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Wine Spectator, Feb 2013


James Laube:

Vintage ratings matter less today than they ever did.  Advances in viticulture and winemaking, along with selection, have elevated quality and leveled the playing field.  The highs and lows that used to separate the great years from the lesser ones have been  marginalized.  Want proof?  Try tasting a vertical of wines from a given producer.  If it’s blind, odds are you’ll be surprised by the results.  The vintage everyone thought was a bust will be far better than you imagined.  And the monumental years, the ones everyone clamored for, won’t seem head and shoulders above the pack.

His pet peeve:

…how many people continue to equate price with quality.  In our 2012 Top 100, the average bottle price is $46.

Matt Kramer:

…Stop fretting about when a wine is ready to drink!  I used to really care about when a wine was “ready to drink.” No more.  Yes, I continue to hold wines in my cellar for a better tomorrow.  But here’s the catch: I don’t wait anywhere near as long as I once did (or intended, anyway).  And I’ve concluded that after, say five years of all but a handful of wines, additional cellaring soon reaches a point of diminishing returns.

Bottom line: Buy interesting wines.  Store them in a cool spot for up to five years.  Then pop and pour…

Harry Steiman:

His pet peeve,

…”bottle variation” because of cork taints, aka TCA, affecting roughly one bottle per case…he says give up the corking and go to screw tops.

Kim Marcus:

His pet peeve,

…the pricing of wine in restaurants…hard to swallow the blatant overpricing.  I recommend frequenting restaurants that gain an “inexpensive” pricing designation in our Restaurant Awards programs or the have moderate BYO prices ($25 or less per bottle).

Maryann Worobiec:

Her pet peeve,

…having my wine class filled to the top, not giving me any room to swirl.

  • CF Note:  not complaining here about ordering wine by the glass and getting a generous pour, rather when buying the bottle, or bringing your own, the overenthusiastic server tries to keep the glass topped off.

The monthly beauty contest, Spectator Ratings, of note, Cali favorites


  • 96 Points: 2010 Lewis, Napa Valley, Hillstone Vineyard, $135
  • 95 Points: 2009 Paul Hobbs, Oakvill Beckstoffer To Kalon, $275
  • 94 Points: 201o Lewis, Napa Valley, $90
  • 93 Points: 2009 Justin Isosceles, Paso Robles, $62
  • 93 Points: 2010 M. Etain, Rutherford, $125
  • 92 Points, 2009 Vineyard 29, Saint Helena 29 Estate, $225
  • 91 Points, 2009 Cliff Lede, Stags Leap Cinnamon Rhapsody, $95
  • 91 Points, 2010 Lewis, Napa Valley Mason’s, $60
  • 90 Points, 2009 Chimney Rock, Stags Leap GanyMede Vineyard, $125

Grenache & Blends

  • 94 Points, 2010 Epoch, Sensibility Paderewski Vineyard, Paso Robles, $65
  • 94 Points, 2010 Epoch, Veracity Paderewski Vineyard, Paso Robles, $65
  • 93 Points, 2010 Linne Calodo, Sticks and Stones, Paso Robles, $72

Pinot Noir

  • 97 Points, 2007 Marcassin Sonoma Coast Blue Slide Ridge Vineyard, $90
  • 96 Points, 2007 Marcassin Sonoma Coast Marcassin Vineyard, $125
  • 95 Points, 2007 Marcassin Sonoma Coast Three Sisters Vineyard, $75
  • 92 Points, 2010 Paul Hobbs Russian River Katherine Lindsay Estate Cuvee Agustina, $100

Syrah & Blends

  • 95 Points, 2009 Araujo Napa Valley Eisele Vineyard, $135
  • 95 Points, 2009 Shafer Relentless Napa Valley, $63
  • 93 Points, 2010 Epoch Estate Blend Paderewski Vineyard Paso Robles, $40
  • 93 Points, 2009 Linne Calodo Booker Red Paso Robles, $80

Zinfandel & Blends

  • 92 Points, 2010 Epoch Paderewski Vineyard Paso Robles, $55
  • 92 Points, 2010 Linne Calodo Cherry Red Paso Robles, $70
  • 92 Points, 2010 Linne Calodo Outsider Paso Robles, $55
  • 92 Points, 2010 Linne Calodo Problem Child, Paso Robles, $55


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Bay Area Food News in 2012


From SF Chron, December 27, 2012, and article by Paolo Lucchesi.  Nice summary of the restaurant business in SF, comings and goings.

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Robert Parker 2.0…Maybe only 1.5?


Wall Street Journal article, Dec 10, 2012, “A Wine Advocate Hands Over Reins”.  Unfortunately, You may have trouble viewing the full article if not a subscriber.

Interesting bullet points…

  • The Wine Advocate is a 34 year-old publication.
  • By the end of 2013 they intend to phase out of the print version.
  • Parker is selling a substantial interest in Wine Advocate to a Singapore investor group who will take over day-to-day operations from Singapore, in a move from Maryland.
  • Lisa Perrotti-Brown will take charge of editorial oversight from her Singapore base.
  • The publication will widen its worldview and pay increased attention to the Asian wine market, including wines produced in China.
  • In a major move, they will begin accepting advertising, though not from the wine industry, so as to continue to avoid any perceived conflict of interest in their ratings.

Since Parker is now 65 years old, it would seem a transition makes sense.  “Version 1.0″ has had an amazing run, and has affected the wine industry like few other forces, some will say for the better, others may say for the worse.

