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2012 Pinot Noir Accolades

We have just received high accolades on two of our 2012 Pinot Noirs!

2012 Estate Pinot Noir: Ranked #9 & 97.75 pointsPortland Monthly Magazine, Oregon's 50 Best Wines

2012 Bernau Block Pinot Noir: "Top Red Over $40"Sunset Magazine, 2014 Sunset Wine Awards
Categories: North America

DIY: Watercolor Conversation Starter Cards

 Watercolor Conversation Starter Cards

Hello! Lauren Kelp here of Last week I threw a spontaneous get together for a few new friends to celebrate a great summer over a glass (or two) of K-J AVANT and a festive meal.  I love the idea of sharing a fun fact about each guest on a conversation starter card and placing it at each table setting. This fun DIY is sure to add a little something special your guests are sure to remember! I am going to show you how to make these easy watercolored conversation starter cards.



  • Watercolor paint
  • Thick watercolor paper (in white)
  • A few different sized paint brushes
  • Cup of water (to mix the watercolor with)

All of these materials can be obtained at your local craft store. Don’t get caught up on the size of the paper or the color of the paint. Select a color that coincides with your table theme. I chose a warm burgundy to compliment the fall tones.

Pour yourself a little cup of water and let’s get started!


First step is mix your paint color. Dip your brush into your cup of warm water and mix the brush with your selected color. If your set has a mixing palette, feel free to mix the water and paint in there. The more paint you use, the stronger the color will be.


Take your brush to the paper and start painting. Pour yourself a glass of wine and let the creative juices flow. Watercolor is one of the most forgiving paints, so have fun with it!


Start off with a sweeping motion, adding more or less water for different opacity levels. For an ombre effect, allow your brush to have more water towards the end of the page. This will create a nice fade and will allow the text to really pop!


This was my favorite part of the preparation process! We had eight guests, so I got to play around with different strokes and effects. My favorite was dipping my brush into the water and letting it drip over the page.


If you are in a space that allows for a bit more mess, add a bit more paint on your brush and flick it on the page. This technique gives the conversation starter card a fun, Pollock vibe. Take a paper towel to a corner that hasn’t fully dried yet for a little more texture.


Once you’ve made enough for all your guests, lay the conversation starter cards out to dry on a nice flat surface. While you wait, type the name of each of your guests and a fun fact about them. These fun facts can be introductions to a story, an interesting fact, or something quirky. Don’t forget to format your list to the correct size of your watercolored paper.


Take your dried works of art and load them into your printer tray. Adjust the tray to fit the need of your sheet and press print. The idea is to give your guests a fun starting point for conversation! Forget the boring small talk, add a little spontaneity to your party!


The post DIY: Watercolor Conversation Starter Cards appeared first on Kendall-Jackson Blog.

Categories: North America

Régime de vendanges

La vendange n’est certainement pas la période la plus reposante de l’année. On se lève au milieu de la nuit pour aller vendanger dans la fraîcheur de l’aube, on court des vignes aux cuves pour veiller à ce que chaque chose se fasse à son rythme et en harmonie : maturation, fermentation, macération… et surtout on garde toujours un œil sur le ciel, qui peut jouer les trouble-fêtes.

Vendanges au Château de Nages

Heureusement la vendange est aussi le moment de nombreuses réjouissances. C’est le moment où la vigne délivre sa promesse, qu’elle a patiemment couvée depuis le printemps, c’est l’excitation de faire de nouvelles expériences pour essayer de faire mieux que l’an dernier et enfin… c’est le temps des gâteaux.

Bourboulenc, tout beau tout rose

Traditionnellement préparés par Tina pour nous donner du courage à la cave, ils sont le combustible du vigneron. Je ne serais pas surpris que de leur réalisation dépende la qualité du millésime. Cette semaine en plus de nous mitonner un de ces trésors sucrés, elle a accepté de nous en livrer les secrets.

Voici donc la recette du frère doré du « brownie » : Le Blondie


Tina's Blondies

Pour 32 « Blondies »

Ingrédients :

-175g de beurre doux ramolli
- 220g de sucre brun
- 100g de sucre en poudre
- 2 gros œufs
- 1,5 cuillerée d’extrait de vanille
- ½ cuillérée de sel fin
- 1 sachet de levure chimique
- 200g de farine
- 160g de pépites de chocolat
- 100g de noix de pécan concassées
- 200g de noix de coco râpée

Préparation :

Beurrer puis fariner un moule, de préférence rectangulaire (30cm x 25cm) ou sinon rond (30cm de diamètre). Préchauffer le four à 160°C.

