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What It’s Like Being a Wine Critic During Bordeaux’s Big Week

May 20, 2023 — Hi readers and wine lovers,  it’s Elin McCoy, Bloomberg’s wine critic, again sharing my latest adventures.

I’ve been thinking about Bordeaux ever since I returned from an exciting—and exhausting—two sunny weeks covering the region’s annual spring En Primeur tastings, as I have for more than 20 years for Bloomberg. Thousands of importers and retailers from all over the globe gather to assess the last vintage while the wines are still aging in barrel. I was one of about 100 journalists scouting out the best to recommend to their readers.

Despite the climate-driven weather issues that I wrote about last summer and during harvest, I found many great wines.

The pace is hectic, as everyone tries to taste as many wines as they can in a short space of time and hey, also party hard and share gossip. Bordeaux always supplies plenty of both….

How Do You Pull Out a Tricky Wine Cork? With This Simple, Genius Device

May 19, 2023 — Mature, pricey wines are a treat to taste but stressful to open: Will the inevitably fragile corks crumble? At a recent 23-vintage retrospective of Bordeaux Château Troplong Mondot, Managing Director Aymeric de Gironde pulled corks with the $135 Durand corkscrew to ensure the answer would be no.

As a wine ages, so does the cork, often disintegrating or drying out even if bottles are perfectly stored. Fishing out floating bits is a time-consuming chore, and filtering can affect the taste, not for the better. This scenario inspired Atlanta wine collector Mark Taylor to invent the Durand in 2007. Its patented design has been the standard-bearer for precise pulling of even the most compromised corks ever since….

The 2022 Bordeaux Wine Vintage Is Brilliant — and a Big Surprise

May 19, 2023 — At 9 a.m. on Monday, April 17, I was swirling, sniffing, sipping and spitting a stunning barrel sample of first growth Chateau Mouton Rothschild. It was my first taste of Bordeaux’s 2022 vintage. Over the next two weeks in the region, I sampled impressive wines at dozens of chateaux and official press tastings. Most of them completely upended all my expectations — and everyone else’s.

After all, the 2022 growing season was a drama of non-stop extreme weather: April frosts, June rainstorms, record-breaking heat waves, severe drought and hail….

The Buzziest California Wine Region Isn’t Napa or Sonoma

May , 2023 — If you’re on an all-out quest to make great cabernet, you might aim for Napa or Bordeaux.

Not Daniel Daou. After a decade-long global search for the right plot of land to start growing the grape, he found the ideal combo of soil and climate for his dream in Paso Robles, a land of oak-studded hills and winding back roads, a three-hour drive south of San Francisco. “Paso,” he says, “has a climate between Pauillac in Bordeaux and Oakville in Napa. It was my destiny….”

Champagne Is Outperforming Gold and the S&P 500. Here’s What to Buy

March 29, 2023 — To celebrate romance or toast a great performance, pop open the Champagne, of course. That’s why the 95th Academy Awards featured Brad Pitt’s pink bubbly Fleur de Miraval. But today, along with their sex appeal, the finest bottles also pour out heady investment returns. And as the market bubbled ever higher in 2021 and 2022, speculators pounced.

Here are the kinds of numbers that stirred them up: From January to September 2022, a case of all-Chardonnay 2012 Salon Le Mesnil soared 232%, from £3,800 to £12,600 ($4,670 to $15,485), according to Liv-Ex, the London International Vintners Exchange. The Liv-Ex Champagne 50 Index, which tracks the price performance for recent vintages of a dozen top brands, was a runaway star, outperforming gold, the FTSE, and the S&P 500, as well as the Bordeaux First Growths and even Burgundy….

After SVB Fail, California Winemakers Dodged a Crisis—But Worry for Future

March 14, 2023 — On Friday at 6:30 in the morning, Connor McMahon, owner of Fulldraw Vineyard in Paso Robles, California, went into panic mode over the news of Silicon Valley Bank’s impending collapse.

When the 35-year-old winemaker finally connected with a bank loan officer at 7 a.m., it was too late to move the winery’s money into his SVB checking account so he could open a new account elsewhere. The FDIC had already taken over the bank and shut its systems down. Whatever was in progress—loans and deals—stopped dead….

Moët Hennessy Buys Château Minuty In Big Bet on Luxury Rosé

February 15, 2023 — In winter, I often dream of sipping pale pink rosé in a Provence café while watching sleek yachts bob in a sun-spackled blue sea. I’m not alone on this. And LVMH Moet Hennessy Louis Vuitton SE knows it.

Moët Hennessy, the luxury conglomerate’s wine and spirits division, is announcing its third investment in pink and Provence, a majority share of iconic, family-owned Château Minuty, the rosé leader on the Riviera and in Europe. The company declined to make public the majority percentage and price….

Five Ways Wine Will Change in 2023

January 13, 2023 — Wine news in 2022 was both concerning and upbeat. Once again, scorching heat, record-breaking drought, spring frosts, hailstorms and wildfires reminded vintners of the dire threat and cost of climate change, which will cause more eco-anxiety in 2023. On the positive side, vintners and drinkers are taking sustainability ever more seriously, and more innovations and adaptations are coming.

The first Future Drinks Expo in San Francisco in May was a look at the technology for wine’s future. Robots? They’re in the vineyard already, picking grapes, weeding and pruning, and will soon be working to ferment tiny batches of grapes in the cellar….

Winemakers Champion the Next ‘Perfect Grape’ for Climate Change

January 10, 2023 — Last year you probably tasted your way through any number of well-known wine grape varieties, whether cabernet sauvignon, chardonnay, pinot noir or sauvignon blanc. 

In your future, however, are the drinking delights of less familiar names: counoise, vaccarèse, mencía, picpoul blanc and cabernet Pfeffer. 

Vintners from California, Texas, Europe and South America are planting or reviving these little-known, sometimes nearly extinct varieties. Part of their aim is to save the world’s viticultural heritage. 

But the biggest reason they’re championing these grapes is because they may fare better in a changing climate than popular ones such as temperature-sensitive pinot noir….

Pursuits Weekly: Drink Like It’s the End of 2022

December 24, 2022 — Hi there, it’s Elin McCoy, Bloomberg’s wine critic.

I’m pleased to report I’ve recovered from flipping through my tasting notebooks to pick the most compelling, memorable wines of the year, and zeroing in on those that are bargains. It was intense and time-consuming, but I had fun tasting a few of them again just to be sure.

Now I’m ready to party, and am fixated on my favorite end-of-year topic: what to pour for the holidays….

The Top 10 Wines of 2022, From $35 to $35,000

December 15, 2022 — At the end of the year, I flip through my tasting notebooks with nostalgia, recalling all the wonderful wines I’ve sampled. Singling out the most memorable for my top 10 is never simple. I was lucky enough to taste brilliant wines from 21 countries in 2022, including retrospectives of the California cabernets and chardonnays from estates celebrating 50th and 60th anniversaries, as well as plenty of legendary classics from Bordeaux, Burgundy, Champagne, Portugal and Australia.

In the mix were reds, whites, rosés and bubblies from lesser-known regions and grapes (completer, petite arvine, areni noir), and many from wineries firmly committed to a green wine future, which looms more important than ever……

The 50 Best Wines Under $50 Right Now, From Alto Adige to New Zealand

December 2, 2022 — My idea of a yearend report means scrolling through all my tasting notes for the wines I would be happy to drink again—and that deliver quality at a seriously reasonable price.

This year, I found more good-value vino than ever while sampling 2,481—yes, I double-checked—red, white, rosé, orange and sparkling examples from Armenia to Uruguay….

American Gaylon Lawrence Buys Grand Cru Bordeaux Wine Estate

November 1, 2022 —

Gaylon Lawrence, a Tennessee-based billionaire with US farming and banking interests, has been on a wine-buying spree ever since purchasing his first property just four years ago. After snapping up Napa Valley’s iconic Heitz Cellar in April 2018, he grabbed the historic Haynes vineyard in Napa’s Coombsville area and added the equally historic Burgess Cellars and Stony Hill Vineyard.

Now, Lawrence and Carlton McCoy Jr., managing partner for Lawrence Wine Estates, are taking on Bordeaux. On Oct. 31 they announced the purchase of a majority stake in Château Lascombes, a second growth estate in the Margaux appellation with a picturesque but slightly run-down ivy-covered stone chateau. It produces about 20,000 cases a year of a red blend that includes Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot with a dash of petit Verdot. For an undisclosed price, they purchased the chateau, about 300 acres of vineyards—and an underperforming reputation they aim to change….

Bigger Is Better as Sales of Large-Format Magnums, Methusalehs Soar

October 21, 2022 — Everyone likes a spectacle—even wine connoisseurs.

When Philippe Newlin, now the Bordeaux buyer for, got married, he wowed his 80 guests by pouring glasses of crus classés Bordeaux from Methusalehs, or 6-liter bottles. Each one held the same amount as eight regular bottles of Bordeaux and stood nearly 2 feet high. The couple’s best friends wrote celebratory inscriptions with gold metallic markers on the glass, making the impressive empties treasured souvenirs….. 

How the Visionary Class of ’72 Created California’s Wine Wonderland

September 22, 2022 — For Northern California wine country, 1972 was a year like no other. 

That was when Denver entrepreneur Ray Duncan and winemaker Justin Meyer, who’d just left the Christian Brothers religious community, produced 1,100 cases of the first Silver Oak cabernet in Napa, bottling them in an old dairy barn…..

Pursuits Weekly: The Drama, Heartbreak, and Hope of Wine Harvest

September 24, 2022 —

Hi, I’m Elin McCoy, the wine critic for Bloomberg for the past two decades, during which I’ve enjoyed way more than my fair share of the world’s great wines. 

But don’t think I just sit around sniffing and sipping (and spitting).

I go everywhere wine is grown and made and right now, my mind is on harvest. It’s my favorite season because its weeks of drama are all about hope and a new chance to make something great—but also about loss and heartbreak. That puts it on par with opera, one of my other loves.

Despite this year’s disasters (spring frost, extreme heat, drought, hailstorms, and wildfires) last-minute rainfall saved the day for some, while others are celebrating luscious grapes that will make stunning wines. Success always depends on chance, location, timing, skill. You can read all about how regions in Europe and the US fared in my 2022 harvest report….

Heat and Drought Cause ‘Earliest Ever’ Wine Harvest, But Hope Remains

September 19, 2022 — In Portugal’s Douro Valley, the team at the Quinta do Vesuvio winery was stomping picked grapes in ancient stone lagares (troughs) in August. “Never in the history of this great estate, which dates to 1565, have grapes been trodden this early,” says Harry Symington, whose family has been producing premium ports in the Douro for five generations.

The nail-biting tale of the 2022 harvest—scorching heat and record-breaking drought that sped up ripening in vineyards from Germany to Paso Robles, Calif.—is another reminder of the power of climate change to upend the wine world.

Still, many winemakers are bullish. Drought causes smaller grapes with more concentration and deters diseases such as mildew. Winemakers in some regions, such as Champagne, talk of a great vintage….

A New Mexico Winery Breaks All the Rules on Bubbly

August 23, 2022

Two unusual American sparkling wines debuted this month. The surprise? They were made by a winery near the Rio Grande in Albuquerque, New Mexico—land of adobe architecture, high deserts, and chiles-laden cuisine.

The bubblies are part of a recent boundary-breaking project, Vara Winery & Distillery. Its team of all-star winemakers, distillers, and chefs create everything from wines to vermouth, gin, and rum. A new Santa Fe tasting room, Vara Vinoteca, opens this summer….

The 10 Best Ways to Get Quality Wines Delivered to Your Door

August 4, 2022 — Remember how those regular monthly home deliveries of wines during the pandemic felt so essential? When all the out-of-work sommeliers, deserted restaurants, and retail shops bereft of browsers were struggling to survive, they started new-style wine clubs.  

Places such as Manhattan’s tiny King restaurant and Michelin-starred Cote plundered their cellars to ship boxes of curated wines to customers, while sommeliers used their connections to ferret out such hard-to-obtain niche bottles as Italian orange wine Partida Creus….  

Record Temperatures, Wildfires Wreak Havoc on Europe’s Winemakers

July 26, 2022 —

In Portugal’s Douro Valley on July 7, a wildfire burned close to Oscar Quevedo’s Quinta da Alegria vineyard. By the middle of the night, flames surrounded it. The vines around the edges, amounting to about a hectare, burned. In his 39 years, Quevedo says, “I had never seen such a big and fast fire in the heart of the Douro.” 

All over Europe, temperatures in wine regions have been sweltering at new highs, and heat waves are moving north into such normally cool countries as Germany.  In the UK, temperatures above 40C (104F) were recorded for the first time. Winemakers worry this will lower yields by 25% or more for this vintage. Many had already been slammed by early frost and hail. Increasingly intense heat waves are signaling that conditions could become even more extreme and unpredictable over time…. 

Never Bring White Wine to a Cookout, and Other Summer Grilling Rules

July 12, 2022 — For seasonal food and wine perfection, few things can top a cookout. My favorite grill experience was at a tiny remote cottage with no electricity in Uruguay, the vacation retreat of Argentine celeb chef Francis Mallmann, who popularized traditional open-flame techniques internationally.

Everything we ate was cooked on a hand-forged grill over a sparking fire surrounded by stones. Under a dark sky sprinkled with stars, at a table lit by candles of all sizes, we savored thick-crusted, sizzling steaks with tiny grilled potatoes and accompaniments all kissed with char. Later, Mallmann read from poetry books pulled from piles stacked precariously around the house. Naturally, there were reds and whites to match the mood, the weather, the food, the poems….

London’s Plush Private Wine Club Embraces Digital—and Takes on the World

July 2, 2022 — The first time I visited 67 Pall Mall in London, it was more noisy construction site than upscale wine club. Standing in the middle of rubble, founder Grant Ashton sketched out his vision of an unstuffy place for oenophiles to sip and socialize: a cellar with thousands of wines, dark-paneled eating and meeting spaces, reasonable prices, and member wine storage in a former “invincible” bank vault. I wondered it if would ever open.

When it did, in October 2015, I still doubted the club would succeed in a city brimming with great restaurants and wine bars. I was wrong…

So, How Was the 2021 Vintage in Bordeaux?

June 15, 2022 — OK, no one in Bordeaux is proclaiming that 2021 is “the vintage of the century,” the typical spin the French trot out for top years such as 2009 and 2010, or the recent trilogy of 2018, 2019, and 2020.

There’s a reason. Climate change hammered the region last year with devastating frosts, double the average amount of rain at the wrong times, mildew, black rot, insect infestations, lack of sunshine, even hail.

“2021 was probably the most challenging growing season of the past 30 years,” says Emmanuel Cruse of Château d’Issan, which experienced much of the above but escaped hail.  

Now futures prices for the wines, still quietly aging in barrel, are starting to trickle out from retailers. The idea of futures is to buy at the very lowest price by putting money down for wine still in barrel, then receive bottles of it in a couple of years, when, presumably, it will cost more. That doesn’t always happen…. 

Pink Wine Season Is Upon Us: The 10 Best New Rosé Bottles, Rated

May 24, 2022 — When the temperature soars and the sun is shining at 7 p.m., you know rosé days are underway again.

What people call the “happy wine” has always been something to sip without taking it, or yourself, too seriously. Rosé is about embracing fun, the beach, day-drinking, and personal style, which is surely why we all guzzled it during the doom and gloom of a pandemic that isn’t over yet. 

Get ready. As more wineries rush to cash in on the popularity of pink, styles are expanding. This year brings a wave of new-spin versions worth sipping; some others are, predictably, more marketing hype than taste….

A Luxembourg Prince Is Emptying His Private Wine Cellar for Charity

May 13, 2022 — On Saturday, May 21, an extraordinary personal cellar of old and newer vintages is going on sale at Sotheby’s in New York. The more than 4,200 bottles come from Prince Robert of Luxembourg, owner of Bordeaux first growth Château Haut-Brion, his family, and his friends.

Just perusing the catalogue will stimulate the fantasies of wine collectors. The sale includes some of the most unique, priceless vino on the planet, all with perfect provenance—and you can feel virtuous no matter how many bucks you drop on any of the 818 lots. It’s being called one of the biggest charity auctions of its kind ever staged….

Don’t Pop That Cypto-Cork Just Yet on Wine NFTs

April 25, 2022 — Pricey Fleur de Miraval rosé Champagne is Brad Pitt’s latest wine baby. The second release (ER2) was poured at this year’s Oscars, and in a few months, Pitt’s Champagne house plans to join the cryptocurrency world craze to drop its first NFTs.

Non-fungible tokens, or NFTs, are smart contracts tied to digital (sometimes physical) goods by way of a QR code that’s all recorded on a blockchain. Exactly what goodies these might include hasn’t yet been revealed, but what about an exclusive cuvée and one-on-one bubbly tasting with Brad at his fabulous estate in Provence…? 

No, You Don’t Need a Different Glass for Every Kind of Wine

April 6, 2022 — There are many things I love about wine: the rich color of a lush Napa Cabernet, the grassy aromas of a bright sauvignon blanc, the texture of fizzing bubbles in Champagne. The bonus? The bonus? The only equipment you need to appreciate such sensory delights are a nose, a mouth—and a glass…..

It’s a Golden Era for Sparkling Wine. Here Are 11 Surprising Bottles to Try

March 14, 2022 — A daily glass of fizz sustained me during the darkest days of the pandemic. Like so many other wine lovers, I find there’s something about bubbles in wine that makes everything look a little brighter, a little more hopeful—no matter what dire things are happening in the world….

Hamptons Rosé Master Wolffer Will Make Pink Wine From Provence, Too

February 4, 2022 — It was a big deal in 1992 when German-born international entrepreneur Christian Wolffer gambled on making dry, elegant, Provence-style rosé from his vineyard in a Hamptons potato field. Back then, the pink vino grabbing American attention was sweet white zinfandel. 

But as rosé became the drink that defines summer, his bold move turned out to be more than prescient. By 2020, the Wolffer Estate winery was selling eight different pink cuvées, including sparkling, no-alcohol, and even rosé cider. 

You might think that’s enough for any one winery.  You would be wrong….

It’s Sauvignon Blanc’s Moment. Here are Eight Under $30 to Try

February 1, 2022 — Sauvignon blanc is my go-to white. Maybe yours, too. It was the fastest growing wine variety in the U.S. in 2020 as sales soared 22% in volume, 24% in value. 

Why is the grape getting so much love? I think wines made from it have a winning formula. They’re dry and crisp, with a light touch yet high flavor, and they boast tongue-tingling notes of lemon and herbs. There’s also that whip-cracking acidity. Think of them as the ultimate food-friendly, all-purpose vino you can happily pair with just about everything except red meat. The hallmark taste is immediately recognizable. A chilled glass before dinner calls up sunny days and lively music, giving the day an upgrade even if it’s been a downer…. 

For Wine This Year Expect a Champagne Shortage, NFT Surplus

January 10, 2022 — Last year brought both good and bad news to the wine world. Happily, the U.S. lifted tariffs on European bottles, drinkers cautiously returned to tasting rooms and restaurants, and we all continued to buy wine online with gusto.

