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Steve Heimoff| Wine Blog

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What really happened on the Napa Valley Wine Train?

 Mark As Read    

  It’s been one of the big social stories for the last several weeks, this tale of the Black women who were escorted off the train. You know the facts; I don’t need to go through them. What I find interesting are (a) the reaction in Napa Valley itself, as I perceive it to be […]

Steve Heimoff| Wine Blog 7 hours, 58 min ago

What makes a successful tasting event?

 Mark As Read    

  My event yesterday in Monterey was even better than I’d dared to hope. You never know, when you put together a complex tasting like this, for a high-level audience of wine professionals, how it’s going to go. In this case, we decided to have a “Sur and Steve Road Show,” Sur being Sur Lucero, […]

Tasting Willamette Valley Pinot Noir

 Mark As Read    

  I must confess how much I looked forward to our tasting last week of Willamette Valley Pinot Noirs. I exclusively reviewed California wines for a long time, and Oregon was a bit of a mystery to me. Of course, I’d had my share of Willamette Valley Pinot (and other varieties), but never really sat […]

18 tips for wineries on better communication

 Mark As Read    

  I’ve been doing weekly tastings at Jackson Family Wines for a while now, and part of that is buying non-JFW wines to include in our [blind] tastings, and preparing printed information for my fellow tasters on technical matters about the wines. For this, I turn to three sources: the front and back labels, the […]

Do wine critics always “critique” the wines they drink?

 Mark As Read    

  I suppose the general public, and even professionals in the wine industry, think that critics (or former critics) analyze every wine they drink, whether it’s in a restaurant setting or just something at home, in front of the television. Well, I don’t…and yet, in another sense, I do. Let me explain. If I’m at […]

What happens in Vegas doesn’t always stay in Vegas!

 Mark As Read    

  My voice may never be the same after today’s wine event at the M Resort and Casino in Henderson, just outside Las Vegas. It was in a large banquet room and they had six of us “experts” each presiding over a tasting station. Each of us had a dozen guests at a time (general […]

The San Francisco Chronicle’s wine coverage, and Vegas, here I come!

 Mark As Read    

  I got my Sunday San Francisco Chronicle and, what do you know, there was an entire section on California Wine! Sixteen pages. That’s the most wine coverage I’ve seen in the paper in years. Maybe they got the message—not just from me, but from others, including the Napa Register’s Paul Franson–about how skimpy their […]

A wine and food festival in The Bronx

 Mark As Read    

  The Bronx Wine and Food Festival! Who woulda thunk? I am a proud Bronxite. I lived at 760 Grand Concourse for seventeen years, in the same 4-room apartment with my parents and older sister. It wasn’t until I went away to college, in Massachusetts, that I left The Bronx—and even then, I returned often […]

The struggle of small wineries

 Mark As Read    

  This is a sad story, told by the Vancouver Sun, about a small British Columbia winery’s legitimate fear that it may get squeezed out of the market. It’s the same old story: Getting harder and harder to compete with the big wineries in shelf space, distribution and price. When I read a tale like […]

Wine Reviews: Anderson Valley Pinot Noir

 Mark As Read    

  We had another of our periodic tastings yesterday, this time of Anderson Valley Pinot Noirs, and I want to focus on a couple of them, to show that stylistic differences in their production—mainly alcohol level—are really irrelevant when it comes to quality. Consider these four wines, with price, alcohol level and my rating. All […]

The new normal: just because it’s more expensive doesn’t mean it’s better

 Mark As Read    

  To have asked the question, “Do expensive wines taste better than inexpensive wines” just twenty years ago would have been absurd. Nobody doubted that they did. Throughout history—from the Greeks and Romans through the Middle Ages to the American Founding Fathers to the post-Prohibition boutique winery era to the rise of the modern critic—th...

How do you evaluate wine blind, by typicity or by quality?

