Posts Filed Under Wined Down (

Ranking The World’s Most Ass-Kicking Wine Regions (Wined Down)

Vinted on September 26, 2012 binned in Wined Down (

Last week, my column ran a list of The Five Most Ass-Kicking Wine Regions, which I dubbed “The 2012 Edition” because I hope to run the list annually, kind of like the annual Most Interesting Wines of the Year round-up that runs here every December.

I expect – and probably deserve – to take some flack for that list.

Why? Because like the MIWs, my list of vinous ass-kickers is somewhat arbitrary, in that it’s not based on any statistical breakdown, but on what my experience tasting and visiting wine regions during the year has shown me. It was not born in the fiery hot cauldron of intense scientific research. In other words, it’s a list of the wine regions that I’m personally really excited about right now. So not only is it a bit arbitrary, it also appeared on an outlet that gets a sh*t-ton of website traffic. Having said that, I’m still prepared to stand confidently behind the list, since it’s being provided under the assumption that I finally know what the hell I’m talking about when I offer up this kind of stuff.

The list highlights the five winemaking areas that are producing juice that has been giving me goose-bumps this year, and that gets me eagerly licking my chops in anticipation when wines that have those regions emblazoned on the label happen to cross the path of my stemware. As I mentioned in the column, the members on that list “give you a perspective on who in the wine world is really getting it right, right now.”

The list itself is below in the order in which I ranked them for, but you’ll need to go over and read the column to get the skinny on why each region was chosen – though if you’re like me (i.e., have a red-blooded pulse and find yourself attracted to females) then you’ll certainly run the risk of finding the surrounding scenery somewhat… distracting. Anyway, here ‘tis!

5) Champagne
4) Santa Barbara
3) Friuli
2) Barossa
1) West Sonoma Coast

Let the flacking begin! But before you unleash to tell me whether or not I got this list right, I should tell you that we’re working on some intensely cool material for Wined Down… not that I think that should cut me any slack…





Getting Hip At The Washington Post, And Raiding The Wine Expense Account With Ornellaia At

Vinted on September 20, 2012 binned in commentary, kick-ass wines, Wined Down (

A couple of weeks ago, I cropped up in two totally unrelated places on the “Global Interwebs” – (which you expected, right?) and The Washington Post (which, admit it, you didn’t expect).

The Washington Post article, titled Some wineries adding a little hip to swirl, sniff and sip routine, was one of those rare instances where I was interviewed for a wine piece and then was actually quoted in the finished work. The quotes I’ve given to reporters have been so… well, probably so damned odd that my contribution to most wine-related article interviews seem to hit the cutting room floor more often than they do any column space. [ UPDATE: the original WP article link is DOA, but looks like Yahoo! News also picked it up so changed links to point to that version. Sorry! ]

I thought it worth mentioning because this particular AP article focused on wineries that were bucking the status quo in order to make trips to their tasting rooms more fun (imagine! the audacity!); the author had nice things to say about recent efforts in that space by Raymond Vineyards, Judd’s Hill and Brooklyn Winery, and at one point quotes me:

“The wine world’s about eight years behind everything with the exception of bottling lines and production techniques,” he says with a laugh.

The thing is, I don’t really recall laughing about it (at least not on the inside); if I did, it was I-work-in-an-office-and-this-Dilbert-strip-is-funny-but-it-also-really-hurts-because-life-in-my-office-is-really-like-that funny. I honestly believe that the wine world generally functions that far behind most other industries, and as amazing as the wine biz is, that lag is one of the most painful things about trying to get anything moving in the biz.

Anyway… on to happier topics…

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Wined Down: Catching Up With Rocker Maynard James Keenan On Local Wine

Vinted on August 28, 2012 binned in Wined Down (

Last week, my latest Wined Down column for hit the Global Interwebs, and authoring it was an experience I won’t soon forget.

Firstly, it involved me interviewing someone over IP phone software using my laptop. I had to use the laptop becaue I needed a battery. I needed a battery because I didn’t have much faith that my house would retain electrical power given the size of the thunderstorm that was sitting almost directly overhead of my snug little neighborhood at the time. I was Doubting Thomas of the powergrid because the last time I’d seen skies that black, I ended up with a flattened garage, a broken deck, a dead lawn (utterly killed off from having a couple of tons of horizontal 110-year-old oak tree deposited unceremoniously on top of it), and no one within an eight mile radius could use electrical appliances for the better part of a week.

Secondly, it involved interviewing a Grammy-award-winning rock-star-turned-winemaker (again): Maynard James Keenan, the man behind Arizona wine brand Caduceus, and someone who doesn’t give the impression of suffering fools lightly. Oh, and he’s someone who’s rumored to be fairly reclusive when off stage, for just about anything other than the topic of wine. This is sort of what was running through my brain at the time, as I crouched on the floor coordinating notebooks, laptops, and headset while the sky outside took on a purplish hue that would have thrown a cheap Argentine Malbec into fits of jealous rage:

Please, please, pleeeeeeease UPS backup battery, keep the f*cking Internet connection online if the meteorological sh*t hits the fan…!

Thirdly, it involved Playboy, a gig for which the coolness factor is hella-far from running out for me (truth be told, I’m not sure the coolness of it has actually sunk in yet). And finally, in it Keenan talks about Grenache being a “panty-dropper” (and as rock-star as the wine world can sometimes get, I’m not sure the wine world gets a whole lot more rock-star than that).

The result of my excessive worrying (the power didn’t even blink, by the way) is Wined Down: Exploring The Sexy Side of “Local” U.S. Red Wines With Rock Star Maynard James Keenan. Not all of the conversation between Keenan and I made it to the finished article, so I thought I’d share some of the geekier wine tidbits from MJK here, as a bit of a follow-up on what’s been happening with Keenan and his wine brand, Caduceus Cellars since the last time we talked

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