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Steve Heimoff| Wine Blog

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On geological faults in Burgundy and Sonoma County

 Mark As Read    

  I’m reading Benjamin Lewin MW’s new book, Wines of France, and as usual with his books, there’s more thoughtful information packed into almost every paragraph than most other wine books contain in 100 pages. I’ll have a more complete review in a few weeks, but for now I want to comment on the role […]

A tasting of Sonoma Coast Pinot Noirs

 Mark As Read    

  And what a fabulous tasting it was. This was really one of the most interesting sessions I’ve been to in years. For one thing, the level of wineries was exceptionally high, as it tend to be in this sprawling appellation. We’re also dealing with two very good years, 2012 and 2103. As usual—and as […]

Friday Fishwrap: the S.F. Chronicle, and the Petaluma Gap

 Mark As Read    

  It’s really sad how the San Francisco Chronicle’s wine coverage has dropped off the cliff since the paper and Jon Bonné parted ways. I didn’t always agree with Jon. I hated his attitude towards alcohol and thought he was unfair in his treatment of California wineries. But at least Jon was a true wine […]

Talking about wine talk

 Mark As Read    

  Back when John F. Kennedy was President, Helen Thomas, the White House correspondent and, at the time, the only woman to hold that post, asked JFK what he was doing to help women. “Not enough, I’m sure,” smiled Kennedy, in his wry, bemused way. The implication was that, of course, no American President can […]

Thoughts on the far Sonoma Coast

 Mark As Read    

  In anticipation of our tasting this Friday of wines from the “true” Sonoma Coast, I’ve been going over in my mind my understanding of this American Viticultural Area, which was declared an A.V.A. in 1987. That was 28 years ago, but I don’t recall the controversy surrounding it until sometime in the late 1990s, […]

Will there be an El Nino? What does it mean?

 Mark As Read    

  Despite my Ph.D. in meteorology and the fact that I successfully predicted both the drought and the most recent lottery number*, I have no idea if this El Nino that seems to be brewing in the Pacific will have the desired impact here in dry, dry California, where we’re currently in the midst of […]

A tasting of current vintage, top Russian River Valley Pinot Noirs

 Mark As Read    

There are very few common Pinot Noirs in the Russian River Valley. Certainly, given the number of producers (in the hundreds), the level of quality is extraordinarily high, especially when we have two vintages in a row—2012 and 2013—that both were very fine, although it looks like ’13 has the edge in terms of consistency. […]

What makes a wine memorable?

 Mark As Read    

  The most interesting, or at least memorable, California wine I ever had was a 1977 Chateau Montelena when it was fifteen years old. I’d gotten to know a fellow by the name of Albert Dupont, a Belgian, who was at that time one of the more interesting characters running around Napa Valley. He and […]

In the future, everybody will be a sommelier for 15 minutes

 Mark As Read    

  Have you noticed? They’re everywhere. I swear, they’re reproducing like spores. Why, just the other day, I went down to my local 7-Eleven to get a quart of milk. The refrigerated section includes chilled wine, and when I was browsing the cooler looking for the non-fat, I must have seemed puzzled, for a well-dressed […]

There are no great wines, just great bottles

 Mark As Read    

  When Pulitzer Prize-winning poet Gregory Pardio hears “Bennie and the Jets”, something comes over him. “I’ve always associated the song with abundant sunlight and clean-house smells and security,” he told the Wall Street Journal, explaining that when he was a little boy, his mother would clean their house “with the Elton John single playing....

Tasting Russian River Pinot Noir, and a shoutout to Gallo

 Mark As Read    

  My weekly tasting at Jackson Family Wines tomorrow is exciting even for jaded old me. It’s of current release Russian River Valley Pinot Noirs. The lineup as now scheduled is: Merry Edwards 2012 Meredith Estate Dehlinger 2012 “Altamont” Gary Farrell 2012 Hallberg Vineyard Dutton Goldfield 2012 Dutton Ranch Freestone Hill Vineyard Siduri 2013...

