Gina Dallara: December 2008 Archives

Top Wine Stories of 2008

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mondavi_copia.jpgBy Courtney Cochran

From freezes to financial crises, the major events of 2008 will not soon be forgotten.  Read on for our take on the top wine stories of the year, including events from both the domestic and international wines scenes, as well as those that had an immediate impact on our industry, and those whose impact will continue to unfold for years to come.  Buckle up - it's been a rollercoaster of a year.   

Wine Country Itinerary: Sonoma Valley

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historic_press-room.jpgBy Robert Farmer

East of the Square

Sonoma Valley is a singular appellation that has many forms. Soils and climate are similar throughout, but style and texture can vary widely from place to place--often just a couple as-the-crow-flies miles separate those places. The corner of the valley east of downtown--Sonoma Plaza--is one of my favorite places to visit. Not only is it home to what basically amounts to the birthplace of Sonoma Wine Country, it is also a close-knit collection of fantastic wineries that ideally represent the wines of Sonoma. From gorgeous well-structured pinot noir to zippy zinfandel, they are all presented with a neighborly smile

Wine Country Itinerary: Western Paso Robles

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By Robert P. Farmer
In terms of size and production, only Napa and Sonoma surpass Paso Robles among California's winemaking regions. Some 170 wineries thrive here--Paso, as locals are fond of referring to it--and they harvest and produce from more than 26,000 acres of planted vineyards. Nearly every existing varietals are accounted for, but Bordeaux-style wines have solidified the region's reputation as a serious contender. 

Situated midway between San Francisco and Los Angeles, the region is large enough to be approached in sections. In the Western edge, where rolling hills and verdant scenery paint an easy, bucolic picture, some of Paso's best and most popular wineries are welcome visitors.

Wine Country Itinerary: Temecula

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By Robert P. Farmer

Among California's winemaking regions, Temecula may be one of the last unknowns. That is, to those who have not yet discovered it. For those who are familiar with it, they know that it is a rare find, a hidden gem nestled midway between Riverside and San Diego, where more than twenty wineries are taking advantage of an excellent microclimate for grape growing to produce award-winning premium wines. The AVA is situated at an 1100-foot elevation and enjoys cooler summer nights to counter the hot afternoons. It also makes for some gorgeous scenery along the wine tasting trail.

Snooth Simplifies Wine Shopping with iPhone App

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By Courtney Cochran

Social shopping site Snooth - which allows users to log and rate wines, compare scores with friends and click to buy wines from thousands of merchants across the US - has released an iPhone application that bests many of the other wine apps I've seen. Signing up took me less than two minutes (I simply created a user account on my iPhone at iphone.snooth.com), and moments later I was searching wine reviews using their location-based search services. My search for a Rosenblum Zinfandel selling for less than $50 in my area - the service uses zip codes to power its location-based search - yielded a result at The Wine House in San Francisco, which currently carries the bottle for $33.95. Had I wanted to purchase the wine, I could have used Snooth's "click to call" option embedded in the search result to dial the retailer's number and have the wine put on hold.

COPIA: What Went Wrong?

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copia_tower.jpgBy Courtney Cochran

On the heels of news that COPIA: The American Center for Wine, Food and the Arts' petition for Chapter 11 protection was turned down by a federal bankruptcy court, many of us are left wondering just what went wrong at the sprawling multi-use center located in the heart of wine country.

Opened to great fanfare in 2001, the 12-acre non-profit center - which features three restaurants, a museum, classrooms, a 3.5-acre garden and outdoor performance space - was one of the last projects spearheaded by late Napa Valley scion Robert Mondavi, who passed away in May of this year. The center has struggled since opening to attract the kind of crowds initially expected, a fact that's made it difficult for management to maintain payments on some $78 million in outstanding bond debt. After attorneys for the insurance company backing the bonds convinced a bankruptcy court judge that it was not acceptable for COPIA to take on additional loans that would be secured ahead of the $78 million in bonds, the center announced that it is closing, likely for good.

Bubble, Bubble Everywhere

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Sifting through the sparkling wine clutter this holiday season

by Courtney Cochran

It never fails: the holidays arrive yet again and you still have no idea how to tell your Prosecco from your Cava. When to serve vintage versus non-vintage Champagne? You're clueless.

