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Postcard From France: Cote d'Azur

NICE, France -- The French Riviera is a mixed bag for the wine enthusiast willing to travel thousands of miles to a foreign land in search of exotic wine and food experiences.

Here, in the heart of the Cote d'Azur, the most exotic wine experience at the beginning of my personal Tour de France came at a rustic French cafe, La Femme du ...Read more

10 Summer Value Wines

It's summertime, and the living's easy. So, too, should be the wines you drink. May they go down easy, and be easy on your wallet as well.

I've selected a handful of superb wines that, in my humble opinion, over deliver for the price. Some of these are perennial favorites, such as the Castello Banfi Brunello di Montalcino, and some are recent...Read more

The Big Chill

There used to be a saying among wine aficionados that "a wine's first obligation is to be red." Indeed, there is a significant body of wine enthusiasts that clings to that mantra and only drinks red wine -- as an aperitif before dinner; with dinner, even if fish or shellfish are being served; or after dinner, as a nightcap.

To each his own. But...Read more

All-American Bargain Wines

If ever there were a holiday that cried out for an all-American theme, it would be July Fourth.

For that special occasion, not all the fireworks need be in the sky. Those planning a holiday celebration for hordes of family and friends can sip splendid U.S.-produced value wines that were recently vetted by professional wine journalists at the ...Read more

The Magnificent Seven

The prestige and importance of any major wine competition relies to some extent on the quality of the entries, particularly the presence of top-notch wines from other parts of the world. The annual Critics Challenge International Wine & Spirits competition typically attracts strong global representation, which makes an award a bit more ...Read more

Rose Revolution

In the near quarter century that I've been organizing commercial wine competitions, I have more than 60 under my belt, and the rose category has been one of my greatest disappointments.

Once upon a time, most of the rose wines entered were on the sweet side and of little interest to professional wine judges, so medals were few and far between...Read more

Coppola Dazzles at Critics Challenge

Noted film director Francis Ford Coppola has been a celebrity presence in the California wine industry going on four decades. Despite the celebrity, there was never any question about Coppola's passion for wine, or his savvy about the business.

After he purchased the Napa Valley's historic Inglenook estate, Coppola promptly made his mark with...Read more

Summer Whites

It's summertime, and the sippin's easy. For most wine lovers that means breaking away from heavier wines that have a strong influence of oak and turning to wines with a bit more fruit zest and crisp acidity.

There's a simple reason for this seasonal shift in taste: It's refreshing. When the weather heats up, demand for white wine, refreshing ...Read more

The Grilling Season

Memorial Day weekend kicks off the grilling season, and there will undoubtedly be those who've forgotten the essentials since the last ember went cold at the final barbecue Labor Day weekend.

First, and probably most importantly, the grillmeister must be kept properly refreshed from prep to plating. There is no scientific evidence grilled ...Read more

Cognac on the Rocks?

If you've ever ordered a cognac at a trendy restaurant, you've no doubt witnessed the bartender making a show of heating a snifter with hot water before filling it.

It's a dirty little secret (at least it was) that the renowned cognac house of Hennessy prefers to serve Hennessy X.O on the rocks. I learned of this firsthand a number of years ...Read more

The Accidental Winemaker

Early in his wine career, Felipe Stahlschmidt tended vines for one of the properties owned by the renowned Catena Zapata winery in Mendoza, Argentina. He held a degree in agronomic engineering from the National University of Cuyo in Mendoza and was well-respected for his work in the Catena vineyards -- so well-respected, in fact, that when one...Read more

Italy Has Its Day in the Sun

Banfi, one of the most important names in Italian wine, and Vecchia Romagna, the most renowned producers of Italian brandy, gave a distinctly Italian twist to the outcome of the annual San Diego International Wine & Spirits Challenge earlier this month.

Banfi, with a platinum award for its 2012 Brunello di Montalcino, 10 gold awards and three...Read more

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