By Jonathan Cristaldi

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September 10, 2014 0 comments Articles & Reviews, By Jonathan Cristaldi

Memorable Wine Quotes from the Famous Drinkers Who Loved it Best

Since the earliest civilization’s roamed the earth, a hardy glug of wine has been a dependable precursor to some history’s most brilliant (and brilliantly dumb) utterances. Successful lines of immortalized grape-speak have come from the most prolific drinkers of the stuff—from Thomas Jefferson to Henny Youngman, wine has inspired an array of ideas on the subject (and it even pushed Noah to “uncover” himself when… read on.

[This article first appeared on on August 23, 2014]

September 1, 2014 0 comments Articles & Reviews, By Jonathan Cristaldi

Five Boxes Wines That Don’t Suck

As drinkers, we’ve been conditioned to believe that good wine doesn’t come in boxes, much like good beer doesn’t come in “vortex” bottles and good cocktails don’t come in mason jars. And for a long time, the anti-box bias was well-justified—that is, unless you wanted to end up with a dorm-room gallon jug of swill, or the same Franzia “Sunset Blush” your grandma has packed away on the refrigerator…read on.

[This article first appeared on on July 23, 2014]

July 11, 2014 1 comment By Jonathan Cristaldi

Speed blogging (10 Wines in 50 Minutes)

10 Wines 10 Minutes

TEN WINES in 50 MINUTES — live blogging from the #WBC14 in Santa Barbara. Here goes–please excuse typos!

Rating 1 to 5 (1 being a wine I didn’t like much, 5 being one I did, pretty straightforward)

Pacific Rim 2012 Dry Riesling from Columbia Valley ($10)

Interesting fact: winemaker Nicholas Quille originally from Burgundy, making wine for these cats in Columbia Valley – working toward producing total bio-dynamic wines. Rating: 4 — bright, citrus, crisp, food friendly

Urban Legend 2013 Grenacce Blacn Capay Valley ($21)

Interesting fact: grown east of Lake Berryesa in the Capay Valley – tiny lots, 120 cases. A group in Washington state called “Secret Sauce” designed the label. Rating: 3.5 — oily, citrusy, leesy

Uproot 2012 Grenache Blanc ($34)

Interesting fact: “What will shock you is our alcohol level – we are bringing transparency and putting the “actual” ABV level.” – Jay Levy owner, Greg Scheifeld is the Winemaker 6’7”. Rating: 3.5 — a little smoky and bright citrus.

Charles Krug 2013 Sauvignon Blanc ($18)

Interesting fact: Widest distribute wine, on the national market, estate bottled, Rating: 4 — flecks of green, smoky and salty and grassy

Oro Bello 2013 Chardonnay ($17-$19) (Coastal wine)

Interesting fact: the winemaker is Alexandre Remy and his inspiration was “the best chard I ever had in my life was from Burgundy, — a place named “Drops of Gold” and that is what Chardonnay is about for me. Rating: 4.5 — light in color, creamy, gorgeous mouthfeel, slightly toasty, elegant, some tropical kiwi lusciousness (first vintage!!)

Agnitiō 2012 Sauvignon Blanc Napa Valley ($26.50)

Interesting fact: All about giving back to our vineyard workers. We created a scholarship program for their children. From Coombsville AVA and Oakville AVA – some barrel ferment! Neutral and new oak — a “cigar” barrel — Didier Dagueneau invented. It’s a little longer and especially amde for SB and allows for greater lees contact. Rating: 4 — salty, touch of oak, lemons and grapefruit and

Aurella 2012 Columbia Valley MaryHill (Marsanne-Roussanne blend) ($24)

Interesting fact: Largest winery in Washington State – 90,000 cases, 31 different varieties. Specialize in Cab, Zin and Merlot. Washington Winery of the Year by Winepress Northwest in 2009. “Aurelia” is the Latin origin for “Golden” Rating: 4.5 — delicious almond notes and

Yorkville Cellars 2011 Cuvée Brut ($36)

Interesting fact: About 300 cases of this. Make about 50 different kinds of wine. First family to plant Carmenere in America. Rating: 2.5 Intense baking spice and cinnamon notes – drinks almost like a red ale, pears and apples and blackberries, super creamy mouthfeel

Gypsy Canyon Ancient Vine Angelica ($150) 375ml

Interesting Fact: It’s a friggin Angelica. Period. Rating: 3.5 — super sweet and balanced between mineral and almonds and candied peaches and jazz like that.

