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Going Pro | 1 Wine Dude - Page 14

Posts Filed Under going pro

Being Able To Describe A Wine Does NOT Make You Awesome

Vinted on August 31, 2011 under best of, commentary, going pro

If I told you what it takes
to reach the highest high,
You’d laugh and say
“Nothing’s that simple!”

- from “I’m Free” (Tommy, The Who – 1969)

The following commentary is not an easy one to write, because whenever one talks about something that they do, they run the risk of appearing immodest, or conversely overdoing it on fake amounts of modesty and sounding like a douchebag.

Look, I know that I write reasonably well, because I’ve been told that by other writers whom many consider to write very well.  And I know that I taste wine reasonably well, because I’ve been told that by others who are themselves kick-ass tasters.  But I do not see the ability to combine those talents as somehow qualifying me to self-proclaim my awesomeness.  And I do not see it as somehow unattainable by anyone else, either.

As any fan of the (excellent) book Outliers can tell you, the one thing that most differentiates the well-skilled from the wanna-bes in any given field (including wine) is practice. You spend enough time doing something (like, approaching 10,000 hours – and that figure is not hyperbole), and the odds are very, very good that you will get very, very good at whatever it is you are doing.

I write this because I continue to run into people (all over the world) who are thoroughly impressed with their own ability to taste (and then describe, verbally or in writing) a wine. As in a worship-me-because-I’m-totally-awesome level impressed with themselves. On the other side of that wine appreciation coin, I also run into people (all over the world) who reinforce that view by assuming that they themselves could never accurately describe a wine’s tastes and smells. I have a message for both of those types of people: “Get over it; what wine writing / reviewing peeps do isn’t all that special!”…

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This Just In: I Join A PLCB Advisory Group. Also, Hell Freezes Over. Sort Of.

Vinted on August 24, 2011 under going pro, PLCB, wine shipping

Last week, after I spoke out against NJ Assembly Majority Leader Joseph Cryan publicly dissing his own wine-buying constituents, I received quite a bit of feedback (comments and e-mail) about something I wasn’t talking about.  Namely, not reporting from the battlefield of the wine shipping fracas taking place among the rolling hills of my home state, the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania (one of – if not the – worst control states in our fair Union).

In response, I can offer two tidbits as potential justification:

1) Blogger Lew Bryson is doing a fine job of detailing all of the latest PLCB debacles and on-again/off-again satutus of PA’s move towards Privitization, and I’ve little to offer above-and-beyond Lew’s excellent and opinionated coverage. For a pertinent example, check out Lew’s tirade about the state’s failed automated wine kiosks – turns out the PLCB knew that the kiosks had little chance of succeeding before they deployed them (I had a similar view of their potential success published around the same time).

2) I’m anticipating the potential for a lot more insider coverage coming soon on the PLCB and the drama of the changing state of alcohol distribution in PA, since I’ve agreed to be on a focus group for a PLCB Wine Advisory Council member.

Yes, you read that correctly. I’ve been hand-picked by a member of the PLCB’s Eastern PA Regional Advisory Panel to join a cabinet/focus group, which has as one of its priorities advancing the pace of change to improve the currently (very) sad state of wine distribution affairs in the Commonwealth…

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The Hopeless Quest To Define Wines Of True Character (Or “Screw The Ratings, Even Mine”)

Vinted on August 17, 2011 under best of, commentary, going pro, zen wine

Roughly two months ago, in the follow-on discussions on a feature on the wines of Lodi producer Matt Powell, a reader named Olivier chimed on with some though-provoking questions, the kind that, for me, define the 1WD readership because they exponentially increase the value of the content on this little ol’ website.

The discussion was around how we might define wines of “true character,” and it ended with a bit of a challenge from Olivier:

“…[It] would be nice to dig into detailed info (taste/aroma/flavors) that differentiate wines of true character and C+/B- wines. I have my own idea, but listening to others and getting examples would be great and very educational.”

That’s the kind of request that often sends me so far down the wine world rabbit hole that I’m seeing Jules Verne style dinosaurs.  In other words, the really fun kind.

We are certainly rabbit-hole bound, because in the course of thinking about this question, I had to get deep into the very heart of wine ratings.

