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Steve Heimoff| Wine Blog

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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 […]

On that Prisoner deal: Brands without land? I don’t think so

 Mark As Read    

  On the Sales road today in the midst of a busy week, but first I want to comment on the headline this morning that Constellation has purchased The Prisoner for $285 million. I “get it” that some of these big wine companies are going after these mass brands, like Meiomi, which was scooped up […]

A conversation with Press Club’s Aram Roubanian

 Mark As Read    

  Aram Roubinian is the thirty year old assistant GM and beverage manager for Press Club, the hot, stylish wine bar and lounge on Yerba Buena Lane, tucked between Market Street and Yerba Buena Gardens. I asked Aram, who’s been there for five years, to tell me a little about Press Club. Aram: Right after […]

A vertical tasting of Beekeeper Rockpile Zinfandel

 Mark As Read    

  Beekeeper Cellars started in 2009, a partnership between Ian Blackburn and Clay Mauritson. Mauritson owns the Madrone Spring Vineyard and was a principle in creating the Rockpile AVA, in 2002, They sent me a mini-vertical of four bottles of the Zinfandel, 2010-2013. I must say how wonderfully each of them shows off the terroir […]

Scores, stores and wineries: a new analysis

 Mark As Read    

  Every day, I get blast email advertisements from wineries or wine stores touting the latest 90-plus point score from Suckling, Parker, Vinous or some other esteemed critic. Here’s an example that came in on Saturday: I’m reproducing everything except the actual winery/wine. _____ Winery’s ____ Napa Red Wine 2013 Rated 92JS. Notice how the [&...

Tasting with the MBAs

 Mark As Read    

  Did my annual tasting session/seminar for the U.C. Berkeley Haas School of Business Wine Club last night. This must have been my tenth year, something like that. This time, I brought along my friend and Jackson Family Wines colleague, Vito Parente, an expert on Italian wine. I figured the MBA students would want to […]

Wine Country: gated communities?

 Mark As Read    

  It comes as no surprise to me that Napa County is the seventh least affordable housing market in the country. We know that places like San Francisco, Marin and Manhattan are unaffordable to all except the wealthiest of our citizens, but Napa? True, it’s never exactly been Motel 6 country, but in Napa City […]

A new wine book, and some 23-year old predictions

 Mark As Read    

  Every wine writer eventually has to make the Big Decision: How deep into the tall weeds of technicalities do you want to go? I’m talking about everything from solar radiation and new vineyard roping systems to row spacing, different types of trellising, spraying, leaf pulling, clones, rootstocks, the chemical properties of grapes and wines, ...

When does “different” become “flawed”?

 Mark As Read    

  Went to a nice little Sauvignon Blanc tasting yesterday at Josiah and Stevie’s Bay Grape wine store. It was only four wines, but they pretty much spanned the gamut of world Sauvignon Blanc styles: cool-climate, warmer climate, unoaked, lightly oaked. For me, the top wine, an absolute charmer and classic, was the Francois Cotat […]

A tasting of sparkling wine (mostly California)

 Mark As Read    

  This was a most interesting and engaging tasting. We (me and my friends at Jackson Family Wines) hadn’t done a sparkling wine tasting before, and I was just “in the mood” for bubbly, what with summer coming on, so that’s what I did. Could have done BdB, BdN, Brut, etc. but decided on rosé […]

Good wines from Martin Ray

 Mark As Read    

  Martin Ray winery sent me a few bottles of wine to review, so here they are. 93 Martin Ray 2013 Synthesis Cabernet Sauvignon (Napa Valley); $?, 14.8%. What I like about this wine is how it manages to be big, dark, deep and profound, on the one hand, while retaining such delicacy and elegance […]

The historic phases of Pinot Noir in California: 4.0…and counting

 Mark As Read    

  I blogged the other day about a tasting in which we tried four different versions of Clone 777 Pinot Noir from four Jackson Family wineries in four regions: Anderson Valley (Champ de Reves), Willamette Valley (Gran Moraine), Santa Lucia Highlands (Siduri-Sierra Mar Vineyard) and Annapolis (Wild Ridge, on the far Sonoma Coast). This was [R...

