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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.'

Meandering with Amy Aiken
Gerald D. Boyd
Oct 5, 2010

'What are the great Cabernet Sauvignon vineyards in the Napa Valley, and can I get my hands on the grapes?' That hopeful question was rattling around in Amy Aiken's brain in 2000 when she decided that it was time 'to fashion my own wine from vineyards that I believed offered superior aromatics, flavors, textures and character.'

Sonoma Coast Pioneers at Fort Ross
Gerald D. Boyd
Sep 7, 2010

Imagine you are living in a country that is socially and politically at odds with your own views and beliefs. Conditions get to the point where you can't hold out any longer, so you pack up and move to a place where social and political views and beliefs are a matter of personal choice. In 1976, Linda and Lester Schwartz found themselves in such a situation, so they left their native South Africa and moved to northern California.

Pinotage & Petite Sirah: An Unlikely Pair?
Gerald D. Boyd
Aug 10, 2010

The other day I was thinking about 'six degrees of separation,' the idea that was circulating around a few years back that claims one need go no further than six steps at most to discover a connection with any other person. Random musings like that pop up when a writer has writer's block--the non-productive exercise of staring blankly at the computer screen waiting for a special muse to strike with a stellar idea. Eventually, my enlightened moment arose when my muse whispered, 'Why not a relationship between Petite Sirah and Pinotage?' On the surface the idea sounded implausible, but these two seemingly different grapes do share some things, and maybe at one of those six levels Petite Sirah and Pinotage are related.

The Queen of Pinot
Gerald D. Boyd
Jul 13, 2010

Merry Edwards has been called the Queen of Pinot (Reine de Pinot) and with good reason. Edwards, a veteran California winemaker, who operates out of her eponymous winery in Sebastopol, in western Sonoma County, is considered to be one of the leading experts on California Pinot Noir--which is no mean feat when you count the number of winemakers getting into the Pinot derby of late.

Wine with Veggies
Gerald D. Boyd
Jun 15, 2010

In June of last year I finally took the step and became a vegetarian. It wasn't an easy decision; my wife still eats meat and prefers to call herself a 'flexitarian.' How would I handle the whole wine thing? There were questions I had never considered. For instance, vegans--vegetarians who do not eat meat or fish as well as dairy products--must be aware of wines that are fined using egg whites, or filtered using isinglass, a gelatin prepared from a fish bladder.

King of Beaujolais Pronounces 2009 Vintage of a Lifetime
Gerald D. Boyd
May 19, 2010

In his book I'll Drink to That, the story of Beaujolais and the man who made it the 'world's most popular wine,' Rudolph Chelminski describes Georges Duboeuf as 'one of those rare persons inhabited by a mysterious kind of driving force that sets certain individuals apart from the rest, causing them to achieve what others don't even think about venturing.'

Affordable Icon: d'Arenberg's d'Arry's Original
Gerald D. Boyd
Apr 20, 2010

Grenache fills the bill for today's wine consumer looking for palate-forward red wines with fresh flavors, substantial but soft tannins, excellent acidity and a long, satisfying finish. Shiraz (a.k.a. Syrah) may be Australia's flagship red grape, but Grenache gives many Aussie 'GSM' (Grenache-Shiraz-Mourvedre) blends a fruity lift and shares equal billing with Shiraz in the delightful d'Arenberg 'd'Arry's' Original Shiraz - Grenache.

The Other Burgundy, Part II
Gerald D. Boyd
Mar 23, 2010

As a follow up to previous visits to the Côte d'Or, I made my first trip to these lesser known Burgundy appellations last December. What I found was friendly, enthusiastic winemakers and vintners, mostly second and third generation members of wine families, eager to tell their stories and for the wine world to learn about their wines. Many of the winemakers I met travel fairly widely, and have worked grape harvests or done cellar work in other parts of the world--an exposure that allowed them to talk about their wine without a lot of formality.

The Other Burgundy, Part I
Gerald D. Boyd
Feb 23, 2010

What comes to mind when you hear someone mention Burgundy wines? Most serious wine drinkers automatically think Côte d'Or Pinot Noir and Chardonnay. And that makes sense because, despite the high prices, red Burgundy from the Côte d'Nuits and white Burgundy from the Côte de Beaune are the most popular Burgundy with American wine drinkers, and they are the wines sought after by collectors. However, there is another Burgundy--or perhaps multiple other Burgundies. Beyond the Côte d'Or are other appellations producing wines from the same grapes, but without the public image and lofty prices of Côte d'Or wines.

