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Steve Heimoff| Wine Blog

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Will the CIA get COPIA right? And, how do those Google search rankings work, anyway?

 Mark As Read    

  I’m glad they’ve finally figured out what to do with the old COPIA building, after all these years. And what is that, you ask? The facility will become “a satellite of the Greystone campus” of the Culinary Institute of America, which itself is in St. Helena, according to Eater. I wonder if it will […]

Steve Heimoff| Wine Blog 12 hours, 42 min ago

Thinking about history, while it’s being made all around us

 Mark As Read    

  In these dog days of summer, with dangerous wildfires burning up and down the coast, and the country in a state of political hallucination, I retreat into the pleasanter realms of wine history, where everything is neat, tidy and comprehensible. Well, almost. Dan Berger’s recent column on Santa Barbara wine history ignores one of […]

Tasting mountain wines with a valley appellation

 Mark As Read    

  Gus and I headed up to the Alexander Valley yesterday for a tasting. It was chilly and foggy in Oakland when we left early, and the ride could have been worse: only 1-3/4 hours. We drove up the 101 to Alexander Valley Road, turned east through some awfully pretty wine country, and then—before reaching […]

Can you “train” a palate?

 Mark As Read    

  I picked up an older issue of Bon Appetit in which the “Starters” column (a sort of “Ask Bon Appetit anything you want” feature) has the following question from a reader: Dear BA, I often hear chefs on cooking shows…talking about a person’s palate…What exactly does that mean, and can I train my own […]

What to expect when you pay hundreds of dollars for dinner—and why you do it

 Mark As Read    

  How much money is too much money for a multi-course dinner at one of the San Francisco Bay Area’s top restaurants? That’s what the San Francisco Chronicle’s longtime restaurant critic, Michael Bauer, asked this past Sunday in this article, in which he takes to task Bay Area restaurants that raise their prices to astronomical […]

Older wine in restaurants? Not worth the risk

 Mark As Read    

  Somm Journal executive editor David Gadd asks the pertinent question of what to do when you let a sommelier hand-sell you a glass of older wine, and when you taste it, it’s over the hill. I say the question is pertinent, because we see this happening with greater frequency nowadays, what with these older […]

Vive La France!

 Mark As Read    

  One hardly knows where to begin to grieve for France. The birthplace of fine wine – still the inspiration – our hearts go out to the people of France and particularly of Nice. For myself, I plan to show my support by drinking wine all weekend.  

Thursday throwaway: Drink while you shop, and cookie-cutter Napa Valley Cab

 Mark As Read    

  It hasn’t come to my local Whole Foods yet, but it looks like it’s on the way: “Sip ‘n Shop.” According to yesterday’s Wall Street Journal, that’s where “Some high-end supermarkets are turning into neighborhood watering holes. Many have set aside space for wine bars…Some stores encourage shoppers to ‘sip ‘n shop,’ drinking while […]

Wednesday Wraparound: Wine as intellectual delight, and a new Freemark Abbey

 Mark As Read    

  Wine writer Gus Clemens must be a man after my own heart. In this lovely column he wrote for the San Angelo [Texas) Standard Times, he writes of wine’s “intellectually challenging” dimension—a dimension I love. All too often, in our industry, we reduce wine to its objective components. Master somms analyze it to a […]

Nice to see the Cabernet bashers come around

 Mark As Read    

  I’m glad I never joined the bandwagon of protest against California (mainly Napa Valley) Cabernet Sauvignon. It garnered a lot of naysayers, but, as Jancis (what, you need a last name?) blogged the other day, even the naysayers are changing their minds. “There has recently been a resurgence of interest in these wines on […]

Paso Robles, Sonoma, Napa: What’s the right amount of growth?

 Mark As Read    

  The thing about America is that the easy issues have been solved. What’s left are the hard ones, and among those—hardly the most pressing, but troubling if you live in wine country—is how much development to allow. Basically, the two sides are these: on the one hand are tourists who bring in the dollars […]

Does a grower?s personality enter into the wine?

