john brecher

  1. The Red Wave Is Here: It’s Cabernet Franc

    The Red Wave Is Here: It’s Cabernet Franc

    Sometimes – rarely, but sometimes – we taste a wine so exciting that it takes us on a journey. That just happened. It was from Murrieta’s Well in the Livermore Valley and it was sharply focused, with dark berries, variety-tagged green bell pepper, persistent acidity, herbs and vibrating energy.

    It was Cabernet Franc, from the 2019 vintage. That’s not a total surprise. If you’ve been wondering about the red wave that pundits keep talking about, it’s Cabernet Franc.

  2. 16 South African Wines That Will Make You Feel the Energy

    16 South African Wines That Will Make You Feel the Energy

    We recently visited South Africa for the first time for 10 days on a trip sponsored by Wines of South Africa. We visited dozens of wineries and attended all three days of CapeWine, a trade show featuring about 400 wineries and, we’d guess, more than 2,000 wines. Here’s a list of 16 South African wines that are available, at least a bit, in the U.S. They are in alphabetical order.

  3. The Ultimate Wine-Food Pairing Guide (or Not)

    The Ultimate Wine-Food Pairing Guide (or Not)

    We sample many wines for this column. We prefer to try them first before dinner, discuss them and then retaste with food to see how they change. We might have whites or reds, and sometimes we have both. 

  4. From Morehouse to Master Sommelier: Chris Gaither’s Journey in a Changing Wine World

    From Morehouse to Master Sommelier: Chris Gaither’s Journey in a Changing Wine World

    Chris Gaither, 38, is only the fourth Black person in the world to earn the Master Sommelier diploma and his wife of seven years, Rebecca Fineman, 43, in 2017 became the 25th woman to attain the title of Master Sommelier in the Americas chapter. The couple, who have two young daughters, say they are the only married Master Sommeliers in the world to own a restaurant, Ungrafted, which they opened in San Francisco in 2018.

  5. Has Your Palate Changed? We Take the Amarone Test

    Has Your Palate Changed? We Take the Amarone Test

    Over the years, we have read quite a bit about how wine palates change. The conventional wisdom is that people tend to start with sweeter wines, then move to dryer wines and then move to more elegant, softer wines. The cliché then was that your parents liked Bordeaux while your grandparents preferred Burgundy.

     

  6. Lauverjat Menetou-Salon: A Family Battles Historic Forces; ‘We No Longer Have Seasons’

    Lauverjat Menetou-Salon: A Family Battles Historic Forces; ‘We No Longer Have Seasons’

    We were at a small wine shop, looking for a nice end-of-summer white. We spotted the bottle at the same time and both said, “Awwww.” It was Menetou-Salon, a Sauvignon Blanc from the Loire Valley of France, which we don’t see that often. When we do, we think of Windows on the World in New York’s World Trade Center, where we first tasted it decades before terrorists brought down the twin towers on Sept. 11, 2001, killing almost 3,000 people. We recalled that first bottle when we had another Menetou-Salon at a French restaurant in St. Maarten during a cruise in 2006 and toasted our dear wine-loving friend Cathy, who we lost in that devastating attack 21 years ago. 

    ...

  7. Indigené Cellars: It’s All About Giving Back – and Amphoras

    Indigené Cellars: It’s All About Giving Back – and Amphoras

    We were at a large tasting hosted by the Association of African American Vintners in Oakland a few months ago when John sampled a Grenache Blanc, a variety we generally consider more solid than exciting. This was an exception. It had a combination of generous fruit, tropical life and an earthy roundness that made it complex and delicious. When John said all of this, the man who poured it smiled and said: “That’s good to hear because otherwise I wasted a whole lot of money on terra cotta pots.”

    John rushed to get Dottie to taste the wine. Then we vowed we’d find out more about this man and his wine.

    The man is Raymond Smith, owner of Indigené Cellars, with a winery in Carmel Valley and a tasting room in Paso Robles. It turns out he has a story quite unlike any other we’ve heard over the years, featuring bottling lines, the value of mentors and even a soul food supper club for at-risk youth in San Francisco.

    And many amphoras.

