Attention Wanna Be Winemakers – The Winemakers On PBS

This post is by Michael Homula from Pulling The Cork

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The Winemakers Well maybe I am late to this party but have you heard about the new reality show set to air on PBS September 1st called The Winemakers?  You have?

Really, you have?

Well I guess I have been under a rock or something because I was clueless about this until I visited this Paso Robles web site getting a few minor details gathered for an upcoming post on a Sauvignon Blanc from Clayhouse.  When I Googled it the only blog I found that mentioned it is Drink The Good Stuff

From the About The Show section of the website:

THE WINEMAKERS will plunge a diverse group of twelve men and women head first into one of the most uniquely challenging and rewarding professions in the world: the business of making wine.

Over the course of six half-hour episodes, this real-life cast of characters will experience every aspect of the wine industry from the ground up — with one goal in mind — to win the chance to launch their own wine brand.

It is set in Paso Robles and if you are thinking you might want to be on the show they are casting for season 2 now

I have to admit I am probably going to check this out just to give it a taste (ha, pun intended).  Based on the videos on their website it does look interesting and since it is about wine it can't be all that bad can it?  I guess it could be – have you seen The Great American Road Trip?  Ouch!

I am a bit of a reality show junkie but I only give a reality show one episode to get me interested and hooked.  If it doesn't, I move on to something else like re-runs of Full House or something.  So The Winemakers gets one shot to make me want to come back. 

One of my fears with this show is that it will end up completely downplaying and over simplifying the blood, sweat, tears and soul that winemakers and vineyard owners put into crafting their wines.   It seems most things on television and in movies these days get dumbed down so much that the reality goes missing missing from reality TV.  Even in movies this is true where, in the interest of supposedly making a movie more interesting or relevent, filmakers take liberties with the truth and mess up a perfectly great story.  See Bottle Shock for a wine related example of this. 

The Winemakers might be a standout compared to many other "not so reality" shows because it is on PBS.  For the most part PBS programming is more genuine and "real" than most.

If you're still reading and want to see a clip from the series, one of 10 on the website, I chose one below that I liked the best. 

Folio Enoteca out of commission at Oxbow Public Market until August

As we strolled through Oxbow Public Market last night after grabbing a quick bite at Taylor’s, we noted one of the market’s high-profile tenants was out of commission…

Folio Enoteca and Market renovation

According to a sign posted (and from what we gathered in peeking behind the screen), Folio Enoteca and Winery (as it used to be known), which is a Michael Mondavi Family operation, is closed for renovation until early August.

When it re-opens (the name will apparently be Folio Enoteca and Market) it promises to have kitchen and pantry items, handmade foods and a brand new Panini station that will offer “classic and signature” sandwiches. They will also, of course, have wines from Folio winemakers Rob Mondavi and Tony Coltrin, as well as a selection of imported wines.

Folio is just one of the many vendors that are working to evolve as time goes by–construction is clearly visible now at Pica Pica’s beverage bar.

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Review: 2001 Breaux Nebbiolo

This post is by allan from CellarBlog

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Wine: 2001 Breaux NebbioloReview:I had a chance to try this wine at the Breaux Nebbiolo Vertical back in April (post on that coming soon). Nebbiolo is an Italian varietal grown primarily in the Piedmont region. Generally, these wines are highly tannic and need time to age. As they age they develop a more floral or herbaceous bouquet. So, how does the Breaux Nebbiolo stack up against the

Review: 2005 Chateau La Tour De Mons

This post is by allan from CellarBlog

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Wine: 2005 Chateau La Tour De Mons BordeauxReview:This is another good quality value-priced Bordeaux. Of course, it helps that this was a 2005 vintage, which really has lived up to all the hype surrounding it. I have yet to try a 2005 that I haven’t liked. I decanted this wine for about 1/2 an hour, which smoothed it out quite a bit. The wine had a medium oak feel with aromas of black fruit

Texas BBQ in Brooklyn

This post is by Brooklynguy from Brooklynguy's Wine and Food Blog

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If you haven’t yet heard, bloggers Jeremy Parzen of Do Bianchi and Tracie B. of My Life Italian are getting married. It’s such a sweet story, they are such a great couple, and the whole thing might never have happened if not for their blogs. I’ve never met Tracie B., but I had dinner with Jeremy in San Diego and he’s a true gentleman and a scholar. Congratulations to both of you!

