Blog

0

Paso Robles

In July I spent 8 days doing intensive wine research and tasting in Paso Robles. Along the way I shared updates from my visits with producers via Instagram.

Some readers asked if I would please compile the collection and share it here on my blog in order to make the information more readily accessible. With that in mind, following are the Instagram photos from my 8 days in Paso Robles, minus a few short videos shared there. The captions as posted to Instagram are typed here directly below the associated image to make them easier to read.

I update my wine travels and local tastings regularly to Instagram, as shown below. If you’re interested in keeping up with it there, you can follow me on Instagram where I post as @hawk_wakawaka.

Cheers!

Let's do this…

A photo posted by Hawk Wakawaka (@hawk_wakawaka) on

Eberle

"I made my first Barbera in 1978. I planted it myself. I got the cuttings from UC Davis. I really don't know what clone it was but it is what is mostly planted around here. It was planted, indexed and heat treated at Davis so it is clean. That was at the Estrella [River] property [the vineyard + winery Gary Eberle started in the late 1970s before then planting Eberle in the 1980s.]. […] Mr Mondavi, certainly in this business, was my biggest mentor. He taught me how to sell wine. I couldn't tell you why but we just hit it off. I learned so much from that man. You can make the best damn wine but you better be able to sell it if you want to have an impact in this industry." – Gary Eberle of Eberle Winery is considered the Godfather of Paso Robles wine having been one of the early founders of fine wine in the region and an instigator of the original 1983 AVA. Though his flagship wine is Cabernet Sauvignon he has won multiple awards for his Barbera. This summer he was recognized with a Wine Lifetime Achievement Award by the California State Fair, an honor he shares with his mentor, Robert Mondavi, the award's first recipient.

A photo posted by Hawk Wakawaka (@hawk_wakawaka) on

Ambythe

Pomar Junction

Father + son team Dana + Matt Merrill farm vineyards all over Paso + make wine under the Pomar Junction label from their vineyard of the same name. "My dad is part of the Central Coast Vineyards team. We were one of the first 12 wineries in the SIP sustainability pilot program built by the Central Coast Vineyard Team. It's recognized by the TTB + means you've been checked by a third-party auditor." Matt explains. I ask Dana about his work on Paso water concerns in relation to the drought. Dana has spearheaded efforts to create a collaborative board of agricultural + residential members to work on long term solutions for water conservation. He responds. "We don't have really big water problems right now. We do have a general trend of wells dropping. We don't know if the drought is going to continue. We have enough constructive notice + time to do something."

A photo posted by Hawk Wakawaka (@hawk_wakawaka) on

Clayhouse

The First Wine Labeled with the Paso Robles AVA

Kenneth Volk

Discussing the different growing regions of the Central Coast cannot be done more thoroughly than w Ken Volk. I ask him when he moved to the region + how he got started in wine. He answers. "I moved to San Luis Obispo in 1977 to attend Cal Poly. I made wine from Rancho Sisquoc grapes in 1977 as a home winemaker. Then I had the opportunity to do an internship w Edna Valley Vineyards in 1978 + 1979. After, I started Wild Horse. I purchased the property, planted vineyards, then bonded the winery + had first crush in 1983. We were mostly working w red grapes from Santa Maria Valley + Paso Robles. At Wild Horse we did a lot of blending warm + cool climate grapes. That worked well for us. People liked it." – Ken Volk served as the first president of the Paso Robles Grape Growers Association, which started in 1981. He was also one of the signatories on the original Paso Robles AVA that was recognized by the TTB in 1983. In his winemaking career he has made wine from around 74 varieties from throughout the Central Coast. As he explained, he recognizes the idea of noble varieties but it is in people being willing to work with grapes + travel w them that we found those. Today the Kenneth Volk winery is located in Santa Maria Valley where Pinot + Chardonnay are his flagship wines but he also works w Italian + French varieties from throughout the central coast.

A photo posted by Hawk Wakawaka (@hawk_wakawaka) on

The Falcone Family

Luna Matta Vineyard

"We're certified organic because we really believe in it. We believe the property should be better when we leave it than when we got it. All the hilltops here [on Luna Matta Vineyard] are a little different. There are so many soil changes. That's part of what's exciting about [farming in] Paso. You can kind of do anything." – Stephanie Terrizzi manages Luna Matta Vineyard in the Adelaida District of Paso Robles, which has 36 planted vineyard acres, 40 acres of walnuts, 2 acres of olives, 1 acre of sage + a pear tree. John Ahner + Jody McKeller planted the site in 2001 to Rhone + Italian varieties (+ just a smidgen of Tempranillo) with a focus on biodiversity. Their bees this summer are busy making honey from indigenous plants such as Toyon.

A photo posted by Hawk Wakawaka (@hawk_wakawaka) on

Giornata 

"In Italy, there is enough heat the focus is really not on extraction. In France there are techniques for more extraction [because of the differing climate + varieties] but in Italy I have never seen anyone cold soak. The climate [in parts of Italy] is more like California. [It has the heat and sun. Our goal is] to express the site, the variety + the vintage. The best way to do that is to pick when the fruit is in balance + really on the early side. I look a lot at acidity numbers in fruit. This isn't just a low alcohol/high alcohol debate. We really want the grapes to hit that perfect edge of ripeness, the window, and it's a really small window. Stephie [Terrizzi] has done a lot of studies on physical ripeness. When to pick is the biggest decision that we make cause we use all natural yeast + no enzymes." – Brian Terrizzi owner-winemaker of Giornata w his wife Stephanie focuses entirely on Italian varieties grown in Paso Robles. Their first commercial vintage was 2006.

A photo posted by Hawk Wakawaka (@hawk_wakawaka) on

Clos Selene

Aaron & Aequorea

Adelaida Cellars

"They seen what was coming. They got hooked up w John[Munch to start the Adelaida label]. I was just out here clearing land + doing what I needed to do. John came to me + said, what's the worst piece of ground you got? And I thought of that piece [that is now Adelaida's Lower Viking Vineyard] cause I hated that piece down there. [laughing] It was all poison oak. We didn't rip it. We didn't even have a tractor. And then we were worried about how many rocks we'd pull up. You know, it [vineyards in the Adelaida District of Paso] was all new. This one guy took great care to plant a vine right on top of a big rock. [laughing] He placed soil carefully up all around it. That vine is still there. That was 1991." – Mike Whitener has served as the Adelaida Ranch Manager for 40 years. His father was Ranch Manager before him. Mike was born, raised + has lived his life in the Adelaida District. As he explains, he's left several times but always wanted to come back.

