Monday, June 30, 2008

2005 Tablas Creek Roussanne

$17.55 direct from Tablas Creek and worth every penny and then some!

Roasted nut, chocolate/caramel and peach aromas started things off nicely. This carried over onto the palate, along with butter, ripe pear, melon, and citrus fruit combined with lots of minerals that filled the mouth, everything balanced out by good acidity.

The finish lasted a long time.

This was one flavorful and complex wine with a very reasonable price tag. It gets two thumbs way up!

Here's a suitably coordinated YouTube music video to go along with the wine (click here if you can't see it below):




Here's the link to the page for the CD at Amazon.com: Smokey Robinson

Friday, June 27, 2008

2006 Brooks Riesling

Do you remember a Dallas Cowboy defensive end who played for them in the 70's and 80's named Ed "Too Tall" Jones?

Well this review is about Brooks "Too Tall" Riesling, the 2006 vintage from the Willamette Valley, to be precise.

I purchased this bottle from Domaine 547 (wonderful delivery service, Jill!) and hadn't planned on drinking it that soon, but the darn bottle wouldn't fit in my wine cooling unit. It is too tall! It's got to be the tallest bottle for a conventional wine that I have ever seen and frankly, I was miffed at this. The bottle is totally impractical, just like those really fat "SUV-type" bottles that take up two parking spaces in the cooler. So I had to put it in the refrigerator. I didn't want to leave it sitting too long in the fridge so I drank it a few days later.

You will need to purchase refrigeration offsets if you buy this wine.

Right off the bat, aromas of fresh-cut red apples jumped out of the glass. This was a crisp, refreshing wine with primarily apple flavors along with pears and some tartness from hints of grapefruit. The fruit was fresh and natural, not candied or overly sweet. What I missed was a steely character I like about Rieslings; there was no petrol component, either. Maybe that's not something to expect from a domestic Riesling, though? I don't know.

This is a well-balanced wine that would be great for a warm day, that tastes clean and refreshing without any cloying or overdone character. Don't drink it ice cold because you'll miss the flavors, but do serve it chilled, to the left of normal "cellar" temperature.

$18.99 from Domaine 547, this one gets two thumbs up from me!

Here's my YouTube music video pick to match the wine (click here if you can't see it below):




Amazon.com product page for the studio version CD: Joni Mitchell

Thursday, June 26, 2008

I Told You So!

As I had warned people in my Monday post, Twitter is going to have to make some changes if it is going to handle the huge traffic that flows through its servers. Above is a screen print taken around 7:00 in the morning, a time when people should either be sleeping (lucky folks!), getting ready for work, or driving to work!

Does this mean people are already Twittering on their Blackberries and other hand-held devices during their commute to work?

Actually, I suspect that the real reason is none of the above. However, as I mentioned on Monday, it is the wine blogging community that mostly to blame for the overload.


According to top-secret statistics I obtained from the Twitter office myself (a friend of mine is in tight with Steve Jobs who is the current CEO of Google and next in line to take the throne at Microsoft), the real reason for the Twitterjam is none other than Gary Vaynerc
huk!

While official Twitpersons would not comment, the documents obtained by my friend indicate that Gary, who currently has 4,897,320 followers as of June 19, also is in some way responsible for an average of 56,900,343 Twits per day.


My friend was also told of the secret way that the public ca
n monitor just how much cyberspace is being used by Gary Vee. Just go to the G-Mail login page (www.gmail.com) and look at the statistic I circled in the picture below. That's not really how much storage space is available for the g-mail crowd, that's actually how individual Twit people are online that are in some way connected to Gary Vee's posts at any moment in time.
Just thought I would post a helpful hint, since inquiring bloggers want to know!

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Ferenc Máté - A Vineyard in Tuscany

Amazon.com's marketing causes me problems. Viewing one product always leads to viewing another and that's how I ran across this book and couldn't resist adding it to my cart.

This is a followup to author Máté's The Hills of Tuscany, which I haven't yet read but am now going to have to.

A Vineyard In Tuscany traces the Máté family - Ferenc, wife Candace and son Buster - as they search for their ideal dream house and vineyard in beautiful Tuscany.

The adventure begins as do most things, with a thought. Máté's thought is a dream of owning a vineyard, something, as with most of us, that grows and grows and can't be ignored.

Chapter one ends with this:

And then I dreamt of the very best part: a bottle, on the table cloth, reflecting candlelight, and our dinner guests staring in admiration at the elegant label of our very own wine.

From there the reader is taken along for 37 more chapters on how he made the dream come true. First comes the search for the right place, then the renovations to the house, the planting/development of the vineyards, and the making (and partaking) of the wine.

The chapters are fairly short, for the most part self-contained with only the loose thread of an unquenchable quest for a vineyard and the ultimate wines to show for it tying it all together. It's easy, entertaining reading that's full of joy, enthusiasm and humor (and envy/wistful thinking on my part as I imagined what it would be like to experience such a change of scenery).

