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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 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!
(images: sunsetgun.typepad.com, dailyphotobutcherfortheworld.blogspot.com, polyvore.com)
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!
“The elves are dressed in leather
And the angels are in chains
The sugar plums are rancid
And the stockings are in flames!”
– from “Christmas with the Devil” by Spinal Tap
Amidst the elite wine world personalities, there are a handful of famous names that hate the modern style of California wines. Actually, “hate” is a strong word. But hate them they do. They consider these wines almost evil, as if they were the tool (or at least the preferred quaffs) of Satan himself.
As for me, I am not among them (neither an elite famous wine personality, nor a hater of big, bold CA wines).
God knows that I’ve got no issue with a wine “fruit bomb,” provided that big, bold, and powerfully alcoholic is the best expression of that winery’s fruit. What I don’t like is when wines are busty for the sake of the almighty dollar (as in, forgoing an expression of terroir and / or style to instead chase after the palates of a few wine critics, whose increased scores can mean a price point increase of 30% or more per bottle on the wine market). Homogenization is a perversion of this style of wine marketing. But it’s not the fault of this style of winemaking in and of itself.
So, for the 2008 Christmas dinner at Chateau Dude, I decided to raid the sample shipping boxes for the biggest, boldest CA wines to pair with grilled lobster tail, bison steak, and various cuts of Angus beef (all expertly prepared by my brother-in-law).
Franciscan’s 2006 Cuvee Sauvage Chardonnay (Carneros, about $40), and a 2005 Robert Mondavi Cabernet Reserve (where else… Napa, about $140).
The story behind The Franciscan (does anyone else think that name sounds like a potential Monty Python skit?): 15 months sur lie in 100% new oak, fermented with wild yeasts using 15-20% of the barrel wines, 14.5% abv; various 90+ point ratings ensued.
The Mondavi? 18 months in 100% new French oak, hand harvested & sorted, a tiny amount (5%) of Cabernet Franc thrown in, 15% abv; 90+ point reviews ensued.
You get the picture. Christmas with The Devil, I thought.
The Franciscan (I just love how that sounds) was the more unabashedly Californian. It doesn’t get much bigger than this, it’s a wine that struts it’s stuff. There is so much vanilla and oak, I actually picked up a hint of cream soda-pop among the citrus, apple, and even banana (banana cream pie, anyone?). What rescues this potent beast from potenital oak hell is the acidity – for CA, the acidity is downright racy. Yes, it pairs amazingly well with grilled lobster. I’m not sure what else it would pair well with, and I enjoyed it, but I’m not gonna go so far as to call it a “triumph of viticulture and winemaking.”
As expected, the Mondavi was a killer match with steak. I decanted this puppy for nearly four hours before serving it. At first, coming out of the decanter, it was all black cherry compote – and I mean, spread-it-over-toast first-thing-in-the-morning compote. With time in the glass, things got decidely more complex: figs, plum, red currant, hints of cedar, a little olive. The finish carried quality fruit and spice and was more than respectibly long. I really felt as though it needed abotu six years in the bottle to really integrate, and I didn’t find the high abv too overpowering.
These are both very good wines. Whether or not they’re worth the price is a discussion I leave up to you (more on my take on paying for the cache factor of CA wines can be found in my recent articles about Opus One).
The problem is not that wines like these are being made. The problem is that too many wines like these that shouldn’t be made are being made.
If there’s something to hate here, it’s not the original CA blockbusters – it’s the greedy drive of copycat wineries the world over chasing after a buck, forgoing the individuality of their vineyard sites and the best quality of their fruit. We can and should challenge those wineries to do better; if we end up with the ubiquity of the ‘Bic Mac’ of wines, then I have truly seen The Devil, and The Devil is us!
Anyway, let’s fire up that grill, shall we?
(images: spinaltapfan.com, 1WineDude.com)
Looks like the staff over at Mutineer Magazine has given 1WineDude.com a Christmas present and included 1WD in their list of Blogs You Should Be Reading (in December/January Issue #3)!
Some of you may recall that I wrote about Mutineer Magazine back in August in my post about Wine Mags that are Worth Reading, in which I called them the most promising up & comer mag: “Is it smarmy? Sure, it’s smarmy, in the same way that MAXIM is a bit too pleased with itself – a style appreciated most by 20-somethings who don’t know any better, but also appealing to 30-somethings who do know better, but don’t care anyway and can therefore appreciate the small touches of irony sprinkled throughout the articles.“
I’m happy to report that Mutineer is still going strong and appears to be unabashedly flying the youthful flag of new wine media and trying its best to live up to its namesake. I enjoyed Issue #3 (still a little smarmy, and still using a bit too much of the first-person perspective, but undoubtedly entertaining), and found it’s varied content to be held together coherently by the theme of bringing fine drinks back to the masses (laid out in more detail in one of their December blog posts by Co-Editor in Chief Alan Kropf).
They also talk about some guy from NJ, and what blogs like his mean in terms of the impact of “new media” on the wine industry. Whatever (just kidding, GV).
From this issue’s Letter from the Editors:
“What [Gary] Vaynerchuk represents is the potential of the growing efforts in new beverage media, yet these efforts remain largely ignored by mainstream beverage print media, which often seem more interested in becoming wine culture than covering it. These new media endeavors are achieving something never before realized in fine beverage, they are arming consumers with the knowledge and confidence to not have to rely on numerical ratings to replace actual understanding, which some of the largest print publications rely on for achieving any kind of relevance… The good news is that the Internet has leveled the playing field to the point where these publications’ lack of vision and connection with the culture they supposedly serve will be their own downfall, and through this failure will arise a new kind of fine beverage communication and culture.”
If I have a complaint, it’s that they listed my blog as launching in October 2008 (I wish!). Also, I was hoping for a goofier picture of me to be used for the article…
Anyway, thanks to Mutineer for the luv!