Bellwether Wine Cellars 2013 Vin Gris of Pinot Noir

I don’t consider Kris Matthewson, winemaker at Bellwether Wine Cellars, to be a “natural winemaker” (what does that even mean?). True, he doesn’t like to make a lot of cellar additions and prefers a decidedly hands-off approach, but he’s not above making adjustments if a wine needs them. That said, his wines do lean toward the idiosyncratic. They invite the adventurous and open minded and aren’t for everyone. Some are truly unlike any other in the Finger Lakes region. I think he probably likes it that way. Of a lineup that also includes a handful of single-vineyard rieslings, a gamay noir-dominant rose and…

Daily Wine News: Champagne in Prison

Napoléon Bonaparte. (Wikimedia)

Napoléon Bonaparte. (Wikimedia)

Hundreds of Beaujolais winemakers have marched through the streets of Villefranche-sur-Saône to call for higher prices for Beaujolais Nouveau, reports Yohan Castaing in Decanter.

Napoleon Bonaparte’s enemies sought to make prison more of an ordeal by rationing him to just one (!!!) bottle of Champagne daily.

Obama and Putin locked eyes over a glass of rosé, and the Internet obviously held a caption contest.

In Le Pan Magazine, Adam Lechmere looks at what the new additions to The Oxford Companion to Wine signals. “Even with Google, Wikipedia and myriad different sources online, the Companion remains the reference of choice for wine lovers; its 4,000 entries are authoritative, comprehensive and elegant.”

“Virginia wineries sold a record 6.3 million bottles of wine over the past year…according to state figures released Tuesday,” reports Laura Vozzella in the Washington Post. “Wine sales were up by about 108,000 bottles, an increase of about 2 percent in a maturing but still growing industry.”

Former owner of J Vineyards, Judy Jordan, has purchased two vineyards in Oregon’s Willamette Valley and one in Napa Valley for a new project called Capra Company, reports Wine Spectator.

Wine globalization is set to continue, says Kym Anderson.

Elin McCoy explains what California’s wildfires means for the 2015 wine harvest in Bloomberg Business.

Classy Openings, Surreptitious Sipping (September 2015 Wine Product Roundup)

Since closing out my gig back in June of this year, I have found myself still inundated with wine product/accessory/gizmo samples (I’ve totally given up on trying to keep samples to a manageable number), but without a convenient (and conveniently highly trafficked) outlet with which to share the better or more interesting of those products.

And so I’m breaking a loooooooong streak of avoiding wine product mentions here on 1WD, so that I can give you a gander at a couple of the vinous accessories that tickled my… whatever it is for wine geeks that gets tickled when they get to play with accessory samples.

Classy Openings, Surreptitious Sipping (September 2015 Wine Product Roundup)

Barvivo (image: Barvivo)


First up is a corkscrew, which at first blush sounds boring, but I’ve personally been fascinated by these bizarre more-or-less-single-purpose tools ever since researching their surprisingly interesting backstory for a PUBLIX Grape article I penned last year. Right now, I’m full-on a fan of the “hinged” waiter’s friend style of corkscrew, so I was pretty jazzed to try out a sample of Barvivo’s take on that design. This little number works like a charm, has the double-hinge action that I’ve grown to find invaluable, and it looks classy as hell.

I’m not accusing them of slave labor, but I’ve no idea how they managed such high production quality for such a low price. As of the time of this writing, they’re offering a coupon deal, which makes the corkscrew a total steal.


When I was contacted by the founder of Vivajennz, I wasn’t sure what to make of the idea of her product, which is basically an “up-style” of wine in a bag. “This is either going to be brilliant,” I thought, “or completely stupid.”

