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Sommelier’s Choice: The Top Wine Releases of 2010 from Sommelier Journal

Vinted on January 21, 2011 binned in wine publications, wine review

1WineDude.com readers are no strangers to Sommelier Journal, the wine mag with which I started a bit of a wine-geeky-info-love-affair back in 2008 (I’m a subscriber). You may also recall that last year I took SJ to task (tongue firmly in cheek, of course) for their Top Wine Releases of 2009 (as chosen by wine personalities and pros invited to contribute to the list, choosing wines that were particularly memorable to them from those that they tasted during the year).

As many of you may also know, I’m a fan of that recap approach.  But while I loved the selections and the manner in which they were solicited, I wasn’t a fan of the price tags to be found in the list – last year’s round-up had an average bottle price of $97.18.

Sommelier Journal’s Business Manager, Phil Vogels is a nice guy and a (semi) frequent contributor to the comments here on 1WD, and pointed out in the discussion that followed my critique that the average price was mathematically skewed by a small number of very pricey wines – and that the majority of the wines were actually quite affordable:

“You’d be hard-pressed to break down the list in a way that didn’t have under $30 as the highest category…”

Well, the 2010 edition has hit the shelves as part of Sommelier Journal’s December 15, 2010 issueHow does the new list fare in these belt-tightening times?…

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Papa Don’t Preach (New Connoisseurs’ Guidebook to California Wine & Wineries)

Vinted on October 20, 2010 binned in book reviews, wine publications

Full disclosure: Charlie Olken, the driving force behind The Connoisseurs’ Guide to California Wine, is my dad.

Not my biological father, mind you.  In fact, he’s not related to me in any way; he’s not my adoptive father, either.

It happened back in February: I was sitting at one of the evening dinner events at the 2010 Professional Wine Writers Symposium, and was talking about how I thought Charlie was awesome and that I’d recently commented on another website that I wish Charlie was my dad.  Then, someone pointed out that Charlie was sitting about two places to my right, and Charlie kindly agreed to pseudo-adopt me on the spot.  Highlight of the trip for me, in a lot of ways.

Charlie has a new version of his Guidebook to California Wine (The New Connoisseurs’ Guidebook to California Wine and Wineries, of which I received a review copy), so we are (and by “we are” I mean “I am”) extending the theme of publication reviews this week by spinning some yarn about Charlie’s new book, co-written with Joseph Furstenthal (the book, that is, not this review).

The first thing I noticed about The New Connoisseurs’ Guidebook is that it’s mildly addictive.

What I mean is, it offers up thoughts on the history and products almost 500 California wineries, which invariably leads to the following sequence of events (for me, anyway):

“I wonder if they cover [insert winery name here]?”

Flip-flip-flip-flip-flip.

Read commentary.

“Hmmm.  I never knew that about [insert winery name here].  Wonder what they think of [such-and-such-winery]’s more recent releases.”

Flip-flip-flip-flip-flip.

You get the idea. The New Connoisseurs’ Guidebook is like searching the Internet on CA wineries, only in miniature (and in print) and guided by the expertise of people who have covered the winemaking in the state since most of us wine bloggers were eight year old kids drinking Coke from glass bottles

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The World of The World of Fine Wine Magazine

Vinted on October 18, 2010 binned in wine publications

I receive quite a bit of wine for which I pay nothing.  I have never bothered to measure the volume of influx of wine samples to my door, but it is high enough that whenever the doorbell rings in the afternoon, my toddler daughter now exclaims “more boxes of wine, daddy!”

Generally this volume of samples means two things for me:

  1. I cannot dream of complaining about the situation, even though it largely results in my basement storage space being taken up with shipping materials full bottles of wine that aren’t necessarily very good; and
  2. Whenever I receive a sample of something that isn’t actually a bottle of wine, I take notice immediately.

So naturally, the sample copy of Issue 29 of the UK-based publication The World of Fine Wine I received recently really stood out, as did the letter of introduction from its editor, Neil Beckett (and not just because it was printed on A4 paper).  Here’s what Neil wrote to me (I’m hoping he doesn’t mind me reproducing it here):

“Some of my team here are followers of your site and we hoped you might like to see what we do in a rather more old-fashioned medium…”

That medium of course being a printed magazine, though calling The World of Fine Wine a magazine is a bit like calling the Bible a doorstop.  It’s a gorgeous example of print, with stunning art reproductions and photography, and its 200+ pages put it more into the coffee-table-book species than what we in the U.S. customarily think of when asked to picture a wine magazine in our mind’s eyes.  It also costs £30 per issue – or, roughly $170 for four issues.  Ouch!…

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Whence Cometh Napa Cabernet?

Vinted on February 15, 2010 binned in California wine, commentary, wine publications

Today I’ll be starting my week-long Napa excursion (the itinerary of which I’d hoped to have posted today, but since all those West Coast hippies are so damn laid back, as of the time of this writing my schedule still isn’t totally finalized… if I’d been dealing with uptight, anally-retentive East Coast types I would have had this all nailed down within 15 minute intervals weeks ago).

This got me thinking about Napa Cabernet, of which I plan to have tasted so much by the time I leave Napa that I will probably need emergency dental work to deal with the teeth stains as soon as I land back in Philly.

And since I’m heading out there for a writers symposium, it got me thinking about the origin of “Napa Cabernet” – not in terms of the wine, but in terms of the words.  I’m a sucker for words and I own more than my fair share of dictionaries and etymological resources.  I’m geeky that way.

You’d think that this would be pretty easy, right?  A bit of Google searching, or a trip to the handy-dandy unabridged dictionary, and we’d be all set, right?  Surely there isn’t much to the origin of such words, the kind that are so nearly ubiquitous that they instantly call up various mental and sensory images for wine lovers worldwide, right?

Not so fast, Buck-O.  As it turns out, the etymology of both “Napa” and “Cabernet” is far from being etched indelibly in stone…

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