A photo posted by Hawk Wakawaka (@hawk_wakawaka) on

Alta Colina

"I got this concept that I was going to grow wine + make wine back in 1970. It was a long hill ahead but fortunately when I retired I had this little bundle I could use to get started to do it. But in that time period I had these phases where what I was drinking changed. In the 1970s I was a Cab guy. Then I got into Grenache + for about ten years I was a Zin guy + then I moved to the Central Coast + discovered Rhones. At the time I started planting this vineyard that's just what I was drinking. It also seemed like the Rhones were the best fit soil + climate wise + some of the best wines I drank from Paso were Rhones." – Bob Tillman shares how he fell in love w growing + making Rhone wines in the Adelaida District of Paso. Here we sit near 1700 ft beneath an oak tree at the top of the Grenache + Syrah block tasting older vintages of his Alta Collina red wines.

A photo posted by Hawk Wakawaka (@hawk_wakawaka) on

Lone Madrone

Tasting an 8 vintage vertical, 2000 to 2007, of Lone Madrone Cabernet from York Mountain just west of the Paso Robles AVA.

A photo posted by Hawk Wakawaka (@hawk_wakawaka) on

The Oldest Coastal Live Oak on the West Coast

Halter Ranch

Resource Conservation

Tablas Creek

James Berry Vineyard

Saxum

The Feet of Vineyard Travel

For @clarecarver: feet darker than my face from summer vineyards + filthy from the decomposed rock of west Paso Robles.

A photo posted by Hawk Wakawaka (@hawk_wakawaka) on

Fossilized Whale Bones

Zenaida Cellars

Pelletiere 

Ranchero Cellars

The Templeton Gap

A quick drive towards the Pacific through the Templeton Gap. Such a refreshing stop in the ocean wind.

A photo posted by Hawk Wakawaka (@hawk_wakawaka) on

A Little Goat

Monte is busy telling me all about life in the Willow Creek District of Paso Robles.

A photo posted by Hawk Wakawaka (@hawk_wakawaka) on

York Mountain Winery

Just west of the Paso Robles AVA sits the York Mountain AVA, both recognized in spring 1983. The high elevation York Mountain appellation today includes only one winery, Epoch Estates, + a handful of vineyards. However, the York Brothers, who the AVA is named for, established a winery near the top of York Mountain in 1898. The wood beams they harvested from the old Cayucos Pier. The bricks they made by hand on the mountain. Their York Mountain Winery stood + operated until the 2003 San Simeon earthquake that shook Paso Robles. Today, Epoch Estates own the original York Mountain Winery property + is in the process of restoring the original winery building using the old wood beams + bricks + stone fireplace through restoration + reuse efforts as shown here. The building once finished will be used as the Epoch tasting room w museum + educational components on the history of the region included throughout.

A photo posted by Hawk Wakawaka (@hawk_wakawaka) on

Epoch Estates

Tasting through the current portfolio of Epoch wines as well as a vertical of Epoch Ingenuity red Rhone blend 2009 to 2013.

A photo posted by Hawk Wakawaka (@hawk_wakawaka) on

Paderewski Vineyard

So many Hawks soaring the foothills on the westside of Paso. One of my favorite things to watch them circle + soar.

A photo posted by Hawk Wakawaka (@hawk_wakawaka) on

Pesenti Vineyard

Ueberroth Vineyard

Amadeo Martinelli Vineyard

The Turley's newest property in Paso Robles, the Amadeo Martinelli Vineyard (no direct relation to the cider or the Sonoma gang), hosts dry farmed, head trained Zinfandel planted in the early 1920s in what is now known as the Templeton Gap District of Paso Robles. The vines are inter planted w a mix of cherry, pistachio + even a pear tree. The site includes a historic winery + the unique features of what was once clearly a self-sustaining farm: chicken coops, a root cellar + more. Though the site receives daily cooling breezes from the ocean it sits above the frost zone common to Paso Robles. 2014 is the first vintage from the site for Turley. From barrel it offers the great promise of a Turley Zin with a creamy fresh mid palate, dusty persistent tannin + enlivening acidity. Showing notes of fresh + dried cherry w chocolate + pepper accents on a snappy spine it's a delicious addition.

A photo posted by Hawk Wakawaka (@hawk_wakawaka) on

Ancient Peaks Vineyard

Villa Creek Maha Vineyard

Soren Christensen

Anonimo

Hearst Ranch Winery

Ledge Vineyard

Bella Luna

Getting ready to taste through the red wines of Bella Luna.

A photo posted by Hawk Wakawaka (@hawk_wakawaka) on

A Full Week

Copyright 2016 all rights reserved. When sharing or forwarding, please attribute to WakawakaWineReviews.com.

1

The Masters of Wine Residential Seminar: Australia

Australian Wine

The Annual Masters of Wine Residential Seminar has been taking place this week in San Francisco. The residential seminar serves as the yearly in-person training and educational intensive for the first and second year MW students, as well as the opportunity to spend time with a whole bunch of MWs. People travel from all over the world to attend.

This weekend Mark Davidson led an in-depth seminar on Australian wine for the group. He serves as the Education Director for Wine Australia, the general marketing board for wine from across the Australian continent, as well as part of the MW program. Mark and the MW program were kind enough to invite me to attend the seminar and following walk-around tasting.

The initial seminar included ten wines selected to represent first the classics of Australian wine followed by still evolving newer styles. A walk-around tasting of at least fifty other excellent examples was then available.

Australian Wine: History, Evolution, Revolution

While I was familiar with most of the producers presented in the ten-wine seminar, having current vintages and the ten together was an exciting opportunity. The tasting showed how special wines from Australia can be carrying remarkable life in the glass.

Following are notes on the ten wines.

FLIGHT 1: History

Brokenwood Oakey Creek Semillon 2009, Hunter Valley, New South Wales 11% $32

A classic of Australian wine, Hunter Valley Semillon has no counterpart in the world. Even Semillon from elsewhere in Australia carries a distinctly different expression than the wines of Hunter Valley. It also offers a conundrum of expectation: though the region includes high temperatures, the wines consistently offer intense freshness, and tenacious acidity. 

Fresh, invigorating aromatics followed by a juicy and focused palate of mouthwatering acidity. Notes of Meyer lemon, honeysuckle and just a kiss of creme brûlée carry through an ultra long textural finish. Bone dry and delicious.

* Pewsey Vale The Contours Riesling 2010, Eden Valley, South Australia 12.5% $32.99

Australian Riesling is decidedly dry in style. It is the rare exception that includes enough residual sugar to bump into the off-dry category. Unlike the classics of Germany, producers of the Australian wine are emphatically against the idea that their wines include petrol notes and have done extensive viticultural and cellar research to try and insure against the characteristic. 

