CLOVERDALE, Calif. - Sitting down to 78 glasses of chardonnay before lunch is one of those "be careful what you wish for" moments.
Indian Chenin Blanc If you're thirsty, this isn't what you think. Given the circumstances - the opening round of my fourth year as a judge at the San Francisco Chronicle Wine Competition, the world's biggest for American wine - no one here was about to dive in and get loopy.
Indian Late Harvest Chenin Blanc (dessert Wine) This is a sip-and-spit derby, with anonymous flights of 10 numbered glasses coming at my panel of four lab-coated cohorts in lightning rounds every 15 to 20 minutes. Sniff, sip, swish, spit, grade. How much do I like it? Is it as good as "gold" - the equivalent of an "A" effort? Am I willing to defend its virtues to my fellow judges? Or does it make my nose hairs curl with the sulfurous stench of a winemaker's flaw? "No award" or "charity bronze" are usually the results for such an offering. And it happened more often than one might expect for this round of chardonnays priced $20 to $25, usually accompanied by the judges' more colorful descriptions of their off aromas: "smells like a hamster cage!" or "air from a tire" or "kimchi" (love it in pickled cabbage, not so much in wine).
White Wine India
There’s a long history of cross-pollination between the Napa Valley and Santa Barbara wine countries, but the recent move south by one of the men primarily responsible for arguably America’s most expensive wine may one day mark a tipping point in the ongoing saga of whether Napa’s esteem will ever be eclipsed by somewhere else. Of course, the humble, laid-back, Louisville, Kentucky-raised winemaker involved wouldn’t put it exactly that way.
Indian Sauvignon Blanc “When you’re running around the winery and punching down the grapes and handling the wine, you aren’t thinking that it will cost $700 a bottle,” said Adam Henkel of his eight vintages at Harlan Estates, which fights a continual price-raising war with Screaming Eagle, Napa’s competing cult winery. “All you are thinking about is how to make the best wine possible. That’s what I’m here to do.” “Here” is Crown Point Vineyards, a property that was founded more than a decade ago as Cimarone with Silicon Valley money by Roger and Priscilla Higgins in the heart of the relatively new Happy Canyon of Santa Barbara appellation. In 2012, the Higginses — whose label, now made by Andrew Murray, still exists via a tasting room in Los Olivos — sold the 100-acre property, on-site winery, and 30 or so acres of vineyards to Roger Bower, a Texan who made his millions producing fire-fighting foam and contracting a private fire-fighting squad to battle problematic blazes in the Gulf of Mexico and Middle East. After selling his company in 2011, Bower’s love of fine wine and horses led him straight to Happy Canyon, home to both thoroughbred facilites and vineyards specializing in Bordeaux varietals. His hunt for a winemaker dovetailed with Henkel’s desire to spread his wings, so the two teamed up in April 2013, and have been plotting a shakeup of Santa Barbara’s comparably modest pricepoints ever since.
Indian Chenin Blanc Those seeking a taste of Henkel’s work needn’t take out a second mortgage yet or wait until 2017 either. The second part of the Crown Point plan was the purchase of the existing Westerly brand, which Henkel is refocusing to shine a more affordable light on Santa Barbara, from Happy Canyon to the Sta. Rita Hills, with current releases — some of which he blended, some not — of pinot, chardonnay, sauvignon blanc, cab, merlot, white and red blends known as Fletcher’s, and the syrah-viognier Cote Blonde ranging in price from $20 to $75. To bolster both projects, Henkel hopes to have expanded the estate vineyards to 44 acres by 2015, and says that there may be a third project in the works as well.
Indian Late Harvest Chenin Blanc (dessert Wine)
There was a time not so long ago when 15 percent alcohol was reserved for fortified wines. A Bordeaux red that reached the 15-percent mark was inconceivable, yet in 2010, La Mission Haut-Brion hit 15.1, with its white wine trailing just behind at 15 percent. And the Graves estate is not alone in breaching previously unexplored territory.
Indian Rosé A warming climate, improved viticultural techniques, efficient fermentation yeasts, and consumer demand for riper styles are all factors in the rise of higher alcohol levels. But the times are a-changin' as health-conscious consumers and lunchtime drinkers look for a lower-alcohol alternative to liver-bruising styles.
Indian Sauvignon Blanc Researchers at the Australia Wine Research Institute (AWRI) point out that high-alcohol wines can not only leave your mouth burning; they can also compromise quality. While high alcohol might increase body and the perception of sweetness, “it can lead to a decrease in aroma and flavour intensity.” There’s also an economic concern: higher alcohol levels mean higher taxes.
Indian Chenin Blanc
BLOOMimage / Getty Images/BloomImage RF Could wines from Uruguay be the next big thing? Try vino made from the tannat grape.
Indian Cabernet Shiraz I’ve mentioned to several people in recent weeks that I’ve been tasting – and enjoying – a broad sampling of wines from Uruguay, and with the exception of one guy in the office who had just come back from a vacation there, no one had heard of Uruguayan wines.
Indian Rosé Such is the level of recognition of this still under-the-radar wine region. But I have no doubt that this will change – and fast, based on my sampling of a dozen or so wines, which left me with the sense that the wines of Uruguay are poised to become the next big thing from South America.
Indian Sauvignon Blanc
at the end of last year that we're facing a "wine shortage" , but these don't necessarily include the taste of the end product.
Late Harvest Chenin Blanc (dessert Wine) India At times Cascant makes winemaking sound implausibly easy. He comes from an architecture background and says that when he and his business partner, Toni Boronat, started out 10 years ago they were just "playing". Armed with secateurs to take cuttings, they visited a friend who had an abandoned vineyard and, a few years later, they had produced wines that were lauded by critics including The Wine Advocate . "Everyone knows how to make wine," he shrugs, "you crush the grapes and then ferment them. When we tried what we'd made after the first year, though, it was pretty good." Good enough, in fact, that it was given an impressive 90 points by Spain's best known guide Peñin (90-94 out of 100 means "outstanding: a wine of superior character and style"). However, it's clearly not quite as simple as he makes it sound.
Indian Cabernet Shiraz "There was a co-operative that would buy the grapes here in the past," he admits, "without thinking about the quality of the wine or the authenticity. It was as if you have a beautiful jewel you sell by weight." Currently most of the 28 microvinyas sell their grapes directly to the Celler. However, there are already three that, although they're still letting the experts make the wine, plan to market it under their own label. One of these is owned by another local architect, Beatriz Vicent Ripoll. Her family have half a hectare of land, not far from the medieval town of Cocentaina, which, under advice from the Celler, they have planted with monastrell and garnacha tintorera grapes, as well as French import syrah.
Site developed by Viraj Patil ()