Étaler la noix de coco râpée sur une feuille de papier cuisson et enfourner pour 5 minutes quand le four est chaud. Après 5 minutes, agiter la plaque de cuisson pour retourner les copeaux de noix de coco et remettre au four pour 3 minutes. Les réserver et placer le four sur 180°C.

Battre ensemble le beurre et le sucre en mousse. Ajouter les œufs un à un en battant bien jusqu’à ce qu’ils soient incorporés ; ajouter la vanille en même temps que le deuxième œuf.

Dans un second bol, combiner les 3 autres ingrédients secs (farine, sel et levure). Les incorporer au mélange liquide en battant jusqu’à obtenir un résultat homogène. Ajouter et mélanger les pépites de chocolat, les noix de pécan et la noix de coco puis verser l’appareil dans le moule. Enfourner pour 25 minutes.

Attendre que le blondie est complètement refroidi pour le couper en petits carrés ou losanges, selon vos préférences géométriques.

Categories: Europe

Grasping Gewurztraminer

Castello di Amorosa - Napa Valley - Wed, 10/01/2014 - 04:23

Gewurztraminer, misunderstood and often mispronounced, how did such a unique grape come to be so abundant in modern winemaking and in such diverse regions? 

First of all to understand the grape we must dissect the name itself. The German language can be quite redundant, often running a number of words together to create one word. For a glimpse into this as well as a little fun, try this link--

(Imagine if Barbara served this with Barbera!)

To complicate this further and make matters even more confusing, Gewurztraminer is actually Italian! 

To explain:

Near the tip of the Adige Valley on the shores of Lake Balzano, lies the town of Termeno aka Tramin. Since the area is only a few miles from the Austrian border, and the land has been occupied by Austria several times (pick a war, any war), the town is called Tramin in German. In fact every mountain, river, street, town or other landmark is named in Italian AND German and because of this cross-culture the denizens of this region are bilingual. To translate:

The name of the town is Tramin…

“er” means from in German...

“gewürz” is German for "spice"

There you have it… "the spiced grape from Tramin"

GEWÜRZTRAMINER (guh-VURTS-trah-mee-ner)

To clarify; a German word for an Italian grape grown in Austria, I mean Italy! This is confusing. 

Enough with geography-- let’s talk wine.

Gewurztraminer is known for its crisp pear and apple notes, spicy attributes, intense fragrance and distinct color. Gewurztraminer is commonly associated with sweet wine, however, Gewürz is made in different styles depending on the level of ripeness at harvest .When picked late in the season like Castello’s Late Harvest Gewurztraminer this wine displays honey-apple with succulent peach nectar-like qualities. Perfect with a not too sweet desert or a cheese course…or combined into one grand finale.

Keep it a bit savory with this sweetie. Remember, apple pie without the cheese is like a kiss without a squeeze.

An off dry or slightly sweet Gewürztraminer like Dolcino is harvested at normal sugar levels and fermented to leave a bit of residual sugar. This is my choice for pairing with spicy main dishes like Andouille Sausage Jambalaya.

The classic dry Gewurztraminer may be the most versatile and my personal favorite. This wine displays ginger, crisp stone fruits and a tell-tale hint of lychee. Mix it up a bit with this mixed up wine, rich and hearty Italian dishes with savory basil and lemon in a light cream sauce are contrasted perfectly with classic dry Gewurz. Farfalle pasta catches all of the goodness in each and every bite... with a sip of Gerwurz….das schmeckt gut. Or is it delizioso?...well, in any language--yum!


Categories: North America

Recent winner of a case of Award Winning '09 Aged-Released Shiraz

Shaw + Smith - Balhannah, South Australia - Wed, 10/01/2014 - 03:38

Congratulations to Karen Sorensen - you won a case (6) of award-winning 2009 Aged Release Shiraz.
Thank you to everyone who has entered our recent competition.

Categories: Oceania

Near-End-of-Harvest Assessment: A Furious September, Moderate Yields, Quality High

Tablas Creek Vineyard - Paso Robles CA - Wed, 10/01/2014 - 00:50

In the vineyard, things are starting to look genuinely fall-like:

Fall foliage 2

And in keeping with the visuals of the season, we're on the tail end of our harvest craziness, something like 85% done.  As of the beginning of this week, we'd harvested 386 tons: 237 from our estate and another 149 for the Patelin.  What was left was one good block of Mourvedre (picked today), scraps of the other reds (all of which should be cleaned up by the end of this week), our three small blocks of Tannat (likely to be harvested this and next week), and a good chunk of Roussanne (which will likely be picked in waves into the middle of October; more on that later). 

