Friday, May 30, 2008

2004 Barreto Cellars Vinho Tinto

Here's a not very common wine both in grape varieties ("Vinho Tinto" - this is a blend of 41% Tempranillo, 41% Touriga, 16% Tannat and 2% Souzao - originally I was thinking Vinho Tinto was a variety itself.. shows you what I know!) and the winery (Barreto Cellars), which is a shame because they did some good things with these grapes.

Earthy, cigarette smoke, oak/wood chip, roses and concord grape juice in the aromas. On the palate, this wine had a very lush, even slippery texture with round, juicy tannins. Very nice flavors of plum, dark fruits, soy sauce, chocolate, meat juice, leather and hints of coffee with a long aftertaste.

This wine is drinking very well right now. It was $17.99 from WineQ and well worth it. Two thumbs up! Supple and smooooth.

Here's the matching YouTube music video that I think goes nicely with the wine. If you don't see the video below, please click here.

Here's the link to the CD at War - All Day Music

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Invasion of the Bottle Snatchers

Few people are aware that the 1956 sci-fi/horror movie classic, Invasion of the Body Snatchers, was actually based on a short fictional piece that appeared in the now defunct Wine Examiner magazine in 1953.

It’s also commonly believed, and mistakenly so, that the movie was a thinly veiled criticism of the McCarthy era. The truth is the Wine Examiner article was amazingly prescient, focusing on a controversy that rages today over what some have termed the “Parkerization” of wines.

Parkerization” is a reference to the actions of some winemakers to vinify their wines in such a way as to gain the favor of Robert M. Parker Jr., considered by many to be the world’s most influential wine critic. By making their wines in a style that he apparently favors, wine producers hope to have high praise and high scores heaped on their wines by Mr. Parker, which in turn translates to high demand and high dollars for the wines.

Of course the Wine Examiner article is not referring to Mr. Parker since he was only six years old at the time it was published, but the article itself is rather spooky since it foretold of an era in which wines would lose their individuality and be tailored to please a “Mr. Big,” the grand-master of all wine in the known world.

In fact, the original plans were to make a movie from the original article and even use the original title, “Invasion of the Bottle Snatchers.” At the last minute the idea was canned because studio executives felt that the subject of wine was not popular enough to draw sufficient crowds to the theater. Thus, the original cast was retained but the script was rewritten to change what had been large seed pods containing bottles of wine into huge seed pods containing artificial humans.

In the original article, Miles Bennell (played by Kevin McCarthy) is the owner of a wine shop. He prides himself on the wide variety of wines he keeps in stock, ones that reflect the true characteristics of the grape variety as well as the region in which they were grown.

Miles returns to town after a lengthy vacation and finds that business has increased tremendously at a competitor’s store. The owner of the store, Jack Belicec (played by King Donovan) is a good friend of Miles and they engage in friendly competition with the utmost respect for each other’s wine and business acumen.

Miles and his girlfriend Becky Driscoll (played by Dana Wynter) are headed out the door of Mile’s house to see Jack when they see Jack and his wife, Teddy (Carolyn Jones) approaching, walking up the steps and appearing very nervous.

Below is a snippet from the screenplay as it was originally written:

Miles: Hi Jack, Teddy.. we were just coming to see you.

Jack: I guess we beat you to it, Miles. Welcome back from vacation.

Becky: Business is booming at your store, Jack. We were headed over to congratulate you and find out why all of a sudden the crowds.

Jack: That’s why we’re here. Crazy thing. The customers are buying up all my wine like crazy and I can’t figure it out. I opened a few bottles to taste them and.. (shakes head and stops talking).

Miles: And?

Teddy: Tell him, Jack.

Jack: (still shaking head) No, it’s crazy.

Teddy: Tell him! Go ahead. Miles is your best friend.

Jack: Well, it’s crazy. Those aren’t my wines.

Miles: What? What are you talking about?

Jack: What I mean is, yes they’re my wines but they aren’t. I know that sounds goofy. Let me try to explain. They’re the bottles I bought, with the right labels, and the wine tastes like the grape listed on the label but it.. it’s just not the same wine.

Becky: What do you mean, Jack? How can it not be the same? You mean it’s counterfeit?

Jack: No, not counterfeit. I mean, it’s the wine it is supposed to be, but I know it isn’t. It’s uh, missing something. I can’t explain it but it just isn’t right. The Cheval Blanc tastes like a Cheval Blanc and I would immediately recognize it, but there’s something missing from it.

Miles: I don’t get it.

Teddy: We don’t get it either! But you’ve got to taste the wines and see for yourself.

Jack: Except they’re all gone. I’m sold out of every single bottle, if you can believe that. The whole store is empty. Miles, am I crazy?

Miles: Jack, I’ve known you too long. If you say there’s something not right, then I believe you. I wish I could try one myself.

And that’s how the story originally began. As the days pass, more and more wine is brought into Jack’s store and it sells out right away. With each successive shipment, Jack finds that all the different wines taste more and more alike. Meanwhile, Miles’ inventory just sits there with nary a taker.

As the story progresses, the protagonists are horrified to discover a sinister plot in which wine is being transformed into muted specimens that lack all traces of individuality so that it is impossible to differentiate one from another. This seems to be spreading, from their little shop in Sierra Madre, California, throughout the state.

