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Vinted on August 29, 2008 binned in best of

Back to My Roots: 3 Wine Lessons from a Magnum Opus (WBW #48)


This ultra-exciting edition of Tales of the Purple Monkey has Plumboo and I once again taking part in the Wine Blogging Wednesday blog carnival! Because it’s an anniversary edition of WBW, it’s being hosted this month by cool-guy and WBW founder Lenn Thompson at Lenndevours.

I say “ultra-exciting” edition because Lenn’s theme has Plumboo and I going back to our “wine roots” (read Lenn’s post for more details). Well, back to my wine roots anyway – Plumboo is a plush toy with a plastic squeek for a head, so I’m not sure he’s got any roots worth getting into.

Going back to my roots is ultra-exciting for me, because it gives me a chance to explore why I got into wine in the first place. And it has to do with a wine that everyone loves to hate (oooohhhh… drama!).

I’m talking about that over-the-top, over-priced, and oft-overlooked Oakville stalwart, Opus One.

Go on. Make fun of me.

You know that you want to. You snob!

Love it or hate it, Opus One is the wine that made me serious about vino. Before I get into that, let’s get a little background for those of you unfamiliar with the big O.O. …


Opus One is a joint venture international premium wine venture between Napa legend Robert Mondavi and Bordeaux legend Baron Philippe Rothschild. The aim: produce and ultra-premium Bordeaux style wine, made with the best fruit that Napa had to offer.

This style of international collaborative winemaking is fairly common now, but when founded in the late `70s, Opus One was pioneering stuff. It also made Napa Valley wine more serious – after all, a First Growth was now involved. Oh, MY!

O.O. (located on the main drag in Napa) is a modern temple to high-end winemaking. Touring the O.O. facility literally changed how I look at wine. I’ve spent a lot of time working for major CPG companies, so I’m no stranger to touring manufacturing facilities – and what I saw at O.O. floored me.

Here was a winery that was combining high-quality ingredients (arguably the best fruit that Oakville / Napa has on offer), old school techniques and know-how, ultra-modern equipment, and expensive “by hand” techniques to make a premium product. I could immediately draw parallels to the manufacturing practices of premium chocolate brands like Ethel M.

So why does everyone love to hate this wine?

Well, for one thing, it’s totally over-the-top. There is usually very little that is subtle about this wine. It also takes years to develop, and often comes across as astringent and tough when it’s opened too early. It’s also very expensive – usually $150-$200 per bottle.

Are you paying for the snooty chic factor? You bet. But you’re also paying for the result of really, really expensive production techniques, such as hand-sorting the best fruit for the final blend.

And here’s the thing – you’re also paying for a really, really good wine.

I’ve been drinking through my small cache of 1998 Opus One for a few years now. I picked up a few bottles of the 1998 O.O. because `98 was supposed to be a ‘bad’ year for wine in Napa. Despite that, Opus made a wine that I thought (to the best of my then burgeoning wine geek ability at the time) had some ageing potential. It turns out I was right.

The `98 O.O. is drinking beautifully right now (see my mini reviews here and here). Is it as complex as as First Growth Bordeaux? Not really. But halfway through a glass of that explosive fruit, you won’t give a sh*t about that.

O.O. is oft-maligned because it’s priced like a Bordeaux, so people expect it to act like a Bordeaux.But this is not Old World, sporting a monocle and a tux sophistication, people. It’s California used-to-be-a-hippy and now owns an Internet company, sporting a pony-tail and mock turtleneck sophistication. And there’s nothing wrong with that.

What did Opus One wine teach me?

  1. Not every wine is worth it’s price to everybody.
  2. Never overlook a wine just because it gets bad press – make your own judgments.
  3. Trust your wine instincts (and your own personal palate).

Many years on, these lessons still serve me well, and I pass them on when I teach others about wine. Or to anyone within earshot when I’m tipsy and waxing wine philosophical.

Those lessons are deep-rooted into my wine soul. Just like one of those fabulous Oakville vines…

Cheers!

(images: 1winedude.com, czaplamusic.com)

Three Reasons Why You Should Be a Wine Blogger

Vinted on July 15, 2008 binned in best of, commentary, wine 2.0, wine blogging


A few days ago I published a somewhat controversial post giving you three reasons why you shouldn’t become a wine blogger.

Now, I’m about to give you three reasons why you should wine blog. [Editor’s note: is ‘wine blog’ a verb now?]

My intention is not to flip-flop a position. I’m just trying to give you both sides of the bogger coin. And this is definitely the shinier, more polished, ‘much-more-coolly-embossed with some awesome emblem’ side of that coin. [Editor’s note: is ‘coolly’ an adverb? My god, man, we’re off to a shaky start here!!]

