All The Recent Wine Podcasts (2021)


In 2019, James started a podcast show and we now have scores of published episodes in which James talks with winemakers and owners from Australia, France, Italy, Spain, the United States and many more top wine regions. You can find all the episodes on Apple Podcasts, Apple iTunes, Spotify or stream and download them for later below.

Click here to see our collection of 2020 podcasts. We have listed all the podcasts from 2021 below.

Stay tuned for more regular podcasts talking to the major names in wine! You can also follow these podcasts here.

Published December  7, 2021

Associate Editor and Taster Claire Nesbitt sits down with T-Oinos Consulting Enologist Stephane Derenoncourt to find out how he got started at the Greek winery and what style of wine he’s trying to achieve there with his current project.

Stephane tells Claire his original intention was to make a wine that was “very clean and very different in terms of winemaking.” To do this, he stopped the use of oak vats in the making of white wines and also changed the composition of the soil in the vineyards. For the red wines, he chose specific vineyard parcels comprised of clay and schist in order to make “a very good grape with very good ripeness.”

Check out the wines they tasted:


Published December  7, 2021

James talks with Cain Vineyard & Winery’s Kathryn Lazar and Chris Howell about the Napa Valley vintner’s latest releases and about the climate-related challenges the winery has faced in the past few years, including devastating fires.

Chris says the 2021 harvest in Napa Valley was a “super easy” one, although with few grapes. “For those who were looking for massive ripeness, I think they were able to wait and get that.” And even though yields were down, “it should turn out to be a really good year,” he added.

They also talk about the 2017 vintage, and how the heat spikes from that year effected what went into bottle. “It’s showing really great, with really nice firmness and balance, and with a nice sense of austerity,” James says.

Check out all the wines they tasted:

Cain Napa Valley Spring Mountain District Five 2017
Cain Napa Valley Spring Mountain District Five 2016
Cain Napa Valley Spring Mountain District Five 2008

Published December  4, 2021 Associate Editor Claire Nesbitt and Emiliana’s Alejandro Mitarakis discuss what went into the making of the Valle de Colchagua Gê 2018, our Chilean Wine of the Year 2021.

Alejandro says Emilian’s organic and biodyanamic viticultural methods “give us the quality of the wine we want to produce.”

As for the Gê, “It has been a long time understanding the farm, understanding the place this wine comes from, and like I told you before, it is quite an honor for us that after some years of producing this wine and believing in it, it gets this kind of recognition.”

Valle de Colchagua Los Robles Estate Gê 2018

Published November 22, 2021

The Wine of the Year 2021 goes to … the Kumeu River Chardonnay Mate’s Vineyard 2020! 

Here, James and the Tasting Team tell Michael and Paul Brajkovich the good news – that out of about 25,000 wines, their sterling Chardonnay came top.

“That’s amazing!” Michael Brajkovich says on accepting congratulations from James. “We saw there was an announcement coming out and we thought we might be somewhere up there in that high ranking, but not at the top. That’s fantastic!”


Published November 21, 2021 Taster Claire Nesbitt talks with Zoltan Kovacs, the winemaker for Hungarian vintner Royal Tokaji, about the winery’s latest releases. Find out Zoltan’s thoughts on how the weather of 2017 – especially rains in August and early September – affected what went into the bottle that year. The wines Claire tasted are all single-vineyard sweet wines. Claire says the Aszu 5 Puttonyos 2017 Claire is full of earthy botrytis notes and ginseng, while Zoltan touts its freshness and balanced acidity and mouthfeel. The 6 Puttonyos is slightly richer and a blend of Tokaji’s single vineyards.


Published November 16, 2021

James and Peter Gago of Penfolds taste the g5, which is made of five vintages blended together and aged – 2010, 2012, 2014, 2016 and 2018. Only 2,200 bottles were produced (James and Peter opened two of these).

“This is another level again” over the g3 and g4, Peter says. “There’s not one non-100-point wine [as judged by different people] in this blend,” he adds. “It makes quite the statement.”

Penfolds South Australia g5 

Published November 11, 2021

James and Carlton McCoy discuss the 2021 harvest in Napa. Carlton says there were small yields and small berries, although that didn’t stop anyone from making some fantastic wines. Carlton also explains how he got involved in the wine business with the Lawrence family – from their purchase of Heitz and how he started a “beautiful new chapter of his life” by becoming the wine director, to their takeover of classical estates like Stony Hill and Burgess Cellars. They also talk about the winemaking and vineyard management processes at Heitz, Stony Hill and Burgess, and what it takes to put greatness in a bottle.

And check out the Heitz wines we recently rated for

Heitz Cellar Cabernet Sauvignon Napa Valley Martha’s Vineyard 2015
Heitz Cellar Cabernet Sauvignon Napa Valley Trailside Vineyard 2015
Heitz Cellar Cabernet Sauvignon Napa Valley Lot C-91 2016
Heitz Cellar Cabernet Sauvignon Napa Valley Linda Falls Vineyard 2015
Heitz Cellar Chardonnay Napa Valley Oak Knoll District Quartz Creek Vineyard 2019

Published November 7, 2021

John Schwartz, the proprietor of Napa vintners Amuse Bouche, Au Sommet and Coup de Foudre, talks with James in this Zoom interview about the challenging 2021 harvest and vintage.

“The drought conditions had an impact,” Schwartz said. “Everybody should be down by 40 to 60 percent. … The quality looks good, it’s just that the quantity is way down,” he added. “The trade is hoarding ’19s now because they’re panicking that there’s no ’20s and now are worried that ’21s are going to be probably half of what they should have been.”

James and John also discuss supply-chain problems, including in procuring glass and having wines shipped. They also give their views on Napa’s 2018 versus 2019 vintages.

Published November 2, 2021

James Suckling sits down with Lucie Pereyre de Nonancourt and Edouard Cossy of the renowned French Champagne House Laurent-Perrier to taste the Grand Siècle No. 25, which consists of the 2008 (65 percent), 2007 (25 percent) and 2006 (10 percent) vintages.

“I think it’s interesting because right away when you smell it, you can get the sense of 2008 in it – that real intense aroma,” James says. “In the nose you can even smell the skins of the grapes still. Amazing.”

Compared with the No. 24, the No. 25 “has a lot of freshness and a lot of acidity with still young aromas,” Lucie says. James agrees, saying “It just smells so youthful,” adding that “it has a lot of structure but it’s also elegant at the same time.”


Published October 19, 2021

Massimo and Cecilia tell James about this year’s harvest and how the lack of water and a hailstorm affected Castiglion del Bosco’s vineyards, and James looks back on how weather conditions affected the other vintages. James was in Tuscany in the summer of 2017, and he said it was hot and dry. “You must have made some severe selections, because the wine is very fresh,” James said of the 2017. Cecilia concurs, saying technical aspects in the winery came into play, such as longer maturation in wood.


Published October 18, 2021

James sits down with mother-daughter team of Elisabetta Geppetti and Clara Gentili of Tuscan winery Fattoria Le Pupille to taste the Fattorria Le Pupille Saffredi 2019, which James calls “spectacular,” and they compare previous vintages of the wine. “The only thing I’m a little bit annoyed about is it’s really a wine that needs about five or six years,” James says about it. James suggests a tasting of the 2019, 2016 and 2015 vintages to fully lock in the differences. James compares the 2019 to the ’16, although Elisabetta says, “For me, it’s more elegant than the ’16, even if ’16 was so very nice.”

Fattoria Le Pupille Maremma Toscana Saffredi 2019
Fattoria Le Pupille Maremma Toscana Saffredi 2016
Fattoria Le Pupille Maremma Toscana Saffredi 2015


Published October 11, 2021

James sits down with Chairman and CEO Charles Philipponnat of French Champagne House Champagne Philipponnat, who reflects on the 2021 harvest, effects of the ever-changing weather conditions, and his plans to introduce cuvées and other wines.

In this conversation Charles also explains why he decided to sell his Champagnes through La Place de Bordeaux, becoming the first Champagne to take this distribution route, and why they decided to do the disgorgement for the 1996 Clos des Goisses.

Philipponnat Champagne Clos des Goisses Extra Brut L.V. 1996
Philipponnat Champagne Clos des Goisses Extra Brut 2012

Published October 8, 2021

James sits down with Chairman Cyril Chappellet and winemaker Philip Corallo-Titus to talk about the Napa Valley winery’s 2019 vintage. “It’s like two great vintages back to back,” Philip says in comparing 2019 and 2018. “The ’18s were just very forward, big, structural wines and were just heralded as this great vintage, and it is. And then the ’19 came along, and my opinion is that … it’s like a ‘Do you like John Lennon or Paul McCartney?’ kind of thing. And I’ve always been a little bit of a fan of this ’19 vintage because of this real focus that it has, and there’s just a depth and concentration and center of gravity, but not on a big scale of tannins.”

Published September 29, 2021

In this tasting with Justine Tesseron of Pym-Rae (the Napa Valley estate of Bordeaux’s Château Pontet-Canet), James explores the 2016, 2017 and 2018 vintages.

Justine notes that the 2017 (80 percent cabernet sauvignon, 20 percent merlot) is different from the 2016 in terms of the assemblage, as one parcel was left out due to the effects of a hotter climate. However, she prefers the 2018. “I think we gained precision in purity of fruits,” she said of the vintage.

