Wine Tasting and Objectivity



wine taster 2My Three Quarks post this month is a somewhat revised version of my two recent posts on Edible Arts exploring whether wine tasting should strive for objectivity.


Wine Blog Daily Tuesday 5/22/18


photo-1503427128716-12b0ed4822bbA daily sample of thoughtful writing and discussion from (mostly) independent wine blogs:

Meg Houston Maker posts her keynote remarks about the nature of farming presented at a trade event in Vancouver.

Alfonso Cevola, On the Wine Trail in Italy, writes about the persistence of Italian culture in a world of change.

The Wine Curmudgeon kicks off rose week with a discussion of trends in the wine business regarding rose.

Good Vitis pays tribute to Koerner Rombauer owner of the iconic Rombauer Vineyards who recently passed away.

Susannah Gold wonders what drives people to read wine blogs in 2018.

Jameson Fink writes about the virtues of sweet wine.

Jeremy Parzen has some useful advice for driving in Italy.

Bob on Sonoma has a brief profile of Anderson Valley in Mendocino.

Selected Wine Reviews:

Fredric Koeppel reviews the Scheid Vineyards Grüner Veltliner 2016, from Monterey County

Wine Review: Briceland Vineyards Spring Releases 2018



briceland 2Briceland Vineyards is in Northern California—not Napa Valley which is really in Central California, but way up north in chilly, damp Humboldt County where they’re better known for pot and foraged mushrooms than wine.

But being off the beaten track has its advantages. There is little pressure to conform, for one. No need to make “tourist wine” here. And indeed, as I taste through these wines, the word that keeps coming to mind is “individuality”. These wines are deliciously different, especially in their textures which unfurl with great complexity and motion. A small, 2000 case winery, that sells most of their production locally, Briceland is fortunate to be able to source from cool, coastal-influenced sites in the south of the county as well as from warmer sites in the north that are more isolated from the coast and pull warm air from the central valley. Some of the wines below are sourced from the Ishi Pishi Ranch Vineyard in the northern part of the county allowing for ripe, tropical aromas that sit on top of bracing acidity.

I’ve now tasted several vintages of Briceland wines—these are some of the most distinctive wines in California, equaling the best of their better known rivals from the south. Two of these wines are Pet-Nat, a very old style of winemaking now finding renewed popularity. “Pet-Nat” refers to Pétillant Naturel or natural fizz. The wine is bottled prior to completing its first fermentation, creating carbon dioxide from the natural sugars in the grapes. They are usually unfiltered so they are cloudy from the spent lees left in the bottle after fermentation,

Contact the winery directly if these sound intriguing.

Pet-Nat d’Orleans 2017 Ishi Pishi Ranch Humboldt County 11.8% Alc.   $28

Grapefruit and white flowers on the nose with a roasty, burnt note that plays hide n’ seek. A powerful wine with a striking first impression, the palate is dry and minerally with distinctive bacon notes. Clean acidity envelopes a layer of round, soft fruit showing apple and lemon. The wine is texturally quite interesting. Initially frothy it turns filmy and then sculptured as the carbonation fades finally revealing an intriguing oiliness. It manages to be round, layered yet ethereal. An exuberant wine with some seriousness in its complex mouthfeel, it displays an island sensibility with bohemian touches, a perfect match for the textural interplay of guitars and organ in Jammin’ by Bob Marley. No added sulfites. 93 Pts.

Rosé Pet-Nat d’Orleans Ishi Pishi Ranch Humboldt County 2017  12.4% Alc.  $25

Peach color in the glass. An unusual, expressive nose of raspberry, grapefruit and a roasted meat note. The palate shows lime and a mineral core with salinity emerging on the finish. Round, medium bodied, and frothy upfront supported by a textured foundation that pulsates between breadth and angularity it finally resolves in a finish of spring water freshness. There is never a dull moment.  The earthier vocals of Marley’s Could You Be Loved make this wine sing. No added sulfites. 91 Pts.

Sauvignon Blanc Reserve Humboldt County 2017 13.3% Alc.   $22

A mélange of citrus, pineapple, pear and background cilantro aromas, this explodes on the palate, as intense as any Sauvignon Blanc I’ve tasted. It has plenty of body and weight on the introduction, but incisive acidity cuts like a knife even as the textured foundational layers become broad and expansive. Emerging saline flavors on the finish create interest. A ravishing yet edgy, spikey personality, the surprise pairing is Kronos Quartet’s White Man Sleeps  93 pts.

