Wine Talk from Creators Syndicate Creators Syndicate is an international syndication company that represents cartoonists and columnists of the highest caliber. en Fri, 15 Jan 2021 09:34:53 -0800 Wine Talk from Creators Syndicate 42433e61a7ff05be75f88ab523166760 The Cork Problem for 01/12/2021 Tue, 12 Jan 2021 00:00:00 -0800 <p></p><p>You may recall the issue of so-called cork taint that ravaged the wine industry not so long ago.</p> <p>Many natural corks were infected with a compound called TCA (short for trichloroanisole, which forms through interactions between plant phenols, chlorine and mold). TCA was a huge problem until recently, spoiling many bottles of wine, including some of the most expensive, with an unpleasant, musty aroma.<p>Updated: Tue Jan 12, 2021</p> b1fd75ebcfa5c1843d74c94a8e7fffc7 Big Winners of 2020 for 01/05/2021 Tue, 05 Jan 2021 00:00:00 -0800 <p></p><p>The many setbacks of 2020 notwithstanding, there were numerous bright spots for the wine industry over the course of the year.</p> <p>As regular readers of this column know, I oversee four major international wine competitions. The insights I gain as I digest the competition results &#8212; from new trends and developments to the confirmation of long-held truths &#8212; give me a unique window into the year-to-year evolution of the wine world.<p>Updated: Tue Jan 05, 2021</p> 992d5ff44d4053c2fa9e66edd323d3e7 2020 Hindsight for 12/29/2020 Tue, 29 Dec 2020 00:00:00 -0800 <p></p><p>Sometime around late February or early March, the biannual Grands Jours de Bourgogne was canceled. It was followed shortly thereafter by postponement, then cancellation of the annual en primeurs tastings hosted in Bordeaux by the Union des Grands Crus de Bordeaux for the wine trade and media.</p> <p>Other dominoes quickly fell as wineries throughout the United States shut down their tasting rooms and canceled sales visits in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.<p>Updated: Tue Dec 29, 2020</p> ca5e9c7fe4ba2457d6da5b2bfcecb0f4 A Schramsberg for the Ages for 12/22/2020 Tue, 22 Dec 2020 00:00:00 -0800 <p></p><p>When the late Jack and Jamie Davies purchased the historic Jacob Schram winery in Calistoga, California, in 1965, they embarked upon what must have seemed at the time to be the impossible dream.</p> <p>Their goal was to produce the finest sparkling wine in America at the 100-year-old winery up on Diamond Mountain. They dreamed of a bubbly that would rival Champagne. Problem No. 1, however, was an inconsistent supply of chardonnay. Yet they forged ahead with dramatic results that inspired a number of prominent Champagne houses (Mumm, Taittinger, Moet & Chandon and Roederer, to name a few) to purchase vineyard land in California.<p>Updated: Tue Dec 22, 2020</p> e474260f208e66b7bd49c87e2e2536d4 Why Champagne Dominates for 12/15/2020 Tue, 15 Dec 2020 00:00:00 -0800 <p>Given a choice between a bottle of Champagne or a sparkling wine from any other corner of the world, most reasonably sane wine enthusiasts would opt for the Champagne. Of course they would. It's more expensive than other bubblies, so it must be better. That's what the smart crowd thinks.</p> <p>Champagne's unique station in the wine culture is so pervasive that even those who know better casually describe all sparkling wine as Champagne. For the record, only bubbly produced within the carefully drawn boundaries of the Champagne district in northeastern France can legally be sold as Champagne.</p> <p><span class="column--highlighted-text">Those boundaries are important because they are the main reason Champagne is unique among the world's sparkling wines and incredibly difficult to impersonate.</span> Champagne wannabes abound. Italy and Spain have a few that come close. So does the United States, particularly in California. Even France has any number of bubblies, typically called cremant, that can be substituted for Champagne when a sparkling wine is called for.<p>Updated: Wed Dec 16, 2020</p> 2c55735fd318af0f4c3c60ca7a6ba604 Winery to Watch: Blackbird Vineyards for 12/08/2020 Tue, 08 Dec 2020 00:00:00 -0800 <p></p><p>Conventional wisdom tells us that the Napa Valley's prominence in the world of fine wine is built upon its extraordinary success with one grape variety: cabernet sauvignon. Cabernet sauvignon, as it happens, is a red grape variety also prominent in the Bordeaux region of southwestern France. Hence the fascination in the Napa Valley with so-called Bordeaux-style red blends.</p> <p>Most are heavily dependent upon excellent cabernet sauvignon. Then there is Blackbird Vineyards in the Oak Knoll District, which was planted with merlot in 1997. Grapes were sold to nearby wineries. Purchased by Michael Polenske in 2003, it has morphed into an ultra-premium boutique winery that now sources grapes from other top-notch Napa Valley vineyards, such as Stagecoach.