How to build an AVA

 Mark As Read    

  As you read this, I’ll be on my way up to the Willamette Valley. Some of you may recall that I’m working on crafting a new American Viticultural Area for a region in which Jackson Family Wines has a vineyard. It’s in the central-western part of the Valley; as you can see, the current […]

Why wine is cool

 Mark As Read    

  Years ago, during the heyday of Sex and the City, the San Francisco Chronicle ran a spoof piece on what “the girls” would be doing if they lived in the “cool gray city of love.” Samantha, you’ll recall, had her own high-end P.R. firm in Manhattan, where she represented restaurants, celebrities, clubs and so […]

More on Pinot Noir and terroir: the concept of Cru

 Mark As Read    

  I went to a most interesting tasting yesterday, quite unlike anything I’ve been to before. We selected a clone of Pinot Noir (in this case, 777). We tasted it made from four different vineyards, in entirely different West Coast regions (Oregon and California), made more or less identically, but by different winemakers. Theoretically, then, [...

A tasting of current Cameron Hughes wines

 Mark As Read    

  Cameron sent me another batch of wines, which I was glad to review. In general, the Cameron Hughes brand continues to provide fantastic value for the money. His business, briefly, is to function as a negociant: vintners who want or need to sell their wine, privately and off-the-record, know and trust Cameron. We never […]

Are Donald Trump’s wine any good? What the critics say

 Mark As Read    

  Cut to the chase: Donald Trump’s TRUMP Winery in Virginia makes decent sparkling wine (not a very difficult thing to do, as the grapes don’t have to get ripe), but his still wines are anywhere from okay to mediocre. President Obama put Trump’s wines in the spotlight the other day when he ribbed the […]

The Critic vs. the Computer: A case of perceptual discrepency

 Mark As Read    

  Did you know that I prefer organic wines to non-organic wines? I didn’t, either. But then I read this new paper from the American Association of Wine Economists, entitled “Does Organic Wine taste better? An Analysis of Experts’ Ratings,” and I found out that, yup, I do. Well, kinda sorta. See, the paper’s authors […]

I reply to a somm friend

 Mark As Read    

  Ian Burrows is a great sommelier whom I first met at a Jackson Family Wines event I was speaking at. He was then working at one of San Francisco’s hottest restaurants, Atelier Crenn, in the Marina District. I was never fortunate enough to dine there, because the Marina is really a schlep from Oakland. […]

What a beer company can teach wineries about videos

 Mark As Read    

  I buy a lot of wine direct from wineries. The best and fastest way to do this is through their website. Those shopping carts and “Place Order” buttons make life a lot easier. But I do have a gripe. If your shipping address is different from your billing address, why do you have to […]

How I choose wines for my tastings

 Mark As Read    

  As you may know if you read me regularly, I’ve been having some wonderful wine tastings with my friends at Jackson Family Wines. Over the last 1-1/2 years we’ve done multiple sessions of mainly California wines: Pinot Noir, Chardonnay, Cabernet Sauvignon, Rhone blends and so on. Our next theme is sparkling wine. It’s been, […]

In the future, everyone will be a famous wine taster for 15 minutes

 Mark As Read    

  Since by now it is obvious that anyone can write and publish a wine review via social media, we need to seriously address the issue of whether “Anyone can become a wine taster with a little practice.” That, at least, is the contention of Anna Harris-Noble, a Brit who runs a company called Taste […]

Another consideration of terroir: the wine’s reputation

 Mark As Read    

  If I asked you which aspect of terroir–soil or climate–the French attach greater importance to, which would you pick? I bet you'd say soil. And yet, twenty-six years ago, in Friends of Wine magazine, Emile Peynaud, undoubtedly one the greatest enologists of the 20th century, and the father of modern cult winemaking, said, “I [...

Pinot Noir 4.0: An exploration of extreme terroir in California and Oregon

 Mark As Read    

  This is my take on the situation. I hope to hear from you about yours. Agree, disagree, whatever you add will be appreciated. Thanks. * * * Pinot 1.0 extended from approximately the Repeal of Prohibition (1933) through the 1950s. Growers knew they wanted to plant Pinot Noir because it was the great grape […]

A classic Zinfandel tasting

 Mark As Read    

  Every once in a while you have a winetasting you know you’ll long remember. Yesterday’s Zinfandel romp was one. We’ve had a lot of amazing tastings over the last year and a half, but this was one for the books. Yesterday I suggested that Zinfandel has always been a bit of an under-achiever, in […]