The pace at which we harvested fruit off our estate in September was remarkable.  After a relatively slow beginning to harvest (which I discussed on the blog) things picked up serious steam the first week of September, and are only now starting to slow down. It's perhaps easiest to look at it graphically, showing tons of fruit, estate and Patelin, per week:

Harvest 2014 by week

In many ways, this vintage is shaping up like 2013: it's been a warm year without many heat spikes, we've picked 10 days or 2 weeks early on average, it's a slightly below-average vintage for yields, and looks very high for quality.  But unlike 2013, our shortest harvest in a decade, we're likely going to see a more normal full two months between the first and last fruit off our estate.  Still, August's slow beginning and October's gradual taper will together account for less than 20% of the harvest, meaning our September peak was one of our busiest periods ever. How busy? The busiest week of 2013 saw us bring in 58 tons off of our estate.  Even in 2012, our largest crush ever, no week ever reached the 79 tons we harvested the week of September 15th.  And the week of September 8th had already filled the cellar with 70 new tons of fruit.

So, it's not surprising that we felt buried by grapes.  We've managed to fit everything into the cellar (more of a challenge than you'd think, given that we typically use a fermentation tank for 5 or 6 sequential lots at harvest -- leaving each lot in the fermenter for some 10 days -- and having nearly all our fruit come in during a 30-day sprint effectively halves our fermentation space).  Between the couple of new upright wooden tanks we added last year and a few open-top stainless steel fermenters we hadn't used in a few harvests, we've made it work.  The cellar, though, is as full of different fermentation tanks as I've ever seen it:

Full cellar

Yields look very similar to last year.  Of the non-Roussanne whites, we've harvested 68.7 tons.  Last year saw us bring in 65.4 tons.  Of the Rhone reds, at week's beginning we'd brought in 134.5 tons.  Last year we finished up with 151.5, but we estimate we've got another dozen tons or so that will trickle in, meaning we'll end up very close to last year's totals.  Maybe up a touch in Syrah and Counoise, and down slightly in Mourvedre and Grenache. 

The real question for us is Roussanne.  This always-challenging grape is being difficult even by its standards this year.  We've gone through our principal Roussanne blocks twice already, picking just the ripe clusters, netting a little over 10 tons.  We have another selective pick scheduled for tomorrow, and are expecting another 4 tons or so.  Still, we're a long way from done.  Last year, we harvested 44 tons of Roussanne, accounting for about 40% of our white production.  This year, there are a higher than normal number of Roussanne vines that are starting to shut down due to stress, which means that the clusters they carry are ripening more and more slowly.  We think that we'll still be able to harvest much (most?) of what's out there, but assuming that all of it will come in seems unreasonably optimistic.  We're hoping for 30 tons, total.  It seems unfair that the Roussanne looks as nice as it does on the vines, taunting us with its amber beauty despite not being ripe: 

Roussanne mid-September

So, we wait on Roussanne, and on Tannat, which is looking good but still mostly not quite there.  The colors of its foliage, though, suggest that the time is near: 

Tannat on the vine

In terms of quality, we continue to be excited by what we're seeing.  The berries seem unusually small, the flavors and colors correspondingly intense.  The grapes are a bit riper than they've been the last few years, but in good balance.  It's looking (dare I say it) a lot like 2007.

And that has to be a good thing.

Categories: North America

Lafond Winery SRH Wines

Our 3 SRH wines, Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Syrah have each won Gold Medals at the 2014 Tasters Guild International Wine Competition, held in Texas, which brings to a total of 12 for these three wines. We congratulate Winemaker Bruce McGuire and his talented crew for producing such exceptional wines. These are all wines from […]
Categories: North America

Harvest 2014 Chapter 3

Domaine Jones - Languedoc, France - Tue, 09/30/2014 - 18:55
We seem to be having a 'rest' here at Domaine Jones.  It is not that we particularly fancied a rest but two rather important things have given us no choice - the grapes aren't ripe and it's raining.

We have harvested all of the white grapes except for our late ripening Carignan Gris and all of the Syrah except for one small high altitude parcel that isn't ripe yet.  So we were just waiting for the Carignan and Grenache Noir to fully ripen and then it started to rain.  We were forecast 5 days of wall to wall rain which is not ideal during the harvest.  Fortunately we have only had 2 nights of rain (45 mm each night though).  Now the skies have cleared, the sun is back, the pickers are raring to go but you can't just dash back into the vineyard and start picking.

You have to wait!  Picking straight after rain can dilute the resulting wine not because of the water on the outside of the grapes but because of the water on the inside of the grapes.  So although tomorrow looks like being a perfect picking day we will not be picking but waiting for the grapes to get their concentration back.

