• 20 Apr 2017

    Inglenook of Napa Valley

    Undoubtedly there will be many things contained in these notes which will seem so much like self-evident truths that you may consider them commentary on my opinion of your judgment and perception, and for that reason I want to say, at the very first, anything included in these notes will be something I have found to be helpful to me… - Letter from John Daniel Jr. to his sister Suzanne, dated March 30, 1942 Only...
    • 7 Sep 2015

    The True Story of To-Kalon Vineyard

    Prior to the turn of the 20th Century, there was a winery in Napa Valley which used the name ‘Tokalon’… That winery was sold off in parcels during the first fifteen to twenty years of the 20th Century and use of the name was discontinued. Accordingly, although the name has some historical significance, it has no current meaning or significance in the wine industry. - Robert Mondavi Winery , responding to the US Patent...
    • 15 Oct 2014

    Mascarello vs. Mascarello, by the numbers

    Despite unseasonal early fall weather reaching into the 90s, our core mission remained intact: drink a lot of Nebbiolo, a quintessential cold-weather wine, and wash it down with some home-cooked osso buco and polenta. Accepted, happily! Winemaker Dan Petroski (Massican, Larkmead), vintner Bob Bressler, and a crew of current and former Napa sommeliers— Jimmy Hayes , Dennis Kelly MS , Sur Lucero MS , Jason Heller MS , and...
    • 29 Jul 2014

    Santorini: The Volcano Island

    Young Assyrtiko is relentless. It is a predator, and your palate is the prey. It puts you on your back and you throw your hands up. You have to submit! -Yoon Ha MS Put simply, Santorini Assyrtiko may be the best terroir value in the world. The wines generally retail between $15-30 in the US, a price point at which one can easily find good varietal quality, but real sense of place becomes a bit more elusive. Modern Assyrtiko...
    • 6 May 2014

    Lodi, Looking Forward

    The mere mention of Lodi may conjure up images of massive wine factories, Woodbridge, Delicato, and 7 Deadly Zins, but there’s a hidden world of viticultural history and old-vine treasure chests out there—and winemakers throughout California have been sniffing around. Turley was one of the first premium “outsider” wineries to bottle a Lodi AVA wine (1996 Spenker Zinfandel), but in recent years others have followed, attracted...
    • 21 Apr 2013

    Ribera del Duero: Six Profiles

    Atauta “This is one of the most desolate places in Europe; it’s more isolated than Finland, even.” In dying light, Dominio de Atauta winemaker Almudena Alberca and I sped along wintry, washboard roads, rugged and empty, in the backcountry of Soria province, some 50 kilometers from the Duero’s mountain headwaters. Here, along the far eastern edge of the Ribera del Duero DO, we explored small parcels of en vaso vines...
    • 19 Nov 2012

    Madeira: A Time Capsule

    “ I never lift to my lips a glass of this noble wine without seeing faces that are gone, and hearing the voices and the laughter and the jests that are no more.” -Silas Weir Mitchell, A Madeira Party (1895) Great Madeira is a bulwark against corrosion and timeless amid our half-lives of gentle decay. It is inscrutable: to reduce it to tasting notes and the crude ephemera of snapshot opinions or scores seems crass. It...
    • 12 Jun 2012

    Acid-Tripping in the Pfalz

    Germany established its first tourist “wine route”, the Deutsche Weinstrasse, in 1935 in the Pfalz. The road officially spans 85 km, beginning just south of Worms and ending at the “Wine Gate” (Deutsches Weintor) in Schweigen, at the French border. The Pfalz’s most historic wineries and best-known vineyards are located in the region’s northern sector, the Mittelhaardt. Life appears to move quietly along in pleasant little...
    • 6 Jun 2012

    A Quick Guide to Tax and Deductions for the Wine Professional

    Many sommeliers, at some point or another in their careers, begin to earn personal business income from various consulting projects. Some sommeliers earn most or all of their income from a personal business—i.e., one in which you are not employed by another, but rather working for yourself, submitting invoices or other billing to clients. In such situations, the sommelier is personally responsible for paying all state...
    • 9 Mar 2012

    Italy's Adriatic Coast (Part 2): Marche and Abruzzo

    Marche and Abruzzo Verdicchio, Castelli di Jesi and Matelica Driving south from Verona along the Adriatic Coast, the land flattens as we pass through the fertile plains of Emilia-Romagna only to rise up again, jutting and carving upwards into the sky. The coastal areas in Veneto and Emilia-Romagna are unremarkably level, but in the Marche the land becomes mountainous and hilly; the central Apennines push out toward...
    • 21 Feb 2012

    Italy's Adriatic Coast (Part 1): Veneto and the DOCG

    The Ministry Official: To comply with the regulations, you must produce your wine solely from the single local variety. This is to preserve the integrity of the appellation, to preserve the terroir. The Italian: No! You stifle my creativity; you deprive me of my freedom! You are heartless and sterile, and your watch is cheap! I am not a German! The Ministry Official: Fine. You can add 15% of anything else you want...
    • 7 Nov 2011

    Torrents of Black Water: The Abridged Travels of the Coffee Bean to the Far Ends of the Earth!

    Did you know: Berry Bros. and Rudd started out as a coffee shop? A single living tree may have sired every coffee plant in the Western Hemisphere? German coffee-drinkers disgrace the national pastime of beer ? French coffee is terrible? Read on!.... The Origins of Coffee In the beginning, the Coffea arabica tree grew wild on the mountainsides of Abyssinia (modern-day Ethiopia) but the precise moment that man ascertained...
    • 10 Aug 2011

    Adventures of the Wine-Butler, or Dining with Deinhard

    Amidst stacks of old books and lore at Hanzell Vineyards, a few old mid-century magazines have gathered dust, yellowing over time. The Wine-Butler , the "official organ" of the Guild of Sommeliers, published through the 1950s and 1960s--I do not know when the last issue hit the stands--is a trove of insights into the British wine trade of the time, and the minds of sommeliers. Like us, the sommeliers of the time struggled...
    • 31 May 2011

    Booze à la Normande: Calvados, Cidre, Poiré and Pommeau

    A Little Background Normandy, located east of Brittany and north of the Loire Valley, is a coastal region along the English Channel, whose native populace can claim Viking ancestry. In 911, King Charles III of France ceded Normandy to Scandinavian invaders led by Rollo, who was formally baptized as Robert and pledged as vassal to defend the French king. The line of Robert’s successors, the Dukes of Normandy (Norman...
    • 16 Feb 2011

    Reflections of a New Master (The Journey is the Reward?)

    I recall approaching the examination room for the first time several winters ago in Toronto, as an introductory candidate from the Midwest. I had the opportunity for the first time in person to meet and to learn from a Master Sommelier. I felt awe and reverence at that moment for these gentlemen with red pins on a scale normally reserved for gods and natural disasters; I recall praying throughout that first terrifying...