In my own little way I honored Jeremy and Tracie last night by eating Texas-style BBQ. I went to Fette Sau, the Texas-stye BBQ joint in a former garage in Williamsburg, Brooklyn. You order meat by weight and the guy behind the meat display case assembles it for you on a tray with wax paper. Just like Texas – check out this Do Bianchi BBQ post for reference. Paper plates, a few rolls, some pickles, and potato salad completed the meal.

The charred hunks in the foreground are pork belly.

We went with 3/4 pound of pork spare ribs, a half pound of brisket, and a third pound of pork belly, the cut that is basically ubiquitous now in NYC restaurants. Although I hear they’re moving to lamb belly and other bellies, but I’m not really on top of these things. BBQ pork belly…that’s like taking a whole slab of bacon and BBQing it. Pretty intense. And it was intensely pork-tastic, the very essence of porkiness. I thought the brisket was too dry though, probably smoked at too high a temperature. The ribs were very tasty, but also not as tender as they might have been. The sides were great and we had great beer too – something brewed in Red Hook, Brooklyn exclusively for Fette Sau. They have an epic whiskey list, and we closed out the meal with a nip of Michter’s Rye, my favorite of the non-fancy, non-aged straight rye whiskies. We left the restaurant and went directly to my cardiologists office where we enjoyed late a evening angioplasty.

Congratulations again to you Jeremy and Tracie, may you have a long, healthy, and happy life together. With lots of great BBQ and wine.

The Sampler expands

Good news for London’s wine lovers. One of the capital’s best wine shops, The Sampler, is to open two new branches – in South Kensington and Notting Hill. For those unfamiliar with this innovative shop, which allows customers to taste a range of 80 wines from its Enomatic machines, there’s a write up on this site.
Dawn and Jamie, the owners, have…

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Annual Filing Option Now Available for Direct Shippers in New York

New York has recently amended its alcohol beverage tax regulations to allow certain wine distributors to file Form MT-40 (Wine Tax Return) on an annual basis rather than a monthly basis. Out-of-State wineries must be licensed by the New York State Liquor Authority as a direct shipper and submit the “Application for Annual Tax Return Filing Status for Certain Beer and Wine Manufacturers” (Form MT-38) in order to receive annual filing status. Form MT-40 should be submitted on a monthly basis until the Tax Department confirms that the request for annual filing status has been approved. Additional information can be found in the notice entitled, “Annual Filing Option Available for Certain Wine Distributors,” published by the Department of Taxation and Finance on June 24, 2009.

Form MT-38 Annual Filing Status Application
Form MT-40 (Monthly filing)

-Annie Bones, State Relations – Wine Institute

Riesling in the Morning in Rhinehessen: Heyl zu Herrnsheim and St. Antony

This post is by Fredric Koeppel from Bigger Than Your Head

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Last Thursday morning, our group drove to Nierstein, not far up the road from Oppenheim where we were staying, to taste wines at Weingut Heyl zu Herrnsheim and St. Antony. The facilities for these estates are housed under the same roof and presided over by young winemaker Felix Peters. Heyl zu Herrnsheim has been producing organic wines since 1980, while St. Antony is in the process of changing to organic winemaking. We are in the Rheinhessen.

By the wine, the phrase “organic wine” is not allowed on German wine labels; the proper term is “made (or produced) from organic grapes,” though that situation may change by 2010 or 2012. The logic is that in order to be called organic wine, the entire process of making the wine must be “organic” and regulated as such. In any case, Felix Peters does not use the word organic on labels. “We don’t see it as dogma,” he said, “even though it’s important for the estate and the wines. Organic farming is very important for riesling because it’s a very late-ripening variety.” Indeed, we heard this comment wherever we went, from Prof. Kauer at the Wine Institute to many of the winemakers, that with organic and biodynamic methods, the riesling grapes ripen earlier. There’s a trade-off here: Longer hang time for the grapes versus the threat of late frost in the spring.

Readers may think it odd for a group of 12 people to belly up to the bar and start drinking before 10 a.m., but I promise that we spit and poured out far more wine than we swallowed — we’re all professionals here — which in a way was a shame because these were terrific wines. It helps not to eat too large a breakfast; you don’t want to feel bloated and slow when it’s time to analyze wines in rapid succession. Besides, the night before, we hadn’t gotten back to the hotel until midnight, after a long dinner with many wines, and after laying my head on the pillow about one, I rose at 6 a.m. to work on blog postings. See what I do for you, My Readers? Anyway, in those circumstances it’s best to be circumspect and not eat and drink like a fool.

