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Steve Heimoff| Wine Blog

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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 […]

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 […]

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