This week, we’re giving away a hardcover copy of Todd Kliman’s excellent The Wild Vine: A Forgotten Grape and the Untold Story of American Wine (of which I received more than one sample copy) to one lucky commenter (that could be YOU).
I should start by saying that The Wild Vine is everything that you’d want out of a good wine book; better stated, it’s everything that you’d want out of a good book, period.
There are compelling characters. There is a stellar narrative voice. There’s an underdog story (a few, actually, interwoven) that make you care. There is conflict, perseverance, and in some ways, triumph.
I’m just not entirely convinced that the story needed to be told – at least, part of it, anyway. I’m glad it was told – and in such gloriously talented fashion; I’m just not sure I “get” the importance of the tale, mostly because the heart of the story in The Wild Vine is the near total disappearance of one of America’s most seemingly promising, and at one time certainly most successful – native hybrids, the Norton.
The book takes us on tangents as wildly diverting as the un-pruned tendrils of a Norton vine: from the early 1800s near-suicidal despair of Dr. Daniel Norton (who by all reasonable accounts appears to be the originator of the Norton grape that bears his name) to the crowning of an American Norton as one of the world’s greatest wines in a late 1800s Austrian wine exhibition, to the near singly-handed modern resurgence of the Norton grape in its spiritual and genetic home in Virginia at the dedicated hands of Chrysalis Vineyards transsexual owner, Jenni McCloud.
As you have probably discerned, The Wild Vine is not without (major) drama. And while some might bristle at Kliman’s extensive use of fictional historical narrative to get inside the heads of the book’s decidedly non-fictional characters, and others might give up on the extended storyline (Kliman literally waits until halfway through the book before posing the question of why the Norton practically went extinct), those who stick with The Wild Vine all the way through will be well-rewarded.
There’s just a part of me – the part that’s tasted some nasty versions of wine made from Norton grapes – that wonders if the grape should have been saved.
(for details on how to win a copy of the book, read on…)
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Hopefully it will be the last time, as well.
[ Also, please be forewarned that this post contains several references to the concept of poop. ]
By now, the more on-line socially active of you (sounds sexy!) will have not only heard about the kerfuckle over at Blake Gray’s excellent blog The Gray Market Report between some the blog’s Anonymous commenters and K Vintners winemaker Charles Smith.
Since the announcement of the lawsuit (which, in a nutshell, centers on a complaint of libel that the Anonymous commenters on the original GMR post), lots of blogs have reacted to various aspects of the suit.
I’m not going to talk about any of that.
I’m going to talk about my reaction to what I consider a totally frivolous lawsuit, the primary purpose of which, as far as a I can discern, is to stimulate economic recovery for the law industry while causing headaches for Blake Gray, Google, and anyone else involved.
My reaction: K Vintners will never again be mentioned in the virtual pages of 1WineDude.com, unless Charles Smith and K publicly take a different approach in all of this, and quickly. The primary reasons for such a drastic measure?
- I don’t want 1WineDude.com readers having to worry about being wrapped up in lawsuits.
- I won’t have 1WineDude.com readers treated like they have the brains of poop-flinging monkeys – which is essentially what Smith and K are doing by filing this type of lawsuit; they’re sort of telling you that you are unable to discern a smarmy, anonymous comment from the reasonable musings and opinions of an intelligent blog reader.
I sincerely hope this is the only time I will ever have to do something like this; but for now, Smith can stick with the many accolades for his wines from the traditional press, where he can feel safe and secure that people can’t respond anywhere near as quickly; and, presumably, let his ego grow to monstrous proportions in the meantime…
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Today, we’re talking wine recommendations, simply because over the last week I had the pleasure of tasting samples of three very different but very badge-worthy Reds that I wanted to share with you. The first comes from old vines; the remainder from old winemaking families. Also, in reviewing these I’ve just noticed that each “review” has a sh*t-load of links, which is either “adding value” or “annoying as hell” depending on your viewpoint (which I’m sure many of you will share with me :-) …
09 Jean-Paul Brun Domaine des Terres Dorees L’Ancien (Beaujolais): As good as many of the Beaujolais Crus out there & a few $ cheaper! $15 B #
I’ve got a soft-spot for Cru Beaujolais, which I find to be some of the most food-worthy wine in the world for usually not a lot of cash. So it’s really cool for me when I take part in a tasting (in this case, a TasteLive.com Discover Beaujolais round-up) and find a Beaujolais that thinks it’s a Cru but actually is an even-more-approachable and slightly-less-expensive-but-just-as-good general Beaujolais appellation offering, with the added bonus of being made from old vines. Brambly, deep red berry fruit (possibly courtesy of those Vieilles Vignes), pepper, and a hint of game, and generally just really f*cking yummy.
07 Continuum Red (Oakville): Graphite & fig did it for me, but w/ complexity like this you can find 20 other things to float yer boat $129 A #
Last week, I joined Philly’s First Lady of Wine, Marnie Old, at Osteria for dinner with Continuum Estate’s H. Stuart Harrison (who, interestingly, was also Opus One’s first employee) and Carissa Mondavi (you will have heard of her granddad). I know that sounds all NY-Times-name-dropping but hear me out, okay?
During dinner, we sampled the `07 Continuum which, aside from sharing the same name as one of the most kick-ass pieces of jazz bass proficiency ever conceived, also happens to kick ass in its own right. The oddest thing about this endeavor is that Tim Mondavi launched it only a few years ago, at what should have been the worst possible time for anything new and expensive. That is, of course, a blip on the radar when it comes to the viewpoint of the Mondavis, who seem to start every venture with the belief that it will last 100+ years.
Now in its third vintage, Continuum wine is extraordinarily good, seamlessly merging the focused power of Pritchard Hill fruit with the more lush, velvety and “open” components from fruit on the Valley floor – and with a healthy dose (18%) of Petit Verdot that is, somehow, not at all obnoxious. I’m kind of amazed that they got it right so quickly, even with fruit that good and several generations of Napa winemaking DNA at their disposal. Pricey, for sure, but worth every penny of it and I hope I get to taste some of this ten or twelve years from now.
06 Louis M. Martini Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon (Napa Valley): Heck of a crowd-pleasing, velvety, tobacco-infused ride for the price. $25 B #
Going to the other side of the Napa Cabernet spectrum, Martini – another (very) long-standing Napa wine family – has been pumping out some consistently tasty wines lately that lean decidedly towards the velvety-smooth-drink-me-now-baby side of said spectrometer sampling. Bottom line on this wine is that I’ve had far less interesting, less complex, and less tasty examples of Napa Cab that cost a lot more to one’s bottom line. Very good wine, very good price, and very good conversation piece for the winos at your next dinner par-tay.
That’s it – short (for me, anyway) and sweet!
(images: 1winedude.com, continuumestate.com)