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Chateau Mon Dieu Lena!

Date: Wed, Nov 5, 2008 Wine Tasting

To the surprise of everyone, it appears the much anticipated major acquisition of one of the crown jewels of Napa Valley by a foreign company is off. 

In July, Robert Parker Jr. announced on The Mark Squires Bulletin Board that there was big news coming that would "shake the fine wine world". What that announcement turned out to be was Michael Reybier, the owner of Ch. Cos D' Estournel had reached an agreement to purchase Chateau Montelena in Calistoga, one of the most recognized names in California. The prospect of a highly respected French Chateau purchasing such a respected property caused a stir as to what the prospects were for other highly regarded producers to change hands to overseas entities. 

Now barely three months later, we find that the deal is off. As reported in PR newswire today 
the agreement was terminated by Chateau Montelena due to Reybier Investments being unable to meet its obligations under the contract to the Barrett family. 

It seems that the news has re-energized the vision of the Montelena team. Chateau Montelena Managing Director, Greg Ralston stated in the press release, "We move forward with an exceptional team, having great confidence and a renewed passion to succeed at the very highest level".

The winery is apparently off the market and I doubt if I'm alone in wishing everyone at Chateau Montelena much success in the future. It is certainly on my short list to go visit in the next couple weeks.

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Japanese Sideways filming in Calistoga

Date: Fri, Oct 31, 2008 Wine Tasting

I just drove by the filming of the "Miles drives into the tree" scene for Japanese Sideways, the movie, filming in Calistoga October 31, 2008. They wrap up this weekend. The rain doesn't seem to be bothering them as there are about four guys with rags wiping the Mustang down.

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Solid new producers discovered at the Kick Ranch Tasting

Date: Tue, Oct 28, 2008 Wine Tasting

Last Saturday was the first Wine Blogger Conference held in Santa Rosa. Day One included a lunch at the Kick Ranch Vineyard featuring nearly a dozen wineries creating wine from this increasingly important site on the eastern slopes of Sonoma County. I first became aware of this site from Shane Finley of Shane Wines  who uses it in one of his trio of exemplary small production Syrah, including Jemrose and The Unknown, a blend of several sources.

The visit opened my eyes to the realization that several well established producers like Bayard Fox of Renard, Kent Rosenblum of Rosenblum and Les Behrens of Erna Schein have began using the site established in 2001 by partners, Dick Keenan and Kathleen McNamara. 

With a short amount of time to taste I stopped by a few new projects. The first was Silent Morning, wines produced by Siduri Cellarmaster, Tim Lesko:

I first met Tim a couple years ago after I purchased the Siduri barrel at the Hospices of Sonoma barrel auction and he became my liaison to the barrel. The 2007 Silent Morning Syrah Kick Ranch was delicious even under the 80 degree weather where many high alcohol wines would wilt.  Tim doesn't have a website yet but can be reached at silentmorningcellars@gmail.com

Morgan Peterson (son of Joel) has come on the scene like gangbusters this vintage with his new wines under the Bedrock Wine Company. Morgan's no stranger to the California wine scene literally born into it. Be sure to visit his blog on his site. 

The image above is not Morgan's official label. It was affixed to a gallon jug he was pouring from at the tasting. The wine was rich and concentrated brimming with smoothly textured fruit. He also had a tank sample of what should turn out to a sensational Sauvignon Blanc once it is bottled. He split the parcel with another top producer of this variety. 

Both Tim and Morgan are producing excellent wines and deserve a look. Contact them directly and tell them you read about them on the dougwilder blog.

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The launch of dougwilder - the purely domestic wine blog

Date: Wed, Oct 22, 2008 Wine Tasting

This is really something new for me. My own personal, independent, unmoderated look at the best wines I taste. In a few sentences let me tell you about who I am and what I do.

I'm Doug Wilder, a California (SF Bay Area) native who first walked into a vineyard in Sonoma when I was about 7 years old and chewed some grapes off a vine my mother trimmed for us. It seems I was always attracted by aromas. It didn't really matter what it was... flowers, beehives, gasoline (never inhaled) fruits, vegetables, spices, paint, paste. I was always sticking my nose in things eager to identify what the smell was. I could tell the difference between A&W and Shasta Root Beer. I never knew my nose would come in so handy but it has given me a very pleasurable career in a field I feel blessed to be a part of.

After nearly twenty years of working in the wine industry for other people, with over half that time writing reviews for wines I represented as a retailer, I finally have the opportunity to write independently, removed from any perceived bias (which never really existed). I remain the same exacting judge of quality that gained me significant readership at places like Dean & Deluca and Vinfolio over the last ten years. Without those opportunities I shudder to think what I would be doing now.

dougwilder - the purely domestic wine blog, will take up where my most recent professional writing left off. While at Vinfolio I authored over 200 issues of my recommendations in a twice weekly column called The Wilder Side of California beginning in March 2005 and grudgingly began blogging two years ago at Free Run Juice. Neither is being published any longer. If you are one of the thousands of registrants who used to read me there and you are here now - welcome. 

Trust me - you won't find this content anywhere else unless I write it.

What people have learned to expect from me since 1996 - A continual stream of consistent, reliable, influential and honest reviews on excellent wines, and profiles of winemakers representing the domestic scene will continue here.

Some other things to look for:

  • Every review will be for wines that score at least 90 points (wines that fall below that will be mentioned at the bottom of the winery profile without a rating)

  • Every review will have a link to either the winery or a selected retailer for purchasing

  • The Top Wine List of the Year will be published in November

  • Winemaker dinners with the top California winemakers will happen beginning in December or January.

Stay tuned for my first reviews coming early next week. I will be attending the first annual Wine Bloggers Conference in Santa Rosa this weekend and I bet I will have the freshest blog there!

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