Wine Blog Daily Tuesday 1/23/18

wine cork oldA daily sample of thoughtful writing and discussion from (mostly) independent wine blogs:


Blake Gray reports on studies assessing whether cork changes as the bottle ages preventing excessive oxidation.

Tom Work continues to educate us about the real aims of the Oak Woodlands initiative on the ballot in Napa seeking to prevent the planting of new vineyards.

Bob on Sonoma weighs in on the data suggesting a leveling off of wine sales growth.

Winemaker and MW Nova Cadamatre talks up the Unified Wine and Grape Symposium happening this week in Sacramento.

Susannah Gold explores another indigenous Italian varietal, Mostosa Bianco, often found in regions along the Adriatic Coast.

Cellar Tours explores the world of wine investing and notes the wines that have track records as good investments.

The Wine Curmudgeon imagines a conversation between a marketer and a winemaker; it doesn’t go well.

Selected Wine Reviews:

Wayward Wines reviews Kenneth Volk Vineyards, Mourvèdre, Enz Vineyard, Lime Kiln Valley. The Enz family is the only family farming in that tiny AVA.

Meg Houston Maker reviews the 2015 Foursight Wines Pinot Noir Clone 05 Charles Vineyard Anderson Valley

Do Bianchi reports on the best Zinfandel tasted in 2017.

Jo Diaz reviews the 2015 Ferraton Père & Fils Samorëns Rouge, Côtes du Rhône.

Fredric Koeppel reviews the Oak Farm Vineyards Tievoli Red Blend 2016, Lodi, a blend of ziinfandel, primitivo, barbera and petite sirah.


Wine Review: Calabretta Cala Cala Vino Rosso Nerello Mascalese NV Mt. Etna


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calabretta vino rossoThis is a “natural wine” from Massimiliano Calabretta, the highly regarded Mt. Etna producer who specializes in organic and bio-dynamically grown grapes and artisanal methods of production, using native yeasts and long ageing in massive, Slavonian oak barrels like in the old days. (I found no information about whether sulfites are used in the production process.)

The vineyards are located nearly a half mile above sea level in the volcanic soils of Mt. Etna’s north slope. This is a multi-vintage (2009, 2008 and 2005) blend of 95% Nerello Mascalese and 5% Nerello Cappuccio.

The intense nose is loaded with dried cherry, dusty earth, and dried flowers. Wild herbs and a hint of volatile acidity in the background contribute to the complexity. The palate is vibrant but quite drying as it unfolds with clove and orange zest mingling with sour cherry. The fruit and spice hold steady and provide focus all the way through the finish as the tannins and acidity swell and spread like the incoming tide and then grips like bulldog jaws. The fruit is angular right from the beginning not even pretending to be smooth or lush. Its gritty, acerbic personality is redeemed by a layer of fresh juiciness. The whole experience is a sort of twisted pastorale that comes together when country outlaw Steve Earle buys his ticket to the Shadowland.

I love this wine but it won’t back down.

Score: 90

Price: $19 (purchase at Vino Carta in San Diego or at their online store)

Alc: 13.5%

Wine Blog Daily Monday 1/22/18

A daily sample of thoughtful writing and discussion from (mostly) independent wine blogs:

barbaresco vineyardsRob McMillan at Silicon Valley Bank posts a link to his videocast of the State of the Wine Industry report.

Alfonso Cevola, On the Wine Trail in Italy, describes his discovery and love of Barbaresco.

Levi Dalton interviews Chisa Bize, who looks after Domaine Simon Bize et Fils in the Burgundy village of Savigny-les-Beaune.

Margaret Rand reports on the frantic race to buy up the small 2016 vintage in Burgundy.

Miquel Hudin makes some interesting predictions about the wine world in 2018.

wineOrl takes a deep dive into the several Italian regions producing Nebbiolo.

Wine-to-Five interviews Rick Fisher, director of the Wine Scholar Guild’s Spanish Wine Scholar program.

Nancy at Washington State Beer and Wine discovers value in highlighting women winemakers.

Amanda Barnes profiles Argentinean winemaker Santiago Mayorga of Nieto Senetiner.

Food, Wine, Click describes Occitanie, the new administrative unit in the South of France that includes Languedoc-Roussillion and Sud-Quest. (and tempts us with a recipe for Cassoulet)

Michelle Williams at Rockin’ Red Blog also explores Languedoc and eats Cassoulet.


Selected Reviews:

Jamie Goode blind tastes his way through top Oregon Pinot Noir.

Simon Woolf describes the eccentric orange wine of Slovenia’s biodynamic producer, Zorjan.

Meg Houston Maker reviews the 2014 Domaine de la Solitude a “modern, polished Châteauneuf-du-Pape”.

Josh Likes Wine writes up one of Italy’s lesser-known white wine regions, Lugana DOC.

Tim Lemke reviews Domaine Bousquet’s Gaia, Red Blend, a blend of mostly Malbec and Syrah from Argentina.

