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Truth in Wine



Recently I had the privilege of interviewing Paul Draper, winemaker for Ridge Vineyards since 1969, over lunch. Without a doubt he is my favorite winemaker in America—not just for the wines he produces, but also for his views, his techniques, his beliefs and his inexhaustible curiosity and interest in wine. At age 71, he is as spry of mind and youthful of spirit as I could ever imagine anyone being.


Gary Farrell Sighting

I went up to Healdsburg for the 25th anniversary dinner for Gary Farrell winery. Gary Farrell, the winery, if you don't know, is one of the top, top producers of Russian River Pinot Noir and Chardonnay. It's one of my faves. But Gary Farrell, the man, is also famously reclusive and shy. He never leads tours of the winery, never shows up to tastings and, generally, makes no appearances.

Though there are pictures of him here and there, I've always questioned whether or not the image in the photos was really Mr. Farrell or just some actor that they got to pose as him. I even began to question whether he even existed or if the idea of this reclusive winemaking genius was just a clever marketing ploy.

French Issues


Standard-style Bourdeaux label (left) versus the modern Chateau de Launay

The Beauty of Nopa


Neyah with a special, unlisted cocktail

You know they're doing something right at Nopa when you’re willing to wait 25 minutes for a bar stool, and fight off vicious competitors while doing it. It's clear why people are so eager to get seats here: The bar is genius.

More of Italy's Finest


Gaia Gaja with Mauro Cirilli

Next winemakers to come into town was Gaia Gaja (the first and last name are actually pronounced the same way), the daughter of perhaps Italy's most famous winemaker, Angelo Gaja. Here is Gaia, sitting next to Mauro Cirilli, Perbacco's terrific sommelier.

The Gajas, father and daughter, produce many different wines, but are best known for the Nebbiolo-based wines from the Piedmont region of Italy, as well as for Brunello di Montalcino, Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc and a Cabernet Sauvignon.

Italy's Finest

When I say “Italy’s Finest,” I'm not talking about the Carbinieri, Italy's state police force that’s the butt of many jokes (e.g. "Why do Carabinieri always work in pairs? Because one knows how to read, the other how to write").

Not long ago, I attended a couple of tastings featuring Italy's finest wines—the ones you don't get to taste every day, but are worth writing about when you do.


Your Hardworking Sommeliers

Last Saturday night, a group of sommeliers gathered together for what is a unique San Francisco tradition--the late-night sommelier blind tasting.

That our hardworking restaurant wine professionals will bother to assemble at midnight on a Saturday—each bearing a bottle or two of expensive, classic wine to give to his or her comrades blind—for the purpose of learning and understanding is admirable.


Paul and his sister, Noah, Allen and Jean-Laurent Vacheron                           

Two-Buck Gold

Speaking of competitions, this absurd and alarming story will be generating waves throughout the wine world.

Two-Buck Chuck, aka Charles Shaw, Chardonnay—famous for being one of the cheapest wines in the world—won the gold medal for best Chardonnay at the State Commercial Wine Competition in Sacramento. It was voted in a blind competition by a panel of wine industry professionals.

Caviar and …


Vodka vs. Champagne

What to have with caviar is not a question that comes up often, but every now and again my wife gets a craving for something decadent, and this time it was caviar.  Our choice: Tsar Nicoulai Caviar.
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