Fresh, succulent, and focused aromatics. A palate of mouthwatering acidity tumbled through with chalk, quartz, stones and subtle, textural flavor. Notes of honeysuckle, chalky-white peach and a hint of lime. Pretty, delicious, and will age a very long time.

One of the stand-out wines of the tasting for me – I love the freshness and texture of The Contours. 

* Cirillo 1850 Grenache 2010, Barossa Valley, South Australia 13.8% $84.99

Growing what have been documented as the oldest Grenache vines in the world, the red grape is one of the under-regarded classics of Australian wine. From the best producers, Australia’s old vine sites yield concentration, earthy spice, and loads of mouthwatering acidity. South Australia offers a sense of completeness from this grape without blending. 

Perfumed and elegant with melting tannin, mouthwatering acidity, and a silky mouthfeel. Vibrant and energizing. Notes of bramble, savory mixed fruit, and earthy underbrush, this wine continued to evolve giving ever more delicious flavors in the glass. Delicious with a long, mouth-quencing finish.

One of the stand-out wines of the tasting for me – I kept wanting to go back to drink this wine. 

Yalumba The Menzies Cabernet Sauvignon 2012, Coonawarra, South Australia 14% $54.99

Known for its terra rossa soils, Coonawarra brings that red earth patina to the flavors of its reds alongside a tendency for supple tannins. The region is known for its Cabernet Sauvignon. Its maritime climate offers just enough warmth to soften its tannins and the seaside freshness to keep a wash of acidity on the palate. 

Perfumed and spiced aromatics with a zesty palate carrying an even density of fruit and just a whiff of what Mark describes as “eucalyptus honey” (a pleasant lift in the wine). Savory mixed fruit braid with firmness of tannin with a pleasing backbone of acidity.

Kaesler Old Bastard Shiraz 2010, Barossa Valley, South Australia 14.5% $190

Barossa Valley has been documented with the oldest Shiraz vines on the planet, as well as some of the oldest soils. Shiraz is a classic of the region, historically vinified with a distinctive spice of American oak, in recent decades producers have shifted to the sweetness of French. 

Sweet-spiced with light toast accents throughout, offering a long mouthwatering line and lightly drying tannin. Notes of vibrant mixed fruit and a perfume lift showcasing the smoothness of 35% new French oak.

FLIGHT 2: Evolution & Revolution

** BK Swaby Chardonnay 2013, Adelaide Hills, South Australia 12.5% $55

The Swaby Chardonnay was the stand-out wine of the tasting for me.

Impressive, nuanced, and delicious. BK strikes an impressive balance of freshness tempered by noble sulfide, of gunflint cut through giving fruit. It is somehow almost precious while also sinewed. This wine opens nicely with air carrying lots of life in the glass and a kiss of spice so well integrated you could almost miss it. Best of all, it is just truly nice to drink.

Moorooduc Estate McIntyre Pinot Noir 2012 Mornington Peninsula, Victoria 14% $60

Aromatic and fine-boned, delicate and zesty. Fresh, floral aromatics of rose petal and rose cream carry into the palate with notes of savory, zesty underbrush. Energizing and fresh with supple tannin and mouthfeel. Lots of length.

Jaume Like Raindrops Grenache 2014, McLaren Vale, South Australia 14.2% $50

Unexpected and fresh. Snappy red fruit cloak a beast of savory spice. Wildly aromatic, juicy, fresh, and quaffable. Charming and unconventional. Delicious.

Luke Lambert Syrah 2012, Yarra Valley, Victoria 13.5% $55

Fresh fruit and perfumed accents – juicy blackberries just cut from the bush and served alongside peppery bacon. Long mouthwatering finish and supple tannin.

Grosset Gaia 2013, Clare Valley, South Australia 13.9% $79

Aromatics of fresh-peeled white birch bark and crushed leaves tumble into a velvety mouthfeel and a long, lean palate. Elegant while edgy and energizing. Fresh with a lightly drying finish and just a hint of caramel.

Copyright 2016 all rights reserved. When sharing or forwarding, please attribute to WakawakaWineReviews.com.

1

The Olive Sea of Salento

We’re standing on a second floor patio near the town of Guagnano looking out over a sea of olive trees. Guagnano, in the north of the Salento peninsula of Italy’s Puglia region, grows olive trees in waves. Every few miles there is a sea break of grape vines.

Later that evening we’ve sat for dinner at the brand new Bros. restaurant in the old-town center of Lecce. After the aperitivo we’re offered durum-wheat bread with emulsified olive oil. Puglia is also known for its bread. The two offer a perfect marriage – the almost-rustic nuttiness of the durum wheat spread with the oil’s fine balance of bitter, sweet and peppery; bread and oil each an integral aspect of the peninsula’s food-culture, heritage, and economy.

Puglia produces around 40% of Italy’s olive oil. The region includes over 60 million olive trees. It serves too as one of the country’s economic leaders in olive oil export (as well as for its almost-rustic brand of wheat). In Salento, the southern half of Puglia, small home farms of olive trees are a family’s livelihood.

100 year old olive trees

100-year old olive trees in Salento

Known as Puglia’s gold, the olive oil industry includes a heritage dating back millennia. A half-million trees in the region are over 100-years old, and live trees still producing fruit have been carbon-dated to over 1000 years. Near the town of Ostuni the oldest tree of Puglia stands with a girth of 15 meters, an irreplaceable vessel of cultural history.

In Salento, these elder trees are regarded with a kind of reverential magic. The size and shape of their trunks prove so dramatic it is believed if you stare into the curves of their bark you’ll eventually see signs of your future, like an arborist’s version of reading tea leaves.

We finish dinner. The next day we wake and drive south to the tip of Salento.

Driving the Salento peninsula olive groves wash by in wave after wave of green. Suddenly the Ionian Sea appears rich blue on the right. We are in the southern half of Salento. The olive groves begin to thin.

The Rise of a Crisis

Though the tip of Salento has long served as one of the concentrations of family grower-producers of olive oil for the region, today the farmers are struggling. In 2013 a strange illness first appeared in the trees. Since, they have continued to die.

As a result, the landscape of southern Salento has changed. Areas once floating in green are now barren, scarred by the sharp cut remains of trees that couldn’t be saved by aggressive pruning.

In a neighborhood of small family farms we pull over the car. The trees along both sides of the road are dead. In such areas families have lost tens of thousands of dollars in annual income. Slowly the farmers are excavating the dried up trees to use for wood, or simply burning them. In a region dominated by agriculture, farmers struggle to find new sources of income. The loss of industry affects the overall economy, also impacting the livelihood of those not growing olive trees.

