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Columns – Gerald D. Boyd

Tasting Wine
Gerald D. Boyd
Nov 27, 2012

The amount of attention that we, as wine drinkers, pay to the three primary parameters of wine judging - sight, smell and taste -- varies from person to person. The professional is acutely aware that he or she is judging a wine, while the consumer rarely judges a wine when the occasion is for pleasure. Understandably, wine drinkers spend the most time tasting. As important as the sense of smell is to the character of a wine and the impression that smelling leaves on the drinker, most wine consumers spend little time critically sniffing their wine. And even less time is spent looking at the wine's color.

Views on Zinfandel
Gerald D. Boyd
Oct 30, 2012

These days, Zinfandel has found its way into the mainstream of California red wine, thanks to a growing number of Zin specialists in the Sierra Foothills, Lodi, Paso Robles and Sonoma County's two hallmark sub-regions Dry Creek Valley and Russian River Valley. I've been a Zin fan since I started drinking California wine, closely watching the progress of Zinfandel move from ripe, jammy, and high alcohol to wines with finesse and appeal that mirror--dare I say it--Cabernet Sauvignon, but with more up-front fruit.

Soave on the Rebound
Gerald D. Boyd
Oct 2, 2012

For years, the image of Italian white wine held by many Americans, if they thought at all of Italian white wine, was Soave. Simple and fruity, Soave was the chilled white wine refresher that went down easily and wasn't encumbered with oak. What could be better? A lot, as it turns out. Like other wine consumers, I was a Soave drinker, but when the wines began to taste bland and simple, I moved on to something else. What had happened to Soave? I put that question and a few others to Giovanni Ponchia of the Soave and Recioto Soave Consorzio.

Talley Chardonnay
Gerald D. Boyd
Aug 28, 2012

If Chardonnay isn't California's greatest white wine, then what is it? Tough question, because I'm not sure many people know the answer, including me. One person that should know is Brian Talley, owner of Talley Vineyards in Arroyo Grande, California. Since the late 1980s, Talley Vineyards has built a reputation for Chardonnays that don't fit into any of the convenient boxes that seem to define California Chardonnay today. Talley Chardonnays are lean with mineral nuances, and with oak influence that lends a textural note much more than overt seasoning.

A Tour Through Piedmont, Over Dinner
Gerald D. Boyd
Aug 7, 2012

This would not be easy. I was scheduled to meet with Fiorenzo Dogliani, the amministratore delegato , for Beni di Batasiolo, a winery in Piedmont, at a restaurant called Risibisi…and I don't speak Italian. My mono-lingual constitution was rattled, but Batasiolo has a reputation for primo Barolo and Barbaresco, so I'm hoping that Signore Dogliani speaks English.

Handley: Anderson Valley's Independent Spirit
Gerald D. Boyd
Jul 3, 2012

When Milla Handley graduated from the University of California-Davis in 1975, her aim was to find a place where the independent spirit of winemaking was still alive. It took three years, with a few stops along the way to learn about winemaking outside the classroom, before she settled in the Anderson Valley, Mendocino's cool climate outpost. 'I could follow my own path here, somewhat removed from the entrenched winemaking culture,' said Handley about her home since 1978. 'What attracted me is the independence of the people and the abiding spirit of the Anderson Valley. I wanted my wines to capture the essence of this extraordinary place,' explained Handley at a recent retrospective tasting of Handley Pinot Noir in Santa Rosa.

The Wonder of Oak
Gerald D. Boyd
Jun 12, 2012

Chardonnay is seldom made without it and most red wines seen today on store shelves certainly include it. The French carefully regulate its harvest. Winemakers in other countries covet what the French have and pay dearly for what the French will sell them. Americans work diligently to prove to the world that what they have, at lower prices, is as good as what the French parse out at higher prices. The highly-prized commodity is, of course, oak.

Oregon Pinot Gris
Gerald D. Boyd
May 8, 2012

There was a time when the Oregon wine industry was known as a one trick pony. To paraphrase Henry Ford's famous comment about the color of the Model-T, 'You can have any flavor of Oregon wine you want so long as it's Pinot Noir.' No question that Oregon had put the Pinot in Pinot Noir before California, even if some of the early Oregon winemakers were transplanted Californians, like David Lett of the Eyrie Vineyard who became known in Oregon as 'Papa Pinot.' But in today's market you can't survive on Pinot alone. So, in the late 1980s, Oregon winemakers began to realize that to compete in the national wine market--and eventually the world market--they had to have a white wine to go with their signature red.

Rioja Reads for 2012
Gerald D. Boyd
Apr 17, 2012

While it sometimes seems as though every word on wine today is to be found only online, the good news is paper and type wine books are still in print. Not as many as in previous years, perhaps, but for those of us who still treasure the heft and assurance of a book-book and profess an interest in Spanish wine, here are overviews of two recently published wine books that you might want to clear space for in your library.

