With the recent review I penned for WCDish.com, I’ve had restaurant wine lists on the brain lately.
Which means that this post will likely be ill-timed, given the dearth of restaurant-goers in an economy that is wading knee-deep in layoff announcements. Oh well – timing was never one of my strong suits.
Anyway, as a semi-educated wine geek, I fully appreciate that I might approach a restaurant wine list in a slightly different way than the average diner, in that I might have a deeper knowledge of what the foreign word mean, or what the wine is supposed to taste like from region XYZ.
Which is not to say that I think I’m smarter than the average restaurant-goer; quite the contrary, as I can tell you that 90% of them will be able to calculate an appropriate tip faster than I can (I like words – math… not so much). It just means that I’m probably geekier about wine than the average restaurant-goer.
But… at the restaurant table, while I may have more trouble with tip calculation due to my mathematically-challenged brain, my wine list perusal goal is no different than the average restaurant goer’s: find a good bottle of wine at a decent price that will go well with dinner.
Which is why I think that huge-ass restaurant wine lists suck.
Tyler over at Dr. Vino recently posted an article about a Tampa restaurant (Bern’s) that might be of interest to those who will be traveling to Tampa to watch the STEELERS trounce the Cardinals in Superbowl XLIII. Bern’s boasts 6,800 selections and more than 500,000 bottles. I don’t even want to see that wine list.
For me, dozens of pages detailing hundreds of choices of wine amounts to two things:
- A brief curiosity as I look up something geeky say softly, to no one in particular, “Wow. They have a bottle of 1925 Chateau Légendaire Maison Pompeux that costs more than my car…” (this might have appeal to boring wine snobs, but if that’s your clientelle then I am probably not coming back to your restaurant anytme soon)…
- …that quickly becomes a big distraction. If I am at a dinner with a group of like-minded wine geeks, then by all means bring on the wine cellar curiosities. Chances are that I’m not, however, and a huge wine list distracts from the dinner conversation and enjoyment that I should be having while I try to reason with the weighty tome of vino choices.
And the wine geeks out there will appreciate that it’s always you that has to pick the wine – and the larger the wine list, the faster it will get tossed your way by the other dinner guests.
Here’s an example:
A few years ago I took a trip to Vegas (baby, Vegas) and caught up with some old college friends of mine. We decided to grab dinner at Aureole, the restaurant with over 800 bottles of wine, which are stored in a glass tower and retrieved by babes on hoists.
The wine list is a tablet PC with a touch screen, with which you can browse and search the wine offerings. Sounds like a time saver, but it turned into exactly the same type of curiosity / distraction. While trying to settle on one of the 800+ bottles, I spent too much time looking at the bottles of 1925 Chateau Légendaire Maison Pompeux* that cost more than my car, and not enough time enjoying the conversation with my friends.
And after all, what’s better – oohing and ahhing over a list of stuff you can’t afford to drink, or drinking something good and sharing it with friends?
In my book, there’s no contest.
Kind of like there’s no contest in the upcoming Superbowl…
(images: picasa/chung, m-kerho.net)
* – Not a real producer. At least, not that I’m aware of, anyway…
Sure, it’s another cheesy end of year wrap-up post.
But you know what?
I dig these recaps – call it a guilty pleasure. It sure beats writing an entire new post and trying to come up with compelling content (hey, it’s the end of the year… I’m tired, man!).
Actually, there was nothing easy about compiling the list that I’m about to give to you, and I’m sure the inclusions and omissions will piss some people off somewhere. That isn’t my intention, and this is not a best-of list by any stretch of the imagination.
The following presents my Top 10 Most Interesting Wines of 2008.
It is NOT a list of the best wines released in 2008. It is a list of wines that I tasted in 2008, and found the most interesting this year. They are presented with a synopsis of my tasting notes, and my reflections on why they were included in the list. Some of them I bought, some of them were media samples, others were tasted at events. No one gets special treatment once the pen hits the notebook that logs my tastings.
The list is not based on scores or any other numerical rating. The wines were chosen based on my tasting notes from all of the wines that I tasted and recorded in 2008. Bear in mind that I am not employed as a wine critic, and I do not taste thousands of wines per year. I did, however, taste well over 400 wines in 2008, which I think is probably more than the average bear. I will leave it to you whether or not the Lush designation is applicable in this context (I did spit… sometimes… at least twice…).
What I’m hoping to do here is clue you into something unique, different, or of exceptional quality for the price – as I see it in the wine world. Hopefully you will find it useful. Anyway, without further ado, here they are…
The Dude’s Top 10 Most Interesting Wines of 2008
10) 2006 Benton-Lane “First Class” Pinot Noir (Willamette Valley): Layers of strawberry jam, cherry cola & vanilla. Pure heaven with salmon cakes.
I agonized over the #10 spot in this list – as you can imagine, there were about 50 wines that could have gone into this first slot. I went with the Benton-Lane because,well, it surprised me. It surprised me in that it was one of the biggest, heftiest Willamette’s I’ve had in terms of structure, but still managed to exude a definite sense of place. Balance, baby, balance.