Aridus 2012 Chardonnay — an Arizona Winery! ($35)

Interesting fact: Winery based in Arizona but trucks in grapes from Santa Maria – 50% native yeast and 50% industrial yeast. They do make wines from Arizona too, like a Viognier. Rating: 4 — brioche nose, lemon peel and leesy, Tropical notes on the palate mixed with citrus

PS — To read Marcella Newhouse’s take on the session, go here. We sat next to each other, tasting and typing ferociously!

June 30, 2014 0 comments Articles & Reviews, By Jonathan Cristaldi

Tasting Notes REDUX 6.30.14

While researching Hilliard Bruce for my “Punch-Down” column for the August issue of The SOMM Journal, in which I interview John and Christine, the owners and winemakers, I was struck with an idea after reading Josh Raynolds tasting notes on their wines. Raynolds, writing for Stephen Tanzer’s International Wine Cellar, gives such divine tasting notes I found myself imagining them as descriptions of characters in a noir film or stage production.

I’ve re-posted one tasting note before and then quite after my “theatrical” treatment.

2011 Hilliard Bruce Vineyards Pinot Noir Sun Sta. Rita Hills
Vivid red. Assertive aromas of raspberry, cherry-cola and candied flowers, with Asian spice and woodsmoke accents building with air. Juicy and precise on the palate, offering alluringly sweet, concentrated red fruit liqueur flavors and a hint of musky rhubarb. Shows very impressive verve and clarity on a long finish sparked by a zesty blood orange note. 93

Daisy Buchannan, a girl in her late 20s
A vivid red-head. She’s assertive and smells likes sweet aromas of raspberry perfume. Daisy drinks cherry-cola and snacks on candied flowers. She likes a little Asian spice in her sticky rice. Her apartment wafts of woodsmoke, and elegant accents mark the building’s facade, and the halls are perfumed with strawberry air forever. “Juicy” is the name of her dog, a pug, and he plants precise licks on her cheeks. Never one to turn down a salty Auntie Anne’s Pretzel, she’ll savor one on the palate, until the dough disintegrates, offering alluringly sweet, concentrated pretzel flavors, like how you might imagine a red fruit liqueur to taste if the flavors were to melt into the ice of your drink, muddled by tears and a hint of musky rhubarb–the way Tom smells after a horse-ride through fields of…rhubarb. Daisy shows well at parties and offers a very impressive verve and clarity of wit, while she rides on the coattails of a long song and will only agree to finish if her drink is sparked by a zesty blood orange soprano note. In 93 years, she’ll be dead and gone.

December 11, 2013 0 comments Articles & Reviews, By Jonathan Cristaldi

Rise of the Bi-Coastal Boutique Vigneron

This article first appeared on The Bloggery at, December 11, 2013.

Michelle Reeves of David Family Wines is her own brand ambassador. Photo courtesy of David Family Wines.

Michelle Reeves of David Family Wines is her own brand ambassador. Photo courtesy of David Family Wines.

The bi-coastal vigneron: a phenomenon far from new, yet the trend of producing a boutique wine from afar is on the rise. Urban Wineries like City Winery and Brooklyn Winery have sourced fruit from vineyards in California and trucked it east to vinify it on their home turf. But for the one-family or even one-person vintner, the costs of such an endeavor (let alone where to make the wine) are completely cost-prohibitive. One solution is to join a co-op or custom crush operation situated nearby to where vines are grown (like in California), and it is within these constructs that part-time vintners are flourishing and not all are ex-bankers as you might suspect. Many are fanatics with a small savings, bitten by fruit flies, looking to make a micro-mark.

Michelle Reeves of David Family Wines arrived in New York in 2001 “ready to take on the corporate world,” she says. “Managing sponsorship deals for global sports brands like New York Yankees, PGA, and the Olympic Games, I spent 8 years traveling the world. When I moved to San Francisco in 2003 I was distracted by the California wine industry.” That distraction led to Reeves working weekends for free in a wine store “to learn more about wine.” By 2006 she was ready to give it a go. “I started DFW on my own with nothing but a ton of gumption and my savings.”

