I have nothing against wine blogs--quite the opposite, I technically write one, I guess. I also follow several really great blogs and really admire their authors and are inspired by them daily. The problem I have with them is that as a "unit" there is really not much cohesion and at the same time not much in the way of differing viewpoints.
One of my fellow bloggers, TheDrunkenCyclist recently started a series of posts called Thursday Rant. His latest post managed to “hit the chord” as we call it – it is about winery tasting fees getting into totally absurd territories, especially when you are in the places like Napa valley. You should read the post below to see it for yourself – and then take a look at some of my suggestions:
There are a few things which you can do to avoid a paying an exorbitant amount of money for the wine tasting, outside of simply not visiting the wineries – but all of them will require planning ahead.
1. Connect with the wineries on Twitter and ask them to make special arrangements for you and your group for the tasting. It doesn’t mean that your tasting will be complementary, but you might have an opportunity to taste some interesting wines.
2. Talk to the people at your favorite wine store – tell them you plan to visit a particular winery. Your wine store is often connected to the winery either directly or through a distributor – the winery might be very accommodating to your needs.
Let’s start from the answer for the Wine Quiz #45, an Easy One. In that quiz, you were supposed to answer 3 easy questions, and then simply talk about your favorite wines and wineries. All of it with an ultimate goal of leaving the comment so you can get the new wine book called “Rock and Vine” to be shipped to you. Free. And you know what – before we get to the answer and the results, let me get the rant out.
I don’t get it. So the free book (5 copies) was offered, pretty much for anyone who would care to leave a comment in the blog. According to the stats from the WordPress, the post had total of 56 views – and only 4 people left comments. Are people not reading books anymore? Did the people who wanted the book were too shy to leave a comment? Was it something I said (or didn’t say)? I’m puzzled… Honestly, I was not looking for the book giveaway as a cheap publicity shot, to attract more followers or something – I simply don’t do it. So as I said already, I’m puzzled – and if anyone want to offer a theory or explanation or simply tell me that I’m too dumb to get it – be my guest. End of the rant.
Now, let’s get to the wine quiz answers and the winners. We have two winners of the wine quiz and 3 winners of Rock and Vine book giveaway – Jeff (The Drunken Cyclist) and Oliver (The Wine Getter) are the winners of the wine quiz ( they got 3 out of 3 questions right) and both of them plus Emily (
@WineMuse) are the winners of the book giveaway!
Now, if you want details, here are the first 3 questions with the answers:
1. In the famous movie “Sideways”, where (in which region) the action took place, and what were two grapes which Miles was so adamant about (one positive, one negative)?
Answers are Santa Barbara, Pinot Noir and Merlot – you can read more here.
2. Which grape is referred to as “The Real American Grape”?
Norton. By the way, Oliver, this is not my designation : ) – this designation is actually trademarked – here is the link.
3. What Judgement of Paris was all about and when did it t took place (provide short description)?
Judgement of Paris took place in 1976 and it was a blind tasting event where French wine critics overwhelmingly preferred California wines over similar French wines, which put California on a world-wide wine map. Here is the link for additional reading.
And the last two questions were:
4. Name three US wineries which you visited, want to visit or at least drunk the wine from
5. Thinking about your favorite wines, name one of them ( any one of them). As a bonus, provide short description and may be explain why is it one of your favorite wines.
Let me just quote the answers:
4. Failla, Varner, Littorai most recently
5. Whatever is in my glass at the moment (but really, I do like all the wines mentioned above. They are extremely well-made and unique. I also really like & respect the people that make each of them)
4. Chateau Grand Traverse, Brys Estate and Left Foot Charley – all Traverse City based wineries whose wines I have tried but never visited. This year is the year!
5. One of them would be the 2001 Poliziano Vino Nobile Asinone which I tried in their tasting room in the fall of 2005. The wine just hit me completely unexpectedly with its depth and earthiness and was so far above the regular vino nobile that Poliziano produces. It was just incredible. (I have to name a riesling, too! Sorry. One of the many was a 1990 Vereinigte Hospitien Erdener Prälat Auslese which we had at a birthday party for Nina. The wine was dark amber in color and I have never come across such a vanilla a yellow fruit bombs in a riesling again.)
4. I have visited Clos Pepe, Littorai, and Freeman Wineries (among countless others).
5. One of my favorites wines is the Clos Pepe Pinot Noir. The wine is phenomenal, but above that, it is made by Wes Hagen, who is one of the true characters in the wine business today.
One last note – there are still 2 books I can give away. If you want them, leave a comment or otherwise send me a note over the next two days – first come, first serve…
That’s all I have for now, folks. Cheers!
