Wine List Design: Avoiding the Pitfalls

I will admit it. I’m one of those people who really enjoy reading through restaurant wine lists. I suppose that’s a good thing, considering that I read more than 1000 of them each year in my capacity as a judge for the World of Fine Wine’s annual Restaurant Wine List Awards.

As someone who has worked in the design industry for decades, I have become, if only through a combination of outspokenness and masochism, the lead judge when it comes to the Wine List Design category of these awards. In this capacity, I review literally every single wine list submitted to the awards as part of the creation of the shortlists for the design category that are provided to all the judges.

As you might imagine, I have developed some opinions about what makes for good wine list design. In the past I’ve shared some of the criteria that I have instituted as part of these awards, but this year, at the request of the World of Fine Wine, I’ve gone farther, and recorded a masterclass webinar on wine list design, entitled Wine List Design: Avoiding the Pitfalls.

It will take place on November 2, at 9:00 AM Pacific Time, and is completely free. If you’re a sommelier, wine director, restaurant manager or owner, and are interested in how to avoid some of the key mistakes I see repeated again and again when it comes to the design of restaurant wine lists, I can guarantee this will be a good use of your time.

Don’t end up with wine lists that look like those above. It’s not that hard to keep your wine list from looking ugly, but it takes a bit more effort and knowledge of some key principles to make it truly excellent.

Register for my masterclass on wine list design.

If you do happen to take the class, I’d love to know what you think. Also, I will also be fielding live questions from the audience during a portion of the 2020 awards ceremony, which will take place on November 30th, 2020 at 5:00 PM GMT.

The post Wine List Design: Avoiding the Pitfalls appeared first on Vinography.

US Wine Finally Embraces Politics

For the longest time, the American wine industry has managed to maintain an apolitical veneer, steering clear of endorsements or positions on everything partisan except the issues most directly impacting the industry. Climate change, of course, bore mentioning, as did immigration issues, especially in California. But even as recently as 2016, the latter has most often been treated with kid gloves, with the labour challenges faced by growers often couched in generic terms rather than partisan language decrying current governmental policies.

The thinking, it seemed, was that overtly political stances served only to alienate some wine drinkers, a population already smaller than everyone would like. But with the polarisation that characterises the Trump presidency, and in the wake of the #MeToo and Black Lives Matter movements, social pressures (not to mention policy decisions and their resulting tariffs and trade wars) have induced the wine industry to take a public stand on issues that it has long avoided. 

The industry is finding that it can no longer simply avoid scrutiny by sticking to tasting notes and vintage charts, recipes and pairing suggestions. Much ado was made on Twitter earlier in the year over a post by the American Association of Wine Economists showing more than $600,000 in donations to Trump and his associated political action committees from key members of the California wine industry, versus a mere $80,000 to his political rivals. 

Even before the summer’s unrest that drove many businesses into declarations of their social values, Trump’s election prompted some in the wine industry to take action, launching efforts to support causes that clearly defined their politics once and for all.

Continue reading this story on JancisRobinson.Com.

This article is my monthly column at JancisRobinson.Com, Alder on America, and is usually available only to subscribers of her web site. If you’re not familiar with the site, I urge you to give it a try. It’s only £8.50 a month or £85 per year ($11/mo or $111 a year for you Americans) and well worth the cost, especially considering you basically get free, searchable access to the Oxford Companion to Wine ($65) and maps from the World Atlas of Wine ($50) as part of the subscription costs. Click here to sign up.

Image ©2020 Emma K. Morris, courtesy of Crush the Vote.

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Wine News: What I’m Reading the Week of 10/18/20

Welcome to my weekly roundup of the wine stories that I find of interest on the web. I post them to my magazine on Flipboard, but for those of you who aren’t Flipboard inclined, here’s everything I’ve strained out of the wine-related muck for the week.

Women and the wine industry. What “IT IS NOT OK”. Spilling it out
It’s not ok.

The Year that Changed the Wine World
Atkin on 71 and 82.

Wineries and Chefs Gear Up Charity Efforts for California Wildfire Relief
Good roundup of efforts.

A Looming Menace for Restaurants: Winter Is Coming
And the Night King hates takeout.

On Wine Bitch
Anne Burchett responds to the UK controversy.

The New Vocabulary of Wine
Whatever you say.

Are wine writers redundant?
We’ve got a couple of years before AIs like this one take over.

NOAA: Dry, warm winter could bring drought to California, Southwest in 2021
La Niña is coming, and boy is she pissed.

How the James Beard Foundation Failed the Most Prestigious Restaurant Awards in the Country
A stinging indictment.

Wine Enthusiast’s 21st Annual Wine Star Award Nominees
Speaking of awards.

Napa Valley’s Spring Mountain, ravaged by Glass Fire, says it will rise from the ashes
But the road is still closed.

Washington, local winemakers hopeful grape crops remain undamaged by wildfire smoke
Not just California concerned.

This Remote Corner of Argentina Is Home to High-altitude Vineyards and One of the Most Far-flung Museums in the World
Get thee to Salta.

Italian Police Smash Fake Wine Ring
Hope your Sassicaia ain’t fake.

