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Two Nights with The Maiden

August 3, 2011 The Press 4 Comments
Two Nights with The Maiden

When I started to “get into wine,” in other words obsess over it like the rest of you, it didn’t take long to be sucked into the full allure of it. Both in things real, like the mysteries of good Pinot Noir, to the not so real, like the mystique surrounding “Cult Producers.” I was enamored by it all.

It is perhaps the “Cult Producers” (obvious ones including Screaming Eagle, Marcassin, Sine Qua Non, and others) who inspire the most wonder, loathing, admiration, groaning, rumors, and debate (well that and alcohol levels, which also seem to go hand in hand with Cult Producers). Whatever your sentiment, one has to admit there is a strange allure to the things we cannot have. The forbidden grapes if you will.

I am not a man of Screaming Eagle funds, nor even of Sine Qua Non finances (more reasonable at $200-300 a bottle compared to the boisterous raptor’s $1,000 price tag). I am happily a man of the $13 to $25 bottle, with occasional indulgences in the $30 to $50 range. I do get to drink some of the best wines in California (many in the $15 to $40 range), but much of that is the result of this scam wine blog, which has allowed me to hustle otherwise decent winemakers into pouring me many a glass of their best stuff. What a scam indeed!
… Continue Reading

Hidden Ridge – Art in Wine

July 6, 2011 Fifty-Two Weeks 1 Comment
Hidden Ridge – Art in Wine

I was late. I had just left the outskirts of Napa headed south on the 29 when my phone rang. I lingered too long at a lunch in Calistoga and was late for my next appointment. Winemaker Timothy Milos was on the other end.

“Just wanted to check in and see where you were at,” he asked. In addition to being late, I was also lost. After another phone call to clarify the directions, I finally arrived at the custom crush facility we had agreed to meet at. But this wasn’t where we were supposed to be.

We were supposed to be atop one of the most rugged and hard to access vineyard sites in California. Hidden Ridge Vineyard, as its name implies, it’s off the beaten path. It is in fact so far off the path that it is only accessible with vehicles much more all wheel drive than my Mazda3. In the rainy weather of this past December, when I visited the Napa Valley, the normally difficult roads became impossible roads and so we settled on the civilized streets of the custom crush facility where the wine is made.

I am, “all about the vineyards,” or so I tell people, and so I was disappointed to not be atop the peak of what is no doubt a breathtaking site. There was however, an unexpected windfall to my letdown.

… Continue Reading

Husch Vineyards – Promise of a New Vintage

March 2, 2011 Fifty-Two Weeks, Mendocino County Comments Off
Husch Vineyards – Promise of a New Vintage

It’s not the destination, it’s the journey…or so they say.

When I decided to take on 52 weeks of California wine last year, I wanted a journey. I expected to go places I had not yet been to and to see things I had not yet imagined. I did both. From windswept hidden vineyards to some of the most iconic establishments in California wine, I have voyaged far and wide. There has been plenty of reward, in experiences, in friendships, in companions, in wine, and so I voyage on into my second year.
Winemakers too have their personal voyages. They come from all walks of life, all corners of culture and background. Some were raised with vineyards and barrel rooms for playgrounds and others stumbled upon winemaking by chance. But the destination can be elusive for winemakers, a moving target, concrete today and eroded tomorrow. … Continue Reading

Frank Family Vineyards – In the King’s Court

Frank Family Vineyards – In the King’s Court

I had a chip on my shoulder. I had a bad attitude. I walked alleyways and vineyards muttering the same four-letter word: Napa! Napa! NAPA!

You can’t pursue wine, particularly domestic wine, without tripping over praise and loathing for the juggernaut that is Napa. Like it or not, Napa is the very heart of American wine. Everything flows through Napa. American wine is relevant in the world, because of Napa.

But it wasn’t for me. Accepting Napa as a Lord of the Wines wasn’t my road, it wasn’t the way I was going. I like vineyards in the middle of nowhere and antique barns that house barrels instead of hay. I like it real, I like it gritty and I like it raw. I hate tour buses, I don’t pay $50 to taste, and I don’t buy drunken cases of wine. In other words: I DON’T DO NAPA! … Continue Reading

Cabernet Sauvignon – The Boy Who Would Be King, Part I

November 3, 2010 The Press Comments Off
Cabernet Sauvignon – The Boy Who Would Be King, Part I

Cabernet was a sickly child. Born to Jasper and Nadia Sauvignon in a slightly decrepit stone home on the outskirts of Bordeaux. The boy was ravaged by Phylloxera in his early years. He was an unpopular child, despised for his small weakly stature, sheepish avoidance of conflict, and the fact that he was smarter than the other children. He was, in fact, a genius.

Cabernet spent most of his time reading under an ancient oak tree in the corner of the play-yard or on the uneven front steps of his parent’s home. On occasion, he might be found riding bikes or playing marbles with his healthier and more physically-able cousin Cabernet Franc. Although the two shared a first name, a similar genetic makeup, and both had one brown and one blue eye, the boys, born two days apart in October, were vastly different in character and physical appearance. Cabernet Franc, who always insisted his last name be used when addressing him, was an unruly child, known for fist fights, mean spirited pranks, and the tendency to swear at unfortunate times. … Continue Reading

Chateau Montelena – Message in a Bottle

July 29, 2010 Fifty-Two Weeks 3 Comments
Chateau Montelena – Message in a Bottle

The mid morning fog still sat over the tops of the hills as we climbed the concrete steps before us. It has been a strange Summer throughout California and the northern end of the Napa Valley was cold on this mid-morning, despite being late July.

