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Steve Heimoff| Wine Blog

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Wednesday Wraparound: Bordeaux and Asti

 Mark As Read    

  The Drinks Business magazine is reporting huge unsold stocks of Bordeaux from the 2010, 2011 and 2012 vintages–the latter two decent, with 2010 exceptional according to most critics. Things are so dire, apparently, that the chairman of Justerini & Brooks, one of London’s top wine merchants, called the dust-gathering stocks “the las...

Steve Heimoff| Wine Blog 23 hours, 20 min ago

Wine critics vs. sommeliers, Round 428. Ding!

 Mark As Read    

  With all due respect to Robert Sinskey, whose wines I always admired, I think he struck the wrong tone in his recent opinion piece, which was published in Eater. His basic premise—that the era of the mega-critic is over, along with the 100-point rating system—is widely held, and certainly worth a conversation. And we […]

The Great Drought: A personal reflection

 Mark As Read    

  In a few days—April 1, to be exact–California water officials will officially measure the snow pack in the Sierra Nevada Mountains, and I’m predicting the result is going to shock the nation. If you don’t live here, and especially if you live in the East, where it’s been so cold this winter, you can’t […]

What about those reports that “weaker wines are better than stronger ones”?

 Mark As Read    

  You’ve probably read about it: According to Fox News, a new study out of Spain has been widely reported to “prove” that “People think weaker wine tastes better.” But, in fact, the study doesn’t show that at all; and much of the second-hand reporting on the study actually shows how lazy journalists can be. […]

On terroir, and the vine’s microbiome

 Mark As Read    

  Doesn’t it seem to you like these stories lately about microbes in soil affecting wine are making the concept of terroir even more complicated than we thought it was? We used to think terroir was a matter of the physical structure of the soil and the climate, or meso-climate, of the vineyard. John Winthrop […]

Wine writing: imprecise, and art

 Mark As Read    

  Yes, wine writing is “an imprecise art,” as the headline on Philip White’s opinion piece in the Adelaide (Australia) InDaily News says. As someone who’s had lots of experience in wine writing (magazines, books, blogs), I’m the first to authenticate Philip’s viewpoint that “writing about smells and flavours and the feelings they impart is [&#...

How wine can be as cool as beer and cocktails

 Mark As Read    

  It’s certainly true, as Robert Parker pointed out in his recent interview in The Drinks Business, that high wine prices are “a problem and a concern” and that they are creating “a caste system” in which “the younger generation” cannot afford top wines from regions such as “Burgundy, or Bordeaux, or from California.” But […]

Diageo moving towards “content information” on wine labels

 Mark As Read    

  No one much noticed last Friday’s report in the Wall Street Journal that Diageo is going to start listing calorie counts “and other content information” on its spirits, including Johnnie Walker Scotch and Smirnoff vodka, “in what it said was a first for the industry.” That nugget was buried on page B5 of the […]

Why online wine reviews don’t get more respect

 Mark As Read    

  You’ve probably heard that Ashley Judd, a celebrity I don’t know much about but I like her anyway, is suing people who have been sending her horrendous tweets. The brouhaha all started when Ashley, apparently, tweeted something derogatory about a basketball team, Arkansas, that was playing against her beloved Kentucky. Imagine that! A sports...

Sangiovese’s bold, noble road to nowhere

 Mark As Read    

  Reading about Piero Antinori in the April 30 issue of Wine Spectator brought back memories of the early and mid-1990s, when the Marchese had hundreds of acres of Sangiovese growing in a beautiful section of Atlas Peak. The sprawling vineyard was a fine sight to see. Sangiovese, the grape and wine, still was on […]

Teaching the history of wine to Millennials

 Mark As Read    

  Drove up to St. Helena yesterday on a preternaturally beautiful day to have lunch with Freemark Abbey’s longtime winemaker, Ted Edwards, at a little restaurant I’d never eaten at before, Goose & Gander. I must say I’d go back for the charcuterie and beef tartare, both of which were excellent. I don’t typically drink […]

In Pursuit of Balance tasting, San Francisco

 Mark As Read    

  A lovely tasting today at In Pursuit of Balance, really the best they’ve ever had. The venue was new: City View, in the Metreon Center, instead of RN74 like it was the last time I went. And what a crowd! This was clearly the buzziest place to be today if you were anywhere near […]

