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To Wit: Vintage Humor for Wine Lovers (Book Review)

Vinted on April 9, 2009 binned in book reviews
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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!

Today has the Dude taking another dip into the sample box, though this time I’m not coming back up with a wine, but with a book about wine.

Or, rather, a book with quips (and cartoons) about wine.

For a book with contents that I sometimes found hilarious, Malcolm Kushner’s Vintage Humor for Wine Lovers at turns made me groan, as in the eye-rolling, are-you-f—king-kidding-me? type of groan.

Turn to a random page in Vintage Humor for Wine Lovers, and you’re likely to find a strange juxtaposition – at least, I did – in which a very funny quip is followed quickly by something that resembles the kind of humor that makes you want to cover the book in Pedigree and feed it to a junkyard dog.

Take, for example, the following excerpts from Vintage Humor for Wine Lovers’s “Toasted” section (of witty wine toasts):

Funny –

To good friends – if you want one, get a dog”

Not funny –

To foolishness – it’s more fun than Elliot Ness”

Here’s another one, from the “Q&A About Wine” section:

Funny –

Q. How do you make a small fortune in the wine business?

A. Start with a large fortune and buy a winery.”

Not funny –

Q. Who invented the first champagne [sic] with no bubbles?

A. Dumb Perignon

(I swear I did not make that last one up).

You’re almost guaranteed to find something amusing in Kushner’s collection, no matter what your sense of humor. And therein lies the rub with Vintage Humor for Wine Lovers.

Assembling diverse (or even totally inconsistent) stylistic pieces in one place hasn’t worked well for anyone since the Beatles, so whether or not you’ll enjoy Vintage Humor for Wine Lovers depends mostly on your tolerance for diverse styles of humor.  You’ll definitely find something that will make you chuckle (or laugh out lout) – but you’ll be doing some skipping and page flipping in between those moments.

Cheers!

(images: amazon.com, paraorkut.com)

Old World Italian Wine Booty… in a Northern CA Dress (Rosa D’Oro)

Vinted on April 8, 2009 binned in California wine, Italian Wine, wine review

When you write about wine, it’s easy to start becoming a little… jaded isn’t the right word… actually, yeah, jaded is the right word but it’s soooo overused… how about effete?… okay,  a bit effete regarding wines that are typical of their varietal character and place of origin.  When they’re really, really good, you don’t tire of them – at least, I don’t – but when wines are pretty good it’s easy for your tasting eye (I hope I’m the first and last person to ever use that image…) to start to wander, like a bored husband starting to check out the college cheerleaders at an NCAA tournament game.

Boring.  That’s the word.

Truth be told (though it’s not like I lie to you on a regular basis), the “regular” stuff can get a little boring sometimes.

Which is why I like to try new things when I get the chance, so I did not turn down Rosa D’Oro when they offered me samples of some of their current releases – they’re a family-run outfit in Lake County, CA, that specialize in making wine from Old World Italian varieties.  Now that’s different – and probably not boring, I thought, despite the fact that most CA-transplanted Italian varietal wines I’ve had have more-or-less sucked.  They might not turn out to be good, but the experience wouldn’t be boring!

Not that I don’t encourage the spirit of experimentation beyond the norm – I do – but some of those broken eggs in the omelet-making process are kind of rotten.

What was even more intriguing to me than their list of offerings (Refosco?  really?!??) was their clear intent on engaging the “new media” of wine – reaching out to wine bloggers, advertising in new trend-busting publications like Mutineer, attending new media-themed events like Wine 2.0, and authoring their own (very well-written) blog.

So, I worked my way through a sampling of Rosa D’Oro Refosco, Sangiovese, and Muscat Canelli – varieties more closely affiliated with Italy than Northern Cali.

And they’re among the best attempts at adapting Old World Italian wine to CA climate that I’ve ever tasted.

The `07 Muscat Canelli was a surprise, starting with dry green grape but taking on more intense citrus aromas a it warmed in the glass; on the palate, it’s bracingly acidic and immediately made me want to summon up a salad with oranges and lump crab.

The reds were just as pleasantly surprising as the Muscat.  The Refosco was the more interesting of the two, with a complex nose that covered the gamut from florals to red fruit and even leather.  The palate was less complicated but still interesting and very tannic (you’ll want some meat handy for this one).  The `07 Sangiovese was eerily close to feeling like it had come from a Chiant satellite region; it lacked the dried orange peel character of the most kickin’ Chiantis, but it certainly had enough red fruit character, tannin, and acidic structure to suggest it would evolve well for another 2-3 years in the bottle.

The really adventurous among you might want to try lining up some Rosa D’Oro selections in a comparison tasting with their Northern and Central Italian counterparts, but I’ve got diapers to change so I don’t have the time to run that conceit through to its logically conclusion (and I’ve tasted enough wines from CA and Italy to tell you that I think I can predict the outcome).

For now, I’ll settle for he knowledge that the concept of “CalItalia” wine is far from a lost cause.

Cheers!

(images: nscpcdn.com), rosadorowines.com)

Who Do You Love? (Are Wine Writers Writing for You, or for Each Other?)

Vinted on April 6, 2009 binned in commentary, wine blogging

Or is that Whom Do You Love?

Dammit.

