Dry Creek Vineyard, the Tom Hanks of Sonoma County?

May 8, 2013 § Leave a comment

Dependable. Kind. Interesting, with a subtle edgy streak mostly kept under wraps. I usually want adventuresome wines that set me off kilter. Sometimes I don’t. That’s what Dry Creek Vineyard wines are for: when you want something very good but very consistent.

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The ever elegant DCV Sauvignon Blanc

Ruffle feathers tomorrow. Today, settle in and settle down. Here’s my take on a benchmark-y, stable, classic line-up of wines from California that will break few-to-no balls, bones, habits,  relationships or banks.

Malbec dead, long live Malbec. A brief guide to great Argentine wine

October 24, 2012 § Leave a comment

Argentine wine ain’t just about Malbec. Especially not the Malbec that has flooded the U.S. market. There’s terroir up on those Mendoza plateaus, and it often expresses most thrillingly when the Malbec is blended with Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah, Cabernet Franc and Bonarda. My column in the Portland Press Herald this week shines a light on  Catena’s Alma Negra and Weinert, a couple of producers whose profound Bordeaux-influenced blends enlarge and deepen the spectrum for appreciating wine from this vast region.

No need for “shock of the new”. Go old-fangled, with classic expressions of classic wines

October 18, 2012 § Leave a comment

This week I dial it back a touch. If you’re always on the lookout for the latest, weirdest, off-beatest, you’ll miss the beauty right in front of your eyes. Cases in point: four terrific wines from oh-sigh-boring grapes — Pinot Grigio, Chardonnay, Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon — from oh-sigh-boring regions: Friuli, Piemonte, Bordeaux, Cali Central Coast. Ah, but the wines…the wines…

“Their only messages are from an almost Asian sphere of pure taste, pure expression of land.”

Ascending Mount Eden, in the footsteps of Martin Ray, to reach the grail: balanced Pinot Noir & Chardonnay

October 3, 2012 § Leave a comment

Often Pinot Noir and Chardonnay in California suffer a viniferous “foie-gras effect”: grapes force-fed a diet of heat, hang-time and high yields until their organs are so engorged you’ve got to spread the wine they pretend to be onto toast in order to get them past your exhausted palate. Not this time around, as my column this week explores.  Jeffrey Patterson, chief winemaker at Mount Eden Vineyards in the Santa Cruz Mountains AVA, is making good on Martin Ray’s 1940 promise to make great wine in California.

Great wine, as in balanced, delicate, respectful of varietal and useful of land. At 2,000 feet above sea level with cool breezes blowing from Monterey Bay, Mount Eden is a thin skein of soil covering what is mostly shale. Not a lot of nutrients, and therefore not a lot of yield. More flavor goes into fewer grapes.

The wines are achingly elegant. Polished yet with jump in their bones. Their promo material says “Burgundian” (of course), but that’s not quite right. The wines are richer and more compacted than Burgundian Pinot and Chardonnay (more Meursault than Montrachet for the whites, but that’s only ballpark) , as is their birthright, but they still dance. And they make you kind of proud to be American.

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