On Tasting the New



novel foodThere is a strain of thought in the wine and food world that assumes the object of our affection, a remarkable dish or great bottle of wine, is best understood as a representation of the culture in which it is embedded rather than a composition with intrinsic, aesthetic value.  On this view, our attitudes and judgments are nothing but the sum total of critic’s scores, magazine puff pieces, Facebook likes, Yelp reviews, wine education seminars–the whole deluge of information and misinformation that hurtles toward us every day, not to mention our own personal histories and educations that form our taste preferences.

The poor object, the dish or wine cuvee, is just a cipher, a placeholder, for socially-formed, aesthetic values determined by the cultural framework in which we live.

There is much to be said in favor of this point of view. No doubt our preferences are deeply influenced by culture and history. But it has a serious flaw. If wine or food quality is nothing but the outcome of agreements formed around contemporary tasting practices and popular conventions, we can’t explain how the new arises and captures the attention of people on the cutting edge of change. If great wines and cuisine are nothing but the product of dominant cultural discourses, we have no vocabulary to explain what goes on when those cultural practices are rejected and new taste preferences catch on, and we therefore miss the potential of dishes or cuvees that are off the beaten path. A set of assumptions that cannot explain change is surely deficient.

The alternative to this assumption that cultural practices and discourse determine taste preferences is to view new works in the wine and food world as having some degree of autonomy from their history of production and reception. They have qualities that appeal to us on their own terms, not just as an expression of culture.

I’m not suggesting that some works have universal appeal or express essences that are outside the influence of time and culture. Instead, I’m suggesting that some artifacts have qualities that cannot be assimilated to existing cultural paradigms. Because the “new’ matters to us, we should intentionally seek to foster sensitivity toward new directions, always on the look out for new experiences. Although wine and food are cultural practices deeply penetrated by the hierarchies of everyday life filtered through the framework of media and its ability to manipulate, works nevertheless must be viewed as having their own trajectories and potentials to be able to mount criticisms and challenges to prevailing preferences and experiences.

When natural wine became the rage among New York somms or molecular gastronomy sent chefs back to their chemistry texts it wasn’t because such moves were endorsed by prevailing cultural norms. They weren’t trendy when they first emerged. It was because someone said “ to hell with cultural norms, let’s do it differently” and set about creating works that made no sense.

New works that have some novel dimension create room for new experiences by transgressing habitual distinctions and routine behaviors. They do so because there is something about them that resists assimilation to the prevailing cultural framework. Of course, sometimes nonsense is just nonsense. There is no guarantee that what is novel will have value. But we will never discover if it’s valuable or not unless we nurture its resistance, grant it autonomy and see if it takes flight. That requires some cultural appreciation for novelty. But it also requires objects that are genuinely novel.



Wine Blog Daily Friday 1/19/18

winery-3061895__340A daily sample of thoughtful writing and discussion from (mostly) independent wine blogs:

The Wine Curmudgeon reports on Silicon Valley Bank’s look ahead at the wine business in 2018.

JVB Uncorked reports on a new Italian sparkling wine style, Secco, which has been given DOCG status. It’s basically dry Moscato

Hannah Perkins at My Pour Decisions explains the job of a winery publicist.

Susannah Gold’s adventures in home winemaking continue at Avinnare.

Aaron Nix-Gomez has a photo of a wine press from Madeira circa 1834.

Miquel Hudin takes a look back at his predictions for 2017, assessing the hits and misses.

WineOrL continues summarizing author Peter Lem’s conceptualization of Champagne sub-regions, taking a look at Côte des Blancs.

Allison Levine at Please the Palate profiles the innovative David Parrish of Parrish Family Vineyards

Selected Reviews

Reverse Wine Snob samples the Casillero Del Diablo Rosé a Chilean wine made mostly from Syrah.

Jamie Goode reviews the very serious Ata Rangi McCrone Pinot Noir 2006 Martinborough, New Zealand


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Budget Wine Review: Ray’s Creek Vineyards Cabernet Sauvignon Central Coast 2016



rays creekI can’t find out anything about this winery which probably means this wine is bulk juice that someone with a distribution contract slapped a label on.

Generic berry aromas, a little dust and dry herbs on the nose. The palate is thin and watery but the acidity is soft and the tannins fine grained, so it’s drinkable but forgettable.

And at $14 dollars its not really a bargain; there are better Cabs out there for less.

But when you have a generic wine there is something you can do to make it more exciting. Serve it with a compatible dish (a burger would do fine) and play music that matches the mood of the wine. This wine gained some body when accompanied by simple, up-tempo rock like Queens of the Stone Age No One Knows.

Score: 83

Price: $14

Alc: 13.5%

Wine Blog Daily Thursday 1/18/18

A daily sample of thoughtful writing and discussion from (mostly) independent wine blogs:

madeira vineyards

Vineyards in Madeira

Aaron Nix-Gomez discovers tasting notes for various Madeira from the 1882 Bordeaux Wine Exhibition.

