Robert Parker

2011 Napa Vintage Preview with a Glance Back at California Futures

2011 Napa Vintage Preview with a Glance Back at California Futures

Post by Chuck Hayward | July 24th, 2012

California Cabernet Society’s Annual Barrel Tasting

The annual Bordeaux futures campaign attracts unparalleled attention, and there are many who feel the hoopla that surrounds it is undeserved. But it cannot be denied that en primeur focuses the attention of critics and merchants across the globe on the qualities of the vintage at hand. Interestingly, the lack of a futures program for California wines means they collectively escape the spotlight that Bordeaux wines enjoy (or rather endure, in the case of the 2011s). Instead, information about the latest vintage of California wines tends to come out bit by bit from those few critics who actually have access to winemakers and their cellars. However, it wasn’t always that way…

ANCIENT HISTORY

As the market for California cabernet became more serious in the mid-1980s, many wineries began to emulate the way Bordeaux presented new vintages to the press and the market. Recognizing that consumers were becoming increasingly familiar with the en primeur system for Bordeaux, and at the same time taking advantage of Robert Parker’s increasing influence in the California cabernet segment of the wine industry, MacArthur Beverages, a Washington D.C. retailer, held the first ever California futures tasting for their clients in 1985. Over the next few years, Parker attended the event as well and published his assessments of the unfinished wines while also offering practical advice to consumers interested in purchasing domestic wine futures. (more…)

A Different Kettle of Fish: Dinner at Ducru-Beaucaillou

A Different Kettle of Fish: Dinner at Ducru-Beaucaillou

Post by Devon Magee | March 31st, 2012

Chateau Ducru Beaucaillou

When I think of popping open a bottle of Left Bank Bordeaux with dinner, I typically think of medium

rare steak. But tonight, Bruno Borie, owner of Second Growth Ducru-Beaucaillou, dared us to think outside the box, pairing his lineup of Cab-based reds with seafood.It makes sense, really, with the bounties of the Atlantic – and especially the Bassin de Arcachon – only a stone’s throw away, eating local here is seafood. Except that drinking local here means structured, tannic Cabs.

And for a producer whose latest release – the ’09 – was just awarded 100 Points by Robert Parker,  the prize of the night was not necessarily the wine, but the fish! We caught a glimpse of the enormous, flat fish through the side door just as we arrived. We watched as the two women manning the kitchen, together hoisted the turbot off the ice and into the oven. I looked at my colleagues in wonderment. Could it be? Fish with Ducru?

Yes! We never saw the Bordeaux staples – duck breast, confit, or even foie gras. Instead, Bruno poured us a Magnum of 2000 Dom Perignon with a side-by-side comparison of Spanish “Pata Nega Bellota” jamón – 5-year aged, acorn-fed ham – and French “Pate Noire” jambon. As we chewed on the juicy question, Bruno hopped into the open kitchen in front of us to sauté clams and mussels.

(more…)

Finigan’s Wake: What Robert Finigan Meant to the Wine World

Finigan’s Wake: What Robert Finigan Meant to the Wine World

Post by Chuck Hayward | October 7th, 2011

While I never imagined using this blog to write an obituary, Robert Finigan was one of those people who made a powerful impact on me as my passion for wine grew and my career took off. Therefore, it seems appropriate to remember him here.

Robert Finigan's Private Guide to Wines

Finigan’s success began on a trip to Bordeaux where he declared the 1969 vintage to be subpar, an opinion that proved spot on. At a time when wine appreciation in America was starting to gain momentum, wine writing was limited to books and a few columnists in the Los Angeles Times. In 1972, he was the first to publish a wine journal—his influential newsletter, Robert Finigan’s Private Guide to Winesyears before Parker began the Wine Advocate in 1978 and well before the rise of the internet. Finigan set the standard for periodicals that came afterwards, including Charlie Olken’s Connoisseur’s Guide to California Wines (1974) and Nick Ponomareff’s California Grapevine (1973).

In tasting the 1982 Bordeaux from barrel, Finigan found the wines to be too rich and lacking the classic style of the region. Robert Parker, however, lavished praise on the wines, which later became immensely successful. Thus, the Wine Advocate began its ascendency, some would say at the expense of Finnegan’s newsletter, which ceased publication in 1990. (more…)

The Wonderful Wisdom of Oz

The Wonderful Wisdom of Oz

Post by Chuck Hayward | December 2nd, 2010

Oz Clarke

I recently attended a dinner where Oz Clarke was the guest of honor. When it comes to wine writers, Oz has risen to the top of the heap, which is marked by an abundance of other British authors. For years, they easily filled a large chunk of the wine sections in book stores…maybe due to the fact that England had such a long head start on wine consumption or perhaps because in America, it was quite some time before we had any writers who could tell us about the world of wine.

Early on, writers such as Hugh Johnson and Michael Broadbent lent their authoritative voices to the British tradition of writing books about wine with a broad scope. However, many books printed today reflect the current inclinations of the American audience, who increasingly prefer more specific and focused topics in their wine publications. For instance, Robert Parker has gained much of his popularity by being one of the world’s experts on Bordeaux, while pursuing his passion for California cabernets and Rhone varietals. At the same time, Alan Meadows of Burghound created his reputation through his single-minded pursuit of thoroughly understanding Burgundy. (more…)