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Steve Heimoff| Wine Blog

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The World Wine Guys on their new book

 Mark As Read    

  Mike DeSimone and Jeff Jenssen, “the World Wine Guys,” have a new book out, Wines of California: The Comprehensive Guide, with a foreward by Michael Mondavi and a preface by Kevin Zraly. It’s quite good, certainly the best of the genre in a long time, and a useful companion for the wine lover’s bookshelf. […]

Thinking about tasting

 Mark As Read    

  Lots of food for thought in the Fall 2014 issue of Wine & Spirits, which is devoted to “The art and science of wine tasting.” There’s so much thoughtful content, I could write a post on each sentence. Surely that’s the mark of a good wine magazine. The fun starts with editor Josh Greene […]

Here comes the Apple’s wine i-Tasting app!

 Mark As Read    

  Tim Cook’s announcement on Tuesday of Apple’s new iTaste © app is exciting, and certainly represents a great leap forward in technology, but I wonder if it will really replace traditional human wine tasters. As you’ve probably heard, the app, which runs on the new Apple Watch, is easy enough to use. You just […]

Tales from the AVA front

 Mark As Read    

  "Democracy,” Winston Churchill told the House of Commons in 1947, “is the worst form of government, except for all those other forms that have been tried from time to time." Churchill might still have been sour toward democratic forms of government, given the fact that, two years previously, he had been unceremoniously thrown out […]...

Tuesday twaddle: I moderate a panel and reconnect with a friend

 Mark As Read    

  This Thursday, Sept. 11, Women for Winesense,cwhich hosts events on various topics throughout the year and also provides scholarships for women pursuing careers in wine, is doing a workshop and panel, and they’ve invited me to moderate it. I gladly accepted, for this is a great honor. My six panelists—three mother-and-daughter teams–ar...

A tale of two bars: dives and tasting rooms

 Mark As Read    

  1. Is the dive bar doomed? I have two images in my head of the classic American dive bar. One is from the movies, where so many scenes of intrigue, drama and violence have occurred in them. I think of the Silver Bullet, the bar in Thelma and Louise, for example, with its country […]

Is there a “glass ceiling” when it comes to scoring certain wines? (Hint: yes)

 Mark As Read    

  The blog Gargantuan Wine has an interesting post, “Dark Secrets of the 100 Point Wine Scale,” that identifies a “pair of endemic faults” the author says are not only “shameful” but “which are seemingly never discussed.” Well, never mind that they are constantly discussed, in blogs, newspaper columns and the like. The first “endemic […]

Tales from Content City, or How I Learned to be a Storyteller

 Mark As Read    

  I seem to have established the reputation as someone who knows a thing or two about “content marketing.” We’ll get to a definition of that in a moment, but first, two examples of how that view has attached itself to me. In the last two days, I’ve been invited to participate in events by […]

The embarrassment of the rich when it comes to wine

 Mark As Read    

  While we’re on the subject of Bill Harlan (and we have been lately), you may know that he’s a partner in something called The Napa Valley Reserve, an ultra-high end sort of wine club you have to buy your way into to get the wine. And we’re not talking about a small amount: When […]

The Empire Strikes Back: Laube Takes on IPOB

 Mark As Read    

  Brother Laube comes out swinging against In Pursuit of Balance, in the Sept. 30 issue of Wine Spectator. (Sorry, no link. The Spectator has one of the best firewalls in the business. No subscribe, no read.) I’d been wondering how long it would take him. After all, Jim is famous for giving high scores […]

Emotion, the Bee Gees and Bill Harlan: The power of persuasion

 Mark As Read    

  “It’s just emotion that’s taking me over,” the Bee Gees crooned—emotionally—on their 1978 hit, “Emotion,” a song of unrequited love and the pain it can cause. We all know how powerful emotions can be. If strong enough, they can, and do, overrule reason and common sense, and “take over,” driving their human to perform […]

What makes a winery great?