Alcohol level in Pinot Noir: a question of shifting fashion

 Mark As Read    

  Writer David Darlington makes the case, perhaps unwittingly, for how hard it is to explain why alcohol levels are higher in Russian River Valley Pinot Noir than they used to be, in his article, “Accounting for Taste,” in the April issue of Wine & Spirits. (Sorry, I can’t find a link online.) After first […]

A 40-year retrospective tasting with the Richard Arrowood

 Mark As Read    

  Last Wednesday’s historic tasting of 40 years worth of wines produced by Richard Arrowood was not only a testament to the oeuvre of one of California’s greatest living winemakers, but a refreshing reminder—if one were needed—of how well Sonoma Valley wines, red and white, can age. Richard invited a small group of us to […]

Wednesday Wraparound: Parker on futures, those “miracle” 2014s, and—Parker on futures, not!

 Mark As Read    

  If, as Bob told The Drinks Business (and who would know better?), Bordeaux en primeur futures are “largely dead,” then good riddance, says I. I never did care for this futures stuff. I mean, what purpose did they serve? Maybe once upon a time wine lovers could get a “bargain” by buying en primeur, […]

Trying to comprehend the red blend trend

 Mark As Read    

  I’ve been watching this burgeoning red blend trend for years. Although red blends have been around forever, I first learned that they were seriously on growers’ and producers’ radar about 5 or 6 years ago, when I spent a most delightful day with Joey Franzia, Fred’s son, of Bronco Wine Co. We had driven […]

Is liking IPAs really as uncool as liking California Cabernet?

 Mark As Read    

  I like beer, but didn’t have much of a chance to enjoy it when I was tasting and reviewing wine. Popping the corks on at least 15 different bottles a day, and then sitting there thinking and writing about them, took so much effort that I had little time or energy left over for […]

We do not need an alternative to alcohol!

 Mark As Read    

  Well if this isn’t the strangest thing I’ve read in a long time, I don’t know what is. “Why the government should fund research into finding a replacement for alcohol,” it’s called. It was written by Ryan Cooper, a national correspondent at TheWeek.com, which is by no means a wacko rightwing pub. Ryan’s basic […]

Crowdfunding your Napa Valley Cab: is it tacky, or smart?

 Mark As Read    

  Nothing illustrates the entrepreneurial challenge of a cult Napa Cab staying relevant than Yao Ming’s turning to crowdfunding for his winery’s financial needs. When his wines hit the market, I was as excited as anyone. I gave the 2009 Family Reserve 97 points—the highest of any critic I’ve yet seen (although only by a […]

Wednesday Wraparound: Los Olivos, ingredient labeling and the drought

 Mark As Read    

  Poor Santa Ynez Valley. First they took its western half away when they made the Santa, err, Sta. Rita Hills appellation. Then they took the eastern side away with Happy Canyon. Then they tore out a hunk of its heart with Ballard Canyon. Now the cannibals are attacking other vital organs with this proposal […]

Tuesday Twaddle: Jon Bonné, Wine Scams, and Can Napa’s Neighbor Steal Their Business?

 Mark As Read    

  For some time now, the San Francisco Chronicle—Northern California’s largest newspaper, and a force in its wine industry for decades—has been cutting back on wine reporting. The paper used to have a standalone wine section. They did away with that some years ago, and merged it into a weekly wine and food section. Then […]

Could Chardonnay’s long stranglehold as our top wine be ending?

 Mark As Read    

  I was surprised to read that Sauvignon Blanc “is Britain’s favorite wine,” white or red, in the Daily Mail. It has “pipped Chardonnay to number one,” the story says. (That “pipped” was a new one on me. I assumed it meant “surpassed,” so I looked it up on Google, with an additional search qualifier […]

San Francisco and Oakland: Not-so kissing cousins

 Mark As Read    

  I’ve spent a good part of the last three days in San Francisco on winetasting missions, a lot even for me, although I live just 3 subway stops away from Embarcadero Station and Ferry Plaza. I’ve been in Oakland now for 28 years: nearly ten years before that in San Francisco. So you’ll have […]

The history of wine reviewing

 Mark As Read    

  Did my annual wine class last night for the U.C. Berkeley Haas School of Business’s Wine Club. It’s always so cool to go there, with the big banners celebrating their Nobel Prize winners, and those super-smart students who, one imagines, might be running the show someday. One of the things they wanted to know […]

Networking in San Francisco’s wine and food scene

 Mark As Read    

  I used to go to every P.R. event I was invited to—which was a lot—when I started out as a wine writer. With Wine Spectator cred, I was on all the A lists in San Francisco. When I moved over to Wine Enthusiast as chief California critic—a big step up in power—the invitations only […]