Chardonnay Phelps Vineyard Humboldt County 2017 13.6% Alc.  $25

A very pretty nose of white roses, mango and subtle crushed rock in the background. On the palate, an ample body of ripe peach tails off to firm mineral notes and lime, with pronounced saltiness on the finish. Very fresh with gentle acid, persistent but not angular.  Seductive, yet nervy, this wine is capricious changing character midstream from indulgent and rhapsodic to concise and clinical. Air’s All I need does pretty and clinical really well. This wine sees no oak or malolactic fermentation.  92 pts.

Rosé of Sangiovese Ishi Pishi Ranch Humboldt County 2017  $20

A light salmon color, the delicate aromas of raspberry, orange rind, and mint with a stony mineral background are irresistible. A dry Rosé, nicely etched with a subtle granular mouthfeel, it shows good intensity and some richness up front, then becomes very focused on raspberry fruit on the finish with a flinty edge. Crisp and lively, this is summery, carefree but rousing and provocative like Bebel Gilberto’s Aganju. 89 pts.

Gewurztraminer Ishi Pishi Ranch Humboldt County 13.4% Alc.  $22

Enticing aromas of pear and a bit of lychee meld with lime. This is a dry Gewurztraminer with a lovely, subtle oiliness on the palate. Soft, silky and comforting it shows some characteristic bitterness on the finish. Not a leaper, this wine is calm and endearing but with intimations of something more atmospheric in the top notes captured by the exquisite phrasing in Eva Cassidy’s version of Somewhere Over the Rainbow. 90 pts.

Pinot Noir Humboldt County 2015 12.9% Alc.  $31

Bright candied cherry, lovely cinnamon and clove spice notes, with mushroom and an oak halo lurking on the horizon. Very elegant on the palate, light, yet mouth coating, seamless, with subtle herbaceous overtones giving way to cranberry and orange zest on the finish. The tannins are so fine they announce their presence only while departing, the acidity refreshing but never exposed. Gracious and soothing like Jon Hassell and Ry Cooder’s Sensuendo. 92 pts.

Reviews based on industry samples

Wine Blog Daily Monday 5/21/18


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

pexels-photo-943700Margaret Rand reports on investor interest in Port.

1 Wine Dude takes down Naked Wines for their demonstrably false claims about wine criticism.

The Wine Gourd distinguishes between guesses, predictions, and forecasts in the wine industry.

Around the World in 80 Harvests profiles the Loire Valley.

Bob on Sonoma tells true stories from the tasting room.

Cindy Rynning defines frequently used words found in tasting notes.

My Wine Pal has the low down on British Columbia’s 2017 Vintage.

Winery Visits and Travel Posts

Elizabeth Smith visits Greenwood Ridge Vineyards in Anderson Valley.

wineOrl tastes several Carricante-based wines from the eastern and southern slopes of Mt. Etna at  the trade show,  Contrada dell’Etna

Vino Sphere visits Lambert Bridge in the Dry Creek region of Sonoma.

Around the World in 80 Harvests visits L’And Vineyards, Alentejo, Portugal

Alan Tardi visits Le Printemps des Champagnes, the 5 day trade event held in Champagne.

Selected Reviews:

Jamie Goode reviews the Hermit Ram Pinot Noir Whole Bunch 2017 North Canterbury, New Zealand

Fredric Koeppel reviews Stag’s Leap Wine Cellars “Karia” Chardonnay 2012, Napa Valley

Issac Baker profiles the wines of Alsace.

Wine Travel Eats profiles Côtes de Bordeaux and links to several posts covering these relatively inexpensive Bordeaux wines.

Red Wine Please reviews the 2017 Domaine de Bila-Haut Les Vignes de Bila-Haut Pays d’Oc Rosé from Chapoutier.

JVB Uncorked reviews  the Withers Winery 2015 Peters Vineyard Pinot Noir from Sonoma Coast.

Susannah Gold reviews the Tenuta Fontana Campania Falanghina Civico 2 2017 and compares it to the wines of Falanghina del Sannio DOP

Tom Lee reviews the 2010 Dehlinger Chardonnay from Russian River.

Talk a Vino continues their series on the wines of Southwest France.


swampedI am buried in term papers to grade this week so posting will be light. But I will register a thought for the day:


I Don’t Care About The Royal Wedding!


Here in the U.S. we are a democracy. We should be laughing at such events, not oogling them.

But on second thought, perhaps my premise is false.

Wine Blog Daily Friday 5/18/18


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

mosel-region-moselle-valley-germanyJulien Miquel explores the styles, aromas and stories of Riesling, an educational post.

The Wine Curmudgeon exposes the flaws in premiumization, the trend toward charging higher prices for wine.

The Academic Wino reports on a study of grapevine shoot chips as an oak substitute.

Tim Atkin reports on industry consolidation in UK supermarkets and its effect on wine quality.

John Fodera chats with Castello Banfi’s General Manager Enrico Viglierchio and supplies tasting notes as well.

