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Steve Heimoff| Wine Blog

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Renewed U.S.-Cuba ties good news for CA wine

 Mark As Read    

  The first thing I thought, when I heard that the U.S. is about to normalize diplomatic relations with Cuba, was, “Oh, man, that's really good news for California wine.” Before the brouhahas of the early 1960s, Cuba was a favorite tropical destination for American vacationers, especially those along the East Coast. Today, people go […]...

Steve Heimoff| Wine Blog 4 hours, 21 min ago

Zinfandel poised for growth

 Mark As Read    

  Some wine varieties in California are permanently popular with the population. Cabernet Sauvignon and Chardonnay, for example. In now, in last year, and they’ll be in next year. Then there are varieties that seem to come and go in cycles, and of them none more so than Zinfandel. It’s had more ins and outs […]

Wine as “the good life”? The Wall Street Journal says so!

 Mark As Read    

  I’ve been watching the case of the New York Times for many years, to see what would be the fate of the Gray Lady. At the height of the Great Recession, the paper was said to be perilously close to going under, the result of (a) declining readership because younger people were not reading […]

When is a review not a review?

 Mark As Read    

  The San Francisco Chronicle’s restaurant reviewer, Michael Bauer, really stirred up a dust storm with this post, “DNR: Three restaurants I’m not reviewing,” on his blog. First, let me say that I’m a Bauer fan. If I’m checking out a restaurant in the Bay Area, I first want to know what Michael said about […]

Tuesday Twaddle: “Offloading” brands, and the old spinning cone

 Mark As Read    

  When is it time for a winery to “offload” underperforming brands? It happens. You’ve had a line, or SKU, in the market for years, but for some reason, it’s never gained traction. So the hard decision must be faced: Is it time to pull the plug on Grandma? This is the situation Treasury Wine […]

Twelve Tips for Better Content Creation

 Mark As Read    

  I recently came across this statistic in an infographic on content marketing: “64% of B2B content marketers say their biggest challenge is producing enough content.” (B2B means business-to-business.) I would suspect that “producing enough content” also is the biggest challenge for B2C (business-to-consumer) content marketers. Cranking out co...

On a rainy day, a trip down Memory Lane

 Mark As Read    

  We’ve been shut in our homes for the last 24 hours due to this torrential rainstorm, so I’m feeling a bit stir crazy, which is making me nostalgic—not a bad way to feel when the weather is grey and depressing, and memories are brighter than reality. I began keeping a Tasting Diary on February […]

Who’s growing fast, and who’s not, according to the latest survey

 Mark As Read    

  Silicon Valley Bank’s annual industry survey has been summarized by Lewis Perdue’s Wine Industry Insight, and while I don’t have a link (it came late yesterday via email), I’d like to make it the focus of today’s post. The most interesting part is SVB’s “predicted sales and case growth by region.” I did manage […]

How about some fruit juice with that Chardonnay?

 Mark As Read    

  It must drive some winemakers crazy to hear that two-thirds of younger wine drinkers (ages 25 to 40) in America are mixing their wine with fruit juice, that nearly half are making club soda-based “cocktails” with wine, and 46% actually add ice to their vino! Those are some of the findings from a new […]

My thoughts on the S.F. Chronicle’s Top 100 Wines of 2014

 Mark As Read    

  Of the San Francisco Chronicle’s Top 100 Wines of 2014, 9 of the 12 Chardonnays have alcohol below 14% 13 of 16 Other Whites have alcohol below 14% 8 of 9 Sparkling Wine, Rose and Others have alcohol below 14% 18 of 23 Pinot Noirs have alcohol below 14% Did these wines make the […]

On critics, criticism and bad reviews

 Mark As Read    

  I think it’s perfectly fine for the restaurants and pubs in Dallas to band together and try to stop the Dallas Morning News’ restaurant critic from having access to them. It’s a free country, right? Leslie Brenner, the DMN’s critic, has the right to publicly trash the restos in her column, and they have […]

My favorite wine books

 Mark As Read    

  I gave a talk last night to the Sonoma County Wine Library on “what makes a wine book for the ages.” That’s a rather august topic, and it made me compose a list of the books in my own wine library (which is very substantial) that I have enjoyed a great deal. Here’s the […]

My Pinot Noir event in Los Angeles

 Mark As Read    

  I did my first big event for Jackson Family Wines yesterday, and I think it went pretty well. Despite a downpour, we had a full house. It was on the wines of the Santa Maria Valley, especially Pinot. I didn’t want it to be a JFW thing, so I asked my dear friends Dieter […]

Fourteen rules concerning wine blogging

 Mark As Read    

  I hope you had a great Thanksgiving weekend! We were down in Malibu, where we ate all the traditional foods and washed them down with a bunch of great wine.  My post of Nov 24 elicited 32 comments (not counting the ridiculous spams, which fortunately you don’t have to see!), which is pretty good […]

Happy Thanksgiving!

 Mark As Read    

  I’ll be driving down to Malibu today with my family members, as we’ve done every Thanksgiving for nearly 30 years. We go to cousin Ellen’s house, on Big Rock in the hills above the P.C.H., where about 22 of us will gather for the traditional turkey. This year’s celebration also will be tinged with […]

French attitudes toward Napa Valley, plus comparisons of winegrapes to meat?

 Mark As Read    

  It’s too funny, really. When I first started out in this biz, you couldn’t give Napa Valley wine away to the French. “Mais non!” was their attitude. It was vin de table, merde, Algerian plonk. Some of us knew otherwise, and suspected that the French—so chauvinistic in the belief that no other culture could […]

A tasting of 1974 wines (and one 1944)

 Mark As Read    

  Went to a very interesting tasting yesterday. It was a small private affair, held at the Restaurant at Wente, a chic place tucked into the southern foothills of the Livermore Valley. The subject of the tasting was 1974 Cabernet Sauvignon. Now, anyone familiar with the modern history of wine in California knows that that […]

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 […]

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 […]

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