Vines Still Happy, But Slightly Stressed

“Things are moving fast out there!” reports viticulturist Kevin Skene from Sonoma. Warm weather continues this week in all areas “shortening the window to get passes in” according to Matt Hardin of Barbour Vineyards in Napa Valley. “The conditions are warm, tracking perfectly, and are shaping up to be as great as 2008,” says John Conover, the General [...]

Vincent Lee at the bar

Cherries (And Gin and Absinthe) Jubilee: Toasting the Launch of TTG

Tasked with creating a special Distillery No. 209 cocktail for the Table To Grave launch party at Lucy Restaurant & Bar at Bardessono, barman Vincent Lee went all out. Taking into account both cherry season and perhaps our color scheme, Lee created a pink frothy libation using fresh cherry juice and an egg white. Without [...]


It’s a Jungle Out There

“The foremost important decisions about winemaking happen before a single berry even makes it into the winery,” says Greg La Follette of La Follette Wines. Right now, during the time of “berry cell division and berry cell expansion,” (or the first phase of berry development, which immediately follows bloom and lasts for about 4 weeks), decisions [...]


A Totally Honest Guide to Wine Industry Titles

American journalist, critic, author and longtime San Francisco newspaper columnist Ambrose Bierce began The Devil’s Dictionary — a collection of satiric definitions for common words — as a series in a local newspaper in 1881. The biting definitions spared no one, with the author casting a cynical eye on all that crossed his path. In a foreword to [...]

vines at night

Warm Days, Cool Nights: 2012 Off to a ‘Normal’ Start

Now that fruit has set, following and documenting the  development of grapes and vines (a study known as phenology) begins. The overall goal for growers between now and veraison is to allow enough light and airflow through the canopy to begin developing flavors and tannin in the skins of the grapes while also protecting the [...]


What’s in a Petiole?

Petioles, or the stems of leaves, can tell you a lot about the health of a vine. During flowering, vineyard managers collect petioles from throughout the vineyard and submit the tissue to lab for analysis. “Year after year these results influence our vineyard management decisions and give insight to vine status in terms of nutrient [...]

speckling and fruit set

Managing the Canopies of Happy, Vigorous (And Sometimes Smiling) Vines

From Amador to Oak Knoll, we are reporting “happy vines” this week. And as they say, happy vines make for happy farmers. And happy farmers with happy vines make for happy grapes. (For one grower “long happy tendrils” makes him think the vines are smiling. Isn’t that adorable?) And happy, smiling grapes make for happy, [...]

Heitz Grignolino

Grignolino: One Grape Oddity’s Journey From Piedmont to Napa

There is a little grape called grignolino that almost no one knows what to do with. Hailing from the northern Piedmont, where it is mostly consumed locally (and, even there production is declining) the grape is not widely known. I have heard it referred to as “the little strawberry,” a name it aquired not because [...]

The view to the Pacific from the vineyard

The Profound and the Profane: Winemaking on the Edge of What’s Possible

Greg LaFollette can remember wanting to be a winemaker since he was 17-years-old. But it didn’t seem practical, so… he became a professional bagpipe player instead. And while he still carries his bagpipes in the back seat of his Dodge pickup truck, having worked harvest for 60 vintages from Australia to Chile to Sonoma, it [...]


Auction Napa Valley: The Best Circus in Town

Thomas Keller is happy. Chugging from a large cup of Bouchon coffee, he seems almost jovial on this Friday morning the first day of June. Even his neatly pressed, blue-apron-clad staff is smiling — heads down of course — as they prepare tiny cones of things that will be served to 2,000 people — professionals, [...]

Reaching For The Wire

Reaching for the Top (Wire That Is)

Wow, there is a lot happening in the vineyards this week. In fact, “this is the busiest time of the year,” (next to harvest, of course) says Matt Hardin, of the famously fastidious management company Barbour Vineyards. Shoot thinning, spraying, disking (turning cover crop into the soil), mowing, replanting, tucking shoots and taking petiole (leaf [...]

Uvaggio’s Latest Cal-Ital Release

Jim Moore is a man on a mission. Whereas most winemakers would prefer to fetch the highest price possible for their wines, Moore is determined to keep his under $20 a bottle. He is also committed to making exclusively Italian-varietal wines: right now, that means vermentino, barbera and primitivo. Moore, who has been making Italian-varietal [...]

Annotated Notes on an Awkward and Incredibly Rewarding Tasting

The sun was high over the winery in the heart of the Suisun Valley — which, if you are not familiar, is a burnt-out pile of green hills of the sort you might find in a Steinbeck rip-off. The place fell out of time. Not the jazz and pleated khakis of most auction week affairs [...]

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 [...]


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 [...]


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 [...]

Anther fully extended

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. [...]


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 [...]

Dita Von Teese Cointreau MargaDita

Dita Von Teese Delivers a Spicy Smack, Takes Her Margarita on the Rocks

“Life is too short to have badly-made cocktails.” You know her as a burlesque legend and retro hollywood glam gal, but who knew that Dita Von Teese was also a fountain of such cocktilian wisdom? As the spokesperson for Cointreau she stands at the intersection of striptease and finely balanced libations. When she’s not in [...]

Corona Extra vs. Corona Familiar: Is There a Difference?

Some people prefer the taste of Corona Familiar to Corona Extra, claiming it has a fuller, more robust flavor. We put them to the test in a tasting showdown: In one corner we have Corona Extra, which is the No. 1 selling beer in Mexico and has long been an imported favorite in the U.S, [...]

JV Wine & Spirits

Last Call For JV Wine & Spirits

You’ve probably heard by now that JV Wine & Spirits, something of a Napa institution, is closing after 30 years of business. As of Friday the closeout sale went to 40 percent off, with all the furnishings — wine racks, shelving and even signs — priced to move. None of the shoppers have the giddy [...]

Felco shears

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 [...]


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 [...]