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Posts Tagged ‘George Taber’


“Labor Day could be a washout across parts of the East, but that may only be the beginning…”

In New York City, showers have dampened the holiday festivities Monday morning, followed by overcast skies and more rain in the afternoon and into the night hours.”

“The remnants of Isaac will slowly crawl towards the East Coast spoiling outdoor plans along its journey this weekend. Just the opposite will hold true in the West; a showery start will turn out sunny and pleasant by the end to the Labor Day holiday.”   WeatherBug Meteorologist, John Bateman.

Yep, all those dismal weather forecasts were spot on.  It was nothing but grim darkness and showers, nearly the entire Labor Day weekend, for us East Coasters. 

But you know what?  I kind of loved it, in a strange way…

Nothing to do all weekend but lay around, listening to the rain smacking against the house,  flooding the gutters and washing  down the driveway into the grass and flowerbeds.  Nothing to do except hang out with the family, play some games, and curl up on the sofa to watch some “quality” TV with Mrs. WineLife365 and the kids.

Not a thing in the world to do, but soak up some quiet time and turn a Labor Day cookout into an impromptu cook-in.  You gotta keep up your energy when you’re doin’ nothing, right?!  :)

What to eat…what to eat?  How about a  little homemade (homemade by the local deli department) roasted vegetable and grain salad, lemon orzo w/pine nuts, and sesame noodle salad partnered with my indoor creation of grilled lemon-lime-nutmeg-Montreal-and-bbq seasoning rubbed chicken!  

While checking out the wine stash in my cellar (aka, closet with a rack in it):  I came across the perfect bottle to celebrate our impromptu east coast cook-in.

Producing 8,000 cases annually, Heritage Vineyards of Richwood, in the Dirty Jerz, is cranking out some terrific grade-A juice.  The 2009 Heritage Estate Reserve BDX (Sample, MSRP: $70 US) truly earns its “reserve” status:  only 119 cases of this Jerseylicious juice were made.  The ‘09 BDX  cuvée consists of 70% Merlot, 15% Petit Verdot, 10% Syrah and 5% Cabernet Sauvignon, and is aged in new French oak barrels for 14 months.  Notables on this red include:  black cherry, raspberry, cinnamon, nutmeg, vanilla, black pepper, toasted oak…and it was the shit with the stovetop grilled chicken and  lemon orzo w/pine nuts.  What an extra special treat to end a long, rainy weekend on an exceptionally high note!!

With only 119 cases produced, it’s probably all gone by now.  But guess what?!  The 2010 Heritage Estate Reserve BDX ($70 US) is available now in the winery’s tasting room; and it ranked 3rd in the Judgment of Princeton*, just behind the 2004 Chateau Mouton-Rothschild ($650 US) and 2004 Chateau Haut-Brion ($650 US)!

*The Judgment of Princeton, was a structured blind tasting of top New Jersey wines pitted against top French wines from Bordeaux and Burgundy.  The event was based on the famous 1976 wine book, Judgment of Paris, and it took place at Princeton University on Friday, June 8, 2012.

BYOB – George M. Taber Brings Tavel

As wine lovers, we’ve all had those really special and unforgettable moments in time that become ingrained in our minds forever.  These keepsakes could have been a particular bottle of wine, a special trip, a memorable meal or event, or maybe even the time that you made your first wine.  My point is, these very personal and special experiences make us all slow down in that very moment to appreciate and take notice of all the wonderful things and blessings that we have in life.


My personal goal for this website was and still is to share the good, the bad, and sometimes ugly wine encounters that I’ve experienced, and to share them with you in a manner that is enjoyable and relatable to you in your own “WineLife”, so to speak.  For this reason, I wanted to create a place on this website for people just like you to exchange and share your own memorable wine experiences for others to read about.


Earlier this past year, I had a very special wine experience that will forever remain in my memories.


george-taber-and-mark-walkerWhile attending the Jersey Fresh Wine & Food Festival, I had the pleasure of meeting and swapping wine tasting notes with best-selling author Mr. George M. Taber.  You might remember, he was “that American guy” living in France as a reporter and editor for Time Magazine who was asked to cover this silly little wine tasting challenge that was going to take place in Paris between France and a newcomer called California.  The rest, as they say, is history.  He went on to write a best-seller about this monumental day in California wine history called ”Judgement of Paris.  He’s also written “To Cork or Not to Corkand most recently released a book entitled “In Search of Bacchus“.




I recently caught up with Mr. Taber to wish him happy holidays and congratulate him on the release of “In Search of Bacchus”.  All that I can tell you about this man is that he’s very down-to–earth and easy to talk to, just like any other wine buddy that you might have, and he’s got a lot of great stories to share.  With that in mind, I asked him if he would kindly share one of his own personal wine-related experiences for the BYOB section of WineLife365.  He graciously agreed and took time out of his schedule to share this wonderful wine moment in his life that I’m sure you’ll enjoy reading just as much as I did.


