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Steve Heimoff| Wine Blog

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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 […]

Steve Heimoff| Wine Blog 9 hours, 4 min ago

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...

NIMBYism? Or just plain common sense?

 Mark As Read    

  COPIA crashed and burned pretty spectacularly. Some said it was because the location—on the “wrong” side of the Napa River—was ill-chosen. Others said the concept itself never made sense: What was COPIA anyway, a restaurant? Wine tasting place? Museum (and a pretty boring one, at that)? Turns out, COPIA did have an identity problem, […...

Lots of wine books, not very many good ones

 Mark As Read    

  As the author of two tomes on California wine, I know full well how short the lifespan is of a book. They come and go with the regularity of coastal fog, drifting in and out of existence. Some, because of the peculiarities of the media ritual of book reviewing, are more persistent than others. […]

A day on the road: My drive to Santa Maria

 Mark As Read    

  Set out on my Santa Barbara trip yesterday around 9:45 a.m. It was still mild in Oakland, but those clouds were moving in in advance of a big storm. Which we need! Not for nothing is the 880 Freeway known as the Nasty Nimitz. They don’t allow big rigs on the 580 freeway, so […]

When losers become winners: How a bad appellation can make you a cult wine

 Mark As Read    

  When I was a working wine critic, people said I possessed a certain amount of power. Maybe so, but I never was in a position to dictate to a winery what appellation they were entitled to use on the label! If I had been an official taster with the Institut national de l'origine et […]

Myth busting: Big doesn’t equate to average; small doesn’t mean great

 Mark As Read    

  Brother Laube has a good column in the Nov. 30 Wine Spectator on the humungous crop size of the 2012 vintage in California. Not only was it at the time the biggest ever, but, according to Jim, for Cabernet Sauvignon 2012 “hit the jackpot.” That certainly accords with my reviews of 2012 Cabs, although […]

The personal touch: Talking about wine

 Mark As Read    

  I’ve always liked talking about wine with whomever—I mean, it can be someone more knowledgeable than me, or someone who’s just starting out. As long as they’re interested, I’ll go on all day. It’s amazing how much information we store in our brains about certain subjects that attract us. I’ve forgotten many things in […]

My conversation with a guy in a tasting room

 Mark As Read    

  What do you do when you’re tasting wine with a novice in a tasting room, and there are points you want to make—and the other person says something about the wine that you don’t understand? Over the weekend I worked a shift at the Murphy-Goode tasting room, the second time I ever did that […]

A nation that twitters together fritters together

 Mark As Read    

  This scares me: “Calvin Lee, a graphic designer, is a massive tweeter. ‘I really can’t stop,’ he joked. In Twitterland, Lee has become a rock star. ‘I’ve gone through life wondering what my ‘thing’ would be. I believe I’ve found it.’ Lee describes himself as a ‘social media ho. I tweet at least 200 […]

I’m the new “go with” wine guy

 Mark As Read    

  I went on a “go with” yesterday. That is (as I just learned) the jargon for a salesperson who calls on an account and brings “someone else” (like me) with him. In this case, I’m the “famous former wine critic” whom most of the accounts have heard of, and whose ratings might even appear […]

On the anomalies of aging wine

 Mark As Read    

  Alan Balik has written a good analysis of tasting young wines in today’s Napa Register. Here’s my approach, which also is the one I took when I was reviewing California wines at Wine Enthusiast. I start with the declaration that the best way to determine if a wine is going to age well is […]

The soft bigotry of tasting inexpensive wine

 Mark As Read    

  If wine tasters could be categorized into political categories, I guess you’d call me a liberal. By that, I mean that all wines have the right to be taken seriously, in terms of their own aspirations and self-identity. No wine should be automatically dismissed because it’s inexpensive. As in the case of Justice, the […]

What is a wine with “personality”?

 Mark As Read    

  While we’re on the subject of storytelling (we are, in case you haven’t been reading steveheimoff.com lately), let’s consider the role of personality in a story. “A personality” is what people call a person who isn’t bland or forgettable, but instead someone who impresses himself on others through the sheer force of—well, personality. Keep [...

O.K. , you have your social media data. Now, what good is it?