 Mark As Read    

  In our ongoing attempt to understand terroir, or cru–the sum total of influences upon the character and quality of a wine?we now come across the statement by Eric Lebel. He is (or was, when Champagne, Uncorked was published, earlier this year), the Chef de Cave, or cellarmaster, at Krug Champagne. The book?s author, Alan […]

Has Vintank tanked? Not clear. My thoughts

 Mark As Read    

  Some years ago, around 2011 or 2012, Jo Diaz, the winery publicist, set up an event at U.C. Davis that featured a showdown, of sorts, between me and Paul Mabray, who had created VinTank in 2009. VinTank has been described in this article as ?the wine industry?s most powerful social media monitoring and data […]

Notes from the road, on AVAs, and a frown on orange wine

 Mark As Read    

  Driving back from Oregon to California, I was really struck by how abruptly the climate changes in a relatively short distance. I had stayed the night in Medford, in the interior section of Oregon, right on I-5. The daytime temperatures were very hot, well into the 90s. Then you climb into all the mountains?the […]

Learning Willamette, one step at a time

 Mark As Read    

  I just got back from up in the Willamette Valley working on that AVA project for Jackson Family Wines. Our particular vineyard is west of the town of Monmouth, in a part of the valley that does not have its own sub-appellation. That?s something I?m looking into, with the idea of coming up with […]

?There were giants in those days?

 Mark As Read    

  The news that Paul Draper is retiring came, not as a complete shock, because after all, he?s 80 years old. Rather, it was a realization, the latest in a sorry series, that ?the mighty men of old, men of renown? are passing from our scene like the last of a fine vintage gone to […]

If point scores give you reassurance, go ahead and trust them?

 Mark As Read    

  ?no matter how many articles like this one you read that tell you to ignore them. Now, the first thing I?m going to tell you is that the author of the article, MJ Skegg?a good writer–got all nine of his bullet points correct! MJ is the wine writer for the Portland, Oregon, Mercury, and […]

Lessons learned from old tasting notes

 Mark As Read    

  Why I did 25,000 tasting notes before I ever even had a job reviewing wine remains a mystery to me to this day. I guess it was that overused word, ?passion.? It?s not that I couldn?t help myself, as can happen with other less desirable addictions. I didn?t want to stop; I loved taking […]

Introducing the robot wine critic

 Mark As Read    

  In the next five years, when you call customer service or technical support for help with your checking account, internet connection or credit card, you?re likely to speak?not to a real human being?but to a robot. ?Hello,? it might say, in its weird, Stephen Hawking-like drone, ?my name is Robbie, and I'm here to […]

Microflora as terroir influence?

 Mark As Read    

  Former colleague Harvey Steiman at Wine Spectator has a nice piece on terroir in his latest blog. It actually breaks some new ground to the usual, predictably tedious conversations the wine media entertains itself with on this complicated topic. Yes, indeed, ?climate, elevation, the tilt of the slope or exposure to the sun??the usual […...

Happy birthday to a very special winery

 Mark As Read    

  When Robert Mondavi first walked the ground where his winery now stands, in early 1966, he was struck by something profound, a sense that in retrospect sounds mystical. ?I knew this was a very special place,? he wrote in his memoir, ?Harvests of Joy.? ?It exuded an indefinable quality I could not describe?of calm […]

A tasting of Oregon Pinot Noirs

 Mark As Read    

  I couldn?t be more pleased with my tasting yesterday, but I don?t give the credit to myself; I give it to the wines. The idea was to taste some of our Oregon Pinot Noirs to a select group of people in Marin County. In many respects, this was the best tasting I ever went […]

A comment on marketing, after receiving the latest Bordeaux hype from a press release

 Mark As Read    

  You know, I understanding marketing. When a winery or wine region touts itself as the ?best ever,? or ?greatest vintage,? or simply uses self-reverential language that makes it sound like it?s sitting at the right hand of God, it?s merely putting its best foot forward in a formal situation?as most of us do. Say […]

Au revoir to the oversized wine list

 Mark As Read    

  Hasn?t the day of the bloated wine list come, and gone? How many wines do diners need to ?peruse? on a list anyway? Obviously, there?s no correct answer, so I can only speak for myself. I, personally, like a list with perhaps 50 or 60 choices. It?s manageable; you actually have the time and […]

Big Pot: The marijuana industry learns from wine

 Mark As Read    

  I am astounded how rapidly the marijuana industry is growing into a bona fide, full-fledged business. In fact, it?s starting to look a lot like the wine industry My marijuana days?and they were many?happened when pot was illegal. You could get arrested for possession of a joint; I knew lots of people who were. […]

Millennials and brand loyalty: My thoughts

 Mark As Read    

  When Gallup says Millennials are ?the least-engaged generation of customers,? with ?the lowest level of customer engagement? of any group of consumers in the country, a couple thoughts come to mind. Those conclusions come from Gallup?s recent study, ?How Millennials Want to Work and Live.? Full disclosure: I read this article, which is from ...