And I’ve determined that all of them (mine included) kind of suck, even if they do provide value to a lot of people (and they do), and even if they help sell wine (and they do).

Once again, don your miner’s hat, the one with integrated flashlight bulb and intercom link, because you’re gonna need it where we’re going

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What I Learned At Summer Wine Judging Camp (Inside The 2011 Lake County Wine Awards, Part One)

Vinted on August 10, 2011 under going pro, on the road, wine industry events

A little over a week ago I helped to judge the 2011 Lake County Wine Awards Competition, which was held at Brassfield Estate Winery in the ludicrously-beautiful Clearlake Oaks area.  Over 180 wines carrying the Lake County AVA on their labels were submitted to the competition.

While I’m well-past the “cutting teeth” stage of judging when it comes to wine writing competitions, before the Lake County event I’d never judged wine in that professional of a setting before.  Here’s the quick-take on the LCWA event, in the form of the top five things I learned after taking the judging plunge:

1) Organizing wine writers, critics, winemakers, and wine educators at an event held at a winery is like herding hungry cats with attention-deficit disorders at a tuna processing plant. But somehow Ray Johnson, our panel director, the Lake County Wine Assoc. and Brassfield managed to do it with nary a hiccup. Made props to those peeps.

2) Lake County wines are very good, but not yet quite All-That-And-A-Bag-Of-Chips. I was especially pleasantly surprised by the whites in the competition, and there’s certainly no shortage of tasty wines providing great QPR in Lake County.  But the big reds, the Cabernet flights in particular, were a bit of a let-down after the heights to which my hopes had climbed coming into this competition of Wines With Altitude.  Yes, there are some amazing Cab blends being made there, and a ton of value to be had, but a high number of duds were in there, too – some downright flawed and others just downright dull. There’s serious red wine potential to be capitalized on out in Lake County, I just hope more producers get the lead out on making it happen for the reds.  Speaking of reds…

3) Much like trying to convince people that the word varietal is not a noun, judging big reds poured right out of bottle is an exercise is frustration.  These wines needed time (in some cases, probably several hours in a decanter) to properly show their stuff – pouring the big reds right out of the bottle is not being fair to the producers who entered their wines into the competition.  Yes, I know it’s totally impractical to decant dozens and dozens of wines for hours before a competition – but producers of big, complex red wines need to know that they’re setting themselves up for lower competition scores.

4) Much love, respect and good vibes are due my panel-mates : Randy Caparoso, Deborah Parker Wong, Marc Hinton, Tina Caputo, and Martha Dunne.  You should be checking out the work being done by each of these people, if you’re not already familiar with their writing. The event was divided into two panels, and luck of the draw had me paired up with this group.  I upped my wine tasting IQ by about sixty points just watching these people, all of whom have some tenure on the wine judging circuit, and all of whom were so damn fun that I found myself wishing the event would go on longer than two days.  On the not-at-all-related-to-wine front, it’s just awesome to hang out with people like Deborah (who exudes approachable elegance), and Randy (who has seen just about everything in the wine and food business, and to whom I owe a big-time favor for driving my ass to the Sacramento airport at the crack of dawn… on second though, I bought him dinner so f*ck that, we’re even!).  The whole crew was great, and they also put up gracefully with my disruptive behavior, god bless ‘em.

5) Expect wild inconsistencies in how wines are scored.  I doubt many of you out there haven’t caught on to this already, but just in case: one person’s “No Award” is another person’s Silver Medal.  We all taste differently, and no one at that level of tasting experience is totally right or wrong.  In the end, if you can support the why of your decision, you have the basis for solid discussion and will reach a point where none of you are losing sleep because you didn’t ‘do right’ by a wine you were judging. As Randy put it, “we all respect each other as tasters” (to be fully honest, I’m still kind of blushing from that remark!). And that’s not even getting into how differently the same wines might show across multiple days.  If you ever needed proof positive that wine appreciation is at least partially a subjective art, and/or that no wine critic can ever capture the essence of a wine in a single snapshot judgment, I recommend that you volunteer for the humbling assignment of being a wine competition judge!

Much more to come soon on the process behind the competition, and the wines that took top honors (some of which are probably going to surprise you).  For now, I offer some event pics below (after the jump).

Cheers!

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