December 2007 Archives

Cradle of Love - Wine Gift Ideas

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by Courtney Cochran

Gifting for the wine lover in your life seems easy enough until you realize that the best gifts have already been given:  fancy Rabbit-style corkscrew (check), embellished pewter bottle coaster (check), elaborate duck-shaped decanter (sigh, check). 

But wait!  Just when you’ve decided that finding the perfect gift for your wine lover is about as likely as White Zin making a comeback, I’m here with the scoop on something the wine lover in your life almost certainly doesn’t have:  a wine cradle. 

Made from a variety of materials and available at a variety of price points, a wine cradle is – essentially – a holster designed for serving old and rare wines.  Because older bottles often contain sediment – a natural by-product of wine’s aging process – serving them from a wine cradle ensures that the sediment stays where it ought to be – in the bottom of the bottle – and out of your glass.  Sleek, minimalist cradles may suit New Age drinkers, while more classic, Italian-made pewter versions will win points with traditionalists.

Either way, your gift-giving savvy may just net you a taste of one of said old bottles – a fitting reward for your efforts, if I do say so.

Breakout Wine Regions of ’08 – Part Three

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by Courtney Cochran

Journey to Japan

When I poured the 2005 Koshu Yamanashi Cuvée Denis Dubourdieu for a group of creative executives the other day, one wryly remarked that he sensed “a soupçon of Samurai sword” in his glass.  Jokes aside, this pioneering effort in traditional winemaking from Japan is dry, low in alcohol (just 10%) and offers tasty notes of lime rind and other citrus fruits before a crisp, food-friendly finish.  Koshu is one of the first vinifera grapes (the species to which Chardonnay and Merlot belong) successfully grown in Japan, and we should expect to see more of it on adventurous wine lists in the not-too-distant future. 

Breakout Wine Regions of ’08 – Part Two

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by Courtney Cochran

Patagonia Precedent

Voyage deep into the heart of Argentine Patagonia and you’ll find stunning Bodegas Familia Schroeder, a winery on the scale of the most ambitious in Napa.  The five-story, gravity-flow winery encompasses a white tablecloth restaurant in addition to its well-appointed visitor center and special “cave” showcasing the fossilized remains of a dinosaur found on-site during construction.  The Schroeder “SAURUS” (the name is a reference to the dinosaur) Patagonia Extra Brut Non-vintage sparkling wine is a sophisticated bubbly offering notes of white flowers, lemon zest and steely minerality before a crisp finish.  Pick number three to be announced Friday!

by Courtney Cochran

Whoever said wine is a stodgy industry offering few surprises is sorely mistaken. With three exciting wines from breakout regions as proof, I’m here to say that there’s lots of change afoot in the wine world, as new areas previously assumed unfit for wine production step into the spotlight, just in time for sampling in the new year.  

Georgia On My Mind

The rolling hills of north Georgia are home to Persimmon Creek Vineyards, a labor of love founded in 2000 when physician Sonny Hardman and his wife, Mary Ann, purchased 101acres along meandering Persimmon Creek and planted a vineyard.  The rocky soils and cool nights found there are ideal for grape growing, and their 2005 Persimmon Creek Cabernet Franc is a promising early effort, offering compelling notes of smoke and baking spices alongside firm structure and ripe red-black fruits.

Look for my other picks later this week...

By Robert Farmer

A San Francisco icon has reemerged like the butterfly from the chrysalis. Only in this case the butterfly is a Moose. For decades the anchor of Washington Square and the hideout for local politicos and socialistas, Moose's (415-989-7800; recently reopened following a major redesign and refurbishment.

The good news is, it appears that it will still be a great place to grab a glass of wine and discuss the events of the day. Under the watchful eye of wine director Glen Standish, Moose's has unveiled a world-spanning list of wines that showcase artisan producers with an emphasis on organic and biodynamically produced wines. What's more, care was taken to offer value and selection. Great prices will make it tough to choose from among 15 by-the-glass wines and from more than 150 bottle and half-bottle selections. The wines will pair nicely with a new menu from chef Travis Flood, who honed his skills at SF's Fifth Floor, among other haute spots.

