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Columns – John McDermott

Uncorking Value: Where to Find Outstanding Wines Without Breaking the Bank
John McDermott
Feb 28, 2024

Feb. 28, 2024: The struggle any wine lover eventually encounters is a palate that exceeds their budget. It happens inevitably. Unlike beer, where quality can be found a reasonable price within almost any budget, finding quality wine at affordable prices is a true challenge. That is because wine, as a product, is simply expensive to make (or at least, expensive to make well!). There are so many cost factors-land for vines...staff to farm and pick the fruit...facilities to sort and ferment the grapes...barrels...bottles...marketing...distribution, and more. Wine costs a lot. So, at what price point can you find outstanding wine?

1980s Bordeaux in Review: The Top Wines from the Best Bordeaux Vintages of the '80s
John McDermott
Dec 13, 2023

Dec. 13, 2023: I've written previously on my personal love of aged wines and how anyone can explore this wondrous world, even on a modest budget. That said, trying some of the world's best and most ageable wines during their peak drinking window is a privilege that doesn't come around often for most wine lovers, myself included. Last month, however, I had the privilege to attend a dinner where we tasted through some of Bordeaux's best offerings, all from the top vintages of the 1980s. This was quite the treat, to say the least, and provided an excellent lesson in Bordeaux's aging potential.

The Making of a Winemaker: Mike Dunn of Dunn Vineyards and Retro Cellars
John McDermott
Oct 25, 2023

Oct 25, 2023: Mike Dunn doesn't mince words. He's a straight-shooter who tells you how he feels. It's a trait that he shares with his stepfather, Randy Dunn, Napa's storied maverick and founder of Dunn Vineyards. Randy started Dunn Vineyards in 1978, after working for years with Charlie Wagner, co-founder of Caymus Vineyards. Randy built Dunn into a legend within the wine community, growing mountain fruit to produce tannic, structured Cabernet Sauvignons with lower alcohol levels, lifted acidity, and savory, earthy undercurrents. Growing up, Mike never envisioned himself taking over the family business. As he recalls, working in the winery was his 'chore while growing up'-the thing he had to do. It didn't help that he and Randy are both a bit hard-headed, and often found reasons to lock horns over this or that. Instead, Mike was content to surf and work on bikes, eventually opening up a successful bike repair shop in Calistoga. Life didn't let Mike stay away for long. though, for reasons that are explained in what follows. Mike isn't a trained winemaker-and he'll be the first to tell you that he knew very little about winemaking when he first came back to the winery-but luckily, Mike is good at figuring things out on the job. And he had to be. Randy is far from a hands-on teacher, and Mike was often left to his own devices to figure things out. He did just that, leaving his mark on the wines as he did.

Exploring the World of Mature Wines
John McDermott
Aug 23, 2023

August 23, 2023: One of my 'ah-ha' moments in wine occurred when I had my first sip of a beautiful, mature wine. It was a (then) 15-year-old ViƱa Bosconia from the venerable Lopez de Heredia winery in Rioja, Spain. It was dusty, rustic, and lively all at once. Its cherry core was complemented by suggestions of worn leather, pipe tobacco, and earth, with a still zippy acidity that kept the wine alive and fresh. At that moment I finally got it--I had witnessed the alchemy of time and understood why people waxed poetically about mature wines. However, stepping into the world of mature wine can seem like a daunting venture. Although talking about aged wines might conjure images of monocle-clad men in suits pouring from bottles that cost as much as a mortgage payment, the reality is that anyone can enjoy great, mature wines on even modest budgets. Here are a few ways to do this.