Classy Openings, Surreptitious Sipping (September 2015 Wine Product Roundup)

Surprise! We’ve got vino, beeatches! (image: Vivajennz)

Turns out that the result is somewhere in between, but I’m finding that I like the idea of the messenger-bag version of this wine tote more and more. The short version of the story behind Vivajennz is that instead of using a collapsible pouch for transporting your favorite vino to an event or gathering, you instead put it into a pouch, to which a dispensing nozzle/tap is affixed, and which all fits into one of the stylish, insulated bag designs. Open a flap on your way-cool bag, and take a tap to fill a glass; and boom, presumably, you’re the hit of the party.

The overall design isn’t the most practical, but I really like that the bag does double-duty (in the case of my sample, the messenger bag is perfectly capable on its own for acting as, well, a messenger bag, and it looks great). Might be worth checking out for the style lover / wine guzzler in your life.


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Copyright © 2015. Originally at Classy Openings, Surreptitious Sipping (September 2015 Wine Product Roundup) from - for personal, non-commercial use only. Cheers!

A busy week


Off to Willamette Valley today, my first trip there in many years. This is to check out some of Jackson Family Wines’ vineyard holdings. Yesterday, after a brief meeting at JFW in Santa Rosa, I zoomed back to Oakland to get to BART to go to San Francisco for a greatly anticipated meeting with California Lieutenant-Governor Gavin Newsom. I’ll be doing a Q&A with him on the blog early next week, when I get a chance to transcribe our long interview. Then, on Thursday, it’s the final baseball game of the year, Giants versus Dodgers, with old pal Jose Diaz. On Friday, another tasting with my JFW family, this time of Santa Rita Hills Chardonnays. So it’s been and will be a busy week.

I will offer this little peek into my conversation with Governor Newsom. (“Governor” actually is the proper honorific; not “Lieutenant-Governor.”) He is very optimistic about the future of the wine, food and entertainment industries in California, which is why his PlumpJack Group of companies is rapidly expanding.


People, especially younger ones, want to enjoy the good life, and in coastal California, the good life is all about eating and drinking well, with friends, in a companionable atmosphere. Throw in a little music and dancing, and that’s it! I remember when I moved to San Francisco, longer ago than I care to remember. I was young, happy, and had a little money. There was nothing better than being with pals, out on the town at night, laughing and having a great time. Of course, the problem now is that, in the late Seventies and Eighties, you didn’t need a lot of money to have fun in San Francisco. Now, you do. Even so, I knew people at that time who remembered the San Francisco of the 1950s and 1960s, and who complained that the City was changing too fast, was becoming too expensive, etc. etc.

So some things never change. San Francisco always is in the process of becoming. People move there, fall in love with it, and want it to stay exactly the same as it was in their glory days. Not going to happen. Nothing stays the same. I’ll venture a prediction: Twenty years from now, that technie who’s now in his 20s is going to gripe about how the San Francisco of the 2030s isn’t the same as it used to be! But San Francisco, whenever you move there, always retains its charm, its hold on you, its power to mesmerize you into thinking it’s the center of the Universe. Well, of the West Coast, anyway.

Anyhow, I’m looking forward to my visit to Willamette Valley. In our Pinot Noir tastings, the Willamette Pinot Noirs really dazzled me. If I had to choose a favorite, from all the appellations that we blind-tasted over six months, I’d have to say that Anderson Valley and Willamette were the standouts. I think it was because, as the most northerly in latitude, both of those regions offered earthy, mushroom and forest complexities to the fruit. They were the most “intellectual” Pinot Noirs. I always feel funny using that word, because it suggests that you have to think about the wines, not just enjoy them. Nothing could be further from the truth. But if you’re the sort of wine drinker who enjoys thinking about the wines you’re drinking, because they have so much going on, then they’re for you.


Have a great day!

Vinography Unboxed: Week of September 27, 2015

Vinography Unboxed: Week of September 27, 2015Hello, and welcome (back -- I've been too busy to open boxes lately) to my periodic dig through the samples pile. I'm pleased to bring you the latest installment of Vinography Unboxed, where I highlight some of the better bottles that have crossed my doorstep recently.

