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Steve Heimoff| Wine Blog

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On an Argentine Torrontes and how critics come up with those numbers

 Mark As Read    

  I drank a very nice wine from Argentina last night, Michel Torino 2013 Don David Finca La Primavera #3 ($23), made from the Torrontes grape. It was quite delicious, offering layers of lime, quince and tangerine, with wonderfully brisk acidity, and while there was a honeyed richness, the finish was absolutely dry. After 25 […]

Steve Heimoff| Wine Blog 10 hours, 57 min ago

Thinking of Tchelistcheff on the 20th anniversary of his death

 Mark As Read    

  Can it really have been 20 years since André Tchelistcheff died? I met and interviewed the man they call The Maestro a couple times, in my guise as a reporter, although I can’t claim to have known him well. His heavily Russian-inflected English could be hard to understand, especially on the phone, but he […]

The critics, not committees, have classified California wine

 Mark As Read    

  In the Spring of 1969, Roy Andries de Groot, who turned to wine- and food-writing when he became blind, was sent to California by Esquire Magazine to write about the state’s wines, on the 200th anniversary of Junipero Serra’s planting of wine grapes in San Diego. de Groot soon realized that what he really […]

Who’s the best wine critic, a local or a visitor to the region?

 Mark As Read    

  Old friend Nick Goldschmidt braved the terrors of I-80 through Berkeley and Emeryville to visit me in Oakland yesterday. We grabbed some sushi to go and walked over to the park, where we sat on a bench by the lake, with all the seagulls and geese, and talked. (Yes, Gus came, too.) What did […]

History and tasting go hand in hand when it comes to wine appreciation

 Mark As Read    

  We tasted through a range of Jackson Family wines the other day with the staff of the Sonoma County Vintners, and my oh my, what an impressive group they (the SCV staff, I mean) were. I remember a time when the staffs (such as they were) of these regional wine associations weren’t as professional […]

Do we need another Sonoma appellation?

 Mark As Read    

  I’m not quite sure how I feel about the proposed West Sonoma Coast appellation some people are proposing. On the plus side, it’s more compact than the existing Sonoma Coast AVA, which as everyone knows almost nobody likes because it’s so all-encompassing. On the minus side is that it’s still pretty sprawling. It would […]

When quality isn’t enough: the “lightbulb of recognition”

 Mark As Read    

  The standard meme for marketing wine is: Ours is better than theirs. In just about every wine advertisement you read, this quality argument is there, whether implicit or explicit. Producers claim that their wine is rounder, smoother, more mellow, more delicious, better balanced, cleaner, more fulfilling, more [fill in the adjective] than the...

Post-Haas School thoughts

 Mark As Read    

  We did my annual tasting and seminar last week at the U.C. Berkeley Haas School of Business’s Wine Club, “we” being myself and Randy Ullum, K-J’s head winemaker. I’ve long been a fan of Randy. I included him in my 2008 book, “New Classic Winemakers of California,” which I organized by the decade when […]

How much time did you say Millennials spend on the media? Really? Wow.

 Mark As Read    

  The most stunning finding from Ipsos Media’s new study on social media is that Millennials spend an average of 17.8 hours a day perusing (if that’s the right word) the media. Assuming they must sleep at some point, that means that nearly all of Millennials’ waking hours are spent looking at or listening to […]

The internationalization of style is no friend of blind tasting

 Mark As Read    

  The embarrassment of mistaking a California Pinot Noir for Merlot, or a Merlot for a Zinfandel or Petite Sirah, or a Malbec for Cabernet Sauvignon, can be acute, for someone known as a wine critic. Surely a person of that stature should be able to tell the difference between major varieties! Well, not necessarily. […]

Healdsburg’s growing pains

 Mark As Read    

  One of the tradeoffs that comes with being a popular wine destination region is development. It’s as unstoppable as the seasons, but unlike the coming of Spring, not everyone likes it. Healdsburg, as everyone knows who’s been there or just read about it, has become the quintessentially quaint wine town in California. It’s smaller […]

Cocktails and varietal promiscuity

 Mark As Read    

  I’m not a big cocktail drinker, but I do like one or two from time to time when I’m having a nice dinner at a restaurant. My preference is vodka. The taste of Scotch has never appealed to me, although I do appreciate the complexities of a single-malt. Rum and bourbon, ehh, I sometimes […]

