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Winemakers

Stony Hill

Last week, I made my first trip to Stony Hill, a winery in St. Helena that I've admired for a long time.



I got to meet Peter McRea, the owner, who has continued making excellent Chardonnay from the Napa Valley in the exact same style his parents did--which is to say, balanced, completely devoid of new oak and extremely age-worthy.


A-Rhone at the Top

March 15 and 16 marks the return of the Rhone Rangers Grand Tasting, to be held at the Log Cabin in the Presidio. If you like inky Syrahs, bright Grenaches, juicy rosés, lush Marsannes, vibrant Roussanes or anything remotely related to Rhone varieties grown in the United States, this is the tasting for you. You can meet winemakers, taste new and old vintages and generally get your Rhone on. Pretty much everyone who's anyone in the world of Rhone varieties, including my favorites like Peay, Qupe, Tablas Creek and McCrea, will be there. Don't miss it.

Parr Selections

I've been to many tastings where winemakers put their wines up against the top wines of France—Cabernet versus first growth Bordeaux, sparkling wine versus tête de cuvée Champagne and Pinot Noir versus Grand Cru Burgundy. It's always a good exercise, and as predicted, the California versions usually fare pretty well against the greats of Europe. There's always an element of hubris in the act, though, as implicit in the exercise is the assertion that "my wines that I've been making for 20 years are as good as this French property that's been making wines for 200."


How Romantic



Wine that Loves, a new wine brand that doesn’t seem to tell where the wine is from, of what grapes it’s made or the vintage. It just makes things easy for you by declaring on the label that it’s the Wine that Loves Pizza. Or the Wine that Loves Pasta with Tomato Sauce.

I’m not joking—that’s what it says on the label. It’s really brilliant as there’s an endless number of possible versions: Wine that Loves Tiki Masala, Wine that Loves Stale Bagel Chips…. Then they could move on to other areas:

Mazel Tov



Good news for the wine industry of Israel. While I have my own opinions about the merit of critic’s points, there’s no question as to the value and importance in the marketplace of high scores from Robert Parker. These scores give the industry the legitimacy that I, among others, have been lobbying for over the last several years. Maybe now I won’t have to trot out that old, “You don’t have to drink Israeli wines just because they’re kosher” column at Passover anymore.

Tool Time

Oenophilia is still such a minority hobby that wine lovers always get excited when someone famous from outside their realm shows an interest. That’s why you can always find articles in Wine Spectator about some football or baseball player or actor who collects wine. Such was the excitement last week, when a dinner was organized around Maynard Keenan, lead singer of the rock band Tool and avowed wine geek and now wine producer.


Dee Vine Wedding

One of my favorite people in the wine industry is Dade Theriot, the owner of Dee Vine Wines on Pier 19. Dade is the most knowledgeable person about his passion—German wines—that I know, and he’s exceedingly generous with them, as he is with all things. He's also a Beethoven fanatic and an all-around eccentric, as was evinced by his wedding in which attendees were invited to come either in formal dress or in early 19th century costume.


Adieu, Boris



Boris Champy (left) is leaving Napa’s Dominus Estate in December and being replaced by Tod Mostero (right).


This Is Not a Rosé



It’s actually an old Pinot Noir, a bottle of 1982 Hitching Post from Santa Barbara County. Frank Ostini, the winemaker, gave it to me after a large tasting—he had brought the bottle to open for the tasting but never got to it, so he just handed it off to me. It was his first vintage. I’m not even sure if the wine was released commercially.


Sommelier Love Fest



Last week was the annual Peay Vineyards Sommelier Love Fest, an event in which the good family Peay—Andy and Ami, Vanessa and Nick—host sommeliers from all over for a relaxed tasting, tour, dinner and all-night wine fest.

 
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