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Columns – Linda Murphy

Nick Goldschmidt: How Does He Do It?
Linda Murphy
Aug 18, 2015

I once asked winemaker Nick Goldschmidt: 'How do you ever get it all done?' 'I don't do any of it very well,' he responded with a smile. Goldschmidt lied, because he makes marvelous wines from a wide range of terroirs: Sonoma's Alexander Valley, Dry Creek and Sonoma Coast, Oakville in Napa Valley, Marlborough in New Zealand and regions throughout Chile and Argentina. 'Energizer Bunny' is a characterization doesn't do him justice, as he spends a remarkably brutal life of travel, winemaking and sales calls, in two hemispheres. His California-based Goldschmidt Vineyards brand is but a cog in Nick's winemaking world; he consults for 26 wineries in seven countries--15 of them in Chile--along with making wine at home.

Lake County's Irrepressible Rise
Linda Murphy
May 26, 2015

Hail, rain and gusty wind pummeled the white tent pitched atop Obsidian Ridge Vineyard. In mid-May. In a drought. It was surreal, to say the least, for the season, when the valleys below, in Napa and Sonoma, were bone-dry in the fourth consecutive drought. Underneath a tent, Peter Molnar, one of the vineyard's owners, tried mightily to talk over the freakish storm's din, to folks huddled there to learn more about viticulture and winemaking in Lake County. At 2,640-foot elevation, Molnar's vineyard normally would be basking in solar energy in May, its obsidian chunks and shards glinting in the sunlight. But on this day, the storm subdued the obsidian's sparkle and reminded that Lake County, and specifically the Red Hills Lake County AVA in which Obsidian Ridge is located, is not simply a northern extension of the Mayacamas mountain range that give Napa and Sonoma their viticultural personality, but also a distinctive place with terroir all its own.

Appreciating Flowers
Linda Murphy
Mar 30, 2015

Long before inland California wineries and grape growers made a rush to the Sonoma Coast for the production of cool-climate Chardonnay and Pinot Noir, there was Flowers Vineyard & Winery. Joan and Walt Flowers, former nursery owners from Pennsylvania, began planting wine grapes in 1991 on their newly acquired 320-acre property near Cazadero, a tiny hamlet in far-western Sonoma County. They weren't the first to venture into this forested, cold, ocean-influenced wine territory -- David Hirsch of Hirsch Vineyards blazed that trail in 1980 near Fort Ross -- but the Flowers' putting down stakes in an area though to be too chilly to ripen grapes not only underscored Hirsch's genius, it opened the doors for other growers to explore the advantages and challenges of growing grapes on the so-called 'true,' 'real' and 'extreme' Sonoma Coast.

Cabernet Franc Finally Finds Footing in California
Linda Murphy
Feb 3, 2015

For a grape that is a parent (with Sauvignon Blanc) of Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc doesn't get much attention in California. Loire Valley, yes. Bordeaux, certainly. Virginia, absolutely. Golden State? Not so much. Cab Franc's kudos come largely from California winemakers who use it as a 'secret sauce' to jazz up Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot. Cab Franc can add complexity in the way of perfumed aroma and an herbal character that adds a pleasant herbal edge to the typically fruitier Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot. But as a stand-alone varietal, California Cab Franc is nearly invisible to consumers. And that's a shame, because it can be more interesting and compatible with a broader range of foods than king Cabernet Sauvignon and queen Merlot.

Make No Mistake: Don't Dismiss Napa Cabs from 2011
Linda Murphy
Nov 4, 2014

The Nov. 15, 2014, issue of Wine Spectator magazine includes a story on 2011 California Cabernet Sauvignon. The online teaser (one must be a Wine Spectator online subscriber to access the story) reads: "Trying Times for Napa Cabernet: Cool, Damp 2011 Vintage Yields Few Gems, with Hillside Sites Performing Best. Napa Valley Cabernet skirted disaster in 2011. Cool, unruly weather clouded the growing season from start to finish, reminiscent for some of a wet year in Bordeaux. The season was punctuated by big storms at harvest and botrytis in many vineyards.' This is largely true, except for the 'yields few gems' part.

MacRostie: Shining Brighter than Ever
Linda Murphy
Jul 22, 2014

I've enjoyed Steve MacRostie's wines since the early 1990s, when a retailer recommended a MacRostie Carneros Chardonnay for me to serve at a wedding anniversary dinner for my parents. He told me the wine was food-friendly and certain to please everyone; it also earned points with me for the tartan label, which would appeal to my Scottish-roots mother. The Chardonnay was a big hit, and I've followed Steve MacRostie's winemaking ever since.