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Quick Sip: Waterstone 2008 Pinot Gris Napa Valley

Pinot Gris is a grape, descended from Pinot Noir, that is used to make white wines. The varietal is often called by other names, depending on where it’s made. In Germany, it is typically called Grauburgunder. That’s just a direct translation of Pinot Gris, as is Italy’s Pinot Grigio. In Switzerland, and sometimes France’s Loire Valley, it’s called Malvoisie. There is more Pinot Gris grown in Italy and Germany than in France. However, it is one of the three “noble grapes” of France’s Alsace and some of the very best versions come from that area.

At the Food & Wine Magazine American Wine Awards

Last night some of America’s best winemakers met at the Meadowood Resort in Napa Valley for a very exclusive event. They were there to receive awards for making what Food and Wine Magazine considered to be the best American wines of 2009. I was there to cover the event so that you can have a feel for what went on.

Coppola Acquires Inglenook Name for Rubicon, Hires Phillipe Bascaules

Francis Ford Coppola, owner of Rubicon Estate Winery, acquired the Inglenook trademark from The Wine Group this week. The purchase fulfills Coppola’s longtime dream of reuniting his historic estate winery and vineyards with their original name. For many years, the Inglenook brand has been used for inexpensive, mass-market wines. Now it will once again be associated with high-quality wine from Rutherford in Napa Valley. In a separate move this week, Coppola hired Phillipe Bascaules to serve as Estate Manager and Winemaker. Bascaules has spent the last 21 years at Chateau Margaux in Bordeaux, serving as Estate Director for the last 11.

In 1975 Coppola purchased the 1,560 acres which had been the part of Inglenook estate. Included were 125 acres of vineyards, in need of replanting, and the Niebaum residence. However, he was not able to purchase the Inglenook name which was owned by a different company. So Coppola dubbed his new winery Niebaum-Coppola. He acquired an additional 70 vineyard acres, formerly part of Inglenook, in 1995 holdings. In 2006, Niebaum-Coppola became Rubicon Estate Winery to leverage the success and name-recognition of the winery’s flagship product, a Bordeaux-varietal blend called Rubicon.

Francis-ford-coppola
Francis Ford Coppola at Rubicon Estate, July 13, 2011
Photo: Fred Swan

Get ready for the Annual Family Winemakers of California Tasting in SF on Aug 23

While much of the sheer volume of California wine is produced by very large corporate wineries, the vast majority of wineries in the state are family owned. It is those small, unique wineries that produce most of the best wines this country has to offer.

It isn’t always easy to find many of the wines for tasting though. Production quantities tend to be low and distribution limited. Some of the best small wineries don’t even have tasting rooms. So, while family wineries thrive on selling wine direct to consumer it’s often hard for consumers to get that essential first introduction to a wine.

The Annual Family Winemakers of California Tasting at Fort Mason in San Francisco is perhaps the best chance to taste a multitude of these special wines. This year, on Sunday, August 23, there will be about 360 small wineries offering tastes. With most of the wineries providing samples of multiple wines, the variety will be staggering. As will some of the tasters.

Here a Blend, There a Blend

I’ve read that there are at least 3,000 different decisions made about a wine from the time a winery starts to consider where to plant vines to the time a bottle is actually released. Blending decisions are made very late in that timeline. However, blending has a huge impact, arguably more than any other decisions, on the final taste of a wine.

It is impossible for a wine consumer to really understand how much difference minute variations in blend can make without actually having a blending experience first hand. Fortunately, a number of wineries now offer you just that opportunity.

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