We wine geeks review wines in all manner of differing ways. There’s nearly as much variety in those review systems as there are in wine styles. Points. Stars. In my case, grades and badges.
And we’re social about it, too – CellarTracker.com is pretty much the world’s largest wine review repository at this point (closing in on 2 million reviews at the time of this post), and for the most part it’s populated with ratings penned by people who are not professional wine critics; they just want to catalog – and share – their thoughts on their encounters with world’s most awesome beverage.
Seems to me the most social and dead-simplest wine review, though – one that even makes 140-character twitter reviews seem overly-verbose by comparison – would be the Like button.
Yes, I’m serious. I think.
Of course, I’m talking about the thing that publicly alerts other Facebook users to the fact that enjoyed a post/status/photo/brand/etc. It might actually be more accurate to say that the Like button click means that you took a few seconds out of your busy day to tap on a button because other people also clicked on it, but that’s not the Like button’s fault (it’s more human nature’s fault). You can lump Google’s recent foray into the social approval space – the +1 button – into the same camp, and feel free to use that interchangeably here whenever I mention the Like button (the concepts are, from what I can discern, pretty much identical – let people know publicly what you like in a social setting on-line). And the concept is now ubiquitous on the ‘global interwebs’: even blog comment systems have them for individual comments. The Like button also refers people who buy, and when it does they buy more stuff. Only a matter of time before it takes over the wine world, right?
No points, ratings, or even words. You dig the wine, you +1 it; you enjoy sipping that vino, you ‘Like’ it. Done and dusted, end of discussion.
Or is it?…
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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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