I see one reviewer on Amazon was rather critical of the book, opining that it should have had more details about restoring the estate he and his family decided on, as well as the vineyards and wine making process. And more character development. My opining is that doing so would have made for a totally different, and much drier book.

Máté provides just enough detail to keep us in the loop and turning the pages, making it a vicarious experience for the reader. It's like a "best of" compilation of the events that happened along the way.

My only complaint: I was curious about the wines. If you go to FerencMate.com, it refers you to John Morrell and Company as the place where you can purchase them. But searching their site for any of the wines comes up with a goose egg. With names like Banditone, Mantus or Albatro, it should make it easy for a search engine but all three queries, as well as Ferenc Mate or simply Ferenc come up with no results.

But about the book I have no quibble. If you're looking for some entertaining reading this summer, give this one a try.

Here is a link to the product page at Amazon.com: A Vineyard in Tuscany


Tuesday, June 24, 2008

2003 La Chablisienne Chablis 1er Cru Mont de Milieu

Here's some words of wisdom for you: never lock yourself in with a title because you never know when it's going to need changing.

Haha, this is OneWinePerWeek yet, why so many wine reviews lately? Well, I still only have one 187.50 ml glass of wine per night, thus taking four nights to drink one bottle, but I have a glass of wine six or seven nights per week.

So do the math: that means the title of this blog really ought to be One and One Half Wines Per Week (6 nights) or One and Three Quarter Wines Per Week (7 nights). But alas, it is too late to make the switch because so many people (like 12 of you) already know me by this name and I don't want to confuse anyone.

I just hope I am not violating any truth in labeling/advertising laws.

On to the review: this premier cru Chablis came from Garagiste and was a reasonable $18.99.

This sure didn't seem like a Chablis. Appearance-wise it was a light-medium gold color, lacking that greenish tinge characteristic of Chablis. Big, bold, ripe and rich with buttery oak and fruit in the aromas and flavors, it didn't have any of the characteristic flint or steel, either. The aftertaste hung around for a long time.

Is that a reflection of the vintage? I think so. I've read 2003 was a "hot" vintage in the region and this certainly shows it.

This seemed more like a big white premier or even grand cru Burgundy. "Big" is the key word here. Thumbs? It was a very concentrated, flavorful wine and I enjoyed it, but I don't know what to say about how "Chablis-like" it was. I wasn't expecting this. Was the influence of 2003 that much? If so, they really let it shine through in this bottle.

Here's the accompanying YouTube video. Click here if you can't see it below.




Here's the link to the CD at Amazon.com:Brasilero

So please stay tuned for the next chapter at OneAndAHalfWinesPerWeek. Or a little bit more maybe.

Monday, June 23, 2008

Twitter Wine Community Changes In Store

It had to happen sooner or later and that sooner (or later) has finally arrived.

Twitter, the online social networking phenomenon that allows people to broadcast short messages that answer the simple question, "What are you doing?" has, as many of you know, been malfunctioning as of late.

"Our robust system of servers was simply overwhelmed, and overwhelmed by one group in particular," was the explanation that came forth from Google CEO and President, Bill Gates. Twitter is a product of the enormously successful Google empire. Gates elaborated: "The wine-blogging community in particular has been responsible for a significant share of traffic on the system. Not only through computers, but also, I'm a bit embarrassed to say, our own products such as the Ipod and Iphone, as well as the Blackberry, have contributed to the problem with all the mobile traffic that is being sent via these devices."

The only remedy to this problem seems to be a reduction in web traffic and a corresponding lightening of the load on Twitter's servers. Gates outlined how this would take place.

"Unfortunately, we are going to have to limit the amount of access wine bloggers have to Twitter," Gates stated. First, there will be a limit on how many messages a Twitter user can send to a fellow Twit. That number depends on how popular the recipient is; the more followers he or she has, the more allocated will be the messages. Someone like say, Gary Vaynerchuk, will have a limit of one Twitter per day that can be sent to him."

"If this doesn't curb the problem, we'll have to introduce step two," Gates continued. "That will be putting some Twits on a wait-list status. Those who already have too many followers will be closed to new followers until an old one drops out. I hate to do this, but we have no choice."

Already software has been developed that targets and identifies Twits with fast-growing lists of followers. This allows one Twit to add that popular Twit to his or her list of those being followed, before the list gets closed off to new followers.

"It's an exponential growth," observed Martin Kringle, developer of Twitalysis, one of the specialized software products that identifies FATs (Fast Action Twits). "We've noticed that as soon as a Twit shows a jump in the number of followers, other Twits jump on the bandwagon and pile it on."

Gates expressed hope that Twitter will not have to resort to charging people to follow certain popular Twits.