It's good to see the return of a classic to the City by the Bay--a place where a local neighborhood restaurant welcomes people from all neighborhoods.

Shop Online With a Million Friends

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By Robert Farmer


You’ve heard me rant about the benefits of buying wine online – hello, front-door delivery! But sometimes it can be tough to make decision is the vast cold void of cyberspace when confronted with a gazillion choices. That is, unless you know exactly what you want.

But let’s say you’re not Robert Parker and you’re just interested in exploring. Enter Snooth (, a New York City-based (yes, New York City!) online presence that leverages the much-hyped Web 2.0 technology for its wine recommendations and overall functionality. Flush with a recent one million dollar financing deal, Snooth is poised to make big waves in the online wine shopping and searching world. Using so-called “social” recommending, the site offers info and detail on more than 300,000 kinds of wine.

It also claims 1.9 million users, each of whom add to and help build the site—for instance, you can see what your site friends are liking at the moment, what they’ve bought, and what they’ve steered clear of.  It’s like Facebook for wine snobs! The best part is the search capabilities. The site seems to know wine terminology—for instance, it can find recommendations for based on your love of “buttery” chardonnay.

Check it out and see if you give a Snooth.

The Young Guns

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juddhill.jpgWine Country's Next Generation of Wine Makers Takes Off

By Courtney Cochran

Ever since Yellow Tail landed stateside I've seen a lot more young wine drinkers stepping up to the tasting plate. Now, before you stick up your nose and bad mouth the Aussie juice as some sort of unsophisticated entry-level slop, think twice.

It's having a profound effect on consumption patterns amongst new drinkers, functioning as a starter wine for lots of folks who were previously swilling just beer and booze. And, as is true for all things entry-level, there's only one way to go from here: up.

Once they're in the door, newbie wine lovers are moving quickly beyond the black and yellow to more complex wines. And what better way to introduce them to a bunch of awesome examples than through a live tasting featuring some of most dynamic movers and shakers on the wine scene under the age of 35?

How Green Was My Winery

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By Courtney Cochran

It used to be enough to be “green.”  

But with Parducci Winery’s recent recognition as a carbon-neutral winery – the first of its kind in the United States – there’s a new standard for environmental achievement on the domestic wine scene.

Mendocino County’s oldest family-run winery was awarded the prestigious 2007 Governor’s Environmental and Economic Leadership Award (GEELA) last month in Sacramento for its pioneering work in reducing greenhouse gas emissions and the effects of climate change.  Parducci’s use of solar power, wind energy and bio-diesel fuel was applauded, as was the winery’s commitment to taking additional steps to offset its remaining carbon footprint.  

Besides achieving carbon neutrality, Parducci and its parent company, Mendocino Wine Company, farm according to organic and biodynamic principals and are committed to sustainable viticulture practices that will protect the environment for future generations.

I’ll drink to that.

DessertWineGlass.jpgIt's no accident that most great wine-producing regions of the world have a signature dessert wine. Bordeaux, Tuscany and the Rheingau are the most famous homes of "stickies," as dessert wines are sometimes called, but the list is far longer. The reasons are simple: sweet wine makes a great finish to good meals, and it takes good grapes to make good dessert wine. So superior stickies tend to be made in places where good wine and good food go hand in hand.

Jessie's Grove Vineyards

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Ancient Vines Still Growing Strong in Lodi

Though they're gnarled and twisted with age, a little hunched over and not at all interested in new-fangled ideas like, say, trellises and grafting, there's still plenty of life left in the wise, old vines of Jessie's Grove. They've made it 115 years, after all.

Given names like Yoda and Royal-tee, these relatively ancient vines are the oldest in Lodi--and among the oldest in the state. Planted in the late 1800's, not long after the madness of the Gold Rush and some of the earliest plantings by the viticultural Johnny Appleseed of the California's Central Valley--Captain Charles Weber--the vines continue to produce intensely flavored, highly prized Zinfandel and Carignane wines.