Posts Filed Under best of

What’s The Most Expensive Bottle Of Wine You’ve Ever Had? (Also: Pricey Champagne And Port As Bargains? Yes!)

Vinted on September 27, 2011 binned in best of, commentary

Last week, the report of a single bottle of 62-year-old Dalmore single malt scotch whisky going for $200,000 (to – who else! – a Chinese businessman!) got me thinking about how f*cking expensive a hobby enjoying fine boozy beverages really is.

Most of us aren’t plunking down the better part of the median U.S. house sale price for a bottle of Scotch or vino (or anything else), of course.  But Collecting and imbibing vino is not for the cheap or the faint-of-pocketbook. It’s got to be right up there with golf (and, I’ll add from personal experience, in-line hockey) in terms of expensive hobbies.

But then, it’s so much more than just a hobby for us geeks, right?!??  That makes it all okay, right?!??  RIGHT?!????

Some wines are clearly undervalued these days.  Champagne is often a bargain even at the high-end – hear me out before you toss the flames: when you consider the quality you’re getting, and the price vs. the production costs, the potential longevity of the better examples, and the fact that some of the best stuff out there can be had for just over $100 when it comes out… I think there’s strong case to be made for saying that Champagne can be a decent deal even at the higher-end of the price spectrum.

Same thing for Sherry and Port, without a doubt in my mind.  Sauternes is an example of a wine that’s crazy-expensive to make, and it’s priced accordingly at the high-end, but Sherry and Port are also difficult, time-consuming, and labor-intensive to make – and while the best of them can age for a crazy amount of time and can probably be enjoyed someday by your crazy grandkids, they offer way more crazy bang for the buck (yes, even when they’re in $75 and up range – of course they are different experiences entirely to Sauternes, however). Just a lot of crazy there, generally.

You can admit it – you’ve bought a wine that seemed really, really, maybe crazily expensive for your budget.  Did it deliver the goods?  Did it knock off your vinous socks?  Maybe most pointedly (and I think likely most telling), would you do it again? Was that wine so good that you became a repeat customer even with the lofty sticker price?

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Speak Low And Carry A Big Mourvèdre (The Boz Scaggs Interview)

Vinted on September 15, 2011 binned in best of, interviews, kick-ass wines, sexy wines

What do you do after you’ve more-or-less totally conquered the R&B/Pop and Jazz worlds, and have become so successful in the music biz that one of your backup bands goes on to become a multi-platinum-record-selling act?

In Boz Scaggs’s case, you start up a wine brand. Of course!

Many of you…, uhm… younglings reading this may not be intimately familiar with Boz’s tunes, or his soulful crooning, but chances are very, very good that your parents think he’s the shiz. In 2000, smooth-soul-rocker Boz and his wife Dominique released the first wines made under their Scaggs Vineyard label. Their plantings were started on a bit of a lark in the late 1990s, when a friend suggested they try growing grape vines on their Napa Valley property (and gave them some leftover Syrah he had on his truck). Turned out that friend was onto something – Scaggs Vineyard 2008 Mt. Veeder Montage is a stellar Mourvèdre / Grenache / Syrah blend that’s packing as much soul as any one of Boz’s numerous memorable grooves.

Judging by his responses to my interview questions, award-winning singer/songwriter Boz Scaggs may be a man of many infectious grooves but he’s also a man of relatively few words. When it comes to his wines, however, little embellishment is needed for those who have had the opportunity to taste them.  Boz might “Speak Low,” but his wines carry a pretty loud bang (for the buck).

A quick interview with Boz (who took some time out of a busy and active touring schedule to answer my questions) is below, along with some further thoughts on two recent Scaggs Vineyard releases (tasted as samples).  I suggest listening to the live version of Lowdown while reading it (if that song doesn’t get your booty moving at least a little bit, then you might not have a pulse…).  I’m not sure Boz “gets” my sense of humor (actually, I’m pretty sure he doesn’t get my sense of humor), but I sure “get” his wines – of all of the rock-star-turned-wine-producers that I’ve interviewed, Boz’s releases are certainly among the best (if not the best).