Why the West Coast sets the tone in style

 Mark As Read    

  It’s not an exact match, but if you superimposed a map of red and blue states on top of another map showing state per capita wine consumption in the U.S., there would be a lot of overlap. Blue and Red States Per capita consumption by state So do Dems drink more wine than GOPers? […]

Wine Reviews

 Mark As Read    

Here are my latest reviews. The wineries are Butter, Cattleya, District 4, Furthermore, House Family, Jarvis, Kenefick Ranch, Krupp Brothers and Prime. None of these wineries paid me. These are purely my professional opinions. If you’d like to send me wines for review, I’m happy to oblige. If you use one of my reviews in […]

Tasting eight Carneros Pinot Noirs

 Mark As Read    

  My tasting yesterday of eight Carneros Pinot Noirs was enormously instructive to me, even after all these years. Afterwards, we tried to put together four attributes that linked all the wines, and they were: acidity a “Burgundian” earthy, mushroomy thing spices nice, ripe California fruit Of course, identifying regional typicity is possible ...

Petite Sirah “garbage”? C’mon, Andy Blue!

 Mark As Read    

  To say that I was shocked when I read Andy Blue’s editorial in the latest edition of The Tasting Panel would be an understatement. It’s a sharp, almost brutal attack on California Petite Sirah—so malicious in tone that I truly don’t understand where Andy is coming from—at least, the Andy I’ve known, liked and […]

Another early harvest. Climate change?

 Mark As Read    

  California has had so many “early harvests” lately that we’re going to have to redefine what the word “early” means. Maybe "early" is the new "normal." It seems like the last two years, 2013-2014, were mind-blowingly early. The 2013 vintage was “Early [with] exceptional quality vintage throughout the state,” said the Wine Institute. Then, [&...

What social media does really well

 Mark As Read    

  Last week, after The Donald unleashed his tirade against Mexicans, I posted a petition on my Facebook page urging Macy’s to “fire” Trump by cancelling their sponsorship of his clothing line. Lo and behold, the very next day, Macy’s announced that they were doing exactly that: they dumped Trump. Much as I would love […]

What Prosecco tells us about the future of wine

 Mark As Read    

  Prosecco, as you know, has been on a roll lately, but when you read headlines like this: “PROSECCO OVERTAKING CHAMPAGNE AS SPARKLING WINE OF CHOICE”, you know that something far more important than the ephemeral popularity of a particular wine is happening. Why is Prosecco so hot? Two things: Millennials coming of age The […]

Bloggers: stop the insults, now.

 Mark As Read    

  There used to be sexism in the wine business. I know, because I know some wonderful women winemakers who began their careers in the 1970s and told me their stories. Even though they had winemaking degrees, they couldn’t get hired anyplace but the laboratory, because the white men who owned the wineries thought they’d […]

The changing role of the somm

 Mark As Read    

Predictions of the demise of almost anything are usually exaggerated, as Mark Twain had occasion to note. He was very much alive when it was reported that he had died. Along the same lines, neither are sommeliers about to go the way of the dodo bird, as suggested in this piece, called “Are sommeliers becoming […]

Wine, beer…and pot?

 Mark As Read    

  As a longtime pot enthusiast, and the current holder of a California medical marijuana card, I’ve been glad to witness the acceptance of weed in America. If you’d asked me twenty years ago if I thought the legalization of marijuana (or gay marriage, for that matter) would occur in my lifetime, I would have […]

Announcing the end of the wine-and-foor pairing dictatorship

 Mark As Read    

  Perhaps the most refreshing development in the world of wine is the gradual rejection of strict wine-and-food-pairing do’s and don’ts, in favor of “Don’t worry about it, if you like it, just do it.” This liberating thought struck me as I was reading through this article in yesterday’s Napa Register which paraphrased MW Tim […]

That Constellation-Meiomi deal? Land is more valuable than brand

 Mark As Read    

  I sometimes wonder if the general public knows how much land acquisition is a strategic consideration in many of the winery deals that have gone down in California. Sometimes, these acquisitions don’t make any sense, on the face of it; you wonder why in the hell winery X bought winery Y. But if real […]

On reviewing again, after a brief sabbatical

 Mark As Read    

  Getting my chops back as a taster isn’t hard at all. It’s like bicycle riding: once you know how to do it, you can take some time off and then get right back on and go places. As I wrote yesterday, I’m going be reviewing wines here on my blog, after 1-1/2 years off. […]

It’s always something: More changes on the blog

 Mark As Read    

  Starting today, I’m going to do something I’ve never done before on my blog: I’ll be reviewing wines. The first batch follows below. None of these wineries paid me. I don’t intend for steveheimoff.com to become a wine-reviewing site, although I think people are interested in what I have to say. But I do […]