The Rhine River originates in Alpine glaciers in Switzerland, flows north and then west to Basel and then heads north into Germany, picking up tributaries and power as it goes. At the city of Mainz, where the Main river adds its waters to the Rhine, the Rhine, confronted by granite hills, abruptly turns southwest for a few miles before shaking off the geological confines and continuing to flow north-northwest into the Netherlands and to the sea. Along that southwest bend, among steep hills, nestle the vineyards of the Rheingau, on the river’s north bank, and the Rheinhessen, on the south.

The Peter Antony and Heyl zu Herrnsheim estates consist of 85 percent riesling and 15 percent pinot blanc vineyards. The grapes go through spontaneous fermentation, that is, the winery relies on wild yeasts, not inoculation with manufactured yeasts, and the wines see a lot of skin contact for complexity and depth. These are, indeed, wines of complexity and depth, with the Heyl zu Herrnsheim rieslings having a slight edge over the rieslings of St. Antony, though in the final call, such distinctions hardly matter.

Here’s what we tasted that morning a week ago, with brief notes. My attempt here is not to spend heaps of verbiage on each wine but to offer an impression of the style of the house.

>St. Antony Bodenschatz Riesling 2008. Crushed gravel, yellow plums, jasmine, roasted lemon; lime leaves, citrus, gun-flint; spicy finish; fresh and vivid, bright minerality and acidity. Delightful. The price in euros is 6.90; the dollar equivalent would be $9.73. One impressive factor on this tour was the inexpensive nature of German wines. Of course when one gets into the realm of limited edition, late-harvest wines the cost goes up, but generally the wines we encountered, even of high quality, were relatively cheap. And there’s no ridiculous three-tier system to drive prices up along the way from winery to consumer.

>St. Antony Rotschiefer Riesling 2008. “Rotschiefer” is a brand for the two estates, their “most important wine,” Peters told us. This is fermented and aged 50 percent in 70-year-old wooden casks and 50 percent in stainless steel. The wine is a little fatter, smokier and fleshier than the preceding riesling, with deeper spice from start to finish. My notes end: “Incredibly vibrant and resonant — what life and vigor!” 9.80 euros ($13.82)

>Heyl zu Herrnsheim Rotschiefer Riesling 2008. The HzuH “Rotschiefer” derives form different vineyards than the St. Antony rendition, and more wooden casks are used in its production. Peters described this wine as having “a more typical riesling profile.” Perhaps it was slightly more intense and concentrated than the St. Antony. Lemon, pear, hint of peach; a blast of clean acidity; “big” for a riesling, almost forceful, trenchant minerality. 9.80 euros ($13.82)

>Heyl zu Herrnsheim Nierstein Brudersberg Riesling 2008, Grosses Gewächs. Grosses Gewächs, whimsically called “GG,” is an attempt by the estates of a region to agree on an official, though non-federal, ranking of the best vineyards; the equivalent is the French term “Grand Cru,” as it’s used in Burgundy. The notion of ranking vineyards was not only neglected by the Wine Law of 1971 but was actually dismissed as elitist, dealing a severe blow to the structure of German wines at the highest level. (I’ll discuss these issues more fully in a later post.) Anyway, Brudensberg is a monopole for HzH, that is, an instance of an entire vineyard owned by one estate. My notes: Wonderfully floral, flint and limestone, talc; tremendous presence & weight; squingeing acidity, crystalline purity and intensity — but earthy, almost “wheaty.” 30 euros ($42.30)

>St. Antony Nierstein Orbel Riesling 2008, Grosses Gewächs. This spends six months sur lie, 30 percent in wooden casks, 70 percent in stainless steel. Fat, fleshy and earthy, very spicy; dense and chewy; a riesling for chardonnay-lovers, maybe; a little bready and wheaty, dynamic minerality. 18 euros ($25.38)

>St. Antony Nierstein Ölberg Riesling 2008, Grosses Gewächs. Shimmering intensity and purity; peach and pear, very spicy, vibrant and resonant; very dry, huge minerality; jasmine and lilac, also the bready/wheatmeal factor. Superb. 22 euros ($31)

