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There's a hole in the bucket (or, why this whole "balance" argument was always a crock)

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The following is a slight revision of piece that was first posted in 2012 on a different blog site that has since been taken off-line (story of my life). Based upon a premise that (in my humble opinion) still holds water...
At first, when word started getting around eight, nine years ago, it was easy to dismiss: the notion that wines over 14% alcohol, or else picked “overripe,” are somehow inferior, or less “balanced,” than wines closer to 12% or 13% alcohol, leaner in fruitiness and higher in acidity.
Wine, after all, has always been an aesthetic choice, like any other we make in our lives. You might yearn for a man with a body like Arnold and a Denzel face, but no doubt the Laurels and Hardys of the world get their share of love, too. So you prefer curling up to a Harry Potter rather James Joyce’s Ulysses (obviously, far more do), or contemplating a Marvel comic book rather than a classic Monet or Manet? I suppose the Stones vs. Beatles argument still rages on, albeit in different man…

The state of American Pinot Noir is better than ever (but not for reasons you may expect)

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It was very easy to be impressed by the overall quality level of Pinot Noirs at the 17th annual World of Pinot Noir, taking place at Bacara Resortin Santa Barbara this past March 3-4, 2017.
As in previous years, I took detailed notes on some 50 wines on each of the two days (I know I’m maxed out when the inside of my lips start to go numb), out of the ridiculous number you actually have the opportunity to taste (40 producers, pouring an estimated 700 different bottlings). I apologize for all the ones I missed; but when I accepted the post of “god of wine” some 39 years ago (my first sommelier job), they didn’t tell me that my actual powers would be that of a somewhat mortal semi-demigod, and a minor one at that. Still, if anyone claims they have perfectly good notes on more than 100 wines tasted at World of Pinot Noir, I suspect they’re lying.
I know what I thought of the Pinot Noirs. Since I don’t have to convince myself, after the proceedings I queried a few winemakers (those producin…

Questions of terroir and minerality

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This post is a combination of "Bottom Line" columns previously published in The SOMM Journal and Sommelier Journal
Is it okay to talk about terroir in terms of minerals?
When you become a working sommelier, and are privy to tastings of wines from around the world, you invariably develop an increased appreciation for wines tasting distinctly of their “sense of place” – commonly known as terroir. The current obsession with concepts like “balance” in lieu of sensations associated with oak, overripe fruit, alcohol or other excesses is, in one sense, really an expression of our longings for wines that taste more of vineyards or terroir, rather manipulations thereof through the heavy handed intervention of winemakers. 
I have always thought of terroir as like a tree falling in the forest. Just because you can’t hear it, it doesn’t mean there is no sound. As subtle as terroir related sensory delineations can be, they often aren’t. A Chablis, for instance, is far less weighty than a P…

Is it time to discuss Amador County as a world class wine region?

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First things first: Amador County and its wines are unique unto themselves. That’s the beauty of this Sierra FoothillsViticultural Area region.
Let us count the ways in which Amador County wines are now distinguishing themselves among other wines of the world. I am not talking about the recent renaissance of visitor-friendly attractions and boutique lodging in nearby Gold Rush Country towns, or the plethora of bright, shiny, new tasting rooms and wedding sites springing up along Shenandoah Rd. I’m happy for all that, but I’m a geeky wine journalist, not a travel or lifestyles writer; and so everything I talk and think about has to do with vineyards, grapes and wines.
And after over 30 years of visiting the region, I can say this: the vineyards, grapes and wines of Amador County are getting serious. My thoughts, followed by tasting notes for 10 contemporary classics coming out of the region; most of these wines tasted just recently at the Amador County Fair this past July 30, 2016...

Smal…