Miles for some reason has been able to retain wines that express their individuality, and refuses to submit to the evil forces that advocate stripping them of their unique traits. Here is another scene from the script, in which Miles has a chilling encounter with a wine rep who represents the evil side:

Rep: Look, Miles, you know I’ve been working with you for what – 14 years now? And have I ever steered you wrong? You know I’ve supplied you with the best I’ve had.

Miles: That’s true, but what happened to you? You’re not the same rep I remember from just a few months ago.

Rep: Miles, accept it. The world is changing. Wine is changing. What you sell now – do you really think people are going to want this stuff? Just come over to our side. Buy a few of the samples I’m offering and see for yourself. Jack did, and look at him now. Driving a Cadillac and living in that mansion. Drinking Lafite every night..

Miles: That’s not Lafite! It’s.. it’s some monster! And why would you want to drink that every single night? (shakes head angrily) Jack! My friend Jack! How could you do that to him?

Rep: I didn’t do anything to Jack. He chose to see the light and it paid off. It was painless. It’ll be painless for you, too. Here – just take these cases and see.

Miles: Get out! Get out of here! I will never lose my individuality or the individuality of my wines! You hear me??

Rep: I hear you, Miles. That’s what they all say. Jack said it, too. But sooner or later, they all came around. You will, too.

Miles: Never. I don’t want any part of it.

Rep: You’re forgetting something, Miles.

Miles: Huh?

Rep: You don’t have a choice.

Miles stands frozen as the statement from the rep sinks in. Suddenly he grabs a bottle of wine off the shelf, first checking to make sure it isn’t a first growth, and clubs the rep over the head then runs out of the store.

Unfortunately, footage from the movie as originally intended is practically non-existent. Parts of it were deemed to be just as relevant to the discovery of life-sucking seed pods from outer space as it was to discovering wine was losing its individuality and soul, so it was spliced into the trailer, however. These parts also appear in some sections of the altered version that became the theater version of Invasion of the Body Snatchers.

Watch the trailer below and see if you can figure out which parts came from the original Invasion of the Bottle Snatchers version. If you can't see the trailer, please click here.

See the DVD product page at Inavasion of the Body Snatchers

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

WBW #1,783 - Writer's Block Wednesday

Not much to say today. Just thought I'd post the shipping label from a wine order that arrived last week that I found amusing (see REF 2 at the bottom).

Is that sort of like those signs that say "warning, carry pizza horizontally, not vertically," or "warning, coffee may be hot?" But then I live in the looney bin state, California, where you have to warn everybody about everything lest vulturis attorneyas descend upon you.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Local Wine Icon Signed For Next Indy Pic

Riding high on the huge box office take during the Memorial Day weekend premier of Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull, Paramount Pictures announced today that it has signed Harrison Ford for yet another sequel in the enormously popular Indiana Jones series.

Indiana Jones and the Chateau of Shadows is set to begin filming sometime later this year. For the first time in the series, CGI will be employed to render one of the leading characters: Budo Kun, a well-known icon in the wine world, has been signed to play Indy's sidekick in the upcoming 5th chapter of the series.

Chateau of Shadows centers around the Bordeaux region of France, circa 1959. Indy has recently acquired a taste for fine wine and as a result, has exchanged his pursuit of rare archaeological treasures for an unquenchable thirst for rare wines.

Using the same techniques he employed to unearth finds such as the Ark of the Ten Commandments, the Holy Grail, and the Crystal Skull, Indy's attention is now focused on unearthing the world's greatest wines.

Intrigued by rumors of an ancient Bordeaux chateau still producing pre-phylloxera wines that are said to give eternal life to those who drink them, Indy enlists the aid of fellow treasure hunter and reknown wine expert Budo Kun to find this chateau and sample the elixir it produces.

As in every good action movie there has to be an antagonist and this is played to the hilt by Ruben the Rubber Chicken, who hams (fowls?) it up by foiling the protagonists efforts at every turn.

Given that both Budo Kun and Ruben the Rubber Chicken will have to be computer-generated onto the screen, this gives the producers even more license than ever to plaster the movie with special effects, often to the detriment of the plot.

When asked about the excessive special effects, a spokesperson for Paramount had this to say: "Yes it is true, there are a ton of special effects. But that is what people want to see. They need something big and bold to hit them in the face and get their attention these days. We thought that would make a good analogy with what is happening in the wine world as well as American Idol. We're only reflecting reality."

The preliminary tagline for the movie was also announced: Who knows what evil lurks in the heart of man? The chateau do!

Friday, May 23, 2008

2005 Cameron Hughes Lot 38

Lot 38 of this Cameron Hughes release is 100% Shiraz from 100-year-old vines in Australia's Barossa Valley. The way Cameron raved about it when this wine was released, I couldn't resist risking the $20 he was charging to see what all the fuss was about.

Well Cameron was right. His lauding of the wine was not hyperbole, and this was not a fat fruit bomb like one might be expecting, but instead a wine with plenty going on in a very good way.

Dark purple color. Aromas of: spice, earth, smoked meat, pepper, cherries, other berries, and granite. The palate followed suit with similar flavors and added black olives along with chocolate-covered cherries. Succulent tannins were present also, but very nicely integrated with everything else. It's got 15% alcohol but that was buried under all the flavor.

I have no clue how this will age but it sure tastes good now. There's lots of things besides fruit in this wine so when the fruit subsides with age, it should get pretty interesting. Two thumbs up!

Here's the YouTube music video I chose to accompany the wine. If you can't see the video below, please click here.