>St. Antony Nierstein Pettenthal Riesling 2008, Grosses Gewächs. Wow, earthy, dense, intense and concentrated; very dry, fathoms of limestone and skeins of vibrant acidity; taut, lively yet almost lush; bready, cheesy and leesy, but slick as a whistle and clear as a bell. Needs three or four years. Superb. 25 euros ($35.25)

>For a treat, Peters pulled out a bottle of Heyl zu Herrnsheim Niersteiner Pettenheim Riesling Spätlese halbtrocken 1991. (”halbtrocken” = “half-dry.”) At almost 18 years old, this wine was young, fresh and clean, offering lovely balance, vibrancy and resonance, aromas of peach and pear and jasmine buoyed by riesling’s requisite petrol aspect; silky in the mouth, slightly sweet entry that immediately goes dry, almost achingly so; towering minerality and acidity. Wonderful riesling with another five to eight years of life.

After the tasting, we took the bus out along a one-lane road to the vineyards, stopping to peer up at the steep inclination of Orbel and Ölberg. The broad river Rhine flows about 100 yards away, down the slope. The vineyards are so steep that small tractors are required for cultivation between the rows. Someone asked about using horses, but Peters said that the land is too steep for horses. The vineyards are not separated by fences or walls, as they might be in Burgundy. The territory is marked by hedges and drainage ditches and nothing else. I suppose that when vineyards have been in existence for 500 years or so, everyone knows where the boundaries are. You just grow up with it in this wine country.

This was a satisfying visit. The wines ranged from enjoyable to great, and we appreciated Felix Peters’ low-key, self-affacing and accommodating manner (which can’t be said, as you will see, for every producer we visited).

The wines of St. Antony are not imported to the United States, but small quantities of Heyl zu Herrnsheim wines seem to be available in Chicago and, oddly enough, Tennessee, though I think not in my part of the state. (Like Gaul, Tennessee is divided into three parts.)

Riesling: foe or waste of time?

This post is by Sharon from Sharon's Wine Blog

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The title here is a feint. I was scribbling messages with a friend and wondered what might be interesting to talk about on this blog. His suggestion? Knowing my proclivities: “Riesling: foe or waste of time?

Of course, I countered that the answer wouldn’t make for a very long post: “Both.”

Now, I try to be open-minded in my approach to wine. I will even go back for certain punishments just to make sure I really, really don’t like a vinous thing.

Then I get all bombastic and pretend I have set-in-stone tastes.

Thing is, for all of my railing against riesling (there’s been a bit of that, as well as passing off glasses to friends, liberal use of a dump bucket, &c.), I have in my day quite liked quite a few.

Since I have my very own personal palate issues with residual sugar, the rieslings that have managed to curry favor with me have tended toward the Austrian and Alsatian side.

Yet exceptions abound. Some older Germans: yum, who knew? Some nasty Clos Sainte-Hunes: need to replace my tooth enamel!

So, roll it all up into a ball, and say, well: both, and neither. The exuberant aromatics of riesling can be enormously appealing; the body can be viscous; I do like that petrol thing. But the riesling grape is not a reliable friend. It’s a friend who sometimes kicks your dog and sometimes gives you a bunch of lilacs tied with a ribbon.

So I’ll stick with the chardonnays and the romorantins and the grüner veltliners of the world. Until their green-blue corks start heralding premature aging and walnutty oxidation.

Then I’ll have no recourse but chenin….

Signs of mildew

This post is by Jamie from jamie goode's wine blog

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My Pinot Noir has some signs of downy mildew. It’s the first time I’ve had to deal with this – in the past the problem has been oidium (powdery mildew), which is prevented by using elemental sulfur.
Downy mildew manifests as pale patches on the leaves, known as ‘oil spots’; when you turn the leaves over, you can see the fungal infection. To…

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Wineepedia entry of the day – Bonnezeaux

This post is by Lyle Fass from Rockss and Fruit

Click here to view on the original site: Original Post

One of the most overlooked appellations in all of the Loire Valley.

DO Montsant Cuisine and Food Culture – Where to Go and What to Eat

When you ask people what Montsant has to offer beyond wine, you tend to get a very standard group of answers that only vary in the order they are received: almonds, olives, olive oil and hazelnuts. The logic being that the land is so harsh and rugged, with only a few lizards spotting the landscape, nothing other than a few durable and resilient trees can successfully survive in this climate.