Anyway, let’s get down to business; here’s my Top Three Reasons Why YOU Should Be a Wine Blogger…:


1) You need to be original from day one.
No, you’re not going crazy. Yes, this is the #3 reason I listed previously for why you shouldn’t be a wine blogger. No, it’s not easy to offer an original voice in the wine blogging community. Or is it…? The positive flipside of this coin is that you have a no-to-low cost opportunity to have your voice heard on a topic that you are passionate about – and in time, people will listen to that voice. The line between professional/expert opinions and the voice of the on-line masses is blurring. There’s never been a better time to be a part of any topic for which you have a passion.

2) Two’s company, Three’s a crowd, and 600 is a Wine Blogging Community.
This one might look familar to you also [Editor’s note: Sensing a theme here? ]. According to some sources, social media has overtaken porn in on-line popularity. We musicians in the rythym section often say “if you’re not part of the groove, you’re part of the problem.” Well, if you’re not part of social media, you’re really not part of the Internet. Not only is it a great time to be a part of the wine blogging community, it’s ridiculously easy to do so. Hop on over to OpenWineConsortium.org, join (for free), friend me up, and start blogging. Total cost: $0.00. Total time: about 6 minutes.

3) Democratize the Wine World.
It’s not often that you get to be a part of history. And history is being made in the world of wine, on the web, right now as you read this. It might sound a bit overly dramatic [Editor’s note: OK, a lot], but can you think of a better term to describe a movement that gathers people together (albeit virtually) from all over the globe and tries to put the power back into the hands of the people? That is what is going down in the Wine 2.0 movement; the view of what is considered quality wine is shifting from the hands of a few influential critics, and into the masses. Don’t miss out – we just might be onto something special here.

There you have it. Enough positivity to rescue from the depression of my previous post. Come on in – the water’s (or is it the vino’s?) fine

Cheers!

(images: gapingvoid.com, suzylamplugh.org, biziki.com, preston.gov.uk )

Three Reasons Why You Shouldn’t Be a Wine Blogger

Vinted on July 11, 2008 binned in best of, commentary, wine blogging

So… you wanna be a wine blogger, eh? [ Editor’s note: sorry, did not mean to sound Canadian there…].

Well, I’m here to tell ya NOT to do it.

Now, before you flame me with nasty e-mails and comments, please bear in mind that I will be following up this post next week with three reasons why you should be a wine blogger. But I can’t in good conscience do that before I tell you what you’re really up against if you want to wine blog.

Any type of blogging worth its salt is going to require genuine commitment from you. It will also require that your writing not totally stink. But these are not the reasons why you should think twice (or thrice, or… uhm… whatever comes after thrice) about starting up a wine blog.

Let me clue you in on the real scoop of wine blogging – the gritty reality behind the glitz, the glamor, the fortune, the fame…


1) There is no glitz, fortune or fame in wine blogging.
Sorry to have to break this to ya, but there’s no glitz, glamor, fortune or fame when it comes to wine blogging. You will NOT be quitting your day job. You will NOT be raking in the bucks from ad revenue. You will NOT be interviewed on CNN to expound on your wine smarties. Blogging revenue is usually tied directly to traffic. Who gets the most traffic in the on-line world? Social networks, porn, and productivity blogs (basically in that order). Wine blogging is NOT in the top three. It’s probably not even in the top 300 – and it probably never will be.

2) Two’s company, Three’s a crowd, and 600 is a Wine Blogging Community.
Guess what? You’re not the only wine blogger out there. You are in very good company. According to Alder at Vinography.com (arguably the granddaddy of all wine blogging), there are now over 600 wine bloggers. At least 200 of those are in the U.S. alone. It’s not just a crowded field – it’s a REALLY crowded field. And all of those bloggers are competing in some way, shape, or form for a similar reader pool as you. Doh! Even better – most of them probably know all the tricks of the trade in blogging to maximize their search engine karma, technorati authority, google page rank, etc., etc., etc. Double Doh! Which leads me to our next reason not to wine blog…

What you get out of wine blogging will depend primarily on what you put into it. In that sense, it’s a relationship between you and your blogging.

3) You need to be original from day one.
To wine blog, you need to offer something original to the community of 600+ and their potential readers. This will NOT be easy to do in a field of 600+ and their potential readers. In fact, it will be really, really, really difficult. And you won’t have much time to do it, either. Potential readers will decide in a matter of seconds whether or not your blog is worth reading ever again. They can do this because if they don’t like yours they can very quickly try another one of the 600+. Standing out is essential, and it’s not easy to do. Have fun!

It may not seem like it from the timbre of this post, but personally I don’t think that any of the above should stop you from wine blogging if you’re really passionate about it. What you get out of wine blogging (or any blogging, for that matter) will depend primarily on what you put into it. In that sense, it’s a relationship between you and your blogging.

More on that next week. In the meantime, have a safe and wine-filled weekend.

Cheers!

(images: interfacelift.com, workfarce.files.wordpress.com, aquariumdrunkard.com)

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