On the downside, extreme weather—floods, fires, frost, hail, and scorching heat— devastated many of Europe’s wine regions, reminding us that the effects of climate change in 2022 will be unpredictable at best….

 The 10 Most Memorable Wines That I Drank This Year

December 23, 2021 — Picking my Top 10 experiences of 2021 wasn’t easy: I sampled great wines from 18 countries on six continents this year. 

Flipping through my tasting notebooks revealed stars for dozens of wines, including great vintages of Bordeaux, memorable California cabernets and chardonnays, and brand-new, stellar cuvées from Champagne, both fizzy and not….

The 50 Best Wines Under $50

December 9, 2021 — It’s time again for my annual report on the wines I’ve tasted over the past year that deliver top value as well as sheer deliciousnes

Happily, while sampling 2,705 (yes, I checked that count) red, white, rosé, orange, and sparkling examples, I found more great vino at a reasonable price than ever. And that’s despite the pandemic, recent extreme weather that decimated crops and reduced quantity, and this year’s logistical problems including a glass bottle shortage and shipping delays!

So where to look for 2021’s best buys..?

What is Vegan Wine? An Essential Guide for Plant-Based Menu Planning

November 18, 2021 —

Outspoken Italian winery owner Sebastiano Cossia Castiglioni is a wine pioneer in the plant-based food movement. He turned vegetarian at age 15, eventually went fully vegan, and more than a decade ago extended that commitment to Querciabella, his now-organic and biodynamic Chianti Classico family estate. 

“I didn’t want to be part of the way conventional agriculture devastates the environment and abuses animals,” he says. “We removed all animal products from every aspect of our winemaking process, including the vineyards. You don’t need them to make great wine.” The proof is in his reds and pricy white, which have steadily become livelier, more vibrant, and more intense…

Clothing Brand Patagonia Is Now Making Wines. Are They Any Good?

October 25, 2021 —

I won’t keep you in suspense. The wines and other fermented beverages that Earth-friendly clothing company Patagonia is releasing today will surprise you—and in a very good way.

They include a juicy red from the hybrid marquette grapes made at a permaculture farm in New York state, a tangy Austrian pinot blanc infused with thyme, a refreshing apple-and-quince Chilean cider, and a light-bodied red from Mt. Etna….


The Hectic Day in the Life of a Napa Winemaker During Harvest

There’s a lot riding the choices of grape guru Steve Matthiasson, who oversees 27 vineyards both for his own wines and high-profile clients


After Awful Year, a Small But Mighty Wine Vintage Is Expected

Mildew, drought, frost, hail—climate change wreaked havoc on almost all wine regions in 2021. But those few grapes that made it through bear the mark of a memorable vintage.


‘Things Change Because You Do Things,’ Says Napa’s Only Black Wine CEO

Carlton McCoy, the former wine director of Aspen’s Little Nell, talks about how he has transitioned to running Heitz, an historic cellar.

The One

A $700 California-Australia Wine Blend Aims for Icon Status

Mixing top grapes across hemispheres, this wine makes a bold bid for investment potential.


Rosé Wine Has a Dark Side. Here’s Why You Should Embrace It

These more intense, more complex bottles pair well with food and make for quality year-round drinking.


The Top Eight Places to Taste Wine in California Right Now

Garden lounges for sipping, $950 cabernet flights, even barrel rolls in a biplane: The newest oenophile experiences are deluxe—and cost a pretty penny.


Champagne With No Bubbles? Thank Climate Change

Still wines from the legendary home of sparklers are becoming more commonplace, and rising temperatures are part of the math that makes them possible. 

from Bloomberg:

Bordeaux 2020: The 19 Wines to Buy from the Strangest Vintage Ever

Château Margaux, $620 a bottle; Château Lafite Rothschild, $695; Haut-Bailly, $139; Ducru-Beaucaillou, $239 . . . 

The final futures prices for the 2020 Bordeaux wines trickled out this week, meaning we’re nearly at the end of the wine world’s most important spring ritual: en primeur.

Over the past two months, the world’s retailers and critics, including me, have tasted samples of the wines still aging in barrels, and châteaux have very slowly rolled out what they’ll cost.

All that’s left is for consumers to buy. Should you?

Well, after tasting more than 350 barrel samples this spring, I offer a qualified yes….

It’s Time to Stop Laughing Off Wines With Funny Names

June 14, 2021 —Yetti & the Kokonut B’Rosé? Wildman Piggy Pop Pet Nat? When I spotted these Australian wines in a shop, I started laughing. The names were cute, but I wasn’t ready to take the wine itself seriously. My rule of thumb has long been that if a wine has to use a funny name to get you to grab it, the liquid inside the bottle probably doesn’t have much to say for itself. Think Mad Housewife, Broke Ass, Fat Bastard, and the like.

But Ronnie Sanders of VS Imports, who brings the Yetti and Wildman wines to America, says both are so popular he can barely keep them in stock.

They’re part of a new wave of wines with tongue-in-cheek names that range from silly to punny to in-your-face sexist. But the point isn’t to cover up for weakness in the wine. Edgy winemakers are using the names to signal how different their wines are from traditional estates’ conventional vino.

The trend is booming.  The surprise is how delicious the juice inside the bottles can be…..

The Top Rosés for Summer Come With Bubbles, in Cans, and Even Boxed

May 28, 2021 — You can’t escape rosé this year. But why would you want to? It’s inspiring everything from street festivals to lingerie labeled “rosé” instead of pink. The wines are now in cans, boxes, and fancy glass bottles that look as if they hold perfume. 

Some have bubbles, most don’t. Others come as ready-to-drink rosé spritzers or seltzers, or no-alcohol pink wines infused with hemp. Oh, and they’re made of grape varieties that span aglianico to zinfandel. 

Even London’s Covent Garden district is in the clutch of blush fever. Its first ever Rosé Festival opened on May 17 and will last through June 6.  What’s on offer? Ice-cold rosé cocktails, rose petal infused prosecco, frozen rosé, and cute bicycle carts peddling rosé in cans, the summer’s hottest pink wine wrinkle….

Fighting Environmental Degradation, One Bottle of Fancy Mezcal at a Time

David de Rothschild, co-founder of the Lost Explorer.
Photographer: James Wright

May 19, 2021 — When explorer and eco-activist David de Rothschild first encountered mezcal in a San Francisco bar 15 years ago, he fell for the smoky taste it brought to a cocktail. At the time, he was deep into building his Plastiki project, a 60-foot sustainable catamaran made with 12,500 reclaimed plastic bottles stuck together with a glue that included cashew nuts and sugar. He and his crew sailed it thousands of miles across the Pacific to raise awareness about the billions of pounds of plastic poured into the ocean each year.

On the journey, the taste of mezcal stayed in his memory.

De Rothschild’s first try at mezcal was in 2015. It debuted only in California as a tiny part of a now-closed wellness, clothing, and skin care company he called the Lost Explorer.

Now he’s gone all in, launching three luxury (read: expensive) versions of this Mexican spirit under the Lost Explorer label, and he appears on my computer screen from London to discuss them. Though he sports a modern orange beanie, his scruffy locks and full beard give him a 19th century Gold Rush prospector look, updated with a serious explorer-style watch.

With mezcal, he’s hunting a different kind of gold, a spirit that can tell a story about the issues he considers most important: sustainability, biodiversity, curiosity, community, and ultimately, saving the planet….

PursuitsPosh French Winemakers Pounce on Big American Vineyard Selloff

European vintners are finding toeholds in the U.S. just as some of America’s oldest wineries are ready to cash in

 PursuitsThese Elite Bottles of Wine Are So Exclusive, You Can’t Just Buy Them

Certain rare bottlings from big-name wineries are available only to members of clubs or to people who show up and know to ask. Here are some worth hunting down—and a pro tip: Be nice.

The Best Wines Under $25 That Taste As If They Cost Twice That

March 18, 2021 — One freezing night last month, I sipped several red blends alongside a spicy beef stew studded with olives. The price of the best-tasting bottle—$7—stunned me, but its source didn’t: Portugal.

I’m addicted to tracking down wine bargains (maybe you are, too) and this European country is my new hot spot for exciting, wildly underpriced reds and whites that have authentic character. What’s not to like about fresh, savory whites and delicious, plush-textured reds made by talented winemakers from more than 250 exotic native grape varieties? And that value?

No wonder sales of Portugal’s wines are on a roll…

Pink Prosecco Is the Fizz That’s Poised to Ride the Rosé Wave

February 10, 2021 — What could be more romantic for Valentine’s Day than a glass of pale pink, easy drinking, sparkling wine? Even better, one that costs less than $20 a bottle? 

Vintners in the northern Italian prosecco region are banking on the combo of ever popular rosé and prosecco—which, over the past decade has gone from niche product to a half-billion bottles in sales annually—to become a “lifestyle symbol” that recalls hanging out at Venetian wine bars and sunning on La Dolce Vita beaches.

But the story behind this new pink boom is more complicated. Although the most luscious examples are fresh, bright, and satisfying enough for love-forever toasts, not all are worth pouring on V-Day—or any day—even at cheap prices. Big U.S. brands are trying to cash in by bottling Italian rosé prosecco under their own labels, but most don’t have the same light stylishness of those from Italian vintners. 

That’s my takeaway from a blind tasting of more than 20 examples available so far….

Start Your Own Wine Collection With These Bottles and Services

February 12, 2021 —

Maybe last year you wished for a cellar of great wines to see you through the pandemic because, well, having wines on hand to drink is certainly one benefit of collecting.

But here’s another. “With interest rates near zero, a wine collection is an investment, a steady, safe haven for capital,” says Miles Davis, head of the professional portfolio management service for the U.K. platform Wine Owners.

He’s thinking about numbers like this: Since its first release, the value of a case of 2000 Armand Rousseau Chambertin, a grand cru Burgundy, has soared 3,002% to its current market price of $38,553 (as of Feb. 5), according to Liv-ex, the global marketplace for the wine trade.

In 2021 it’s easier than ever to play this collecting-investing game, for pleasure or profit—or both….

Eight Ways Wine Will Change in 2021

December 28, 2020 —- Where to start? Covid-19 upended all our oenophile habits, shifting how we buy wine (online more than ever), how we taste and learn about it (virtually), and where we end up drinking it. (Not at parties, bars, and restaurants.)

Thankfully, many cities considered wine shops to be essential businesses. Vino has been a great connector this year, as we’ve shared glasses with friends virtually and traveled by proxy to regions we can’t visit.

Surprisingly, the pandemic didn’t shift what we put in our glasses all that much. Rosé is still hot. So is hard seltzer, which, along with canned cocktails (both, ugh!), grew 43% during 2020. Bubbly is still going strong, with more countries than ever producing great examples (read: Brazil).

The earliest harvest ever in Burgundy and devastating fires in California wine country for the fourth year in a row reminded people that climate change is a truly serious issue, and inspired new wine initiatives to save the planet.

Expect many of 2020’s trends to evolve in 2021—the health and wellness alcohol-free drinks boom, the canned and boxed wine movement, vino from extreme regions—helped along by new digital and AI technology innovations, even if everyone really dreams of returning to sharing wine with others outside their homes.

Here’s what else I see in my crystal glass….

The 50 Best Wines Under $50

December 7, 2020 —  Picking my annual 50 under $50 list was extremely difficult this year. There are more delicious value wines than ever from around the globe. And I should know: I sampled a couple thousand of them in 2020.

You can now find bargain bubbly from everywhere, including Greece, California, and South Africa. My fizz surprise of the year was the quality of bottles from Brazil. Add in the ever-expanding number of pétillant naturel wines now available, and you could enjoy a different—and good—fizz each day of the year. Experiment!

Sadly, it’s still difficult to find great Champagnes that cost less than $50 a bottle. Best bets, as always, are entry-level, nonvintage sparklers from the best big houses and especially from up-and-coming grower-producers. 

The rules for finding the top red, white, and rosé values haven’t changed much. Riesling from everywhere is still undervalued as are wines made from esoteric grapes. Examples with turbiana (white) as well as parpato and susumaniello (both red) made my list this year…. 

Toast Your Thanksgiving With a Rosé from Texas or a Vermont Red

November 19, 2020 —

This year will be my Zoom Thanksgiving, and maybe yours, too.

The idea of feasting virtually with family and friends—and the divisive election—makes me want to vote for community and unity on this all-American holiday when it comes to wine.

My solution? Embracing our country’s grand diversity by turning to bottles from across the country, made by winemakers who reflect the American dream.

All 50 states produce wine in some form or fashion—yes, even Florida, Alaska, and Hawaii—though California still accounts for over 80 percent of the nation’s bottles. No longer up and coming, Washington state has more than 1,000 wineries, and Oregon only slightly fewer. There are 470 in New York state alone.

You can find exciting reds, whites, and rosés from Michigan, New Mexico, Texas, Virginia, and even chilly Vermont, where The Old Farmers Almanac predicts snow next week….

Brazil’s Under-the-Radar Sparkling Wine Is a Big Bargain, Too

November 13, 2020 — True story: When former Brazilian President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva served France’s Nicolas Sarkozy a glass of Casa Valduga’s Brazilian sparkling wine, Sarkozy complimented his choice of Champagne. (Awkward.)

The seductions of Serra Gaúcha, the southern wine region where it was made, are pure Brazil—parrots and waterfalls, soccer matches, tangy caipirinhas, sizzling churrasco—but with this big surprise. It’s an oasis of bright, vivacious, festive bubbly, with chardonnay playing a starring role.

You can be forgiven if you didn’t know this. But here’s one trick to spotting the next hot wine countries: Check the authoritative The World Atlas of Wine. For the first time, the latest edition allots an entire page to Brazil.

I got my first serious taste of the country’s wines several years ago at a South American wine conference. The diversity of fizz styles was impressive. Whether inexpensive, chuggable, prosecco-style sparklers, sweet frizzante moscatos, value-driven bruts, or sophisticated vintage blanc de blancs, Brazil had it covered. Best of all, more of them are now available outside the country….


from Businessweek

Presidential Politics and Wine Can Make for an Awkward Pairing

November 3, 2020 — President Rutherford B. Hayes had embraced the temperance movement in his election bid, but at his first White House event in 1877, his advisers begged him to avert a diplomatic disaster and serve wine. The dinner was for Grand Duke Alexis, the Russian czar’s son who’d enjoyed Champagne while hunting with Buffalo Bill Cody on a previous U.S. visit.

Theodore Roosevelt, however, was all too willing to accept free Champagne from Moët & Chandon for a state dinner in 1902 honoring Prince Henry of Prussia and to launch the imperial yacht. The only problem? The prince’s brother, the kaiser, had supplied a German sparkling wine and was not pleased.

Politics and wine can make for clumsy pairings, as detailed by the lavishly illustrated and strictly bipartisan Wine and the White House: A History ($55). Written by Frederick Ryan Jr., chairman of the White House Historical Association, the book delves widely, though not deeply, into how presidents have chosen to highlight ceremonies, foster diplomacy, and heavily promote the American wine industry long before the world viewed the U.S. as a serious producer….


from Bloomberg News

Organic Winemaking Is a Zoo With Armadillos, Falcons, and Pigs

October 12, 2020 — At Tablas Creek winery in Paso Robles, Calif., 200 black-faced Dorper sheep munch weeds among rows of vines. Along the way, they fertilize the soil while donkeys and 200-pound Spanish mastiffs ward off coyotes and mountain lions.

Pairs of owls zoom from vineyard boxes to eliminate more than 500 vine root-eating gophers a year. Chickens scratch the earth, scarfing up unwelcome bugs.

A couple of decades ago, this vineyard menagerie would have been highly unusual. Now, the commitment to organic and biodynamic viticulture has pushed top wineries across the globe to look to nature for alternatives to chemicals. Furry, feathered, scaly, and four-legged animals (even bats) have become essential winery employees, contributing to vineyards’ overall health by replacing toxic pesticides and herbicides.

Tablas Creek goes even further. It’s the first winery in the world to obtain regenerative organic certification, a new international farming standard intended to combat climate change….

Napa’s Worst Case Scenario: 80% of Cabernet Lost to Fire, Smoke

October 6, 2020 – On the evening of Sept. 27, when winemaker Chris Howell saw flames on a ridge a mile away from Cain Vineyard and Winery, he and his wife Katie Lazar knew they had to leave.

A few hours later, Cain was engulfed by the region’s latest blaze, the Glass Fire, which has since metastasized into a group of fires known as the Glass Fire Incident. Wind-propelled flames and smoke billowed up from the canyon, between the two ridges, and moved over from the Sonoma side of the mountain. It destroyed Cain’s winery, an historic 1871 barn, barrels of the highly regarded 2019 vintage that was aging in the cellar, as well as all of his new wine harvested this year….




Lebanon Needs You to Buy Its Wines. And, Yes, They’re Really Good

September 24, 2020 — Massive explosions rocked Beirut’s huge port last month, killing more than 200 people. The owners of Château Marsyas winery were injured in their commercial office just 600 meters away and crawled through debris from fallen walls and ceilings to escape. Two weeks later, they were harvesting grapes at their vineyards in Lebanon’s Bekaa Valley.

That’s the kind of resilience winemakers have in this tiny country on the eastern Mediterranean coast, squeezed between Israel and Syria.

The blast was the latest catastrophe in a year of multiple disasters: social unrest, a political crisis, economic collapse, and a Covid-19 lockdown. The value of the Lebanese pound sank 80%.

Because of currency devaluation, explains Marc Hochar, whose family owns the country’s most famous estate, Château Musar, wineries can’t increase local prices enough to cover the higher prices they must now pay to import bottles, labels, corks, tractors, and more—and they can’t take money out of banks.

“Exports,” says Elie Maamari of Château Ksara, a big winery, during a tasting over Zoom, “are our salvation.”

Will these disasters, just the latest in this country’s 6,000-year winemaking history, grab the world’s attention and translate into sales of its reds, whites, and rosés?

I hope so….



Around the World, the 2020 Wine Harves

t May Be Most Troubled Ever

September 15, 2020 — In Burgundy, starting in mid-August, masked workers fanned out into vineyards, carefully socially distanced, to begin picking grapes. It was the beginning of one of the earliest harvests of the past 650 years, and it is now ending.

The 2020 harvest looks pretty different in many places around the world, much of it due to climate change: scorching heat and deadly wildfires in California’s Napa and Sonoma; drought and heat waves in France; thunderstorms and tornadoes in Italy.

Add in worry over the global economic malaise, and the 2020 harvest is shaping up to be one of the most troublesome in memory. Covid-19 closed tasting rooms and restaurants. The 25% tariffs the U.S. imposed on English, French, Spanish, and German wines caused exports to drop dramatically, and the tariffs, sadly, will remain in place for the foreseeable future.

As a result, European cellars are full of unsold wine. While 2020’s generous crop is welcome in regions such as Burgundy, the government in Spain is paying farmers to reduce yields through green harvesting, or thinning the number of grape bunches on vines. (The compensation can be up to 60% of the usual price of lost grapes.)

