Posts Filed Under commentary

Losing It: El Camino del Vino (A Real Wine Movie, At Long Last?)

Vinted on July 19, 2010 binned in commentary

Sommelier and wine educator Charlie Arturaola and film directors Nicolás Carreras & Sebastián Carreras may just be putting together the most intimate wine movie yet made, and one that finally may have just the kind of reality-show crossover appeal to gain success among wine pros, wine geeks, and non wine-lovers alike.

At least, that’s the sense that I got from viewing the well-made trailer for El Camino del Vino (“The Ways of Wine” – with “Ways” taking on multiple nuances of meaning).

Like all promising films, El Camino del Vino starts with disaster and conflict, and promises to end with redemption. For wine pros and budding wine enthusiasts, the premise of the film is particularly terrifying (emphasis is mine):

“Charlie travels to Argentina invited to do tastings at the prestigious Masters of Food and Wine event at the Park Hyatt Hotel in Mendoza. Before the festivities begin at the Masters, Charlie is shooting a publicity spot for a wine and disaster strikes.  The combination of the pace of the shoot and a red dye used to enhance the photographic contrast and deepen the color of the wine, provoke the complete loss of his palate.”

I imagine that the loss of Charlie’s ability to taste wine critically echoes a deeper fear for many, many people in the modern industrial working world: What do you do when you lose the very thing upon which you rely to make your living?

I’ve met Charlie and he is warm, friendly, knowledgeable and approachable – exactly the kind of guy to whom you wouldn’t want this sort of thing to happen.  And it didn’t – not in real life, anyway.  But based on the trailer for El Camino del Vino, Charlie puts in a convincing performance, especially for someone who makes his living on wine and not via acting.  After seeing the trailers, I’m stoked to try to see this film when it gets released in August.

I caught up with Charlie last week (via e-mail and in-between trips for both of us) to briefly talk about the film and how he went about playing the part of himself.  Check out the trailer and the short interview below…

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Don’t Bogart That Sip: Should Sommeliers Taste Your Wine Purchase?

Vinted on July 12, 2010 binned in commentary

Last week, I was quoted in a very interesting article by Eric Asimov in the New York Times, based on a conversation that Eric and I had about restaurant sommeliers taking a small sip of their customers’ wines to ensure that they are sound prior to being served.

Many of you out there (at least, the ones who sent me all of the e-mail) were surprised that I hadn’t encountered the practice before.  Based on those e-mails (the ones in which I wasn’t called an idiot, anyway), the practice seems much more common for patrons in Europe than for those of us here Stateside.

Also, for those readers I should note that I’m a born-and-bred Mid-Atlantic U.S. boy, which means I’m naturally suspicious and pissed off until you do something nice for me, after which I’m convinced that it’s a ruse plotted to rip me off somehow and I’m really pissed-off at you.

Anyway, my quotes were (of course) part of a longer conversation that Eric understandably didn’t include in full in the article; so I thought the topic worth revisiting so I could expand a bit on the view I represented in that conversation…

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Walla Walla Syrah QED? and “Days of WA Future Past”

Vinted on July 6, 2010 binned in commentary, on the road, wine review

Has the case for excellent Walla Walla Syrah been definitively demonstrated?  Q.E.D.?

I’m not going to go quite that far.  But I will say that they might be pretty damn close, especially in those cases where the balance beats out the brawn in their Syrah bottlings.

Two wine producers that I encountered recently in Walla Walla (while there for the 2010 Wine Bloggers Conference) in particular made good cases (ha-ha!) for Walla Walla Syrah being the wave of the future; one which officially took part in the WBC activities, and one that didn’t (in fact, their winemaker skipped town during the event).

The first of these was Rasa Vineyards, led by the Naravane brothers who have engineering backgrounds, and are fascinating folks to talk to, provided you can follow their scientific leanings.  They were part of a panel about WA wine at Three Rivers Winery (part of the WBC events), and certainly talked up the potential of Walla Walla Syrah when I asked the panel what they thought the future held given that Walla Walla is still a relatively young wine producing region.

The proof, fortunately, was in the juice, and their appropriately-titled 2007 QED wine, sourced from Walla Walla and Yakima fruit, is powerful, expressive, but balanced; it’s also expensive at $50 – but overall a decent value when compared to more expensive but not-quite-as-solid Syrah-based wines being made elsewhere on the Left Coast.

The second was pretty much the entire portfolio of wines from Rotie Cellars, who were kind enough to host a handful of us bloggers in their downtown Walla Walla tasting room while lunch activities took place during day one of the WBC.  Winemaker Sean Boyd is certainly playing with fire with their wine names (“VdP” for example), which I am sure the French would be none-too-happy about, but he has some Syrah-based wines with significant promise; they might have been some of the most deftly balanced WA reds that I’ve ever tasted.

But with all of this focus on the future going on, the WA wine scene, I quickly learned, would do well not to forget its past…

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