Olive trees affected by leaf scorch

olive trees in Salento struck with leaf scorch

When the crisis appeared in 2013 farmers began to notice that the outer leaves of their trees were suddenly turning brown. Branches would turn so quickly the leaves and fruit would fail to fall as plants do for autumn. Instead, the leaf scorch, as it is called, marks the tree permanently. Initially farmers attempted to prune scorched branches to save the tree but illness would spread.

A New Illness

What was discovered was a bacterium never before found in Europe. Scorched trees consistently test positive for Xylella fastidiosa, also the cause of Pierce’s disease in grapevines. The bacterium in the olive trees of Salento is identical to a strain of Xylella with its origins in Costa Rica. As a result, it is believed ornamental coffee trees imported to Europe without proper quarantine invited the illness. Once infected, Xylella forms a sticky mucus inside the tree’s lymph system blocking the flow of liquid through the tree. Scorched trees essentially die of a kind of fast dehydration that starts in the branches, then takes over the entire tree in an illness called Olive Quick Decline Syndrome.

Though Salento olive trees showed the first known outbreak of Xylella in Europe, since the Salento outbreak the bacterium has also been found in almond trees and ornamental plants in Salento, in mulberry on Corsica, and ornamentals in mainland France. The strain in France differs from that in Salento and neither matches the one we know infects grapevines.

The neighborhood where we pull over is in the area of Salento where symptoms of the olive crisis first appeared. If you know where to look, it is still possible to purchase olive oil made from groves in this part of Salento, though production is reduced.

It is difficult to estimate the disease’s impact on overall olive oil production in the region due to the variable nature of olive harvests. Salento has lost potential volume from affected trees, but even so, the 2015-16 harvest overall is better than the disasterous 2014-15 vintage. Due to a combination of factors, including weather and more normal pests, yields in last year’s harvest were extremely low. Still, it was estimated that the Xylella outbreak would cost the region more than $225 million in 2015 alone. In areas, like this neighborhood, hardest hit by the outbreak many family farmers have permanently lost their crop.

Slightly north, we stop to visit a grove of 100-year old trees. Walking the grove it is clear how the trees gained a reputation as soothsayers. The trunks stand twisted, and braided in decades of growth. The trees also show signs of leaf scorch.

The caverns left by olive trees removed

a grove of caverns where infected olive trees were pulled,
in the distance the 100-year old trees have leaf scorch

Beside the old trees a grove of caverns appears, massive holes left in the ground from 100-year old trees affected by Xylella and pulled out in an attempt to save their neighbors.

The Science Crisis

In another grove trees are hung with white flags and political posters. Graffiti reads “Xylella Mafia,” an allusion to local mistrust of the science behind the illness, and of the government’s handling of the situation. Many believe the olive decline to be the result of a conspiracy launched to benefit the olive oil industries of other countries. As olive oil supply has reduced, the global price of olive oil has increased but especially in region’s unaffected by the Xylella crisis. Some even believe scientists caused the illness by design.

Last month local officials blocked the eradication of affected trees while also placing the scientists working to fight Xylella under investigation. They are accused of spreading the disease.

The EU continues to demand trees be pulled, fearful the illness could spread across Europe. Xylella in the form of Pierce’s disease has been studied for over 100 years. Even so, today the only known solution is to remove affected plants.

Locals dependent on olives for livelihood as well as millennia of cultural history and identity have resisted the EU’s demands. Puglia’s olive oil industry is among the oldest arborist traditions on the planet. Environmental activists and some farmers have fought to preserve the 100-year old groves, afraid that the trees will be pulled and then a cure found, the loss of a region’s cultural legacy. The anti-science activism has angered still others who believe the illness could have been stopped if affected trees had been pulled as originally planned.

a pesticide zone in Salento

an experimental pesticide-use olive grove in Salento

In the meantime, some farmers at the Xylella boundary are experimenting with heavy pesticides in an attempt to kill the bugs that serve as a primary vector for the spread of Xylella. Food scientists fear such chemicals work against one of the ultimate goals of saving the trees by contaminating the resulting oil with pesticides. The bacterium itself does not affect the fruit. At the same time organic farmers are exploring other measures.

Scientists are working to develop new technologies. Researchers working on Pierce’s disease in the United States have been experimenting with the use of phages, anti-bacterial viruses they introduce to diseased vines to fight infection. Some suggest the approach could be developed for trees as well. So far attempts have been unsuccessful.

We return to Lecce to rest before departing the next day. In the morning we are handed a gift. One of Salento’s top arborists has brought each of us a bottle of olive oil. It is oil, he explains, made from the remaining trees at the tip of Salento.

***

To read more about the olive oil crisis in Salento, check out this article in the New York Times from spring of 2015: http://www.nytimes.com/2015/05/12/world/europe/fear-of-ruin-as-disease-takes-hold-of-italys-olive-trees.html?_r=0.

Cathy Huyghe gives a photographic view of the region’s olive trees along with information about the current situation at Forbes.com: http://www.forbes.com/sites/cathyhuyghe/2016/01/14/olive-trees-in-crisis-disease-impacts-southern-italy-photo-essay/#5edf949b279351064a342793

Or you can keep up with international news regarding the situation via the Xylella news feed at olive oil times: http://www.oliveoiltimes.com/tag/xylella-fastidiosa?page=9

You can keep an eye on the crisis via Cantele winery’s US blog here: http://canteleusa.com/?s=xylella&submit=Search The updates available here often look at perspectives from those local to Salento.

Copyright 2016 all rights reserved. When sharing or forwarding, please attribute to WakawakaWineReviews.com.

Why I Love Smith-Madrone

Charles Smith

I have a horrible big crush on Charlie Smith (shown above). He and his brother, Stu (shown below), express pretty much all of the desirable aspects of masculinity a girl born-and-raised in Alaska now living in California (and in love with wine) could possibly want.

Stu Smith inspecting Chardonnay, March 2013

The affection I feel for them parallels the qualities I enjoy in their Smith-Madrone wines – decidedly California flavor bred through a farmer’s tenacity, beautiful fruit wed to wry minerality with herbal deftness. Layer in the poetry Charles hangs in the winery (shown below), and I’m done for.

The romance of Smith-Madrone

Smith-Madrone Vineyards – farmed by Stu while Charles mans the winery – sit near the top of the Spring Mountain District between 1400 and 1900 ft in elevation, in a mix of volcanic soils and sedimentary rock. The site’s knit through by a forest of deciduous and evergreen with a single, historic alley of olive trees. In 1970, when Stu launched what would become the brothers’ project, Spring Mountain held few vineyards.