Categories: Europe

Harvest 2014 Chapter 2

Domaine Jones - Languedoc, France - Tue, 09/30/2014 - 18:52

Last week it was the Syrah's turn to be picked.  And how lucky we were to have an all girl team (and Owen) to help bring it in!  'Old' University friend Liz and her colleagues Nicky and Jo from The Wine Society came down for a week's harvesting and we were joined by experienced picker Julia from Europvin who has done every single one of Domaine Jones' 6 harvests!  Or at least a little bit of every single one!

After checking the ripeness, Liz decided it was time to bring those grapes in so we got out the picking cases, buckets and secateurs and in a very lady like fashion brought those grapes in!

Julia and her lovely bunches

In the afternoon and after a hearty wild boar stew and a glass or two of Domaine Jones Fitou, we sorted the grapes and popped them into (a very small) tank.

Many hands definitely did make light work and many smiles too!
Haven't laughed so much in ages!!  Merci beaucoup les filles!

The team sporting the new Jones t- shirt
Categories: Europe

2014 grape harvest: the home stretch

Jordan Winery - Healdsburg, California - Tue, 09/30/2014 - 03:12
We’ve jumped the last hurdle in the thrilling race that is the annual grape harvest, and after a much-needed pause this week for rain, our crew will have refueled with just enough energy to sprint the home stretch of harvest 2014. We have only three hillside Cabernet Sauvignon vineyards left to pick and expect to [...]
Categories: North America

A Retrospective Tasting of Tablas Creek Mourvedre 2003-2012

Tablas Creek Vineyard - Paso Robles CA - Sun, 09/28/2014 - 17:29

At Tablas Creek we keep a library of every wine we've ever made.  Part of this is because we do get requests for specific older wines, either for educational seminars or dinners, or for the occasional special order for a restaurant interested in something pretty far off the beaten track (think the older Counoise for The Girl & The Fig detailed in Darren Delmore's last blog).  But just as much, we use this library to check in on how our wines are aging and where in their evolution they've reached.  We take this information and incorporate it into our vintage chart, which we hope helps our fans open wines when they're shining, and not when they're awkward.

Some wines have a simple development, from big, tannic and fruity when young, to soft, earthy and complex when old, in a fairly linear way.  Grenache usually follows this predictable pattern.  Mourvedre, however, does not.  It does start out young and juicy, and it does (eventually) end up mellow, meaty and complex, but it's not a linear path to get there.  Wines based on Mourvedre often shut down in middle age, and even once they reopen they can have unexpected personality changes from year to year.

So, it was with interest that earlier this week I opened up every vintage of Mourvedre we've made, to see how our newest wine fits into the continuum, and to see which of the older vintages are shining particularly now. The lineup:

Mourvedre vertical

The tasting notes (note that I've linked each wine to its detail page on our Web site, if you want production notes or more background on the vintage):

  • 2003 Mourvedre: Red fruit, menthol and dusty plum on the nose.  On the palate, very warm and appealing, with milk chocolate and cherry, baking spices and mellow tannins.  Long finish.  Really lovely, and still quite young tasting... hard to believe this was 11 years old.
  • 2004 Mourvedre: Much older smelling, less fruity, with leather and animal, mint, and a little briary red fruit.  In the mouth, saddle leather and cherry skin, loam and truffles.  Still some good tannins.  I'm not sure at this point if it would benefit from some more time or if it's nearing the end of its life, but I found it interesting more than pleasurable right now.
  • 2005 Mourvedre: Dark chocolate and blackberry in the deep, inviting nose.  The mouth is rich with sweet fruit, and like many of our 2005's still has some pretty big tannins, though they have the powdered sugar character that we associate with the really top vintages.  Feels impacted by the 10% Syrah we added in this and the next two vintages, and in tasting it now I think it may have made for a better, bigger wine but that the impact on the expressiveness of the Mourvedre fruit might be a larger cost than we're willing to pay.  I'd decant this if drinking it now, or wait another few years.
  • 2006 Mourvedre: Very winey on the nose, like balsamic-drizzled red fruit and some menthol.  The mouth is really pretty, mid-weight, with mint chocolate and brambles, and a clean, somewhat short finish.  Can't taste (or feel) the Syrah at all.  I'd drink this one sooner than later.
  • 2007 Mourvedre: Rich and powerful on the nose, like '05 with an extra level of plushness: roasted meat with aromatic herbs and crushed berries. The mouth has loads of sweet black cherry fruit, cocoa, and a mineral chalkiness on the finish.  It's lovely... probably the most impressive vintage of the lineup, and drinking great now but will go out another decade.
  • 2008 Mourvedre: It's hard for any vintage to follow the 2007, but my sense from the shy nose and the clipped finish is that this is in a closed period that it will come out of.  The aromatics of raspberry and black pepper are classic, and the good acids and modest tannin are in balance with the medium-intensity red fruit.  Wait another year or so, then drink in the next 2-3.
  • (We didn't make a varietal Mourvedre in the drought- and frost-reduced 2009 vintage)
  • 2010 Mourvedre: Showing crystal purity in the Mourvedre aromatics of roasted meat, wild strawberry, orange peel, pepper and mint.  The mouth is beautiful: mid-weight with pure plum and currant, nice clean tannins and good length.  Like a kir made with a great Chablis, if such a thing weren't sacrilege. If I were going to pick one wine to show off the appeal of the Mourvedre grape in its youth, this would be the one.
  • 2011 Mourvedre: A nose dominated by non-fruit elements, like many 2011's, with cedar, wintergreen, coffee and (eventually) some dark plum.  The mouth is dark chocolate, black licorice and aromatic herbs, with fairly big tannins coming out on the clean finish.  If you wait on this, you'll be rewarded, and if you're drinking it now, a decant is strongly recommended.
  • 2012 Mourvedre: Quite a vibrant high-toned nose, notably different from any of the previous wines.  Showing spruce, new leather, tangerine and red cherry on the nose.  The mouth is gorgeous, with vibrant red/orange fruit (think cherry jolly rancher, but more natural), great acids, and a long, mouth-watering finish.  I'm really interested to see where this wine goes, and it makes excellent if unexpected drinking now.