"When I invented the internet, I never envisioned problems of this proportion springing up," added Gates' Executive Vice President, Al Gore.




Friday, June 20, 2008

2005 Château Courtinat Saint Pourçain VDQS Cuvée de Perelles

I'm a bit miffed at my own stupidity. The wine reviewed today isn't the one I thought I was reviewing and I didn't even notice until I started writing the review.

I purchased two different bottles produced by Chateau Courtnant, both from the Saint-Pourcain region of the Loire and careless me just looked at those two identifying features on the label to confirm my choice, and not the vintage or the cuvee.

According to Garagiste, where these bottles were purchased, this is the one to lay down for a couple of years whereas the other was the one to drink now. This was also the more expensive of the two, weighing in at $19.73.

Oh, well. It was still a good bottle. Here's the notes:

This is a blend of Pinot Noir and old-vine Gamay. It had a pretty color sort of like canned cranberry jelly, but it was not opaque.

The aromas were interesting - a mix of fresh flowers and fruit, with hints of something that to me was like a tomato/basalmic vinegar-based dressing (the fruit part of the dressing, not the vinegar). Taste-wise, again I was reminded of a salad dressing, like tomato-based French or Catalina, along with a mix of juicy, fresh berries. I thought it was best served on the chilled side and I just kept thinking of a crisp, well-dressed salad with berries mixed in. It had fruit, minerality, that subtle tomato character and was quite refreshing!

I guess that sounds weird, but the wine tasted good. Two thumbs up for this one!

And here is my choice for a matching YouTube music video. Click here if you can't see it below.




As usual, the link to the CD at Amazon.com: Pat Metheny - The Road to You

Thursday, June 19, 2008

2005 Domaine Denis Gaudry Pouilly-Fumé

Yes, this week is contradictory to the title of this blog - one wine per week is actually four wines this week. But I had some extra tasting notes I wanted to share with you so I put them all together into one week.

This is another wine that came from Garagiste. For $11.99, it represents a terrific value.

Very nice aromas of a subtle grassy/herbal character that said it was Sauvignon Blanc, but not overpoweringly so. I also sensed orange peel, flint and granite.

This wine had a creamy entry with underlying crisp acidity. It reminded me of the flavor of Juicy Fruit gum with a creamy, herbal twist, and also, the dessert bar fruit salad at Souplantation mixed with cottage cheese. For those who aren't familiar with this salad, it's pineapples, peaches, some banana and cherries sprinkled with cinammon. There was a lingering, Granny Smith apple aftertaste.

It was better chilled than towards room temperature, because it was so refreshing. Normally I am not a big Sauvignon Blanc fan but I really liked this one. I think part of it was because that herbal and grassy character was in the background - just enough to let you know the grape varietal and make it interesting, without yelling at you. It was so nicely balanced. Drink this one on a warm or hot summer evening, of which we will now be having too many of here in Southern California. Two thumbs up and a great deal for $11.99.

YouTube video to listen to while you drink it (click here if you can't see it below):




CD page at Amazon.com: Al Stewart - Year of the Cat

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

We Interrupt This Program..

I had already scheduled a blog post for today, but after reading this article in the L.A. Times, as well as a few comments from wine bloggers (comment a, comment b, comment c), I thought I would throw in my two cents, aka comment d. I'm not gonna summarize the article; please read it then mosey on back here.

Comment a and comment b both took umbrage at Joel Stein's article; comment c was more favorable. Me? I actually agree with the guy. I don't find anything offensive about the article at all.

In fact, I had previously scheduled another wine review/tasting post that I bumped to tomorrow in order to talk about Mr. Stein's article, "The Language of Wine Snobbery." I must admit, I find my own wine reviews to be as boring as the article says about most reviews, and I would even admit that sometimes his phrase, "a whole lot of jackass" would be appropriate for my own lame reviews.

I mean, at times I sit there trying to describe a wine by what it smells and tastes like and think, this is really boring. And this could describe plenty of other wines, yet those other wines do not taste like this one but here I am using the same descriptions. Like Mr. Stein, I, too have not a very good sense of smell so it makes it even harder.

When I write something besides a review I think it is generally ok, but when I write a review it turns stiff as a board. Sort of like freezing up when talking to that cute new girl in the class!

That's why I started posting YouTube videos in my wine reviews because I wanted to post music that I felt matched the wine and would be appropriate to listen to while sipping that wine.

Basically, I wanted to say that for the most part I agree with Joel Stein's article. In the future I think I should try to be more creative with my reviews because they do get pretty tiresome - if they get that way for me, they must get that way for you, too!

But I'm not going to change the ones I already pre-posted. I'm too lazy.

Now, some of you may ask why Ren and Stimpy appear at the top of this blog post. Well, I tried to think of some outrageous way to do a wine review, and the idea of those two doing the "Happy Happy Joy Joy" dance came flashing in my mind. If you really like a wine, that's what you should do, too!