Here's the link to the product page for the CD: Stevie Wonder - Innervisions

Thursday, May 22, 2008


Yesterday I posted a review of Benamin Wallace’s book, The Billionaire's Vinegar. It’s an excellent book and I highly recommend it even for those who know little or nothing about wine.

What struck me from reading this book is how little regard there is to the provenance of the old bottles that are purchased by wine collectors. Now I suppose some of them buy the wines merely as trophies, but as I have said before, I feel wine is made for drinking. Tasting the contents would be the thrill for me of acquiring something old and/or rare, not placing it under a spotlight or making sure everyone knew I had bragging rights to the wine.

But given how wine changes hands and there are so many hands involved, as well as the fact that people are basically greedy and will do anything for money, how can you really be sure that the old wine you pay so much money for is any good? And that it is authentic?

I guess the older the wine, the bigger the gamble. You just have to take that chance, although myself, I doubt that I would be very trusting of the whole process without having supporting documentation of the highest integrity.

And who’s to say what you are tasting is even the real thing? Unless we have extensive tasting experience and a supreme confidence in our own tasting abilities, how do we know what one of these old treasures is supposed to taste like? Would we be able to detect a forgery?

Of course, I’m thinking about this from the perspective of someone who could never afford to dabble in the world of fine wine collecting. My own collection averages under $20 per bottle and I have to think long and hard whenever a bottle over $25 or $30 tempts me. I could never bring myself to spend thousands of dollars on a bottle of wine given the risk of its having gone south, or the wine inside not being what it is supposed to be.

But when I run across a $10 bottle of wine that I’ve never heard of that looks tempting, that’s a whole different story. I take the risk, buy the wine, and if it turns out to be a lemon, well, chalk it up to experience. It’s no big dent on my pocketbook.

Well looking at it from the perspective of the rich folks who engage in collecting expensive wines, spending a few thousand dollars in hopes of landing a great bottle of wine is probably no different than my own poor self pulling out a ten-spot for that bottle on the shelf with a question mark on it.

And as for whether the wine is genuine or not, rich or poor we’re all the same. If we want to believe something, we’ll make ourselves believe it.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

The Billionaire's Vinegar - A Review

Most, if not all of you reading this blog are aware of the most expensive bottle of wine ever purchased: the 1787 Lafite, supposedly owned by Thomas Jefferson, that was purchased at a 1985 Christie’s auction for the incredible sum of 105,000 British pounds (roughly $156,000 U.S.). And most of you are probably more aware than me regarding the account of the controversy that developed over the authenticity of this bottle, as well as others from the same collection that apparently belonged to the ex-president who was also known as a wine connoisseur.

These bottles were discovered by a fellow named Hardy Rodenstock. It seems that Rodenstock had a knack for sniffing out very rare and very old wines, making quite the name for himself in the wine world for doing so, while getting rich in the process.

Rodenstock never revealed any details of his discoveries, however. It was this lack of information combined with suspicions that arose among parties who purchased the wines and those who investigated them that created rumors that these and other bottles found and subsequently sold by Rodenstock were fakes.

You can read articles on Wikipedia and The New Yorker that present good synopses of the events surrounding the controversy that still exists today. And/or you can read a more elaborate account in the form of Benjamin Wallace’s new book, The Billionaire’s Vinegar - The Mystery of the World’s Most Expensive Bottle of Wine.

This was the most fascinating book I’ve read in a long time. My copy was an advance, uncorrected proof edition supplied by the publisher but I’m sure the final edition is substantially the same.

From the beginning Wallace had me eagerly turning the pages to see how this mystery would unravel.

Along the way we are introduced to an interesting cast of characters: the well-known wine critics, the very rich who could afford to purchase these rare old bottles, those who conducted investigations to ferret out the truth behind the bottles, Bordeaux chateau owners and principals, and the man behind the bottles, Rodenstock himself.

It’s all put together smoothly with an engaging writing style that ensures there’s never a dull moment. Wallace did a great job of building up the suspense, starting with the auctioning of the famous bottle and continuing with the increasing suspicions of various parties regarding the authenticity of that and other bottles discovered and sold by Rodenstock, and what was done to investigate that authenticity (or lack thereof).

About the price Forbes paid for the wine: $156,000. That’s an exorbitant sum of money, but let’s put that into perspective in terms of what it means to someone who is a billionaire. That represents .000156 of $1,000,000,000. Let’s compare that against a more “normal” sum of money that a person might have or earn, such as $50,000. .000156 of $50,000 is $7.80. So a billionaire purchasing a bottle of wine for $156,000 is relatively speaking, like a more “average” person spending $7.80 on a bottle of wine. Heck, drop in the bucket! Even a ‘two-buck chuck’ wine to a billionaire would then be a $40,000 bottle of wine. Peanuts!

I write pretty lame book reviews but let me just say that the book rates a no-brainer two thumbs up from me. I doubt that you will be disappointed; it’s fascinating! Here is the link to the product page at if you are interested: The Billionaire's Vinegar

Monday, May 19, 2008

Cal Wine Czar Issues Wine Stimulus Checks

California Wine Czar Bill Clinton today announced his own version of the recently enacted Economic Stimulus Plan.

"I think it is great," said the former president and now Wine Czar for the state of California, ".. that citizens and non-citizens alike are getting up to $600 to put back into revitalizing our slumping economy. I would like to do something similar for California."

A reporter asked Clinton if this inferred that wine sales are slumping in the state.