Parker vs. “trendy reds” is a fake choice

 Mark As Read    

  Here, you see, is the false dichotomy that infects so many of our wine conversations today: that there are “two different kinds” of wine and that we, as consumers and writers, “must pick one or the other,” as if we were in a vinous civil war where no one is permitted to be neutral […]

Thoughts on a Santa Cruz Mountains Cabernet tasting

 Mark As Read    

  In California, we don’t get the extremes of weather that Europe does, but still, our vintages vary considerably from each other. You just have to know how to read the subtleties. Four years ago, 2011 was “the year summer never came,” and many of the wines have a lean, green streak, if not actual […]

Learning how to learn about new wines

 Mark As Read    

  I’ve been a California wine guy for a long time, but in the 1980s, I was happily catholic, in the old sense of the word, derived from the Latin meaning “universal.” I studied and drank every classic wine and region I could get my hands on, from Old Europe to New World California, and […]

Gay-friendly: Progress in the wine industry, but a long way to go

 Mark As Read    

  Years ago—it has to be at least ten—I wrote an article for Wine Enthusiast about the emerging gay market for wine, and how important it was proving to be. I was seeing more wine advertisements aimed at gay people, and a handful of wineries was reaching out to them, albeit quietly. At the time, […]

When Mohammed won’t come down from the mountain

 Mark As Read    

  So I called up this winery the other day. It’s not too far away from Oakland. I’m putting together another tasting and asked if I could buy a bottle of their Cabernet Sauvignon and have it shipped to me. The guy—the owner-proprietor, I think—said no. He said it’s not worth his while to “drive […]

Friday Fishwrap

 Mark As Read    

  No new post today. We're gearing up for the Warriors parade this morning in Oakland and are so excited we can't even think! But I want to give a big "thank you!" to the lovely people who came to my talk last night at the Napa Valley Wine Technical Group. Have a great weekend.

What are the traits of westside GSMs from Paso Robles?

 Mark As Read    

  This was our objective at yesterday’s tasting. The answer: high alcohol tremendous fruity extract thick tannins soft acidity Think about each of those. Each element is at the utmost of the limits of a table wine to remain balanced. In this high-wire act, if you make the slightest error, you’re screwed. The high alcohol […]

“The 100-point system is irrelevant”? Umm, sorry, no it’s not

 Mark As Read    

  Haha, people have been saying the 100-point system is irrelevant for at least 100 years. Well, maybe the last 10 years. And now comes this blog from the Napa Valley Wine Academy that makes it official. Well, who or what is the Napa Valley Wine Academy? They call themselves (on their website) “America’s premier […]

Thoughts on those sommelier lunches

 Mark As Read    

  Today I am speaker, or host, at a buyer’s lunch for Jackson Family Wines. The venue is Farmshop, a restaurant in the tony Marin County town of Larkspur. I’ve never eaten there, but if you’re a wine-and-food geek in the Bay Area, you’ve certainly heard of it. Farmshop earned a coveted spot on the […]

Twitter’s shifting winds. Dead Social Media Walking?

 Mark As Read    

  I never was much of a Twitter fan. Years ago, people whom I respected for their business savvy told me I had to start using it. “But I don’t want to,” I responded. “It seems so pointless. ‘I had scrambled eggs this morning.’ Who cares?” “You don’t understand,” my career-advising friends told me. “You […]

Climate, Santa Maria-style, and the vagaries of bizarre vintages

 Mark As Read    

  It’s one thing to write or talk about how consistent the Santa Maria climate is. We all know about how the fog blows in in the evening and then melts away the following morning, giving way to turquoise skies. All this is true, but to be here, as I am now and have visited […]

Embracing the alcohol of Paso red blends, and a word about that Benziger deal

 Mark As Read    

  For the past half-year, I’ve been hosting a series of wine tastings up at Jackson Family Wines headquarters, just outside Santa Rosa. So far, they’ve included both JFW and non-JFW wines, but the next one is strictly non-JFW. It’s a tasting of high-end Paso Robles Rhône-style blends (JFW currently owns no Paso Robles wineries), […]

Gems vs. rhinestones

 Mark As Read    

  I was chatting the other day with the great Richard Arrowood when he said something that really caught my mind. “I want to focus on gems, not rhinestones.” What is a “gem” of a wine? It’s an unofficial term, of course, and therefore subject to interpretation; but I think Richard meant wines that are […]

What wineries need for the market

 Mark As Read    

  A recent article in Wines & Vines about the Master of Wine Bob Paulinski, who now works for BevMo, was on the topic of “Making Your Wine Brand Stand Out.” It caught my eye because, like most articles on the same topic, it asks a pertinent question—one that all wineries are asking—without providing any […]

Who’s on the A List of the most important California vintners?

