Friday, September 28, 2007

2005 Marquis Philips Shiraz

Oh boy, was this a BIG wine!

Dark purple color, very nice. Intense aromas of tobacco, peppered roasted meats, dark fruits and milk chocolate mixed with an alcoholic burn that flamed my nostrils.

More bigness (is that a word?) on the palate, with a rich, lush texture. Plenty of the same flavors in the mouth as in the aromas, along with smooth tannins and enough backing acidity to keep it from being flabby. Lengthy aftertaste.

And the alcohol. There's so much extract in this wine that it does a pretty good job of masking the alcohol but nevertheless, it can't hide it completely and it comes out not only in the aromas but in the finish.

This 2005 Shiraz from Marquis Philips is certainly not shy! At $11.49 from Costco, I give it two thumbs up because of the price and for having so much flavor. The alcoholic burn still bothers me, though, and at higher price levels my thumbs would begin to rotate in a different direction.


Thursday, September 27, 2007

The WineBlog Advocate

Folks, I am here to offer you the chance to be the initial subscribers to my new publication, The WineBlog Advocate, an independent consumers guide to readworthy blogs about wine.

Each bi-monthly issue will feature hundreds of reviews of wine blogs around the world, assuming I can find that many, and will provide you with valuable information that will help you sort out the readworthy from the not-so-readworthy.

Here's a sample of what to expect:

The WineBlog Advocate
The independent consumer’s guide to readworthy wine blogs

The WineBlog Advocate rating system:

It is my belief that while my reading notes are the primary means of communicating my critical judgments to you, a numerical rating system is helpful to provide a quick overview as to my estimate of a wine-related blog’s quality. I rate these blogs according to a 50-100 point scale, based on the following criteria:

96-100 points: A superb blog, on par with the sublime quality of classical literature. Worthy of being read in the finest literary circles anywhere in the known world. Blogs of this caliber are required reading day in and day out and deserve to be placed first on the “favorites” list of any browser. Snooty enough to be discussed by intellectuals and those who use obscure terms.

90-95 points: An outstanding blog, full of terrific topics that stimulate the reader and compel him or her to keep clicking the “more” button when the content is continued on another page. Pretty pictures, too.

80-89 points: A somewhat above-average to very good blog, offering worthwhile content of interest to the majority of the population with average IQ's or those in the middle of the bell curve. Grammar and spelling is correct and typographical errors are at a minimum.

70-79 points: An “eh” blog, with little to distinguish it from any other blog on the internet but nevertheless acceptable reading if you have nothing better to do in your life.

60-69 points: A below-average blog, with little to recommend it and providing an excellent example of the dangers of allowing anyone with a computer to access the internet and type away.

50-59 points: A literary disaster, written by, and intended for, cretins. The type of literature written by people who begin their letters with, “Dear XXX, how are you? I am fine.”

Sample wineblog reviews:

Wine on the Barbie Blog: http://wineonthebarbie.blogsdownunder.com
This Australian blog is bursting with bold, vivacious content that is not shy about inciting its readers to comment on controversial topics. This is not your traditional wine blog but instead, it takes off the gloves with a heavy, in-your-face writing style that gets your attention. While some may feel it is overdone, I was impressed by the layers upon layers of topical relevance that permeated the entire postings from start to finish. This is a big, hard-hitting blog with gobs of content. 94 points.

Les Raisin d’Autre blog: http://lesraisindautre.blogduvin.com
You can probably surmise from the title that this wonderful blog has its origin in France. One thing I notice about France-based blogs, and that is you can tell what region or city the blogger is from based on their writing style. Michel Gagnier, the author, is based in the southern Rhone area.

This WineBlog seems to tackle several topics at a time, and I have seen up to 13 different ones mentioned all on the same post on occasion. Gagnier writes in a peppery style, one that I might even call “stony” at times. More restrained than the previously reviewed Wine on the Barbie blog, nevertheless one is impressed by the content that surfaces upon repeated readings of the blog. I was impressed by how long the content stayed with me throughout the day. 91 points.

Winepeople blog: http://winepeople.blogertainment.com
The “about us” section of Winepeople blog tells the reader that its purpose is to provide an in-depth examination of the wine world via up-close and personal, no-holds-barred interviews with the winemakers, primarily in California where this blog is based.

Unfortunately, this blog is so full of fluff and a desire to be politically correct that it completely fails in its mission. It is also difficult to distinguish between the blog’s content versus the garish abundance of Google ads flung across the page vying for the reader’s attention. Here is an excerpt from a recent blog, an interview with Josh Tingle, the winemaker of Kern County’s Ichabod Winery:

Winepeople: Hey Josh, so we hear that 2007 was a difficult growing season.

Josh: A disaster.

Winepeople: Well cheer up, there’s always 2008. That holds grape expectations for you, we bet! Maybe 2007 isn’t completely down the drain yet, though.

Josh: thanks.

75 points.

Der Winerschnitzel blog: http://derwinerschnitzel.blogunkamperschmidtertrockenlese.com
I was duly impressed by this blog’s content. Subtle, not tiring to read, but I am afraid that most readers will be turned off and not even give this blog a chance because of the intricate levels of organization within each post. Each entry follows a very strict outline that, while very helpful once you understand it, can be extremely confusing to the uninitiated reader. This is a highly structured, yet also highly tasteful blog and I ask you readers to please give it a chance and don’t give up because of the initial difficulty in understanding what it is trying to say. 88 points.

One Wine Per Week blog: http://onewineperweek.blogspot.com
I could not tell exactly what the purpose of this blog was, and the writer seems to be in a constant state of distorted reality. Completely unreadable, don’t even waste your bandwidth on this one. 50 points. Makes me consider adjusting my point scale.

***

And there you have it, my potential readers. A subscription to the WineBlog Advocate is $75 per year with unlimited access to current and archived reviews, as well as the link library. If you are interested, drop a note in the comment section and you'll get what is coming to you.



Tuesday, September 25, 2007

California Wine Olympiad Approaches

As California Wine Czar William Jefferson Clinton prepares to throw out the first grape to commence the state’s first-ever Wine Olympiad next week, the contestants are beginning to trickle in to the site of the competition, Yountville in Napa County.

Over the course of six days, judges will evaluate and score thousands of wines during the team competition event. Wineries will be submitting their best five wines from their current vintage release in hopes of garnering the inaugural gold medal. The panel of nine judges will score each wine from a possible low of 51 points to a possible high of 100. Simple math will determine the winner: the winery with the highest point total for its five submitted wines will take home the gold.

The entrance of the much-ballyhooed and highly decorated Barebond Winery of Kern County caused quite a stir yesterday. Winning a record number of gold medals already this year, the five-wine lineup, nicknamed “The Dream Team” by the press and public, is the odds on favorite to run away with the competition.

A spokesperson for Barebond was interviewed by reporters. “We’re just going to pop our corks and pour, just like any other competition. We respect our opponents. We know what we have to do and it’s gonna be tough but we’re confident. In order to win we have to do better than everyone else. Otherwise we can’t call ourselves winners.”

