Archive for the 'American wine' Category

Rupert Murdoch buys LA vineyard


Rupert Murdoch, vintner? It’s true. Unlike fellow billionaire Warren Buffett who has invested on the less glamorous (but more profitable?) distribution side of the wine biz, the media magnate is going for the glitz–near Hollywood, no less. He’s buying what may well be the only commercial vineyard in LA, the 16-acre Moraga Estate in Bel Air that was listed for $29.5 million. Murdoch broke the story on Twitter of all places; now the story has been picked up real estate blogs, which have abundant photos. The seller is Tom Jones, former CEO of Northrop Grumman.

I wonder if the wine will now have a certain, er, foxiness to it? If he were to rename it, what would it be called?

Moraga Vineyards

Cicadas reemerge to a changed wine world


From North Carolina to Connecticut, billions of creatures with eyes the color of blood and bodies the color of coal are crawling out of the earth. Periodical cicadas are emerging en masse, clambering into trees and singing a shivering chorus that can be heard for miles.

What makes this emergence truly remarkable, however, is how long it’s been in the making. This month’s army of periodical cicadas was born in 1996. Their mothers laid their eggs in the branches of trees, where they developed for a few weeks before hatching and heading for the ground. “They just jumped out and rained down out of the trees,” said Chris Simon, a cicada biologist at the University of Connecticut.

Those Clinton-era larvae then squirmed into the dirt and spent the next 17 years sucking fluid from tree roots. NYT

Dear cicadas,

Welcome back! I’m sure after 17 years of sucking fluid from tree roots–as sweet as that is–you’re probably read for something a little stiffer, like a good glass of wine.

A lot has changed in the wine world since you were born in 1996 and then stumbled into your Rumpelstiltskin impression. Let’s start with that Bordeaux Read more…

Finger Lakes Riesling: what’s all the fuss?

ravines_rieslingFinger Lakes wines, particularly Rieslings, have gotten a lot of recent attention. So I thought I would check in with them for a piece currently on

One wine that came up repeatedly was the Ravines Dry Riesling (as well as their Argentsinger Vineyard one). I picked up two bottles of the 2012 for $14.99 each and poured them for discerning audiences. First, my wife, who is not generally a huge Riesling fan but she gave this one a thumbs up. I rated it a leading patio pounder for Summer of Riesling 2013. Then I opened the second bottle for my NYU class and poured it blind. Before revealing what it was, I asked them how many of them liked it. All hands went up. When the bag came off the bottle, they were all surprised and doubly impressed.

It seems to be a common reaction with the best Finger Lakes wines, as Thomas Pastuszak from NoMad shares in the piece.

Which are your favorite Finger Lakes wines? Do you think the region is overrated or underrated?

Mayacamas Vineyards sold to Charles Banks & co

Bob and Elinor Travers bought Mayacamas Vineyards in 1968 when they were just 30 years old. Bob made the wines from the vineyards high above the floor of the Napa Valley ever since. John Gilman lauds Mayacamas for not succumbing to the “tides of fashion,” calling it “one of the greatest cabernet sauvignon producers in the history of California.”

So it is big news today that the Travers have sold the property. The new owners are Charles Banks and Jay Schottenstein and his son Joey. While the Schottenstein family fortune come from retailing, such as American Eagle and DSW, Charles Banks heads Terroir Selections, a group focused on acquiring vineyards around the world. Banks was a former co-owner of Screaming Eagle.

With investments Sandhi and Wind Gap, in particular but also Fable in South Africa, Banks has become a major underwriter of restraint and balance in the wine world. Asked via Twitter who will be making the wines at Mayacamas, Banks replied, “Andy Erickson in the winery and Annie Favia in the vineyards. me making sure we keep the style and respect Bob Travers legacy.”

In an article about their new Favia wines in 2010, the SF Chronicle wrote “It’s hard to imagine a more formidable wine duo than Andy Erickson and Annie Favia.” And as to the big buzzword of the day, Favia said in the story that “the goal is balance, balance in your wines and balance in your life.”