9) 2005 Opus One (Oakville): Supple, hedonistic & built for long haul. Mint leaf & spices floating over black fruit suggest great things to come.
Was the inclusion of this wine a reflection on my tour of Opus this year, and my frank and detailed discussions with their staff? Well…. duh. Of course it is (despite the fact that one visiting intern thought that I was Gary Vaynerchuk… I had the same reaction as you: “Uhm… What?!!??”).
And that’s okay, because wine is an experience and is influenced by the circumstances under which we drink it. But this wine is no slouch, and it had one of the best senses of balance I’ve tasted in a long time – between Old World & New World styles, between primary fruit and secondary aromas, and between early accessibility & ageing potential.
8) 2002 Penns Woods Ameritage Reserve (PA): Bord’x style blend from PA. YES, IT’S FROM PA. Fig, prune, cedar, probably their best vintage ever.
Anyone following 1WD will NOT be surprised by the inclusion of this one. This wine, for me, helped to redefine not only what PA wine is capable of, but what East Coast wine is capable of, and how well some areas of the U.S. can implement an Old World style of wine.
7) 2004 Sonoma-Cutrer “Les Pierres” (Sonoma Valley): When isn’t it a pleasure? Flint, lemon curd, citrus peel, roses, apples, cream. I could go on.
I’m including this wine in my list because I’m astounded at Sonoma-Cutrer’s consistency. This is probably my favorite U.S. Chardonnay, and to date is still my favorite Chard. globally, and I’m actually more partial to the Chablis style so if you can figure that one out please explain it to me so I don’t feel as though I’m going insane. Anyway, this wine has never disappointed me, and the `04 peels away layer after layer of complexity as you drink it.
6) 2001 Hugel Gewurztraminer Vendage Tardive (Alsace): Viscous, loads of citrus, lychee, & autumn leaves. Holy Hannah it’s good! But not cheap.
As a wine geek, I like to think that I can appreciate a wine made for wine geeks. And this, my friends, is a wine geek’s viscous dream. I have a sweet tooth, and while this wine certainly delivers in its touch of sweetness, the slam dunk is how the sweetness and acidity are balanced by the intense fruit and the funk-a-junk-funkiness. It’s the kind of wine that makes some people say “Hmm… I’m not too sure about this one…,” but has the wine geeks licking their lips in delight. Score!
5) 2003 Vinoptima Gewurztraminer (Ormond, NZ): Yowza! Oil, lemons, honey, orange blossoms, spice. I could sniff this stuff for *days*…!
You know that you’re liking a wine when you realize, after 7 or 8 minutes of smelling it, that you love it but you’ve yet to even take your first sip. There is nothing shy about this Gewurz, and the only downside is that the booze might knock you out before you’ve gotten enough of this wine. Best dry Gewurz. I’ve tasted all year. And yes, that’s two Gewurz’s in a row. On purpose.
4) NV Laurent-Perrier Grand Siècle (Champagne): Like fresh-baked almond bread with honey. A minor triumph of grace & strength. Excellent stuff.
I tasted this wine at an industry event, and it stood out for me above dozens & dozens of other wines that I tasted that night. Powerful, but graceful as well, it’s like… it’s like seeing a tamed pet panther wearing a diamond-studded collar. You’re not sure how they did it, but you’re damn interested!
3) 2005 Le Premier Pas Domaine Le Pas de l’Escalette (Cot. du Languedoc): Harmonious blend of S. Rhone grapes. French red without the shackles.
What do you get when you lift the AOC burden of varietals, blend percentages, and vinification and viticulture techniques from French winemakers? In the case of this wine, you get as much creativity as any New World wine, with a deliciously well-integrated result. Hey! France!! Give Us Free!!!
2) 2005 Volta Cabernet Sauvignon (Napa Valley): 1st vintage, limited run from Howell Mtn. fruit. Lush as all get-out, with lazer-focused tannins.
I have a soft-spot for Volta this year. They’re fans of the blog. They’re nice peeps. And I was the first to ever review their wine in the media. They’ve since gone on to accumulate an impressive array of accolades from palates much better and more influential than mine. And they deserve it, because this wine is a tour de force of just how good Howell Mountain fruit can be when you treat it right. To get it that right on the first try is quite an achievement.
And now… the #1 most interesting wine that I’ve tasted in 2008… (drumroll ensues)…
1) 1999 Gutzler Vintage Riesling Sekt Extra Brut (Rheinhessen): Stellar trad. method bubbly with peach, apricot, & non-stop creamy yeastiness.
No, it’s not a typographical error. Yes, I did actually mean to list a sparkling German Riesling as my #1 most interesting wine tasted in 2008. Yes, I am sober as I type this.
No other wine in 2008 threw me for quite as high arcing of a loop as this one. What this wine did was prove to me beyond a doubt that Riesling is the noblest of all white wine grape varieties, with a purity of expression that, in the right hands, has the capacity to shine through in any format, whether it be dry, sweet, still, or bubbly. In the words of my main man Michael Broadbent:
“German wine-lovers may place Riesling first, but I place it second (to Cabernet Sauvignon) in the hierarchy of noble grape varieties. Like Cabernet Sauvignon, it has consistent strength of character which shows through even after transplanting.”
