Archive

Posts Tagged ‘monthly wine writing challenge’

Finish Versus The World

April 18, 2015 17 comments

Traditions of Wine

January 21, 2015 26 comments

Wednesday’s Meritage – #MWWC13 Reminder, Zinfandel Day, How To Start A Blog, WS Top 100 and more

November 19, 2014 11 comments

MWWC_logoMeritage Time!

Lots of things to share – let’s  get to it! First of all – the Monthly Wine Writing Challenge #13. The theme is Serendipity, and I really hope the theme is intriguing enough to see a lot of entries in the contest! For all the rules and regulations, please take a look at this post.

Last week we celebrated Tempranillo, and yet another grape holiday is upon us. On Wednesday, November 19th, we are celebrating an iconic American grape – Zinfandel! The Cabernet Sauvignon, Pinot Noir and Syrah wines are made pretty much everywhere in the world – but Zinfandel, in its pure form, is a real representative of an American winemaking culture. It is very easy to celebrate Zinfandel – just find a bottle of your favorite Zin, open it up and say “wow”. That’s all what is required.

When it rains, it pours. Wednesday is a Zinfandel holiday, but on Thursday, November 20th, we are going to celebrate the new grape harvest! November 20th is a third Thursday of the month of November, which means … yes, Beaujolais Nouveau time! I know, Beaujolais Nouveau often gets bad rap from the wine aficionados, but to me, the wine considerably improved over the last 5-6 years, and now it is a real wine which gives you real pleasure. I’m very much looking forward to tasting the 2014 Beaujolais Nouveau. And don’t forget that this new wine is celebrated all over the world – from Paris to New York to Washington to Chicago, you can find many events celebrating new harvest and life – just use the faithful Google, it will help you find the live event if you care to attend one.

On Monday, November 17th, Wine Spectator released its annual Top 100 Wines List for 2014. 2011 Dow Vintage Point was declared the wine of the year. What is amazing to me is that my friend Zak (wine store owner), predicted this exact wine to be the wine of the year in 2013 – and now it is, only one year later – that is very impressive in my opinion. The list looks quite diverse, with entries from all over the world. One of the interesting facts is that 3 out of the Top 10 wines are from Portugal. The least expensive wine on the list is priced at $10 (Bodegas Montecillo Rioja), and the most expensive one is Ornellaia at $240. You can analyze the list in many more ways – here is the link for you. Note that you can also go through the past 25 years of the Top 100 lists using the same link.

Recently I came across a blog post which provides excellent tips for the beginner bloggers about the content, dealing with social media, promoting the blog and all other related issues. I’m sure many of my readers already know most of this, but it never hurts to go through a refresher course – there is a good chance of finding something new. And for the people who are contemplating to start their own blog, having that good of an advice might be a tipping point. Here is the link to the post. I will also make it available on my Resources page.

Do you want to know in advance when the wine holidays are taking place? Me too – and this is why I’m glad I found this calendar, which lists most of the wine holidays in a very easy to understand format – here is the link so you can see it for yourself.

Last for today is a note of the new service called CorkSharing. If you plan to visit a winery, you can use the service to book your tasting in advance – when you arrive at the winery, you can just proceed to the tasting without waiting for it in line. The list right now includes 11 countries and 166 participating locations. I think this is an interesting service, especially if you plan your winery visit in advance.

And we are done! The glass is empty – but the refill is on its way. Cheers!

Mini Quiz Answer and #MWWC13 Theme Announcement

October 31, 2014 11 comments

Happy Halloween Friday!

Last Wednesday I had a small “what is it” quiz where you were supposed to figure out what was that object in the picture:

What Is It?

What Is It?

Well, somehow it happened to be a difficult question ( or may be it was just boring). Anyway, here is the answer – this is “The Original Lancashire Bomb” – a cheese, produced in Lancashire in UK.

This cheese is covered by the black wax and shaped like a bomb, hence the name. I found it in my local Costco store, and by the time I left the store a number of people just stopped me and asked “what is it???”, which prompted the mini quiz. In case you are wondering , the cheese was very tasty.

