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Posted by Robert Whitley on May 10, 2016 at 9:40 AM

MacPhail Departs Namesake Winery

 HEALDSBURG, Calif. — We've seen this act before: Richard Arrowood sells Arrowood. Gone. Gary Farrell sells Gary Farrell. Gone. Richard Sanford sells Sanford. Gone.

The latest disappearing act involves James MacPhail, the well-regarded pinot noir specialist who sold the MacPhail winery to Hess several years ago.

During a recent visit, as I tasted the latest MacPhail releases at the small winery behind his house in the Russian River Valley, James casually let drop that this month would be his last as the winemaker at MacPhail.

"The parting is amicable," he said, though he did intimate there was a disagreement over the direction of the boutique winery, which has earned a stellar reputation for often-brilliant small-lot vineyard-designate pinot noirs and chardonnays, primarily from the Russian River and Sonoma Coast appellations.

His life as a winemaking consultant begins almost immediately. MacPhail's first gig is with a winery currently under construction in the Sonoma Valley.

"I can't say the name at this point, but they're bringing in (renowned Napa Valley winemaker) Philippe Melka to oversee their Bordeaux program, and I will be responsible for their Burgundy program," said MacPhail.

In the meantime, he and his wife Kerry are launching their own new label, Tongue Dancer. "We chose that name because the wines we enjoy most dance on your tongue," said MacPhail.

Filipponi Ranch, Edna Valley (Central Coast, California) Chardonnay Paragon Vineyard 2014 ($26)
You might not be aware that the Edna Valley wine country is just south of San Luis Obispo, and that it's a region worthy of a little trek off the road where some real gems are located.  If you're driving south on Highway 101 from Paso Robles, the first indication that you'll see is the tasting room for Filipponi Ranch, which began producing from area fruit in 2008, and it's definitely worth a stop for some tasting.  This Chardonnay shows nice depth of aroma and flavor, with lemon, apple, tropical, vanilla, honey, soft oak spice and a long apple forward finish.  It hits my creamy yet crisp marker for the variety thanks to a big acid kiss on the end, and it's a fine introduction to the area if you aren't yet familiar.  Well done!
91 Rich Cook

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This Issue's Reviews
 
The Remarkable Life of Wine Legend Peter Sichel
Rebecca Murphy

Peter Sichel was born into the wine business that his family established in 1857. However, he didn't get into the business himself until he was 37 years old, after an illustrious career in the OSS, then the CIA. That was after he and his family escaped Nazi Germany to New York City by way of France, Spain and Portugal with an internment camp stay along the way. He has chronicled his life and career in his memoir, "The Secrets of My Life: Vintner, Prisoner, Soldier, Spy." It is a captivating story of a fascinating, and at times frightening life. He describes it as, 'Really three books: growing up (Jewish) in Nazi Germany, about American intelligence and a book about the wine business, really more about the business of wine than about wine.'
Tyranny or Anarchy?
Marguerite Thomas

No, I'm not talking about the current political situation here. It's food and wine pairing that's caught my attention just now following a recent web surfing session during which I was surprised to discover that the word "tyranny" is frequently used in conjunction with the phrase food and wine pairing. "Wine and food matching has become a tyranny," declares Master of Wine Tim Hanni. "Food and wine matching should be important, but not a tyranny," writes Fiona Beckett, whose website happens to be one of my favorites on this subject (food and wine, not tyranny). Blake Gray, meanwhile, wrote about apps on his blog: 'Since food and wine pairing is mysterious and counter-intuitive, if you have a pairing app that tells you One Dish--One Wine, immutably, with no wiggle room, it's a tyrant in your pocket.'
Wine With
WINE WITH…Lamb Burgers with Carmelized Onions and Greek Salad


On its home turf the typical 'Greek' salad is thought of as rustic and summery, dedicated to absolutely fresh tomatoes and cucumbers offset by the salty/briny twang of olives and feta cheese. In America, we tend to take it in another direction, adding lettuce as well as pepperoncini, anchovies, bell peppers, radishes and even beets. While these embellishments can certainly make for a tasty salad, in this recipe we stick to the original straightforward ingredients to best harmonize with the succulent lamb-burgers and their caramelized onion topping.
On My Table
Clonal Blending for Complexity
Mary Ewing-Mulligan

Long before Pinot Noir's current popularity craze, Davis Bynum earned a solid reputation for the quality of his Russian River Valley Pinot Noir. Forty-three years ago, to be precise, Bynum moved his fledgling winery to Russian River Valley and produced the valley's first single-vineyard Pinot Noir with grapes purchased from neighbor Joe Rochioli, a renowned Pinot Noir grower. Ten years later, Russian River Valley would become recognized as an AVA. In 2007, Davis Bynum sold his winery to the Klein family, led by Tom Klein who also owns Rodney Strong Vineyards, another pioneering Russian River winery. Winemaking is now in the hands of winemaker Greg Morthole and consultant David Ramey.