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Steve Heimoff| Wine Blog

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A return to natural simplicity, in all things

 Mark As Read    

  If there’s a new no-makeup, or low makeup, look for women—and the Wall Street Journal says there is–then I’m a fan. I never did like that Tammy Faye Bakker over-the-top clown face, although I did like Tammy Faye herself, who seemed to be a big-hearted, fair-minded, loving woman who never hesitated to part company […]

SVB study: Millennials haven’t made “a dent” in fine wine sales

 Mark As Read    

  The new Silicon Valley Bank “State of the Wine Industry 2015” report is 56 pages long. I read through every one of them, and by far the most interesting statement was this: “Millennials have yet to make a dent in the fine wine business. So why the difference between the media reports and reality?” […]

Learning from somms

 Mark As Read    

  Great time yesterday tasting wine over lunch at a fabulous restaurant, The Loft, at the Montage Resort in Laguna Beach. “Fancy-schmancy,” my grandma Rose would have called it. Chef Casey Overton’s food rocked; the pairings were excellent. Our guests were about a dozen local somms and retailers. The hours flew by and the conversation […...

Are single-vineyard wines better than blends?

 Mark As Read    

  Of the five wines I gave perfect scores of 100 points to during my years as a wine critic, two were blends: Cardinale 2006 and Verite 2007 La Muse. (Yes, both were Jackson Family Wines, which is one of the reasons I love working here.) If I’d thought, by the time I reviewed them, […]

On the art of blending

 Mark As Read    

  The new book The Winemaker’s Hand, which contains interviews of winemakers, is a testament to the art of blending. “Blending is very intuitive…it’s neither linear nor logical,” Cathy Corison tells author Natalie Berkowitz, adding, “A plus B doesn’t equal A plus B.” Her fellow Napan, Bill Dyer, refers to the “hunches and perceptions” involved...

Good times for DTC

 Mark As Read    

  Ever since I’ve been a wine writer—the 1980s—direct-to-consumer sales has been the Holy Grail of wineries. Why pay a middleman a cut of the profits when you can make 100% of every dollar by selling direct? In the 1990s and early 2000s, though, DTC was as elusive as unicorns. Some wineries did a lot […]

Secrets from the cellar

 Mark As Read    

  As an old karate hound, I stay in touch with my senseis. One of them recently sent me an article about a very great aikido sensei who refuses to demonstrate any technique more than once, “because if I do a technique twice, it will be stolen!” For a martial arts student, that’s pretty funny; […]

Einstein, wine quality and a great San Francisco day

 Mark As Read    

  After 1918, when the General Theory of Relativity made headlines all over the world, and Albert Einstein was the most famous scientist in history, the theory became the basis, in the popular mind, for a singular misconception. “The phrase ‘everything is relative’ became very popular. It was thought to mean that nothing is better […]

Santa Barbara County Pinot Noir, and the loss of a pioneer, Daniel J. Gainey

 Mark As Read    

  Santa Barbara County has been much on my mind lately. Last month, we at Jackson Family Wines did our “Sand & Fog” event in L.A. that focused on the Pinot Noirs of the Santa Maria Valley. I followed that up with a small private tasting of additional Santa Maria Pinots. Next week, I’ll do […]

Premox: a consideration

 Mark As Read    

  Alan R. Balik has a good summary of premox in his column in the Napa Valley Register. Premox, or premature oxidation, refers to a wine that should age well, but instead turns brown and “off” within just years of its release. The issue of premox has obsessed certain collectors, writers and winemakers for a […]

Bob Cabral’s next step

 Mark As Read    

  I am so pleased that Bob Cabral has landed a job that according to his lights will be all that he is looking for. I’ve known Bob for a long time, since my days as California editor of Wine Enthusiast. It was under that guise that Bob always arranged for me to get tasting […]

Crowd-based reviews? A consideration

 Mark As Read    

  I’m not certain I agree that, in large, multi-judge competitions, “the best wines tend to rise to the top,” as Andy Perdue says in his column in Pacific NW Magazine says. Andy’s contention is based on the fact that a big competition represents “a consensus of the judges who are tasting the wines” and, […]

