Alternative title: “What I Learned (So Far) At the 2010 Professional Wine Writers Symposium in Napa”
- Symposium Chairperson and Wines & Vines editor Jim Gordon, may, in fact, be the sweetest and most patient person on the planet (there remains one more day of symposium activities in which to properly test this theory).
- The amount of downtime built into the entire week of Symposium activities is approximately 47 seconds.
- The amount of raw talent and brain power among the symposium attendees is staggering, but is immediately doubled in terms of IQ points the moment that AbleGrape.com founder, Yahoo search pioneer, and twitter search guru Doug Cook walks into the room.
- When you read aloud (over a loudspeaker) a tasting note that you’ve written in which you compare a glass of Syrah to an uncomfortable satin thong, you will piss off famed author, wine educator, and television personality Karen MacNeil [ Editor’s note: this was recently substantiated via personal experience. ]
- Both Eric Asimov and Steve Heimoff are practical, warm and charming in person (meaning that I have lost at least two bets and the week isn’t even over yet).
- Harlan wines will be poured judiciously at Symposium after-hours gatherings, but only when I am not available that evening to attend any of them.
- Journalism jobs, freelance writing gigs, and book deals net you more money than Amazon.com affiliate fees. But not much more.
- If you take the ethical standards of critical writing / wine review writing, combine them in number, double that number, square the result, and divide by 0.0002, you will arrive at roughly the number of ethical violations that I might have inadvertently committed. Before lunch. On day one.
- When Alder Yarrow uses the term “folks at our level” and you realize that he is talking about wine blog writing and is including you, you have to suppress the urge of performing a double-head-fake and then blushing.
- If you are serious about wine writing, then you should get serious about attending the Symposium in 2011.
This blog probably doesn’t attract as many newbie wine lovers these days as it does ‘intermediate’ wine lovers, other wine bloggers, and wine industry folk.
Well, this is a post for those intrepid wine newbies, and the people who love them (or, the people who feel obligated to buy them wine-related gifts, anyway).
Because I own a house and have a young family, I spend approximately 25% of my waking hours (and just as much of my monthly net income) at the local Target store. And it was there that I discovered the best $1 investment that a wine newbie could make, piled up in a bin located in the “everything for a buck” section near the store entrance. You know, the section right by the big red plastic shopping carts in which my toddler daughter spends 25% of her waking hours.
That $1 investment? Wine For Dummies – Pocket Edition.
Yes, I’m serious. Yes, at Target.
The book is 6” x 4” x 05.cm, and weighs a couple of ounces (or, approximately 0.015% the weight of the average mighty hardback wine tome). It could literally fit into your back pocket and you might not notice it until the next time that you sat down after putting it there.
Many folks know the full-blown version of Wine For Dummies, written by wine education legends Ed McCarthy and Mary Ewing-Mulligan. The Pocket Edition boils down the Wine For Dummies content into about 50 pages of the essentials, omitting mostly the content on wine storage, collecting, and buying wine at the wine shop. What’s left is the same fun, accessible, and lucidly written prose found in the book’s bigger brother, with especially helpful info. on how wine is made, how to taste it, what’s behind the most popular varieties, and (especially useful) a short section that is the best and most concise corkscrew overview that you will ever read.
Interestingly, a good portion of that $1 content is also available for free on-line, in a slightly-less-handy-than-the-book-unless-you-own-a-smart-phone format. The on-line articles don’t contain all of the text of the Pocket Edition but are handy in a pinch (here’s a sample of that corkscrew overview).
Anyway, it’s something to keep in mind the next time you’re trying to plan your escape-vector from Target (which, for me, begins the moment that I am pulling our car into the parking lot) – but it probably won’t help you get out of the place without spending $200.
I am giving up on what has become a totally fruitless quest ending in a miasma of heartbreak and despair; I hereby renounce my Sisyphusian efforts, and will no longer roll this impossibly heavy boulder of writing wisdom up the mountain of populist adversity, only to have it come heaving down to crush the vulnerable bones of my hopes time and time again.
Not that I feel overly dramatic about it or anything.
What is the heart of this painful linguistic matter? The brilliant and terrible rays of sunlight on the wax wings of my personal flight of Icarus?
It’s the rampant misuse of the word varietal.
To quote Inigo Montoya, “Joo keep using daht word. I donah tink it means what joo tink it means…”
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Today I’ll be starting my week-long Napa excursion (the itinerary of which I’d hoped to have posted today, but since all those West Coast hippies are so damn laid back, as of the time of this writing my schedule still isn’t totally finalized… if I’d been dealing with uptight, anally-retentive East Coast types I would have had this all nailed down within 15 minute intervals weeks ago).
This got me thinking about Napa Cabernet, of which I plan to have tasted so much by the time I leave Napa that I will probably need emergency dental work to deal with the teeth stains as soon as I land back in Philly.
And since I’m heading out there for a writers symposium, it got me thinking about the origin of “Napa Cabernet” – not in terms of the wine, but in terms of the words. I’m a sucker for words and I own more than my fair share of dictionaries and etymological resources. I’m geeky that way.
You’d think that this would be pretty easy, right? A bit of Google searching, or a trip to the handy-dandy unabridged dictionary, and we’d be all set, right? Surely there isn’t much to the origin of such words, the kind that are so nearly ubiquitous that they instantly call up various mental and sensory images for wine lovers worldwide, right?
Not so fast, Buck-O. As it turns out, the etymology of both “Napa” and “Cabernet” is far from being etched indelibly in stone…
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