Brian Tippy at I Like This Grape weighs in on the trend to age wine in Bourbon barrels.

Bob on Sonoma explains the differences between Organic, Biodynamic, Sustainable and Natural Wine.

Blake Gray summarizes Silicon Valley Bank‘s annual State of the Wine Industry Report, which includes some warnings about headwinds for the wine industry.

The Drunken Cyclist explores Catania, Sicily in pictures.

Selected Reviews:

John Fodera continues his report on 2012 Brunello di Montalcino.

Fredric Koeppel reviews a white wine from Portugal,  Olho de Mocho Reserva 2014, made from a grape little known in the U.S.– antão vaz.

The Wine Curmudgeon’s Wine of the Week is the Terre del Föhn Marzemino that sells for $12.

They grow something besides Pinot in Central Otago. Mathew Gaughan reviews the Felton Road Bannockburn Riesling.

Susannah Gold tastes the 2006 Cheval Blanc and we live vicariously.


Everything is Wine



stop timeFrom Baudelaire’s poem, Get Drunk:

One should always be drunk. That’s all that matters; that’s our one imperative need. So as not to feel Time’s horrible burden that breaks your shoulders and bows you down, you must get drunk without ceasing.
But what with? With wine, with poetry, or with virtue, as you choose. But get drunk.

Perhaps we should assess our lives according to how conducive they are to drunkeness, to the loss of a sense of time passing. How many pregnant moments are available to us where every blade of grass or drop of water is a source of such hyperbolic fascination that time flows without measure?

The authorities would surely be opposed, which is why few think of this as the paradigm of a good life. Why do we listen to them?

Wine Blog Daily Wednesday 1/17/18

A daily sample of thoughtful writing and discussion from (mostly) independent wine blogs:

The Wine Economist, Mike Veseth, describes how trickle up wine economics works in vintages such as 2017 when the harvest is poor.

Master of Wine Tim Atkin asks What do we mean by fine wine?

Blake Gray visits a winery that follows the Torah in leaving vineyard land fallow, i.e. producing no crop, once every seven years, and discovers a real difference.

Vincent Rendoni at Wine Folly covers Nebbiolo in a nutshell.

Courtney Schiessel traces the rebirth of Friuli-Venezia Giulia’s Schioppettino, the robust red wine that almost disappeared.

Susannah Gold continues her investigation of indigenous Italian Varietals this week discussing Morone Nero from Tuscany.

Selected Reviews:

Alison Levine explores four producers from Madeira.

Meg Houston Maker reviews  the 2014 Passopisciaro Contrada R Terre Siciliane, a Nerello Mascalese from Mt. Etna.

Tom Lee reviews one of Washington State’s classic wines, the Cayuse Syrah Cailloux Vineyard 2008.

Populist Gastronomy?


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Is fine cuisine worth its exorbitant price? Sometimes, although price can be an unreliable indicator of quality. But when I have had the opportunity to indulge in high-end dining, I’m struck by how many diners don’t seem to be enjoying their food. In fact, the food seems to be an afterthought for the majority who are focused on showing off the depth of their wallet, being a general lout, taking care of business, partying, or gossiping about the latest celebrity in rehab. Fine cuisine is wasted, if not on the rich, surely on the bored, distracted, or ignorant.

Food writer Jay Rayner in his book The Man Who Ate the World noted the same phenomenon in his worldwide quest for the perfect meal.

…if my journey around he world had taught me anything, it was this: That every night, in the great food cities of the new millennium, there were terrific restaurants, filled with horrible people who were there because they could afford them,or, through status, gain access to them, and who were having a much nicer time than they deserved

Commenting on his fellow Brits he explains, “In Britain, food is, and always has been, from the top down”, an interest in food having been invented by the aristocracy as a status symbol. By contrast, he argues,

In France, the food culture is a bottom-up affair, with high gastronomy only being its ultimate expression. The notion of Le Terroir to which every Frenchman cleaves—that there is a specific piece of land from which their identity comes—may well encourage gastronomic conservatism, but it does at least lend the whole business a certain democracy.

The French are allegedly losing their gastronomic edge along with the intimate connection between French identity and fine cuisine. But Rayner’s thesis that a genuinely appreciative food culture must be a bottom up affair strikes me as plausible. People will care about flavor and the meaning of food only when their knowledge and experience is sufficient to warrant such a commitment. Such knowledge and experience is more attainable in a culture thoroughly suffused with the belief that their cuisine is more than a pleasant diversion but an expression of who they are. (Of course, the French are not alone in this belief; the Italians and Japanese and perhaps others are similarly committed.)

So what about the food culture in the United States? Is it a top-down affair where celebrity chefs create wondrous creations for status-driven consumers with too much money? Or is the growing “foodie” culture a place where genuine appreciation is rooted in deep knowledge of ingredients, methods, and traditions?

Aside from redoubts such as Louisiana where food traditions have long had a grip on the public, Americans discovered their palate only a few decades ago. Do we have what it takes to join the great cuisines of the world?