There's Nothing Wacky About Greywacke
Gerald D. Boyd
Mar 13, 2012

My first taste of a New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc was in 1993 at the World Vinifera Conference in Seattle and I was hooked. A quiet young man named Kevin Judd poured his Cloudy Bay Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc loaded with aromatics and flavors that all but jumped out of my glass: Pungent tropical passion fruit, zesty mouth-watering lime juice and crisp zingy acidity. This was a wine to wow the senses!

Garagiste Model Takes Root in Paso Robles
Gerald D. Boyd
Feb 22, 2012

In November 2010, Paso Garagiste was founded and today is an active association of 45 underground winemakers, with each member committed to produce less than 1,200 cases a year. 'We knew there was a powerful artisan wine movement with deep roots in Paso Robles that simply needed the right vehicle to bring it to light,' says Paso Garagiste winemaker Stewart McLennan, who with fellow garagistes Doug Minnick and Dan Erland Andersen, founded Paso Garagiste. That vehicle was the first Paso Garagiste Festival held last November. Doug Minnick added that the goal of Paso Garagiste is to help nurture the next generation of artisan winemakers in the county and to donate funds to support the Cal-Poly Wine and Viticulture Program.

Roussillon's Complex Vins Doux Naturel
Gerald D. Boyd
Jan 17, 2012

In sheer scope, France is responsible for an impressive variety of different wines, each reflecting the uniqueness of a region, people, cuisine and vine culture. Nowhere is this truer than in the Mediterranean region of Roussillon, home to the unique vin doux naturel wines. As a group of specialty wines, Roussillon vins doux naturel (the local shorthand is simply VDN) include those carrying the appellations of Banyuls, Rivesaltes and Maury, with Banyuls the best known and arguably the highest quality.

Hidden Ridge, Indeed
Gerald D. Boyd
Dec 27, 2011

Narrow twisting roads, towering redwoods and pines, woven with a network of rutted dirt side tracks that shoot off at every turn in the main road. Carved into the hillsides by graders and the back-and-forth of heavy trucks, these routes are the only way of traversing the Mayacamas Mountains that form a western ridge separating the Napa Valley from the Sonoma Valley, to the Hidden Ridge vineyard.

Wines of Southwest France: Côtes du Roussillon
Gerald D. Boyd
Nov 29, 2011

Wine touring in the Pyrenees-Orientales department of southwest France is a treat for the senses, particularly the Roussillon region tucked into a notch that opens to the Mediterranean to the east and a ring of mountains to the north, west and south. Coursing from the mountains, across a broad plain toward the sea, are three rivers that play a major role in the more than 54,000 acres of vineyards that cover the 13 Appellations d'Origine Controlee. The wineries of Roussillon are a fiercely proud part of France's famed south coast and their wines are about to step onto the world stage.

Murrieta's Well: A Leader in Livermore
Gerald D. Boyd
Nov 1, 2011

A number of years ago, during a conversation with Jean Wente, matriarch of the Livermore Valley wine clan, I made the mistake of referring to Napa Valley as 'California's wine country,' unintentionally inferring that Livermore Valley was something else. Wente, a diminutive woman with a commanding presence, looked me straight in the eyes smiled and said, 'Mr. Boyd, Livermore also is wine country.' There was a pause while I groped for something to salvage my sinking esteem, finally blurting out an anemic, 'Yes, Ma'am. I meant …' and as I lamely fumbled for the right words, she looked across the table at me, sweetly smiling.

Marin County Pinot Noir
Gerald D. Boyd
Oct 4, 2011

Wine fans can count the number of prime sites in California known for distinctive Pinot Noir with the fingers of a single hand: Russian River Valley, Carneros, Santa Barbara County, and Monterey County. However, Marin County--an unlikely place known more as an expensive bedroom community to San Francisco than a wine region--is quietly rising to provide a fistful of five top Pinot Noir zones in the state.

Sherry: An Old Wine for a New Consumer
Gerald D. Boyd
Sep 6, 2011

'When you have a glass of Jerez you must not only think that you are enjoying a great wine, but an enological miracle, based on our soil, grape varieties, aging system (unique only to Jerez) and the knowledge that has been passed down through generations dedicated to caring for our wine.' Those are the passionate words of Antonio Flores, head winemaker for Gonzalez Byass, perhaps the world's most famous producer of Sherry.

Arts & Crafts
Gerald D. Boyd
Aug 9, 2011

Winemaking is an endeavor that merges the creative expressions and efforts of an art form with the technical skill of a craft. The skillful part of winemaking draws on certain practices and techniques that are common to winemaking everywhere. Winemaking becomes an art when a winemaker applies passion and intuition to develop and nurture the symbiosis that occurs between grape and terroir.