Fountaingrove joins the AVA party

 Mark As Read    

  Last July, I wrote that the Fountaingrove District AVA was probably coming. Now, it’s here. TTB first published the Notice of rulemaking only last June, which means the whole process took less than a year. That’s pretty good! Evidently there was no disputation, which is rare for a new appellation. Fountaingrove now becomes Sonoma […]

Some non-wine books that influenced me

 Mark As Read    

  Forbes’ Cathy Huyghe, who is turning into one of the most interesting wine writers I know of, wrote late last week about the best non-wine books for wine communicators to read. This is a novel approach; we established wine writers often advise younger ones to read classic wine writers like Harry Waugh, Hugh Johnson […]

Aging Cabernet Sauvignon

 Mark As Read    

  When I was a wine critic, I used to say that nobody really knows how these opulent Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignons will age, because the world had never seen wines quite like them (in ripeness, in fruity phenolic richness, in tannic quality, in alcohol level, in softness), and so there was no evidence upon […]

Thursday throwaway: Restaurant tipping, and Alexander Valley Cab

 Mark As Read    

  When the restaurant reviewer for the San Francisco Chronicle—arguably the most important reviewer in California, and one of the most important in the whole country—comes out and says it’s time to end the practice of tipping, people should listen. That’s exactly what Michael Bauer did yesterday. “Increasingly, it’s becoming apparent that it’s...

Napa’s traffic crisis: Alternate touring days?

 Mark As Read    

  You know that old saying about how you can’t put the toothpaste back into the tube? That was my feeling when I read this article, from Monday’s Napa Register, on a debate taking place in Napa Valley. And, no, it’s not about wine. The topic is nothing new: Growth versus preservation. In its latest […]

Wine needs a message for the iGeneration

 Mark As Read    

  The wine industry is always worried about something, especially here in California. (Maybe it's because we live in earthquake country!) The theme is almost always some version of “The sky is falling.” Back in the 1990s it was phylloxera: it was going to wipe out everything. Didn’t happen; the wine industry not only survived […]

Wine writing when you can’t taste or smell?

 Mark As Read    

  Lovely, inspiring article on the BBC’s website about about Andrew Hedley, a British-born New Zealand winemaker (Framingham Wines) who developed throat cancer and had to have his larynx removed, which had a devastating effect on his ability to smell and taste. “Anything that goes into my nose or mouth now goes straight to my […]

Throwaway Thursday: Notes from the road

 Mark As Read    

  Spent part of yesterday blending again with Marcia Monahan, the winemaker at Matanzas Creek. This time, it was putting together the winery’s flagship “Journey” Sauvignon Blanc. This would be a tedious exercise, if one didn’t enjoy it so much, which I certainly do. It makes it all the more pleasant in that Marcia and […]

Could Sauvignon Blanc be entering a golden era?

 Mark As Read    

  I’m not surprised that Sauvignon Blanc and Pinot Noir are “on the rise” in U.S. sales, as reported in Lewis Perdue’s Wine Industry Insight. We all know Pinot Noir is hot, hot, hot. People also talk about the popularity of red wine blends but I have my doubts about their staying power. There have […]

Where do Master Sommeliers actually work?

 Mark As Read    

  A few days ago, the one and only Hosemaster of Wine caused a dustup in the world of sommeliers with his blog post, “The six people you want to avoid in the wine business.” One of his “six people to avoid” was “the Master Sommelier Working for a Corporation.” It was a good spoof […]

How nature and fashion influence alcohol levels and the three-tiered system

 Mark As Read    

  In 1999 the futurist Stewart Brand, whose Whole Earth Catalog galavanized a generation of environmentalists and alternative lifestylists, published "The Clock of the Long Now,” in which he introduced the notion of “pace” into the analysis of history. Brand came up with six “layers” of human existence;   each layer proceeds at a differen...

Tastemakers are ready for a return to classicism

 Mark As Read    

  You can’t really blame the famous Napa Valley wineries that came of age in the 1970s for running out of steam a little bit by now. The problem, to the extent there is one and I think there obviously has been, is that American wine writers and sommeliers (a group included in the larger […]

Kumbaya!

