The WineSpeed Blog


“Savoya” Pinot Noir 2016

(Yamhill-Carlton District, Willamette Valley, Oregon) $57

Ken Wright, one of the shining stars among Willamette Valley wine producers, makes some thirteen pinot noirs. This either qualifies him as A) crazy or B) just about as driven by terroir as the monks of Burgundy. Having recently tasted a slew of his wines, I believe it’s the latter. One of my favorites is his “Savoya”—a mind-blowing pinot with rich bolts of fresh black cherry, spice, a cascade of minerals, and just the right touch of something dark and primordial. But above all, what I love about this pinot is its precision and its length. The flavors are as crystal clear as a church bell in the mountains. The finish never quite seems to. Great pinot noir is always insidiously good at making you desire it. “Savoya” leaves you helpless. (13.6% abv)

94 points KM

Available at

Priorat Wine & A Vision of Angels

Spain’s northeast region of Priorat is an unforgiving place, with sweltering days and cold nights. The vines that grow there are old and gnarled, sprouting from a stony, slate-laced soil called llicorella (“licorice”) for its blackish color. The region was called Priorato (Spanish for “priory”) when a monastery was built there in the Middle Ages, inspired by a villager who had a vision of angels ascending a stairway to heaven. And it does seem miraculous that this infertile region can produce such delicious wines. Priorat’s wines are based primarily on two native red grapes, garnacha (grenache) and cariñena (carignan). Massively structured with considerable tannin, the wines have a soft, thick texture and are usually loaded with ripe blackberry fruit, dense chocolate, lively licorice, and mineral/rock flavors.

A. Writings by an early Napa Valley pioneer

B. The life of an early winemaker in the Pacific Northwest

C. A myth of revenge from the Piedmont region of Italy

D. A California miner who became famous during the Gold Rush and eventually became a judge


Napa Valley’s first non-Native American settler, George Calvert Yount was a fur trapper and a friend of fellow fur trapper Hugh Glass, the subject of the film The Revenant and the book of the same name. Some of Yount’s writings helped inform the true story of Glass and fur traders in the West. Yount settled in the Napa Valley in 1838 and his first production of “wine” was allegedly fermented in cowhides hung from trees. In 1860, Yount hired a young Prussian immigrant named Charles Krug to help him make better quality wines. Krug went on to found his own winery, Charles Krug, in 1861. After Yount’s death in 1865, the United States Postal Service renamed the town where he lived “Yountville” in his honor.

Wine comes in at the mouth
And love comes in at the eye;
That’s all we shall know for truth
Before we grow old and die.
I lift the glass to my mouth,
I look at you, and I sigh


—”A Drinking Song” by William Butler Yeats (1865-1939)


Riddling (remuage in French) is the term for turning and upending Champagne bottles while the sparkling wine rests in the winery’s cellars. The reason for riddling: Champagnes and top sparkling wines go through a second fermentation that creates the bubbles. As part of this second fermentation, yeast cells remain trapped inside each bottle. Until the mid-nineteenth century, no one could figure out how to get the yeasts out, and thus Champagne was always cloudy. Ingeniously, the Champenois came up with a solution. By turning the bottle a little each day and progressively tilting it until it was almost upside down (riddling), the yeasts could be coaxed to slide down the side of the bottle until all yeast cells settle in the neck. The neck of each bottle is then frozen, the bottle was opened, and the frozen plug of yeasts would fly out. Amazingly, a good riddler can turn 40,000 bottles of Champagne a day.

Charbono: The Next Cult Wine in Napa Valley


There’s a new Cult wine in Napa Valley, and it isn’t Cabernet.

Did you know that once upon a time, not too long ago, Cabernet actually didn’t reign King in Napa Valley?  It wasn’t until the 1990’s that Cabernet surpassed chardonnay as the most widely planted grape, and up until that point, Napa Valley enjoyed a wide variety of grapes we now find in the “other reds and whites” category on the wine list.  Over the years, many of those vines have been replanted, but there’s one grape in particular that continues to enjoy a small but mighty cult following and as of late, it appears to be getting stronger.   If you haven’t heard of charbono, it’s probably for good reason.  With less than 65 acres remaining in Napa Valley, its incredibly small footprint barely makes it out of the state of California.  Charbono has a few aliases: Douce Noir, Croatina, and BONARDA as it’s known in Argentina where it enjoys superstar status as the 2nd most widely planted grape commonly blended with Malbec.  Only a few vineyards remain and much of what you’ll see is going to be from vineyards in Calistoga like Frediani, Tofanelli, and Shypoke.  It won’t be easy to find them, but most are available directly from the winery and can be purchased online.  A few options are available via (depending on state) and Acme Fine Wines, a local retailer in St. Helena that often carries them and ships nationwide.

Cock Ale? Ahem.

Reading the words “Cock Ale” while finding myself in Portland recently led to a string of unintentional associations. Oregon. Craft beer. Lumberjacks.  Wow, who knew? Alas, cock ale has nothing to do with Oregon or its (no doubt sexy) men. It’s literal. Cock ale is beer made with rooster meat.  As reported by Gastro Obscura, cock ale was once a British mainstay and many a pub’s name is a tribute to it: The Famous Cock, The Cock and Bottle, and so on.  Much appreciated in the 1600s for its medicinal properties, cock ale was made (often by women) by immersing a rooster in a batch of boiling ale along with raisins, dates, nutmeg, and Sherry. Cock ale’s medicinal and restorative properties were legend. Besides purportedly curing tuberculosis, it was considered an early form of Viagra. So: cock ale to the rescue for what ails you. Think of it as craft beer meets chicken soup. And if that doesn’t work, there’s always a cocktail.


Value (in billions of U.S. dollars) of the wine industry in the U.S. according to Wines Vines Analytics. That’s double what the U.S. wine market was worth fifteen years ago. In total, 408 million cases of wine were sold—77 million in restaurants, and 331 million in wine shops and stores.


Number of hours—equivalent to a full year of working hours in the U.S.—Lalique (the luxury glass company) spent making the world’s most expensive wine barrel.  The cost? Estimated to be in the hundreds of thousands of dollars. Crafted entirely of crystal, the barrel weighs 882 pounds and currently holds the 2013 vintage of Château Lafaurie-Peyraguey Sauternes.


Rank achieved by Scarecrow Cabernet Sauvignon 2015 (Napa Valley) in Vivino’s 2019 Wine Style Awards. Scarecrow’s first place was based on its cumulative score of 4.9 out of 5, beating out Domaine de la Romanée Conti “La Tâche” 2000 by 0.2 percentage points. Scarecrow is owned by Bret Lopez and Mimi DeBlasio, and is made by winemaker Celia Welch.

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