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Steve Heimoff| Wine Blog

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Moving away from “the wine list”

 Mark As Read    

  Lucy Shaw’s interview with Christopher Cooper, reported in the drinks business, contains some wise and useful insights, especially Cooper’s contention that sommeliers “need to work harder, take more risks and open their eyes to the bigger world of drinks, taking in beer, cider, cocktails and spirits.” Declaring the traditional wine list “dea...

Why expensive wine doesn’t always offer more pleasure

 Mark As Read    

  I’ve long been a critic who agrees that expensive wine isn’t always or necessarily better than inexpensive wine. This conclusion is based, not solely on common sense, but on experience. It’s a topic that’s of interest to people because, after all, we’re all limited in how much we can spend on stuff (especially a […]

Why do scores matter so much to sales people, and so little to buyers?

 Mark As Read    

  I was talking yesterday with someone who’s deep in the wine industry, and he made a remark that surprised me at first, but then, the more I thought about it, the more sense it made. I was asking him (as I ask almost everyone these days) if critical scores and reviews still matter, and […]

From the Old Guard to the New Guard: Lighten up

 Mark As Read    

  I suppose I may be part of “The old guard who’ve long influenced our drinking habits (and resisted change in the industry),” but I’ll tell you what: I’ll give you a dollar for every bottle of Gruner Veltliner and Spanish Txakolina sold in this country this year, you give me a dollar for every […]

My remarks at the Cabernet Academy: Part 2

 Mark As Read    

  Here's the second part of my remarks last week, at Stonestreet: I’ve spoken of varietal flavor and tannin structure, but obviously there’s more to wine than just those two factors. Next, I want to take up the topics of acidity and minerality. Acidity in Cabernet, as in all table wines, is a key to […]

Alexander Valley and Napa Valley Cabernet: My remarks at the Cabernet Academy

 Mark As Read    

  I gave a little talk yesterday to a group of wine buyers yesterday at Stonestreet, as part of Taste Alexander Valley. I’m posting my remarks in two parts, because it’s rather longish. Here’s part 1. I’ve been asked to talk about Napa Valley and Alexander Valley and how Cabernet Sauvignon from those two areas […]

To innovate or not? That is the question [for the bottom line]

 Mark As Read    

  When it comes to developing new types of wines, wineries find themselves walking a narrow line. On the one hand, they want to stay on top of emerging trends in consumer taste, if not actually lead them. On the other hand, they don’t want to get too far out ahead of consumers, and risk […]

Who’s to decide what wine phrases are illegal?

 Mark As Read    

  I blogged the other day about a lawsuit brought by an L.A. guy against MillerCoors. He’s suing them because he found it “unsettling” to discover that they were really the producers of a beer he thought was a craft beer, Blue Moon. Evidently, this topic—of when or whether a beer is an authentic craft […]

WSET and wine education: Does it develop a house palate?

 Mark As Read    

  I suppose it was inevitable that the wine industry would eventually develop something like the Wine & Spirit Education Trust (WSET), which is to wine what community colleges are to higher education. In general it’s a good thing to have a college-level curriculum for wine knowledge and then force aspiring students to go through […]

Those darned tricky wine conversations

 Mark As Read    

  I’m back from our big Southern California trip, where we attended Leo’s bar mitzvah. After the formal ceremony, we had dinner at an Italian restaurant, where we had some decent wines—one Sangiovese, one Pinot Grigio, both Italian. Now, one of the guests, whom I’d never met, is apparently a wine aficienado, and had brought […]

When is a beer a “craft” beer, and when is it not?

 Mark As Read    

  I realize that there are at least two sides to every issue, especially in a courtroom, which is where the case of Parent v MillerCoors LLC has ended up. At question: Should MillerCoors be allowed to call their Blue Moon beer “artfully crafted”? The plaintiff in the case is Evan Parent, described on the […]

Greetings from the Central Coast!

 Mark As Read    

  We decided to stop for the night at Pismo Beach for a little R&R before heading down tomorrow to L.A. I took some pictures along the way to share. How Pismo has grown in the 30 years since I’ve been coming through these parts! It’s turning into a major little city on the Central […]

The simple pleasures

 Mark As Read    

  The cousins, Gus and I are driving down to L.A. this morning for five days of family fun, centered around a bar mitzvah. We didn’t want to make anything elaborate for dinner, so opted for burgers on the grill. I’d been given this bottle of Kendall-Jackson 2006 Napa Mountain Cabernet Sauvignon, from Mount Veeder, […]

Is social media losing clout?

 Mark As Read    

  There’s a running joke on the great HBO series, Silicon Valley, to the effect that the only tech company that’s worth investing in is one that’s losing money. If that’s true, then social media companies must be doing really well. However, in the case of Twitter, LinkedIn and Yelp, that doesn’t appear to be […]

On the inaugural Sonoma Barrel Auction–a great success–and meeting old friends

 Mark As Read    

  Hearty congrats to the first ever Sonoma County Barrel Auction, which raised a respectable $461,000 last Friday, under the big tent at the Vintner’s Inn, on Fulton Road in the gorgeous Russian River Valley. I was there representing Stonestreet. That was fun, but even better was running into so many old friends, folks who've […]

Pouring in Sonoma (wine, not rain) & Gus!

