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Palazzo, Napa Valley (California) “Right Bank” Proprietary Red 2016 ($90)
 Wines that pay homage to their stylistic heritage through labeling don’t often hit the mark as squarely as this Merlot driven blend.  You might mistake this for cousin of Cheval Blanc in a blind tasting, though it’s certainly more approachable in its youth. I love it right now for rounded Merlot fruit, soft spice, focused acidity and a long seamlessly integrated finish, and I love it even more for being a relative bargain.  A Platinum Award winner at the 2020 Sommelier Challenge International Wine & Spirits Competition.   
96 Rich Cook


Posted by Michael Franz on September 16, 2020 at 6:25 PM

Welcoming Norm Roby to Wine Review Online

Please join me in welcoming Norm Roby as a Columnist to WRO.  Many of our readers may remember Norm most clearly from his decade long stint as a columnist for The Wine Spectator and from his work as a member of the Spectator’s tasting panel.  However, he has had a long and exceptionally interesting love affair with wine involving many other activities that contributed to the inventory of experience and breadth of perspective he’ll bring to his columns on WRO.

Like so many romances with wine, Norm’s began somewhat by good fortune.  He began pursuing a Ph.D. in English Literature at U.C. Davis (which he earned, by the way) without knowing of that university’s fame in the fields of winemaking and viticulture.  Needing a break between teaching undergraduates and heading to the library to conduct his dissertation research, he audited a wine course presented by the famed Professor Maynard Amerine.

The wine gods were not done coaxing Norm in their direction.  On the very day after defending his dissertation, he was asked by his department chair if he’d be interested in joining a faculty exchange program with...the University of Bordeaux.  Already interested in wine, and armed with letters of introduction from the legendary Sacramento wine guru Darrell Corti, Norm deepened his interest and added Old World experience to his California background.

After returning to California and turning away from the life of an academic, be worked as part of the Media Department at the California Wine Institute (writing, of course, but also working with members of the press).  Budget cuts set him in search of a next gig, which was with Vintage Magazine in New York, writing feature articles about California wine.  Next stop was the stint with The Wine Spectator, and both during and after his work with that publication, he also wrote for magazines such as the Robb Report and House & Garden plus newspapers including the San Francisco Chronicle and the San Jose Mercury News.

Norm also co-authored The Connoisseur’s Handbook of California Wines with Charlie Olken, which went through multiple revisions and four editions published by Alfred A. Knopf.  At this same time, he taught wine classes for the California Culinary Academy in San Francisco, and became the U.S.A. correspondent for Decanter magazine.  Not long thereafter, he spent ten years living part-time in the broader Bordeaux region, traveling extensively when he wasn’t immersed in the nearby glories of southwestern France.

There’s more, but I’m already exhausted just from recounting all of this…so I’ll break it off at this point to assure that you shift your eyes to the right to read Norm’s first WRO column, which you can get to by following (or pasting) this link:  http://www.winereviewonline.com/wine_articles.cfm?type=1&author=64 

As you’ll see, he’s anything but stuck in the past, focusing instead on the rapidly expanding world of online wine sales, with special reference to the current boom related to the need for home delivery—as well as the unprecedented availability of high-end wines that were formerly directed predominantly to restaurants.

Welcome aboard Norm…we’re delighted to have you as a colleague!

Dr. Michael
This Issue's Reviews
Temecula's Akash Impresses at 13th Somm Challenge
Robert Whitley

The results of a wine competition are often predictable. Round up the usual suspects and you will likely see many of the same wines and wineries bagging Gold medals year after year, competition after competition. There was a bit of that at the 13th annual Sommelier Challenge, as the Wine of the Year award went to none other than the 2015 Tom Eddy Greeg Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon ($195) from the Napa Valley. The judges, all certified professional sommeliers, taste "blind," so there is no chance they were influenced by the Tom Eddy name. In a blind tasting it's all about the wine. On the other hand, sometimes a wine or winery will jump up and surprise. There was a bit of that, too, at the Somm Challenge. The Winery of the Year, selected by Director Rich Cook and yours truly, was the Akash Winery of Temecula, California.
Sustainability in Wine Production
Sandra Taylor

Consumers, especially millennials, are increasingly concerned about where their food and beverages come from, how they are made, and whether they're produced in a responsible way. Wine is no exception. As the demand for organic food continues to increase, restaurants and retailers are also seeing demand for wine made through sustainable practices. My involvement with sustainable agriculture began when I worked in the coffee industry, during a period of tremendous growth in high-quality coffee shops and retail categories around the world. Being a wine enthusiast and longtime student of wine, I understood the many similarities between coffee and wine cultivation and tasting, so I subsequently began research into the social and environmental practices in winemaking.
Wine With
WINE WITH…Mujadarra

Mujadarra is an ancient Arab/Mediterranean dish most often associated with Lebanon. It is a deliciously rustic, meatless creation that turns simple lentils & rice into a uniquely tasty feast. Spice is the signatory soul of Mujaddar…not tongue-burning peppery spice, but the warm, intensely flavorful spiciness of cinnamon, cumin, coriander and the like. Mujaddara's crowning glory is its tasty topping of fried onion rings. I have a slight preference for white wine with this dish, but some tasters found soft, flavorful reds equally appealing. Big, tannic red wine did not fare as well here, nor did white wine with too much oak. Gentle fruity whites with a good crisp finish are ideal with the dish.
On My Table
Wines that Stand Out from the Pack
Mary Ewing-Mulligan

My late August wine-tasting activity involved ploughing through various sets of wine samples that I received since the Spring, to make room for what is usually a steady stream of new samples that arrives in the Fall. Most of the samples were from California, of course, reflecting the composition of our wine market. Some of the wineries were familiar to me, and others were not. Some of the wines weren't my cup of tea - Chardonnays and Sauvignon Blancs with perceptible sweetness to me, for example - while others were decent for their price, and just a few I judged to be top-notch. The wines of Newton Vineyards fell into this latter category. The Newton wines included two Chardonnays - Newton 'Unfiltered' Chardonnay from both 2017 and 2016 - and three Cabernets or Cabernet dominant reds. Because Newton is best known for its red wines, I was surprised how much I enjoyed the Chardonnays, although predictably, my favorite wines were the reds.