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Steve Heimoff| Wine Blog

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Lessons learned from old tasting notes

 Mark As Read    

  Why I did 25,000 tasting notes before I ever even had a job reviewing wine remains a mystery to me to this day. I guess it was that overused word, “passion.” It’s not that I couldn’t help myself, as can happen with other less desirable addictions. I didn’t want to stop; I loved taking […]

Introducing the robot wine critic

 Mark As Read    

  In the next five years, when you call customer service or technical support for help with your checking account, internet connection or credit card, you’re likely to speak—not to a real human being—but to a robot. “Hello,” it might say, in its weird, Stephen Hawking-like drone, “my name is Robbie, and I'm here to […]

Microflora as terroir influence?

 Mark As Read    

  Former colleague Harvey Steiman at Wine Spectator has a nice piece on terroir in his latest blog. It actually breaks some new ground to the usual, predictably tedious conversations the wine media entertains itself with on this complicated topic. Yes, indeed, “climate, elevation, the tilt of the slope or exposure to the sun”—the usual […...

Happy birthday to a very special winery

 Mark As Read    

  When Robert Mondavi first walked the ground where his winery now stands, in early 1966, he was struck by something profound, a sense that in retrospect sounds mystical. “I knew this was a very special place,” he wrote in his memoir, “Harvests of Joy.” “It exuded an indefinable quality I could not describe…of calm […]

A tasting of Oregon Pinot Noirs

 Mark As Read    

  I couldn’t be more pleased with my tasting yesterday, but I don’t give the credit to myself; I give it to the wines. The idea was to taste some of our Oregon Pinot Noirs to a select group of people in Marin County. In many respects, this was the best tasting I ever went […]

A comment on marketing, after receiving the latest Bordeaux hype from a press release

 Mark As Read    

  You know, I understanding marketing. When a winery or wine region touts itself as the “best ever,” or “greatest vintage,” or simply uses self-reverential language that makes it sound like it’s sitting at the right hand of God, it’s merely putting its best foot forward in a formal situation—as most of us do. Say […]

Au revoir to the oversized wine list

 Mark As Read    

  Hasn’t the day of the bloated wine list come, and gone? How many wines do diners need to “peruse” on a list anyway? Obviously, there’s no correct answer, so I can only speak for myself. I, personally, like a list with perhaps 50 or 60 choices. It’s manageable; you actually have the time and […]

Big Pot: The marijuana industry learns from wine

 Mark As Read    

  I am astounded how rapidly the marijuana industry is growing into a bona fide, full-fledged business. In fact, it’s starting to look a lot like the wine industry My marijuana days—and they were many—happened when pot was illegal. You could get arrested for possession of a joint; I knew lots of people who were. […]

Millennials and brand loyalty: My thoughts

 Mark As Read    

  When Gallup says Millennials are “the least-engaged generation of customers,” with “the lowest level of customer engagement” of any group of consumers in the country, a couple thoughts come to mind. Those conclusions come from Gallup’s recent study, “How Millennials Want to Work and Live.” Full disclosure: I read this article, which is from ...

Those “semi-generic” European place names? Let’s ditch them

 Mark As Read    

  In law, the concept of “grandfathering” certain parties into new laws is quite old in America, dating back to post-Civil War days. It occurs, says Wikipedia, when “an old rule continues to apply to some existing situations while a new rule will apply to all future cases.” The concept applies across many areas of […]

Chardonnay Symposium winners tell a story

 Mark As Read    

  Looking at the medal winners from the International Chardonnay Symposium, I'm struck by the geographic diversity of origins of the top-ranked California Chards. They range from Napa Valley down to the Santa Maria Valley, with Paso Robles, the Santa Lucia Highlands, Livermore Valley, Arroyo Seco, Sonoma Valley and the Russian River Valley inb...

Six Steven Kent wines

 Mark As Read    

Many years ago, I wrote a column in Wine Enthusiast (sadly, I no longer have it), in which I lamented the lack of excitement in the wines of the Livermore Valley AVA, which, if you look at a map, is one of the jewels in the bracelet of appellations surrounding San Francisco Bay, including Sonoma […]

Into the tall weeds of the critic: Kramer and being “captious”

 Mark As Read    

  If Matt Kramer thinks that wine drinkers become “captious” (hypercritically argumentative) when comparing notes, he should overhear some of the conversations in California between Hillary people and Bernie people! That is captiousness on steroids! Matt rolled out that rarely used word, “captious,” in his Drinking Out Loud op-ed piece, in the...