<p>Updated: Tue Dec 08, 2020</p> 4e3555e09f7bd10b0ed1eadcab1360b6 Budget-Wine Strategies for 12/01/2020 Tue, 01 Dec 2020 00:00:00 -0800 <p></p><p>Early on in my wine journey, I developed a healthy respect for budget wines, and not because I was cheap. My goal from the moment I got hooked on fine wine was to put together a collection of top-notch wines from around the world, a noble but expensive proposition no matter where you shop.</p> <p>What I discovered in those early buying sprees was that I was consuming the collectible wines almost as fast as I could purchase them, which sort of defeats the purpose of creating a personal wine cellar. I wasn't aging my most precious wines to perfection, because I was reaching for a "great" wine to serve with dinner on a nightly basis.<p>Updated: Tue Dec 01, 2020</p> ad48d0789ed7af3f818d3c61b22f14f1 Beaujolais Nouveau Has Landed for 11/24/2020 Tue, 24 Nov 2020 00:00:00 -0800 <p></p><p>Just in time for Thanksgiving, the 2020 Beaujolais Nouveau has arrived. The official release date was Nov. 19. </p> <p>Just as Pilgrims gathered to celebrate the bounty of harvest, the French have a long tradition of celebrating the end of the wine harvest by drinking the so-called vin de primeur, young wines from that year's harvest that have only recently finished fermentation.<p>Updated: Tue Nov 24, 2020</p> 5f42e4e82047fecdc0f2b3e052fc4408 Thanksgiving: Challenge or Opportunity? for 11/17/2020 Tue, 17 Nov 2020 00:00:00 -0800 <p></p><p>The Thanksgiving table is often seen as a challenge by those who seek to serve the perfect wine with every meal. The combination of sweet and savory, and the sheer number of courses, present a bit of a gauntlet for the average wine enthusiast. I take a slightly different approach.</p> <p>I look at the Thanksgiving table as an opportunity. Start with the premise that there is no single wine that suits each course and pleases every palate.<p>Updated: Tue Nov 17, 2020</p> b10b2eb9dd3298dae6f6b2d00ee4889f Winery to Watch: St. Supery for 11/10/2020 Tue, 10 Nov 2020 00:00:00 -0800 <p></p><p>NAPA, California &#8212; Cruising along Highway 29 through the Napa Valley is a feast for the eyes of even the most casual wine lover. From Napa to Calistoga, the hits just keep rolling past: Trefethen, Cardinale, Opus One, Robert Mondavi, Cakebread, Corison, Grgich Hills, Far Niente, Nickel & Nickel, Heitz, Martini, Beringer, Krug, Sterling, to name a few.</p> <p>It's a star-studded neighborhood. Some of the wineries are historic; other are cultish; but all are prominent. This is a remarkable section of the wine world, where even splendid wineries often can and do fly under the radar.<p>Updated: Tue Nov 10, 2020</p> f114472ba23297153aa192a8b119925f Napa Valley on the Rebound for 11/03/2020 Tue, 03 Nov 2020 00:00:00 -0800 <p></p><p>NAPA, California &#8212; The drive south through the Napa Valley from Calistoga to St. Helena, along the Silverado Trail, is one of the most beautiful and iconic in American wine. On one side of the trail, there is Howell Mountain, with its many historic vineyard properties. On the other side, the remarkable Three Palms Vineyard stretches across the valley floor.</p> <p>Along the way, the legendary Meadowood Resort is tucked away and deeply forested in the shadows of Howell Mountain.<p>Updated: Tue Nov 03, 2020</p> e106dcb4cf81b2d90113cfc5916d95e2 Napa Valley Fire Update for 10/27/2020 Tue, 27 Oct 2020 00:00:00 -0700 <p></p><p>On Oct. 20, CalFire announced the Napa Valley's devastating Glass fire was 100% contained. The Glass fire, which raged for 23 days, was perhaps the most destructive in the history of America's most prominent wine region.</p> <p>The wreckage included 67,000 acres burned and more than 1,500 structures destroyed or damaged, including such iconic wineries as Newton and Cain Cellars and the Michelin three-star restaurant at the famed Meadowood Resort.<p>Updated: Tue Oct 27, 2020</p> 2a0be62381ee1e274a7bbd924bbd7eef Wine and Cheese for 10/20/2020 Tue, 20 Oct 2020 00:00:00 -0700 <p></p><p>No matter your level of interest or knowledge, there is one thing you know about wine: Wine loves cheese, and cheese loves wine. You know this because you have heard the wine and cheese mantra over and over again.</p> <p>What you are rarely told is what wine goes with what cheese. That's probably because the choices are subjective. There is no consensus, for example, on whether white wine or red wine is a better match. Besides, there are so many different wines and different cheeses.<p>Updated: Tue Oct 20, 2020</p> 925a3b90f4c68216f4622cf9e7126e42 Merlot Fights Back for 10/13/2020 Tue, 13 Oct 2020 00:00:00 -0700 <p></p><p>October is Merlot Month. Before you yawn, consider this. Merlot was ascendant in the domestic wine market prior to the 2004 movie "Sideways." The movie, filmed in California's Santa Barbara wine region, glorified (rightly) pinot noir and dissed (wrongly) merlot.