James agrees that the 2018 is the signature Pym-Rae. He finds that the wood shows more in this vintage and there is a balanced acidity level.


Published September 24, 2021

Will Harlan, the director of Promontory winery in Napa Valley, talks about the terroir of Promontory and how it and the other Harlan properties – Harlan Estate and BOND – came into being, and then goes through a vertical tasting of Promontory’s flagship wine with James and his masterclass as part of Great Wines of the World Autumn Edition 3.

Promontory is one of the most unique wine-growing endeavors in California’s Napa Valley. The estate lands were first discovered by Bill Harlan in the 1980s, who perceived the potential for something special, and the vineyards were purchased by the family in 2008. Since then, the second generation, led by Will Harlan and director of wine growing, Cory Empting, have been working to understand the wild character of the land, and faithfully translate it through the wine.

Promontory Napa Valley 2012
Promontory Napa Valley 2013
Promontory Napa Valley 2014
Promontory Napa Valley 2015
Promontory Napa Valley 2016


Published September 16, 2021

James talks with Isaac, Eduardo and Manuel Muga, the third generation of La Rioja winery Bodegas Muga, about their latest releases. Muga’s flagship wines are reds, including their Reserva and Seleccion Especial.

“When we think the vintage hasn’t been perfect for us in terms of conditions, then we are going to focus all our efforts either on one wine, which is the Reserva or … on the Seleccion Especial,” Eduardo Muga says.

They taste several Muga offerings, including the Muga Rioja Reserva 2018, which still has four months to go in bottle before it is released to the market. James calls it “really delicious already,” but adds that in four more months, “it’ll just be perfect then.”

Muga Cava Casa Conde de Haro Reserva Brut 2018
Muga Cava Conde de Haro Brut Rosé 2016
Muga Rioja Blanco 2020
Muga Rioja Rosado Flor de Muga 2020
Muga Rioja Reserva 2018
Muga Rioja Selección Especial Reserva 2005
Muga Rioja Prado Enea Gran Reserva 2014


Published September 10, 2021

In this tasting of Vega Sicilia’s 2017 and 2018 releases, James speaks with Gonzalo Iturriaga, the head winemaker at Macàn and Vega Sicilia, and Pablo Alvarez, the owner and CEO of Vega Sicilia.

Gonzalo explains that 2017 was one of the more challenging vintages recently, due to the incredibly hot weather that they experienced in Toro, Spain, but that the 2018 vintage is “more elegantly balanced,” which is why he favors the latter vintage.

Check out the podcast to hear their opinions on the current winemaking trend in Spain and to learn more about Vega Sicilia’s latest releases.


Published September 9, 2021

Anselmo Guerrieri Gonzaga, the owner of Italian winery Tenuta San Leonardo, sits down with James to talk about the history and current winemaking style of San Leonardo. “All our red wines are still only made in concrete vats,” Anselmo says. “We do not use any stainless steel. There is no refrigeration, no heating, no [commercial] yeasts, we only use indigenous yeasts.”

He adds: “I am not against technology, it’s just that in this area, the climate is so fine that it’s easy to make red wines, and we can do them in a proper way to respect the terroir.”


Published September 8, 2021

Carlos Lopez de Lacalle, the owner and winemaker at Spanish winery Artadi, says the 2018 vintage came from a warm summer with a slightly cold September. “From that we got all this fresh, elegant, ripe fruit aromas with great balance and a lot of tension.”

James says the Artadi 2018 wines are good now, but asks Carlos how he thinks they will age. “For us, a wine that ages needs to be drinkable when it’s young,” Carlos says, adding that he’s certain the 2018s will age, given their ripe tannins and higher acidity.

“Now if you taste your wines, if you want to make comparisons it’s like Burgundy now,” James said of the taste of the Artadi 2018s compared with 10 years ago. “It’s really just fresh, and really fine tannins … and you can see the differences in all the different crus, and I think that’s really exciting.”


Published September 7, 2021

James recently tasted the Laurent-Perrier Champagne Grand Siècle Grand Cuvée N.23 NV Magnum, which impressed him so much he said to Lucie Pereyre de Nonacourt, who represents the fourth generation at Champagne Laurent-Perrier, and Edouard Cossy, the company’s global director: “The aromas were amazing. Honestly, I can’t think of a more beautiful Champagne with the aromas… that sort of brioche and tarte au limon.”

Lucie tells the story of how her grandfather founded the Laurent-Perrier Champagne Grand Siècle Grand Cuvée. When he became director of the house, he realized he had to have a prestige cuvée. He based the creation of his cuvée on a unique blend, which would take the champagne further in terms of quality and thus achieve his goal of recreating the perfect year – “one that nature cannot provide.” Check out their conversation now to learn more about the Grand Siècle Grand Cuvée N.23 NV Magnum and when to expect its release.


Published September 6, 2021

American Pinot Noir producer Adam Lee wears many hats: he was a co-founder of Siduri Wines (and remains a consultant and winemaker), founded the Clarice Wine Company, and co-founded Beau Marchais Wine with famed vintner Philippe Cambie.

In this chat with Associate Editor and Taster Claire Nesbitt, Adam talks about his approach in making pinot through whole-cluster fermentation and why he varied whole-cluster percentages for the 2017-19 vintages.

Claire also asks Adam for his thoughts on the uncertainty of the final product and whether whole-cluster fermentation can affect a wine negatively, to which Adam responds: “Yes, there is a risk you could have unripe stems … [but] one of the things I have found on stem ripeness is it has to do with the length of hang time and does not correlate with sugar maturity.”

Check out the rest of their conversation for more of Adam’s thoughts on pinots and their future on the West Coast.


Published September 1, 2021

James sits down with Michel Friou and Manuel Louzada, the winemaker and managing director, respectively, at Viña Almaviva in Chile to discuss the 2019 Epu, which James calls a “beautiful second wine.”

“One question is, how did you finally decide to do a second wine and why?” James asks Manuel. “It’s a very delicious wine.”

“After 25 years we definitely believed that we already have brand recognition, brand awareness, that Almaviva was already recognized because of the quality of the wine and because of its reputation,” Manuel says. “From a business standpoint, the decision was, ‘Let’s focus on Almaviva … and then afterward we started again in 2006 [with Epu] … in basically two markets: Chile and Brazil.’”

They also talk about the decision to sell Epu through La Place de Bordeaux, where negociants will redistribute it throughout the world.


Published August 31, 2021

Associate Editor and Taster Claire Nesbitt sits down with Domaine Serene Winemaker Michael Fay to ask about the proportion of pinot noir versus chardonnay grapes used at the winery, as well as its plans for making more chardonnay.

“We’re definitely bullish on chardonnay,” Michael says. “We really believe in three things for chardonnay that really make this style of chardonnay that we want. We’re really only interested in planting chardonnay in high elevations, on Jory soils … and using Dijon clones, which are early-ripening clones of chardonnay.”


Published August 30, 2021

James sits down with Napa Valley winemaker Andy Erickson to talk about how the current Napa harvest is going and how it compares with previous years. They also taste the 2018 Favia wines and 2019 Leviathan California.

James says of the Leviathan, “It’s sort of fruit-forward … but at the same time remains really agile and fresh,” and asks Andy the secret behind it.

“I just wanted a wine that you could go out to a steakhouse and if I saw it on the menu, I would want it,” Andy says. “This is the wine I like to drink. It’s rich, it’s flavorful, it’s very fresh, and it’s got the structure of a Napa Valley cabernet sauvignon and sort of that character, but it’s made from different varieties – it’s cabernet sauvignon, cabernet franc, merlot, syrah and now even a little petite syrah.”


Published August 27, 2021

In Associate Editor Claire Nesbitt’s discussion with Veronique Boss-Drouhin, they talk about Veronique’s most exciting blend yet, her approach in making the 2019 vintage and why she doesn’t like to add too much yeast to her wines. Check out the Podcast now to learn more about how Veronique will approach winemaking with regards to future vintages, taking into consideration the growth and influence of global warming.


Published August 26, 2021 Associate Editor and Taster Claire Nesbitt talks with Chris Hermann of 00 wines about microclimates in Oregon’s Willamette Valley and the importance of aspect and elevation in producing pinot noir and chardonnay.

Chris talks about the most important factor in the Willamette Valley when it comes to growing chardonnay: “The ultimate, critical factor is its super-cool climate,” he said. “The Pacific Ocean is very cold off the coast of Oregon, so every night we’re getting very cool breezes coming off, which is maintaining the freshness of the acidity.”


Published August 25, 2021

Associate Editor Claire Nesbitt speaks with Tom Gerrie, winegrower and second-generation owner of Cristom Vineyards in Willamette Valley, Oregon, on how the state’s pinot noirs compare with those from Sonoma County, California. Tom describes Oregon’s fruit as “relatively bright. it’s relatively high-toned, relatively red-fruited for the most part. I do think we have some differences based on soil… Our [deep] volcanic soils are extremely bright and red-fruited. Very, very high tone and very floral.”

Check out the podcast to hear Tom’s thoughts on why Oregon chardonnays lag pinot noirs in popularity, and on his hopes for riesling.