 Mark As Read    

  I took a rare day off from the blog yesterday, and I know you notice when I do, because I hear from you! Which I’m grateful for. I sometimes refer to my “Thursday Throwaway” and “Friday Fishwrap” posts, because I well know we writers must be appreciative of every individual who reads us—we shouldn’t […]

More on the earthquake

 Mark As Read    

  You’ll have to forgive me for feeling a little philosophical today about our wine industry, but a disaster will do that to you. We still don’t know the full extent of the damage from the big Napa earthquake, and we may never, but the fact is, if you escaped unscathed—as most wineries and wine […]

A tasting at Verité

 Mark As Read    

  Wonderful trip yesterday to Verité, the Jackson Family-owned property that quite frankly is killing it in Bordeaux blends. I’ve been on that opinion at least since I gave the 2006 La Muse a perfect 100 points, their first ever; but not their last, for Robert Parker recently gave no fewer than seven 100-point scores […]

Earthquake rattles nerves, causes extensive damage in Napa area

 Mark As Read    

  The shaking woke me up at exactly 3:19 a.m. early Sunday morning. It woke Gus up, too. I’ve been awakened many times in the middle of the night by earthquakes but Gus never was. The last several years have been remarkably quiet in the Bay Area, enough so that I’ve had several conversations lately […]

When it’s time to kiill off a brand

 Mark As Read    

  When is it time to retire a tired brand? The Wall Street Journal reported earlier this week that Procter & Gamble is thinking of dropping one of its flagship brands, Ivory Soap, as part of an effort “to clear out weaker performers to focus on…brands that account for almost all its revenue and profit.” […]

The changing approaches to wine writing

 Mark As Read    

  I don’t think wine tasting notes are in “big trouble,” as this op-ed piece by Lewis Perdue suggests, but Lewis is correct to point out their inherent subjectivity and overall fuzziness. He’s hardly the first: People have complained about winespeak for generations. “Hocus-pocus,” “the double brusheroo” [love that] and “trying to make things c...

A new winery P.R. website is born

 Mark As Read    

  This is pretty cool—a new blog that addresses “the practice of wine public relations, wine media trends, marketing ethics and news commentary.” Lots of blogs, including mine, have written stuff over the years on these topics, but I don’t know of any blog that is solely dedicated to them. The creators, Tom Wark and […]

A winery digicom manager on his job

 Mark As Read    

  Mark Gordon is senior digital communications manager for La Crema Winery. He oversees all digital media outreach for the company’s various brands, including social media, blogs, and web development and design. He’s also my colleague. I interviewed the 46-year old recently in Healdsburg and began with a tough question. SH: Aren’t you too old ...

Lessons Mayacamas and Inglenook (may) teach us

 Mark As Read    

  I must admit that I find the ongoing industry-wide conversation about ripeness levels to be the most confounding I’ve been involved in, lo these many years. Where did it start, anyway? I suppose it’s been going on for decades, in one form or another. Even before the launch of In Pursuit of Balance, which […]

The last word on single-blind, double-blind and open tasting

 Mark As Read    

  I don’t know that I’ve ever fully laid out, in this blog, my views on the three most common forms of wine tasting: single-blind, double-blind and open. So let me do so. I’ve long argued that no one way of tasting is “right.” Each has its pluses and minuses. If there were one “correct” […]

When sommeliers go wild

 Mark As Read    

  “There is a group of wine directors out there that feel that their mission is to educate the consumer. I think this is a dangerous philosophy. If people want to ask questions, fine; but if you’re going to stand there and proselytize, well, check please.” I didn’t say it: The immortal Fred Dame, M.S. […]

Fake wine? Nothing new

 Mark As Read    

  Everybody’s shocked, shocked about what Rudi Kurwanian did, but faking wine is nothing new. Below is an extract from Cato the Elder (234 BC-149 BC), a Roman statesman, on how to fake Coan wine—a wine that should have been made from grapes grown on the island of Kos, but that, as Cato points out, […]

Terroir in Pinot Noir: an approach, and a problem

 Mark As Read    

  When it comes to coastal California Pinot Noir, we make much of the distinctions of terroir (“we” being the wine media, some winemakers and everyone else involved in this rather arcane conversation). We know the regions we celebrate: Russian River Valley, Sonoma Coast, Carneros, Anderson Valley, Santa Cruz Mountains, Monterey County, San Lui...

Print down, but not out, yet

 Mark As Read    

  Observers of this nation’s media environment might be forgiven for being slightly manic-depressive. One day, everyone’s convinced print publications are headed for the trash heap; and the only question seems to be, How fast will this happen? The next day, having imbibed the bracing tonic of some academic study or other, we remain confident [...