And now, to the more important business. The time has come for the new round of Monthly Wine Writing Challenge, this time it will be the challenge number 13, so it should be known as #MWWC13. I know that I already promised that it will be devilish, and I had some ideas – but actually, I’m not as mean as it might appear at the first sight :), so I hope you will like this theme, which will be … wait for it…

 

 

Serendipity

Serendipity!  I have to admit – not being a native English speaker, while I know the word, I often have to reach out for the dictionary if I want to understand the full context of the sentence which contains “Serendipity”. So this theme might still be challenging, but it will force you to look for the happy moments, which is definitely a good thing in my book.

As Jeff the drunken cyclist now is hosting the challenge, I will let him to come up with all the dates for submission deadlines etc., but you have a theme and you can start working on it now. Let’s make sure we will have a record participation in #MWWC13! I promise to be a “nudnik” and will remind you an ample number of times.

That’s all I have to say for now. Now, back to my original dilemma – Zinfandel or Petit Sirah for tonight? Grrr… Happy [winey] Halloween! Cheers!

 

An Unexpected Monday and A Thank You

October 27, 2014 21 comments

When my phone chimed today in the morning with the WordPress notification about one of my posts being linked, I noticed that it was linked to the post about Monthly Wine Writing Challenge.

For those who might not know – the Monthly Wine Writing Challenge is a brainchild of Jeff the drunken cyclist, a monthly (or so) wine writing competition started a bit longer than a year ago. In this competition, the winner of the round assigns a new theme, and all the interested wine bloggers and writers can submit their entry within designated time frame; the winner is determined by the popular vote.

When I saw the WordPress notice, I figured that the linking post was probably about the conclusion of the challenge, and I thought that the post once again mentioned all the entries in the competition. When I clicked on the link and read the post, I realized to my big surprise that it was actually an announcement about winning of the Monthly Wine Writing Challenge #12 by yours truly!

winnermwwc

It was totally unexpected, definitely very humbling and greatly appreciated – big “thank you” to all who voted for my post!

The theme of the Monthly Wine Writing Challenge was “Local”, and my entry was almost an afterthought of the post describing great experience I had while visiting the local wineries in Woodinville in Washington – definitely glad I was able to connect the dots.

Now as the winner of the challenge I get an honor of selecting the theme for the next round. In his post, Jeff mentioned that he expects me to come up with ha devilish theme for the Monthly Wine Writers Challenge #13. I think the “devilish” direction makes a lot of sense due to a number of reasons – a) we are talking about #MWWC13 ( note the 13 here); b) Halloween will be celebrated this week; c) I’m a big fun of “Cutthroat Kitchen”, where the host Alton Brown throws his “devilish” challenges at the contestants. I don’t have the exact theme yet, but I have some ideas, so you should expect to hear the announcement shortly – stay tuned…

Thank you all again and cheers!

 

Lucky or Grateful?

March 23, 2014 16 comments

MWWC_logoThe Monthly Wine Writing Challenge, or MWWC for short, had been ongoing for a while – and one would think that all the aspiring writers mastered the basics by now and can handle any challenge word with increasing ease. Yet every time I write a post for the MWWC, I hope that the next one will come easier – and it doesn’t happen. This post, with the subject of “luck”, was probably the hardest of all, and I’m trying to finish it in the last 20 minutes before the clock passes the midnight mark. This might be more of a rant than just a regular post, but you will be the judge of it…

Lets forget the wine for a minute and just talk about the concept of luck. If you are looking for one abused, misused and misinterpreted idea, this might it. Just think about all the monikers – “this is your lucky day”, “lucky penny”, “my lucky shirt/socks/rubber duckie”, “luck of the draw”, “lucky moment”, “lucky to be alive”, “lucky star”. Yes, we use them casually and often, albeit I would argue we don’t really think or imply the actual meaning of the word “luck”. Outside finding a $5 bill in the parking lot (may be a good luck for you, bad luck for the person who dropped it), the luck is usually comes to those who puts a lot of effort to get it. Is successful business created by sheer luck, or by sweat, sometimes blood, and lack of the sleep? Is successful marriage the result of luck, or the hard work of both spouses? Are the happy and healthy kids the result of luck, or the result of parents daily work and sacrifices? Yes, luck exists, of course, but its impact on the daily life of the vast majority of people, shall we say, is slightly exaggerated?

