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The Top 25 Odd-Ball Wines of California

We all know the standard wine varieties: Cabernet Sauvignon, Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, and Sauvignon Blanc, but there are an astounding 10,000 grape varieties here on Planet Earth. The majority of California vineyard acreage is planted to just eight grape varietals and less than 10 percent is home to grapes few people care about, and even fewer understand, let alone can pronounce. But an accomplished assemblage of odd-ball varietals and their winemaker shepherds champion these grapes. These winemakers are the first and only line of defense against the abyss of sameness. Here in alphabetical order are just 25 (there are more) of the most odd-ball grapes turned into wine in the Golden State, followed by their producer, and location.

Chardonnay for Summer - The Wine List - August 2014

Chardonnay is one of the most popular white grapes in the world.  A lot of people dismiss the grape as producing wines that are over oaked, too buttery, or boring, yet it remains one of the most planted grapes in California and is grown throughout the world.  The truth is, when done right, it can achieve a greatness that few varietals can reach.  The trick is finding those wines worth drinking in the mass of wines on the store shelves.  Of course, the first step is determining what one likes.  Different people have different preferences.  In addition, the circumstances matter.  Is the wine intended for a dinner or to be drunk on the back patio as a cocktail?  Or perhaps, is it to be cellared for a decade in the hopes that patience will be rewarded.  Even the buttery, oaky styles of Chardonnay can be delicious under the right circumstances.  With summer in full tilt, here is a list of some of my favorite Chardonnays over the last year or so.

Light Red Wines for Summer - The Wine List - June 2014

With the start of summer, there is a desire for red wines that are not heavy, but refreshing and work with BBQ and other summer foods.  At the same time, summer often means parties and larger

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The IntoWine.com 2nd Annual “Top 100 Most Influential People in the U.S. Wine Industry" – 2013

Our 2013 iteration of this list is intended as a source of education and discussion. The making of this list is never an easy process. Who are the most influential wine people in the United States, and how exactly do you define ‘influential?’ Does influential mean people who move markets, impact consumers, inspire winemakers, form policy, and create debate? Yes. Though some decry the consolidation of the wine industry (and that is an issue worth considering) we are not trying to suggest who is “good” or “bad” within America’s wine industry. We merely define the Top 100 people, from winemakers to law makers, bankers to bloggers, and sommeliers to celebrities who influence wine; how it is made, marketed, perceived, sold, shipped, purchased, shared and consumed. As was true in 2012, we sought help to assemble this list people from a diverse group of people and we are grateful for their input. And we chose to release it today, January 29th, as it was on this day in 1919 when the pathetic policy of Prohibition was ratified; the effects of this lunatic legislation still evident in our country’s inability to ship and sell wine across state lines. We honor winemakers, wine drinkers and wine lovers of every conceivable demographic. Use this list, comment on it, share it with everyone, learn from it, and continue your joy of being IntoWine.  

Top 50 California Cabernet Sauvignons to Try Before You Quit Drinking (a non-dump bucket list if you will!)

In putting together a list of the top California Cabernets, there is sure to be some disagreement.  I tried to include those wines that have a track record, the wineries still making great wines, those that seemed to have the commitment for the future and some personal favorites.  I am sure I left some out.

1. Shafer Vineyards Cabernet Sauvignon Hillside Select – It’s always hard to name the number one wine.  But this has a track record that’s very long.  Even in less than stellar vintages, it is an outstanding wine.  They just don’t seem to make a dud.  My only complaint is the price at over $200 a bottle.  But, in comparison to other Napa Cabs or elsewhere in the world, this is a fair price. 

Top 75 California Wines to Try Before You Quit Drinking (a non-dump bucket list if you will!)

In my last article, I listed the Top 75 French Wines to Try Before You Quit Drinking.  In this article I look at the “non-dump bucket” list for wines from California.  This proved to be a different task.  First, very few wineries have a long track record of making great wine.  Secondly, while California is diverse, it does not have the diversity of climates and terroir and grape varietals of France.  Still, it does produce some of the best wines in the world and any wine lover should make it a point to try as many of them as they can.  Here is my list:

1. Shafer Hillside Select Cabernet Sauvignon – It’s hard to pick the first wine.  This one is a great wine in every vintage and has been for a long time.  Expensive but still possible to afford and made in large enough quantities to be found in grocery stores.  Every lover of Cabernet should try this once.

Top 75 French Wines to Try Before You Quit Drinking (a non-dump bucket list if you will!)

If you are a wine lover, wine connoisseur, wine aficionado or even if you just like to have a couple of glasses on a Friday night, it soon becomes obvious that there are some wines that are held in a higher esteem in the wine world.  Sometimes, it is because these wines are very rare.  Other times, it’s because the wine has a place in history.   Sometimes it’s because the wine is just that good.  Here is a list of 75 wines from France that make up that category.  A few caveats.  I have not tried every wine on this list.  Some I have and others I hope to.  Many of these wines are rare and hard to find.  That doesn’t mean they shouldn’t be on the list.  After all, if the opportunity presents itself, go for it. 

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The Top 25 Odd-Ball Wines of California

We all know the standard wine varieties: Cabernet Sauvignon, Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, and Sauvignon Blanc, but there are an astounding 10,000 grape varieties here on Planet Earth. The majority of California vineyard acreage is planted to just eight grape varietals and less than 10 percent is home to grapes few people care about, and even fewer understand, let alone can pronounce. But an accomplished assemblage of odd-ball varietals and their winemaker shepherds champion these grapes. These winemakers are the first and only line of defense against the abyss of sameness. Here in alphabetical order are just 25 (there are more) of the most odd-ball grapes turned into wine in the Golden State, followed by their producer, and location.

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Chardonnay for Summer - The Wine List - August 2014

Chardonnay is one of the most popular white grapes in the world.  A lot of people dismiss the grape as producing wines that are over oaked, too buttery, or boring, yet it remains one of the most planted grapes in California and is grown throughout the world.  The truth is, when done right, it can achieve a greatness that few varietals can reach.  The trick is finding those wines worth drinking in the mass of wines on the store shelves.  Of course, the first step is determining what one likes.  Different people have different preferences.  In addition, the circumstances matter.  Is the wine intended for a dinner or to be drunk on the back patio as a cocktail?  Or perhaps, is it to be cellared for a decade in the hopes that patience will be rewarded.  Even the buttery, oaky styles of Chardonnay can be delicious under the right circumstances.  With summer in full tilt, here is a list of some of my favorite Chardonnays over the last year or so.