Yesterday I was a snob, today I feel more like an idiot. In yesterday’s rant, I was complaining about the feel, shape and overall appearance of the bottle of 2010 Turley The Label Cabernet Sauvignon – first release of Cabernet wine by the famed Zinfandel producer. Then, while reading the comment by VinoInLove, I realized that I should find the offering letter and see if I’m not missing something.
Unfortunately, I have a bad habit – I keep old papers and e-mails around. So of course I found it. And then I read it. And then complemented myself on being… yeah, I already said it. Here it is, the offering letter, pretty much in its entirety (to drill it deeper, I even highlighted the key sentence):
We can get good lessons from any situation, this one being no exception. Personal lesson – the rant have to wait. If I would give it a bit of time, do a bit of research (i.e., find that offer e-mail), this all would be averted and I will not have to call myself names. But – there is also a marketing lesson here. I believe fundamental marketing mistake took place. Brand new product was introduced. The [very] unusual product for the given producer. It should be expected that additional marketing would be needed to help people to accept that unusual product. All it would take was to put a piece of paper with exact same description into every box, and “bad surprise” problem would be probably 80% fixed. It would be even better if the same information would go on the back label, which is pretty much wasted right now. And that would fix 90% of the problem.
Now, this whole situation forced me to read the back label. Carefully. And now I’m puzzled again. The first sentence of the “Vision” statement above says that this wine is a modern reinterpretation of the 60′s and 70′s classic, with lower alcohol level. Care to guess the ABV listed? It is 14.5%. I have some serious doubts that California Cabernet of 60′s was listing 15% ABV. Now this gets interesting – I’m really curious how this wine will taste like. Thus – to be continued…
In the words of my blogging friend thedrunkencyclist, yes, I’m a snob. Actually, in general, I think I’m not – but sometimes, especially when it comes to the ruined expectations, I guess that I’m.
Today I received a shipment from Turley Wine Cellars. Until now, Turley was a well known Zinfandel producer ( they also make Petite Sirah and Charbono). Their wines are reasonably priced, and you really should be on the mailing list in order to get them (practically not available in the regular wine stores).
As I’m on the Turley mailing list, about a month ago I received an offer to buy an inaugural release of 2010 Turley Cabernet Sauvignon from Napa Valley, creatively called The Label. I thought that it is definitely worth a try, a brand new wine from a reputable producer.
So the box arrived today. Cut, pull, take out very clever packaging (never saw anything like it), and I grab the bottle. My first reaction – WTF! I don’t know what I was expecting to see, but definitely not what I pulled out of the box. The bottle was very light, absolutely flat on the bottom (bad sign for a quality wine), and with its whole appearance was screaming “Cheap”! Mind you, this is a $40 bottle of wine, and if you will factor in shipping and taxes, it becomes $50 bottle of wine. The closest resemblance – Crane Lake from California, a $3.99 bottle of wine ( nothing against Crane Lake – I was happily drinking it many times). Here it is:
For comparison, here is The Label next to the traditional Turley Zinfandel:
Note that the foil on top of The Label bottle doesn’t even cover the cork inside! I rest my case…
I’m disappointed and completely flabbergasted. What should possess a reputable company to use that type of bottles? Were they completely out of time, and those bottles were the only thing available? Is this a message to the Cabernet lovers from Zinfandel producer, saying “Cabernet sucks”?
I’m really at loss here. Yes, I know, I shouldn’t judge the book by its cover – I will hopefully give it a try on Friday (need to give the wine a few days to recover from shipping and to avoid the bottle shock) – so once I will do it, I will be definitely glad to tell you what I think about the taste of the wine.
Yes, I’m a snob…
Boy, did this post took a long time… I don’t even know why – I knew what I wanted to write – but no, it still took forever. Anyway, it is finally out, yay!
If you think about it, oenophiles have not only common traits (here is my take on them) – they also have common traps. Are there actually only five traps there, tripping over and under those who loses their caution? It depends on how you will count them, but I would think that these five are the most common ones. Let’s talk about those traps, and then you can tell me of you ever fell for any of them.
1. $100 is a new $10. How many of you out there started your love of wine with Yellow Tail or Frontera, for $5.99 or so? That wine was great, and the idea that you can buy a bottle of wine for more than $10 was completely foreign. What? $19.99? That must be for special occasions only, I can’t believe people spend that kind of money on the wine. See, I’m very happy here with my Frontera Cabernet.