A small outcrop community from the Swiss-Italian Colony had previously settled the hillsides, dotting the landscape with vines. Others would follow. The Beringer family expanded its holdings to the Eastern slopes of Spring Mountain in the 1880s. The Gold Rush brought new investors to the region. But with the onset of first phylloxera and then Prohibition, the vines of Spring Mountain vastly diminished. Stony Hill and School House Vineyards were among the first to plant again in the region in the 1950s. Then at the start of the 1970s, Smith-Madrone served as part of the lead pack of young winemakers along with Keenan, Yverdon, Spring Mountain Vineyard and Ritchie Creek, planting the Spring Mountain District hillsides before the value of Napa Valley was widely known.

Today, Smith-Madrone celebrates 44 years, one of the treasures of Napa Valley. Their wines are entirely estate made, the fruit grown in blocks spotted about the site’s steep slopes and hillsides in 34 acres of vines. The property is dry-farmed. They have recently released their 2013 Chardonnay, and 2012 Cabernet Sauvignon. Notes below.

Smith-Madrone 2013 Chardonnay

Smith Madrone 2013 Chardonnay

Simultaneously racy and succulent, friendly and focused, the Smith-Madrone 2013 Chardonnay offers fresh aromatics with notes of lemon curd and crisp melon set on a toasted oat cracker. Delicious and pretty with a long finish.

Smith-Madrone 2012 Cabernet Sauvignon

Beautiful aromatics of cedar and herbs carry into a palate of iron and spice with mixed dark fruit. The Smith-Madrone 2012 Cabernet Sauvignon carries a surprising composure – ample flavor on a moderate body with a supple-while-snappy backbone of tannin. Mouthwatering acidity balances through a long finish. This is a young, taut wine today that would benefit from a few years in cellar.

Alternatively, it opens significantly on the second and third day with the fruit that sits behind the herbal elements on the first day stepping decidedly to the fore. For those familiar with Smith-Madrone’s green and lean 2011 Cabernet, the 2012 is a completely different animal. The brothers tout the by-vintage character of their winemaking and the Cabernet serves as a perfect illustration of that truth.

***

Happy New Year!

To read more about Smith-Madrone, you can see one of my previous write-ups from a lunch I shared with them in 2013 that was recommended by Eric Asimov for NYTimes.com: http://wakawakawinereviews.com/2013/06/19/a-life-in-wine-stu-and-charles-smith-smith-madrone/

For more recent looks at the Smith brothers’ work, Eric Asimov asks them how Smith-Madrone has handled the drought here http://www.nytimes.com/2015/08/26/dining/wine-california-drought.html?emc=eta1 and Esther Mobley of the San Francisco Chronicle considers Cabernet from beyond the hillsides of Napa Valley here http://www.sfchronicle.com/travel/article/Venture-beyond-the-valley-floor-in-Napa-6584745.php. Both articles have paywall restrictions.

Copyright 2016 all rights reserved. When sharing or forwarding, please attribute to WakawakaWineReviews.com.

World of Fine Wine 50th Edition

What is without question one of the finest wine magazines in the world, The World of Fine Wine, has just released it’s 50th issue. To celebrate, they created a special anniversary edition with an art piece commissioned specifically for the 50th cover, and devised a themed focus for the feature writing — the art of wine communication.

The feature writing, then, digs into various forms of wine communication with articles by some of the wine world’s thought leaders including philosopher Barry Smith, celebrated importer Terry Thiese, poet Judy O’Kane, and award winning journalist Mike Steinberger. I couldn’t be more thrilled than to have The World of Fine Wine editor, Neil Beckett, ask me to be one of the feature contributors as well.

For the 50th edition, I’ve written a feature considering visual communication of wine looking at examples in various media from across the world of wine including wineries in the United States, tasters in Europe, and my own work as well. The article includes illustrations from photography, painting, graphic design, and my drawings. 

Here’s a sneak peek. 

50th Edition cover World of Fine Wine

Wine Without Words: Visual Communication
Elaine Chukan Brown

For those of us deep in our love of wine, it is easy to forget how cryptic our language for it can be. Discussions of mouthfeel, structure, tannin and acidity can sound like code or a foreign language to the uninitiated. Even quite common aroma and flavor descriptions of wines can sound alien to novices, who find it hard to imagine that a grape-based beverage really can smell like blueberries, olives, and moss, or that such a combination could be appealing. Tasting notes that offer lengthy lists of such descriptions have been repeatedly criticized for their opacity. The challenge of wine communication, then, rests in finding ways to make wine more accessible, not less.

The challenge of wine

What makes it so hard to communicate about wine? Wine itself is a non-verbal experience. It comes to us in aromas, flavors, and texture on the palate. Such sensory experiences sometimes resemble others we’ve had with various fruits and other foods. But we can find it difficult to translate the non-verbal experience of our senses into words. To put that another way, wine’s natural home is in the senses. The words are given after.

To write about a sensory experience is to translate impressions from aroma, taste, and touch into the abstract realm of language. For those of us who are strongly rooted in verbal lives, the translation comes readily. We simply think through words. For those of us who are far less verbal, the distance between that initial sensory experience and its description seems an impassable gulf, one that fails to capture how it feels to love wine. Visual communication of wine offers a unique alternative.

The power of visual communication

Visual representations have only recently begun to appear in the world of wine. Over the past year, owner-winemakers Chris and Sarah Pittenger of Gros Ventre Cellars on California’s North Coast, for example, began to share photographic representations of their Pinot Noir that they call taste plates. Gros Ventre taste plates present a foraged collection of literal descriptors–raspberries, mushrooms, and dried herbs, for example–meant to capture the aroma and flavor profile of a particular Pinot Noir via a photograph. The effect is a photographic expression of a tasting note for their wine. The advantage of the Pittenger’s taste plates rest in their …

To continue reading this article you’ll need to pick up a print or electronic copy of Issue 50, December 2015, of World of Fine Wine.

The cost of subscription is not inexpensive, but the quality of writing you get, the independent reporting and tasting, is comparable to none. It’s a must have subscription for any passionate wine lover, regularly showcasing writing from the finest wine writers in the world including Andrew Jeffords, Hugh Johnson, Jancis Robinson, Jasper Morris and others. The magazine also strives to seek out and find fresh new voices. Additionally, the magazine reviews fine wine from around the world via a multi-taster panel. The advantage of this rests in its multiple perspectives. The tasting panels print reviews from each of the (usually three or four) tasters so that you can get a more in-depth view of each wine from three differing, respected palates.

To subscribe electronically: https://www.exacteditions.com/read/finewine – from the UK, or
https://itunes.apple.com/gb/app/world-fine-wine-magazine/id894045101?mt=8 – from the US

To subscribe in print: http://finewinemag.subscribeonline.co.uk/print-subscriptions/finewine

You can also purchase individual issues singly: http://finewinemag.subscribeonline.co.uk/back-issue

For Love of Pinot Meunier

Last year I celebrated 12 Days of Christmas by enjoying a different 100% Pinot Meunier every day for 12 days. It was wonderful. Pinot Meunier is the grape that made me irretrievably fall in love with wine. Burgundy and Tuscan Sangiovese were the two wines that had made me start paying attention to wine, but it was Pinot Meunier that ruined me for life.