The Lowdown on Malbec
Gerald D. Boyd
Jan 26, 2010

By now, every wine fan knows the story of Argentine Malbec, the black wine grape that, while declining in popularity in France, is having great success in Argentina. Once grown throughout western France, Malbec acreage in Bordeaux has declined rapidly since 2000. Part of the reason for Malbec's decline in France is the grape's susceptibility to diseases and its rustic character, which doesn't play well with today's wine drinkers. But, how did an unpopular grape with a personality identification problem in its homeland travel thousands of miles to Argentina?

A Holiday Wine Book Roundup
Gerald D. Boyd
Dec 29, 2009

Francis Bacon, the 16th century English philosopher and statesman, had this to say about books: 'Some books are to be tasted, others to be swallowed and some few to be chewed and digested.' Even if Sir Francis was sipping from a flagon of Sherris sac when he penned those words, it's not likely he was thinking of wine books, but the allusion can be imagined if you squint and read the words over a few times.

The Wines of J
Gerald D. Boyd
Dec 1, 2009

The use of single letters as brand identifiers on wines is not new, with Chateau Y, the sumptuous dry wine of the Sauternes producer Chateau Yquem being one notable example. So, in 1986, when Judy Jordan, daughter of Jordan Winery's founder, decided to produce high-end sparkling wine in Sonoma County, her decision was to brand the bottles with a large stylish yellow "J," easily recognizable on the green bottles. Use of the single letter was noticeably distinct from the 'bank note' labels of Jordan Winery still wines, but the decision also stirred speculation of whether the single letter was J for Jordan or J for Judy.

The Survivors
Gerald D. Boyd
Nov 3, 2009

The wine industry tends to be fluid and ever-changing. Not long ago, New World wineries, like those in the Old World, were mostly family owned. In recent years, though, the structure of the wine industry worldwide has moved toward corporate ownership and away from the family. So it's refreshing to see a noted Australian wine family that survived the corporate world and then re-invented itself as a family wine company. Chief among the survivors are Robert Oatley and Chris Hancock, two Aussies who display the don't-quit tenaciousness of someone who won't let life's hard knocks kick the legs out from under them.

Portuguese Reds
Gerald D. Boyd
Oct 6, 2009

In a world where it seems as though every wine region is striving to join the international scene, Portugal is doing its own thing. Long known for its excellent Port wines, Portugal has lately been attracting attention for its attractive red table wines, made mainly from native grapes.

Gettin' Right with Rosé
Gerald D. Boyd
Sep 8, 2009

Whenever I'm with a group of people who profess to be serious about their wine, inevitably there are a few who turn up their noses when offered a rosé. My reaction, to myself, is 'What's wrong with rosé?' Every wine doesn't have to be white or red, and there are times when it takes too much effort to decide which oaky white wine or aged red will best accompany the evening meal.

Oz Semillon
Gerald D. Boyd
Aug 11, 2009

Semillon is a puzzling and mysterious wine; a chameleon that takes on different aromas and flavors depending on where the grape is grown, how the wine is made and what grapes are chosen as blending partners. And then there's the confusion centered round the pronunciation ('Sem-e-yon' or 'Sem-a-lon') of the grape and wine.

Santa Cruz Mountain Pinot
Gerald D. Boyd
Jul 14, 2009

Santa Cruz Mountain winemakers say their Pinots reflect the myriad of microclimates in the mountain-based vineyards farmed by what is officially described by the SCMWA (Santa Cruz Mountains Winegrowers Association) as 'progressive sustainable agriculture.' SCMWA also trumpets the appellation's 'balanced flavors, complexity, food-friendly acidity and age-worthiness,' as an enticement to wine consumers who are bored with overly oaked, highly extracted wines.