A few concluding thoughts. 

First, the characteristic flavors of Mourvedre (red fruit, leather, chocolate) wove through most of the vintages, though the characteristics of the vintage determined whether it was, for example, red cherry and milk chocolate, or black cherry and dark chocolate. 

Second, my favorite vintages (2003, 2007 and 2010) were different in weight, with the 2007 the biggest, the 2010 more mid-weight and the 2003 somewhere in the middle, but all showed great balance between the fruit and non-fruit (think savory, herbs and mineral) elements.  That's just one more bit of evidence, if it were needed, that balance is the key to pleasure in wine, at whatever volume suits your palate. 

And finally third, the oldest wine tasted quite young, which is consistent with our experience that Mourvedre is exceptionally resistant to oxidation.  This happy character is why it's often blended with Grenache (to give what's typically described as "backbone") and on its own it's great to see that a wine that's not terribly tannic when young can still evolve gracefully over a long time.

Categories: North America

Sweet Success for Villa Maria at International Wine Show

Villa Maria Estate - New Zealand - Sun, 09/28/2014 - 02:00
It was sweet success for Villa Maria last evening, collecting nine gold medals and the trophy for Champion Sweet Wine at the New Zealand International Wine Show, held at the Crowne Plaza Hotel in Auckland.
Categories: Oceania

Closed for Easter

Shaw + Smith - Balhannah, South Australia - Sat, 09/27/2014 - 14:24

Due to exciting renovations at the winery, the Shaw + Smith Tasting Room will be closed for the Easter period (Friday 18th - Monday 21st April inclusive).  We apologise for any inconvenience and wish everyone a fabulous Easter break.

Categories: Oceania

Harvest 2014

All these picking boxes, picked during the night, have to be processed. Winemaker Bruc McGuire drawing off some fermenting Pinot Noir to check the sugar. Click images to enlarge:
Categories: North America

Harvest Heats Up by Winemaker, Don Crank

The winemaking and vineyard team and I are now working around the clock to bring in fruit from our three estate vineyards. The grapes have reached optimal ripeness from the evenly warm vintage, and have retained their naturally bright acidity from the cool nights. What sets 2014 apart from other warm weathered years is we didn't experience heat spikes in the vineyard, which would have sent the grapes into sun-shock. Instead, the fruit is healthy and near-perfection. We are looking forward to making concentrated wines with balance and structure. 

 Our first fruit in the door was the Pinot Noir and Chardonnay base for a traditional-method sparkling wine. The grapes were pressed immediately to avoid picking up color or tannin from the skins and are now fermenting. We will bottle this wine after some time in barrel, and then inoculate for its secondary fermentation, which creates the sparkle.

We invite you out to the vineyard during this special time to take a tour through the winery and see first-hand our winemaking process. We might even put you to work!

Cheers to a happy harvest! 

Don Crank, Winemaker
& Production Crew

Categories: North America

Harvest getting closer - wine club, family & friends picking date set for 18th October

So far this year we have been blessed with pretty good weather; certainly a lot better than the last few years. As a result, our grapes are ripening sooner than last year and we are now planning our harvest.

It looks like we will start picking week commencing 6th October and finish on Saturday 18th October, when we will get together with wine club members, family and friend to complete the harvest. The best laid plans are of course subject to the weather and dates may change!

