(note: the following contains a lot of digressing so perhaps you can read one paragraph per night just before going to sleep)
Maintaining the Sweet 16 is on one hand easy and on one hand tough. Good that I only have two hands. Easy, because it's not like I have to buy a lot of wine; there can only be 16 occupying the Emerson Suites at any given time (well, 17 if you count sticking one in the fridge for that week's consumption). Tough, because that means I am faced with purchasing only a select few from among a multitude of contenders calling out to me.
Just how do I go about choosing, anyway? As I search, whether it be at the store or online, I'm bombarded by numerical ratings. I get several e-letters from wine shops, all of which prominently display the latest 90+ ratings the featured wines have received. I must confess that when I see that the 90 or higher score came from Robert Parker, I do take notice as I place credence in what he has to say. But there are so many other sources for these scores, many of whom I've never heard of. I'm sure wineries and distributors are constantly combing the web and other media searching for someone, anyone, anyone at all who has handed out a 90 or better to their wine.
Here's what I used to do: I'd eagerly await the current issue of the Wine Advocate, see what wines earned a 90 or higher score, then go looking for them. Here's part of what I do now: I find a wine that looks interesting and then in addition to reading the shelf card, I do a bit of research on the net to see what people have said about it, such as on Cellar Tracker and in the blogosphere. I don't need to search for what Parker, the Wine Spectator, or any other critic/publication said (I no longer subscribe to the Wine Advocate - nothing against Mr. Parker but it isn't cost-justified for someone like me) because believe me, if they said anything good about it, it's going to be on that shelf card screaming at you in bold letters. Then if all checks out, I go back and buy it - unless I'm somewhere far away where it's inconvenient to return quickly. Then heck, I'll just buy it and hope I made the right choice. How's that for a scientific method?
The thing about numbers is that they don't really tell you anything about the wine itself. Maybe you ran across someone who loves wines that smell like fertilizer and they found the perfect clos des manures to which they award a 98. Or one person's 95 can be the same as another person's 88. That's particularly true on Cellar Tracker where two comments can seem very much alike but the numerical scores are disparate. We seem to be talking grade inflation here also, as from what I read on Cellar Tracker, an average wine should receive a rating between 75 and 79. Yet, from what I've seen, ratings 79 and below are reserved for wines that figuratively (and I supposed literally) stink. If a wine is no good, then down into the sub-80's it goes. Hardly anything ranks below an 80. But can that mean that almost every wine is better than average? What the heck does "average" mean, then?
What we have here is a bell curve heavily skewed to the right. Another possibility is that the average Cellar Tracker user knows more about wines than the average joe and thus the population of wines reviewed therein is automatically skewed to the above-average side. Well, whatever.. the thing is, without the comments, who knows what these numerical scores represent? Nothing drives me more nuts than reading consumer reviews on various sites (Circuit City, for example) for which the reviewer has given only a score but no explanatory comments as to why they gave the score they did.
So what exactly am I trying to say in this post where I am digressing from one end to the other? That everywhere you go, points are flying left and right - well not just any points, but two-digit points that begin with a "9" are all over the place. For me, there's some comfort in having a wine ranked in the 90's by a recognized authority such as Mr. Parker, but unlike my earlier days, I'm not searching these out. These days I'm going by intuition - if the wine just seems right, whatever that means, into the cart it goes.
By the way, do you remember Art Linkletter? He used to have a weekday afternoon show back when television was clean, called Art Linkletter's House Party. And on it towards the end he'd have a segment called Kids Say The Darndest Things, during which he would interview 4 elementary school kids and ask them various questions to which some of them would give the darndest answers. You may remember Bill Cosby doing this a few years ago, but Art Linkletter was the original.
Anyway, that's where I came up with the title for the blog post today. Oh, and one time our elementary school happened to get chosen for the show, and yours truly was one of them kids! My most memorable part of the day was throwing up in the limousine on the way back from CBS studios to school. Did I say anything darndest? I only remember two things he asked us, one to another kid and one to me. If you want to know what they were and our responses, leave a comment.