They could also do duo reviews - one likes it, the other doesn't. Then one can say to the other, "You stupid eeediot!! You like that pile of garbage???" "Well, uh, I changed my mind. I hate it."

Seriously, I do agree with Stein's article. But heck, why should we take ourselves so seriously? We should write a review as we see fit.

Here's what you do when you run across that next great bottle (click here if you don't see da video below).




Ok, we now return you to our regularly scheduled program. Just like Jeopardy getting pushed back because of the NBA finals, OneWinePerWeek pushes each episode back a day.


Tuesday, June 17, 2008

2005 Boisson Cotes du Rhone-Villages Cairanne “Cros de Romet”

Normally there's just one wine review per week except when it is Wine Blogging Wednesday, but I have a couple that I need to post to catch up on things. Plus it gives me something to post, haha.

Principally Grenache with a portion of Syrah (I think the mix is either 80/20 or 84/16 but unfortunately I discarded the bottle without writing it down), this Rhone blend was $13.99 from Garagiste.

Lots of minerals, rocks, strawberry and a clove component were in the aromas. This followed through on the palate, which added ripe cherries and graphite to the mix. There was a nice balance between the fruit and minerals. It had a pretty lengthy aftertaste.

One evening I poured this through a Vinturi aerator to see if there was any effect. My previous uses of this gadget hadn't made any difference in the aromas or taste but this time it did. The aromas were fuller and the taste slightly fruitier with the Vinturi than without. That's enough justification for further experimentation down the road.

There was also a healthy dose of sediment at the end of the bottle, so take note. This was a nicely balanced, flavorful wine that deserves two thumbs up, especially for the price.

Matching YouTube video - look below (or click here if you can't see it).




And here's the link to the CD on Amazon: Donny Hathaway - Valdez in the Country

Monday, June 16, 2008

Do We Trust Our Eyes or Our Palate?

Question: If we did not know exactly what bottle of wine we were drinking, would it enhance or detract from our enjoyment of it?

Do we set ceilings on how good a wine can be based on our knowledge of which wine it is? So in other words, can a bottle of Two Buck Chuck only aspire to be only so good, whereas with a bottle of Screaming Eagle, the sky is the limit?

To a certain extent that is true, since the quality of the grapes and the time invested in the wine is necessarily lower for a mass-produced item like Two Buck versus something that costs hundreds of dollars, like “Screagle” as some call it.

And are people more forgiving of the premium bottle because it is expected to show better? There’s also safety in numbers; you can’t go wrong following the crowd and raving about a premium bottle. You’d raise a few eyebrows if you didn’t. Conversely, you can’t go wrong panning a bottle of Two Buck and would raise a few eyebrows if you fawned over it.

But inside of a brown bag, how much difference could we really discern? Certainly we would note differences but would it be correlated to the price or rarity of the respective wines?

I was looking at the reviews on Cellar Tracker for Screaming Eagle and the scores are pretty darn high overall. But in several cases the notes don’t seem to support the scores. For example:
The lightest and most mature looking of all the wines. Very delicious and sweet but a bit simple in comparison to the rest of the wines. Very sweet with Asian spices, violets, black cherries and sweet smoke. It was fat and soft but still lively. Delicious and sweet, very hedonistic but could have used a bit more structure. Certainly not the best Screagle we’ve had. Long delicious aftertaste but some heat and a touch too much vanilla.
It’s a favorable review, to be sure. What point value do you think was assigned? Answer: 97. ..simple in comparison to the rest of the wines; ..could have used a bit more structure; and, ..some heat and a touch too much vanilla. To improve on that leaves room for a score of 98,99 or 100. Would a Cabernet from a different producer with the same notes fare as well point-wise?

Is the picture at the top of this page appreciated for its intrinsic value or because it was painted by Picasso?

This reminded me of an article I read a couple of years ago about a little kid who stuck a wad of chewing gum on an abstract painting at a Detroit museum that was valued at $2 million (the painting, not the gum).

Actually, I got a good laugh out of that one, imagining that people who even noticed the gum probably thought it was an integral part of the painting.

By the way, that isn’t a Picasso painting at the top of this post. It’s from this page.

Friday, June 13, 2008

2005 Alquezar Moristel Somontano

From what I understand, there are just 900 acres in the world planted with the Moristel grape (according to Jon Rimmerman of Garagiste, where I purchased this bottle for $9.99).

This particular bottling comes from the Somontano region of Spain, specifically the town of Alquezar. It's the result of a collaboration between Classical Wines and the local grower's co-op.

In the aromas I sensed earth, minerals, cherry cola, some spice and white pepper, joined also by dried twigs and leaves. The aromas followed through to the palate, which had a smooth, even squeaky leather, somewhat waxy texture in the fore, after which some scratchy tannins emerged. It had a gravelly, cranberry aftertaste.