There’s a strong sentimental favorite in the running, however. Starrken Vineyards uncommon 2006 bottling of their nesbitt grape has many outspoken and zealous supporters. Starrken, as you may recall, was recently invaded under orders from Czar Clinton and the world’s last remaining nesbitt grapes were torn out from the land, to be planted over to pinot noir and chardonnay. Sadly, the 2006 vintage will be the last ever.

Meanwhile, several wineries expressed a bit of apprehension over what they termed “intimidating tactics” used by Twisted Oak Winery of Calaveras County.

“Their people are walking around like pirates, saying ‘bwa ha ha’ and ‘arrr’ to everyone. It’s disconcerting,” whispered one winery rep that refused to be identified.

“Not only that, they’re all wearing eyepatches and telling everyone that they’re going to be conducting ‘half-blind’ wine tastings,” complained another anonymous participant. “And those buttons they’re wearing – what the %#*&$! do they mean, anyway?? It’s scary.”

A third distraught competitor chimed in, “They slapped me with a chicken.”

While the Olympic Committee investigates the legality of this matter, we’ll continue to bring you up-to-date coverage of this exciting event. Stay tuned!

Monday, September 24, 2007

Les Impitoyables - Les Miserables to Care For!

Using the Eisch Burgundy stemware recently purchased from Domane547 and comparing it to the experience of the same wine in a Riedel Vinum pinot noir glass brought back memories of using some rather unusual stemware many moons ago.

In the latter part of the 80’s decade, Robert Parker extolled the virtues of a line of crystal stemware called Les Impitoyables for serious wine tasting. That’s a picture of them you see at the top of today’s post.

Les Impitoyables means “the merciless,” or “pitiless,” referring to its ability to magnify the characteristics of a wine to enable a truly serious or critical evaluation of its merits or lack thereof.

Glass #1 on the left was meant for young red wines. #2 was for all white wines, #3 for mature red wines, and #4 for sparkling wine tasting and evaluation. Rather than explain the rationale for the various shapes, here’s a link to a store that carries them which also offers the reasoning in the descriptions.

I was fortunate enough to be able to try all four of these (back in the 80’s). Did they work? Well, as my fuzzy mind remembers, yes they did. Glass styles number 1 and 2 were particularly effective.

Glass #1 with its extra-wide hips and narrow nose promoted a large surface area for the wine to breathe, and the aromas became concentrated as they funneled up to the nose. Tasting the wine also had the effect of focusing the wine on one particular area of the tongue since the opening was so narrow. Think Riedel’s Vinum Extreme series, but even more extreme – extremely extreme!

Glass #2 is probably the strangest-looking glass I’ve seen for tasting wine, but it was also quite effective. It also allowed for a fairly large surface area for breathing, and the aromas went up the tall bowl and curled in to the nose.

Both of them look more like UFO’s than wine glasses, if you ask me. But from what I can recall, they were indeed great for wine tasting.

But they were pretty ugly (#1 and #2, anyway. #3 was more conventional. I never much cared for sparkling wines or Champagne in #4 because the textured glass obscured the bubbles). And #1 and #2 were a big pain to clean and dry. The opening on the #1 glass was so small, and the bowl so wide that it was darn near impossible to clean the inside of the glass if you wanted to do more than just rinse it. The bowl on the #2 glass was so tall that it was difficult to get inside and clean that one, too, even though the mouth was wider. #3 and #4 were easier, but still posed problems.

The #2 glass was also not made very well in many cases, with the bowl not being straight on the stem. So if you turned the glass by the stem, you could watch the bowl wobble. It also snapped off fairly easily and the crystal itself was delicate and shattered easily so you had to be extremely careful when washing them.

All in all, maintenance was a big pain but they did in fact do their job very well. Well enough to outweigh the hassle of cleaning them? Honestly, I prefer the Riedels.

So does that mean I prefer form over function? Again, while it’s been a long time since I tried the Impitoyables, I have the notion that they did a better job that the Riedels when it came to evaluating wines. But the Riedels still do an excellent job plus they win the beauty contest hands down. And are far easier to clean.

Now there’s also a couple of Eisch stems sitting in my collection and those are very pretty, too. I’m thinking the larger bowl and opening contributed to the difference in taste I perceived compared to the Riedel stem with last week’s wine, more so than the “breathable” property claimed by Eisch. Plus the Eisch are really easy to clean!

So given all this, when we review wines, to what degree are our wine reviews influenced, perhaps unknowingly, by the shape of the glass we use?

Saturday, September 22, 2007

Trivial Weekend Ramblings..

It's the weekend and I wasn't going to write anything but then my ongoing paranoia over the temperature within my Emerson Suites storage units prompted me to put fingers to keyboard.

Yesterday when I got home from work I checked the temperatures and was alarmed to see the reading at 67.2 degrees in the unit on the left. I thought maybe the temperature probe had fallen out so I checked but it was still in there, sitting on the rack. And still reading 67 degrees. The unit on the right had a reading of 59 or 60 so I moved the probe from the left to the right unit. The temperature came down, although it still read higher than the other one.

I felt the bottles. They seemed okay. Hmm.. did the bottles in the right-side unit feel a little colder than the bottles on the left side? Or was I psyching myself out? I checked the built-in digital readouts for both units and each of them assured me the interior temperature was 57 degrees.

So what gives? How could the standalone thermometer tell me the temperature was 10 degrees higher inside than what the built-in one was saying?

I put the probe back into the left unit and again it went up. Okay, this is what I'll do, I thought. I took the probe out of the right-hand unit and placed it, along with the left-hand probe in the same place in the seemingly malfunctioning left-side Emerson unit. If the probes were right next to each other, then they ought to give the same reading, right?

Wrong.

What you see in the picture is the readout I took this morning. They're only 1.5 degrees apart, but they are also right next to each other inside the wine storage unit. A little while earlier before I had my bright idea to take a picture and bore you with this post, they were even further apart on the temperature scale.

So it seems the thermometer that I was using on the left unit has betrayed me. How can I trust it anymore? It will take me a long time to recover from this, that's for sure. Now whenever it tells me anything, I will want to believe it but alas, I know I shall be skeptical.

What's funny is the entire time, the built-in Emerson digital thermomter continued to tell me it was 57 degrees, until I opened it up to feel the bottles and move the probes, at which time the reading went up. So who do I believe? Everything is telling me something different! How can thermometers be so much like people??

I'll continue to keep careful watch over these slippery thermometers..

Friday, September 21, 2007

2005 Cambria Pinot Noir, Julia's Vineyard

That's right, there's TWO glasses in the picture. The one on the left is the Eisch "breathable" Burgundy glass that was the subject of an earlier blog post this week. It was purchased from from Domaine547 and arrived quickly, packaged very, very securely in perfect condition. The glass on the right is a Ridel pinot noir stem from their Vinum line.