Talking about tasting room staff

 Mark As Read    

  I spoke to a group of people last night—marvelous people, actually, employees of Kendall-Jackson’s Wine Education & Garden Center (I call it the chateau), in Fulton, just outside Santa Rosa. They had invited me up for a periodic dinner they have together. They asked me about tasting, and here’s part of what I told […]

In Oakland, gentrification comes at a cost

 Mark As Read    

  Okay, kids, more Oakland stuff today! You know how much I love my town because I often write about it. The grittiness, the craziness, the electric buzz, the hipster vibe, the artists and musicians, the diversity (we’re #4 in America, baby!) and now, we’re turning into the restaurant capital of the Bay Area! Well, […]

Wednesday wraparound: Fred Franzia, more post-WBC14 opinionating, and “the tipping point”

 Mark As Read    

  Not sayin’ that Fred Franzia is on the same enlightened level as the Dalai Lama, but it seems to me that HuffPo’s Chris Knox came down on him a little strong—even for a medium (the blog) that’s known for snark. “Trash-mouthed, unapologetic [and] downright crude”? Well, I don’t think Fred ever graduated from charm […]

If there’s a “new wine style,” what is it?

 Mark As Read    

  “A shift in the consumer base,” fueled by “a new wave of innovation in global wine styles”: that’s what Rabobank, one of the the nation’s biggest lenders to wineries, is talking about, in their latest report on the wine industry. And when Rabobank talks, wineries listen. Every winery in the country—certainly every winery I […]

A visit to an old-new winery in Carneros

 Mark As Read    

  I’m in Carneros today, visiting one of Jackson Family Wines’ newest estates, Carneros Hills, on the site the former Buena Vista vineyard and production facility on Ramal Road, on the Sonoma County side of that sprawling appellation, just over the Napa line. Well do I remember the acclaim and hope that greeted Carneros’s emergence […]

A day in coastal California’s micro-climates

 Mark As Read    

  It was 101 degrees in Calistoga yesterday when I left, around 4:30 p.m. By the time I reached St. Helena it was down to 94. Then 87 in Napa city. As I crossed the Benicia bridge, across the Carquinez Straights on the 101 freeway heading back to Oakland, I could see, there in the […]

Pssst: Wanna buy a restaurant reservation?

 Mark As Read    

  Ever get frustrated about not being able to get a restaurant reservation when you actually want one? Happens to me a fair amount. My go-to restos tend to be in Oakland, since that’s where I live: Ozumo, Pican, Bocanova, Lungomare, among others. But so popular are these places that you really need to make […]

Is “terroir” a social construct, or an objective fact?

 Mark As Read    

  If the definition of insanity (as Albert Einstein is reputed to have said) is doing the same thing over and over again, and expecting different results, then I must be insane for delving yet again into a discussion about the meaning of terroir—even when I know that such exercises will result in utter futility, […]

How will the Internet of Things impact the wine business?

 Mark As Read    

  I began hearing about the Internet of Things (IoT) last year. It was hard to wrap my mind around it—what is it, exactly?—and still is. The best I can do is to quote Wikipedia and then see if I can make sense of that. (Hang in there for a moment, because this is eventually […]

Goodbye to the era of the Big Critic

 Mark As Read    

  We entered it as stealthily as we seem to be exiting it: the era of the Big Critic, which began, roughly speaking, around 1980 with the rise of Wine Spectator and its cadre of writers, and then really burst into prominence with the emergence of The Wine Advocate and its owner, Robert M. Parker. […]

In the future, everyplace will be “the next Napa” for 15 minutes

 Mark As Read    

  It’s a slow news day, it’s been a long week, so you’ll have to cut me some slack here with this rather tongue-in-cheek post that actually does contain a kernel of observational sanity. An online news site, Uncover California, has a story today that claims “Many people believe the promising wine region of the […]

Everybody wants that younger demographic

 Mark As Read    

  Like King Arthur seeking the Holy Grail, wine marketers turn a covetuous eye toward Millennials, or Gen Y, as the answer to their (sales) prayers. Nothing surprising about that—marketing people always are looking to attract buyers–but what’s downright bizarre is that many of them are changing their previous marketing message, in some c...

