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Steve Heimoff| Wine Blog

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Tuesday Twaddle: Jon Bonné, Wine Scams, and Can Napa’s Neighbor Steal Their Business?

 Mark As Read    

  For some time now, the San Francisco Chronicle—Northern California’s largest newspaper, and a force in its wine industry for decades—has been cutting back on wine reporting. The paper used to have a standalone wine section. They did away with that some years ago, and merged it into a weekly wine and food section. Then […]

Steve Heimoff| Wine Blog 9 hours, 22 min ago

Could Chardonnay’s long stranglehold as our top wine be ending?

 Mark As Read    

  I was surprised to read that Sauvignon Blanc “is Britain’s favorite wine,” white or red, in the Daily Mail. It has “pipped Chardonnay to number one,” the story says. (That “pipped” was a new one on me. I assumed it meant “surpassed,” so I looked it up on Google, with an additional search qualifier […]

San Francisco and Oakland: Not-so kissing cousins

 Mark As Read    

  I’ve spent a good part of the last three days in San Francisco on winetasting missions, a lot even for me, although I live just 3 subway stops away from Embarcadero Station and Ferry Plaza. I’ve been in Oakland now for 28 years: nearly ten years before that in San Francisco. So you’ll have […]

The history of wine reviewing

 Mark As Read    

  Did my annual wine class last night for the U.C. Berkeley Haas School of Business’s Wine Club. It’s always so cool to go there, with the big banners celebrating their Nobel Prize winners, and those super-smart students who, one imagines, might be running the show someday. One of the things they wanted to know […]

Networking in San Francisco’s wine and food scene

 Mark As Read    

  I used to go to every P.R. event I was invited to—which was a lot—when I started out as a wine writer. With Wine Spectator cred, I was on all the A lists in San Francisco. When I moved over to Wine Enthusiast as chief California critic—a big step up in power—the invitations only […]

Fountaingrove joins the AVA party

 Mark As Read    

  Last July, I wrote that the Fountaingrove District AVA was probably coming. Now, it’s here. TTB first published the Notice of rulemaking only last June, which means the whole process took less than a year. That’s pretty good! Evidently there was no disputation, which is rare for a new appellation. Fountaingrove now becomes Sonoma […]

Some non-wine books that influenced me

 Mark As Read    

  Forbes’ Cathy Huyghe, who is turning into one of the most interesting wine writers I know of, wrote late last week about the best non-wine books for wine communicators to read. This is a novel approach; we established wine writers often advise younger ones to read classic wine writers like Harry Waugh, Hugh Johnson […]

Aging Cabernet Sauvignon

 Mark As Read    

  When I was a wine critic, I used to say that nobody really knows how these opulent Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignons will age, because the world had never seen wines quite like them (in ripeness, in fruity phenolic richness, in tannic quality, in alcohol level, in softness), and so there was no evidence upon […]

Thursday throwaway: Restaurant tipping, and Alexander Valley Cab

 Mark As Read    

  When the restaurant reviewer for the San Francisco Chronicle—arguably the most important reviewer in California, and one of the most important in the whole country—comes out and says it’s time to end the practice of tipping, people should listen. That’s exactly what Michael Bauer did yesterday. “Increasingly, it’s becoming apparent that it’s...

Napa’s traffic crisis: Alternate touring days?

 Mark As Read    

  You know that old saying about how you can’t put the toothpaste back into the tube? That was my feeling when I read this article, from Monday’s Napa Register, on a debate taking place in Napa Valley. And, no, it’s not about wine. The topic is nothing new: Growth versus preservation. In its latest […]

Wine needs a message for the iGeneration

 Mark As Read    

  The wine industry is always worried about something, especially here in California. (Maybe it's because we live in earthquake country!) The theme is almost always some version of “The sky is falling.” Back in the 1990s it was phylloxera: it was going to wipe out everything. Didn’t happen; the wine industry not only survived […]

Wine writing when you can’t taste or smell?

 Mark As Read    

  Lovely, inspiring article on the BBC’s website about about Andrew Hedley, a British-born New Zealand winemaker (Framingham Wines) who developed throat cancer and had to have his larynx removed, which had a devastating effect on his ability to smell and taste. “Anything that goes into my nose or mouth now goes straight to my […]

Throwaway Thursday: Notes from the road

 Mark As Read    

  Spent part of yesterday blending again with Marcia Monahan, the winemaker at Matanzas Creek. This time, it was putting together the winery’s flagship “Journey” Sauvignon Blanc. This would be a tedious exercise, if one didn’t enjoy it so much, which I certainly do. It makes it all the more pleasant in that Marcia and […]

Could Sauvignon Blanc be entering a golden era?