Looks are a bit deceiving. Or rather, my picture is. The Eisch may not look like it, but it actually had the bigger bowl between the two glasses. The shapes are similar but the Eisch had a larger aperture as well as being taller. Quality wise, while the Eisch had fine balance and a smooth rim, the Riedel's crystal was nicer. There was less distortio
n when you look through the Riedel as opposed to the Eisch. On the other hand, the Eisch is about 1/2 the cost of the Riedel and is quite attractive. I'm glad I bought it (it comes in a set of two), plus Domaine547 is a great store so it's nice to do business with them.

The deal with the Eisch is that it's supposed to be "breathable." That is, some special, ultra-secret technology of theirs in the manufacturing process results in a glass that aerates the wine. Letting the wine sit in the glass for 2-4 minutes is supposed to be equivalent to decanting the wine and letting it sit for 1-2 hours in the glass. So I did the comparison. Let's see what happened.

On to the wine: the 2005 Cambria Pinot Noir, Julia's Vineyard, was purchased at Costco. There's still plenty left in the bin, at least at the Burbank location as of today. The wine was drunk over the course of three days this week: Monday, Tuesday and Thursday, the unused portion kept fresh in the bottle by Private Preserve. Since I received the Eisch stemware on Wednesday, I was only able to compare the wine on the 3rd day in both glasses.

This was an interesting wine - it changed quite a bit over the three samplings. The color was typical pinot noir, a reddish purple, not too dark.

Day one: Aromas of cherries, oak, some earthiness and underlying spice. On the palate the wine reminded me of Jolly Roger cherry candy - it seemed artificially sweetened and at times even reminded me of cherry cough syrup or Nyquil. Soft tannins with underlying acidity emerged, and the finish was pretty short and alcoholic. Overall this wine seemed harsh, hot and unbalanced.

Day two: Similar to day one except the fruit was not as prominent. The oak and a bramble component stood out and once again, there was too much heat from the alcohol to my liking.

Day three: I poured equal amounts into the Eisch and Riedel stems. I let them sit for about 5 minutes and tried first the Riedel then the Eisch. Riedel: aromas of cherries, oak and some spice, along with a slight alcohol harshness. Eisch: similar, but mo
re subdued. The aromas were more focused with the Riedel, perhaps because the opening in the glass was smaller.

There was a definite difference in the mouth. With the Riedel, there were cherries, bramble, cinnamon and spice on the palate and the alcohol was less prominent and more balanced. When tasting using the Eisch, the wine seemed much smoother. In fact, it was so smooth it seemed diffused and flabby, even a bit watery. There was a perceived lack of acidity. The wine showed better in the Riedel - it was more focused and concentrated, with more zing from the acidity. In both glasses the wine was better on day 3 than the previous two days - it was more balanced and less harsh, allowing the fruit to come out.


Now was this due to the Eisch's breathing properties, or due to the shape of the glass? While similar, the Eisch had the larger opening so, as the Riedel people tell you, the wine lands on different areas of the tongue when put into the mouth. I don't know, but I do know there was a difference between the two glasses. Not a big difference, but noticeable nonetheless. I am thinking that the Eisch, because of its size, needs a better wine that will show well in a big bowl. Like I said above, I'm glad I purchased this and am curious to see how it does with other wines.

As for the wine itself: it was $16.99 at Costco which is generally lower than most anywhere else. I have to give this wine two thumbs down. I di
dn't sense any complexity here, and even though it was better on the 3rd day, it still was lacking balance. It's not worth the money. That said, the reviews were kinder in Cellar Tracker so this is just my two cents.

Have a nice weekend, y'all!

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Empty-Head Day

Today is hodgepodge day, just a bunch of this and that. In other words, my head is empty. Not an uncommon state.

I found this book at the library over the weekend: Eyewitness Companions Wines of the World, Your Essential Handbook, copyright 2004. It lists Susan Keevil as the “Consultant” and a host of contributors. It’s an interesting book to thumb through and it contains a lot of color photographs and illustrations. It appears to be no “essential handbook,” however.

I ran across a sidebar in the book’s California section that I thought I’d share with you:

Cult Wines
Every year the press reports another astronomical price paid for a bottle of cult Napa Cabernet. In 2000, a magnum of 1996 Screaming Eagle fetched over $10,000 at a Napa charity auction. Most of the cult wines are produced in minute quantities by consultant winemakers hired at enormous salaries. These rich, oaky wines are awarded near-perfect scores by American wine critics, making them highly desirable – and scarcely obtainable. Most are of exceptionally high quality, even if they tend to come from the same mold: highly concentrated and steeped in new French oak. Much of the hype is due to the extravagance (and wealth) of American wine collectors, who assemble every year at the Napa Valley Wine Auction to outbid each other.

I’ll let you make what you want of the above statements. Then on Cellar Tracker I ran across the following review of the 2006 Tablas Creek Rosé:

This rose rocks. I appreciate the subtlety of good Tavel rose. But I'm American. I want flavor. This has flavor. Nice job T.C.

Again, I’ll just let the statement speak for itself. I found both of them to be rather amusing.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Wine Czar Ponders SubPrime Wine Bailout

To bail them out or not to bail them out. That is the question.

California’s new and first-ever Wine Czar, former president Bill Clinton has been mulling over the arguments ever since recently taking office.

Buoyed by the movie Sideways, thousands, maybe even millions of consumers flocked to wine shops, grocery stores and online sources to load up on wines made from the pinot noir grape. As demand continued to increase, so did prices; accelerating in an upward spiral that until recently seemed as if it would never end.

Then the bottom dropped out.

There are the novice wine drinkers who scored bottles of pinot noir and drank nothing but, thinking there was nothing better. Then slowly they branched out into other varieties of grapes and discovered they actually preferred these other varieties over their vaunted pinot noirs.

Then there are those who hoarded huge stocks of pinot noir and only recently began popping the corks, finding it wasn’t what they were expecting. Ron Percoli is one such disillusioned consumer:

“The other day I had dinner with a friend who, since he was paying, ordered the wine. He ordered a bottle of merlot. I was wondering what was wrong with him – I thought he had more class than that. Then our waiter served the wine. I was apprehensive but I tried it, expecting it to taste like, well, you know, the ‘s’ word. But it was good!

“Man, if this crappy merlot tasted this good then those bottles of pinot noir I had saved at home must be fantastic, I thought. The next day I opened one up – one really expensive bottle I’d bought sight unseen based on what the wine store guy told me. And you know what? It’s not merlot that tastes like the ‘s’ word, it’s this pinot noir stuff! It smelled and tasted like a barnyard!

“I felt like I really got ripped off. So I pulled out a few more bottles to try, and wham, the same thing. I thought I was done with dirty diapers after my kids got potty trained! I thought I was buying prime wine at these prices, but it turns out I was buying subprime wine.”

Experiences such as these are not uncommon, and have caused a real headache for Czar Clinton, already beleaguered over his decision to invade the Starrken Vineyards and rip out the last known vestiges of the nesbitt grape variety.