Without further adieu, the following was written for WineLife365 by Mr. George M. Taber!

While I was researching my book “In Search of Bacchus,” I had a lot of interesting wine/life experiences. But the one I remember most vividly took place more than 30 years ago. It remains burned white hot into my memory.


It was sometime between May 1973 and September 1976, when I was working for Time magazine in Paris. Sorry, but I can’t zero in on it closer than that. I had been sent down from Paris to Provence to report on a story the subject of which I can’t even remember. But I can still vividly recall that I wasn’t happy to be there. I don’t know whether I wanted to be back in Paris doing something else or if it was a dull story, which can sometimes happen.


Anyway, I dutifully reported on the story in the morning and then had a couple of hours to kill before getting back on the train and returning to Paris. So I decided to have lunch at an outdoor café in the center of the town of Tavel, which is located near the spot where Provence and Languedoc meet. It’s not too far from Avignon, where the Popes who gave their name to Châteauneuf-du-Pape used to reside.


Little did I know at the time that Tavel is famous for producing perhaps the best rosé wine in France. It was an early summer day and not too hot, as can often happen in that area at that time of year. So I went to the center of town, picked out a café at random, and plopped myself down at an outside table. I still remember ordering a salad and then asking the waiter what wine he recommended. He naturally and immediately replied that I should order the local Tavel. I doubt I had ever had a bottle of that before, and I can’t remember the exact producer he suggested. But I took his recommendation and then because I was in such a foul mood, I ordered a full bottle, rather than the half that I usually had when I ate alone.


When the waiter brought me the bottle, I tasted a sample to make sure it wasn’t corked and found it surprisingly good. Along with a lot of other wine fans, I had always had a prejudice against rosé because it seemed like a waste of a good red wine and ended up as a pudding without a theme, as Winston Churchill once said about another topic. Then the waiter poured me a glass, and I leaned back, looked around at the beautiful little village square, and savored a first glass while waiting for the salad. The sun was gentle and sweet, and it reminded me of the description of the sun in that area in François Sagan’s novel Bonjour Tristesse.


The Tavel was a wonderful surprise. It was fresh, fruity, and vibrant. I hate wine descriptions that talk about hints of mint and gobs of cherry, so I won’t bore you with that. It was simply a well-made, well-served, exquisite example of Midi winemaking.


In only a few minutes, my anger at being there on an assignment that I didn’t want evaporated under the Provençal sun. The world was again beautiful, and life was once more exciting. When the waiter brought the salad, it was a perfect match for the Tavel.


Today I sometimes order a Tavel, if I happen to see it on a menu. Although I always enjoy the wine, I have never been able to repeat the experience of that day in Provence. The memory of that day always remains fresh and returns when I first sip the Tavel.




Jersey Fresh Wine & Food Festival 2009 – August 8th

jersey-fresh-2009-tentsThis past Saturday, my wife and I took another trip over the Commodore Barry Bridge to taste what New Jersey had to offer in locally grown and produced wines.  The weekend long Jersey Fresh Wine & Food Festival was hosted by Heritage Vineyards located in Mullica Hill, NJ.  As we made our way through the entrance, we were surprised by the number of large white tents that lined the vineyard’s grounds.  There were a total of 28 wineries of the state’s 33 wineries on hand showcasing the best of the Garden State.


Although I am rather ashamed to admit this, being in a neighboring state to New Jersey, prior to attending this year’s festival I actually had no idea that so many wineries even existed in New Jersey.  But that was then, and now I know better!  Another interesting fact that I learned is that the state’s 33 wineries produce the sixth largest amount of wine among US states, according to a 2008 Wine Industry Report .  What’s even more impressive about these production numbers is the rather large number of different types of wine that is being produced in New Jersey.  Because of its climate and geological diversity, there are more than 40 different varieties of grapes being grown here – ranging from Pinot Noir and Riesling in North Jersey and Italian varieties, such as Sangiovese and Barbera, in Southern Jersey.  At the festival, my wife and I were formally introduced to two new wine grapes that we had personally never tried before:  Vidal Blanc (a white grape) and Chambourcin (a red grape).  Both are native French grapes and both are widely planted by different New Jersey Wine Growers.  We were particularly impressed by Ventimiglia Vineyard’s 2007 Vidal Blanc and the 2007 Chambourcin, and we also enjoyed Hopewell Valley Vineyard’s 2006 Chambourcin as well.


Besides the excitement of trying two new types of wine, we also did our very best to navigate our way through more than 200 New Jersey wines without having to be hauled out by wheelbarrow or the large farm tractor that was being used as a shuttle bus.  Somehow though, we did manage to get through it and wound up discovering many new wineries and found a few wines that were downright delicious! 


alba-vineyard-nj-wine-festival-2009The first winery that we really took a liking to was Alba Vineyard located in Milford, NJ.  The Garden State Wine Growers Association recently named Alba Vineyard the 2009 Winery of the Year.  After tasting their full line-up, we can certainly see why they received this prestigious award.  Nearly every wine that we sampled hit the mark.  One red wine in particular that we enjoyed was called “Old Mill Red”.  This was a blended wine, and at $10 bucks a bottle it was mighty good!  We also found it quite refreshing that our pourer knew a great deal about the wines and showed a genuine passion for them.




