WineSpeed - Wine Intel from Karen MacNeil

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New York Wine—
The Best Kept Secret

October 18, 2022 at 3pm PT / 6pm ET

Join Karen as she talks and tastes with two all-star wine pros from Philadelphia. Together, they’ll reveal why New York wine is ever-so-delicious and such a steal.

Register HERE.


The Champagne Life
Tasting Series

Ep.2: Thanksgiving; Food Compatibility

November 3, 2022 at 5pm PT / 8pm ET

Join Karen as she talks and tastes Champagne with Michael Seward of “Pops for Champagne” in Chicago. Together, they’ll discuss the range and kinds of food that are compatible with Champagne, and how it is perfect for Thanksgiving.l.

Register HERE.


“Castel Ringberg” Sauvignon 2020

(Alto Adige, Italy) $25

Raciness. Crispness. Precision. Complexity. Bright flavors. Around this office, a wine that checks all those boxes, is something we love to drink. And the Elena Walch Sauvignon from Italy’s cool mountainous northern province of Alto Adige is a perfect example.  Unlike many Sauvignon Blancs, it’s not “green,” but instead its complex flavors are layered with notes of minerals, dried sage, and something tangy like pink grapefruit. All of this—for $5 a glass! Elena Walch is considered one of the top small producers of northern Italy, and this wine reveals why. (13.5% abv)

93 points KM

Available at Central Wine Merchants

Karen’s Flavor First™ Stemware

Buy The Wine Bible

About Karen MacNeil

See the Current Issue

I Hope I Remember This Night

I wrote the following poem on the evening of September 21, 2022 after attending a “Conversation” at Ashes & Diamonds winery in the Napa Valley. The presentation—by five winemakers—centered around the topic of sustainability. But,… Continuereading

Are Smaller Bubbles Really Better?

The first time I went to the Champagne region, a winemaker took me aside and showed me a glass of Perrier water. These, he said, were not “good” bubbles—not for Champagne wine anyway. The almost… Continuereading

The Rise of Fantastic Cabernet Franc

One of the more exciting things that we at Karen MacNeil & Company did this past summer was a double-blind tasting of every California Cabernet Franc we could get our hands on. There are more… Continuereading

What was the first Napa Valley wine to cost more than $100?

A. Diamond Creek “Lake Vineyard” Cabernet Sauvignon 1987

B. Opus One 1985

C. Heitz “Martha’s Vineyard” Cabernet Sauvignon 1973

D. Colgin “Herb Lamb” 1990


Diamond Creek’s 1987 “Lake Vineyard” Cabernet (only 75 cases were made) was the first wine in the Napa Valley to cost $100. Opus One 1985 was released at a price of $55 per bottle. Heitz 1973 “Martha’s Vineyard” Cabernet cost $13.50 when it was released. And Colgin “Herb Lamb” 1990 doesn’t exist; the first vintage of Colgin “Herb Lamb” was in 1992 and was $39 per bottle. As an aside, the first Napa Valley wine to cost more than $1,000 was the 2014 Screaming Eagle.

Financially, grapes are the largest grossing food crop in California.

Answer: False.

That would be dairy products and milk, the value of which last year (2021) was $7.6 billion. Grapes came in second at $5.2 billion, and almonds were third at $5 billion. Over one third of all the vegetables and three fourths of all the fruits and nuts grown in the U.S. are grown in California.


In the making of Champagne, disgorging is the process whereby yeasty sediment is removed from each bottle after the second fermentation has taken place and after the wine has rested on its lees for many years. If Champagnes were not disgorged, the wine would be cloudy with the spent yeast cells that performed the second fermentation. The process itself involves freezing the neck of bottle where, as a result of riddling each bottle, the yeasty sediment has collected. The temporary crown cap on each bottle can then be popped off allowing the frozen plug of yeast to shoot out. With the yeast removed, the bottle can then be topped up with reserve wine and possibly a small amount of sugar (the dosage). Finally, the bottle will be quickly corked, and fitted with a wire muzzle that helps hold the cork snugly in place.

Champagne Life: Coolness + Limestone = Blanc de Blancs

The Incredible Crayères

In the 4th century, in order to have enough stone to construct Reims (the main town in the Champagne region), the Romans dug three hundred immensely deep quarries in the region’s famous chalky rock. These vertical chalk pits, called crayères, are used today by the houses to age Champagne. They are construction miracles that seem to defy physics, and descending into their eerily quiet, cold, dark, humid chambers is an otherworldly experience that no wine lover should miss. Because the best chalk was often well underground, many crayères go down as far as 120 feet (37 meters). They are shaped like pyramids, so the deepest parts of the crayères are also the widest and the tops of the pits are narrow. This shape limited air exposure in the quarry and kept the chalk moist and soft, thus easier to cut into large construction blocks. During World War I, when Reims was extensively bombed, about 20,000 people lived in the dark crayères where no sunlight penetrates for years. During this time, some of the crayères under Veuve Clicquot and Ruinart were makeshift hospitals, and under Pommery were a school.

Oz Clarke

Oz Clarke is a British wine writer, TV personality, and well-known authority on wine. His unpretentious style has made him one of the most recognized wine critics in the U.K. … WatchandReadInterview

Alessia Antinori

When asked what piece of advice she would give to the next generation of women in wine:
“…continue to pursue (their) values and strengths… I think our role is essential now and in the future.”… WatchandReadInterview

Laura Catena

Laura Catena is a Harvard and Stanford-trained biologist and physician, and the founder of the Catena Institute of Wine in Argentina. … WatchandReadInterview


Amount (in millions of US$) that Airbnb hosts of properties near vineyards earned in the spring quarter of 2022 alone, according to reporting by The Drinks Business. “Stays Near Vineyards” is a new category for Airbnb. The top five US states that accrued revenue from “Stays Near Vineyards” were (in order): California, Tennessee, Florida, New York, and South Carolina. Surprisingly, Washington came in #8, and Oregon did not make the top ten.


Number (in millions) of cases of Sauvignon Blanc sold in the U.S. last year, according to Impact Databank. That’s a steady rise over the last several years. Since 2015, imports of Sauvignon Blanc are up 40%. Domestic Sauvignon Blanc is up just over 25%. Retailers surveyed by Impact say the challenge remains—to convince consumers that great Sauvignon Blanc is made in many places, not solely in Sancerre and New Zealand.


Number (in trillion [yes, with a “t”]) of distinct smells on Earth that humans can distinguish, according to neuroscientist and smell researcher Andreas Keller of Rockefeller University. As reported in Smithsonian magazine, these smells appear to be perceived by some 400 different types of receptors high in the nostrils. Yet exactly how smell works and how perceptions of various smells are interpreted in the brain is not understood.

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Saint Helena, Napa Valley, 94574
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