Recent Articles

Wine's Velvet Rope - 11 California Winery Mailing Lists to Sign Up For

I am often asked which wineries mailing lists I should sign up for.  Before I answer that question, let’s back up a bit.  What are mailing lists?  They are different than wine clubs.  A mailing list is an offering from a winery to buy their wines.  Many wineries offer their wines to allow a consumer to buy directly from the winery.  Typically, the prices are not any lower than one would find at retail and at times, they are even priced a bit higher.  For the wineries, it’s a great deal as they can avoid the middleman and capture more profits from the sale of a bottle of wine.  But, why would a consumer want to do this?

Which California Cabernet Sauvignons Deserve "First Growth" Status?

In 1855, the Exposition Universelle was held in Paris to showcase all that was good in France.  Emperor Napoleon III requested the leading Bordeaux merchants to rank the best wines.  The top wines were rated as First Growths.  Over the years, many people in the rest of the world have discussed what wines from their country would be First Growths.  I am often asked what I think the First Growths of California are.  It is an interesting conversation with lots of room for debate.

John Concannon of Concannon Vineyard - the IntoWine interview

 

John Concannon is the Fourth Generation Vintner at Concannon Vineyard, now celebrating over 130 years as America’s oldest, ongoing winery under the same family label and stewardship. Founded in 1883, Concannon is home of the Concannon Cabernet Clones 7, 8 and 11 which resulted from the highly successful, collaborative work in 1965 between Jim Concannon and UC Davis in preparing for heat treatment cuttings from a single vine propagated from Cabernet Sauvignon that John’s great-grandfather imported from Château Margaux in 1893.The Concannon Clones played a key role in helping California Cabernet achieve international recognition, and currently, an estimated 80% of California Cabernet Sauvignon is planted to the Concannon Clones. The winery is also home of “America’s First Petite Sirah” among other significant contributions, which John has been intensively researching over the past several years. A tireless advocate of environmental stewardship and historic preservation within the vineyard and the Livermore Valley, some of John’s most energetic endeavors have been focused upon revitalizing the landmark winery while preserving its history and the estate’s historic sense of place.

Beaujolais Nouveau - The Wine List - November 2014

There is a wine phenomenon every November when the cry goes out:  Beaujolais Nouveau est Arrive!  For more information about this phenomenon, go here.   

Beaujolais Nouveau is a popular wine to serve at Thanksgiving for a few reasons.  First, they are prominently displayed on the store shelves at the same time people are shopping for their Thanksgiving groceries, 2) they are affordable wines that should cost less than $15 per bottle and can often be found for under $10, and 3) they match surprisingly well with Thanksgiving Turkey, cranberries and stuffing. 

I find most Beaujolai Nouveau falls in one of two groups.  They are either fun wines or wines that I wouldn’t drink.  A good Beaujolais Nouveau will have lots of cherry fruit, perhaps a bit of banana aromas and should be smooth and easy to drink.  Here are ten in the first group; wines that are fun, taste good and provide value.  There are others out there as well, but these are go-to wines for me.  One bit of caution, don’t buy too many.  These should be consumed by the end of the year.  The best thing about them is their freshness.

Crazy Superstitions and Rituals of Winemakers - Part I

It seems most everyone has some kind of superstition: a lucky hat, the old stand-by the rabbit’s foot, a certain ritual before a specific event. We humans are curious creatures of habit and redundancy. Winemakers too have superstitions they employ during harvest to planting to verasion. So who in the U.S. is doing what, and when, and more importantly why? We do not judge, for these intrepid winemakers are doing great work so we can have great juice.

Top 10 California Syrahs - The Wine List - October 2014

Syrah is a grape that most wine merchants will tell you is a difficult sell.  It seems it’s always going to be the next big thing, but never is.  For consumers, that’s a good thing.  A great Syrah usually will cost far less than a comparable quality Cabernet or Pinot Noir.  For my money, I tend to buy more Syrah than any other grape.  A disclaimer here – I liked it so much, I started to make it. 

In any event, as the temperatures start to drop, fall is great time for a hearty red with dinner or next to a warming fire.  Syrah is a grape that really changes its personality depending on where it is grown.  Cooler climate Syrahs can be quite different from warmer climate ones.  California has plenty of each.  While I love many of the cooler climate Syrahs, most of the ones listed below are warmer climate Syrahs.  In my opinion, that is where the very best of Syrahs from California can be found.

Sonoma’s Celebrity Wineries: Of Emmy’s, Grammy’s and Writer’s Block

It's nice to be a celebrity - people treat you well, you get what you want, you own nice things, and you drink expensive wines. Beyond that you usually have the money to do most anything you would like, say, starting a winery for instance, so you can drink your own expensive wines. Though we have a handful of celebrity-wineries here in Santa Barbara, it is Sonoma that seems to have a lock on celebrities-turned-vignerons. A visit to the bewitching wine country of Sonoma shows the diversity of celebrity styles and their wineries, offering diverse experiences from theatrical to tranquil amid the still rural setting of the Sonoma countryside.

Chianti for Summer - The Wine List - September 2014

Mention Chianti to some people and the last thing they think of is a great quality wine.  They remember the cheap wines in college that came in the straw basket that was better as a candle holder than a wine.  Or worse, that Hannibal Lecter drank Chianti with a man’s liver and fava beans.  There are, however, some really great Chianti’s.  For a brief synopsis of Chianti, here is the first article I ever wrote for IntoWine. 

The Onset of Southern Oregon

There is a saying that when people think of Oregon, they think of the three “Ps” - Portland, Precipitation and Pinot. Yes, there is rain; yes, Portland is a the largest city in the state, and yes the Willamette Valley, south of Portland, is known for Pinot Noir. But Oregon, specifically Southern Oregon, also excels at under-the-radar grape varieties and has an advantage that no other wine region could ever possess – a climate scientist who knows the best possible sites to plant the right varieties on the right soil under the right conditions.

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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