This week's tasting included a few really excellent white wines, in particular the Müller Thurgau from Abbazia di Novacella, a lesser known white grape that absolutely sings when grown by monks in the mountains of the Alto Adige. If you've never had it, this is the best place to start.

Also in the lighter department, there's the elegant Flowers Camp Meeting Ridge Chardonnay and the excellent value Cantina de Castello Soave. Not to be missed is the Domaine de Salut Graves Blanc, which is a wonderfully balanced expression of both Sauvignon Blanc and Semillon.

In the red department, Flowers has an entry as well, as does J. Davies Vineyards (known to most people as Schramsberg Vineyards) whose 2012 Estate Cabernet is juicy, delicious, and very approachable even in its extreme youth.

All these and more below. Enjoy!

2014 Pazo San Mauro Albariño, Rias Baixas, Galicia, Spain
Palest greenish gold in the glass, this wine smells of unripe pears, lime zest and white flowers. In the mouth, lime zestVinography Unboxed: Week of September 27, 2015 and pink grapefruit pith have a zippy, steely brightness thanks to fantastic acidity. A light wet chalkboard feeling lingers in the finish. 12.5% alcohol. Score: around 8.5. Cost: $17. click to buy.

2014 Domaine du Salut White Blend, Graves, Bordeaux, France
Palest blonde in the glass, this wine smells beautifully of white flowers and a hint of gooseberries. In the mouth, flavors of gooseberry and kiwi lean towards the racy electricity of passionfruit as the wine heads to a long finish. Utterly mouthwatering and delicious. A blend of Semillon and Sauvignon Blanc. 12.5% alcohol. Score: between 9 and 9.5. Cost: $16. click to buy.

2013 Vista Hills "Orange" Pinot Gris, Willamette Valley, Oregon
A light salmon orange in color, this skin-macerated white wine smells of dark honey, wet leaves, dried orange peel, and mulling spices. In the mouth, a light honeyed flavor washes over red berries and orange rind flavors mixed with spices that lean towards nutmeg. Good acidity, but a little alcoholic heat rises in the finish. 12.1% alcohol. Score: around 8.5. Cost: $18. click to buy.

2014 Star Lane Vineyard Sauvignon Blanc, Happy Canyon, Santa Barbara, California
Pale greenish gold in the glass, this wine smells of lemon and lime and green apples. In the mouth, bright green apple and lime zest flavors have a nice snap to them thanks to bright juicy acidity. Smooth and silky on the palate. 13.9% alcohol. Score: between 8.5 and 9. Cost: $22. click to buy.

2014 Dutton Goldfield "Shop Block" Pinot Blanc, Green Valley, Sonoma, California
Palest gold in the glass with a hint of green, this wine smells of unripe apples and lemon pith. In the mouth, silky flavors of lemon juice, sweet cream, and white flowers have a wonderfully beguiling complexion. Ever-so-faintly-sweet, but with fantastic acidity, this wine just begs to be gulped. 13.5% alcohol. Score: between 9 and 9.5. Cost: $25. click to buy.

2013 Cantina de Castello Soave Classico, Veneto, Italy
Palest greenish gold in the glass, this wine smells of greengage plum and a hint of cucumber layered over rainwater. In the mouth, lemon-lime flavors mix with green apple and white flowers pleasingly. Decent acidity and length. Nothing wrong with this one. 12.5% alcohol. Score: around 8.5. Cost: $12. click to buy.

2012 Flowers "Camp Meeting Ridge" Chardonnay, Sonoma Coast, Sonoma, California
Light gold in the glass, this wine smells of lemon curd and lemon zest. In the mouth, bright and delicious flavors of lemon curd and lemon juice mix with pink grapefruit and pomelo pith. Wonderfully bright and persistent with well integrated oak. Excellent acidity. 13.5% alcohol. Score: between 9 and 9.5. Cost: $85. click to buy.