That said, amazing olive oils, flavorful nuts and diverse and interesting wines blend together in a perfect harmony of flavors within the DO of Montsant. Falset, the capital of the region of Montsant, is only 20 miles from the main seaside city of Tarragona, and therefore, benefits from a culture of fresh fish; while at the same time, it also boasts of  land based fare such as rabbit and duck. Thus, you have a cuisine of pure flavors, which are presented with only a drizzle of liquid gold olive oil.

If you visit Montsant, do not miss the diverse and incredible rice dishes. You many know them as Paella, but they are a far cry from the saffron colored, dried out rice tourist crap you’ll find on many menus in Barcelona and Madrid. Instead,  you’ll discover rich and decadent dark squid ink rices, with your choice of seafood, wild game or traditional meats. At Quinoa, a trendy restaurant located along the main strip of Falset, Gabriella savored a lobster based rice, that in reality, was more lobster than rice. Half of a lobster was delicately propped on a plate of steaming rice sans lobster utensils. And despite her cocked eyebrow and frustrated grimace as she tried to get at the rich and juicy lobster meat out with her hands, the challenge was met with determination and sounds of utter satisfaction.

One last dish worth mentioning is called Sanfaina, which is essentially an ode to all vegetarians in the world. I’m not entirely clear if this is always made with the exact same vegetables, but the general idea is to cook down over low heat cubed zucchini, roasted and peeled red pepper, eggplant, onions and garlic in a clay pot coated in olive oil. With produce being as fresh and flavorful as they are in Spain, especially in rural areas, you can imagine how incredible this particular dish is.

Restaurants in DO Montsant

As for where to eat? Well, most people we asked, locals and tourism types alike, conceded that there is still a ways to go before Montsant and the Priorat become a restaurant destination. We had meals at both Quinoa and Celler d’Aspic, both of which did not fail to impress. At Cellar d’Aspic we were awed by a cold melon soup with jamon, typical to the region, but the creamy almost honey like texture and flavor wowed us. And while the rice dish of baby squid had us licking our plates, and the roasted pig’s feet covered with baby squid (an odd local juxtaposition, but one I would recommend!) and tenderloin were both done to perfection, it was the rosemary sherbet that made us giddy with excitement. Chef and Sommelier, Toni Bru led us step-by-step throug the meal, complete with a paired wine tasting for each dish, which were generally spot on. One particular favorite was the Finca L’argata 2006. Clocking in at 15+% alcohol, this wine to our astonishment remained elegant and alive with its rich raspberry notes. Our suggestion, quiz Toni on his favorite pairings with whatever food you’re game for and let him guide you accordingly.

Matías Fernàndez Hernàndez owns the popular restaurant Quinoa in Falset, not a stones throw away from Celler d’Aspic. Gabriella with her lobster rice, and I with my duck breast, albeit a touch over cooked, were both noteworthy. Granted, the service needs a bit of a once over, but Quinoa does offer a killer fixed priced menu throughout the week that won’t break the bank.

Another great money saver is La Vi-zzeria, an eclectic and funky restaurant in the heart of Falset. Owned by locals who have history in the icecream world, the restaurant boasts of an Italian brick oven to help them crank out some of the heartiest and tastiest pizzas we’ve enjoyed in quite a long time! Don’t fill up on the appetizers and just order from the pizza menu, as you won’t be disappointed. Combine this with an interesting and diverse wine list and a laid back atmosphere, and you’ll be sure to have a good time. Not to mention, you most likely will be sitting next to a table of winemakers while you do it!

A few additional jaunts worthy of your attention are Restaurante el Cairat and Fonda la Figuera. Both are family run restaurants that are still said to be dishing up the same great fare we enjoyed a few years back.

In the DOC Priorat, tucked inside the town of Gallatrops, there is a place called Restaurant Irreductibles, which is owned by René Barbier Jr and Sara Pérez of Venus La Universal among others. Although we haven’t been there, we’ve been told the steep prices match the exquisite cuisine. If you’ve been there, let us know what you think in the comments section. (warning: either no website or flash based website)

In summary, DO Montsant wines are very rich and dense, but have a natural acidity that is truly breathtaking. With this acidity, we found wines that beautifully match a wide variety of cuisines. White wines with body to take on the richest of meats, and whites with a purity of fruit and freshness on the palate to pair with the most basic of  salads.

