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The Mile High (Wine Disappointment) Club

Vinted on February 9, 2009 binned in commentary
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HiYa! If you're new here, you may want to Sign Up to get all the latest wine coolness delivered to your virtual doorstep. I've also got short, easily-digestible mini wine reviews and some educational, entertaining wine vids. If you're looking to up your wine tasting IQ, check out my book How to Taste Like a Wine Geek: A practical guide to tasting, enjoying, and learning about the world's greatest beverage. Cheers!


Flying back to the States from the U.K. this past weekend, visions of Steelers touchdown passes dancing in my head, something occurred to me.

Actually, a few things occurred to me:

  • Flying West into the sunset (or East into a sunrise) at several thousand feet is a visual treat of unmatched proportions, with the cloud horizon fading gently from burning orange to pink, purple, blue, and finally the star-speckled obsidian black of space. Sort of like the visual equivalent to the flavors in a glass of sublime red wine.
  • Business and First class aside, the wines offered on most airlines totally suck.

At least, this has been my experience.

Not that I haven’t had decent wine while flying in an aircraft – it’s just that I’ve onl had decent wine while traveling in First or Business class.

What I don’t quite understand is, given the proliferation of very good wine at very low prices, why the stock isn’t better. Just because those in coach class are resigned to the fact that they will be herded around like sky-bound cattle doesn’t mean that they want to drink like sky-bound cattle.

Not that I’m 100% sure exactly what wine a sky-bound bovine would drink… but let’s just agree that it probably wouldn’t be a discriminating choice, ok?

International carriers seem to have a leg up (glass up?) in the area of better-than-average in-flight wine offerings.

The venerable UK wine icon Jancis Robinson had been making wine picks for British Airways. Interestingly, some of the best wine choices available mid-flight are offered by airlines operating from countries that are not known for their wine – or so say the results of a 2007 wine competition by Global Traveler (which, also interestingly, only covered Business Class). Tops in that group were Taiwan’s EVA, Thai Airways International, and Gulf Air (from the Kingdom of Bahrain). Not exactly powerhouses on the world winemaking stage (at least not yet).


Still, it’s not all gloom and doom (and plonk), I suppose. Canadian wine writer Natalie McLean has detailed some of the better in-flight wine options offered (mostly on international long-haul flights), and last year the much maligned US Airways upgraded their wine list.

What’s
YOUR experience? Have you had more plonk or more perfection a mile high?

Cheers!
(
images: travel.webshots.com, tonyrogers.com, popsop.com, tinnong24h.com)

My Take On Wine Blogging at WineBlogger.info

Vinted on February 6, 2009 binned in about 1winedude blog, wine blogging

Hey – ever wonder what I think about wine blogging?

No? Really?

Oh, well – just in case you change your mind: I recently asked to help start up responses to questions about wine blogging by the fine folks over at WineBlogger.info.

Or maybe I was just the first one to see the request and respond. Not sure.

Anyway, you can check out my responses to their questions on wine blogging here – and as always, you’re welcome to join in the discussion yourself (whether here or at WineBlogger.info).

Cheers!
(images: wineblogger.info)

The Rise of Snooth.com (or "Get on the Virtual Wine Bus, Already!")

Vinted on February 4, 2009 binned in commentary, wine buying


Now this is interesting. Well, interesting to me, anyway:

Venerable Internet tech. news site TechCrunch recently profiled Snooth.com (I’m an affiiate, so it caught my eye), detailing its growing popularity, and its impressive ability to secure angel funding during a very dank, dark, and dastardly economic climate. Getting featured on TechCrunch is newsworthy enough in and of itself, and the whole event garnered the attention of Kaz & Randy at WineBizRadio.com. I’ve had the pleasure of chatting (I say “chat” because he’s British) with Snooth.com founder Philip James on a few occasions, and he is a generally approachable and nice fellow, so Snooth’s success has been fulfilling to witness from a distance.

Apparently, according to TechCrunch and Snooth.com itself, Snooth.com is now the largest and fastest growing (in terms of website visits) wine community website. SNooth is now even bigger than Wine.com, which lacks the social media aspects of Snooth, and is still battling perception issues from over a year ago when they arguably put their own interests well above those of wine consumers and retailers.

What I found most interesting about the recent Snooth.com lovefest was not Snooth’s success, but how the website has been classified.

TechCrunch called it a social wine review site.”

