Baccarat provides the light

The Secrets of the Red Room

When one of Burgundy’s most flamboyant, charismatic and charming vintners, Jean-Charles Boisset, purchased Raymond Vineyards, a storied Napa Valley estate, in 2009, there were bound to be changes. First, the most sustainably-minded playboy on the planet initiated a strict biodynamic farming regimen, starting the long, arduous process of restoring soil health and biodiversity to the [...]

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When The Steak On Your Plate Is The Same Shape As The Region The Wine In Your Glass Came From

Oh, California. We seem to do all kinds of crazy things with our food out West. Like put avocados on hamburgers and cut a triangular chunk out of the bottom sirloin of a cattle and call it a tri-tip. For those of you on the East Coast, allow us to explain: It’s sort of like [...]

French Wineries Catching Up To U.S. Vintners (In Social Media)

The wine industry in the United States was quick to embrace social media. But, much as wine styles in the New World are beginning to ape those of the Old and some of the Old-World styles blending into the New, France is working to close the social media gap between U.S. and French wineries. So [...]

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The Wines of Kenzo Estate

When Kenzo Tsujimoto, the CEO of Capcom, one of the largest gaming companies in the world, came to Napa from Japan he had something bigger in mind than simply planting a few rows of vine and making a vanity wine. Street Fighter, you might say, has been very, very good to Mr. Tsujimoto. He purchased [...]

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The Sex Life of Grapes

Flowers are everywhere in the spring in Northern California. On the sides of roads, in the cracks of sidewalks, between the rows of vines, clutched between your teeth. Roses are in full blush, patches of wild poppies dutifully perform their open-close routines with the rising and setting of the sun and the slutty manzanita bushes [...]

Breggo pinots

A Tale of Three Pinots

Let’s pretend for a moment that you are standing on the lawn of Breggo Cellars in the heart of Anderson Valley — an 18-mile-long American Viticultural Area that has managed to hold tourism at bay thanks to a dauntingly winding 46-mile drive from the wine country hub of Healdsburg. Take a second to look around. [...]

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Anderson Valley Special: Suckering and Sunflowers

It’s difficult to make generalizations about the Anderson Valley. Even though it is only 18 miles long and less than two miles wide, the climate is vastly different from one end to the other. Temperatures tend to drop dramatically as you head north on 128 (and towards the coast) to what is called the “deep [...]

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Zen and the Art of Pruning

It’s late morning in the last week of February. I can feel the morning sun just beginning to penetrate the fog — and my sweater. I’m standing in front of a grape vine in a small vineyard just east of the town of Napa. The vine is in what we like to call dormancy, even [...]

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Primordial Clusters and the Fractal Geometry of Nature

Thanks to temperatures that were pushing 90 degrees last weekend, vines in Napa Valley experienced a whopping four inches of growth according to the Napa Valley Grapegrowers, whose members gathered at Round Pound Estate on Wednesday to discuss the 2012 vintage. Yield, as usual, was a hot topic. Jon Ruel, Director of Viticulture & Winemaking [...]

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Wine Tip: Frozen Grapes to Chill Your White

Sure you could put ice cubes in your sauv blanc, but why not just toss it down the drain while you’re at it?  Still, what are you supposed to do when you don’t have any chilled? And on a day like today (with temps across Napa Valley hitting the 90s) the wine tends to get [...]

Buds Broke

Let the Countdown Begin

According to winemaker Aaron Pott, who has worked in Bordeaux, Burgundy and Napa, the growing season, almost invariably, is 220 days from bud break to harvest. That means the clock has started ticking and it’s time for some good old-fashioned heat and sunshine. Pott, who has noticed a climatic pattern toward later bud break over [...]

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Can California Make ‘Champagne?’

It’s a warm, sun-drenched late-summer afternoon in Sonoma and from the open-aired veranda that serves as the tasting room for Iron Horse Vineyards, one of California’s best sparkling wine houses, vines heavy with Pinot Noir and Chardonnay grapes sprawl across hillsides in every direction. Joy Sterling, the founder of Iron Horse, is smiling as she [...]