 Mark As Read    

  On Friday, when you read this, I’ll be up in Santa Rosa, at John Ash & Co., pouring wine for Jackson Family Wines at the Sonoma County Barrel Auction (which by the way raises lots of money for charity). The wine I’m responsible for is Stonestreet 2012 West Ledge, a blend of 95% Cabernet […]

Why Napa Cabernet costs so much

 Mark As Read    

  The most interesting quote in the Napa Valley Register’s article on the 30th birthday of the Carneros Wine Alliance is from David Graves. The co-founder of Saintsbury said, “There’s no ‘Napa of pinot noir.’ No one place dominates the market.” Isn’t it interesting how the cultural evolution of the market has treated our two […]

Connectedness: the Holy Grail of winery marketing

 Mark As Read    

  Last week, while Americans were watching developments concerning the Comcast-Time Warner Cable merger, which eventually (and thankfully) collapsed, another more successful merger went almost unnoticed. That was the marriage between Blue Bottle Coffee and Tartine Bakery, a far happier union that consumers could celebrate, instead of worrying ...

An appreciation of rosé and a call for changing the rules of wine criticism

 Mark As Read    

  It was hot in Oakland yesterday—the city of Pittsburg, in the Delta, hit 93 degrees—and I was doing a lot of running around, so when I got home, around 5 p.m., I was thirsty. I happened to have a bottle of a rosé in the fridge (not Jackson Family), and it looked mighty welcoming, […]

I’m baaak! A report on my New England wine trip

 Mark As Read    

  Haven’t blogged in about a week partly because I wanted to see what the reaction would be when I said I might cease writing steveheimoff.com, and partly because I’ve been on a weeklong sales trip for Jackson Family Wines that has been exhaustive in every sense of the word. For example, last Friday began […]

Five Decades of Wine: The Arc of My Career, Part 7: I Go Over to “The Dark Side”

 Mark As Read    

  Years ago, I had a dear friend with a good job. He was the wine columnist for a periodical with considerable influence in Wine Country. One day, he found himself unemployed, because the newspaper he wrote for was downsizing. He took a job doing P.R. for a winery. He was very upset about it. […]

Five Decades of Wine: The Arc of My Career: Part Six: The Post-Enthusiast Years

 Mark As Read    

  Why did I finally quit Wine Enthusiast? Many people have asked me that question. After all, I had one of the top jobs in wine journalism and criticism. I had a good name in the industry, was liked and respected, and continued to enjoy my work. But there were things going on that few […]

Five Decades of Wine: The Arc of My Career Part 5: The Blogging Years

 Mark As Read    

  I’d heard of wine blogs by the mid-2000s, although I can’t say I read them with regularity. Tom Wark’s Fermentation already was famous (and I’d known and respected Tom for a long time), and a few others were up and coming. By 2007, Adam Strum, at Wine Enthusiast, had told us editors he wanted […]

Five Decades of Wine: The Arc of My Career

 Mark As Read    

  Part Four: The Wine Enthusiast Years My career really took off when I joined Wine Enthusiast. No longer just second (or third) fiddle, as I’d been at Wine Spectator, but the California guy. To tell you the truth, though, it was several years before I was allowed to review wine. Back in those days, […]

Capitaltruism: Merging idealism with making money

 Mark As Read    

  There’s a movement afoot in corporate America that doesn’t get enough attention but is gaining traction and could be a game changer. This movement is about inculcating social, environmental and health concerns into the sale of goods and services: call it Capitaltruism, where traditional capitalism meets idealistic altruism. And nowhere is it...

Thursday throwaway: pop-ups for pups, M.S. wines, vodka gimlets and Trappist monks!

 Mark As Read    

  Gus pointed this out to me: apparently the world’s first “pop-up restaurant dedicated to treating pampered pooches to a fine dining experience.” The chow includes “seaweed popcorn, fishcake of haddock, nettles and kelp with sweet potato served on a bed of seaweed with carrots and sesame seeds, and a poochie chia pud with coconut, […]

Hey elites: Ordinary people love California wine!

 Mark As Read    

  With the bashing that California wine sometimes gets from the old boy’s club (AKA the cool kid’s club), it comes as a refreshing reminder to learn that “beyond the beltway” of snobbery and exclusivity, ordinary people love our wines. Up in Canada, the Ottawa Citizen yesterday reported on the upcoming “California Wine Fair” to […]

Calistoga to challenge Napa City for Luxury Supremecy?

 Mark As Read    

  Both cities have come a long way over the last ten or fifteen years. When I began visiting Napa Valley, in the 1970s, Napa city was (let’s face it) kind of a drag from a tourist point of view, although it did have that All-American City cleanliness. Downtown was a heap of mattress stores […]

California Pinot Noir: A followup consideration

 Mark As Read    

  A question arose on my blog late last week, after my March 27 post, “What about those reports that “weaker wines are better than stronger ones”? When the comments turned to a discussion about soils, the topic of limestone arose. Now, as any historian of Burgundy (including Chablis), the Loire and Champagne is well […]

Alexander Valley and Napa Valley Cabernet: A study in contrasts

 Mark As Read    

  I’m going to be doing an event soon on Alexander Valley and Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon, and the differences between them. This is a topic that’s near and dear to my heart. As a working critic for many years, I of course had the opportunity to taste many if not most of the Cabs […]

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...

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 […]

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