Which is more important for fine wine, terroir or technique?

Is great wine the product of terroir, technique, or both? Regular readers of my blog know that this question, or concept, intrigues me as do few others. I’ve frequently quoted the great Prof. Peynaud, who says terroir is Mother Nature; when man brings his or her own touch to the…

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As magazines turn to a lifestyle focus, they need to preserve a serious purpose

If you think you’ve seen a shift in your food magazines toward more lifestyle and celebrity coverage, you’re right.  “A handful of food magazines have found [advertising] success by broadening their traditional focus on recipes to more of a lifestyle approach, capitalizing on popular interest in destination restaurants, celebrity chefs…

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2009 and 2010 Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon: a comparison

I’ve been tasting a lot of Cabernet Sauvignons lately. The 2010s are entering the market in full force; meanwhile, there’s still a good quantity of 2009s also arriving. The fun is in comparing the vintages. As a wine critic, I’m loathe to come to premature conclusions about vintages. I do…

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The new Cali acreage report: Chocolate, vanilla and strawberry continue to rule

The 2012 California Grape Acreage Report is hot off the presses and the most noteworthy fact is that white winegrape acreage is down from 2011 while red winegrape acreage is up, but just barely: a mere 274 acres, about a tenth of one percent over 2011. This actually continues the…

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Shoutout to Gary Eberle

Running into Gary Eberle again at this weekend’s big Cab event in Paso Robles brought back beautiful memories. I first met Gary when I was sent by the magazine I used to work for to write a story about him. That must have been around 1990. I’d heard of him,…

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Thinking about appellations, as a new fight flares in Sta. Rita Hills

To Paso Robles this afternoon for a quick trip to moderate the first CAB Collective, a local group organized to promote the Cabernet Sauvignons of Paso Robles. Good timing: Paso is on the verge of a renaissance, if it’s not already happening, and tastemakers–sommeliers, writers, chefs–are starting to take note,…

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Young people ask the best questions

My favorite event of the year, at which I speak and taste with others, is my annual gig at the student wine club at the University of California’s Haas School of Business. I did it last night for, I think, the fifth year. These future MBAs are so smart. At…

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Are vineyard designates better than blended wines? Not necessarily. So why do they cost more?

I was reading Peg Melnik’s article on Chateau St. Jean’s 2010 Belle Terre Vineyard Chardonnay, in yesterday’s Santa Rosa Press-Democrat, which reminded me that Chateau St. Jean pretty much single-handedly created the vineyard-designated Chardonnay market in the 1970s, with a brilliant series of wines crafted by their then-winemaker, Richard Arrowood.…

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Industry reporting: the basics of wine reviewing

Before I was a wine critic–which is to say, before any of my publishers would let me actually review and rate wines–I was a wine reporter. For quite a few years, I worked for numerous publications that wrote about the nuts and bolts of the wine industry. Those articles could…

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