“Everyone is suddenly anti-pinot noir, demanding their money back,” moaned Clinton during an interview yesterday at the Capitol building. “Prices on the secondary markets and auction houses have dropped like a rock and you can’t even give away the wine anymore. A lot of people are saying that unless the government pumps up the market by buying all this unwanted pinot noir, it’s going to cause an economic disaster for the wine industry.”

The California legislature is pushing strongly for the state to take back all the unwanted pinot noir. They say that the looming crisis is just too big to ignore and they can’t afford to take chances. A bailout is necessary, they insist. And if not the state purchasing the wine from unhappy consumers, then a subsidy should be provided to the wineries themselves to buy back their own wines.

A few dissenting voices have surfaced, however, who are adamantly opposed to any form of government bailout.

“Nobody told these people to go out and buy mass quantities of pinot noir,” declared state senator Dom McClinnock. “They did that on their own volition. Why should we bail them out just because they acted irrationally?”

McClinnock continued. “And don’t think the wineries themselves aren’t to blame for this mess. Charging prices upward of $50, $75, even $100 and more per bottle created unrealistic expectations about what was inside those bottles. Even at those prices they were selling all they could produce. They got rich off the pinot noir mania but now things have settled back to earth. Why should the government, i.e., the taxpayers, foot the bill?” He shook his head and spit like he was a wine tasting pro. “The whole thing’s left a bad taste in my mouth, no pun intended.”

Despite McClinnock’s protests and the few who agree with him, the majority of the legislature is expected to pass an emergency bill to proceed with the bailout. Asked what the government is going to do with all the pinot noir that will be flooding the Capitol, one congressman responded, “Looks like our state employees won’t need to wonder what form of Christmas bonus they’ll be getting in their stockings this year.”

Monday, September 17, 2007

Eisch "Breathable" Stemware?

I’m always trying to think of the next topic for this blog so I must thank Jill over at Domaine547 for today’s inspiration.

In reply to my earlier post in which I mentioned using a Vinturi to hasten the aeration of wine, she mentioned that Domaine547 is now carrying stemware from Eisch.

Naturally I had to check it out on Domaine547's website. It’s an attractive-looking glass, in the same vein as Riedel. This is what Eisch, the manufacturer claims about this particular type of glass:

A wine poured into a Breathable Glass for just 2 to 4 minutes will show signs of aeration equivalent to the same wine that has been decanted and aerated for 1 to 2 hours. This fully natural process takes place within the wine itself, just in minutes. The original character and structure of the wine are preserved, yet the wine’s aroma and palate impression become more open and generous, just as they would with an hour or more of aeration. In addition to wine, Breathable Glasses can also lead to improvements with spirits, fruit juices, and mineral water.

Hmm.. so is this the Brooklyn Bridge or is it for real? Curiosity aroused, I did some Googling and found pro-Eisch and anti-Eisch posts. The pro contingent spoke from experience, saying that they had done comparison tastings, some blind and some not blind, and found a positive difference in the characteristics of the wine’s aroma and taste in the Eisch versus other-branded glass. Some said the difference was quite noticeable whereas others said you’d have to be paying strict attention in order to notice.

The con contingent consisted mainly of people who scoffed because there was no scientific foundation for such a claim and it seems even the Eisch sales reps could not provide a suitable explanation. The reps claimed it was a very secretive process.

Apparently Robert Parker, the man himself, referred to this stemware as “in voodoo veritas,” although the links in the Mark Squires forum to that statement led me to a 404 “page not found” error. I’m thinking maybe some attorneys persuaded him to delete those pages.

My main question is this: if the stemware accelerates the aeration process, doing in about 4 minutes what two hours of decanting accomplishes, then does that process continue, and after an hour in that particular glass you’ve effectively achieved what leaving wine in a non-Eisch glass would do in a whole day? Wouldn’t that oxidize many wines?

Reading the various Google results was inconclusive. I was looking for reviews but in the process also came across a few sites that were selling this stemware. There’s as wide a range in prices as there are opinions about this product!

Domaine547’s price seems to be very reasonable. It’s a gorgeous-looking glass, one that from the pictures could give Riedel a decent run for their money. For that price, it doesn’t really matter if it does what it claims to do as far as aerating the wines; I placed an order today. Now I know I said in a recent post that I am the type that returns to "neutral" after tinkering with things (like audio equalizers, wine accessories, etc.) so why am I buying this? I guess I'm just a sucker for a nice-looking wine glass!

I’ll let you know how it turns out. Meanwhile, here are the links to the pages I read when researching this product:

Pro comments:

Globe Life Food and Wine Column

Jamie Goode's Wine Blog (read the comments to the post, too)

Mark Squire's Bulletin Board on eRobertParker.com

Another Mark Squire's thread

The Independent
(in the U.K.)

Con comments:

Torbwine (look about 2/3 of the way down the page)

By the way, I have no affiliation with Domaine547 and today is actually the first time I’ve placed an order with them. They seem like they’re trying to do something different and in a good way. What impressed me was reading their “about us” section on the site and how they got into the wine business. I truly admire how they found their passion and pursued it – good for them!

(update 03/02/08) Apparently Domaine547 is sold out of the Eisch stemware. If you are interested in viewing what is available on Amazon.com's site, click here. Please note a couple of things: (1) this is an Amazon Associates link; and (2) if you want to purchase the stemware, please check Domaine547's site first to see if the Eisch product(s) are back in stock because they're a fine store that deserves your business!

Saturday, September 15, 2007

Weekend Break: Bollini's Pizzeria - Monterey Park

It's the weekend and I thought I'd take a break from a wine-related post today. We had a couple of great pizzas for lunch today that I wanted to share with you.

Bollini's Pizzeria Napolitana has been open at 2315 S. Garfield Avenue in Monterey Park (323-722-7600) for two or three months, I think, and has been the subject of mostly very favorable reviews on the Chowhound.com board. I've been meaning to try it out and finally today I had the chance.

There were five of us and it was pretty crampe
d because there's only a narrow seating area; they had to push a couple of tables together and squeeze us in there but that's okay. We ordered a couple of large (16") pizzas: The Rocco, topped with pepperoni and basil, and Salsiccia 3, topped with three-pepper sausage, red and green peppers, Italian peppers, goat cheese and basil. Oh, and of course there was tomato sauce and cheese on both.

That's a picture of the Salsiccia 3 above, and the Rocco is below.
Sorry that I forgot to snap pictures before we took some slices. I always do that. Looks good, eh?

Well, they were good. Very good. Chef and owner Christiano Bollini (looks just like his picture on the website) takes the time to make everything fresh, so it took a while for the pizzas to arrive. Meanwhile, he comped us a small order of stuffed mushrooms while we waited and those were delicious.

The pizzas arrived and we dug in. They're made in the "Napolitana" style which I assume means with a very thin crust. The menu advises ordering no more than two or three toppings because the thin crust can't really support much weight so don't expect topping overload like you might find at Petrillo's, or places that have a more substantial crust.