An upcoming retrospective, and an oldtime SF restaurant

 Mark As Read    

  Mostly the advantages of having been around the wine industry for a long time outweigh the disadvantages. And this is almost always a reflection of the wonderful personal relationships I’ve formed with winemakers over the years. Two cases in point. I’m putting together a little in-house tasting of Santa Rita Hills Pinot Noirs at […]

The real message of social media may be: We are all artists

 Mark As Read    

  Next week I moderate a panel on content creation at the Unified Wine & Grape Symposium. These are some of the things I’m thinking about in anticipation. This is connected to a post I wrote last month, on “Twelve tips for better content creation.” The first two things I'm thinking about concern “the story” […]

No such thing as the “best” wine

 Mark As Read    

  It’s interesting how different media outlets described the wines that were recently stolen from the French Laundry. The San Francisco Chronicle’s headline reads “Wine thief with nose for best reaps huge haul from French Laundry.” Calling the Domaine de la Romanée Conti and Screaming Eagle the “best” grants the highest esteem to these wines, ...

A New Year’s Day reflection

 Mark As Read    

  Happy new year, each and everyone! We’ve been through a lot over the years, you and I—from my rather clumsy but sincere and hopeful introductory post (dated May 15, 2008, and reproduced here) through the awful years of the Great Recession that impacted so many of us, right through to my transition in 2014 […]

“Social media” is an oxymoron that’s here to stay

 Mark As Read    

  Three articles in yesterday’s S.F. Chronicle caught my attention for the suggestions they make about how social media is, and is not, changing our lives. (I was finally able to read after days of not being able to, due to the intense flu I had. It was an effort just to focus my eyeballs.) […]

The flu!

 Mark As Read    

  From the Stygian depths of the flu I write. I caught it, I think, from my cousins, who caught it from East Coast visitors. Thus we are all linked in a sort of viral community. It is truly an awful disease. On Friday and Saturday I thought I would escape only with a bad […]

No Title

 Mark As Read    

  To each restaurant there is a season. Alas, some of San Francisco’s old guard went the way of the dodo in 2014. As Paolo Lucchesi reports in his article on the biggest closures of the year in the S.F. Chronicle, Fleur de Lys and Fifth Floor shut their doors. They were perhaps the best-known […]

Drunk driving, Sonoma vineyards and rain, rain, rain!

 Mark As Read    

  The holiday season is an apt time to remember, and remind people, that drinking and driving is a really bad mix. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration says that one-third of the 32,719 people who died in traffic accidents in the U.S. in 2013 were involved in drunk driving crashes, although the number has […]

Renewed U.S.-Cuba ties good news for CA wine

 Mark As Read    

  The first thing I thought, when I heard that the U.S. is about to normalize diplomatic relations with Cuba, was, “Oh, man, that's really good news for California wine.” Before the brouhahas of the early 1960s, Cuba was a favorite tropical destination for American vacationers, especially those along the East Coast. Today, people go […]...

Zinfandel poised for growth

 Mark As Read    

  Some wine varieties in California are permanently popular with the population. Cabernet Sauvignon and Chardonnay, for example. In now, in last year, and they’ll be in next year. Then there are varieties that seem to come and go in cycles, and of them none more so than Zinfandel. It’s had more ins and outs […]

Wine as “the good life”? The Wall Street Journal says so!

 Mark As Read    

  I’ve been watching the case of the New York Times for many years, to see what would be the fate of the Gray Lady. At the height of the Great Recession, the paper was said to be perilously close to going under, the result of (a) declining readership because younger people were not reading […]

When is a review not a review?

 Mark As Read    

  The San Francisco Chronicle’s restaurant reviewer, Michael Bauer, really stirred up a dust storm with this post, “DNR: Three restaurants I’m not reviewing,” on his blog. First, let me say that I’m a Bauer fan. If I’m checking out a restaurant in the Bay Area, I first want to know what Michael said about […]

Tuesday Twaddle: “Offloading” brands, and the old spinning cone

 Mark As Read    

  When is it time for a winery to “offload” underperforming brands? It happens. You’ve had a line, or SKU, in the market for years, but for some reason, it’s never gained traction. So the hard decision must be faced: Is it time to pull the plug on Grandma? This is the situation Treasury Wine […]

Twelve Tips for Better Content Creation

 Mark As Read    

  I recently came across this statistic in an infographic on content marketing: “64% of B2B content marketers say their biggest challenge is producing enough content.” (B2B means business-to-business.) I would suspect that “producing enough content” also is the biggest challenge for B2C (business-to-consumer) content marketers. Cranking out co...