Dalla Terra: A Different Take on Wine Importing
Gerald D. Boyd
Jun 16, 2009

Brian Larky is a high-energy guy who looks like he's running even when he's not. I first met Larky in the late 1980s, when we were both a lot younger, in Lombardy, Italy. Not long out of UC-Davis, Larky was young, confident, American and the winemaker for Ca' del Bosco. We crossed wine paths a few times since that meeting in Italy, but it wasn't until last month that I decided to see what he was up to. I quickly discovered that Brian Larky, founder of Dalla Terra--Winery Direct is one busy guy, even in these slow economic times.

Three Views of Syrah
Gerald D. Boyd
May 19, 2009

In the mid to late 19th century, the great red wines of the Northern Rhône, all made from Syrah, were considered among the finest wines of the time. Noted gourmands of the time heaped praise on Rhône reds, including the estimable Professor George Saintsbury, an Englishman with a known taste for Bordeaux and Burgundy, who jotted this about Syrah in his copious cellar notes: 'One of the three or four most remarkable juices of the grape, not merely that I ever possessed, but that I ever tasted…It was the manliest French wine I ever drank.'

Killer Kiwi Pinot from "Central"
Gerald D. Boyd
Apr 21, 2009

One of winedom's burning questions is if the search for the Holy Grail of Pinot Noir is still on-going. Some wine lovers believe all this scratching around is much ado about nothing, while other Pinot-philes contend that somewhere there is a place, other than Burgundy, where Pinot Noir shines its brightest -- like Central Otago on the South Island of New Zealand.

Kenwood's Artist Series
Gerald D. Boyd
Mar 24, 2009

With the release of the 2004 Artist Series Cabernet Sauvignon, Kenwood celebrates 30 years of art and wine, a concept compared to the very practice of winemaking that many believe is an art in itself. The Artist Series Collection is a work in progress, for both the art of the label and the art of the wine in the bottle.

A Range of Sauvignon Styles
Gerald D. Boyd
Feb 24, 2009

Recently, Jackson Family Wines (JFW) held a mini-seminar on Sauvignon Blanc, previewing its own Sauvignons -- Matanzas Creek, Kendall-Jackson and Murphy-Goode "The Fumé" -- alongside Long Boat, a Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc that JFW imports from New Zealand. It was a revealing kaleidoscope of styles showing that, with a little patience and searching, there is a Sauvignon Blanc (or Fumé) for everyone.

The "New" Silver Oak Napa
Gerald D. Boyd
Jan 27, 2009

Things were going along smoothly for Silver Oak until a fateful night in 2006 when the Napa winery was destroyed by a fire. But from the devastating loss, the Duncan family, led by Ray Duncan's two sons David and Tim, with input from Daniel Baron, formulated plans for a new winery that would meld together modern grape processing and winemaking techniques while still honoring the origins of Silver Oak Cellars. The new, recently opened Oakville winery is a beautiful piece of contemporary architecture wrapped around a modern and functional winery designed solely to produce only Cabernet Sauvignon.

Tokaji: Maddeningly Complex, Totally Marvelous
Gerald D. Boyd
Dec 30, 2008

In Hugh Johnson's early edition of The World Atlas of Wine, he sets the mood for a fascinating treatise on Tokaji, one of the world's great dessert wines. "Tokay is like one of the provincial towns in Russian novels which burn themselves into the memory by their very plainness." As Johnson astutely observes, the plainness of Tokaj town and the wider region, in the far northeast corner of Hungary, makes its famous sweet wine, Tokaji, all the more dramatic and appealing.

Lake County Syrah
Gerald D. Boyd
Dec 2, 2008

It's hard to imagine why Lake County is not better known for its wines. Kendall-Jackson recognized the potential of Lake County grapes as far back as 1982, and when noted winemaker Jed Steele decided on a spot to grow grapes and make his signature wines, he chose Lake County. Still, recognition for Lake County wines has lagged behind those of its neighbors in Napa, Sonoma and even Mendocino counties. But that's changing. Today, Lake County has a deserved reputation for Sauvignon Blanc but it may be that flavorful reds like Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc and Syrah will ultimately earn the most raves.

Wine Books for the Holidays
Gerald D. Boyd
Nov 4, 2008

About this time last year (has it been a year already?) I wrote a handful of capsule wine book reviews as holiday gifts for wine lovers. Paper and print books still hold some interest, but this is the electronic age and the era of electronic "books." As clever as these new gadgets may be, flipping a page electronically somehow doesn't have the same tactile and sensory satisfaction. Fortunately, there are still plenty of book publishers that release a selection of wine books every year, many of them worthy additions to any wine lover's library.