To me, the test of a pizza is the crust. These passed with flying colors. Thin, yet with just the right amount of "tug and chew" to them, they were charred but not crispy or tough on the edges, and properly chewy in the middle. No soggy middle here! The tasty and obviously fresh toppings, sauce and cheese all combined for a very well-balanced pie with no one item pushing the others into the background. Everyone preferred the Salsiccia 3, although they were both delicious.

I didn't think about seeing if they serve beer or wine (I don't think they do) but we all had soft drinks from a serve-yourself fountain. The cups are large size. Two very good pizzas, 5 sodas, $34 bill including tax before tip. Quite reasonable.

We got there around noon and the place was about 2/3 full (I was told there's 24 seats). When we left, a little before 2:00, there were a lot of people waiting. It's a popular place! And for good reason.

You order at the counter, they bring you the food and when you're done you pay at the counter. When I went up to pay I told Mr. Bollini how much we had enjoyed the pizzas and also told him I'd heard about his place on Chowhound.com. He looked at my t-shirt. I happened to be wearing the t-shirt my sister gave me that said "Monku Monku" on the front. He said, "Monku.. you're Monkuboy!" I said, "That's me!" (If you're confused, I am Monkuboy for food and Monkuwino for wine).

And that was our visit. When we left, the place was hopping. Normally Saturday afternoons are pretty dead lunch-wise at most restaurants but apparently word has gotten around about Bollini's. It's well worth a trek out there to give them more business. Bollini's gets two thumbs way up!

***

Miscellany: The other day I checked the temperatures on my still chugging-away Emerson wine units and noticed that the one on the left was up at 61.4 degrees. That got me a bit alarmed. I thought maybe the temperature sensor had made its way into some strange place inside the cabinet so I opened it up and positioned it more in the middle.

Now the readings are ranging from the high 55's to low 57-degree range. Such a difference from moving the sensor just a wee bit? I'm kind of mystified but not complaining. All the while the built-in digital thermometer on the unit keeps saying it is 57 degrees inside. The unit on the right side says the same thing but its standalone thermometer says 59-60. Well whatever, they're staying cool in there.

Have a nice weekend, everyone!

Friday, September 14, 2007

2001 Trambusti Brunello di Montalcino

Looks like I'm back to taking shabby pictures again.. oh, well.

I discovered this week's wine via a post on Chowhound.com. The poster let us know about a $19 1981 Brunello di Montalcino from Trambusti that was sitting on the shelves at Trader Joe's. He also referenced a discussion thread on Mark Squires' Bulletin Board.

Curious me read the thread as well as another one that started up on the same site, and I ended up heading over to my local TJ's to purchase a bottle, never having had a Brunello and thinking I never would just because they're so expensive. But for $19 ($19.99, actually), I decided to give it a shot.

I had this wine over the course of five days, preserving the remainder with Private Preserve.

On the first day, I detected aromas of cherries, black fruits, Asian spice (soy sauce-based), a hint of cinnamon or even cinnamon pastry, and oak. The palate was similar, with the addition of a meaty character and what seemed a rather odd texture, like vinyl or plastic. when I read the other tasting notes, someone said the wine had an olive oil component and that hit the nail on the head. I guess olive oil is vinyl or plastic-like in my sensory world; I'm not used to finding it in wine. The tannins were soft, the acidity was in check, and the wine had a pretty long, subtle aftertaste.

Over the course of the week the soy and olive oil components decreased. Other things I sensed in the aromas and taste were cigarette smoke and some earth. Nothing really stood out - everything sort of blended together and the wine had a soft, smooth texture. It seems ready to drink.

Never having had a Brunello di Montalcino before, I don't know if this is a typical experience or not. I was expecting a "bigger" or "bolder" wine and this one seemed more elegant and laid back although there was quite a bit going on as far as a variety of components in the aromas and flavors. Just on that basis I am giving it two thumbs up.

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Random Thought Generator..

Today’s post is just a collection of some random thoughts that don’t seem to fit anywhere else so I’ll write them here and let them keep each other company.

Why doesn’t someone come out with a wine label that includes a temperature sensor that tells you if the wine is at the right serving temperature? Like those plastic or vinyl contraptions you press against your thumb that tell you what sort of mood you’re in – black, it’s time to quit. Green, you’re cool as a cucumber.

The sensor could tell you that I’m too cold, warm me up! Or, “I’m too hot, I need to chill out!” Or, “Now you’re talking! Pop my cork!”

*

Would I ever use a Clef du Vin? No, because it’s too expensive. What about if it was cheaper – like a lot cheaper? Would I use it then?

No, because I don’t like tampering with things. I would want to taste the wine as it was in the bottle without making my own modifications to it. I get this same way when it comes to audio equalizers, or adjusting the picture on my television or computer monitor. Inevitably I wind up endlessly fiddling with the knobs, thinking this way is better or that way is better, but no matter what, it just doesn’t seem right. So I reset it back to flat or neutral and leave it at that.

The same would hold true if I started tampering with a glass of wine by swirling a Clef du Vin around. Makes it too artificial for my taste, no pun intended.

*

There’s a few devices out there that are supposed to help wine to open up by facilitating the aeration process. Things like the Vinturi, for example. Has anyone ever thought to put wine in a blender and punch the button for a few seconds? I figure if that doesn’t aerate the wine, nothing will.

By the way, I do own a Vinturi but must confess I’ve only used it a couple of times and as with the Clef du Vin were I ever to own one of those things, am hesitant to employ it because it seems like I’m tampering with the wine. My limited exposure to this gadget has so far yielded inconclusive results but one of these days I’ll conduct a more controlled experiment.

Ok, that's it, my head is empty. See ya tomorrow!

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Wine Czar Sets Date For Invasion

It’s official. The long-debated invasion of Starrken Vineyards in Mendocino County will proceed as planned, announced California’s new Wine Czar, former U.S. President Bill Clinton yesterday.

In his first official act after being appointed by Governor Schwarzenegger, Clinton will send the National Guard onto the land to rip out every last vestige of the nesbitt varietal grapes that currently exist in the vineyard.

“We have no choice,” declared Czar Clinton. “The Starrken vines pose a threat to every other grape-producing plant in the entire state, as well as the nation. We have in our hands definite evidence that the vines are contaminated by Parasites of Mass Starvation. That’s the sign we needed to give us the go-ahead.”

Critics of the invasion contend that there is no evidence of such Parasites, or “PMS” as it is commonly called. James Blaney, spokesperson for the Peace in the Vineyards coalition, explained it this way: “This is not about any so-called Parasites of Mass Starvation, this is all about the almighty dollar. Clinton wants to rip out the nesbitt grape vines and replace them with pinot noir and chardonnay. Why? We all know why. Because nesbitt grapes are used for blending and don’t fetch high prices in the marketplace, whereas pinot noir and chardonnay are the darlings of trendy wine folk and wines made from these grapes command premium prices.”