On distributors, and the IPOB-ization of wine

 Mark As Read    

  When I first started writing about wine, professionally, it was for Wine Spectator, but they also wanted me to write for their trade magazine, Market Watch, which I was happy to do, because it was more work for an underpaid freelance writer. I quickly learned to like that back end of the business, the […]

Carneros Pinot Noir: a study i

 Mark As Read    

  If you’ve only come upon the California wine scene in, say, the last 15 years, you’d never know that, once upon a time, Carneros was one of the hottest appellations in the state. I don’t have copies of articles from the 1980s that were calling Carneros “California’s Burgundy,” but that was the meme of […]

Comparing the wine cultures of Japan and the U.S.

 Mark As Read    

  Ned Goodwin, said to be the only MW living and working in Japan, has written a thought-provoking piece that’s worth reading in full. For me, his essential take-home point is that Japan is experiencing what he calls “the Galapagos effect,” an “isolation dynamic” that takes its name from the island chain, off the west […]

Wednesday wraparound: the perils of prejudice, and the limits of social media

 Mark As Read    

  1961 was, as all Bordeaux lovers know, one of those “vintages of the century” when nearly all the chateaux produced rich, ageworthy wines. However, one chateau, La Lagune, a Third Growth of the Médoc that has had a stellar reputation, apparently didn’t fare so well among critics. Eddie Penning-Rowsell, in The Wines of Bordeaux, […]

Tasting with Cal MBAs, and news on the California drought

 Mark As Read    

  I’m setting up my annual tasting for the U.C. Berkeley Haas School of Business, which this year will be on April 9. This is one of my favorite tastings because the students—future MBAs who are members of the school’s wine club—are totally into wine. They’re a smart, curious bunch, eager to learn, and they […]

Superstar winemakers, blind tasting and bias

 Mark As Read    

  When I began writing about wine in the 1980s the “celebrity winemaker” had not yet been invented. I use this verb “invented” deliberately, in the sense that it was the media that came up with the concept that the guiding hand behind a great wine or, more accurately, a series of great wines must […]

Petite Sirah revisited

 Mark As Read    

  Someone whom I don’t know privately emailed me yesterday asking my advice about some Petite Sirahs he could buy that are “the darkest (black) and most earthy minerality (full bodied).” It was nice to know that, while I’m not officially a wine critic anymore, at least one person still appreciates that I have a […]

Some thoughts from a recovering wine critic

 Mark As Read    

  Now that I am a recovering wine critic, and one moreover who used to employ the 100-point system, I am perhaps in a unique position to talk about it, with all its pluses and minuses. I have written time and again that the awarding of a point score is nothing more nor less than […]

In San Francisco, all that techie money is good news for wineries

 Mark As Read    

SPECIAL NOTE TO MY READERS: I have been forced to install a Captcha! Code in order for you to comment here. Believe me, I didn't want to. For many years you've been able to get your comments posted instantly (after one initial approval), and I like it that way. But the Comments section has been […]

Steve’s blog is down for the day

 Mark As Read    

Denial of service attacks due to a huge quantity of spam in the contents. Back tomorrow [fingers crossed!]  

From the Sayings of Chairman Harry

 Mark As Read    

  I’m still re-reading Winetaster’s Choice, one of Harry Waugh’s wine diaries, this one from 1972. While in Bordeaux he visited the chai, or wine cellar, of Chateau Bouscaut, where the proprietor, Jean Delmas, prepared for him a tasting of the 1970 vintage red wines, presumably still in barrel or perhaps just recently bottled. Harry […]

In Napa Valley, the past is prelude to the future

 Mark As Read    

  In a few paragraphs in "Winetaster's Choice," written 42 years ago, Harry Waugh anticipated much of Napa Valley’s modern history, although he likely did not know it. It was on March 30, 1972, that Harry, the “grand old man of the English wine trade” who also was on the board of directors of Chateau […]

Wilfred and me

 Mark As Read    

  We’ve done a lot of talking over the years, in this blog and throughout the social media sphere, on the topic of careers. The main question–given the rapid influx of wine bloggers–has been how to monetize those blogs. We’ve heard from “experts” of every stripe about SEO and ROI and all that, but the […]