 Mark As Read    

  We (Jackson Family Wines) are having a winetasting in two weeks down in Monterey that will be hosted by myself and by one of JFW’s Master Sommeliers, Sur Lucero, who is not only an M.S. but a helluva nice guy. So he and I were talking about it over the phone, to discuss logistics, […]

Classic, schlmassic: another silly wine word to get rid of

 Mark As Read    

  I’m tempted to say, pace Justice Stewart, that I can’t define “classic” wine, but I know one when I taste it, except that I can’t say that, either, because it’s not always true. I do know a classic wine when you tell me its name. You: “Here’s Chateau Lafite-Rothschild.” Me: “Oh, that’s a classic […]

Wine Reviews

 Mark As Read    

  This is another of my occasional wine reviews. I’m not looking to do this a lot, but if wineries care to send me tasting samples, I’ll review them. I have no financial connection to any of these wineries. CABERNET SAUVIGNON En Garde 2009 Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon (Diamond Mountain); $98. I gave their 2007 Reserve […]

When it comes to wine, why do we think less is more?

 Mark As Read    

  In reading about the great Eastern religions, I’m struck especially by the Taoist notion of wu-wei: “inaction.” Joseph Needham, the British sinologist, defined wu-wei as “refraining from activity contrary to nature.” When I read that I thought of two things: First, it reminded me of the maxim, so popular today in some winemaking and […...

Not all small wineries are cool. Not all big wineries aren’t. Read on.

 Mark As Read    

  When is a “big brand” not a big brand? Is Apple a “big brand”? Sure it is, but everyone loves it. We don’t hear complaints about Apple not being “craft” enough to satisfy the most demanding of users. Somehow, Apple has managed to be a financial behemoth while still retaining the allure of the […]

Is California appellation-ed out? Yes

 Mark As Read    

  We have another tasting coming up this Friday, this time of Anderson Valley Pinot Noirs. I will be writing more about that later, but I just realized that Anderson Valley was probably the last appellation of significant importance I can remember emerging in California—even though it was officially declared way back in 1983. I […]

Why do we think some “classic” wines are better than everything else?

 Mark As Read    

  I want to revert to a topic I wrote about last week, inspired by Jim Laube in his July 31 column in Wine Spectator. I talked about the 100-point system, but today, my imagination was sparked by a comment from a reader, who quoted something else Jim said, and then asked for my opinion […]

What makes a wine region classic? What does it say about 100-point wines?

 Mark As Read    

  If you were a wine critic, do you think you could give 100 points to a wine you tasted double-blind? Let’s assume that your educated palate determined it was a very, very good wine. You might taste it and think, “Wow, this is really great,” and then consider giving it a perfect score. But […]

The drought, all that monsoonal stuff, and El Nino. What’s going on?

 Mark As Read    

  Have you noticed how much sub-tropical moisture we’ve had since May? It seems like once a week the remnants of some hurricane or tropical storm are blowing over us. We even had heavy rain. We always get a little of this stuff, which is known as the North American Monsoon, but this year it […]

Wine, beer, spirits? Take your pick

 Mark As Read    

  For the first time ever, wine, beer and spirits are equal in the eyes of the public, at least here in San Francisco and, I think, throughout coastal California. This is where cultural trends begin, so there’s no reason not to think this equality will not shortly apply throughout the country. I make this […]

On geological faults in Burgundy and Sonoma County

 Mark As Read    

  I’m reading Benjamin Lewin MW’s new book, Wines of France, and as usual with his books, there’s more thoughtful information packed into almost every paragraph than most other wine books contain in 100 pages. I’ll have a more complete review in a few weeks, but for now I want to comment on the role […]

A tasting of Sonoma Coast Pinot Noirs

 Mark As Read    

  And what a fabulous tasting it was. This was really one of the most interesting sessions I’ve been to in years. For one thing, the level of wineries was exceptionally high, as it tend to be in this sprawling appellation. We’re also dealing with two very good years, 2012 and 2103. As usual—and as […]

Friday Fishwrap: the S.F. Chronicle, and the Petaluma Gap

 Mark As Read    

  It’s really sad how the San Francisco Chronicle’s wine coverage has dropped off the cliff since the paper and Jon Bonné parted ways. I didn’t always agree with Jon. I hated his attitude towards alcohol and thought he was unfair in his treatment of California wineries. But at least Jon was a true wine […]

Talking about wine talk

 Mark As Read    

  Back when John F. Kennedy was President, Helen Thomas, the White House correspondent and, at the time, the only woman to hold that post, asked JFK what he was doing to help women. “Not enough, I’m sure,” smiled Kennedy, in his wry, bemused way. The implication was that, of course, no American President can […]

Thoughts on the far Sonoma Coast

 Mark As Read    

  In anticipation of our tasting this Friday of wines from the “true” Sonoma Coast, I’ve been going over in my mind my understanding of this American Viticultural Area, which was declared an A.V.A. in 1987. That was 28 years ago, but I don’t recall the controversy surrounding it until sometime in the late 1990s, […]

Will there be an El Nino? What does it mean?

