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Steve Heimoff| Wine Blog

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Five Decades of Wine: The Arc of My Career, Part 7: I Go Over to “The Dark Side”

 Mark As Read    

  Years ago, I had a dear friend with a good job. He was the wine columnist for a periodical with considerable influence in Wine Country. One day, he found himself unemployed, because the newspaper he wrote for was downsizing. He took a job doing P.R. for a winery. He was very upset about it. […]

Five Decades of Wine: The Arc of My Career: Part Six: The Post-Enthusiast Years

 Mark As Read    

  Why did I finally quit Wine Enthusiast? Many people have asked me that question. After all, I had one of the top jobs in wine journalism and criticism. I had a good name in the industry, was liked and respected, and continued to enjoy my work. But there were things going on that few […]

Five Decades of Wine: The Arc of My Career Part 5: The Blogging Years

 Mark As Read    

  I’d heard of wine blogs by the mid-2000s, although I can’t say I read them with regularity. Tom Wark’s Fermentation already was famous (and I’d known and respected Tom for a long time), and a few others were up and coming. By 2007, Adam Strum, at Wine Enthusiast, had told us editors he wanted […]

Five Decades of Wine: The Arc of My Career

 Mark As Read    

  Part Four: The Wine Enthusiast Years My career really took off when I joined Wine Enthusiast. No longer just second (or third) fiddle, as I’d been at Wine Spectator, but the California guy. To tell you the truth, though, it was several years before I was allowed to review wine. Back in those days, […]

Capitaltruism: Merging idealism with making money

 Mark As Read    

  There’s a movement afoot in corporate America that doesn’t get enough attention but is gaining traction and could be a game changer. This movement is about inculcating social, environmental and health concerns into the sale of goods and services: call it Capitaltruism, where traditional capitalism meets idealistic altruism. And nowhere is it...

Thursday throwaway: pop-ups for pups, M.S. wines, vodka gimlets and Trappist monks!

 Mark As Read    

  Gus pointed this out to me: apparently the world’s first “pop-up restaurant dedicated to treating pampered pooches to a fine dining experience.” The chow includes “seaweed popcorn, fishcake of haddock, nettles and kelp with sweet potato served on a bed of seaweed with carrots and sesame seeds, and a poochie chia pud with coconut, […]

Hey elites: Ordinary people love California wine!

 Mark As Read    

  With the bashing that California wine sometimes gets from the old boy’s club (AKA the cool kid’s club), it comes as a refreshing reminder to learn that “beyond the beltway” of snobbery and exclusivity, ordinary people love our wines. Up in Canada, the Ottawa Citizen yesterday reported on the upcoming “California Wine Fair” to […]

Calistoga to challenge Napa City for Luxury Supremecy?

 Mark As Read    

  Both cities have come a long way over the last ten or fifteen years. When I began visiting Napa Valley, in the 1970s, Napa city was (let’s face it) kind of a drag from a tourist point of view, although it did have that All-American City cleanliness. Downtown was a heap of mattress stores […]

California Pinot Noir: A followup consideration

 Mark As Read    

  A question arose on my blog late last week, after my March 27 post, “What about those reports that “weaker wines are better than stronger ones”? When the comments turned to a discussion about soils, the topic of limestone arose. Now, as any historian of Burgundy (including Chablis), the Loire and Champagne is well […]

Alexander Valley and Napa Valley Cabernet: A study in contrasts

 Mark As Read    

  I’m going to be doing an event soon on Alexander Valley and Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon, and the differences between them. This is a topic that’s near and dear to my heart. As a working critic for many years, I of course had the opportunity to taste many if not most of the Cabs […]

Wednesday Wraparound: Bordeaux and Asti

 Mark As Read    

  The Drinks Business magazine is reporting huge unsold stocks of Bordeaux from the 2010, 2011 and 2012 vintages–the latter two decent, with 2010 exceptional according to most critics. Things are so dire, apparently, that the chairman of Justerini & Brooks, one of London’s top wine merchants, called the dust-gathering stocks “the las...

Wine critics vs. sommeliers, Round 428. Ding!

 Mark As Read    

  With all due respect to Robert Sinskey, whose wines I always admired, I think he struck the wrong tone in his recent opinion piece, which was published in Eater. His basic premise—that the era of the mega-critic is over, along with the 100-point rating system—is widely held, and certainly worth a conversation. And we […]

The Great Drought: A personal reflection

 Mark As Read    

  In a few days—April 1, to be exact–California water officials will officially measure the snow pack in the Sierra Nevada Mountains, and I’m predicting the result is going to shock the nation. If you don’t live here, and especially if you live in the East, where it’s been so cold this winter, you can’t […]

What about those reports that “weaker wines are better than stronger ones”?

 Mark As Read    

  You’ve probably read about it: According to Fox News, a new study out of Spain has been widely reported to “prove” that “People think weaker wine tastes better.” But, in fact, the study doesn’t show that at all; and much of the second-hand reporting on the study actually shows how lazy journalists can be. […]

On terroir, and the vine’s microbiome

 Mark As Read    

  Doesn’t it seem to you like these stories lately about microbes in soil affecting wine are making the concept of terroir even more complicated than we thought it was? We used to think terroir was a matter of the physical structure of the soil and the climate, or meso-climate, of the vineyard. John Winthrop […]

Wine writing: imprecise, and art

 Mark As Read    

  Yes, wine writing is “an imprecise art,” as the headline on Philip White’s opinion piece in the Adelaide (Australia) InDaily News says. As someone who’s had lots of experience in wine writing (magazines, books, blogs), I’m the first to authenticate Philip’s viewpoint that “writing about smells and flavours and the feelings they impart is [&#...