Those ?semi-generic? European place names? Let?s ditch them

 Mark As Read    

  In law, the concept of ?grandfathering? certain parties into new laws is quite old in America, dating back to post-Civil War days. It occurs, says Wikipedia, when ?an old rule continues to apply to some existing situations while a new rule will apply to all future cases.? The concept applies across many areas of […]

Chardonnay Symposium winners tell a story

 Mark As Read    

  Looking at the medal winners from the International Chardonnay Symposium, I'm struck by the geographic diversity of origins of the top-ranked California Chards. They range from Napa Valley down to the Santa Maria Valley, with Paso Robles, the Santa Lucia Highlands, Livermore Valley, Arroyo Seco, Sonoma Valley and the Russian River Valley inb...

Six Steven Kent wines

 Mark As Read    

Many years ago, I wrote a column in Wine Enthusiast (sadly, I no longer have it), in which I lamented the lack of excitement in the wines of the Livermore Valley AVA, which, if you look at a map, is one of the jewels in the bracelet of appellations surrounding San Francisco Bay, including Sonoma […]

Into the tall weeds of the critic: Kramer and being ?captious?

 Mark As Read    

  If Matt Kramer thinks that wine drinkers become ?captious? (hypercritically argumentative) when comparing notes, he should overhear some of the conversations in California between Hillary people and Bernie people! That is captiousness on steroids! Matt rolled out that rarely used word, ?captious,? in his Drinking Out Loud op-ed piece, in the...

A tasting of Oregon Pinot Noir

 Mark As Read    

  I?ve been on a sharp learning curve about Oregon Pinot Noir for the past year or so. In all my years at Wine Enthusiast I was ?the California guy? and so my exposure to wines not from my state grew increasingly limited?one major negative of being a regional specialist (but the positive, of course, […]

Unicorn wines, and maybe unicorns in Napa

 Mark As Read    

  When did all this talk about unicorns get so crazy? Suddenly, it?s unicorn this, unicorn that. Fifty-five million results on a Google search, of which this one, published earlier this year in Fortune, is most explanatory: ?a unicorn is a private company, valued at $1 billion or more, and they're seemingly everywhere, backed by […]...

Is classic marketing an anachronism?

 Mark As Read    

  I take Reka Haros?s point that there is ?deep confusion around the term ?marketing,?? specifically that marketing all too often is ?confused with sales and? marketing tactics confused with marketing strategy.? I?ve been in this business for a long time and even I can?t be sure of the differences; but after all, these are […]

Pit bulls and Pinot Noir, or how IPOB changed the way I think

 Mark As Read    

  That old saying ?It changed the conversation? needs explanation. Not everybody in America is talking about the same things at the same time. We say Donald Trump has changed the conversation but there are lots of people who couldn?t care less about him. We say Ellen DeGeneres changed the conversation about gays when she […]

Loco?l: A review

 Mark As Read    

  Daniel Patterson?s first attempt at this Oakland space (2214 Broadway), which he called Plum?located at ground zero of the city's hot Uptown District–was a failure. Plum just didn?t work for Oakland. It?s true that Commis, James Syhabout?s Michelin-starred restaurant on nearby Piedmont Ave., had succeeded with expensive conceptual food...

Recent wine reviews: En Garde

 Mark As Read    

  Csaba Szakal sent me some of his En Garde wines to taste, so here we go. I preferred the Cabernets/Bordeaux blends, which are from Diamond Mountain, to the Russian River Valley/Green Valley Pinot Noirs. En Garde?s style veers in a bigger heavier direction, making the Cabs lush and flashy, but I wish the Pinots […]

Memorial Day

 Mark As Read    

In honor of our? men and women who serve to keep us free.

The last word, literally, on In Pursuit of Balance (well, maybe?)

