For the next act in my continuing saga as judge in the Georges Duboeuf Wine Book of the Year Awards, I wanted to detail the awards finalists that didn’t make the cut for my top three candidates for this year’s award (the three is not an arbitrary number, by the way – as judges, we were asked to pick our top three selections for the award from the seven finalists chosen by the event’s organizers).
And, we’re going to give away a copy of one of those books – Charlie Olken’s excellent New Connoisseurs’ Guidebook to California Wine and Wineries – to one lucky commenter!
Most of you know the drill: you comment, and in one week a winner is randomly selected from the comments.
Personally, I find myself swayed at least a little bit when it comes to awards like this, in terms of my wine book purchasing decisions. I suppose that a part of me figures, Hey, if some people took the time to judge this thing against its peers and say it was good, it’s probably pretty darn good – but all-in-all, when it come to wine book buying, I probably put more weight into jacket testimonials (especially when they’re written by people that I know and respect). So the question I’ve got to get our comentarios del blog de discusión started is this:
Do awards factor into your wine book-buying decisions? Or are they like most wine competition medals (i.e., kinda meaningless)?
My thoughts on all of the non-top-three-listed finalists’ books are below after the jump. I need to preface this by saying that these books are all worthy additions to the English-language wine book lexicon; they just didn’t make my top three for the Georges Duboeuf award based on the judging criteria. That competition was stiffer than the graphite neck on those headless Steinberger basses that Geddy Lee used in the `80s, so not making the cut shouldn’t be treated as a slight; in fact, simply being included in the list of finalists for this year’s award is a nod to the quality level of all of these books. Now that I think about it, I might be getting in trouble by listing these finalists, but technically no one involved in the awards has said that I can’t list them… so what the hell, here we go!
Next week: my take on the top three and my #1 pick for the award…
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The good news for wine lovers is that there’s a ton of wine-related content on the ‘global interwebs,’ much of it available for free (because content is a commodity now, people). The bad news is, not all of that content is reading that would appeal to a wider audience (wider than the friends and family of many of those writing the content, that is) – that’s not at all meant as a dig at the vast majority of wine blogs that act as personal journals chronicling passionate consumers’ journeys into the amazing world of wine; it’s just the truth in terms of how much of that content is presented and targeted (trust me, not too many people would want to read my personal journals… but the point is that a small group of people close to me might).
The better news is that, for those looking for the most surfable waves among the vast oceans of on-line wine content, the judges for the 2010 Born Digital Wine Awards have done a great job of vetting some superb individual pieces of that content for you. You can thank them later (I recommend flowers, because those people get a ton of wine already).
The Born Digital Awards program is brainchild of Gabriella and Ryan Opaz along with Robert McIntosh, who together have started building up an impressive set of wine-related media ventures in Europe. The idea was to build on the success of the Wine Blog Awards in highlighting outstanding wine-related websites, but with a Pulitzer-style twist: focusing on individual pieces of content (video and writing), and awarding actual cash to the winners. I don’t know anything about the judging process itself beyond what’s already been published at borndigitalwineawards.com, but I do know that the list of judges contains some pretty amazing wine writing talent.
The finalists in each of the award categories were published last week, and the winners will be announced on May 18th at 5:30 PM ET, streamed live from the London International Wine Fair. I’m humbled to be among the short-listed finalists (go ahead… make the height jokes… you jerks…), but that’s not why I’m talking about the awards here. I’m talking about the awards because I wanted to post the entire list of links to the short-listed finalists below (after the jump) – there’s just some great f*cking content in the list, and if you’re into wine it’s a treasure-trove of cool-ass shiz to read.
WARNING: You may get tired of seeing Blake Gray’s and Alder Yarrow’s names in the list, as they’re each finalists for something like 900 of the categories (ok… two…). In all seriousness, those guys are friends of mine (as are several of the other finalists, actually) and I’m happy to see their stellar writing included in the list (and even happier to be included in any list with those guys).