2013 Abbazia de Novacella Müller Thurgau, Valle Isarco, Alto Adige, Italy
Palest yellow-gold in color, this wine smells of dried apricots and ripe peaches. In the mouth, notes of lemongrass mix with peach and a wonderful zingy acidity that makes the whole package mouthwatering. Extremely delicious. 12.5% alcohol. Score: between 9 and 9.5. Cost: $20. click to buy.

2012 Flowers "Sea View Ridge" Pinot Noir, Sonoma Coast, Sonoma, California
Light garnet in color, this wine smells of raspberries and crushed herbs. In the mouth, wonderfully mineral raspberry and green herb flavors have a light bitterness to them as they finish. Excellent acidity and quite silky texture. Pretty. 13.9% alcohol. Score: around 9 . Cost: $80. click to buy.

2013 Heintz "Valentina" Pinot Noir, Sonoma Coast, Sonoma, California
Light garnet in color, this wine smells of cranberry and raspberry compote. In the mouth, bright raspberry and green herb flavors have a nice snap to them thanks to excellent acidity, but not as much depth or complexity as I'd like. Some nice notes of dried herbs linger in the finish with a hint of forest floor. 13.5% alcohol. Score: around 9. Cost: $55. click to buy.

2012 J. Davies Cabernet Sauvignon, Diamond Mountain District, Napa, California
Dark garnet in color, this wine smells of cassis, chocolate, and dark tobacco. In the mouth, black cherry fruit and tobacco notes mix with mocha and cola. Good acidity and faint velvety tannins mix together nicely, but the wine doesn't quite have the zip and verve I'd like it to. Quite tasty nonetheless. Contains 17% Malbec. 14.5% alcohol. Score: between 9 and 9.5. Cost: $100. click to buy.

2012 Flora Springs "Windfall Vineyard" Merlot, Napa Valley, Napa, California
Medium to dark garnet in color, this wine smells of rich black cherry and cocoa powder. In the mouth, cherry, black cherry, and black plum flavors have a very nice smooth complexion dusted as they are by tannins. Excellent acidity and length, with just a touch of heat on the finish. 14.5% alcohol in an obnoxiously heavy bottle. 275 cases produced. Score: around 9. Cost: $85. click to buy.

Weekly New York Wine News — September 28, 2015

Image: Leon Millot harvest at Hid-in-Pines Winery’s Bordeaux Family Vineyard. Harvest has been in full swing and the wineries are now producing prodigious amount of carbon dioxide…don’t hold your breath though, most ferments have a long way to go. In the meantime, check out some recent news about the New York beverage scene from a lowly apple press to his high holiness. NEWS Seacoast Online – 9/24/2015 JoAnn Actis Grande touts riesling to her coastal constituency and her examples from Gunderloch Estate and Dr. Loosen in Germany were joined by Ravines and Dr. Konstantin Frank in the Finger Lakes. Cornell Extension…

Daily Wine News: Sherry En Rama

Tio Pepe En Rama 2015 being taken from the task. (Source: Tio Pepe)

Tio Pepe En Rama 2015 being taken from the task. (Source: Tio Pepe)

In Wine & Spirits Magazine, Patricio Tapia explores Jerez Sherry en rama. “Today, bottling Sherry en rama—with minimal filtration—is a trend. Here in Jerez, however, it’s often just how it comes…the wine, poured into thick glasses, is somewhat cloudy, and darker than a Fino you might find in a wine store, but feels fresh and delicious, with an intensely fruity flavor.”

In the Telegraph, Henry Samuel reports that a Bordeaux village inside Sauternes appellation is grappling with cancer rates five times the national average, with a possible link to vineyard spraying.

The Drinks Business with some ridiculous news: “Burger King has released its own red wine brand, Whopper Wine, to celebrate the 40th anniversary of the opening of Burger King’s first branch in Spain.”

“Virginia’s Cabs and Chardonnays aren’t household names—but they should be,” says Ted Loos in Travel + Leisure.

Andrew Jefford looks back at the harvest at Raventos i Blanc, and meeting ‘Cava rebel’ Pepe Raventos in Decanter.