With so much unsold wine clogging up their wineries, some vintners don’t have enough space to age the wine from this year’s generous crop. To make room, some are selling excess stocks in bulk to distilleries at a deep discount to be turned into—ouch—hand sanitizer and perfume.

So how is this trouble-plagued harvest going to turn out…?

California’s Wildfires Came at the Worst Time for Wine Industry

August 27, 2020 — Vineyard owners in California’s Napa and Sonoma regions and the Santa Cruz Mountains had planned to harvest grapes over the next few weeks. But with flames threatening wineries and homes, thousands of people have had to evacuate, although some winemakers and winery workers stayed to help fight the fires alongside Cal Fire, the state Department of Forestry and Fire Protection.

It’s hard to grasp the extent of devastation. On Wednesday morning, Aug. 26, Cal Fire reported that in the prior eight days, the LNU Lightning Complex fire engulfing Napa, Lake, Sonoma, Solano, and Yolo counties had burned 357,046 acres, destroyed 978 structures, damaged an additional 256, and killed five people. One part, the Hennessey Fire in Napa and Lake counties, had accounted for 299,763 acres and was only 33% contained. In Sonoma, the component Walbridge fire had burned 54,923 acres and is only 19% contained. Down in the Santa Cruz Mountains, a separate conflagration, the CZU August Lightning Fire, had burned nearly 79,000 acres burned and destroyed 330 structures.

And that’s just in northern California. In the entire state, one of the biggest fires ever encompasses 700 blazes that have already burned more than 1.3 million acres—an area bigger than the state of Delaware….

Forget French Rosé, Italy’s Under-Explored Pink Wines Offer Big Value

August 18, 2020 — For the past month, I’ve been dreaming of Italy and the summer trip that never happened. Past memories of beaches with views of the blue Mediterranean, winding paths to hike in the Dolomites, and trabocchi fishing platforms in the Adriatic Sea, where you can dine as the sun sets, play like a film loop in my fantasies. Not to mention the freshly made pasta, the espresso, the gelato, the truffles, and, of course, the vino.

So this August, I’m taking my much-longed for visit via a tour through the country’s little-known rosatos, or pink wines, which are produced in some of Italy’s most beautiful places. Members of a new movement, Rosautoctono, want to chart its future as high-quality wine made from native grapes and to remind people that it has a long history as an everyday wine. They’re pushing the term “rosa” to describe the country’s best pink wines, though so far, only a few wineries are putting it on the label.

Italy’s rosas offer a wider range of hues than do French rosés, from pale salmon to an intense, dark-cherry pink. Taste diversity runs from light and bright to soft, round, and fruity and even bold, rich, and full-bodied. They brim with savory, cherry, and herb flavors that will still be delicious on the table long after Labor Day….

from Club Oenologique

Can a rosé ever be worth £100 a bottle?

August 11. 2020 —  This summer as any summer, Saint Tropez means beautiful people sipping pink wine with a view of the blue Mediterranean. Whether from glamorous yachts or exclusive beach clubs, the only difference is that there is a little more social distance between them. And, perhaps, something new in their glasses.

Top of the list of elegant and expensive pours for 2020 is Domaines Ott Etoile, a seductive, silky-textured, pale salmon-colored rosé from Provence that debuted a couple of months ago. The price? £120 for one sleek, curvy bottle (at retail – you can double or triple that in the beach clubs).

Etoile is just one of the new “prestige” rosé wines costing big bucks. In 2018, the Cannes Film Festival was the launch pad for the organic Muse de Miraval from Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie’s Provence estate, Château Miraval. It’s available only in magnums, at £250+ , and intended to be aged like a cru classé….

from Decanter

Why Wine Matters 

August 2, 2020 — This spring, as the coronavirus pandemic swamped the world, sales of wine in America skyrocketed. In April, San Francisco-based online retailer was shipping 50,000 bottles a day. One theory had it that people were buying to make sure they had enough wine on hand if things got even worse.

As we all sheltered in place, friends far and near set up online ‘happy hours’, where we were able to sip our favourite wines together and philosophise via Zoom or FaceTime or Skype. Every night, my husband and I gravitated towards comforting bottles that reminded us of life before lockdown – a sojourn in St-Emilion, dinner in a ristorante in Piedmont, our first trip to the Napa Valley. We toasted the winemakers, and were grateful to be together.

And all this made me ponder the many ways wine is woven into the lives and memories of so many people across the globe, who were doing the same thing. So for my last regular column for Decanter, I want to talk about why wine matters….

from Bloomberg News

Bollinger’s ‘Baby Brother’ Champagne Gives a Reason to Celebrate

July 29, 2020 — The middle of a pandemic is a pretty strange time to introduce a brand-new Champagne, even if you’re the powerful fizz brand associated with James Bond.

But hold on: The debut of the stunning Bollinger PN VZ15, which will arrive in the U.S. in September, turns out to be a prime time event for bubbly lovers.

It’s named for the project code written on barrels in the cellar: The “PN” stands for pinot noir, which is the only grape used in its production, and the “VZ” stands for Verzenay, a village with deep, chalky soil where about 50% of the grapes came from. The “15” is the vintage of the majority of the wine.

The oddly named, oddly timed release is the first edition of a series to be released every year. “Major Champagne houses rarely add a new wine to their permanent range,” says Peter Liem, author of Champagne: The Essential Guide to the Wines, Producers, and Terroirs of the Iconic Region. “Bollinger debuted its last one 12 years ago. Expectations were high.”

Spoiler alert: This all-pinot noir fizz is gorgeous, fresh, and vibrant, yet also rich and succulent. Intense aromas hinting of mint, flowers, and smoky nuts marry deep flavors of cool, red fruit and an almost salty, chalky finish. It’s listed at the eminently reasonable price of $120, but you can find it for as little as $100….




2016 Was the Perfect Year, at Least in Italy’s Barolo Wine Country

July 23, 2020 — The star grape in Italy’s northern Piedmont is nebbiolo, named for the misty fog that drifts over the hills at harvest time, when aromas of white truffles and fermenting wine fill the air. It’s the Italian equivalent to Burgundy’s pinot noir, as important to the region as cabernet is to Napa Valley.

Nebbiolo is a tricky grape, thin-skinned and difficult to vinify. To fully ripen, it requires a long growing season, which tames its famous tannins yet lets the wine age in deliciously complex ways. The haunting blend of licorice, cherry, and floral aromas along with its layers of complex flavors and elegant structure are key to the appeal of its most famous wine: Barolo, named after both a village and a part of the region.

In 2016, wine growers were anticipating a magnificent vintage before they picked a single grape. For starters, the weather was perfect throughout the growing season, says Jimmy Minutella of Renato Ratti, whose single-vineyard Barolo Rocche dell’Annuziata ($105) brims with a rose-petal bouquet and glides over the tongue like velvet….

Just 0.1% of U.S. Winemakers Are Black. Here’s How to Fix That


July 2, 2020 — Wine has always been one of our planet’s great social connectors, as well as a symbol of generosity, pleasure, and celebration.This spring, however, while the Covid-19 pandemic has reminded us how important human connection is, and the global Black Lives Matter protests have shown how far we have to go in creating a more equitable society, there’s renewed energy toward making the wine world more inclusive.

Although there are more than 8,000 wineries in the U.S., about one-tenth of 1% of the winemakers and brand owners are Black, estimates Phil Long, president of the Association of African-American Vintners and owner of the Longevity winery in the California Bay Area’s Livermore Valley. Which is why, Long says, “the real goal of our organization is promoting awareness—letting people know we exist, and we make great wine.

It’s true. Many of the wines are absolutely delicious, and range from big, bold reds with savory flavors to refreshing whites, as well as unusual, experimental sparkling wines made from hybrid grapes…

Phil Long / photographer: Ron Essex

A Guide to Top Women Winemakers, Still Rare in the World of Grapes

July 1, 2020 — A few days before the pandemic lockdown began in New York, I’m at Balthazar restaurant, sipping wines and dishing gossip with a group of female winemakers from Bordeaux.

“My grandmother was not allowed into the cellar at our estate,” says Sylvie Courselle, who runs Château Thieuley with her sister Marie. “My father wept that he had no son to succeed him in making wine. We finally convinced him we, his daughters, could.” She rolls her eyes.

Historically, such places as Bordeaux, Chianti, Margaret River, and Napa were male bastions, where, with few exceptions, men owned the wineries, worked the vineyards, ruled the cellars, and sold the bottles.

In the 19th century and through most of the 20th, the death of a spouse was the way women could take over family wine companies. Trailblazing widows in Champagne such as Barbe-Nicole Ponsardin (Veuve Clicquot) and Lily Bollinger were wildly successful, revolutionizing the wines and making the region famous.

In the 21st century, some things have changed, but some have not. For sure, ambitious women today have taken on top roles with gusto, which means there are plenty of their great wines to celebrate this summer’s 100th anniversary of women’s right to vote in the U.S. But despite progress, the wine industry is still reckoning with gender inequality….

2019 Bordeaux Vintage Review: Perfectly Balanced, Rich, and Energetic

June 23, 2020 — Chateau Mouton Rothschild, $400 a bottle; Chateau Lafite Rothschild, $525; Chateau Pontet-Canet, $80; Chateau d’Issan $49: Prices for futures of 2019 Bordeaux wines have been rolling out fast and are still coming in.

The region’s en primeur campaign, which is the period when chateaux release prices for the most recent vintage and sell the wines while they are still aging in the barrel, is in full swing. And some of results are the best bargains since the 2008s, which were sold as futures the spring after Lehmann Brothers collapsed.

“Most people agree 2019 is a seriously good vintage,” says Christian Seely, the managing director of AXA Millesimes, which owns several Bordeaux chateaux. “In normal times, none of these wines would have been discounted. But you have to give people a reason to buy.”

Want to take a flyer on the futures game? You can find deals in every price category, from $20 to more than $500, whether you want to buy for sheer drinking pleasure or, hey, for investment.

After tasting some 125 samples shipped from Bordeaux, what’s impressed me most about the ones I rated best is their perfect balance, bright energy, and enticing floral aromas married with richness, fine soft tannins, and especially satiny textures….

Without Lavish Tastings, Bordeaux Sells Itself With Discounts, Zoom

The author chats over Zoom with Château Mouton Rothschild managing director Philippe Dhalluin (left) and Philippe Sereys de Rothschild, as she tastes their new wine.

At 9 a.m., I was sipping a barrel sample of 2019 Château Mouton Rothschild with Baron Philippe Sereys de Rothschild and managing director Philippe Dhalluin. Naturally, this was virtual: They were in Bordeaux; I was in the U.S.

The wine in my glass was real, though, and it was powerful, silky, and lush, “a rugby player in black tie,” as Dhalluin has described it

Barrels of it are sleeping quietly in the first growth château’s cellars and won’t be bottled and shipped until 2022. But like all top Bordeaux estates, Mouton sells the wine en primeur, as futures, the spring after harvest. Meaning now.

And now, in the face of a pandemic that blocks travel and has squashed commerce, the estates are grappling with how they can continue with the long-standing tradition—and what it will take, without it, for people to buy.

Ordinarily, 5,000 merchants fly in from around the globe in early April to taste barrel samples of the latest vintage, then decide what to offer to consumers as futures. Châteaux woo them with lavish dinners and elegant lunches, trying to build excitement that will translate into buying momentum. Hotels and restaurants are full and bustling.

Like other journalists, I end up driving madly from Saint-Estèphe to Saint-Emilion, sipping 400 to 500 wines at group tastings and individual estates to find those to recommend.

Not this year….



The Wider World of Napa: A Virtual Winetasting with Elin McCoy

June 11, 2020 — Like to join me for a virtual winetasting on YouTube? I recently gave an online master class for 67 Pall Mall, the pioneering London wine club that offers members a list of 4000-plus wines from 42 countries, and now is also offering virtual tastings via Zoom. 

My subject?  “The Wider World of Napa” (click for link) in which I explore the history of the valley through a mix of classic, pioneering producers such as Corison and Smith Madrone, a new generation of winemakers making waves such as Steve Matthiasson, Dan Petroski, and Massimo Di Costanzo, and a new project from well-known vintners, the Araujos, who sold their Eisele Vineyard to Francois Pinault, owner of Château Latour.

(It runs a little over an hour—there were lots of Q&A’s—so I suggest having a Napa white and red on hand to sample alongside.)


Don’t Panic, There Will Be Enough Whispering Angel Rosé This Summer

May 12, 2020 –This spring, we’re all craving symbols of normal life, and for wine lovers, that usually means bottles of chilled rosé. But wait. Will there be enough of it—or any at all—in this age of coronavirus?

Well, yes, but I have a few caveats.

Shipping is slower than usual, so some wines of 2019 vintage may not arrive for a while. The 25% tariff will push prices for faves from Provence slightly higher, and restaurants that once bought thousands of bottles of rosé to pour by the glass may, sadly, never open again.

I caught up by phone with Los Angeles chef Joachim Splichal of Patina restaurant, who has been making two delicious rosés at his Domaine de Cala estate in Provence since 2016….

How To Start a Whisky Collection

April 28, 2020 — A passionate whisky collector once told me that single malts are as intricate as jazz, with a texture like velvet. Who wouldn’t want to drink that?

The number of these aficionados is growing everywhere, from Manhattan to Ho Chi Minh City. “Whiskies,” says Chris Munro of Christie’s auction house, “offer as rich and complex a landscape as fine wine.”

If you like whisky, this is a good time for drinkers and investors, with more diverse bottles available than ever before—and I don’t mean the nine Game of Thrones bottlings. A new generation of collectors has embraced a boom in online whisky auctions, too, which offer thirsty aficionados around-the-clock bidding from where most of us are right now: home.

Sotheby’s Hong Kong, for example, is offering a stunning online sale of treasures through May 5. And in the midst of the novel coronavirus pandemic, whisky-focused bars and restaurants are selling off prize bottles to stay in business….

Boxed Wine and Vodka Made From CO2: The Green Future of Booze

April 15, 2020 — Amid the coronavirus pandemic, climate change still demands global attention, which is why a green movement is sweeping the wine and spirits world.

Did you know that synthetic bioluminescence from bacteria could make lighting in wineries more sustainable? Or that distillers can use solar power to create vodka out of thin air and water? These are among the surprising things I learned at a forum on wine and climate change at Vinexpo Paris in February, before social distancing became a way of life and air travel a memory.

At the three-day Living Soils Forum sponsored by industry giant Moët Hennessy, we sat on benches crafted from used barrel staves in a huge space enclosed by recyclable cork walls, sipping wine and listening to international climate scientists, winemakers, and environmental consultants discuss the multibillion-dollar wine industry’s future. (Full disclosure: I spoke on a panel about organic certification)….

Struggling Napa Wineries Offer Deep Discounts and Virtual Tastings

April 2, 2020 — Spring has arrived in idyllic Napa Valley. The buds emerging from dormant vines signal the beginning of a new vintage. The scene looks normal, except that vineyard workers are careful to stay 6 feet apart. Despite the global pandemic of Covid-19, there will still be grapes for this year’s cabernets.

That’s the good news.

But the novel coronavirus is having a huge impact on this tourism mecca, with wineries to restaurants to hotels suffering. The glitzy Auction Napa Valley, held annually since 1981, has been canceled for the first time.

“It’s the cloud of unknowing. I’m not even sure that I’ll have all the supplies needed for bottling in four months,” says winemaker Philippe Langner, owner of Hesperian winery on Atlas Peak. In 2017, Langner lost his house in the wine country fire.

The big worry is how the region’s almost 500 wineries will cope financially. Most depend heavily on visitors—3.9 million in 2018—to stop by their tasting rooms, snap up bottles, and join their wine clubs. California Governor Gavin Newsom ordered tasting rooms closed on March 20, though the wineries themselves are classified as essential businesses.

“Normally on a spring day, we’re bustling with guests. But now it’s a ghost town,” says Diana Hawkins, owner of Pope Valley Winery.

Many vintners have discovered that their insurance for business interruptions, meant to replace lost income to cover operating expenses, has a fine print clause that specifically excludes damage due to viruses and infections.

The spill out for wine lovers: good deals and rare wines directly from the source and, even better, the chance to support the wineries you love and forge a more personal connection with them….

Getting Great Wine Online Is Easier Than Ever

March 24, 2020 — Your favorite restaurants and bars may be closed, but online wine buying is booming—and already was before the Covid-19 coronavirus outbreak.

A January report from Rabobank, a global food and agribusiness bank, estimated that U.S. online sales reached $2.6 billion in 2019, growing 22% year on year. At the recent annual Impact Marketing Seminar, Rich Bergsund, chief executive officer of giant online retailer, said the site pulled in $150 million in revenue in 2019.

“No matter what happens, wine consumers won’t abstain,” wrote Rob McMillan, senior vice president of Silicon Valley Bank’s Wine Division, in a recent blog post. He predicts even higher wine sales are coming.

Gary Fisch, the CEO and owner of Gary’s Wine & Marketplace in New Jersey, can attest to that. In an email, he reported that sales during the week ending March 15 went up 62%. He also saw a 300% increase in local delivery and pickup orders.

And every bottle counts.

During social distancing, popping a cork while viewing the free operas the Metropolitan Opera is streaming (thank you, Met!) or gathering for a glass with friends over video chat virtual happy hour helps people in the industry keep going, whether it’s a small producer in Sonoma, Calif., France, or Italy; a retailer; or a slew of workers at a huge company such as LVMH….

Great Deals in California Wine Are Coming

March 5, 2020 — Good news is in rare supply these days, so wine lovers, drink this in: The quality California juice that’s been going into $25-plus name brand wines will start turning up in bottles that cost half the price for the next several years.

That’s the conclusion of several wine reports released in the past six weeks. Rob McMillan, founder of the wine division of Silicon Valley Bank, predicted in his annual State of the Wine Industry Report that wine lovers are about to enjoy the best retail values in 20 years…


Whiskey From Tibet and Organic Champagne Among Best New Booze

February 21, 2020 — Everyone loves Paris—even in February, when the City of Light is cold and gray, right?

That was the thinking behind holding this year’s VinExpo wine and spirits trade fair in Paris for the first time. Since 1981, the fair’s biannual home has been Bordeaux, but despite lavish chateau parties with fireworks, that version was losing market share to the no-nonsense annual German trade show, ProWein.

“Our goal in Paris,” says new Vinexpo chief executive Rodolphe Lameyse, “is to be the game changer—and the No. 1 wine and spirits marketplace in the world.”

This year’s three-day schmoozefest blended VinExpo with Wine Paris, another international exhibition, and last week drew some 30,000 international buyers to do deals, discover the latest trends, explore what’s new from 2,800 exhibitors from 20 countries, and delve into the topic of sustainability and climate change at Moët Hennessy’s three-day forum (more on that in a future column).

I spent my days tracking down the newest of the new in three huge halls at the Paris-Versailles Exhibition Centre. Products ranged from the sublime to the silly, including such items as the world’s first wine vinified underwater…

Low-Alcohol Wines That Taste Great

February 11, 2020 — Maybe you tried out dry January and it wasn’t for you, or your list of New Year’s resolutions still includes cutting back on alcohol—at least a bit—but you don’t want to swear off wine entirely. Believe me, you’re not alone.