"Oh, not at all," replied Clinton. "Wine sales are doing fine. But votes for Hillary seem to have taken a downward turn and that's not good. That is why I have introduced my Vote Stimulus Package. It's time to reverse this slump and put the right person into the White House."

A spokesperson for the Wine Czar outlined the plan, which is quite simple. Buy any California wine that has a picture of Hillary Clinton on it. Soak off the label and send it with a sworn affidavit that you will vote for her when she runs against John McCain after storming her way through the Democratic National Convention and seizes the nomination. A wine stimulus check in the amount of $50 will be sent to the person submitting these items.

Clinton was asked what happens in the event Obama wins the nomination instead of Hillary, and also asked if they were really going to rely on someone's word about who they voted for, when there is no way to verify that.

"Look, consider this the same as a rebate check," answered Clinton. "Does anyone really get back rebate checks? Notice on the Hillary label it says to allow 8-10 months for the stimulus check to appear. Now that could actually mean from the time Hillary is elected, or sworn in, or for her 2nd term, or whenever. We'll deal with actually having to cough up the money when the time comes. You seem to forget I was known as the 'Teflon President.'"


Well as you can probably tell from the above that I was dry on ideas today. Anyway, I did get my $600 check the other day and did I go spend it on something wine-related? Nope! Instead I got a couple of toys from (see above picture): A Flip Video Ultra Camcorder and a Zoom H2 Digital Recorder.

I guess these could become wine-related, such as using the camcorder to do video reviews a la Gary Vaynerchuk, or use the digital recorder for tasting notes. But probably not.. they're just both a lot of fun to play around with! So that's today's semi-wine-related blog post.

Friday, May 16, 2008

2005 Twisted Oak %@#$!

Also known informally as "Potty Mouth White," this wine is a blend of 58% Roussanne and 42% Marsanne.

I have to say that I was making some faces upon my first sip, as in, I don't really like this. A reviewer on Cellar Tracker likened this wine to "stale peanut brittle" and I was thinking that's probably a pretty apt description.

So I let it sit there for a while. As the wine warmed up and got some air, it improved. It improved a lot. The key to drinking this wine, at least to me at this moment in time in the wine's development, is to let it warm to room temperature, as though it were a red wine. Under that condition, here are my impressions:

I thought the aromas were like nuts and caramel, but I was also reminded of pastries from Solvang (for those who are unfamiliar with Solvang, it is a small Danish town just north of Santa Barbara where you can buy some really good Danish pastries), both the fruit topping and the pastry itself.

On the palate it got even more interesting. Rich and even oily at times, there were buttery peaches, popcorn, butterscotch, slate, caramel, smoked meat, and a streak of lemon. And they all got along with each other and weren't talking potty mouth to one another! The wine had a fat, long finish.

If you're looking for a crisp, refreshing wine, look elsewhere. As it says on the Twisted Oak site, this is "almost like a red wine." It's rich, full-bodied, and full of complex flavors. This bottle came from WineQ and cost $23.99, although right now you can grab it direct from Twisted Oak for $18.00. At $23.99 it is worth it, and of course at $18.00 even better, although you can get free shipping from WineQ if you join their club. I thought the url for this wine on WineQ was pretty funny: -- "cuss" as in potty mouth or %@#$!

A big wine like this needs a fitting YouTube music video. If you can't see the video below, please click here for the musical accompaniment for the wine.

Here is the link to the product page for the CD: Led Zeppelin II

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Practical Uses for Old Wine

I’m in the middle of reading Benjamin Wallace’s newly-released book, The Billionaire's Vinegar: The Mystery of the World's Most Expensive Bottle of Wine. The bottle referred to in the title is the 1787 Lafite Rothschild, supposedly owned by Thomas Jefferson, that sold for a record price of $156,000 at a 1985 Christie’s Auction.

So far it is fascinating and I plan to do a full review of the book as soon as I am entirely finished (which ought to be soon).

I’ve always wondered what it would be like to taste really old wines. The thought of sampling a wine from the 18th century is mind-boggling. I would think that wines that had any sort of age on them, much less 200 years, would be fragile, very much at the mercy of the environment they were in.

Yet it sounds to me like these old treasures that are put up for auction are not handled very well. They may have been resting peacefully in someone’s cellar for eons, but when discovered and placed in the sales process, it seems they are subjected to less-than-ideal temperatures and lighting conditions. Wouldn’t you think the sellers and purchasers of such expensive items would take steps to insure a temperature-controlled journey for the wines from discovery to final destination? Why would I want to spend thousands of dollars on something that had not been handled properly?

Then on the other hand, I guess many collectors buy these wines for trophies. My two cents is, a wine is to drink. Why buy a bottle of wine just to put under a spotlight? Well I know why some people do it, but to me that’s a shame. No matter how expensive a wine may be, the thrill is in drinking it, not in looking at it or enjoying bragging rights to it.

Anyway, so far the book is a real page-turner (especially since I don’t know the real story behind this bottle) but I keep going back to thoughts about what a shame it is to buy a bottle of wine and not enjoy it by drinking what is inside.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

WBW #45 - The Director's Cut Edition

Being in my usual brain-dead state, I had extreme difficulty coming up with a post for today so I thought I would borrow a trick from the studios who market movies on DVD.

At first I thought I would borrow from the TV world and simply tell you that summer is almost here and now it is time for reruns, then proceed to just reprint some blogs of the past. I wouldn’t want you to feel cheated, though, so instead I am going to offer you more for your money (but don’t forget it costs nothing to read this blog).