What I think about Zinfandel. (Hint: Ask me tomorrow)

 Mark As Read    

  I’ll be tasting a bunch of Zinfandels today as you read this. It’ll be the first time we’ve tackled Zin in my regular tastings at Jackson Family Wines; until now, we’ve done Chardonnays, Pinot Noirs, Cabernet Sauvignons and red Rhône blends. I guess I’m like most people in that I consider some varieties more […]

A tasting of 2014 Loring Pinot Noirs

 Mark As Read    

  OVERALL These Pinot Noirs are marked less by distinctions of terroir than by a similarity of winemaking style. All are quite ripe (and the 2014 drought vintage gave exceptionally concentrated fruit). Such qualitative differences as there are amongst them are more a matter of personal preference. Having said that, all are very good: my [̷...

Peter Mondavi, Sr.: A vision held steadfast

 Mark As Read    

  I’ve held off commenting on Peter Mondavi, Sr.’s death, because it’s been well covered elsewhere, and also because I wasn’t sure what I wanted to bring to the conversation. It’s already been noted, for instance here in Wine Spectator, how much Mr. Mondavi contributed to modern winemaking techniques, such as cold fermentation and the […...

Thursday throwaway: wine bloggers, aging wine, and a brand new AVA

 Mark As Read    

  More “aren’t they special” plaudits for young wine bloggers in this op-ed piece from the online edition of beveragedaily.com. The author lets us know that—at long last!—bloggers are “telling the story” that presumably has not been told before: wine lovers now have “real” people, AKA wine bloggers, to help them in their quest to […]

Content, schmontent and impact

 Mark As Read    

  The subject of the impact of social media on the actual sale of wine, as opposed to merely creating some short-lived buzz, has long been considered in my blog, as well as throughout the greater Internet community. The question always has been: What do all those page views and visits mean? Do they translate […]

Are wine reviews stuffy and pretentious?

 Mark As Read    

  Every form of description has its own particular jargon. Conversations about baseball are filled with references to ERAs and WARs (“wins above replacement”). Fasionistas debate the distinctions between lettuce hems and unitards. Here in wine-reviewing land, we talk about cassis or earthiness, and get our heads handed to us by critics-of-crit...

Did the El Nino predictions get it all wrong?

 Mark As Read    

  Perhaps no other weather event in recent memory has been more anticipated than this year’s El Nino. From the first media rumblings that it was coming, in 2014, to the “monster El Nino” hyperbole that was still current as recently as last December, Californians have been warned by the experts about floods, mudslides, service […]

Still keeping my critic’s spurs on, and National Drink Wine Day!

 Mark As Read    

  Although I ceased formally to be a wine critic nearly two years ago, when I quit Wine Enthusiast to begin working at Jackson Family Wines, there are still some wineries that want me to review their stuff on my blog. At first, I found this surprising. My blog has never been a wine-reviewing site. […]

A blind tasting of Mt. Veeder

 Mark As Read    

  I gave 100 points in yesterday’s blind tasting of Mt. Veeder Cabernets and Bordeaux blends to the 2012 Freemark Abbey. I was pretty sure it was the 2012 Lokoya, a wine I’ve had on several occasions and have been dazzled by—and one, by the way, Parker gave 100 points to. I was wrong, but […]

If it’s expensive it must be better. Right…?

 Mark As Read    

  Rule #1 about pricing: If you charge a ton of money for a food or beverage, people will assume it’s worth the price. What aspect of human nature does this illustrate? I’m not enough of a psychologist, sociologist or anthropologist to say, but I know it’s true. They assume that Petrus is better than […]

Sparkling wine may be “hot,” but what does that really mean?

 Mark As Read    

  Is there any wine category that's had more ups and downs than sparkling wine? Twenty, thirty years ago and more here in California, many of the French Champagne houses, looking forward to the coming Millennium (not the religious one, but the turn of the 21st century), believed so strongly that Americans were turning into […]

Happy 50th, Robert Mondavi Winery

 Mark As Read    

  Believe it or not, kids, there was a time when Napa Valley possessed no Robert Mondavi Winery (RMW). Prior to 1966 Napa was a sleepy little wine valley, dominated by legendary wineries already perceived as old-time, like Beaulieu, Inglenook, Charles Krug and Louis M. Martini. A few newer wineries had sprung up over the […]

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