There's a gentility and refinement to the wines that's not unlike the winemaker himself, and their complexity produces both pleasure and engages the intellect, again, much like spending time with Miguel.
As is true in most longtime wine producing regions, some of Rioja's greatest producers are those that have evolved over generations, one generation sharing its wisdom, acquired over decades of successes and failures, with the next.
I've been a fan of wines from Spain's Rioja region for some years, and was therefore hugely excited to visit Rioja last month. In a trip filled with highlights, my visit to Franco-Españolas winery was a standout for me for several reasons.
We've seen quality improvement in wine over the past few decades, resulting in more and better access to better wines, from virtually all regions. A vast, region-wide example of conscious planning to make better wines is "Chianti 2000."
Greece once dominated the world of wine. Aspects of wine enjoyment we take for granted today -- e.g., focused tastings, sommeliers, glasses designed for particular types of wine -- all developed originally in ancient Greece.
The eighth annual Pinot Days grand tasting occupied San Francisco's Fort Mason Festival Pavilion this past Saturday. This was my sixth year attending the event, and I've seen it shrink, particularly over the past couple years.
California's first vineyards were planted starting in 1779 by Franciscan missionaries. The vines planted were what have become known as Mission grapes, or Criolla, a term that covers a few varieties traditionally used for sacramental wine.
One can enjoy wine on so many levels -- the aroma, the flavors, the feelings it engenders, the history and lore of it, and now the science too. Yet, like so many of the greatest things in life, there remains, ultimately, the wonder of it.
Planting vines in the cool, high altitude Santa Cruz Mountains is a quixotic endeavor. Nonetheless, a few driven producers over the years have made some brilliant, complex, cool climate Pinot in these parts.
The wine world includes a lot of small, family-owned producers. Many produce good wines, and a multitude don't. Occasionally, however, the results are outstanding -- truly among the ranks of the region's very best.
Sta. Rita Hills is definitely starting to fulfill its promise as a source of characterful, balanced and terroir-driven wines, from flavorful Chardonnay and Viognier to minerally and complex Pinot Noir and Syrah.
Petite Sirah is, along with Zinfandel, one of California's heritage and most distinctive grapes. It can produce wonderfully complex, rich, black fruited wines, often with floral, blueberry, tar, licorice and peppery dimensions.
What white wine goes well with a wide range of foods, from salads to seafood and many cheeses? Sauvignon Blanc. And what's one of the best values you can find on any restaurant wine list? Yup, again, Sauvignon Blanc.