</p> <p>The widespread popularity of "Sideways," nominated for an Academy Award, had a profound influence on what ordinary folks thought about the two wines. Pinot noir sales soared, while merlot sales plummeted.<p>Updated: Tue Oct 13, 2020</p> 63ec6660c7fa764c749410d7a9201e3f Napa Valley Burning for 10/06/2020 Tue, 06 Oct 2020 00:00:00 -0700 <p></p><p>The Napa Valley is on fire. The worldwide symbol of fine wine in America has been burning for more than a week. The so-called Glass fire is the second wave of fires to hit California wine country's premier tourist destination in the past couple of months. As of this writing, the Glass fire has torched more than 60,000 acres and left much of the north end of the Napa Valley in shambles.</p> <p>The historic Newton winery burned to the ground. Cain Cellars, high upon Spring Mountain above the village of St. Helena, is gone. The historic Schramsberg Vineyards on Diamond Mountain in Calistoga was under siege but so far has survived. The castle at Castello di Amarosa was heavily damaged. The Michelin three-star restaurant at the iconic Meadowood Resort is now a heap of ashes.<p>Updated: Tue Oct 06, 2020</p> e6966672820a45d7028838d7a655eda8 Somm Challenge Standouts for 09/29/2020 Tue, 29 Sep 2020 00:00:00 -0700 <p></p><p>In addition to the top wine (2015 Tom Eddy Greeg Vineyard cabernet sauvignon) and winery (Akash Winery, Temecula) the 13th annual Sommelier Challenge delivered a number of impressive performances that deserve mention, especially as the sometimes-frantic holiday wine-buying season looms just ahead.</p> <p>I will begin with one of the true stars of the annual wine competition season, Navarro Vineyards.<p>Updated: Tue Sep 29, 2020</p> 681514702feba96da22427db1f61aced Temecula's Akash Winery Not the Usual Suspect for 09/22/2020 Tue, 22 Sep 2020 00:00:00 -0700 <p></p><p>The results of a wine competition are often predictable. Round up the usual suspects and you will likely see many of the same wines and wineries bagging gold medals year after year, competition after competition.</p> <p>There was a bit of that at the 13th annual Sommelier Challenge, staged Sept. 12-13 in San Diego. The wine of the year award went to none other than the 2015 Tom Eddy Greeg Vineyard cabernet sauvignon ($195) from the Napa Valley. No surprise there. Tom Eddy is a brilliant winemaker who sources the finest grapes, and he knows what to do with them. He wins often, and he usually wins big.<p>Updated: Tue Sep 22, 2020</p> 7a7dba6408e75d5686b47ff88cd55eaf Somms Spot Value Wines for 09/15/2020 Tue, 15 Sep 2020 00:00:00 -0700 <p></p><p>The conventional wisdom holds that most wine experts, including professional sommeliers, are somewhat snobbish about what they drink. While it may be true that wines that retail for $100 a bottle cause something of an adrenaline rush even before they're tasted, most wine enthusiasts enjoy uncorking a cheap bottle of wine only to discover it is delicious.</p> <p>This was obvious from the results of the 13th annual Sommelier Challenge International Wine & Spirits Competition Sept. 12-13 in San Diego. As executive director of this competition, one of my distinct pleasures is the opportunity to taste and do my own evaluation of many wines awarded a platinum medal over the course of the competition. (Medals include platinum, gold and silver awards, platinum being the top rung).<p>Updated: Tue Sep 15, 2020</p> 0c8dfb964443a21dcd88ded6a754785b Remembering the 2020 Vintage for 09/08/2020 Tue, 08 Sep 2020 00:00:00 -0700 <p>Who could forget the vintage of 2020? Lightning strikes, out-of-control wildfires, an epic heat wave!</p> <p>Yep, that describes the wine-grape harvest of 2020, all right, except that it doesn't. While it does describe much of the action in Napa and Sonoma, it's only one piece, a relatively small piece, of the puzzle.</p> <p>We sometimes forget that wine is produced from New York to California, with other important regions (can you say Virginia, Pennsylvania, Missouri, Texas, Oregon or Washington?) in between. What happens in Napa and Sonoma doesn't even begin to depict the overall goodness, or not, of any particular vintage.<p>Updated: Wed Sep 09, 2020</p> 1ba4c78d31be6817fcccd648341d484d Fall Classics for 09/01/2020 Tue, 01 Sep 2020 00:00:00 -0700 <p></p><p>Whether planning a Labor Day cookout to say goodbye to summer or gearing up for a tailgate party, fall is a beautiful time of year for a barbecue.</p> <p>Over the years, <span class="column--highlighted-text">I've stumbled across several fall classics that have become favorites because they steer me toward wines I've pretty much ignored during the warmer summer months.</span> <p>Updated: Tue Sep 01, 2020</p>