If you want to get away from the city and enjoy some fine Catalan cuisine, and good wine, you really can’t do much better than setting up camp in or around Falset, searching out a few local haunts. Or better yet, look for a casa rural with a kitchen and stock up with some DO Montsant wine and local treats. A good resource for finding a place to eat can be found on the Comarca’s website. There you can find other places to eat along with suggestions based on price.

Let us know what your favorite traditional dishes are from Montsant, or which restaurants you would recommend to others?


Ryan Opaz

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Experimental cure of Esca in the Loire

Didier Barrouillet in his experimental Sauvignon plotMareuil Sur Cher (Touraine, loire) I was tipped about this interesting story about vine disease and cure by Laurent Saillard who works in the vineyard of Clos Roche Blanche in the Loire. Esca is…

A Repeat Winner

I must sound like a broken record with this wine. Here’s the review of the 2007. And the 2006.  But really, it is my absolutely favorite Michel Schlumberger wine year to year. Of course….I don’t drink the Cabernet Sauvignon in my club shipments because I’m gathering a 10 year vertical to serve….well, it will have to be in a few years because I currently have 1998 through 2005. I’m almost there.  Don’t you want to be my friend when I pop that open? Totally off point though. I picked the 2008 Michel Schlumberger Pinot Blanc to drink this evening. I’d been ITCHING to open it since it arrived in one of my recent club shipments.  The Pinot Blanc sports a real cork closure, clocks in at 12.5% alcohol by volume, and I believe it retails for $21, though I got it in a club shipment and every M-S club shipment is $50 regardless of what’s in the box.

On the nose of the Pinot Blanc I found sweet ripe pear, white peach, white pepper, a hint of honey, spice, lemon, honeysuckle, and white flowers.  I liked this wine so much last year that I put it in the Summer Sipper Wine Blog Pack I helped design for Jill.  In the mouth the wine showed lemon, peach, honey, ripe pear, ripe apple, melon, and a little essence of apple cider.  Overall, it’s crisp, light, and consistently delivers a bottle of wine that I love.

Posted in California, Michel-Schlumberger, Pinot Blanc, White, Wine

Anthony dias Blue Goes on the Attack Against Wine Bloggers

Here we go again.

I don’t know why wine writing icons feel compelled lately to disparage wine bloggers as a whole, but it seems that the venerable Anthony dias Blue is joining Robert Parker in painting all wine bloggers with an overly broad and negative brush. As in the case of Parker’s blogger diatribe, by casting aspersions on wine bloggers with such a broad brush, Blue undermines his own (otherwise very compelling) argument and credibility.

Blue’s attack comes in the July 2009 issue of Tasting Panel in a piece titled “…And Who Regulates the Bloggers?” Blue starts by coming to defense of Robert Parker with respect to the recent brouhaha that Tyler’s article drummed up on his Dr. Vino wine blog. You might recall that Tyler uncovered what appeared to be very inconsistent behavior by some of Parker’s staff, behavior that didn’t seem to line up at all with Parker’s published code of ethics. This event generated quite a bit of discussion on the Internet, and even prompted Janis Robinson to (finally) detail her own ethics code with regards to samples and reviews.

Strangely, he cites “barbarian bloggers” instead of simply referencing Tyler’s Dr. Vino blog. I don’t recall anyone but Tyler breaking the Parker story, so I’m confused as to why Blue would use a broad and disparaging term to describe bloggers a group.

Things get much worse…

Blue makes a very valid point about the real influence of paid trips or free samples on the outcome of wine reviews:
“The implication of some of these militant bloggers is that any contact between producer and critic is a sign of corruption. Should wine critics be required to spend $100,000 a year to buy wines for review just to avoid even the appearance of taint?”

On this point, I’m in total agreement with Blue. Let’s not forget that I myself was the target of a similar witch hunt last year. In my view, this is a non-issue; you’d be hard-pressed to find a topic on which so much has been written lately with so little benefit to the wine consumer.

But “militant blogger”? Uh-ohhh…

What comes next is Blue going off the deep end and pissing all over his credibility.

“And who are these bloggers anyway and, more important, what is their motivation? It would be comforting to find that they are altruistic wine lovers who see their purpose as bringing insight and valuable information to like-minded consumers. But the image that presents itself is of bitter, carping gadflies who, as they stare into their computer screens and contemplate their dreary day jobs, let their resentment and sense of personal failure take shape as vicious attacks on the established critical media.”

Let’s see… “barbarian,” “militant,” “who are these bloggers, anyway,” “gadflies,” “resentment and sense of personal failure,” and “vicious.”