Number two, with a bullet!
There you have it. Now, back to my frantic holiday madness…
(images: 1WineDude.com, wineaccess.com, binendswine.com)
It’s that time of year again.
The time of year when websites far & wide gather together in solidarity to take part in the time-honored tradition of posting Holiday Hangover cures.
And not a moment too soon.
If you’re like me, the stress of the holidays, combined with the outpouring of good emotion when getting together with loved ones and friends during the season, invariably leads to some drinking.
Rather than contribute to the cornucopia of hangover advice that will inundate your throbbing skulls this holiday season, I thought that I’d run through some examples of the sage advice and let you know what works – and what doesn’t work – for the Dude’s hangovers. This is based solely on my own experience, and is not intended as a warranty of any kind, expressed or implied. Your mileage, as they say, my vary…
Let us take a list from the self-help site Lifehackery.com, from their post 9 Ways to Deal With a Hangover. For the purpose of making my post more humorous, I’ve combined and condensed the list into 7 methods, and added my own two to start. So we’re back to nine hangover-related items, just not the same nine as on Lifehackery.com though all nine from Lifehackery.com are actually included. Got it? No? Crap. Oh well, let’s get started anyway.
9 Methods for Dealing with a Hangover – What Works, and What FAILS
I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but there is really and truly only one surefire way to prevent a hangover, and that is to Abstain from drinking alcohol, or at least to drink in moderation. If you’re like me, this may start out as a well-intentioned option during the holidays, but the road to Hangover Hell is paved with the puke of the well-intentioned holiday party-goer…
Dude’s experience: RECOMMENDED (but unlikely).
Most hangover symptoms are caused by dehydration. So, logically, drinking oodles of water to hydrate yourself when drinking alcohol will, in theory, help to prevent your hangover. This is really only effective when combined with a) relatively moderate consumption (of the booze, not the water) and b) maintaining adequate mental capacity to remember to drink oodles of water while you’re drinking your oodles of wine. Whoops!
Dude’s experience: HIGHLY RECOMMENDED
- Sports Drinks & Fruit
Fast-forward to the dreaded morning after your revelry. The theory behind these suggestions is that they a) help to hydrate you more quickly than water alone, and b) contain Vitamin C, both of which may help to decrease the length and amplitude of your hangover pain curve.
The problem is that they also typically contain a relatively high acidic content – good luck keeping that down when you’re nursing a fragile hangover stomach.
Dude’s experience: NOT RECOMMENDED
Sure, sleep will help, and it has the added benefit of delaying a possible awkward meetup with the person that hooked up with the previous evening. You’re just not likely to get enough of it. Personally, I find it very, very difficult to sleep once the alcohol starts to leave my system (note: additional alcohol intake to promote further sleep is NOT recommended here).
You might feel better when you yak, but when I toss the cookies, it lays me out and I’m useless for the next 30 hours or so. Not everyone feels better when they puke – some people actually feel worse.
Dude’s experience: USE CAUTION
- Swim / Cold Shower Hmm… uhmmm…. riiiiight. I suppose that hypothermic shock would make you forget about your hangover for awhile. This so-called advice feels more like the prank of sick and twisted miscreant. Bottom line is that if someone recommended this “remedy” to me, and I was insane enough to actually try it, once I recovered I would hunt that person down and kick the living crap out of them.
Dude’s experience: NFW. EPIC, EPIC FAIL!
- Sweat / Urinate
People, this works. First, you need to ensure that you get water into your lame hungover self pronto after waking up. More water will help you flush out the nasty stuff in your system (like ethanol!) that is fueling your hangover. Additionally, moderate exercise (don’t overdo it there, Hercules!) can help get you moving, get your blood flowing, and get your sweat carrying off some of that nasty stuff as well. Just don’t forget the water!
Dude’s experience: HIGHLY RECOMMENDED
- Hot & Spicy Food
You need to be careful with this one, but I’ve found that it does, indeed, help to mitigate the effects of a hangover. Hot food – in terms of temperature and spice, will promote sweating, which will help to flush out your system. Go for a hot & spicy soup for bonus points, since that combo will also help to rehydrate you.
Dude’s experience: RECOMMENDED (just not first thing the monring!)
- Baking Soda
Apparently, mixing Baking Soda with water and drinking it is purported to help ease a hangover. I’ve got no idea if the science behind this is sound – or even if there is any science behind it. I just know that baking soda seems like something I would NOT want to be tasting when I’m nauseous.
Dude’s experience: UNTESTED (but NOT recommended)
Magnesium is a migraine treatment, and therefore consuming foods high in magnesium might help to mitigate your hangover headache (assuming you’re not too nauseous to eat, that is). Veggies, nuts, and some teas are good sources. I haven’t tried this one myself, but I like veggies, nuts, and tea so I’m going to go ahead and recommend it – at least it’s good for your diet if not your hangover!
Dude’s experience: RECOMMENDED
Here’s wishing you a happy (and hangover free) holiday time!
(images: 1WineDude.com, joemonster.org, sororitysecrets.com)