On a rainy day, a trip down Memory Lane

 Mark As Read    

  We’ve been shut in our homes for the last 24 hours due to this torrential rainstorm, so I’m feeling a bit stir crazy, which is making me nostalgic—not a bad way to feel when the weather is grey and depressing, and memories are brighter than reality. I began keeping a Tasting Diary on February […]

Who’s growing fast, and who’s not, according to the latest survey

 Mark As Read    

  Silicon Valley Bank’s annual industry survey has been summarized by Lewis Perdue’s Wine Industry Insight, and while I don’t have a link (it came late yesterday via email), I’d like to make it the focus of today’s post. The most interesting part is SVB’s “predicted sales and case growth by region.” I did manage […]

How about some fruit juice with that Chardonnay?

 Mark As Read    

  It must drive some winemakers crazy to hear that two-thirds of younger wine drinkers (ages 25 to 40) in America are mixing their wine with fruit juice, that nearly half are making club soda-based “cocktails” with wine, and 46% actually add ice to their vino! Those are some of the findings from a new […]

My thoughts on the S.F. Chronicle’s Top 100 Wines of 2014

 Mark As Read    

  Of the San Francisco Chronicle’s Top 100 Wines of 2014, 9 of the 12 Chardonnays have alcohol below 14% 13 of 16 Other Whites have alcohol below 14% 8 of 9 Sparkling Wine, Rose and Others have alcohol below 14% 18 of 23 Pinot Noirs have alcohol below 14% Did these wines make the […]

On critics, criticism and bad reviews

 Mark As Read    

  I think it’s perfectly fine for the restaurants and pubs in Dallas to band together and try to stop the Dallas Morning News’ restaurant critic from having access to them. It’s a free country, right? Leslie Brenner, the DMN’s critic, has the right to publicly trash the restos in her column, and they have […]

My favorite wine books

 Mark As Read    

  I gave a talk last night to the Sonoma County Wine Library on “what makes a wine book for the ages.” That’s a rather august topic, and it made me compose a list of the books in my own wine library (which is very substantial) that I have enjoyed a great deal. Here’s the […]

My Pinot Noir event in Los Angeles

 Mark As Read    

  I did my first big event for Jackson Family Wines yesterday, and I think it went pretty well. Despite a downpour, we had a full house. It was on the wines of the Santa Maria Valley, especially Pinot. I didn’t want it to be a JFW thing, so I asked my dear friends Dieter […]

Fourteen rules concerning wine blogging

 Mark As Read    

  I hope you had a great Thanksgiving weekend! We were down in Malibu, where we ate all the traditional foods and washed them down with a bunch of great wine.  My post of Nov 24 elicited 32 comments (not counting the ridiculous spams, which fortunately you don’t have to see!), which is pretty good […]

Happy Thanksgiving!

 Mark As Read    

  I’ll be driving down to Malibu today with my family members, as we’ve done every Thanksgiving for nearly 30 years. We go to cousin Ellen’s house, on Big Rock in the hills above the P.C.H., where about 22 of us will gather for the traditional turkey. This year’s celebration also will be tinged with […]

French attitudes toward Napa Valley, plus comparisons of winegrapes to meat?

 Mark As Read    

  It’s too funny, really. When I first started out in this biz, you couldn’t give Napa Valley wine away to the French. “Mais non!” was their attitude. It was vin de table, merde, Algerian plonk. Some of us knew otherwise, and suspected that the French—so chauvinistic in the belief that no other culture could […]

A tasting of 1974 wines (and one 1944)

 Mark As Read    

  Went to a very interesting tasting yesterday. It was a small private affair, held at the Restaurant at Wente, a chic place tucked into the southern foothills of the Livermore Valley. The subject of the tasting was 1974 Cabernet Sauvignon. Now, anyone familiar with the modern history of wine in California knows that that […]

Do bloggers have an obligation to wineries that wine and dine them?

