The WineSpeed Blog


Pinot Noir 2016

(Russian River Valley, California) $40

I remember a smell from my childhood on Cape Cod—walking along a path in summer and smelling the sun-warmed raspberries hanging on the thickets of bushes that lined the lane. The berries themselves were juicy, soft, and delicious. A lot like this pinot from J. There’s earthiness here too—a signature characteristic of pinot noirs from the Russian River Valley—plus wisps of spice. Pinot noir’s first duty is to be deeply satisfying, and this one is. (14.3% abv)

90 points KM

Available at J Vineyards & Winery

West of the West—Finally

To anyone who has stood, wrapped in a down vest, on the edge of the cold Sonoma Coast in California, the expression “West of the West” makes sense. The long slice of rugged land bordering the coastline and tracking more or less perfectly with the San Andreas Fault has been (unofficially) referred to as the “true Sonoma Coast” for years. Standing there, you feel almost as though all of California is east of you.  Now the “true Sonoma Coast” may become a reality. The area is on target to become its own AVA in early 2019 when it will officially be known as the West Sonoma Coast. The challenge with the current AVA—Sonoma Coast—is its size: more than 500,000 acres. Critics say that’s simply too large, especially for an AVA where the hyper site-specific grape pinot noir is widely grown. The West Sonoma Coast will be much smaller and the pinot, chardonnay, and syrah grapes grown there will benefit from a climate cooler than Burgundy’s.

A. Recioto di Valpolicella

B. Bardolino

C. Torcolato

D. Amarone


Wow, this was a tough question, right? Bardolino is one of the most important simple wines of Italy’s Veneto region, but it is not made by the appassimento method. Recioto di Valpolicella, Torcolato, and amarone are all produced this way. The appassimento method involves taking whole bunches of grapes and spreading them on mats in special drying rooms or leaving them to hang in cool lofts, usually for a few months. This allows the water in the grapes to evaporate and their sugars to concentrate. As the grapes dry and raisinate, they can lose up to a third of their weight. Both dry and sweet wines can be made using this process, the best known being dry red amarone and the sweet red recioto di Valpolicella.

We entered the wine industry when there were no wine magazines, no wine critics, no 100-point scale—all 23 of us vintners in the Napa Valley in the 1960s. What we learned, we learned from the vineyard itself. Back then, it seemed like less was better.

— Janet Trefethen (Trefethen Family Vineyards is 50 years old this year)


A knob-like bulge on a wine glass’ stem. Wineglasses commonly had them from the 15th to the late 18th centuries. Knops came in many different sizes and shapes, and sometimes colors. Hollow or solid, there could be any number of knops on a glass, with intermediate spacing between them—handy spaces for one’s fingers.

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.


Number (in millions) of preserved fish housed in two World War II bunkers south of New Orleans, LA. The Royal D. Suttkus Fish Collection, founded in 1950, is the largest preserved fish collection in the world. According to Atlas Obscura, the archive is a vital source of information for scientists researching the effects of climate change on ocean life.


Number of acres of riesling in Washington State, making it (by far) the capital of riesling in the United States. Riesling is the third most planted grape in that state after cabernet sauvignon and chardonnay.  Some 64% of Washington riesling is made by Ste. Michelle Wine Estates, which collectively shipped over 8 million cases of wine last year.


Century in which the Italian word cappuccino was first introduced into the English language, according to Merriam-Webster. Unlike other espresso beverages, cappuccino was named—not after coffee—but after an order of monks called the Capuchins. The robes which the Capuchin friars wore closely resembled the color of a cappuccino beverage.

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