Yesterday, NPR.com posted one of the latest Radio Times episodes in which host Marty Moss-Coane interviews PLCB Chair Patrick Stapleton and anti-PLCB Blogger Lew Bryson. The two face off for a short time, and Lew delivers a bit of a smack-down. Several callers also mentioned that PA seems to have one of the most bizarre sets of alcohol sales and distribution laws that they’ve ever seen, and challenged several of Stapleton’s assumptions (hats off to ‘em!). The interview triggered the recently-dormant anti-PLCB genes that I have oozing around in my DNA.
Personally, I was flabbergasted by some of the statements that came out of Stapleton’s mouth during this interview, because they demonstrate what feels like a rather serious lack of respect that the PLCB seems to have for its own customers; customers who, it seems, the PLCB would prefer don’t (or, perhaps, they assume aren’t intelligent enough to) refer to things that might give them a different view on PA wine sales than that being painted by the PLCB. You know, pesky and irrelevant things, like facts.
My take on some of Stapleton’s statements from the interview are below after the jump, along with the podcast stream of the full NPR episode. I feel a rant coming on… you’ve been warned…
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A teaser vid from my recent jaunt to Chile and Argentina, including a polo match at Casa Silva in Chile, Finca Altamira Malbec harvest at Achaval Ferrer in Mendoza, and instruction on the proper (Argentine) methods for preparing Yerba Mate tea at Zuccardi. Just another day at the office!
“You’re actually the first journalist to see this.”
Loaded words spoken to me when walking down the back staircase at Chateau Montelena to the cellar room. And they’re not just fully-packed AK-47 words because I’ve received no formal training in journalism; it’s because there’s pressure when someone trusts you enough let you take a peek into the dirty underwear drawer of a movie star.
Ok, so it’s not actually a dirty undie drawer; but it’s the equivalent, anyway, when that movie star isn’t a recognizable pretty face plastered across billboards and silver screens worldwide, but is a winery. And make no mistake about it, Chateau Montelena is, indeed, a movie star.
The steady stream of tourists and visitors arriving right on my heels at 9AM, popping photos of the Calistoga winery’s iconic stone castle exterior was evidence enough of that, considering that your average Napa Valley wine country tourist turns around once they hit downtown St. Helena on Route 29. If you want to visit Montelena, you have to find Montelena, and to find Montelena you have to be going slightly out of your way; you have to be looking for it.
The recently-expanded parking lot is the best evidence of Chateau Montelena’s new-found popularity – where they previously got by with space for about eleven cars, they’ve had to expand to a new lot that can accommodate several times that number. It’s all part of the strange dichotomy that seems to have defined the image of Montelena in the minds of wine lovers over last few decades: a familiar name and yet not a familiar destination. Even though its name became etched into the consciousness of U.S. wine lovers after Chateau Montelena’s then-unknown Chardonnay bested its more celebrated French counterparts in the famed 1976 “Judgement of Paris” tasting, real fame – movie star fame – didn’t come until 2008 when the movie Bottle Shock hit the theaters, giving the `76 Paris tasting the Hollywood treatment.
Too Hollywood, as it turns out. Ask Montelena’s assistant winemaker, Matt Crafton – who as a lanky, tall, affable, laid-back-but-knowledgeable guy seems to fit like a glove into Montelena’s NorCal culture – how accurately Bottle Shock portrayed Montelena’s history, and you get a pause, followed by a smile and an answer that says everything by hardly saying anything:
“Well… There was a Paris tasting; the Barretts did exist; we did win.”
All the rest, as they say, is basically Hollywood bullsh*t…
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