Despite having the word “Year” in its title, this article is not another cheesy 2008 recap post. Especially considering that I don’t need another one of those, since I’ve posted about 240 of them in the last several days. Or something like that, anyway.
I will not be recapping 2008 here, but I will be renaming 2008.
In terms of measuring wine blogging success, 2008 was The Year of Dr. Vino, a.k.a. Tyler Colman. Come to think of it, 2007 was nearly the Year of Dr. Vino as well, considering Tyler received a James Beard nod for his writing that year. So, basically Tyler is kicking all kinds of ass in the blogosphere, but what made 2008 the Year of Dr. Vino was Tyler’s superbad onslaught (both on and) offline with the release of two (very good) printed books.
You would probably expect a PhD holder in Poli-Sci to be a decent writer, so it’s no surprise that the books are well-written. What is surprising (to me, at least) was how accessible Tyler’s books are for the novice wine aficionado, and how well his blog writing style, which consists primarily of short articles that focus heavily on interactivity with his readership, translates to his longer format works. Capturing that accessibility is not a skill that most of the academics that I know posses.
While Tyler can be a quiet voice online (case in point, how is there justice in the universe when my twitter account has more followers than Dr. Vino’s??), he was all over traditional media in 2008: in addition to publishing two books, he could be found in the pages of major newspapers and wine mags, as well as on television. For example, Tyler is a semi-frequent guest on FOX Business, discussing the impact of the recent economic downturn on the purchase of luxury items like Champagne (see inset pic for how I might have handled this situation if I were Tyler).
This significance of this sort of credibility (not to mention shrewd brand building) should not be overlooked. Tyler is quietly – and successfully – positioning himself as an erudite opera-goer to Gary Vanyerchuk‘s Joe 6-pack. Both are important, and both are signaling the establishment of a new breed of experts active in the field of wine appreciation.
I won’t go into detail about Tyler’s first book release, Wine Politics, because with a 9-month old baby that will start screaming to be fed at any moment, I simply don’t have the time, except to say that it’s a compelling work that those fascinated by wine should check out, especially considering how dependent the world of wine is (and has always been) on the world of politics.
I will say a bit more about Tyler’s second book, however, A Year of Wine: Pairings, Great Buys, and What to Sip for Each Season, which Tyler sent to me several weeks ago, and which I’ve only recently gotten a chance to read (before you flame me for being lazy, remember: 9-month old!).
It’s not that A Year of Wine presents novel information that has otherwise eluded many of the other excellent books for budding wine geeks already on the market. In fact, it doesn’t really present anything totally new, even though it does have incredibly useful information (for example: how to successfully navigate the wine list when at an important business dinner for the first time).
The masterstroke is that A Year of Wine is a wine intro book penned by someone who has so garned so much credibility both on and offline. Put another way, Tyler speaks both Internet and brick-and-mortar.
While it can be enjoyed by just about anyone who is new to wine, A Year of Wine is probably best suited to those who already know what they like in their wine, but are looking to understand wine more fully and want a different approach then learning the basics and then exploring each region in order of importance / volume of production (which seems the typical layout for most wine reference material). A Year of Wine reflects Tyler’s post-grad writing style, but might also appeal to a much younger audience (see pic below – though this author had to remove A Year of Wine from that reader, as she’d found it compelling enough to begin eating the pages).
Anyway, if I have a criticism to level at Tyler (and of course I do, because I’m incorrigible), aside from a distinct lack of overall mentions to 1WineDude.com on his blog, it’s that Tyler needs to take his focus on interactivity with his blog readership and devote similar focus to his interaction within the community of online wine writers, retailers, and wineries. His voice is quiet within that space – it could benefit significantly from Tyler’s wisdom and experience, and his penchant for keeping things honest. Tyler, we need ya here, man!
(images: amazon.com, foxnews.com)
While I’m in the Cheesy End-of-Year recap mood (this is the last one on 2008, I swear), and enjoying the remainder of my holiday break with my family, I thought I’d offer up my Top 5 Chateau Petrogasm reviews of 2008.
If you’re not familiar with the Chateau, you can read my take on their back story. If you love wine, you need to be checking out Chateau Petrogasm from time to time.
Anyway, here are my top picks from my 2008 CP submissions:
5) `97 Chateau Leoville Barton
This wine was so refined and pleasant, it reminded me of a stately butler with impeccable manners. Ok, so I’m weird.
4) `04 Titus Chardonnay
Oak, oak and more oak. And maybe some more oak thrown in for good measure.
3) `00 Chateau de Sales
Well, this one generated quite a stir. I swear that I did not intend to portray a mouse humping berries. And yet, as we used to say in undergrad English Lit, “the subtext is there, man!” What I was trying to portray was that there was some brett lurking in all that berry fruit and… ah, just forget it…
2) `00 lo Zoccolaio Single Estate Barolo
Nothing says sexy girl in a dark smokey bar quite like Barolo. At least, that’s how I saw it, especially after drinking three glasses of said Barolo.