The “no-and-low” wellness trend is well under way in the wine world, with the market for low- and no-alcohol drinks expected to grow 32% by 2022 from its 2018 status, according to John Gillespie of U.S. market-research firm Wine Opinions. The first trade show devoted to such products premieres in London in June.

“Drinking a bottle of 15%-alcohol wine is the equivalent of drinking a bottle of 12.5% wine—then downing three strong vodka tonics,” says importer Bartholomew Broadbent of Broadbent Selections. The difference between high and low is much bigger than you might think….

A Winemaker and a Billionaire Turn a Bay Area Island Into a Booze Destination

January 28, 2020 — Napa Valley whiz winemaker Dave Phinney thinks big. Very big.

Premium red-blend trendsetter? Check. Megahit brand builder for labels such as Orin Swift and the Prisoner? Ditto. Iconoclastic entrepreneur in a dozen wine regions around the globe? Yes.

So far, Phinney, 46, has made more than $150 million from selling those ventures. Now he’s taken on spirits with his Savage & Cooke Distillery, which led to a partnership with billionaire Gaylon Lawrence Jr. to transform the San Francisco Bay Area’s Mare Island into a hip booze destination and a sustainable community for 75,000 people.

“Designing a city from scratch is a little surreal,” he admits over lunch on a cold and sunny day at a Yonkers, N.Y., restaurant overlooking the Hudson River. “At heart I’m still a winemaker.”

Combining a laid-back Napa wine guy look—close-cropped beard, quilted vest, jeans, and checked shirt—with the intense focus of a business mogul on a tight schedule, Phinney dives into the backstory of how it all went down….

Eight Ways Wine Will Change in 2020

Illustration: Angie Wang

January 3, 2020 — What a decade this has been for wine—both good and bad.

The 2010s saw the rise of serious global concern (at last!) about the effect of climate change on wine. That will continue big time, especially with 2019’s scorching heat waves in France and catastrophic fires in Sonoma, Calif., and South Australia.

The rosé juggernaut of the past decade continues, as luxury players move in to Provence. LVMH acquired two rosé producers last year, including a majority share of Château d’Esclans, maker of ubiquitous Whispering Angel. Chanel, owner of three Bordeaux châteaux, snapped up Domaine de l’Ile.

Natural wine captured the zeitgeist of the decade, which ended with trade wars slamming wine in the form of U.S. tariffs on French, German, and Spanish reds and whites, with the uncertainty of more to come in 2020. Brexit is still a problem, and wine caves, once a major tourism attraction in Napa, Calif., turned into political footballs. (Tip for cave owners: Don’t turn on the chandelier.)

Hard seltzer also captured hearts, minds, and tongues this past year, with sales surging 210% in the U.S. To my dismay, they’re poised to triple by 2023, according to the drinks market analysts at IWSR. Why not make wine spritzers?

On the plus side, fizz continues to effervesce, even though the French are drinking much less Champagne. To supply ever-increasing global demand (and at lower prices), Brazil, California, New Zealand, Oregon, and Tasmania are producing better sparklers than ever.

At least, unlike the roaring ’20s of a century ago, 2020 won’t begin with Prohibition.

Here’s what else I see in my crystal glass for 2020….



The Top 10 Wines of 2019 Hail from France, Germany, Even Japan

December 24, 2019 — A yearend review of my most memorable wine experiences requires hours of scrolling through tasting notes.

It’s never easy to pick my annual 10 best of the best, and it was especially tough in 2019.  I sampled more than 4,000 reds, whites, and bubblies in places as far flung as Japan.

What really marked this year were a host of surprise wines from new grapes, regions, and even countries. I also found new joy in rediscovered classics, including cabernets from California wineries celebrating their 40th and 50th anniversaries. Old vintages of fine Bordeaux vied with terrific 2018 barrel samples and a predictably amazing prerelease tasting at the NoMad of the Burgundy star Domaine de la Romanee-Conti’s wines.

All those wowed me, but the wines that linger most in my memory are the ones whose aromas, tastes, and stories made me see wine in a new light….

How to Drink Your Way Around the New Proposed Wine Tariffs

December 19, 2019 — “We’re in shock and panic mode. It’s a nightmare.”

That’s what gloomy New York wine importers, retailers, and European producers were saying last week. Stiff tariffs on French, German, and Spanish wines went into effect in October, and on Dec. 12, the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative (USTR) upped the ante, publishing an expanded list of proposed tariffs on all European wines of potentially up to 100%. That came after France taxed U.S. tech companies, and the USTR threatened 100% tariffs, specifically on Champagne. (And French cheese.)


For consumers, it’s all bad news, even if you’re not yet feeling price hikes. This tariff war will eventually make it more difficult and expensive to get the bottles you—and I—love. It’s a dire prospect for the year ahead.

Which is why I put together a list of New World alternatives below….

The Best 50 Wines Under $50, 2019 Edition

December 13, 2019 –Every year I sample thousands of wines, and I’m always on the hunt for great bargain bottles. Happily, I found more delicious and affordable wines than ever in 2019.

Where to look for the best buys?

Rieslings from every country remain undervalued, and there are stellar offerings from newly popular wine countries such as Portugal as well as familiar regions like the Loire Valley, Alsace and Beaujolais, and seemingly everywhere in Italy. Less well-known varieties continue to be a source of reds and whites at good prices. Wines made from criolla (red) and schilcher (white), which I’d never heard of before this year, also made my list.

Entry level and second wines from the best estates usually offer top value, especially in Champagne and Bordeaux.

Even Sotheby’s auction house, known for selling some of the priciest wines on the planet, is on the bargain track: their just-launched wine collection includes 12 wines at prices between $17 and $40. I’ve included two of them.

Producers recommended in previous 50 under $50 columns are still churning out fine go-to bottles, but I’ve put the spotlight on what’s new….


How Good Is Château Lafite Rothschild’s Chinese Wine, Long Dai?

November 26, 2019 — What’s the ultimate status wine in China? Famed Bordeaux first growth Château Lafite Rothschild. That’s why the company’s first wine made in China is such a big, big deal.

The cabernet blend labeled Long Dai debuted at the company’s winery in Qiu Shan Valley, in China’s northeastern Shandong Peninsula, in September. It won’t arrive in the U.S. until 2020, and only 100 cases will be imported. They’ll be available at a few top shops and restaurants, but the majority of the 2,500-case inaugural release will be sold in China.

So when Lafite Chief Executive Officer Jean-Guillaume Prats brought a sneak preview bottle to New York for me to try, my taste buds were primed.

I won’t keep you in suspense. The quality of this first vintage of Long Dai, 2017, is impressive….

Why Cider Should Be the Official Drink of Thanksgiving

November 18, 2019 — For most families, the Thanksgiving menu is set in stone, with idiosyncratic food traditions that are practically sacred.

The complicated part of planning has always been deciding what to drink, something people seem to start worrying about weeks in advance. I’m a staunch believer in drinking American on this U.S. holiday, and wine has always been my go-to choice, with bottles of the latest craft beers thrown in for those who shun the grape.

This year, though, I’m taking the American theme even farther and embracing cider, which dates back to the Mayflower, which carried a cider press and apple seeds to the New World. New York’s first apple tree was planted by its last Dutch administrator, Peter Stuyvesant, at the corner of what is now Third Avenue and 13th Street, a fact I learned from the informative drink menu at Terroir Tribeca, which has a superb cider selection.

Happily, the cider revival that started a decade or so ago (sales are up 500% since 2011) means there are more stellar, sophisticated examples than ever. They come from more than 1,000 cideries in just about every state, according to Michelle McGrath, executive director of the U.S. Cider Association, so the drink really does reflect our country’s diversity.

True cider isn’t that sweet, pasteurized stuff that comes in jugs sold in supermarket vegetable aisles. The real stuff has alcohol….




Wildly Popular Japanese Manga Storms

U.S., With Wine in Tow

October 30, 2019 — On Monday, Oct. 21, in Beverly Hills, Calif., fans of a Japanese manga (a comic or graphic novel) were playing a blind-tasting wine game app to win bottles of ultra-rare Bordeaux and Burgundies while sampling a Waygu Philly cheesesteak from noted chef José Andrés. The previous day, a separate pack of fans had done the same thing while enjoying Thomas Keller’s lobster mac ’n’ cheese in California’s Napa Valley.

Cheering them on were the Japanese creators of Kami no Shizuku, or Drops of God, created by brother and sister Shin and Yuko Kibayashi, under the pseudonym Tadashi Agi, and drawn by artist Shu Okimoto. The authors were celebrating the debut of all 44 volumes of their smash hit manga in English translation. Amazon’s digital comics division, ComiXology Originals, and partner-publisher Kodansha have just released the first 11; the rest will appear over the coming year—along with a new, online wine club whose offerings reflect the authors’ tastes and wine philosophy….

Climate Change Is Altering the Taste of the World’s Great Wines

October 22, 2019 — When we grab a bottle off a retail shelf, we have expectations about the wine’s smell and taste. Some Champagnes are richer and rounder than others, but all share refreshing acidity and bright, edgy, mineral, and chalk flavors that wake up taste buds. In 2019 the region’s grapes were very ripe, but because they were balanced by superhigh acidity, the classic style prevailed this year.

Harvests will not always be that way.

In simple terms, soaring temperatures from global warming lower acidity in grapes and increase sugar, which yeast turns into higher alcohol during fermentation. Heat also affects trace compounds in the grapes that contribute to flavor and aroma.

Gaia Gaja, whose ­family owns an eponymous winery in Italy’s Piedmont, points out the most obvious taste changes: “Wines are becoming ­fuller-bodied, more alcoholic, and riper in flavor.” She worries that subtle notes and fleeting, delicate aromas that add so much to wine’s drinkability are at risk….

A $450 White Wine From Italy? Winemakers Bet on Big-Deal Biancos

October 15, 2019 — When famous Tuscan wine estate Tenuta dell’Ornellaia unveiled a white counterpart to its expensive flagship red in 2016, 400 bottles were offered via online lottery to Relais & Chateaux’s U.S. restaurants. Despite a price tag of more than $200 each, they were scooped up in minutes.

What a surprise! Italy’s white wines rarely get the same global respect or prices as its collectible reds from such regions as Tuscany (Super Tuscans, Brunello) and Piemonte, home of Barolo and Barbaresco.

But they should….

Despite Extreme Weather, 2019 Is a “Perfect Storm” Vintage for Wine

Chateau Angelus, Saint-Emilion

October 7, 2019 — On Sept. 20, pickers for Sonoma’s Kistler Vineyards headed out to chardonnay vineyards at 2 a.m., their headlamps lighting the way. Night harvesting when it’s cool maintains acidity in the grapes, which gives the winery’s cult whites zing and verve. By 9 a.m., grapes were on the crush pad, already being turned into wine.

I thought they tasted delicious. But as in every wine region during the stressful harvest season, the questions are: How big is the crop and how good will the wines be?

“This year we’re lucky in Sonoma,” says Kistler winemaker Jason Kesner, with a relieved grin. “2019 is a classic north California vintage.”

To track the latest about the northern hemisphere’s wine winners and losers in 2019, I’ve been on the ground, phone, twitter, and email. Mother Nature hasn’t been equally generous to every major region this year.

France was particularly hard-hit….

Big and Boring No More!  Chile’s Having a World-Class Wine Revolution

October 1, 2019 — Quick, what’s your idea of Chilean wines? If you think they’re all ho-hum bar-wine cabernets and cheap sauvignon blancs with no taste thrills, you’re wrong.

Since the mid 2000s, the country has been in serious experimentation mode, from grape to glass.  The quality and diversity of its top wines has never been better.

That wasn’t what I found a couple of decades ago on my first visit to this skinny, 2,600-mile-long  country with great surfing along one of the world’s longest coastlines. The few so-called “icon” cuvées I tasted, such as Sena, Clos Apalta, Almaviva, and the top wines from Montes, were marketed internationally as cutting-edge and surprising. But I found they were mostly over-hyped beefy cabernets created to show that Chile could make big deal wines.

I wasn’t impressed with their oaky flavors and heavy handed winemaking. Most lacked flash, style, energy, and complexity and weren’t worth the high prices asked.

And sadly, almost all the country’s wines came from large, risk-averse wine companies with vineyards in the center of the country. They were churning out vats and vats of bland bargain wine.

Now all that’s changed—big-time.

Save the World, One Bottle of Wine at a Time

September 3, 2019 — Whatever you’re concerned about—oceans, rhinos, cardiovascular research, hunger, oysters, injured dogs, salmon, veganism, art projects, politics, climate action—there’s a wine out there for you. (And no, not just to forget your woes.)

So-called “activist wines,” those that inspire drinkers to vote with their dollars, have created a “new road map for fine wine,” says sommelier Peter Weltman of Borderless Wine. As with the broader rise of ethical consumerism, wines that do good, as well as taste good, aren’t just a passing fashion. They represent a serious shift in the industry that’s gone from niche to mainstream over the past few years….




Put Down That Hard Seltzer. These Wines Are Best in Hot, Hot Weather

August 15, 2019 — It’s hot, so hot the hazy air seems to shimmer above your friend’s poolside patio. Why did you agree to come to this sweltering late afternoon barbecue? You’re dying for a crackling, cool drink. But when the thermometer tops 100F, a cocktail, maybe beer, sure; but wine is probably the last thing on your mind.

I’m here to change that.

In the past six weeks, as I suffered  heat waves in Paris, Bordeaux, New York, and on my own deck in Connecticut, where I couldn’t go barefoot because the wood was scorching to stand on, I’ve given plenty of thought to which wines are ideal in hot weather.

The requirements for a heatwave-ready wine are dead simple: high acidity and low alcohol, preferably well below 12.5%….

The World’s Newest Wine Frontier Is the Himalayan Kingdom of Bhutan

August 9, 2019 — When southern California native Michael Juergens was running downhill on a packed dirt road during the first international marathon in the Kingdom of Bhutan in February, 2016, he passed steep, terraced hillsides and fields that he thought looked ideal for growing grape vines. The 49-year-old bearded, tattooed wine lover, a partner in a global consulting firm, wondered, “Where are all the country’s vineyards?”

When he put the question to a couple of senior government officials at the celebratory dinner for the top runners, they said there were none.

That, he says now, was the beginning of his unlikely wine adventure, in which he ended up inventing an industry from scratch in a remote kingdom known for its stunning pristine landscape and ideal level of “gross national happiness.”

“As I look back,” he laughs, “I’m astounded we could pull off what we’ve done in such a short time.”

In April this year, he and a team of workers planted the first several vineyards in the country on a total of six acres. One of them, Yusipang, is at an elevation of 8,900 feet, with views of brooding forests and Himalayan peaks….

In the Shadow of Mount Fuji, Japan Is Making Incredible White Wines

July 22, 2019 — Inside a 19th-century silk merchant’s house in Katsunuma, Japan, about 70 miles west of central Tokyo, the three Aruga brothers are pouring several white wines in their timbered tasting room. All are made at their Katsunuma Jyozo Winery under the Aruga Branca label from the country’s unique grape variety koshu, and all are delicious: One is elegant and sparkling; another fresh, bright, and lemony; a third succulent and tangy; still another savory and smoky; and a fifth barrel-fermented version is round, rich, and smooth.

About 15 years ago, when an Aruga Branca bottling won medals in a French wine competition, Bernard Magrez of famous Bordeaux château Pape Clement was so intrigued, he proposed a joint wine project that introduced koshu to France. And now third-generation winemaker Hiro Aruga, who studied and worked in Burgundy, has joined his father, Yuji, and isexperimenting to create wines with even higher quality.

Aruga Branca is part of the vinous revolution that’s making Japan the world’s newest serious wine frontier….

The Nine Rules of Picking Wines for Weddings and Big Parties

June 14, 2019 — Why are wines served at most weddings so bad? At the last one I attended, I ditched both the red and white and sipped a watery cocktail instead. It doesn’t have to be that way.

Choosing wines for a wedding—or any big party, for that matter—is about more than finding labels you like for a reasonable price. It’s about having a firm plan and principles, such as these nine below, per wine directors and sommeliers.

“Cocktail bar wines are where you can save money,” says William Carroll, beverage director at Westchester County’s Blue Hill at Stone Barns, which hosts three to five weddings a week. He chooses racy, thirst-quenching whites and fruity, easy drinking reds with up-front flavor….

In Wine Country, Dogs Are Sniffing Out Threats to $325 Cabernet

May 23, 2019 — At 6:30 a.m. in Chile’s Casablanca Valley, two Labrador retrievers named Zamba and Mamba are pawing and sniffing stacks of oak staves destined for wine barrels. International barrel-making company TN Coopers is counting on their remarkable noses to track down such harmful chemical compounds in the wood as TCA (2,4,6-trichloroanisole) and TBA (2,4,6-tribromoanisole) that could contaminate the flavors and aromas of wine stored in one of its barrels. A signal to the trainer that the dogs have found something brings a reward treat. After a 30-minute stint, they get to rest, and another team takes on the routine.

The gifted dogs represent the company’s burgeoning Natinga Project and offer the latest example of how specially trained canines can be used to prevent vineyard pests and winery disasters. Michael Peters, the resident winemaker and sales manager in TN Coopers’s Sonoma office, says, “They’re more accurate and effective than modern technology….”

Lifestyles of the Rich and Raucous at Auction Napa Valley

May 3, 2019 — On the grassy fairway at Napa’s Meadowood Resort, retired race car driver turned vintner Danica Patrick held court, sharing memories of her racing days with a gaggle of rosé-gulping auction attendees thinking of bidding on her lot. One wandered off, fell over drunk, was carried to a nearby chair and handed an espresso.

Later, a recent college grad from Houston got so carried away by the 2006 Aston Martin in one lot that he bid $280,000 and nailed it. His mother paid up.

These are the sorts of things that happen at Auction Napa Valley, the Super Bowl of annual wine charity events, where millions of dollars are raised and celebrity chefs and vintners gather with Hollywood stars and wealthy wine lovers to toast, drink, eat, and bid on fabulous experiences and wines.

Last year’s auction brought in $13.6 million. Since 1981, the event has contributed a total of $185 million to community health programs and local charities that focus on children’s education.

To celebrate their 75th anniversary, the Napa Valley Vintners, the trade association of wineries that organizes the auction, is going full red carpet in 2019….

The 2018 Bordeaux Are Exceptional.  Here’s What to Invest in Now

April 17, 2019 — At the region’s annual en primeur tastings last week, I sipped my way through about 500 barrel samples of Bordeaux’s extraordinary 2018 reds.

The best wines are exceptional: concentrated, layered, velvet- and silk-textured, pure and succulent. Tasting barrel sample after barrel sample is usually tough, with puckering palate fatigue, but not this year. The wines combine the mouth-filling plushness of the 2009s with the ripe structure of the 2015s and 2016s, plus a cool, bright energy that made me crave another taste.

Some chateaux, like Lafite Rothschild and Vieux Chateau Certan, made fantastic examples that will surely last for decades, and I found many wines that will be serious bargains, especially when compared to Napa cabernets.

