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Brave New World of Wine: the 1WineDude Mark Oldman Interview

Vinted on October 13, 2010 under book reviews, interviews, wine books

I like wine (duh).  I also favor, and am often drawn to, personalities that are high-energy, engaging or highly-knowledgeable about their fields of expertise.

No surprise, then, that I consider Mark Oldman one of the most dynamic – and one of the best – wine educators in the world, since he’s got it going on all three fronts.

Most folks out there will recognize Mark’s face as the lead judge from the PBS reality-tv series The Winemakers, or will recall his name as the guy who makes the wine picks for the 15+ million readers of Everyday with Rachael Ray magazine.  But I recognize Mark as the guy who wrote the beginner’s wine book that I’ve recommended more than any other wine publication – Oldman’s Guide To Outsmarting Wine.  My standard line about Mark’s first book for years has been, "this is the one to try first for anyone beginning to get ‘into’ wine; it’s the book I wish I’d had at my side when I was first starting out as a wine buff."  In other words, I thought it was an instance classic.

Outsmarting is still largely unmatched for its combination of verve, intelligence and accessibility – a lot like Mark himself, as you’ll quickly learn from our interview below.  Mark has a new book on the shelves (I received a review copy) – Oldman’s Brave New World of Wine - and it’s geared towards the Intermediate stage of one’s vinous journey.  In the pages of Brave New World of Wine, Mark offers up wine recommendations slightly off the beaten path, meant to expand your wine knowledge and delight without expending your bank account.  For the most part, the new book is another stellar achievement for Mark, and more often than not I found myself nodding along with his recommendations and witty-but-wise takes on lesser-known varieties (turns out we’re both nuts for Nero d’Avola, ravenous for Rosé, and on a tear for Torrontés).

Mark took some time out of his busy book tour schedule to answer a few questions about his new book, the next season of The Winemakers, and how he got started inthe wine biz.  Turns out that Mark also shares my affinity for the music of a certain long-standing Canadian power rock trio (as if I needed more reasons to like the guy at this point).

Before this intro. turns into another version of "I Love You, Man," I’ll turn it over to the interview…

Enjoy!…

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1WineDude TV Episode 18: Wine Preservation on the Cheap (Wine Secrets with Marnie Old)

Vinted on September 30, 2010 under 1WineDude TV, interviews, learning wine, wine books

She Said “Freeze!,” He Said “Wow. Really?!?”

In this (long overdue!) episode of 1WineDude TV, I (briefly) interview (the very tall) Marnie Old, Philly’s first lady of wine and co-author (with Dogfish Head’s extreme beer maven Sam Calagione) of He Said Beer, She Said Wine: Impassioned Food Pairings to Debate and Enjoy: from Burgers to Brie and Beyond.

Marnie and I dined earlier this week at downtown Philly’s excellent Osteria, where Marnie deftly navigated the Italian-heavy wine list to match lesser-known selections with our crazy-good fare (the perks of friendship – Marnie’s been at the forefront of the Philly restaurant scene for years). 

In this interview, Marnie talks about her new book Wine Secrets: Advice from Winemakers, Sommeliers & Connoisseurs, and shares a (very!) inexpensive tip from the book for preserving open bottles of wine – and it’s one that I guarantee most of you haven’t tried yet!

Interview after the jump. Enjoy…

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Biodynamic Wine, Mystified (Is BioDynamics A Bunch of Fertilizer?)

Vinted on August 26, 2010 under best of, book reviews, wine books

I have uncovered potentially serious evidence that could possibly refute the recent scientific evidence suggesting that drinking wine makes you smarter.

Specifically, I offer my recent experience reading Nicholas Joly’s essay-like treatise on the hot-potato topic of Biodynamic viticulture, Biodynamic Wine, Demystified. If this is the demystified version, I’d hate to see it mystified.

I received Biodynamic Wine, Demystified as a gift, of sorts, from the lovely (I know it doesn’t sound particularly manly, but he is a lovely guy) Mike Benziger after a recent visit to his family’s gorgeous biodynamically-farmed Sonoma wine estate.

Frequent 1WineDude.com readers will recall that some of Mike’s comments in my video interview with him caused a bit of a stir and sparked lively comments-section discussion on the topic of soil profiles and biodynamics generally. Those discussions mirrored, in a way, the current love/hate tête-à-tête – ok, and the occasional heated exchange of invective barbs – between biodynamics’ supporters and detractors.

Supports generally describe Biodynamics as having favorable impacts on the vineyard, its grapes, and the resulting wine. for example, Mike Benziger, from the comments to our interview, speaking about why Benziger employ soil analysis and biodynamic farming:

“Commercially farmed soils around the world have become biologically very similar. The use of commercial fertilizers and pesticides over the last 50+ years, combined with aggressive cultivation has homogenized much of the soil life in the topsoils worldwide. Artificial inputs reduce or terminate soil microbiology and thus eliminate points of differentiation from site to site… Vines that grow only in the topsoil that is healthy or not, usually only express the varietal character and don’t express the sense of place that is associated with soils. When commercial fertilizers are overused, there’s no impetus for roots to stretch down deep, because the snack bar is right on top in the topsoil. To express a more complete sense of place, vines need to have deep roots that feed deep down into the regolith and parent material.”

And the counterpoint, from the comments of that same post, from an anonymous commenter who claims to also be a winemaker:

“No doubt that BD has a tremendous feel-good quality that prompts a certain amount of rationalizing. The problem I have with BD is that it is not benign. It makes claims of superiority without real evidence and presents a defense of “there are some things that science just can’t reveal” as a blanket retort. It’s disingenuous and bad for society in general… There are lots of us that make rational decisions about how to do what we do in the vineyard or cellar. But BD says that it doesn’t matter. That all the science that has served us well in the past, in any aspect of life, is wrong. And that rationality is wrong because there’s a way of looking at the universe to reveal a truer truth. You and I cannot see it, but someone can – he’s a clairvoyant named Rudolf Steiner… The wine industry is enough of a dinosaur already, we certainly don’t need a fairy tale to impede real progress. BD exists only in microcosm. Excess wealth and labor usually do produce good results.”

After reading Biodynamic Wine, Demystified, I’m no closer to understanding which viewpoint is right than I was before I’d even heard of the book. Uh-oh…

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“If I was anywhere but rural Italy, I’d feel like a total scumbag” (Guest Post by Matthew Gavin Frank)

Vinted on April 13, 2010 under guest posts, Italian Wine, wine books

Following is a guest post from Chicago-born poet and food-and-travel writer Matthew Gavin Frank, who is, by the account of any reasonably sane person, a very interesting guy.

Frank has, at turns, held the following jobs:

  • proprietor of an Alaskan breakfast joint
  • menu designer for Julia Roberts’s private parties in Taos
  • sommelier for Chefs Rick Tramonto and Gale Gand in Chicago
  • instructor of creative writing to undergraduates in Phoenixa
  • poetry teacher to soldiers and their families near Fort Drum in upstate New York.

I told you he was an interesting character.

If that doesn’t totally sell you, this probably will:

Frank has just released the book Barolo (The University of Nebraska Press, 2010), which, as he described it to me, is “about my illegal work in the Piemontese Italian food and wine industry,” during which he spent six months “living out of a tent in the garden of the local Pittatore farmhouse.”

Frank’s guest post is excerpted (with permission) from Barolo (around $17 at Amazon.com), and describes his first meeting with Piemontese vintner Luciano Sandrone, who sounds like the Italian version of Wolverine.  I think you’ll enjoy it as much as I did, though I suppose that we’re going to have to get the book to find out how what happens next in this intriguing tale…

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