Jancis Robinson questions whether Shiraz or Syrah is better.

In Grape Collective, Dorothy Gaiter visits Burntshirt Vineyards in North Carolina, whose Grüner Veltliner wine has won several awards.

In Punch, “Five Fall-Ready White Wines Under $25.”

The White House goes screwy! (Screwtop, that is)


Good for President Obama for choosing to serve a screwtop wine at last Friday’s State Dinner for Chinese President Xi Jinping. I do believe that’s a first for this White House, or any other for that matter.

Historically, the White House has served very expensive wines, finished with corks, at State Dinners. For a long time, these wines were mainly French. Thomas Jefferson served Lafite Rothschild; JFK served Haut-Brion Blanc; and when Nixon was President, he loved Chateau Margaux, although an anecdote revealed in Woodward and Bernstein’s “All the President’s Men” told how Tricky Dick would have his butlers discretely pour him Margaux, wrapped in a white cloth napkin, while the other guests got Mouton Cadet.

That all began to change during Reagan’s administration (he was justifiably proud of California wines), and today, it would be very strange for a President to pour foreign wine, unless it was from the country of the visiting dignitary (at last week’s Xi-fest, for example, the White House served Chinese Shaoxing rice wine). Many are the California wineries that proudly display a menu in their tasting room or office showing how and when one of its wines was served at the White House. And, of course, these tended to be expensive wines.

Four years ago, Republicans predictably and harshly criticized Obama for serving an expensive Washington State wine at a State Dinner for then-Chinese President Hu Jintao. The Tea Party website, Gateway Pundit, slammed the President for pouring a $399 bottle of wine to “Chi-Coms” [Chinese Communists], heading their hit piece “Sacrifice is for the little people,” and conveniently overlooking the fact that their hero, Ronald Reagan, also served very expensive wines: at one State Dinner, he poured a trio of California wines that, for the time, were quite pricy: Clos du Bois Calcaire Chardonnay, Carneros Creek Pinot Noir and Schramsberg Cremant Demi-Sec. More recently, there was President George W. Bush, who once served a Shafer Hillside Select ($245) at a similar dinner.

Perhaps it was criticisms like the one from Gateway Pundit, however selective and unfair, that prompted Obama to go screwtop. The particular wine he chose was a Penner-Ash 2014 Viognier, from Washington State, which retails for $30. It was paired with lobster (“poached in butter and served with traditional rice noodle rolls embedded with spinach, shiitake mushrooms and leeks.” Mmmm….but can we get rid of the word “embedded”?).

Obama’s screwtop embrace isn’t the most earth-shattering news ever. But it is a nice development in the sense of underscoring a new and, dare I say it, more democratic [small “d”] attitude towards wine that seems to be permeating across America, and that reflects an emerging sensibility that the most expensive things aren’t necessarily the best. Indeed, as I’ve long argued (and most critics agree), price is not always a reflection of quality; beyond a certain price point, you’re paying for image and psychological satisfaction.

Now, as to why wineries continue to be so resistant to screwtops, that’s another story!

Wine News: What I’m reading the Week of 9/27

Wine News: What I'm reading the Week of 9/27

I read a lot of stuff about wine on the Internet. People frequently ask me for recommendations. But there's just so much out there and only so much room in my head. In part that's why I've been curating a wine magazine on on Flipboard for the last year or so. But for those of you who aren't Flipboard inclined, I've decided to post a round-up here of what's caught my eye over the past week.


The King of Value, Daniel Pi, Trapiche
Christopher Barnes on the Mendoza powerhouse.

Great red wines with Minnesota roots
Minnesota mints winemakers.

Forget the damp and the beetles; hope grows on the vines for 2015
East Coast vintners bracing for.... success.

Rebel Harvest
Andrew Jefford on helping bring in the Cava.

Italian Grape Harvest Gives Cause for Celebration
Time to party, say Italian winemakers.

Chilean Winemaker Renan Cancino of El Viejo Almacen de Sauzel/Huaso
Christopher Barnes on Renan Cancino's traditional wines from Maule.