A tasting of Oregon Pinot Noir

 Mark As Read    

  I’ve been on a sharp learning curve about Oregon Pinot Noir for the past year or so. In all my years at Wine Enthusiast I was “the California guy” and so my exposure to wines not from my state grew increasingly limited—one major negative of being a regional specialist (but the positive, of course, […]

Unicorn wines, and maybe unicorns in Napa

 Mark As Read    

  When did all this talk about unicorns get so crazy? Suddenly, it’s unicorn this, unicorn that. Fifty-five million results on a Google search, of which this one, published earlier this year in Fortune, is most explanatory: “a unicorn is a private company, valued at $1 billion or more, and they're seemingly everywhere, backed by […]...

Is classic marketing an anachronism?

 Mark As Read    

  I take Reka Haros’s point that there is “deep confusion around the term ‘marketing,’” specifically that marketing all too often is “confused with sales and… marketing tactics confused with marketing strategy.” I’ve been in this business for a long time and even I can’t be sure of the differences; but after all, these are […]

Pit bulls and Pinot Noir, or how IPOB changed the way I think

 Mark As Read    

  That old saying “It changed the conversation” needs explanation. Not everybody in America is talking about the same things at the same time. We say Donald Trump has changed the conversation but there are lots of people who couldn’t care less about him. We say Ellen DeGeneres changed the conversation about gays when she […]

Loco’l: A review

 Mark As Read    

  Daniel Patterson’s first attempt at this Oakland space (2214 Broadway), which he called Plum—located at ground zero of the city's hot Uptown District–was a failure. Plum just didn’t work for Oakland. It’s true that Commis, James Syhabout’s Michelin-starred restaurant on nearby Piedmont Ave., had succeeded with expensive conceptual food...

Recent wine reviews: En Garde

 Mark As Read    

  Csaba Szakal sent me some of his En Garde wines to taste, so here we go. I preferred the Cabernets/Bordeaux blends, which are from Diamond Mountain, to the Russian River Valley/Green Valley Pinot Noirs. En Garde’s style veers in a bigger heavier direction, making the Cabs lush and flashy, but I wish the Pinots […]

Memorial Day

 Mark As Read    

In honor of our  men and women who serve to keep us free.

The last word, literally, on In Pursuit of Balance (well, maybe…)

 Mark As Read    

  Jon Bonné, the San Francisco Chronicle’s former wine critic and, now, occasional columnist, has much to say about the demise of In Pursuit of Balance that is on point: that the organization was controversial, that it stimulated a valuable conversation over Pinot Noir style, that “it received a disproportionate amount of attention and media [...

U.C. Davis V&E grads off to a promising start

 Mark As Read    

  Speaking at U.C. Davis last night before a group of graduating students and faculty was really a thrill. As I told the audience in my opening remarks, to me, UCD’s Viticulture and Enology Department is like the Vatican City—not in a religious sense, of course, but as the spiritual center of winemaking in California, […]

As the Grand Crus are identified, prices will go even higher

 Mark As Read    

  Those who read this blog and hear me speak know that I have been predicting the discovery or uncovering of small, stellar blocks within existing great vineyards in California and Oregon—blocks that can be called “grand crus” were we to adopt that French terminology. This process will take decades, but clearly it’s underway. I […]

A presentation at U.C. Davis

 Mark As Read    

  Off to the University of California at Davis later today for a talk and tasting I’m giving this evening to DEVO, the Davis Enology and Viticulture Organization’s “190X,” an occasional discussion series at which “professionals in the wine industry” are invited to speak to about 70 V&E students and faculty members. They’ve asked me […...

Behold: Steve Heimoff, M.S.!!!!!

 Mark As Read    

  I’m not big on blowing my own horn, but hey, if you don’t beat your own bush and shine a light on your own accomplishments, then who will? So, with these awkwardly mixed metaphors, I’m proud to announce that I have just been awarded the prestigious title of Master Sommelier! I didn’t reveal to […]

On winery consolidation

 Mark As Read    

  “There’s nothing new under the sun.” That’s from Ecclesiastes 1:9, which also says, “What has been will be again, what has been done will be done again.” One might have expected the Author of Authors to have taken the long view: not the next business quarter, but Eternity. So it is, or sometimes seems, […]

What is West Burgundy Wine Collective?

