The recent news of perpetually-hip grocery company Wegman’s pulling out of the troubled PA Liquor Control Board’s wine kiosk program has caused a bit of a stir in the wine world, if we take “stir” to mean “mostly sardonic snickering, followed by a glassy-eyed stare caused by the grim realization that we live in a universe where things like the inane PA wine kiosk program are actually allowed to happen in the first place.”
Welcome to my neck of the wine woods, folks!
It seems that current Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board Chairman Patrick J. “PJ” Stapleton (the “PJ” is his addition, not mine) has had enough of the snickering part, though. On June 23rd, Philly.com posted an Op/Ed letter written by Stapleton in response to the criticism coming his way over the Wegman’s kiosk fiasco.
What I’d like to do is deconstruct PJ’s open letter, because it’s filled with enough holes that it could double as a riddling rack – not that us PA residents could actually fill that riddling rack with actual wine, mind you… at least not the wine that we want to order, since the state stores probably don’t carry that stuff… okay, whatever.
Anyway… Let’s take a walk together through the monopoly-infected mind of PJ Stapleton…
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Uhm, like what is this stuff?
I taste a bunch-o-wine (technical term for more than most people). So each week, I share some of my wine sample tasting notes via twitter (limited to 140 characters). They are meant to be fun, quickly-and-easily-digestible reviews. Below is a wrap-up of the twitter reviews from the past week (click here for the skinny on how to read them), along with links to help you find them so you can try them for yourself. Cheers!
- 08 Achaval-Ferrer Finca Altamira (Mendoza): It’s all (screamin’ black cherry, savoriness, tannin, body) comin’ 2gether. Sloooooowly. $100 A- >>find this wine>>
- 08 V. Sattui Vittorio’s Vineyard Sauvignon Blanc (Napa Valley): Not without its layers, but let’s leave the canned pineapple at ACME. $24 B- >>find this wine>>
- 07 V. Sattui Cabernet Franc (Alexander Valley): Floral, plummy & crowd-pleasingly drinkable. But funkiness masks the real-deal spices. $30 B >>find this wine>>
- 08 Quinta do Vallado Touriga Nacional (Douro): An acquired violets-spice-&-gripping taste but it’s as faithful (& forward) as TN gets $54 B+ >>find this wine>>
- 06 Twisted Oak Tempranillo (Calaveras County): Intriguing fellow in dark cherry trenchcoat, smoking tobacco and selling spices. $24 B >>find this wine>>
- 09 Murrieta’s Well White Meritage (Livermore Valley): Tropical but floral, big but svelte, creamy by crisp, a bit pricey but worth it $25 B+ >>find this wine>>
- 10 O. Fournier Centauri Sauvignon Blanc (Leyda): Hot damn, Leyda Valley is on fire right now. Herbal, creamy, & really friggin’ good. $18 B >>find this wine>>
- 10 O. Fournier Urban Maule Red (Maule): About the perfect red fruits & price combo to match all the BBQ sauce you’ll east on July 4th $11 B- >>find this wine>>
- 08 Bellview Winery Lemberger (Outer Coastal Plain): Lady Liberty might turn around & face NJ to smell the licorice & violets on this. $17 B- >>find this wine>>
- 08 Bellview Winery Cabernet Franc (Outer Coastal Plain): Look at NJ pumpin out the black cherry & tea leaf! Promising if heavy-handed $19 B- >>find this wine>>
- 05 Peconic Bay Winery Merlot (Long Island): Red plums, spice & an elegant, food-friendly lift with no signs of tiring out anytime soon $22 B >>find this wine>>
- 09 McIntyre Vineyards Estate Chardonnay (Santa Lucia Highlands): She’s a brick… house! Mighty mighty, just lettin’ it all hang out! $28 B >>find this wine>>
“No one really gets to try older Long Island wine… because, well, there really isn’t any!”
James Silver, General Manager of Peconic Bay Winery, was telling me about the dearth of older vintages for LI wine, as we stood on a small deck last weekend, overlooking their Cutchogue, NY property near the eastern edge of Long Island’s North Fork. The sun was just starting to gain the strength it would need to banish the cloud cover and make for great outdoor picnic-and-wine-tasting weather (it would eventually prove triumphant), and the Peconic Bay staff was below us, a cadre of young, energetic mostly-twenty-somethings in PB t-shirts, bustling about like honeybees and getting the property ready for the days’ event – which happened to be, in an odd collision of personal worlds, my band’s trio performance under the “porch tent” for the afternoon.
James grew up in Chester County, PA, which my band calls home, and after discovering that a) I had a band and b) we were from Chester County, the urge to conjure up a Chester Co. Connection proved too great for him to pass up. Either that, or it helped him forget about the fact that taxes in LI were about a billion times higher than they were in his hometown.
I was serving double-duty, of course – no self-respecting wine geek shows up in LI on the same day that 20+ years of local Merlot are being poured and doesn’t try to crash that tasting. As James pointed out, it doesn’t happen everyday in an emerging wine region where the oldest vines generally tend to date back, at most, to the mid-eighties. My band was due to start playing only about an hour after the tasting would end, but there was no way I was going to miss this – screw ‘em, they’d have to settle for me setting up my bass gear in manic-mode just before soundcheck. Twelve vintages of Peconic Bay Merlot dating back to `89 were being poured that morning, with all but three of them being made by Peconic Bay winemaker Greg Gove (the `89, `95 and `97 were products of the late Ray Blum who helped to found the winery)…
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I think traditional American wine-writing may have totally jumped the shark.
Yeah, I am actually going there. And yeah, it will probably take around 1100 words.
You see, last week marked my (extremely) long-overdue second contribution to Nomad Editions’ iPad wine magazine, Uncorked. The long-overdue part is entirely my fault – things have been busy, as in senator-on-the-campaign-trail-trying-to-hide-his-mistresses-from-the-press level busy, enough so to keep me from contributing weekly.
The Uncorked story is titled “My Andean Adventure: One wine dude’s search for the soul of South American wine” and it’s core topic is more-or-less my bout with the Chilean version of Montezuma’s Revenge (you know the title isn’t mine, because I would have called it “Joe’s Colon Vs. The Diabolically Banal South American Budget Wines” or something similarly tasteless), and includes photos of mine as well, taken on a camera that costs less than $200, and so marks one of the few times that I’ve also been a contributing photographer (cue eye-rolling from any serious photographer reading this). You’ll have to subscribe to read the article, but at less than $1 per month for a weekly wine mag that includes regular contributors like Tom Johnson (of Louisville Juice) and sommelier / award-winning author Courtney Cochran, you’d have to be a pretty hard-ass cheapskate wine lover to pass it up.
The thing that got me musing about wine writing jumping the shark was that my first draft of the Andean wine travels article was rejected summarily by Uncorked’s editor, (writer and winemaker) Stephen Yafa. Stephen’s words from the Editor’s Note of last week’s issue:
“When Joe Roberts sent in his article on wine-touring in Chile and Argentina, the piece was wrong for all the right reasons. It was objective, balanced and unemotional. It wasn’t Uncorked, or Joe.”
Stephen is an excellent editor, and like all good editors he has knack for being right…
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