Trouble in wine paradise as Bordeaux village grapples with cancer rates five times national average
Uh oh. Suspicions over pesticides.

Wine globalization set to continue
Kym Anderson says get used to it.

A Search for Radiance Varner and Neely
Elaine Chukan Brown goes deep into the story of two men in the Santa Cruz Mountains.

Burgundy vineyards becoming film sets
Corton is ready for its close up.

Anson on Thursday: The Winery in the Desert
Jane Anson on extreme dry farming in Navarra.

Finding Good Wines in Bad Vintages
Lettie Teague says focus on the producer.

Chile's Earthquake-Prine Regions Produce Wine Gems Worth Seeking Out
Lauren Mowery profiles Elqui and Limari.

Colares: Into the Heart of Wine's Lost Region
Zachary Sussman explores a little known (but favorite of mine) region.

Taste-Testing All the Wines at Starbucks' New, Boozy Evenings Program
Elin McCoy takes one for the team.

Champagne's forgotten varieties could thrive as temperatures rise
Alain Julien on Petit Meslier, Arbane, Fromentot and more.

Weed's Effect on Wine Sales
Is pot stealing market share?

Wine O'Clock, Beer O'Clock and the Changing Language of Drinking
Regan Hoffman on liquid vocabulary.

The New, Scruffy Wine Bars Are Some of the Best Restaurants in New York
Grub Street profiles some new places to drink and eat in New York.

Ask a Somm: Do Smooth Italian Wines Exist?
Of course they do, finds Kat Odell.

What Is Unicorn Wine?
How lucky are you? How many of these bottles have you had?

2015 in Champagne - a uniquely continental Pinot year
Tim Hall on Roederer and the 2015 harvest.

Rarified Air
Tim Gaiser tests the $1000 wine gadget no one needs.

What to do with grapes from 150-year-old vines at Olvera Street? Make wine, of course
Irene Virbila on the secret history of Los Angeles wine.

Just Pinot, but not quite Nuits
Andrew Jefford on the value of time... on the vine.

Don't Tell Donald
Wine Intelligence crunches the numbers on Hispanic wine drinkers

Cru bourgeois votes for two-tier system
Regular and Superieur is the suggestion.

Bestselling book 'The Wine Bible' is updated: What's changed in 14 years?
Irene Virbila notes the update to the Wine Bible

The awkwardness of being a wine snob
Sarah Heller takes up the question of whether knowledge matters.

Wine operations show resiliency with fires
Some bad news, but not nearly as much as there could be, says The Sacramento Bee.

How Uber Is Changing the Way Drunk People Take Wine Tours
Changing the way drunk people SURVIVE wine tours.

Size of Sip 'Affects Wine's Taste'
How big is your mouth?

Top 10 Californian Syrah
Jon Bonné picks his CA favorites.

Scientists scour the Mediterranean for endangered grapes to ensure the wine of the gods will pour again
Get yourself a glass of Zibibbo.

Wine - made by dead people - for people not yet born
Alfonso Cevola moves through the veil of memory.

What to Drink Now: Washington Wines – D Magazine and Sidedish

In a very short time, in the grand scheme of wine, Washington has put itself firmly on the map of greatness. Washington first became known for its dry Riesling wines, along with celebrating classic French varieties like Merlot and Syrah, two that have had difficulty in other parts of America. These wines continue to shine, especially from producers like Chateau Ste. Michelle, Pepper Bridge, and L’Ecole No 41. I recently visited the state and stayed in the charming area around Woodinville, home of Chateau Ste. Michelle, about 40 minutes outside of Seattle. Here are a few selections that stood out. (Tastings were complimentary, along with some samples being sent or tasted for editorial consideration.)  Elegant, refined and regal, Riesling…READ MORE>>>D Magazine: Sidedish

The post What to Drink Now: Washington Wines – D Magazine and Sidedish appeared first on Woodinville Wine Country.