Little by little this situation changes. Why this $6.99 Bordeaux tastes like you are chewing on the tree branch? This is Bordeaux, right? So it is supposed to be the best wine in the world? As you keep reading books and magazines, talking and listening to other people, and most importantly, trying wines which cost a little more and maybe a little more on top, you start hitting the ”aha” moment from time to time. More wines, more reading, more conversations, more experiences at the wineries and wine tastings, more appreciation for the wine and all the labor and passion which goes into creation of a great bottle of wine, and you start letting yourself to push your limit of ”appropriate and acceptable” a bit higher, and then may be some. Before you know it, what was unfathomable to you ($100 for a bottle of wine? What am I, crazy?) becomes … hmmm, let me think about it. No, I’m not describing a birth process of a wine snob (let me digress for a second – “wine snob” has both good and bad meaning, I’m referring to the bad one here) – I think as casual wine drinker becomes an oenophile, the entire outlook on fairness and rationale of the wine prices is changing, thus eventually leading to $100 becoming a new $10 (or may be even worse than that).
2. No cellar is ever big enough. No matter what size of your cellar is, it eventually becomes full – and you run out of space for the … wait for it… new bottles, right! And this is in the lucky case when you have an actual cellar (so you can probably squeeze in a little more). When you don’t have a cellar, the boxes start piling up all over the place, which … yeah, creates problems. You start opening the bottles just so you will get space for … new bottles. You wish that your friends will come over, so you can open more bottles and … create space for new bottles. Then some of your collection ends up at, let’s say, Benchmark Wine Company, and you get a lot of space in your cellar, so … you can fill it up again.
3. Buying of the wine becomes an obsession. We all buy things. Food, clothes, gadgets. Don’t know if someone can be obsessed with food (talking about buying, not actually eating) – may be, but let’s skip it. Let’s say someone is obsessed with gadgets. Very nice – so that someone will camp out by the store and wait for the whole night for the doors to open to be among first 10 blissful owners of iPhone 15. Some hundreds of dollars, and your obsession is satisfied for the next two years, until the iPhone 18 will come out.
When it comes to the wine obsession, situation is quite different. With the wine, oenophile is constantly afraid to miss something – miss on a big scale, miss irreparably and then regret. Ahh, 2007 was a great vintage in California, so I have to make sure I have enough 2007 in my cellar, because the time to buy is now. What if I will never see this wine again? 2009 was a great year, and this is a great producer – I have to get at least a few bottles of this wine. And that one. Ohh, and what if tomorrow this wine will disappear from the store? So there are only 200 cases of this wine made, and it has such a high rating, and, ahh – this price is incredible – should I get 3 or 4? Yes, yes, I know – I will get 5 and drink one now, but I will still have 4 left for the future, right? I can go on and on, but I think you got the picture.
4. There is never a right time to open that bottle. When it comes to deciding on which bottle to open, boy, does that creates a tsunami of thoughts? So I only have two of those bottles left… Should I open it today? But I think this wine is still evolving… May be I should wait for another year? But what if it will be past prime next year – that would be such a pity, this should be really great bottle of wine. Okay, okay – I will open it in a month, when Michael will come over – hmmm, but I think he really likes Pinot, and this is a Cab… Okay, no, I can’t decide. Let’s put it back. Do I still have any of that Chianti left which I got last week for $9.99? Yeah, I’m tired of this Chianti, but at least I will not destroy my precious bottle before its time… Again, I think this is pretty clear (tell me you never had an occurrence of this one, go ahead, lie to the world).
5. One becomes susceptible to the charm of clever and trusted wine marketing. What is the big deal, right? That what marketing is for – to make us buy something. Problem is that unless you are obsessed with something, most of the marketing generates “hmmm, this is interesting” reaction. Once we are talking about obsession, the reaction to the clever marketing is “I have to have it”. I can tell you that probably 8 times out of 10, I want to buy the wine described in the e-mails from PJ Wine (here is a link to the sample e-mail for you – judge for yourself). The need to pay for shipping really becomes a sobering factor here. Same story with the e-mails from Benchmark Wine Company – luckily (hope you sense the sarcasm), most of their offerings are priced out of the reach. A lot of e-mails from Wine Til Sold Out lead to the similar “I gotta have it” syndrome – I know people who unsubscribed from WTSO e-mails, just to avoid that permanent temptation.
I think I warned you enough – do you still want to be an oenophile (or a wine snob – in a good sense, of course)? If you are still reading this, there is a good chance that you already are – then I hope I armed you with something useful in a fight for preservation of the family money and free space in your house. If not – I hope I got at least a chuckle out of you. Last, but not least – I want to know what do you think! This is what comments section is for… Cheers!
The title of this post is not misleading. I plan to talk about wine as an art form, which is the way I look at it. Why all of a sudden? Couple of articles, both great in its own right (I mentioned both in the Meritage post a week ago), prompted this blog post, despite my claim that I’m not going to enter this debate. I don’t know why is that, but I have a habit of saying “No” where deep inside, as soon as I finish my full and long “no” sentence I already know that, “oh it will be a yes”. Anyway, this blog post is not about me, it is about wine, so let’s get closer to the subject.