If you would like to be involved in the harvest on the 18th October please register by emailing me at You must be prepared to be on the vineyard by 8.00am for a briefing; you can either stay until lunch at around 1.00pm or pick for the whole day. It's quite hard work but great fun and those involved will receive a free bottle of Silent Pool Rosé next year, and will also be invited to the harvest party in early November.

Hoping for a bit more sun in the next couple of weeks!

Categories: Europe

On the Road: Innovative Spots for Food and Wine

Tablas Creek Vineyard - Paso Robles CA - Fri, 09/26/2014 - 21:04

By Darren Delmore

It’s been a busy year selling Tablas Creek on the wholesale market. I’ve hit 12 states so far, many more than once, braved flight cancellations due to fog and dust storms, haggled with many a’ sold out rental car agency (cue the classic Seinfeld scene), and had one laptop and two license plates ripped off in the process. But the travel has had its rewards. Hopefully you're seeing more Tablas Creek in your necks of the woods than before, and based on my experiences I think the food and wine scenes around America get better every year.  This year, I was struck by the number of amazing restaurants and wine bars I saw who aren't afraid of charting new and unusual paths. Though there are many more to mention (to be continued), here's a shortlist of places I've come across in my travels that I thought were doing particularly cool things with food and wine.

Girl and the fig

Given our own Rhone focus, it's fitting that we start with Sonoma's The Girl and the Fig, whose wine list, aside from a couple of sparkling wines, has always been exclusively devoted to Rhone varietals.  Want a less-known grape?  No other restaurant would try dedicating a page of their wine list to older domestic Counoise. Their wine buyer Brian Casey cleaned us out of the few cases of 2005 and 2006 that were left in our library. After I met with him in March to taste through the new releases, he made sure to ask me, for the second time, “Would you guys make us a sparkling Picpoul Blanc next year?” 110 W Spain St. Sonoma, CA. 95476

Foragers city table

I first read about Foragers' City Table in New Yorker magazine. Equal parts grocery store, wine shop, and restaurant in Chelsea, they are big supporters of organically grown food and wine, and the vibe both times I've been in the place is infectious. You can see how the kitchen opens up to the grocery store in the photo above. Though the options are fresh and inventive, and the pricing a bit less than what you find in other acclaimed Manhattan restaurants, they may be best known for making the best deviled egg in the Big Apple, which is no small feat. 300 W. 22nd St. New York, NY. 10011

Deviled egg

HuskChef Sean Brock's Charleston outpost of Husk Restaurant has a bar space next to the more formal dining area where wine director Matt Tunstall has arranged a by-the-glass list of wines based on the rocks they're grown in. I've never seen this before. There's a limestone section, ironstone, sandstone, and even volcanic. The food is renowned, and the night I landed in town I had the Husk Burger and a $14 glass of 2004 Cote-Rotie, which you don't see that often either. Look for the Patelin de Tablas Rouge which is currently on the "calcareous" list he put together for the fall. (Photo courtesy of Husk) 76 Queen St. Charleston, SC. 29401


Covell night

A great wine bar I find myself returning to in Los Angeles is Bar Covell in Los Feliz. Owners Dustin Lancaster and Matthew Kaner just celebrated the 4th anniversary of this hangout on Hollywood Boulevard. They made waves in the area for being the first wine bar without a wine list. Even today if you ask for one you'll get politely denied. Don’t worry, the team knows what's up and will ask you what sort of mood you’re in, or what you feel like, then offer you tastes of a few options. When you taste something you like, that’s the glass they’ll pour you, with prices running anywhere from $8 to $15. A lot of the wines are small production and can border on the obscure, but there’s always a back story on why they have it on rotation. Covell added some great small bites along the way and even started doing themed nights like “Babes, Brews and Burgundy” and “Winemaker Wednesdays”, which Tablas Creek was a part of in July. (Above photo of TCV Cellarmaster Tyler Elwell and me, at the event, courtesy of Bar Covell) 4628 Hollywood Blvd. Los Angeles, CA. 90027 

There is nothing ordinary about Cowboy Ciao in Scottsdale, Arizona. One look at owner Peter Kasperski's wine list will not only take you an hour to get through, but it may make your head spin. He was a fixture at the annual Hospice du Rhone event in Paso Robles and is a devout lover of Rhone varietals from here and the world over. I've eaten at Ciao twice with our Arizona distributor, ordering a couple dusty gems from a server who disappeared down a hatch with a walkie-talkie. There's a $10,000 bottle of 1917 Bordeaux on that list, in addition to Peter's own personal collection intermixed with the odd new release or two. Where else can you order a 2002 Tablas Creek Vermentino to match with a quesadilla, or choose from twelve different vintages of Chateau de Beaucastel Blanc to go with raw Buffalo? (Photo courtesy of Cowboy Ciao) 7133 East Stetson Drive, Scottsdale, AZ. 85251