Now, let’s look at the wine world. We need to divide it into two parts – there are those who get to make the wines, and those who get to consume them. So talking about those who have to farm the land, grow the grapes, harvest them and then go through all the step from harvest until bottling (never mind selling), how much luck are they expected to get? The only lucky break they can get is the great weather. Great weather makes things a bit easier – but, this is where winemaker’s luck starts and ends – the rest is passion, sweat, tears and hard work. Lots of things can go wrong during all the stages of winemaking, and luck will not help to fix them – but knowledge, experience and tenacity will.

Let’s come to the other side of the table – the consumers. Now, this is where the role of luck is hard to pinpoint. You get the bottle of wine which generally costs $70 for only $25 at WTSO – is that luck? May be, but what if this wine is not your style and you don’t like it – but you got 4 of those bottles just to get a free shipping – is that still the lucky situation, or may be not so much anymore? You built the wine cellar, you got the wine and kept the bottle for 10 or 20 years, now you opened it and tastes great – is that luck? You tell me, as I’m not sure if that should be called a lucky accident, or is it really the result of the great winemaking and your labor of love as an oenophile.

I’m really not sure how often we should feel lucky, and if “lucky” is even the correct word – I think “grateful” is far better word to use. Yes, we should be grateful to the winemakers for all their hard work, as they created the wine which lasts, the wine which can move us emotionally. We should be grateful to our families, which allow us to spend money, time and efforts on this passion, and tolerate us literally go nuts because of the few drops of some strange liquid in our glass which we consider better than the nectar of Gods. Before we even get to enjoy that glass of wine, we should be grateful for our overall lifestyle, which allows for the things so insignificant in the grand schema of things, as glass of wine, to play such an important role in our lives (go explain the importance of wine to the billions which only dream about the glass of clean water). So lucky or grateful? I think the luck is something we try to keep to ourselves, and by being grateful we actually give it back.

So lets drink for being grateful for all the luck we have in our lives, and may it always be with us. Cheers!

Devotion – The Blog Post I Can Not Write

February 16, 2014 32 comments

MWWC_logoAs soon as I saw the new theme for the Monthly Wine Writing Competition #7, Devotion, my very first thought was “hmmmm, this will be hard, or more precisely, extremely hard”. The problem is that when I hear the word “devotion”, the immediate mental picture is of a giant cross at the very best, or no picture at all – but I can assure you it ain’t the picture of a bottle of Cabernet Sauvignon.

Ever since the theme was announced I was struggling to find the connection of “devotion” to the wine world. I’m sure the examples of the true devotion are abundant in the wine world. May be even more than in many other trades, the success requires a lot of sweat, blood and sacrifice. Not been a wine historian, but rather only a very appreciative and dedicated consumer, I don’t have those stories of sweat and blood handy, and searching the Internet and rewriting someone else’s stories is not something I usually do, thus search for the connection between wine and devotion became literally a daily routine. To no avail.

I thought that I will start my post with the analysis of the word “devotion” – yes, the linguistic analysis. Oliver did it it perfectly in his post for the #MWWC7, as he was struggling with the theme in pretty much the same way as I did. Oliver took the Latin route for the meaning of “devotion”, so I can still refer to the English meaning of the word. Here is a nice representation of the Google search for the definition of “devotion”:

Devotion_Google

Yes, love and loyalty (or dedication for that matter) sound like the right way to go here – but if that is the direction, I would simply use the word love, and not devotion. Nope. It doesn’t connect.

So as today is a pretty much the last day to submit the entry, I still don’t have it.