 Mark As Read    

  I asked it six years ago, five years ago, four, three and two years ago, and I’m asking it now. And it’s not just me: That bastion of U.S. capitalism itself, the Wall Street Journal, is asking the same question. In a five-column headline in last Monday’s Marketplace section, they wondered “What is all […]

How do you know it’s not just a trend?

 Mark As Read    

  Back in 1999, a wine writer, Randall Murray, called Sangiovese “the next Merlot,” by which he meant that the red grape native to Tuscany was poised to become one of the leading red wines of California. Never happened, did it? Actually, by 1999, Sangiovese already had one foot in the grave. Ten years prior, […]

The Wall of Wine, Stories, and Consumer Psychology

 Mark As Read    

I was on the panel of a wine event last week, and one of my fellow panelists was from one of the nation’s biggest Big Box grocery retailers. I asked him, “Will the infamous Wall of Wine be always with us?” and he answered, “Yes. Retail is here to stay.” Indeed it is, as a […]

Having trouble “getting” social media? Welcome to SMOG!

 Mark As Read    

  We are pleased to announce the launch of “Social Media Odd-vice from Gus [SMOG],” a new team of experts designed to help YOU and YOUR BUSINESS navigate the complicated world of digital communications. Are you tired of not knowing how to maximize Twitter to increase ROI? Frustrated with not showing up on your friends’ […]

Telling a story about stories

 Mark As Read    

  I speak later today at The Exchange, an organization, sponsored by Nomacorc, that periodically gathers “to improve the marketing of wine by creating a forum for the sharing of ideas related to wine marketing.” The topic of today’s gathering, which is at Bardessono, in Yountville, is “Telling the Story.” I’ve been amazed the last […]

Matt Kramer got it right about bullies who put wine down

 Mark As Read    

  This think piece by Matt Kramer is a little opaque.(I hope you can open the Wine Spectator link.)  I had to read it twice to understand it—and I’m not sure I do even now—but it seems to be a rebuttal to the notion, widespread in America and somewhat anti-intellectual, that expertise is a form […]

Further thoughts on appellations

 Mark As Read    

  One of the hardest parts of being a wine writer in California is explaining the differences between appellations. It’s hard because, in many cases, the differences aren’t all that stark. The way I look at appellations is through the lens of history. As the late, great Alexis Lichine wrote (in his Encyclopedia of Wines […]

Monday Mayhem: Drinking too much, and memories of a P.R. guy

 Mark As Read    

  It’s important for us to have a conversation about drinking too much—about alcoholism—for two reasons. One is because there’s always been, and still is, a neo-prohibitionist mindset in this country that frowns on any use of alcoholic beverages at all; and so, as if in advance of an impending flood, we have to pile […]

To the Green Valley for a book signing!

 Mark As Read    

  I'm driving up to Occidental today, on the far edge of the Green Valley of the Russian River Valley, for a book signing at a winery called Fog Crest. I’m not familiar with their wines, and I don’t know the proprietors, but they invited me up, bought a bunch of my first book, A […]

Speaking truth to power: Why I don’t go ape over Riesling

 Mark As Read    

  I’ve gotten so tired of geeks talking up the virtues of Riesling that it actually came as a relief when I read Jancis Robinson’s column on her blog yesterday in which she concedes she might “go to my grave” without the masses never properly appreciating the wine she has loved “for roughly 35 years.” […]

Understanding temperature data? Not so easy!

 Mark As Read    

  One of the toughest parts of my job—of any wine writer’s job, actually—is finding reliable, historic data on which to base conclusions about terroir. Lord knows, we have endless discussions about terroir, yet most of them are based on anecdotal information and as we all know anecdotes are not reliable. They may be interesting, […]

They said it on Facebook: bad restaurant behavior

 Mark As Read    

  What’s the fastest way to make an asshole out of yourself in a restaurant? I was wondering because of some recent experiences, so I asked my Facebook friends, and as usual, they stepped up to the plate and offered up a potpourri of opinions which I am happy to share with you! Send back […]

To eat is (literally and figuratively) to live

 Mark As Read    

  My seminar (with Pedro Rusk) at Saturday’s K-J Heirloom Tomato Festival reminded me once again of what a powerful interest people have in learning about wine-and-food pairing and how to make fabulous foods. It’s interesting when you consider that people in this country are absolutely inundated with information about food. It’s a never-ending...