Press Club in San Francisco is a large, lavish, underground space on Market Street that is home to a serious collection of wines. They host industry trade tastings and private parties throughout the year. It's a cool place to hang out on the later side of the evening and taste something on the fringe or famous. Wine director Mauro Cirilli is seen here using the Coravin to pour glasses of 2005 Chateau de Beaucastel Rouge. Though I've seen the Coravin (which uses a needle and gas to access wine without ever removing the cork form the bottle, keeping it fresh) being used at restaurants across the country in various capacities, Mauro went big and added five pages of magnums to his by-the-glass list. Now it doesn't have to be a special occasion to drink a glass or two out of a big bottle. He also has installed more wine taps than I've seen anywhere aside from Father's Office in Culver City, making this a real wine lover's dream lair. 20 Yerba Buena Ln. San Francisco, CA. 94103

Chaney post falltacular

Burgers are all the rage right now, but Chef Noah Blom at ARC in Costa Mesa may be getting the final nod with this one. Just look at it: a wood-fired animal trifecta of pig, duck and beef. It's the kind of burger that Noah says "you have to sort of mentally prepare yourself for." Noah does all of his own butchering in house, and everything is cooked in the fire. Since opening up in the OC Mix center off the 405 Freeway in Southern California in 2013, ARC has rapidly developed a rabid following, and Noah (to whom we are grateful for his help in a former life introducing Tablas Creek to key accounts in Orange County) has earned "Chef of the Year" honors from the Orange County Register. Befitting a chef with serious wine chops, there's not a boring wine on the glass list, managed by beverage director Koire Rogers, with $10, $16 and $20 options (oftentimes including our Grenache Blanc, Dianthus, and Mourvedre). 3321 Hyland Ave. Costa Mesa, CA. 92626


When I worked in Minnesota last May, lawns were still frost-scorched by what the reps were calling the never-ending winter of 2014. Good thing the Twin Cities of Minneapolis and St. Paul have a vibrant food scene to keep spirits up. I was blown away by the quality of cuisine in the few restaurants I sought out, but even more so by the portion sizes and friendly service. I was told that 112 Eatery in downtown Minneapolis is the place where most of the city's chefs and servers go after work, and the inventive menu, including the deconstructed steak tartare pictured above, reflects this. A couple other places I loved in Minneapolis included Butcher and the Boar and The Bachelor Farmer.  

I'd love to hear who we're missing. Comment below and let us know!

Categories: North America

Domaine Jones Rouge Grenache Noir 2012

Domaine Jones - Languedoc, France - Fri, 09/26/2014 - 15:14
Many thanks to Jancis Robinson for here recent tasting of my wines in her 2014 Languedoc selection. The full article can be found on Jancis' purple pages.Jones Grenache 2012 IGP Côtes Catalanes 
15,5 pointsBright crimson. Warm, sweet and spicy on the nose. Rather cleaner and fresher on the palate than the nose suggests. Still quite chewy. Most of the appeal is on the nose at the moment. A bit austere for the moment. 14.5% 
Drink 2015- 2019


Categories: Europe

Bordeaux 2014 – the red harvest begins

Chateau Bauduc - Bordeaux, France - Fri, 09/26/2014 - 09:34

The red wine harvest has got under way in Bordeaux, shortly before the end of an exceptionally sunny September. Merlot, the most widely planted variety and the first of the reds to ripen, has started to come in from the more precocious terroirs and from younger vines on drier soils. Yet there’s no rush. The forecast is for more sun this weekend, and most chateaux and growers are holding off for ’optimum’ ripeness after the relatively cool and humid summer.

Even at this late stage, the vintage is still too early to call. The next two to three weeks will be crucial as most of the Merlots have yet to ripen fully and the Cabernets will soon follow.

Il faut être patient et flexible.’

Palmer 24 Sept 2014 - 081

Many of the top estates in Pomerol and on the left bank (above) tentatively started picking their early Merlots this week under blue skies, although we’ll see a lot more activity from next week onwards. The dry whites, which are always the first to be harvested, were picked from the start of September in Pessac-Léognan and later in the Graves and the Entre Deux Mers; what’s left is being brought in now. The only possible downside was that the weather was almost a little too warm for these whites: the autumnal chilly mornings only kicked in from Tuesday 23 September.

The season has been one of ups and downs. A bright early start with the budbreak in April, then a chilly, damp May slowed things down, followed by the critical June flowering which was almost uniformly good; but a variable and occasionally wet July and a cooler, cloudier August left everyone relying on a fine September. Thankfully, that is what we’ve had. It’s been a hot and dry month, other than uneven rain on 17 and 18 September: Léognan had just 10mm, St-Estephe 20mm and St-Emilion almost 50mm, against a Bordeaux 30-year average for the month of 84mm.