 Mark As Read    

  The announcement the other day that Jackson Family Wines has bought Copain Wines, which comes on the heels of JFW’s acquisition of Oregon’s Penner-Ash Wine Cellars, has brought renewed attention to JFW’s West Burgundy Wine Collective. So I thought I’d try to explain to my readers just what WBWC is and why it exists, […]

Carneros Chardonnay (and a little Pinot Noir)

 Mark As Read    

  Spent the day yesterday in Carneros. It had been a while since I really walked the vineyards, smelled the flora and felt and tasted the dirt and rocks up there, so my visit was overdue. Plus, it was an unbelievably gorgeous day, the sort of Spring weather that tells you Winter will soon be […]

Three cities in five days: A week on the road

 Mark As Read    

  I felt horribly guilty at not posting for two days in a row, last Thursday and Friday, for the first time in 8-1/2 years. But, as this little photo essay suggests, we were really busy all week, so much so that when I finally got back to my hotel rooms late at night, all […]

Terroir, briefly

 Mark As Read    

  We had another lovely and successful event yesterday, a first-class audience of about 60 wine-savvy people in the Vintage Hotel in downtown Portland. You never know with this kind of audience what topics will prove to be the most interesting, but in this case (and maybe it shouldn't have been a surprise) it was […]

From the road: Portland Oregon

 Mark As Read    

  Up here in Portland, Oregon, a town I haven’t really spent much time in, and I must, what a cool place. Of course it helps that the weather has been so beautiful—much better than in Northern California, where the past week has been dismal and cold. The neighborhood they call the Pearl District reminds […]

Would California wine have succeeded without the 1976 Paris Tasting?

 Mark As Read    

  Come join me, readers, on a thought experiment. It is forty years ago, May 24, 1976. Gerald Ford is President. The Concorde has just flown its first commercial flight to America. Bob Dylan celebrated his 35th birthday. And, far more importantly for the California wine industry, “a publicity stunt for a small wine store […]

In Defense of BevMo!

 Mark As Read    

  I’m not saying that what BevMo is accused of doing was cool—but it’s not the worst thing in the world, either, and the take-home lesson for consumers is not to base their entire buying decision on in-store displays, including shelf talkers. The accusation in the class action suit against BevMo is simple: the vintages […]

Can wine bloggers make money through reader financial donations? Maybe…

 Mark As Read    

  Ever since around the time I began blogging (May 2008), a dominating part of the conversation has been whether or not online content providers can make enough money to make their endeavor worthwhile. Early in that time period, there were hopeful prognosticators—mainly younger bloggers themselves, and a handful of would-be consultants who hop...

On Bauer’s Top 100 Restaurants

 Mark As Read    

  Michael Bauer, the San Francisco Chronicle’s influential restaurant critic, is out with his Top 100 Restaurants list for 2016. A close reading of it provides some glimpses into dining and other trends affecting the Bay Area. For one, we’re definitely out of the doldrums of the Great Recession. In the dismal years 2009-2012, there […]

More adventures on the sales road

 Mark As Read    

  Saturday afternoon, in-flight on United, somewhere above Iowa Returning from my four days back East on a sales trip to the “DMV”—my friend Liz Kitterman’s acronym for the D.C.-Maryland-Virginia circuit she covers. I’m struck by the many kinds of people I interacted with as part of the job. Some were somms or other buyers […]

A wine trip back east, to the D.C. metro area

 Mark As Read    

  If you’ve been reading me for years, you know that I was arguing in 2009, 2010, 2011 that (a) print newspapers and magazines are NOT dead (as so many bloggers were predicting and hoping) and (b) social media was NOT the be-all and end all for wineries. Well, I was right on both scores! […]

A pinky of wine for baby: Are you creating a future alcoholic?

