Steven Spurrier, the English merchant, educator, winemaker, grape farmer, and advocate, died March 9 at age 79. Thoughts, accolades, and remembrances of him have poured in all day from all quarters, including The Drinks Business, who today called him "The Great Man of Wine," while Decanter awarded him the same moniker in 2017.  Surely he was, but I doubt he'd relish being referred to that way. Spurrier became what's referred to in the wine world as a household name, beginning back in 1976 when he held "The Judgment of Paris," a blind tasting of French and U.S. wines, originally intended primarily to promote the visibility of his wine store. Spurrier's wine history is long, back to the presidency of LBJ,…

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My 2020 wines of the year—a white, a red, a Champagne, and a rosé—are a slam dunk. Without further ado, here they are: WHITE: Gundlach-Bundschu Estate Vineyard Gewurztraminer 2019: This hits it out of the ballpark. Aromatic, balanced, crisp and rich, it’s dry unlike many Gewurztraminers. It’s a great food wine in the tradition of dry Riesling. But with spicy and Asian food you'll want to try a sweeter style. RED: Lingua Franca Avni Pinot Noir 2016. This surprisingly affordable medium-body Pinot is a standout, with raspberry and black cherry flavors, crisp with a slightly tart and spicy finish. From the domestic kingdom of Pinot Noir, Oregon’s Willamette Valley. If it’s sold out the 2017 is also outstanding. SPARKLING: Champagne…

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There are roughly nine weeks left of “traditional” summer—Memorial Day to Labor Day—and hopefully you’ve been able to buy and enjoy some lovely wines.  I’m betting that you’ve quaffed a few Rosés, ideally some of them with some aroma, fruit, and character (and not those watery, pale and insipid ones). Anyway, I’m hoping you’ll make a pledge to just this once, stay away from the big 4: Chardonnay, the Queen; Pinot Grigio, the rook; Sauvignon Blanc, the knight; and Riesling, the King. There are so many other wonderful whites out there, so please give them a try. Look at them as varietal treats during the Pandemic: if you can’t get out and about, stay in and luxuriate!  Here they are,…

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This tiny place in Westfield, adjacent to a highway-type franchise hotel, bills itself as “one of the best French restaurants in New Jersey.” That is nonsense. It’s got to be the best French restaurant in New Jersey. And one of the best of any kind. I had lunch here years ago and remember it to be good but unremarkable. Not so on September 26, when my date and I decided to see what all the acclaim is really about. We were greeted warmly and escorted to our table, which was formal and lovely but not over the top. After a short wait, our waiter approached and began the service, which throughout the evening was attentive but not intrusive. And he…

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Try some different wines for Thanksgiving-Chenin Blanc, Riesling, Pinot Noir, and Ports for dessert. Leave the Chardonnay and Cabernet on the shelf.
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France, and specifically Bourgogne, what we in the great USA call Burgundy, is where the world's best Pinot Noirs and Chardonnays are grown. And I say "grown" because Burgundy is all about the vineyard rather than the chateau or winery. Not to say that there aren't some excellent Pinots and Chardonnays from other places - old world and new, oaked and unoaked, cool climate and hot climate, austere and crisp.  Of course, there are also sweet, caramel-y, and in my view pretty much undrinkable wines from those places, too. Think Yellowtail, or, actually, don't. I've tasted Pinots from New Zealand and Oregon that rival the best from Burgundy, and recently I had a Chardonnay from Italy that I might have…

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Movies about wine are relatively few, and good ones are as rare as a 1961 Hermitage La Chapelle. Here's an overview of a couple worth seeing, and some educational ones, too. Bottle Shock Bottle Shock, which was independently released in the United States in August of '08, is available on video. The movie is supposed to tell at least part of the story of "The Judgment of Paris," that game-changing event in 1976 when a Chardonnay from Napa's Chateau Montelena and a Cabernet Sauvignon from Stag's Leap Wine Cellars beat some of the top French wines. In a blind taste test. In Paris. With some of France's top wine experts as judges. Mon Dieu! Problem is, lots of stuff shown…

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