Allen Balik is a noted wine collector, educator and recognized authority on the wines of California and Europe, sampling more than 1,500 wines each year as a member of the trade and numerous tasting groups. Allen has toured wine growing areas around the world and tasted extensively throughout the United States, Europe and South America.

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Two weeks ago, my column, “Climate change presents viticultural challenges,” elicited a larger number of reader responses than usual and included several interesting questions and some impactful observations on climate change within the world of wine and beyond.

With summer comes a whole new range of mealtime and entertainment adventures. Informal outdoor settings, lighter cuisine emphasizing freshness and more delicate dishes served with a gentle touch. So how do these culinary changes affect our choices in wine?

Jacky Young is co-proprietor (with her husband Jim Young) and director of wine making for St. Helena based Young Inglewood Vineyards where a precious one-third acre is dedicated to growing Aligoté.

The early to mid-1990s saw the popular stylistic presentations of Chardonnay and Cabernet Sauvignon in the New World take a sharp detour from what had always been considered a more refined, food-friendly and elegant Old World model.

I discovered my passion for the wines of Portugal in the late 1970s when my thirst to learn more about wine and its treasured history began in earnest. A friend introduced me to 1963 Graham’s Vintage Port and that prompted my appreciation of something truly different to collect, enjoy and sh…

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The Lodi American Viticultural Area (AVA) is nestled between San Francisco and the Sierra Nevada in the northernmost part of the Central Valley. Its Mediterranean climate with warm days moderated by Delta breezes and cool nights has proven over many decades as ideal for growing an impressive…

A few weeks ago, my wife Barbara and I returned to the remarkable Relais & Château GourmetFest in Carmel by the Sea. This was the sixth annual celebration of GourmetFest under the direction and planning of our good friend and host extraordinaire, David Fink.

The Terlato Wine Group has a long history under the Terlato family’s leadership of bringing excellent wines to the U.S. market from around the world and principally, France and Italy. Through the generations, they have created the foundation of quality and regional character they strive to a…

Since 1980, my wife Barbara and I have made an annual ski trip to Vail where a few years ago we were introduced to an incredible vinous find by a good friend and Vail local. We recently returned from Vail where we once again enjoyed a visit to the unique wine bar, Root & Flower, a joint …

The entire concept of terroir is fascinating and enlightening but also quite controversial. Michel Chapoutier, the world-renowned and highly respected head of M. Chapoutier in France’s Rhone Valley, has said in support of terroir, “Varietal wines can be the ‘rock music’ that gets people into…

The wines of Bordeaux are widely accepted as being among the world’s finest, most popular and, in some cases, also the most expensive. Last week, I attended the Union des Grands Crus de Bordeaux (UGCB) tasting in San Francisco where about 100 of Bordeaux’s finest châteaux, representing all o…

My last column, “Yeast, wine’s indispensible ingredient,” focused on its role in the fermentation process along with several differences found when choosing lab cultured strains, native spores found in the vineyard and winery or combinations of both. But what do winemakers (the “experts”) ha…

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As the temperature drops and night falls earlier, it’s my natural inclination to reach for that glass of Port and usher in the new season. Ruby Port can be a great aperitif for that hearty winter meal and a Vintage Port in front of the fire (walnuts optional) is a time-honored finale to the …

When looking back on this year, I can easily recall many great vinous moments that were perhaps highlighted by the Mediterranean wine tasting adventure we hosted in Avignon and the Southern Rhone, followed by seven awesome days on the Crystal Serenity and concluding in Catalonia with visits …

Merlot is one of the world's most noble grapes and one of my longtime favorites, but over the last few decades it has had its ups and downs in the domestic market, press and public opinion. While that's a sad commentary, its recent resurgence has been an exciting, long overdue accomplishment…

A little more than a year ago, I was invited by Crystal Cruises to host a wine-tasting group on the Crystal Serenity cruising the Mediterranean. Our itinerary featured sailing from Marseilles to Barcelona with stops in Italy, France and Spain along the way. My wife, Barbara, and I thought a …

In the mid-1980s, I was fortunate to meet Al and Boots Brounstein at their most treasured Diamond Creek vineyard where each parcel remains unique, carrying forward the true character of the “dirt” in which the vine grows. That visit not only confirmed for me the quality of their stellar wine…

Each year as harvest begins, Miljenko “Mike” Grgich greets old friends and new as he hosts a most meaningful “Blessing of the Grapes” lead spiritually for many years by Father David Jenuwine. Mike is joined in the celebration of the new harvest by his co-founder and long-time partner Austin …

Sparklers are truly something special, and are now produced in many growing areas of the world not normally associated with these wines. And since they’re available in a broad price range, you don’t have to break the bank to drink what the French Benedictine Monk Dom Perignon is reported to …

A little research into the history of wine will reveal that tasting notes (however simple or complex) have been around for millennia with documentation going back to 3500 B.C. They came into wider use in ancient Egypt and expanded further during Greek and Roman times.

Last year, I was fortunate to lead a group of 19 wine- loving enthusiasts to Portugal with in-depth tasting and culinary experiences in the ancient city of Porto and across the river in Vila Nova de Gaia (where all Port wines age in cask at their respective Lodges).

Our tastes in wine are subject to change as we get older, gain more knowledge and begin to appreciate the subtleties of what we’re drinking. Some of us tend to experience the evolution more dramatically than others, but to whatever extent, changing preferences are a fact of life for all.

