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Well… are they?
Some background: Wine critics generally use a 100-point scale when evaluating wines (I know most of you know this, bear with the exposition, people!). I don’t, because I think it implies a level of accuracy in evaluating a moving-target product (that can change within hours in the glass, let alone within years in the bottle) and so I (begrudgingly – hey, you asked for them!) use a “fuzzier” scale to evaluate the wine that I’m fortunate (and, ok, sometimes not-so-fortunate) enough to have cross my lips.
Generally, it’s assumed that many (probably most) wine critics reserve some part of their rating score for a wine’s color. For example, long-time Wine Spectator editor James Suckling once explained via video how he doles out his points when reviewing a wine, in which “things like color get 15 points.”
But is a wine’s color an important enough aspect on which to base 15% or so of one’s critical rating? According to a (very) informal poll I took recently via twitter and facebook, the answer is probably “No.”…
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In the latest installment of 1WD TV, I go backstage in D.C. to talk to rocker Les Claypool about his Claypool Cellars wines, eat the butterscotch cookies in his Green Room, and generally geek out about great Sonoma Pinot Noir. Les has just kicked off a tour with Primus in support of their new (excellent, dark & funky) album Green Naugahyde, a jaunt that will take them across a wide swath of the U.S., with stops in South America later this year and a stint at London’s famed Royal Albert Hall next April.
This is my second interview with Les (you can check out the first one here), and he’s still clearly very into the CC endeavor, and is quite the CA-boy homer when it comes to Pinot Noir. Words can not accurately describe the coolness of this interview for me, so just watch the friggin’ video already because it’s Pudding Time, children!!!
Mentioned in this episode:
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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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).
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