Who’s carping and bitter?

Blue’s reputation in the world of wine is secure – he’s got nothing to gain with this attack. And yet, he made it anyway. Which is sad, because Blue’s diatribe is the equivalent of me saying that all wine magazine staff are incompetent boobs who take queues and bribes from wine producers and distributors in order to manipulate the market to favor whoever brings their employers the most advertising dollars. In other words, it’s patently wrong in the majority of cases and insulting in the extreme to the > 99% of that group to whom it doesn’t apply.

Dear Mr. Blue – What you, and recently Robert Parker, are failing to realize is that there ultimately isn’t an “us” or “them” in the situation between traditional printed wine media and wine bloggers.  Just do what most wineries, PR firms, distributors, and other wine industry pros are already doing – accept us and get on with things.  If the goal is to marginalize wine bloggers by attacking us en masse at every opportunity, the strategy is failing miserably.

Here’s a thought: if you’re wondering whether or not wine bloggers are trying to improve the world of wine for its consumers, come over to the American Wine Bloggers Conference in Sonoma next week and find out for yourself.

I’ll be waiting to share a glass with you after I accept your apology.  We can even talk about our day jobs.

I happen to think mine is very cool, by the way.

Not that you asked.



Rough Restaurant Experience With Wine Offers Reminder: Vintage Matters

By Evan Dawson, Finger Lakes Editor

Editor's Note: The photograph, taken in the low restaurant lighting, shows the offending disclaimer mentioned in the text below.

I had a horrible wine experience at a popular restaurant this week, and yet I don't want to unfairly malign the restaurant involved. My friends know that I'm constantly talking about service in all industries — in a competitive and hurting economy I find the easiest way to differentiate yourself is through stellar service — and yet I don't want to be unfair. This was one server on one night, hardly a large enough sample size to declare a service black hole.


But in this case, the restaurant is at fault as well. More on that to come.

My wife and I joined two friends for dinner at Jojo in Pittsford outside Rochester. It's an extremely popular and trendy restaurant offering high-end entrees as well as delicious $11 burgers. The wine list is long but mediocre, and that's where we ran into trouble.

Looking for a red wine, I waded through the usual suspects (Charles Krug, Robert Mondavi, Chateau St. Jean, etc) and discovered a gem: a 2001 Col D'Orcia Brunello di Montalcino. I was excited because 2001 was considered a wonderful vintage in Tuscany and Col D'Orcia makes more old-school, rustic Brunellos. We happily ordered a bottle.

The waitress eventually emerged with the bottle and presented it to the table while getting ready to insert the corkscrew. Thankfully I noticed that she had brought a bottle of the 2002 Col D'Orcia. Being the Brunello lover that I am, I knew that there was an enormous difference between 2001 and 2002. While 2001 was a dream, 2002 was a nightmare, with disastrous weather ruining harvest. Most producers didn't even bottle their Brunello in 2002. (Wine Spectator, for example, scored the 2001 Tuscan vintage 98 points, while 2002 earned 78 points). 

I didn't want to be difficult and, knowing that many servers don't have a deep reservoir of wine knowledge, I didn't want to embarrass the waitress. I simply said, politely, "I'm sorry, we had ordered the 2001." She stared blankly at me. I continued, "It's no problem, but please don't open that bottle. I'm sure we can find something else if the 2001 is not available." 

At this point I guess I expected the waitress to offer a half-apology or some assistance in finding an alternate wine. Nope. She went from agape to seemingly furious, glaring at me without speaking. I felt awkward. She clearly had no clue why this wine snob would raise a fuss over a bottle. I could practically hear her shouting, "It's the same wine, idiot!" Of course, it's not the same wine, and I'm surprised to see that Spectator notes about the 2002 Col D'Orcia (after scoring it 77 points), "Not imported into the U.S." This was not like comparing apples to apples. It was like comparing apples to garden rakes.

My wife and friends were just as startled by the waitress' reaction as I was. For the remainder of the meal she continued to be terse and awkward, and it made the evening rather uncomfortable. We noticed on the wine list a disclaimer that seemed designed to get them off the hook in times like these: "Due to our extensive wine list, vintages are subject to change." Again, I don't mean to be rude, but let me go ahead and translate that: "Our wine list is long enough that we feel it's an excuse to be lazy and not update the vintages when they change. So don't blame us."