    Amphoras are ancient, but also a little bit of a trend in local winemaking. Famed Napa Valley winery Dalla Valle Vineyards has used some since 2018. In a recent press release, winemaker Maya Dalla Valle said the use of amphora “adds to the complexity of the wine without introducing higher quantities of new oak to overpower the fruit and nuances it contains.”

    Smith, who is 59, studied journalism in college, but he found a job at a large winery in Paso Robles. “I learned all about bottling and barrel work, like the mid-part of winemaking,” he told us when we called.

    A few years later, someone contacted him about helping to start a mobile bottling operation. “So we got this business up and running,” Smith said. “These guys were the money part and I was the sweat equity part, the guy who had the knowhow. It changed my perspective of winemaking from learning from one guy to learning from 400 guys because I was traveling all over California and meeting new people and learning about new ways of blending wines, new ways of making wines.”

    As a result, Smith speaks with intimacy about multiple regions of California in a way we’ve rarely heard.

    In a short time, Smith bought the bottling business. That’s when his education really took off. He told us he always had mentors, winemakers who were eager to discuss everything with him. Many had one thing in common: “I always for some reason was hooked up with some crusty old Italian guy. I always met Italian varietal makers for some reason and kind of stayed close to them and these were guys who I had a deep relationship with.”

    We think his secret was that he listened. As he put it: “I had no problem ever saying I didn’t know and once I did that they had information for me every time I showed up.”

    ...

  8. Wine Writers’ Symposium: Taking Risks, Earning a Living and Expanding the Table

    Wine Writers’ Symposium: Taking Risks, Earning a Living and Expanding the Table

    Wine writing is in the midst of a revolution and if you don’t think the wine on the shelves is affected by who writes about the subject, we have two words for you: Robert Parker. For a long time, wine writing was mostly the province of white men, many of whom we admire, like Hugh Johnson and Michael Broadbent. But the world has changed and so have the voices in the wine world.

    If you follow wine today, especially on social media, and your feed isn’t bursting with new voices, you need to refresh your feeds. People from all backgrounds, of all kinds, from everywhere, now are writing about wine from different perspectives. It’s a very exciting time.

    For almost 20 years, the premier gathering of wine writers has been the Wine Writers’ Symposium in Napa Valley, founded by Meadowood Napa Valley and Napa Valley Vintners. We were keynote speakers in 2019 and Dottie joined the advisory board this year. 

    Before COVID and the Napa fires and a gap year in 2020, WWS, formerly known as the Symposium for Professional Wine Writers, was an in-person event. But last year and this year, it has been virtual. The three-day session was just held, with 253 registrants from around the world and a stunning list of speakers, from Ruth Reichl to MJ Towler. We also spoke this year.

    Even if you’re not a wine geek or a wine writer, we wish you could have been there because so much of the discussion and advice was more about life than wine. Here are some of our takeaways and our favorite quotes:

     

    --Take risks! 

    Ruth Reichl, food writer, eater, cook: “The things that are the most worth doing are the things that frighten you the most.”

    Madeline Puckette, creator, Wine Folly:  My two business partners, one was a friend who became CEO of another company and he left and the other was my husband. Turns out – I love my husband, he’s an amazing dude – but he’s not that fun to work for. So we kind of went our separate ways. He said this is really your project, you should take it over. I spent the next couple of years trying to figure out how to be my own boss, which was the hardest thing I’ve ever done in my life.”

     

    --Wine writing should be about more than wine.

    Talia Baiocchi, Editor-in-Chief, PUNCH: “We’re always looking for the writer who’s going to ask the bigger question. Why does it matter?”

     

    ...

  9. The Black Wine Guy Experience: Packing 50 Lives into 54 Years

    The Black Wine Guy Experience: Packing 50 Lives into 54 Years

    Who is MJ Towler? And a second question: How does he do what he does so well?

  10. Rosé, Seriously: Faith Plays a Role In Cain’s First Blush

    Rosé, Seriously: Faith Plays a Role In Cain’s First Blush

    Next time you’re gulping a rosé, maybe when you’re into the second glass, stop for a second and ponder this question: Why don’t we take rosé more seriously?

    We have tasted many rosés recently and have conducted broad bl...

Posts loader
Copyright © 2022 Grape Collective. All Rights Reserved.