The Bottle to Buy: Chateau Giscours’ 2004 Vintage

Originally published on Departures.comchateau-giscours

The year 2004 was an unremarkable one in Bordeaux. The season was typical, marked by slow and at times uneven ripening, cooler temperatures, and a long harvest, and the wine—a connoisseur’s vintage—easily overlooked by drinkers who prefer the lush wines of California. Sitting between the two highly collectible years of 2003 and 2005 (plush, ripe, and powerful both), the seemingly austere and tannic 2004 received little attention and was left alone in the cellar.

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Make America Grape Again

Originally published on

Ideal summer sipping requires something refreshing, and there’s nothing more thirst quenching than rosé. Because it’s a style of wine that is made with red grapes, there’s a lovely structure that provides a backbone to even the lightest rosés, and those light, salmon-pink wines often have an aromatic subtlety and citrusy minerality that we find just so, well, refreshing.


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Looking Back at Robert Mondavi Wines over 50 Vintages

The first vintage for Robert Mondavi Winery was 1966: 50 years later, and the wine is still singing. For 50 years the wines at Robert Mondavi have followed Mr. Mondavi’s vision of producing wine among the great wines of the world defined by their elegance concentration and terroir and the evening was a tribute to the singular vision of the man who put the New World on the map. Read more about the 50th anniversary gala dinner that brought together some of the Napa Valley greats who worked with Mondavi over the years in my most recent piece for The Tasting Panel.



On Brands in Wine

I’m currently pursuing my Diploma certification through the Wines & Spirits Education Trust, and the below is an exploration of the topic of branding in wine as part of the unit dedicated to the Global Business of Wine. Results are in (I passed with distinction!), so I’m happy to be able to share this here. Text and research are my own, and I’ve included sourcing as appropriate.

The Brief: Wine branding is important across the price spectrum from the likes of Blossom Hill to Château Lafite-Rothschild. Many in the industry strive to create and sustain wine brands but do consumers benefit from them as much as those who own them?

Branding is a huge force in global business, connecting a name, an image, and perhaps a concept intimately with a product in order to create a relationship with the end consumer, ultimately driving purchase intent. Within the context of wine, however, it is a nuanced subject due to the fact that wine is a living product and that much of its value, many argue, is intrinsically variable, with the product changing from vintage to vintage, place to place, and even over time in bottle. Yet creating a brand – and brand loyalty – is an integral part of selling a product, so producers large and small seek a variety of means of connecting their product to the consumer, especially in a field as fragmented and crowded as wine. This essay explores the unique challenges of branding in wine along with some successful attributes, specifically within the field of still light wines, and how the role of brands in wine affects the consumer. Continue reading

The Art of Winemaking

Winemaking as an art is something people, myself included, often talk about, but it’s a concept that’s just as hard to wrap your mind around as terroir, until you’ve experienced it yourself. Just what makes every bottle of wine unique is a whole slew of consecutive moments, some things that just happen (heat, rain, the vintage as a whole), others where more active decisions take place (how you prune and train the vines, destemming, oak regime). I’ve seen and participated in many of these moments, but never that important process where a wine is actually made — that is, where the blend is determined, where grapes from one vineyard site are singled out as a stellar parcel, the rolling around of vat samples across your tongue to sense quality / taste / structure / longevity as components of a potential whole, to perceive how those parts might come together. That changed for me today when I tasted through the entirety of barrel samples of Tenuta di Trinoro’s 2015 vintage with Andrea Franchetti and his assistant winemaker Teresa Gaspar.2015 Trinoro Vat Samples

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2002 Dom Ruinart Rose Champagne

At a dinner that is part of my dear friend Marika Vida-Arnold’s Phenomenal Femmes series at the Ritz-Carlton Central Park, I tasted a slew of great wines from one of my favorite Champagne houses Ruinart, presented by their lovely chef de caves Amélie Chattin. An absolute favorite was the 2002 Dom Ruinart Rosé, for its rich, exotic profile. So I thought I’d write about it in this week’s column for

amelie chattin

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Drinking for a Cause

Originally posted on

Starting next week, I’m heading down South to pour, drink, and bid for good causes at great philanthropic wine auctions: the Triangle Wine Experience in Raleigh,Heart’s Delight Wine Tasting & Auction in D.C., and The High Museum Atlanta Wine Auction, one that is particularly dear to my heart (pictured below, my mom Louise Bray, left, and Sara Steinfeld, 2001 Auction co-chairs at last year’s event in Atlanta).


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Singular Terroir in Saint-Emilion

I had the great pleasure of sitting down to taste through select vintages of Château Magdelaine and Château Bélair-Monage with Christian Moueix last fall. The two adjoining estates were merged after Bélair-Monange was acquired by J.P. Moueix, so we explored past vintages, the future of the newly renamed and reclassified property, and the insight of a man as renowned for his vast expertise (he was the winemaker at Pétrus for a time) as he is for his innovations in the world of winemaking. SOMMJ DEC15-JAN16

Read more about the decision to bring these two properties in Saint-Emilion together in my most recent piece for The SOMM Journal.

Drink Grower Champagnes


Originally posted on

I always love any occasion to drink Champagne, but I get extra excited when I have the opportunity to drink wines by individual winemakers instead of the big name labels. This category of grower Champagne has been one of the most exciting trends to watch in wine over the past decade: These smaller producers are crafting wines that provide unique, highly varied, nuanced expressions that center on the individual parcels of land upon which their grapes are grown. Continue reading