Published August 13, 2021

James picks Giovanni Manetti’s brain on his opinion of Gran Selezione, or the subzones – how many are there and what are they – and more. Giovanni takes James through the changes in the blend of their Gran Selezione, for it now consists of “very specific [grape] varieties,” which is very big news for the consortium. He also breaks down whether winemakers can buy grapes for Gran Selezione and addresses if he will have a tasting panel, to which James brings up the problems associated with having so much wood character.


Published August 11, 2021

Giovanni Gaja, the fifth generation to work for his family’s winery in the Piedmont region of Italy, talks about the effects of rain and global warming on this season’s crop. “When we think about climate change, we tend to think only about the heat and warmer temperatures,” he said. “Climate change is not only that. It’s all the rest. It really stretches all the excesses.”

Giovanni explains to James what went into the making of Gaja’s 2018 Barbaresco, which James says is “long and racy,” and compares it with the 2017. They also taste the 2017 Barolo.


Published August 6, 2021

James sits down with Jasmine Hirsch, the general manager and winemaker of Hirsch Vineyards in Sonoma Coast, California, and consulting winemaker Michael Cruse to discuss the 2019 vintage. Jasmine says the mild growing season made for an easier vintage with greater specificity. “I think our job really is to figure out what choices can we make in the vineyard and now in the winery that are going to help the vineyard be more itself in the bottle,” she said.

Hirsch Vineyards Pinot Noir Sonoma County Sonoma Coast West Ridge 2019
Hirsch Vineyards Pinot Noir Sonoma County Sonoma Coast Block 8 2019
Hirsch Vineyards Pinot Noir Sonoma County Sonoma Coast San Andreas Fault 2019
Hirsch Vineyards Pinot Noir Sonoma County Sonoma Coast East Ridge 2019
Hirsch Vineyards Pinot Noir Sonoma County Sonoma Coast Raschen Ridge 2019
Hirsch Vineyards Pinot Noir Sonoma County Sonoma Coast Reserve 2019
Hirsch Vineyards Pinot Noir Sonoma County Sonoma Coast The Bohan-Dillon 2019


Published August 5, 2021

Chateau Croix de Labrie’s owner and winemaker, Pierre Courdurie, tells James about the early spring they experienced and the mildew they encountered in the making of the 2021, which Pierre said reminded him of the conditions they faced when they made the 2011.

James also asks Pierre for his thoughts on the 2019 vintage, now that the wine has been bottled for a while. Pierre explains that the taste of the wine shows a certain purity, possibly as a result of the biodynamic methods now being used at Chateau Croix de Labrie.


Published July 31, 2021

In this Tasting Interview between James and Luca Marrone, the winemaker at Tuscan winery Grattamacco, the two talk about Luca’s thoughts on the 2018 and 2019 for Grattamacco, leading to a discussion about seasonal and weather changes, organic farming, and even an unexpected blessing by Mother Nature in September.


Published July 29, 2021

James sits down with Bibi Graetz, of the eponymous Tuscan winery, to discuss their 20th anniversary vintage and how their winemaking methods have changed over the years. Bibi says that since the winery was founded in 2020, he has become more “instinctive and aggressive” in meeting the demands of the marketplace, and that in the 20th anniversary vintage, the 2019, “we finally found this elegance we’ve been searching for the last 10 years.”


Published July 22, 2021

In this Tasting Interview between James and Scot Bilbro, the winemaker at Marietta Cellars in California, the two talk about the vineyard, the genre of table wines, how these wines are an homage to Scot’s father, and more. Expressing surprise that California could produce such great-caliber fruit, James says, “I didn’t even know we had vines like that in California.”

You can find the video interview here.


Published July 20, 2021

This Tasting Interview with Eduardo Chadwick, owner of Seña Wines in Chile, celebrates the winery’s 25th anniversary, and Eduardo talks about his original dream for the winery when he began collaborating on it with Robert Mondavi. They reminisce about Eduardo’s very first vintage and the varieties of grapes he planted, which included malbec and more.

When asked by James what was the turning point for him, Eduardo says, “Nobody expected that a Chilean wine would age so beautifully.” Find out how he put Chile on the world map of premium wines.


Published July 19, 2021

In this conversation with Brennon Leighton, vice president of winemaking and viticulture at K Vintners, James tastes and discusses several Washington vintages. Brennon talks about the processes leading up to the final product, and how certain environmental circumstances are reflected in the flavour and tannin maturity of their vintages. With gusto, he claims, “the ’20 may be the best vintage I’ve ever been a part of.” 

K Vintner recognises that Washington’s environmental conditions are similar to that of France’s Burgundy region, “within 1 degree Fahrenheit during the growing season, and sharing very close soil and drainage conditions. In fact, the 47ºN parallel runs right through both Pommard and the Golden West vineyard.” While people usually think of pinot noir in the U.S., Brennon and his team want to change that, believing they have a lot to offer with the synergy of their Old World sensibilities and strong roots in the state.


Published July 16, 2021

In this conversation with Caiarossa’s managing director, Alexander van Beek, and general manager, Jerome Poisson, James tastes the Caiarossa Toscana Bianco 2019 and Caiarossa Toscana Aria di Caiarossa 2018.

Jerome explains that the windy weather at Caiarossa, which is located 350 meters above sea level on the Tuscan coast of Italy, gives great freshness to their wines, which Alexander notes is present in the 2018. Jerome also compares the 2018 to the 2016 – “a great vintage” – and 2017, which was “a little more complicated due to extreme heat.” Alexander adds that the 2018 contains great “precision of the tannins” and there was a lot of focus on having an “aromatic precision with a lot of cleanness.”

Find out more about Caiarossa and the reason for the shift from biodynamic to organic methods, James’ thoughts on the two wines tasted in this interview, and Alexander’s comments on demands for Caiarossa in the current global market.


Published July 15, 2021

James caught up with Brancaia winemaker Barbara Widmer on Brancaia Toscana Il Blu 2018 and Brancaia Toscana Ilatraia 2018.

James was impressed with the 2019 vintages but wanted to know more about the growing seasons in Radda, in the Chianti region of Italy. Barbara notes that 2017 was a challenging year, 2018 produced a more balanced wine, while 2019 – the year that Brancaia changed to organic practices – turned out riper.


Published July 8, 2021

In this conversation with Gottfried Pollinger, managing director of Nals Magreid, in the Alto Adige region of Italy, James tastes and discusses the Alto Adige Nama 2016, which was first created in 2010 to embody the character and philosophy of Nals Margreid.

This wine was fermented in small oak barrels for 18 months, followed by a 12-month period in still tanks, then aged for one more year in bottles. James finds that there is “very intense fruit and it’s quite exotic,” perhaps due to the unique blend of chardonnay from the south of Alto Adige, and pinot bianco and sauvignon from the north, near the Alps.

The winery is a co-operative of 128 producers, spread over 160 hectares, from which they sourced the best producers of the chardonnay, pinot bianco and sauvignon grapes for the creation of Nama 2016. A total of 1,800 bottles (plus 50 magnums) were produced from the First Edition, with limited releases to restaurants in the Alto Adige region and also to global markets.

Check out their Zoom session to find out more about the Nama 2016 on how its name was derived, goals for this unique white blend, and Gottfried’s plans on making a special red blend in the future.


Published June 29, 2021

Highlights of James’ conversation with winemaker Christophe Baron about Cayuse Vineyards’ 2018 vintage. He takes us through why Washington state is so great for syrah, with its variation of valleys and terroir. In his words, the terroir changes so much it’s like a chameleon – a comparison James agrees with. “When people think of Washington wine they think of cabernet sauvignon, but I think syrah is gaining momentum,” Christophe says.

Christophe speaks about the effect of foothill-perched stones on the flavor of the wines; he stresses how they help bring more umami, an earthy character and even meatiness. Listen to the podcast to find out why this Washington vineyard enchanted James, or you can watch the Zoom chat here.


Published June 28, 2021

James speaks with Helen Keplinger, the winemaker at Grace Family Vineyards. This Napa Valley winery is known for producing some of Napa Valley’s first cult wines, but the new owner is looking to maintain the property and its operations in the same manner as always.

In this Zoom session, James and Helen taste the Grace Family Vineyards Cabernet Sauvignon Napa Valley Rutherford Blank 2018, which Helen says “may be the best vintage of Blank.” James adds, “It’s so delicious … and then you have this really nice acidity at the end, it’s almost like an Italian wine, with a balsamic character to it. That’s crazy.”


Published June 25, 2021

James and Emma Swain of St. Supery taste the St. Supery Elu 2018 and RU3 2018 in this  interview.

When asked about the difference between the two wines, Emma explains that Elu is “the best wine we make from the vintage from both properties, so it’s a combination of Dollarhide: it’s got malbec in it and it usually has all five Bordeaux varietals. The RU3 is usually the best that we can make from the [St. Supery] vineyard.”

After tasting both 2018s, James says: “The 2018s really have this purity of fruit and they’re sort of weightless in a way. There’s lots of flavor but it’s not heavy. I think that’s a real sign of ’18.” Emma agrees, adding:”I think the ’17 is like that, too, but I feel like the length of the finish that you get on the ’18s is just a little bit plumper and a little bit longer and more seamless.” Watch now to hear Emma’s thoughts on why Napa’s merlots haven’t taken off yet, on the lightning strikes at the vineyard, and to find out more about the vineyard’s projected releases of cabernets.

Tasting notes are available here.


