And you thought I was already there, didn’t you? About being a cretin, I mean.
This week, I head out (yes, again) on the road, this time bound for the Greek island of Crete, a trip that’s been in the making in some way/shape/form with www.allaboutgreekwine.com since 2010 (we last discussed it when I visited with them in Santorini almost precisely two years ago).
The interesting thing about this trip, in the Going Pro side of things, is that in some ways I’m “on assignment,” having preliminarily agreed with Sommelier Journal to pen a regional overview piece on Crete for their 2013 publication schedule.
I am hoping in no small part that my eventual appearance in a wine glossy will show that I’m not anti-wine-glossy (though I am anti-douchebaggery) and will help to temper what seems to be unhealthily strong reactions from other wine glossy staff whenever I mention the words “wine glossy” on these virtual pages, to the point where the critical mention significantly outshines the actual focus of the article (hey, weren’t we talking about somebody’s wine here, anyway?). The message, I think, being twofold:…
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This week, I’m traveling through the Spanish wine region of Rioja (a guest of the Vibrant Rioja campaign), and will be attempting to report on events therein via twitter and FB as they transpire, Internet connectivity and available free time permitting, of course. It’s an all-blogger trip, which isn’t the norm for this sort of thing and so should be an interesting change of pace as I hit the apex of my 2012 Summer Of Going Just About Everyplace (after Rioja, I’ll be heading over to Crete after only a short break, presumably because I like visiting debt-ravaged European economies).
I’ll admit that I said yes to this trip primarily because Rioja is friggin’ beautiful. I’m also geeky over their white wines, which have funky, refreshing kung-fu. Also, apparently I’ll be participating in a time-honored tradition (that’s a European term for “huge party”) in which people douse one another with wine (trust me, I will be trying very hard to get that on video without rendering my vid cam totally useless), and have been advised to bring clothes “that I don’t mind leaving in Rioja forever.”
But I also accepted it out of regular ol’ curiosity, specifically around how well the Old School (roughly translated as “age the hell out of Tempranillo in big oak casks & then wait for it to mature in about a gazillion years”) and New School (“make modern, silky reds out of Tempranillo that are ready to drink now”) methods of fine red winemaking are (or aren’t!) getting along over there.
I think that we wine nerds are prone to pick on Rioja reds as being a bit played-out, and I’ve certainly done my fair share of complaining that lots of Rioja Tempranillo tastes less like Tempranillo than it does the oak that it’s been aged in for a gazillion months. But in doing so we forget that the “modern” Rioja wine industry is, from the point of view of the USA, hardly thirty years old…
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Make that, your Somm is under fire.
Last week I was guest on the Keeper Collective’s weekly twitter guest Q&A wine event, called #SommChat, part of their Somms Under Fire wine competition brand umbrella. This prompted quite a comments coming my way, most of which can be summed up in the following imaginary-but-wholly-representative re-enactment style on-line conversation:
Peeps: Joe, I didn’t know you were a Somm??
Me: I’m not!
Despite the fact that I am one of the few non-Sommelier guests to appear on #SommChat, I had a fantastic time fielding the questions from those who tuned in to attend last week, some of which were provocative and really got me thinking, particularly those that asked about recommendations for building up a palate, and learning more about wine.
The results of the reflective thinking? The deeper I’ve gone into the pro wine world, the less important I feel palate-building and wine appreciation tips really are, which I suppose on some level seems ironic but as we gain experience in any area, one likes to think that we can come back to basics having turned that into a modicum of wisdom, and wisdom seems to be telling me that it’s far, far more important for people to learn deeply what it is about a wine that really turns them on or off, and focus on learning their own palates and preferences first before thinking about developing a palate that would be used for critical assessment. The former opens the door to the wonder and magic and pleasure of wine; the latter is work, a job, often fun but sometimes a real working-stiff-like slog.
Anyway… You can check out the entire #SommChat convo from the twitter feed last week at http://sommsunderfire.com/sommchat/, and I recommend tuning in to their future events (they’ve got a couple of Master Somms lined up for the next series, which should be fun) on Wednesdays at 11AM Central Time.
If you’ve ever wondered how to handle the delicate matter of telling a hoity-toity sommelier or wait staff that the wine you ordered isn’t up to snuff, without making one or both of you look like a total douchebag, you’re in luck because we tackle that very topic over at my latest Wined Down column for Playboy.com.
For that article, I interviewed one of the sommeliers (a quality dude named Jeff Taylor, who also happens to be a true master of the “disco nap,” a skill which I witnessed first-hand having traveled a good bit of Australia with the guy) from NYC’s Eleven Madison Park – and in terms of hoity-toity restaurants, it doesn’t get much more hoity-toity than the award-winning EMP. So you’ll want to read what Jeff had to say about the right – and wrong! – ways of navigating that vinous territory.
I’ve been getting a lot of questions about how the Playboy.com gig is going, so I should probably offer a quick update on that. The important thing to remember when you read the following “status report” is that neither my recent jaunt through the wine worlds of Oz nor the Playboy.com gig are nowhere near the most surreal things that have transpired in my life lately (that honor belongs squarely to Auction Napa Valley)…
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