Now get reading (and watching)… and enjoy!…
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- 09 Ludwig "Hammerklavier" Pinot Noir/Dornfelder (Santa Lucia Highlands): Has more character than any primetime police drama out there. $28 B #
- 08 V. Sattui Glisson Vineyard Zinfandel (Russian River Valley): Big, jammy, spicy & quite damn happy about it ThankYouVeryMuch! $36 B #
- 10 Folonari Moscato (Piave): Kinda like the neighbors’ dog – affable, sweet but a after a while too in-your-face for extended company. $8 C+ #
- 10 Innocent Bystander Moscato (Victoria): The whole fruit cup’s here, along w/ a little spritz, very little booze & a whole lot of fun $35 B #
- 08 Sanford "Sanford & Benedict vineyard" Pinot Noir (Sta. Rita Hills): She’s a beauty, but it’s gonna be a long (4+ years) courtship. $60 B+ #
- 08 Sanford Pinot Noir (Sta. Rita Hills): Oaky & >14% abv? Yeah, but it’s fruity, tangy & herbal enough to stand up tall to all of that $40 B #
- 08 Sanford Chardonnay (Santa Barbara County): Yeah, come to think of it I *will* take a side of roasted nuts with that tropical fruit. $21 B #
- 07 Flowers "Andreen-Gale" Pinot Noir (Sonoma Coast): Like the Jedi Anakin Skywalker, it kicks ass (& has a hint of a Dark Side). $50 A- #
- 07 Krutz "Stagecoach Vineyard" Cabernet Sauvignon (Napa Valley): The coach is smokin’ up a boozy – but downright spicy – fire! $69 B+ #
- 05 D’Argenzio Randy Rhoads Cabernet Sauvignon (Sonoma County): Almost as much prune & plum as Randy had amazing metal licks. *Almost*. $53 B #
- 08 Three Sticks Durell Vineyard Pinot Noir (Sonoma Coast): The fruit is Hefty Hefty Hefty! The balance is Wimpy Wimpy Wimpy! $55 B #
- 09 Markus Huber Obere Steigen Gruner Veltliner (Niederösterreich): The kind of wine a hefty CA-style salad dreams about when it sleeps $18 B #
- 07 Draconis Petite Sirah "Classic" (Lodi): Unbeatable PS, with no BS. A spicier, meat-friendlier Lodi red probably doesn’t exist. $28 B+ #
- 09 Susana Balbo Late Harvest Torrontes (Mendoza): Crowd-pleasing lychee/flower bomb to cap off dinner, & just about any dinner will do $24 B #
- 08 Château d’Esclans "Garrus" (Côtes de Provence): World’s best Rosé? Maybe. One of the most profound, demanding & complex? For sure. $90 A- #
- 09 Château d’Esclans "Whispering Angel" Rosé (Côtes de Provence): Those angels are basically whispering "Drink Me… NOW…!" $17 B- #
Quick quiz for you: How many times can you listen to a winery’s PR guy mention Robert Parker scores before you want to shove wine barrel bungs into your ears to drown out all sound?
For me, the answer is “somewhere around 25 times,” which is about the amount I endured in the impressive underground barrel storage area of Errazuriz during my recent visit to Chile. I certainly don’t blame their PR for dousing me with the Robert Parker score hose during my visit – Errazuriz are clearly (and justifiably) proud of the accolades that their wines have received; they’ve been at the production of high-end, “icon” wines longer than just about anybody else in Chile, after all. But… what I had a difficult time with was the relentlessness with which that stream of scores was trained at my poor, unsuspecting ears.
God knows I don’t hate Parker, and I don’t hate wine scores (I find them very limiting, and rife for misuse, but don’t hate them). While I find Parker’s palate prefers wines that, to me, come off a bit on the brutish side (and quite a few of Errazuriz’s releases fall into that category), I’m sure plenty of people who like the higher-scoring Parker selections likely find my highly-rated selections on the tepid, shy side.
All further proof that you owe it to yourself to learn your own taste preferences before following the advice of critics too closely, I suppose.
Anyway… back to the cellar of PR pain…
I actually tried to derail said PR person by mentioning (when we were discussing Bordeaux wine prices versus those of Chile’s finest reds) that I’d interviewed Parker fairly recently. I figured what the hell, maybe telling him I’d had contact with Parker would at least change the context of the current discussion about Parker. Nope – that tactic had about the same effect as trying to stop a charging elephant with a grade-school-classroom-grade spitball. So I turned it into a learning opportunity, and the lesson was this:
Reciting a litany of wine scores isn’t really marketing!
It wasn’t helping the oppressive vibe any that day that the icon winery at Errazuriz is impressively imposing in its starkness, or that the barrel rooms have brick and calcareous rock that measures up to two and a half inches thick in some places – while good for withstanding Chile’s earthquakes, the whole thing came off as being a bit too overwhelming, and it all felt just a tad old school.
Quite a marked contrast to the experience I had just a few hours earlier when visiting Errazuriz’s western vineyard location, the gorgeous Chilhue Manzanar (“seagull’s place” in Mapudungun, the language of the region’s indigenous Mapuche people) 120 km northwest of Santiago, and mere 12 km from the Pacific ocean…
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