Napa’s Nights of Fire on the Mountain
Blake Gray lets Stu Smith tell his own tale.

A wine-tasting postponed 2,000 years
The idea of tasting the past is quite compelling.

Berkeley wineries rally during uncertain times
Like everywhere. Scrappy succeeds.

Does naming a thing help you understand it?
Fascinating article. Aroma memory may not require language.

How this year’s historic wildfires are affecting California’s Wine Country
Mostly a profile of Jordan.

Many California wineries will make no wine this year because of wildfire smoke
Excellent reporting, as usual, from Esther Mobley.

A guide to the best British wines
Jancis on what’s good.

How The Digital World Is Transforming Fine Wine In 2020
Nothing revelatory here, but a good reminder.

Diving into the Shark Tank Wine Case
Blake Gray loves to dive with sharks.

The wine bar story I’ve waited seven months to write
A pop-up wine bar flourishes.

Napa’s Fire Response Overwhelmed and Underfunded
An in-depth article.

Behind The Scenes And Underneath The Screwcaps: Tumultuous Times In The Wine Aisle (Part One)
Cathy Huyghe on the market

Turbulent Conditions Shift The Global Flow, And The Price, Of Wine (Part Two)
Cathy’s article continued.

Taras Ochota remembered
A lovely remembrance of a man lost far too young.

Lulu Peyraud, a French Wine Matriarch, Dies at 102
NY Times Obit.

Lulu Peyraud, 1917–2020
Another remembrance and tribute.

In Trying Times, 20 Wines Under $20 That Revive and Restore
Eric Asimov’s bargain hunting.

The post Wine News: What I’m Reading the Week of 10/18/20 appeared first on Vinography.

Vinography Unboxed: Week of 10/11/20

Hello, and welcome to my periodic dig through the samples pile. I’m pleased to bring you the latest installment of Vinography Unboxed, where I highlight some of the better bottles that have crossed my doorstep recently.

This week included a relatively textbook incarnation of New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc, which affirms the adage that the genre is one of the most reliable in the world of wine. Generally, you’re gonna get something that matches your expectations and tastes pretty good, as this one from Jules Taylor does.

On the other hand, or you might say, the other hemisphere, I’d also strongly suggest you consider the J. Christopher incarnation of the same grape, which is a deliciously cut grass and green fruit expression that I’d be happy to drink any day of the week.

German rosé is a much less-well-known genre than New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc, but it’s one to which we should all pay a bit more attention. This very pretty bottling from Weingut Wittmann in Germany’s Rheinhessen region is worth finding if you like racy, savory pink wines. This family has been making wines in the region for 350 years and is one of the more well-known estates in Westofen. Their wines have been biodynamically produced since 2004 (an early adopter of such practices), and are generally excellent.

Moving on to reds, I’ve got a bunch of Pinots worth paying attention to this week. Let’s start with two really lovely single-vineyard wines from Anderson Valley by cult Pinot Producer Rhys Vineyards. Both are excellent and worth seeking out.

I’ve also got a few Oregon Pinots as well, two from Big Table Farm, the small biodynamic producer in Gaston, and two from J. Christopher Cellars, which is the joint venture between winemaker Jay Somers and Mosel vintner Ernie Loosen, of Dr. Loosen fame. All four are worth pursuing.

Lastly, let’s head back to the Southern Hemisphere for a little Shiraz. The first from the venerable Barossa house of Yalumba, who sent through their “Samuels Collection” Shiraz. Yalumba has been making wines in the Barossa since 1849, and their wines show the confidence of experience, including this moderately priced effort.

It was intriguing to taste what a master of Syrah does with Shiraz, but that’s exactly what we’ve got in the Tournon Shiraz from Michel Chapoutier. And it offers wonderfully juicy, bright blackberry purity that seems fresher and less jammy than some interpretations of the grape from Down Under.

Tasting Notes

2018 Fritz Haag “Brauneberger Trocken” Riesling, Mosel, Germany
Pale greenish gold in the glass, this wine smells of tangerine oil and Asian pear. In the mouth, lovely, silky flavors of Asian pear and mandarin oranges have a wonderful wet chalkboard quality and a beautiful crispness. Bone dry without a trace of sweetness, nonetheless, there’s an aromatic honeysuckle quality to the finish. 12.5% alcohol. Closed with a screwcap. Score: between 8.5 and 9. Cost: $32. click to buy.

2019 Jules Taylor Wines Sauvignon Blanc, Marlborough, New Zealand
Palest greenish gold in color, this wine smells of gooseberries and cut grass. In the mouth, bright green apple and gooseberry flavors have a clean brightness thanks to decent acidity. Straightforward, but pleasurable. 13.5% alcohol. Closed with a screwcap. Score: around 8.5. Cost: $15. click to buy.

2018 J. Christopher “Über Sauvignon – Croft Vineyard” Sauvignon Blanc, Willamette Valley, Oregon
Palest greenish-gold in color, almost colorless in the glass, this wine smells of cut green grass and green apple. In the mouth, cut grass, kiwi, and green apple flavors have a juicy brightness with savory herbal notes and a wonderful salinity. Uber, indeed. 13.5% alcohol. Score: around 9. Cost: $29. click to buy.