Natalie Sellers profiles the most sought-after wines from Napa.

Bob On Sonoma provides some helpful advice on starting a tasting group.

Wine to Five Podcast this week chats about Ice Wine.

Allison Levine reports on Adam Lee’s new project Clarice Wine and their innovative marketing and sales program.

Selected Reviews:

Jamie Goode reviews the Domaine Vincent Carême Vouvray Sec 2015 Loire, France

Fredric Koeppel approves of the Robert Biale Old Kraft Vineyard Zinfandel 2016, from St. Helena.

Lisa Johnston reviews the English sparkler, Kit’s Coty Blanc de Blanc 2013.

Tom Lee reviews the 2008 Cayuse Syrah En Chamberlin Vineyard from one of Washington State’s iconic wineries.

Budget Wine Review: 19 Crimes Cabernet Sauvignon Southeastern Australia 2017



19 crimes cabThis wine is interesting because of the marketing. As Mike Veseth, The Wine Economist, writes:

19 Crimes — outlaw wine! The name comes Australian history (history wine — oh no!). Great Britain once expelled its most hardened criminals to Australia. Any of 19 crimes could get you sentenced to transportation to Australia — banished to the end of the earth. Who wants to buy a criminal wine?

And, each label, of the core brand features a photo of a sad man — the mug shot of a convicted criminal. Who wants to buy a sad man wine? Who wants to associate themselves with a loser?

So how do they sell a million cases of the stuff every year?

Well, the answer is that 19 Crimes seems to have been rather precisely engineered to appeal to an important demographic — millennial men, especially those who see themselves as a bit of a rogue. Outlaws, if you know what I mean, who identify with others who defy convention.  Outlaw wine for self-styled renegades?

Unless, of course, it’s actually good juice.  Let’s have a taste:

Generic berry aromas, in between black and red fruit, a muddled, stewed nose with vanilla highlights.

Rich mocha and obvious, pumped up, sweet vanilla on the palate, a confection made worse with very low acidity and no tannins to speak of. It leaves a very intense first impression like being introduced to a loud mouth bore telling one bad joke after another. Someone invented the term “spoofulated” to refer to wine like this—manufactured, tacky, trying way to hard to please, fake wine.

This is about as “outlaw” as your dentist riding a Harley. One of the 19 crimes is that people make this stuff.

Pair with a ridiculously bad country song like “She Thinks My Tractor’s Sexy”

Score: 80

Price: $9

Alc: 13.5%

Wine Blog Daily Thursday 5/17/18


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

photo-1503436298338-2adbc8a8e006Oregon Wine History Archive does an interview with wine writer Elaine Brown about wine writing and the future of the industry.

Tom Wark executes a much deserved take down of a wine score hater.

Bob on Sonoma has a more reasonable take on wine scores.

Oliver Styles critiques the Naked Wine critique of wine critics. Got that?

Becky Sue Epstein on Palate Press provides an update on English sparkling wine.

Matt Walls asks industry trend setters what the new trends will be.

James Melendez completes his series on food and the wines of Montsant DO

Miquel Hudin reviews the Ah So wine opener and the new Diam wine enclosures.

Winery Visits and Travel Posts:

1 Wine Dude visits Jané’s Acústic Cellar, in the Montsant town of Marçà

Selected Wine Reviews:

The Wine Curmudgeon’s wine of the week is the 2017 Fire Road Sauvignon Blanc from New Zealand.

Fredric Koeppel enjoys the Schloss Johannisberger “Gelblack” Riesling Feinherb 2014, Rheingau

Tom Lee reviews a 2004 Clos Saint Jean Châteauneuf-du-Pape Deus-Ex Machina

Pull That Cork reviews two wines from Andrew Jones, the 2016 Field Recordings Franc from Paso Robles and the 2015 Barter & Trade Cabernet Sauvignon, Washington State

Lisa Johnston reviews Nytimber Classic Cuvee one of England’s best sparkling wines.

My Wine Pal discovers the secrets of Argentinean Malbecs.

Martin Redmond reviews two sparkling wines from Argentina’s Domaine Bousquet.

Cindy Rynning also profiles Domaine Bousquet.

The Drunken Cyclist discovers there is far more to sweet Bordeaux than Sauternes.

Why Not Just Admit It? Flavor is About Pleasure, Not Survival


pleasureMost cuisines can be identified by the characteristic flavors they use to enhance their dishes: Chili peppers, tomato, and lime in Mexico; soy sauce, rice wine, and ginger root in China; tomato, garlic, and olive oil in Southern Italy, etc. As Elizabeth and Paul Rozin point out in their well-known essay ”Culinary Themes and Variations”, (reprinted here) these flavor principles persist through the history of a culture and, in fact, are more persistent than the staples employed in a cuisine, which undergo more change. And people will overcome considerable obstacles to make sure they have access to these flavors. (Think of the resources Europe devoted to the spice trade in the age of exploration.)