A penny for your…wine?!?


From the aisles of California retail, a site reader sends in news of perhaps the ultimate closeout–wine for a penny a bottle.

What’s interesting is that this special offer, only available to CVS cardholders who also purchase a 18(!)-pack of Bud or Tecate (do they mean orange wine?). Incentivizing wine purchases through beer. Soft economy be damned–we’re going to boost that rise in per capita wine consumption going one way or another! Read more…

Did you hear the one about the grizzlies, the pandas and the vintner?


Climate change threatens to redraw the wine map over the next few decades. That we know. A new paper suggests that the establishment of new vineyards in cooler areas will endanger the habitat of animals ranging from grizzlies to pandas.

The findings seem to be structured to grab headlines and cause alarm–who would ever want to hurt pronghorn elk or pandas in the quest for a glass of pinot noir? Sure, the wine industry might need a prod to improve water management or reduce pesticide use. But are there concrete examples where vineyards have threatened habitats and how the potential conflicts were resolved successfully or not? In the absence of such concrete examples, it seems a bit like a bogeyman. I visited vineyards in Constantia last year, right up against the Cape of Good Hope nature preserve, which has abundant biodiversity and the vintners there spoke of living with baboon raids on grapes and how there was little they could do about it.

The paper largely ignores practicality and politics. If the climate is changing, wouldn’t there be other (e.g. housing) development pressure in cooler areas? Would other shifts in the environment of the wildlife alter the habitat more than a fenced-in vineyard? And what about preservation efforts–land use regulations in Napa, for example, essentially rendered hillside vineyard development impossible over a decade ago. And pointing to the declining vineyard area of Algeria is a red herring since it was once administratively part of mainland France at the height of French wine consumption, only to have the market removed after independence.

The map of the world’s vineyards will indubitably include new lands 50 years from now and it’s good that the paper again brings this into the popular discussion. New vineyards should be developed in a responsible way, using policy and including consideration for wildlife. But if we’re all drinking grand cru Montana in 2050, we’re going to have a lot more to think about than wine–and so will the grizzlies. Read more…

Jim Barrett and the Irish Order of the Wine Geese

Jim Barrett, who purchased Chateau Montelena in Napa Valley in 1972, died yesterday at the age of 86 (see bio). Chateau Montelena burst on to the international stage just a few years after Barrett purchased the property when its chardonnay outpaced other whites to win the Paris Tasting of 1976. This was captured (with a degree of artistic license) in the film Bottle Shock a few years ago. Bo Barrett, Jim’s son who took over the title of winemaker at Montelena in 1982 (which he yielded to Cam Perry in 2008), told me once that the film generated a huge amount of interest in visiting the property and sent tasting room sales soaring. The wines continue to be very good including restrained versions of both Zinfandel and Chardonnay as well as cellar-worthy cabernets.

In the press release about Jim Barrett’s death, one of his affiliations caught my eye: he was a member of the Irish Order of Wine Geese. What? That’s a new one to me. Thankfully, Senior Irish Wine Correspondent and now Master of Wine Mary Gorman-McAdams wrote a piece about it over at It turns out to be a loose collection of those with Irish heritage in the wine industry worldwide. Bordeaux famously had the Barton and Lynch families among others, Australia has Jim Barry as well as the Horgan family of Leeuwin Estate, and there are several in the US, including Concannon and Montelena.

So that gives a few wine options if you want to raise a glass of something other than green beer on St. Patrick’s Day. I’m sure Jim Barrett would approve.

BREAKING: Trader Joe’s raises the price of Two Buck Chuck

Trader Joe’s is raising the price of Two Buck Chuck from $1.99 to $2.49, citing higher costs. Introduced in 2002, it’s kind of hard to believe they hadn’t raised the price already. Oh, and people are already throwing around “upchuck” as a new nickname after the price increase–or, wait, was that a tasting note?

Good thing I loaded up on Charles Shaw while it was still $2–my wine collection has now appreciated by 25%! Mmm, aged Charles Shaw…

Oh, and it’s been about $2.99 in NYC for a while.


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