2018 Wittmann Rosé of Pinot Noir, Rheinhessen, Germany
Palest baby pink in color, this wine smells of strawberries and hibiscus. In the mouth, bright hibiscus and strawberry flavors have a wonderful citrus snap and silky texture that is quite alluring. Deliciously balanced with excellent acidity and the faintest bit of aromatic sweetness that pairs with a faint herbal bitterness in the finish. Includes some Sankt Laurent fruit as well. 11.5% alcohol. Closed with a screwcap. Score: around 9. Cost: $16.

2018 Rhys Vineyards “Bearwallow Vineyard” Pinot Noir, Anderson Valley, Mendocino County, California
Light to medium ruby in color, this wine smells of earth and candied redcurrant. In the mouth, raspberry and redcurrant flavors are fantastically juicy with hints of dried flowers and cedar. Phenomenal acidity keeps the wine bright and zippy, as notes of candied orange peel linger in the finish. Layered and delicate with barely perceptible tannins. 13.8% alcohol. Score: between 9 and 9.5. Cost: $100. click to buy.

2018 Rhys Vineyards “Porcupine Hill” Pinot Noir, Anderson Valley, Mendocino County, California
Light to medium garnet in the glass, this wine smells of cherry and cranberry fruit and a touch of orange peel. In the mouth, raspberry, orange peel, and redcurrant flavors mix with dried herbs and a touch of earth. Excellent acidity, silky texture, and the faintest of powdery tannins. 13.8% alcohol. Score: around 9. Cost: $90. click to buy.

2018 Big Table Farm Pinot Noir, Yamhill-Carlton District, Willamette Valley, Oregon
Light to medium garnet in color, this wine smells of raspberry, cranberry and forest floor. In the mouth, beautifully savory notes of dried herbs and pine duff mix with raspberry and cranberry notes under a gauzy blanket of tannins. Good acidity, but I would love a little more edge to this wine. 14.5% alcohol. Score: between 8.5 and 9. Cost: $62. click to buy.

2018 Big Table Farm “Cattrall Brothers Vineyard” Pinot Noir, Eola-Amity Hills, Willamette Valley, Oregon
Light garnet in color, this wine smells of green herbs, including a touch of marijuana, redcurrant and raspberry. In the mouth, redcurrant and rhubarb flavors mix with dried and fresh herbs that take on a deeper, earthier note as they head to the finish. There’s a touch of citrus peel that creeps into the finish as well. Lovely acidity and faint, powdery tannins that show a little muscle over time. 12.8% alcohol. Score: around 9. Cost: $62. click to buy.

2016 J. Christopher “Volcaniqe” Pinot Noir, Dundee Hills, Willamette Valley, Oregon
Light to medium garnet in the glass, this wine smells of earth and sweet cherry fruit. In the mouth, bright cherry fruit is shot through with dried herbs and a hint of raspberry jam that lingers in the finish with a touch of citrus peel acidity. Nice juiciness, with herbal notes that gain strength over time. Faint, gauzy tannins.13.5% alcohol. Score: around 9. Cost: $25. click to buy.

2016 J. Christopher “Sandra Adele” Pinot Noir, Dundee Hills, Willamette Valley, Oregon
Light to medium garnet in color, this wine smells of raspberry and cherry fruit. In the mouth, silky flavors of raspberry and dried herbs have a beautiful aromatic sweetness to them. Notes of dried flowers linger in the finish. Faint tannins and good acidity. Named for Jay Somers’ mother. 13.5% alcohol. Score: around 9. Cost: $45. click to buy.

2017 Yalumba “Samuels Collection” Shiraz, Barossa Valley, South Australia
Dark garnet in color, this wine smells of blackberry and black cherry shot through with pink peppercorns. In the mouth, blackberry and black pepper notes mix with licorice and a touch of lavender. Good acidity and fine, powdery tannins. 14.5% alcohol. Closed with a screwcap. Score: around 8.5. Cost: $20. click to buy.

2016 Tournon “Mathilda” Shiraz, Victoria, Australia
Medium garnet in color, this wine smells of sweet blackberry and dried herbs. In the mouth, juicy blackberry pastille flavors mix with a touch of citrus peel brightness and a hint of cedary wood. Excellent acidity and very faint tannins make this a particularly easy-drinking approach to Shiraz. Made by legendary Rhône producer Michel Chapoutier. 14.5% alcohol. Closed with a screwcap. Score: between 8.5 and 9. Cost: $15. click to buy.

The post Vinography Unboxed: Week of 10/11/20 appeared first on Vinography.

Vinography Images: The Green Shine

The Green Shine
SANTA MARIA, CA: Chardonnay vineyards along the Tepusquet Bench shine with late afternoon light, near Santa Maria, California. Raised benchland at the foot of the San Rafael Mountains, cut away by the Sisquoc River, the Tepusquet Bench was an early site of vine plantings in Santa Barbara County.