 Mark As Read    

  I’m not surprised that Sauvignon Blanc and Pinot Noir are “on the rise” in U.S. sales, as reported in Lewis Perdue’s Wine Industry Insight. We all know Pinot Noir is hot, hot, hot. People also talk about the popularity of red wine blends but I have my doubts about their staying power. There have […]

Where do Master Sommeliers actually work?

 Mark As Read    

  A few days ago, the one and only Hosemaster of Wine caused a dustup in the world of sommeliers with his blog post, “The six people you want to avoid in the wine business.” One of his “six people to avoid” was “the Master Sommelier Working for a Corporation.” It was a good spoof […]

How nature and fashion influence alcohol levels and the three-tiered system

 Mark As Read    

  In 1999 the futurist Stewart Brand, whose Whole Earth Catalog galavanized a generation of environmentalists and alternative lifestylists, published "The Clock of the Long Now,” in which he introduced the notion of “pace” into the analysis of history. Brand came up with six “layers” of human existence;   each layer proceeds at a differen...

Tastemakers are ready for a return to classicism

 Mark As Read    

  You can’t really blame the famous Napa Valley wineries that came of age in the 1970s for running out of steam a little bit by now. The problem, to the extent there is one and I think there obviously has been, is that American wine writers and sommeliers (a group included in the larger […]

Kumbaya!

 Mark As Read    

  I love this article by Karen MacNeil in the latest issue of The Tasting Panel on “Somms and Salespeople.” I don’t think I would particularly have cared about the topic when I was a wine critic, but now that I work for Jackson Family Wines and have hung out with sales people (I’m what […]

“Wine is sold, not bought”

 Mark As Read    

  That’s the word from Michael Brill, who started up Crushpad years ago. He was commenting on my blog post from yesterday, and when I read those words my brain fired on all cylinders because the phrase is not only pithy, it’s true, and made me think. What does it mean, “Wine is sold, not […]

The next great wine critic: Human, or machine?

 Mark As Read    

  No one, not even an omnivorous reader like myself, can possibly see everything that’s published in the world of wine, so it was that I missed “the news [that] traveled around the Internet so quickly it was seemingly everywhere,” in the words of Cyril Penn’s Wine Business Monthly. (Oh, well, better late than never.) […]

Monday Meanderings: the Central Valley, Siduri, rainless January and more good news about red wine

 Mark As Read    

  One of the themes making the rounds at the recent Unified Wine & Grape Symposium was how poorly the Central Valley winegrape industry is faring. You heard talk of it everywhere. As the Napa Valley Register reported, “In the San Joaquin Valley…bulk imports, costs, growing labor issues, water shortages and especially competition from beer ...

A Thursday afternoon Pinot Noir tasting

 Mark As Read    

  I did a small tasting session yesterday up at Jackson Family Wines for some folks and, as it was highly informative, I thought I’d share some of the findings here. All the wines were 2012 Pinot Noirs. Here was the lineup: Foxen Fe Ciega Siduri Clos Pepe Domaine de la Côte, Bloom’s Field Foxen […]

Stories, stories, stories at Unified

 Mark As Read    

  Great time yesterday moderating my panel at the Unified Wine & Grape Symposium on “Content is King: How to Craft and Feature Stories that Stand Out.” We had a good-sized crowd—it filled the better part of a ballroom—which tells me that people really have a desire to master this storytelling thing. For my part, […]

The Hill grape fraud case does NOT taint Napa Valley!

 Mark As Read    

  Last week’s very long (3,700 word) article in the New York Times about the Jeff Hill case has stirred up tension in Napa Valley, where some people think the author, Vindu Goel, went over the top in painting Napa as a place where wine quality is “built on quicksand.” (Some of you might not […]

Talking to an audience with different levels of wine knowledge

 Mark As Read    

  That was part of my challenge last week at a wine dinner I hosted, for Jackson Family Wines, at Ling & Louie’s, a fine Asian-fusion bistro in Scottsdale, Arizona. Seasoned speakers know it’s helpful to have advance knowledge of who your audience is. (Actually, it’s “whom” your audience is, but that sounds so precious.) […]

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 […]

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