But let me give you somewhat of an interesting twist here. Let’s put the word “devotion” aside for a minute, and let’s go back to the wine. Think about two sides of the wine world (not exclusively two – but let’s simplify here). On one side, winemaker should be willing to make an honest wine, the wine he or she will be willing (and proud) to offer (sell) to any consumer. On another side of the spectrum is the consumer who should be willing to buy the wine. Let’s make this statement even more precise – the consumer who should be willing (and eager) to drink the wine. Do you think we can find devotion on both sides here? Does it take devotion to make the best possible wine? Yes this is an easy case, I would say (and it was perfectly presented by Jeff at FoodWineClick in his photo essay about devotion of the winegrower). And how do we get to the devotion of the wine consumer? While this might not sound all too fitting for the term, but one should be devoted enough to the wine world to be willing to open the bottle – any bottle, a cult (DRC, Petrus, Screaming Eagle), or the most obscure, of unknown grape and producer; the wine which costs thousands, and the wine which costs $1.99. Open and give that wine a chance, step over the preconceived notions (“ahh, I don’t drink California Chardonnay”) and make an effort to understand the wine for what it is. Is that a behavior of the wine-devoted consumer, an oenophile? We are not talking here about people who buy the wine as an investment, with the sole purpose of selling the wine once its price will increase – those people are devoted to money, not to the wine. But for the oenophile, the wine is approached with an open mind – that doesn’t mean that the one should equally love all the different styles and tastes – but that one has equal respect to them all.

And let me tell about devotion of the winemaker through the eyes, nose and palate of the devoted oenophile (yep, myself in this case).

I brought the bottle of 1966 Louis M. Martini California Mountain Pinot Noir from Chicago about a month ago. I was in the store, shopping for the older vintage wines, and I couldn’t resist to buy such an old wine for $25 – yes,this is how much this wine was.

I didn’t want to hold it for too long, so Valentine’s Day seemed like a perfect opportunity to open a special bottle of wine (yes, I should’ve wait for the Open That Bottle Night, but we are always traveling over the actual OTBN day, as it generally falls on the kids’ school vacation).

When I told my friend Zak (who owns the wine store) that I will be opening the 1966 California Pinot Noir for the Valentine’s Day, his reaction was “why? You understand that the wine will not be any good, just keep the bottle as is for the decoration”. My thought was “I can always keep the empty bottle as a decoration. I have to give this wine a try”.

DSC_0879

I honestly didn’t know what to expect. 1966 Pinot Noir from California? Not made by the star winemaker at the state of the art modern winery? The only thing I knew about the wine that it was made at Louis M. Martini winery. And Louis M. Martini doesn’t even make Pinot Noir wines today! Okay, let me come clean here – I had an additional reinforcement of my hope. I remember my wine class on Californian wines at the Windows on the World wine school, where after we tasted the line of California Cabernets, Kevin Zraly said “this wine is made by the Louis M. Martini. They make make excellent wines, and they could charge a lot more for them, but they chose not to”.

Louis M. Martini was an Italian immigrant who came to the United States in 1899. After working in the wine trade for a while, he opened Louis M. Martini winery in Napa Valley in 1933, as Prohibition was ending. Last year, the winery celebrated its 80th anniversary. You can read the history on the Louis M. Martini winery web site, but I want to mention that Louis P. Martini, the son of Louis M. Martini, went on to become one of the pioneers of California Pinot Noir and Merlot, and he was inducted to California Vintners Hall of Fame in 2008.

Let’s get back to the wine. It was the time to open that 1966 bottle, so I armed myself with the waiter’s corkscrew and the two-prong cork pull. I even had a thought of using Port Tongues, but that sounded a bit too fancy. Foil was cut, and I was presented with pristine looking cork top. Considering that appearance, I used the the regular waiter’s corkscrew, only moving it very slowly. The cork struggled only a tiny bit, and came out as a whole – and just look at this cork! I had 5 years old wines, where cork was in the terrible condition, never mind 48 years old wine!

