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Steve Heimoff| Wine Blog

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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...

Steve Heimoff| Wine Blog 22 hours, 55 min ago

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, […]

Happy July Fourth!

 Mark As Read    

I'm in Kauai for Jackson Family Wine's annual sales meeting. But I'll be posting next week. Aloha!

America is no longer a young wine drinking country–compared to China!

 Mark As Read    

  Yahoo News says that four factors in China are driving “a soaring number of consumers” to drink wine. more affordable prices globalized palates younger demographics e-commerce Assuming this is true (and it appears to be), I thought it would be interesting to see how these same four factors are playing out in America. More […]

The next big thing? Probably not

 Mark As Read    

  We’ve seen it plenty of times before: “the next big wine variety” is just around the corner. But it usually turned out there wasn’t anything around the corner, except another corner. Remember Sangiovese? In the late 1980s-early 1990s everybody swore it was the next big red wine. Cabernet Sauvignon, they said, was all well […]

Here comes the Fountaingrove District AVA (probably)

 Mark As Read    

  After a couple years of back-and-forth, the TTB has approved putting a petition for a new Fountaingrove District A.V.A. up for public comment. I’m not big on most A.V.A. petitions in California, which seem silly to the point of meaningless, but in this case, I give it a qualified thumbs up. The new Fountaingrove […]

From the front lines in China: The end of the three-tiered system?

 Mark As Read    

  China never developed the complex infrastructure for the distribution of alcoholic beverages that the U.S. has in the three-tiered system, and it might never, because e-commerce is becoming the distribution method of choice. That’s according to an article in the Taiwan-based China Times, which says that e-commerce is preventing the emergence...

On the benefits of estate bottling

 Mark As Read    

  At a meeting yesterday at Jackson Family Wines, several people made the point that wines that are estate bottled—that is, where the grape source is controlled 100% by the vintner, either by owning the vineyards or by longterm contracts—are preferable for wine quality to grapes that the winemaker has to scramble for each year, […]

Why do women drink more wine than men?

 Mark As Read    

  I met yet another young (mid-20s) guy yesterday who told me he’s so into beer that he’s brewing it at home, while his girlfriend is a wine lover who’s always trying to up his level of knowledge about vino. What is it anyway about this gender divide that separates the [beer] men from the […]

Wednesday wraparound: Boredom, urban wines, and medals, medals, medals

 Mark As Read    

  Once upon a time, people bought the wines they liked and had trusted over many years, because they knew they would not be disappointed. It may have been a Gallo Hearty Burgundy, or a Sancerre or Pouilly-Fumé, a Chianti or Mateus or Wente Grey Riesling. The wines could always be found on the local […]

Another study on social media’s failure to live up to expectations

 Mark As Read    

  The headline on yesterday’s Wall Street Journal article on social media says social media has “fail[ed] to live up to early marketing hype.” True enough, but the situation is even graver than that innocuous header implies. Readers will encounter a litany of social media ills so extensive that the article reads more like the […]

How do you describe a wine region, anyhow?

 Mark As Read    

  One of the constants of the wine writer’s job is describing wine regions. Whether it’s the Right Bank of Bordeaux, the Santa Rita Hills or the Finger Lakes, the wine writer is expected to understand the region’s terroir (climate, soils) and its impact on the major wine varieties and types produced there. I don’t […]

Is the drive toward ever-newer wines a form of OCD among critics?

 Mark As Read    

  The search for “the new” is the story of California. Whether it was the reinvention of the self, or the society, the Golden State always has lured those restless with the existing order, and anxious to replace it with something innovative and, they hope, better. This reinvention reinvents itself constantly. Nowhere is it better […]

Are consultants “killing” wine?

 Mark As Read    

  They’re easy to pick on, those flying winemakers, like Michel Rolland, who travel the world getting big bucks for advising wineries on how to get 95 points from Parker. And they do get picked on! Mondovino, the 2004 movie, famously took on Rolland, showing a small vigneron who declared that “Wine is dead” due […]

Come to Anderson Valley–but make sure you have a place to stay!

 Mark As Read    

  I’m up here in the beautiful Anderson Valley, which more than 30 wineries call home. To those familiar with trafficky Highway 29 in Napa Valley, or even the much less densely clogged roads of the Russian River Valley, Anderson Valley’s Highway 128 will seem blissfully free of cars. You can drive from Boonville past […]

Live, from the road! Mendocino County

 Mark As Read    

  I didn’t throw up, but Gus did, three times, on the loopy drive up to Mendocino, which included many twisting miles on a dirt road leading to the Gianoli Ranch, a spectacular property founded in the 1800s by Italian immigrants, whose new owners grow Pinot Noir and Zinfandel, which they sell to Edmeades and […]

What electric car patents and some AVAs have in common

 Mark As Read    

  Elon Musk made a bit of news last week when his Tesla Motors announced that the company is “opening all its electric car patents to outside use.” This “open sourcing” means that anyone can use Tesla’s proprietary procedures without having to worry about a patent lawsuit. Why would a successful company like Tesla give […]

Conversations with Carlo: whole cluster fermentation of Pinot Noir

 Mark As Read    

Carlo Mondavi, whom I got to know and like last year in Kapalua, emailed to bring me up to date on his new project, RAEN, a Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir he’s making in collaboration with his brother, Dante. Carlo Mondavi His email prompted me to ask him some followup questions, which led to an exchange […]

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