 Mark As Read    

  Despite my Ph.D. in meteorology and the fact that I successfully predicted both the drought and the most recent lottery number*, I have no idea if this El Nino that seems to be brewing in the Pacific will have the desired impact here in dry, dry California, where we’re currently in the midst of […]

A tasting of current vintage, top Russian River Valley Pinot Noirs

 Mark As Read    

There are very few common Pinot Noirs in the Russian River Valley. Certainly, given the number of producers (in the hundreds), the level of quality is extraordinarily high, especially when we have two vintages in a row—2012 and 2013—that both were very fine, although it looks like ’13 has the edge in terms of consistency. […]

What makes a wine memorable?

 Mark As Read    

  The most interesting, or at least memorable, California wine I ever had was a 1977 Chateau Montelena when it was fifteen years old. I’d gotten to know a fellow by the name of Albert Dupont, a Belgian, who was at that time one of the more interesting characters running around Napa Valley. He and […]

In the future, everybody will be a sommelier for 15 minutes

 Mark As Read    

  Have you noticed? They’re everywhere. I swear, they’re reproducing like spores. Why, just the other day, I went down to my local 7-Eleven to get a quart of milk. The refrigerated section includes chilled wine, and when I was browsing the cooler looking for the non-fat, I must have seemed puzzled, for a well-dressed […]

There are no great wines, just great bottles

 Mark As Read    

  When Pulitzer Prize-winning poet Gregory Pardio hears “Bennie and the Jets”, something comes over him. “I’ve always associated the song with abundant sunlight and clean-house smells and security,” he told the Wall Street Journal, explaining that when he was a little boy, his mother would clean their house “with the Elton John single playing....

Tasting Russian River Pinot Noir, and a shoutout to Gallo

 Mark As Read    

  My weekly tasting at Jackson Family Wines tomorrow is exciting even for jaded old me. It’s of current release Russian River Valley Pinot Noirs. The lineup as now scheduled is: Merry Edwards 2012 Meredith Estate Dehlinger 2012 “Altamont” Gary Farrell 2012 Hallberg Vineyard Dutton Goldfield 2012 Dutton Ranch Freestone Hill Vineyard Siduri 2013...

Why the West Coast sets the tone in style

 Mark As Read    

  It’s not an exact match, but if you superimposed a map of red and blue states on top of another map showing state per capita wine consumption in the U.S., there would be a lot of overlap. Blue and Red States Per capita consumption by state So do Dems drink more wine than GOPers? […]

Wine Reviews

 Mark As Read    

Here are my latest reviews. The wineries are Butter, Cattleya, District 4, Furthermore, House Family, Jarvis, Kenefick Ranch, Krupp Brothers and Prime. None of these wineries paid me. These are purely my professional opinions. If you’d like to send me wines for review, I’m happy to oblige. If you use one of my reviews in […]

Tasting eight Carneros Pinot Noirs

 Mark As Read    

  My tasting yesterday of eight Carneros Pinot Noirs was enormously instructive to me, even after all these years. Afterwards, we tried to put together four attributes that linked all the wines, and they were: acidity a “Burgundian” earthy, mushroomy thing spices nice, ripe California fruit Of course, identifying regional typicity is possible ...

Petite Sirah “garbage”? C’mon, Andy Blue!

 Mark As Read    

  To say that I was shocked when I read Andy Blue’s editorial in the latest edition of The Tasting Panel would be an understatement. It’s a sharp, almost brutal attack on California Petite Sirah—so malicious in tone that I truly don’t understand where Andy is coming from—at least, the Andy I’ve known, liked and […]

Another early harvest. Climate change?

 Mark As Read    

  California has had so many “early harvests” lately that we’re going to have to redefine what the word “early” means. Maybe "early" is the new "normal." It seems like the last two years, 2013-2014, were mind-blowingly early. The 2013 vintage was “Early [with] exceptional quality vintage throughout the state,” said the Wine Institute. Then, [&...