The "New" Rubissow Wines
Gerald D. Boyd
Oct 7, 2008

Trends in wine come and go, changing with the pressures of the market and the whims (and needs) of winemakers. One of the more controversial trends to endure in recent years is the proliferation of so-called 'cult wines.' Mainly Cabernet Sauvignons from the Napa Valley, cult wines are scarce and expensive and, say some critics, over-blown examples of the depth and finesse of real Napa Valley Cabernet.

Rutherford Dust
Gerald D. Boyd
Sep 9, 2008

Formed in 1991, the Rutherford AVA is a narrow band of alluvial soil that stretches from St. Helena to Yountville, along the west side of the Napa Valley floor. Rutherford, along with neighboring Oakville, is widely considered the premier source of Napa Valley red wines based on Cabernet Sauvignon.

The Julia's Vineyard Styles
Gerald D. Boyd
Aug 12, 2008

Take a piece of dirt in Santa Barbara County, plant some Pinot Noir vines, then invite a small group of winemakers to select the grapes they want and make a Pinot that reflects not only the vineyard but the winemaker's style. This innovative concept, called Julia's Vineyard Artisan Program, is the brainchild of Barbara Banke and Lane Tanner.

A Petite (Sirah) Passion
Gerald D. Boyd
Jul 15, 2008

Petite Sirah is the dark knight of California red winemaking. Neither as regal as Cabernet Sauvignon or Pinot Noir, nor as middle-class as Zinfandel, Petite Sirah is the everyman warrior that is slowly crossing class lines and moving up.

A Paean to Pink Wines
Gerald D. Boyd
Jun 17, 2008

I consider myself a serious wine guy, but I must profess an unabashed love of rosé wines. Often ignored by folks who can't see past big reds, pink wines deserve more respect. And certainly, at this time of year, they deserve a more secure place at the summer dining table.

Chianti, According to Gabbiano
Gerald D. Boyd
May 20, 2008

The consideration of Chianti is often a generational thing for many Americans. Wine drinkers of a certain age remember a thin, acidic red wine in a straw-covered flask that was the traditional partner with pasta and pizza. Chianti consumers today, however, don't know from fiasco, and that's a good thing, since there's little resemblance between the original blend for Chianti in flask, formulated by the Baron Ricasoli and the Chianti in today's market.

Label Meanings:
Gerald D. Boyd
Apr 22, 2008

Somewhere in the minutia of U.S. wine labeling regulations linger two terms that defy definition. 'Reserve' and, more recently, 'Old Vine' have been kicked around for years, with little consensus by the industry or the federal government as to their meanings.

Arrowood: Reinvented and Resurgent
Gerald D. Boyd
Mar 25, 2008

Today, 're-invent or perish' is a credo for some California winemakers to live by. The hard-driving belief held by these winemakers is that, if you don't stay on top of your game, a fickle wine-buying public will look to someone else for new and exciting taste experiences. Over the last four decades, Richard Arrowood has shown his ability to adapt and advance, maintaining the Arrowood name as both an indicator and brand of quality winemaking.

Kerry Damsky, Wandering winemaker
Gerald D. Boyd
Feb 26, 2008

California wine watchers know Kerry Damskey as the winemaker behind such brands as Gauer Ranch, Dutcher Creek and his newest venture, Palmeri, but his reach as a winemaking consultant goes as far a field from his Sonoma home base as Washington, Bulgaria and India. No wonder that Damskey has been called the 'Wandering Winemaker' and 'The Indiana Jones of Wine.'

Appellation St. Helena
Gerald D. Boyd
Jan 29, 2008

Considered the birthplace of the Napa Valley wine industry, St. Helena is both a small town and, since 1995, an official AVA (American Viticultural Area), which according to the group known as Appellation St. Helena (ASH), has a 'unique topography' and microclimate that is 'great for many varietals.' The current ASH membership of 69 wineries and growers cultivate a total of 1156 planted acres, mainly Cabernet Sauvignon, Zinfandel, Merlot and Sauvignon Blanc.