Smudge Pots

Water, Wind and Fire Fight Off Frost

After three weeks of nearly non-stop rainfall, it might seem strange to wake up and see sprinklers going off all over the Valley. Counterintuitively, those sprinklers are protecting the just-bursting buds from early-spring frost invasion. According to Tom Hsieh (pronounced shay) of Hanson-Hsieh vineyard in Oak Knoll, the water creates a layer around the bud [...]

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Cline Cellars’ Burnt-Honey Ricotta Gnocchi

Cline Cellars, a Sonoma producer most known for its zinfandel and its Rhone blends has quietly produced small quantities of a very food-friendly Sonoma Coast pinot noir since 2007, though up until very recently in amounts so small that they didn’t make it far from the tasting room. To celebrate the release of its Cool [...]

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Will Sonoma Showers Bring May Shatters?

“The pressure is on,” said Thomas DeBiase of Debiase Wines early this week. Pressure, that is, to get as much last-minute precipitation as possible before flowering. ”Every year is, of course, unique but starting this growing season off as the third driest growing season since 1850 has its own set of challenges.” Going into the week, DeBiase, [...]

Sheep at Joseph Phelps by Terence Ford

Wool Blend: What Sheep Have to Do With Napa Winemaking

No, this isn’t a Thomas Hardy novel or a nursery rhyme. There are no crooks or bags of wool, comfy sweaters or socks or tiny barbecued shanks. But this is a story about sheep — some of them black — and just what these sheep have to do with making wine. Biodynamic farming, admittedly, is a complex [...]

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Waterloggerheads

When it rains, as they say, it pours. And it couldn’t be more true for Napa Valley this week. According to Accuweather, St. Helena got over five inches of rain between March 14 and March 21st. Well, be careful what you ask for, because while some rain was sorely needed, we have seen some flooding [...]

Straight Outta Cabot: Brassica Dining Room

Brassica’s Wine Program Actually Interesting (But, Oh That Gingham)

Cindy Pawlcyn’s recent attempt to reinvigorate the former Go Fish space by replacing light fixtures, ditching the table cloths and exchanging the epic seafood-centric menu for a more manageable variety of Mediterranean small plates is largely a failure. Renamed Brassica, the restaurant still feels awkwardly large and like a dated take on farmhouse chic. And [...]

Spakling Wines in California

Who Was First: The Champenoise’s Race for California Sun

In the 1970s, wanting a piece of the attention being showered upon the new kid in the wine world, some of the largest producers in Champagne came to California and began making copious amounts of sparkling wine. It seemed ridiculously easy, considering how warm it was here compared to the cold environs of Northern France, [...]

Vineyard Report: Fast-Breaking News Flash Edition

We take you now to Courtney Humiston with another fast-breaking news flash. Courtney is in a vineyard in Napa Valley in the rain — wet, cold and miserable — covering the quickly developing story of buds growing on vines (with all apologies to our favorite little green muppet reporter).

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Vineyard Report: Eraser Tips and Early Bud Breaks

The vines are waking and early budding vines are beginning to show themselves across the region.

The More Harvests Change

Poor harvests and lower yields have limited the supply of grapes in many regions of Northern California, leading some to fret over pricing and others to get excited about new possibilities. It led us (as things often do) to the words of the charismatic founder of The Wine & Food Society. Commerce is a public service and [...]

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Liquid Assets: Premiere Napa Valley Makes Bank

Last week, Premiere Napa Valley, an annual week-long event that attracts retailers, restaurants, distributors, importers and media to the Valley, and culminates in an auction of wines blended especially for the occasion (think the Hospices de Beaune) raised a whopping $3.1 million dollars. The money is “for charity.” The specific charity, in this case, is [...]

Bud Breaking News: #notspringyet

They may have Punxsutawney Phil on the East Coast to let them know there’ll be six more weeks of winter, but here in Northern California we have Cathy Corison’s Twitter to set us straight:

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Orange Wines Explained (In a Comic)

Orange wines are not the easiest to wrap your head around, and misinformation abounds. We’ve even heard the ill-informed speculate that the wines came from mystical pinkish-orange grapes. While this isn’t true, there is a fair amount of magic involved. Wine lover and illustrator Lily-Elaine Hawk Wakawaka has been producing a series of comics exploring [...]