So for your reading pleasure, today I present the DIRECTOR’S CUT and SPECIAL EDITION of my Wine Blogging Wednesday #45 post, a review of an Old World Riesling.

I have added the additional features to the original article that you will only find in this post: Additional commentary; deleted tasting notes; details of stemware used; extra YouTube videos, and other things to get your attention!

The original article is in black; the special Director’s Cut / Special Edition features are in colored italics.


The theme for this month's Wine Blogging Wednesday was suggested by Tim Elliott Director’s Comment: Hmm.. does his name have one ‘l’ or two? Or one ‘t’ or two? I wouldn’t want to get him upset. Better check out his site again just to be sure. over at Winecast, His pick: Old World Rieslings. Director’s Comment: Oh I am so glad I purchased this from Garagiste so I don’t have to go running all over town looking for something.

I just happened to have one handy and it turned out to be a good one. The 1994 Schloss Schönborn Hochheimer Hölle Riesling Kabinett was a mouthful to say (I wouldn't even attempt it) as well as to drink. Blooper Outake: Opps, I spelled the name wrong 29 times before I finally got it right for the blog, hahaha. And I spelled ‘oops’ wrong in this sentence, also, hahaha. Director’s Comment: Why do they have to make these names so darn long???

This particular bottle came from Garagiste Director’s Comment: Do I put in a link to their site or not? No, first of all it’s like Garagiste is some big secret and secondly, their site is weird anyway and set me back $11.99. That's an outrageous price for something this good. Note: this was purchased in the latter part of 2007 Director’s Comment: I guess I could look up exactly when I bought it but I’m too lazy. Does anyone really care? so we're talking $11.99 at today's prices, not back in the 90's. Director’s Comment: Shipping was about $3 a bottle, though, which I didn’t mention in the original article. This was balanced out by not having to pay the leeches from the State Board of Equalization for sales tax, however.

Stemware note: The wine was drunk from a Riedel “Extreme Sauvignon Blanc” stem. I mean, the wine wasn’t drunk like the wine had swallowed too much alcohol, I mean I drank the wine. You know what I mean. I thought this was best for sampling a Riesling. Blooper Outake: Opps, I spilled a little bit. Oh I spelled ‘oops’ wrong again.

The light medium-gold color gave no indication of a nearly 14-year old wine. It took a lot of swirling to get the aromas to open up and even so, they remained reticent. I detected petrol and rubber/auto repair garage notes, as well as green apple. Director’s Comment: How come I can hardly smell anything? Is my nose going bad? Better blow it. Blooper Outake: Next time use a Kleenex, too. Deleted tasting note: Yes, it’s like walking through my mechanic’s garage.

The palate was much more flavorful: Mainly succulent apples backed by fresh, crisp acidity that led into a long finish of green apples, lemons and limes. It had excellent balance and concentration. Director’s Comment: This wine doesn’t taste anywhere near that old. I wonder if this is really newer wine that they put a 1994 label on? How would anyone know? Maybe Benajmin Wallace can investigate.

No way did this wine seem that old! The only negative was that the aromas never did open up that much but for the price, this was a real bargain. Two thumbs up. Director’s Comment: Can’t I think of something more original than stealing from Siskel and Ebert? Oh well, they probably stole that from someone themselves. I wonder how accurate my notes are? But then what are the chances anyone else reading this blog has this wine? I could write anything about it and who would know? D’oh! I hope Dr. Debs didn’t buy it!

Special Bonus YouTube accompanying music videos for this wine can be found on disc two of this Director’s Cut / Special Edition.

Huh? Where is that??? Blogs have discs???

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Cameron Hughes Lot 57 Redux

Today's kind of a slow day in my head so I will follow the way of network television and do a repeat here.

Actually it isn't totally a repeat; it's just a retasting of a wine I was on the fence about back in December because it was one dimensional then but seemed to have potential: The Cameron Hughes Lot 57 2006 Chardonnay.

Back then, I said I'd pull out the other bottle I had in a year to see how it had evolved but I forgot I'd said that, so out it came this weekend (still, that's 5 months). Back then I said oak, butterscotch and caramel. Would this three-trick pony be any better this time around?

Light straw in color, the nose was closed-in. On the palate this wine had gotten much tighter. It still had a dimension of oak, but the fat butterscotch and caramel tastes had run away somewhere. In its place were melon and pear flavors with just a touch of lemon and spice. It seemed a lot younger this time than the first time, but once again, it also seemed like the fruit was imprisoned, just waiting to come out.

I'll never know how this wine develops since it was my last bottle, but I think there's good potential inside that needs a few more months to show itself.

Here's the matching YouTube music video for this wine. The word that came to mind about this wine was "veiled" and it made me think of the song in the video. I think now someone should throw a heavy veil over this woman's voice because it goes haywire in this video (no reflection on the wine.. and I did buy the album way back in 1973 or 1974 when it was first released). If you can't see the video below, please click here.

If you want the studio version that has a tighter rein on the vocals, here's the link to the CD on Amazon: Maria Muldaur

Monday, May 12, 2008

Republic of Budo Kun??

In a surprise move yesterday, California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger unveiled a new state flag for the republic.

“I tell you, I was getting reahlly tired of that beahr,” explained the Governor. “Then I happened across this cute little fellow while reading my usual wine blogs and how he has gotten in so much trouble through no fault of his own. I felt sorry for him and wanted to do something nice to make him feel better.”