This is the kind of wine that would pair nicely with a good steak. There's fruit there, but it is not as prominent as the minerally, earthy component. I liked it, and for the money it gets two thumbs up.

I've paired it with a YouTube video that is kind of minerally and earthy with some scratchy tannins also - the band is doing a cover of a Donald Fagen song. Not smooth like the original, but interesting in its own way. Take a look (and if you don't see it below, please click here.)




I have no idea what, if any CD this might be on, but here's a link to the albums by this artist at Amazon: Keisuke Kuwata

A friend of mine thought this band's rendition of this and other Steely Dan songs was too weird for her but I thought there's somethng alluring about it. Sort of like the wine - it's not your typical California red varietal-type wine, but why should it be.. this one has its own character - in a good way. Sort of weird that there are English subtitles for the lyrics even though he's singing in English. I thought maybe it's for the hearing-impaired but then why would you be watching a music video if that's the case? '

Happy Friday to you all and have a wonderful weekend!

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Natural Wines

I was doing some more thinking about “natural” wines.

Ideally, I am thinking a wine ought to be authentic with respect to the grape variety, location of the vineyard, and the vintage. That is, the wine should be a reflection of all three rather than being manipulated into something that alters these demographics (do wines have demographics? I’m too lazy to look up the definition).

Using this sort of standard is analogous to the audio enthusiast’s ideal hi-fi set up in which everything between the source material and your ears is simply a “straight wire with gain” (i.e., the source signal is amplified so you can hear it, but is reproduced exactly without any sort of distortion).

So maybe our quest should be for “distortion-free wine.”

Let’s think about that, though. In the case of a poorly-recorded performance that is faithfully captured, should what we hear be equalized to make the sound more like it should have been in the first place? Or should we shoot for authenticity no matter how bad the original?

In the case of fruits and vegetables at the market: some years and growing conditions are less than ideal, resulting in less-than-ideal fruit. But that produce is “natural.” Brought to the store in unadulterated form, I don’t think it would sell very well.

It is romantic to think that we should drink wines from every vintage and respect and appreciate the differences brought about by vintage conditions, etc., and compare one year to another to see what those effects are. But in the “poor” years are these wines going to sell?

It reminds me of that old Starkist commercial featuring Charlie the Tuna. His friend always has to tell him that “Starkist doesn’t want tunas with good taste, Starkist wants tuna that tastes good.”

(click here if you can't see the video below)




Oh, well. I guess those mean Starkist Tuna people made YouTube yank it. Sorry, Charlie! Folks, buy Chicken of the Sea or Bumblebee from now on. Grr..


Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Wine Blogging Wednesday #46 - Rhone Whites

Yup, it's time for another Wine Blogging Wednesday and this time it is being hosted by Dr. Debs who produces the most excellent Good Wine Under $20 blog. This month's theme: a wine made with one or more traditional White Rhone varietals.

My pick: The 2006 Viognier from Twisted Oak, a blend from five different vineyards in Calaveras County, $17.60 direct from the winery.

Light gold in color, it had really attractive jasmine, citrus, stone and blossom aromas. It had different tastes than the aromas, with apricot, peach, peach pit and minerals added to the mix. There was a pleasant, slightly sourish character that I associate with this grape. The wine had a rounded, slightly oily mouthfeel with good backing acidity and a lengthy finish.

Very tasty, very good! Two thumbs up for sure. Compared to the 2005 I had back in February, I could tell the difference a year makes - both were good but the youth of the 2006 was obvious. I think it's drinking very well right now.

If you've stuck with the more common grapes such as Chardonnay or Sauvignon Blanc, by all means give the varieties from the White Rhone a try. They are most definitely worth it!

Here's an exuberant YouTube video to match the wine (if you can't see the video below, please click here).




The woman in the video has made a previous appearance in this blog, but it is just coincidence that she happened to be in it when I searched for the song.

Here's a link to the CD at Amazon.com: Songs In The Key of Life.




Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Tagged!!

Jill from Domaine 547 told me that we had been tagged by Dr. Debs. I didn't know what she was talking about at first and had been so busy yesterday that I hadn't looked at any wine or other blogs yet.

So then I took at look at Good Wine Under $20 and saw what she meant. I will take the liberty of copying a portion of Dr. Deb's site that explains what this is:
...tagged me for a book meme (one of those blogging equivalents of a pyramid scheme without any money).

The rules were these:

Pick up the nearest book.
Turn to page 123.
Find the fifth sentence.
Post the next three sentences.
Tag five people with this game, and acknowledge the person who tagged you.
Well I've already acknowledged Dr. Debs as having been the tagger, but now for the rest:

The nearest book is one I just started reading, A Vineyard In Tuscany - a wine lover's dream, by Ferenc Máté. It's a recount of the author's adventures in pursuit of his dream: to own a vineyard in Italy's gorgeous region of Tuscany. Expect a book review on this in the near future.