Tempting Tempranillo
Gerald D. Boyd
Jul 12, 2011

Tempting is a satisfying way to describe Tempranillo, the most widely planted red wine grape in Spain. Today's wine consumer is finding Tempranillo especially tempting for its plentiful fruit, firm structure, deep color and perhaps most appealing, relative low alcohol, especially when compared to the wide range of other high-octane red wines crowding the market.

Selling Wine by the Name
Gerald D. Boyd
Jun 14, 2011

Catchy wine names don't allude to being literary, but in sales they are often memorable in a way that draws in a potential customer. It's a skill--maybe even an art--to devise a marketing campaign featuring a totally unique name and graphics that catch the consumer's eye, especially if the bottle has to share space on a crowded shelf in a wine shop or supermarket. Years ago, a winery could get by with a simply-stated name like Chateau Acme or Domaine Summit, but not today, when every winery is fighting to grab a small piece of the over-stuffed world wine market.

De Lille Cellars: French Style in a Washington Context
Gerald D. Boyd
May 17, 2011

Opinions about the merits of U.S. Syrah and why the varietal is slipping in sales are like noses; everyone has one. Here's Jay Soloff: 'Syrah is inconsistent and the big guys jumped in with too much production and frankly I think made it very difficult for small artisan producers of high quality, Rhône-styled Syrah priced higher than these brands.' Soloff is one of the partners in Washington's DeLille Cellars, a producer of Syrah and Bordeaux-style red wines.

Barsac Stands on Its Own
Gerald D. Boyd
Apr 19, 2011

American wine drinkers are often accused of 'talking dry but drinking sweet.' This slightly snobby claim is not as true today as it was a decade ago and that is good news for winery owners and winemakers in Barsac, the small enclave in Bordeaux known for its unctuous sweet wines.

The "New" Williams Selyem
Gerald D. Boyd
Mar 22, 2011

If you were making wine for years in a collection of funky old buildings, it wouldn't be out-of-line to think you've been given a 'new' beginning, after moving into a multi-million dollar winery shaped like a wine barrel. Such a regenerative move was made by Williams Selyem winemaker Bob Cabral and his staff in July 2010 when most of the staff moved down Westside Road a short distance from the original winery that was started by Ed Selyem and Burt Williams.

Port's Past, and Ramos Pinto's Present and Future
Gerald D. Boyd
Feb 22, 2011

Although the history of wine and its influence on civilization is fascinating, from ancient Egypt to the expansion of the New World, the story of the evolution of Port wine holds special interest. Hundreds of years have passed since Port production began in earnest, yet the savage beauty of the Douro River valley has changed little. Douro wines, on the other hand, underwent more dramatic changes, spurred on by three significant events that caused the character of Douro wines to undergo a significant transformation.

What Happened with Syrah?
Gerald D. Boyd
Jan 25, 2011

Last October, I left the country on an extended vacation for eight weeks and upon my return discovered that interest in Syrah apparently has plunged to new lows. Sadly, Syrah sales are down; and just when I thought that Syrah had a shot at living up to its potential as the red wine that splits the difference between the supple fruit of Pinot Noir and the firm structure of Cabernet Sauvignon.

Sonoma Source: The Jack London Vineyard
Gerald D. Boyd
Dec 28, 2010

Jack London came to Sonoma Valley in 1903 to court Charmian Kittredge and discovered a piece of land that captured his imagination. He was on a high that year, having just established his reputation, as a premier American author, with the publishing of Call of the Wild, an adventure novel that expanded the limits of Americans' imagination about wildlife and the north. Two years later, he and Kittredge were married, and London purchased the Hill Ranch on Sonoma Mountain.

The Twelve Wine Gifts of Christmas
Gerald D. Boyd
Nov 30, 2010

Don't look now, but the holiday gift-giving season has rolled around…again! Well, maybe you should take a little peek, especially if there are wine lovers on your holiday gift list. And if your wine-loving friends and relatives are watching their budget this year (and who isn't?), a nice bottle of wine from you might just be the gift they can't afford to buy for themselves. Plus, you buy yourself Christmas gifts, right?

Amapola Creek: New Home for a Sonoma Legend
Gerald D. Boyd
Nov 2, 2010

Richard Arrowood, a veteran winemaker who made his chops with Chardonnay and Riesling at Chateau St. Jean and later at the eponymous Arrowood Winery, was pouring his 2006 Amapola Creek Sonoma Valley Cabernet Sauvignon when he paused to explain how he and his wife Alis chose the name for their new winery. 'When I sold Arrowood, only my surname was part of the deal, so I could have named new venture Richard L. Arrowood Winery. There's a small creek running through the property and every spring poppies line the banks and amapola is Spanish for poppy and my father used to play the song 'Amapola' in the band, so Amapola Creek Winery was a natural choice.'