It’s no small thing that Pinot Meunier won my heart. Though it is widely planted through Champagne, it is actually quite uncommon to find a 100% Pinot Meunier bottling anywhere sparkling or still. So for me to happen upon a still red Pinot Meunier by Eyrie Vineyards rather accidentally early in my wine education is surprising.

Though claims have long been made that the variety doesn’t age, the truth is Pinot Meunier can age wonderfully. I’ve been lucky enough to taste examples of still red Pinot Meunier from as far back as the 1970s that not only held up but developed a sultry earthiness in that delicate frame I couldn’t get enough of.

There has also often been talk of the variety lacking finesse for sparkling wines but, again, with the right vintners that couldn’t be further from the truth. My very favorite examples have been extra brut or no dosage. The fleshiness of the grape seems to do well without added sugar. That said, there are some delicious examples of brut sparkling Pinot Meunier as well. Egly Ouriet brut “Les Vigney des Vrigny” was the first sparkling example I ever tasted years ago and it’s definitely recommended.

Visions from Instagram

Over on Instagram I share photos with explanatory captions when I’m on wine trips or working on detailed projects, like the 12 Days of Pinot Meunier. With the wine trips especially the collection of photos from a particular wine region tend to go fairly in depth and all together share the story of a region.

I’ve been asked by several of my readers if I’d be willing to gather some of these photo sets from Instagram and share them here so that the information is more readily accessible. Over the next several months in the New Year, then, I’ll be posting some of those regional collections here alongside more in-depth features on producers from those regions.

Several people also asked if I’d please share my holiday with Pinot Meunier from Instagram here. With that in mind, here is the collection captured from Instagram in screen shots. Thank you for asking, and enjoy!

Happy Holidays!

12 Days of Pinot Meunier

Day 1: The Eyrie Vineyards 1996 Pinot Meunier

1996 Eyrie Pinot Meunier

A very special bottle I’ve been saving. Eyrie Vineyards 1996 Pinot Meunier. Simultaneously gentle + energizing. Earthy red fruit with wonderful acidity + a long silvery finish. Gains more + more life the longer it’s open. Happiest of holidays!

Day 2: Jerome Prevost La Closerie Les Beguines (2009)

Les Closerie

Prevost La Closeries Les Beguines. YES YES YES. Some wines remind you what a complete privilege it is to receive. So excited, grateful + INTO IT. … Beautiful, chiseled stone fruit aromatics with a giving while finessed palate. The extra-brut brilliantly nips the edges of an otherwise generous palate washing wine. Ecstatic acidity, again, beautifully housed in earthy fruit and a fleshy finessed texture, with a devastatingly long finish. 

Day 3: Lelarge Pugeot Les Meuniers de Clemence (2010)

Meuniers de Clemence

The first all Pinot Meunier bottling from the Lelarge family. Lelarge-Pugeot Les Muniers de Clemence, 2010. Almond leaf + pear on the nose carrying forward alongside hints of lime + cherry on the palate with a bit of ruddiness + lots of mouthwatering acidity moving into an ultra long finish. Shows the ruddiness of clay with the amplitude of chalk. Thanks for your help, Mr Michael Storyteller Alberty. 

Day 4: Breech et Fils Vallée de la Marne (2009)

Bereche et Fils

Bereche et Fils Valle de la Marne, 2009 vintage. Beautifully delicate almond nose with hints of pear carries forward into super mouthwatering, screaming fresh acidity with a giving mid palate + decades of length. Warms into further breadth with still loads of precision. Thank you, Ambonnay Bar, for helping me locate this wine. 

Day 5: Chartogne-Taillet Les Barres (2009)

Chartogne Taillet

Chartogne-Taillet Les Barres, 2009 – ungrafted old vines, small older barrels, 60 months on lees. Aromatics of dried pear, leaf + red cherry pit carry forward into the palate alongside toasted almond and rolling acidity with a finish till tomorrow. Nice textural presence + a classic PM fleshiness. Warms into greater breadth + almond. (Don’t tell but I’m about to drink it with instant ramen. Whoo! It’s the holidays!) Thank you to Jesse Salazar + Gabriel Clary for helping me track this down.

Day 6: Best’s Great Western 2012 Old Vine Pinot Meunier

Best's Great Western

Best’s Great Western 2012 Old Vine. Some of the oldest Pinot Meunier vines on the planet. Established in 1867 + still producing. Concentrated rhubarb + red berry earthiness with bright, balanced acidity + saline mouth watering length. Wants lots of air. Great open into day 2. (Didn’t last past day 2.)

Day 7: Christophe Mignon 2008 Brut Nature 

Mignon

Christophe Mignon 2008 Brut Nature. Biodynamic 5th generation grower-producer specializing in Pinot Meunier. Subtle aromatics of bitter almond with delicate, bitter almond + almond paste palate, loads of structure + length. 

Day 8: Teutonic 2013 Borgo Pass Vineyard

Teutonic

Teutonic 2013 Borgo Pass Vineyard (named for the gateway to Castle Dracula, Romania). Southern point of Willamette Valley, as far West as you can get in Willamette Valley + as cool, to the edge of ripening. 30-year old vines. Smells of cherry blossom + lilac cream. Pin tight focus, almost as light as rosé, singing acidity, palate of ferric red fruit, wolf’s hair + Veronica Lake in a silk dress. Makes me wanna wiggle till I stand up to dance. Thx to Mr Alberty for helping me secure a bottle.

Day 9: Vineland 2011 Pinot Meunier

Vineland

Vineland 2011 from Niagra Escarpment, Ontario, Canada. Grown in the Great Lakes cooling effect with good drainage. All about spice, red fruit + gulpability this wine comes a little chunky + weighty for the subtlety the grape can offer. Still, a fun find out of Canada + a value. 

Day 10: Darting 2012 Pinot Meunier Trocken; Heitlinger 2009 Blanc de Noir Brut 

German Sparkling and Still

German bifocal-sparkling + still. Heitlinger Sekt Blanc de Noir 2009. Almond + cherry blossom + hints of melon aromatics followed by ultra tight palate + giving length. Darting 2012 dry from Pfalz. Fresh picked cherries on a hot day + served with toast with juicier all warm red cherry palate. Savory mineral accents + finish.

Day 11: René Geoffroy 2008 Cumières Rouge Coteaux Champenois. 