Page 123 is the last page of a chapter and only has 5 sentences. So the next three sentences are actually on page 124:
Unlike most things in life, revenge is both non-fattening and fun. Immediate revenge, however, should be avoided for, much like impulse shopping, you miss out on all the joy of planning falling bricks, or tying shoelaces together at the top step of the leaning tower of Pisa.

By now I had mentally drowned the Roman userer in one of his giant barrels of wine, or, as one neighbor actually did to another who slept with his wife, taken electric pruning shears and cut the man's favorite vineyard to the ground.
Hey, now doesn't that make you want to read this book?

Okay, here's who I am tagging: Sonadora of Wannabe Wino; El Jefe of El Bloggo Torcido; Marshall of WineQ; Catie the Walla Walla Wine Woman; and Edward, the Wino Sapien. Now I know some or all of them might be real busy, too busy to read (and may utter something resembling the label of a Twisted Oak wine bottle) but hey, maybe they're reading something interesting to share with us!

So thanks for the tag, Dr. Debs - it also helped fill up my blog posts for the week!

Monday, June 9, 2008

Wine Tasting In Japan

Here in the west, the most likely image a person has of a wine-tasting gathering is that of sophisticated wine connoisseurs acting in a most dignified and reserved way, sniffing and swirling while adhering to every rule of etiquette. Or, some might picture Gary Vaynerchuk instead.

But whatever the perception, it is totally different from wine tasting in the east, particularly Japan.

In Japan, achieving consensus is of extreme importance, regardless of what is up for discussion. Failing to arrive at agreement among all parties is considered shameful and group members will go to great lengths to ensure that everyone saves face by being on the same page at the end.

Getting to that consensus is not easy, however. In a typical wine-tasting session in Japan, one person is appointed as the group leader and it is his duty to bring the group to a consensus. It is simply inconceivable for a leader not to do this.

Wine, being a highly subjective subject, presents all sorts of problems for groups when trying to find that common ground. Violent tactics may sometimes have to be employed to keep everyone in line.

Below are two video examples of just how difficult and thankless a task it is to be the group leader and to achieve agreement among group members, especially when they are not particularly cooperative. In the second video, we see what happens to the newbie in the group when the leader takes pity on him, but nevertheless has to enforce the group code.

Video one, showing how important it is to keep control of the tasting group (click here if you can't see it below):




And video two, where the newbie learns this is serious business (click here if you can't see it below):




The next time you are at one of your civil, westernized wine tastings, please take a brief moment to recall how it is done in Japan, and appreciate the difference.

Here's a link to the DVD at Amazon.com: Yojimbo


Friday, June 6, 2008

2005 Tablas Creek Grenache Blanc

I guess this would have made a good entry for next week's Wine Blogging Wednesday (WBW #46) , this time hosted by Dr. Debs, but I've got something for that already.

The 2005 Grenache Blanc from Tablas Creek Vinyeard weighed in at 15.3% alcohol but that wasn't apparent. Light yellow gold in color, it had very nice aromas of creamy blossom, peach, pineapple, orange and jasmine. This was joined by lime and minerals on the palate.

I found this to be crisp and refreshing, easy to drink, with good balancing acidity.

Direct from the winery it was $21.60 and I give it two thumbs up. So far I've had nothing but winners from Tablas Creek and this was no exception. It's a lovely wine for warm weather.

Here's the matchng YouTube video; if you can't see it below then please click here.




And here's the link to the CD on Amazon.com: Jesse Colin Young

Thursday, June 5, 2008

Alice Feiring - The Battle For Wine and Love

he full title of Alice Feiring’s book that I am reviewing today is, The Battle for Wine and Love Or How I Saved the World from Parkerization.

Is it worth reading? Yes, it is.

Most of you already know what Parkerization is, but for those who don’t, Wikipedia says it very succinctly: the widespread stylization of wines to please the taste of influential wine critic Robert M. Parker, Jr. To find out more, take a look at the Wikipedia entry for Robert M. Parker Jr.

What is this book about? It’s Ms. Feiring’s crusade against adulterated, manipulated, over-processed wines that have their sense of identity stripped by overzealous winemakers, largely in a quest to please the palate of Mr. Parker and thus bring more dollars into the winery’s till. Hey, I said that pretty good, didn’t I?

Feiring bemoans the increasing technology that is applied to wines. Rampant in California, it is now something she says is taking place on a global basis, sort of like those seed pods took over the earth in Invasion of the Body Snatchers.

I envision the next remake of that movie to feature giant grapevines that replace the original vines with grapes that produce big, lush, overripe wines that have no sense of terroir. And Alice Feiring would play the role played by Kevin McCarthy, the one who discovers what is going on and tries to warn the world before it is too late.