DSC_0914So I poured the wine into the glass – beautiful red brick color, with an orange hue, reminiscent of signature Barolo color. I was really concerned about the first smell – hoping not to find a sauerkraut or vinegar there – and the nose was perfect! Yes, the herbal flavors were prevailing over the fruit, but nevertheless, it was a very pleasant nose without anything disturbing. The first sip – wow. This wine is beautiful! Yes, lots of herbs – sage, eucalyptus, may be even lavender, but also with the nice plum component, and most importantly, balancing acidity. An extremely complex and thought provoking wine – but in the perfect elegance of all the components. The wine opened up a bit more, showing a bit more sweet fruit notes – and then it was gone – we finished it all. Truly spectacular and almost unbelievable – but it was real. I would love to compare this wine to the old Burgundy – I guess this is what it will taste like, if I’m lucky.

And you are looking for connection to the today’s theme, devotion? To me, it is simple. To make the wine which will last for so long and stay in such a perfect condition (go back and look at that cork again) requires a dedication, it requires the full devotion of the winemaker, it requires the unconditional love to what you do. And this wine had it all.

Raise your glasses, my friends, for the true devotion of the winemakers and oenophiles. Cheers!

Mystery of Wine

January 12, 2014 20 comments

MWWC_logo“Mystery” is a theme of the sixth round of the Monthly Wine Writing Competition, as selected by the originator of the series and winner of the previous round, The Drunken Cyclist.

Wine is a strange thing. If you think about it rationally, wine is just a fermented grape juice. This is where the mystery starts – how come this fermented grape juice became so important that it even made it into the Bible? How was this fermented grape juice discovered for the first time? How did it happened that this fermented grape juice became an object of study, worship, love, hate, desire, crime, greed, excitement, awe, horror, passion (continue the list on your own)? How come this fermented grape juice is such a facilitator of emotion? These are the mysteries of the wine, the fermented grape juice, and these mysteries are countless.

The subject of wine is vast, it allows all of us, people who are “into the wine” – oenophiles, aficionados, snobs, buffs, casual wine drinkers – whatever designation speaks to you – to ponder at all the different sides of all “things wine”, to find our own mysteries. Starting from the growing of the grapes, harvesting them, making the wine and getting it into the bottle, the mysteries are abound every step of the way. Once the  wine goes into the bottle, this is when the actual “wine’s life” begins – of course,  with its own set of mysteries, one of the biggest of which is a simple question: when to drink this wine?

The wine in the bottle is a living thing. It is changing all the time. It has its ups and downs, lows and highs. We have no way of knowing if the wine is at its”peak” until we open the bottle. Once the bottle is opened, there is no way of putting the wine back if we think we didn’t hit it right. Anyone who ever experienced the wine at its peak will tell you that you get an uncounted amount of pleasure from each and every sip. The moment we take on the opening of the bottle is a decision moment to solve that mystery – is this wine ready to give us tremendous joy – or not. Open the bottle too soon, when the wine is too young – and you don’t know what did you miss, what this wine could’ve become if you would only give it another 2, 5 or 10 years. Open the bottle too late, and you have so many regrets that you will never find out how great this wine was at its peak. Either way, the mystery will remain a mystery. Yes, you can listen to the experts about “wine drinking window”. You can solicit the opinion of your family, your friends, the bloggers and wine writers of all walks. You will build your own expertize. But every time with the bottle in one hand and the corkscrew in another, the mystery will be unsettling, until that corks is pulled and the wine will be going into the glass. And your hits and misses are unavoidable. You will go from “wow!” to “I can’t believe THIS WINE tastes likes this, what happened?”.

Every time I’m opening the bottle of wine, I’m experiencing the thrill of solving the mystery. Same as everybody else, I’m influenced by the label, by what I read about the wine, by the opinion of the others, by my prior experience. But those are only expectations – and those should be managed. Better yet, the expectations should be ignored. To solve the mystery, the cork must be pulled. And then… The best one is when you simply say “wow, this is amazing!”. Even then, is that the end of the mystery, you think? Quite often, this is not. As the true mystery will remain forever, unsolved, expressed by the two words: “how come?!”.