The downside of 2018 is that superb quality isn’t universal. In a year of big, bold wines, some have bitter tannins, high alcohol, or a soupy heaviness. Reds are the clear stars, while only a few whites or sweet wines wowed me…..

After Erratic 2018 Weather, Bold Confidence in New Bordeaux Vintage

March 28, 2019 — Next week, global wine attention turns to Bordeaux, as thousands of merchants and journalists descend on the region for the annual spring ritual, en primeur.

During the hectic Monday to Friday taste-fest, the pace is frenetic. We all rush from château to château to swirl, sip, and spit wines from the 2018 vintage that are quietly aging in oak barrels in dark, cold cellars. After evaluating quality and scribbling notes, we’ll move on to the next appointment, picking up local gossip and trading impressions of the vintage where we can.

The big question, always, is how good are the wines? Specifically, how do they compare to the superb 2016s now beginning to arrive on retail shelves?  Will they be worth investing in…..?

Tasting 114-Year-Old Wine With the Rothschilds at Château Lafite

March 21, 2019 — The long table in Château Lafite Rothschild’s dining room last Friday was set with old silver, smooth white linen and polished crystal, all lit by the soft light of a grand chandelier. On a sideboard sat a selection of superlative vintages dating back to 1905, the year of the first Russian revolution.

On the cream-colored walls, portraits of Rothschild ancestors in gilt frames looked on as 14 wine collectors and a solitary journalist slid into their seats alongside Saskia de Rothschild, the new chairman of the company, and her father, Baron Eric de Rothschild, to enjoy a family dinner. The idea? To let guests soak up the Bordeaux first growth’s atmosphere and encourage them on March 30 to bid big—very big—at Zachys’ auction of wines direct from the château’s cellars at Le Bernardin Privé in New York.

Lafite dug deep into its wine library for the 150th-anniversary auction, which includes vintages from every decade since 1868, the year their ancestor, Baron James de Rothschild, whose marble bust sits in a dining room wall niche, purchased the château for the then-astronomical sum of nearly 5 million francs.

The auction and dinner would, as Saskia put it, allow collectors “to fall in love with Lafite, all over again….”

Wines from Hybrid Grapes Used to Be the Height of Bad Taste. No Longer!

Thanks to a crop of renegade, pioneering winemakers making stellar wines in New York, Vermont, Minnesota, famously frigid Quebec, and even Portugal, hybrid grapes are beginning to get the respect they deserve.For decades, snob drinkers turned up their noses at the wines made from them as too funky, going so far as to describe their taste and smell as akin to animal fur. I have to admit I was one of them.

But recently I tasted a lusciously rich, fruit-packed, amarone-style red made from frontenac grapes grown in Vermont, and a subtle, savory, zingy white from Quebec made from La Crescent. Both grapes were developed at the University of Minnesota to withstand super-cold winters yet make wines with great flavor….



It’s Time to Pay Attention to the Other Cabernet


March 1, 2019 — Quick: when you hear a wine is cabernet, do you automatically think cabernet sauvignon? Of course you do. It’s the world’s most widely planted red grape, noted for big, rich, power-packed wines you can swoon over and even invest in.But I’m here to convince you to remember cabernet franc, its lighter, fresher, juicier, and more versatile relative. (In fact, cabernet franc turns out to be one of the parents of cabernet sauvignon.) Once an underdog, cabernet franc become the new insider choice for wine geeks, somms, and those who like to be up on the fashionable grape of the moment….


Thirst for Rare Wine and Whisky Drives Surge in Auction Sales


February 12, 2019 –Remember the legendary 1945 Romanée-Conti Burgundy that sold for $558,000 at a Sotheby’s auction last fall? Turns out it’s part of a larger overall boom in the wine auction market, one driven by voracious demand for Burgundy and the appeal of single-owner cellars.

Sotheby’s 2018 Wine Market Report, released on Monday, is filled with numbers that are all big, bigger, and biggest. For one, the company’s global wine auction sales surged more than 50 percent in 2018, to $98 million, up from $67 million in 2017. More than half of that was in Hong Kong, where sales doubled from the previous year.

Although Sotheby’s sold fewer lots in 2018, the average price per lot increased 67 percent.

“We didn’t foresee the surge,” says Jamie Ritchie, worldwide head of Sotheby’s global wine business. “What drove prices were the phenomenal single-owner cellars offered, and how strong the market is for mature wines with verifiable provenance.” Or as he later put it, “We crushed it in 2018.”

These single-owner collections can command top dollar because they’re assumed to have been kept in better storage conditions and are less likely to contain fakes….

Super Tuscans and Napa Cabernets Top Our Critic’s List of Overrated Wines

February 6, 2019 — Sometimes you buy a wine with a serious pedigree and a 100-point rating that sets you back more than $100. You swirl and sip and wait for a taste revelation. But the description that comes to mind is just … meh. This isn’t all that great, you think.

And then sometimes you grab a bottle from a store shelf that no one’s touted and end up wildly surprised by its quality.

How to avoid the former and find the latter?

I’ve found that popular, large commercial brands are usually a rip-off. You’re paying for the millions of dollars going to advertising instead of into the wine in the bottle. (I’m looking at you, Santa Margherita pinot grigio and Meiomi pinot noir.) You can find better and more exciting examples for the same price or less.

When you’re splashing out big bucks for powerful young reds, remember you’re also paying for potential—what these wines will hopefully taste like in a decade or so, not when you buy them.

And in just about every region, less well-known producers like Chateau Calon Segur and Chateau d’Issan in Bordeaux can offer better value than more famous ones that cost much, much more.

So if you want the best value, the way to go is to find underrated grapes, producers, and regions. There are more of them than you’d suspect.

But first, let’s single out the overrated wines for the knocks they deserve….



The 20 Best Wines Under $20

January 25, 2019 — Everyone, including me, loves a bargain, especially when it comes to wine. My definition of “bargain?” A wine that tastes at least twice as good as its price, preferably more.

I’m hardly alone. One of the most important findings in this year’s Silicon Valley Bank Wine Report, out last week, is that millennials (aged 22 to 37) are not embracing fine wines as much as they’d been predicted to do as they got older. Part of the problem is surely financial. They’re held back by an “indulgence gap,” a delay of peak earning, says Rob McMillan, SVB’s executive vice president and author of the annual report. Often mired in student debt, millennials want high-quality, interesting wines, but at a less-than-premium price. McMillan refers to them as “frugal hedonists.”

Meanwhile, self-indulgent, wealthier boomers are beginning to retire and—you guessed it—they want to spend less for top-quality wine, too.

But unless producers put their wine in tetra paks, cans, or bag-in-box formats, some fixed costs—such as glass bottles—can’t be reduced all that much.

So how low can you really go without sinking into a pool of complete plonk? From my tastings this year, I’d say it’s tough to find wines worth drinking at under $10 a bottle. But the real sweet spot, where there are dozens and dozens of good buys, is $15 to $20.  Here are my current hot picks….

The Restaurant Wine List is Dead.  Long Live the Wine List

““Unless you’’re at a grand restaurant, most people don’’t want to spend time looking at a book,” says James O’Brien, owner of Popina, who does the restaurant’s wine list.

January 16, 2019 — We’ve all been there: You’re in a restaurant, staring at a wine list with 2,000 names, and have no idea where to start. You quickly pass it on to the wine geek at your table like a hot potato, with a deep sigh of relief.

Goodbye to all that.

Less is now more. Last year, for the first time, the annual World of Fine Wine restaurant wine list awards included a category of “micro” lists.

“They’re a worldwide phenomenon,” says super-sommelier Rajat Parr, who’s spent the last six years traveling to co-write his new book A Sommelier’s Atlas of Taste. He recently designed a 75-item wine list for San Francisco’s just-opened Trailblazer Tavern, a Hawaiian comfort food haven and part of the Mina Group.

The shorter-is-better trend is also a huge boon for drinkers….

Seven Ways Wines Will Change in 2019

January 7, 2019  — The wine world can change faster than you’d think. Upended by turbulent politics, 2018 was beset with trade wars, ongoing Brexit instability, and more climate-change-driven chaotic weather events. All this made some wine regions winners, others losers, while investors scored big time: Fine vino outperformed stocks and bonds, according to Liv-Ex.

This year promises similar contrasts, surprises, and the continuation of some of last year’s trends. If you think everything pink to drink has already happened, for example, you would be wrong. Rosé sour beer is about to be a thing, while rosé love is even hitting sports figures such as basketball All-Star guard Dwyane Wade. His wine project with Napa winemaker Jayson Pahlmeyer released its first rosé at a very pricey $75.


Expect the link between technology and wine to expand, with new fine wine trading apps, AI, robots in vineyards, and more. Ditto more good bubbly, from just about every wine region in the world.

Here’s what else I see in my crystal glass for 2019….

Eight Ways You’re Drinking Champagne Wrong

December 28, 2018 — This is peak Champagne season, when holiday revelers start thinking bubbles and obsessing over buying and drinking fizz. (I do it all year.) U.K.-based marketing company Wine Intelligence just released a report that estimates 45 million Americans partake in sparkling wine annually—and some of them drink bubbly only during the holidays.

Of course, not all of that is expensive Champagne. But if you’re not going to splash out a little more for effervescence around New Year’s Eve, when will you?

Join the party. Just make sure you’re doing it right…..

The Top 10 Wines of 2018

December 21, 2018 — My year-end wine review found me leafing through notes on the 4,000 or so wines I tasted in 2018 to select my “best of the best.”

This year, it was surprisingly tough to choose only 10 top experiences. The pages of my notebooks are studded with stars, especially for vintages of fine Bordeaux (including 2016s), California cabernets from wineries celebrating 40th and 50th anniversaries of their founding, and luxury Champagnes from the superb 2008 vintage.

The wines that made the biggest impression, though, were those that made me reflect on where the wine world has been and where it’s headed.

This year, my picks range from a Champagne-quality blanc de blancs sparkler from New Zealand to a cult syrah from Washington state to an unusual bargain from the remote island of Pantelleria, along with a grand, sweet wine that’s one of the world’s best values…

The 50 Best Wines Under $50

December 7, 2018 — This year, I’m happy to report, it’s easier than ever to buy great wines without spending a fortune. From my tastings, I’ve chosen 50 wines that cost under $50 a bottle—and deliver both value and sheer deliciousness for the price.

I could have picked many, many more.

For example, while Oregon is known for pinot noir, I found stellar bargains among its chardonnays and rieslings. Besides superb sauvignon blancs, New Zealand excels at other whites and reds at good prices. Rieslings from everywhere continue to remain undervalued for quality, as are less-known varieties such as Carignane that are making a comeback. Entry level and second wines from the best estates almost always offer top value, especially among the Bordeaux from the 2015 vintage now arriving on retail shelves….




Beyond Prosecco: These Italian Sparkling Wines Are for More Than Mimosas

  • November 27, 2018 — The Prosecco boom is real: Sales are projected to reach 412 million bottles annually by 2020, up from 150 million a decade ago.

But, ho-hum, that’s old news.

Time to move on to what’s next: under-the-radar, world-class bubblies from Northern Italy’s Franciacorta and Trentino regions. Unlike populist Prosecco, these are made with the same grapes and labor-intensive method used in Champagne, which gives them similar style and elegance but at a much lower price on average than their French counterparts. Their quality keeps getting better, too, thanks to avant-garde winemakers pushing organic viticulture techniques.

These wines have been overlooked because the regions are small and little of what they produced was making it out of the country. That’s changing, however….

Stop Trying to Pair Wine With Your Thanksgiving Turkey

November 16, 2018 — In 2015, a Survey Monkey poll carved the U.S. into regional Thanksgiving food factions. Call it the terroir of Thanksgiving: The Southeast is the home of canned cranberry sauce and mac and cheese, while New England embraces squash.

I delved deeper, calling friends. Who knew that diners in Baltimore consider sauerkraut as essential as the turkey itself? In the Southwest, everything from turkey rubs to cranberry sauce is an opportunity to add, alas, wine-killing chiles. Western states embrace frog eye salad, a sweet, fruit-filled pasta salad with an off-putting name.

Turkey may be the star, but sides provide the most distinctive flavors on your Thanksgiving table. So here’s my wine advice for 2018….

Spain’s Best Winemaker Is on the Move. Here Are What Bottles to Buy

November 2, 2018 — Pablo Alvarez, chief executive officer of legendary Spanish winery Vega Sicilia, fiddled with his watch as we previewed his about-to-be released wines. The timepiece was an A. Lange & Sohne Langematick. He collects the brand’s watches because they’re distinctive and exclusive, and all the parts are meticulously handmade.

Those are qualities the soft-spoken, understated Alvarez (his bright blue suit aside) believes are also essential for great wines. At Vega Sicilia, widely regarded as Spain’s first growth, he aims for nothing short of perfection. On discovering that faulty corks had tainted some wines one year, he recalled them all at a cost of $3 million and planted 50,000 cork trees on the Vega Sicila estate in rugged, rocky Ribera del Duero, about two hours drive north of Madrid.

So it’s no surprise that the same philosophy applies to his latest project, Macán. It’s a joint venture in the famous Rioja region, with billionaires Benjamin and Ariane de Rothschild of private Geneva bank Edmond de Rothschild….

Why Would Anyone Ever Pay $558,000 for a Bottle of Wine?

Oct 15, 2018 — When a private Asian collector bid an eye-popping $558,000 for a single bottle of 1945 Romanée-Conti at Sotheby’s sale this past Saturday in New York, a world record was smashed. This was not just the highest price ever reached for a 750ml bottle of Burgundy, but also the highest for any bottle of wine ever at auction.

Moments later, a second private collector, from the U.S., paid $496,000 for a second bottle of the same wine, and that too broke all previous records, minus the new one that had just been set.

Which begs the question: Why would someone pay half a million dollars for a bottle of wine….?

We Drank a 172-Year-Old Wine.  How’s It Taste?

Oct 15, 20018 — In a chilly wine warehouse in the Bronx two weeks ago, a famous Portuguese winemaker pried ancient corks from 5-gallon glass demijohns of 19th century Madeira. Was the wine inside still drinkable? Madeira ages longer than other wines, but 150-plus years?

I won’t keep you in suspense. Amazingly, the answer was yes….

Wine Made Easy: Nine Pinot Grigios Actually Worth Drinking

October 2, 2018 — Here’s a sad truth. Most pinot grigio is so watery, bland, and just plain dull that wine snobs scorn it and sommeliers at top restaurants won’t list it. Asking for “just a glass of pinot grigio” has almost become an admission that you don’t pay attention to what you swallow.

But of course you do.

So forget all those tired clichés and have a rethink about why the grape had such mass appeal in the first place. Delicious, food-friendly examples can be had for $25 and less, and they’re not hard to find…..

After Disastrous 2017, French Winemakers Cheer ‘Incredible’ 2018 Vintage

September 17, 2018 — In Saint Emilion, at Chateau Corbin, winemaker Anabelle Cruse-Bardinet is exuberant about this year’s harvest. Spring frosts devastated her vineyard last year, as they did to many other chateaux in Bordeaux, and she made no wine at all. “We are going to make an incredible vintage in 2018,” she emailed. “We had a dry and sunny summer, giving grapes good concentration and very ripe tannins.” It was the hottest July since the great vintage of 1947.

Fall is wine harvest season in the northern hemisphere. Most vignerons in France are smiling, thrilled that 2018 isn’t a repeat of miserable 2017, when they harvested the smallest crop since World War II, no thanks to massive frosts, violent hailstorms, and scorching heat waves. (Surprisingly, the quality of the grapes that survived was outstanding in many places, including Bordeaux.)

This year, besides winning the World Cup, France is also one of the big winners in the global harvest sweepstakes. Over the past 10 days, I’ve emailed winemakers and trade organizations in France’s major regions to get the latest updates. The farther north you go, the better the grapes look….

California’s Edgiest, Riskiest Wine Region Is About to Get a New Name

August 31, 2018 — The remote coastline of Sonoma never fails to impress. Chilly fog and wind roll in from the Pacific, covering ridges of towering redwoods and tiny patches of vineyards. To reach these wineries, you follow hairpin curves up narrow dirt roads you probably wouldn’t want to drive on after dark.

The dramatic, 51-mile-long sliver of land next to the ocean is known as the West Sonoma Coast, or what some call the “true,” “extreme,” or “far” Sonoma coast. It’s California’s edgiest, riskiest wine region, where clashing tectonic plates have been churning up the earth for hundreds of millions of years.

It also happens to be one of the world’s sweet spots for pinot noir, chardonnay, and syrah. For the past seven years, the area’s opinionated winemakers have been fighting to make these cool coastal hills a separate wine region: an official “American viticultural area,” or AVA. They are currently grouped under a broader AVA, simply known as “Sonoma Coast.” By early 2019, the winemakers expect official approval….

Tasting Rooms for the Millennial Era Sprout in Napa and Sonoma

August 27, 2018 — Over the last decade, wineries have begun to rethink the whole tasting experience and investing in upscale settings, with prices to match.

If your image of a winery tasting room in Napa or Sonoma is a long bar dotted with open bottles and black plastic spit buckets no one uses anyway, you’re out of date. New tasting rooms are opening at twice the rate of new wineries, a trend that isn’t always welcomed by local residents, who complain about traffic.

Millennial hot spot Scribe, a picturesque hacienda winery in Sonoma that opened in 2007, helped shift the paradigm. Soon, other small, remote wineries began opting for swanky, salon-style wine bars in more urban settings away from the vineyard: Outland, in downtown Napa, is a collaboration among three tiny producers—Farella, Poe, and Forlorn Hope. A few blocks away is the tasting room for Blackbird, which it dubs RiverHouse by Bespoke Collection, and charming spots from the likes of Acumen, Brown Estate, and Mark Herold are also nearby….




Wannabe Wine Connoisseurs Can Now Buy Instant Cellars for $5,000

August 21, 2018 — Dreaming of being a wine collector with a killer cellar but don’t know how to turn your fantasy into reality? I understand. The whole prospect of assembling the wines can be a shopping hassle requiring time-consuming research and way too many picky decisions. But you’re in luck.

In June, Sotheby’s began offering an answer to this dilemma in New York and Hong Kong with its “instant cellars.”

Between answering emails, you can simply click on your iPhone or computer, and within 24 hours, one of four wine collections curated by Sotheby’s experts arrives at your home. Cost? $5,000 to $25,000. Bottom line: This is the easiest, fastest way to satisfy your collector craving, spend a big bonus, celebrate making partner, or give a lavish present.

The idea is part of the international auction house’s goal to be a full-service, integrated wine business, explains Jamie Ritchie, Sotheby’s worldwide head of wine….

Is Climate Change Coming for Your Champagne?

August 6, 2018 — In the cold, chalky cellars deep underground at boutique Champagne house A.R. Lenoble, co-owner Antoine Malassagne shares his worries about the future of the region’s world-famous fizz. Its classic style depends on crisp, zingy acidity and edgy, fruity, salty, mineral flavors, the result of deep, chalky soil and an until-now very cool climate.