A reader comment prompts me to again address the California bashers

 Mark As Read    

  It is fairly common, in the anecdote-sphere (a universe parallel to the blogosphere), for knowledgeable people to say that superpremium California wine is nearly impossible to sell back East, or even east of the Rockies. According to this take, nobody in America likes California wine anymore, except, possibly, Californians—and even they (or ...

I weigh in on Jamie Goode’s post on “natural wine”

 Mark As Read    

  As reluctant as I am to enter the minefield of any discussion about “natural wine,” I’m going to do so, because I have views on the topic, and because Jamie Goode just won a Wine Bloggers Award and if he can opine on the subject, so can I! Jamie supported natural wine rather obliquely […]

A family winery bites the dust

 Mark As Read    

  It’s always sad when an old, little family winery shuts its doors, as Milat Vineyards & Winery is set to do by the end of this month. I never formally reviewed any of their wines, because they never sent me tasting samples. They didn’t have a high profile in Napa Valley, and perhaps didn’t […]

Friday Fishwrap: old wine writers never die, we just eat pizza!

 Mark As Read    

  Hello. My name is Steve and I’m a “grand-fatherly white male traditional print writer.” That’s what Amy Corron Power called me in her blog today. She was referring to my recent panel on wine writing at the Wine Bloggers Conference; my co-panelists were Mike Dunne and James Conaway, who are pictured, with me, in […]

Thursday throwaway: Rutherford dust, Bordeaux prices and Parker, Parker, Parker!

 Mark As Read    

  Went up to Napa yesterday for the annual “Day in the Dust” tasting of the Rutherford Dust Society. I wanted to see if I could discern a “Rutherford dust” characteristic to the wines. If there was one, it was pretty well disguised. All the wines were very fine, as you’d expect, but they were […]

Spotlight: A conversation with Michael Mina’s (until yesterday) lead sommelier, Josiah Baldovino

 Mark As Read    

  Josiah Baldovino is one of the more delightful somms out there. Even in the rarified atmosphere of Michael Mina, where he was—until yesterday—lead sommelier (more on that in a moment), he’s an unpretentious guy. Josiah, 32, and his wife, Stevie, live across the street from me. We had coffee yesterday morning in our Oakland […]

Terroir vs. personal preference: the critic’s dilemma?

 Mark As Read    

  Should the critic base her score/review on personal preference, or on whether or not the winemaker has allowed “the terroir to speak”? That question arose, yet again, at the recent Wine Bloggers Conference. It’s an old debate, one that’s as hard to frame as it is to answer. What does it mean to allow […]

Things I told the wine bloggers conference about writing that got retweeted

 Mark As Read    

  Well, the 2014 Wine Bloggers Conference is over. Gus and I had a great time. I was on three panels and also was asked to make a few remarks during the farewell dinner, so I told the attendees that I felt a little like that Woody Allen character, Zelig, a human chameleon who seemed […]

LIVE! From #WBC2014, it’s the Wine Bloggers Conference

 Mark As Read    

  It starts today. Although I’m not one of those FWCs (famous wine critics) anymore, the WBC people nonetheless invited me down to do a series of panels on wine writing, apparently because I’m still a wine writer! There are actually two related panels: One on the art of wine writing itself, and in the […]

What is a “crown jewel”? Can there be more than one?

 Mark As Read    

  In the mid-1970s, writer David Darlington tells us in the June issue of Wine & Spirits, “Robert Mondavi defined [the Inglenook Estate vineyard] for [Francis Ford Coppola] as the crown jewel of Napa Valley.” The wine world loves crown jewels. Petrus has been called the crown jewel of Pomerol; ditto the DRC in Burgundy. […]

Kauai’d out!

 Mark As Read    

Call it island fever. No blog today! Back tomorrow.

Rx for what ails ya: My prescription for wine magazines

 Mark As Read    

  I’m a wine magazine guy—a product of that environment. I put 25 years of my life into writing about and reviewing wines for Wine Spectator and Wine Enthusiast. I did pretty well, so I think I can say I “get” the culture. I was there in the 1980s, and I was there until earlier […]

Concerning those controversial .wine domains

 Mark As Read    

  I’ve been watching developments for the last few months concerning these new .wine and .vin Internet domain names. Not closely, just sort of casually. I knew there was some controversy about them, but I wanted to keep an open mind, and besides, who has the time nowadays to research every complicated issue of social, […]

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