Need an example? I have one for you. Here is my mystery case in point:

Chateau Ste. Michelle Orphelin

Chateau Ste. Michelle Orphelin

2004 Chateau Ste. Michelle Orphelin Red Wine, Columbia Valley (13.9% ABV). It was one of my most favorite wines ever. I don’t remember the exact price, but I’m sure it was under $15, most likely even under $12 – I used to by this wine by the case. It was my favorite go to wine to share with the guests. Beautiful dark clean fruit, medium to full body, good firm tannins, balancing acidity – this was a pleasure in the glass. I was so disappointed when I was told ( I think some time in 2009, I might be off on that) – “you are buying the last bottles”. What? Why? The wine was only made for two years, 2004 and 2005 – and that was the end of it.

Okay, but I still had a few bottles in my wine fridge. And I remember to happily taking one of the bottles of 2004 Orphelin for a great occasion – Wine Century Club dinner, I believe in May of 2010. Those Wine Century Club dinners were arranged to take place all over the world on the same day, and we (Wine Centurions) were in competition with ourselves, trying to taste more unique and different grapes than we tasted last time. Thus my reason to bring this wine was two fold – yes, it was one of my favorites, but  – it also packed in one bottle a very impressive line up of grapes: Syrah, Grenache, Cinsault, Mourvedre, Sangiovese, Petit Verdot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Souzao and Touriga – yeah, that’s what we call “the bang for the buck”.

So the cork was pulled, the wine was poured, the first sip is taken – and yes, my first thought, amplified by the facial expressions of the people around me, was “what happened”? The wine, instead of being great and energetic, was clearly past prime – a bit of the cooked fruit flavors, weak acidity, only the hint of the old greatness. How was that possible?  The bottle was stored in the wine fridge all the time, and only recently it had being fresh and great. Yes, I heard that such a complex blends don’t age too well – but this was a great wine, how come?

Fast forward to December 2013. While going through the wine fridge, looking for the bottle to open (I love the fact that I have no system of storing the wines whatsoever – that allows me to extend the pleasure of touching many bottles in the search of one), I saw all of a sudden the familiar squares. Ha, what is that? I pulled the bottle of 2005 Orphelin. Ahh yes, now I recall – I also have a bottle of 2004 somewhere. Okay, fine, let’s free some space – let’s open the 2005. It probably will be “meh”, but okay. And it was … not! Had enough dark fruit both on the nose and the palate, not a sign of aging, supple tannins and robust acidity – definitely a pleasure to drink.

After the success of 2005, my thought was – so what is happening with 2004? How is that going to fare now? Will we be in for a treat or a bust?

Bottle found, cork is pulled, 2004 Orphelin pours into a glass. Dark ruby color, not a sign of age. The nose – perfectly fresh dark fruit, blackberries with a touch of plums. Palate – dense, firm, weaved together by the dark fruit and balancing acidity – clearly a perfect wine, at its peak – and I have no idea for long this peak will last.

Well, the duration of the peak is not that important anymore, as it was my last bottle. What happened with that wine back in 2010? What is a fluke, the bad bottle? Or was I super-lucky with my last bottle, which was not supposed to last that long,  and it was just a pure luck, one out of a thousand? This will remain a mystery, which will never be solved. But I guess this is for the better. Every time, when pulling the cork, we are faced with the mystery – which we don’t need to solve. We only need to enjoy it. Let’s drink to the mysteries of our lives. Cheers!

 

 

Wine’s Oops Moments

October 22, 2013 14 comments

MWWC_logoThe Monthly Wine Writing Challenge started about four month ago with the goal to take the wine bloggers to the “next level” – one single word sets the theme, and all the willing wine bloggers create their best interpretation of the theme and its connection with the world of wine. In those four month the challenge themes went from “Transportation” to “Trouble”, then to “Possession”, and now to the current theme “Oops“, as set by the winner of the previous round, The Wine Kat.

Opps. What is the first thing which comes to mind when you here that short, but extremely universal expression? I don’t know about you, but somehow the first association for me was the song. I know I can’t compete with Food and Wine Hedonist when it comes to the hedonistic references to the popular culture, but in any case, Britney Spears “Oops, I did it again” was the very first thing which came to mind when I read the new theme, so here it is:

Yep, this video has nothing to do with wine, so let’s try to find our track here.