So Bordeaux needs one final period of good weather for ripening the Merlots and Cabernets, and during the harvest itself. My feeling is that there’s less risk of rot for the reds in 2014 than in 2011, 2012 and 2013. It was the onset of botrytis in damp conditions that forced many people to pick earlier than they would have liked in those years, although 2013 was some way short of ripeness compared to the two previous vintages.

The concerns are more for the ripeness of the tannins in the skins and the pips, and the noticeable tendency for some Merlot grapes to flétrir or wither on the vine before they ripen. If it rains, there’s also a risk of dilution of course – the grapes are plump enough already.

(Let’s not get too technical about the pips turning from green to brown. I never forget the despairing way Anthony Barton once said “these days, it’s all about the pips.”)

Worse though is the undoubted impact of downy mildew in many vineyards, stemming mainly from the humidity in the summer air from mid-July to late August. The Bordeaux vineyard today is a a patchwork of green, healthy vines and others which are browned off and rather sad. In other words, it’s extremely unlikely that 2014 can be a great vintage across the board.

Yet for those who have put the work in and are blessed with a decent terroir, 2014 could be a more than handsome vintage if the weather holds for a little while longer.

Merlot at Ch Gruaud Larose 24 Sept 2014 Merlot at Ch Gruaud Larose 24 Sept 2014 Ch Lafite Rothschild, 24 Sept 2014 Ch Lafite Rothschild,  24 Sept 2014 Ch Montrose, 24 Sept 2014 Ch Montrose, 24 Sept 2014 Ch Palmer, 24 Sept 2014 Ch Palmer, 24 Sept 2014 Ch La Croix, Pomerol 24 Sept 2014 Ch Pichon Baron, 24 Sept 2014 Merlot, Ch Pichon Baron, 24 Sept 2014


Categories: Europe

Guilty: Judging a Wine by its Label

Ponte Winery - Temecula, CA - Fri, 09/26/2014 - 09:00

Choosing a wine to take home at a winery is really, really easy.  Why?  Because you get to taste them all!  Not so in a wine store.  Let’s say you are invited to a friend’s home for dinner.  They ask you to brink a bottle of rose.  You, of course, immediately think of Ponte 2013 Pas Doux, but upon discovering it is sold out, you’re forced to go to a wine shop to make your selection.  You find the rose section and scanning, scanning, scanning…you have no idea which one to get.  There’s no way you’re going to stand there and read all the labels to see which description sounds best.  The answer lies on the label.  At least for me it does.  I suppose this mentality stems from the philosophy that if I like the art that the winemaker has chosen for their wine (in other words, I like their taste), I’ll like the wine, too.  Brilliant, yes?  Let me back up here and say that what I’m willing to pay for the bottle narrows my choices down as well.  Once that is determined, it’s all about the label.  Sure, it’s a shot in the dark, but honestly, how else does one choose?

Marketing wine must be a ball, if not a circus.  Some labels are cute, some are oh-so-fancy, others are downright hilarious, but they all are meant to play on the emotions of potential buyers.  I tend to gravitate toward those labels that take me away, in a sense: bicycles, baguettes, European cafes.  Others might go for the label that is hip and plain and scripted in courier typewriter font, because it’s simple and cool and doesn’t take itself too seriously.  Flowery, outdoorsy, scandalous, manly…there is a wine (label) for just about everyone.

Vintage movie poster-style.  Photo credit.            Molly Dooker quirky.  Photo credit

Can we say “understated”?  Photo credit

Ponte’s wine labels have certainly transitioned over the years.  In 2003, we opened the winery with seven wines.  The artwork from some of these wines – Juliet, Isabel – are still used today even though the look of the labels has changed somewhat.

Same art as 2003, slightly different look.

Ponte wine labels, old and new

Our only label that has remained unchanged is that of Beverino.

Timeless, unchanged Beverino.

And, of course, there is our art-less label of Zinfandel Port.  It’s been altered slightly over the years but is generally the same.  Then again, this exceptional wine speaks for itself.

As our wine list grew and our brand became more streamlined, we transitioned our label art (with the exception of the aforementioned four) from whimsical to elegant, while still evoking our signature “Day in the Country” feel.   Fortunately, visitors to Ponte don’t have to rely on our labels to help them choose a wine they’ll love.  They just need to step up to the tasting counter and sip away.   So much easier and virtually risk-free!

Our freshly labeled and bottled Montepulciano 2011 hasn’t yet been released.

What about you?  Do you judge a (non-Ponte) wine by its label?  And which Ponte label is your favorite?

–Erica Martinez

Categories: North America


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