But here’s his question: How can the taste we love stay the same in the face of climate change?

So far, global warming has mostly put chilly Champagne in a climatic sweet spot, with average temperatures that ensure grapes ripen every year. But that’s not the whole story, says Malassagne. Buds appear earlier, so spring frosts are more destructive. Warmer nights push maturity but also encourage new pests and diseases.

“Harvest is two weeks earlier than it was 20 years ago,” he explains on a very hot July morning at his winery in Damery, a 15-minute drive from Epernay, Champagne’s epicenter. “It used to be mid-to-late September. Now harvest often starts in August, as it will this year. But maturity during hot days and nights results in lower and lower acidity in the grapes, which means less freshness in the wines.” It’s also essential to Champagne’s taste: Acidity is what allows the wines to age.

In 2010, Malassagne started working on ways to make sure there was enough, well, zing in his future bubbly….


Taste-Testing Walmart and Trader Joe’s Wines: Whose Are Better?

July 16, 2018 — Everybody loves a wine bargain. Retail chains reflect the zeitgeist, so they’re rushing to cash in by creating house brands to keep their costs down and customers buying. The latest is U.S. giant Walmart Inc., which rolled out its new Winemakers Selection collection in 1,100 of its nearly 4,000 stores in May.

My first reaction was a yawn. Walmart wines? Seriously, could they be any good? I was intrigued when Nichole Simpson, the company’s senior wine buyer, claimed that the chain’s  $11 to $16 bottles “drink like they cost $30 or $40.”

After sampling all 10 of them, I’d say they don’t outkick their category as much as that. But more than half of them, from a bright, spicy French rosé to a savory Italian Chianti Riserva, are quite a bit better than I expected. In fact, all display authentic character of the region they’re from, and they are—mostly—good deals. (Ratings below.)….

Get Over Your Fear of Chilling Red Wine

July 3, 2018 — Last weekend the temperature on my back deck was 95 degrees, steaks were on the grill, and I craved a thirst-quenching drink that wasn’t that summer cliché, rosé. With charred meat, beer is not the answer, nor is a frozen margarita or tart white. Sticky summer weather is what the world’s light reds, best served chilled (sometimes even ice cold), are made for.

The French call them vins de soif (wines for thirst) or glou-glou (glug-glug, in English). They’re wines so gulpable that one bottle will probably not be enough of their fresh, vivid fruit flavors. To judge by wine bar offerings and by-the-glass lists, these lively easy drinkers have soared in popularity.

Unpretentious and relatively inexpensive, they’ve become a summer essential, the wine version of designer flip-flops. They’re produced just about everywhere—even California, where big, sun-kissed, concentrated reds are the norm….

An MBA in Wine Is a Shortcut Into the Booze Business

June 13, 2018 — A year after Aimee Chang’s father invested in a 40-acre vineyard in Napa’s prestigious Pritchard Hill area in 2010, her family decided they wanted to go beyond selling grapes to making and selling their own wine. “But we had zero experience in the wine industry,” admits Chang, 38, a licensed architect who had worked in New York.

She needed to get up to speed—fast.

So she enrolled in Sonoma State University’s Executive Wine MBA, the only such program in the U.S. She commuted weekly to California for almost a year and a half, graduating in 2015. “We couldn’t have launched Nine Suns winery without that,” she says. “Our business model grew out of a class I took on wine distribution.”

Using her architecture skills, Chang also designed the winery building. She is now the winery’s director of finance and design.

Judging by the emails I get on a weekly basis, an awful lot of investment bankers, marketing executives, software engineers, architects and more dream about working in wine. Some aspire to own and manage a winery; others wonder if they can shift careers by transferring their existing business skills to the companies producing the pinot noirs and cabernets they’re passionate about….

A Journalist Is Taking Over One of Bordeaux’s Great Wine Empires

June 7, 2018 — In Abidjan, Ivory Coast, Saskia de Rothschild spent a month interviewing inmates at the notorious La Maca prison for an article in the French magazine Revue XXI. As an investigative journalist, she filmed for a documentary the first female U.S. Marines sent to Afghanistan’s front lines; for the New York Times, she embedded with sheep farmers fighting the mining industry in Greenland. But the challenge in front of her now may be her toughest yet.

In April the 31-year-old became the youngest person to currently lead a first-growth Bordeaux estate,Château Lafite Rothschild. She’s also the first female chairwoman of Domaines Barons de Rothschild (Lafite), her extended family’s global wine empire, which includes seven other wineries on three continents. The announcement coincides with the 150th anniversary of Rothschild ownership of the château. (The first vines were planted in the 1670s; Thomas Jefferson visited and became a devoted fan.)

De Rothschild won’t only be the face of the company that makes one of the most celebrated red wines on the planet. Her millennial perspective and distinctly global outlook will help shape its future in the face of serious 21st century challenges….

Why You Should Be Excited About Port Wine

May 30, 2018 — Are you one of those un-woke wine lovers who still think vintage port is for fusty types to sip on while harrumphing in cobwebbed club chairs? Please get over yourself in time to buy some bottles of the best vintage in years, arriving soon at retailers.

Trust me. The 2016 vintage ports are glorious, as I discovered a couple of weeks ago, when a bevy of port producers stopped in New York on a worldwide marketing tour.

Fortified with a dollop of brandy, these rich, slightly sweet reds from northern Portugal combine aromas of violets and wild herbs with intense flavors of ripe, plummy fruit and a texture so smooth and velvety you can’t resist rolling it around on your tongue. The 2016s have all this and an added element of savory freshness….


A Camel with Your Cabernet? Preview America’s Most Glamorous Wine Event

May 25, 2018 — A hair-raising ride with race car driver Danica Patrick, a masked ball at Versailles, a visit to a camel racetrack in Abu Dhabi, and, of course, rare Napa wines: That’s a tiny taste of what’s on offer at the 38th extravagant Auction Napa Valley.

The purpose of the lavish, four-day, annual event is to raise as much money as possible for two dozen local charities, such as Boys & Girls Clubs of Napa Valley, St. Helena Hospital, and Ole Health. It kicks off on Thursday night, May 31, with such spectacular vintner-hosted welcome dinners as the one at Barnett Vineyards, on top of Spring Mountain. But you can start bidding remotely in the e-auction on Memorial Day weekend.

Nearly 300 lots in the weeklong e-auction, Friday barrel auction, and Saturday live auction will provide plenty of ways to spend, spend, and spend more….

Has Rosé Gone Too Far?  Taste-Testing 10 New Pink Outrages

May 8, 2018 — No matter what you do or where you go this summer, you won’t escape rosé. The pink boom just keeps expanding. One out of every 36 bottles of wine Americans drank in 2017 was a rosé (up from one in 510 in 2015), according to wine discovery platform WineAccess. We show no signs of giving it up. Naturally, winemakers from every corner of the globe want to cash in, so dozens of brand-new examples are creating a tsunami of the pink stuff. You probably don’t need me to tell you that a lot of these new wines aren’t worth drinking.

Like a power-hungry empire, this essential summer lifestyle symbol has even infiltrated other food and drink territories. We now have rosé-flavored vodka, tequila, gin, rum, and sake; gummy bears; ice cream; vinegar; and hard seltzer. I’ve even tasted a pretty awful rosé doughnut. The latest in actual rosé wine includes examples made from surprising varieties, such as pinotage, along with new, wild packaging and the kind of special experiences and parties you can post on Instagram. Does it feel as if we’re in the middle of a glut yet? My guess: We’re only just getting started.

Here are 10 new items on this summer’s rosé horizon, with my ratings on a scale of 1 to 10….

The Best (and Worst) Wines of the 2017 Vintage From Bordeaux

April 19, 2018 — When I headed to Bordeaux to taste barrel samples from the region’s 2017 vintage, I was not hopeful.

I’d followed reports of the severe frosts over several nights in late April last year. The worst frost in 26 years decimated vines and drastically reduced the overall grape harvest by nearly 50 percent. “The frosts were biblical,” says Gavin Quinney, owner of Chateau Bauduc, who shows me photos of blackened vines on his iPhone as we compare notes at a château lunch.

But after 10 days of tastings during the annual event known as “En Primeur,” my main takeaway was surprise at how good many of the wines are…..


Down on French Wine?  Give These Five Lesser-Known Regions a Taste

April 11, 2018 —

You love Burgundy, but oh, those prices. You can’t drink Champagne all the time, and Bordeaux is just not what you’re craving.

So? There’s plenty of other French wine you shouldn’t miss out on. I’d argue the country is still the world’s No. 1 spot for the combination of wine quality, variety, and value, though Italy comes close.

Sadly, until the beginning of this decade, U.S. imports of French wine had long been in decline. But I was surprised to learn that in 2017, French wine shipments to the U.S. rose by double digits in percentage terms, according to recently released figures from Business France, a government agency….

Boom: Volcanic Wines Are Heating Up Around the Globe

March 30, 2018 — Growing grapes on the scorched slopes of a volcano that’s still spewing fire, smoke, and lava is as extreme as viticulture gets.

The reward for the risk—in some cases, grapes are grown on volcanoes that could erupt at any time—is the world’s most exciting wines.

2018 is turning out to be the year for wine’s lava lovers. The inaugural International Volcanic Wine Conference descended on New York at the end of March, following volcanic wine events at two recent European trade fairs, Vinisud in France and ProWein in Germany.

Why are these wines getting so much buzz…?

Your Next Hotel Room Might Have Wine On Tap

March 8, 2018 — The situation: You key in to your hotel room after a stressful business meeting. All you want is an immediate glass of wine to drink while watching the evening news.

The problem: You don’t want to open the full bottle of ludicrously overpriced plonk in the minibar. Room service will take 45 minutes to bring you a Saran-wrapped glass filled with Champagne that’s too warm.

A growing number of hotels have found a solution to this widespread dilemma: the Plum machine. About the size of a large espresso machine, the latest in-room luxury preserves two opened bottles of wine for weeks at the perfect serving temperature and allows you to draw off a glass with one touch.

When it debuted as the new “essential” home wine appliance last fall at $1,499.00, I admit I was unmoved. Owning one made sense only if 1) you take days to finish off a bottle of vino, or 2) hate to open bottles yourself.

But now a great use case has really revealed itself: For hotel guests, the Plum is a godsend, even if you have to pay for each glass you drink. And a touchscreen provides lots of information on the wine, tasting notes, and even a virtual tour of the winery, if you want. Take that, Alexa!….

The Battle Is On for the Soul—and Future—of Napa Wine Country

March 8, 2018 — In February a Napa County Superior Court judge handed down a tentative ruling favoring a controversial vineyard project on Atlas Peak, Walt Ranch, that would cut down 14,000 mature trees—some of them 300 years old. Locals have been worried about erosion, traffic, and the irrigation demands a 209-acre vineyard will put on an already sensitive watershed. They’ve also feared that the vintners behind it, who own Hall Wines LLC in St. Helena, Calif., secretly plan to add a residential complex. Natives have been fighting the project for years with protests, lawsuits, letters, and noisy testimony before the Board of Supervisors. At one hearing, a man called the co-owner of Hall Wines, Kathryn Hall, the devil.

Such are the fiery struggles at the heart of James Conaway’s Napa at Last Light: America’s Eden in an Age of Calamity. The third in an impassioned trilogy, it makes clear the stakes at hand, including the fate of businesses and the community, and the future of the region’s natural resources, which development could irreversibly damage….

Forget Prosecco: French Crémants Should Be Your

Champagne Alternative

February 21, 2018  — Made by the same method as Champagne, French crémants are the latest buzz-grabbers in the expanding bubbly universe—and a wise choice if you’re looking to move on from boring prosecco. Think of them as the underdogs of the French wine world, offering sophisticated Gallic flair without the Champagne price tag.

 “Crémant” is an official term used throughout France for fine sparkling wines made outside Champagne by the “methode traditionelle.” That’s the process by which wines get their bubbles from a second fermentation inside the bottle, then age for months on the spent yeast cells left behind, giving them character and a creamier texture….

Forget Sauvignon Blanc, New Zealand’s New Big Thing Is Pinot Noir

February 12, 2018 — Actor Sam Neill just finished a six-part television documentary on the voyages of Captain Cook, but right now he’s focused on the role of proud farmer. I’m walking with him on a tour of his organic vineyard in Central Otago on the South Island of New Zealand as he shows off his prize pigs and pulls out bottles of his much-talked-about Two Paddocks pinot noirs.

 “What do you think?” he asks.

Thumbs up, for sure. When it comes to wine, New Zealand is on a roll. According to a just-released Vinexpo study, it’s now the fastest-growing wine-exporting country to the U.S. By 2021, it’s predicted to become the No. 4 exporter to the U.S., right behind Italy, Australia, and France—which is pretty remarkable, considering that the country makes barely 1 percent of the world’s wines.

Most of them are New Zealand’s whistle-clean, distinctive sauvignon blancs, which smell like fresh-cut grass and wake up your palate with citrus-y zing. The ultimate white wines for parties, they’re driving much of that growth in the U.S.

But the real excitement in the offing centers on the country’s stellar pinot noirs….

Winemakers Turn to MIT fo Save Pinot Noir in Warming Temperatures

January 23, 2018 — In a basement teaching laboratory at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, biochemical engineer Jean-Francois Hamel has dug deep into the science of wine to help untangle the mystery of terroir for future-focused Oregon winery Chapter 24 Vineyards LLC. What’s under his microscope isn’t dirt but yeast, the crucial fermentation element in the winemaking process. Yeast is also part of the collection of bugs, fungi, and other microorganisms in a vineyard or winery that researchers call a wine’s microbiome, a term certain to become the new vino buzzword, much as it has with human health.

Hamel, a Frenchman who first came to teach at MIT in the 1980s, often puts the lab to work on research projects to improve the quality of human life, as with an effort that produced biofuels and was sponsored partly by the National Renewable Energy Laboratory in Colorado. Three years ago, Chapter 24’s founder, Hollywood film producer Mark Tarlov, and its famed Burgundian winemaker, Louis Michel Liger-Belair, enlisted Hamel to help figure out whether wild yeasts in their vineyards could help them make lighter, more elegant, and complex wines—even in the face of warming temperatures….


Seven Ways the Wine World Will Change in 2018

January 4, 2018 — Most of the wine world was happy to wave goodbye to 2017, a year of vine-killing frosts, hail, drought, and destructive wildfires in regions from California, to Chile, to Europe. Looking forward to 2018 is not only a relief; it’s exciting, because the year is full of promise. There will be new experimentation, exploration, and the continuing of trends we enjoyed from last year.

The rosé juggernaut, for example, keeps crushing it. With U.S. sales up 57 percent in dollars, our must-drink-pink obsession continues and is even fueling interest in rosé cider and pink gin. And thanks to adventurous younger drinkers thirsty for novelty and affordability, enthusiasm for obscure native grapes, especially from Italy, is still growing fast.

Here’s what I see in my crystal glass for 2018…

The Best Wines I Tasted in 2017 

December 21, 2017 — Last week I spent hours combing through my notes on the several thousand wines I sampled in 2017 to single out the best of the best.

My top taste experiences are always the ones I’ve noted with stars and exclamation points. There were lots of them this year, especially great vintages of the finest Bordeaux. But the wines that most seduced, surprised, or seriously impressed me were the ones whose aromas, tastes, and stories actually made me see the wine world in a new light.
This year they range from a great vintage of Burgundy’s most fabulous white to a rare red from Texas (!), to a New World grand cru from Chile and a Bordeaux produced while World War I raged…

The 50 Best Wines Under $50

December 14, 2017 — Every year I taste thousands of wines (I know, tough job), but I’m happy to report that finding great inexpensive examples has never been easier than it was in 2017. The bottles listed below deliver both value and sheer deliciousness.

Less buzzed-about regions such as Spain’s Bierzo and cool coastal areas of Chile are terrific go-to sources for superb bargain reds, whites, and rosés, but even such famous places as Bordeaux now offer a surprising number of reasonably priced examples.

In general, I find that entry-level and secondary wines from top estates consistently offer top value, as do those made from unusual grape varieties such as kerner and mencia. Newly popular chenin blanc and gamay are also underpriced for their quality.

And hey, don’t forget to shop around. You can often find some of the wines below for even less….

Eight Wines For Thanksgiving, Under $25

November 17, 2017 — If you’re weighted down by Thanksgiving wine anxiety, you’re not alone. Picking the right bottles for the holiday can be more stressful than cooking the turkey……

Wine on Demand? Rating Bottles From Blue Apron, Hello Fresh, Caviar

November 3, 2017 — The U.S. is now deep in the throes of a food home-delivery mania that goes way beyond a pepperoni pizza arriving at your door in 30 minutes. I’m talking about the billions-of-dollars-a-year meal-kit business as well as the dozens of restaurant takeout apps aiming to appeal to millions of busy, busy people.

What’s been missing—until recently—is wine on demand, delivered with both.

The cooking-kit company pioneering wine is Blue Apron, which added bottles to its mix two years ago, partly because customers asked for it and partly to woo them back when they dropped out. Poor retention was one of the reasons for the company’s lackluster June initial public offering.

Berlin-based Hello Fresh, which has a presence in 10 countries, launched its wine plan in the U.S. in May. It priced its IPO in November.

Expect more meal-kit companies to pile on….

How to Tell if Your Wine Shop Is Any Good

October 25, 2017 — You can buy good wine anywhere—even in big-box chains, supermarkets, and convenience stores next to gas stations. I once discovered a high-end drug store in Vermont peddling bottles of Chateau d’Yquem.

But if you’re really interested in good vino, find an independent shop with an owner who loves the stuff, tastes what he or she is selling, and employs un-snooty clerks happy to share what they know and become your new best wine friend.

Major cities such as New York, London, and Paris have lots of these boutique wine merchants. But just as with vendors for technology, jewelry, or cheese, a few do it better than everyone else. Here’s what to look for when rating your local wine store….

California’s Wine Industry Begins Picking Up Pieces After Fire Damage

October 20, 2017 — Although still burning, the largest fires that have devastated California wine country are mostly contained, and winemakers, winery owners, and growers began taking stock this week of what they have—and haven’t—lost.

The numbers are numbing: at least 42 dead, nearly 100,000 evacuated, more than 5,700 homes, businesses, and wineries destroyed or damaged, more than 200,000 acres burned in total, and many vineyards singed and torched, according to an Oct. 17 announcement by CalFire, the state department of forestry and fire protection.

If you’re a wine lover, you know the people and places behind these numbers. The wineries include Signorello Estate, Paradise Ridge, Frey Vineyards, White Rock Vineyards, Roy Estate, Mayacamas, Pulido-Walker, Michael Mondavi Family Estate, and more that make the reds and whites you love to drink. As of now, 22 wineries have been damaged in northern California, with effects ranging from lost buildings to burned vines and ruined wine product.

Tom Pagano, a wine expert and account executive at global insurance broker Aon said overall damage could be in the $5 billion to $6 billion range and maybe worse. “It will take at least a couple of months to assess,” he said in a phone interview. “And it may be years before we know the final numbers.” The wine industry generates about $26 billion annually for Napa and Sonoma, according to the most recent reports from vintners’ groups.