INSTRUCTIONS:
Download this image by right-clicking on the image and selecting “save link as” or “save target as” and then select the desired location on your computer to save the image. Mac users can also just click the image to open the full size view and drag that to their desktops.

To set the image as your desktop wallpaper, Mac users should follow these instructions, while PC users should follow these.

BUY THE BOOK:
This image is from a series of photographs by George Rose captured in the process of shooting his most recent work WINE COUNTRY: Santa Barbara County, a visual celebration of one of California’s most beautiful wine regions. The book can be ordered on George’s web site.

PRINTS:
Fine art prints of this image and others are available at George Rose’s web site: www.georgerose.com.

EDITORIAL USE:
To purchase copies of George’s photos for editorial, web, or advertising use, please contact Getty Images.

ABOUT VINOGRAPHY IMAGES:
Vinography regularly features images by photographer George Rose for readers’ personal use as desktop backgrounds or screen savers. We hope you enjoy them. Please respect the copyright on these images. These images are not to be reposted on any web site or blog without the express permission of the photographer.

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Napa Licks Its Wounds and Holds Its Breath

As of this morning, the Glass Fire, which burned more than 67,000 acres in Napa and Sonoma Counties is 97% contained. In the 17 days since it sprang to life in the hills to the east of Napa, it has destroyed 1555 structures, damaged 282 more, and caused the evacuations of tens of thousands of Napa and Sonoma Residents.

Most residents have been allowed to return home, some only to discover scenes like the one above, taken on Monday in the Deer Park neighborhood above Napa, an area particularly hard hit by the fire. Even those returning to find their homes untouched, however, can’t rest easy.

Almost the entire Bay Area is under yet another Red Flag, extreme fire danger warning for the rest of the week. And overnight, wind gusts of 60 miles-per-hour were measured on the top of Mount St. Helena on the upper end of Napa Valley.

I woke to unseasonably warm temperatures in the high 70s in Oakland this morning and unusually gusty winds. It’s going to be seriously hot today. The heat and wind combination is the basis for the Red Flag warning, and the reason that Pacific Gas & Electric has begun rolling blackouts around the Bay Area and Wine Country, as they attempt to minimize the potential for wind-caused sparks, as trees and debris impact their aging power infrastructure.

Fire season is not over, and will not be over until we get the first serious winter rains in northern California, which may not arrive for several more weeks.

Wine Country Survives

Driving into Napa Valley on Monday of this week, nothing seemed amiss. Life continued apace, at least, at whatever passes for a normal pace in mid-pandemic. The skies were blue, the air clear, and people went about their lives—masked, but unhurried.

In fact, Napa seemed completely untouched and unchanged just about until I reached St. Helena, where burned-out hillsides and destroyed homes came into view on the right-hand side of the Silverado Trail as I approached the Pope Street bridge across the Napa River. These scars were evidence of the fire’s southernmost progress on that side of the valley.

Napa Licks Its Wounds and Holds Its Breath
Signs for wineries at the intersection of Howell Mountain Road and Conn Valley Road in Napa

I explored back along the southern reaches of the fire, down Howell Mountain Road and back towards Conn Valley, where, as in many places throughout the valley, evidence suggested that vineyards proved to be excellent natural fire breaks, thanks to their general lack of fuel at this time of year.

Napa Licks Its Wounds and Holds Its Breath
Edge of the burn zone with vineyards relatively unscathed.

My wanderings also took me back into the Deer Park neighborhood, swaths of which showed complete devastation. More than once I came upon the heartbreaking scene of a couple or a family standing in the charred remains of their home.

As shocking as was the devastation, so too was my level of surprise at just how many homes survived the firestorm. Undoubtedly a combination of sheer luck, decent preparations by homeowners, and phenomenal heroism by firefighters, the number of houses still standing, but completely surrounded by charred landscape was astounding.

For instance here’s a view looking at the hillsides behind Meadowood. As you can see, the vineyards in front of the Napa Reserve (off camera to the left) are perfectly fine, as are the trees immediately along Meadowood Lane. Behind them, however, the hillside is a wasteland of devastation, save for that single house on the right hand side of the frame, which miraculously still stands.

Napa Licks Its Wounds and Holds Its Breath

As devastating as these fires have been for Napa, it’s hard not to come to the conclusion, even in the face of so much smoldering rubble, that they could have been so much worse. We are still learning the extent of the damage, of course (Spring Mountain Road, notably, remains closed to traffic) but even the structure damage reports from CalFire suggest that for its size, speed, and intensity, the Glass Fire was not nearly as destructive some fires in recent memory. The Tubbs Fire, which burned slightly less than half as much total acreage destroyed almost four times as many structures.

It’s hard to properly balance the horrific damage done at the level of individual properties and homes, and the lack of damage from the standpoint of a prospective visitor to Napa Valley. The destruction was awful, but the vast majority of Napa Valley that a tourist might see on any given day remains completely untouched.

Untouched, however, doesn’t mean unaffected.

Napa Licks Its Wounds and Holds Its Breath
Looking back down into the valley from the Deer Park neighborhood at the foot of Howell Mountain.