Success Elusive After 20 Years of 'Meritage'
Gerald D. Boyd
Jan 1, 2008

This year, The Meritage Association marks its 20th Anniversary. It is an auspicious occasion for a group of wineries that has worked hard for two decades to assure that the Meritage style of white and red wines becomes an indelible part of the New World wine landscape

Wine Buy the Book
Gerald D. Boyd
Dec 4, 2007

The holidays are upon us and that usually means the annual panic to find a gift for the wine fan on your shopping list who has everything, including a cellar full of wine. Give a book on wine, especially one that relates to your wine lover's special interest. While a book as gift is not an original idea, it is a practical and permanent one, especially in these etheric electronic days of texting and, Bacchus preserve us, books on tape.

Palmaz: An Astonishing Napa Winery
Gerald D. Boyd
Nov 6, 2007

Drop this into a wine conversation sometime: 'There's this new winery in the Napa Valley that has to be seen to be believed!' What you're likely to hear, wearily muttered is, 'So what else is new.' Napa is loaded with showplace wineries, so it is easy enough to become jaded, yet my recent visit to Palmaz Vineyards revealed a truly eye-popping operation.

BC Wines Easy to Like, Hard to Find
Gerald D. Boyd
Oct 9, 2007

There is some good and bad wine news out of British Columbia. The good news is that the demand within British Columbia and elsewhere in Canada is soaring for BC wines. The bad news, especially for American wine drinkers, is that very little of the BC wine makes it into the U.S. market.

Provence Rosés
Gerald D. Boyd
Sep 11, 2007

For me, summer also means the best time of year to delve into the latest collection of rosé wines. You can drink pink anytime of the year, but rosés and summer go together perfectly. They are great cool summer sipping wines, or ideal accompaniments with a variety of light al fresco foods.

Thankfully, Another New Pinot
Gerald D. Boyd
Aug 14, 2007

For nearly 150 years, the name La Rochelle was mostly forgotten, buried in the dusty pages of the Mirassou family history. Generations came and went and by 2003, the Mirassou family had sold their name and the winery to Gallo, while retaining the San Vicente Vineyard and Mission Ranch. Then, in 2005, Mirassou, pere & fils, resurrected the La Rochelle name for a new limited production series of Pinot Noirs, adding a Pinot dimension to a line that focused mainly on Cabernet Sauvignon and Syrah.

Caymus: The Wagner Legacy
Gerald D. Boyd
Jul 17, 2007

At Caymus Vineyards in the Napa Valley, the family creed is, "one wine, one label." Over the years, that one Caymus wine has been emphatically red, and now, more than three decades later, Caymus is comfortably established as one of California's iconic wineries, noted for its Caymus "Special Selection." But as things have turned out, there's more to Caymus than Special Selection.

Bouchaine's Richmond Out to Make Chardonnay Believers
Gerald D. Boyd
Jun 19, 2007

Michael Richmond, winemaker for Bouchaine Vineyards in Carneros Napa Valley, is a self-proclaimed student of Chardonnay, who recently undertook the perilous task of trying to make sense of matching the world's most popular white wine with food. I applaud Richmond, but for me, pairing Chardonnay with food can be a vexing conundrum.

Thinking and Drinking Zind-Humbrecht
Gerald D. Boyd
May 22, 2007

Opinions are like noses; everyone has one, especially on global warming. Believe what you will about the sensitive subject, but Olivier Humbrecht is convinced that global warming is responsible for the rising alcohol levels in wines, especially in Alsace where Humbrecht makes his biodynamically-grown Domaine Zind-Humbrecht wines.

On a Roll: Quality is Climbing at Philip Shaw Wines
Gerald D. Boyd
Apr 24, 2007

Philip Shaw has a dry wit and a devilish smile, making it hard to decide if he is being straight up or trying to take the mickey out of you (as the Aussies would put it) when he explains about naming his value wines 'Rolling' and 'Climbing.' 'We wanted something different, an appeal to the feminine side since most wine labels are so masculine,' Shaw says with a bright grin.

Eis(Ice) Wine
Gerald D. Boyd
Mar 27, 2007

Eisweins remain, almost exclusively, the product of German winemaking. A smaller number of Austrian wineries also make Eiswein, but when it comes to this oddball style of sweet wine, Germany rules. But relatively recently, Canada got into the frozen wine game--and the whole field changed dramatically.

