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The State of Wine in America (or "A terrible amount of luxury and unease")

Vinted on January 21, 2009 binned in commentary

Frequent 1WineDude.com readers, as well as anyone who has conversed even momentarily with me on twitter, will know that I’m a Pittsburgh Steelers fan.

Fans of the Dallas Cowboys, New England Patriots, and Baltimore Ravens may want to skip this post entirely, with all speed and probably extreme prejudice.

Are they gone? Good, let’s get started!

Okay, I want to talk to you about the current state of wine in the modern world. I figured that I could work the U.S. presidential inauguration of our 44th President, the Steelers entrance into Super Bowl XLIII, and, of course, Wine. And tie it all together.

C’mon, it’ll be fun. I hope…

Anyway, it’s natural that, as we in the good ol’ U.S. of A. celebrate the (long overdue) 44th consecutive peaceful transition of executive power from one affluent male to another affluent male, that we consider the ‘state of things’ – not just of the country, but for anything that we hold dear.

Like wine, for example!

Ok, so that transition was a little abrupt…

…and speaking of abrupt transitions and startling segues…

Being a Steelers fan, I’m finding the state of American Football particularly rewarding at the moment. So it’s surprising (to me, at least) that I was able to control my blinding exuberance to notice a reference to Alice Munro in a recent, eloquently written Post-Gazette article by Gene Collier. Collier’s article describes the unique and conflicting emotions that engulf the Steelers faithful when they host the AFC Championship game at home – a game that, until this past Sunday, they showed an ability to lose like no other team (emphasis added by me):

…modern Championship Sundays in Pittsburgh deliver a seismic coupling of pride and wariness, something realist short story master Alice Munro might call “a terrible amount of luxury and unease.”

So, to recap.: that’s 44th Presidential innaguration to The Steelers to The AFC Championship to the Post-Gazette to Alice Munro. All caught up? Good. “A terrible amount of luxury and unease” – a beautiful phrase, and one that uniquely captures my feelings about the current state of wine, at least in America.

To be a wine enthusiast in the U.S. is to be someone that lives with the joy of having thousands of wine brands sold in a market that continually drives up quality at all levels, while simultaneously not being able to enjoy those wines depending on what state you live in.

It makes me so terribly uneasy that I’m ending sentences with prepositions!

On one hand, the quality and selection of American wine has never been better. There has never been a time quite like this in the history of America, when it comes to Presidents, and when it comes to wine. In terms of quality and selection, this stage of American wine development trumps all others in history.

On the other hand, the unfairness, dishonesty, and bile of the state wine distribution monopolies has never been greater. To protect the revenue streams afforded to them via their monopoly position on the distribution of alcohol, many states are screwing the wine consumer – high prices, limited selection, curtailing your rights, and handicapping the free market (which screws other distributors, wineries, and you).


So, to bring us all up to speed here: that’s 44th Presidential inauguration to The Steelers to The AFC Championship to the Post-Gazette to Alice Munro to the State of the American wine market to unconstitutional wine shipping laws.

Anyway…

How does the future look to me?

If you’re talking U.S. executive world relations, or American Football, the future looks pretty damn good. In the words of Steelers coach Mike Tomlin: “Barack is selling hope. And I’m buying.

If you’re talking the future for the American wine consumer, the jury is still out.

Cheers!
(images: amazon.com)

Wine and Health (or "Here We Go Again")

Vinted on January 19, 2009 binned in commentary, wine health, wine news

Here we go again.

The topic of wine & health is no stranger to the (virtual) pages of 1WineDude.com. Basically, I like to keep on the topic, mostly because it provides such great fodder for ridicule.

Ok, that’s harsh. Let’s not call it ridicule. Let’s call it poking fun. That sounds better, doesn’t it? Ok, now that we have that cleared up…

According to ScienceDaily.com, a recent announcement by a joint team from Oxford and Norway – at least, I think it’s joint Oxford / Norway team; it’s listed in the article as “The team from Oxford’s Department of Physiology, Anatomy and Genetics and Norway”, which I assume is a joint effort as it would be strange to have a Department of Physiology, Anatomy and Genetics and Norway (nothing against Norway, of course; after all, they brought us the… uhm…. err… let me get back to you on that…) – dang… lost my train of thought there…

Oh, yeah, I remember now – The joint team (as in, the collaboration between Oxford and Norway, not a team researching ganja) announced study findings that showed that chocolate, tea, and, of course, wine enhance cognitive performance.

Now, before you go out and get amped up on Starbuck’s, blitzed on your favorite vino and buy stock in Ethel’s chocolate, you need to know a few things.

First, the study is based on data from about 2,000 participants in their 70s. You might not be in this demographic.