And my Number 1 pick from 2008:
1) `06 Yellowtail Shiraz/Grenache
This one also generated a lot of discussion. I won’t tell you here what I thought about this wine, as a picture is, after all, worth a thousand words. But I will say that, when poured during a practice blind tasting I took for one of my WSET exams, I barely picked out that it was a Shiraz. Just sayin’…
Hey, remember the recent Wine Bloggers Conference? Not that I haven’t mentioned it a gazillion times or anything.
Anyway… one of the more interesting experiments conducted on both bloggers and winery representatives was on day one of said conference, when we played a very large game of wine review “speed dating.”
In summary: bloggers were seated in a large conference room, about eight or so to a table; winery reps. rotated at set intervals between each table; each set of reps. had 5 minutes to present their wine to the blogger group, who then tasted and had 1 minute to record their thoughts on said wine, all live. More on the conference and the “speed dating” can be heard on WineBizRadio.com.
As you might imagine, it was a bit of organized chaos. In my live recap of the event, I basically had enough time to record gut reactions on each wine, and little else. Not that it wasn’t fun, it just wasn’t an ideal environment to really get to know any of the wines that were presented.
Which is why when I was offered a second chance to re-sample one of the producers represented at that speed dating event, I jumped at it.
Sean Minor Wines is a (very) small family outfit in Napa, making Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot, as well as Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc (the latter two under the 4 Bears label), all of them under $20. The backdrop story on 4 Bears (which I managed to capture in my brief speed-dating encounter during the WBC), is that Sean Minor and wife Nicole decided to create their winery after analyzing their finances and discovering that their second largest monthly expense was (you guessed it) wine (presumably, with four children – after whom the 4 Bears label takes it name – their largest expense was the kids?).
According to their press release:
Rather than taking his start-up capital and investing it in the bricks and mortar of a
winery, Minor decided to build his business as a negociant by sourcing out grapes and
some already fermented wines from Napa Valley, Sonoma County and California Central Coast appellations to create his wines. The wines themselves are made in a leased facility in Napa County where Minor ages, blends and bottles the wine under the Sean Minor label. “As a negociant I’ve been able to really center our efforts on making a top-quality wine,” said Minor. “My efforts are spent creating impeccable tasting wine and personally introducing it to people throughout the country.”
During the WBC speed-dating, I managed to capture this about their `06 Cabernet:
Four Bears - one guy and his wife are the total staff, who started making wine (via co-op) to offset their growing wine drinking budget! My kind of folks… 06 Cab Sauv. $17 (Napa Valley). Very accessible, but not without depth (the cedar element is a nice touch).
I guess the self-made family thing really struck a chord for me. Anyway, from what I recalled of the day, the wine was good, priced to move, and was more than just a one-trick-pony.
So… how do their wines stand up outside of the heated excitement of wine speed-dating?
Pretty well, it turns out.
At their best (as in the case of the Cab.), the wines offer a depth that I would consider slightly beyond their price point, making them a very good value. At worst, the wines are still very tasty and certainly priced fairly, really only lacking in the length of finish and the simplicity of their secondary aromas; otherwise, the fruit is all California and they deliver appropriately.
My mini-reviews on each of the 4 Bears wines:
06 Sean Minor 4 Bears Merlot (Napa Valley): No mistaking it’s from CA. A very good buy, especially if you like plums, plums & more plums.
05 4 Bears Chardonnay (Central Coast, CA): Tropical fruits balance with good oak, but you need to like butter (if so, you’ll like the price)
06 4 Bears Sauvignon Blanc (Sonoma County): Lime & tropic fruits abound. Good acidity & mouthfeel, & surprising finesse for the price point.
06 Sean Minor 4 Bears Cabernet Sauvignon (Napa Valley): Red fruit & a little cedar/spice, & good acidity with refreshingly lower abv for CA!
For more happenings at 4 Bears, check out their blog at www.4bearswinery.com/blog. I will leave you with a shot of my own assistant “bear” sommelier:
(images: 1WineDude.com, www.4bearswinery.com, goodwineunder20.blogspot.com)
A recent article by Catherine Rampell of the New York Times really caught my attention. In it, Catherine explores the recent wine buying trend in “trading down” – buying less expensive wines rather than splurging on the really pricey stuff (read the full article).
One of the interesting things she found is that wine retailers are almost making up for the reduction in premium wine purchases with an increased sales volume for the cheaper stuff.
But that’s not what I wanted to discuss here.
What I found most interesting is how some people are drinking the decreased volume of really good stuff that they are buying. From the article:
“The people who have been splurging have been doing it surreptitiously,” said Jesse Salazar, the wine director at Union Square Wines in Manhattan. “There’s the secret pour and the pour for the guests at large,” he said. “I was at a Christmas party recently where there was a substantial amount of wine being purchased. But there was a party case, and then there was the host case back in the kitchen. The host was drinking Bordeaux; the guests were drinking Chianti.”
The Surreptitious Pour.
I love it!
What I’m curious about is if YOU would do this - would you hide the really good stuff at a party for you and a select few friends?
Because, I sure know that I’d be tempted to do that…
(images: chowdernation.com – modified)