Published June 24, 2021

Highlights of James’ conversation with Jean-Baptiste Lecaillon on Cristal 2013, which Jean-Baptiste calls “a classic vintage –’13 is the last October harvest in Champagne so it’s a long ripening time, which … makes the champagne more delicate.” Overall he says it was a great year for Cristal.

When asked for his thoughts on pinot noir versus chardonnay, Jean-Baptiste says, “I really think they are here to compensate each other.” James agrees, saying “I think it’s nicely framed with the tannins – just like the ’08, but not as intense.” Check out their Zoom chat and find out why Jean-Baptiste extracts more phenolics for chardonnay, the differences among the wines tasted in this Zoom session and the notable changes in his wines since switching to a biodynamic process.

Watch the Zoom interview here.


Published June 23, 2021

James spoke with a number of winemakers from wineries under E. & J. Gallo Winery to learn more about the 2018 and 2019 vintages.

Nicole Hitchcock, winemaker at J Vineyards & Winery, said of the 2018s: “The ’18s … especially the pinots took a while to come together and express themselves. But they’ve really started to shine in the last six to nine months or so, and I’m pleased with how they’re unfolding.”

When asked about the influence of the weather on the 2018 vintage, David Coventry, the winemaker at Talbott Vineyards, comments: “It was an absolutely beautiful year. More and more the coolest years are producing the wines with the great amount of detail and the most finesse, especially for people who make chardonnay and pinot.”

Learn more about the making of – and each winemaker’s perspective on – the 2018s and 2019s. Hear from Gina Gallo, winemaker at Gallo Family Vineyards Sonoma Reserve; Scott Kozel, VP of Coastal Winemaking at E. & J. Gallo Winery; Michael Eddy, director of winemaking at Louis M. Martini Winery; Katie Vogt, winemaker at Pahlmeyer; and Mark Williams, winemaker for William Hill Estate and Mount Peak Winery.

The interview video is available here.


Published June 21, 2021

In James’ recent conversation with winemaker Lorenzo Scavino of Azelia Wines, they talk about the effect of the weather on the 2017 harvest. Despite a 50-day drought, the old vines at Azelia Wines weren’t affected much due to their deep roots.

Lorenzo notes that the 2017 has a “freshness and acidity that nobody was expecting.” When asked if the winery had changed any part of its production process, Lorenzo states that no big changes were made aside from increasing the time of maceration.

Of the 2017, James says “Your wines are tannic but they’re good tannins.” He then adds, “you really have a nice combination of intense tannins, but they’re not overly astringent or dry.” Lorenzo agrees, saying “Barolos have to have tannins for sure, but it must be a sweet … and that’s due to the phenolic ripening.”

Here are the tasting notes:

Azelia Barolo Bricco Fiasco 2017
Azelia Barolo San Rocco 2017
Azelia Barolo Margheria 2017
Azelia Barolo Cerretta 2017


Published June 18, 2021

While tasting the Pahlmeyer Napa Valley Proprietary Red 2018, which has the highest percentage of Stagecoach that Pahlmeyer has ever seen in a Proprietary Red, James notes that there’s a presence of fine, silky tannins, compared with coarse tannins from previous wines, which winemaker Katie Vogt puts down to “phenomenal fruit” and  “impeccable farming.”

She adds: “My perspective on blending is really managing that finish and managing those tannins. I think these wines are big and opulent, but I think it’s important to have a little bit of acid and balance in the tannin.” James agrees, saying “there’s a real transparency and weightlessness to it.”

Listen to their chat to find out Katie’s preference between the 2018 and 2019,  her thoughts on syrah, and both her and James’ comments while tasting Pahlmayer’s Chardonnay 2019.


Published June 17, 2021

On June 15, James tasted with Federica Boffa and Cesare Benvenuto of Pio Cesare the special release of the Pio Cesare Barolo del Comune di Serralunga d’Alba 2017 and Barolo Riserva 2000 in time for the winery’s 140th anniversary.

Federica notes that only 1,881 bottles of di Serralunga 2017 were produced – a nod to the founding year of the cellar. The wine was created from a blend of grapes from four vineyards in Serralunga d’Alba: Bonato, Briccolina, La Serra and Lirano.

She also mentions that the 2017 is similar to the 2015 in terms of power and structure. After tasting the wine, James agrees with this, despite the 2016’s appeal with its fine tannins and approachability. He also declares the 2015/16/17 the first trilogy since the 88/89/90 Barolos.


Published June 15, 2021

In April James tasted the Bordeaux 2020 barrel samples with Philippe Sereys de Rothschild (owner of Chateau Mouton Rothschild), Jean-Emmanuel Danjoy (Estates Manager for the three Bordeaux properties – Chateau Mouton Rothschild, Chateau Clerc Milon and Chateau d’Armailhac), and Ariane Khaida (Executive Director, Chateaux Wines – Chateau Mouton Rothschild, Chateau Clerc Milon, Chateau d’Armailhac and Domaine de Baronarques).

James describes the Chateau Mouton (when compared to Le Petit Mouton) as “much tighter-grain tannins… still vertical but many more layers of tannins, it just spreads across your palate.” There’s a “warm vintage character to it but still cool at the same time.” Chateau Clerc Milon came through with plush tannins, which resulted in a flavor that was “more primary,” full of pure fruit.


Published June 14, 2021

Over a Zoom in late April, James talked about the Bordeaux 2020 vintages from Chateau Lafite Rothschild with Saskia de Rothschild (chairwoman), Eric Kohler (technical director) and Juliette Couderc (technical manager). Juliette mentioned that they had lowered the amount of oak that the wine received to 50% from the original 70-80% in order to “keep the juiciness and acidity in the wine.”

James also asks about the making of the Rieussec Sauternes, to which Juliette replied that the grapes were already very mature when it came time to harvest and this influenced their decision to produce a limited bottling. They looked for the “beautiful confit from the noble rot” and a good acidic balance – a challenge that they will face again this year because of frost.

In the making of the l’Evangile 2020, Saskia said that the technical managers had divided the plots to refine the selection and provide the best support for the vines. They also faced a real challenge in oaking the wine but not overdoing it in order to keep freshness and balance. James says of the l’Evangile, “I already want to drink it. That’s a good sign.”

Check out this Zoom video for more details on why the alcohol level in Chateau Lafite Rothschild’s wines doesn’t rise above 13%, about the composition of the wines tasted and Saskia’s thoughts on pricing. 


Published June 11, 2021

James recently spoke with Tim and Carissa Mondavi, a father-daughter duo who run Continuum Estate on Pritchard Hill, which overlooks San Francisco Bay.

Carissa reflects on the vintages before 2018: they lost half of their crop to Mother Nature for the 2015, 20% of the crop was lost in 2016, and in 2017 they weren’t able to use all the fruit because some of it was still on the vines, which were lost to the fires that year.

The 2018, however, seemed to be a gift after these challenging years. August and September were unusually cool, which left an “imprint of finesse and nuance and vibrance that this vintage of Continuum really manifests,” Tim said. Carissa added that this was “an abundant vintage for us” due to the surplus of rain that fell in 2018.

Watch their Zoom session to see which grape type worked out the best for them despite the ever-changing weather conditions, learn about which vinification process they use at Continuum Estate, and which vintage to date is their favorite. Watch the video interview here.


Published June 10, 2021

James and Luca Currado, winemaker at Vietti Winery in Castiglione Falletto, discuss the 2017 Vietti vintage.

Luca describes the 2017 as “a very luxurious, opulent [wine] with incredible freshness.” The weather for the 2017 was similar to this year’s with an early bud break, a short cold winter, and a touch of frost in Piedmont. He adds that “the acidity never fell down the grape,” meaning that despite the weather, the quality and flavors of the grapes weren’t affected negatively in any way. In fact, he finds the tannins in the 2017 incredibly silky, and very enjoyable, although not as outstanding as the 2015.

But does Luca think the 2017 completes a trilogy with the 2015 and 2016 vintages? Check out the podcast to find out.


Published June 9, 2021

In January James spoke with the Chateau Palmer CEO Thomas Duroux about the 2018 vintage, and its metamorphosis from a highly concentrated wine when James first tasted the en primeur sample, into a fantastic wine.

The 2018 was a challenge for Duroux as they could only retain 11% of the total crop due to mildew pressure. However the transformation in the wine was due to the two stages of elevage that Duroux and his team implemented: 10 months in barrel to strengthen the wine, followed by 10 more months ‘en foudre’ (a large wooden vat significantly bigger than typical oak barrels). “You’re right, the wine was quite strange when we presented en primeur – it was like a beast that had to be educated,” said Duroux. “Elevage was crucial to manage the power of this wine.”

Listen to their conversation for more details on how Duroux tamed and refined his 2018 wine.


Published June 8, 2021

James recently held a Zoom tasting session with Pietro Ratti, the owner of Renato Ratti, to discuss the 2017 vintage. Pietro describes it as “kind of a surprise,” and fresh at the end, which he attributes to the vineyard’s proximity to the sea. He also explains that the 2017 growing season was 185 days – just long enough to ripen. The average season for Renato Ratti is 200 days, and the shortest recorded was 170 days. The weather during the 2017 growing season was also extremely warm and humid, with only a short period of rain to freshen the vines, Pietro said.

