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Pinot Noir NZ 2013 – Notes From Wellington

Pinot Noir NZ 2013 – Notes From Wellington

Post by Chuck Hayward | January 29th, 2013

Jim Robertson of Brancott Estate with Alder Yarrow of vinography.com discuss the vintage

Jim Robertson of Brancott Estate with Alder Yarrow of vinography.com discuss the vintage

Every three years, a large portion of the wine world descends on Wellington, the small capital city of New Zealand. Four days of informative seminars and lectures follow, combined with tastings of current and older vintages of Kiwi pinots. This year sees a large contingent of British wine critics in attendance, including Oz Clarke and Tim Atkin, alongside local representatives such as Matt Kramer and Alder Yarrow, putting forth their observations on New Zealand pinot. Aussies and locals make up most of the rest but there are many other countries represented among the 500 people in attendance.

For many in the trade, Pinot Noir NZ represents a unique opportunity to advance their knowledge about the category and, perhaps, take the steps necessary to place New Zealand’s pinots in a global perspective. I’m here to offer my comments as someone who has worked in the category for twenty years while seeking out exceptional wines for our customers. (more…)

A Pitch-Perfect Passion For Pinot

A Pitch-Perfect Passion For Pinot

Post by Chuck Hayward | January 8th, 2013

PinotFest Founder, Peter Palmer

PinotFest Founder, Peter Palmer

While tasting rooms and wine bars have traditionally been the best way to experience new wines, today’s oenophiles have a variety of tasting opportunities. Massive tastings have become commonplace, and are often presented in large spaces, hosted by organizations designed to promote a variety or region. While fun and often educational, the central purpose of these events is to encourage greater consumer interest in the labels being poured.

Not all tastings, however, are based on naked commerce. A number of wine events really are born from the sheer gusto of an individual – someone in the business who wants to share their passion with a wider audience. Just like tastings hosted by larger entities, the efforts of an individual wine enthusiast to convey his message can be showcased anywhere – from a big conference room to a small parlor. But such individualized tastings create a unique platform where one can experience an array of personally selected wines, each of which provides an insight into the mind of the host. A good example can be found in New York, where Paul Grieco saw his Summer of Riesling tastings (at his intimate Terroir Wine Bar) transform into an international phenomenon. Fortunately for us west-coasters at JJ Buckley, the Bay Area has its own similarly ardent oenophile. (more…)

Winery Profile: Iron Horse Vineyards

Winery Profile: Iron Horse Vineyards

Post by Chuck Hayward | December 27th, 2012

Iron Horse

Entrance to Iron Horse Vineyards

In preparing JJ Buckley’s Champagne Report, we wrestled with the decision to keep the focus on wines from that famous region, or open it up and include other sparklers, especially those from California. In the end, we decided to restrain ourselves, but not without some measure of protest from long-time friend Joy Sterling, proprietor of one of California’s iconic producers of sparkling wines, Iron Horse Vineyards. So as I wrapped up work on our latest report, I took the opportunity to dig deeper into our local fizz market in order to gain some perspective.

Sparkling wine has a long tradition in California, with Korbel having the distinction of being the first winery to produce bubbly back in the 1880s. And like the wineries that produced still wine in the pre-Prohibition heyday, the state was also blessed with many sparkling wine producers. But the arrival and aftermath of Prohibition along with a federal tax scheme that appraises sparkling wine at three times the rate of still wine left few domestic producers making bubbly between 1930 and 1970.    (more…)

No 3-Trick Pony: Champagne’s Indigenous Varieties

No 3-Trick Pony: Champagne’s Indigenous Varieties

Post by Chuck Hayward | December 20th, 2012

GrapesJJ Buckley’s latest Champagne Report has just been released with new articles along with new winery profiles and updated reviews. Click here to download a copy. To give you a taste of this edition, today’s post is based on an article that looks at Champagne’s lost varieties which are currently undergoing a renaissance.