How wine can be as cool as beer and cocktails

 Mark As Read    

  It’s certainly true, as Robert Parker pointed out in his recent interview in The Drinks Business, that high wine prices are “a problem and a concern” and that they are creating “a caste system” in which “the younger generation” cannot afford top wines from regions such as “Burgundy, or Bordeaux, or from California.” But […]

Diageo moving towards “content information” on wine labels

 Mark As Read    

  No one much noticed last Friday’s report in the Wall Street Journal that Diageo is going to start listing calorie counts “and other content information” on its spirits, including Johnnie Walker Scotch and Smirnoff vodka, “in what it said was a first for the industry.” That nugget was buried on page B5 of the […]

Why online wine reviews don’t get more respect

 Mark As Read    

  You’ve probably heard that Ashley Judd, a celebrity I don’t know much about but I like her anyway, is suing people who have been sending her horrendous tweets. The brouhaha all started when Ashley, apparently, tweeted something derogatory about a basketball team, Arkansas, that was playing against her beloved Kentucky. Imagine that! A sports...

Sangiovese’s bold, noble road to nowhere

 Mark As Read    

  Reading about Piero Antinori in the April 30 issue of Wine Spectator brought back memories of the early and mid-1990s, when the Marchese had hundreds of acres of Sangiovese growing in a beautiful section of Atlas Peak. The sprawling vineyard was a fine sight to see. Sangiovese, the grape and wine, still was on […]

Teaching the history of wine to Millennials

 Mark As Read    

  Drove up to St. Helena yesterday on a preternaturally beautiful day to have lunch with Freemark Abbey’s longtime winemaker, Ted Edwards, at a little restaurant I’d never eaten at before, Goose & Gander. I must say I’d go back for the charcuterie and beef tartare, both of which were excellent. I don’t typically drink […]

In Pursuit of Balance tasting, San Francisco

 Mark As Read    

  A lovely tasting today at In Pursuit of Balance, really the best they’ve ever had. The venue was new: City View, in the Metreon Center, instead of RN74 like it was the last time I went. And what a crowd! This was clearly the buzziest place to be today if you were anywhere near […]

Alcohol level in Pinot Noir: a question of shifting fashion

 Mark As Read    

  Writer David Darlington makes the case, perhaps unwittingly, for how hard it is to explain why alcohol levels are higher in Russian River Valley Pinot Noir than they used to be, in his article, “Accounting for Taste,” in the April issue of Wine & Spirits. (Sorry, I can’t find a link online.) After first […]

A 40-year retrospective tasting with the Richard Arrowood

 Mark As Read    

  Last Wednesday’s historic tasting of 40 years worth of wines produced by Richard Arrowood was not only a testament to the oeuvre of one of California’s greatest living winemakers, but a refreshing reminder—if one were needed—of how well Sonoma Valley wines, red and white, can age. Richard invited a small group of us to […]

Wednesday Wraparound: Parker on futures, those “miracle” 2014s, and—Parker on futures, not!

 Mark As Read    

  If, as Bob told The Drinks Business (and who would know better?), Bordeaux en primeur futures are “largely dead,” then good riddance, says I. I never did care for this futures stuff. I mean, what purpose did they serve? Maybe once upon a time wine lovers could get a “bargain” by buying en primeur, […]

Trying to comprehend the red blend trend

 Mark As Read    

  I’ve been watching this burgeoning red blend trend for years. Although red blends have been around forever, I first learned that they were seriously on growers’ and producers’ radar about 5 or 6 years ago, when I spent a most delightful day with Joey Franzia, Fred’s son, of Bronco Wine Co. We had driven […]

Is liking IPAs really as uncool as liking California Cabernet?

 Mark As Read    

  I like beer, but didn’t have much of a chance to enjoy it when I was tasting and reviewing wine. Popping the corks on at least 15 different bottles a day, and then sitting there thinking and writing about them, took so much effort that I had little time or energy left over for […]

We do not need an alternative to alcohol!

 Mark As Read    

  Well if this isn’t the strangest thing I’ve read in a long time, I don’t know what is. “Why the government should fund research into finding a replacement for alcohol,” it’s called. It was written by Ryan Cooper, a national correspondent at TheWeek.com, which is by no means a wacko rightwing pub. Ryan’s basic […]

Crowdfunding your Napa Valley Cab: is it tacky, or smart?

 Mark As Read    

  Nothing illustrates the entrepreneurial challenge of a cult Napa Cab staying relevant than Yao Ming’s turning to crowdfunding for his winery’s financial needs. When his wines hit the market, I was as excited as anyone. I gave the 2009 Family Reserve 97 points—the highest of any critic I’ve yet seen (although only by a […]

Wednesday Wraparound: Los Olivos, ingredient labeling and the drought

 Mark As Read    

  Poor Santa Ynez Valley. First they took its western half away when they made the Santa, err, Sta. Rita Hills appellation. Then they took the eastern side away with Happy Canyon. Then they tore out a hunk of its heart with Ballard Canyon. Now the cannibals are attacking other vital organs with this proposal […]

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 […]

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.) […]

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