Some legislators thought that the Governor’s actions were inappropriate. “He railroaded this through without even taking a vote,” complained Fabian Nunez, Speaker of the House. “And this thing isn’t even an animal, it’s some made-up creature. On top of that, he represents an online wine seller, no less. How can he go on the flag of our honorable state? Is he even here legally?”

“Fabian is just a sissy-man,” retorted Schwarzenegger. “He’d rather have that stupid looking beahr on the flag with that drooling, lascivious look on his face? If he wants a beahr, let’s put Smokey da Beahr on there instead. But for now we have Budo Kun and while I am governor, he will stay put.”

Nunez snapped back, “I would have thought the esteemed governor would want to keep that ‘beahr,’ as he puts it, on the flag since it seems to resemble him especially around younger females.”

For a while it appeared that the Governor would come to blows with his Speaker of the House but the issue was settled amicably when the Governor gave his blessings to Nunez to pursue issuing a drivers license to Budo Kun.

Friday, May 9, 2008

2006 Stephen Pannell Sauvignon Blanc

Am I cheating if I simply quote what a fine wine critic had to say about this wine and say I agree? Well, whatever, that's what I'm going to do because Josh Reynolds is much more eloquent than I:
Tanzer’s IWC (Josh Raynolds): “($20) Straw-green color. Lively aromas of citrus fruits, pear and melon, with an overlay of pungent herbs and white pepper. Creamy orange and pear flavors are lifted by crisp mineral and citrus zest flavors, giving this sauvignon an intriguing complexity. Gains weight and a sweet, poached pear quality on the spicy finish. 89pts”
This set me back $11.99 from Garagiste, and it is from their e-mail offering that I cut and pasted Mr. Raynold's review.

Actually, I found the herbs not so pungent, but nicely integrated with the rest of the wine. Not as aggressive as many Sauvignon Blancs, this wine nevertheless was unmistakably of that variety. Creamy and crisp at the same time, concentrated and tasty, this one deserves two thumbs up, especially for the price.

Here's a double feature YouTube video that goes along with the wine. If you can't see them below, please click here. And here (in order).

Here's the link to the product page for the music CD at It's a little uh, expensive though: Neon Philharmonic

Thursday, May 8, 2008

Has Bill Clinton Overstepped His Bounds?

California Wine Czar Bill Clinton has raised more than a few eyebrows with the latest of his relentless efforts to elect his wife and former First Lady to the White House.

“That is absolutely going too far,” said a spokesman for Barack Obama’s campaign. “Using his position as California Wine Czar to order California wineries to put an ad for Ms. Clinton on every single wine bottle being released until the primaries have been decided? Talk about abuse of power!”

The ad in question features a “2008” vintage label, a picture of Hillary Clinton, and “Vote For Hillary” plastered on the back of every California wine bottle that is being shipped to stores from now until the Democratic Convention has declared a winner of the primary. The order was issued by Mr. Clinton in a directive to every winery based in the state of California.

“How blatant can you be, Hillary?” asked her rival for the Democratic presidential nomination, Barack Obama. “Is this how you plan to run our country if elected?”

When asked for comment, Ms. Clinton responded, “Bill did this. I thought it was rather sweet of him. I do wish he would have given me a little more time to fix my hair better, though,” she laughed, attempting a stab at infrequent humor.

The former president had this to say about the matter. “The results of the primaries to date are unsettling. They are showing us that the American people do not seem to know what is best for them and something has to be done about it and done right away.”

He continued, “You know that both Hillary and I hate to lose. We are ruthless people and will stop at nothing to win the election. You’ve seen glimmers of this all during the primaries and now it is time to take off the gloves and do some stomping. Tricky Dick Nixon, Watergate and his band of hooligans were amateurs compared to us. This is just the beginning. We’ve got hidden cameras all over the place. Even if I get caught, what are they going to do to me? I’m the Teflon president!”

While reporters stood there with their mouths agape, Mr. Clinton reached below into the podium, pulled out a bottle of wine and took a lengthy swig.

Clinton then continued his rant. “Let’s see what Two-Buck Barack thinks about that! After Hillary sweeps the convention the next bottle is going to have a picture of the White House on the label along with ‘Domaine Hillary’ underneath it. Hey come to think of it I was there, too. Make that ‘Domaine Clinton,’” he chuckled, before taking another long swig.

“The man is drunk,” declared one reporter. “No wonder he’s mouthing off like that. I thought he could hold his liquor better.”

Another reporter had an answer about tolerating the alcohol. “I’m from the Wine Spectator,” he said, “here to cover the Wine Czar aspect of the story. But about him holding his liquor, you have to realize he’s drinking a California Cabernet and those are about 23% to 30% alcohol these days. It must have snuk up on him real quick. If we can get him to drink some Zinfandel he’ll really loosen up.”

Regardless of the cause, reporters took advantage of Clinton’s candid demeanor and began asking him questions about Monica Lewinsky, the former White House intern.

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

Wine Blogging Wednesday #45 - Old World Riesling

The theme for this month's Wine Blogging Wednesday was suggested by Tim Elliott over at Winecast, His pick: Old World Rieslings.

I just happened to have one handy and it turned out to be a good one. The 1994 Schloss Schönborn Hochheimer Hölle Riesling Kabinett was a mouthful to say (I wouldn't even attempt it) as well as to drink.

This particular bottle came from Garagiste and set me back $11.99. That's an outrageous price for something this good. Note: this was purchased in the latter part of 2007 so we're talking $11.99 at today's prices, not back in the 90's.