For the better, it has given recognition to many wines that may not have otherwise been able to find such a broad audience.  For the worse, it has fostered a generation of winos that buy on Parker ratings, rather than trusting their own taste (to which I plead guilty).  Furthermore it fosters a “Parkerization” of wines, as they are often made to chase the Parker taste, in search of the high ratings which drive sales.

Fortunately, it seems that I like the Parker palette, but I couldn’t tell you for sure whether it’s because it’s truly my taste, or whether my nascent palette was groomed that way.  Doesn’t really matter at this point, as there are many competitive sources of wine ratings from which to choose.

I have learned that though I will find an interest in a wine because of a rating, I am best served by trying before buying!


A follow-on WSJ piece, Dec 13, 2012, entitled “Wine Advocate to Stay in Print,” makes me smile.  It contains a couple of points of clarification on the above…

  • The company will not move from its Maryland headquarters, though Singapore will be a “second office” from which the new editor Lisa Perrotti-Brown will be conducting her day-to-day business affairs.
  • The Wine Advocate will not phase out its print publication next year, apparently in response to a bit of an uprising from subscribers.
  • To clarify their advertising intent, they claimed they would never run ads in the hard copy of pdf versions of the Wine Advocate Newsletter.

Apparently customer concerns are still important to Parker and to new management.

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The World’s Top 50 Restaurants


Just published list of the World’s 50 Best Restaurants for 2012.  A few interesting things…

US has 8, 2 in the Bay Area, French Laundry at #43 and Manresa at #48.

France has 7, Spain has 5, England, Sweden and Italy have 3 each.

Denmark has the number one restaurant, Noma.

Spain has 3 restaurants in the top 10, as does the US (2 in New York, 1 in Chicago)

While I’m sure not “definitive”, still interesting for foodies and oenophiles.

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Drink! Your Income Depends On It!


Most of my friends understand my sense of humor, always trending to the facetious. I couldn’t resist passing this one along!

Add to this the recent findings that red wine has healthful properties, and I’m a happy guy.

Always nice to cherry pick information that supports my carefully chosen indulgences


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Restaurant Recommendations in Napa


From Feb 2013 Wine Spectator

James Laube recommends,

Maryann Worobiec recommends,


From the Sunday March 18, 2012 article in the SF Chronicle by Micheal Bauer,

From Michael Bauer, Press Restaurant, Lacking Flair, SF Chron, March 27, 2014,



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Who is: Philippe Melka


This article from Food & Wine magazine and this bio from Vintner’s Collective will introduce you to Melka.  He has his thumbprint on many wines currently in the Napa Valley, as winemaker or consultant, including

  • Parallel
  • Cliff Lede
  • Lail
  • Gemstone
  • Dana Estates
  • Hundred Acre
  • Melka
  • Seavey
  • Moone-Tsai
  • Long Shadows Pirouette
  • Vineyard 29
  • Roy Estate

In the past he has worked at

  • Dalla Valle
  • Bryant Family
  • Quintessa
  • Dominus
  • Ridge Vineyards

He began his career in two prestigious wineries in France,

  • Chateau Haut Brion
  • Chateau Petrus



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Wine Tasting Scoring Sheets and Rating Forms


These PDF’s provided by are useful for tasting and rating wines at a blind tasting.

Easy Wine Rating System

Wine Scoring Sheet

Wine Tasting Place-Mat

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Wine Without Food, Laurie Daniel


Laurie’s latest article has pegged me pretty much the way I have come to view myself–an unsophisticated rube, who cares more for the wine in his glass than the food on the plate, much less the combination of the two.

Her latest article from SJMN, April 27, 2011,

Laurie cites information from Wine Opinions, a California based research firm, indicating that 60 percent of the wine consumed by avid US wine drinkers does not accompany a meal.  Horrors!

To further establish my whorish wine credentials, I believe a good Napa cab goes with everything, …or nothing.

Laurie’s palette and sense of taste are much more refined than are mine, which is why I always look forward to her writing.  She finishes her article,

“While I was a little dismayed when I first heard about this research–all those columns about pairing wine with food apparently are falling on deaf ears–I’ve come to believe that it’s actually a sign that the United States is developing its own wine culture.  And that’s a good thing.”

I say, please don’t be disappointed in us Laurie.  We love wine, and love your writing about it.

Contact Laurie Daniel at

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On the recommendation of Christine Tan, Artisan Wine Depot, I tried the ’06 and the ’04 Cavus Stag’s Leap District Cabernet.  Both had low 90′s ratings from Parker.  The ’07 scored 95 points from Parker.

According to Christine,  a San Francisco Chronicle article on “cult cabs” named Cavus a “Winery to Watch.”   The ’07 vintage only produced 155 cases.

I elected to buy the ’04 and ’06 because they would drink better now, where the ’07 should wait a little longer.

The wine maker is David Phinney, who is responsible for the Orin Swift wines.

The vineyard manager is Jim Barbour, one the the best viticulturists and most respected vineyard managers in the Napa Valley.  Jim has worked with many upper echelon winemakers, including Heidi Barrett (Screaming Eagle), Thomas Brown (Outpost), Philippe Melka (Parallel) and Celia Welch (Scarecrow).

I drank the ’06 and the ’04 with different friends, and both were terrific.  I would buy the ’06 if I were buying more, and would recommend it for those who like Napa Cabs.  I didn’t taste the ’07s, but based on the the ’06 and the Parker rating for the ’07, might be a good buy for holding in the cellar.

The price range is around $80, and Christine still  has a little left.

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