Coteaux Champenoise

Rowr! Hello, lover. René Geoffroy 2008 Cumières Rouge Coteaux Champenois. Delicate aromatics of chalky cherry blossom + musk. A tiger on the palate – all enthralling striped complexity, muscled minerality, mouthwatering acidity + endless length. Flashes of red fruit framed in lean chalky sweat minerality.

Day 12: Lahore Freres Blanc de Noirs 2009 + Rosé de Saignée w Eyrie 2012 Pinot Meunier
Laherte Freres

Laherte Freres Blanc de Noirs 2009, Rosé de Saignée + Eyrie Vineyards 2012 red. Brilliantly paired with first sushi, then charcuterie + cheeses, then pork loin, potatoes + brown basmati rice. Yum (+ thank you). 

To follow me on Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/hawk_wakawaka/

I also received numerous requests to get Hawk Wakawaka t-shirts back in stock over at my shop. So, Pho t-shirts and Pinot Noir t-shirts are now both available in a range of sizes, as are my biodynamics posters and Corison 25-yr Vertical art prints. Here’s the link: https://www.etsy.com/shop/HawkWakawaka

Copyright 2015 all rights reserved. When sharing or forwarding, please attribute to WakawakaWineReviews.com.

Illustrating Sonoma Cabernet

The editors of Wine & Spirits asked me this Fall to take on a rather unusual project. They wanted me to get to know the shape of Sonoma Cabernet. As Joshua Greene, W&S Editor, presented it to me, as a group they could readily articulate the shape of Napa Valley Cabernet. That is, there’s a recognizable character to the famed Valley’s Bordeaux reds but that of those same grapes grown one county West is less well-known. 

Sonoma County stands as the largest of the North Coast counties. With its reach all the way from the Pacific, across several river valleys and into the Mayacamas that separates it from Napa Valley, Sonoma’s growing conditions vary widely. A few pockets in the region capture the ideal warmth-light-and-drainage combination needed for Cabernet. Greene asked if I would focus in on four of these sites, dig into what makes them unique, and articulate how those conditions show in the wine. Through illustration. My task was to draw the sites and wines, not how they taste, but their shape on the palate. 

To be honest, this was one of the hardest projects I’ve done so far in wine. It was an incredible amount of fun at the exact same time that I felt like I was having to change fundamental aspects of my thinking to make it work. Illustrating the shape of a wine and its relation to its site isn’t anywhere near as straightforward as illustrating tasting notes as I usually do here. The resulting illustrations bare imagistic relation to the sites from which they arise but really are meant to show what you’ll find in the bottle. Have you ever had a wine that tastes like a mountain? I drew two. (They taste like very different mountains.)

Having put so much into the project it was a wonderful bonus to then have the editors select my work for the December cover. The illustrations themselves appear flat inside the magazine coupled with text about the project and each of the sites. The editors also printed the illustrations and placed them, as if labels, on bottles for what turned out to be the cover. Here’s a preview… 

Wine & Spirits Dec 2015

The Shape of Sonoma County Cabernet Sauvignon
text and illustrations by Elaine Chukan Brown

The Pacific coast, the Russian River and the Mayacamas Mountains shape Sonoma County. Vines fill the region, reaching up the ridge lines and blanketing the valleys.

The Coastal Range protects much of Sonoma County from the direct effects of the Pacific Ocean. But thanks to the Petaluma Gap and canyon folds within those coastal mountains, cool maritime air reaches vines throughout the county. It’s a Pacific chill that might only tickle Sonoma’s eastern side, but when I drink finely grown Sonoma County cabernet, I can taste that maritime breeze.

Perhaps it’s that I’ve been lucky enough to spend a lot of time in Sonoma vineyards. I’ve begun to form associations between the conditions of the site and the experience of the wine, to associate angular tannins with mountain vineyards, and fuller, rounder wines with warmer temperatures or more generous soils. The place a wine is grown begins to take shape on the palate. It’s an experience that differs from that communicated in a typical tasting note.

Tasting notes describe a wine’s …

To continue reading pick up a print or electronic copy of the December issue of Wine & Spirits Magazine, available now. The issue includes an in-depth look at five regions from Australia via the recent Sommelier Scavenger Hunt; the year’s best Champagne, Barolo & Barbaresco, US Cabernets, Porto, and others; a dining guide to Montreal (my favorite); a look at pairing food with sweet wines, and more. Here’s a peek inside the December issue: http://www.wineandspiritsmagazine.com/S=0/subscriptions/entry/december-2015

For more information on how to subscribe: https://members.wineandspiritsmagazine.com/Subscribe/Select

The OUP Blog & The Oxford Companion to Wine

The Oxford Companion to Wine

The Oxford University Press (OUP) officially released the 4th edition of the Oxford Companion to Wine in mid-September. In celebration of the new edition, the OUP asked some of the contributors to write an article that relates to important new entries in the 4th edition. The articles touch on ideas found in the Companion while exploring them in a way distinct from actual Companion entries, and are shared weekly on the OUP blog.

In the 4th edition, I wrote a new entry on the impact social media has had in the world of wine (as well as two others – a new one on “Sustainability,” and a complete update on “Information Technology”). As a result, the OUP editors asked if I would write an article on Social Media for their site. It posted today. Here’s a look…

Wine & Social Media

Social Media

Can Instagram really sell wine? The answer is, yes, though perhaps indirectly.

In recent years the advent of social media, considered to be the second stage of the Internet’s evolution – the Web 2.0, has not only created an explosion of user-generated content but also the decline of expert run media. It’s a change that has led to the near demise of print media, the decline of the publishing industry more broadly, and a revolution in what it means to sell wine.

Social media has dramatically changed how information is shared. Wine experts and consumers alike now more often share information about wine via social media channels such as Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and wine blogsNielsen studies show that Internet users spend more time on social media sites than any other type of Internet site. This has changed the way news is shared, and even what consumers see as relevant information. As a result, consumers today are swayed far more by the influence of their online peers rather than expert authority. It’s led (among other things) to fewer permanent wine critic positions.

Prior to social media, readers and consumers turned to industrial media sources, and established wine critics for expert opinion. There was no access to the mass of information freely available today online. Expert opinion, then, was communicated via…

To read the rest of this article, head on over to the OUP site, where it appears free. Here’s the link: http://blog.oup.com/2015/11/wine-social-media/#sthash.L3OZN1AR.dpuf

California 2015 – early, small and distinctive

Sonoma Mountain CabernetAs I travelled across California this summer and autumn a few things proved consistent. Most vineyards – whether hillside or valley floor, North Coast, southern portions of the state or further inland – exhibited reduced yields via either smaller clusters, berry shatter or millerandage, and harvest came early. A warm winter followed by a chilly spring meant fruit set suffered. Reduced fruit set (this picture shows Cabernet clusters on Sonoma Mountain) and smaller berry size led to significantly smaller yields than usual, as well as greater concentration of colour, acidity, tannin and flavour. Weather conditions across the state, as well as California’s fourth successive drought year, created these common themes for America’s largest wine-producing state.