The light medium-gold color gave no indication of a nearly 14-year old wine. It took a lot of swirling to get the aromas to open up and even so, they remained reticent. I detected petrol and rubber/auto repair garage notes, as well as green apple.

The palate was much more flavorful: Mainly succulent apples backed by fresh, crisp acidity that led into a long finish of green apples, lemons and limes. It had excellent balance and concentration.

No way did this wine seem that old! The only negative was that the aromas never did open up that much but for the price, this was a real bargain. Two thumbs up.

Here's the matching YouTube music video for this wine. If you can't see it below, please click here.

And here's the link to the Amazon product page for the CD: Roberta Flack and Donny Hathaway

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

Feiring Takes On The Emperor!!!

(above: A child who became an adult.. an adult who became a writer.. a writer who wrote a book.. a book that overcame Parkerization: A Gladiator who defied an Emperor!!!!)

There was some buzz yesterday in the wine world about an article that appeared in the Los Angeles Times written by Alice Feiring. The headline of the article reads: ”California wine? Down the drain” and continues with, “Too much technology and a desire to play to the critics have produced overblown, overpriced vintages.” Please click here to read the article.

Ms. Feiring decries the current state of California wine and how it has gone down the toilet since the late 1970’s when California wines “whupped” their French counterparts with offerings that were “classically expressive and mostly low-tech” whereas since that time, “Today's California wines are overblown, over-alcoholed, over-oaked, overpriced and over-manipulated.”

She then goes on to declare that 90% of the rest of the world’s wines are in a similar state. However, just like in Star Wars, there is a new hope as some noble winemakers in France who don’t care about ratings have banded together to reverse this trend.

At the end of the article, we are told about its author: Alice Feiring is a journalist, food critic and the author of the forthcoming book, "The Battle for Wine and Love -- Or How I Saved the World from Parkerization."

So let me add my two cents.

I do have to say that many winemakers have jumped on the bandwagon to make overblown wines. California is certainly as guilty, if not more so, than any other region although I am mystified as to why she failed to mention Australia if she is talking about overblown and overdone stuff.

Also, she lambastes California wine yet goes on to say that we are not alone, and that 90% of the wine world is the same way. Well 90% is a pretty big portion of the whole, so how can you single out California if 90% of the entire wine world is that way?

Then going back to the 1970’s, indeed California “whupped” the French in many competitions but it was because California wines were bolder and more fruit-forward than the French ones. Not because they expressed terroir or were more subtle or earthy or whatever, but because of the fruit. I don’t know where she got the idea they were more “classically expressive.” If the Old-World style is supposed to be the classical style, even back in the 1970’s that was not the way you would describe California wines. California wines as "classically expressive?" Compared to what??

Pretty bold statements she makes. But at the end of the article, we find out why: Ms. Feiring has a forthcoming book with the attention-grabbing title, “The Battle for Wine and Love – Or How I Saved the World From Parkerization.”

Wow, one woman against the world! And against the mighty Parker, no less! Step back, Spaniard is entering the arena!

Give me a break. While there are parts that ring true in her article, it is nothing more than a promotion for her upcoming book. How convenient that her article just happens to appear in the Opinion section of the Times as it is about to be released, eh? I would compare her article and its sensationalist slant to the overblown and overdone California wines she criticizes and their sensationalist, attention-grabbing slant. One sells books, the other sells bottles.

Seems rather hypocritical if you ask me. Is her brand of journalism and low-class attempt to get attention and sell books any better than the California wines she puts down in her article? Whatever happened to tasteful journalism or did that disappear years ago?

Now if Ms. Feiriing ever reads my little blog of nothingness and spreads some vitriol my way, I do admit that I do not possess the same writing skills as she, and can only hope to one day publish a book. But hey, I don’t get paid for writing and I also don’t profit from pandering to the masses to sell what I write.

That said, please note that I have stooped so low as to post a link to Amazon's product page that features her book and I get a miniscule share should anyone actually buy something (anything) after clicking the link. I might as well get in on the pandering while the pandering is good! Here's the link to the book: The Battle for Wine and Love: or How I Saved the World from Parkerization.

Monday, May 5, 2008

J. Addison Presents Digital Wine

J. Addison has once again raised the bar for innovation and quality in the wine world. Let’s hear what he has to say, in his own words:
Greetings, fellow winophiles, J. Addison the Wino Hedonist here. Yes, you haven’t heard from me for a while but it was not because I was on a drinking binge somewhere, lost in an alcoholic stupor. No, I was hard at work, engaged with my lab technicians to develop the next great breakthrough in the wine world.

I hereby announce, for the betterment of all mankind (and womankind), the age of digital wine!

That is correct, digital wine. Up to this point, all wine made throughout history has been of the analog variety. Not that there is anything wrong with that, since by necessity that was the only type of wine that could be produced. But advances in technology have now allowed a change in the course of history and have enabled the first digital wine to be bottled.

What is the difference between the two? Like night and day! Let me give you an illustration. Television, for example. Analog reception is like using rabbit ear antennae and having to keep twisting it around. Yet no matter how much you twist it around, your picture is never completely clear. Instead there is fuzz, ghosting, and other annoying elements. With digital television, the picture is crystal clear and precise.

Same with vinyl records and their pops and ticks, not to mention scratches, or eight track tapes with all the background hiss. But with digital recordings you get none of that, just pure, clean sound.