There are nine chapters in this book, starting out with how the author became infatuated with wine and then focusing on various aspects of how wine is becoming more and more over-manipulated. We are taken to various places in the world to share her adventures.

The bad parts: I got the impression that Ms. Feiring carries not just a chip, but as Bruce Springsteen put it in Blinded By The Light, a boulder on her shoulder. Expect no subtlety here. She tries to come off as charming, amusing, cute and lovable and the David to Parker’s Goliath, but she seems full of spite and animosity.

I also got tired of reading about her failed romances with Owl Man and Mr. Bow Tie and I don’t know what the point of all that was – to garner sympathy? She does not come off as a very sympathetic character as she tries to paint everything in black or white. Big = bad, small = good. Parker is the big bad man and it sounds like she is out to get him at every turn, making him to blame for every bad thing she finds about wine. It is the same rant I hear from people who are so anti-big business, as though every corporation in the world was some evil force just waiting to harm anyone in its path.

She seems to pride herself on being a contrarian. In the book she is quite critical of the 2005 vintage in Burgundy; describing the reds during a tasting, she writes: “The fruit was intense. Too intense. I was perplexed.” In context, this would imply that she is suspicious of the wine being manipulated.

Yet, from what I have heard, 2005 was an exceptional year for Burgundy, with growing conditions so ideal that little had to be done to the wines but let them develop naturally. The intense fruit reflects the conditions of the vintage. And isn’t that what Ms. Feiring is pleading for? Wine that reflects its true pedigree?

I got the impression that rather than fight for wine that was a true reflection of its terroir and vintage, that she was more the contrarian, rallying for the underdogs that didn’t get the good reviews and blasting any high-scoring wine simply because Parker liked it.

That said, the book does point out that there is indeed a lot going on behind the scenes to make wine fit a certain mold. It is good that we are made aware of it. The author’s sledgehammer methods, however, at times seem to resemble the same sledgehammer methods being used by the winemakers she accuses of engaging in Parkerization. Both are trying to use too much flash to sell their wares.

Kermit Lynch had a similar message in his Adventures on the Wine Route but he didn’t sound like he was engaged in a vendetta. The feeling I get is that Mr. Lynch writes with passion about what he loves, whereas Ms. Feiring writes with a passion about what she hates; it’s a positive feeling in one book versus a negative in the other.

After I am so critical, after most of this review is criticism rather than praise, I still say the book is worth reading? Emphatically yes. There are some interesting adventures within, and I do agree with her in principle, though Mr. Parker is not the villain she makes him out to be and the wine world is not simply black or white. I came away more educated and also with a frame of mind that was more critical of how “natural” the wine is that I now consume. Ms. Feiring also writes very well, making the book quite easy to read and understand. The subject matter was definitely something that needed to be addressed.

I am thirstier now than before – and isn’t that something a wine book should achieve?

Now as I do with wine reviews, below is a YouTube video that suits this book. If you can’t see the screen below, please click here.




The above is one of the greatest movies scenes of all time; Peter Finch was superb. Here is the link to the DVD on Amazon's page: Network

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Is That The Way You Look?

Many, many years ago I dropped by my girlfriend’s house. Something about her seemed different but I couldn’t pin down exactly what it was.

Finally I had to ask her. She laughed and asked me just what about her seemed so different that day.

“I’m not sure,” I said, “but it's something about your eyes. Like they look uh, smaller.”

After going back and forth for a while, she told me. “I’m not wearing any makeup.”

“Oh.” We hadn’t been seeing each other for that long of a time and it was the first time she was sans makeup. But we were close enough to where I could tell her, “You look like you were faded out.”

We had a good laugh that day. Inside I marveled at how much difference makeup meant. Another time she was telling me that she plucked her eyebrows. “Why do you do that?” I asked her.

“If I didn’t, I’d look like Groucho Marx.”

We had another good laugh about that one. It took a little while for me to get used to her non-makeup look and I always wondered how bad it could be if she didn’t pluck her eyebrows.

Makeup or no makeup, it was still her. She was quite judicious in her application of it so that is probably why I noticed a difference but couldn’t place it. Did I prefer one or the other? The first time, I preferred the with makeup look; but later on it really didn’t matter; she looked fine either way.

My own preference is for lesser or no makeup, rather than more, however. I notice that women may become nearly unrecognizable when they prepare for a special event and plaster themselves with makeup. I especially hate bright red lipstick. Younger girls, like teenagers, also tend to overdo it when they first begin using makeup and they turn into Dracula or look like they contracted a severe case of racoonitis. I always think, they looked just fine. Why do they have to put on all that makeup? Do they really think they look better that way? Or do they actually look better and it is just me who thinks otherwise?