If there is anything that wine enthusiasts have committed to their memories, it’s that chardonnay, pinot noir and pinot meunier, in varying proportions, are the three grapes used to make Champagne. Like many other details about the wine and the region, that’s just a bit of the actual truth. Because as wine geeks and aspiring MS and MW students know, seven grapes are legally allowed to be used in the production of Champagne. All of a sudden, Champagne drinkers are hearing about grapes such as arbane and pinot blanc vrai, fromenteau and petit meslier in their bubblies. What’s going on and how did this happen? (more…)

Champagne’s Glass Warfare

Champagne’s Glass Warfare

Post by Chuck Hayward | December 14th, 2012

From which glass would you rather drink your bubbly?

Which glass would you prefer for your bubbly?

JJ Buckley’s latest Champagne Report is about to be released, with new articles on the region’s indigenous varieties and the movement towards drier Champagnes along with new winery profiles and updated reviews. To get you in the mood, today’s post looks at the recent debate surrounding the optimal glasses and decanters for bubbly.

Champagne has long been on the receiving end of rules—regarding how it is made, how it is labeled, and how it should be enjoyed. Over the years, we have come to accept these unwritten codes and perhaps even find them comforting, as they didn’t often fluctuate. But today, Champagne is witnessing revisions to concepts that were once considered sacrosanct, and they have nothing to do with grapes or labels. The changes have to do with glass in which our bubbly is served.

If there is one rule that has been generally accepted across the board, it is that sparkling wine is best served in a flute. For maximum ‘correctness’, the flute was preferably scored at the base to promote bubbles, then rinsed with water and dried with a towel once the night is done. The coupe (also known as the Marie Antoinette glass) was long ago decried as an inferior vessel because its broader surface allowed the wine to promptly lose its effervescence. Now, there are some in the industry who promote an alternative to both the coupe and the flute. (more…)

From Cubicle to Crush Pad

From Cubicle to Crush Pad

Post by Chuck Hayward | September 19th, 2012

If you read enough catalogs from wine retailers and journalists, it’s likely you’ve seen articles about their visits to wineries as they explore wine regions across the globe. And while certainly an industry perk, these visits really are to the advantage of both the participant and the consumer. It’s important for the trade to get a better understanding of the wines they sell and it’s always good for the reader to enjoy a visit, even if it is only vicariously.

But it’s one thing to visit and taste. It’s altogether a different thing to take time off to actually make wine. And that’s what a few members of JJ Buckley’s wine staff are planning to do in the upcoming weeks. Not for the faint of heart, this means long days of physical labor, dragging hoses and picking at grapes. Early mornings, groggy and tired from hard work, combined with the after-effects of long nights spent tasting wine and unwinding with co-workers. Any romance about making wine disappears as bees and snakes lurk in picking bins in a cellar that reeks of smelly yeast and fermenting grapes.

But trust me – I can’t think of any place I’d rather be. (more…)

Popping the Cork on the Screwcap Debate

Popping the Cork on the Screwcap Debate

Post by Chuck Hayward | August 7th, 2012

The debate over corks and wine is causing controversy once again, proving its unique ability to be an issue of contention for the foreseeable future. Much ballyhoo has been raised by the cork industry recently regarding Christian Canute, the owner of Rusden Winery in the Barossa Valley, and his decision  to forswear screwcaps in favor of corks (despite the fact that he only used screwcaps for one of the ten wines in his portfolio and even that was only for a few vintages).

Top: 1999 Clare Valley semillon, 28 months after bottling. Bottom: After 125 months

In other news, UC Davis and PlumpJack Winery recently announced the commencement of a two year study that will attempt to determine, once and for all, how different closures affect the ability of wines to age. (Read more about the study here). This research is taking place despite the fact that the Australian Wine and Research Institute (AWRI) has been involved in a similar project for more than a decade. That study, analyzing 14 different types of closures, is in the process of concluding that screwcaps are superior when compared to other types of seals. Looking at the picture above (courtesy of Old Bridge Cellars), I don’t think I would want any of the wines on the right side of the picture. And by the way, the screwcap bottles are on the left. (more…)