He also barrels his wines for 24 months, which is longer than most wineries, to encourage reductive winemaking. As they taste the wines, James finds that this method of winemaking has resulted in fine tannins, with clear, beautiful fruit. Pietro adds that there is also a floral aroma in this warm vintage – a characteristic more normally found in colder vintages. His goal is to produce wines that have less power but more elegance, which he said shows in the 2017 vintages.

Listen to the podcast to find out their thoughts on the Conca, Marcenasco and Rocche dell’Annunziata 2017s. Here are the tasting notes:

Renato Ratti Barolo Conca 2017
Renato Ratti Barolo Marcenasco 2017
Renato Ratti Barolo Rocche dell’Annunziata 2017


Published June 7, 2021

In January this year, James spoke with Bruno Borie and Cecile Dupuis at Chateau Ducru-Beaucaillou to talk about the 2018 vintage and taste their wines from the vintage. The 2018 was probably the most concentrated vintage produced at the estate to date, due to the intense weather in the St.-Julien region with little rain. 

As well as tasting and describing the usual range of wines, Borie also introduces a new wine, the Madame de Beaucaillou, which comes from some newly purchased vineyards outside of the estate’s vineyards in St-Julien, and will act as an entry wine with a shelf price of about 20 euros. “It’s a friendly wine!” explains Borie. The Ducru-Beaucaillou 2018 was the star of the tasting though. “…a dense, deep palate that goes on and on, but is still shy and reserved … ultra fine, cashmere-like tannins that are silky, sleek and wonderfully integrated,” wrote James in his tasting note. 

Listen to their discussion about each of the following wines.

Château Ducru-Beaucaillou St.-Julien 2018
Le Petit Ducru de Ducru-Beaucaillou St.-Julien 2018
Madame de Beaucaillou Haut-Médoc 2018
La Croix Ducru-Beaucaillou St.-Julien 2018

Read James’ full report on the 2018 Bordeaux vintage here.


Published June 3, 2021

James speaks with Tod Mostero, director of viticulture and winemaking at Dominus Estate, about the climate conditions encountered during the creation of the 2018 vintage.

Tod explains that “California is a dry summer climate, and because of that the soils essentially go dormant. What I mean is that the microbiological activity from June through October essentially … there’s not a lot of microbiological activity. That’s totally different than what’s happening in Bordeaux or any other climate where you’d have summer rain. So the way the rain falls and when it falls is really important to the microbiological activity, which is linked to mineralization and the release of minerals for the vines for their growth period.”

Check out their conversation for more details on an early bud break and the intense harvest at Dominus Estate.


Published June 1, 2021

In this Tasting Interview, Paul Jaboulet Aine owner Caroline Frey talks about the company’s experience in harvesting grapes and vines for Paul Jaboulet Aine Crozes-Hermitage Domaine de Thalabert 2019, and the weather challenges they faced – a sudden hailstorm in June followed by a short period of hot and dry weather, which resulted in a dense and concentrated vintage and short picking period. She also talks about the results from annual comparisons conducted between their organic and biodynamic vines, and gives her thoughts on the 2019 vintage in general.

Tasting Notes for James’ and Caroline’s tasting of the Domaine de Thalabert 2018 and 2019 are available in this Weekly Tasting Report.


Published May 31, 2021

James and Alex Stewart, the assistant winemaker at Quilceda Creek in Washington state, discuss the 2018 Vintage.

Have a listen to their chat and learn why Alex “bleeds the tanks” and hear more about his thoughts on how the 2019 and 2020 compare. James also mentions that, compared to the 2017, the 2018 is “really subtle and complex.” Alex agrees, saying that it has “more minerality than 2017, a lot more dried fruit and aromatics.”


Published May 20, 2021

James and Champagne de Venoge CEO Gilles Morisson de la Bassetiere recently tasted the 2012 and 2014 vintages over Zoom. Gilles explains his thoughts on the aging of the 2008 Vintage and how the 2012 compares.

Gilles also introduces the history of the “decanter”-style bottle of the Grand Vin de Prince, and explains how global warming has influenced their fermentation methods. Have a listen to their conversation in this video.

Here are the tasting notes:

De Venoge Champagne Louis XV Brut 2012
De Venoge Champagne Princes Brut Rose 2014
De Venoge Champagne Princes Blanc de Blancs 2014
De Venoge Champagne Louis XV Brut Rose 2012


Published May 14, 2021

James spoke with Croix de Labrie’s owner, Pierre Courdurie, on April 10 over Zoom to discuss the unusual frost that hit some of the vineyards in Bordeaux, and to taste some of the excellent 2020 wines from the small winery, a vintage that proved to be another winner for the estate. With 3% cabernet sauvignon in the wine, it shows some rethinking in blends due to changes in the weather patterns.

The 2020 wines are proving to be the third excellent year in a row for producers from Bordeaux, and they show great balance and tension. They are perhaps slightly less flamboyant than the 2018s and more along the lines of the 2019s, which had fantastic freshness and linear phenolic character.

Here are the tasting notes.

Château Croix de Labrie St.-Emilion 2020
Croix de Labrie Bordeaux Blanc Stella Solare 2020
Les Hauts de Croix de Labrie St.-Emilion 2020


Published May 13, 2021

On April 20 James and consulting enologist Hubert de Bouard, who owns the famous St.-Emilion winery Chateau Angelus and consults for a range of wineries such as Chateaux Chantegrive in the Graves appellation and Fieuzal in Pessac-Leognan, discussed the Bordeaux 2020 and how the weather positively affected the growth of the merlot – much more so than cabernet – before harvest.

“I have to say it is a merlot year,” said Hubert de Bouard, “The merlot is great in the Medoc too.”


Published May 12, 2021

James spoke with Philippe Bascaules of Chateau Margaux on April 16 about the 2020 Bordeaux vintage, which so far has provided excellent wines, on a par with 2018 and 2019. Bascaules noted that the grapes were slightly smaller than in 2019. “We knew that the yields would be slightly lower in 2020,” he said, adding that the flowering was two weeks early. But the big event in grape growing in 2020 was the very dry summer. “We had intense drought for two months. I don’t think we have ever seen that. For 50 days, we had no rain.”

His wine, the 2020 Chateau Margaux, was the best en primeur sample James had tasted at the time of tasting, describing it as a “wonderful combination of refinement and power.”

The video interview is available. See the wine note below.

Château Margaux Margaux 2020


Published May 11, 2021

I heard last week about Will Harlan taking over the helm of his family’s wine business which includes such prestigious wineries as Harlan, Bond, and Promontory. I wasn’t surprised with the change as his dynamic dad, Bill, hit 80. He must need a break after all he has achieved in the wine world. I have known Will for some time now and appreciate his energy and connection to what’s going-on in fine wine and the world at large. So I had to ask him a few questions about his thoughts for now and the future of wine world, Napa Valley and the world at large. Here is a video of quick Zoom call on Tuesday morning at 7 a.m.


Published May 10, 2021

On January 21, James conducted a Tasting Interview over Zoom with Eric Kohler of Chateau Lafite Rothschild, Chateau l’Evangile and Chateau Duhart-Milon to taste their 2018 wines, the latest to be released. As you can read in James’ special report on the Bordeaux 2018 vintage here, it was a great vintage, with much to admire and enjoy in the wines. But as Kohler describes here, the growing season was “unbalanced” with permanent rains from May to mid-July followed by hot and dry conditions later, causing shock in the vineyards. So the challenges were significant.

“But the great surprise was that during the aging, all the wines went back to a classic style,” said Kohler. This was especially the case for the Duhart-Milon 2018, which showed a classic Bordeaux style, despite being a very non-classic vintage. James commented that he thought the Duhart-Milon was probably the best ever made. The Carruades de Lafite 2018 was a ‘cooler’ wine, which came about through great precision in the vineyard, throughout the year, not only at harvest time, allowing the terroir’s style to come through. “It will always be a second wine, but we are finding a great balance between the concentration and precision,” said Kohler. The Chateau Lafite 2018 – with a new bottle and label – showed the usual tobacco and blackcurrant notes, but also this year showed graphite and stone notes too, James noted, showing how the vineyards had been fine-tuned in this difficult year especially. And l’Evangile 2018 was a rich wine but very balanced, and despite frost and mildew in the growing season and only half a harvest, came through in a classic style, with plush fruits and fine tannins. 

Here are the wine tasting notes.

Carruades de Lafite Rothschild Pauillac 2018
Château Duhart-Milon Rothschild Pauillac 2018
Château Lafite Rothschild Pauillac 2018
Château L’Evangile Pomerol 2018

Published May 7, 2021

On March 23 James tasted a new single-plot cabernet sauvignon with Charles de Bournet of Chile’s Lapostolle and Clos Apalta.  de Bournet is exploring this concept from his vineyards that were planted in 1910 and plans to release several hundred cases. The wine is a stunner and highlights the unique terroir of the Apalta vineyard and it’s ungrafted, old vines. Bournet explained that La Parcelle 8 Vieilles Vignes is the original plot of vineyards of the winery that convinced his parents to develop their wine projects in Chile. And the Lapostolle Apalta La Parcelle 8 Vieilles Vignes 2015 is a late release showing beautiful drinkability now but lots of age-worthiness. 