We had passed through the valley of the giants to arrive at our destination. We drove Past Napa and on through Oakville. Past the house that Mondavi built, the seat of an empire that was once glorious. Through St. Helena and past the mighty Beringer and Beaulieu Vineyards on to Calistoga. The vineyards were never ending, the wineries palatial and grand all around us. Napa is a stunning place.

We climbed higher up the forest lined stairway. Finally, over the tops of the stairs the famed giant amongst the tress of Calistoga began to reveal itself. The stone face, embraced with the firm grasp of ivy was one of the most iconic of the entire valley. Before us, in its timeless grandeur and dignity was Chateau Montelena. … Continue Reading

Foxen – Degrees of Separation

July 16, 2010 Fifty-Two Weeks 6 Comments
Foxen – Degrees of Separation

There are certain truths in life. Light travels at 186,000 miles per second. The Earth orbits the Sun once every 365.25 days. Bob Barker will never die. There are six degrees of separation between Kevin Bacon and the rest of the world.

Many are familiar with the Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon, a trivia game with the goal of tracing anyone in the entertainment industry back to Kevin Bacon in six or less steps. I myself can be traced to Kevin in four degrees:

  1. I have a friend named Rob.
  2. Rob has a friend who wrote the screenplay for Percy Jackson and the Olympians: The Lighting Thief.
  3. The Lightning Thief starred Pierce Brosnan.
  4. Pierce Brosnan and Kevin Bacon contributed text to a book of photographs by British photographer Andy Gotts. … Continue Reading

JUSTIN – Lions, Triangles, and Goats, Oh My!

July 1, 2010 Fifty-Two Weeks 1 Comment
JUSTIN – Lions, Triangles, and Goats, Oh My!

When I started A Long Pour I had a few goals. Learn about California wine, become famous, meet the Queen of England, and interview someone at JUSTIN. Now, only the Queen is left.

A big part of my obsession with wine came from the Paso Robles based JUSTIN Vineyards & Winery. Two wines sparked my current passion. The 2006 River Run Carignane from J.P. Pawloski and a Reserve JUSTIN Isosceles that a couple of complete strangers offered me a few years ago. My friends and I passed it around with glee totally immersed with its fruit forward goodness. It was quality we had never enjoyed. JUSTIN makes wines that are as opulent as they are sought after and I was instantly enamored. The shift from drinking $8.00 grocery store Merlot to something like JUSTIN is dramatic and I was determined to find more wines that gave my mouth such a happy feeling. Somewhere over the grocery store rainbow, good wine existed and I was on a mission to find it.

Late last year as I was planning ALP, I would cite and write lists of wineries I wanted to work with: Tablas Creek, Costa Brown, The Ojai Vineyard, Sine Qua Non, Barrel 27, and others. The list grew and changed, but JUSTIN always stayed in the top five. … Continue Reading

Jordan – Where The Wild Things Are

June 23, 2010 Fifty-Two Weeks 1 Comment
Jordan – Where The Wild Things Are

Big ships turn slowly so the adage goes. The wine industry once took hundreds of years to see significant changes and as such longevity was valued over agility. In recent decades, change has come with increasing speed, testing how quickly wineries both large and small can respond in uncertain times.

Starting in the late 70′s and building throughout the 80′s and 90′s, the influence of wine critics shaped perceptions, palates, and some winemaker’s styles (whether they admit that or not). While some of the styles in wine changed, much of the marketing remained the same, with a handful of big publications like Wine Spectator, Wine Enthusiast, and The Wine Advocate serving as the leading critical voices in American wine.

The mid 2000′s saw the addition of wine blogs like Alder Yarrow’s Vinography, which helped to shorten the time it took to publish a critique from weeks or months to days if not hours. A Critic could now share an opinion almost instantly, which was then easily spread from blog to blog and forum to forum. … Continue Reading

Charles Shaw – What The Chuck?

April 21, 2010 Fifty-Two Weeks Comments Off
Charles Shaw – What The Chuck?

If there ever was a film made about Fred Franzia’s life, and I hope there is, Brian Cox would my choice to play the role of the foul mouthed, stout figured king of the bargain grape.

Fred is the nephew of California wine legend Ernest Gallo. It is his Family’s name “Franzia” that dominates boxed wines across the Country. In addition, he is also the man behind another name: Charles Shaw, AKA Two-Buck Chuck.

Fred Franzia is CEO of Bronco Wine Company, who has caused a huge stir in the wine community over the past several decades. There have been lawsuits stemming from accusations of fraudulent labeling practices, to labor complaints resulting from the tragic death of a young female farm worker who was employed by Bronco Wines. Yet, it is neither of these affairs that have earned Bronco Wines the most attention. Make a $1.99 wine and other vintners may chuckle and dismiss you as fiscally negligent. Make a $1.99 wine and sell it by the millions of cases exclusively at Trader Joes, and everyone will take notice. So it is, that a massive empire was forged, two dollars at a time. … Continue Reading

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Bonny Doon: Day of the Doon IX {Photo Essay}

September 22, 2011

Bonny Doon: Day of the Doon IX {Photo Essay}

We have grown rather accustomed to long trips for short stays, so much so that a 500 mile weekend is not such a big deal anymore. There are a lot of events we are invited to and we can only attend a few of them. But when Randall Graham asks you to attend, you attend. [...]

Secret Project {the reveal}

August 17, 2011

Secret Project {the reveal}

A few weeks ago I posted the “Secret Project” with some shots of  a friend’s new winery taking shape. At the time, the space was still in a raw state, holes in the ground, bare walls, cut concrete. In terms of photographing a new winery, one might say there was not much to see, no [...]

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