The Vintage That Wasn’t

My conversations with winemakers in Napa make it clear that while there was some hope that Napa would sneak by the effects of the Hennessey Fire, which started in mid-august and mostly just sent smoke into parts of the valley, the Glass Fire dashed those hopes to pieces.

Estimates vary, and will continue to vary until the extreme back-log of smoke-taint test results can be worked through by ETS, the primary testing lab in California, but anecdotally as much as 70 to 80 percent of Napa’s red grape harvest may be unviable.

Making generalizations about a vintage, a harvest, a region, or even an appellation remains a dangerous and difficult thing. Exceptions abound. Some people, wary of the heatwave that kicked off this fire season, took advantage of the generally early nature of this vintage and harvested all their grapes before mid-August. That fruit will undoubtedly make exceptional wine, as up until that point, Napa had seen a lovely, uneventful growing season.

Once the Hennessey fire began, and smoke started to fill the air, some producers decided it would be best to get things out of the fields, and so harvested in the days and weeks that followed. One of the side effects of the haze in the air was a limiting of daytime temperatures, which caused a leveling-off of sugar accumulation in some vineyards.

Winemaker Steve Matthiasson found himself staring at the unmoving sugar metrics for a block of Cabernet Sauvignon day after day and eventually just made the call.

“I just said screw it, I’ve never harvested Cabernet at 21.5 brix but the grapes tasted good, and so what the hell,” says Matthiasson. Like many he is still waiting for test results on the wine’s chemistry, but so far, he says, the wine is tasting good.

As the first weeks of September rolled around, the smoke grew thicker in the air, leading to that fateful day on September 9th, when the sun didn’t rise for much of the Bay Area, and an eerie orange light filled the sky, filtering through the smoke that had risen to the lower atmosphere.

Napa Licks Its Wounds and Holds Its Breath
Unedited view from my back yard at 9 AM on September 9th, 2020.

Eventually, that smoke cleared, and Napa, Sonoma, and the rest of the Bay Area were given a respite of blue skies. But for many, the damage had already been done. A number of growers decided they wouldn’t be harvesting fruit this year.

And al that was before the Glass Fire.

Napa’s Cabernet harvest usually happens in October. But this year the Glass Fire happened first, inundating the valley with smoke, and sounding the death knell for most of the fruit left on the vine.

Yes, there won’t be much 2020 Napa Cabernet for sale. Though, given the reputations at stake, you can be sure that anything that does get sold will not be smoke tainted in the slightest.

A Blessing in Disguise?

Most winemakers, faced with a lack of 2020 wines to sell, will have to make some changes to their sales approach. Luckily, most still have not sold their 2018 wines, and the 2019 wines are still in barrel waiting to be bottled. Most producers will simply try to make those two vintages last longer—selling fewer bottles to their customers so that they don’t run out of wine until the 2021 vintage is waiting in the wings.

That may sound like something of a dicey proposition, but I’m here to tell you one of Napa’s dirty little secrets: for many it will be something of a relief.

Remember, we’re not just dealing with fire season here, we’re also dealing with the pandemic, and with the pandemic came the total loss of all restaurant wine purchases for Napa. Most producers larger than tiny boutique operations in Napa are, to use an industry phrase, “sitting on a lot of inventory.” The opportunity, if you can call it that, to not increase the size of the unsold wine pile is one that many will happily take under the circumstances.

Napa Licks Its Wounds and Holds Its Breath

Please Visit, Please Buy

The loss of a vintage is tragic, even in a time of oversupply. Not for winery owners, really, but for all the people they employ. When a winery decides not to harvest its grapes, that means it doesn’t hire the vineyard management company to do the work. And when that vineyard management company doesn’t get hired, they don’t, in turn, hire the vineyard crews to do the work.

Napa’s most vulnerable populations will be the most adversely impacted by the loss of a vintage. And this on top of all the cutbacks that wineries were already doing because of the pandemic.

The largest impact of events like the Glass Fire, other than the immediate loss of property and life, will always be the ensuing reduction in tourism.

Napa and its wineries, not to mention the thousands of businesses in the surrounding communities rely on visitors for revenue. In the wake of the 2017 fires, tourism visits dropped between 30 and 50 percent in Napa and Sonoma. After news of the fires this August of this year, visitation to wine country in Northern California immediately dropped by almost half.

The best thing we can do for wine country is to buy wine, and when we feel comfortable, to visit again. There’s nothing as financially beneficial for the region as a weekend spent in wine country to support restaurants, hotels, wineries, and all the people they employ.

This article has been mostly about Napa, but Sonoma, Mendocino, Monterey, Santa Cruz, and the Sierra Foothills have all been affected by fires this year. It’s probably a pretty safe bet to say that buying Northern California wine of any kind serves up a bit of humanitarian relief.

Wine Country will recover, especially if this week’s Red Flag wind events don’t result in more fires. We’ve seen its resilience before. But we’ll all need to do our part to support that recovery.

Cross your fingers and open a few good bottles.

If you’re looking for ways to help more directly, I recommend the Napa Valley Community Foundation and the Community Foundation of Sonoma County, both of which provide direct aid to those most affected by the wildfires.

