The WineSpeed Blog


Estate Reserve Red Blend 2014

(Walla Walla Valley, Washington) $89

I tasted this beautiful wine recently with owner/winemaker Rick Small. (Small, along with his friend the winemaker Gary Figgins, are legendary figures in Washington State, having virtually jumpstarted the modern wine industry in Walla Walla after teaching themselves winemaking in the 1970s). I suppose it’s hard not to be influenced when you taste with a wine’s winemaker. But the magnificence and artisanality of this wine could not be ignored. Bold streaks of red, blue, and black fruits splashed across the canvas of the wine. Tiny fireworks of saltiness and pepperiness kept exploding. Unlike many powerful and full-bodied cabernet-based wines, this Woodward Canyon feels sleek, but the richness of its flavor is undeniable (and attention grabbing). A great wine for your next dinner party perhaps. (Mostly cabernet sauvignon and cabernet franc, with some merlot and petit verdot). (14.7% abv)

94 points KM

Available at Woodward Canyon

The Napa Valley: Circa 1971

Our friend Steve Burgess of Burgess Cellars sent us this map of Napa Valley in 1971 when it had only 40 wineries. Today (how things have changed) the valley has approximately 475 wineries.

A. Horse manure

B. Rotten eggs

C. Rancid butter

D. Wet cardboard


Manure-like smells are often associated with brettanomyces, called brett for short. This genus of yeast can rob wine of its fruity aromas, replacing those with manure, horse blanket, barnyard, or sometimes Band-Aid scents. However, while many winemakers—especially in the New World—abhor even the faintest whiff of brett and will scrupulously clean their wineries to prevent brett from growing, other winemakers find a faint suggestion of brett aromas attractive as part of an otherwise complex wine.

“Climate change is happening. The start date of each vintage moves forward by a week per decade. Burgundy won’t be making Pinot Noir in 20 years as it will be too hot; they’ll be making Shiraz and still Pinot production will move to Champagne and England. There is a very real possibility that if the effects of global warming get too severe, Barolos won’t be made from Nebbiolo since it’s such a sensitive variety and needs such specific conditions. Global warming is going to completely re-set the game. Bordeaux is going to have massive problems.”

— Chester Osborn, winemaker, d’Arenberg Winery (Australia) as quoted in The Drinks Business

Noble Rot

Botrytis cinerea, commonly called “noble rot,” is a beneficial fungus that’s needed to produce many of the world’s great sweet wines, including Sauternes and Tokaji Aszú. When noble rot attacks grapes, it covers them with a thin, gray mold that penetrates the grape skins. The mold multiplies by using water in the grapes to grow and spread. Without much water inside, each grape possesses a higher concentration of sugar, acid, and ultimately, flavor. The first intentionally botrytis-infected wines were made in the Tokaji region in Hungary in the early 1600s.

This wine word is from Karen MacNeil’s Dictionary of Wine Terms.

Brainy Bon Appetit

In the Good-to-Know-I-Guess Department, we’ve just learned that you can buy canned brains on Amazon (From Books to Brains, an amazing corporate success story!). And why would one need brains other than the ones inside one’s own head? It turns out that brains (pork brains specifically) are part of the historic dish called “eggs ‘n brains” which was popular in the American South up until the mid-20th century. According to Atlas Obscura, the dish probably originated among farmers, but soon spread to more urban areas, as well. Traditionally, fresh brains were used, but later, canned brains became common. I thought I had a fairly good grasp of food and wine pairing but this dish has stopped me in my tracks.  What goes with brains? Beauty? Yeah, but that’s not a wine.


Approximate price (in thousands of U.S. dollars) of the most expensive case of wine sold by Christie’s auction house in 2018. The wine was Domaine de la Romanée-Conti’s Romanée-Conti 1988, each bottle of which went for over $30k. However, the most expensive bottles of alcohol sold by Christie’s last year were not wine, but aged whiskies from both Scotland and Japan.


Position Portland, OR, just nabbed in Smart Asset’s ranking of the Ten Best Coffee Cities in the U.S. The ranking considers several factors including the number of “exceptional” roasters and coffee shops. After Portland, the top cities in descending order are: Seattle, Oakland, San Diego, New Orleans, San Francisco, San Jose, Denver, Austin, and Honolulu. Four of the cities are in California, the best state for overall buzz.


Cost (in cents) of the little fake green “grass” found in those containers of sushi you buy in the supermarket. Since it’s inedible, what’s the point of adding it? Historically, the Japanese used real lily or orchid leaves as a way of preventing rice from acquiring a fishy smell. Today in Japan, bamboo leaves are used for the same reason. In the U.S., alas, it’s P.E.T plastic.

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