 Mark As Read    

  When I was a working critic I was very particular about not letting wineries spend money on me. I had the reputation of not going out to lunch or dinner on the winery’s dime. I did it every once in a while, but tried to keep it rare. I also was extremely fussy about […]

California Cabernet Sauvignon: Wines in “crisis”, or just best enjoyed young?

 Mark As Read    

  I’ve wondered for many years if the big, oaky, ripely sweet Napa Cabernets I’ve given high scores to will age or not. In most cases, my suspicion had been “only moderately,” but it was awfully hard to tell, since not even I, as a wine critic, could frequently get my hands on older bottlings—and […]

What does the Galloni purchase of Tanzer mean to wine criticism?

 Mark As Read    

  It is, I suppose, the fault of the historian and logician in me that I’m always looking for the meaning of things. I’ve always thought that all things are connected in some mysterious way, and that certain events have implications, not only for how the future will unfold, but for trying to understand where […]

Here comes (probably sooner rather than later) the Petaluma Gap AVA

 Mark As Read    

  The growers and wineries have been working diligently to get this largish region on the official AVA list, and since they’ve been doing everything right, far as I can tell, it shouldn’t take the multiple years it took for Paso Robles to finally sub-appellate itself. They’re currently getting the paperwork together for the TTB, […]

Real wine-drinking countries don’t need wine critics

 Mark As Read    

  Matt Kramer makes a good case about the difference between “enjoyment” and “assessment” of wine in his Dec. 15 Wine Spectator column—too good a case, for in describing the importance of “context” in wine appreciation, he carves out a huge exception for “truly great wines” in a way that is not entirely consistent with […]

What’s the different between “developing a strategy” for social media, versus just having fun?

 Mark As Read    

  Every social media advice book or article tells wineries to “develop a strategy” but nobody ever explains what a strategy is, or why you need one. So thousands of responsible winery personnel are left scratching their heads wondering if their “strategy” really is a strategy, or just a tactic. Tactics, as we know from […]

Minerality: My thoughts

 Mark As Read    

  I’ve been reading lots about minerality, especially in the pages of the Somm Journal, where they’ve run a couple of articles on it lately. This one in the August-September issue is the poster child for these types of discussions in which very abstruse, hard-to-define issues related to wine are discussed by professionals, with no […]

On those mega “wine rooms” that are so popular out there

 Mark As Read    

  I myself don’t have a “wine room,” as these new mega-cellars are being called. In fact, Mr. Casimano’s “wine room” is bigger than my entire condo! I do rent space at K&L Wine Merchants for some bottles, and I have one of those 120-bottle Eurocaves, but that’s about it. I never did see the […]

Preserving trust in an era of distrust

 Mark As Read    

  Wine critics are insulated from the buying public. They live in a sort of bubble in which popular tastes are shut out, and only their own impressions impinge upon their consciousness. Yes, there’s something solipsistic about being a critic—maybe even narcissistic. But that’s the way it should be, because the critic must remain immune […...

Those Parker scores: Score inflation?

 Mark As Read    

  Quite a lot of buzz in the brouhaha-sphere over all the perfect 100s Parker have been bestowing lately. This time the commentary is from Narsai David, the food and wine critic for our local KCBS radio affiliate in San Francisco, and an old acquaintance. The most common reaction in the commentariat has been to […]

The (sometimes) uneasy relationship between critics and somms

 Mark As Read    

  Like lions and tigers sharing a contested hunting ground, sommeliers and critics circle each other’s turfs, eyeing each other warily across the veldt. Scattered on that field is the game both sides seek: wine consumers. Somms want to sell them wine; critics want to influence their buying decisions. Therein lies a conflict. Though they [̷...

Wine bloggers: Blogging, or slogging?

 Mark As Read    

  Are you a blogger? Have you been at it for a while? Are you running out of steam, not as passionate as you use to be? No, I’m not looking for contestants for the Jerry Springer show, and this is not a Viagra ad. It’s an issue that’s at the heart of soul of […]

That new Bordeaux ad campaign wants it both ways

 Mark As Read    

  There is something fundamentally oxymoronic about the Bordeaux Wine Council’s new advertising and branding campaign, reported on the PRNewswire. On the one hand, it emphasizes “innovation” through the use of taglines such as “There is so much to discover.” This implies something New Worldy about Bordeaux: it is not old and tired, but youthfu...

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