While this is certainly true, it’s not the complete picture.

Folks, let’s be clear: Snooth is in the business of selling wine. I know that it says on their home page that they don’t sell wine. And they don’t – not directly. But the fact is that they are in the business of getting wine into your hands, through retailers whose selections are featured in their search results.

And they do it well enough – and integrate it so well with the best aspects of social wine networking (sharing reviews and recommendations) – that they are seeing huge success during a time when being relevant on the Internet at all means being involved in social networking.

Snooth.com is not the Future of Internet wine salesit’s the Present. If you want to sell wine on-line (despite the headache introduced by arcane and unconstitutional state-run alcohol distribution monopolies getting in your way), then you’d better well understand the model that Snooth.com is quietly (well, not so quietly now I suppose) perfecting.

The King (wine.com) is dead. Long live the King (Snooth.com)!

Cheers!
(images: snooth.com)

‘Burgh Wine, By Way of Napa (An Encounter with Matthiasson’s Current Releases)

Vinted on February 2, 2009 binned in wine review

Whew!

We are now officially in the morning after what might have been not only the most stunning, but also possibye the greatest late-game comeback win in Superbowl history, by none other than Dude’s favorite team in all of professional sports: the 6-time world champion Pittsburgh Steelers.

So naturally after such a dramatic and entertaining Superbowl XLIII, I wanted to showcase some wine from the ‘Burgh.

Ok, it’s not really from Pittsburgh. But it’s close enough for government work!

Matthiasson wines are not from the ‘Burgh (they are from Napa), but winemaker Steve Matthiasson’s wife Jill Klein is originally from Pittsburgh, and their wines are made using the same general temperament that has made the city of three rivers famous – grit, determination, care, and hard work.

Lots of care in the vineyard, lots of attention to detail on site selection, probably lots of dirty clothes and shoes harmed in the process of making these unfiltered beauties.

Anyway, somehow I think Jill got wind that I was a STEELERS fan, and sent me a few samples of Matthiasson’s current releases. I was pleasantly surprised by these wines (and duly impressed).

One whiff of Matthiasson’s wines and I could tell that they were probably crafted with extreme care. More on that in a second. First, I wanted to find out more about the Pittsburgh connection and how Matthiasson got started. So I asked Steve.

My wife is from the Burgh. I was born in Winnipeg, and my family moved to Tucson when I was 8,” Steve responded. “I went to UC Davis to study international ag development, and did an internship in Modesto studying ways to reduce pesticides in orchards. I interned with a consulting company, and ended up staying on with them after school (after changing departments to viticulture). 15 years after that internship I’m still consulting – it’s what I learned how to do – but it has evolved into a focus on high-end estate vineyards in Napa. The winemaking started as a way to stay sane, to be able to do my own thing, while spending the rest of my time on other people’s projects, and, though the day job still pays the bills, and I enjoy it, the wine has become the central focus.

I think that focus is paying off. Matthiasson is making some very aromatic and intensely concentrated wines.

Their `07 Napa Valley White made my palate do a double-take head-fake. It’s a blend of Sauvignon blanc, Ribolla gialla, and Semillon. Yes, Ribolla gialla (even though I’m a Wine Century Club member, I still needed to look that one up). It’s a funky wine, in that it’s tropical, racy, and spicy all at once – I told Steve that it reminded me of the interesting white blends that were coming out of Australia a few years back, before they started sending us in the States boatloads of their plonk. It’s a bit early to call for entrants onto my list of the year’s most interesting wines, but I’m reserving a place for this just in case.

Matthiasson’s `05 Napa Valley Red Hen Vineyard Merlot is also well worth a look. It’s a huge wine. It tasted “old” to me – not old as in musty, but old the way that Zinfandel tastes when made from old, old vines in CA: boozy and massively concentrated. Not sure how much time or decanting (or even if time or decanting) will tame the alcohol, but the wine offers plenty of interesting complexity with intense blueberry and dark cherry fruit, along with cocoa and tea leaf aromas.

It’s the kind of Merlot that would give people absolute fits in a blind tasting, because you could easily pass it off as a Cab or a Bordeaux style red blend.

Not that you’d do that to your friends, right?

Anyway, a word of caution: Matthiasson is making wine in very limited quantities, so you’ll need to go the mailing list route on these.

Cheers!
(images: 1winedude.com, post-gazette.com)

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