Yet despite the horrific human toll and massive damage, early signs indicate that northern California’s wine industry isn’t ruined beyond repair and that much of its 2017 business can be rescued….

Surprising Australian Wines Are Storming America’s Shores

October 9, 2017 — Maybe your idea of Australian wine is Yellow Tail, the massively successful, superplonk with a jumping kangaroo on the label. Or maybe you picture an in-your-face monster shiraz so thick and fruity you could practically sip it from a spoon.

 If you think those examples define Down Under wines, you couldn’t be more wrong.
Australia’s fine wine scene is one of the world’s most exciting, dynamic, and diverse, with 65 regions growing more than 100 different varietals for nearly 3,000 wineries. A wave of young, avant-garde winemakers with hipster beards and daring ideas are experimenting with reds and whites all over the country and making killer wines.
So why don’t we all know this…?

The Sideways Curse Has Lifted: Merlot Is Having a Comeback

September 29, 2017 — Merlot was once the fan-favorite red grape and wine. Then came 2004 hit movie Sideways, in which Miles, the pinot-noir-loving main character, trashes the varietal before heading into a bar: “If anyone orders merlot, I’m leaving,” he explodes. “I am not drinking any f—ing merlot.”

Interest in pinot skyrocketed, while the reputation of merlot tanked. In California, growers pulled out more than 10,000 acres of merlot grapes

Such is the power of Hollywood.

But wine fashions are fickle, and now velvety merlot is experiencing a comeback….


This Year’s Extreme Weather Will Have a Serious Effect on Global Wine

September 20, 2017 — Earlier this summer, the Napa Valley was on track to be one of the world’s luckiest wine regions this year, having escaped everything from hail to fires to grape-gobbling wild boar.

 Then a scorching, record-breaking heat wave with temperatures up to 117 (!) degrees Fahrenheit swept in and stuck around over Labor Day weekend, upending vintners’ expectations. In its wake, winemakers were left with plenty of shriveled grapes and worries about both quality and quantity, despite a cool spell this week that’s now slowing the harvest.
Welcome to wine’s new normal: extreme weather events. They influenced this year’s harvest everywhere from Germany and France to Italy and Chile last spring and, at the last minute, Napa and Sonoma. “I’ve never seen a vintage like this,” admitted Cathy Corison of Corison Winery in Napa, who is now on her 43rd season….

Bordeaux’s Legendary Chateaux Are Now Open for Meals and Sleepovers

September 14, 2017 — The wine region of Bordeaux, long willfully fusty, is in the midst of a modern tourist boom. Last year saw the opening of the swirling aluminum-and-glass La Cité du Vin, a spectacular high-tech museum devoted to wine and culture. And this July brought a two-hour high-speed train link from Paris.

In the city of Bordeaux proper, beautiful 18th century buildings have shed their soot to stand gleaming once again as part of a renewal project that helped the municipality gain Unesco World Heritage status in 2007. Jazzy wine bars and inventive chefs have swept in since, upending decades of heavy cuisine doused in buttery sauces.

Now you’ll want to venture beyond town for the real fun: The appellation’s celebrated wine châteaux, whose doors were long shut to tourists, have unveiled dazzling wineries designed by big-name architects. And more than a dozen of them, including billionaire-owned Château Cos d’Estournel, have begun welcoming wine lovers for lunch, dinner, and even overnight stays in opulent rooms overlooking the vines….


These Six Lesser-Known Wine Destinations Are Great Escapes for 2018

September 11, 2017 — Wine tourism isn’t just expanding—it’s getting more creative in every corner of the globe, with more vine estates than ever wooing oenophiles with luxurious digs and experiences to indulge their grape-driven passions.

As always, superb wines and great estates are my first criteria for picking a region to escape to. But I try to look beyond wine cellar tastings and a chance to picnic in the vines; extra-special highlights include stunning and unusual landscapes to explore, delicious, creative, local cuisine to savor, and soothing rooms to sleep in when my taste buds need a break.

My crop of six destinations for 2018 delivers all of that – and more….

15 Great Pinot Noirs for Less Than 50 Dollars

August 21, 2017 — Great pinot noirs, as a friend once put it, have a near-sexual allure. The first taste can turn you into a bottle stalker, which is why the world’s pinot lust has pushed prices of the most coveted to three- and four-digits. Today, though, it’s easier than ever to find seductive examples with those rose-petal aromas, silky textures, and layered flavors at more affordable prices.

In Burgundy, still the grape’s ur-territory, global warming has (mostly) ensured riper grapes every year. That, along with better vineyard practices and young ambitious winemakers has upped the quality of non-snob generic Bourgogne Rouge and little-known village appellations like Santenay.

The biggest change in pinot during the past decade, though, is the rise of New Zealand, Oregon, and California, as winemakers finally zeroed in on the vine’s sweet spots….

A Champagne Bar Boom Pairs Bubbly With Hot Dogs, Dumplings, Tater Tots

August 10, 2017 — Maybe it started when Bill Murray persuaded wine snobs it was OK to drink champagne over ice.

Over the past few years, sparkling wine has been on a tear worldwide—it’s one of the three fastest-growing wine categories, according to a VinExpo/IWSR study released this past June and in 2016. And champagne shipments to the U.S. increased for the fourth year in a row, to 21 million bottles. The study also projects that global consumption of sparkling wine will increase another 8.7 percent by 2019, significantly more than overall wine consumption, at 1.4 percent.

And with all this enthusiasm for the fizzy stuff comes a new trend: hip bubbly bars.

At Air’s Champagne Parlor, a playful Art Deco “salon and living room” devoted to sparkling wine that opened just over a month ago in New York’s West Village, on offer is a drink called the WWBMD. That’s short for “What Would Bill Murray Do?” and it’s a champagne drink poured over ice with “expressed lemon” for $15 ….

Are the Wines from Costco, Amazon, or Hyatt Any Good? A Taste Test

July 31, 2017 — Every wine lover wants a deal, which is one reason the number of private-label wines is growing fast and furiously.

Trader Joe’s is often credited with popularizing the trend in the U.S. in 2002 with its Two Buck Chuck, the nickname for its exclusive Charles Shaw line of wines priced back then at $2 a bottle (the last time I tasted them they were still really awful).

So what is a “private label” wine?  It’s a brand created specifically for one retailer, hotel, or restaurant, often with their input on flavor profile and style, usually—and this is key—to sell at a particular price, lower than similar wines from known wineries.

Even restaurants such as the French Laundry and Nobu have jumped on the bandwagon, to offer exclusive bottles to their guests, and such steak houses as Del Frisco’s sell plushy cabernets under their own labels….

The Six Most Delicious Wines You Probably Never Heard Of

July 24, 2017 — In northern Italy last week, I tasted a crisp, earthy white from the bellone grape and a violet-scented red, recantina. I’d never even seen a wine from either grape before. Trust me, it’s only a matter of time until these come to a restaurant near you—they’re that good.

The current flood of delicious wines made from little-known grapes such as these can’t compete with floods of rosé being poured everywhere, but the vogue for exotic varietals is a trend that just keeps growing.

So if you’re hopelessly fixated on the top 10 international classics, such as cabernet, pinot, and chardonnay, you’re missing out on the latest wine-world thrills (and bargains)….

Terrible Labels, Great Wine: Six Amazing Bottles Hurt by Bad Art

July 5, 2017 — You’re standing in a wine shop, facing long shelves displaying hundreds of wines and trying to decide what to buy. Do you grab the bottle whose hip, clever label grabs you? If you’re like just about everyone, the answer is yes.

Face it: You know that’s not necessarily the way to get the best wine.

A wild label may be way more entertaining than the actual wine inside—overcompensating for it, even. And the liquid lurking behind an ugly label may be a fabulous red or white.

Of course, my idea of a terrible label may not coincide with yours. I assume those featuring cute animals, colorful trucks, little black dresses, or cheesy photographs of women’s legs are fronting for unsophisticated, easy drinking, generic plonk. Mostly, they are….

Five Wines and a Vodka You Need to Get Your Hands on Now

June 26, 2017 — Bursts of fireworks illuminated the night sky at Château Mouton Rothschild. Speakers in the vineyard boomed out arias from Mozart’s The Magic Flute as attendees streamed into a large white tent for dinner.

That was just one of the parties kicking off VinExpo 2017, the world’s largest wine and spirits trade fair, which was held last week at a giant exhibition space on a man-made lake north of the city of Bordeaux.

Don’t assume the biannual event is only about partying hard until dawn at grand wine estates, glass of something fabulous in hand. The wine and spirits’ industry’s four-day schmoozefest is actually serious international business—a place to do deals, discuss politics (Brexit, for example), trade gossip, and bone up on important issues such as shipping logistics and how climate change is affecting wine.

And, of course, the tradeshow is a primo spot to launch new products….

The Six Mistakes You Are Making When Pairing Food With Wine

June 19, 2017 — The worst wine and food combo I’ve ever tasted was a soft, gooey-textured Krispy Kreme doughnut coated in a sugary glaze with a decadent, opulent 1975 Château d’Yquem. They were both delicious on their own; the problem was that the doughnut was way sweeter than the wine. The Bordeaux’s fabled lusciousness came across as battery acid.

I tried it because I was at a dinner honoring a noted wine collector, and it was his personal favorite pairing. You know what else it was? Proof that even serious wine lovers make serious errors when matching food with wine.

Curious about the mistakes we all make, I quizzed a half-dozen sommeliers, who spend their time trying to suggest the best pairings to their customers, about the most common goofs….

The Three Wines That Should Always Be in Your Fridge

June 14, 2017 — Julia Child always kept a half bottle of Champagne in the refrigerator so she had something to sip on (and keep herself enthused) while cooking. Me too—but I’ve expanded her advice. I always have three bottles of wine on my fridge door shelves. So should you.Picture it: The moment you arrive home on a hot summer night, you’ve got something refreshing to open even if you didn’t have time to swing by your local retailer. When friends drop by, you have a bottle to pour without hauling out ice and a bucket or putting it in the freezer and waiting 30 minutes for the wine to cool. Immediate gratification is the way we live now, which is why most wine shops have a grab-and-go selection in a cooler.

And if merely savoring a glass while you chop vegetables fresh from the farmers market is what you need, no problem.

The rationale for having a stash of already chilled bottles isn’t all that different from having the basic essentials to make a meal (tomato sauce, pasta, etc.) on hand.

The important question is what those wines should be….


Napa Valley’s Glitziest Event Gets the Coppola Family Cooking

June 1, 2017 — This weekend, the 37th edition of the world’s glitziest charity wine auction will unroll like a glamorous film directed by Hollywood royalty. The goal is to encourage the 2,000 attendees to splash out more than last year’s $14.3 million—and maybe surpass the record-breaking $18.4 million in 2014. All proceeds go to local charities.

The glitz will come from Francis Ford Coppola and his family, who are honorarily co-chairing the annual four-day Auction Napa Valley, which officially kicks off Thursday night, June 1. But they’re no hands-off figureheads; they’ve divided responsibilities and are running with the challenge. From Sofia’s glamorous dinner, to Eleanor’s food and wine pavilions, to Gia’s after-party, the Coppolas have it covered….

The Wilder Side of Rosé: New Types of Pink to Drink This Summer

May 12, 2017 —  This year’s “drink pink” season, which starts officially on Memorial Day weekend, is ushering in a host of new trends, making clear we’re nowhere near peak rosé yet. Are you rejoicing–or rolling your eyes?

I’m a fan of some, but not all, of the new developments. Rosé from a can?  Well, maybe on a hike up New Hampshire’s Mt. Washington. A 40-ounce bottle of rosé?  If I want to go big, I’d rather splurge on a top-end magnum, which holds even more.

The new trend that really perks me up is the rise of rich, exotic rosés from unfamiliar and unexpected grapes and lesser-known corners of France, Italy, Spain, and the New World….

Meet the ‘Wine Whisperers,’ Fancy Grape Fixers for Billionaires

May 2, 2017 — Last year, one of Matt Wilson’s wine clients asked him to orchestrate a dinner in Las Vegas, with a $100,000 wine budget. Easy for Wilson; he rounded up such rarities as 1961 Hermitage La Chapelle, 1985 La Tache, and 1834 Madeira. But he also had to convince chef Eric Ripert of Le Bernardin to give the 16 guests a cooking lesson and prepare the dinner.

Wilson, who launched Napa-based Company Fine Wine last fall, is what I call a “wine whisperer,” a category of white-glove wine fixers for the ultra-wealthy that’s growing rapidly. Some call themselves personal wine advisers. Others, such as Wilson, function more like private wine merchants. All offer a range of services to help cash-rich, time-poor aficionados manage their wine lives….

Great Wine Made Easy: The 15 Best Cabernets Under $50

April 21, 2017 — Good cabernets are getting ever more expensive: $100, $200, $300 are regular prices out of Napa Valley and in Bordeaux, especially for new labels primping for cult-worthy status.

Deep, rich, and power-packed, cabernet has plenty of appeal. It’s the ultimate meat wine, the mainstay of auctions, and at the top of the heap when it comes to red wines that age and age and age. (I’ve tasted 100-year-old bottles that were still going strong.)

Why is it so expensive? Location, location, location. In Napa, the high cost of vineyard land results in grapes selling for $10,000 a ton and up, 10 times more than, say, grenache. Add in the cost of aging in new French oak barrels, which sets winemakers back $800 to $1,000 per. And, of course, there’s a serious snob factor.

So look to such places as Chile, Washington State, Australia, and South Africa, where land is cheaper, and to less-well-known California names. Surprisingly, if you go beyond the famous ultra-expensive crus classés, Bordeaux remains the biggest source of bargain cabernet around….

After a Blockbuster Year for Bordeaux, the Top 18 Wines to Buy

April 12, 2017 — As spring sun blazed in blue skies over Bordeaux on Friday, March 31, I set out to taste nearly 500 barrel samples of red and white wines in the legendary French region. My mission was to discern how the 2016 vintage stacks up against the superb 2015s I tried last year.

I’m not going to beat around the bush: The best wines from this vintage are exceptional, with plenty of superstars as impressive as, or much better than, their 2015 versions. Many chateau owners feel the wines are the best they’ve ever made. (Of course, I’ve heard that before.) The style of 2016 is different and enticing: The wines brim with fresh, floral aromas and cool red fruit flavors, silky textures, complexity, and smooth, tightly packed tannins….

The New Bordeaux Vintage Looks Great But Will Politics Affect Prices?

March 30, 2017 — The big wine story next week will take place in Bordeaux, where flags are already flying over turreted stone chateaus to welcome several thousand enthusiastic merchants and journalists. They’re swooping in from around the globe for en primeur, the region’s famous annual spring ritual. (Some call it a circus.)

From Monday to Friday we’ll all sip and spit hundreds of red, white, and sweet wines from the new 2016 vintage, still aging in oak barrels, to evaluate how the wines are turning out. The weather last year was, as they say, complicated but ended well. So far, local Bordeaux wine whisperers claim the quality of the 2016s is as exceptional, possibly even better, than the superb 2015s I reported on last year….

The 15 Best Chardonnays Under $50

March 22, 2017 — If you’ve been avoiding chardonnay on the grounds that too many examples are garish and overblown, stop. It’s the most popular white in America—and better than ever.

What to know about the grape?

First, it’s native to Burgundy, where winemakers embrace a spectrum of styles, from steely, edgy, and chalky to creamy, rich, and golden. Chablis in Burgundy’s far north and Mâcon in the south are sources of delicious, reasonably priced bottles, and the two vintages now in shops are excellent. The 2014s are classic, pure, mineral, and savory; the just-arriving 2015s, from a warmer year, are exotic and rich.

And second, because the grape is so easy to grow, it’s ubiquitous around the globe, planted in wine regions from Chile to California to New Zealand….

These Chain Steak Houses Have the Best Wine Lists

March 14, 2017 — Before I stick a fork into a sizzling steak, I insist on a large glass of a great red wine that I can swirl alongside it and savor between juicy bites.

So do most people who go to steak houses, which is why their wine lists reflect the reality that big reds and rare, charred meat is a timeless combo.

And in an era when sommeliers champion obscure grapes from esoteric regions you’ve never heard of, chain steak houses offer reassuringly recognizable bottles: Napa cabs, big deal Bordeaux, classic Burgundy, muscular Argentinian malbec….

How to Find Affordable Bottles From the World’s Best Winemakers


March 1, 2017 — Last week I was sipping the latest vintage of cult Italian red Ornellaia in a light-filled downtown loft with bearded winemaker Axel Heinz. He gives a name to each year’s cuvée–the 2014 is L’Essenza, the essence—and when this ripe, chocolatey cabernet and merlot blend makes its debut a couple of months from now at a golden price tag of $240 a bottle, it will sell out to collectors.

But over a lunch of rich, slow-braised beef, we also savored the winery’s 2014 Le Serre Nuove, a silky, polished red that echoes Ornellaia’s plummy taste in a lighter style.  “It’s our second wine,” Heinz said as he swirled his glass and inhaled deeply, “but that doesn’t mean it’s a second-rate version of Ornellaia.” At $70, it doesn’t come with the same fancy artwork on the label or the same hit to the wallet….

Cabernet Who? The Hot New Wines Out of Napa Valley Are White


February 22, 2017 — When a collector friend offered me a glass of Screaming Eagle recently, I automatically pictured the cult winery’s polished, pricy red. Instead, I got my first taste of its sophisticated, wildly expensive, almost entirely unattainable white.

Chances are, when you think of Napa Valley, you think of red wine. Well, get ready to be surprised. In this classic cabernet territory, dozens of top-end wineries are focusing the same kind of every-detail-matters approach to whites that they’ve long lavished on their more prestigious reds.

Fortunately, to try any of them you don’t have to splash out as much as you do for Screaming Eagle’s 300-bottle-a-year sauvignon blanc that I tried. (The 2010 vintage is selling for $4,650 (!) a bottle at…..

Nine Best Burgundy Wines Under $100


February 14, 2017 —  A week ago, I elbowed my way through crowded New York tastings of 2015 Burgundies, touted as the best in decades. The city is a hotbed of Burgundy lovers who swoon over the world’s most famous pinot noirs, so sommeliers, retailers and journalists were sipping, spitting, and, I have to admit, shoving, to sample as many as possible. The goal: to decide whether or not the hyperbole was just hype.

Trust me, it’s not. The reputation of this vintage is deserved, especially for the reds. Rich, ripe, hedonistic, succulent, and mouth filling, they have cashmere-like texture and that juicy acidity that makes you want to take another sip, and then another. You’re really going to want them. Most are so good they even make you forget current politics, at least while you’re drinking….

New Zealand’s New Sauvignon Blancs Will Change How You See the Grape


January 31, 2017 — Whip-cracking acidity, tongue-tingling, citrusy-herby flavors, and pungent aromas give New Zealand sauvignon blancs a punchy, kick-boxing appeal.

Immediately recognizable, reliable, predictable, and cheap, they’re tartly crisp wines you either love or hate, with grassy aromas some have likened to cat pee—not, I admit, the most appealing description. One critic suggested that if you dislike New Zealand sauvignon blanc, it might be because you had to mow the lawn when you were a kid.