Life is generally filled with “oops” moments. Some can be funny, some can be sad. Some can be innocent, and some can be deadly, like missing the stop sign at a busy four-way intersection. The worst part of the oops moments is that they keep happening over and over, as we forget to learn from the previous ones. Technically, you are not supposed to step on the same rake twice, nevertheless, we like doing it over and over again.

Wine world is particularly prone to the oops moments. Problem is that you try one wine, and you think that you know them all. While there are so many factors affecting the taste of wine at a given moment – you mood, food, surroundings, company, price, label, your friend’s opinion, how long the bottle was open, is it at the optimal temperature… had enough? Nevertheless, it is enough to have one Chardonnay from Napa Valley not to our liking, where we will immediately generalize and come to the conclusion – okay, I’m not drinking Napa Chardonnay, just period – I had one, I know them all. That alone is a great source of the oops moments. But that is not all. Additionally, we are often not shy at all to state our opinion, as people think they have to have an opinion about wine, and it should be expressed, loud and clear – “yes, of course, they only make cheap wine in Australia”, “yes, I already had the Bordeaux once – it is a complete crap”.  Often, it seems that wine simply breeds arrogance and snobbery – which leads to the multiple embarrassing oops moments.

Overcoming this tendency is actually a hard work, and we really need to keep the focus to stay humble and thoughtful around wine – for our own good.

Let me give you an example of couple of my own profound, embarrassing oops moments. About 6 years ago, I visited Ridge winery in California in Santa Cruz region. Ridge had being making wines since 1962, and has somewhat of the cult following, especially for their Monte Bello Cab. I visited the winery with the friend, and we were also on the mission to find a good bottle (at the reasonable price) to bring it that same evening for dinner at another friend’s house. So we tasted through the full line of wines, and we didn’t like a single one of them. I don’t know what could’ve caused that – may be it was a Root day for me, may be I was just in the wrong mood for the tasting, may be something else. But the important thing is that based on that tasting, I made a strong conclusion for myself – Ridge doesn’t make good wines, it is all marketing fluff. Then about 3 years ago, I saw a tweet from Jancis Robinson, where she mentioned that she is working on the line of classic wineries for a big tasting, and she is including Ridge as one of the exemplary wineries in US. Here comes me, who already tasted Ridge once, and therefore I’m an expert on the subject, with the comment that I don’t understand why is she even mentioning it, as I was at the winery and didn’t like any of their wines. Jancis responds to my comment that she disagrees, and Ridge shows perfect sense of place. Next thing someone sees my comment and gets very upset as it is impossible not to like Ridge, and if I don’t like it, I have to be blocked (I even wrote the post about it). Well, no, we didn’t get to the oops moment yet.

Then, about 8 month later, I was again in the close proximity of Ridge, and decided to give it another try. I don’t know what was different that time – may be a cheerful girl who was pouring the wine, a different weather, a flower or fruit day – don’t know, but… I not only liked the wine, I loved each and every wine I tasted (here is my post about the experience). Now, here you have a classic oops moment. I wish I could’ve kept quite in that twitter dialog with Jancis, I really wish I would’ve kept my opinion to myself – but no, I had to show my expertise – and eat my embarrassment thereafter.

In the spirit of “oops, I did it again”, I need to give you another example, this one is a very recent one. You see, I like New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc – fresh grapefruit, lemongrass, vivid acidity – very nice wine in general. I know that you can buy the majority of New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc in the range of $10 to $16, and they will be very good wines for the most of the cases. And then there is Cloudy Bay – a New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc which typically costs $26 or more. In my mind, the picture is clear – what can be so different about Cloudy Bay compare to any SB which is $10 to $16 cheaper – I had the others, I’m sure it can’t taste any differently (smart and not arrogant at all, right?). Then I see a blog post by Stefano, where he speaks very highly about Cloudy Bay, and the little genius inside gets me to make a comment that Cloudy Bay can’t be so much better and different to warrant paying that much more money for the bottle.