 Mark As Read    

  I love this article by Karen MacNeil in the latest issue of The Tasting Panel on “Somms and Salespeople.” I don’t think I would particularly have cared about the topic when I was a wine critic, but now that I work for Jackson Family Wines and have hung out with sales people (I’m what […]

“Wine is sold, not bought”

 Mark As Read    

  That’s the word from Michael Brill, who started up Crushpad years ago. He was commenting on my blog post from yesterday, and when I read those words my brain fired on all cylinders because the phrase is not only pithy, it’s true, and made me think. What does it mean, “Wine is sold, not […]

The next great wine critic: Human, or machine?

 Mark As Read    

  No one, not even an omnivorous reader like myself, can possibly see everything that’s published in the world of wine, so it was that I missed “the news [that] traveled around the Internet so quickly it was seemingly everywhere,” in the words of Cyril Penn’s Wine Business Monthly. (Oh, well, better late than never.) […]

Monday Meanderings: the Central Valley, Siduri, rainless January and more good news about red wine

 Mark As Read    

  One of the themes making the rounds at the recent Unified Wine & Grape Symposium was how poorly the Central Valley winegrape industry is faring. You heard talk of it everywhere. As the Napa Valley Register reported, “In the San Joaquin Valley…bulk imports, costs, growing labor issues, water shortages and especially competition from beer ...

A Thursday afternoon Pinot Noir tasting

 Mark As Read    

  I did a small tasting session yesterday up at Jackson Family Wines for some folks and, as it was highly informative, I thought I’d share some of the findings here. All the wines were 2012 Pinot Noirs. Here was the lineup: Foxen Fe Ciega Siduri Clos Pepe Domaine de la Côte, Bloom’s Field Foxen […]

Stories, stories, stories at Unified

 Mark As Read    

  Great time yesterday moderating my panel at the Unified Wine & Grape Symposium on “Content is King: How to Craft and Feature Stories that Stand Out.” We had a good-sized crowd—it filled the better part of a ballroom—which tells me that people really have a desire to master this storytelling thing. For my part, […]

The Hill grape fraud case does NOT taint Napa Valley!

 Mark As Read    

  Last week’s very long (3,700 word) article in the New York Times about the Jeff Hill case has stirred up tension in Napa Valley, where some people think the author, Vindu Goel, went over the top in painting Napa as a place where wine quality is “built on quicksand.” (Some of you might not […]

Talking to an audience with different levels of wine knowledge

 Mark As Read    

  That was part of my challenge last week at a wine dinner I hosted, for Jackson Family Wines, at Ling & Louie’s, a fine Asian-fusion bistro in Scottsdale, Arizona. Seasoned speakers know it’s helpful to have advance knowledge of who your audience is. (Actually, it’s “whom” your audience is, but that sounds so precious.) […]

A return to natural simplicity, in all things

 Mark As Read    

  If there’s a new no-makeup, or low makeup, look for women—and the Wall Street Journal says there is–then I’m a fan. I never did like that Tammy Faye Bakker over-the-top clown face, although I did like Tammy Faye herself, who seemed to be a big-hearted, fair-minded, loving woman who never hesitated to part company […]

SVB study: Millennials haven’t made “a dent” in fine wine sales

 Mark As Read    

  The new Silicon Valley Bank “State of the Wine Industry 2015” report is 56 pages long. I read through every one of them, and by far the most interesting statement was this: “Millennials have yet to make a dent in the fine wine business. So why the difference between the media reports and reality?” […]

Learning from somms

 Mark As Read    

  Great time yesterday tasting wine over lunch at a fabulous restaurant, The Loft, at the Montage Resort in Laguna Beach. “Fancy-schmancy,” my grandma Rose would have called it. Chef Casey Overton’s food rocked; the pairings were excellent. Our guests were about a dozen local somms and retailers. The hours flew by and the conversation […...

Are single-vineyard wines better than blends?

 Mark As Read    

  Of the five wines I gave perfect scores of 100 points to during my years as a wine critic, two were blends: Cardinale 2006 and Verite 2007 La Muse. (Yes, both were Jackson Family Wines, which is one of the reasons I love working here.) If I’d thought, by the time I reviewed them, […]

On the art of blending

 Mark As Read    

  The new book The Winemaker’s Hand, which contains interviews of winemakers, is a testament to the art of blending. “Blending is very intuitive…it’s neither linear nor logical,” Cathy Corison tells author Natalie Berkowitz, adding, “A plus B doesn’t equal A plus B.” Her fellow Napan, Bill Dyer, refers to the “hunches and perceptions” involved...

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