Today DFW production totals 500-600 cases per year, and the wines are sold primarily through a mailing list, though some have made it on coveted wine lists—places like Eleven Madison Park and Le Cirque. She’s also started a new side project: I Know The Winemaker, which sources uber-boutique bottles and makes a few available to those on the mailing list.

Pax Mahle (left) and Loren Grossman (right) sample the “dirty” Wilde Farm Chalone Chardonnay. Photo courtesy of Wilde Farm Wines.

Pax Mahle (left) and Loren Grossman (right) sample the “dirty” Wilde Farm Chalone Chardonnay. Photo courtesy of Wilde Farm Wines.

Then there’s Loren Grossman. His label, Wilde Farm, came about as a result of Grossman visiting vintners in the Bay Area when out on business. “I was reminded of Central Italy,” where he grew up. “I visited vintners I knew were making wines with higher acid, lower alcohol and more honest expressions of the land in which the grapes grow.” On one such excursion he met Pax Mahle of Wind Gap, a chap dedicated to a terroir-driven style of winemaking. “I really loved Pax’s wines and felt that we shared the same philosophy around wine and winemaking.” Mahle encouraged Grossman to “really think about making a wine.” The seed was planted and before long he had a deal with Mahle to produce Wilde Farm wines.

Reeves and Grossman are part of a micro-trend of vintners-turned-brand-ambassadors, who are forced to undercut the three-tier system (Producers » Distributors » Consumers) because the distributor isn’t pulling their weight. “It’s not enough to let your distributor and sales reps manage [your brand] for you,” says Reeves, “New York is a loud market and the voice for a wine brand has to be loud and it has to be genuine.”

With a myriad brands knocking down the doors at top restaurants, begging Sommeliers and Bar Managers for a coveted spot on the wine list, it’s more important than ever for a brand-ambassador to show face, show passion and convey the wine’s story to prospective buyers. Of course, getting the sale is critical, but somms and wine buyers can sniff out the numbers-driven vintners from the passion-projects and it’s impacting lists.

As more enthusiasts funnel their savings into boutique wines and the playing field levels out with more quality small-production offerings, the trend is apparent: wine lists with wines you’ve never heard of, being offered on a rotating basis year-round. It sounds the trumpets of a great day in wine consumption and we would do well to encourage the Reeves and Grossmans of the world because their tenacity provides consumers with new options, rather than the old guard of powerful brands being pushed by distributors. There’s greater potential for discovery of wines that might inspire the next micro-vintner waiting in line to dig in his heels, grin and bare a flashy wine-stained smile.




David Family Wines 2007 Pinot Noir, Santa Lucia Highlands, $110
Deep ruby in color, a medium bodied smooth wine redolent of dried strawberries, red cherries, cinnamon, mocha, cedar, dried violets and dirt that’s been rained on after a hot summer day in the Catskills or if you prefer, the Central Coast.







David Family Wines 2011 Pinot Noir, Santa Lucia Highlands, $70

Though four years younger, similar in ruby intensity, medium palate offering younger Pinot notes of bright berry, vanilla, oak, a bit more silky leading to a spicier finish than the ’07.






Wilde Farm Chardonnay


Wilde Farm 2012 Donnely Creek Vineyard, Anderson Valley, $42

Delicate aromas of bright cherry, forest floor, vanilla, roses and lilacs opening up to a medium bodied wine, gentle on the palate giving way to sour red cherry, strawberries, graphite and earthy overtones. This wine brings me back to the farm I never grew up on.





Wilde Farm Heritage

Wilde Farm 2012 Brosseau Vineyard, Chalone, $36

Unfined and filtered the wine is slightly cloudy in appearance (mark of the non-winemaker) and evokes creamy leesy notes, like Sherbet on a stick, along with tropical character; a weighty roundness envelops the mouth and under-ripe mango coupled with cream builds to a stark mineral finish. This wine is a superb accompaniment to high acid foods like Eggplant Parmesan and salads with acidic vinaigrettes.





Wilde Farm Pinot-Noir


Wilde Farm 2012 Bedrock Vineyard, Sonoma Valley, $36

This old-world style wine wafts of blackberry preserves, pepper and subtle vanilla spice unfolding into a light, zippy wine of strawberry jam on the palate, dried violets and underbrush. I’m reminded of Italy even though my family comes from Sicily.

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