The WineSpeed Blog


“Bloom’s Field” Pinot Noir 2014

(Sta. Rita Hills, California) $70

This extraordinary wine reveals what can happen when a small group of friends maniacally obsessed with pinot noir make wine together. One of them—Raj Parr—was once one of the most famous sommeliers in America. Their pursuit led them to a rolling patch of land in the Sta. Rita Hills (among the best places to make pinot outside of Burgundy). The wine itself has an ethereal lightness of being. Its aromas and flavors are a gentle whirlwind of earth and minerality; savoriness and spice. Best of all, every molecule counts; there’s fantastic richness here without concentration. I can’t wait to try the just-released 2016. (12.5% abv)

96 points KM

Available at K&L Wine Merchants

Alsace—What You Need to Know

The wine region of Alsace looks like it’s right out of a fairytale. There are 119 storybook villages, tucked among over 38,000 acres of vineyards set against the backdrop of the Vosges Mountains. While Alsace is a French wine region today, it has also at various times belonged to Germany. In fact, within a single 75-year period in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, France and Germany exchanged ownership of the region four times. (Alsace is one of Europe’s strategic geopolitical crossroads). Finally, Alsace is one of the rare wine regions in the world devoted almost exclusively to white wines—the most important being riesling, gewürtztraminer, pinot gris, and muscat. There is a single red variety, though—pinot noir—that grows amidst the idyllic villages.

A. Short aging in American and French oak

B. Long aging in large concrete tanks

C. The traditional solera method

D. Long aging in American oak


The signature of Rioja wines is long aging in oak barrels, usually American oak. The story starts in 1780 when a Rioja winemaker named Manuel Quintano adopted the Bordelaise method of aging wine and began maturing his wine in large French oak casks. Oak casks transformed his wines in a way Quintano had never anticipated. Over time, it became apparent that the new “technology” of small oak barrels would prove more economical if oak trees from North America were shipped overseas and the wood was coopered into small barrels in Spain. Today, there are two philosophies about oak when making Rioja wines. The traditionalists tend to use American oak and to cooper that oak in Spain. Modernists do the opposite: they tend to use brand-new French oak that was coopered in France.

It’s hard to talk about flavor. Tasting something is such a direct neural jolt; words will always seem clumsy and vague. ‘Spicy’ does not begin to express the riot of electrical fires sparking through your skull after you eat a Thai chile. ‘Sour’ hardly touches the way a fresh lemon grips your whole consciousness and squeezes until it weeps.

So we turn to metaphor. Elderflower kombucha is a bottled Scandinavian summer: mild, light, yellow, easy. Coconut water is a Caribbean afternoon. Chianti, as any sommelier will tell you, is the blood of a mortally wounded Vespa. … Coca-Cola is all the gallons of lighter fluid harvested from discarded Bics in the aftermath of a Bruce Springsteen concert.

—René Redzepi and David Zilber in The Noma Guide to Fermentation (Artisan 2018)


A term used to describe a wine with elegance and balance. The term implies that the wine is polished and sophisticated. Hearty, rustic country wines would not be described as having finesse, while a well-made Champagne or top white Burgundy might be.

How to Score a GREAT Deal on a Bottle of Wine: A Guide to Wine Auctions

Whether you’re after a birth year wine to celebrate an occasion, a great value, or a rare, unicorn wine that you’ve been dying to try, wine auctions both online and in person have traditionally been the best source for snagging gems. But buying wine on the auction circuit is no easy task. Tricky verbiage, surcharges, and a less-than-friendly return policy make this one of the least consumer friendly spaces and can lead to disaster if you don’t know what you’re doing. As the Wine Director at PRESS Restaurant in Napa Valley, I am constantly on the hunt for hard-to-find wines for our list and have compiled a few helpful hints for assessing bottles and deals prior to placing your bid.

Online or in person? If it’s your first time buying wine at an auction, I highly recommend doing it in the comfort of your own home. In-person wine auctions like Sotheby’s and Bonham’s are incredibly exciting to go to, but they can also be a little intimidating and can lead to stress-bidding, competition between your neighbor, and leaving with a way more expensive bottle than you had intended. Sites like KL Wines and WineBid make it very easy for you to get your feet wet and keep you away from that fast talking auctioneer.

Assessing the bottle ahead of time is really the key to mitigating losses. You’ll want to note the two most important factors:

Provenance: Where the bottle came from and how it was stored

Quality of the Bottle: Fill levels, cork quality, etc.

Last but not least, remember, most auctions have what is called a “Buyer’s Premium.” This is an additional percentage (generally between 15%-20%) tacked on to the winning bid and paid for by YOU, the buyer. Always consider the ENTIRE price of the wine including the premium, tax, and shipping charges when calculating how high you want to bid.

Pave the Way, Elon Musque: I’ll have a glass of Martian white, thanks

Ok, we don’t know if Elon Musk and his SpaceX project will be the first to try to plant a vineyard on Mars (his manned mission is planned for 2024), but we do know that scientists are already at work trying to figure out the Red Planet’s terroir and which grapes might grow best.  Scientists from the Republic of Georgia specifically. As part of their so-called IX Millennium Project, the researchers are conducting experiments at Georgia’s state-owned “grape library” where 450 indigenous grape varieties and 350 foreign varieties are grown. That Georgia is heading up a project on the future of wine in space isn’t all that surprising. Grapes have grown in that country, part of the original cradle of grapevine domestication on Earth, for more than 8,000 years. And while it would be cool to drink a glass of Martian Wine with Space food, the research’s primary purposes are practical—like attempting to understand the effects of radiation on life-sustaining agriculture on other planets.


Percentage of registered dietician nutritionists who named Facebook as the #1 source of misinformation about nutrition and diet, according to a 2019 What’s Trending in Nutrition survey. Blogs were second (73%); Instagram third (55%). As for who provides nutrition misinformation, RDs most often named celebrities (87%).  Sorry, Marie Osmond.


Approximate length of time (in years), Paris’ nudist restaurant O’Naturel remained in business. (It will close tomorrow, February 16). Although four million people vacation in the nude in France each year, French authorities were not quite as keen on a public restaurant where one could slurp oysters and sip Burgundy in the buff. In a nod to fashion (ah, those French), women were allowed to leave on their high heels if they desired.


Total number of miles in Scotland’s “Dramathon,” an annual boozy race along Speyside Way, home to over 80 world-renowned whisky distilleries. What makes this marathon so special? The finish line is at the Glenfiddich distillery where runners sip single malt scotches and receive medals made from whisky barrel staves. The Dramathon takes place in October. Registration is now open.

Get WineSpeed

Join tens of thousands of other wine lovers. Get each week’s edition of WineSpeed delivered to your inbox every Friday. It’s fast. It’s free. It’s the smartest way to stay up to speed on wine.
Email address
First Name
Last Name
Zip Code
Be sure to check your inbox to confim your subscription.