napa's duckhorn lands on red mountain

Thursday, December 19, 2013

When the recent auction of prime Red Mountain vineyard land was co-opted by a Canadian investment group who had no apparent expertise or interest in wine production, I was more than a little dismayed. Prominent, qualified bidders from both in and out of state had been shut out from what was arguably the most important new development in the past decade.

So it was with a great sense of relief that I learned today that Napa’s Duckhorn Wine Company had done an end run and secured a prime 20-acre parcel on Red Mountain. I spoke by phone with President and CEO Alex Ryan about Duckhorn’s plans for the property.

get ready - here come the hangovers!

Monday, December 16, 2013

For some reason, the run-up to the Holidays has brought a banner selection of hangover cure products to my attention. Dedicated though I am to my reader, I am not volunteering to test them all. But the pitches are so insanely serious that I thought I’d simply share some of the best with you.

In today’s e-mail came this novel concept.

“Hangovers are bound to occur during the holiday season. There are several theories on how to cure the pain caused by too many alcoholic drinks consumed. Unfortunately, the only true cure for a hangover is to drink less alcohol [doh!], but sometimes a Coconut Hot Toddy or two is simply irresistible. The good news is that there are some easy ways to make a hangover less painful and drinking Amy & Brian’s Coconut Juice is one of them.

bored with wine? time to try something new!

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Too much of the same thing, over and over, whether it’s caviar or chocolate cake, Chardonnay or Champagne, can get boring. Well – Champagne doesn’t ever get boring, but it does tend to fatigue the palate, which is close to the same thing. It’s always an option to grab a beer or two, which is why most winemakers agree that it takes a lot of beer to make good wine. But for general purposes, I find that the best way to refresh your palate and rekindle your interest is to reach for something new and different.

You don’t have to look very far these days to find wines that are from unusual grapes, unknown regions, or simply from a familiar place offering something rarely seen. A number of these bottles have come my way recently. You may or may not find them at your neighborhood wine shop, but the point is not to get these exact wines, but to do comparable exploring on your own.

truly useful wine gifts

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

‘Tis the season, we are told, to purchase stuff for people who already have too much of everything. Yet it’s better to give than receive, so we dutifully trudge to the malls, or scan the online retailers, for things that those special someones in our lives might actually find useful.

Which is where those of us with wine as a hobby sing “Hallelujah!” Because why? Because there are a gazillion wine gizmos and gadgets out there, and more appear every year!

I am not going to tell you about all the latest. I will studiously avoid talking about the needle-thing that you poke into your wine so you can taste it without actually opening it. I am not going to describe yet another aeration device that will shake up your wine in ever-more creative ways, since obviously the winemaker didn’t do the job right in the first place. As for books, well, see my post about Jon Bonnés new book – that’s the first and most important book you should buy.

Let’s take a look at the basics. The basics are the things that never go out of style, that are truly useful, and that every wine drinker needs. I cannot tell you how often I’ve been in the home of a wine enthusiast, someone with a deep and abiding affection for wine, who somehow failed to own a decent cork puller; or a practical decanter; or a full set (12 glasses) of all-purpose stemware; or a couple of wine chilling freezer packs. These things are always needed. You never have enough. So go forth and purchase!

recommending three outstanding new wine apps

Friday, December 06, 2013

There are plenty of apps for wine lovers, and quite honestly, who has time for them? But once in awhile, some really innovative and/or truly helpful designs emerge. Here are three (all free!) that you should check out.

book review – the new california wine

Sunday, December 01, 2013

Wine books – like cookbooks – seem to flow endlessly from publishers' pumps. And they have by-and-large become more and more formulaic.

There are the relentless pocket guides, packing more and more material into tinier and tinier type, amplified with impenetrable iconography. There are the massive tomes, focused on a famous region, a particular grape, or – why not – the entire world. Valuable reference works, though impossible to actually read.

Gimmicky, one-topic books (corks!), dumbed-down guides, lists of purported values, and coffee table photo-heavy books are always in good supply. And of course, books with absolutely no critical content other than 'Is there a bathroom? Are they kid-friendly?' are sure-fire.

But rare indeed is the wine book that breaks new ground or covers its topics with vivid detail and engaging prose. "The New California Wine" (Ten Speed Press, $35) by Jon Bonné, the wine editor of the San Francisco Chronicle, does that and much more. It tackles the California wine industry head on – its history, evolutionary phases, triumphs and dead ends – with precision and a clearly-defined point of view.

Bonné takes sharp aim at what I have believed (and written about) for years – the ultimately self-defeating, terroir-obliterating trend toward super-ripe, jammy, oaky, over-extracted, manipulated and just plain undrinkable California wines.

When an outsider writes such criticism, the inevitable result is a shrug, a harrumph, and perhaps an accusation that the writer is simply showing favoritism for the hometown product.