“2018 was like a Christmas gift from Santa,” said winemaker Andrea Leon of Clos Apalta and Lapostolle who was also present on the Zoom call. “The 2018 was wonderful for us. We had a wet enough winter. Not too much or too little. We had a little bit of rain in the springtime to come along with the growth of the grape…it was really a wonderful harvest along with the 2005. The 2018 was everything that you could wish for to make wines that were fully ripe but have a lot of elegance and freshness.



Published May 6, 2021

We already know that the 2018 vintage is a winner in Napa Valley, and on April 8 James tasted a handful of wines from Dana Estates, one of the cult wine producers of the region, while interviewing winemaker Chris Cooney over Zoom. James found the wines to be some of the best he has rated so far from 2018. And the two single-vineyard wines, Helms Vineyard and Lotus Vineyard, showed incredible depth and intensity with fantastically strong yet polished, fine tannins that gave the wine form and beauty. They didn’t produce a wine from Hershey Vineyard in 2018 due to some concerns of smoke from fires north of Napa that had settled in their highest vineyards in Howell Mountain.

“It was a vintage with this combination of almost perfect heat and still being a cooler vintage and the wines expressed that,” said Cooney. “They are wines that have a little more energy and those secondary notes that you don’t see for cabernet sauvignons. They had left layers to the wines … my favorite part about the wines are that they have such bright acidity … they are a touch more approachable than 2016 and 2017.”

See the wines notes below.

Dana Estates Napa Valley Lotus Vineyard 2018
Dana Estates Napa Valley Rutherford Helms Vineyard 2018
Dana Estates Cabernet Sauvignon Napa Valley Onda 2018
Dana Estates Napa Valley Howell Mountain Hershey Vineyard White 2018

Published May 5, 2021

James had many productive and insightful tastings and interviews with winemakers from Napa Valley over Zoom in preparation for his Napa report which you can read here. One important one was with Mark Aubert, who arguably makes some of the best chardonnay in America. The Aubert Chardonnay Napa Valley Sugar Shack Estate Vineyard 2017 was the No. 2 wine on our list of Top 100 Wines of the United States 2020 and is on par with some of the top chardonnays in the world, including the most coveted bottles from Burgundy. All his wines are on allocation.

During the call, they tasted a range of 2018 wines and James said the Aubert Chardonnay Sonoma County Sonoma Coast Lauren Estate 2018, from the oldest vines of Aubert, is possibly the greatest American chardonnay ever. It is the first white wine from the U.S. to receive a coveted 100-point rating here at 

Aubert Wines produces great chardonnay and pinot noir wines from Napa and Sonoma, and Mark is the owner and winemaker. He grew up in Napa Valley and he started his career in 1989 as an assistant winemaker at Peter Michael. Mark’s wines have a focused balance of flavor and purity – the essence of his wine is rooted in his relationship with the land. Listen to the podcast to hear James and Mark discuss the 2018 vintage, the phenomenal quality of Napa chardonnay and more.

Published May 4, 2021

On March 11 James had an incredible Tasting Interview with Vitalie Taittinger, one of the owners of Champagne Taittinger and the producer of the incredible Taittinger Champagne Comtes de Champagne Blanc de Blancs 2008. James was wowed by the wine, saying it is the best blanc de blanc he has had in a long time – maybe ever.

“It’s the expression of chardonnay that is super pure,” Taittinger agreed. “In the beginning you feel the youth of the wine. And you are on the energy of the chardonnay. And you have something that is pure and precise. Then you feel it is a large wine but then very straight … then you wait for the second life of the wine in your glass. And the complexity and the years that are precious to the wine start appearing.”

They also tasted the Taittinger Champagne Comtes de Champagne Blanc de Blancs 2011, which will be released in September, and it was a more linear and mineral young Champagne than the 2008 and had outstanding drive, as well as various other wines.

Take a look at the full conversation above and view the tasting notes by clicking the wines below. 

Taittinger Champagne Comtes de Champagne Blanc de Blancs 2008
Taittinger Champagne Comtes de Champagne Blanc de Blancs 2011


Published May 3, 2021

On April 8 James spoke with Michel Rolland to discuss the quality of the 2020 vintage in Bordeaux. James is currently tasting hundreds of the 2020 wines, all of which have been flown into Hong Kong from France. This is the second year James has tasted barrel samples from Bordeaux in Hong Kong due to the COVID pandemic instead of being in France. The 2020 vintage is already looking like an excellent one and compares favorably to 2019 and 2018.

“We have a reputation in Bordeaux to say the last vintage is the best one,” Rolland said by Zoom from his laboratory in Pomerol. “But we did 2018, 2019 and now 2020 … after we did our tastings in the Spring I can say it is a really great vintage. It is different than 2019 with more freshness, more tension, more balance. It’s a good one. May be a bit less powerful than 2019 but it made really great wine. I think that we can call it a trilogy now [three consecutive high quality vintages: 2018, 2019 and 2020].”


Published April 30, 2021

The 2018 vintage produced some great wines in Bordeaux and one of the perfect wines of the vintage was  the Château Lafleur Pomerol 2018, which James tasted over Zoom earlier this year with Omri Ram, winemaker and viticulturist at Chateau Lafleur.

James described the tannins as extremely fine, like silk. “It has a refined tannin structure and finesse that draws you deep and down in the palate,” he said. Ram agreed, emphasizing how Lafleur wines are all about “tannin texture and memory”.

The winery, located  Pomerol, is unclassified, but is one of the great producers of the region. It is a legend. Watch the video to hear the highlights of the conversation and see what they thought of the wines.

Below are the wines tasted during the call. Click the link to see the tasting notes and scores (subscribers only).

Published April 29, 2021

The Loss of A Friend in Piedmont (April 18, 2021)

Last night I opened a bottle of 1982 Pio Cesare Barolo with my wife Marie in Hong Kong in memory of our dear friend Pio Boffa. His family has owned the outstanding Piedmont producer of Pio Cesare since 1881, but he took the winery in the town of Alba to a whole new level of quality and transformed its reputation globally.

Pio died on Saturday from COVID-19 in Italy. He was 66 years old.


On March 19, James did an interview and tasting with owner Pio Boffa of Pio Cesare to taste some great wines from the 2017 vintage. Pio Boffa is the fourth-generation winemaker of Pio Cesare. The family began cultivating grapes in 1881 and has always insisted on making the best-quality wines made from the best quality grapes.

Pio said 2017 was a top vintage thanks to a periodically cooler August after the hot and dry weather they experienced during the summer. He added that the vintage was nothing like the 2003s, which were slightly jammy and lacked some freshness. Instead, the 2017 wines are bright and vivid with solid tannins to frame the wines.

James rated the Pio Cesare Barolo Ornato 2017 and the Pio Cesare Barolo Mosconi 2017 both 98 points. He described the full-bodied Ornato as “extremely perfumed with dark berries, cherries, strawberries and crushed stones,” and the Mosconi as “tight and very tannic with a fine-grained texture and a long, intense finish.”

Below are the wines tasted during the call. Click the links to see the tasting notes and scores (subscribers only).

Pio Cesare Barbaresco 2017
Pio Cesare Barolo 2017
Pio Cesare Barolo Ornato 2017
Pio Cesare Barolo Mosconi 2017
Pio Cesare Barbaresco Il Bricco 2017

Published March 19, 2021

On March 9 James interviewed John Olney, head winemaker & COO at Ridge Vineyards, along with David Amadia, president, and tasted a range of their newest releases. The wines highlighted the California winery’s continued success at making intense yet balanced wines. “The power [of Ridge Monte Bello] comes from the concentration and not the alcohol or ripeness,” Amadia said. “It is a different type of power.”

James said the wines were very drinkable, with the zinfandels showing richness and agility, while the Monte Bellos were some of the longtime best wines produced from the State. They also shared thoughts on the 2018 and 2019 vintages in Napa, with the 2019 being more fruit-forward, reminding James of 1997 which produced friendly, fruity wines.

Ridge is one of the few producers that label the ingredients in each wine, which itself puts this winery among a rare breed.

Read James’ full Napa report here.

Published March 16, 2021
On February 23 James did a tasting and Zoom interview with the team at Napa’s Colgin Cellars. Located high atop Pritchard Hill in Napa, the spectacular winery is one of the premier wine producers in California and their Napa Valley IX Estate 2016 wine was the No. 8 wine in the Top 100 Wines of USA in 2019. During the interview, they tasted a few of the 2018 wines and talked about the vintage. The complexity and intensity of the wines highlight the excellence of the 2018 vintage in Napa, and the nature of the 2018s can be attributed to the relatively long and even grape-growing season.

One of the four Colgin wines James rated was a perfect 100-point wine, and all the wines showed a great expression of their individual terroirs. They also discussed the 2019 vintage and spoke about how their 2018 wines can be drunk young and old. On the call was Ann Colgin, founder and co-CEO, her husband, Joe Wender, co-CEO, Allison Tauziet, director of winemaking and Paul Roberts, COO and master sommelier.

Read James’ full Napa report here.

Published March 11, 2021
On March 5 James interviewed Renzo Cotarella, general manager and head winemaker at Marchesi Antinori, the iconic Tuscan winery. They tasted a selection of 2018 wines, including the Marchesi Antinori Toscana Solaia 2018. It was the smallest production of Solaia ever, and James was especially impressed with the liveliness and length of this great wine. “In 2018, we probably produced some of our best wine ever,” Renzo said. They also tasted the Marchesi Antinori Bolgheri Superiore Guado al Tasso 2018 and the Marchesi Antinori Toscana Tignanello 2018, both of which were also excellent, with James describing the former as “layered with beautiful fruit and density,” and the latter as medium-bodied and “aromatic with flowers, such as cherry blossoms and roses.”