Blaney continued. “Nesbitt grapes may not be popular or well-known, but they do serve a purpose and also need to be preserved for historical purposes. These vines were planted in the 1920’s and the grapes produce amazing flavors – orange, strawberry, lemon-lime, even at times approaching root beer. What other grape can claim such a variety of tastes? And Starrken Vineyards holds the last remaining vines of this varietal. How can we allow anyone to come in and heartlessly rip them out? Like I said, it’s all about the dollar. There’s no infestation on these plants. There’s no such thing as PMS.”

Clinton responded that the protesters may be well-meaning, but they are also mistaken. “We would not act callously and without regard to evidence. We do have evidence that the nesbitt vines have been infested. These little PMS attach themselves to the roots of the vine and then suck out all the nutrients, causing the plant to wither and die because it gets famished and cannot get any rest. The PMS does not let up – they’re like paparazzi – the only way you get rid of them is to rip up the plants and burn them. We’ve got to do a pre-emptive strike to eliminate these pests before they spread through the rest of the state.”

“Bull,” flatly stated Blaney. “What evidence? We’ve been asking to see the evidence and they keep refusing to show us.”

Opponents of the invasion were sorely disappointed by a last-minute ruling from the California State Supreme Court that sided in favor of the invasion. “I’m sorry,” Judge Van Ebsen told attorneys from both Peace in the Vineyards and the Sierra Club. “If you were trying to save a salamander I’d have issued an injunction. But this is, well, just a grape.”

“The highest court in the state has spoken,” said Czar Clinton, his wife and presidential candidate Hillary standing by his side to show support. “The Governor is also solidly behind our decision and will provide the resources we need. Friday morning at 8:00 am, September 14, the invasion begins.”

Blaney and his cohorts vow to continue a race around the clock to stop this invasion, given the code name “Awk and Shaw” by the administration mainly because no one could think of anything better. “It’s not over yet,” insisted Blaney. “People have to realize, read my lips, that there is no such thing as PMS.”

An outraged Hillary Clinton had been silent the whole time but finally could contain herself no longer. “Yes there is!” she shrieked.

“Amen to that,” nodded her husband.

And with that, the countdown to Awk and Shaw continues. We will keep you posted.

Monday, September 10, 2007

Help Me Google-Wan, You're My Only Hope

One of the bits of information I looked at in more detail today were the key words people input into search engines that led to their arrival at this onewineperweek blog site. Some were obvious candidates, such as the names of specific wines that have been reviewed here.

Others were not so obvious, or else I thought they were somewhat amusing. I thought I’d list a few of them for you:

The strangest search term was this one: Arnold Schwarzenegger’s mixed berry pie. Now what was that person thinking? I input those words into Google and noted my blog came up as result #5, although one part of the keywords (“mixed berry pie”) came from one wine review and Arnold’s name came from a different spoof posting about naming a California Wine Czar. I guess Google was scratching its head on that one along with me.

Here’s some others:

Clef du vin clearance. With the sky high price of this gadget, no wonder this Googler was looking for a better deal.

Drinking one bottle of wine per day. Maybe that was the woman whose picture used to be on the “about me” section of this blog, haha. Oh, never mind – it said one bottle per day, not hour.

Hawaiian wine bar reading.

How to make wine cheap in one week. I guess the answer to that is have Robert Parker give it a 75.

How to make wine in one week. I suppose it's the same Googler as in the previous search, thinking of a premium line, too.

How to start a wine bar.

How to write a book review.

Kim Suna. This one is understandable, since one of the people who supposedly started up the fictitious knockoff wine bar called Metamorphosis 88 (from an earlier blog posting) is a Korean Drama character played by real-life actress Kim Sun Ah. But whoever was clicking the link results must have dug real deep because my blog doesn’t appear in any of the higher-up results.

Sweet sixteen statistics. I wrote about the stats relating to the 16 bottles of wine I have under temperature-controlled storage at home. I’m sure whoever was inputting this search term was looking for a different set of stats and arriving at my blog must have caused some consternation.

Robert Parker – digital thermeter. I typed this into the Google search bar and it asked me if I meant “thermometer.” Then I saw that one of Dr. Deb’s posts appeared on the first page of results (although her article had nothing to do with a Robert Parker digital thermeter). Mine was nowhere to be seen so this is another instance of the seeker going pretty deep into the result pages, clicking on link after link desperately searching for information.

What metal is in clef du vin. That’s a good query although I doubt a true answer is available anywhere. I typed this same phrase into Google and my blog post referring to Gary Vaynerchuk’s episode in which he tests this gadget came up 4th on the results list.

Out of curiosity, I clicked on the Google link above mine, which brought me to Amazon’s product listing for Le Clef du Vin. 9 consumers had submitted ratings averaging out to 4 stars, and, as you might guess, the reviews ran the gamut of skeptical purchasers being converted to believers, to an admonishment that there’s a sucker born every minute.

I’ll have to review the search term/key words section of Google Analytics on a regular basis just to see what other weird search terms come up in the future.

By the way, if you are wondering what relevance today’s picture has to this post, that’s Miss Teen USA 2007 contestant Lauren Caitlin Upton whose spiel in response to one of the pageant’s questions concerning American’s knowledge of geography sort of reminded me of the thought process employed by some of the people who wound up on my blog. Here's the video:



Down in the comments section of the Youtube page for this video, someone wrote, “at least she can speak better than bush.”

And with that, today’s blog entry comes to a close.

Saturday, September 8, 2007

Citizen MonkuWino

There's an interesting post on Tom Wark's Fermentation: The Daily Wine Blog about how the world of wine blogging is changing. Rather than attempt to present any kind of summary, it's best if you read the article yourself to do it justice.

The following quote of his stood out for me (plus it was set apart and in bold so it stood out both literally and figuratively):

Any wine blogger that takes their blogging seriously doesn't mean it when they say, "I just like to blog for my own satisfaction." And I hear this from time to time.

I immediately thought of myself. In fact, in my recent post about visitor statistics, I even in effect said so about this particular blog - that it is for me and my quirks, for my own satisfaction.

But is it really? Or is what Mr. Wark said true?

You may remember those Mad Magazine cartoons that depict characters and their shadows. The characters are behaving one way but their
shadows are behaving the way the character is really feeling. I always got a good laugh out of these, even more than the Spy vs. Spy cartoons, because I could identify with them.

So the MonkuWino character is telling you that I do love to write, but given that I normally consume only one bottle of wine per week it is hard to put up frequent tasting notes. I am not in the wine industry and am not really familiar with a lot of the issues out there so I fill up the rest of the week with other things somewhat related to wine, like musings on off-the-wall topics and my satires and spoofs (I've always liked to poke fun at things). Realistically, I feel that this blog has only limited audience appeal so why should I expect a big readership.