Apparently, flavor principles are really important to human beings.

Why are they so important? Why do human beings spice their food? Animals don’t, and the practice doesn’t seem to serve a nutritional function. The Rozins argue that, nevertheless, there must be an adaptationist story to tell. Their hypothesis is that flavor principles provide a kind of identification system for safe food. As omnivores, we have a natural interest in eating a wide variety of foods and we get bored when variety is unavailable. Yet, we live in a world with lots of toxic substances and have a justified fear of eating anything unfamiliar. Thus, we need an efficient way of identifying foods that are safe to eat. That is the role of flavor principles. They mark food with a distinctive and familiar flavor as safe to eat. And whether new foods can be accepted or not depends on whether they are prepared with that familiar flavor principle.

Furthermore, by introducing rich and subtle variations of these flavors and modifying their combination, we overcome the boredom of eating the same thing all the time. Hence the attention paid in Mexican cuisine to the subtle differences in varieties of chili peppers or in Indian and Southeast Asian cuisine to varieties of curry.

This explanation strikes me as wildly implausible. If people are familiar with a food why would they question its safety if it is not spiced. And if they are unfamiliar with a food, why does adding a flavor principle overcome their fear. Surely the spices are not making their food safe. The use of flavor principles to mark food as safe just seems irrational. Furthermore, as the Rozins point out but don’t explain in this essay, some cultures, specifically the Northern tier countries such as Germany, England, and Scandinavia don’t employ flavor principles. Their traditional foods are largely unspiced. Yet there is no evidence they are especially fearful of their food.

There is a much simpler explanation for why we flavor foods—it tastes good. The aesthetics of everyday life are important because the small things we do to make ordinary life enjoyable and interesting—spicing food, decorating homes, celebrating holidays, etc.—make life worth living. In the absence of adornment and decoration, life would be drudgery much of the time. Small things like adding flavor to food thus become enormously important for beings capable of doubting life’s meaning. (There is another adaptive explanation at work. We are hardwired to seek pleasure in our food persistently throughout the day since that encourages us to take in the calories we need to survive.)

What about the northern tier countries that lack flavor principles? Do they not care about everyday aesthetics? The simple explanation is that most spices were historically unavailable to them—they do not readily grow in cold climates. Thus, northern cultures focused their aesthetics, not on flavor principles, but on the various textures and ways of presenting animal fats. The Germans especially are adept at conspiring to get as many types of animal fats on the plate as possible.

What I find interesting about the Rozins’ explanation is that they seem to ignore the obvious explanation—that the persistence of pleasure is fundamental to everyday life.

Might there be some residual Calvinism loose among food anthropologists?

Wine Blog Daily Wednesday 5/16/18


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

valdobiadenneAlfonso Cevola, On the Wine Trail in Italy, profiles Valdobbiadene: The Spiritual Center of Italy’s Wine World.

Dr. Vino looks at Sotheby’s wine auction market.

The Wine Economist discusses the market potential of Languedoc, Roussillan, and the Loire Valley

Allison Levine profiles several women winemakers participating in a panel discussion “The Future is Female: The Next Generation of American Wine.”

Julien Miquel lists the top 200 famous  wine names in Napa.

Jamie Goode has photos and a video of Pinhão station and its famous tiles in Pinhão Portugal.

The Wine Curmudgeon covers Ice tea wine, wine delivery apps, and a screwcap made of cork.

Selected Reviews:

The Wine Doctor posts Part 2 of his survey of Bordeaux 2017.

The Wine Daily profiles McGuigan Wines The Plan, a bestselling Aussie wine about to enter the U.S. market.

Reverse Wine Snob reviews Locations E, the Spanish sourced blend from Dave Phinney.

Talk a Vino covers the Southwest of France an ancient wine region and the place from which the French Paradox was launched.

JVB Uncorked reviews the Lucas & Lewellen 2017 Rosé of Pinot Noir, Santa Barbara County, CA

Tom Lee reviews the 2009 Carlisle Zinfandel Martinelli Road Vineyard

Vino Sphere reviews Bookcliff Vineyards 2015 Malbec, Grand Valley, Colorado, one of Colorado’s top wineries.

My Wine Tribe profiles Stags’ Leap’s winemaker Christophe Paubert.

Aaron Nix-Gomez reviews the 2015 Domaine Paul Jaboulet Aine, Domaine de Thalabert, Crozes-Hermitage

L.M. Archer reviews a Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, and Brut Nature Rosé from Beauregard Vineyards from Central Coast’s Ben Lomond Mountain AVA