My final wine review: epitaph to a professional critic’s career

 Mark As Read    

  It is altogether fitting and proper (as Abraham Lincoln said in another context, in the Gettysburg Address) that the last wine review I shall ever write for Wine Enthusiast should have been for a Williams Selyem wine. It was the 2012 Papera Zinfandel, which I reviewed on Monday. I did not deliberately hold it […]

Bringing common sense to wine drinking laws

 Mark As Read    

  Some years ago, I was working out at my gym when I saw a newcomer. He was doing bench presses. What struck me were his pe’ot, or sidecurls of hair, and the fringes of talllit–the Jewish prayer shawl–sticking out from under his sweatshirt. Surprised by the incongruity of seeing an ultra-Orthodox Jew (and a […]

Praising California Chardonnay, and a remark about my new job

 Mark As Read    

  Wines & Vines last Friday reported that Oregon winemakers, like their counterparts in California, are trying to understand how best to grow and vinify the variety, “but defining Oregon Chardonnay remains an ongoing work.” There were a couple things in the article that struck me. One is the opening statement that “Chardonnay is enjoying [...

How come the Chinese don’t love California wine the way they love French wine?

 Mark As Read    

  It’s odd, when you think about it, that the Chinese have embraced French wine so fervently.  I mean, why wasn’t it California wine? China, over the course of its long history, has had very little to do with France. But the relationship between China and California goes way back–to a sad time (the 1800s) […]

Notes on wine writing etc.

 Mark As Read    

I got a greater understanding of Uber while I used their car service for three days during the World of Pinot Noir. They have a great business model and are looking to get involved in ancillary areas, such as wine tourism, which is a great idea. I was reminded of Uber again reading yesterday’s Wall […]

Live from the front lines of Pinot Noir: In Pursuit of Balance

 Mark As Read    

  Lots of buzz at Monday’s In Pursuit of Balance seminar and tasting in San Francisco, held at the Bluxome Street Winery, in the far South of Market and just west of AT&T Park. Moderator Jamie Goode choose the seminar topic: Defining ripeness in Pinot Noir. “Too much alcohol [in Pinot Noir] is a huge […]

Random chance as an influence in brand building

 Mark As Read    

  Why did The Beatles become the biggest band in the world? How come Mona Lisa is seen as the most famous painting of all time? A new study out of Princeton suggests that “artworks gain popularity based on social influence, and chance,” and not necessarily due to inherent artistic merit. In fact, there’s an […]

Short and simple: I have a new job

 Mark As Read    

  At 6:30 a.m. Pacific time today, this announcement went out from Jackson Family Wines: JACKSON FAMILY WINES HIRES STEVE HEIMOFF AS COMMUNICATIONS & CONTENT EXPERT  Veteran wine writer, blogger and critic will specialize in communications and education for family’s expanding portfolio  Sonoma County, CA (MARCH 10, 2014) – Jackson Fa...

Top 10 wines of the week

 Mark As Read    

  It’s been a while since I posted a TTWOTW, so here goes.You can see my scores and full reviews in upcoming issues of Wine Enthusiast. This was a good week for value wines. You’ll note that four of my Top Ten retail for less than $30, while the Dichotomy is just a few bucks […]

Winery P.R. and social media: Make the product cool, and make stars of the everyday people who drink it

 Mark As Read    

  The great advertising genius David Ogilvy, who founded one of Madison Avenue’s most successful firms and served as the inspiration for generations of Mad Men, in his 1963 memoir “Confessions of an Advertising Man” quoted his own father. “[He] used to say of a product that it was ‘very well spoken of in the […]

How many Pinot Noirs can one winemaker successfully make?

 Mark As Read    

  I got a bunch of single vineyard Pinot Noirs for review yesterday from Sojourn Cellars, a fine producer whose Pinots, Cabernets and other wines I’ve liked over the years. I haven’t reviewed the new batch yet, so this post isn’t about them. It’s about the phenomenon of wineries producing multiple vineyard-designated Pinots (in Sojourn’s [R...