Deciding to dine out seems pretty straightforward as we do it routinely and often don’t pay attention to all the details involved. What restaurant are you choosing, will anyone be joining you, is the cuisine tantalizing for all, will you be bringing wine or selecting from the list?

We often hear the expression “Old Vine” and see it printed primarily on Zinfandel labels, but has anyone defined what that means? Not really. There is no legal definition for Old Vine on the label as there is for many other statements of quality and heritage. Estate Bottled vs. Estate Grown …

Two weeks ago, my wife Barbara and I returned to the singular Relais & Château GourmetFest in Carmel. This was the fifth annual celebration of GourmetFest under the direction and planning of our good friend and host “extraordinaire” David Fink, founder and CEO of Mirabel Hotel & Rest…

The question I most often hear whether guiding a tour at home or abroad, during a break at an educational forum or just enjoying a glass of wine with new friends is, “What’s your favorite wine?” Usually, my answer is the somewhat trite, “I really have no favorite, just like with my kids and …

Three years ago, I wrote in this column about quality advances being made by the cork industry in response to the extremely negative feedback they were receiving about cork-taint (aka “corky” or “corked”) bottles that were all too prevalent in the market for some years.

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Last summer, Rabbi Niles Goldstein joined Napa’s Congregation Beth Shalom as its spiritual leader and brought with him a fresh approach with his leadership and expansive vision for the synagogue.

It seems as each new year dawns, the vinous conversation focuses on Bordeaux. The wine world is gearing up for the time-honored frenzy of the En Primeur season that in early spring highlights barrel samples (with “approximate” representations of final blends) from the recently harvested prio…

Like many others in the wine world both here and abroad, I often refer to a wine’s style in terms of the New or Old World. But I realize that unfortunately, and perhaps subconsciously, I’ve paid little attention to whether others understood the terminology or the stylistic inferences when re…

When I wrote my last column for the Dec. 8 issue of the Napa Valley Register on “Alcohol, oak and scores,” I anticipated receiving strong responses on both sides of the hotly contested topic regarding the 100-point scoring system and how it may or may not have encouraged stylistic changes in…

My interest and passion for wine began in the late 1970s, about the same time Robert Parker came to fame with his Wine Advocate introducing the 100-point scoring system. Also at that time, Wine Spectator was an eight-page newsprint tabloid published in San Diego by Bob Morrisey. Subsequently…

Overall, the wines of Bordeaux are considered among the world’s finest, most popular and, in some cases, also the most expensive examples of both the New and Old Worlds.

On my first visit to Napa Valley in spring 1979, I was fortunate to meet two icons of the growing California wine scene, Mike Grgich and Charlie Wagner. I often reflect on that momentous visit as I was also unknowingly introduced to a pivotal concept in fine wine. Without really understandin…

In the early 1980s, when I was first learning about wine, I attended a Wine Spectator’s Wine Experience event in San Francisco. I didn’t know what to expect as this was the first event of its type I had ever attended. And I was unsure how to navigate my way through all the seminars and Grand…

Our Napa Valley is truly a special place. As timing would have it, I wrote this week’s column before the devastating fires we experienced this week struck, rendering so many monumental losses. I debated holding the column for a future date, but decided that nothing can permanently destroy th…

I’ve often heard it said that a specific year was the culmination of a true “winemaker’s” vintage. But oddly enough, and creating some confusion, I’ve also heard two diametrically opposite explanations expressed.

Looking back on our two-week Portugal odyssey last month, it’s hard to say whether the greatness of the wines or the history and majestic nature of the places we visited played the greater role in our total enjoyment of the trip. So we’ll call it a tie!

Last month, my wife Barbara and I escorted a group of 19 friends on a tour of Portugal where we discovered a deep sense of history and culture rooted in many ways to wine, religion, architecture, exploration and conquest.

More often than not when we hear somebody describing a particular wine, terms such as cherries, blackberries, green apple, bell pepper and the like are the first ones heard. Then earth, depth, powerful tannins, bright acidity and complexity may follow. While these descriptors are all relevan…

When most people talk about an inferior vintage it’s usually the reflection of a critic’s view and not stemming from personal experience or exploration with the wines of that particular year, varietal or growing area.

Greatness, greatest and great (all by itself) account for some of the most overused terminology in the world of wine. And for that matter, the same is true when seen as descriptors relating to many other treasured aspects of our lives including art, architecture, music, sports, literature, d…

We’ve all experienced it — perhaps some more than others. You’ve been planning a special night out with family and friends and eagerly await the transcendental experience of dining in a majestic restaurant.

Often when talking about wine with friends who appreciate its pleasures but are not really interested in the backstory or breadth of the subject, I hear comments about “comfort” levels relating to specific favored varietals or brands but not much about the desire to venture into something ne…

I have written about and often referred to terroir in past columns. But the question regarding what it really is and if it’s a true component of fine winemaking, continues as a topic of conversation when I’m leading groups on a wine country adventures or tastings. As I’ve said many times, te…

This week, my column is a bit of a departure from the norm, as it does not deal directly with wine or winemaking areas. Instead, I’d like to look at the very important aspects of customer service we have grown to expect when visiting a tasting room, wine shop or restaurant in search of that …

Is the image of Beaujolais experiencing a rebound? Or will these noble wines always be negatively linked to Beaujolais Nouveau and in the consumer’s perception, held in lesser regard?

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