Tag Archives: grapes


Winecast 25: Randall Grahm, Bonny Doon Vineyard

randall grahmRandall Grahm of Boony Doon Vineyards has done plenty of audacious things during his three-decade winemaking career, whether holding a public funeral for the cork or publicly baiting various members of the Winestream Media. But his new project may be the most audacious yet — creating 10,000 new grape varieties from scratch in a California vineyard, and raising the money to do so through crowdfunding. In this, Grahm once again goes where no winemaker has gone before.

In the podcast, we talk about Grahm’s goal to raise $150,000 for the Popelouchum Vineyards in San Juan Batista, Calif., through crowdfunding — “It has been a learning experience, putting it most charitably” — and why terroir matters. In addition, Graham explains how difficult it is to create new grape varieties, involving as it does a jeweler’s loupe, tweezers, and paper bags. There is also more Yiddish than we should have had, insights into the mission and pinotage grapes, and what it takes to convince people to donate money for something that won’t happen for years.

You can contribute to the Popelouchum project here; several of the premiums, starting at $100, allow you to name one of those new grape varieties after anyone you want, including yourself. Crowdfunding ends next week, and it was almost halfway toward its goal when we recorded the podcast on Wednesday.

Click here to download or stream the podcast, which is almost 16 minutes long and takes up 15 megabytes. The sound quality is good, though there is a pause around the six-minute mark when I had to preempt the Wine Curmudgeon’s dogs from barking at the UPS man.


Winebits 384: Odd grapes, wine glasses, wine lawsuit

wine lawsuit ? Only seven percent: Regular visitors here know the Wine Curmudgeon’s passion for odd grapes, and it’s good to know that I’m not the only one. By one estimate, eight grapes account for 93 percent of the annual harvest in California — chardonnay, cabernet sauvignon, zinfandel, merlot, pinot noir, syrah, sauvignon blanc, and cabernet franc. A group of winemakers, reports Marcy Gordon at Come for the Wine, wants to focus on the other seven percent, and is holding a couple of tastings this week to show off those grapes. This is most welcome news for those of us who care about diversity and variety in wine, as well as style and taste. That someone who makes wine isn’t intimidated by chenin blanc is some of the best news that wine drinkers can have.

? The right way: Sommelier Stephanie Miskew writes about how to hold a wine glass correctly, which always makes me smile It’s about the only thing in wine that I’m a snob about; I can’t stand to see a wine glass held by the bowl, and when I see it in TV shows and movies I want to throw something at the screen. Miskew’s piece hits all the highlights, and it also gives me a chance to link to this: Wine Curmudgeon video, in which I demonstrate how to hold a wine glass.

? Calling all lawyers: Wine’s legal experts are at it again, with a Champagne house suing a top California producer over the name of a wine. Lew Perdue at Wine Industry Insight has all of the wonderfully silly details about this wine lawsuit, including that the side are fighting over the name “Delice.” Imagine all of the time and money being spent on what seems to be a very ordinary, if not lousy, name for a wine. At least the Cristalino lawsuit was over a name that mattered.

Anthony J. Hawkins and the Wine Grape Glossary

The Wine Grape Glossary, perhaps the most important wine reference tool on the Internet, was compiled by someone who did it to learn how to use a computer and to teach himself basic programming.

Thank you, Anthony J. Hawkins.

“That’s one reason why it’s so simple,” says the 83-year-old Hawkins, retired from the ceramics department at Alfred University in western New York state. “I didn’t want to put in any bells and whistles because I didn’t want it to be too complicated.”

It’s almost impossible to overstate the significance of Hawkins’ work. The site lists thousands of grapes (not even Hawkins knows how many), cross-referenced by parentage and the grape’s name in different regions and countries, along with growing and winemaking notes. All of this is annotated with academic sources and references.

Not sure what monastrell is? A couple of clicks and you’ll see that it’s a Spanish red grape that isn’t related to the French mouvedre, as is commonly thought. Surprised to see symphony listed as a grape on some California white blends? Click through and you’ll find that it’s a cross devised in 1948 at the University of California-Davis to blend with sweet wines.

And it’s free and incredibly easy to use. By comparison, Jancis Robinson’s new book, “Wine Grapes,” which has been released to critical raves, runs almost 1,300 pages and costs $175.

Is it any wonder I check the glossary (hosted by Robin Garr’s Wine Lovers Page) at least a couple of times day? Or that it’s reference material at many wine competitions that I judge?

Even more amazing is that Hawkins wasn’t all that interested in wine when he started work on it in early 1990s (though, he says with a laugh, he has a nice cellar now). He knew a home winemaker, and wanted to learn more about what that involved, as well as to understand what grapes were being grown in upstate New York 20 years ago. His goal, he said, was to grow a couple of vines so he could pluck grapes from his bedroom window. Besides figure out computers.

And, in those almost pre-Internet days, there weren’t many places to look. “Jancis Robinson ?s Guide to Wine Grapes,” her first grape book, wasn’t published until 1996 and only had 800 entries, an abridged version of a more expensive book that was almost impossible to find. Hawkins was on his own.

“The sources were hard to come by, though I did eventually get decent references from Cornell,” he says. “And the first versions were a little inaccurate, and I got some comments on that. It was like working in the dark. But then it started to grow like topsy.”

Until 2007, when Hawkins had to stop work on the glossary. He has had some health problems, he says, including heart surgery. But that doesn’t mean he wants to see it fade away.

“Yes, I’d like to see someone take it over and improve it,” Hawkins says, knowing that it’s time for an update that he can’t do. For one thing, diamond, one of my favorite New York state hybrids, is missing. Anyone who is interested can send him an email at hawkins at alfred dot edu (forgive that format, but I want to spare him any spam).

As for me, I want to double check the difference between ruby cabernet and cabernet sauvignon. Excuse me while I click.