What social media does really well

 Mark As Read    

  Last week, after The Donald unleashed his tirade against Mexicans, I posted a petition on my Facebook page urging Macy’s to “fire” Trump by cancelling their sponsorship of his clothing line. Lo and behold, the very next day, Macy’s announced that they were doing exactly that: they dumped Trump. Much as I would love […]

What Prosecco tells us about the future of wine

 Mark As Read    

  Prosecco, as you know, has been on a roll lately, but when you read headlines like this: “PROSECCO OVERTAKING CHAMPAGNE AS SPARKLING WINE OF CHOICE”, you know that something far more important than the ephemeral popularity of a particular wine is happening. Why is Prosecco so hot? Two things: Millennials coming of age The […]

Bloggers: stop the insults, now.

 Mark As Read    

  There used to be sexism in the wine business. I know, because I know some wonderful women winemakers who began their careers in the 1970s and told me their stories. Even though they had winemaking degrees, they couldn’t get hired anyplace but the laboratory, because the white men who owned the wineries thought they’d […]

The changing role of the somm

 Mark As Read    

Predictions of the demise of almost anything are usually exaggerated, as Mark Twain had occasion to note. He was very much alive when it was reported that he had died. Along the same lines, neither are sommeliers about to go the way of the dodo bird, as suggested in this piece, called “Are sommeliers becoming […]

Wine, beer…and pot?

 Mark As Read    

  As a longtime pot enthusiast, and the current holder of a California medical marijuana card, I’ve been glad to witness the acceptance of weed in America. If you’d asked me twenty years ago if I thought the legalization of marijuana (or gay marriage, for that matter) would occur in my lifetime, I would have […]

Announcing the end of the wine-and-foor pairing dictatorship

 Mark As Read    

  Perhaps the most refreshing development in the world of wine is the gradual rejection of strict wine-and-food-pairing do’s and don’ts, in favor of “Don’t worry about it, if you like it, just do it.” This liberating thought struck me as I was reading through this article in yesterday’s Napa Register which paraphrased MW Tim […]

That Constellation-Meiomi deal? Land is more valuable than brand

 Mark As Read    

  I sometimes wonder if the general public knows how much land acquisition is a strategic consideration in many of the winery deals that have gone down in California. Sometimes, these acquisitions don’t make any sense, on the face of it; you wonder why in the hell winery X bought winery Y. But if real […]

On reviewing again, after a brief sabbatical

 Mark As Read    

  Getting my chops back as a taster isn’t hard at all. It’s like bicycle riding: once you know how to do it, you can take some time off and then get right back on and go places. As I wrote yesterday, I’m going be reviewing wines here on my blog, after 1-1/2 years off. […]

It’s always something: More changes on the blog

 Mark As Read    

  Starting today, I’m going to do something I’ve never done before on my blog: I’ll be reviewing wines. The first batch follows below. None of these wineries paid me. I don’t intend for steveheimoff.com to become a wine-reviewing site, although I think people are interested in what I have to say. But I do […]

Parker vs. “trendy reds” is a fake choice

 Mark As Read    

  Here, you see, is the false dichotomy that infects so many of our wine conversations today: that there are “two different kinds” of wine and that we, as consumers and writers, “must pick one or the other,” as if we were in a vinous civil war where no one is permitted to be neutral […]

Thoughts on a Santa Cruz Mountains Cabernet tasting

 Mark As Read    

  In California, we don’t get the extremes of weather that Europe does, but still, our vintages vary considerably from each other. You just have to know how to read the subtleties. Four years ago, 2011 was “the year summer never came,” and many of the wines have a lean, green streak, if not actual […]

Learning how to learn about new wines

 Mark As Read    

  I’ve been a California wine guy for a long time, but in the 1980s, I was happily catholic, in the old sense of the word, derived from the Latin meaning “universal.” I studied and drank every classic wine and region I could get my hands on, from Old Europe to New World California, and […]

Gay-friendly: Progress in the wine industry, but a long way to go

 Mark As Read    

  Years ago—it has to be at least ten—I wrote an article for Wine Enthusiast about the emerging gay market for wine, and how important it was proving to be. I was seeing more wine advertisements aimed at gay people, and a handful of wineries was reaching out to them, albeit quietly. At the time, […]

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