To me, a lot of makeup makes someone look unbalanced. If “makeup” comes to my mind when I first look at someone, then they’re using too much.

On the other hand, there are plenty of cases favoring the use of makeup. Just Google “Celebrities without makeup” and see what you come up with. Or click here for an example.

That's Anna Kournikova at the top of this post. Which side gains your favor at first glance - left or right? My vote was for the right side, as I would bet most people would vote. But as I look at the picture, something about the left side is more appealing to me. She looks more natural. Takes some getting used to, though.

Look at some of the other pictures on that site I linked above, though. There's some severe cases there that are just crying for some cosmetic intervention!

Left or right side of the picture, the person is the person, no matter what she (or he, since it is not confined to just females) looks like but without makeup, is she or he going to be in that upcoming movie or on the cover of People Magazine? Would they still be the celeb without the aid of their makeup artist or image consutant?

Anyway, this is supposed to be a blog about wine, not about women and makeup so just pretend I was talking about wine instead.

And in conclusion.. (click here if you can't see the video below)





Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Beware The Gob

In 1958 a campy little Sci-Fi movie premiered that launched the career of Steve McQueen. That movie, in case you didn’t know, was The Blob and it went on to become a cult classic.

Here is the synopsis from Imdb.com:
A mysterious creature from another planet, resembling a giant blob of jelly, lands on earth. The people of a nearby small town refuse to listen to some teenagers who have witnessed the blob's destructive power. In the meantime, the blob just keeps on getting bigger. (Rob Hartill)
I might add, the blob gets bigger and bigger by consuming everything in its path – people, animals, inanimate objects, what have you.

Now word is out that a loose remake is going to be made, entitled, The Gob.

Exactly what is The Gob?

Similar to the 1958 Blob, The Gob is also a huge, purple, formless thing that is described as a “jammy, viscous, unctuous mass with an extreme hedonistic bent to it.” By hedonistic, this object consumes whatever it pleases but unlike the original Blob, The Gob is more picky in its tastes. In particular it seems to favor wood, especially oak.

The Gob also consumes people and has no trouble doing so. Rather than run away, people seem drawn to it as if in some hypnotic state and apparently are captured willingly. It's hypnotic power is scarily demonstrated by the global masses of people who become devotees and followers, despite the peril this entails.

Because of its mass consumption, the Gob gets bigger and bigger and there seems to be no limit on its growth, and no way to stop it. Attempts at shooting it only result in splitting it into multiple pieces and thus people are faced with dealing with gobs, not just a gob.

Production is scheduled to begin sometime this summer.

Below is the original trailer for The Blob but as you will see from watching it, not much editing will be required to make it applicable to the upcoming Gob remake. Click here if you can't see the video below.




Here's the link to the Amazon dvd product page: The Blob

Monday, June 2, 2008

Back to the Futures

People were quite surprised by my post last week – they had no idea that the Sci-Fi classic movie Invasion of the Body Snatchers was based on a piece about wine entitled, Invasion of the Bottle Snatchers, in a now defunct wine magazine.

This is not the only movie whose plot is actually a reworking of a story or article originally dealing with wine. In case you didn’t know, here is another one:

Back to the Future was originally Back to the Futures. In the original, Martin, the main character, is a teenager growing up in a run-down chateau in the Bordeaux region of France. The wine produced from the neglected vines is the butt of jokes not only in Bordeaux, but in all of France.

Martin’s zany next-door neighbor, Doc, invents a harvesting machine that is able to reach speeds of 100 miles per hour. But all it takes is 88, and at that particular speed the machine is able to travel in time.

To make a long story short, Martin travels back in time to the 17th Century and does a little tinkering with the past. When he returns to the present time in 1975, we find that he is now the heir to the Lafite Rothschild estate.

At the end of the story, Martin is basking in the luxury of being a part of the famous first-growth estate. Doc has gone into the future to satisfy his curiosity. Suddenly as Martin is walking through the vineyards, there’s a loud blast and bright flash, and Doc appears in a souped-up flying version of the time-traveling harvester.

Doc tells Martin to get into the harvester because he needs him to go into the future with him.

“Where are we going, Doc?” asks Martin. “Are we gonna be pulling some corks?”

“Corks?” replies Doc. “Where we’re going, we don’t need corks.”

In the sequel to the story, Le Boeuf, an evil hired hand, finds out about the time machine and uses it for his own personal gain. Le Boeuf travels into the future and discovers a periodical about wine called The Wine Advocate. He is able to buy futures on the highest scoring wines and becomes a millionaire from reselling them at ridiculously high prices to people who are willing to pay thousands of dollars for 100 point wines.

Tomorrow: a sneak peek at vice versa: this time a movie about wine is in the works, based on a famous Sci-Fi movie from the 1950’s.

Here's a link to the Amazon page for the trilogy - I love these movies! Back to the Future