The post Napa Licks Its Wounds and Holds Its Breath appeared first on Vinography.

Wine News: What I’m Reading the Week of 10/11/20

Welcome to my weekly roundup of the wine stories that I find of interest on the web. I post them to my magazine on Flipboard, but for those of you who aren’t Flipboard inclined, here’s everything I’ve strained out of the wine-related muck for the week.

OPEN: SVB Annual State of the Industry Survey
If you’re in the industry, please contribute to this valuable source of insight.

Pandemic Planning — Wineries Cut Costs, Some Change Benefits
What wineries have been doing. Lots.

Amber Gardner on how (not) to nurture women in wine…
Another excellent view into fundamental issues in the  industry.

The value of familiarity in wine
Robert Joseph likes to counter prevailing wisdom.

Napa County faces big cleanup job following Hennessey and Glass fires
Remnants of more than 1000 structures to haul away.

Dino Illuminati: A Remarkable 90 Years in the History of Italian Wine
A remembrance.

Private fire crews in California’s wine country raise concerns over equity and safety
Hard to prevent people trying to save their properties.

Napa, Sonoma wineries damaged in Glass Fire plan path forward
Lots of insurance calls.

A smaller harvest spells trouble for Napa Valley’s agricultural workforce
The ripple effects of fires.

No room to breathe: How an antiquated tax system is killing Ontario’s wineries
Not just an American that’s screwed up in this department.

Bandol Pioneer Lucie Peyraud of Domaine Tempier Dies
One heck of a life. One heck of a woman.

Wine’s Covid Winners and Losers
What’s happened to prices.

2020 has been a turbulent year, but it just might be a special vintage for L.I. winemakers
A good year, it sounds like.

Napa firefighter recounts saving Upvalley winery from fast-moving fire
One of thousands of such heroic moments.

For Northern Rhône Reds, It’s Not the Age but the Emotions
Eric writes a love letter to Syrah.

2019 – Germany’s breakthrough vintage?
But will people start drinking Riesling?

A Vintage Lost?
It appears, mostly.

The Gender Pay Gap: How The Wine Industry Stacks Up
Mixed results.

Napa Valley assesses a fire season that could forever alter its tourism economy
Tough times ahead.

Napa wineries dub a ‘true hero’ of Glass Fire: a winemaker on a stunt motorcycle
An amazing, heart-warming story.

The hundred halters
Jamie Good on the 100 point scale.

Twenty Years that Transformed the Argentine Wine Industry
An extremely informative article.

Low Yields, Smoke Concerns Seen Balancing Pinot Noir Supply
Hard to call it a blessing in disguise. But still.

Glass Fire Being Called Worst In Napa History, With Hundreds of Homes and at Least 20 Wineries Damaged or Destroyed
But it could have been much worse.

Santa Cruz Mountains Winemakers Grapple with Aftermath of Fire
An in-depth article on the region.

Wine Pros Aim to Effect Change Through Vines 4 Votes
Buy wine for good.

A Champion of Burgundy’s Underdog
Robert Camuto talks with Jean-Marc Vincent about Santenay.

Winery Visitation Down 48 Percent in Four Key Regions in August  – Community Benchmark
No surprise. We gotta get it back up.

Family, Friends Save St. Helena Winery From Glass Fire
Dangerous, but ultimately successful action.

The Winemakers Behind England’s Sparkling Future
Anne Krebiehl profiles a few.

Here Are 12 Covid-era Wine Consumer Trends
None surprising, most depressing.

Wine Distributor Jailed for Fraud After Using Reality TV to Lure Investors
Shark Tank can’t smell a rat.

After back-to-back wildfires, some Napa winemakers won’t make a 2020 vintage
Many will not.

Is Napa’s wine-based economy too one-sided? Some argue for diversification
But only economic diversity is being discussed.

Why you should buy South African wine
Jancis makes the case.

Just when we need a drink, the U.S. wine industry faces an existential threat
A good rundown, with excellent photos.

8 Best Wines Made by Sommeliers
A collection of some excellent labels.

Immigrant Workers Make ‘Wine Country’ Possible. Now Many Have Evacuated.
Give this one a listen.

Wine Country Starts Picking Up the Pieces
Just in time for the next red flag warning

What It’s Like to Be a Black Man Working in the Wine Industry
Invisible, for starters.

UK Wine Industry Steps into the Unknown
And so it begins

How Winemakers Craft Clean Natural Wines
Interestingly many of these techniques are looked at as “interventions”

Up in smoke
This is a remarkable article with incredible visual data. Must read.

An Estimated 80% of Napa’s Cabernet May Be Lost to Fire and Smoke
Elin McCoy gets estimates from winemakers

Wildfires Destroy Homes and Iconic Wineries in Northern California Wine Country
In which I and my sister have a brief cameo.

The post Wine News: What I’m Reading the Week of 10/11/20 appeared first on Vinography.

Vinography Unboxed: Week of 10/4/20

Hello, and welcome to my periodic dig through the samples pile. I’m pleased to bring you the latest installment of Vinography Unboxed, where I highlight some of the better bottles that have crossed my doorstep recently.