When wine writers host public events

 Mark As Read    

  I’ll be co-conducting a wine-and-food pairing event at Saturday’s big Kendall-Jackson Heirloom Tomato Festival. It’s the eighteenth time the event, which is one of the biggest in Sonoma County, has been held—and I’m embarrassed to say I’ve never gone. Everyone has told me how amazing it is, so I am totally looking forward to […]

Some execs are “worried,” but really, there’s nothing to worry about wine’s future

 Mark As Read    

  Nobody asked, but here’s my two cents on “top Golden State vintners [express] concern about the future of the $23.1 billion industry, especially among the discerning millennial market.” That’s from Tuesday’s Santa Rosa Press Democrat, which reported on “a UC Davis survey of 26 senior executives” in the state, and found that “Everyone was [&#...

Why young wine drinkers should know about the classics

 Mark As Read    

  Okay, well, first, I don’t mean they have to know about the classics. It’s not like the occasional wine lover is going to die and go to some awful place reserved for ignorant drinkers if they don’t. Knowing about the classics is not mandatory if you’re like most people—occasional drinkers who like wine’s salutary, […]

DTC, snobs and marketing segmentation: A personal view

 Mark As Read    

  “Wines delivered to your door” has been the business theme of direct-to-consumer entrepreneurs since as long as I can remember. I used to be a member of one of these subscription services, back in the early 1980s. I can’t remember the name (I’m sure someone out there will remind me), but they sold German […]

A day in the life: My trip to Santa Maria Valley

 Mark As Read    

  Woke up at 6:30 on a gloomy, foggy Saturday morning at the lovely Radisson in Santa Maria, so close to the airport that, walking Gus, I could see the ghostly forms of little planes sulking on the grey tarmac, across a weed-choked lot. Gus kept smelling the gopher holes but nothing came out to […]

To Santa Maria Valley, and my dinner at RN74

 Mark As Read    

  Off to Santa Barbara today, for a quick trip to the Santa Maria Valley and Cambria and Byron. I always like traveling through coastal wine country, especially at this time of the year; as you pass by the Santa Lucia Highlands, and the vast stretches of southern Monterey and the San Bernabe Vineyard – […]

Vintage 2014, and California declares war on small wineries

 Mark As Read    

  With the first (light) rain of the season expected tomorrow (today, as you read this) north of the Golden Gate Bridge, I thought it was a good time to consider the 2014 vintage in California. So, as usual, I asked my loyal Facebook friends, who responded in force. The story is this: short, compressed […]

A writer and his voice

 Mark As Read    

  It’s been six years since I started steveheimoff.com. I had no idea what I was getting into back in those pre-Recession days. But I knew that blogging was something I wanted to do. People sometimes ask me why I started blogging. After all, I already had a pretty good job, was rather well-known in […]

The World Wine Guys on their new book

 Mark As Read    

  Mike DeSimone and Jeff Jenssen, “the World Wine Guys,” have a new book out, Wines of California: The Comprehensive Guide, with a foreward by Michael Mondavi and a preface by Kevin Zraly. It’s quite good, certainly the best of the genre in a long time, and a useful companion for the wine lover’s bookshelf. […]

Thinking about tasting

 Mark As Read    

  Lots of food for thought in the Fall 2014 issue of Wine & Spirits, which is devoted to “The art and science of wine tasting.” There’s so much thoughtful content, I could write a post on each sentence. Surely that’s the mark of a good wine magazine. The fun starts with editor Josh Greene […]

Here comes the Apple’s wine i-Tasting app!

 Mark As Read    

  Tim Cook’s announcement on Tuesday of Apple’s new iTaste © app is exciting, and certainly represents a great leap forward in technology, but I wonder if it will really replace traditional human wine tasters. As you’ve probably heard, the app, which runs on the new Apple Watch, is easy enough to use. You just […]

Tales from the AVA front

 Mark As Read    

  "Democracy,” Winston Churchill told the House of Commons in 1947, “is the worst form of government, except for all those other forms that have been tried from time to time." Churchill might still have been sour toward democratic forms of government, given the fact that, two years previously, he had been unceremoniously thrown out […]...

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