And then I come to the trade tasting, and see the Cloudy Bay being poured. I take the first sip, and it becomes my instant “oops” and “oh sh!t” moment, as the wine is stunningly beautiful, and of course I will be glad to pay more money for it – as it is really different from the mainstream.

There you have it my friends. The oops moments are unpleasant, and they will hunt you down – it really worth an effort to avoid at least the repetitions. Stay open, stay humble and keep learning – the wine world is yours to enjoy. Cheers!

P.S. If you got your own glorious “oops” moment and you are willing to share – this is what the comments section is for…

How Possessive Are The Wine Lovers?

September 17, 2013 32 comments

MWWC_logoIf you are following wine blogs, you might have noticed the theme “possession” showing up here are there. Yes, this is no accident – the common linking factor is the Monthly Wine Writing Challenge (MWWC for short), in its third incarnation.

The theme for the first challenge was “transportation” – it was relatively easy to tie up to the wine both directly and allegorically. The theme for the next challenge was “trouble”, which sent me home scrambling  – “trouble” is not the first thing which comes to mind when you are looking at a glass of wine. In the end of the day, many bloggers successfully found the connection and produced a lot of interesting posts. The current theme, “Possession”, is a whole different game. On one side, it has a direct connection to the wine – but it is too direct for the nice intricate piece. “I possess wine. Sometimes, wine possesses me. The end”. On another side, it is almost forcing you to go into pretty much the exorcism route, which can be played, but this is not necessarily pretty (need examples? Do a google search for “wine possession” – you will find some stuff which might make you afraid to visit your cellar when it is dark).

So as you can deduce from my rant, I don’t have a good play on the theme. What you will find below is rather a collection of random thoughts, centered on the wine appreciation, with the nod towards the “possessive” relationship of wine lovers with the subject of their love.

So how possessive the wine lovers are? We can find few different types of “possessiveness” among the wine lovers as such. First, there are wine collectors (of course, that is an obvious one). But even among wine collectors there is one extreme group which I would like to exclude from the actual category of the wine lovers. That is the group which rather collect the money than anything else. Wine is strictly an investment for them, and they never think about bottle of wine in terms of the actual content. For this group, the wine is only an object which will appreciate in value, and at some point it will be exchanged for cash and profit. This group also includes the worst possible type – the wine-possessive ego-maniacs. For this group the wine which they stock in their cellars is intended to be an ego-booster – “I spent on that bottle 10 times more than you did”, and “my bottle is bigger and more round than yours”. In the end of the day, I’m not even sure if this group even belongs to the true wine lovers category.

Then there are those who love wine, but don’t care to possess it at all. Folks in this group happily drink the wine at any occasion, they serve the wine at their parties, and they buy a bottle on the way home when they feel like it. But they really don’t “possess” wine, as they don’t keep much wine in the house, and most importantly, they don’t assign any special attributes to any bottles.

And then comes the rest. The group of wine lovers who possesses the wine and actually, is possessed by the wine at the same time (I’m including myself in this group, so I’m continuing here from the collective of “we”). We keep the wine. We make the wine special by associating special mementos with those bottles – “ahh, this is the year we got married”, “remember we had this wine in Tuscany”, “this is the year our son was born”, “remember that winery visit”. We do our best to keep those bottles cool, quiet and comfortable. And then we wait. While buying the wine with mementos, we are also investing, of course. We are investing into exciting anticipation of how special this wine will taste when we will finally open it. While we hold on to the bottle, we can re-live that future moment over and over. We are possessed with finding the right moment for that special bottle. But what is important, that right moment also includes the right people. How many times have you thought “ohh, if they (whomever “they” are) are coming over, I got this special bottle we have to open”. Yes, we are possessed with wine. But we don’t buy it just to enjoy by ourselves. We are also possessed to share. We  want to share the experience. We want to share the special moment. We don’t want to keep it to ourselves. Without special moment or a special company, that bottle never gets to be opened.

And that is what I want to leave you with. Possessed by wine. Possessed to share.

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