Check out the full podcast to listen to the tastings, and to hear James and Renzo also discuss how the 2018 vintage was for Toscana and more.

Published March 9, 2021
James tasted the soon-to-be-released 2017 wine from China’s excellent Ao Yun winery on March 9, 2021, and he says it is the best ever from this LVMH-owned estate. Tasting with the winery’s estate manager and technical director Maxence Dulou, who came to James Suckling Wine Central in Hong Kong, James considered the difference between the 2017 and the excellent 2016. Dulou said the improvement with each new vintage is a good sign. “It shows we are going in a good direction. We want to compete with ourselves, to get the best of this terroir.”

Listen to the podcast for the full conversation and tasting. 

Published March 2, 2021
On February 5, James interviewed Napa winemaker and consulting enologist Helen Keplinger on her project with Cristie Kerr, the professional golfer and vintner. Kerr Cellars makes a range of wines from well-structured sauvignon blancs and chardonnays to balanced and thoughtful pinot noirs and cabernet sauvignons. They use grapes from both Napa Valley and Sonoma County. Helen also discussed the excellence and complexity of the 2018 vintage as well as 2019 and a lot more. They tasted through a range of the new releases from Kerr. 

Listen to the podcast for the full conversation and tasting. 

Read James’ full Napa report here.

Published March 1, 2021
James recently tasted with negociant François Thienpont and his son Edward, who distribute the Thienpont family property wines and also represent lesser-known chateaux that produce wines of the same quality as the most illustrious growths. The Bordeaux 2018 wines are proving to be every bit as great as James suspected they would be back when he rated the wines from barrel in Spring 2019. François described the 2018 vintage as “very powerful and integrated,” while James said wines from the 2018 vintage “have such a full mid-palate that give this beautiful sort of unctuous gourmand character to it.” One of the highlights of the tasting was the L’If St.-Emilion 2018, from the same ownership as the legendary Le Pin from Pomerol. James said it is clearly the best wine ever from here, which has only been producing wines since its first official vintage in 2011.

Listen to the full podcast for the full conversation and tasting, which included various wines that are listed below. 

Published February 19, 2021
James interviewed on February 1 Deputy Managing Director Jean Philippe Delmas of Chateau Haut-Brion, Chateau La Mission Haut-Brion and Chateau Quintus, to taste a selection of their 2018 wines, which is a top vintage. The 2018s show excellent balance and have intense ripeness yet maintain their Bordeaux personality with characters reflective of their appellations and terroirs. Delmas in turn described how balance is a key quality for winemakers now, and said the tools winemakers have today allow them to be a lot more precise. 

They also talked about global warming’s impact on winemaking. “When you have such a challenging year, terroir is stronger than the winemaker,” Delmas said. The wines they tasted were the Chateau Haut-Brion Rouge, Le Clarence de Haut-Brion, Chateau La Mission Haut-Brion rouge, La Chapelle de La Mission Haut-Brion, Chateau Quintus and Le Dragon de Quintus. 

Listen to the full podcast to hear the highlights of the conversation and see what they thought of the wines.

Published February 18, 2021
In September 2020 James did a tasting with Gaia and Giovanni Gaja, fifth-generation owners of Gaja. They discussed Barolo, Barbaresco and Brunello in 2015, 2016 and 2017, while tasting a selection of their wines. James was impressed with the wines. Two top bottles led the pack, the Gaja Barbaresco Sori San Lorenzo 2017 and the Pieve Santa Restituta Brunello Di Montalcino Rennina 2015. Gaja’s delivery of these top-rated wines from different regions is a convincing reminder of their winemaking credentials. The Gaja Barbaresco Sorì San Lorenzo 2017 points to the quality of the newly-released 2017 vintage in Barbaresco, with such attractive aromas of fresh rose petals, strawberries and citrus. The Gaja family’s Pieve Santa Restituta Brunello di Montalcino Rennina 2015 joins an esteemed list of great 2015 vintage Brunello wines. This is a powerful and fully articulated Brunello which is “extremely perfumed … full-bodied, extremely tight and refined with superb tannin quality that shows polish, finesse and beauty.” James declared this a landmark, the “best wine ever from here.” 

They also tasted a string of other highly-rated Barbaresco, Barolo and Brunello wines. The Barbaresco Sorì Tildìn 2017 is a standout and is “extremely perfumed with strawberries, flowers, cherries and hints of ash and tar.” The 2017 Gaja Barbaresco had “glorious aromas of flowers, crushed berries, strawberries and dried herbs” said James, and “a wonderfully curated, polished tannin structure and backbone.” From Barolo, the Gaja Sperss 2016 is “very floral and refined with dried cherry, strawberry, smoke and spice.” The intensity and focus of this wine is a hallmark of Barolo 2016. Meanwhile, from Brunello, the Pieve Santa Restituta Brunello di Montalcino Sugarille 2015 is a “fantastically structured, serious 2015 Brunello,” James said.

Listen to the full podcast to hear more of the conversation and see what they thought of the wines.

Published February 19, 2021

James on February 1 interviewed Deputy Managing Director Jean Philippe Delmas of Chateau Haut-Brion, Chateau La Mission Haut-Brion and Chateau Quintus, to taste a selection of their 2018 wines, which is a top vintage. The 2018s show excellent balance and have intense ripeness yet maintain their Bordeaux personality with characters reflective of their appellations and terroirs. Delmas in turn described how balance is a key quality for winemakers now, and said the tools winemakers have today allow them to be a lot more precise. 

They also talked about global warming’s impact on winemaking. “When you have such a challenging year, terroir is stronger than the winemaker,” Delmas said. The wines they tasted were the Chateau Haut-Brion Rouge, Le Clarence de Haut-Brion, Chateau La Mission Haut-Brion rouge, La Chapelle de La Mission Haut-Brion, Chateau Quintus and Le Dragon de Quintus. 

Listen to the full podcast to hear the highlights of the conversation and see what they thought of the wines.

Published February 17, 2021
We just published our latest Weekly Tasting Report which includes the world launch of California wines and global blends from Australia’s formidable winery, Penfolds. James spoke with the winery’s Chief Winemaker Peter Gago while tasting four of the new releases: the Penfolds Quantum Bin 98 and Bin 149, which are global blends of wines from Australia and California, and the Bin 704 and Bin 600, which are pure California wines. You can read more about the tasting in the link above, as well as the nearly 360 other wines tasted in the previous week. Listen to the podcast to hear what James and Peter had to say about these innovative new wines. 

Published February 16, 2021
A few months ago we announced the best 100 wines of the world in 2020 in our Top 100 Wines of 2020 report, and top of the list was Argentina’s Chacra Pinot Noir Patagonia Treinta y Dos 2018. As well as winning our Wine of the Year award, it was also our Argentine wine of the year. We gave a special nod to this great pinot of Chacra because it is also from biodynamically farmed grapes and from a special place at the end of the world in Patagonia. The man behind this wine is Piero Incisa della Rocchetta, who founded Bodega Chacra in 2004 and is also one of the shareholders of Italy’s famous Tuscan estate of Tenuta San Guido, producers of Sassicaia. He and James had a discussion about this amazing wine and discussed the winery’s goal to create wines that express the climate, micro-climate, and terroir of Argentina’s Rio Negro region of Patagonia. Chacra’s pinot noir vineyards were originally planted in 1932 (“treinta y dos”) and they are now organically certified. Piero’s spectacular pinots show there’s more to Argentina’s excellent red wines than bold, bright malbecs. In this podcast, you can hear them taste the Chacra Pinot Noir Patagonia Treinta y Dos 2018 and talk about some of the factors that made the wine so good and how biodynamic practices influenced the wine. “If you work very hard, excellence can be achieved and that lifts everyone up,” commented Piero. Listen to the podcast for the full discussion.

Published February 10, 2021
James recently tasted and spoke with his old friend Tor Kenward and Jeff Ames, proprietor and winemaker at Tor Kenward Family Wines over Zoom. The quality of the 2018 vintage in Napa Valley was on full show. Particularly at a winery such as Tor, which makes only a few barrels of each wine and pays such close attention to the entire winemaking process from vine to bottle, the 2018s were a beautiful example of how small-production, single-vineyard wines can really shine in a top-quality year. They spend the first part of the interview discussing the harrowing moments of last year’s fires – James finds out his friend was okay and that he lives near James’s house in St. Helena – then they discuss 2018 with its ups and downs but great wines. They also discuss the quality of 2019, which is another winner like 2018. During the call, James, Tor and Jeff tasted a selection of wines that showed great diversity. “2018 is about as good as it gets,” Tor said, while James particularly enjoyed the Tor Napa Valley Pure Magic Vine Hill Ranch Vineyard 2018, a new super selection from Vine Hill Ranch, one of James’ favorite vineyards in the Oakville AVA with a long history of making great wines.

Listen to the full podcast to hear the highlights of the conversation and see what they thought of the wines.