Cinq Cepages: A California Icon
Gerald D. Boyd
Feb 27, 2007

Among the growing collection of high-end California Cabernet-based blends, a few have reached iconic status. Known variously as Bordeaux-style blends, Cabernet blends, and Meritage, this rarified elite includes Phelps Insignia, Cain Five, Louis Martini's Monte Rosso, Opus One, Coppola's Rubicon and Chateau St. Jean's Cinq Cepages.

Great Wine Estates: Coppola's Rubicon Quiets the Critics
Gerald D. Boyd
Jan 23, 2007

"Our goal is to make great estate Cabernet Sauvignon," is the clarion call of every Napa Valley winemaker (except for those who came to their senses and opted for Pinot Noir). So natural and expected is this homage to Cabernet that it has become the motto of Napa winemaking.

Atypical Greats from Clarendon Hills
Gerald D. Boyd
Jan 2, 2007

Clarendon Hills arguably makes the best red wines in Australia. Oddly enough, however, if you spent all your time in Australia, you'd be in no position to hold an informed opinion on the matter. Few Australians have ever tasted the superb Syrah, Grenache, Merlot or Cabernet Sauvignon that Clarendon Hills produces from the McLaren Vale region of South Australia.

Monte Rosso: A Classic Sonoma Vineyard
Gerald D. Boyd
Dec 5, 2006

A red thread of mountain-grown intensity and ripe dense berry flavors runs through the fabric of Sonoma's Monte Rosso Vineyard, especially when woven into Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah and Zinfandel.

Talking Terroir, Limestone Coast and The Holy Grail
Gerald D. Boyd
Nov 7, 2006

Remember the terroir tempest in a wine glass that bubbled over the rim in the early 1990s between California's Bill Jekel and Bordeaux's Bruno Prats? The Gallic Terroirist, of course, was Prats, while Jekel contended that grapes and winemaking were more important.

Ferrari-Carano PreVail(ed)
Gerald D. Boyd
Oct 10, 2006

A few years ago, Don Carano swallowed hard and admitted that he wasn't satisfied with Ferrari-Carano red wines. "The wines were good but not great and we were hearing this from others as well. I wasn't satisfied with our red wines and decided that we had to make some changes," Carano explained in his quiet, careful manner.

The Lowdown on Dosage
Gerald D. Boyd
Sep 12, 2006

'Manufactured' is a word not often heard in wine circles. 'Made', maybe, 'produced,' perhaps, but 'manufactured' more aptly describes a widget than a wine. Still, the process of making Champagne or traditional champagne method sparkling wine is closer to a manufacturing process than the process applied to make any other wine.

Awesome Aussie Rieslings
Gerald D. Boyd
Aug 15, 2006

Riesling may be the most under-appreciated white wine in the world--but you'd never know that in Australia. While Americans shun Riesling, Australians embrace it; enjoying dry, mouth-watering Rieslings from Claire Valley, Tasmania and Western Australia's Great Southern, to name just a few places in Oz where Riesling thrives.

Veteran Winemaker Reeder Shows Respect for Simi Traditions
Gerald D. Boyd
Jul 18, 2006

The Simi story is an impressive one, from the time that an 18-year-old Isabelle Simi-Haigh took over management of the winery when her father died in the influenza epidemic of 1904, through the succession of noted winemakers that followed, each of whom carried on the Simi tradition while putting their own stamp on the wines: Mary Ann Graf, Zelma Long, Nick Goldschmidt and now Steve Reeder.

Rhymes with Pinot: Mendocino
Gerald D. Boyd
Jun 20, 2006

Mendocino Pinot producers such as Navarro, Goldeneye, Husch, Greenwood Ridge, Claudia Springs, Handley, Lazy Creek, Harmonique and the revitalized Parducci are gradually showing the wine world that Pinot is not only possible from Anderson Valley, but it has what it takes to stand with its peers at the top echelon.

Ramos Pinto: A Port Paragon
Gerald D. Boyd
May 23, 2006

A first impression is that the Portugal's Douro Valley is a throwback to a more traditional time, at least in terms of grape growing and winemaking. But don't believe it. Behind the walls of the traditional quintas, perching precariously amongst the river's many turns and inlets, there is a modern wine industry producing one of the world's great fortified wines.