The next Jersey winery at this event that we really took a liking to was the Laurita Winery.  There were several reasons why we enjoyed our time with Laurita.  First, they were the only winery at the festival that took the time to set up a “mock tasting room”.  When you walked into their tent area, they had a real tasting table set up with bread and olive oil that gave one the feeling as if they were walking into their actual tasting room.  They also brought in some nice artwork and added they’re own music under the tent to enhance the tasting experience.  In addition, I can’t say enough nice things about our pourer and the other folks working the tasting table.  They were very enthusiastic about the wine and treated guests like new friends.  Besides the charming ambiance that they created, we found all of their white and red wines to be pretty damn good, especially on a hot Saturday afternoon.  All of the winery’s white wines showcased good acidity and citrus flavors and they also offered several very good chilled red wines like “Tailgate Red” and “Relaxing Red”, which were absolutely perfect on a sunny day like this one.  Kudos to the folks at Laurita Winery for providing such a nice and relaxing tasting experience, along with great wines to sample!

amalthea-cellars-europa-iv-2006-vii-2007There was however, one winery at the event that made me go back for seconds and then thirds.  That winery was Amalthea Cellars Mr. Louis Caracciolo is the mastermind behind this New Jersey winery.  He has spent many moons in Bordeaux, France learning how to make exceptional First-Growth red wines, and is also very well versed in California winemaking techniques as well.  Mr. Caracciolo spends most of his time these days making remarkable Bordeaux-style blends in Atco, NJ.  The Amalthea Cellars wines that beat my taste buds like a drum were the 2006 Europa 4 and the 2007 Europa 7. 

michael-schaefer-csw-cweFinally, one of the highlights of this year’s festival for me was the opportunity to meet and talk a little wine with Mr. George M. Taber, author of “Judgment of Paris” and “To Cork or Not to Cork”.  I also had the pleasure of meeting and discussing wine with a Professional International Wine Judge, Mr. Michael A. Schaefer of the Society of Wine Educators.  Mr. Schaefer hosted a seminar at the event, providing folks with information on how to properly evaluate a wine.



george-taber-and-mark-walkerWhile in between tastings, I had an opportunity to speak with Mr. Taber about his experience on that historic day in Paris in 1976.  However, we spent more time talking about the present, like the New Jersey wines that we were sampling and his most recent wine project.  Unfortunately, Mr. Taber bound me to secrecy about his upcoming book entitled “In Search of Bacchus – Wanderings in the Wonderful World of Wine Tourism”, but what I can tell you about his upcoming book is that he’s still welcome in Bordeaux, France and that a Denis Dubourdieu white Bordeaux will put a grin on his face from ear to ear.   So be on the lookout for his new book – it sounds like it will be a terrific read!


Thank you to the Garden State Wine Growers Association (GSWGA) for a wonderful festival.  I would also like to personally thank Mr. Richard Small for his kind generosity, and Judge Michael Schaefer and Mr. George Taber for sharing their time and insight with me!



Book Review – Judgment of Paris

judgment_of_paris_taberDo you want to know when California became a force to be reckoned with in the wine world?  It was May 24, 1976.  The Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History houses two bottles of California wine: A 1973 Stag’s Leap Wine Cellars Cabernet Sauvignon and a 1973 Chateau Montelena Chardonnay.  These two wines are on display because they showed France and the rest of the world that California wines could be just as good – or in some cases better than France’s best Cabernet Sauvignons and Chardonnays.


The book Judgment of Paris: California vs. France and the Historic 1976 Paris Tasting That Revolutionized Wine is the true story of the now legendary Paris Tasting of 1976, where a panel of nine top French wine experts in a blind tasting shocked the wine industry by choosing what was then unknown California wines over some of the best that France had to offer.  This monumental moment in wine history was the catalyst that sparked the coming of age for California as a global powerhouse but it also opened up the door for serious winemaking ventures in places such as Argentina, Australia, Chile, South Africa and New Zealand.  This small victory for California winemakers proved to the world that great wine could be produced outside of France’s borders with hard work, dedication, and a love of wine.


Judgment of Paris is a brilliantly written book that recounts the details of the historical 1976 blind tasting that took place at the InterContinental Hotel in Paris, France.  The author, Mr. George Taber, certainly knows this topic very well since he was actually there to witness it.  At the time of the wine tasting, Mr. Taber was a journalist for Time Magazine and the only writer to actually witness and cover this stunning upset that made history.


If you enjoy drinking California wines or ever wondered how California went from being recognized as a cheap jug winemaker to a respected American pioneer of world-class wines, I would recommend that you read this book.


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