Secondly, while the team suspects that polyphenols (in the form of flavonoids) are the source of the enhanced cognitive ability for the mature audience in the study, the researchers caution that “more research would be needed to prove that it was flavonoids, rather than some other aspect of the foods studied, that made the difference.” In other words, the negative health impacts of imbibing too much caffiene, alcohol, and sugar/fat probably far outweigh the benefits of the flavonoids; moderate consumption, as always, is best.

Finally, Ethel’s is privately owned – so you won’t be buying any stock (sorry).

Cheers!
(images: creativelydifferentblinds.com)

Looking Back on 2008: Days of Wine and (Sometimes Dead Black) Roses

Vinted on January 5, 2009 binned in commentary

As we begin 2009, and start the time-honored tradition of incorrectly dating the first few bank checks of the new year, I find that I sense a bit of a rant coming on.

And this coming just after I wrote about relying on gratitude and attention (a.k.a. mindfulness) to help you truly appreciate wine as an expression of art (both the wine itself, and your enjoyment of it, for what is a wine without someone to enjoy it but so much unfulfilled artistic potential?).

Shame on me.

But it will end with love. I promise.

I think there is another component to enjoying wine that needs to be added to those I outlined in the post linked above, and that component is Gumption.

You will need grit, spunk, guts, and determination to get past the detractors, nay-sayers, and general sourpusses that you may encounter along the way on your journey to wine appreciation. Don’t kid yourself – they are out there, and they must have some stake in keeping the average Dude and Dudette from appreciating fine wine, because they take any and every opportunity they can to screw it up for you. They do this either by telling you that your opinion doesn’t count, is naively misguided, or isn’t worth a hill ‘o beans because it doesn’t conform to some arbitrary standards that they have set forth themsleves.

You really need to ignore these people. They are like an illness that infects your wine appreciation, and if left to fester can kill it outright. The kicker is that the world of wine is so full of wonderful, generous, and pleasurable people that it would be a shame to let a few bad apples spoil the bunch, as they say.

I mention this because I lived through it in 2008. Well over six months later, so-called pundits are still talking about the Rockaway non-incident (more on this – both background and aftermath – can be heard on WineBizRadio.com). The only thing I can offer at this point is this:

For those of us who are wine writers (and I include any serious wine bloggers in that company), we need to remember something – We write about wine. It’s not that important, and neither are we.

No, really. I’m serious.

It’s just wine, people - it is NOT saving someone from a burning building, curing a wasting disease, or landing a crippled airplane. We so need to get over ourselves…

Why on earth am I drumming this topic up again? It’s just to show that whenever you put yourself out there, take a risk, or try something new, you will run the risk of people (usually the ones who haven’t done anything themselves) putting you down.

The wine world is no exception. Happily, for every detractor in the wine world, there are at least 10 great people who will help you, share their knowledge with you, and cheer you on.

How do I know this?

I’ve spent the better part of 2008 trying to expand as much as possible my knowledge of wine, be it through winery visits, reviews and sampling of fine wines, seeking wine certifications, or just hanging out with great writers, contacts who have become real friends, or talking to movers & shakers in the wine world. In a word, it’s been amazing.

So many great things have happened for me since I opened up my own personal world to the world of wine that it would be literally impossible for me to recap them in one blog post. My world is exponentially larger and more full of joy for having hit the wine road with almost reckless abandon. You don’t need to bring a thing with you on this journey – plenty of people are willing and waiting to help you along your way.

I simply cannot imagine my life without my wife, my daughter, my music, and now my contacts in the world of wine. If that’s not a testament to all of the wonderful people out there working in wine today, then I don’t know what is.

And for that, I will always be deeply grateful for 2008 – warts and all!

Cheers!
(images: sunsetgun.typepad.com, dailyphotobutcherfortheworld.blogspot.com, polyvore.com)

A Toast: To Wine, Women and Song!

Vinted on January 1, 2009 binned in commentary, wine appreciation

Ok, before you start writing me off as a hedonistic waste (at least, on the basis of this post title), please check out the post I wrote for Toast To Change, a web network brain-child of Schramsberg Vineyards.

As described by the TTC website:

Toast to Change… celebrates the power each of us has to embrace and inspire change. Join our community of wine lovers and raise your glass to making changes in our lives and championing others who bring about real change in our world.

I don’t consider myself to be someone who is bringing about world-altering change, but I was invited to pen a toast so I decided to write about the things that had inspired me most in 2008: Wine, Women, and Song.

To get the (very un-sordid) details, you can read the entire post at the TTC website.

Cheers and Happy New Year!
(images: toasttochange.com)

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