The disclaimer should have been a warning that this restaurant is not serious about wine. Then we noticed that NONE of the white wines by the bottle were listed with vintage. We took this as a statement by the restaurant that white wines are some kind of inferior species — which they are very obviously not. An excellent new restaurant in Geneva, New York called Halsey's boasts a diverse and interesting wine list that is marred by the fact that their Finger Lakes bottle list does not display vintages. What does that tell the customer about their opinion of local wine?

The bottom line is this: Service matters, and so does vintage. Yes, there are sterilized, mass-produced wines that taste roughly the same every year. But most wines will show at least some, and often significant, variation. Weather is the obvious factor, but there's cropping, winemaking techniques, grape sourcing… the list is long. Restaurants that don't find vintages to be important are telling their customers that they don't understand or care about wine. Poorly trained service staff only cement that point. And while I'm a self-acknowledged wine geek, I should not be made to feel like the jerk in the room when I have to point this out.

I'll return to Jojo; I enjoy the food and atmosphere. But next time I'll bring my own bottle and pay the corkage fee.

Ready to go


Table set for lunch and a big wine tasting, with many wine tasting glasses and shining silver spitoons Bodega Familia Schroeder Winery, also called Saurus, Neuquen, Patagonia, Argentina, South America

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Kuleto Estate Wine Club member party.

The Kingfish wine club members enjoy an evening of amazing wine and food at the Kuleto Estate, outside of St. Helena in Napa. One of the most stunning wineries in northern California, the estate features dramatic vineyards with sweeping views, incredible single-block wines, a full kitchen and an executive chef. Founded by well-known restauranteur Pat Kuleto, it’s not surprising that beautiful food is given equal footing to the highly-rated wines produced here.

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Lest We Forget the Average Wine Drinker….

This post is by Vinography: A Wine Blog from Vinography: A Wine Blog

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It’s quite easy to be lulled into a false sense of reality in any number of ways in our lives. We extrapolate so much from our own experience that we tend to forget that most of us live in little bubbles, amidst an outside world that often bears little resemblance to ourselves.

I very much appreciate, and in some cases seek out, opportunities to be reminded that the world of wine I live in is not the world of the average wine consumer. While I tend to buy most of my wine from the smaller, independent wine merchants that I recommend my readers patronize, I enjoy browsing the wine aisles of supermarkets and big box stores to see what’s on offer, and watch how people buy.

Likewise, I always enjoy the surveys that are published at regular intervals suggesting to us what “normal” consumers actually buy, and what they think about wine. One of those surveys is the periodic UK-based Wine and Spirit Trade Association‘s survey of British consumers. They ask a few thousand consumers about their drinking habits, and then report the trends.

According to Decanter, their most recent report included some questions about the importance of information about where a wine is from in helping consumers make their purchasing decisions.

Apparently less than half of British consumers surveyed said that the region where the wine comes from is an important factor in their buying decision, and only 58% said that even the country was an important factor.

In short, a large number of consumers don’t really know or care where their wine comes from, or at least they don’t use that as a criteria for buying their wine. Grape color, price, and grape variety seem to play a much greater role in decisions, presumably along with what the cute animal is on the front of the label.

As wrapped up as we get in our favorite wines, in learning about new wine regions, or in geeking out about wines with friends (or readers of our blogs) it’s important to remember that we all have a greater purpose as wine lovers. We must all slowly, gently, compassionately, and lovingly, but whenever possible, offer to turn all these average wine drinkers on to some really good stuff. I’m not talking about brainwashing or pedantic lecturing. I’m talking about seduction.

Next time you get the chance to hang out with an ordinary wine drinker, slip them a really good wine and get them psyched about it. So maybe that the next time they head out to buy wine, they are that much more likely to end up with something they love, and that much more likely to want to learn more.

Back in the 60’s there were (stupid, dangerous, and irresponsible) plots to dump gallons of LSD into various municipal water facilities as a means of “turning on” a lot of people who held strict prejudices against…well against a lot of different things.

I guess I can understand the desire to electrify a lot of people at once. The idea of having everyone’s tap water replaced for a little while with a truly awesome white Burgundy for them to accidentally enjoy is worth fantasizing about for a few minutes anyway.

Hell, if they can do it in Italy accidentally, we ought to be able to pull it off around here.

Arizona Wine Show.

Gary Vaynerchuk tastes 3 Arizona wines in honor of our Phoenix native Nathan the Intern.

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