EDITOR'S NOTE—Legends and Unknowns

A friend has been after me for several years: Someone has to interview Bruno Giacosa, she's insisted. There isn't much time left. But who could get Giacosa to talk? Like most Piemontese of a certain age, Giacosa probably speaks mostly to his oldest friends, and has one-word answers for journalists.
     I asked Alberto Taddei if he would take on the challenge. A native of Le Marche, where he and his brother make wine, Taddei's career has taken him to Enoteca Pinchiorri in Firenze and Falai in New York. I respect his taste in Italian wine more than most people's. Plus, Taddei has a gentle persistence that I thought might prove valuable. Taddei booked a ticket to Alba and set up an appointment to speak with Mauro Mascarello as well, a slightly younger elder of Barolo. We present the two interviews on page 24, to show the parallel philosophies of these two legends of Piedmont wine.
     In Bordeaux, we asked Alice Feiring to forego the legends in favor of the relative unknowns making natural wines on the Right Bank (p. 40). It's a side of Bordeaux we don't often hear about in the States, since the conversation and the market are dominated by the first growths and the fashionable collectibles. Feiring found alternatives to the superrich, often hyper-manipulated styles designed to appeal to critics and the trade en primeur—including some classics well worth collecting in their own right. Meanwhile, the 2010 harvest looks like it may prove as successful as the 2009, according to an early report by Fiona Morrison, MW (p. 18).
     Here on California's north coast, 2010 has been a wild roller coaster ride for growers. The summer started out cold, then turned hot enough to burn the seeds out of green grapes. Unremitting cold returned again until another heat spike at harvest began to speed ripening. And now, as I write, a final deluge. This challenging vintage comes at a difficult time for growers and wineries—grape prices have fallen significantly. As one Napa Valley winegrower told me, "Those unripe grapes will end up somewhere," most likely in the bulk market. The last time I can remember so much negativity surrounding a vintage was 1998, when poor set and uneven ripening troubled a lot of growers. The good '98s, however, remain some of my favorite cabernets of the 1990s, surpassed only by 1991, another cool year. Growers up to the challenge may well make great wine in 2010.
     Recently, I spent some time investigating how much vintage actually matters in Napa Valley Cabernet, tasting wines from 2007, '06 and '05 (p. 28). Sommelier Yoon Ha joined me in Napa Valley on his day off from Benu, one of our New & Notable San Francisco Bay Area Restaurants of 2010. Jonathan Kauffman profiles these restaurants beginning on page 46, and provides recipes and favorite wine matches for ten of the dishes they served at our Top 100 event in San Francisco this past October. If you're a Bay Area resident or planning to visit this fall, here's your list for the best in wine and food this holiday season.