 Mark As Read    

  I once had a sensei who was quite well known in karatedo circles for the historic role he had played in spreading this traditional Japanese martial art throughout North America in the 1950s and 1960s, thereby stoking its popularity and leading directly to Bruce Lee and Chow Yun-Fat and today’s mixed martial arts. My […]

Remembering a defunct winery, and a lesson in regional correctness

 Mark As Read    

  I don't know what made me remember the old Chateau Woltner wines. The memory just popped into my head—who knows how these things work, or why. The winery had been started by an heir to the Chateau La Mission Haut-Brion dynasty. I don’t recall the details—here’s the Wikipedia entry that says after La Mission […]

Thursday throwaway: Eberle, Kermit Lynch, Jon Bonné, Starbucks and dissing Oakland

 Mark As Read    

  I was stoked to read yesterday that Gary Eberle has regained control of his eponymous winery. Gary lost that control some years ago. He was obviously, and understandably, upset about that. How would you feel to start a winery you named after yourself (and your ancestors), only to lose that ownership through circumstances you […]

How to get publicity for your winery. Or not.

 Mark As Read    

  Old friend Alan Goldfarb asks some pertinent questions in this piece that was published the other day in an online trade publication. The quandary he poses for wineries: “With wine writers dropping off the face of the earth…to whom does a winery publicist turn to get PR/accolades/reviews when the writer pool is evaporating?” As […]

Winemaker’s choice: When marketing and the perception of exclusivity collide

 Mark As Read    

  I had coffee yesterday with a winemaker from Napa Valley who works for a high-end winery: triple-digit Cabernet and all that. We were taking about marketing, when she said something about Napa wineries that intrigued me enough to write it down: "Do you want to sell wine," she asked, "or do you want to […]

Ambiente: I learn a new lesson about wine writing

 Mark As Read    

  I’ve struggled for years to find a broader context in which to talk about and understand wine. I decided a long time ago that the word “terroir” was hopelessly inadequate because it doesn’t describe enough of wine’s multiple dimensions. The most common definition of terroir includes only soil and climate, which is like describing […]

The New York Times discovers IPOB

 Mark As Read    

  Nice, balanced treatment of the In Pursuit of Balance movement and those who think it’s silly by Bruce Schoenfeld in the New York Times magazine. The very fact that this phenomenon has hit the pages of the Gray Lady is indicative of how important IPOB has become in the weltanschauung of our wine conversation. […]

Blend or single vineyard? It depends on the variety

 Mark As Read    

  Sauvignon Blanc is one of those grape varieties that seems to benefit from judicious blending from multiple sources in California. Cool-climate Sauvignon Blanc can be audacious and savory in gooseberries, with a touch of pyrazine that can be too green for many people. Warm-climate Sauvignon can have delicious tropical fruit flavors but be a ...

Whither wine writing? Hosemaster’s post makes me think

 Mark As Read    

  The Hosemaster has a pretty good spoof up on his blog. It’s a little harsh, even for him, but that’s Hosemaster for you, unsparing and direct, whose unblinking eye sees all and tells it like it is (and never with malice. Well, maybe a little…). But he does hit on some truths about the […]

The vagaries of vintages

 Mark As Read    

  I’m calling this post the vagaries of vintages because you never know what the weather is going to be during the growing season. Farmers have known this forever, of course, ever since our farmer ancestors began harvesting crops, which is one of the things that made us human and led to civilization. European grapegrowers […]

Musings on Diageo’s rumored sale of its wineries

 Mark As Read    

  I hope Diageo is doing all right financially, but to judge from all these rumors that the London-based company is going to sell its iconic wine brands, maybe they really are experiencing some difficulty. Their California brands from Napa Valley or County include Sterling, Beaulieu, Acacia and Provenance. The first two will be familiar [̷...

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