Enjoy!…

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6

Whose Ratings Should A Wine Drinker Pay Attention To?

Vinted on September 14, 2011 binned in best of, going pro, wine news

Well… whose ratings should a wine drinker pay attention to?  Or, stated with a tad more more grammatical correctness (warning: sounding-like-douche-bag-potential alert!), To Whose Ratings Should A Wine Drinker Pay More Attention?

An American Association of Wine Economists (AAWE) working paper with that tile was just released, though, interestingly, it doesn’t actually answer the question.  I will answer it, in a few minutes anyway, but not before torturing you with exposition and report dissection first. Because, well, I’m really just not that nice of a guy.

Despite the bait-and-switch title, the paper starts with a fascinating premise: given that ratings for the same wines vary between professional wine critics (called “experts” in the paper’s lingo), is there an established expert whose ratings correlate closely with those of the general wine-drinkin’ public?

Turns out, there is one – at least,there is one out of the three expert sources that the paper used.

The paper’s authors, Omer Gokcekus and Dennis Nottebaum (no, I do not know how to pronounce those), chose to examine ratings/scores of 120 Bordeaux wines from the 2005 vintage.  The voice of the people was played by the scores for those wines as recorded in Cellar Tracker, subsets of which were then compared with the scores for the same wines as reported by three pro wine critic sources.  Big-time influencer Robert Parker (via The Wine Advocate) was included, as well as Wine Spectator, so they covered the 1.5 most influential wine critics in the U.S.  The third included was Stephan Tanzer’s International Wine Cellar, though to be honest I’ve no idea why they included that last one.  Just kidding, Stephen!

Anyway… It’s important to note the results were aggregated, and this makes them a tad misleading because the same wines were not compared between the three pro critics and Cellar Tracker – a subset of the wines were compared (CT to RP, CT to WS, and CT to ST).  These were not the same wines (or the same amount of wines) in each case, so while there will be some wines in the group that were compared against all four ratings sources, there will also be some wines that were only compared between Cellar Tracker and one of the pro sources.  Got it?  Good!

Overlooking that minor cavil, the results are pretty darn fascinating…

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Being Able To Describe A Wine Does NOT Make You Awesome

Vinted on August 31, 2011 binned in best of, commentary, going pro

If I told you what it takes
to reach the highest high,
You’d laugh and say
“Nothing’s that simple!”

– from “I’m Free” (Tommy, The Who – 1969)

The following commentary is not an easy one to write, because whenever one talks about something that they do, they run the risk of appearing immodest, or conversely overdoing it on fake amounts of modesty and sounding like a douchebag.

Look, I know that I write reasonably well, because I’ve been told that by other writers whom many consider to write very well.  And I know that I taste wine reasonably well, because I’ve been told that by others who are themselves kick-ass tasters.  But I do not see the ability to combine those talents as somehow qualifying me to self-proclaim my awesomeness.  And I do not see it as somehow unattainable by anyone else, either.

As any fan of the (excellent) book Outliers can tell you, the one thing that most differentiates the well-skilled from the wanna-bes in any given field (including wine) is practice. You spend enough time doing something (like, approaching 10,000 hours – and that figure is not hyperbole), and the odds are very, very good that you will get very, very good at whatever it is you are doing.

I write this because I continue to run into people (all over the world) who are thoroughly impressed with their own ability to taste (and then describe, verbally or in writing) a wine. As in a worship-me-because-I’m-totally-awesome level impressed with themselves. On the other side of that wine appreciation coin, I also run into people (all over the world) who reinforce that view by assuming that they themselves could never accurately describe a wine’s tastes and smells. I have a message for both of those types of people: “Get over it; what wine writing / reviewing peeps do isn’t all that special!”…

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