And with my new digital wines, you get none of the faults of wine. You only get pure, clean, taste. Corkiness is an analog trait. Zap, zippo, gone. Digital wines cannot get corked. What you get is pure varietal character, excellent aging capabilities because analog faults are not present within the wine to promote premature aging, and overall a much better tasting experience.

Along with these digital wines comes my special digital tasting glasses. Yes, you can still use regular analog glasses to taste digital wine but you are limiting the wine’s potential by doing so. For those of you who will stop at nothing to gain the height of a wine’s enjoyment, let me just say that the combination of my new digital wine, drunk from my new digital glass, is an experience that cannot be surpassed.

I invite each and every one of you to partake of the experience and be a part of history. How much does history cost? What price perfection? Let’s not worry about the price right now but do bring your wallets. I am giving you more of what you have all come to expect from J. Addison, the Wino Hedonist!

Friday, May 2, 2008

2003 Escafeld Zinfandel

Oh boy, this is (or was) a good one! Here's the notes:

Initially the aromas of this dark wine were very earthy - like wet dirt or potting soil. After some air, coffee grounds, black cherry, granite, dark and semi-sweet (like the little Hershey nuggets) chocolate, licorice, cedar, pepper and spice emerged. It was about 1/2 fruit and 1/2 the other characteristics.

The palate was similar, joined by milk chocolate (so all sorts of chocolate was swirling around in there). There was lots of fruit and fine-grained tannins. The 15.5% alcohol content was a little noticeable at times but not at all bothersome; most of the time it was hidden by the layers of aromas and flavors.

I thought this was a terrific wine at any price, and for $19.99 from WineQ it is an enthusiastic thumbs up on all counts. This is the 2nd wine I've tried from Escafeld, the first being a 2004 Petit Verdot that was muy bueno.

Here's my pick for the YouTube video matching the wine - something I feel is equally complex. If you can't see it below, please click here.

Here is the link to the product page on Steely Dan: Aja

Thursday, May 1, 2008

Wine Scandal Rocks White House

(Are the Chinese really buying up all the fine wine? Above: man examines wine label, confused by fine print that states 'produced from grapes grown in France, assembled in China')

Scandal has rocked the Bush Administration once again. This time the subject is wine, or rather, the lack thereof.

“People are complaining about high gasoline prices - well, that’s nothing compared to the prices of Bordeaux!” remarked Tom Medland, spokesman for Wine Price Watch, or WPW, a consumer group focused on keeping the price of wine at a reasonable level. “The person on the street is getting mauled!” He made these remarks last month as wine prices reached record highs.

President Bush has been telling consumers that the matter is out of his control. “There’s only so much wine that can be produced in Bordeaux or any other region and it’s a matter of supply and demand. 2005 is being called the ‘vintage of the century’ and is being priced accordingly. The Wine Ministers in France set the prices and unfortunately this is a seller’s market.”

The 2005 vintage in Bordeaux was indeed incredibly good and demand has caused prices to skyrocket.

Bush has also pointed a finger at the rising demand coming from China as another reason for high prices. “They’re in the market also, which just makes the supply even smaller and prices higher,” he declared.

Not so fast, though. Since voicing his complaints a month ago, Medland has done some investigating and the results are shocking.

“We tracked the production of all the major Bordeaux chateaus, as well as distribution statistics,” Medland told reporters at a press conference yesterday. “Something just wasn’t jibing. While there is no denying that demand for 2005 Bordeaux is very high, we were finding that production figures seemed far in excess of the wine we could actually account for as being sold. Something fishy was going on.”

That something fishy turned into a horrifying discovery for Medland and the rest of his cohorts at WPW.

Medland, shaking his head in wonderment and disbelief, continued. “It seems that an astronomical amount of cases of fine Bordeaux were diverted. Diverted right to the White House.”

To the White House? Our White House in Washington D.C., U S of A?

“Yes, to a huge underground cellar below the White House,” stated Medland. There are thousands of cases of 2005 Bordeaux as well as tons of other fine wines stockpiled in the cellar.”

When asked what the purpose of hoarding all this wine was, Medland told reporters, “To keep the wine away from the Chinese. It was all done to prevent them from buying up all the fine wine. And here Bush tried to blame them for driving up the prices! Incredible. We even uncovered evidence that they were planning on using this as an excuse first to boycott the summer Olympics and ultimately to invade China.”

A spokesman for the Chinese government, Bu Yao, expressed extreme disappointment upon learning of the Bush Administration’s actions. “I cannot believe a so-called civilized country would do this,” he said through an interpreter. “I’m afraid that it is not going to be a very pleasant time for the American competitors in the Olympics this summer.”

When asked what he meant by this remark, Bu Yao explained, “Well it is like when you go to a Chinese restaurant and criticize the chef. You should never criticize the chef before all your food has arrived at the table and you are finished eating. By the same token, the Olympics have not yet even taken place in Beijing yet. Do you need a fortune cookie to enlighten you even more?” he laughed. Inscrutably.

Meanwhile, upon learning of the gigantic stockpile of fine wine sitting beneath the White House, concerned wine enthusiasts called for the release of these wines in order to bring prices down.

“They’ve got way more than they need and it’s artificially inflating the prices,” said one disgruntled consumer. “Let some of that wine go to us common folk! And this criticism of the Chinese over human rights? Ha! It's all about the wine!”

Sources at the White House said the Bush Administration had nothing to say about the matter.