Hey, remember that trip I took to Colorado, as part of the 2012 Drink Local Wine Conference?
That was in May, a mere couple of months though it feels more like fifteen years and several hundred grey hairs later for me, given how much time I’ve been spending prematurely aging myself through the rigors of our modern day version of a true rite of passage – air travel – lately.
Anyway, I profiled three CO Western Slope wine producers from the West Elks and Grand Valley AVAs (Stone Cottage Cellars, Garfield Estates, and Canyon Wind), titled World-Class Wine In Harsh Conditions, Colorado’s Greatest Challenge May Be Man-Made, which you can now check out over at PalatePress.com (the photos in that article are mine, and yeah it really is that beautiful out there, and yeah I’m not regretting finally forking over the dough for a real camera).
In addition to that, the next installment of my Playboy.com column Wined Down is live (The Girls of Summer, And the Wines to Woo Them), and has generated a small amount of controversy on-line over whether or not I went over the line (MARK IT ZERO, SMOKEY!) in how I portrayed my version of the “white wine recommendations for Summer.”…
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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.