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At EWBC digital wine conference in Izmir, Turkey

November 21, 2012

Last week I was in Izmir, Turkey to moderate a communication workshop at the EWBC digital wine communications conference, and had the chance to taste an amazing array of wines from Turkey and surrounding countries—and while I was there visit Istanbul, Ephesus, and Cappadocia.  More all on this in coming columns….

Additional 2011 Bordeaux futures picks

June 7, 2012

After my column on 2011 Bordeaux futures prices went out on the Bloomberg Newswire earlier this week, some of my top wines of the vintage finally released their prices: The deep, polished, rich, and truly delicious Ch. Ducru-Beaucaillou, a  St. Julien 2nd growth,  is just over $110 a bottle (£800 a case in the U.K.). That’s a pretty good price, even less than the 2008, which wasn’t nearly as good.

Next came one of my faves, Vieux Chateau Certan, a wonderfully scented, very complex and silky Pomerol. With its return to a high percentage of cabernet franc, it’s even better than the superb 2009 and 2010. Price? $145 a bottle (£1050 in the UK, if you can find it).

These are two wines definitely worth buying as futures.

Château Latour sidesteps futures

April 15, 2012

Frederic Engerer, president of Bordeaux first-growth Château Latour, announced in a letter to negociants last Friday that the 2011 will be the last vintage of the château’s grand vin offered as futures during en primeur. Instead, the château will release bottles only when wines are ready to drunk.
This raises plenty of questions: How will Engerer decide when the wines are ready to drink? How much more will the wines cost? And also, will other first growths feel compelled to follow suit?

I’m interviewed on Snooth….

September 29, 2011

Snooth, the world’s largest website  (, has a Q and A with me today….check it out.

I’m moderator and panelist at Vino 2011 in New York

January 23, 2011

I’ll be at the VINO 2011 wine industry conference in New York, held at the Waldorf-Astoria hotel January 23-27.  My two panels are:  “The Future of Italian Wines: as Seen from the Point of View of Leading American Wine Professionals” January 24, 11:00 am – 12:00 pm and  “Italian Wine by Numbers: Top Industry Experts Review Current Trends and Import Figures to Evaluate the Market Outlook” January 26, 8:30 am – 10:00 am.

Andy Erickson resigns as winemaker for Screaming Eagle

January 2, 2011

In the latest news from the rarified world of Napa’s cult producers, Andy Erickson resigned December 27th as Screaming Eagle’s winemaker.

In an email, Erickson explained that having overseen the replanting of Screaming Eagle’s vineyard and building a new winery there, he’s ready to move on. His original connection to the property, Erickson said, was through former co-owner Charles Banks, and he will be working on several projects with him. That includes consulting for South African winery Mulderbosch, which Banks has recently purchased.

Of course, Erickson is still working with Dalla Valle, Ovid, Dancing Hares, and Arietta, plus his own Favia wines.

annual Thanksgiving dilemma: which wines with turkey, pumpkin pie?

November 20, 2010

Every year, conflicting Thanksgiving wine advice overwhelms anxious hosts.  Because wine is pretty much the only element of this annual feast not dictated by tradition, what you decide to uncork is wide open.

That’s the problem.  There are just too many choices.

Even restaurants serving Thanksgiving dinner are happy to pass the buck on what to drink. This year I noticed that very few in New York include wine in their advertised menus, though Latin restaurant Agua Dulce will hand out Pumpkin Hot Butter Rum Cocktails (ugh!). Maybe even top sommeliers can’t take the pressure of coming up with the perfect pairing.

The latest suggestion I’ve received came in a Thanksgiving card from Aline Baly of Bordeaux’s Château Coutet. She touts serving six vintages of her luscious sweet white as the ideal accompaniment for everything from sage-and-spice-roasted turkey to pumpkin mascarpone tart with candied kumquats and Sauternes cream (enticing recipes here).

Much as I like Château Coutet, all that unctuous sweetness seems like way too much of a good thing and would only mystify many of my guests. I’ve learned over the years not to put out anything too outlandish or esoteric or made from an unpronounceable grape.  At holidays, people crave the familiar, and don’t want to feel like they should study the label.

That’s as it should be.  At Thanksgiving, food and feasting take center stage.  The main role of wine is to wash it all down the without fighting the flavors on the table, to mellow tempers during political arguments or the reemergence of sibling rivalries, and refresh the palate so you can eat even more.

The number of dishes with contrasting tastes and dozens of flavor components (sweet, spicy, tart, rich, bland) all heaped together on a plate means you can forget about the subtleties of wine matching or the search for a one-perfect-wine solution.  Instead, go for wines that are fruity, softer and brightly acidic, with little tannin and low oak—the vinous equivalent of lovely background music.

My choices this year? I always pour American on this national holiday.  I’ll start with a fruity sparkling wine, like non-vintage J Cuvée 20 Brut ($20).  Then I’ll put a white and red on the table—a rich but balanced Chardonnay like Stag’s Leap Wine Cellars “Karia” ($35), and a satiny, stylish Pinot Noir like 2008 Freeman Sonoma Coast ($44), served slightly cool.

I’m Keynote Speaker at the European Wine Bloggers’ Conference in Vienna, October 22-24

October 13, 2010

Should be quite an event—150 wine bloggers, journalists, social media experts and wine industry types from 20 countries discussing the future of wine writing. (Click here for more info). I’ll be talking about how the internet and the explosion of wineries and wine regions worldwide have changed the landscape of fine wine criticism forever. What will the future bring? I’ll report more on it when I return…

remembering René di Rosa (1919-2010)

October 6, 2010

When I read that one of Napa’s larger-than-life wine personalities, René di Rosa, had died, it brought back vivid memories of the man.  (You can read a news report on him here).  I remember visiting this Carneros pioneer in the early 1980s and tasting some of the vineyard-designated wines made from the grapes that came from his Winery Lake property.  Nose in glass, I cautiously called one sample “interesting.”

“Interesting?” he bellowed.  “I call it miraculous!”  He sold 250 acres of his highly-regarded vineyard to Seagram’s, and plowed the profits into his other passion, contemporary West Coast art, creating an art park and museum that opened in 1997.

I looked to see if I had any bottles left in my cellar that carried the Winery Lake designation, and found a treasure: a half-bottle he’d given me of a 1985 late-harvest Riesling commemorating his last day in the vineyard, with a label done (if memory serves) by his late wife, Veronica.  I was dubious about how this 25-year old wine might have aged, but its 35% residual sugar and tart acidity—suitable metaphors for di Rosa’s charm and biting wit—kept this dark honey-colored wine fresh, deep, apricot-y, and as lingering as my memories of the man.

belated discovery: 2003 Leeuwin Estate Cabernet Sauvignon Art Series

September 12, 2010

Poking around in my cellar the other evening for a dinner wine, I came across a bottle that had been squirreled away in a forgotten corner: 2003 Leeuwin Estate Cabernet Sauvignon Art Series.  On opening, it tasted more like Cabernet Franc—strongly herbaceous, even tobacco-like—but with some airing this seven-year-old Cab smoothed out into a perfectly delicious, velvety-textured red, mercifully balanced and gorgeously fruity, and a perfect match with pork tenderloin and red peppers.  It was a reminder (if I needed one) that not all Australian reds are fruit bombs, and that Margaret River is an appellation worth taking seriously.  You can still find it, at around $35.