But the MonkuWino shadow is thinking wouldn't it be wonderful to have a big following, and to get free samples of wine and wine-related products, and make some profits from this. Along with that, to somehow get more into a wine-industry related vocation. In other words, become well-known. While the actual prospect of that becoming reality sort of scares me because of the responsibilities it would entail, it is also very appealing to my ego.

Mr. Wark concludes his post with this statement:

The 2008 wine blogging season is going to be very, very interesting. The evolution I sense now will, I think, coalesce into a state of affairs where wine blogs become the center of attention to a great number of people in the wine industr
y. That's going to be exciting for a lot of wine bloggers who choose to make a grab at the prize.

The MonkuWino character thinks that this does not apply to him and his modest blog. The MonkuWino shadow thinks, wouldn't that be great, and he should be part of those grabbing at the prize! Throw out that modesty stuff at the door! I tell you, the character has to try very hard to prevent the shadow from becoming Godzilla.

The way I look at it, to thine ownself be true. That's easier said than done, I know. I hope this blog increases its readership because people find something here worthwhile but I'd hate to start writing things for the primary reason of writing for others rather than myself. I find a lot of truth in Mr. Wark's article but then I wonder if we evolve in the manner he predicts, what is going to separate the bloggers from the paid publications?


Now, the MonkuWino shadow already knows how the movie version of OneWinePerWeek is going to begin. MonkuWino (played by Hugh Laurie) will utter his enigmatic, famous last word:

Emerson.

Friday, September 7, 2007

2004 Bodegas Almanseñas Almansa La Huella de Adaras

Well a couple of apologies are in order here, first for the lateness of the posting. I was out of town from yesterday afternoon until late afternoon today and was catching up on some other stuff. It was a business trip up to Portland and let me say, the area up there is beautiful. And the weather so much cooler up there than here in the San Gabriel Valley! Secondly I apologize for the long, long title of today's post but blame it on the winemakers.

At least I don't have to apologize for the picture like I usually do. It came out pretty good, I thought. That's not my fingerprint smudged on it, that's the label.

Today's wine, the 2004 Bodegas Almanseñas Almansa La Huella de Adaras, was $8.99 from the L.A. Wine Company. This does not appear to be a very common wine and its only my own notes that appear on Cellar Tracker. You can click here and here for more information on the web.

This wine comes from the Valencia region of Spain and is apparently composed of 40% monastrell, 40% tintorera, and 20% shiraz (at least that's what the 2005 is and I'm just guessing at the 2004). Monastrell is the same as what the French call mourvedre.

Colorwise, this wine was a beautiful dark violet/purple. On the nose I perceived juicy black fruits, along with meaty, smoky, cedary aromas. It was more of the same on the palate, plus a brambly component and a bit of chocolate. Initially smooth and fruity, the tannins and acidity emerged at the end along with a long, graphite-like finish. Nice texture. Sounds pretty complex, huh? The fruit and meaty qualities were the most prominent and the other parts were more subtle but they all combined to make this a really nice wine. And for $8.99, incredibly good QPR.

If you can find this anywhere I'd recommend it. The average value per Cellar Tracker, of 4 users, is $12.68 so I guess I got a bargain at the LAWC. This is a no-brainer two thumbs way up!

Thursday, September 6, 2007

New California Wine Czar is Sworn In

California has its first-ever Wine Czar.

Flying through the nomination confirmation process with nary a hitch, William Jefferson Clinton was officially sworn into office on the steps of the Capitol Building in Sacramento yesterday by Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger.

“It is truly an honor to have a former president of the United States serving as an official in our wonderful state,” declared the Governator. “I am particularly pleased that the confirmation process moved smoothly and swiftly. It is too bad that my other agenda cannot do the same,” he joked.

When asked why he thought there were few, if any snags on the journey from nomination to confirmation, the Governator replied, “There’s a reason why President Clinton – I am so used to calling him that – was known as the ‘teflon president.’ Despite all the mischief he was up to in the White House, he came out clean as a whistle. And with more furniture when he left than when he came in, I might add. He’s too likable of a guy to reject.”

A smiling Clinton thanked the Governator for his remarks. “You know, I’ve always enjoyed wine, even, I confess, when I was under age. I loved trying wines although I did not inhale. I’m truly looking forward to making California’s wine industry even more successful than it already is. The future is bright.”

The position of Wine Czar will demand that Clinton spend most of his time in California. A reporter pointed out that he will be on opposite ends of the nation from his wife, presidential candidate Hillary Clinton. “That’s just a sacrifice I will have to bear in the name of the job,” Clinton replied, unable to control his enthusiasm.

Someone mentioned the irony of Clinton’s former vice-president’s nomination for the same post recently going down in flames because of perceived hypocritical behavior. Clinton chuckled. “Our global warming must have melted his teflon armor. Seriously, Al’s a good guy and I’m sorry it had to happen this way.”

“I am not only very pleased and happy for our incredible wine industry,” added Governor Schwarzenegger, “but for my personal self as well. Slick Willie here,” he said while motioning to the ex-president, “is even more of a ladies man than I am. I think this is the beginning of a beautiful friendship,” he laughed.

“We are just two wild and crazy guys!” Clinton chimed in.

***Grape personification department: The following excerpt is an entry from the Oxford Companion to Wine, 3rd Edition, edited by Jancis Robinson. I thought it was kind of funny given today's fictitious post (but the excerpt below is for real).

Monica: red grape variety grown in great quantity on SARDEGNA, where some varietal Monica di Sardegna is thus labeled. It is thought to have originated in Spain (although it is not known in modern Spain). Its wines are generally undistinguished and should be drunk young, although more recent wines from the Santadi co-operative suggest that with yields lower than the current 15 tonnes/ha, Monica could be a pleasurable, if not always memorable, wine.

***Tomorrow: back to reality with the review of the one wine per this week, and it's a good one.

Wednesday, September 5, 2007

More OneWinePerWeek Stats


I was wondering what, if anything, to write about today when I ran across this post on Catavino's wine blog. They were discussing the subject of visitor statistics - like how many visits, what method, what does it mean, etc., and they also issued a challenge to wine bloggers everywhere to join in and share their own stats. So that's what I am doing today.

As you can see from the above graph, freshly taken this morning, Google Analytics tells me I have had 1,219 visitors during the past 30 days. As you can also see, the majority of them happened by on one particular day and then it trailed off. The effect of this giant spike is to make everything else on the other days seem insignificant by comparison (well I guess it is insignificant), like they're all zeroes. Yesterday, for example, there were 15 visitors but you really can't tell from the graph.

Catavino uses several means to measure site traffic and they are all in disagreement with one another. So they wonder which one is the most accurate. I only use Google Analytics and still wonder how accurate it is because when I look at some of the referring sites and go to the actual page that generated the visit to my site, in some cases I can't figure out how the visitor got from point A (referring site) to point B (my site) because I see no link.