However, wine quality in a year such as 2015 will be highly dependent on the health of the vineyard. In regions with higher portions of shatter and shot berries, producer’s propensity to sort to avoid sharp acidity and bitter flavours will also be an important factor. When it comes to the release of California’s 2015 wines, we can expect to see a significant drop in single-vineyard bottlings, and in the boutique rosés from California that have been so popular these last three years. While we should expect much smaller volume in fine-wine sales specifically for the 2015 vintage, there will be little impact on the number of bottles of California wine available overall since before 2015 California experienced three good-quality, high-volume years in a row. As a result, many producers are still loaded with stock from 2012, 2013 and 2014. While fine-wine enthusiasts will have to work harder to secure their favourite producer’s cuvées from 2015, most consumers are unlikely to notice a drop in availability for wines from the state in general.

The role of drought in the quality of 2015 wines

As the drought continues, farming decisions have become progressively more important to wine quality, even in vineyards reliant on irrigation. The 2015 growing season was marked by temperature variability throughout. That combined with the drought meant that continual attention to the vineyard proved especially important. Along with increased vineyard attention has come a need for farming decisions made increasingly vine-by-vine. Brook Williams owns and farms Duvarita Vineyard just west of the Sta Rita Hills and Santa Ynez Valley appellations in Santa Barbara County. As Williams explains, ‘We were more aggressive with pruning in February since it had already been a very dry winter. …

Curious about California’s 2015 harvest? To continue reading news + insights from producers throughout the state in this article, you’ll need to sign into JancisRobinson.com. 

http://www.jancisrobinson.com/articles/california-2015-early-small-and-distinctive

Subscription is £6.99 a month or £69 per year ($11/mo or $109 a year for you Americans) and includes searchable access to the Oxford Companion to Wine ($65) and the World Atlas of Wine ($50) as part of the subscription costs, as well as interactive discussions on the Purple Pages. Click here to sign up.

2

World of Fine Wine Feature: Strange Synchronicity

Look! That’s me there featured on the cover! 

World of Fine Wine Issue 49

A peculiar thing happens for those of us who spend all our time tasting with winemakers: The wines begin to taste like the personality of the man or woman in front of us. It’s a strange moment to find synchronicity between the character of the wine and that of the winemaker, but there it is. More often than not, they match. “That’s why I love Burlotto wines,” Ceri Smith tells me. Together we are drinking, and talking, Italian wine. She’s begun to tell me about the work of winemaker Fabio Alessandria of Piedmont’s GB Burlotto, and to compare his wines to his personality.

Ceri Smith owns the respected Italian-focused wine shop Biondivino in San Francisco and she created the wine list at the reboot for famed Italian restaurant Tosca, in the same city. In her decades of work with Italian wine, Smith has gotten to know a range of Italy’s best winemakers.

She continues describing Alessandria’s character, and his work in wine. “Fabio is quiet, shy, and introverted, and his wines are these beautiful floral expressions. They feel just like Fabio: quiet, delicate, and strong.”

Later, viticulturist and winemaker Steve Matthiasson describes a similar experience. Matthiasson manages esteemed sites throughout Napa Valley such as Araujo, Chappellet, and Trefethen, while also making wine for his own eponymous label.

As Matthiasson explains, several years ago a group of Napa Valley winemakers were able to taste a range of wines from Burgundy with the Domain de la Romanée-Conti co-gérant and winemaker Aubert de Villaine. The group had gathered a series of paired wines. Each pair was made from the same vineyard but by two different winemakers. De Villaine knew the sites and the winemakers well. Throughout the tasting, Matthiasson relates, the wines from each vineyard set would share some core flavor commonalities but have a starkly different sense of character. One wine would seem flamboyant and lush compared to its sibling’s reserved austerity. One wine would feel edgy and intellectual, while the other was more immediately pleasurable. Tasting through all the wines, Matthiasson says, de Villaine consistently explained the contrast between the paired wines with reference to the personality of the winemakers. The flamboyant wine always matched the effusive winemaker; the reserved wine, the more reticent one.

This experience occurs with American wines as well. In one of my strangest tasting experiences, I tasted a California Tempranillo from a winemaker I’d never met and knew nothing about and discussed the wine with her assistant. While tasting the wine, I described aloud what I saw as the character of the wine. It drank with a sense of sophistication and rusticity simultaneously. I said, “as if she’d been raised in a fine family with all the lessons of etiquette but in adulthood went on to become a rancher.” In describing the wine, I was speaking of if like a person. I went on, “She still carries herself well in a dress but works hard in the dusty outside.” Looking up from the glass, I realized the assistant had fallen quiet. He explained that the winemaker had been raised in an upper-class family in the southern United States and then moved to California to grow grapes in the Sierra Foothills. Though the winemaker wasn’t a rancher, she did spend all her time farming grapes in the dusty mountains. The similarity of my description of the wine with the winemaker’s life stunned both of us.

It seems unlikely that a science of personality in winemaking could ever develop. Go too far, and it starts to sound like blind tasting winemaker personalities, or the vague generalities of horoscopes. Even so, such strange synchronicity often occurs. So, let us begin to explore the phenomenon. And to start, let’s consider how personality develops. …

To continue reading this article you’ll need to pick up a print or electronic copy of Issue 49, September 2015, of World of Fine Wine.

I couldn’t be more thrilled than by being the cover feature for an issue of this magazine. My admiration for it runs deep. It’s a must have subscription for any passionate wine lover, regularly showcasing writing from the finest wine writers in the world including Andrew Jeffords, Hugh Johnson, Jancis Robinson, Jasper Morris and others. The magazine also strives to seek out and find fresh new voices. Additionally, the magazine reviews fine wine from around the world via a multi-taster panel. The advantage of this rests in its multiple perspectives. The tasting panels print reviews from each of the (usually three or four) tasters so that you can get a more in-depth view of each wine from three differing, respected palates. If you’re interested in high quality long-form wine writing taking in-depth profiles of region’s and producers, plus regular reflections on wine like mine on personality and craft in winemaking, look into subscribing. Here’s the info. 

The cost of subscription is not inexpensive, but the mass of writing you get, the independent reporting and tasting, is comparable to none.

To subscribe electronically: https://itunes.apple.com/gb/app/world-fine-wine-magazine/id894045101?mt=8

To subscribe in print: http://finewinemag.subscribeonline.co.uk/print-subscriptions/finewine

You can also purchase individual issues singly: http://finewinemag.subscribeonline.co.uk/back-issue

Cheers!