Read James’ full Napa report here, and check out our top 10 chardonnays of the Carneros AVA here

Published February 9, 2021
On February 4, 2021, James did a radio interview on KFBK radio in Sacramento, the capital of California, with Cristina Mendonsa. James dialed in from his home in Hong Kong and talked about his incredible life and ongoing projects. They also talked about his MasterClass and James revealed new trends in the wine industry as well as the surprising wine he’s enjoying right now. Pour a glass of your favorite wine and take a listen.

Published February 4, 2021
James recently released his Napa and Sonoma report focusing on the 2018 vintage. As part of his research, he spoke to two big-name wineries together to find out more about their “secret” project they have been working on together. DVO is a new joint venture between Napa winery Dalla Valle and Tuscan winery Ornellaia, and their first wine will be released in 2021. These two ‘first growths’ of Tuscany and Napa Valley are now combining their skills to create a new wine, which James described as “a beautiful first release, refined and with a beautiful sensibility”. In this exclusive podcast, you can hear James speak to Axel Heinz, winemaker at Ornellaia, and Naoko Dalla Valle and Maya Dalla Valle, founder and director respectively (and mother and daughter) at Dalla Valle. Listen in to hear how this collaboration came about and to hear details of this first wine (tasting note below –subscribers only) and of the 2018 vintage.

DVO Napa Valley Rutherford 2018


Published February 3, 2021
We just published James’ latest Napa Valley report focusing on wines from the 2018 vintage. During his research, he spoke over Zoom with Scott Becker and Benoit Touquette, owner and winemaker at Realm Cellars, to taste a selection of their wines and to talk about the 2018s. Despite the challenges of the vintage with large crops, they still made terrific wines. Benoit said they have a rigorous vineyard management program, which resulted in a solid harvest of excellent quality grapes in 2018. It showed in the wines. James was impressed with all the cabernet sauvignon blends as well as the merlot and cabernet franc. Listen to the full podcast to hear the conversation and find out what they thought of the wines.


To read the tasting notes and scores of the wines tasted during the call (subscribers only), click here.

Published February 1, 2021
Domaine de Chevalier is a jewel of an estate nestled deep in the pine trees of Bordeaux’s Pessac-Léognan with a long history of producing age-worthy reds and whites. Their reds and whites show incredible depth of fruit and unique character from the stony soil of the vineyards that span 45 hectares in Graves. But what truly makes this winery a world-class estate and a fixture on most wine aficionados’ and collectors’ list is invariably its whites. James recently tasted a selection of their 2018 reds and whites with owner Olivier Bernard and his son Adrien Bernard. They discussed how 2018 was for both whites and reds and compared it to the 2020 vintage, which Olivier said was the most powerful they have ever made at Domaine de Chevalier. 2018 was a difficult vintage but still produced great wines. “There is a very high level of winemaking in Bordeaux now compared to 10 years ago,” James commented. They also talked about how acidity can impact a wine’s potential for aging and how Domaine de Chevalier’s conversion to organic and biodynamic agriculture will impact its wines in the future.

Listen to the full podcast for the full conversation and tasting. To read the tasting notes and scores of the wines tasted during the call (subscribers only), click here.

Published January 26, 2021
James spoke over Zoom recently with the wife and husband team at Eisele Vineyard in Napa Valley, Antoine Donnedieu de Vabres, general manager, and Helene Mingot, technical director. They made a gorgeous sauvignon blanc in 2019 and some impressive reds in 2018 from their amazing Araujo estate. The vineyard – the Eisele Vineyard – has wonderful pedigree for Napa Valley as it was the source of many great Joseph Phelps cabernet sauvignons in the 1970s and 1980s. It was first planted in the 1880s with Zinfandel and then in the 1960s it went to cab. It’s now tended biodynamically.  During their tasting they discussed the 2019 vintage, which may prove to be even better than the 2018 due to a more balanced grape growing season with precipitation in the winter and nice growing conditions the rest of the year. They also talked about some of the problems they faced in 2020, and you can hear them discuss the evolution of Napa Valley wines. “Now you really see how the wines are made in a way that they tell the story of the vintage,” James said when talking about how far Napa wines have come. Listen to the full podcast to hear the highlights of the conversation and see what they thought of the wines.


To see the tasting notes and scores of the wines (subscribers only), click here. 

Published January 25, 2021
At the end of last year, James spoke over Zoom with top Californian winemaker Paul Hobbs and his team from Paul Hobbs Winery to taste all of their 2018 cabernet sauvignon-based wines from Crossbarn to To Kalon. The wines showed beautiful balance and precision highlighting the late and even growing season of the 2018 vintage. It was a year that required a lot of work in the vineyards to get crop levels right to produce serious wines. But as Paul revealed, they got it very right at the To Kalon Vineyard site, a substantial parcel that sits right in the heart of the Oakville AVA of Napa Valley. And James said it had an aura of vineyard-driven pedigree in the 2018 vintage tastings. “To Kalon has been crushing it,” he said. In fact, he liked the balance and harmony of many of the wines from there this year. Paul Hobbs also gave an optimistic take on the 2019 vintage. Listen to the full podcast to hear the full discussion.


To see the tasting notes and scores (subscribers only), click here.

Published January 21, 2021
James has been tasting hundreds of wines from the 2018 Bordeaux vintage and so far it is shaping up to be a powerful yet drinkable and aromatic vintage. He recently tasted three amazing 2018 wines over Zoom with Edouard Moueix, executive vice president at Etablissements Jean-Pierre Moueix, which is the owner and producer of several prestigious crus, including Chateau La Fleur-Petrus, Chateau Trotanoy, and Chateau Hosanna in Pomerol; Chateau Belair-Monange Premier Grand Cru Classe in Saint-Emilion; and, in Napa Valley, California, Dominus Estate and Ulysses. They tasted the Trotanoy, La Fleur Petrus and Belair Monange, and discussed how much sunlight there was in 2018 and how the tannins in the 2018s are very special. Listen to the podcast to find out why. They also had a candid discussion about Bordeaux’s newest vintage, the 2020, which was challenging to say the least.

To see the tasting notes and scores (subscribers only), click here.

Published January 19, 2021
James has been tasting many wines from the 2018 Bordeaux vintage in preparation for his Bordeaux report. He had an insightful Zoom tasting with Philippe Bascaules, managing director at Chateau Margaux. They tasted three 2018 wines – Château Margaux 2018Pavillon Blanc 2018 and Pavillon Rouge 2018. Philippe pointed out that the grapes were so small and thick-skinned in 2018 that he didn’t need to extract much during fermentation and maceration. In fact, he didn’t pump over many vats. This resulted in balanced yet rich young wines. Listen to the full podcast to hear the whole tasting and discussion.

To see the tasting notes and scores of the wines tasted (if you are a paid subscriber), click here

Published January 13, 2021
In 2020 Newton Vineyard lost their entire winery and Spring Mountain vineyards in one of the worst fires in the history of the region. As CEO Jean-Baptiste Rivail reveals in this Zoom conversation with James, this was particularly galling for the team, who had just completed a renovation phase at the site. Thankfully, the team at Newton Vineyard remains positive and have already started to rebuild. James spoke to Rivail and winemaker Alberto Bianchi over Zoom in preparation for his upcoming Napa report. They tasted a selection of 2017 and 2018 wines and discussed with Rivail and Bianchi how the 2018 vintage performed for chardonnay and about what makes carneros so special for the grape, among other topics. Listen to the full podcast for highlights of the tasting and discussion.


To read more, and see the wine notes and scores (if you are a paid subscriber), click here.

Published January 11, 2021
James is currently making his way through hundreds of wines from the 2018 Bordeaux vintage. He conducted his first 2018 Bordeaux Zoom tasting with Veronique Sanders, managing director of Chateau Haut-Bailly and tasted three wines from the vintage. During the tasting James, along with Assistant Editor Claire Nesbitt, discussed with Veronique the quality of the 2018, and talked about how it compares to other vintages. James is impressed with the beauty and relative drinkability of the 2018 Bordeaux so far. Listen in to the full conversation for more, and read our Weekly Tasting Report to read about more French wines from the 2018 vintage.

If you are a paid subscriber, you can click here to see the wine notes and scores.

Published January 8, 2021
James had an interesting conversation on January 7 over Zoom with Rebekah Wineburg and biodynamic guru, Rodrigo Soto, respectively winemaker and estate director at Napa’s Quintessa. They tasted a vertical of Quintessa wines, including the Quintessa Napa Valley Rutherford 20162017, and the 2018. During the tasting James, along with Assistant Editor Claire Nesbitt, discussed with Rebekah and Rodrigo the benefits and recent breakthroughs in biodynamic farming and talked about optical sorting, ageability and more.


To read more, and see the wine notes and scores (if you are a paid subscriber), click here.

Published December 29, 2020
James did a Zoom call early in the summer of 2019 with Christophe Paubert, winemaker and general manager at Stags’ Leap Winery. He really appreciates his calls over the years with the Frenchman who came to Stags’ Leap in 2009. James thinks Paubert’s wines have an impressive balance for Napa which perhaps comes from the winemaker’s history of winemaking in Bordeaux before coming to California. He worked at both Chateau d’Yquem and Gruaud-Larose, among others. Besides tasting a small range of wines together, the two discuss the qualities and character of the 2017 and 2019 vintages.


To read more, and see the wine notes and scores (if you are a paid subscriber), click here.