In case you didn’t have a chance to read those two articles, they were both on the beaten up (badly beaten up, I have to say) subject of cheap wines versus expensive wines. The first article, published in the Forbes magazine, provided a number of illustrations to the fact that…there are many factors affecting perceived taste of wine – temperature, label, feel of the moment, critics’ opinion, rating and many more (I’m not going to cite a full article here – it is well worth reading if you are into the wine world). I believe that one of the points of the article was to suggest that for the most of us, we can’t distinguish between cheap and expensive wines anyway, so why bother – drink any wine, be happy (I’m oversimplifying, I know).
Then Steve Heimoff took the subject close to his heart and went on to explain that there is a very big difference in taste between $15 and $150 bottles of Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon, that more expensive wine is always better than the cheap wine and that the the whole premise of Forbes article in Steve’s words is “man bites dog” attempt at a cheap publicity.
Let me take step aside and explain the meaning of the concept “wine = art”. When you are at home, take a look around you. I would make a safe assumption that for absolute majority of people, your home is decorated in one way or the other. You might have pictures and photos on the walls, statues big and small, flowers live and not, little (or big) mementos and many other things which surround our lives with only one purpose – to give us pleasure, set the mood or may be create lasting connections between time and memories. Taking pictures as the simplest example, they can be your kids’ pictures, copies of the works of the famous artists, works of the completely unknown artists or may be they are actual original paintings. Those pictures can be mass produced and acquired at the neighborhood convenience store for $4.99. But they also can be acquired after a long battle at the auction, where you had to put down $4.9 million to beat another guy and get that painting you always dreamed of.
Now, when was the last time you read an article telling you that you are not supposed to buy any works of art more expensive than $19.99, because you are not capable of understanding the difference between $19.99 and $199 pictures? Or when was the last time you read an article telling you that expensive painting is always better than cheap print? I can bet I’m giving you a very taxiing memory-combing exercise which will yield no results.
So my question is – why wine is treated in any different way than any other works of art? Read (or talk) about the wines, read about vineyards and places, read about wine makers, grape growers, oenophiles, wine collectors – what do you get out of that reading or talking? Passion, obsession, emotions, feelings. We eat because we have to, but we drink wine because we want to, because of its ability to resonate with our beings, to create emotional response. This is my premise of “wine = art” statement. I believe that wine is a form of the renewable art, which also has a pretty unique advantage compare to a simple painting, for instance. Whatever you see on the painting will be exactly the same in 10 years or in 50 years. It will create different emotions on a different day, of course – but it will not change in principal. At the same time, even the simplest wine will change in the bottle. For better or worse, but it will change. Last weekend we shared a bottle of 1997 Toasted Head Cabernet Sauvignon/Syrah blend (probably $9.99 or less) – believe it or not, but this wine was outstanding – it evolved, it had beautiful fruit, great balance and nice finish. It was memorable, it solicited emotions, it created mental staples for that particular moment. If this is not art, I don’t know what is.
Where am I going with this? I don’t believe cheap versus expensive is a meaningful or useful argument for the wine world. Yes, there are many reasons for the wine to be expensive – best quality grapes with very low yield, state of the art facilities, manual processes, need for aging before release, market demand, reputation and many many other factors define the price and can drive it very high up. But if you will exclude snobbery, arrogance and blissful ignorance, price is simply one of many factors which affect your buying decision – nothing more and nothing less. Yes, $150 bottle will taste different than $15 – but can we say “better”? If someone is a Pinot Grigio drinker (and enjoys it very much), will you be able to prove to him or her that $150 Cabernet Sauvignon is really better that $15? I want to see that happening. When it comes to wine, “better” is a difficult category, as the definition of the best wine is 100% personal – the best wine is the one which tastes best to you. Yes, critics matter, ratings matter – but only as a reference, as food for thought.
Wow, did I bore you to death? I truly hope I didn’t – I think this post was brewing for a very long time, slowly ripening to the point of wanting to get out. These are my true feelings, this is how I see the wine world, and “wine = art” makes it so fascinating for me.
Is this arguable? Of course (comments section is down below and only a click away). I don’t pretend to possess the absolute truth – but “wine = art” makes me open a bottle of wine with hope and excitement. No matter what anyone said about that bottle, how much it costs or what the rating is – I hope you will enjoy it and I hope it will create a special memory, a special moment – just for you. Cheers!
I spotted today a new wine glass design through a Twitter conversation – it is called “Revolution Glass”. You can see an image here (scroll down to see all of them):
I never held it in my hands, but just looking at the pictures of the glass itself and then people using it, my first reaction is to call it an invention we can live without.
Assuming that this is a traditionalist talking in me and even accepting that I don’t understand modern form and design (don’t think so, but will accept it) – what do you say? Would you like to use a wine glass like that?