With all the stress that comes with the holidays, worrying about your sparkling wine selection seems like an unnecessary burden. Happily, help is here when it comes to the sparkling wine thing. Read on for the low-down on some of the most popular styles of sparkling wine, so that this holiday you can really mean it when you insist that - ahem - you're quite certain a sparkling Chenin Blanc is just the thing to pair with your honey-baked ham.

By Courtney Cochran

In these sketchy economic times, it seems that nothing is safe from deflation, devaluation and the many other disturbing indicators of economic mayhem wreaking havoc across our land. But thanks to urban winery Crushpad's newest creation, Bailout Wine* , these signs of malaise are no longer quite so frightening - at least not when it comes to the state of the wine scene.

Vampire Phenomenon Infiltrates Wine World

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By Courtney Cochran

If you haven't noticed the rash of vampire-related TV shows and films appearing on screens stateside, then perhaps it's because you've been sleeping under a rock.  To wit, Twilight - the newly released megapicture chronicling an "epic" romance between a vampire and a teenage girl - is currently raking it in at the box office, while standout new HBO series, True Blood, has hard-core sci-fi fans and regular viewers alike abuzz about its racy plotlines that follow centuries-old vampires as they "mainstream" into contemporary life in a rural southern town.

Wine Clubs

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wine_club.jpgThe Gift That Keeps on Giving - in a good way

by Robert P. Farmer

'Tis the season to shout at your steering wheel while parked in the lot of the local mall - furious in frustration over what the heck to buy that special someone. Yes, the holidays are here and in the spirit of giving I offer some solace to the confused shopper, yes, I count myself among you.

Whether you've got a wine enthusiast on your list or you just hope to create one, a gift membership to a wine club is a gift they won't soon forget. After all, how could they; the wine will keep arriving periodically at their door for at least the ensuing year. Wine clubs are an excellent way to demonstrate your thoughtfulness while also showing in no uncertain terms your good taste. It's sure to be appreciated with each pull of the cork.

There are countless wine clubs available in Wine Country and dozens more to found throughout the nation and reachable via the Internet. The trick is to locate the right club to join - whether for you or on behalf of your gift recipient. Most respectable wine clubs are designed to keep members abreast of their favorite wines while offering them first-look insight into new wines or wines they might not otherwise find on their own. Most wineries operate wine clubs through which members are offered first dibs on reserve vintage orders, exclusive discounts, and invitations to private tastings, classes, and parties.

Winter Wines

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Enjoy robust Italian Nebbiolo Barolo and luscious Canadian ice wine paired with your hearty winter meals.

by Courtney Cochran

There are all sorts of things that are wonderful about winter time. Snow, comfort food and roaring fires are just a few of them. But one of the best things about brisk weather and the winter months is the opportunity they afford to switch up your wine routine.

Colder temperatures and heartier fare are important reasons to look to new wines at this time of year. But another, in all likelihood less obvious reason, is quite simple: state of mind. The arrival of winter signals a change in our routines and activities.

Wine Country Itinerary: Yountville

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By Robert Farmer

It is arguably the most power packed handful of square miles in California's Wine Country. Yountville: a tiny town along Hwy. 29, can be driven through in a matter of a couple minutes. But at a more leisurely pace, it can take a week to soak it all in. What a week that would be--filled with hours of wine tasting, spa time, and long casual dinners in some of the nation's best restaurants.

Yountville is home to several charming inns and a few world-class resorts. It boasts six Michelin stars among its dozen or so globally famous restaurants. And it's all contained within a few blocks radius. Yet in spite of its highly charged wine-and-dine reputation, Yountville manages to retain its slow-paced rural charm--never feeling too far from the roots that were planted in 1855, when George Calvert Yount laid out the city's plan and put the first grapes in the ground.

So it's not surprising that while many visitors are drawn to Yountville because it is home to Thomas Keller's French Laundry and his more casual Bouchon, still as many arrive to take in the joie de vivre of Wine Country as it can only be found in a town chock full of shops, boutiques and purveyors of the good life.

The town is in the throes of a master plan improvement, which will ultimately add a series of new hotels, spas, and of course restaurants--effectively jamming even more into its already packed four square-mile radius. And through December, the city and its surroundings come aglow during its 20th annual Festival of Lights, a series of celebrations and holiday-themed events.

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