 Mark As Read    

  Jon Bonn?, the San Francisco Chronicle?s former wine critic and, now, occasional columnist, has much to say about the demise of In Pursuit of Balance that is on point: that the organization was controversial, that it stimulated a valuable conversation over Pinot Noir style, that ?it received a disproportionate amount of attention and media [...

U.C. Davis V&E grads off to a promising start

 Mark As Read    

  Speaking at U.C. Davis last night before a group of graduating students and faculty was really a thrill. As I told the audience in my opening remarks, to me, UCD?s Viticulture and Enology Department is like the Vatican City?not in a religious sense, of course, but as the spiritual center of winemaking in California, […]

As the Grand Crus are identified, prices will go even higher

 Mark As Read    

  Those who read this blog and hear me speak know that I have been predicting the discovery or uncovering of small, stellar blocks within existing great vineyards in California and Oregon?blocks that can be called ?grand crus? were we to adopt that French terminology. This process will take decades, but clearly it?s underway. I […]

A presentation at U.C. Davis

 Mark As Read    

  Off to the University of California at Davis later today for a talk and tasting I?m giving this evening to DEVO, the Davis Enology and Viticulture Organization?s ?190X,? an occasional discussion series at which ?professionals in the wine industry? are invited to speak to about 70 V&E students and faculty members. They?ve asked me […...

Behold: Steve Heimoff, M.S.!!!!!

 Mark As Read    

  I?m not big on blowing my own horn, but hey, if you don?t beat your own bush and shine a light on your own accomplishments, then who will? So, with these awkwardly mixed metaphors, I?m proud to announce that I have just been awarded the prestigious title of Master Sommelier! I didn?t reveal to […]

On winery consolidation

 Mark As Read    

  ?There?s nothing new under the sun.? That?s from Ecclesiastes 1:9, which also says, ?What has been will be again, what has been done will be done again.? One might have expected the Author of Authors to have taken the long view: not the next business quarter, but Eternity. So it is, or sometimes seems, […]

What is West Burgundy Wine Collective?

 Mark As Read    

  The announcement the other day that Jackson Family Wines has bought Copain Wines, which comes on the heels of JFW?s acquisition of Oregon?s Penner-Ash Wine Cellars, has brought renewed attention to JFW?s West Burgundy Wine Collective. So I thought I?d try to explain to my readers just what WBWC is and why it exists, […]

Carneros Chardonnay (and a little Pinot Noir)

 Mark As Read    

  Spent the day yesterday in Carneros. It had been a while since I really walked the vineyards, smelled the flora and felt and tasted the dirt and rocks up there, so my visit was overdue. Plus, it was an unbelievably gorgeous day, the sort of Spring weather that tells you Winter will soon be […]

Three cities in five days: A week on the road

 Mark As Read    

  I felt horribly guilty at not posting for two days in a row, last Thursday and Friday, for the first time in 8-1/2 years. But, as this little photo essay suggests, we were really busy all week, so much so that when I finally got back to my hotel rooms late at night, all […]

Terroir, briefly

 Mark As Read    

  We had another lovely and successful event yesterday, a first-class audience of about 60 wine-savvy people in the Vintage Hotel in downtown Portland. You never know with this kind of audience what topics will prove to be the most interesting, but in this case (and maybe it shouldn't have been a surprise) it was […]

From the road: Portland Oregon

 Mark As Read    

  Up here in Portland, Oregon, a town I haven?t really spent much time in, and I must, what a cool place. Of course it helps that the weather has been so beautiful?much better than in Northern California, where the past week has been dismal and cold. The neighborhood they call the Pearl District reminds […]

Would California wine have succeeded without the 1976 Paris Tasting?

 Mark As Read    

  Come join me, readers, on a thought experiment. It is forty years ago, May 24, 1976. Gerald Ford is President. The Concorde has just flown its first commercial flight to America. Bob Dylan celebrated his 35th birthday. And, far more importantly for the California wine industry, ?a publicity stunt for a small wine store […]

In Defense of BevMo!

 Mark As Read    

  I?m not saying that what BevMo is accused of doing was cool?but it?s not the worst thing in the world, either, and the take-home lesson for consumers is not to base their entire buying decision on in-store displays, including shelf talkers. The accusation in the class action suit against BevMo is simple: the vintages […]

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