This week included a bunch of lovely white wines starting with an absolutely pitch perfect dry Riesling from Pewsey Vale in Australia’s Eden Valley. This Riesling is grown in a vineyard that was first planted to Riesling in 1847, the earliest such planting of the variety in the country. The estate now specializes in single-site Rieslings, and does a bang-up job of it. At $15, this Eden Valley bottling is a complete steal.

I’ve got a couple of wines from the little Oregon producer Big Table Farm this week, the first of which is their skin-macerated Pinot Gris which, like many orange wines, offers beautifully seasonal Autumn-like flavors with a lovely tannic grip to them that makes this a fantastic wine to drink with a meal.

This week also included Big Table’s Eola-Amity Hills Chardonnay, which offers beautifully herbal and citrus qualities that will charm most drinkers.

In the Chardonnay category I’ve got a few more, including the bottling from Lange Estate Vineyards and Winery, which has a nice resinous note, and two Anderson Valley Chardonnays from cult producer Rhys Vineyards. The first is their regional bottling they call “Alesia” which is a blend of grapes from their various vineyards, which is quite nice. Rhys, of course, is best known for its single-vineyard bottling, like the Bearwallow Chardonnay, which has an elegant delicacy to it and intense lemon and floral qualities.

Lastly, before we move on to rosier things, I’ve got a Viognier from Yalumba, which has a wonderful orange-peel quality that is somewhat rare in the usually-peachy world of Viognier.

Many people are waking up to understand that Germany can produce excellent Pinot Noir, and that means that they can also produce excellent Pinot Noir rosé, as this entry-level bottling from Wittmann shows. It’s crisp and bright and perfect for any situation in which you’d want a rosé, which is to say, nearly everything.

Finally, let’s look at some Pinot Noir before we go this week, the first of which is the Sunnyside Pinot from Big Table Farm. This small biodynamic family farm has been producing some truly excellent wines from Oregon’s Willamette Valley, and this most recent bottling of their Sunnyside Pinot is a perfect example of what makes them special: gorgeous, soaring aromatics, savory nuance, finesse, and balance. If you’re not familiar with the wines, they’re well worth seeking out.

I’ve also got the Pinot counterpart to Rhys’ Alesia Chardonnay above, which is just as worthy a bottling, plus Lange’s “Three Hills” blend of Pinot Noir from various sites around the Willamette Valley, which is also tasty.

Enjoy.

Tasting Notes

2018 Pewsey Vale Riesling, Eden Valley, South Australia
Palest greenish gold in color, this wine smells of green apple, wet chalkboard and a tiny hint of diesel. In the mouth, brilliant tangerine zest and lemon juice flavors shimmer crystalline on the palate. Bone dry and effortless. Quite delicious. This vineyard was first planted to Riesling in 1847. 12% alcohol. Closed with a screwcap. Score: between 9 and 9.5. Cost: $15. click to buy.

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2019 Big Table Farm Pinot Gris, Willamette Valley, Oregon
A beautifully coppery orange in the glass, this wine smells of wet autumn leaves and earth. In the mouth, wet leaves, dried citrus peel and pear flavors have a nice tannic backbone thanks to the time on the skins. 13% alcohol. 133 cases made. Score: around 8.5. Cost: $32. click to buy.

2018 Rhys Vineyards “Alesia” Chardonnay, Anderson Valley, Mendocino, California
Palest gold in the glass, this wine smells of lemon pith and a touch of meyer lemon blossom. In the mouth, lemon juice, lemon pith and pink grapefruit flavors have a brisk zippiness thanks to excellent acidity. Notes of citrus pith linger in the finish. Mouthwatering. 12.8% alcohol. Score: between 8.5 and 9. Cost: $45.

2018 Rhys Vineyards “Bearwallow Vineyard” Chardonnay, Anderson Valley, Mendocino, California
Palest gold in the glass, this wine smells of bee pollen, lemon pith, and grapefruit pith. In the mouth, meyer lemon curd and pink grapefruit flavors are silky and suffused with notes of white flowers. Delicate acidity. Named after the shale soil series in the vineyard: Wolfey-Bearwallow). 12.5% alcohol. Score: around 9. Cost: $90. click to buy.

2018 Big Table Farm Chardonnay, Eola-Amity Hills, Willamette Valley, Oregon
Pale gold in color, this wine smells of lemon curd and a hint of pineapple. In the mouth chamomile, lemon curd and grapefruit pith have a zingy, mouthwatering brightness thanks to excellent acidity. Wonderful herbal notes linger through the finish which has a slightly saline character. Lovely. 14.1% alcohol. 90 cases made. Score: around 9. Cost: $48. click to buy.

2017 Lange Winery Chardonnay, Dundee Hills, Willamette Valley, Oregon
Light greenish gold in the glass, this wine smells of lemon curd, pink grapefruit and a hint of pine resin. In the mouth, tangy lemon and grapefruit flavors have a hint of resinous salinity to them. Notes of bitter lemon and pomelo pith linger in the finish. Excellent acidity and a nice wet pavement minerality. 13.4% alcohol. Closed with a screwcap. Score: between 8.5 and 9. Cost: $65. click to buy.