When I first started this blog, I thought it would be fun but I also didn't expect to have many, if any, visitors. So when the stats showed that I actually had some traffic, I was pleasantly surprised, as well as pleased. Hey, 10-20 people in a day was a LOT to my way of thinking. Then after that spike I got numbers-hungry (there were 572 visitors that one day, a dot by many standards but gigantic relative to little ol' onewineperweek) and was trying to think of ways to generate more traffic.

But why? I hadn't even expected any visitors at all when I began a short while ago and then my 15 minutes of fame caused me to get fixated on numbers. When I think about it, of what relevance is anything I post on this site anyway? I'd say the weekly wine reviews might be useful to people (assuming you can still find any of the wines) but the other stuff that has to fill in the remainder of the week - does it matter?

I like writing spoofs, but that's all they are -just spoofs- so they have no relevance to the world of wine. And the other stuff, like my obsession with the temperatures inside of my little Emerson Suite wine storage units - of what interest would that be to someone else? Other wine blogs I read feature wine tasting notes much more prominently, or else discuss matters of a more global and wine-relevant nature.

I dunno.. but nevertheless I still continue to write just for the heck of it. Another weird idea for a post will invade my brain and I eagerly jot it down to expand on it later.

Getting back to the original topic broached by Catavino.. I appreciate what they do to educate people about the wines of Spain and Portgual. Their blog serves a good purpose. And most understandably we are all curious as to how many people out there are reading what we write. But are the numbers really important if we are not conducting a commercial enterprise? For someone like Gary Vaynerchuk, it's important but for someone like me, other than for my ego, what difference does it make? If the numbers start getting too big I'm going to start feeling like I have to write for the readers rather than for myself.

(By the way - on Wine Library TV episode 307 doesn't Gary have kind of an Asian look? Haha, like an old Asian man.. I would have posted that comment over there but I didn't want to have people get offended and call me a racist - even though I'm Asian meselfs).

I briefly considered subscribing to Google Ad-Sense (i.e,, allowing Google to post ads on my site) but decided against it, one because I figured there wouldn't be enough traffic to generate even a dollar's worth of revenue for me, and two, personally I didn't feel right about having ads on this blog site.

Anyways.. we're a numbers society. Look at the stampede Robert Parker incites for wines he deems worthy of 90+ scores. And I'm still gonna be checking my Google stats on a daily basis even though I claim it has no relevance to my blog. Well, this is my response to Catavino's "challenge" of the day. I hesitated about it since my numbers are laughingly small, but if you get any pleasure from reading this blog, then that's all that matters.

***Tomorrow: Arnold announces California's new Wine Czar***

Tuesday, September 4, 2007

Inspiring Thirst

I know it’s been out for a while, but this is the book I am reading right now: Inspiring Thirst: Vintage Selections From the Kermit Lynch Wine Brochure, written, of course, by Kermit Lynch. Gail Skoff is given credit for the excellent photographs.

Most of you are probably familiar with Mr. Lynch and his informative monthly wine brochures. I used to save them all and thought what a good idea it would be to make a book out of them. Well I guess lots of people thought the same thing, including Mr. Lynch, so in 2004 that’s exactly what he did.

I won’t go into details about the book; you can read representative reviews here (and this is all probably old news to you anyway), but I just wanted to say that the title is indeed an appropriate one – it does inspire thirst.

Of course the author is writing with the intent of selling his own wine, but he imports some mighty fine bottles. What’s nice is he has the talent to write so skillfully about them. Rather than bombard the reader with scores from the Wine Advocate, Wine Spectator or other publication highlighted in bold with exclamation points flying left and right, he keeps it succinct, tasteful and interesting.

I like marveling at how cheap such wonderful bottles were back in his early days. Mazis-Chambertin, $85 per case? Chambertin Clos de Beze, $106 per case? Grand Cru Chablis @ $7.20 per bottle? If only we could take the money we have now and apply it back then..

What is also nice is that you can do your own updating to the book by simply downloading and printing out the .pdf files on his website.

The pages and binding are as high-quality as the content. Very impressive-looking. I confess I paid a bargain price for this one, $6.96 from the Amazon.com Marketplace. There’s several other copies with prices nearly as low on that site as well as on Half.com making it too good of a bargain to pass up. Even if you’ve saved all the original brochures/newsletters, it’s great to have them bound together in this handsome volume.

***

A little note about the content of this blog: You may have well noticed that there’s some fairly off-the-wall topics covered here. I would like to post more tasting notes but when you only drink one bottle of wine per week, well, that sort of puts a limit on things. It also means there are potentially six unfilled slots in the week.

You may have also noticed I like to write (or blabber or pontificate or whatever the case may be). I just enjoy writing and this blog is a convenient way to get it out of my system. Hopefully you will find some portion of it worthwhile, so I thank you for taking the time to visit.

Monday, September 3, 2007

Cheap Labor For Harvest Hits Snag

Apteryx Vineyard's general manager John Kovacs thought he had a grand idea.

The weather conditions in 2006 made for massive grape growth on their 22 acre parcel located in the Santa Cruz area of California, and that posed a massive problem for Kovacs. He didn't have enough people to harvest the grapes. When he sought to hire more employees, he discovered he was a Johnny-come-lately because all the other wineries in the surrounding areas had beaten him to the punch.

Then the lightbulb came on.

Kovacs called a long-time buddy in the maritime industry and arranged for a novel solution to his problem. Penguins. Not just any penguins, but emperor penguins. On August 29, just 5 days before the anticipated beginning of harvest, a whole shipload of penguins arrived at Half Moon Bay, just a few miles outside of Santa Cruz. From there they were herded into giant moving vans and quickly transported to the Apteryx vineyards.

Things were moving along swiftly and smoothly. Kovacs was particularly pleased with how quickly the penguins seemed to catch on to the task at hand. "I'd watched March of the Penguins several times and seen how intelligent these birds are. I thought, their sheer volume is going to knock out the harvesting in no time. Heck, I could even use them to crush the grapes if need be. I was totally excited about my idea and wondered why no one had thought of it before. And how fitting, they'd begin the harvest on Labor Day."

Then things went awry.

"There they were, out in the vineyard ready to go, then it hit me. Their wings are too short and stubby to pick anything," sighed Kovacs. "And for some reason they don't have very good eye/beak coordination so they kept puncturing the grapes when trying to pick using their beaks."

So what do you do with a huge herd (flock? gaggle? beach crowd?) of underutilized penguins?

"We herded them back into the trucks, got them on board the ship and watched them sail away back to Antarctica." Kovacs shook his head. "Good-natured little fellows, though. Not a complaint from any of them. They just piled on the ship and some even waved goodbye as they left the port. Such good attitude and work ethics. Maybe McDonalds should think about using them."

Kovacs still has to figure out how to cover the harvest of abundance that is still sitting on the vines, but at least he had an experience he'll never forget.

Happy Labor Day to you all!

***ADDENDUM***

Of course the above is all a silly jest, but I just read a serious blog post about the genuine article, the real labor that goes into those bottles we all enjoy. It's up for toasting on Wine Life Today, and to see the post, click here: Vinography.