 Mark As Read    

  For yesterday’s flight from SFO to Reagan Washington Airport I bought a New York Times, which always gives me a couple hours of good reading when I have the time—and what else is there to do on a long flight? So in the Science Times section (sorry, no link—firewall!) they had an article called […]

SF’s housing woes spread to wine country

 Mark As Read    

  Picked up the latest issue of the Sonoma County Gazette at the Starbucks in Fulton, and came across this article, Healdsburg at a Crossroads, that underscores just how acute that tony town’s housing crisis has become. It recalled an era that was just coming to a close when I first visited, some 35 years […]

Is California running out of new AVAs?

 Mark As Read    

  The state already has about 183 American Viticultural Areas, * which is a lot, but nowhere close to France’s 300-plus appellations, not to mention Italy’s 800 or so assorted DOCs, DOCGs and IGTs. Most of California’s AVAs are along the coast, from Mendocino County down through the Central Coast to Santa Barbara, which is […]

A Sauvignon Blanc tasting that raises questions about point scores

 Mark As Read    

  We had a perfectly lovely blind tasting yesterday, 12 Sauvignon Blancs, six of them from Jackson Family Wines wineries, and the others from around the world. It was a bit of a hodgepodge but I just wanted to assemble a range that showed the extremes of style, from an Old World, low- or no-oak, […]

The wine critic as “god”

 Mark As Read    

  “Proof by ethos” is a term from Artistotle, referring to a method of persuasion, by appealing to a speaker’s authority and credibility. In science, according to a recent paper [more on this later], it refers to a situation in which “a scientist's status in the community is so high that everybody else takes this […]

Can you entirely eliminate subjective factors in wine tasting?

 Mark As Read    

  If you’re one person, No. A single taster will always be tasting within the parameters of his limitations, e.g. he may be more or less sensitive to TCA than other tasters. He may wince at the smell of pyrazines, or find the heat from alcohol unbearable, or feel that a totally dry wine is […]

Red blends and old vines: A connection?

 Mark As Read    

  I realize that the connection between the modern popularity of “red blends” and old-vine vineyards is tenuous. But I think a case can be made that not only ties them together, but presents evidence that our taste in wines is pretty much what our distant ancestors’ was. In other words, Plus ça change, plus […]

Another wine-rating system, this time based on 1,000 points

 Mark As Read    

  Forget about arguing over the differences between 96 and 97 points. Now we can debate the finer distinctions between a score of 875 and 876. Or 943 and 944. Or 563 and 562. Whaaat?? That’s right. There’s a new wine rating kid in town, called Wine Lister, and it uses, not the familiar 100-point […]

Let’s get a new AVA for Alexander Valley’s east mountains

 Mark As Read    

  Why does the Alexander Valley AVA include the mountains? It makes no sense. A “mountain” is not a “valley,” and vice versa. And yet, the Alexander Valley was given AVA status by the federal government in 1984 despite the soaring Mayacamas range that forms its eastern wall. Even back when I was researching my […]

A great sushi meal in S.F., and some thoughts about somms

 Mark As Read    

  Had a fantastic lunch at Pabu Izakaya, Michael Mina’s sushi restaurant at 101 California in the FiDi. My goodness, I love sushi practically more than any other food but it can be pretty generic. In this case, it was outstanding. We had a bunch of different things off the menu and ate it family […]

Whither Syrah? Nobody really knows, and neither do I

 Mark As Read    

  There, I said it. When it comes to predictions about Syrah, it’s the blind leading the blind. When you’ve been around this industry for a while, as I have, you hear certain memes resurrected over and over. One is “Zinfandel’s new face.” Another is “Why don’t Americans like Riesling?” Still another is some variation […]

Monday Meander: Hackers, Sauvignon Blanc, and Curious Somms

 Mark As Read    

  You wouldn’t believe the number of log-in attempts this blog gets from hackers. There’s always been a little activity, but in recent weeks it’s spiked, to dozens a day. And they’re from all over the world: various U.S. states, Russia, China, Germany, Denmark, the Netherlands, France, Romania, Kazakhstan, Tokyo, Singapore, Norway…a veritable ...

On blogging as freedom of speech

 Mark As Read    

  I should probably have pointed this out long ago, but it’s worth saying now: Everything I say on this blog is my own, Constitutionally-protected opinion, and does not reflect in any way the viewpoint of my employer. Such a simple statement, such a complicated topic. I understand that people occasionally get confused. “Is he […]

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