Spring Mountain: High-End Napa
Gerald D. Boyd
Apr 25, 2006

By nature, mountain-grown wines are more intense and stronger in structure than their valley counterparts, but show different aspects of fruit and finesse. The conditions on Spring Mountain are ideal for varieties like Cabernet Sauvignon.

Corison: Not Just Any Napa Cabernet
Gerald D. Boyd
Mar 28, 2006

In 1975, Cathy Corison was a young biology student at Pomona College in Claremont, California, when she had the epiphany that all wine pilgrims experience. Shortly after enrolling in a wine appreciation class, Corison was captivated: "Wine just grabbed me and ran," she says, "and I knew that I wanted to make world-class wine on a small scale."

Benvenuto Brunello
Gerald D. Boyd
Feb 28, 2006

Opinions on wine are like noses: everyone has one. There are dedicated fans who prefer Piedmontese reds fashioned from Nebbiolo, while other Italian wine lovers claim the best rosso is made from Tuscan Sangiovese. Even among Tuscan red wine drinkers, partisans debate the relative merits of Chianti, Vino Nobile, Carmignano and Brunello di Montalcino

d'Arenberg: A Winner in the Name Game
Gerald D. Boyd
Jan 31, 2006

Modern wine marketing, as we are all too aware, can be clever and attractive, or dumb and off-putting. Wine names and label design are just two parts of this often controversial craft. Like them or not, rarely are the off-beat wine names dull or boring.

A Sauvignon World Tour
Gerald D. Boyd
Jan 3, 2006

In the December 2005 issue of Wine Business Monthly, the editors claim that "many industry leaders" predict that, in 2006, Pinot Gris (a.k.a. Grigio) will lock down its place as the second most popular white wine, after Chardonnay. Not so fast! There happens to be a sizable number of us Sauvignon Blanc admirers who believe that Sauvignon Blanc has the style and flavor, not to mention diversity, to offer more appeal across the board than any other white wine, including Pinot Gris/Grigio.

The Windsor Wine Wonder
Gerald D. Boyd
Dec 6, 2005

Windsor Vineyards is a unique winemaking phenomenon in transition. The largest direct-to-consumer winery in the United States, Windsor Vineyards sells an impressive 95 percent of its annual 200,000 case production through telemarketing. This sales technique is virtually unknown in the wine world, but Windsor Vineyards--the company that put the personal into personalized wine labeling--has moved onto the cutting edge of direct-to-consumer wines sales.

Zin Clinic: Dry Creek
Gerald D. Boyd
Nov 8, 2005

Within California's Sonoma County, the Dry Creek Valley has emerged as an impressive source of Zinfandel, and Dry Creek Creek's producers are eager to show that Zinfandel is one of the most adaptable red varieties in the expanding collection of California reds.

Wine Lore
Gerald D. Boyd
Oct 11, 2005

Buried in the moldy caves of wine lore and legend, an unnamed California vintner, feeling very confident of his wine, supposedly posted this sign at the door of his tasting room, "Genuine California Burgundy. Beware of French imitations." True or not, it's a lovely bon mot! Even more, the annals of wine literature are filled to the brim with similar stories and legends. Who and what to believe? In wine lore and legend, not knowing is half the fun.

Russian River Valley Pinot Noir
Gerald D. Boyd
Sep 13, 2005

Ask any Pinot lover where the best California Pinot Noir is made and the Russian River Valley will be at the top of the list. Compared with Cabernet Sauvignon, Pinot Noir has a short track record in California. Not long ago when the call went out for an American Pinot Noir, Oregon got the nod. Today, Pinot lovers turn to the Russian River Valley and its sub region Green Valley for exciting, juicy wines.

Marin County Pinot Noir
Gerald D. Boyd
Aug 15, 2005

Mention Marin County in a mixed crowd and you're likely to get reactions ranging from the snickering to the serious. In the 1970s, Marin County was known for its hot tub parties and casual lifestyle, prompting former San Francisco Chronicle columnist, Herb Caen to describe the then-current car of choice in Marin County, the BMW, as "Basic Marin Wheels."