But adventurous New Zealand winemakers are now lifting the category to a new dimension of quality, creating more serious (and more expensive) examples in a variety of styles. If you’re not a fan of the country’s sauvignon blancs, these are the wines to try….

Soil, Not Grapes, Is the Latest Must-Know When Picking a Wine


January 25, 2017 — OK, you know the names of dozens of grape varietals and wine regions and all (well, almost all) the Bordeaux crus classes. You can name with ease the best Burgundy estates and famous vineyards such as Napa’s To Kalon.

But you’re not done yet.

Now it’s time to bone up on the latest must-know: the “dirty” side of wine. Not the geographic region, grape, or vineyard, but what’s below the surface of the land, where vine roots sink deep into the earth that (supposedly) gives a wine its true character and quality. Soil type is the latest way to classify wines….

Half of US Wineries Might Be Sold in the Next Five Years


January 18, 2017 — When billionaire Stan Kroenke, owner of Napa cult winery Screaming Eagle and a slew of sports teams (including the L.A. Rams), bought a majority stake in December in iconic estate Bonneau du Martray in Burgundy, France, shock waves ricocheted around the wine world. The historic property has belonged to the le Bault de la Moriniere family since the French Revolution. Its grand cru Corton-Charlemagne is one of the planet’s great white wines.

But that was only one of many high-profile wineries and vineyards to trade hands last year. In California and Oregon, more than 35 were sold.

Get ready for 2017: The Silicon Valley Bank’s State of the Wine Industry 2017 report, released on Wednesday, predicts a continuing vineyard land grab this year…..

Can Cava Convince the World It’s Worth $200 a Bottle?


January 13, 2017 — Does the idea of ultra-luxe, pricey cava sound like a joke? It’s not to Spanish winemakers.

If you think all Iberian sparkling wines are simple, $10 cheapies to pop open for a budget-brunch drink, it’s way past time for you to recalibrate your wine radar.

There are very good value cavas at $25, but I’m talking about the long-aged examples with elegance and complexity that only recently started making a splash outside of Spain. This spring, much more expensive bottles will arrive in the U.S. and other far-flung countries; giant producer Codorníu, for example, is launching its first Ars Collecta prestige cuvées in the U.S in March. Cost: $125 to $200 a bottle.

Would you fork over Dom Pérignon-level bucks for high-end cava….?

Free Wine Fountains and Other Bold Ways Wine Will Change in 2017


December 29, 2016 — If there are two words for wine in 2017, they’re experimentation and exploration. An unquenchable thirst for the new means wines made from less well-known grapes, such as Verdejo, and unfamiliar regions in Portugal, South Africa, and Arizona will gain buzz. (Hey, a wine from the Azores made my top 10 list for 2016.) The days when wine drinkers stuck with familiar brands, easy-to-pronounce grape names, and the standard bottle are gone forever.

That doesn’t mean, however, that we’ll give up what we’ve already embraced—for example, prosecco and rosé, which have moved from fads to wine-world fixtures, with a few stumbles. More luxury versions of all, especially pink vino, are coming, which will, hopefully, put a quick end to the frosé (rosé slushie) eruption….

The Top Wines of 2016, Tasted by Critic Elin McCoy


December 21, 2016 — To come up with this list of my most memorable wines, I scrolled through the tasting notes of nearly 4,000 wines from around the globe that I sampled in 2016. The following highlights are those I marked with additional stars, which meant I was seriously impressed, seduced, or totally bowled over. The wines range from a great vintage of a Rhône classic to a savory white from emerging wine territory in the Azores to an uber-historic California cabernet.

All wowed me, but they also reflect what’s new and important in the world of wine—and what might happen next. The influence of hot new winemakers, the emergence of new regions and grapes, and the rediscovery of old classics will help shape what we drink in 2017….

The 50 Best Wines Under $50 to Buy in 2017


December 13, 2016 — Believe it or not, it’s easier than ever to buy great wines without spending a fortune. From my tastings this year, I’ve picked 50 wines that cost under $50 a bottle—and deliver both value and sheer deliciousness for the price.

To find the biggest bang for the buck, look in emerging regions and those with less buzz, such as Mendocino instead of Napa, Beaujolais instead of Burgundy.

Rather than hunting the best-known grape varieties, try such neglected classics as chenin blanc or hard-to-pronounce obscure ones, like voisinho. Entry level and second wines from the best estates almost always offer top value…..

These 10 Ultra-Luxury Champagnes Are Worth the Really Big Bucks


December 2, 2016 — Glass of bubbly in hand, I took in the panorama of Manhattan’s twinkly lights from the terrace of a posh penthouse in Chelsea for the U.S. debut of the grand 2009 Louis Roederer Cristal Champagne back in October. It was the perfect elitist bling to match the view, and I happily lapped up my fair share.

Just in case you didn’t know, Cristal is a tête de cuvée (aka prestige cuvée), created in 1876 for Russian Czar Alexander II. Much, much later it became a favorite fizz of rappers. Most Champagne houses, from grandes marques such as Moët to grower-producers like Jacques Selosse, make at least one of these luxury cuvées. You spot them by their stratospheric prices, starting at about $150 and going into the thousands.

In a world happy enough with prosecco and pét-nat, are any of these pricey bubbles truly worth it? Absolutely….

The Decade’s Best New World Chardonnays Are From … Ontario?


November 28, 2016 — The Kingston, Ontario, town crier, in fur-trimmed tricorn hat and bright red coat, rang a brass bell and shouted “Hear ye, hear ye” as the lead-in to my most surprising tasting this year: “The Judgement of Kingston.”

The blind competition, held Nov. 6, pitted such top California chardonnays as Chateau Montelena against those from Prince Edward County, a little-known, newly exciting wine region on the north shore of Lake Ontario.

I was the lone American on the judging panel, but like the Canadian judges, I ranked Ontario chardonnays as No. 1 and No. 2, ahead of the oakier Napa examples. They were brilliant: light and crisp, with spiky acidity, succulent layers of lemon-lime and stony flavors, and a flinty elegance missing from the California wines….

The Five Wines Everyone at Your Thanksgiving Tables Will Enjoy


November 18, 2016 — This week I’ve been flooded with e-mails and texts from friends and readers pleading for Thanksgiving wine advice. The all-American holiday seems to cause more wine stress than any other meal, especially this year.

After a divisive election, everyone is asking for the one wine that will not only go with every dish, but also please every guest from twentysomethings to grandparents, whatever their politics.

Sorry. I’m here to tell you that no single “unity” Thanksgiving wine exists. And that’s true even if you’re hosting a feast with just your partner and your best wine-loving friends.

But take a deep breath—and relax. The five wines I’m recommending below are sure to satisfy everyone at your table….

A Sommelier for Water? Seven Ways Somms Are Moving Past Wine


November 3, 2016 — In June, five international water sommeliers judged the second water tasting competition in Guangzhou, China. They swirled, sniffed, and sipped about 70 different brands of the simplest beverage on earth and awarded gold, silver, or bronze medals.

One of them was Martin Riese, the first and only water sommelier in the U.S. who does exactly what a wine somm does, but with water—understanding its taste complexities, selecting a list of waters from around the world for a restaurant, and pairing them with food. “Most people,” he says tartly, “are doing water wrong.”

You can roll your eyes, but this is a real job, and one of many: A whole new wave of sommeliers pour beverages other than wine….

Is This Australian Red Wine Really Worth $850 a Bottle?


October 27, 2016 — At 9:15 p.m. last Thursday, I was being happily seduced by a first taste of the 2012 vintage of Penfolds Bin 95 Grange, Australia’s iconic red that’s now being released to the world along with other whites and reds in their luxury collection.

Is this deep, rich, seductive, tongue-stroking red really the star of them all?

Well, this year, the answer is a definite “Yes,” but several immensely appealing also-rans are worth trying….

See Exactly How Bordeaux’s Chateau Palmer Makes Its Top Wines

Chateau Palmer vineyard during harvest, in Margaux, France, on october 4, 2016. The Palmer vineyards cover 66 hectares in the commune of Cantenac. Most of the plots are concentrated on a plateau of thin gravel from the Güntz period on the top of the rises of the Margaux appellation. Seasonal pickers during the harvest of a plot of Merlot grapes. Photographer: Marlene Awaad / Bloomberg

October 6, 2016 — With four turreted towers and flags flying, Château Palmer looks like a small, perfect castle surrounded by a vineyard, proudly situated in the Margaux commune of Bordeaux. Right now its vines are heavy with bunches of purple merlot, cabernet sauvignon, and petit verdot grapes. Harvest is here.

The grapes will go into a wine that is one of the top reds in the world: sensuous, with lush red fruit flavors and plenty of elegance. Classified a third growth in the famous 1855 classification that ranked Bordeaux châteaux from 1st to 5th “cru,” Palmer has punched above that level in the past decade in price and quality.

That’s because of young, energetic winemaker and Chief Executive Officer Thomas Duroux, who arrived in 2004 after a stint in Italy at Ornellaia and Masseto. He’s shifted the vineyard to biodynamics, an uber-organic farming method that few in Bordeaux follow. And a risky one at that. This year, despite threats of mildew and possibly botrytis, his team didn’t spray the vines and got lucky.

“2016 has been a year of strange weather: a wet spring and a dry summer with no rain for almost two months,” he says. “But this harvest season is perfect. I have a smile on my face.”

Here’s how harvest went on Oct. 4….

A Frantic, High-Stakes Day in the Life of Aaron Pott, Napa’s Wine Whisperer

Aaron Pott, a winemaker and wine making consultant, works on pushing down grape skins that had risen to the top during the fermentation process of wine from his own label at Quixote Winery in Napa, Calif., on Friday, September 30, 2016. In addition to consulting there Pott shares space with the winery and produces his own label, Pott Wines, at the location.October 5, 2016 — For top consulting winemaker Aaron Pott, harvest time in the Napa Valley starts before dawn. Every day he juggles the needs of 12 client wineries as well as making his own wines. Constantly on his cellphone, driving from one end of the valley to the other, he’s ready at any moment to change his plans, based on a new weather report or a sudden problem to solve.

Well-known consultants such as Pott are hired guns in hot demand in the Napa Valley. Their rise parallels the boom of tiny boutique producers whose owners have millions to invest but no expertise. For some, he’s the part-time winemaker, buying additional grapes, choosing barrels, making the blends; at others, such as Fisher Vineyards, he’s an adviser, helping the winemaker kick up the wines’ quality and bring out individuality.

His days are filled with tasting, looking, and decision-making. Are grapes at optimum ripeness for picking? How long should the wine macerate on the grape skins to pick up the right amount of tannin and flavor?

Here’s how his Sept. 30 starts….

See How Pét-Nat Wine Is Made, From Vine to Bottle in Just Nine Days


October 3, 2016 — This year’s harvest in New York City’s local wine region, the Hamptons, started 10 days later than usual for Channing Daughters‘ pét-nats, aka pétillant-naturels, the current bubbly wine craze. These lightly fizzy, naturally sparkling wines are made by the centuries-old méthode ancestrale, bottled before fermentation has finished.

The winery began picking white grapes for its Sylvanus pét-nat on Sept. 21. Why harvest dates vary from year to year is partly mysterious, governed by the weather over the entire growing season.

Depending on the vintage, the ever-experimental winemaker Christopher Tracy makes six or seven pét-nats in white, red, and rosé versions each year….

Why Piemonte, Tuscany’s Lovely Stepsister, Is the Perfect Wine Trip Right Now


September 30, 2016 — At harvest time in northern Italy, layers of fog drift romantically over hillside vineyards of ripened nebbiolo grapes. Those from five tiny villages near Alba, the sleepy capital of the Langhe region of Piemonte, will go into the country’s greatest red wine, Barolo.

Right now, the crisp autumn air is accented with the scents of wood smoke, pungent, fermenting wine, and the fragrant, earthy-musky aroma of white truffles, sold at an annual market in Alba during October and November.

What could be better than wine and truffles at the source?  The combo makes this region, the home of the Slow Food movement, a gourmand’s paradise, especially during harvest season…..

Meet the Hottest New Names in Napa Wine


September 27, 2016 — Scouting the latest must-taste wine projects is a serious Napa Valley sport, and I play the game every time I visit.

Earlier this year a hot tip took me up a steep, twisting, rain-slicked road to the top of Diamond Mountain, in the northern part of the valley. I bumped over the rocky soil of a just-planted vineyard in an open ATV with Jasud Estate’s passionate, bearded owner, Ketan Mody, who didn’t seem to notice we were getting soaked. Later, when we tasted his first wines in the tiny cabin where he lives, I decided, despite being cold and wet, that this was one of the valley’s most fascinating new ventures…..

Which Wine Apps Actually Help You Choose and Buy the Best Wine?


September 26, 2016 — The new mobile app “Wine Ring” sounds great: With the help of secret, patented algorithms, it can predict whether or not I’ll like a wine before I buy it.

It’s the latest in a series of apps that all swear they’ll solve your myriad wine-related problems—even ones you never knew you had.

I’m a skeptical non-techie, so I spent last week testing out Wine Ring, the just launched Omnipair (which aims to help you pick the right wine in a restaurant), and the latest versions of a dozen other wine apps to see what, exactly, they deliver. Several stood out as worth downloading; others seriously underperformed….

How To Buy Wine at Auction—and Why You Should


September 2, 2016 — Maybe you’ve been put off by the numbers. When 10 bottles of 1945 Château Mouton Rothschild go for $343,000, it can feel as though a wine auction is a wee bit … inaccessible.

Or maybe you think buying wine at auction is a stuffy process, involving sitting on uncomfortable chairs in bland boardrooms, raising paddles out of sheer boredom. Wine auctions, you figure, are not for you.

Well, you’re wrong. Wine auctions are no longer just one thing. I’ve been to raucous live sales where collectors battled for expensive bottles while sipping Krug champagne and savoring food by Daniel Boulud. But you can also bid online while hanging out at home in your sweats and eating pizza from a box, or even while flying from New York to L.A. ….


Naples Winter Wine Festival 2016: Rolls Royce Dawn takes top spot


February 1, 2016 — When bids for the first Rolls Royce Dawn reached $750,000, the wealthy crowd at the glitzy Naples Winter Wine Festival 2016 charity auction went wild, shaking tambourines and fancy rattles.

This glamour car, not a stellar wine lot, was the monetary peak last Saturday. The winning bidder Julian Movsesian, who’s from California, told me, “I came intending to get this, no matter what the price.”

Most of the live auction’s 64 lots, many offered by famous vintners from five countries, included rare wines paired with fabulous trips, sparkly jewels, lavish golf holidays or VIP sports or concert tickets.

The auction was only one piece of a glittering, non-stop $10,000 per couple weekend that included vintner dinners hosted at private local mansions, with food cooked by all-star chefs, and, for an extra dollop of cash, a panel tasting celebrating the 1976 Paris Tasting….

from LE PAN:

Beautiful or Beastly? The World’s Most Artful Wine Labels


November 6, 2015 — People buy wine with their eyes, the late Napa Valley vintner Robert Mondavi once told me. He was talking about how a label design influences what wine we choose to drink. Part symbol, part source of essential information, part marketing and sales tool, a label is like the cover of a book, a clue to what’s inside the bottle and a way to stand out on retail shelves.

A handful of prestigious wine estates take the idea further, enlisting a celebrated artist to create a painting or sketch for the label as a way of announcing that a great wine is also a work of art.

When Château Mouton Rothschild recently revealed its label for the 2013 vintage by Korean-born Lee Ufan, I began thinking about why so many wineries have copied the Bordeaux first growth’s lead. The château has spotlighted a different artist almost every year since 1945, thanks to the ambitious Baron Philippe de Rothschild, a brilliant marketer.

Now his grandson Julien Sereys de Beaumarchais, who, with his brother and sister, inherited the château last year, has taken over the art-beat task. “Our only requirement is that the artist we pick should have a global reputation comparable to that of Mouton Rothschild in the world of wine,” he explains.

Linking wine with fine art elevates it as a key part of culture – or so the thinking goes….

Sonoma’s greatest Pinot Noir vineyards


October 14, 2015 — From Hirsch Vineyards, on a high ridge of Sonoma’s coast, I can see the blue Pacific just a few miles away. The wind is strong and cold, and the vineyard rises above a blanket of fog like a sunny island.

This verdant outcropping is one of the most famous Pinot Noir sites in California. A dozen wineries have sought out its grapes in their quest to make great wines and Hirsch has long been on my shortlist of ‘grand cru’ Pinot Noir vineyards.

Notoriously finicky, the so-called heartbreak grape doesn’t fair well everywhere. California winemakers have struggled for decades to identify the spots where the grapes produce wines with the tart, crushed-cherry flavors and seductive textures you get from Pinot’s home, Burgundy.

In Sonoma, Pinot Noir paradise is in the coolest areas….


Drinking Well at 36,000 Feet

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October 15, 2015 — This past spring, Joost Heymeijer arrived in Bordeaux with the Emirates airline wine team for a four-day marathon of tasting barrel samples. They ended up purchasing almost 1 million bottles as futures, zeroing in on 60 famed crus classés, such as Château Cheval Blanc. When the wines are ready to drink, they’ll be poured gratis in Emirates’ first and business classes.

“A long journey looks a lot better with a glass of fine Bordeaux or champagne,” says Heymeijer, who’s in charge of the airline’s in-flight catering. “That’s why we’ve spent half a billion dollars on the wine program over the past decade.” Two million bottles are aging in a warehouse in Burgundy; the rest are stashed in Dubai.

Emirates is one of many airlines adding elite wines to the list of luxury perks like massage beds and Michelin-starred cuisine as a long-term strategy to win wealthy travelers’ loyalty.


How I Learned to Love Australian Wine

awesome-australian-wines-10005024March 3, 2015 — Australia’s thick, jammy Shirazes, cheap fruity/oaky blends from industrial producers, and cellar-wizard winemaker philosophy have long shaped that country’s wine image abroad – and never appealed to me.

So what turned me into an Aussie wine fan? The stunning new wave reds and whites I tasted not long ago on visits to two cool-climate valleys. They reminded me once again how diverse a wine country Australia is and showed me what I hope is the face of its vinous future.

I found dozens of ambitious young-gun winemakers, who are ignoring fruit-bomb styles and lashings of oak for leaner, subtler wines. And instead of blending grapes from different regions, they’re embracing single vineyards….

from The World of Fine Wine:

Romancing the Grape


Issue 47 – 2015 — I admit it: I’m a wine romantic. I respond to those special landscapes in wine country, the rows of gnarled vines tended by passionate families attached to their land for generations, the ever-repeated miracle of clusters of grapes being transformed into a drink that reflects their patch of ground, the dark cellars of cobwebbed barrels that hold history in liquid form. The wines that most capture my imagination seem imbued with a kind of meaning that no other beverage can match, their tastes conjuring cultural values that often tap into deep emotions.

My first visit to a California winery, several decades ago, was just the type of wine experience that fosters that kind of romantic view…

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