Just thinking on a wet Tuesday morning

 Mark As Read    

  All the rain we’ve had lately is making me introspective. I may have a slight case of S.A.D.–seasonal affective disorder. When the sky turns a dull gray, it rains for a week and the sun seems like it’ll never return, all I want to do is curl up with a good book and wait […]

Final thoughts on WOPN 2014

 Mark As Read    

  World of Pinot Noir was a very great success despite 3 days of continuous rain (I hope all those poor people living in the foothills of the San Gabes are okay). The Bacara Resort turned out to be a lovely new venue; their staff was awesome. Personally, I want to thank the Uber people […]

World of Pinot Noir 2014: Random notes

 Mark As Read    

  At the morning seminar on the Pinots of Willamette Valley, my friend Gillian Handelman, of Jackson Family Wines, remarked that Oregon winemakers seem to talk a lot more about soil and rocks than do California winemakers, who lean more toward climate in explaining their Pinots. That immediately rang true to me, and I wondered […]

What do the attacks on Google mean? An analysis of the anti-tech phenomenon

 Mark As Read    

  Over the past few months, it was attacks on Google buses in San Francisco and Oakland that made headlines and showed how anti-techie resentment is spreading throughout the Bay Area. Now comes the latest chapter: a “tech consultant” showing off her Google Glass in a bar in the Haight district was attacked for reasons […]

Wopn Hoppin’

 Mark As Read    

  Off to World of Pinot Noir today, a great event for keeping track of what’s up with the variety, in California and around the world. I’m looking forward to seeing old friends and making new ones. Among the seminars I’m excited about are “The Insider Wines of the Cote d’Or” and a comparison of […]

The 2013 Crush Report and Cabernet Sauvignon

 Mark As Read    

  I guess the big news about the 2013 California Crush Report, just out, is that we set another record for tonnage. It was headline news in 2012 when California’s crush was the biggest ever, but for some reason, news of 2013’s even bigger one has been largely muted. The total was 4,685,075 tons, up […]

Refining the Russian River Valley AVA: another start

 Mark As Read    

  Maybe something will come of it this time–“it” being the latest push to establish sub-appellations within the greater Russian River Valley. People have been talking about it forever. More than ten years ago, when I was doing the research for my first book, A Wine Journey along the Russian River, the controversy already was […]

Enjoying Petite Sirah at Dark & Delicious

 Mark As Read    

  I went to Dark & Delicious, the big Petite Sirah event that my friends, Jo and Jose Diaz, hold every year, through their P.S. I Love You advocacy group. As usual, it was at Kent Rosenblum’s Rock Wall Wine Co. facility,  in an airplane hangar at the old Alameda Naval Air Station, which was […]

Confessions of a wine critic

 Mark As Read    

  At a blind tasting of all of Bill Harlan’s 2005 wines, held in 2008, I once rated The Matriarch higher than Harlan Estate itself. The tasting was held, at my request, at Harlan’s lovely stone estate winery, in the hills above the Oakville bench. Seven wines–Harlan Estate, The Maiden, The Matriarch, and and 4 […]

Happy birthday Jess Jackson

 Mark As Read    

  It took a posting by George Rose on Facebook to remind me that this past Tuesday, Feb. 18, would have been Jess Jackson’s 84th birthday. George was, of course, the P.R. and communications guy at K-J, for years. He always was so helpful to a working reporter like me. People think my job is […]

California AVAs as splintered broomsticks in “Fantasia”

 Mark As Read    

  The Federal government, in its bureaucratic wisdom, is exhaustive in spelling out the rules and regulations concerning American Viticultural Areas, defining everything from the percentage of grapes required to originate from the AVA to the point size of the appellation on the label. So complex has the process become that the Tax and Trade [&...

They said it on Facebook: non-beef pairings for Cabernet Sauvignon

 Mark As Read    

  “Food without wine is a corpse; wine without food is a ghost; united and well matched they are as body and soul, living partners.” So said André Simon, wine merchant, gourmet, and co-founder (in 1933) of the Wine & Food Society, the editorship of whose journal passed, in 1963, into the hands of a […]

Friday fishwrap: mediocre wines, an upcoming Pinot tasting, and props to Von Strasser

 Mark As Read    

  I’ve given brutal scores lately to some expensive wines, most of them new entrants to the California marketplace. When a wine costs $40, $50 or more, and it’s not even as good as some other wine that costs $15, it gets me irked. Of course, I can’t allow my emotions to enter into my […]

Annals of wine descriptors: “Profound”

 Mark As Read    

  What is a “profound” wine?  Lettie Teague indirectly raised this question in her recent Wall Street Journal profile of Joe Salamone, the wine buyer at Crush Wine & Spirits, which is in midtown Manhattan. Teague’s column was, in part, about the language people use to describe wine; Salamone, referring to a particular Savoie red, […]

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