s Vineyard and Rosella’s, both located in the Santa Lucia Highlands appellation of Central California. Having worked with both of these vineyards since their first crop (Gary’s in 1999 and Rosella’s in 2001), Adam knows these vines very well and counts the growers as his good friends. From these sites, he crafts harmonious and delicious wines.
With this new project, Adam is taking a different approach to the marketing and sales. Here’s how it works. Clarice Family Club Members sign up for an annual subscription of $965 (broken into several payments over a few months to make it sting the bank account a bit less). Members get a case of Pinot in October, four bottles of each of Adam’s three wines: Gary’s Vineyard; Rosella’s Vineyard; and a Santa Lucia Highlands appellation wine that is blended from both Gary’s and Rosella’s Vineyards.
Adam also hopes to create something like a social media-savvy “extended wine family,” as he puts it. Members get special access to a portion of Clarice’s website, which will have plenty of wine-related content, and monthly articles from others in the wine business, who will address topics from label design to wine barrels to restaurant sales. There are also members-only Facebook and Instagram groups, where members can connect and share content.
“At Clarice Wine Company, I have decided that ‘selling wine’ isn’t what I like to do,” Adam says. “What I truly enjoy is the friendship, camaraderie, and sharing of knowledge and experiences that wine helps engender.”
Adam sent me barrel samples of the three Pinots he’ll be releasing to club members in October, and, I gotta say, they’re beautiful. Tasters of the finished wines are in for a treat.
He utilizes native yeast fermentation, and more than half of each wine comes from whole cluster fermentation. There’s plenty of juicy fruit, and a good amount of new oak, but the wines maintain a vibrant, lip-smacking style that reminds me of why I first fell for Adam’s Siduri Pinots almost a decade ago.
2017 Clarice Wine Company Pinot Noir- California, Central Coast, Santa Lucia Highlands
Deep ruby color. Lovely aromas of chilled raspberries and strawberries, with rhubarb, roses, cola and wild herbs. Precise acidity and smooth tannins on the palate, balanced nicely with juicy fruit (raspberry, crisp strawberry, red cherries). I get complex elements of raspberry leaf, rose petal, rhubarb, along with some cola and coffee, all of it woven together so well. Crisp, lively, yet so yummy. A roughly even split between fruit from Gary’s and Rosella’s vineyards, the wine is aged in 36% new oak. (92 points IJB)
2017 Clarice Wine Company Pinot Noir Rosella’s Vineyard- California, Central Coast, Santa Lucia Highlands
Medium ruby color. Nose boasts bright cherries and plums, along with violets, spiced tea, rose hips, clove, cola, rich but airy aromas (somehow this makes sense when you smell it). Fresh and tingly acidity with suave tannins. Plump cherries, tart strawberries, crunchy plums, the pretty fruit is loaded with spiced tea, cola, coffee, earthy-loamy and mineral notes. Complex as hell, I can’t wait to see this wine when it’s finished, although it could use some time in bottle to come to its full potential. Aged in 77% new French oak. (94 points IJB)
2017 Clarice Wine Company Pinot Noir Garys’ Vineyard- California, Central Coast, Santa Lucia Highlands
Rich ruby color. Smells of strawberries, raspberries, red apple peel, with sage, spicy oregano, sweet roses, deep but vibrant aromas here. Silky but structured on the palate with plush tannins and crisp acidity, the balance is wonderful. Juicy but tart fruit (dark cherries, gushing plums), along with notes of cola, sarsaparilla, earth and clove. So pretty and bright with gorgeous rich fruit. Aged in 77% new French oak. (93 points IJB)
“In the late 1980s, the Princeton economist Orley Ashenfelter found that he could predict the quality of Bordeaux red wine vintages based on characteristics such as the temperature and rainfall during the harvest year… Using just these variables, he was able to account for more than 80 percent of the price variation for vintages in the 1950s, 1960s and 1970s.” In Bloomberg, Peter R. Orszag looks at one economist’s method to predict a vintage’s quality using only statistics, and explores why it hasn’t yet caught on.
In the New York Times, Eric Asimov makes the case for silvaner, “a grape and a wine that has few champions and could use one badly.”
Sophia Bennett wonders if gamay could be Oregon wine’s next great grape in the Register-Guard. “I think that pinot noir will always be the grape that’s associated with Oregon, but I also think there’s room for other grapes to find their way here…”
In the Wall Street Journal, Lettie Teague tried buying wines based on bottle shape and found few as interesting as the bottles they came in.
“Gallo is buying 542 acres of the well-known Sierra Madre Vineyard in Santa Barbara County from owner Circle Vision. Announced today, the purchase by a Gallo affiliate includes the Sierra Madre trademark and 151 acres of vines within the Santa Maria Valley AVA,” reports Jim Gordon in Wines & Vines.
In Wine Business, Kerana Todoroz reports on the highlights from the first International Biodynamic Wine Conference, held Sunday and Monday in San Francisco.
Stephen Tanzer revisits the 2008 Napa Valley Cabernets in Vinous. “They are fun to drink today but they have the energy and balance to go on for another decade or more—and possibly much longer than that. From their aromatic complexity and lively floral and mineral qualities, one would never guess that some of these wines came from a stressful growing season.”