2018 Yalumba “The Y Series” Viognier, South Australia
Pale greenish gold in the glass, this wine smells of peaches and apricots with a hint of orange peel. In the mouth, apricot and orange peel flavors have a nice briskness thanks to excellent acidity. There’s a faint citrus peel bitterness in the finish. 13.5% alcohol. Closed with a screwcap. Score: around 8.5. Cost: $15. click to buy.

2018 Wittmann “100 Hills” Rose of Pinot Noir, Rheinhessen, Germany
Pale baby pink in color, this wine smells of rosehips and wet chalkboard. In the mouth, crababpple and rosehip flavors have a tart dryness with notes of citrus pith. Bright and juicy thanks to excellent acidity with a chalky minerality lingering in the finish. 11.5% alcohol. Closed with a screwcap. Score: around 8.5. Cost: $??

2018 Big Table Farm “Sunnyside Vineyard” Pinot Noir, Willamette Valley, Oregon
Medium garnet in the glass, this wine smells of the forest floor. In the mouth, wonderful cherry and cranberry notes mix with forest floor and citrusy dried herbs. Silky texture and great length. Faint, supple, powdery tannins. The aromatics on this wine are quite astonishing revealing layers of herbs and dried flowers. 14.1% alcohol. Score: around 9.5. Cost: $62. click to buy.

2018 Rhys Vineyards “Alesia” Pinot Noir, Anderson Valley, Mendocino, California
Medium garnet in color, this wine smells of redwood bark, cherry and cranberry. In the mouth, bright cranberry and raspberry flavors have a faintly candied note to them, but are enlivened with excellent acidity and shot through with a faint dried herbal note. Fresh and juicy. 13.8% alcohol. Score: between 8.5 and 9. Cost: $45. click to buy.

2017 Lange Winery “Three Hills Cuvee” Pinot Noir, Willamette Valley, Oregon
Medium to dark garnet in color, this wine smells of cherry and cranberry with a hint of green herbs. In the mouth, bright cherry and cranberry flavors are shot through with chopped herbs and a touch of cedar. Pretty, with faint tannins and excellent acidity. 14.2% alcohol. Closed with a screwcap. Score: between 8.5 and 9. Cost: $65. click to buy.

The post Vinography Unboxed: Week of 10/4/20 appeared first on Vinography.

Vinography Images: Queens of Harvest

Queens of Harvest
SANTA MARIA, CA: A crew of vineyard workers quickly move vine-to-vine to harvest several tons of Pinot Noir grapes under a foggy, cool sky near Santa Maria, California. Few people know that many harvest workers are women. Santa Barbara County is one of a only a couple of California Wine Regions that were largely unaffected by this year’s fires throughout the North Coast.

INSTRUCTIONS:
Download this image by right-clicking on the image and selecting “save link as” or “save target as” and then select the desired location on your computer to save the image. Mac users can also just click the image to open the full size view and drag that to their desktops.

To set the image as your desktop wallpaper, Mac users should follow these instructions, while PC users should follow these.

BUY THE BOOK:
This image is from a series of photographs by George Rose captured in the process of shooting his most recent work WINE COUNTRY: Santa Barbara County, a visual celebration of one of California’s most beautiful wine regions. The book can be ordered on George’s web site.

PRINTS:
Fine art prints of this image and others are available at George Rose’s web site: www.georgerose.com.

EDITORIAL USE:
To purchase copies of George’s photos for editorial, web, or advertising use, please contact Getty Images.

ABOUT VINOGRAPHY IMAGES:
Vinography regularly features images by photographer George Rose for readers’ personal use as desktop backgrounds or screen savers. We hope you enjoy them. Please respect the copyright on these images. These images are not to be reposted on any web site or blog without the express permission of the photographer.

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Napa Wineries Ask ‘What now?’ As They Survey Glass Fire Wreckage

The following is the introduction to an article I penned for Club Oenologique, a fantastic new online magazine out of the UK focused on luxury wine.

Saturday, 26 September was the last ordinary day for Napa vintner Jeff Smith. He spent it as he often does, hosting visitors at his winery that nestles into the hills on the east side of Napa Valley.

Smith’s Hourglass Winery, just north of St Helena, features a set of caves carved into the hillside and a unique, outdoor winery, topped by an elegant half-roof cantilevered above the cellar door. Out front, the estate’s Blueline Vineyard surrounds a diminutive farmhouse built in 1858, a relic of Napa’s agrarian past.

After visits to the Napa winery, Smith often hosts dinners for guests at the farmhouse, as he did – albeit with social distancing protocols – on that fateful Saturday night.

“It had gotten pretty late as we cleaned up,” says Smith. “So instead of driving home we decided to spend the night. In retrospect, it was good to have one last night there.”

At 4:10 the next morning, Smith’s life, like so many lives in Napa Valley, would change forever as the Glass Fire tore down the hillsides of the Vaca Mountains into the heart of upper Napa Valley.

Continue reading this piece on Club Oenologique.

Image of Viader Vineyards in the wake of the Glass Fire courtesy of Alan Viader.

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