Ok, whatever…

I usually get flamed for writing about writing about wine, so I’m donning the asbestos undies for this one.  Bring on the heat, baby!  ‘Cause I’ve got (yet another) bone to pick with the world of wine writing (this includes wine blogging, and hence includes 1WineDude).  Mainly, the rub is this:

Why is it that so many wine writers seem to be writing for each other, and not for wine consumers? 

It’s no secret that wine consumers themselves are getting into the wine writing space, evidenced by the explosion of wine blogs over the last two years.  In many ways, 1WineDude is itself a product of that movement to involve consumers more directly in wine appreciation and critique.  When it comes to wine, I’m not a professional per se, but I’m a bit like what we in the IT department call a “super-user” – I’m one of those people that other users come to when they need to know more, but don’t have access to the inside scoop.  Yes, I consult, but I don’t make or sell wine – so I view myself primarily as a consumer of wine who somehow forced himself through a crack in the door to take an inside look at how the industry works.

I love the fact that wine consumers are blogging (even if they’re not as “serious” as I am about the writing aspect) and are causing the industry to rethink its product and how it engages those consuming it.  That’s good for everyone (except possibly Wine Spectator), and in that way “wine writers” (if that term is extended to include people writing about wine, not just those who make their living at it) are indeed writing for one another – in a very good way with increasingly positive results.

Take someone like The Wine Whore, whose blog unabashedly exists solely on the premise that it will feature a wine review in exchange for receiving a sample (no guarantee it will be positive, thankfully).  A lot of people (especially wine writers) will probably hate that idea.

I love that idea.

I love the fact that it’s ballsy and turns the question of wine writing “ethics” on it’s ear.  Am I saying that just about anything is “okay” so long the author is upfront and transparent about the premise?  When it comes to blogging, yes, I am saying that.  Ideas like this one put the power in the hands of the readers, and effectively they get to decide if any core ethical questions are violated by the premise.

The more I think about it, the more brilliant I think idea behind The Wine Whore is (though I receive far too many samples now to effectively steal it!).  It’s ultra-cheap publicity for a winery, retailer, or distributor, and it’s useful and entertaining for other wine drinkers.  Many wine writers will bristle at The Wine Whore’s premise, but the blog is getting wines and you need to admire the gumption of someone who’s willing to throw that caution to the wind, challenge the wine writing paradigms, and share their thoughts with other wine consumers.

But there are wine writers in wine mags, and in well-established and “serious wine blogs” (if the term is extended to include A- and B-list wine bloggers, which arguably includes 1WineDude if we collectively lower our standards just enough for a moment or two here) that don’t seem to give a crap about wine consumers.  They seem to be writing more for one other without taking a consumer view.

I won’t be naming names, and I don’t dismiss this as flippant or somehow wrong – because we’re talking blogs here, and the basic premise behind blogs is that you can write about whatever the hell you like, and all of your real-world certifications and credentials don’t mean jack if you don’t contribute something meaningful to the on-line conversation.  I just think it’s a shame to spend all of that talent and potential in writing for other writers.  Don’t we have chat rooms and forums for that?  Sometimes I think that wine writers, when they lack inspiration for writing about wine, instead write about writing about wine (case in point: this article! oh… the irony…).

Or, even more absurdly, when they are really bored, they attack other wine writers for not meeting their personal blogging or writing standards.  Personally, I find this extremely boring reading.  Do consumers really enjoy that, or are they just temporarily entertained by the ensuing on-line cat fight, sort of like a sad reality show featuring frustrated and drunk wine writers.  I can’t imagine it increases consumers’ appreciation for wine or their opinion of wine writing…

If you’re a “serious” wine writer, or even a wine hobbyist blogger who wants to detail his or her tasting notes and publish them for other to read on the web, stop for a moment and really consider why you’re writing, and who you want to benefit from reading your thoughts.  It can’t hurt, and it may just bring some clarity to what you want (or don’t want) to achieve.  Who do you love?

As a consumer, consider why you’re reading what a writer is telling you about wine, and if you feel that they really have your best interests at heart – because if they don’t, there is no dearth of competition for your attention at the moment.

But then, I’m the kind of guy who thinks fighting should not be allowed in ice hockey, so what they hell do I know…

Cheers!

(images: uglyradio.wordpress.com, winewhoreblog.com, si.com)

Weekly Twitter Wine Mini-Reviews Round-up for 2009-04-04

Vinted on April 4, 2009 binned in twitter, wine mini-reviews
  • 07 ZD Chardonnay (Napa): A buttery vanilla muffin w/ pineapple jam. If that doesn’t sound appealing, then you’d better stay far, far away. #
  • 07 Estancia Chardonnay (Monterey): Very easy-going, like a bowl yogurt with tropical fruits mixed in. An oak bowl, that is. #
  • 07 Recanati “Yasmin” Red Mevushal (Jezreel): Kosher Israeli Bord’x blend. Very red, very fruity, very tasty, and very inexpensive. Score! #
  • 07 Rosa D’Oro Refosco (CA): Inky black, violets & leather-laden N. Italian grape in the crafty hands of a talented CA family outfit. #
  • 07 Recanati Chardonnay (Galilee): Lemony acidity & a hint of nuts. I can taste all 9 months of the sur lie aging – you’d better be into oak. #

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